Dear Hillary the Electrician,
US electric motors not only run on 110 volts, or thereabouts, but also
60 cycles, exactly. If in turn they are wound for exactly 60 cycles, they
will wind up burning out at 50. It has to do with impedance, as I’m sure
you know but simply forgot. Impeded but not yet totally burnt out, I am
Paw Yigh Lee in Muang Yote Nakorn
Dear Paw Yigh Lee in Muang Yote Nakorn,
What have I started now? I am so sorry that American cycles get
middle-aged burn out at 50, while it seems the Thai versions will go on to
60, unimpeded, or something. Or have I got it wrong again, my Petal? When
I was scratching around trying to find the answer for the poor chap with
the 110 volt American lekky massager he wanted to switch on in Thailand,
where were you then, Paw Yigh Lee in Muang Yote Nakorn? It’s all very
fine being critical from the outside, but I need unimpeded and
unrestricted access to resource people in this country. I shall put you
down for all questions regarding electric chairs. But honestly, Petal, why
did you expect a poor old Agony Aunt should know anything about
electricity. Or should I now be called an Agony Amp? Or should I just go
‘ohm’ and forget about it?
Now, as a fully qualified astromer (sic) appointed by
Dizzyworld, I’ve been very concerned about the downgrading of Pluto and
the effect this will have on those like you who rely on horrorscopes to
ease them through the tangled intestines of life. So, in order to calm
your worries and show nothing has changed; Because Pluto is waning behind
Mickey Mouse, who is waxing on about Goofy eclipsing Minnie, without
paying the usual bar fine, in the shadow of Venus when the moon rises over
Pattaya’s short-time hotels, my predictions for next week are:
Sunday - Foreign armed forces leave Iraq, U.N. appoints Saddam Hussein as
caretaker President until new dictator emerges and shoots him.
Monday - Khun Thaksin applies for Social Security benefits in the U.K.
Pattaya Mail’s Hillarity inundated with chocs and fizzy.
Tuesday - Pattaya wins the coveted BIFRA, Best International Family Resort
Award. Soi 6 celebrates by having a Family Day, i.e. halving bar fines
during Happy Hour for boys under 12 years of age buying a minimum of six
large scotches and accompanied by their parents.
Wednesday - ALL religions embrace the 11th commandment, Thou shalt have a
sense of humour. Some extremists do not think this is funny.
Thursday - Every Thai motorcyclist seen is wearing a crash helmet, some
even fastening the chin straps. Economic disaster when Thailand bans use
of the expressions - “Up to you” and “No have” - many bar girls
and most shops go out of business.
Friday - Khun Thaksin refused Social Security benefits in the U.K., and
after accepting a work permit instead successfully applies for Tony
Saturday - President Bush, now with idle troops to deploy, declares war on
the U.K. for harbouring criminal despots.
I do thank you for the good news that chocs and champers are on their way,
but I have to ask, did you really mean ‘astromer’, or was it supposed
to be ‘astronomer’? Perhaps the spelling occurred when you were
blinded by the planets aligning so that the Sun was in Uranus momentarily.
Thank you for bringing us up to date on the interplanetary movements, and
yes, I heard about Minnie was getting a bit goofy recently. But I believe
she is taking tablets for it now.
You well informed old Dyke You! With such an alert brain, one well may
in fact think, you are a male of the species! I read with interest all
these letters from the cry baby farang males, who have lost their true
love and the girl as well, due to either stupidity or naivety. There is a
simple way to over come this dilemma. I was told by a Thai Lawyer that you
buy a receipt book and write out a receipt for any monies given to one of
these Little Brown Snappers. Explaining to them you have a company and you
have to keep check of your expenses. She is classified as a live in
housekeeper. She signs for each payment, in the case of separation, you
show she was paid for services rendered. If she hires a lawyer, he would
point out to her she didn’t pay tax. The problem I’m told, generally
ends right there. I hope my sweet Dame Edna Copy Cat, that this snippet
will help these stupid men who see the bar scene from the one eyed,
earless part of their anatomy.
Please withhold my name
Dear Please withhold my name,
How wonderful to hear from you, my Petal. I thought male chauvinism had
died about 20 years ago, but it is so nice to see there are still pockets
of it left. However, I doubt that the lawyer will point out the tax angle,
or the case expenses won’t mount up. Dame Edna was a figment of Barry
Humphries imagination. I am not, so we can’t be alike. So there!
By the way, a dyke is one of those stone walls around Holland that young
lads stick their fingers into. Or perhaps even that part of their anatomy
that you are referring to!
Camera Class: Inspiration from Julia Margaret Cameron
by Harry Flashman
every couple of years I find it is necessary to forget technology and look at
photographs from the point of view of artistry. Look at the photograph, which is
of the eminent historian Thomas Carlyle. That photograph was taken in 1867 and
is ranked as one of the most powerful portraits in the history of photography.
That is correct, almost 140 years ago.
Look again - technically it is imperfect. There is blurring of the image, and
when you realize that the shutter was open for probably around three minutes,
then you can see why. The sitter could not possibly remain motionless for that
period of time. But it still has the power to mesmerize the viewer. Why?
The dynamics of this shot come from the very first principles of photography –
painting with light. It is not the subject that matters – it is the way you
light the subject, and this is the prime example, taken all those years ago. The
light is falling on the sitter almost from the side and slightly above. One eye
is partially lit and the other in shadow. The hair and beard show up strongly.
The photo is actually totally confrontational.
Analyze further. If the face had been front lit, and both eyes, the nose and the
mouth were all clearly visible then there would be no air of mystery. The dark
areas of the photograph have made you look further into it. You begin to imagine
what the features were like. You also begin to imagine what the person was like.
You are experiencing the “perfect” portrait. This is not a ‘record’
shot, but ‘creation’.
The shot was taken by Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879) a British lady who
had been raised in India, in the days of the British Raj. Surrounded by
servants, she had never had to do anything for herself, and yet, in her late
forties she took up the new fangled notion of photography. This was not the age
of the point and shoot digital simplicity we enjoy today. This was the age of
making your own photographic plates by painting a mixture of chemicals all over
it - chemicals you mixed yourself - exposing the plate in a wooden box camera
and then fixing the negative in more chemicals and finally making a print.
It was the 29th of January 1864 when Mrs. Cameron finally produced her first
usable print. She had made the exposure at 1 p.m. and in her diary recorded the
fact that by 8 p.m. she had made and framed the final print. (And you think you
are doing it tough if you have to wait two hours, instead of one!)
As opposed to the tiny “cartes de visite” that were the norm at that time,
Julia Margaret Cameron was making close up portraits 30x40 cm. However, she
would not have managed to photograph so many of the notables of the era had it
not been for her next door neighbor, the Poet Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson.
After Tennyson saw his portrait he persuaded his eminent friends to sit for her
as well. Most of these portraits were different from the Thomas Carlyle
photograph in that they were taken in profile. Mrs. Cameron felt that the innate
intelligence could be more easily seen in the profile and this may have been the
result of the influence of the quasi-science of Phrenology, whereby your cranial
bumps showed your true talents, which was all the rage at that time!
Julia Margaret Cameron contributed to photography by showing that it is the eye
of the photographer that dictates the photograph, not the “smartness” of the
equipment. She also showed a personal determination to succeed which should be
an example to the young photographers of today.
So you can stop reading the photographic magazines to see if you should buy the
latest offering from Nikopanasononanolta complete with one millionth of a second
shutter speed and dedicated flash power for up to three kilometers and just go
out and take photographs with what you have got. Look at what is in front of you
and “make” your own photographs “work” for you. Thus endeth the
inspirational lesson. Thank you Mrs. Cameron. Class dismissed!
Money Matters: Is old best? Not necessarily so - Part 2
MBMG International Ltd.
The second part of the solution was, as
discussed earlier, to encourage the recruitment of ever increasing numbers
of new names at Lloyd’s and to increase the total capital provided both by
them and by existing names. These objectives were also executed
successfully. The number of members of Lloyd’s increased from 7,710 in
1975 to 18,506 in 1980, and then to 32,433 in 1988. Increases of this
magnitude were totally unjustified by the growth of the worldwide insurance
market and in particular by the business likely to be introduced to
Lloyd’s over those years.
During these same years, Lloyd’s also increased the financial deposit
requirements of names, while it reduced the total wealth requirement
demanded to be shown by members individually. As a result of the substantial
increase in the funds and guarantees deposited directly with Lloyd’s by
its members, the gross underwriting capacity at Lloyd’s increased from £3.42
billion in 1980 to £11.02 billion in 1988. The substantial increase in
capital funds provided by the unsuspecting names during the first six or
seven years of the 1980’s had no immediate genuine business to finance.
The growth in insurance business worldwide did not match the growth in
Lloyd’s capital, and because the US Liability claims were not due to start
reaching Lloyd’s in size until the late years of the decade, a vacuum of
legitimate opportunity developed. Some of the more unscrupulous
underwriters, members’ agents and brokers found ways to fill it. They
introduced unprofessional and improper practices which had little or no
valid commercial justification. The most infamous development was the LMX
Spiral. This was initiated when a few syndicates re-insured the excess risks
of other better run syndicates. Those first spiral syndicates then started
to re-insure those same risks with other syndicates. Syndicate A reinsured
with Syndicate B. Syndicate B with Syndicate C. C with D, and then the
spiral commenced as D reinsured a higher layer of the original risk with
Syndicate A. And so it started again.
The spiral developed in ever decreasing circles at ever higher layers of
risk and ever decreasing premiums. During the course of the spiral the
syndicates writing spiral business reinsured themselves several times over.
And at every turn a Lloyd’s broker took 10% of the premium in commission.
A financial disaster was inevitable. It would happen with the first major
catastrophe. Surprisingly no major catastrophe occurred for several years,
but then the Piper Alpha oil rig blew up in late 1988. The death knell of
the LMX Spiral was sounded and it collapsed within a year or two. The
business making up the spiral was not insurance. It was a series of bets
that a major catastrophe would not happen within the next twelve months.
It was guaranteed to end in total and overwhelming loss for the unsuspecting
members of the spiral syndicates; the only question was when. The rates
charged and its spiral circularity were such that no competent broker would
have touched it, far less any competent or ethical underwriter. Yet
Lloyd’s regulators condoned it and a number of leading underwriters
re-insured their worst risks with the spiral syndicates.
The names who were placed on the LMX spiral syndicates were overwhelmingly
the new names who had been lured into Lloyd’s as a result of the
recruitment policies described earlier. Those new names were, for the most
part, unable to join well-run syndicates as the latter found themselves
unable to attract sufficient legitimate new business to justify taking on
more names. To all this the regulators at Lloyd’s turned a blind eye...
Needless to say, names on the spiral syndicates were never informed of the
nature of the time and distance policies nor of the accounting principles
applied to them. And neither did Lloyd’s regulators, approved syndicate
auditors or accounting practice supervisors interfere... Research studies
have shown that members of the Council of Lloyd’s were noticeable by their
absence as members of spiral syndicates. The most knowledgeable and
professionally competent of Lloyd’s working names did not themselves
participate as members either; and most kept their old established clients
and friends from joining them.
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: Its knot spelt write
by Scott Jones
have described me by saying, “He writes music and books.” Well, I don’t
write books. I write music and book - one book that seems to have taken several
lifetimes. If I don’t finish it by the time I die, I’m going to kill
During these final death throws of editing, my mind has devolved into cuckoo
feces as I try to separate the correct wheat from the misspelled chaff. I
offered to donate my brain to medical science, but they refused after tests
revealing it had the mental capacity of a log, and suggested I leave it with
the chemistry department as an example of “living inert material.”
Since I’m attempting to write in my native language of American, my British
spell checker sometimes just gets in the way. It considers the title of this
column A-OK, and even the word “spelt” is acceptable for “spelled” in
the English. Using “spelt” would make me look like a cretin in America,
where it only means “a primitive species of wheat with grains that do not
thresh free of the chaff,” which actually describes my project perfectly.
Luckily David Hardcastle, formerly of Good Morning Chiangmai News and an astute
British editor who tolerates American, has come to my rescue and is proofing
the book before it is published - oh my Buddha, have mercy - next week. Now I
have someone to blame for my short-comings and all errors in the book will be
The good news? Thanks to calculators, spell checkers, e-mail and phone text
messages written completely in random, abbreviations containing no vowels, few
people can add, subtract or spell anymore. There are currently only eleven
people in America with acceptable spelling skills, millions who think the word
“farm” is spelled E-I-E-I-O and countless professional sports stars that
have trouble with tricky words like “I,” “a,” or “the.” My third
grade teacher is one of the Exceptional Eleven and I’m sure she still spells
every word correctly, although she’s probably too old to construct coherent
sentences. Her name is Mrs. Quinald, or Cuinauld, or Kwinold or Teacher.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to teach impatient rug rats,
especially in a foreign country, who would rather kill alien invaders on Game
Boys than learn the subtleties of English, a truly ridiculous language.
Consider trying to sound out the spelling of these rhyming words - do, dew,
due, doo-doo, through, threw, thru, new, knew, nu, rue, roux, lieu, ooh, shoe,
shoo, eschew, coo, cuckoo, cue, queue, rendezvous, yew, ewe, W, screw you, too,
to, two, tutu - where “oo” equals o, oe, ooh, ous, oux, ough, ou, u, ue,
eue, ieu, ew, we and wo! Woe are we! It is no help whatsoever to have packaged
American products like Cheez Whiz, Krispy Kreme or Dan Quayle, former
vice-president for four, foreboding, forgettable years, who had a brain the
size of a quail egg but not quite as developed, and made enough daily verbal,
grammar and spelling errors to set back English for a decade.
I’ve met people who can’t even spell their own names correctly, which must
be terribly embarrassing, so when a person wants a personalized autograph on my
book, I’ll be very cautious and polite.
Me: “What’s your name?”
Me: “Ah, beautiful name! How do you spell it?
Me: “Gee, that’s nice. My name’s Scott: S-K-A-U-G-H-T.”
Okay, Sherry, Sherri, Shari, Cheri, you can spell your name any way you want,
but if you’re in the duo I saw in Minnesota, the incorrect spelling of your
group’s name won’t help your career. They chose the name Sapphire, but
spelled it “Saphire.” All I could ever see was SapHire. Hire a Sap. Their
credibility was not bolstered by their printed contracts, which said in bold,
capital letters on the top: INTERTAINMENT CONTRACT. Would you hire a sap for
your “intertainment” needs? Does anyone have intertainment needs? Does
Oxford Dictionary publish a special dictionary for Minnesota?
For e-mail and computer documents, spell checkers blatantly demonstrate our
ignorance to ourselves while hiding it from the rest of the world, but they
don’t work for signs in front of businesses. I question the intelligence of
the manager who advertised DINNING at the drive-thru DIN-DOW, but I also
wondered about the sign salesman, the secretary who typed the order, the people
who actually made the sign and all the customers who stop by for din-din. The
employees might as well have run around yelling, “We’re all brain-donors!
Come and dine with dimwits! We can’t spell but maybe we can read recipes.
Let’s see now, was that molasses or mole asses?”
Two mentally-challenged businesses struggled in the same town in Georgia, where
perhaps a terminal spelling disease circulated in the water. One garage
displayed a sign that read $3.00 MINUM CHARGE. “Yesseree, Billy Bob, we’all
don’ use any more letters ’n we hafta. We’all use the minum amount.”
The office supply store painted this sign in their window: FILE CABNITES FOR
YOUR SECETARY. Their slogan may have been, “We’ll jes’ sell ’em; we
don’ spell ’em.”
As incentives to David, if he successfully separates every flake of chaff from
the wheat, I will give him a file cabnite, a gift certificate for dinning at
the drive-in din-dow and a trip for two in tutus to Timbuktu, too. Otherwise
I’ll throw the book at him.
Language Matters : The Stress-timed Rhythm of English
by Peter McKenzie-Brown
often talk about the rhythm and melody of language. This is not an abstract
idea. It is real, and comes from word stress and intonation. In English,
much of it comes from the phenomenon of vowel reduction, which English
teachers and learners should understand.
Imagine yourself at public auditions in which four conductors are competing
for the top job in an orchestra. Each competitor has to conduct the same
piece of music, and each to the same metronome. As he waves his baton, the
first conductor begins with the words, “One, two, three, four.” The
second says, “One and two and three and four.” The next says, “One and
a two and a three and a four.” And the last aspirant says, “One and then
a two and then a three and then a four.”
Which of these conductors will miscue the orchestra? The answer is
“None.” Each of these four sentences takes exactly the same amount of
time to say. This illustrates a key and yet peculiar feature of our
language. It is called the stress-timed rhythm of English.
Stress-timing: We can illustrate with almost any word of two or more
syllables - for example, “syllable.” We stress this word using the
pattern Ooo, placing primary emphasis on the first segment of the word. In
English every long word has its own stress pattern. Think of the words
“import” and “record,” for example. Both words can be pronounced
using either the pattern Oo or the pattern oO. Which pattern you use
fundamentally changes the meaning of the word.
Something else happens after you choose which syllable to stress. The
pronunciation of the main vowel in the unstressed syllable changes, often to
the sound ‘uh’ which is the single most common sound in the English
language. This sound has its own special name, schwa, and about 30 percent
of the sounds we make when we speak English are the sound schwa. In English,
schwa can be represented by any vowel.
For example, consider the following two-syllable words. The first word uses
the stress pattern Oo; the second, the stress pattern oO. You
will notice that in each case we pronounce the unstressed vowel as schwa,
regardless of its spelling.
A: Atlas; Canoe
E: College; Reveal
I: Cousin; Disease
O: Anchor; Contain
U: Lettuce; Support
This practice of replacing unstressed vowels with schwa also occurs in
connected speech - English as we use it in our daily lives. If I ask
“Where are you from?” I will stress the word “from,”
pronouncing the short ‘o’ sound quite clearly. If you answer “I’m
from Sydney,” you will most likely reduce the ‘o’ to schwa. The reason
is that you are likely to stress the word “Sydney” instead. Vowel
reduction is the key to the stress-timing of English.
Native English speakers frequently use schwa in unstressed syllables. This
is why it takes the same amount of time to say “One, two, three, four”
as it does to say “One and then a two and then a three and then a four.”
Reducing vowels enables us to speed through unstressed syllables. This is
how we achieve the particular rhythm of English, in which stressed syllables
are roughly equidistant in time, no matter how many syllables come in
Most of the world’s other major languages have quite different patterns.
They are mostly ‘syllable-timed’ languages. Each syllable receives
approximately the same amount of stress as the others in a word or a
sentence. These languages thus have quite different rhythm and melody - also
beautiful, but different.