The Doctor's Consultation:
by Dr. Iain Corness
A miracle for Mrs Gonzales
Mrs. Gonzales was your typical
Gibraltarian Mumma. Around 20 stone in weight, give or take the odd pound or
three. She presented at outpatients with a history of alternating diarrhoea
and constipation for some months and now she noticed that there were some
hard lumps in her stomach. Some? She had lots.
My boss, Mr. Toomey, confirmed the presence of the lumps and told me the
diagnosis. Mrs. Gonzales would have disseminated cancer and would be
inoperable; however, we would open her up to confirm the diagnosis, but that
would be as far as the operation would go, he said. Open and close.
Mrs. Gonzales was prepped and a large abdomen awaited us. Mr. Toomey made a
mid-line incision and we did not have to go further. Large grey/white lumps,
firmly adherent to everything. We did not count how many. It was pointless.
It was, just as Mr. Toomey predicted, simply everywhere. We had opened, and
Mrs. Gonzales was returned to the ward and the gravity of the situation was
explained to her. We could not help. There were limits to medical science,
expertise and knowledge (and there still is), but we would make her last
remaining weeks as comfortable as possible, while she came to terms with her
personal God (Gibraltar, like Spain was predominantly Roman Catholic).
Mrs. Gonzales reacted to the bad news with none of the expected wailing, but
by telling us that she would be getting better and she would be going home
for Xmas. “In a wooden box,” I thought to myself.
The post-operative phase was not uneventful. The cancer tissue came through
the wound and we now had an abdominal ulcer that was never going to heal.
It did not stop there. The cancer then eroded through the bowel, so now
there was a direct passage for the faecal matter to get to the outside. It
was quite horrible. The smell was so bad we had to put her in a private
room. And yet, all the time, Mrs. Gonzales said she would be going home for
By this stage, the other junior surgeon and myself would take turns in going
to see Mrs. Gonzales. No matter how much the nurses tried, the stench was
abominable (as well as abdominal). It was difficult not to retch.
After around two months, the Nursing Sister from the ward rang me and said
she wanted me to come and see Mrs. Gonzales. “She’s getting better!”
“Sister, it cannot be getting better,” but I went down to the private room
to humour the usually sensible nurse.
The bandages were removed, and the ulcerated wound was indeed smaller,
though still discharging faecal material. Being quite sure she would now
discharge into the belly if the wound healed over, I advised the nurse to
look for signs of peritonitis (infection inside the abdomen), as that would
undoubtedly hasten the situation in the direction of the pine box.
A few days later, I was again summonsed to the private room. The wound had
healed over and there was no more discharge. And rather than discharging
from the bowel into the abdominal cavity to produce a fever and the expected
peritonitis, the bowel waste began to discharge from the normal anal outlet.
By this stage I had no answers, only questions. “How could this be?” “Was
the cancer resolving spontaneously?” I did not have to wait long to find
out. A hand laid on the belly detected no masses, no lumps, no kidding!
So here we were, after three months, and the seemingly impossible had
occurred. Inoperable multiple cancer had disappeared, along with the
Mrs. Gonzales did indeed go home for Xmas, waddling proudly out of the
hospital to the waiting taxi. She thanked us all for what we had done, but I
felt embarrassed. We doctors had done nothing to get her over her cancer
problem. Simply, her personal ‘Higher Physician’ was obviously not ready for
Unfortunately, very often doctors can start to believe in their own
omnipotence. It needs people like Mrs. Gonzales to bring us back to earth.
Heart to Heart
As a victim for one year, I do always read your column. My experience is
with a Thai girl Cat one third of my age. I found her at a Japanese bar
where she had worked three months, taking care of the customers and
avoiding sex as much as possible. I did help her to stop and did support
her with 18,000 baht/month. The family got some money each month, they
are younger than me and do not work much, they are from Isaan. We did
have a great time, I was with her on her first flight, on her first boat
trip and first swimming experience. I did pay for two water buffaloes, I
wonder if the parents got them (20,000 baht). I have seen how her
parents live and understand that she wants to help them into a proper
house for around 800,000 baht. The problem came when she got too much
time with the working girls from the bar, then she came with stories
about hospital bills of several thousand baht even that the price is 30
baht/day and some other excuses to get more money. In general a nice
relationship, that probably will end soon as it becomes a little boring
with the missing knowledge in English and missing general knowledge
about everything. I think she likes me in a strange way, apart from “Jai
dee”. I like her, she is beautiful (it seems that Japanese bars choose
the prettiest girls), takes good care of me, try to learn some English,
behave very well - but it has no future. I promised to pay for her
education but she is not interested and does not understand western
values. Another reason is that she wants to make more money for her
parents so she has started to work again and then she get some ideas
from the other girls in the bar about how to use the farangs as money
machines. The only way now is to offer sex to the Japanese customers,
but she want to avoid it, she don’t like it but she has to get used to
it as it is the money way. Why do I write? Yes I need a manual about
Thai girls. After having finished the “bar book” that gives the opening
talk with the girls, and there is a good one where each page is in
English and opposite in Thai but it is about the cultural relationship
and for Thai or Westerners with some kind of education. Private Dancer
is in English, a good book but 99 percent of Thai girls can’t read
English, they have even difficulties with our alphabet. It would be nice
to let the Thai girls get an impression of our impression of them. Many
relationships would be better and many fights could be avoided. There
are still some nice Thai girls not locked 100 percent in the hard core
bar business and it would be good to set the rules in the beginning and
farangs could avoid the most silly attacks on their money. The problem
for me is that I don’t understand that any girl could find me
interesting and behave as if she were in love with me. In general am I
so impressed that Thai people are so positive about me. Dear Hillary can
you recommend a book in English where one get an impression of the Thai
life, I simply don’t understand that a mother will accept a girl selling
herself, so that the mother can relax, doing nothing.
Hi from Pete
Such a lovely long letter, but I did have to shorten it a bit, otherwise
it would have been a 74 page newspaper this week! Pete, my Petal, you
say you have read Private Dancer, but you certainly haven’t learned all
the lessons, have you? You write, “I don’t understand that any girl
could find me interesting and behave as if she were in love with me.”
Pete, don’t you see what you have written? “... behave as if she were in
love with me.” You have found yourself a ‘professional’ bar girl who
knows every trick in the book on how to extract money from the ‘walking
wallets’. The poor little dear “forced” to go back to servicing Japanese
men because she needs the money for hospital bills, buffalos and houses
for the parents, being led by the example of the other girls in the bar.
Stop making excuses for her and see her for what she really is. A bar
girl with hooks into your wallet, Pete. These girls have absolutely no
interest in the westerner’s impressions of them. They are too busy
raking in the money. Get out now, Pete!
Indulge yourself and become Auntysingha for the evening. Sorry, no
chocs! Nit and Ying, the adorable wee yum-yums, have been extremely
naughty ladies and scoffed the lot.
Do I have to take back all my scorn following previous non-arrivals of
promised goodies? A 630 ml bottle of Singha beer and a Mars bar were
delivered to the office and the nice young messenger brought it up
stairs. Not quite the French giggle juice and Belgian choccies, but for
you, a good start. Next time try the Moet?
Camera Class: by
Nikon Coolpix P5100. Fish or fowl?
test digital camera this week. The Nikon Coolpix P5100 which is
certainly a mouthful of a title. Was it a watering mouthful as a
During the week that this Nikon compact was with me, I did have
the opportunity to try it in many situations – sunshine,
overcast, evening and night, both indoors and out. It was an
interesting week in many respects.
First off, this is not really a small camera, nor was it a large
one. However, unlike the Canon Ixus range which will easily
slide into a shirt pocket, the Coolpix is far too bulky. It also
felt heavy for its size, and whilst this may show good sturdy
engineering, it also meant that it was too heavy to fit
comfortably in a trouser pocket.
The camera as delivered to my office came without the
instruction manual, but with a reference to an ‘e-version’
instead. This manual had 176 pages, and I’m sorry Mr. Nikon, but
I am not at my stage of life going to read a 176 page manual. If
it needs 176 pages, then you have made it all too difficult and
out of the reach of the average punter who wants to point and
The camera does come with many easily understood controls, so I
felt that if I could follow my instincts, this should be the way
to go. The top surface has an on-off button, a rotary mode
selector wheel, a wide-tele lever, and another rotary wheel to
change shutter speeds, apertures etc when in semi-manual or full
manual modes. This wheel could also be used when scrolling
through the menu options.
Let me use this column to tell Mr Nikon something. Not all
photographers want an electronic menu. In fact, there are many
who consider it a time-wasting and definitely ‘fiddly’ exercise.
Professional cameras such as Hasselblad, Mamiya, Sinar and the
like can produce a final image without an electronic menu.
Mechanical switching, rotary knobs and other manual controls are
quicker and easier, and you will not find that it is necessary
to have a 176 page manual for a Hasselblad.
Getting back to the Coolpix P5100, it boasts 12.1 megapixels and
a zoom lens giving 35-123 mm coverage. There is an optical
viewfinder as well as a reasonably large LCD screen. But there
is a world of difference in using them. The tiny optical
viewfinder does not show you anything near what you are going to
get. It is so poor, I wonder why Nikon even bothered.
Having forgotten about the optical viewfinder and using the LCD
exclusively was much better, until I wanted to compose the
picture using the wide-tele control. This is a hair-triggered
device, which was very difficult to use, overshooting where you
wanted to stop every time, going in either direction.
Another problem came up with composing at night, as the
pre-focus beam was very difficult to see, and at times I felt I
was shooting blind. The camera also took its time on homing in
and locking on the image at night with the AF. The flash output
was small and final low-light image quality poor.
So what did I like? Well, the Mode control was very easy to use,
in conjunction with the rotary wheel to change aperture/shutter
speed. The camera could be used without flash, but here’s
another dislike - to turn the flash off required reverting to
menu, flicking through and selecting the sub-menu and then
scrolling down to be able to select “off”. One manual button
could have done quicker and easier.
By this stage, I wondered if it were just me that was unhappy
with this offering from Nikon, but perusing a couple of camera
tests in the magazines showed some dissatisfaction there as
Everyone was of the opinion that 12.1 pixels were indeed
over-kill, and there was too much electronic ‘noise’ if you
selected any ASA rating faster than ASA 200. There were other
complaints, but that is enough.
For me, this camera was neither fish nor fowl. It was not a
compact and not an SLR. It is an orphan, without a real home.
Sorry, I didn’t like it.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
The Long/Short of History
If you’re male and aged over 40 then the chances are that
Mohammed Ali remains one of your most enduring sporting heroes. That unique
combination of grace, power and that much overused word, charisma, set him
apart. From the early victories by the Louisville Lip culminating in the
Sonny Liston fights and then the spectacular comeback with the Thriller in
Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle (who can forget the advent of the
rope-a-dope tactic?) through to the sheer determination that got Ali through
the last few fights against Spinks and co to finally the consequences today
that are all too evident of those last few fights too many, the Ali story is
far more gripping than anything that any boxing fiction writer could ever
However, in boxing the harsh realities mean that if you don’t get out before
it’s too late, then you really pay the price. George Foreman had a good
career and his subsequent comeback reminded anyone who’d forgotten what a
quality fighter he had been but both times George quit while he was still
able to go and concentrate on his ministry and his low fat grills. At the
time every young boy who shadowed boxed against his bedroom mirror
(entertainments and amusements weren’t as varied or plentiful for most of us
growing up in the ’60s as they are now) you would have wanted to be Ali.
Given the choice now, you’d probably rather be Ali than Foreman today.
Legacies are great things to leave behind but as any sportsman knows,
they’re no substitute for the thrill of competition.
But what does all this have to do with you and your money? Well, we’ve been
through a real Jake La Motta (Raging Bull) of a market but like Ali at his
peak, all good things have to come to an end. Bull markets are followed by
bear markets because during booms governments, businesses and individuals
spend, borrow and then spend some more. This is what creates booms - if
nothing were ever consumed anywhere, we’d be in a permanent state of stasis.
When consumption rises above the norm, so does supply, as therefore does
production and this becomes exaggerated by leverage (borrow money to build
the factory needed to make a profit from making more of the things that are
On the way up it’s a virtuous circle - on the way back down it’s a vicious
one. But it always has to come back down - the laws of physics teach us that
nothing is capable of indefinite expansion and while a lot of egg has ended
up on a lot of educated faces by trying to apply the laws of physics to
financial markets this is one that we’d do well to remember. Infinite
borrowing is impossible because debt has to be serviced from income. Forget
the specifics of the sub-prime morass. Anyone still dismissing this as a
blip that doesn’t have wider consequences is living in denial as much as Ali
was in his mid 40s taking the ring against hungry young punchers half his
This bull market is old. Whether or not we see a bounce back from the
current corrections is, to us, a moot point. The best time to invest in any
asset is when it’s supported by fundamentals and technicals. We see
technical research as an indicator of market psychology or momentum - a
signpost as to how the market is thinking. We see fundamental economic
research as a guide to what’s really happening in the world (often this is
disconnected from the markets).
If you have both factors, fundamental and technical working together, it
means that you have a market that is going up for all the right reasons. If
you have a market with strong fundamentals but weak technicals, that usually
means that the markets don’t yet understand the economic realities but this
is when, as contrarians, we often see the greatest buying opportunities. The
danger is not to be too early but not to wait too long until boat has
already started to sail away without you.
When technicals are supportive in the face of contra-indicative fundamentals
then there is a short term opportunity BUT one that will ultimately turn
against the asset in question and therefore you need to be extremely careful
(picking up nickels from in front of bulldozers as we call it at MBMG).
There’s been a lot of picking up nickels this year and we’ve tended to steer
clear because this bulldozer has looked mightily big and scary to us.
The years 2002 and 2003 were the equivalent of Ali’s amateur career, turning
pro and the Liston fights - it was a period when fundamentals were positive
even if markets sentiment was negative, scarred by the 2000-2002 correction.
2004-2005 was like Ali in his pomp - mature and confident. Technicals and
fundamentals were supportive of markets and they continued to rally with
very little downside. Last year saw us start to enter the equivalent of that
final phase of Ali’s career - still some spectacular days but more and more
as we entered 2007 some bad ones too. Technicals were still positive - the
market was still awash with positive sentiment but fundamentals had caught
up and were now severely negative. We’ve been bearish since then. We knew
that the bulldozers were coming and we didn’t see the nickels as being
enough justification to risk being mashed up by them. Someone should have
stopped Ali taking those last few fights when he spoiled his record as well
as his physical well-being, but we recognise that it’s all too human not to
want to stop while you’re winning and then not to want to quit after a
In the markets, the technicals are now lined up with fundamentals - both are
pointing negative. It’s the time when even Ali had to quit and live with the
consequences of not having gotten out sooner. It may be bad now and there
might still be a few good days left in the tank but overall it will only get
worse. It’s hard when your heroes get older and have to quit - a stark
reminder of your own mortality perhaps. In the same way it’s hard to say
good bye to a bull market if you’re an investor. But in the long run, it’s a
lot less painful than trying to live in denial. Bull market 2002-2007 R.I.P.
Whilst Ali is obviously a part of recent sporting history we are also
reminded of English history over 500 years ago. Henry VII’s primary tax
collector was Chancellor John Morton who devised the strategy know as
Morton’s fork. Cardinal Morton would visit the large estates of the realm
once a year to assess how much tax they should pay to the Treasury.
Initially in order to impress and try to curry favour, lavish entertainment
would be laid on for the Cardinal’s visits. However, the Cardinal began to
gradually increase taxes. When asked to justify this he would invariably
point to the amount spent on the entertainments and amusements for his
visits and hypothesise that this indicated that the estate revenues must
have been extremely good that year and therefore higher taxes could be
afforded. The landowners of course cottoned on and in subsequent years very
meagre and miserly entertainment was provided. Morton continued to increase
taxes. When challenged by the gentry who said that they had expected a
reduced tax bill in view of the clearly lower entertainment budget they had
at their disposal, Morton was having none of this and claimed that this
merely indicated a much tighter rein on outgoings and expenses and therefore
the estates could clearly afford to pay more to their sovereign.
Investors are trapped into the 21st Century equivalent today - markets go
up, and the CNBC-heads make you feel foolish for not getting a slice of the
action. Markets go down and then they make you feel that you’d be even more
foolish to sell. In reality, the folly is to listen to this self-interested
nonsense. I’d love to wake up and hear someone announce that due to
prevailing bearish economic conditions they’ll be taking their platitudes
off air until 2010 when market conditions will again justify investing in US
equities, but until then they’ll be showing re-runs of all the major
heavyweight fights from the ’60s, ‘70’s and ’80s...
This isn’t a random walk. There are signposts for those who want to read
them and at the moment the equity signposts are generally marked ‘Exit’. The
main problem with exit strategies from the equity markets tends to be the
widespread reluctance to do so. The reasons are essentially a combination of
complacency, habit, greed and fear of missing out when markets are still
rising at the end of a bull run and fear of crystallising a loss and
admission of error (non-seller’s remorse) once the markets start to head
south. This is compounded by an ignorance of the choices available and the
significance of each choice from a risk and reward perspective. Which just
goes to show how important it is to have a multi-asset class approach to
times like this.
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
I’m not sure why, but festivals and celebrations seem to
last longer in Chiang Mai than elsewhere – especially Songkran and the
recent Loy Krathong ( I won’t mention Christmas except to lament the ghastly
music being played in stores and other buildings, especially Barbra
Streisand strangling Silent Night, Holy Night). I was lucky enough to be
invited to a friend’s garden party at his splendid river side house on the
Friday evening and on the Saturday went down to the Ping with a dozen or
more young Thais to send off another krathong – this one hand made (with a
little help!). I know you can buy them for 20 baht, but it was especially
delightful launching one’s own creation.
My only complaint is the growing obsession with fireworks (is their
popularity a reflection of a nation’s prosperity?). They begin blasting well
before the full moon and last for days after making life miserable for human
beings and ,more importantly, for dogs and other animals. The same happens
in the U.K. with the so-called celebration of Guy Fawke’s Day, which is when
he and a group of other ‘terrorists’, as they would be called today, were
caught trying to blow up Parliament. They were caught and hideously tortured
then burned or hanged drawn and quartered. A barbaric event, pointlessly
celebrated. Perhaps though it serves to remind us – given Guantanamo Bay –
that we have not progressed much over the centuries.
It was sad to hear that two of the cinemas – Vista 12, opposite Kad Suan
Kaew – in Chiang Mai were suddenly closed down last week. That leaves only
the Vista complex in Central and the Major group of ice boxes out at Airport
Plaza. On the plus side it is great to be able to highly recommend a Thai
film, which is already a huge critical and commercial success and is play
successfully in the city.
It is a radical, intelligent movie by the standards of commercial Thai
cinema, treating its young protagonists and the audience as intelligent
human beings. It deals with family problems, young people coming to terms
with their sexuality and growing up generally and the central story of the
two boys who love each other (one is gay, the other not) is sensitively
handled, which is a revelation compared with the gross homophobia of 99 per
cent of Thai movies. The best performance comes from a fine actress - Sinjai
Hongthai and the boys, Mario Mauro and, especially, the enchanting Witchwisi
Hirunwongkul are both perfectly cast and believable. There is a weak
secondary plot and a tedious character in the father and the film meanders
slightly in the middle section but overall it is a timely and often moving.
And the ‘controversial’ kissing scene is delicately handled and should upset
only the most bigoted of viewers. A film about gentle heartbreak, love in
many guises and growing up in Thailand, which deserves an international
The charity event held in the garden of Hinlay Curry House, organized by
FERC (The Foundation for the Education of Rural Children) was a great
success and raised thousands of baht to help their work which seeks to
educate children, including the disabled, from poorer families and regions.
Its mission is simple. To give young people a chance to escape the
straightjacket imposed on them by lack of opportunity and money. Check out
their web site and you will find an organization which has been doing good
work for nearly ten years. They are already planning a gala evening for next
November, but will be working steadily on less high profile projects in the
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass: US/UK Adventure/Fantasy — In
a parallel universe, a young girl journeys to the far North to save her best
friend and other kidnapped children from terrible experiments by a
mysterious evil organization. That “mysterious organization” in the film is
the cause of an all-out war in the US between Catholic and other religious
groups who claim “the organization” represents the Catholic Church, or other
organized religious organizations, and promotes atheism; and, on the other
hand, defenders of the film and the books upon which it is based who say
“nonsense,” and further state that atheism is not such a bad idea after all.
The film in truth is a grand, rich fantasy. Mixed or average reviews. At
Vista, a Thai-dubbed version only; English at Airport Plaza.
Bee Movie: US Animation – Pure Jerry Seinfeld: it was his idea in the first
place, he wrote most of it, had last say over whether a joke was funny or
not, and could even override company decisions. So the humor is his: adult,
observational, feasting on the small ironies of human (make that “beeish”)
behavior. Most of the humor is verbal, and tends toward the gently ironic
rather than the hilarious. But there are a few splendid cartoon set pieces —
including a funny, thrilling bee’s-eye tour of New York — that show off the
latest computer animation techniques. Mostly a soft and fuzzy entertainment,
with a hint of a sting. Mixed or average reviews: 54/58 out of 100.
The Screen at Kamchanod (Pee Changnang): Thai Horror – 95 mins — Directed by
former Pang Brothers’ assistant Songsak Mongkolthong, who shot the wildly
successful horror film The Eye, this movie is supposedly based on an actual
event that took place at an outdoor screening in Udon Thani in 1987, when an
audience of ghosts turned up to watch a movie. Here, in 2007, a group of
medical professionals goes to the spot to try to solve the mystery of what
really happened, and in the process endanger their own lives.
Love of Siam (Rak Haeng Siam): Thai Romance – I think this Thai movie is
excellent! I found it a thoroughly engrossing story, well crafted, and well
acted. It’s a long film by Thai standards, but well worth the time. The
“Siam ” here refers to Siam Square, a popular teenage hangout in Bangkok.
It’s there that Tong, a popular and handsome boy, meets his childhood friend
Mew again after a traumatic separation of several years. Tong (Mario
Maurer), is a sixth-form student whose sister disappeared when he was still
a child, and he and his Catholic family are still scarred by that event.
When we first meet him, Tong has been distancing himself from his
girlfriend, as his feelings toward her don’t feel right somehow. This
process is finished off in short order after he is reunited with his old
friend, Mew. The two boys make an endearing couple. Mew (“Pitch” Witwisit
Hiranwongkul) has a talent for singing and piano, is the lead singer and
composer for a band, and has been asked to compose a love song for the
band’s recording. Mew has had little experience of love within himself to
draw on, but his growing feelings for Tong change all that, and enable him
to write a glorious love song that is being heard all over Thailand these
days. A sweet, sad, and sentimental story, that’s quite thoroughly
entertaining. By the director of one of my all-time favorite Thai movies, 13
Beloved, Chukiat Sakweerakul. See it by all means.
Beowulf: US Animation/Adventure (motion-capture animation) – With the
performance-captured images of Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John
Malkovich, Angelina Jolie, and thousands more. Outstanding semi-animated
retelling of ancient English tale. Generally favorable reviews. At Vista
Game Plan: US Family/Comedy – A run-of-the-mill Disney comedy: good-hearted,
mindless entertainment. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista only.
Pong Lang Amazing Theatre: Thai Low Comedy – A down-on-his-luck theatre
owner tries to rescue his old and haunted theater from oblivion with one
last show. Crude and crass, involving much breaking of wind and a humorous
defecation scene (if there can be such a thing).
Scheduled for Thu. Dec. 13
I Am Legend: US Action/Drama – Will Smith as a brilliant scientist who could
not contain a terrible virus that was unstoppable. Somehow immune, he is now
the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the
world. He spends his time trying to make contact with other survivors,
working on a cure to the virus using his blood, and, of course, killing
The Warlords: Hong Kong Action/War – It’s a heroic tale of the breakdown of
the friendship between three blood brothers when one kills another to steal
his wife, and the third seeks revenge. Set in China’s Qing dynasty, the film
stars Jet Li and Andy Lau.
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
Forget It: Part Two
I think I remember sending in Part One last week, but I haven’t seen the
paper yet to be sure.
While staying with new friends in Winnipeg, Canada, I’m sure their first
impression of me turned into a strange lasting impression. I jogged daily
and while washing my sweats in their apartment, the drawstrings came out of
had a great caption for this photo in my mind, but then I lost it.
I’d recently read an article about a young “idiot savant” who was
exceptionally socially- and mentally-challenged, but managed to solve
practical everyday problems creatively on her own—like how to get limp laces
back through the seams of sweatpants. She soaked her drawstrings in water,
froze them solid in a semi-circle, then while they were stiff, threaded them
back through the seams.
I followed her example and wet my mine, carefully arranged them in the
freezer and left town later that day, forgetting to take my drawstrings. Who
knows what my friends thought as they removed a pair of very long, very
frozen shoelaces from the freezer?
“Scott is not a savant, just an idiot.”
I’ve tried to surround myself with friends with the same mental disability.
Irish Noel, AKA Mr. Mental, comedian, actor and owner of a hot London comedy
club, recently visited and promptly demonstrated his innate handicap by
leaving his passport on the plane. Since it’s the Land of Smiles and
Honesty, he got it back, but I’m sure you can buy a copy for 100 baht on
Khao San road in Bangkok.
Years ago he said I could stay at his flat in New York for the night, though
he wouldn’t be in town. After hours of NYC festivities, my girlfriend and I
arrived at his apartment, found the key and collapsed on the floor under
blankets. It was a tiny place: just turning the doorknob from the outside
rearranged all the furniture in the living room. (I think there was only a
living room, but of course, I probably don’t remember.)
About 3 a.m., we heard a key in the door; a person entered the darkened room
and flicked on the lights. We were terrified it was the mafia hit man or
serial killer as she screamed, “What the f&%#?” plus a bunch of other
unprintable epithets. The livid woman was the person who had sublet Noel’s
apartment, and he either didn’t remember to tell her we were coming, or
forgot that he‘d sublet it.
After extensive emotional groveling, pleading and begging, she didn’t throw
us and our baggage out onto the not-so-nice-in-that-neighborhood streets of
New York to be robbed, raped and murdered. I’m sure she slept lightly that
night with her entire set of kitchen knives under the covers.
Mr. Mental once tried to visit mutual friends in North Carolina, near the
airport in Greenville, South Carolina, but either forgot where he was going,
or had a complete mental breakdown. He went to the wrong Greenville in North
Carolina, which is about 500 miles east of his destination, not the
Greenville, South Carolina where his friends were meeting him.
Also a class clown and the Official Village Idiot wherever he goes, he
stepped off the small plane wearing an outlandish yellow suit, strange hat,
funny glasses and weird shoes. At the same moment, his equally ridiculous
female friends stood at the gate 500 miles away in the correct Greenville,
wearing bathrobes, slippers, hair-in-curlers and probably funnier glasses.
Well, I’m sure both Greenvilles got a kick out of the experience and none of
the three can ever return there again.
My Thai mate has her memory-afflicted moments as well, but doesn’t like
being reminded of them, especially in print. One morning after combing the
house for my glasses, I asked if she’d seen them. She said, “You mean the
ones on top of your head?” “Yes, those, thank you. Can I take any and all
pills that you’re not using?” Later that day I called and could hear her
rummaging around, tramping heavily, doing something. I asked, “What are you
doing?” She said, “I’m looking for my phone.” I said, “Honey, you’re on it.
Take the rest of the pills.”
I was going to end this column with my favorite forgetting story, but I
don’t remember what it was.
Doc English The Language Doctor: Questions you can ask during and
after you have read with your child
Hello folks, welcome back! This week we
include more tips and techniques for teaching your children English at home.
I hope your children are making good progress and growing more enthusiastic
about learning English.
Last week we talked about how to encourage your child to predict what will
happen in a story, to aid their understanding. This week we open our English
books and get to grips with the thrilling stories on offer!
I mentioned last week that questioning your child is very important for
their language development. Encouraging your child to ask questions is
equally as important. Questions can range from those requiring a simple
‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, to those requiring a deeper understanding of a story
and a more detailed response, including how your child feels about a
situation or character. Showing an understanding and appreciation of your
child’s feelings and opinions is important of course for raising their
self-esteem. Having improved self-esteem empowers your child and motivates
them to learn more, so give always remember to provide plenty of praise and
gently model how it should be done, rather than correct.
In the table, there are some questions you can use when reading with your
child. They should increase in difficulty over time, as you go down and
across the list. You could start with the simplest questions and gradually
increase the number of questions you use in each reading session. Encourage
your child to use a full sentence when they answer (rather than ‘one word’
answers) and encourage them to gradually increase the complexity of their
response over time. Don’t try and repeat all these questions for each page!
It’s way too much and will make reading less fun! Learn how to introduce
questions without interrupting the ‘flow’ of the story.
Easy Medium Hard
Who’s in the picture?Who are the ‘characters’?What are they doing?Can
you see a __? (e.g. tree)Where is the __? (e.g. ‘cat’)What else can you
see?Why is he/she doing that? Where is the story ‘setting’?Would you like to
live there, why?Which characters do you like and why?What are they going to
do next? (Whilst reading)What happened in the story?What happened in the
end? What happened in the story? (First, Next, Afterwards, Finally?)What did
you like about this story?What did you dislike?If you were the Author, would
you have changed anything in the story?Has anything like this ever happened
OK, good luck with the questioning! Remember to ask your child’s opinion
about the book. As they continue to read they will acquire their own
interests and special taste in particular kinds of books. Listen to their
opinions so that you can choose books that they enjoy and that motivate them
Next week we investigate skills your child can use to read and ‘decipher’
new words and we’ll also concentrate on how to read the text. Remember, you
can write to the Pattaya Mail or email me at docenglish
[email protected] and I will try to answer all your questions or
suggestions, either by return email or via this column. I always welcome
feedback from parents (and students).
Welcome to Chiang Mai: Why Chiang Mai?
So you’ve had enough of western living expenses, western
politicians, western crime waves, western wars, and western weather, unless
you’re fortunate enough to live in California, in which case, please
disregard the weather! Or there’s always been a gypsy in your soul and
you’ve a compulsion to move on every few years.
But, why Chiang Mai? Maybe you’ve been here on vacation and fallen in love
with this town, (perhaps because it isn’t Pattaya), or even fallen in love
with your dream girl whose home this is! But living here is what you feel
you have to do, whatever the reason. You may even realise that a break here,
however long, won’t prepare you for the major adjustments that come with
permanent residence, or at least as permanent as current and ever changing
visa rules will allow. So you surf the internet at all hours of the day and
night, you read Chiang Mai Mail every week, you hit websites for information
about visas, housing, weather, lifestyle, shipping, shopping, living
expenses, hobbies, sports, clubs, language if you feel you can’t survive
without learning Thai, TEFL if you feel an irrational compulsion to teach
English and the important stuff like bars and restaurants. But all this
still doesn’t quite explain “why Chiang Mai”, and by then you may well have
realised that a fair proportion of the data you have collected is either
wrong, inaccurate, or hasn’t been updated in the last ten years! Oops. The
next step, therefore, is the “ research trip”, during which, having explored
the joys of the Night Market, several Wats, the Elephant Camp, several Thai
restaurants, rather more farang restaurants, and three pubs, you meet
Westerners who actually do live here! In conversation, they tell you about
aspects of Chiang Mai which you perhaps hadn’t noticed online. This
information will invariably include the pollution during the hot season, the
“Thai price versus farang price” issue, the language from hell, the
political situation, driving in Chiang Mai, (an interesting experience!),
the “tomorrow means next week if you’re extremely lucky” syndrome, the
internet problems, the power cuts, the program repeats on UBC, etc, etc. And
By this time you’re very, very nervous…until someone mentions the amazing
eccentricity of the place, (and its resident farangs!), the beauty of the
spectacular sunsets, the stupendous electrical storms, the massive banks of
clouds balanced precariously on the surrounding mountains, the exquisite
clarity of the air during the rainy season, the flowers and trees
everywhere, the feeling of peace as the evening draws to a close, the
genuine smiles, and the warmth of new friendships. Then you notice the
softening of your informant’s expression as he describes life here, and you
realise that it’s not so much that you have to leave your home country, but
that you have to come here. It’s said that people come to Thailand either to
lose themselves or to find themselves. Here in Chiang Mai both processes
happen as one, and you don’t even notice!
So how do you arrive and adjust without incurring serious stress? Help is at
hand in the comprehensive and carefully researched ‘Welcome to Chiang Mai’
folder, which has now been sent out by email to a large number of incomers
and recent arrivals. It was written in the hope that it would clarify and
assist in the processes of getting yourself and your hopes and dreams safely
settled here in Chiang Mai.
In subsequent issues of the Chiang Mai Mail, articles will follow which will
give details of just about everything from how to adjust to Thai ways, to
finding the right accommodation and shopping for your every need. If you’d
like a copy of the complete folder, please email us on welcometochiang
[email protected], and we’ll be happy to send it to you. We’ll also try to
answer any queries you may have. Enjoy your new life!