HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Tail waggers

Life in the Laugh Lane

The Doctor's Consultation: Cosmetic Surgery. Are you a candidate?

by Dr. Iain Corness

The other evening, in the middle of the pouring rain I ran to my car, flung the door open and quickly jumped in. That statement is, however, not quite accurate. The correct sequence was more like this - I ran to my car, quickly jumped in and opened the door. The end result of my collision with my car was a laceration to my forehead and my blood spilt on the ground. After the epithet, I then wondered if I should contact my favorite cosmetic surgeon and get him to remove a few wrinkles during the suturing. I then wondered if I should go the whole hog! The facelift.
So what does a real facelift entail, not just simple repair of lacerations caused by clumsily getting into one’s motor vehicle? The medical terminology for a facelift is a Rhytidectomy Procedure, which is designed to improve sagging facial skin and jowls, and loose neck skin by removing excess fat, tightening muscles, and re-draping the skin.
By standing in front of the mirror and placing your hands just in front of your ears and drawing back, you will suddenly see how you used to look some years ago (and you’ve done it many times, haven’t you). That is what the facelift procedure is designed to do, but note that it is not just a simple case of cutting away sagging skin, but excess fat (in the wrong places) is removed, and the muscles tightened as well. Tightening the skin alone will not last, as older skin has lost its elasticity and will soon sag again. This is why a full face lift requires a skilled (experienced) cosmetic surgeon, and also why the operation takes several hours.
Being a major procedure, in cosmetic surgery terms, the anaesthetic is usually a general one, though it can be carried out under local anaesthetic. You would have to talk to your surgeon about this, but if you have some chronic medical conditions (as well as an aging face) it may be better to look at local, rather than general anaesthesia.
Some centers will carry out this procedure as an out-patient, but I honestly believe that something as major as this deserves an inpatient stay, and probably for a couple of days at least. Those who have had this done, do say that the first two days are the worst, and the bruising is fairly extensive, as well as the swelling. It often looks as if you have done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson (and lost every one of them).
The good books mention the following side effects and risks to be considered before being subjected to the cosmetic surgeon’s knife. There can be temporary bruising, swelling, numbness and tenderness of skin; a tight feeling, and dry skin. For men, there may be a permanent need to shave behind ears, where beard-growing skin is repositioned. The risks include injury to the nerves that control facial muscles or feeling (usually temporary but may be permanent), infection, bleeding, poor healing, excessive scarring, asymmetry or change in the hairline.
Recovery time as far as return to work is concerned (or being able to be seen in public) is generally 10-14 days. The good book also suggests that more strenuous activity should be postponed for at least a couple of weeks. The bruising should have all settled by three weeks, and it is also recommended that you stay out of the sun for several months.
There is also a further downside, in the fact that the aging of the skin will still continue. A facelift does not stop natural aging taking place. Consequently, your surgery will probably need to be redone in five to ten years.
However, many of the world-famous glamour faces have had this done, more than once, and those who I have met who have had it done are delighted with the result. After all, who doesn’t want to look several years younger?
Now all that is stopping me having my facelift is the time needed, the thought of pain, and the money!

Agony Column

Hi Hillary!
I’m Sean Bunzick, an American who’s been coming to Chiang Mai for 18 years now and when I’m financially trapped here in the States, I love reading your column. Jason Schoonover’s books are my favorites and I’m happy to say he liked my first two novels as well. While I think Private Dancer would be a better choice, I have to agree with Jason on A Woman Of Bangkok - it’s a great history lesson about falling in love with a bargirl in Thailand.
I have a copy published by DK Book House that I bought 18 years ago in Suriwong Books that I’d be more than happy to loan to Lang Reid so he can read it and review it; you could do the same if you’d so like. All I ask is (1) the book is returned to me in Chiang Mai after you two are done with it and (2) I’d appreciate it if Lang could read and review my novels, Missing In Aisa (sic) and Air Thermae. They are both available at Bookazine in CM and my third novel, Dangerous Junk For Sail, should be in that same store within the next month or so. The cover of the third book has thumbs-up for the first two novels by both Jason and Chris Moore so hopefully Lang will enjoy them!
Dear Sean,

Aisa? Where is Aisa? I know Americans can’t spell, but Aisa? Shame on you, young man! And you also include an open offer of corruption. Don’t you know that Thailand is now corruption free, ever since our Dear Leader Thwak Sin stamped it out and fixed all our problems including drugs and BKK traffic? Here you are offering Lang Reid a book, on the proviso he reviews your novels! Goodness me, I know he would be offended! (But if you send me some chocolates and champers, I’ll sweet talk him into doing it!) Of course I will deny all this in any court of law, and say it was my gardener. And by the way, I just hope Jason Schoonover appreciates what a great job I am doing as his publicist and rewards me adequately! Life is difficult enough as it is, my Petal, without all this extra aggravation! Though I do commend you on keeping the original spelling of Sean, and not that awful bastardization “Shawn”. It is after all a very important Irish name, as never forget that St. Patrick chased all the snakes out of Ireland, whereupon they went to America and became policemen!

Dear Hillary,
I read somewhere that 90 percent of all marriages between foreigners and Thais end up as being between Thai bar girls and foreign sex-tourists and/or sex-pats. Looking around the bars I go to, this seems not just correct, but maybe a bit on the low side. All of my male friends and acquaintances are married to bar girls and only one that I personally know about who married a non-bar girl married someone considered to be a low-class Thai girl. It looks to me as if the 90 percent thing is about right. Do you agree? It certainly explains the way bar girls are all over you one minute, until they get hold of your wallet.
Mathematical Mike
Dear Mathematical Mike,

It is often said that there are lies, damned lies and statistics, and I’m trying very hard to place your letter in the right category, Petal. Look at all your sweeping statements, without any real figures to back them up, especially your 90 percents. All of your friends and acquaintances, bar one, are married to bar girls. So what you are saying is that 90 percent (minus one) of your married friends are either foreign sex-tourists or sex-pats. Really? It’s time you changed your bars, my little turtle dove! 90 percent of my male friends are not married to bar girls, are not foreign sex-tourists or sex-pats, so we obviously do not share water holes (isn’t that a relief, she cried)! So in answer to your proposition that 90 percent of all foreigners marry bar girls the answer has to be a No! You would probably be able to say, with a fair chance of being correct, that almost all foreigners marry girls. That is, providing they are male foreigners. But I doubt if the percentage is even as high as 90 percent. We are living in a changing world! However, the fact of the matter is that men marry women they meet and socialize with, be that at work or after work. Managers marry secretaries, doctors marry nurses, trapeze artists marry circus ladies, ice skaters marry other ice skaters and so forth. If your male friends only frequent the bars, the only girls they will meet and marry are from the bars, but do not take it that this is the norm for expats and Thai girls. The danger with statistics is that you can make them show almost anything you like. For example, 99 percent of all people who died last year in Thailand wore shoes. Therefore, shoes are the greatest killer and we should all go barefoot. Obviously nonsense. But taking your bar-fly male friends as the true statistics is just as silly. Broaden your horizons Mathematical Mike, before quoting percentages and statistical information.

Camera Class:  Landscapes

by Harry Flashman

Are you going somewhere spectacular for your vacation? And want to make sure you get stunning landscapes to make everyone envious? Then here is how to do it.
This subject was brought to my attention by someone wishing to photograph a famous red rock in the center of Australia called Ayer’s Rock, or Uluru, in the native language. The reader asked what filters should he use to make sure the sky would be blue and the rock would be red. This was actually a very reasonable request, as the travel shots always show the rock to be a deep red color, against a deep blue sky. The reader obviously felt that this was probably done with trick filters. Actually no.

Before taking a landscape picture, it is time to remember some basics. The first aspect to master is just sheer composition. The golden rule is to include some foreground interest as well as all the other items in the shot. Sharp foreground items like fence posts, bushes or even old farm equipment will give depth and scale to the photograph. Preferably coming from the left of the picture, as the human eye reads from left to right. This item will help draw the eye into the picture.
It is always best to avoid putting the horizon line slap bang in the center of the photograph, so move the camera to only have about one third of the picture sky, and even experiment by making the sky two thirds of the picture you see in the viewfinder. This is called “The Rule of Thirds”.
Another very interesting variant in landscape shots is to turn your camera 90 degrees and take the landscape in the “portrait” (vertical) mode. Of course, the rule about where to place the horizon still stands!
Landscapes should also be very sharp, right the way through from the foreground to the very back of the scene. The way to ensure this is to use a wide angle lens and run as small an aperture as you can. f16 to f22 will be perfect with a 24 mm lens, for example.
Now this will give you slow shutter speeds, especially in lower light situations, so this is one time where you really need your tripod. The slow shutter speed will also give you that flowing look to moving water, such as streams or rivers. Additionally it gives you an interesting and different representation of waves, again imparting a sense of movement.
Time of day is particularly important for landscapes. Early morning for that cold blue light and late afternoon for the warm glow. Get those into a landscape and you are starting to put together a good photograph.
Another little trick is not to pack up and go home as soon as the sun disappears. There is often enough light to catch some stunningly colored different kinds of shots after sundown.
Even bad weather should not put you off having a go at some landscapes. On a completely foul day try putting some black and white film in the camera and see what you get. You may be very surprised with the end result. Another little wriggle is to use the flash when taking shots in the rain. You can stop the rain drops as bright splashes of light in an otherwise grey shot.
Now back to filters and such. First off, there is no blue sky, red rock filter. You should put a Skyline 1A on the end of any lens, which does help sky color, but more importantly protects the expensive glass bit. To get the best blue sky and reddest red of Ayers Rock, use the wide angle lens and take the photo in the late afternoon (warm light). Consequently, the rock in the late afternoon will appear more red. Don’t be tempted to use the telephoto to bring the rock closer. You go closer and use the wide angle! The technical reason behind the sky appearing more blue is that the wide angle lens packs more sky into the frame than other lenses.
If all that doesn’t work, buy some slides at the souvenir shop!

Money Matters:  What makes Miton mighty? Part 1

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Mark Dampier, a well-known investment research analyst and financial columnist recently wrote an article in which he commented, “I consider the vast majority of managed funds, particularly those run by insurance companies, as being especially poor.”
This despite the fact that he recognised that, “Inherently, a managed fund should make a lot of sense for most investors.”
His disenchantment was based on his perception that the vast majority of managed funds simply act as an All share tracker, being managed to a benchmark which is far more to do with business risk that absolute risk.
Dampier embarked on a journey of discovery - driven by the recognition that portfolio management for the majority of clients presents an opportunity which, in the main part, isn’t being seized upon due to mediocrity of the majority of fund management.
As regular readers of this column will know, we have been reciting this for a fair while now. Years ago, we were driven by the feeling that there must, surely, be organizations out there that were committed to doing better than simply saying that a managed fund should be a proxy tracker of an average of the world’s stock-markets. We spent ages interviewing fund managers so as to try and identify those who were prepared to break this mould.
Perhaps first, we should look at the reasons why we’d become disenchanted with the tracker approach - which might suit some clients better than others but cannot get the optimal rewards of active management. Like much that is good and bad in today’s world, the tracker mentality was born in the US in the second half of the last century. There had been a major sea-change in personal investment in the US in the 1960s with the emergence of star fund equity managers who capitalised on the boom markets during the age of peace and love by creating more focused stock market funds for the masses.
These mainly focused on the Kidder-Peabody ‘nifty fifty’ largest, best-known, most traded US stocks. These, in general, performed very well from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. However, the stock market crashes that were partly brought about by the 1970s version of oil crises hit these stocks hardest and most funds were made to suffer as well.
The erstwhile star managers were suddenly pilloried, investors felt cheated and John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, seized on the opportunity that was created by the widespread drawing of the wrong conclusions in the aftermath of this debacle to popularize the idea of index tracker funds.
Thirty years later we have the luxury of a more considered reflection than was possible at the time as well as the benefits of hindsight. The problem with most portfolios in the early 1970s is that they had become too focused on a particular group of stocks that had already performed extremely well for a significant period and were unlikely to continue performing that way indefinitely.
Indeed, the US and most Western stock markets had enjoyed a purple patch. As part of the normal cycle we can, at this removed distance, see that a major correction was pretty well inevitable and that the oil crisis was more of a catalyst than an underlying cause. The smart money, in places like Connecticut (far enough away from the hurly-burly of a crashing Wall Street to allow quiet reflection) realized that the problems had been caused by portfolios becoming too concentrated in terms of geography, asset class and style.
Geographic diversification became easy to understand - spread your risk by diversifying across all the world’s stock-markets. Unfortunately, this may be the easiest lesson to understand but in some ways it’s not the most valuable lesson - the effect of what we call unitary correlation (in simple terms when one market goes bad the rest get jitters and the ripples go around the world’s stock-markets like a giant game of financial dominoes) tends to mean that geographical diversification might only serve to take the edge off some nasty losses in really bad times.
Asset class diversification was also easy enough to understand - stocks were plummeting but commodities, driven by oil and gold were sky rocketing in the 1970s - however, the system, presided over in the US by the SEC to protect investors, made it far easier for you to buy the stocks that were plunging in value than the commodities that were soaring.
As a result this lesson became distorted. The managed fund was born but instead of being a thoroughbred of the 5 asset classes - Equities, Bonds, Property, Cash, Alternatives - it became more of an illegitimate son of a compromise between the SEC’s two favoured markets: stocks and bonds.
In recognition of the fact that a holding of bonds would have vastly reduced the stock losses of 1974 and in anticipation of the new bond market activity spawned by Paul Volcker’s modernising of the Fed’s management of the US economy, bonds became more interesting.
The marketing departments of the big fund management houses went back to their wound-licking clients with a diluted version of what they’d offered previously - either invest entirely in stocks again but instead of the ‘nifty-fifty’, focus on those stocks that most suit YOUR outlook (growth = potential for higher returns/losses, whereas value waters down both sides of the equation) and with some global diversification, i.e. maybe 5% of your stocks might be non-US stocks or have the choice of a balanced fund (balanced somehow apparently means that 70% of your money is invested into stocks and 30% into T-bills.)
However, if only lip-service was paid to geographical and asset class diversification, then style diversification fared even worse. The idea that short selling and options could be used to protect stock portfolios was well-known at this stage. Alfred Jones’ successful experiments with long/short funds (buying the stocks most likely to increase in value but short selling those most liable to correct) were extremely well-publicised by the early 1960s and there had been academic work on the subject since the 1930s. Even so, this still fell outside the narrow definitions of what the SEC deemed suitable for most investors. Thus style diversification on Wall Street completely ignored what approach to take to particular asset classes and instead focused on the allocations within asset classes (i.e. the growth versus value issues highlighted earlier).
Wall Street was happy - it had somehow re-invested itself and was able to offer basically the same services and products as before but had managed to distance itself from all that ugly business where people had lost fortunes while it had been caught napping when it should have been on sentry duty.
John Bogle, opening First Index Investment Trust (now known as Vanguard) was happy because, for those investors who still harboured a grudge, he was able to make Wall Street a scapegoat. “Hadn’t we all trusted these start names who were supposed to be so smart? Hadn’t they let us down? Hadn’t the broader markets done a lot better than the ‘nifty-fifty’ when it all went ugly? Hadn’t the broad market been smarter than the superstar managers? Weren’t we better trusting to the broad market and its inherent diversification rather than paying a fortune to these parasites who’d made millions from our misery?”
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]

Tail waggers: Pets and their influence on a child’s development

by Nienke Parma

Nienke Parma
The more I read about the enormous impact dogs and other pets can have on our mental development and health, the more I respect and admire them, as they all do it unconditionally.

Pets and children

Did you, for example, know that in the States children from the ages of 3 to 6 report that 61% of their dreams feature an animal and, of the first 50 words an American child uses, 7 of them are words for animals, with ‘dog’ and ‘cat’ ranking right up there with ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’? Small children also tend to hold and follow around animals much more than they do the toys.
Pet animals also provide fantastic learning opportunities for our children in a way that can’t be replaced by anything. Scientific studies have found that very young children from pet owning families scored higher in cognitive, social, and motor development. Other studies showed that pets help to boost both IQ scores and reading ages. Children as young as 3ฝ years can already show maternal care towards pets. As a result they score higher on nurturing and are better at reading body language and empathising.
Further, basic needs such as emotional security, contact comfort, warmth and unending ‘superabundant’ love are provided by pets. As a result, many children share their deepest feelings and secrets with their pet, believing that the animal is really listening and understanding without being judgmental. In this way pets help develop a positive sense of self in our children making them feel recognised, accepted and admired. More scientific studies, conducted in America, support this view. It has been found, for instance, that children as young as 3 believe that their love for their pet is reciprocal. Elementary school-age children ranked pets as their most significant relationships, 3
rdgraders considered the animals more comforting when they are scared or ill than a best friend and teenagers who share secrets with their pets are more likely to have greater empathy with their own age group.
Animals can do a lot for children. The only thing we have to do in return is to respect them for what they are and fulfil their mental and physical basic needs. That is not too much ask, is it?!
To be continued…
For more information on pets’ health, dog- and cat-boarding, dog-training and behavior modification counseling, please, visit www. or contact LuckyDogs: 08 9997 8146.

Life in the Laugh Lane: Re: evolution

by Scott Jones

On September 19, I wake in Thailand to the usual, unusual events. Stepping onto my porch, I almost fall down while stumbling out of my sandal, which sticks in the rat poison that has dripped on the floor from the roof. (My newest roommates are some crossbreed with rat heads, combo-bodies and squirrel tails, perhaps called “squats.” After seeing the happy couple cavorting on the ceiling beams, and hearing their scratching, giggling reproductive activities in the walls at night, I whined to my landlord who then brought a plate filled with a gruesome concoction of poison, bacon bits, rubber cement and unidentifiable goo that would supposedly trap them in a toxic bog. In two weeks, it only trapped one gecko, one fly and me.)
As I search under the sink for industrial-strength cleaners, gasoline or a chain saw to remove my sandal from the deck, a renegade spider - a tad smaller than the neighbor’s dog but much faster - scampers away with her sack of 10,000 microscopic babies in an apparent plot to deposit them everywhere, usurp my bungalow and enshroud me in a web prison. While sweeping an unauthorized ant convocation out of the kitchen, I find a plastic bag, which has become, overnight, the home of a genial toad. He enjoys riding around on my hand, creeps curiously toward the camera to give me its best side, and then sits on the seat of my wooden toy motorcycle for a couple of hours wishing its front legs could reach the handlebars.
I check email to find a barrage of messages from American friends, the gist being “What the #%*@ is going on?!” The internet informs me there has been a military coup, tanks are rolling, and, by the way, it’s a public holiday! Peacefully with no resistance, using military-strength cleaning agents, the government has been purified. I don my yellow polo shirt adorned with the royal emblem - one of millions purchased by the masses to honor His Majesty the King, the longest-reigning monarch in the world, during this celebration of his 60
th year on the thrown. I ride into Chiang Mai, exchanging thumbs-up signs with casual soldiers hanging around intersections and playing with their shiny metal toys, wrapped with yellow bands. “Tie a yellow ribbon ’round the ol’ Uzi…” Traffic is light; kids are out of school and everyone’s in a pretty good mood. The national TV news crews are subtly cheery and blatantly wearing yellow shirts, yellow jackets and yellow ties while broadcasting footage of citizens bringing flowers and food to soldiers on the streets. It feels like Thailand has taken a big sigh of relief. The pill wasn’t too hard to swallow even though it was administered by the army.
In America and the West in general, “Prime Minister Overthrown in Military Coup” does not sound good. “Coup” and “overthrown” sounds bad, and “military” sounds very bad. (Okay, “military” is a revered word in America, but only when the United States armed forces have taken control. God forbid, a foreign country works it out for itself.) A “general” in temporary control sounds even worse, and the single photo that many of the news reports chose to show portrayed General Sondhi as a snarling creature rather than the calm gentleman we see here on Thai television. In reality, the cooperation of a Buddhist king and a Muslim general should ease tensions in the south.
“Scrapping the constitution” may sound rash, but here, laws seem to be seasonal things anyway. Today you have a tourist visa; tomorrow you do not; next week you do. Next month? Whatever. A most important and influential word in Thailand is “king” but in America, the last king we had, besides Elvis, was George, who annoyed us until we brewed his tea in the sea and started our own country. Unless you’ve been here, experienced the feelings of the respect, and are aware of the decades of HM King Bhumibol’s service for and with the people, it’s hard to comprehend the situation. I personally doubt if he wants to govern, since he has a much loftier role - the heart and soul of the people and the country.
Most folks do not have a clue about Thailand. “Where? You’re from Taiwan? Isn’t that the capital of communist China?” Rulers around the world, who seem to want every country to behave exactly like theirs, have taken a holier-than-thou stance, condemning events in Thailand for “destroying democracy.” Well, there appears to be a plethora of positive democratic news here. The preparations for a clean election should open up the field to more candidates. With their planned input from experts, students and common citizens, the creation of a new constitution should build on what has almost worked in the past. (Sometimes you just cannot repair the old truck; you have to get a new one.) The classic “checks and balances” in a democracy have different names in Thailand, a name that means “Land of the Free.” In America, congress makes the laws, the Supreme Court judges them and the president, in charge of the military, enforces them. Here there is a parliament, a prime minister with his cabinet, a constitutional court and a seasoned, revered judge with 60 years of experience and a loyal army devoted to him.
A week later, it is pretty much business as usual in Chiang Mai. Soldiers sleep peacefully by the moat while cradling guns with yellow ribbons. Expats try in vain to decipher the latest visa laws. I attempt to quell the ant revolution, locate 10,000 guerrilla spiders and chop my sandal off the porch. My bungalow is governed by an amicable confederacy of toads, which has learned to drive my motorcycle. Fortunately, toads eat ants and spiders. With a little cooperation, they should be able to take care of the rats.