HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: Roof-top party buys wheelchairs for disabled in Chiang Mai

Part of the equipment bought from the 141,500 baht which was part of the donations from the January 2006 charity event. The following already in Social Section Pisamai name corrected below

Chiangmai Mail reporters
Photos: Steve Yarnold

Supplies worth 141,500 baht were presented to Associate Professor Dr. Apichana Kovindha, to support the disabled people in Chiang Mai and to be used in the program for the Foundation for the Welfare and Rehabilitation of the Disabled in Chiang Mai, (under Royal Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn).
Following the last Charity Roof-top Party, over 700,000 baht was raised and divided to support five different charities. These were the Foundation for the Education of Rural Children (FERC); the Baan Kingkaew Orphanage for the care of babies and small children under five years old, the Down syndrome Centre in Chiang Mai; Viengping Orphanage and in this case the Suan Dok Hospital to help Chiang Mai disabled.
The items presented included 13 various sized wheel chairs, six wheel Walkers, one commode chair, six frames, three pairs of canes, 1,500 Foley catheters and 1,500 urine bags.
For 2007 the planning has already started and the board of the Hillside Charity group want you to put in your calendar the upcoming third Annual Charity Roof-top Party to be held on January 13, 2007. Contact Steve Yarnold, email: steve_yarnold [email protected]

The Doctor's Consultation: Quitting the Weed Part 2. How to do it

by Dr. Iain Corness

Last week in this column I wrote about the difficulties involved in giving up cigarettes. Smokers are not creatures of habit, smokers are people caught in the clutches of addiction. A prime example is one of my friends who is on a vigorous exercise regimen and vegetarian diet as he wants to get fit – but is still smoking. He may as well eat anything he wants, because the cigarettes will kill him before bad diet does.
To give up cigarettes there are many, many ways, ranging from acupuncture, hypnosis, the I Ching, Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT), chewing gum, patches, nasal spray and many others all the way through to cold turkey. Hop onto the internet and you are besieged with offers, all of which will make it ‘easy’ for you to stop smoking, and all of which will cost you money!
What you have to realise is that Nicotine is more addictive than heroin. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but that really is the crux of the matter. You take Nicotine into all of your metabolic pathways until you “need” to have Nicotine to be able to function. Nicotine becomes part of your metabolic chemical chains, and they don’t work properly without it. Now you can see just why you feel so dreadful when you go without cigarettes (nicotine) for any period of time.
Now, leaving aside hypnosis and acupuncture, about which I know very little, but the good books tell me do not enjoy high success rates, let’s look at the other methods. The majority rely on Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). All the gums and sprays do is to make Nicotine available for you in measured doses – much like cigarettes do. You get the craving, you chew the gum. You get the craving, you squirt the spray.
Patches are slightly different. They deliver the Nicotine slowly over a 12 or 24 hour period and are supposed to stop the craving before it happens. But often do not.
After stabilizing on the NRT it is time to bring the dosage down, which is the next hurdle at which many fall. The end result can be cigarette smoking plus NRT – a potentially fatal combination. In fact, I strongly believe that NRT should only be done under close medical supervision. Too much nicotine can kill too!
So to the best way – Cold Turkey. The proof is in the numbers. There has been enough research done and the prime factor is that the quitter has to be committed to the concept of becoming a non-smoker. Doing it (quitting) for somebody else, because you lost a bet, because you are being nagged into it by your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend is doomed to failure, I am afraid. This is something which requires your total commitment. 100 percent all the way. Last week I mentioned just how I thought it would be a bad scene for a couple of days, and then found that it was a couple of weeks of torture. Here I am a couple of decades later and I could begin smoking again tomorrow. It requires dedication and commitment. Yours! No one elses!
So, I admit that those who go cold turkey may go through a rough time with withdrawals initially, but the majority are still non-smokers after one year. The same cannot be said for the others. The “hard” way is ultimately the best way.
You have to make the decision to quit. You set the day. You tell all your friends that you are now a non-smoker – and you stick to it!
Become a non-smoker for 2006!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary
I refer to your answer last week to “The Boxer” and I am completely agreed with you. Anyway I feel Pattaya is not a city to settle down. It is too much “rock and roll” too much traffic problems, sometimes too much people and too much pollution and to much criminals Thai and Farangs. I will not recommend anybody who will have a nice life to stay in Pattaya and as especially Pattaya is not a city to raise up children. Pattaya is the city for people who want have “rock and roll”. Now I stay outside Ayutthya in a small village and everything here are different. Here is the real Thailand. I also have a nice lady and I remember when we lived in Pattaya there were men (Farang and Thai) offering her much money for to go with them, but she refused of course. No, Pattaya is not Thailand. Pattaya is a multikulturel (sic) city and of course a bit of Thailand but they who never have been outside Pattaya have never visit Thailand. I have lived in Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and now outside Ayutthya so it means I have some experience. Okay anyway I visit Pattaya every month because of my health problems and I have some problems in my head to change doctor, but sure I can find good doctor and hospital where I live now. Back to your answer : Okay you can maybe have a good life in Pattaya but I will recommend you not to stay in an apartment on Beach Road, Second Road or Third Road but maybe uppersit (sic) Sokumwitt (sic) but as you said “change your area.” I hope you not misunderstand me I will not talk bad about Pattaya. Remember I meet my wife in Pattaya so that I not forget but when you have found your “right woman” you must say goodbye to your “rock and roll” life from before, and then you maybe can be happy together with your wife.

Dear David,
Whew! That was straight from the heart, wasn’t it, my Petal. However, as well as your highlighting problems with Pattaya, I left in a couple of the problems you seem to have with spelling, but never mind, the rest I corrected, and the ones I left could be understood. Mind you, I do hope that English is not your native tongue, otherwise you must have skipped a few lessons in school! I do agree that Pattaya is not Thailand, being more often considered to be Thailand’s answer to Disneyland (but the rides are better) according to my spies in Soi 6! Having said that, I should also point out in Pattaya’s defense, that there is far more to it than just “rock and roll”. It is becoming much more of an upscale international resort city, but like an a la carte menu, everything is on it, but it is up to you what you select. That is what I was trying to suggest to “The Boxer”.
Dear Hillary,
I read on a website that Chiang Mai’s go-go bars have been closed down. Is this true? While I enjoyed the Lanna laid-back lifestyle, I also enjoyed a little go-go entertainment at night. It is bad enough that the powers that be try and tell us tourists what time we have to go to bed at night (at least they aren’t telling us with ‘who’ we can go to bed at night), but what is the point of closing the go-go bars and putting people out of work?
Go-Go George

Dear Go-Go George,
Your source is not quite correct, Petal. The local boys in brown have not closed the go-go bars, they have been much more clever than that. They have taken away the chrome poles! To give the dancers support, management has had to install bus hanging straps from the ceilings, so rather than introduce lap-dancing, Chiang Mai has retaliated with strap-dancing. Fortunately, they left the mirrors in place, as everyone knows Thai girls cannot dance without a mirror so they can ensure they look suitably sexy from all angles.
Dear Hilary,
I have a charming young lady from PatPong. We exchange emails loving regularly. Yesterday she explained that she was in a spot of bother because she is sick and can no longer work. This has lead to her being unable to pay her rent. She has requested that I send her some money, and she has given me the bank details of a charitable young Thai gentleman who has offered to marshal my transactions for her. I have auctioned all my possessions and withdrawn my savings from a high interest account. I was wondering if you could tell me the most tax efficient method of transferring these funds to my Tilac.
Yours in sincerety,
Generous Graham

Dear GG,
What an amazing coincidence, your initials remind me of a horse, and the back end of it too. The best method would be to just send everything in cash to the kind young Thai gentleman, who I am sure will not pay tax on the windfall, so you can rest assured that whatever your Tilac gets is tax free, less handling, freight, banking, grafting, slicing off the top and other minor charges against the sum which the young man in question will have had to impose.

Camera Class:  Digital versus film photography – a direct comparison

by Harry Flashman

FM2 film (left) and D50 digital (right)

With the fact that film is going to be discontinued in the not so distant future, and I have been writing about digital photography for some time, I thought it was about time I tried something of a back to back comparison between film and digital SLRs. However, before you read further, this was more of an “impression” rather than a good scientific test.
For the film SLR I used my trusty, decades old, Nikon FM2n, and fitted the standard 50 mm lens. Undoubtedly this is my favorite camera, fully manual and I am fully conversant with it. This camera has an equally venerable Metz 45 CT1 flash attached and is used most of the time, especially with portraits as a flash fill.
For the digital SLR, I borrowed a Nikon D50 belonging to my photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt, with the 18-55 zoom lens as sold as the standard package. I was not at all conversant with this camera and found that I had to refer to the manual to do anything other than turning it on.
The first comparison came in just picking up the two outfits. The FM2 and the Metz makes for a heavy instrument, whilst the D50 is very light. The D50 is, however, much more smoothly ergonomic than the rectangular FM2.
I unscrewed the lens from the D50, and the lens (made in Thailand, by the way) weighs nothing! Well, in comparison to the old lenses it weighs nothing. For an old newspaper photographer, I could not imagine this lens being around in 20 years, the way my battered old lenses are.
The comparisons I made by using both cameras, taking the same shot twice and comparing the results of the final image. The film negative was converted directly to CD, with no scanned hard copy in between. The digital images were also burned to CD directly from the memory chip. In this way, it was easy to compare the final images, with both digitized and viewed using an ACDSee program.
The first foray was a night shot, and it was disaster for the D50. The little on-camera flash was unable to throw enough light far enough, whilst the Metz 45 CT1, which will light up the other side of the moon if I ask it, gave the film final image the distinct edge. Or so I thought, until I read further into the D 50 owners manual the next morning, to find I had not set the flash correctly.
I then moved on to something easier - daylight photography, taking people pictures. For the FM2 it is a simple case of keeping the aperture on 5.6, setting the flash one stop less and adjusting overall brightness with the shutter speed. I can do this with my eyes closed.
For the D50, I also tried to do this and was again disappointed, until Ernie showed me the pictograph for portraits on the multi-purpose mode control. Flash “on”, was also selected, and lo and behold, good portraits. Where I was going wrong, was trying to run the D50 as a manual camera, when Mr. Nikon had already done all the sums (or is that ‘algorithms’) and would select the optimal settings (without me).
I have to say that for me, I found that the D50 controls were somewhat bewildering. I have a dread of drop-down menus, when simple controls are much easier (because they are simpler). Converting to a digital SLR, from a manual film SLR is not easy. What you learned with the manual does not translate easily to the digital. There is a good reason that Mr. Nikon gives the purchaser a thick instruction manual. There is much to learn. One should take the time to learn all the various controls and functions. I had not.
As a comparison test, this all fell down because I was not familiar enough with the D50, so all comparisons are flawed to begin with. However, I do have to say that the ability to instantly review the photographs on the LCD panel was wonderful. The anguish of waiting to see if you have been successful has been overcome. For that reason alone, I would buy digital!

Money Matters:  How past can affect present and future

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Recently, we have looked at the history of the Fed. Now let’s see how the past can affect the present and the future. Alan Greenspan bowed out a while ago with an interest rate hike combined with characteristic verbiage. If there is one change that Greenspan has made to the rule of chairman of the Federal Reserve it has been, as we’ve noted before, moving markets not just with what he does, but with what he says.
Manipulating the markets by indicating what the Fed plans to do in the future wrapped up in a miasma of eccentric metaphors, arcane similes and impenetrable figures of speech has allowed the Fed to hint at future policy without having to spell out its precise intentions. Interpreting Greenspan’s oracular opacity became an industry in itself and utterances such as “irrational exuberance” and “a conundrum” acquired legendary status.
One of the persistent criticisms of Greenspan has been his dogmatism - his insistence in the efficiency of capital markets. This has encouraged the amount of financial derivative contracts to expand exponentially with Big Al condoning the practice generally as being a contribution towards market efficiency and stability. The danger of a major blow up causing the collapse of several major counterparties is now both clear and present, and also probably too far gone to be corrected. Warren Buffet sees this as one of the biggest financial dangers faced by the global economy and we can understand why.
The LTCM crisis of 1998 is another example of this. By cutting interest rates in September, the crisis could have been averted. Greenspan knew this and although he was to cut rates a month later for economic reasons, he refused to sanction bringing this rate rise forward by a month to prevent the LTCM crisis happening. In Greenspan dogma, efficient markets need to sacrifice the weak or foolish and the pain is good for the wider market.
William McDonough had to sit all the Wall St leaders around the board table of the New York Fed, get them to agree to bail out Long Term Capital Management, the financial world had to endure some very nervy moments, a hedge fund had to be sacrificed but the “invisible hand” of the markets that has been as important to Alan Greenspan as it was to Adam Smyth eventually put everything to rights.
We would rather that the visible hand of the Fed hadn’t necessitated the crisis just to make its own point about how efficient a machine the financial markets are. Except for a few financial professionals the message was pretty well lost at the time and now it’s buried. The importance of this episode is that to us it highlights the weaknesses that characterised Greenspan’s tenure.
1) The pre-eminence of dogma and financial ideology over pragmatism - the LTCM affair saw the Fed going to perverse lengths to incept an unnecessary crisis JUST to show how well the markets could bear it.
2) Undermining publicly delineated policy with contrary behind the scenes action - I guess that there are those who would say that speaking with a forked tongue is justifiable as long as you get away with it (we’re a bit old-fashioned about that kind of thing, ourselves) and Greenspan certainly did that but post-Alan Greenspan, we believe that the standing of Central bankers has been damaged, probably permanently.
Ben Bernanke’s pronouncements will, in all probability, be taken with pinches of salt because of the lack of respect shown by his predecessor to the financial markets. Next week, we’ll look at other commentators’ views on the Greenspan era.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Alan Hall on [email protected]

Life in the Laugh Lane: A Boy and His Dog and His Mom (Part 1)

by Scott Jones

Marcus the German shepherd was my traveling companion for thirteen years while touring and performing in America. I selected Marcus, a strong, noble name, from a friend’s Name Your Baby book. As the years rolled on, I often called him “Marc,” which seemed normal to me, but rather silly to those who didn’t have the dignified name of Marcus in mind. I might as well have named him Ed or Bill.
He had a unique way of saying hello to humans with his entire 105 pound body: in a friendly, but forceful manner, he’d stick his nose in their crotch and pin them against the nearest wall — filling station attendants, college presidents, ladies in pants suits — all legs were fair game. Sometimes it was a sneak attack from the rear, and, no matter how macho the man, or proper the woman, it was impossible to suppress a nervous smile with a large snout in the crotch.
Marcus was a great companion, though sometimes he’d leave a nasty pile of poop in the motel room if I got on his nerves or ignored him. He knew his nose would get rubbed in it, but he smelled that stuff all the time anyway. It was worth it to him to see my bare foot step in the pile and hear me shriek in the darkness.
Best of all, he didn’t talk endlessly during endless drives, never complained, and became Cujo when left alone to guard the van which allowed me to safely pick up hitchhikers. I’d stop, let them scurry up to the van, and open the door to confront a huge, lunging animal, barking ferociously. Their normal reaction was to scream, lose control of the bladder and slam the door quickly. If they still chose to ride, Marcus would sit in the middle of the seat, growling menacingly, and I’d refer to the rider as “Food.” Most hitchhikers who had assumed they’d be very happy to get in the van were much happier to get out.
At most concerts, he’d calmly lie on the side of the stage or circulate through audience, but some schools were not so liberal, and one janitor would not let Marcus into the building. The concert producer told him Marcus was a seeing-eye dog and gave me a pair of dark glasses to wear for the rest of the evening. The audience assumed they were part of the costume and Mr. Janitor commented on how well I got around stage for being blind.
At a show in Idaho at a college in a town we’d never visited, Marcus freaked me out and then amazed me to the core. We pulled into a motel for 10 minutes to drop off a few things before heading to the gig some three miles away on the other side of a medium-sized town with about 30,000 people. Marcus could not come into the concert hall, but our standard routine had worked for a decade: if Marcus saw me go through a door, he’d be there on the step when I came out. Period. Normally I’d check on him once in awhile but this time I was just too busy.
When I came out after the show, three hours later, Marcus was nowhere to be seen. For two hours we searched and yelled and waited and fretted, but I finally gave up and drove back to the motel — sad, scared and feeling like one of his piles in the night. My headlights cut through the darkness of the parking lot to reveal Marcus and his wagging tail on the doorstep of our motel room. But… but… but... How did he do that? Earlier we’d come off the main highway, stopped for a few moments at the motel, gotten back in the van and ridden down main street, across the railroad tracks and around bends, waited for stoplights and turned many corners.
What went through his canine brain?
“Well, this is seriously boring. I’m outtah here. Let’s see, a couple left turns, a right at the Texaco station, watch for the train, past that city hall and the pet store, then down the four-lane road past McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Arby’s, Wal-Mart and twenty-seven other franchises that make every city in America look like the next one. No problem. Room 103.” Could he actually read, or was he summoned by the smell of his precious tennis ball? As we entered the room reeking from the smell of too old, too ripe tennis, I thought it may be possible he could smell this across town.
Next week — Mom joins the tour and attempts to clean up America.