Vol. V No. 26 - Saturday June 24, - June 30, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 

 


Columns
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: Chiang Mai University runs training program for Spa managers

Spa business owners listening to the lecture.

Saksit Meesubkwang
Assoc. Prof. Wipada Kunnawiktikul, Dean of Faculty of Nursing at CMU, said that spas are considered part of Thailand’s local knowledge. It is a valuable science practiced by many people for long time. Spas are now also very popular overseas, and the Faculty of Nursing has many experts who can see the significance of spas so they decided to promote them by initiating a training program for spa business owners.
At the training program, Assoc. Prof. Wipada Kunnawiktikul, noted that people are interested in natural therapy, especially health therapy by spa. It is believed that a large percentage of the 3.3 million tourists from overseas come for spa service.
According to the study for human resource development strategy to boost the potential for industrial competition of May 2005 published by National Economic and Social Development Board of Committee and Thailand Development Research Institute, it was found that spa therapists are mostly needed.
The CMU training program will provide knowledge about the human body so that spa businesses will be able to provide services of a high standard and will be considered the leader of spa businesses in the Asia Pacific Region.


The Doctor's Consultation: So how do you test for “sugar”?

by Dr. Iain Corness

Diabetes is a serious ailment, which can arise for many reasons, and can affect many systems in the human body. Diabetes, often called “sugar” by some patients, is diagnosed and monitored mainly through a simple blood test – the Blood Glucose level.
Glucose is a type of sugar found in fruits and many other foods (this includes lactose and fructose). It is the main source of energy used by the body. Most of the carbohydrates that people eat are also turned into glucose, which can be used for energy or stored in the liver and kidneys as glycogen.
To stop the sugar levels just increasing daily, a balance is achieved through a hormone called Insulin which helps the body use and control the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin is produced in areas of the pancreas called ‘islets’ and released into the blood when the level of glucose in the blood rises. In simple terms, people who do not produce enough insulin develop Diabetes. People can also develop diabetes if they do not respond normally to the insulin their bodies produce. This occurs most commonly when a person is overweight, and since obesity is on the rise, so are various types of Diabetes.
Normally, blood glucose levels increase slightly after a person eats a meal. This increase causes the pancreas to release insulin so that blood glucose levels do not get too high. Blood glucose levels that remain high over time can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels, which explains why good glucose control is important.
There are many ways to carry out blood glucose tests, including fasting blood sugar (FBS). This is a measurement of blood glucose after fasting for 12 to 14 hours. For an accurate fasting blood sugar test, do not eat or drink for 12 to 14 hours before the blood sample is taken; however, water can be freely taken, as otherwise hemoconcentration occurs to give a falsely high reading. This is often the first test done to detect diabetes, and explains why fasting blood tests are usually done when having a medical check-up.
The other common test is called the random blood sugar (RBS). A random blood sugar measurement may also be called a casual blood glucose test. This is a measurement of blood glucose that is taken regardless of when the person last ate a meal. Sometimes several random measurements are taken throughout a day. Random testing is useful because glucose levels in healthy people do not vary widely throughout the day, so wild swings may indicate a metabolic problem.
Glocose Tolerance Testing can also be done, usually to confirm a condition known as Gestational Diabetes, which can occur during pregnancy. An oral glucose tolerance test is simply a series of blood glucose measurements taken after a person drinks a liquid containing a specific amount of glucose; however, this test is not used to diagnose diabetes.
To monitor the treatment of diabetes, there are another couple of tests which can be carried out. The commonest is Glycated Hemoglobin, otherwise referred to as HbA1c. This test actually is an indicator of the average glucose concentration over the life of the red blood cells (which is taken as over the previous three months).
Another is the Serum C-Peptide which is used to investigate low blood sugar levels, done by measuring the C-Peptide which is produced by the Beta cells in the pancreas.
“Normal” levels may vary from lab to lab, but generally the range taken for FBS is that the level should be less than 110 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
Diagnosis of diabetes needs a fasting blood glucose level higher than 125 mg/dL on two separate days.
A fasting glucose level below 40 mg/dL in women or below 50 mg/dL in men that is accompanied by symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may indicate an insulinoma, a tumor that produces abnormally high amounts of insulin. Lower than expected glucose levels can also indicate Addison’s disease, an underactive thyroid gland or pituitary gland, liver disease (such as cirrhosis), malnutrition, or a problem that prevents the intestines from absorbing the nutrients in food.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
Your reply to my letter was so vitriolic! In the movie “Easy Rider” Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and a young Jack Nicholson did not “show” us anything except a great fictitious movie, that’s all it was Hill! You didn’t believe it did you? We tried to play some Steppenwolf but it was drowned out by the revving of (Prats on Bikes) POBs! And we are not trying to stop people living their 1969 fantasies, we just reserve the right to not take them as seriously as they would like to be taken. By the way what bike do you ride Hillary?
EasyRider

Dear EasyRider,
Me? Vitriolic? Never, my Petal! However, you still do not grasp the thrust of my reply. The people who you say are “living their 1969 fantasies” are not asking you to take them seriously or otherwise. They are happily doing their “thing” and don’t need your approval in any way whatsoever. They are not pointing the finger of scorn at you, but that is certainly what you are doing to them, would you not concede me that little fact? There is enough room on this planet for all of us, and just because some are different, for any reason you like, including ethnicity, does not give others the right to mock. And as far as what bike do I ride, I don’t own a bike, Petal, because you can’t ride side-saddle and control an HD (Highly Dangerous) all at the same time. Finally, please go to the DVD shop and rent out the movie again. There was a message in there, but it seems as though you didn’t grasp it either. Play it back at half speed, it seems you have trouble assimilating things.
Dear Hills,
Glad to see you are alive and kicking, and haven’t lost any of your bitchy nature. You certainly let EasyRider have it right between the eyes, both barrels. I don’t know what he is trying to achieve with his group of voyeurs. Live and let live is my motto, but that wasn’t the theme of the movie. Mind you I wouldn’t be too happy if a bunch of them were revving their motors under my bedroom window, but that’s not what EasyRider was complaining of. He and his mates just sit in the pub and find something to complain about it seems.
Nack Jickolson

Dear Nack,
Where did you get “Hills” from? Please, Petal, my name is Hillary. However, you certainly seem to have the knack of hitting the nail on the head. Live and let live was the message I was trying to get through as well, but apparently without much success. Glad you saw something else in the movie, other than revving motorcycles.
Dear Hillary,
What do you do about house guests that keep on arriving from the old country? I’ve had five sets this year and it looks like there are more coming for Xmas. If I had nothing else to do other than entertain old friends then it would be fine, but I have work I have to do as well. I don’t want to give old friends the cold shoulder, but I’m at my wits end, honestly! What should I do?
Guest house Gertrude

Dear Gertie,
This is a very common problem when you live in a place that other people save for 11 months to come and visit. You actually have the answer already when you called yourself “Guest house” Gertrude. Run the home more on the guest house lines. Tell your friends that as you have other work to do, you will leave everything out for them for their breakfast and then you will meet them for dinner at 7 p.m. and do things together from there. I am sure your friends will appreciate that even though they are on holidays, you are not. They need time to themselves too and will be grateful for the chances to explore on their own. Have some brochures in their room with suggested trips and other touristy treats and let them take it from there. Just think about it, you can even get one of those nice wooden signs with “Gerties Guest House” carved into it.
Dear Hillary,
My wife and I are both getting on a bit and are forced to use reading glasses. This would be fine if we both used the same strength – we could share, but this cannot happen because of two reasons. The first is that she needs weaker ones than me, so she can use mine, but I cannot use hers. Second is that she is a most forgetful woman and loses hers. I carefully look after mine, to find that she has lost hers, taken mine and lost them as well! What do you suggest Hillary?
Myopic Mike

Dear Mike,
Wear your glasses around your neck at all times and refuse to let her borrow them. If you are in a restaurant then still don’t pass over your spectacles either, but order for her – of course it will be something she doesn’t particularly like! Anyone who keeps on losing things is either doing it deliberately to annoy or is truly dopey. You work out which one.


Camera Class:  What camera?

by Harry Flashman

One of the commonest questions put to professional photographer is “what camera should I buy?” The answer is almost as varied as the numbers of cameras available. Really, it is not an easy call. And now with the choice of film or digital, the question is even more vexed.
Forgetting price constraints and imagining that you want a camera to take “good” photographs of general interest; you know the sort of things, family, holidays, grandchildren and pets, then there is basically only two choices – Compact or SLR (Single Lens Reflex).
Let’s look at the relative advantages and disadvantages of both. Firstly, the Compact. This group of cameras has really brought the fun of photography to many people. In most instances, they are small, easy to use – basically ‘point and shoot’. Initially they only had one fixed lens of generally around 35 mm focal length, but these days, the more up-market models have a “zoom” capability covering the 28 mm to 100 mm range.
As far as focussing is concerned, most Compacts these days are fully Autofocus, though there are still some ‘fixed’ focus lenses around on the very cheapest models. The better ones these days have innumerable steps in the focussing process and are very accurate too.
As far as shutter speed range goes, the modern compacts will go to around 1/400th of a second which is enough to stop most action and they will go as slow as around a 1 to 2 second exposure.
Size does matter, with cameras at least, and most compacts are small enough to slip into a handbag or pocket which is another decided advantage over the SLR brigade.
On paper then, it looks as if the compact has everything going for it. Why even consider an SLR? Well, there are some areas where unfortunately, the compact falls short. The first is the restriction in lenses. A compact will not do you much good if you want to do wildlife photography, with only around 100 mm telephoto ability. You need to be able to get ‘close-up’ without being too close to the man eating tigers.
Another area where the compact is limited, is in the use of filters. To get those really rich and vibrant colours, it is necessary to use such devices as polarizing filters – there is no provision for the use of filters with compacts.
Most compacts also come with their own inbuilt flash and while it is adequate for most night or low light level shots, it does have limitations. Adequate is the operative word.
So what about the SLR group? With this type of camera, you actually look through the camera’s lens when composing the shot. What you see is what you get. You have a huge range of lenses to choose from, both original equipment and after market brands, to take you from ultra-wide (16 mm) through to huge telephoto lenses of around 600 mm which you can use to photograph the tigers eating, without getting so close to the action you end up on the dinner menu as well.
SLR’s also have greater ranges of shutter speeds, from time exposures of any time you like, through to 1/4000th of a second. The range of aperture settings in the lens are also greater in the SLR group – and, even more importantly, you can dictate the settings you want.
That is where the principle differences lie – with the compact, there is little you can fiddle with to experiment or manipulate – with SLR’s the sky’s the limit.
With all these creative possibilities in one camera, why would you ever bother thinking about a compact? Well, the SLR does have some disadvantages too. Size and weight are two principal ones. An SLR is not the camera you put in your handbag unless you have a very large receptacle and a couple of porters to carry it. By the time you add up camera, three lenses and a flash you are looking at quite some weight, especially with the semi-pro equipment.
And as far as the digital versus film question, if you are just entering the fascinating world of photography, it is digital, as the days of film are numbered.


Money Matters:  Commodity investing - As good as it gets? – Part 1

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

It is awfully tempting to cut back on one’s commodity exposure, especially after the spectacular run we have seen over the last few months. The rally in mining equities, in particular, is now 35 months in duration and relative to the previous cycles since 1972, is the longest in duration.
We would argue, however, that the cycle has still much further to go and that we could see another strong year from commodity investments. The market has been focusing on demand factors, but it’s our belief that investors will increasingly shift their focus on the supply side of the equation in 2006.
Over the last couple of years mining companies have been loathe to spend money on Greenfield developments (iron ore and coal excluded), despite the significant demand from China and other emerging market economies. This is not surprising when one considers that experienced mining executives have long memories of the ‘old days’ in the industry, when commodity markets were characterised by short upward shifts in commodity prices and long down-cycles.
Mining executives, today, are too focused on returns and do not have incentives to take on risk to build new mines or smelters. Share buybacks, higher dividends and M&A are a lower risk strategy than developing a mine, with four-year lead times and the uncertainty of where prices will be once the project is finished.
The other factor influencing companies’ decisions is the inertia within the industry to raise long term commodity assumptions, which were dragged down during the 1998 Asian crisis. Credit Suisse First Boston argue that they are far too low, especially given the rising costs of building new mines and smelters, with them estimating that costs have jumped between 20% and 50% over the past five years.
In just one example, CSFB argue that to justify a return in investment on a new copper mine, the long term copper price needs to be close to $1.50 per pound, compared with current industry thinking of $0.90 per pound. Similar outcomes are true for nickel, zinc and platinum.
Most producers believe that current high prices will be short-lived, hence producing assets are being run very hot, with capacity utilisation kept higher for longer. This increases production risks. In addition, high commodity prices encourage labour groups to push through wage increases (at a time when companies are already focusing on minimizing cost pressures), thus increasing the likelihood of work stoppages.
In a recent project update, BHP Billiton wrote the following: “Industry wide, the supply side response to continued strong global demand for raw materials remains constrained by a shortage of people, equipment and supplies. This has led to tight labour markets and difficulty in sourcing construction and drilling plant and machinery, which in turn has led to rising input costs. Currency strength against the US dollar is also adding further pressure.”
Caterpillar, the mining equipment supplier, has also made similar comments, as can be seen by a recent FT report in which they had the following to say, “Mining equipment is sold out through 2007 and that the cycle has legs and looks stronger than upturns in the 1980s and 1990s.” However, Caterpillar also said that they “are cautious about creating overcapacity and that they have had difficulty in obtaining some supplies, such as tyres, restricting their own production, which is being felt by their customers in the mining industry.”
In yet another reason why the industry has been slow to build new capacity has been US Dollar weakness. With the onset of this weakness in 2002, commodity currencies began to strengthen and strengthened even more as the physical commodity prices themselves began to rise in 2004. Currencies such as the Rand, Chilean peso, and the Australian and Canadian dollars have appreciated by between 25% and 50% since 2002.
The strength of these currencies has created additional cost pressures on local producers and discouraged new projects, despite rising commodity prices.
The chart below shoes there has been a sharp decline in metal discoveries over the past 25 years. Whilst there has been increased spending in exploration, the lack of new discoveries is apparent and is indicative of the fact that companies are going to have to aggressively increase their spending budgets.

Continued next week…

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: The Klutz Klub, Part 3

by Scott Jones

My father was official president of the Klutz Klub for years after an incident on a fancy Scottsdale golf course in Arizona. Dad approaches the 18th hole, the final one right in front of the clubhouse where his buddies and many other people who have never heard of my father (yet) are relaxing on the second-story deck, watching the in-coming golfers and cooling down with vast quantities of cold beer.
As Dad prepares to chip his ball onto the green, he notices movement from behind him. He turns to see his cart rolling down toward the water trap: a large, impressive and very deep water trap. Perhaps believing his pumped-up adrenaline will give him the tremendous strength of frantic mothers lifting semi-trailers off their trapped children, my father scampers to the cart and grabs the back in a manly manner. Well, he’s fifty-something years old and only a hundred and sixty something pounds. He’s dragged into the water trap by the cart and is now swimming with heavy, cleated golf shoes in a very, unmanly manner. His “buddies” have alerted everyone on deck and the cheering from the broadening crowd at the railing gathers the attention of all the golfers in nearby holes.
His cart finally comes to rest in the middle of the water trap, invisible except for the fringed roof on top. Bright golf visors, empty beer cans and trash from the dash are floating around the cart while Dad’s attempting to dive down to salvage his expensive bag of clubs…and his partners set of more expensive clubs. His former “buddies” are now screaming various rules of the course: “Sorry, King Neptune! There’s no swimming in the water traps.” “Hey, arrest that guy! He’s littering in the water!” They’ve called the helicopter from the local news station, not for life-saving purposes, but just so they can watch it again that evening with the rest of the city.
As Dad struggles with his leather golf flippers and tries to drag to shore a water-logged bag full of clubs weighing as much as walrus but more slippery, his golf partners are giving advice from the shore and not diving in to save him. He has a brainstorm. “It’s too hard to drag this bag, top-side forward, so I’ll turn it around!” After performing this acrobatic maneuver, all the golf clubs drop out of the bag and sink to the bottom of the trap. Multi-colored tees bob like confetti around him in his one-ring, watery circus. Time stands still as the gallery of gawkers grows. It’s not surprising that soon after this humiliating experience in front of humanity, my father performs a fatal klutz move on the highway, which moves him to the heavens so he can avoid his Buddies from Hell. I’m sure he is now president of the Klutz Klub in the Klouds for eternity. God was watching that day.
At present, two members remain on earth: me and Shannon Tangen who lives in sparsely-populated, semi-rural, northern Minnesota, so she can’t injure too many other living beings during her legendary escapades into Klutzdom. I first met Shannon three decades ago while visiting Michael, my best friend from four decades ago. My college sweetheart and I came to visit them in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which is equally as flat as my home town of Fargo since if something is truly flat, it can’t get flatter. Flat is the bottom line. It’s a little colder there since it’s a little further north. Its main crops are potatoes, potato chips, rocks, ice, frozen French fries, young pilots from a massive airbase that guards America from imminent invasion by Canada, and more potatoes.
North Dakota has always been a strategic location for weapons of mass destruction. In the 50s and 60s, America built hundreds or thousands or millions of nuclear missile silos beneath its desolate plains, presumably for this reason: If Russia vaporized North Dakota, it wouldn’t matter that much. We could still get potatoes from Ireland. You could drive on arrow-straight, secondary roads and peer down thirdary and fourthary roads that ended in a square surrounded by a high metal fence. No buildings, no nothing, just a fence and signs with big, bold intimidating letters. I’m told bearded warriors with terminal cabin fever and red launching buttons lived down there in those dungeons of death. At one point in time, if North Dakota would have seceded from the United States, it would have been the second largest nuclear power in the world. Considering the state has always been populated mainly by hunters and gatherers from Norway and Sweden, two countries not famous for their world domination attempts, it didn’t happen. It’s even more apparent why North Dakota chose to remain agrarian when we study the psychological makeup of its “hunters” through the local folklore: Ole and Sven were out hunting and they came across a set of tracks. Ole looked down at them and said, “Sven, bear tracks!” Sven said, “No, no, those are deer tracks.” Ole: “No, no, bear tracks.” Sven: “Deer tracks!” “Bear tracks!” “Deer tracks!” Then a train ran over them.



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