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

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 your behalf.
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 the veins.
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-normal: 130–139/85–89
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 mean Hypertension.
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  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
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,
Dear Parent,
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!

Dear Hillary,
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 we do?
Dear Bill,
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.
Dear Hillary,
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 responsibility?
Dear Amazed,
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 Harry Flashman

Landscapes with the WOW factor

How 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 darkened viewfinder.)
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 interest rates
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 centre
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 some format.
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 [email protected]

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 seeing.
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: Mark Gernpy

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 Loveaholic).
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 Vista only.
The Bourne Ultimatum: US Action/Suspense/Thriller – It is for me a most brilliant chase film, endlessly inventive, and quite exciting. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
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 Airport Plaza.
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 Thais.
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…

Now 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 again.
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.