Vol. V No. 32 - Saturday August 5, - August 11, 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

Dogs - Man’s best friend

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: Zonta’s Mother’s Day Walk/Run to aid victims of AIDS

Elle Faraday
For many people across the world HIV and AIDS is still very much a taboo subject, but just because you choose not to talk about something does not make it go away. The Chiang Mai Club of Zonta International are trying to change people’s mind-set when it comes to HIV and AIDS and are helping the victims and their families cope with the devastating consequences of this fatal disease. I met with the president of Zonta Chiang Mai and one of its members to find out just what they do.
Daranee Sophanasook is the newly elected president of Chiang Mai’s arm of Zonta and is hoping to bring the plight of victims suffering from HIV and AIDS to the forefront of people’s minds. Together with a small team of women, Daranee has been working tirelessly for over 18 years with people from Chiang Mai and its surrounding villages. The team teach the children about the dangers of HIV and AIDS, care for the sick, offer counselling to those in distress, give out medicine to those in need and offer assistance to the many grandparents left to cope with their orphaned grandchildren.
Nine years ago, the charity organisation Zonta International gave Daranee and her co-workers an enormous boost and new hope. The charity took the small organisation under their wing and incorporated it into their Chiang Mai Club. Since then, awareness has improved and Zonta International has grown in Chiang Mai.
Despite its recent growth, Zonta Chiang Mai is still fairly small-scale and has just 17 registered members. There are also a group of volunteers who regularly help out, but more help is always needed. The members spend much of the time raising awareness of the HIV and AIDS problem, both in local villages and throughout Chiang Mai. However, because their work is very much reliant on donations they also need to raise the money to fund their projects. Fundraisers and public appeals are frequently organised and they help finance the ongoing work and buy medicines, but raising funds can be hard and is often exhausting.
The members meet regularly to discuss how to move the charity forward and how they can best utilise their resources. They are all very dedicated to the cause and do all they can to help. One member, Ronny Lavin, has dedicated many hours to helping those in need. She is involved in many of the organisation’s activities and gives up much of her free time to help.
Zonta holds a ‘Thursday Club’ on the first Thursday of every month. A mobile clinic is set up where those requiring treatment or counselling can visit. Many sufferers fear that they will be ousted by society if people become aware that they suffer from Aids. Often sufferers are nervous and very frightened. Zonta offers support and advice and is a friend in their time of need.
Saturday 12th August is a big day for Zonta. The Safari Walk Rally is being held at the Chiang Mai Night Safari to raise money for victims and their loved ones who are often left behind with no means of supporting themselves. The two aims of this rally are to raise the public’s awareness about this devastating disease and also to raise money to fund the project. The walk coincides with Thai Mothers Day. Zonta wants to get people thinking about their own mothers and also about the mothers who are losing their lives to AIDS and to the mothers who are losing their children to it.
Proceeds from this event will be used to support those in their biggest time of need by paying for such things as health care and school fees as well as counselling and general care.
The walk will be a fun morning out for everyone. It is the chance to give a little something to those less fortunate than yourself as well the opportunity to shed a few pounds and have a lot of fun. There will be face painting and drawing opportunities for children as well as the chance to dress up in fancy dress costumes. Snacks and refreshments will be provided.
If you would like to take part, you need to pick up an application form from Daranee at Parker’s Shop which can be found opposite Central Huaykaew. There is a registration fee of 400 baht for a single person and 500 for a couple or family. Children under 15 years old need only pay 100 baht. All of the proceeds goes directly to the needy.
I came away inspired from my meeting with Daranee and Ronny. The whole organisation helps those who cannot help themselves and who are often shunned by their community and the society that we all live in. By educating the young, Zonta hopes that the spread of Aids will finally begin to diminish. The numbers of people suffering from HIV and Aids has already stopped rising but there is still a long way to go before it begins to decrease.
Daranee left me with a final thought. She believes that by everyone living and working together, it is possible to not only ease the suffering but also to prevent the spread of Aids affecting thousands more.


The Doctor's Consultation: Cancer research – why it is so difficult?

by Dr. Iain Corness

“Cancer” is a word that everyone has heard, but is not a condition that everyone understands. And that includes the medical profession.
There are many reasons for this, including the fact that your reaction to ‘carcinogens’ (cancer producing substances) is not necessarily the same as the reaction of the person sitting next to you. Individual differences do exist, and may even be inherited (genetic) influences. This, in part, goes to explain why your Uncle Henry smoked 80 cigarettes a day for 60 years and was shot by a jealous husband when he was 103, while the man next door died at 45 with lung cancer after smoking only 20 cigarettes a day for the previous 20 years!
So what is a carcinogen? Cancer is caused by abnormalities in a cell’s DNA (its genetic blueprint). Abnormalities may be inherited from parents, or they may be caused by outside exposures to the body such as chemicals, radiation, or even infectious agents including viruses. Some carcinogens do not act on DNA directly, but cause cancer in other ways, such as causing cells to divide at a faster rate. All of these substances that can cause changes that can lead to cancer are called carcinogens.
The difficulties in studying them come from the fact that carcinogens do not cause cancer in every case, every time. Substances classified as carcinogens may have different levels of cancer-causing potential. Some may cause cancer only after prolonged, high levels of exposure (remember the words of Paracelsus: “Dosage alone determines poisoning”). And for any particular person, the risk of developing cancer will depend on many factors, including the length and intensity of exposure to the carcinogen and the person’s genetic makeup.
So just how do we classify any compound as being a carcinogen? With difficulty, is the simple answer. The boffins get much of their data about whether or not something might be carcinogenic from laboratory (cell culture and animal) studies. However, you have also to remember that Man is not a Large Rat (even though certain young ladies might attest differently). It is not possible, on animal studies alone, to pin the carcinogen rap on any particular compound. It does, however, give us an indication. Although it isn’t possible to predict with absolute certainty which substances will be carcinogenic to humans based on animal studies alone, virtually all known human carcinogens that have been adequately tested in lab animals produce cancer in these animals.
Another problem comes from the fact that most studies of potential carcinogens in lab animals expose the animals to doses that are far higher than common human exposures. For most carcinogens, it is assumed that those that cause cancer at larger doses in animals will also cause cancer in people. This produces the concept, in some quarters, that it is reasonable for public health purposes to assume that lowering human exposure will reduce risk. Understandable logic, but far from absolute.
Another way to identify carcinogens is through epidemiologic studies, which look at the factors that might affect the occurrence of cancer in human populations. While these studies also provide useful information, they also have their limitations. Humans do not live in a controlled environment. People are exposed to numerous substances at any one time, including those they encounter at work, school, or home; in the food they eat; and the air they breathe. And it is usually many years (often decades) between exposure to a carcinogen and the development of cancer. Therefore, it can be very difficult to single out any particular exposure as having a definite link to cancer.
The most widely used system for classifying carcinogens comes from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). The IARC has evaluated the cancer-causing potential of about 900 likely candidates in the last 30 years, placing them into one of the following groups:
Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans
Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans
Group 2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans
Group 3: Unclassifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans
Group 4: Probably not carcinogenic to humans
There are around 90 carcinogens in Group 1, with most being referred to by long chemical names such as 1-(2-Chloroethyl)-3-(4-methylcyclohexyl)-1-nitrosourea (Methyl-CCNU; Semustine); however, there are ones you will recognize like solar radiation, alcoholic beverages, analgesic mixtures containing phenacetin, salted fish (Chinese-style) and tobacco smoke.
Now then, has anyone heard from Uncle Henry recently?


Agony Column

Dear Hilarity,
Thanks for my weekly diet of laughs answering the cries for help from the guys who left their brains at the airport. Whatever it is that these Thai women have got should be bottled and sold. The country would make a fortune from it.
Laughing Len
Dear Laughing Len,
What can I do, Petal, other than give as much assistance as I can and some help for the hopeless? A shoulder for them to cry on while waiting in line at the airport to reclaim their brains. As far as the country making a fortune from the amazing abilities of Thai women at opening locked bank accounts, this is happening already. Has anyone ever thought just how many houses are paid for by love-struck foreign visitors? How many motorcycles? How many meters of gold rope are around the necks of Thai women. Len, the money is coming in right now. The builders, realtors, motorcycle salesmen and gold shop owners have got their hands on it already. The Thai women don’t need to bottle it. All they have to do is look into their “teerak’s” eyes and whisper, “Open your wallet darling and say after me, help yourself!” And they do! And they do! And they do! And they keep on doing, for as long as the Brain Deposit Center keeps open in the airport.
Dear Hillary,
In the middle of all the silly problems that get wished on you each week, could I ask that you look at my very real problems with my relationship. My girl (28 years old) and me (22 year old) have been together for three months, and the relationship is stable. She is wonderful, very sexy and beautiful, and did work in a bar because her husband had left her, but doesn’t work there any longer since we met. She looks after me better than my mother ever did. There is just one problem, and that is her daughter who is five years old who is now living with us. I agreed to have her come down from the village because she was sick to get some treatment here, with the idea that she’d be going back after that. Well she’s better, but there’s no sign of her going back to her Gran’s. When I try and ask when she’s going back my girlfriend just says it will be soon, and then goes out and then last week buys a bed for her. She said it was so that we won’t be interrupted at night when we go to bed. This might be better when we are making love, but it doesn’t look like going back soon to me. The money comes from me, so I think I should have more say in this. What do you suggest I do?
Genuinely Concerned
Dear Genuinely Concerned,
Next time you are at the supermarket, go to the sports shop and spend some of your money on yourself, my Petal. Buy yourself a pair of running shoes. Put them on, make sure they are comfortable, and then start running, in any direction, as long as it is away from the girlfriend, the five year old and the new bed. Petal, you are not ready for a relationship like that, especially with an experienced 28 year old Thai woman with a child. She may have all the wonderful attributes you mentioned, beautiful, sexy etc, but she is a mother of a five year old. She has been looking after this child for 60 months, while she has been looking after you for three. Can you see that the scales are not weighted in your direction? By something like a factor of 20:1, forgetting consanguinity (lovely word for a weekend, so get your dictionaries out). Sex is a very powerful weapon, and your lady knows just how to use it. Please re-read the letter above yours and go to the Brain Deposit Center, reclaim your wonder head filler and go back to enjoying being single and stay away from deep and meaningless relationships for a while.
Dear Hillary,
Do you ride a motorcycle? Most Thai women seem to start around eight years of age, and I see them in their school clothes riding along with a six year old on behind. They don’t have helmets either, but I reckon it isn’t because they don’t think about it, it’s because nobody in Thailand can keep a helmet because it gets stolen all the time. I’ve lost three this year already. Correction, had three stolen this year already. How do you suggest we change all this, Hillary?
Harry the Helmet
Dear Harry the Helmet,
You have posed more than one question here, Harry my Petal. Let’s deal with the easy one first. How do we stop the thieves making off with Harry’s helmet? Easy. Lock your helmet to the bike. It has a helmet lock for this purpose. Just don’t leave it in the basket where anyone can lift it. Now the other problem is much harder. That of the helmetless eight year olds. At least you know that none of them have stolen your helmet, I suppose! The legislation is in place, but the enforcement is lax, and that is way beyond the scope (and powers) of Ms. Hillary, I am afraid.


Camera Class:  Hints to make life easier

by Harry Flashman

Photography is a life skill, I have decided. Sure, there’s the photographic “eye” and an appreciation of “art” all wrapped up in it, but it is also a physical skill requiring such things as hand-eye coordination, and remembering where you put things!
So this week I thought I would write down a few photo tips that myself and others have gleaned from many years of doing, losing, finding, ruining and rueing. These are the sorts of tips that you just incorporate into your photographic life and enjoy your photography just that little bit more.
Take for example, how many lens caps have you lost? Lots? The secret to never losing another one is to attach the lens cap to the body of the camera, after converting all your lenses to the same size end diameter, so you only need one cap. The easiest way is to carefully knot some fishing line and apply it to the outside of the cap with 5 minute Araldite two part glue. The other end is knotted to the swivel of the camera strap mounts. The knot in the end of the line stops it pulling out of the “blob” of Araldite. This also means that you only need one size of filters to fit all your lenses.
Have you ever been caught out in the rain with your camera, with nowhere to put it to keep it dry? Like me, you probably ended up shoving the camera inside your shirt and walking around bent up double! Never again! There is a simple safety precaution which my photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt carries (and which I too now carry, courtesy of Ernie) and that is a shower cap. You know the things they leave for you in hotels. Pop one in your pocket and you have an immediate “shower” cover for your camera. Well done, Ernie.
Want to go and take some beach shots, but are a little worried about the salt water spray that can cover your camera while you are shooting? If you aren’t, then you should be! Two plastic bags are the answer here, and the best are the transparent “ziplock” style – you know the ones with a press closure on the top. Drop the camera body into one – a fairly large one, and you will be able to still depress the shutter and wind on. Cut a neat hole at the front so you can mount the lens. The lens itself you protect with another plastic bag with the bottom cut out of it, and hold the bag in place with two rubber bands at the respective ends of the lens. This way you will stop sand and spray, and yet still be able to use the camera and focus correctly as you are still looking through the lens itself.
Have you ever forgotten you had a “short” roll of film in the camera and suddenly find that at number 12 you’ve come to the end of the roll? And lost the opportunity of a “great” shot! When using short rolls (cut rolls or a bought roll of 12 or 24) put the end of a film box in the slot on the back of the camera, blank side out and write on it the number of exposures in the short roll.
Ever found that some of your images are “foggy”? Almost a misty, soft focus quality about them? You have probably gone outside after having your camera sitting in air-conditioned atmosphere for the previous few hours. Hit the hot humid air and instant fog-up. If you have to clean the viewfinder on your compact, you will have to clean the lens as well. Of course SLR users will pick up the misting as they are looking through the lens to focus. Be warned, it takes a little time for your camera to adjust to the new ambient temperature.
With film, unsure of what speed (ASA) rating to load for general use? With the latitude in today’s print film and processing, you should try using 200 ASA. It is sharp enough for the majority of photographs.
Finally, keep a spare memory card for your digital camera in your camera bag. The cards always fill up just when you are attending something important, and you haven’t got the time to try and delete some images to give yourself some working space.


Dogs - Man’s best friend: Is Man’s best friend’s worst enemy, Mankind?

Murray Dickson
Almost starved to death, you can count her every protruding rib, her haunches stick out and her backside is mattered with faeces, some of her claws are so long they curl back almost into her paws. She can barely hobble along the busy Chiang Mai street where she now lives but when you look into her beautiful, soft brown eyes, half gummed up by some form of conjunctivitis, your heart melts. She is one of probably thousands of woefully neglected dogs in our city.
Why do we humans allow animals to suffer in this way? Why are dog owners not forced to register their pets and have them sterilized unless they are prepared to arrange homes for any pups?

Unsure about getting too close to anything human.

If anyone has any ideas on this matter, please contact me at the Chiangmai Mail because I am not going to let the matter rest until we get something done about the situation. I know there will be those who quite rightly will tell me I should be more worried about millions of children around the world who are in the same situation as this poor dog but why not care for the children and the neglected animals? With the support of our readers, we will do something to rectify it!
I was about 5 years old when I brought home my first stray dog, I have had cats and dogs all my life and in fact my beautiful Beagle and Ginger Cat are being looked after by my family back in Perth (Western Australia) along with a couple of other pampered pooches and pussies.
When I first met our as yet un-named CNX Street Dog her, she was quivering and hobbling into the front yard of the Chaingmai Mail office. We have many dogs come to visit us but most of them are in fine condition despite their owners allowing them to roam the streets. This one was obviously different, the term “beaten cur” springs to mind and when I first spoke to her, she tucked her tail even further between her legs and scurried off, half falling out the gate and under the nearest parked car where she sat cringing. No amount of coaxing on my part would get her out and so I went about my business for a couple of hours—then felt compelled to go and see if she was still around.
Yes, there she was still under the car asleep or dead, I couldn’t be sure so I went across the street and bought a couple of Satay sticks from one of the local vendors, took the meat of the sticks and dropped a couple of chunks a little away from her refuge. Hunger eventually overcame her distrust of humans as she crawled out on her belly to take a bite of the satay.
Ever so slowly I was able to get her to follow the meat trail into our front yard where I also had a bowl of fresh water for her. (I think our maid is still a little concerned that I nicked the “water dipper” out of the Loo [toilet to some] to give the pooch a drink)
My staff, ever sympathetic to their “fearless farang leader” probably think that I’ve gone mildly nuts but they humour me and accept the fact that, “The Boss has brought in some dirty little street bitch to sleep on his front door step.” They were blown away when they saw me feed her some Humans biscuits the other afternoon so I went to the supermarket and bought up some proper Dog Food, which I shall name (unashamedly in the hope we can get the manufacturers to help the local Dog Rescue service). The shopping trolley was loaded with Purina Alpo Puppy Food dry food for the reason that the “wet” food might cause further problems with her stomach and because she is so under nourished, the Puppy food may have more vitamins and calcium that could be better for her. I also bought a can of Sleeky Tick & Flea Killer.
If the manufacturers or indeed the retailers, Tesco Lotus, would like to help, we’ll unashamedly sing your praises in ensuing articles about our semi adopted furry critter of the Chiangmai Mail..
Things are now looking up, just a little at this stage because as much as I would love to keep this cute little girl, it is simply not practical around a busy office so I contacted one of our advertisers, “Care For Dogs”, who run a Dog Shelter, you can get in touch with them via : [email protected]
The three people who are responsible for this non-government-funded shelter are ladies by the names of Corinna, Karin and Amandine. They have now come to the rescue of our little street girl and are having her medical needs attended to, giving her a loving temporary home and will try and find someone who would like to take her in and perhaps in some small way make up for all the misery that one of what we love to call Man’s Best Friends has experienced at the hand of mankind.
This is not the last you will see of this story; the Chiangmai Mail will keep you up to date on developments as our little street girl progresses and is found a new and loving home. We’ll also let you know what support we get from dog food manufacturers and retailers and publish any of your comments on how we can all work together to ensure that life will improve in our city for Man’s Best Friend.


Money Matters:  Cash is King

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Markets suffer from what in human terms would be deemed multiple personality disorder. There are fundamental, quantitative, technical, behavioural and cyclical character traits we have to study in order to try and understand our subject. There is no use in ignoring this fact – we can either make a diagnosis of the patient or assign him to an asylum. Many market commentators opt for the latter, it being the easier to conclude; however, this option leaves someone paying the bills. I am not going to dwell on all character traits but rather focus on the cyclical patterns we have identified.
This is by no means a complete analysis but it will force us to ask and, hopefully, answer a couple of questions.
What is cycle theory?
Economists recognise four major cycles, or regular fluctuations, in the economy as follows:
1. Kitchin’s short wave-cycle of average duration (3-5 years). Discovered in 1930.
2. Juglar’s cycle of average duration (7-11 years). Discovered in 1862.
3. Kuznet’s cycle of average duration (15-25 years). Discovered in 1923.
4. Kondratiev’s long-term wave cycle of average duration (45-60 years). Discovered in 1922.

I thought it would be interesting to focus on the four year cycle. Not least because it is far more relevant for our asset allocation over the coming months but few (if any) investor has the patience to wait for 45-60 years. The shorter cycles are obviously emphasised when coinciding with one (or all) of the longer cycles but that is a separate topic.
If we examine the S&P500 to see whether this is reflected in the performance of the stock market and looked at a chart based on a log scale and then another one with a standard statistical filter (Hodrick-Prescott) applied to it there certainly seems to be a cyclical pattern present.
What it shows is that the market clearly exhibits Kitchin’s short-wave cycle of average duration 3 - 5 years. To be more specific, it bottoms out perilously close to every four years (1994, 1998, 2002 and, more than likely, 2006).

Why does this seems to happen with
such monotonous
regularity?
The obvious stumbling blocks to the economy have been well documented by us and other market participants over the last couple of months. The following characteristics are not only prevalent in the US but almost all the traditional Western hemisphere economies:

1. Very high consumer debt coupled with record low savings.
2. Slowing down in the housing market.
3. An oil price still sitting above USD60.
4. No recovery in real hourly wages.
Will history repeat itself?
Again, if one looks at a recent S&P500 chart, it is possible to see that the forecast is pretty accurate. For the most part we can say that significant price lows occur every four years (to be more precise about 85% of the time).
Take note that the logscale causes recent price movement to be greatly under-emphasised and significant declines/lows in 1990, 1994, and 1998 appear as mere blips.
The next 4-Year Cycle price low is due in October of 2006. Subordinate cycles suggest that the low may arrive a few months on either side of that projection, and there is no guarantee that the decline will play out in a straight line. We believe investors should be wary of North American equity markets between now and the end of the year. Fundamentals, as already mentioned, also present problems for the market.

What about valuation
parameters?
The next lot of S&P charts worth looking at are the index of S&P500 earnings and a presentation of the Price Earnings ratio based upon prior peak earnings. Over the long term earnings have trended higher in relation to a trend line that rises at an average of about 6% a year, and the current earnings peak is very close to that trend line. This has been the situation for the last two years and could account for the market’s slow progress during that time. This is not a favourable valuation!
Currently, the Price Earnings ratio remains at a level where, except for the bubble years of 1998 - 2002, the market at best has had trouble making forward progress and, at worst, experienced major declines. This will be a significant drag on the market until the Price Earnings ratio can correct back toward the area of 15, which represents fair(er) value. A correction to undervalue, let us assume this to be under a level of 10, could also happen, but that is a rare occurrence and not necessary to set up favourable conditions.
The MBMG International
Perspective
Normal cyclical expectations and high valuations present significant obstacles for the market this year, and the bull/bear cycle suggests that a significant decline could occur between now and the end of the year. We also believe that the rally in the vast majority of global equity markets is nearing its 36 month in duration, an uncommonly long period and yet complacency still abounds with the VIX index close to all time lows.
As contrarians we are often labelled, comparing VIX action with that of the market can yield good clues on future direction or duration of a move. Some view readings of the VIX index below 20 as excessively bearish and therefore with a level around 11 currently we have felt it prudent to bank some profits and raise cash levels in the more balanced/cautious portfolios. Our cash holdings are principally in yen and euros rather than sterling, which we think could ease a little this year if our forecast for falling rates in the UK materialises.
Markets are currently limping higher on the back of merger and acquisition activity but we believe the rally is looking very tired. We are not sure what the catalyst will be that reverses market direction but our hunch is that it will be linked to a tightening of global liquidity, either through a hike in US treasury yields as the curve inverts or possibly an upward move in interest rates by the Bank of Japan. Given these uncertainties another cliché springs to mind as cash looks to once again be king at the moment.

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: What do you miss the most?

by Scott Jones

You just can’t get good groub in America!

“What do you miss the most in the USA?” was a routine question during my last visit. Dictionary says: “miss to feel or regret the absence or loss of.” Sure, I love many things in America the Grand Canyon, toilet paper in restrooms instead of hoses and buckets, news videos of President Bush acting like an idiot while butchering the English language but “miss”? Nothing. Depending on the questioner, I gave three answers: 1) Nothing; 2) I miss you; 3) Tape.
“Nothing” was reserved for those who dream of moving somewhere else, since most people can’t really believe I don’t want to live in Number One Superpower, Land of Plenty of Military Might, God’s On Our Side, Capitol of the World, Center of the Universe, Omnipresent Media Broadcasting 24/7 Reports on Month-long Marriages and Over-night Divorces of Movie Stars, Birthplace of Fast-food King Ronald McDonald, and consider my personal choice a subtle affront to their personal choices.
“I miss you” was a heart-felt answer for family and friends, but didn’t work well with random motorcycle garage mechanics, people I had just met or Republicans in general.
“Tape” was an honest, but confusing answer, since they haven’t experienced the standard packing tape in Thailand made from a one-molecule thick layer of adhesive fused to a one-molecule thick layer of semi-plastic that you can never get off the roll without it splitting into several thin, pointed shards of useless material that sticks to itself and back to the roll so you can never find the ends to start the futile process all over again. During the present rainy season, the cardboard tube in the middle of the tape disintegrates into soggy paper particles and the roll won’t fit on a dispenser so it’s best soaked in kerosene and set on fire to launch a fire lantern. The “tape” used by airline security to mark your bags once they’ve been x-rayed is a science project in rapid decomposition because by the end of one flight, the original twenty-centimeter strip must be removed in twenty one-centimeter pieces that cling to your fingers while leaving most of the adhesive on your bag to collect dirt and grime which creates a permanent twenty-centimeter strip of black smudge on the fabric and clogs the zipper so you can’t open the bag. I’ve considered launching a formal tape protest but all the posters taped to buildings and poles would fall to the ground by the next morning.
A more pleasing question to me, but incomprehensible to them, would have been: “What do you miss most about Thailand?” Stunning sunsets while removing my soaked motorcycle gear after a deluge of rain that ended the moment I arrived home and stepped onto the deck. Weaving in and out of cars till I get to the front of the line at an intersection which would be punishable by life imprisonment in America or being shot by an outraged, gun-packing Californian. Absolutely delicious meals casually delivered on the extended installment plan while reading exotic menu items I would never put in my mouth but perhaps send anonymously to an enemy. Marveling at Thais who slip out of their sandals effortlessly before entering a building as if they had spring-loaded, removal devices fastened to their feet, and then don them again in a nanosecond as if they were remote-controlled, self-attaching sandals modeled after homing pigeons. Yay the miniscule petrol-pumper in his speck of a village who has never seen a Farang with a big bike posing for a photo while hugging me as if I were his long-lost brother. Orphans at Children’s Garden huddled around pictures of themselves holding or doing things they love like carrying baby pigs, using a hammer or eating the ice cream cone I had brought them that day.
Once I got back to Thailand, I realized I missed things I don’t even care about the smelly, cacophonous tuk-tuks; the screech and crash of sliding metal doors as folks open and close their shops; the classic Land of Smiles grin from any repair store owner while saying “it be done tomorrow” but knowing full-well it will be in Bangkok until sometime next century.
Please let me know where to get some decent packing tape and there won’t be one thing I miss in America.



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