The Doctor's Consultation:
by Dr. Iain Corness
Have I got Blood Pressure, Doctor?
Well, I certainly do hope you
have blood pressure (usually known as BP), because if you don’t you are
definitely dead! However, if your BP is too high, it can mean you could be
claiming early on your life insurance policy – or your relatives will, on
High BP (hypertension) is otherwise known as the “silent killer” as there
are very few symptoms of the increase in blood pressure, until a vessel
bursts somewhere, generally catastrophically! The good thing is you are dead
within minutes, so you won’t linger.
Blood Pressure is needed to keep all the organs of the body supplied with
oxygen. This is done by the red blood cells which carry the oxygen, with the
pump to drive the system being the heart. The tubes from the heart heading
outbound are the arteries, and those returning the blood to the heart are
This heart-arteries-veins-heart system is a “closed” circuit. In other
words, no leaks, otherwise you would be continually losing the
life-preserving blood, but to make it go around, there has to be a pumping
pressure (just like the oil pump in your car).
The heart squeezes the blood inside itself and pumps it out into the
arteries. This squeezing pressure is called the Systolic, and is the upper
number quoted when we measure your blood pressure.
After the squeeze, the heart relaxes to allow the blood to fill the chamber,
ready for the next squeeze. The pressure does not return to zero, because
there has to be some pressure to refill the chamber. This resting or ambient
pressure is the lower number quoted and is called the Diastolic. BP is then
typically quoted as 120/70, being 120 (systolic) / 70 (diastolic). The
actual pressure number is measured in a millimeters of mercury scale.
So what is your correct BP? Well, many years ago it used to be thought that
your systolic BP should be your own age plus 100, and the diastolic did not
matter that much. That was not correct! While many 60 year olds had a
systolic BP of 160, research showed that this was not a ‘healthy’ pressure.
To lower the risk, the BP had to be significantly lower.
The following table shows the categories of BP measurements.
Optimal: less than 120/80
Normal: less than 130/80
High blood pressure (hypertension):
Stage 1: 140–159/90–99
Stage 2: 160–179/100–109
Stage 3: 180 or higher/110 or higher
The problem with running at high pressure is that the heart is having to
work harder, and therefore may be subject to heart failure. The arteries are
also subjected to higher pressures than they were designed to cope with and
can burst, making the risk of stroke so much higher. Other organs don’t like
working at the high pressures either, and kidneys, in particular, can go
into failure mode.
So how do you find out (before it is too late) if your BP is too high? Quite
simply by repeated measurements. Note that I wrote “repeated”. Just as one
swallow doesn’t make a summer, one elevated reading does not necessarily
Blood Pressure is a dynamic situation. Lying down you can have one BP. Get
almost run over by a baht bus and you have another much higher BP. Blood
pressure tends to be higher in the morning and lower at night. Stress,
smoking, eating, exercise, cold, pain, noise, medications, and even talking
can affect it. The single elevated reading does not immediately mean you
have high blood pressure. Conversely, a single normal reading does not
necessarily mean you do not have high blood pressure. In fact, the average
of several repeated measurements throughout the day would be a more accurate
picture of what is going on than a single reading, but quite frankly, you do
not have to go to that extreme.
As part of the routine in most good hospitals and clinics is the measurement
of your blood pressure. You should get this done at least twice a year, in
my opinion. Rising or elevated readings do mean you should get medical
advice. Have it checked today.
Heart to Heart
Do many parents receive abuse from farangs and Thais while out shopping,
eating etc., around the town with their teenage children? I have
encountered this on a few occasions with my 14 year old son who was born
in Europe to my Thai wife of 17 years marriage, and being just a normal
parent with all of the natural instincts of a parent, I do react very
strongly (verbally) to ignorant comments made directly or implied to me
while out with my son. Yes I know it is better to bite your tongue but a
sense of self respect kicks in especially when in a public shopping mall
with many people around. My son and myself are getting used to dealing
with this kind of abuse firstly by explaining either in fluent Thai or
English either by myself or my son, that this is my father, or this is
my son, and unfortunately your sick misguided thoughts are completely
wrong, plus I would suggest you apologize right now! This has happened
on three occasions in the past six months. Should I have a T shirt made
up for excursions with my son saying “This is my son”? If you Hillary or
any other parents have suggestions how deal with these insulting
comments, I for one and I expect quite a few other parents would
appreciate your advice,
A most distressing time for both you and your son. It annoys me too,
that people are so willing to jump to conclusions. Unfortunately, it
also shows what a sick society we have. My first thoughts were that you
should just ignore these ignorant people, but that is very difficult to
do, and for your son, probably too much to ask. However, I do not agree
with verbal abuse either. Returning verbal abuse with more verbal abuse
is not to be recommended. It is counterproductive and can result in
physical abuse. A none too subtle message on the T shirt does appeal to
my wicked nature. Something like, “I’m with my son” for you and “I’m
with my Dad” for your son, should return smiles of appreciation, rather
than snide remarks and abuse. Make the sign in both Thai and English!
Utilities, utilities, utilities! I do not understand the systems here at
all. We have had the water cut off from the house twice and the
electricity once, all because I do not understand when and how the bills
come. I am quite sure we did not receive at least two of them, but when
I tried to explain this at the Water Department I got nowhere – and had
to pay to get re-connected. The latest injustice is the telephone. We
got a bill to show that we were 2,800 baht in credit and we owed
nothing. The next day, the phone was cut off! A wasted half day at the
telephone department ensued where they told me I had not paid a 300 baht
bill the previous month. This left me trying to explain that if we were
2,800 baht in credit this month, how could we owe 300 baht at the same
time? All to no avail again. The only way I was going to get the phone
reconnected was to pay the 300 baht, plus a re-connection fee! What can
Hillary feels for you. Really I do. The bills and accounts system is
very difficult for a foreigner to understand, but if you just remember
that last month’s bills are quite separate from this month’s and you
have to square off each one individually, then life will become easier.
I also suggest that you see your bank and get them to pay the utilities
bills directly, then you do not have to waste time lurking at the
letterbox, waiting for the utilities bills to come. Hillary was even
caught out the other day, when a bill came for my mobile phone, to be
paid on a Monday. On the Saturday, two days before the phone was cut
off. Yes, you guessed it – I hadn’t paid the previous month! And yes, I
too had to pay for a re-connection.
I got shown a letter where a guy had written to one of the local bar
girls that he was coming back at Christmas and how he was looking
forward to seeing her again. I said to her that he sounded like a nice
guy, but she didn’t remember him! “Where he come from?” was the reply.
When I said Germany, then she remembered that it was either George or
Hans! How can these girls keep living like this? Have they no sense of
You should not be amazed, I am amazed that there are still people like
you around, who think that there are “rules of association” with girls
in bars. Petal, these girls are working there. Their “job” is to look
after unattached males in return for financial rewards. Her George or
Hans was just another passing face in the crowd, but don’t worry, five
minutes after he arrives she will have recognized his wallet and will
make his holiday memorable again.
Camera Class: by
Landscapes with the WOW factor
many good shots do you expect from every 100 shots you take? 99?
100? 10? 1? I was thumbing through a photography magazine the
other day and it had three pro photographers discussing how they
go about bringing back great landscapes (and seascapes). Two
chaps were happy with one great shot in 10 rolls of film
(gasp!), while the other of the interviewed pros said he
expected every shot to be perfect and he used 4x5 sheet film,
but he didn’t pop the shutter until he was sure he had every
element in the shot correct. Personally, I think he must hang
about for a long time waiting.
Again, when the three were asked what the principal elements
were to get a “WOW” landscape, two of them went straight to the
light factor, citing the quality of light. Perhaps one of the
greatest reasons your landscapes fail is because you are not
prepared to get up early enough to get the cold morning light,
or are prepared to hang around long enough to get the warm sun
just before it dips behind the horizon.
When asked about their extra gear they consider necessary to be
professional landscape photographers, two said a tripod and the
third wanted Blu-tack to keep his filters in place and a
notebook and pen!
Looking at representative works from all three – and all were
excellent shots, by the way, the use of the tripod was obvious
to the trained eye. Soft ‘milky’ or frothy seas showing a long
time exposure, or ‘filmy’ tree foliage were the giveaways, along
with the incredible depth of field which results from the
aperture settings of around f22, minimum, allowing depth of
field sharpness all the way through the shot.
Another commonality was the film they used, with all of them
going for Fuji Velvia slide film. This is nominally rated at 50
ASA, but when I have used it in the past I got the best results
rating it at 37.5 ASA. Being slide film, you should also
remember to bracket the exposures about half a stop either side
of that indicated by the exposure meter.
One feature that was also evident, looking at their shots was
attention to foreground detail, as well as the important
features further back in the frame. All of them spent much time
positioning the camera so that they had something of interest.
For example, a shot of sea with an island in the background had
beach rocks in the foreground. And all were in focus. That’s the
tiny aperture again. They will even use a Neutral Density filter
as well as the time exposure to keep that small aperture open
longer. (A tip when using ND filters - focus without the filter
in place, lock the focus and then put the filter on, otherwise
it is too hard to see the individual items in the shot in the
As far as the best piece of advice they were given, they went
for an alarm clock to get them out of bed early, so they did not
miss the magic light of early morning. (Being a night person,
who has difficulties with early mornings, is why I do not
consider myself a good landscape photographer!)
To look at the final situation, from the words of the three pro
shooters, if you want to get good landscapes then you need a
camera with sharp lenses, get yourself a tripod - and use it to
be able to have very slow shutter speeds, and practice with
slide film. Wait for the light to be right (the more horizontal
the sun’s rays, the better) and don’t bother if it is all wrong.
One guy waited six days to get the light right for one lakeside
shot! Make sure you have some interest in the foreground and get
the deepest depth of field that you can.
Do all of that and you will be bringing in those WOW landscapes
too! And for a change do try and use slide film. It’s harder to
use but the results are better.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
Portfolio Construction - Part 8
Last year the Alt A category accounted for about 20
percent of the $3 trillion of U.S. mortgages, about the same as sub-prime
loans, up from 5% in 2002 according to Credit Suisse Group, highlighting
where much of the growth in US lending has occurred. Tighter lending
standards may slash sub-prime mortgage sales in half this year and Alt A
mortgages by a quarter, according to Ivy Zelman, a Credit Suisse analyst in
New York who covers homebuilders.
The new requirements will force some prospective homebuyers to save more
money for a down payment or risk being denied credit. The boom in the US
property market has been fired by:
1) people and corporations being able to trade up properties and acquire
properties more readily because these have been more affordable at such low
2) people who will be able to obtain credit at some point but should
currently be saving up their deposits being offered deposit free terms now
3) people who by any logical commercial criteria shouldn’t really be able to
currently obtain credit of such magnitude being offered it left, right and
All of this has compressed future demand - those without deposits and whose
incomes aren’t yet sufficient to service the debts or whose circumstances
aren’t sufficiently robust to ride through any short-term financial storms
have been given credit that will in many cases lead to defaults, repos,
damaged credit and instead of providing an economic boost, this will become
a major economic drag.
Late payments of at least 60 days and defaults on Alt A mortgages have risen
about as fast as on sub prime ones, to about 2.4 percent, according to bond
analysts at UBS AG. Loans in the category made to borrowers with low credit
scores, equity and documentation are doing about as badly as sub prime
loans, according to Citigroup Inc. and Bear Stearns analysts.
Over the last couple of months rapid credit tightening that’s “been isolated
to the sub prime world has really migrated” to Alt A offerings that involve
borrowing nearly all of a home’s worth, said Brian Simon, senior vice
president at Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based mortgage bank Freedom Mortgage
Corp. Bear Stearns will finance 25 percent to 30 percent fewer non-prime
mortgages this year as it tightens credit, Chief Financial Officer Sam
Molinaro said on the company’s earnings call last week.
The impact here is 2-fold:
1) The market will continue to slow because the artificial stimulation of
loans to people who can’t (or in the case of Alt A probably can’t) service
them is going to be taken away. The market will weaken, asset values will
continue to fall, better quality credit will start to suffer and defaults
and repos will become more widespread. Credit will tighten in this slowing
market, causing it to slow further, asset values will fall further, even
better quality credit will start to suffer and defaults and repos will
become even more widespread. The market will weaken even further, etc., etc.
This is a difficult spiral to get out of until the market finds its floor
and we don’t believe that Pimco’s Bill Gross is right in his assertions that
aggressive rate cutting now can help to stem this spiral.
2) Lenders will be stuck with debt that they can’t sell profitably - many
will suffer losses. Apart from the further contraction in credit that this
will cause, the problems will filter through the financial system until the
likes of Bear Stearns, Goldmans, etc., find their own books severely tested.
We believe that there will be further corporate casualties in this market -
we’re just not sure how many or how big. This could ultimately be an even
greater problem than the S&L crisis and the impact on the general economy
could be catastrophic.
The bottom line is that in the UK and the US too much money has been thrown
(almost literally) at sectors where the growth has been too hot for too long
with no regard to what will happen when the trend turns. This is also true
in varying extents in economies like Ireland, Spain and Australia.
What can you do to protect/profit yourself from this problem with the
property sector? Easy - get a Property Protector. This is an insurance
product that protects the value of existing properties or an investment
product that allows investors to gain from the falling price of properties.
Which version you require depends on your circumstances but I can’t imagine
that there’s anyone out there who shouldn’t be at least looking at this in
To be continued…
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
Life in Chiang Mai:
by Mark Whitman
These words are written by a master. Not, I should add, a
master of the black arts nor even needlepoint, but of subdued sycophancy.
It’s been a long haul, notably at Dover, a port in southern England where
obnoxious from customs officials is legendary. Other master classes have
been taken at Sydney, where I made the mistake of telling the immigration
officer that I had arrived from New Zealand. His reply alerted me to the
inbuilt fascism of many of his compatriots and at Rotterdam (indeed any port
of entry into Holland) where the words irritating and pernickety are
engraved in the stony hearts of officials.
So I’ve developed that demeanor – half pained, part resigned acceptance that
allows there is no response acceptable to men and women who shield behind
uniforms and power that is little short of absolute. A rictus smile, gritted
teeth, a murmured response and with luck you are through.. The final irony
is that you are innocent of all blame.
Last week, I passed my final test in Chiang Mai, more specifically at the
immigration office near the airport. An office designed to make you
contemplate the next flight out. My trip there should have been simple. All
that was needed was a retirement visa, backed up by all the necessary
documentation, substantiated by an overly expensive letter from the British
Consulate and another less costly one from the Bangkok Bank. Even a copy of
my birth certificate in case they refused to believe I was 50 (some hopes!)
Accompanied by an English speaking Thai, fee at the ready, adorned by extra
clean clothes and a bright though wary smile, I approached the desk, signed
in and waited. The tediousness of what followed would fill this page, but
let’s just say it involved a return to my Chiang Mai home for a previous out
of date passport, more photocopying and the substitution of said Thai for
another friend who also had hours to wait. Along the way I met a pleasant
American who had been there since 8:30am. He finally entered the office at
15:30 and I never saw him again.
For myself, I decide to nod sagely, smile (possibly unconvincingly) and then
sign a form which said I had not really taken note of a previous entry visa.
Mea culpa! We had sat through the morning’s cacophony, which by mid
afternoon has subsided into a hum of resignation. Incomprehensible
announcements came from the desk and finally I recognized my name. An
unwanted 90 day visa was issued and I should return after sixty days, but
before it expired for the retirement visa. There was, pleasingly, no mention
of a fee. I smiled wanly, my friend wai’ed the official and was told that
all the documentation was correct but must be updated a week before I
returned. Unpleasant? No. Unfriendly? Not to me, just officialdom the same
the world over.
If that was the nadir of my week, then a performance at the CMU Theatre of
Lanna dance, music and drama was certainly a highlight. To packed houses a
large group of musicians performed a whole range of works from the ethereal
to the surprisingly erotic finale. The variety within the Divine Dance and
Music meant that even a farang was captivated throughout. If I had not been
‘booked’ for the wine tasting at the Chedi the following evening I should
certainly have returned, especially as the event was in aid of the Burmese
temple at Chieng Tung. Any help for any aspect (except the junta) of that
beleaguered country and its people deserves our support.
The CMU with its art gallery, free Saturday night film shows, regular
exhibitions and performances is a haven for visitors and Chiang Mai
residents. They replace the Forms of Faith show with one centered around the
latest CD. Let’s Talk About Love by musician Petch Osatanugrah. Eleven
artists produced a range of works to illustrate the tracks. OK it was clever
public relations, but still imaginative and stimulating – words seldom used
in the context of P.R.
Finally, a note to alert or warn you, depending on your enthusiasm for the
films of Francois Truffaut, that the season of his films continues at the
Alliance Francaise throughout September, having already screened five during
August. His stunning and influential debut Les Quatre Cents Coups introduced
us to the young (then 14) anti-hero Doinel. For me that remains Truffaut’s
masterpiece and many of his films which followed dealt with the adolescence,
youth and adult problems of the same character (and same actor, who
intimately reflected them). They reached a point of some irritation. But
there are others in the series on Friday nights at 8pm which are well worth
On September 21 you can see Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve in the
classic Le Dernier Metro (1980) and one of the director’s least whimsical
movies. A week later they are screening a rarer work, La Femme D’A Cote,
made the following year and again starring Depardieu this time with the
magnificent Fanny Ardant. The films are in French with English subtitles and
are not all great…simply better than anything else on show in Chiang Mai.
Let's Go To The Movies:
I promised last week I would reveal one simple fact about
the movie Perfect Strangers that would prove you couldn’t possibly guess the
killer. It’s academic now, since the movie closed, but anyway, here’s the
fact: The filmmakers shot three different endings to the film, each with a
different character as the murderer. They didn’t change the basic film,
understand, just the last-minute identity of the killer.
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Muay Thai Chaiya: Thai Drama – Gritty Thai boxing drama. Gained
considerable respect at the recent Bangkok International Film Festival.
Director: Kongkait Komesiri (Art of the Devil 2). Airport Plaza only.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: US Comedy – Starring Adam Sandler. Two
firefighters pretend to be a gay couple in order to receive domestic partner
benefits. The consensus is it’s sporadically funny, casually sexist, and
blithely racist. Generally negative reviews. Airport Plaza only.
Kon Hew Hua: Thai Comedy/Romance – According to the director, the film is
“about a father who, if he cannot fulfill just one promise to his son in his
life, would rather be dead.” He promises his young son he will find him a
large pile of money for his birthday. So look beyond the bloody action and
silly comedy about a body searching for its severed head (and vice-versa)
and you will find a warm story of a boy’s love for his father, and
vice-versa. Directed by and starring Ping Lumprapleung (who made last year’s
Lonely Hearts: US Crime/Thriller – with John Travolta, Salma Hayek. Sneaking
into Vista unheralded, this is a retelling of one of the more salacious
murder sprees of the late 1940s, a swindler couple who chose their victims
via the personal ads of local papers. Reviews say Hayek’s portrayal is one
of the more frightening examples of the classic femme fatale: positively
psychotic, yet smoldering with sexuality. They say fans of classic detective
films and neo-noirs will find much to enjoy here. Rated R in the US for
strong violence and sexual content, nudity and language. Mixed reviews. At
The Bourne Ultimatum: US Action/Suspense/Thriller – It is for me a most
brilliant chase film, endlessly inventive, and quite exciting. Reviews:
The Condemned: US Action/Thriller – Now that I’ve seen it, I recant. It
doesn’t need to be banned, and it isn’t all that bad. You should make up
your own mind whether or not it goes beyond the bounds of human decency. But
I still think they’d better enforce Thailand’s NC 17 rating! In the US it’s
rated R for “pervasive strong brutal violence, and for language.”
True, it is a reprehensible film: Condemned men are put on an island and
told to kill each other off till only one is left, for the benefit of a
worldwide internet web cast “reality” program. But they stop every once in a
while to say, “Tsk, tsk!” Ultimately, the movie is another hypocritical,
commercial product, selling what it’s condemning.
The film is truly exciting, I will admit, and well directed in its action,
and savvy in giving the spectator a real roller-coaster ride of emotion and
involvement. Generally negative reviews.
The Invasion: US Action/Horror – Quote of the week: “For better or worse,
we’re human again.”
Definitely, this has been gutted by post-production meddling by studio brass
who insisted on adding car crashes and a lot of explosions to what was
apparently a low-key scary thriller more psychological than physical. It is
still creepy and unnerving, but unfocused, lacking psychological complexity.
Rush Hour 3: US Action/Comedy – Another episode in the popular crime
fighting series with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Tops at the Thai box
office two weeks running. Thai-dubbed version only at Vista; English at
The Odd Couple/Koo Rad: Thai Low Comedy – Still going strong, and over its
run has earned more in Thailand than The Bourne Ultimatum. Strictly for
Scheduled for Thursday, September 6
Bedside Detective: Thai Romance – With popular Thai star Sunny Suwanmethanon
as a private detective who dons different disguises to spy on unfaithful
husbands. Director: Komkrist Treewimol (Dear Dakanda).
The House: Thai Horror – Inspired by a supposedly true story of three women
murdered at different times in the same haunted house. Director: Monthon
Arayangkoon (The Victim).
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
Punch the clock
Your recurring nightmare: It’s dawn and you don’t want to face your
stress-filled life, crawl down to your dead end job and hang out with
coworkers you hate. A monster alarm clock buzzes and blinks incessantly, but
it has large wheels, a mind of its own and it scampers away from you. Naked
and trembling, you chase it all over the house, trying to punch it out to
avoid punching into work on Monday, that grim day on which you have to spend
one seventh of your life. You can hear it, but you can’t find it; your blood
pressure rises; your pathetic screaming wakes the rest of the family…
you can turn your horrible dreams into reality, everyday of your life for
2,500 baht, with “The Runaway Alarm Clock” from Hammacher Schlemmer, the
company that also offers you “The Synchronized Light and Sound Inflatable
Holiday Carolers” for $12,000 baht, “The Dermatologist’s Microabrasion
Vacuum System” for 9,000 baht and several hundred other exclusive items for
the idle rich that all begin with “The”. You have to read the exact catalog
blurb to believe it:
“This is the alarm clock that rolls away and hides when you hit its snooze
button, and it continues to emit a random pattern of beeps and slashes,
encouraging drowsy sleepers to seek it out in order to shut it off. It is
built from shatter-resistant polypropylene and has two rubber wheels that
allow it roll off your nightstand from a height of two feet when it sounds
its alarm, so there is no mistaking that it is time to get up. The wheels
can move over wood floors and carpet, so it can maneuver into unexpected
corners, increasing the challenge to find it. Wheels may be disabled in case
of extreme frustration.”
There’s enough uncontrollable stress in life without paying thousands of
baht to add more, first thing in the morning. Who needs one of these? “Okay,
I’m sick of my wife and she’s almost ready to leave me, so if I run around
nude like a blithering idiot, this might put her over the edge!” If I
purchased one of these in a moment of insanity, I would hide it from friends
so they wouldn’t know that I’m insane. Perhaps it would be an effective
deterrent in the guest room to prevent your in-laws from ever visiting
In quintessential American marketing strategy, the next product advertised
in the catalog is the antidote to the poison: “The Stress Relieving Wrist
Band” for 3,000 baht, touted to “…provide natural relief for stress without
the use of medication [unlike the valium you’ll require to calm down after
your naked romps] because it gently massages and stimulates pressure points
located at the inner left wrist, helping to improve sleep quality [disturbed
by the anxiety created from anticipation of the next morning’s bedlam].
Similar to acupuncture, but without needles, the device transmits gentle
electrical signals, convincing the brain [or what’s left of it after your
self-induced dawn frenzies] that all is steady, reducing stress [caused by
the runaway clock and your children disowning you]. With a water-resistant
band [in case you’re sleeping in the ocean].”
It’s kind of like your local drug salesmen selling crack with a side of
Prozac. They also provide other inventive options for your search for
permanent dementia: “The Flying Alarm Clock” which “…launches a rotor into
the air that flies around the room as the alarm sounds, hovering up to nine
feet in the air, and will not cease ringing until the rotor is returned to
the alarm clock base [or the raving lunatic has smashed it with a lamp].”
“The Strapless One-Touch Heart Rate Monitor” for 3,000 baht and “The Travel
One-Touch Blood Pressure Monitor” for 4,000 baht will provide you with vital
information when you call the paramedics after your stroke.
At least it’s comforting to know caring companies are trying to help you
after trying to kill you.