HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

The “ultimate” diet?

A few years ago I published a diet which apparently came from the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital and is used in their cardiac care unit for overweight patients to lose weight prior to surgery. A friend brought it to my attention after he had lost 15 kg in two months!
He had done this by following the Sacred Heart diet - and this was one that had obviously worked! This is put forward as a seven day diet, and although I am not really in favor of ‘crash’ diets, this one does merit some study. Of course the big problem with crash diets is redundant skin hanging from the arms and the like, and the more than slight possibility that you put it all back on after the next two months!
However, here it is. It states the first no-no’s as being bread, alcohol, soft drinks, fried food or oil. Agree totally. Just by stopping alcohol, most people will immediately start to lose weight.
After that there is a concoction called Fat-Burning Soup (FBS) which you make up and keep in the fridge. You gobble FBS any time you feel hungry and have as much as you want. You are also advised to drink plenty of water – 6-8 glasses a day along with tea, coffee, skim milk, unsweetened juice or cranberry juice.
The physiology of hunger works that when the stomach is empty, messages are sent to the brain to send down food. Fill the belly with non-fattening food and the hunger pangs will be less, but the weight does not go on.
Here is the recipe for the Fat-Burning Soup:
4 cloves garlic
2 large cans crushed tomatoes (810gms)
2 large cans beef consommé
1 packet vegetable packet soup
1 bunch spring onions
1 bunch celery
2 cans French beans (or fresh)
2 green capsicum
1 kg carrots
10 cups water
Chop all veggies into small pieces. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes stirring well and then simmer until vegetables are tender. Add water if necessary to make a thinner soup.
Now the other downside to dieting if food boredom. A week of FBS, water and cranberry juice will sap the resolve of most overweight people, so what this diet does is allow you to add different items on a daily basis. Here are the suggestions.
Day 1, any fruit except bananas. Eat only soup and fruit today.
Day 2, all vegetables. Eat as much as you like of fresh, raw or canned vegetables. Try to eat green leafy vegetables. Stay away from dry beans, peas, and corn. Eat vegetables along with soup. At dinner reward yourself with a jacket potato and butter.
Day 3, eat all the soup, fruit and veggies you want today. Don’t have the jacket potato today. If you have not cheated you should have lost approx 3 kg.
Day 4, bananas and skim milk. Eat at least 3 large bananas and drink as much milk as you can today. Eat as much soup as you want. Bananas are high in calories and carbohydrates, as is the milk but you will need the potassium and carbohydrates today.
Day 5, beef and tomatoes. You may have 600 gm of beef or chicken (no skin) and as many as 6 tomatoes. Eat soup at least once.
Day 6, beef and vegetables. Eat to your hearts content of beef and veggies. You can even have 2-3 steaks (grilled) if you like with leafy green vegetables. No baked potato. Be sure to eat soup at least once.
Day 7, brown rice, vegetables, fruit juice. Be sure to eat well and eat as much soup as you can.
By the end of day 7, if you have not cheated, you should have lost 7 kg. The theory is good, but I caution against losing too much, too soon.
Let me know how you go!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I can’t think of anyone who would appreciate this web link more than you. You could pass it to your readers as a suggested place to shop. I hope you enjoy and can employ the web site.
Dear Swagman,
I would have been very effusive in my thanks for the chocoholic website, if you had been kind enough to send me some, and not just the link, my Petal. How could you build up a girl’s hopes like this? I’m just human, with few needs to keep going, but chocolates is one of the major ones. Champagne is the other, and you’ve done nothing to assist me with this need either, have you? What else will you send me? A catalogue from the off-license? Or perhaps the postal address for Veuve Clicquot?

Dear Hillary,
Would you like to hear about the other side of the coin for once? I read all these complainers, with their stories of being ripped off time after time. Don’t they ever learn? I was only ripped off one time, but by then I was suspicious anyway, so I didn’t lose much. After that I still went to the bars at night because like most of us I was lonely, but I remembered my lesson and never got into any relationships. Anyway, I met this lady in the supermarket when we bumped trolleys and we got talking and it seemed that she was on her own and it went on from there. We had a cup of coffee together and then made a date to go to the movies. That was ten years ago, we got married and I now have two daughters (the eldest one belonged to my wife and the little one is ours) and once again have a real reason to come home and stay home. I am pleased I got burned one time, but if you don’t learn from your mistakes you’ll always be a loser.
Supermarket Sam
Dear Supermarket Sam,
Why can’t I meet men like you in the supermarket? But yes, my Petal, it is always good to hear from someone who isn’t complaining. There are plenty of lovely ladies out there who appreciate good men. You will recognize them very easily - they are the ones pushing empty shopping trolleys!
Dear Hillary,
Good job. Keep the bright side of life going - for those of us not lucky enough to be in Thailand all the time we certainly appreciate the Thai sunshine you bring to us.
Last week it was certainly refreshing to see a Farang / Thai marriage success story. For the doubters out there - yes, there are very many others who share in the wonderful experience of being married to a Thai woman. Dare I give advice? Okay then, but it is the same as for any other prospective long term union irrespective of nationality - “remember to engage the brain before slapping the gear stick into top and then pressing the turbo button.” Yes, there are many differences in culture to overcome and the rules are not quite the same, “face” was certainly a new concept for me to understand! But a good Thai woman with some education and a sensible and flexible farang man who can listen and try to understand can match just perfectly - it is after all only the fool and his money that are soon parted, but parting with a little here there occasionally to help the family is expected and is not so bad, is it?
The Converted. Many thanks. G
Dear Mysterious “G”,
Thank you for the pat on the back, it certainly helps brighten up my day too. You are correct about long term relationships when you wrote “it is the same as for any other prospective long term union irrespective of nationality.” With the divorce rate in the western world hovering around 50 percent (and that is just the ones who come out into the open and brave the divorce lawyers - there are thousands more who just “put up with it”), it amazes me that some of my writers are so negative when a farang/Thai marriage does not turn out the best. Unfortunately, I have no figures to quote from the Thai experience, but my inner heart tells me the failure rate is less than the western 50 percent.
Of course, in Thailand, there are many associations which I do not consider as “marriages”, and these are the ones where Willy Westerner takes a Thai woman into his home, as a “mia chow” (rented wife). She is paid a monthly wage (like the monthly payments on a rented car) and is expected to do the three “C’s” - cook, clean and copulate on demand. Willy has the option to go out and live the life of Reilly in the bar scene as well. It does not take these women very long to realize that there is no ‘love’ in this “marriage” (of convenience), so they begin to maximize their return, above and beyond the monthly stipend. The odd bit of cash here and there soon turns into full-scale theft when the credit card opportunity presents itself. Finally they have enough and run away, and another (dishonest) westerner complains loudly that all Thai women are dishonest. Am I not correct?

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Good photography made easier

Regular readers of this column will understand what I mean by ‘record shots’. These are simply photographs that anyone with any sort of camera, digital, film, SLR or throw-away compact, will get under certain circumstances. Take the picture of this Big Buddha, for example. A true case of f8 and be there, the photojournalist’s creed. Anyone who has ever walked up the steps to the top will get that photo. A ‘record shot’, recording what was there.
In an attempt to stop you making record shots and put something of yourself into your photography, I present this week’s column.
First off, try looking for a different viewpoint. Did you realize that the majority of photographs are taken in the landscape format from a point around 1.6 meters from the ground? That is because almost all cameras are designed to give you the landscape format, when held in the usual way; and the average photographer’s eyes are around 1.6 meters from the ground when standing up. So when you whip out the camera, stand there and shoot, you have just got the photograph of the Big Buddha that everyone else got as well. You can do better than that.
Before popping the shutter try sitting down on the ground and looking through the viewfinder. The proportions are changed, and so has the shot. Try walking round the side of the subject, in this case the Buddha statue, and look at the different shot you get there. By doing this, you are thinking about the final image you will get, and also you are putting part of yourself into your photography.
Again, when you look at the majority of photographs that people take, the sun is coming from over the right shoulder of the photographer, nicely illuminating the subject’s face (since most photographs are of people). Unfortunately, this makes the subject squint into the sun, not producing a nice look at all, especially not with the normal Asian eyes. The answer to all this is ‘contre jour’ photography, when you position the subject so that the sun is behind the subject, not in front. So why doesn’t the record photographer do this? Usually because he or she tried it before and got photographs where the face was so dark, the features could not be recognized. So here’s how to shoot contre jour, easily.
You have to give the camera some assistance, by working out the correct exposure for the face, and to do this, you do not need fancy equipment, hand-held light meters and the like. You just have to move in close, so that the subject’s face fills the frame and lock in the exposure settings. The vast majority of cameras have an ‘exposure lock’ facility, so use it. If it hasn’t, then turn your camera on to manual mode, note the settings and fix the shutter speed and aperture on them, and then go from there. Arrange your subject how you want and away you go. You will get contre jour shots, with halos around the hair and a correctly exposed face. Simple, and you have put some thought and effort into this shot too. And it will show in the final result.
By the way, you do not have to make contre jour just for people shots. It is an excellent technique for animals, as most have a ‘fuzz’ on their hides, which will show up very well. Try this at about 4 p.m., with the nice warm light before it begins to fade around sunset.
So this weekend, think about viewpoint - go high, low, side, and turn the camera into the portrait format as well as the standard landscape format. If you are shooting people, go for contre jour and practice that technique so that you can master it, and then use any time you want.
You will be taking better photographs, and doing it easily. Try it!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The End of the World is Nigh ... Maybe

This week we are going to take a quick break from our continuing series on Portfolio Construction to address the current situation with the world’s stock markets:
Stock markets have been bouncing all over the place lately and even the most casual observer must be aware that this is at least partly related to the fact that too much money appears to have been leant out in mortgages in the US to too many people who stood little chance of being able to repay. The history of global financial catastrophes is that they tend to start with a few leaks in the dam which get plugged (cartoon style) fixing the immediate problem but not the underlying one, causing the problem to spread and spread and by the time that the extent of the damage is realized it’s too late to do too much about it.
For a long time Warren Buffet has issued financially apocalyptic (if such a concept exists) warnings about the dangers of derivatives. His fear was that in some financial sphere there would occur some unexpected event that would suddenly cause major counterparties (Wall Street banks, global financial institutions) to realize, way too late, that, despite the fact that they employed sophisticated risk management systems, they had inadvertently bet the farm on the status quo only to find out that a major shift had taken place and as a result they had lost the farm and some and were left as helpless as the spread-eagled cartoon character desperately plugging holes in the dam with all 4 limbs and as many other bodily parts as possible.
Long Term Capital Management’s risk modelling strategies calculated that it would take a 3 sigma event (something that happens once in 3 times the entire life span of the universe) for LTCM (who extensively used derivatives) to lose 50% of its invested capital or more - in fact they lost their entire capital within 4 years of launch. When this happened Buffett’s fears were taken by many ‘traditionalists’ as being an investment equivalent of The Book Of Revelations and the end of the financial world was generally regarded as being ‘nigh’. Everyone was extremely watchful of what type of investments should and could be made and sanity came back to the markets - briefly.
Since then complacency has returned and many investors have become more comfortable with the markets use of derivatives. After all, they now ask, what event could possibly occur that would expose such a major discrepancy between what Wall Street had understood to be the case and what was reality? If we’ve survived Peso/Asian/Russian crises what could there be that we can’t handle? Maybe in some small marginal markets valuing esoteric assets could be a problem but that wouldn’t have any large scale impact ... so best to just assume that Buffett’s got it wrong for once and carry on making money left, right and centre?
Actually no.
After all we’ve seen Barings, Sumitomo and now Bear Sterns - and that begs the question what market could be big enough to cause anything other than a localised problem?
Well it would have to be equities, currencies, debt or property in a substantial economy or (as the Latin and Asian crises showed) in a series of connected smaller economies.
And it would have to involve a situation where financial engineering had taken place on such a huge scale that the counterparties had been massively complacent about the risks.
And it would have to be a situation where the risks suddenly materialised and were significant.
Currency is a zero sum game - when one falls another rises - therefore any currency crisis per se is simply a redistribution of wealth - that in itself can be a significantly fraught experience for those on the losing side of the equation, but in itself it’s not so severe as the problems that tend to follow currency collapses, such as hyper-inflation, but even these scenarios, difficult as they are, have generally been seen before and have been survived.
You can probably largely rule out equities - there’s probably insufficient capital currently concentrated in exactly correlated leveraged derivatives in stocks and shares to create a collapse that the markets can’t handle - sure markets might fall 50-60% in value as shorts and swaps get covered and good assets have to be sold to repay the damage done by bad ones and the fall might well be so rapid that it feels like Armageddon and we might be living with the economic consequences for the next 5-10 years but afterwards the global financial landscape might be severely scarred but it would probably be just about recognisable.
Property is property - when it falls in value, its biggest impact is on the debt market - defaults may cause the value of property to slump but their greatest long term impact is on lenders and borrowers - counterparties to the mortgage contract. That could be significant but because of the nature of default, repossession and collateral realization that tends to be a drawn out process - property and property-related companies might be going out of business like there’s no tomorrow, but we’ve seen that before and survived.
Er, so what about debt then? Following the sub-prime crisis and following the much publicised recent problems with Bear Sterns hedge funds the entire debt market itself may be facing major systemic risk due to derivatives and fancy products based around debt. The conditions would be right:
The ratings agencies convinced both parties that this was a win-win transaction and so both sides have bet hugely on this
There exist assets which are probably seriously over-valued on a widespread rather than individual basis
Conditions are conducive to exposing that systemic overvaluation very quickly indeed
Just to place this in context the USD37 billion shareholder equity in Goldman Sachs could be blown away almost overnight by the extent of their potential counterparty risk, as could the USD20 billion for Lehmans, as could the relevant figure for any major financial institution. Their risk systems have evaluated the risk of loss assuming that the credit worthiness of their exposure is what the rating agencies said it was on the label. Well it looks like they may have gotten it wrong.
Lots of times.
In a very big way.
We don’t know to what extent yet or which players will be the worst affected, but watch the debt markets closely. There could already be events in motion that may mean that the end of the (financial) world as we know it is nigh. This is unlikely but it is possible and it is very conceivable that there will be at least one major casualty.
This isn’t about recession or stock market crashes. This is about the entire financial system. At the moment it’s creaking under the strain which is why the central banks of some countries are already having to pump money into the system. I don’t know whether it will survive in its current form or not. But I do know that it’s in greater jeopardy now than at any other time. And I worry that if somehow it survives this crisis, instead of learning the lesson of “phew, that was a close one. Let’s not do that again” Wall Street will instead add the mantra “see, we survived that; we really are indestructible...” and next time will be even worse!

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 Paul Gambles on [email protected]

Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

Two recent exhibitions at the CMU art gallery (at the far end of Nimmanheiman Road) were worth a visit. The vivid and diverse works in the touring International Art Exhibition have been dismantled, but the colorful “Forms of Faith” display has a couple of days to go and is well worth a visit, not just for those interested in Thai faiths. The CMU gallery is always worth a look (closed Mondays). The permanent works are for sale, entry is free and the area is spacious. Sadly there was no documentation at either of the temporary shows and all captions were exclusively in Thai – a pity in both these cases, where some explanation was called for.
Other regular haunts for me are the many – and expanding number – of second hand bookshops in Chiang Mai, mainly in the centre. Not just the ubiquitous Geckos but one-offs as well. You will find the usual suspects in all of them, Rendell, Rankin, P.D. James et al but look more carefully and there are real treasures to be found, especially at Lost Books (about 7 minutes walk from Thapae Gate; face the gate outside the Montri Hotel and head right). I picked up three gems there is the space of a few minutes.
The first was an amusing discovery. A comic novel in the form of a preposterous diary by a would-be actress who makes it big in Hollywood written by the British playwright Joe Orton. It was a quick and delightful read – as stylishly comic as it was unlikely. Very much in tune with his scandalous plays, in fact.
An altogether different English stylist is the novelist and short story writer Elizabeth Taylor, who died of natural causes unlike Orton who was battered to death by his lover Kenneth Halliwell. For a mere 100 baht I picked up one of her brilliant collections, The Devastating Boys. It is a priceless collection of a dozen tales of life and manners from the macabre and horrifying The Fly-Paper to the title story about two black youths who change the lives of all about them when they are invited on an extended holiday to a genteel Oxford household.
And perhaps best of all a genuine rarity in the form of a specially selected and ultra slim volume of stories by a master of the genre Paul Bowles. Titled Unwelcome Words it was anything but and one little gem of less than four pages – about the murder of his parents by a son and his lover, who poison the champagne on New Year’s Eve, was worth the modest cost on its own. The shops take the books back at a lower price, but not this trio!
Recently, we had Bruce Willis shooting himself through the shoulder so that the exiting bullet killed his assailant behind him. Last week it was Matt Damon’s chance to be super hero. In the brilliantly and breathlessly directed The Bourne Supremacy, young Matt endures all kind of physical hardships and brutality, but for sheer hutzpah nothing beats him driving off the roof of a fairly high building to escape his pursuers. The nice touch about this insane escapade is that it is capped with a laugh, allowing the audience to accept its cartoonish quality. British director Paul Greengrass (an ex-documentarist) does not let us or Matt to stop for breath, including the taking of an unlikely number of plane journeys, so one just has to park one’s critical faculties at the box office. The Thai friend Nong, as dedicated a movie fan as one would wish for, enjoyed the action but made a comment that had not occurred to this farang. It would have been nice, he thought, if Matt had been allowed to smile just once during the two hours. I guess it was all those plane journeys that gave him a somewhat glum expression.
I adore animals (often more than humans but don’t tell anyone), especially donkeys and dogs. Both are companionable creatures, although the former prefer their own kind. Dogs as we know are man’s best friend and our rescue dog Judy is –like everybody’s dog – one of a kind. Recently she was badly injured when attacked. Although a little subdued and wary of the far end of our soi, she is back to normal and the stitches are out.
I found in Christopher Foyle’s book of unusual words one which all dog lovers will cherish; the verb, groak. It means to look or stare at longingly, especially at someone who is eating. Foyles adds of this rare word: “It is an ancient art, still widely and ably practiced by pet dogs everywhere,” And never, I might add more tirelessly and with greater concentrated stillness than by Judy at breakfast time, especially when cheese is on the table.
I cannot resist one final quartet of Foyle’s discoveries and dedicate them to my colleagues. For agony Aunt Hillary I offer up kalapsia – a condition whereby things appear more beautiful than they really are. Next week we may expect, “peta, it seems you are suffering from severe kalapsia, a condition not uncommon in Thailand…”
And for our restaurant guide, aristology: the art and science of cooking and dining. It is derived from the Greek, ariston (breakfast or lunch) and lagos (study). Our redoubtable film critic may save up hypnagogic, which means sleep inducing or soporiphic, for the next Harry Potter movie. Sadly I think it will be useful before then. And last but not least for the Editor himself; wayzgoose, this refers to an annual outing and dinner of the staff of a printing works or a newspaper. Just a thought…
Editor replies: The 5th anniversary staff party was held last week at L’Coq d’Or. I sent you an invitation via the Thai post and it was returned for insufficient postage.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

The Bourne Ultimatum: US Action/Suspense/Thriller – with Matt Damon. A brilliant chase film, endlessly inventive. But you must accept the jiggly effects of hand-held cameras and claustrophobic close shots, barely seeing people over the shoulders of others. Can be disconcerting. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
The One/Likhit-Rak: Thai Drama – The story of a boy whose life is controlled by his single mother, as he struggles to free himself from her influence and go his own way. He begins his coming-of-age by deciding to study in an up-country university instead of the school his mother has chosen for him, and there his life starts to change. Director: Marut Sarowad.
The Condemned: Rated NC 17 in Thailand – US Action/Thriller – They’d better insist on enforcing the NC 17 rating! If it were up to me, it would be banned completely. (In the US it’s rated R for “pervasive strong brutal violence, and for language.”)
This is nothing but a socially reprehensible snuff film: condemned men are put on an island and told to kill each other off till only one is left, as entertainment on worldwide TV. From what I’ve read, my first reaction is that the film should be prohibited from being shown anywhere. It’s too ugly and demeaning to human life, and has no point to make.
All those “condemned to die” in this film are played by actual professional wrestlers. The film, indeed, was made by the WWF with, I suppose, its usual tasteful regard for civilized behavior. Generally negative reviews.
The Invasion: US Action/Horror – With Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig. Slickly made third remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is still creepy and unnerving, according to early reviews, but unfocused, lacking psychological complexity and thrills. After a space shuttle crash, it’s discovered that an infection is taking over peoples’ bodies in their sleep, turning them into unemotional quasi-zombies.
Perfect Strangers: US Mystery/Thriller – With Bruce Willis, Halle Berry. Everyone complains it just doesn’t play fair. Apparently a murder mystery composed entirely of red herrings. The advice seems to be: enjoy what little you can of the mystery, but do yourself a favor and don’t try to figure it out, because the huge numbers of clues are completely unfair. As proof that you couldn’t possibly guess the killer, I’ll tell you one simple fact about the movie. Next week. Generally negative reviews.
Rush Hour 3: US Action/Comedy – Another episode in the crime fighting series, this time set in Paris, where Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker take on the Chinese Triads. Yes, it’s formulaic, but some people like the formula: much action, many wisecracks, a multitude of cultural misunderstandings, and a few set pieces of comedy. It can be satisfying. A Thai-dubbed version only at Vista; in English at Airport Plaza.
The Simpsons Movie: US Animation – Crude and primitive animation to my way of thinking, but quite clever satiric writing. If you’re one of the millions who have watched many of the 400 episodes on TV over the last18 years, this would be a fully enjoyable experience. Watch all the ending credits for additional fun along the way. At Vista only and on its last legs.
The Odd Couple/Koo Rad: Thai Low Comedy – How do you argue with success? The audience loved it. It was the number two box office draw last weekend, still going very strong, edging out even The Bourne Ultimatum. It’s another cross-dressing Thai comedy, starring the popular Thai comedian Mum Jokmok as a transvestite performer working with a Japanese cop to find a serial killer preying on transvestites. Strictly for Thais and those who dote on this low-style, Thai-TV-like slapstick comedy.
Scheduled for Thursday, August 30
Muay Thai Chaiya: Thai Drama – Gained considerable respect as the closing film in the recent Bangkok International Film Festival. A Thai boxing drama following three childhood friends who come to Bangkok to become Muay Thai fighters and who grow into arch rivals. In the tradition of the Thai popular martial arts films Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong. Directed by Kongkait Komesiri.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: US Comedy – Starring Adam Sandler. Two straight and single Brooklyn firefighters pretend to be a gay couple in order to receive domestic partner benefits. The consensus is it mixes inept comedy with tasteless stereotypes.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

I even miss the rain

I’m writing this column from prison where I’m spending the last few days of my self-inflicted, three-month sentence in America, suffering through a Minnesota summer that rivals the dead of winter in Thailand. A three-hour, numbing, motorcycle ride zapped the three remaining warm blood cells left in my Thai mate’s body and replaced them with a green mucous expanding from her nose to her lungs. She’s dead in bed, still frozen, but at least she has a high fever. Pelting rain, 14ºC and a 120-kph-wind chill sent the effective temperature down to somewhere between life threatening and ridiculous. Five years in Thailand have made me realize that Hell is not hot: it’s cold.
Rain? Mai pen rai. I can ride and bathe at the same time.

Ridicule has become our daily fare as we don sweaters, coats, hats and gloves while the natives cavort around merrily in shorts and t-shirts, pointing at the funny foreigners and laughing. Growing up in Fargo, North Dakota, I used to scoff at the cold and snowdrifts. At 40º below zero, we’d get up at dawn to watch the fireman chop the dogs off the hydrants. These days, I’m a certified heat snob and proudly quote my father who moved from the tundra in Fargo to the desert in Arizona: “Sure, it’s a furnace, the car seat burns my butt and you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, but no matter how hot it gets, I know I’ll never have to shovel the heat.”
Even though I’m not a big fan of a five-month rainy season, I can’t wait to come home to a daily rain shower that is warm enough to be a shower. Cliché Time: Absence makes the heart grow fonder, even for the things that bother. I miss the resounding putt-putt of the tuk-tuk careening away from its last Sangsom stop. I miss the screech of sliding metal shop doors, pitched high enough to shatter your beer mug and make soi dogs cringe. I miss Thai parking attendants who shout solely with their shrill whistles, commanding you to back in, back out and in again, no, you can’t park there, park three centimeters from there or I won’t stop blowing my whistle.
I miss families of seven on a 100cc Honda Dream motorbike tackling a dirt road instead of one suit coat and tie in a $60,000, 4WD, gas-guzzling Hummer negotiating perfectly paved city streets on a two-kilometer trip to the office.
I miss riding to the front of the pack at the stoplight, unlike in America where police may slap you with a big ticket or citizens may shoot you with their guns.
I miss the whining about the latest visa requirements from international expats instead of Pats, Patrick’s and Patty’s rambling on about illegal immigrants, second mortgages and last night’s sitcoms.
I miss seeing Thai magazines covers that I can’t read instead of three cheesy tabloids in one rack that herald, as if anyone gave a rat’s derriere about Spears’ frantic antics— and I didn’t make up any of these: “Britney’s losing the babies.” “Britney tells her kids: You were both mistakes.” “Britney’s new lover! And yes, it’s a woman!” (Reasonable question: Does Britney really have a brain? Astute answer: Only when she’s pregnant.)
I miss smiling, airline security ladies and their polite Thai pats instead of gruff, hairy, SWAT team wannabees in America who assume you’re a national security threat, X-ray your hazardous sneakers, confiscate your sinister nail clippers, suspect your facelift was done with plastic explosives and wish they could use their rectal cameras to discover the box cutter hidden in your pancreas.
I miss having a restaurant meal delivered one menu item at a time over a period of two hours by someone delighted to have a job instead of a barrage of plates slammed down by a disgruntled miscreant who hates all work in general.
I miss being surrounded by gentle Buddhist monks who worry about stepping on an ant instead of rabid religions ready to stomp out entire nations.
I miss the omnipresent photos of and respect for their Majesties the King and Queen instead of caricatures of and impeachment demands for Bush and Cheney.
Two things in America that I will miss in Thailand: high-speed, wireless Internet and the look on my friends’ faces when I tell them that 14ºC is the dead of winter in Chiangmai.

Your Health & Happiness: Health experts gather to battle chronic diseases

The Thai Department of Health hosted an international conference to promote people to exercise regularly. Public health academics from Asia Pacific assembled to encourage people to exercise to prevent them from contracting chronic diseases.
Dr. Sophon Mekthon, the Deputy Director-General of the Health Department, said more than 100 participants, including physicians and physical education experts from Asia Pacific countries are attended this conference. He said the event was aimed to lower the number of people with chronic diseases such as heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and hemorrhagic stroke. Chronic diseases have killed about 60 percent of the world’s population. In Thailand, 40,000 people have died from chronic diseases each year, or about 120 people per day. Moreover, over 20 percent of youths in Bangkok suffer from obesity while people are spending less time exercising.
The international conference on public health was held at Chao Phraya Park Hotel. It was held with the cooperation of Sydney University in Australia, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization and other international health-related organizations. (NNB)