Vol. VI No. 42 - Tuesday
December 11, - December 17, 2007



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Columns
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

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiangmai

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 we closed.
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 Xmas.
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 abdominal discharge.
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 her.
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  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
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
Dear 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!

Dear Hillary,
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.
Mistersingha
Dear Mistersingha,
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 Harry Flashman

Nikon Coolpix P5100. Fish or fowl?

Another test digital camera this week. The Nikon Coolpix P5100 which is certainly a mouthful of a title. Was it a watering mouthful as a camera, however?
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 shoot.
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 well.
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 devise.
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 in demand).
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 age.
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 defeat.
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 [email protected]mbmg-international.com


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 audience.
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 meantime.


Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

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 only.
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 vampires.
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 the pants.

I 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 to you?
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 to read.
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?

Elena Edwards
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 so on.
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!



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