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Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: Phrae has highest number of DHF patients in the Northern Region

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
According to reports on the Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) situation in the first 6 months of 2006, there were 269 DHF patients in Phrae, which has the highest number of all the eight Northern provinces. There were 92 patients in Muang district which is the highest, 66 in Sung Men district, 21 in Denchai, 90 in Song district, 7 in Long district, 1 in Wang Chin, and 19 in Rong Kwang district.
Public health officers in Phrae said that DHF is a major problem for the Department of Public Health. This disease can be prevented by destroying the breeding places of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This insect prefers to lay its eggs in shallow stagnant water; such as flowerpot trays, food cupboard trays or water in vases. Old car tires that are often left lying around and collect rain water should be either removed or cut to prevent water collecting in them. Aedes aegypti prefers to stay in dark places or in bushes, so parents should warn their children not to go in dark places during the day.
If anyone develops a fever, they should increase their fluid intake and take Paracetamol every 4-6 hours. If they do not recover from the fever within 2-3 days, they should contact their doctor immediately, because if untreated DHF can be fatal.

The Doctor's Consultation: What is it like to have an MRI?

by Dr. Iain Corness

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is one of the battery of newer diagnostic examinations that can be done. The procedure is similar to an X-Ray, in the fact that the end result shows the internal structures of the body with a test that produces very clear pictures - but without the use of X-rays. MRI uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce these images.
Some folk are a little apprehensive about these newer tests, but the risks to the average person are negligible. The MRI uses magnetic fields, rather than radio-active imaging. However, the magnetic field is very strong. Walk into the examination room and the MRI can wipe the details from the magnetic strip encoding on your credit card, stop your watch and even pull the stethoscope from the doctor’s pocket!
People who have had heart surgery and people with the following medical devices can be safely examined with MRI: surgical clips or sutures, artificial joints, staples, cardiac valve replacements (except the Starr-Edwards metallic ball/cage), disconnected medication pumps, vena cava filters or brain shunt tubes for hydrocephalus.
However, there are some conditions may make an MRI examination inadvisable. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions:
heart pacemaker, cerebral aneurysm clip (metal clip on a blood vessel in the brain), pregnancy during the first three months (we are just being super cautious here), implanted insulin pump (for treatment of diabetes), narcotics pump (for pain medication), or implanted nerve stimulators (“TENS”) for back pain, metal in the eye or eye socket, cochlear (ear) implant for hearing impairment, or implanted spine stabilization rods.
MRI is also different from X-Rays in what it can pick up. The MRI can detect tumors, infection, and other types of tissue disease or damage. It can also help diagnose conditions that affect blood flow. Tissues and organs that contain water provide the most detailed MRI pictures, while bones and other hard materials in the body do not show up well on MRI pictures, as opposed to X-Rays which do show bone well but not soft tissue. For these reasons, MRI is most useful for detecting conditions that increase the amount of fluid in a tissue, such as an infection, tumors, and internal bleeding. In some cases a contrast material may be used during the MRI scan to enhance the images of certain structures. The contrast material may help evaluate blood flow, detect some types of tumors, and locate areas of inflammation.
I think most people are familiar with the standard X-Ray procedure, stand there, breathe in, hold it, now breathe out routine, but MRIs are a little different. These are done with you lying there and inserted into the MRI scanner, which is like a tunnel. Those people who are claustrophobic can have a little problem here, as the MRI “tunnel” is very tight. When I had my own MRI done I noticed that my nose was close to the top of the tunnel and both elbows were brushing the sides, and I am considered a reasonably slim individual. I have to say that although not claustrophobic, I do not particularly like being in enclosed spaces, and found that the best way to endure the MRI was to pretend I was lying relaxing in a field.
During the procedure, which can take up to an hour, you can hear the operator talking to you, and he or she can hear your reply, but you still will feel rather isolated in your magnetic tunnel. You can also hear (and feel) muffled thumps and groans that come from the tube, which can be somewhat unsettling.
In some cases a contrast material may be used during the MRI scan to enhance the images of certain structures which may help evaluate blood flow, detect some types of tumors, and locate areas of inflammation. The contrast material is injected via a vein, and the MRI operator will advise you when this is being injected. You may feel a warmth or even tingling feeling as this is happening, but this is not worrisome.
The radiologist then reviews the pictures produced and will advise you of the outcome. I hope it will be good news!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
It is amazing to read the same old so-called “problems” rising up each week. Foreign visitor goes to the red light areas, enjoys himself then decides to sacrifice everything he has worked for and ignore every bit of advice given to him and then wallow in self pity. In his own country, would he have much sympathy for a foreigner coming over there and wanting to buy motorcycles and houses for a girl from his red light area? Not just for the girl, but for her family as well. I’m sure he would call the fellow an idiot. Yet here he is, looking for sympathy, having done exactly the same thing for Nat from the North-East! I have discussed this with others here, and they say it is different here because the Issan girls are forced into the life, while the ones overseas are not. What do you think, Hillary? Are they victims of circumstance, or not?
Geordie George

Dear Geordie George,
It is difficult to sit in judgment, because everyone is different, but you have brought up some salient points. Men who would go to a foreign country and buy women of the night expensive items are generally thought of as misguided at best, idiots at worst. This scenario does not seem to happen in the UK, Europe, America or Australia, the way it does here in Thailand. So why is this so? Perhaps the women of the night in Thailand are more skilled at emptying ATMs than the women overseas! Prostitutes overseas also make it obvious that any relationship with them is a short term one, while this does not seem to be the case in Thailand. The purchaser of the favors sees the association as a long term one.
I am not convinced that there are many girls “forced into the life”, as you put it, in the red light regions attracting the foreign customers. When you look at the plight of the girls from Issan, they undoubtedly have many societal problems which cause them to have to leave their homes and venture into the cities to make money. Being left as a single parent, with no job opportunities in the villages is just one of them, and further delving into that can of worms is beyond the scope of this column, my Petal. However, the women have to decide just what avenue of “employment” they will take up. There are many, many Issan girls working as housemaids, nannies, laborers, shop assistants, in restaurants and hairdressers, who obviously made the decision not to work in the bars for the so-called ‘easy money’. What is the difference then between these Issan girls and the Issan bar workers? Answer that, and you have probably answered all those who would write in with their tales of woe. Having said all that, there are still many differences and all cases should be looked at on an individual basis.
I think you misunderstood the happy beer bar goer. He obviously stated that it is more fulfilling to pay for a woman who will give him what he wants, without all the confusion and trouble attached to a relationship (which to him, seems more attractive) but in reality, would only drain his pockets of more money, and make him grey with worry before his time. Because I only go to the brothels for Thais, I’ve been having exhillerating (sic) sex with the cheapest and most beautiful girls and women in the world for the past ten years, and my sexual ecstasy has been transformed into spiritual rapture, by drawing in the essence of my partners, and having short meditation after sex (sex, movement, life: meditation, stillness, death). Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with consentual (sic) sex, regardless of the details which comprise it. Anyone who says that sex is bad, does not understand the source from which they spring. Therefore, they can never be truly happy and peaceful. All sexual expression is valid, and one day, we will all get beyond negative value judgements (sic) of the sexual act, and be transformed and enlightened by it, in conjunction with meditation. The problem between men and women is that they need each other, but they can never completely fill each other’s need, because satisfaction can never be found in details; only in the limitless ecstasy that details exist in. The answer is simple. Have ecstasy in the details. Go with the flow. Have sex when you feel the need, and with anyone you choose. Not being hung up on any one person or thing, is freedom, so enjoy all, and taste the fullness of life.
Yours in ecstasy, Father Feelfree

Dear Father Feelfree,
Do you mutter mantras as well, my Petal? Goodness me, the exhillerating (sic) sex seems to have gone to your head. (By the way, your spelling is atrocious.) Your free-wheeling advice on having sex any time you want “with anyone you choose” does not say whether that “anyone” gets a say in the matter as well. Do they choose you? Or are they kept in a brothel where their choice is denied, and they get paid a percentage of your measly pittance to give you exhillerating (sic) sex? And your “consensual” sex “regardless of the details which comprise it” is nonsense. To be consensual requires the agreement (consent) of both parties. Double the dose of your tablets and ring your doctor in the morning.

Camera Class:  Something different – Something cheap!

by Harry Flashman

I was stimulated to write this piece after an acquaintance whom I did not even know was interested in photography, told me he had tried using my sunglasses as a filter trick, something I had written about many years ago. He said he couldn’t get it to work, but it does! However, it is all part of Special Effects, or as the movie buffs would say, “SFX”.
Special Effects Photography can be a great way to spend oodles of money. On your next visa run to Singapore you can come back with a complete Cokin filter set plus compendiums (or is that “compendia”)? That little lot will cost mega-baht and you’ll have to hire a caddy to carry it all around every time you feel like taking pictures.
There is another way, however, and making SFX filters would make a good school project, as well as giving the students a fun afternoon then using their home-made filters.
One of the nicest special effects is what is called “centre spot soft focus”. Now this just means the centre is in focus and the edges are nicely soft and blurred. This effect is used by portrait and wedding photographers all over the world to produce that wonderful “romantic” photograph. To produce this type of picture is dead easy and you can do it, no matter what kind of camera you use! I don’t care if it’s a Nikon state-of-the-art F whatever digital, or the cheapest and nastiest pocket point and shooter.
The secret is in the filter used. It is literally a clear piece of glass or plastic over the lens that is clear in the middle and opaque (but translucent) around the outside. Let’s make one.
The materials needed are easy too. You will need one can of hairspray, a one Baht coin and a clear piece of glass or plastic (perspex) about 3 inches square (or 7.5 cms if you are a non-imperial person). This piece of perspex needs to be as thin as possible to keep it optically correct.
With great skill and daring, you put the coin in the centre of the perspex and then gently wave the hairspray can over the lot. Let it dry and gently flick the coin off and you have your first special effects filter – the centre spot soft focus.
Now to use this filter. If you have an SLR (single lens reflex) camera you actually look through the lens when you are focussing and What You See Is What You Get (called the WYSIWYG principle). For the compact camera users it needs a little more imagination, but here’s how. Do not worry (worry is bad for the soul and produces camera shake).
SLR people first – set your lens on the largest aperture you can (aroundf5.6 or f4 is fine). Focus on your subject, keeping the face in the centre of the screen. Now bring up your magic FX filter and place it over the lens and what do you see? The face is in focus and the edges are all blurred! You’ve got it. Shoot! Take a few shots, especially ones with the light behind your subject. Try some different f stops as well (it makes the centre spot larger or smaller) and record the details in your trusty notebook – the one you do have in your camera bag, don’t you? Be amazed at the results!
Now for those with the compacts, What You See Is Not What You Get, as you are not looking through the lens. What you have to do is position the centre of the filter over the lens and, while keeping it there, bring the camera up to your eye, compose the shot and then shoot. Takes some fiddling and manual dexterity, but all those with at least two hands should be able to master it. Shoot in the shade as it helps open the aperture up. Have a go today!

Money Matters:  Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here - unless you know what you are doing

“Two heads are better than one, a hundred heads are so much better than none” – Horslips

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

It is sometimes better to enjoy the journey than the destination. Unfortunately, whilst this may be a general application to life, it has no place in the world of investments. In the world of money, travelling with nothing more than optimism is a one-way ticket to proving that, as stated in a recent article, Cash is King unless you know what you are doing. As regular readers of this column will be aware, we are not overly optimistic about the global economy at the moment and so it is surely nothing more than hope that is keeping equity markets and bond prices as buoyant as they are. That’s a real problem for the single minded investment allocators who can’t see beyond equities or who think that a balanced investment is a fixed allocation of 80% to stocks and 20% to government Treasury Bills. We know that there are 5 asset classes and that each of these require different expertise. If the legendarily hard-drinking Irish band, Horslips, had been investment analysts we like to think that they might have said “Five Asset classes are better than one, a hundred external managers are so much better than none....” instead of simply allocating to equities and keeping fingers crossed in the hope that:
• The US economy will slow sufficiently enough to give Ben Bernanke some breathing space but not so dramatically that corporate profits collapse.
• Commodity prices and especially the price of oil will ease substantially whilst, at the same time, maintaining incentives to develop cleaner fuel technologies
• The latest geopolitical crisis (Iran/Iraq/North Korea/Russia/ Afghanistan/George Bush etc) will resolve itself without 300 million Americans having to write yet another hyper-inflationary blank cheque.
• We have always muddled through before – surely we (and the markets) can do so again?
By reading such fascinating treatises as ‘Triumph of the Optimists: 101 years of investment returns’ - (Dimson, Marsh and Staunton), it can be seen that over the last century, it has paid – at least for investors in the US and UK equity markets – to be optimistic. But that optimism, or hope, was only rewarded over the very long term and even then only in certain markets. Over the last one hundred years, optimism and hope was definitely not a Utopian cure-all for investors in Latin America, Eastern Europe or Asia. Perhaps the Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC) story will perform better in this century than it did in the last but we’ve already expressed our doubts there ad nauseam – especially with the former two.
The always entertaining Tim Price, having now re-surfaced following his move from Ansbacher to UBP underlined our views in a recent paper when he agreed that optimism and hope in the face of growing uncertainty or unequivocal challenges is just asking for trouble – especially in the near future. It does not need the Oracle at Delphi to work out where and what the problems will be over the next few years. Amongst other things to consider is:

1) Global co-ordinated monetary tightening

Tim re-states the views of Doug Noland of David W Tice that “the vast majority of global liquidity these days emanates from private-sector debt growth and securities leveraging”. This is a fair point. Nevertheless, there is a tried and proven historical relationship between interest rates and bond prices. When the former go up, the latter go down. Obviously, the Fed may now be nearer to easing its metaphorical foot off the brake (we don’t know – unlike scores of market commentators we claim no special insight into Fed policy). However, that still leaves the ECB, Japan and a lot of emerging central banks to continue the possibility of further tightening. Also, it should not be forgotten that the US consumer is the swing factor behind the future direction of multiple asset classes, and that any of the following - negative real wage growth, a lack of fiscal incentives and an absence of further positive wealth effects - could easily take their toll on consumer confidence or the world-beating spending habits of the typical American.

2) High oil prices

Last month, a regular columnist in the London Financial Times pointed out and drew attention to the massive difference between energy efficiency in the ‘developed’ West (aside from the US, which “at any given level of GDP per head uses about twice as much energy as Japan or the UK”) and the developing world. For example, in South Korea between 1980 and 2002 GDP per head rose by 270%. However, energy use per head rose by 300%. Add India, China and the rest of rapidly industrialising Asia to the mix and things only get worse. On top of this you can add some OPEC obstructionism and Soviet-style appropriation - now, try and argue for $30 oil. FT Banking Editor Peter Thal Larsen, writing in the same edition, suggested that bankers and financial regulators ranked the oil and commodities boom ahead of fraud and the growth of hedge funds in a league table of potential “banking banana skins”. This is not the time to mention the fact that the people who should really be worried about hedge funds are the lousy long-only closet-index trackers who take your money and then do nothing with it. But as to the suggestion that bankers were concerned about “the risk of a disruption in the oil price” – well, what exactly are we living through now?

3) Weaker housing markets

Amazingly, the outcome here has been relatively kind – so far. Even in those markets - like the UK and Australia - that have been most tipped to be ‘bursting bubbles’, things have not been as bad as they could have been. One thing the crash of 2000 did for us when the technology markets died was to encourage a flight to uniformity in financial metaphor. For the past six years, analysts have been seeing nothing but bubbles - everywhere. People are commenting on this all the time. For instance, US commentator Brady Willett suggests, “no company can sustain equity growth of 30+% a year. Yet this is exactly what the largest homebuilders in America have accomplished in each of the last five years….” He also goes on to state that while Warren Buffett’s best eight-year streak in average book value growth was 21.6%, between 1972 and 1979, the largest US homebuilders have averaged a 29.4% increase in equity market capitalisation over the last eight years. As we have commented on before, the “fundamentals” certainly look frightening. The S&P 500 Homebuilding Index, for example, has fallen by 43% over the past year. Seven US homebuilders now trade below tangible book value and the larger builders are pricing in something absolutely unbelievable when quoting an average p/e of 4. No wonder the Sage of Omaha has looked elsewhere recently. Ironically, Brady Willett probably has a point when he suggests that “homebuilders warrant a look by contrarian and value-minded investors”.
Logical and rational analysis shows that when there is a situation of heightened risks then they can be offset by risk reduction, especially given diminished visibility for the corporate profits cycle. Since risk-free yields (cash and quality government bonds) have reached competitive levels versus traditional higher risk asset classes, we have yet again reduced our overall equity allocations and raised exposure to cash, which is increasingly looking like a tough benchmark to beat this year. However, this is with the full understanding that when something attractive comes along we can go and invest in anything that looks promising whether it be long or short term. Within hedge fund investments, we continue to reduce equity market sensitivity in favour of multi-strategy. Despite this, we expect hedge funds, as a sector, to outperform other asset classes in 2006. (Man Investments has an offer on for an excellent fund with a capital guarantee - available until 11
th August). More than anything, asset allocation is the key to success at the moment. Asset allocation drives 90% of overall portfolio returns as “Success in the investment game is in direct proportion to one’s ability to anticipate what the crowd will do next” – Scott Campbell. Also, if asset allocation is to add value it must be basically a contrarian process, not one that involves chasing fashion. This is achieved by quantitative and qualitative analysis combined with good long term relationships and experience in finding star-rated fund managers. The ethos and fund objectives of the Miton Optimal CoreHarbour Fund says it all, “To achieve long term growth and absolute returns with limited volatility, diversifying across cash, bonds, equities, alternative strategies and property”. The benefits of a multi-asset approach is glaringly obvious by the fact that no one asset class is always the winner and opportunity will always be present in some format (or asset). The five asset class strategy allows investors to benefit from these opportunities, whilst protecting them from downsides. Therefore, by using the multi-manager approach you automatically tend to focus on absolute not relative returns as you are not constrained by benchmarks.
If you adopt this strategy then you will not have to regard all as a Forlorn Hope.

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: Who voted for Bush?

by Scott Jones

After six weeks of traveling through seven states in America, I haven’t met one person who voted for President Bush, readily understandable when you realize he barely won with a mere 52 percent of the unimpressive 41 percent of the population that voted. I have listened to scores of people complain about his anti-abortion, pro-military, anti-earth, pro-oil baron policies, including staunch Republicans, one of whom said, “Bush is acting like a Democrat but spending billions on war instead of socially beneficial programs.” When you hear his inimitable, mindless ramblings, you wonder who could chose to support this Texan aristocrat with his foot permanently lodged in his mouth:

Everywhere else in the world it’s spelled Kentucky.

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” (Washington, DC, 5/8/04)
“I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.” (Nashua, NH, 27/1/00)
“God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us as a powerful message that people who wonder about their future can hear.” (Los Angeles, CA, 3/4/04)
“You work three jobs? Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that.” (Said to a divorced mother of three in Omaha, NE, 4/2/05)
“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” (Greece, NY, 24/5/05)
While riding from the north to The South, with a capital “T” and a capital “S”, I believe I passed through a small enclave of his backwoods supporters. The state of Kentucky is home to one of America’s ethnic groups, loosely referred to as “hillbillies.” These folks speak their own language (Can I have a few consonants with your vowels, sir, or would you at least spit out one pound of the tobacco wad in your mouth?), prefer to keep to themselves — the best way to find a date, or mate, is at a family reunion — and wear brightly colored costumes: antique uniforms, funny hats and handlebar moustaches while carrying confederate flags as they reenact the Civil War they lost 160 years ago.
The first clue of a regional language barrier was a sign with Kentucky spelled incorrectly, in an area called “Land between the Lakes,” also known as “Air between the Ears.” I don’t have photographic evidence of the next two signs because I was afraid to stop, being a “ferner” [foreigner] from “Minniesoda” [Minnesota] or worse yet, a “Yankee.” As the saying goes: “Yankees er [are] visters [visitors] from up north. Damn Yankees er [are] ones thut [that] stays.” One sign said: “Gues wat?” (My guesses: “Guess what? I know you’re illiterate.” Or “Gues wat? We’all knows yer a Yankee.”) Next sign advertised: “REAL NICE AKRIDGE 4 SALE.” I assumed they meant “acreage” though perhaps it was a ridge of AK-47s since the rest of the signs were a stand-off between “Choose Life” (even though you may have been raped by a murderer and don’t particularly want to bring up his baby) and “Support Our Troops” (Choose death and become a murderer.) I’m sure these people felt a distinct kinship with Mr. Bush.
I rode through town at exactly the speed limit to avoid the attention of the rotund police officers who, imagining I’m absconding with some of their hometown donuts, might pull me over and check my bags to find $5,000 worth of checks and cash donations for an orphanage in Thailand, a bag of Karen silver to assure more donations, and my new book, which, if they could indeed read, would reveal derogatory remarks about their state. I didn’t care to meet any locals as my mind relived an incident that happened years ago in the deeper South. (While playing a video game in a bowling alley, a suspect couple stood too close to me and asked too many questions with feigned interest which stood my hair on end. Feeling movement in my back pocket, I whirled around, grabbed something, someone, anything, as the money and credit cards from my wallet filled the air, and suddenly I was wrestling with a screaming girl on the carpet with my hand wrapped around her ponytail…not my ideal recreational activity.) Finally back on the relatively civilized interstate highway, I was relieved to be on my way to Nashville with its grinning country stars and catchy songs like “She wanted to be a cowgirl, but she couldn’t keep her calves together.”
Just as I thought I’d finished writing this column, while visiting my second-cousin in nearby North Carolina, he said, “I hope you mentioned me.” I said, joking, “Not unless you voted for Bush.” He said, as I shuddered visibly, “Yes, I did.” I’d always believed his mother and my father were cousins, but I have a feeling his parents may be cousins.