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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Language Matters

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Keeping in contact

A good friend rang me to ask where he could go to get measured for contact lenses. After discussing this a little further it turned out that he used to wear the ‘hard’ style contact lens many years ago, but was not conversant with the newer style of soft, permeable lenses.
However, it isn’t just a case of bunging some in and forget about it. Quite the reverse. With all our organs that can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, did you know that eye problems are some of the commonest reasons for a doctor visit? And for those of you who wear contact lenses (like me) there are even more eye problems for us to get, despite the common use of contact lenses these days.
What has to be remembered is the fact that a contact lens is a foreign body in the eye. The “skill” in manufacturing the contact lens is in making it so smooth that the eyeball doesn’t really realise there is a foreign body there at all.
There are various types of contact lens, the old hard ones were made of a material called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) which is rigid and doesn’t let oxygen through, but the newer ones have a material called siloxane which is gas permeable. These hard lenses are the most trouble free, although the most difficult to look after. Sounds topsy-turvy, I know.
The second type of lens is the soft contact lens, of which there is a “permanent” style and a disposable type. These are made of hydroxymethylmethacrylate (HEMA) which contains between 30-60 percent water and are gas permeable. However, soft disposable lenses give the most problems, but are the easiest to look after, in direct contrast with the hard lenses. Again sounds weird, I know.
The commonest problems with all contact lenses is infection, and since the lens is a foreign body, there is a good reason to get an infection immediately. For those of you who leave your lenses in overnight, you have an increased risk of infection by a factor of 10. Take them out every night, you have been warned!
Infection is not to be thought of as something that just happens and when it does you just pop in a few eye drops and get better automatically. Bacterial infection can be sight threatening and the cornea (the clear bit in the centre that you look through) can be destroyed in 24 to 48 hours. There is also a parasite that can get into the eye of contact lens users who have rinsed their lens with contaminated water, or who have worn their lenses swimming in contaminated water.
One very common problem is “losing” the lens in the eye, both the hard and soft types. The most important thing to remember is not to panic. The lens cannot go “behind” the eye. It just rolls itself up under the lid. Try to avoid rubbing and it will reappear in an hour or so.
The other very common problem is eye irritation. This is caused by material under the lens or damage to the lens itself, such as splitting or tearing. If you take out the lens and you find it breaking up, do not put it back in - you run the risk of damaging the cornea. If you are like me and you wear your “two week” contacts until they fall apart - remember you are running a risk!
Lens care is the most important feature and you should always wash your hands before removal or insertion. The lens container should be scrupulously clean and the storage/cleaning fluid should be fresh, and never use water.
Look after your lenses, take them out at night, change them frequently and remove them immediately if there is any irritation or redness. “See” you next week!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I have a British motorcycle (a Triumph) and I park it in the garage when I go off shore. I have noticed that when I come back these days, it no longer leaks oil on the garage floor. I have my suspicions that my wife has given it to a Thai boyfriend, and the motorcycle is staying at his place while I’m away. Why she would do this is beyond me as I give her everything she wants, gold chains and everything. I really cannot think of any other reason for the garage floor to be so clean. Do you think the seals have taken up, or what is happening? Is there another logical answer?
Ken
Dear Ken,
Now it’s a motorcycle clinic! No, my Petal, the seals on your Triumph have not taken up. Good British bikes always leak oil, so there is a simple answer for you. Have you checked the level of oil in the crankcase? For a logical answer, I think you will find there is no oil left. That is the only feasible explanation with your British bike. Unless it was made in Japan, whereupon it is really a copy bike! Check the serial numbers, Poppet. And talk to the nice man at the motorcycle shop, not Hillary. You could of course, try locking it up while you are away. A good heavy chain, like the gold one your wife wears, with a strong combination lock, should be enough to keep it in the garage, and you will see if the drip is from the motorcycle, or perhaps it is you.
Dear Hillary,
A rum drinky for you. “Red Smarties yum, yum, red Barons no good,” says Nit.
Mistersingha
Dear Mistersingha,
Your cryptic note arrived at the office attached to a bottle of Bacardi Orange Breezer and a triple pack of Smarties. I almost fainted when the messenger brought it upstairs! I thought you were dead (or perhaps it was only wishful thinking on my part). I immediately checked the expiry dates, and none of it was old stock you had got cheaply. The tax label was still attached to the Breezer, so it hadn’t been tampered with either! It certainly isn’t French champagne and Belgian chocolates, but it’s a start, Mistersingha, it’s a start. How the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen got involved with your Smarties, I do not know, or understand from your note. But then again, there is lots that I do not understand about you. As is often said in this country, “The more you know, the less you understand!” (For anyone new to this column, this chap has been promising me all sorts of goodies for the past few years, none of which ever materialize.)
Deer I’ll,
This is briefly speekin, yer Nairod wiv Ingerlish elp from me mucker Dorian. Whilst sojourning in one temporary residence (scrubland off Naklua) one was idly perusing a discarded, ketchup stained copy of one’s favourite journal when one’s attention was drawn to a brief mention of one’s name, legible through the ketchup as, “that (something) Nairod, which kept one guessing as to how one was being portrayed to one’s public in the wake of one’s recent castigation. Did it read, perhaps “that charmer Nairod’s endearing correspondence is sadly missed,” or “that wonderful Nairod, lonely and unattached should remain so while leaping off Jomtien tower,” or “that darling Nairod, my one sweet Romeo whom I offer my troth, even though he’s not fit to eat from one,” or “that sweet Nairod living rough in the Naklua region is hopefully getting bitten thereabouts,” or “that poetical Nairod penned passion will forever light up my column and my sweet replies will light up his, and vulgarity such as Mr Singha’s be edited to extinction.” Still guessing.
Nairod
Dear Nairod,
So that you don’t lie awake at night in your rough shelter made from discarded cigarette packets and bottles of M150, I will let you know what was printed in the Mail (before ketchup). It was my response to Mistersingha which was, “You’re still alive then! What a shame. Have you thought of teaming up with the dreadful Nairod creature? You deserve each other.” So no more guessing. Now it’s the awful truth (and not troth).
As far as offering you my troth, I wouldn’t offer you a trough, though with your stated standard of accommodation, it would probably fit in with the rest of the décor.
As you will have seen, the letter above yours this week has come from Mistersingha, wrapped around some Smarties and a small bottle of Bacardi Breezer, and that was why I decided to print it, totally against my better judgment. And having stooped so low, I may as well continue and print yours as well, even though there were no Smarties, Bacardi Breezer or anything else edible, though I suppose I should consider myself lucky. It could have been a ketchup stained back copy of the Mail (and don’t even think about it, Nairod). Fare thee well, sweet Nairod. Fare thee well!


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Learning to master ‘manual’

Photography is still, despite the digital revolution, all about handling the variables involved in producing an image. And by handling all the variables yourself, you have total control over how that image turns out. And that entails mastering the M or Manual mode.
Now there are people who say that this is not necessary. Today’s cameras are smarter than we are, etc etc etc. You can twirl a knob, or select from a pull-down menu, the “portrait” mode or the “action” mode, and let the camera do the rest. That is all very fine, but you will get the portrait, or the action, that the camera ‘thinks’ is right. Not what you necessarily want, and there’s a big difference.
Improving your photography is not really all that difficult, and you don’t even need to go to school. There are many world class famous photographers who never had a lesson in their lives. But they did read, and they did experiment, and they did learn from their own work.
There are really only two main variables, and after you understand them and what they do to your photograph it becomes very simple.
The first thing to remember is that the correct exposure is merely a function of how large is the opening of the lens and how much time the shutter is left open to let the light strike the film. That’s almost it - that is photography in a nutshell. No gimmicks or fancy numbers - a straight out relationship - how open and for how long - this is known as the “Exposure”.
Now I will presume, for the sake of this exercise that you have an SLR and use it in the automatic, or “Programme” mode. Let’s go straight to the “mode” menu and look up “A” or “Aperture Priority”. In this mode it means that you can choose the aperture yourself, and the camera will work out the shutter speed that corresponds to the correct exposure. Simple.
So let’s play with this facility to give you some better pictures. Select “A” and then look at the lens barrel and you will see the Aperture numbers, generally between 2.8 and 22. To give you a subject with sharp focus in the foreground and a gently blurred background, you need to select an aperture around f2.8 to f4. Hey! It was that simple. To get those “professional” portrait shots, with the model’s face clear and the background all wishy washy, just use the A mode and select an Aperture around f4 to f 2.8.
Now, if on the other hand you want everything to be nice and sharp, all the way from the front to the back, like in a landscape picture, then again select A and set the lens barrel aperture on f16 to f22. The camera will again do the rest for you. Again - it’s that easy!
Flushed with creative success, let’s carry on. The next mode to try is the “S” setting. In this one, you set the shutter speed and the camera automatically selects the correct aperture to suit. Take a look at the shutter speed dial or indicator and you will see a series of numbers that represent fractions of a second.
First, let’s “stop the action” by using a fast shutter speed. For most action shots, select S and set the shutter speed on around 1/500th to 1/1000th and you will get a shot where you have stopped the runner in mid stride, or the car half way through the corner or the person bungee jumping. Yes, it’s that easy.
So this week you have learned that to get a good portrait shot use the A mode and set the aperture on f4 to f2.8 and forget about the rest of the technical stuff. Just compose a nice photograph and go from there. (Do remember to walk in close however!) To get a great landscape shot, again use the A mode and set the aperture at f16 to f22.
Finally, to stop the action, choose the S mode and around 1/500th of a second and you won’t get blurry action shots ever again.
Certainly there are other aspects to good photography, but master the A and S modes and you will produce better pictures.


Money Matters:  Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.

UK Inheritance Tax

With the new regulations it is vital for people to understand that when a beneficiary passes away the trust fund will no longer form part of an estate for IHT. This means that some people will be actually better off. Despite this, there will be people who wish to avoid the new rules. This may be because:
- they wish to invest a lot more that the NRB and do not want to receive a 20% entry charge
- they do not want, for whatever reason, periodic and exit charges
- the most important things are reduction in taxes with access thereby showing that flexibility over beneficiaries is not the most important thing
- they want to keep things easily understandable
If any of the above applies then the way to go could well be the bare trust versions of the main plans. The main advantages are:
- No chargeable transfer
- No requirement to complete IHT100
- No periodic/exit charges
- Will not affect taxation of any flexible trusts that have been created
- Simplicity
- Chargeable events on a beneficiary who is over 18 years old
The main disadvantage of all this is that when you have chosen who the beneficiaries are then you cannot change them at any time in the future. However, it has to be said that most people do not mind this. The plans can prevent beneficiaries winding up the policies and thereby stopping what the settlors' want whilst they are still alive.
So, it can be seen that it is better to do something than do nothing and the main benefits of insured schemes, i.e. estate reduction with access to capital, are still available. Also, clients have options. They can either have flexibility over beneficiaries and pay some tax or no flexibility and potentially pay no tax.
Without doubt, the planning of IHT has got a lot more complicated. It requires advice for qualified advisors with a complete understanding of a client's gifting history, requirements and how it will impact any future planning.
More than anything, the most important thing to do is to write a Last Will & Testament (LWT). The new Finance Act 2006 could have serious implications for those who ignore the possible implications of the new regulations.
Some LWTs will need only a few changes, many will require no changes at all. However, there will be plenty that need massive re-planning. This especially applies to expats. So, how have things changed? The basics of it all is that, in future, most trusts - whether made by LWT or a lifetime transfer into a trust - will now be subject to the same IHT rules that have applied to discretionary trusts for years.
There is now the potential for a charge to inheritance tax when:
- the trust is created
- every ten years of its lifetime
- when the assets leave the trust
The whole point of this was to plug the loopholes and prevent any legitimate and legal tax avoidance. It is a must that LWTs need to be reviewed if they contain gifts to children or create what are known as Interest in Possession trusts where there is an income beneficiary. It must be emphasized though that the changes will not affect the actual provisions of the LWT, only the way they are taxed. So, the only real difference is that the heirs could receive a substantially smaller amount than had been originally intended because it has fallen within the reach of HMRC.
To be continued…

Example of IHT Planning
A settlor creates a Discounted Gift Trust for GBP500,000 at 65, and takes a series of interests at 5% per annum. They die after eight years and the capital remains in trust for their son who then passes away in year 12. Assuming the fund is worth GBP640,000 at this time and the beneficiary’s other assets exceed the NRB, the total IHT would be as follows:
Old Regulations

- IHT on initial transfer and during trust period = Nil
- On death of the of the Beneficiary:GBP640,000 x 40% = GBP256,000

New Regulations

Assumes NRB increases by 2.5% per annum and the value at 10 years =GBP610,000. Therefore:IHT
on initial transfer = Nil as the discountedvalue of the transfer is below the NRB
Ten Year Charge = GBP14,712 Exit Charge
assuming trust wound up on the death of the son = GBP2,848

So, under the new regulations the total IHT bill for the family is reduced by GBP238,440
 

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 Graham Macdonald on [email protected]


Language Matters: by Peter McKenzie-Brown

Confucius and the Language Institute

Chiang Mai University recently opened its new Language Institute building with a traditional Thai blessing. A clutch of ochre-clad monks blessed the building with Pali and Thai chants and other rituals. (Much as Latin is the classical language of Catholicism, Pali is the classical language of Theravada Buddhism, to which almost all Thai Buddhists subscribe.)
When the Buddhist celebration was over, there was a brief but dignified secular ceremony to open the ultra-modern, 60-million baht complex. Among the small number of dignitaries were university president Dr. Pongsak Angkasith and Dr. Tanun Anumanrajadhon, chairman of the institute’s board. The ceremony was well organized, brief and pleasant. The voices of choice were English and Thai.
In addition to 35 air-conditioned classrooms, Chiang Mai University’s Language Institute has a 200-seat theatre, two 100-seat lecture halls and two other large lecture halls with 60 seats each. The complex has a specialized language library, two language labs and a self-access learning centre.
Confucius Institute: Then it was time for the opening of the Confucius Institute, an affiliated organization. Confucius Institutes are China’s answer to the British Council, Alliance Française and Germany’s Goethe Institutes. Their purpose is to spread the study of Mandarin and Chinese culture. The main sponsor of Chiang Mai’s Confucius Institute is the government of China. Other participants include Yunnan Normal University and China’s National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.
So far there are few of these institutes. The first was established in Uzbekistan in 2004. A year ago, according to a published report, there were 25, located in the United States, Europe and Asia. Today, there are more 123, and they are in 49 countries and regions on every populated continent. In 2006, China set one up every three and a half days, on average.
The Confucius Institute pulled out all the stops for this event. The Chinese ambassador to Thailand, Zhang Jiuhuan, spoke at length about the purposes of the Institute, and a mandarin from Beijing - Zhao Guocheng, elaborated. Then the chairman of Yunnan Normal’s academic committee talked warmly about his university’s partnership with CMU.
To make a point, perhaps, the only languages spoken were Mandarin and Thai. The ironic exception occurred when the ambassador ended his speech with an unaccented, perfectly nuanced “Thank you very much,” in English; a slip of the tongue. When the talking was over, curtains fell away and a traditional dragon dance began.
Great Power: One could not help but be impressed with the energy, drive and determination the Chinese applied to this official opening - qualities available in abundance in that emerging superpower. The Confucius Institutes are clearly an important part of Chinese policy, and the country is using its extraordinary ability to get things done to push these organizations as far and as quickly as they can.
I saw the importance the Chinese placed on the opening of this start-up educational organization as emblematic of a Chinese challenge to the dominance of English as the global language. As that country transforms itself into the world’s second economic superpower, it seems to want to develop the linguistic infrastructure that befits a great power.
According to one observer, Michael Vatikiotis, “China’s national office for teaching Chinese as a foreign language, which runs the Confucius Institutes, will provide textbooks for schools in Southeast Asia with the catchy title ‘Happy Chinese.’” That same national office believes there will be 100 million people worldwide learning Chinese as a foreign language by the year 2010.
Vatikiotis adds, “All of this is a sign of expanding Chinese soft power. But what are the implications of the spread of Chinese language and culture? It’s a more important question in a region like Southeast Asia where as many as half the people living in urban areas like Bangkok are of Chinese descent.”
It is an important question indeed. In a way, it epitomizes the struggles within and among languages that are taking place around the world, and which this blog has discussed in some detail elsewhere.
For Chiang Mai University, the official celebrations helped open a building. For China, they helped open the world.