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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


Chiang Mai FeMail

tech tips with Mr.Tech Savvy

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

The ‘fix’ for high Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure is usually written as BP and is essential for good health. If your BP is zero - you are dead. However, if your BP is too high, this can lead to strokes, coronary heart disease, kidney disease, heart failure and back to death again. So it is an important condition.
Unfortunately you do not know if your blood pressure is up, as it does not give you any warning symptoms until it is ready to blow the top of your head off. That being the case, I do suggest that rather than wait for that catastrophic event, it is a better idea to get your blood pressure checked at least once a year.
Now here comes the first problem - blood pressure is a dynamic measurement, and it goes up from many factors, including when you last had coffee or a cigarette, or even sex (with or without ‘viagorous’ assistance).
So what is your “normal” or “usual” blood pressure? That figure can only be estimated after several readings. A high reading this morning is not necessarily the same this afternoon. A high reading today is not necessarily a high reading next week. Even the medical fraternity is in disarray over this, with for example the Australian Heart Foundation suggesting that the pressure should not be taken within two hours of a cigarette, because it “produces acute increases in blood pressure.” Considering a one pack a day smoker never goes two hours without a cigarette - when do you measure his pressure that is not within two hours? When he is asleep perhaps? So what really is his “usual” pressure? For me, the “usual” pressure is the pressure at which the person runs under most of the day, and for the smoker, that is the one under the influence of nicotine in my book!
So what is “high” blood pressure? BP is given as Systolic pressure over Diastolic pressure. As a very rough rule of thumb, anything over 140 mm Hg (mercury) systolic is too much, as is anything more than 90 diastolic. This BP is written as 140/90.
Let us now imagine that your BP has been found, over several random measurements, to be greater than 140/90. (I disagree with colleagues who will label you as having “Hypertension” after one reading.) What should be done? The answer is the mnemonic SNAP. That stands for Smoking, Nutrition, Alcohol and Physical activity.
Here then is how to deal with high blood pressure. First off, stop smoking. As I pointed out above, if you smoke anything more than eight cigarettes a day your BP is being continuously elevated. End of story. By the way, note that smokers have three to four times the risk of heart attacks and strokes than non-smokers. Also end of their story!
Nutrition. If you are overweight, it is time to reduce. You are overweight if your Body Mass Index (BMI - we medicos love acronyms) is greater than 25. To find out your BMI, divide your weight in kg by the square of your height in metres. (I weigh 78 kg and my height is 1.8 metres. My BMI is 78 divided by (1.8 x 1.8) giving 24.) For every kg of weight loss you can expect a 2 mm fall in BP. That’s worth striving for!
While still in the Nutrition area, increase the vegetarian section of your diet, and even go totally vegetarian if you like. Thai food is high in plant-based foods and very plentiful in this country! And don’t add salt to your food. You’ll get used to being without it.
Alcohol. You don’t have to become a teetotaler but limit your drinking to two drinks a day and give yourself one alcohol free day (AFD) each week.
Physical Activity. Regular physical exercise protects the heart, as well as lowering BP. 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day is all that is needed - walking, swimming, cycling or gentle aerobics. Half an hour a day - even you can find that time!
A simple story with a simple fix. Over to you!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I have come over here on holiday from the UK and I am shocked by what I see here, going on night and day. I can put up with the endless beer bars with young women trying to get people to sit down and drink. I can put up with the fact there are gogo bars with women displaying their bodies as some sort of tourist attraction, but I cannot put up with the way old foreign men walk around with barely teenage Thai girls hanging on to their arm. They all have such smug looks on their faces with a ‘Look at me, aren’t I clever’ expression. Don’t they know, or doesn’t anybody tell them that they are just being taken for a ride? They’re not clever. It’s disgusting.
Mona from Manchester
Dear Mona from Manchester,
When you say “They all have such smug looks on their faces with a ‘Look at me, aren’t I clever’ expression” are you referring to the old foreign men, or the barely teenage girls, Petal? Honestly Mona, this can be applied to both of them. They are smiling because they have found themselves in a situation which is good for both of them. The young girls have found a financial ‘sponsor’, whilst the old foreign men have found themselves a gorgeous young companion who will take care of their every need (until the money runs out). They know what the name of the game is, Petal. So what is so wrong with it? It is a win-win situation, so no need to be shocked. Can a ‘man from Manchester’ get a deal like that back home in the UK? No, he’s more likely to get a moaner.

Dear Hillary,
I come over every year to worship at the feet of the dancing maidens but this year I notice there seems to be many more Russians walking around Walking Street than before, but they have all brought their own women with them, rather than sample the local wares (oops, almost spelled that as “whores”). What do you think is the reason for this, Hillary? You must have noticed this too. Or don’t you get out much these days, what with your arthuritis (sic) and being cooped up in the office all day.
Dear Gregorovich,
Thank you for asking about my health, and it does get pretty stifling cooped up in the garret above the editor’s head; however, I do manage to make it down to street level once a week (but I hasten to add I don’t get down to the level of the gutter!). You are correct, there has been a none too subtle change recently. Our Russian visitors have decided that this is a fun place after all, and why not bring Olga along to share the fun? I think this is called being “faithful”, a concept totally foreign to many residents. Then of course, perhaps Olga is into a little bit of what you fancy as well. I’m afraid I haven’t asked, as they are all so much taller than me, and also rather better endowed in certain areas. By the way, I am told by our local resident medical authority that it is spelled “arthritis”, unless your name is Arthur.

Dear Hillary,
Happy New Year and I want to wish all your readers a Happy New Year as well, though I’m a bit late. Just want to tell you that me and my fan Nok have celebrated our 15th year together, and they’ve been the best 15 years I’ve ever had. Not every Thai woman from a beer bar is out to get you as so many of your writers seem to think. When I look at my mates from the old country, stuck with the reality that they are never going to find any woman as a partner, unless it is a ‘grab a granny night’ at the local pub, I just remember how lucky I have been. Sure we have our arguments from time to time, but it isn’t over who is top dog in the house, and “I’m more clever than you” or “bring in more money than you”, or “what are you smiling at?” No, it is much more of a partnership based on trusting each other, and it has worked well for me and Nok.
Happy Camper
Dear Happy Camper,
I am very pleased to see that you and Nok are happy and you are still together after 15 years. However, you have to also accept the fact that 50 percent of marriages both in Thailand and overseas don’t make it past five years, so you are one of the lucky ones. I must also point out that you have been doubly lucky with your Nok. The bar environment does seem to teach some of our ladies to be rather grasping and one-sided at times, if not just simply two faced! There are always exceptions to the rules, and yours seems to be one of them. I just hope that the readers who are still looking for a partner also realize that your case is the exception and not the rule. Thank you for the New Year’s greeting, and my best wishes to you and Nok.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Get a ‘wizziwig’ today

Photo courtesy of Tania Mouraud.

Forget digital versus film. Forget zoom lenses versus prime lenses. The answer to better photographs is ‘wizziwig’. If you haven’t got the principle of ‘wizziwig’ yet, then you should.
I am a great believer in ‘wizziwig’, usually written as WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)! Unlike looking for a lady, full of disappointment when the make-up (or the alcohol) wears off, WYSIWYG works with photography. It just needs one thing - you have to train your eye to apply WYSIWYG and look critically through the viewfinder.
We all tend to ‘imagine’ what is in front of us, rather than ‘seeing’ what is really there. Look at drawings of houses done by young children. Inevitably, there will be more than two walls. Children know that houses have more than two walls, so draw houses accordingly. However, when you look at any house, from any angle, you can only see a maximum of two walls at one time. Small children do not use WYSIWYG.
Unfortunately, neither do we. Especially photographers. Hands up all readers who have received prints back from the photo-processors and been disappointed? All of you, if you are telling the truth - and that includes me!
What was wrong with those photos? Were there trees growing out of people’s heads, giving them strange reindeer ‘antlers’? Did some have such harsh shadows across the person’s face that you could not see the eyes, and in fact, the face looked grotesque? Did some have the person so small in the picture that you cannot tell who they are? Shall I continue, or since you have probably ticked the box for “all of the above”, let’s not prolong the agony, but get down to what we have to do to fix the problem.
The answer is very simply WYSIWYG, but you have to train yourself to ‘really’ see. We all know what we want to see in this once in a lifetime photo, but ignore the fact that what we are seeing in the viewfinder is not actually what we want. It’s the child and the house with three sides again.
You have to train yourself to look critically at what is in the viewfinder/LCD before going ‘click’. This is actually harder than it seems. You have to look to see if there are trees growing out of people’s heads. You have to look at the faces and see if shadows are ugly. You have to be prepared to put the camera down and recompose the shot before clicking that shutter, remembering at all times that what the camera ‘sees’ is not necessarily what you might be seeing with the naked eye.
That may sound a little weird, but it isn’t really. What the camera sees depends upon the lens you are using. The “standard” (50-55 mm) lens gives a field of view coverage approximately the same as the human eye, but the “wide angle” lenses (24 mm and 28 mm) give a distorted viewpoint compared to that seen by you. Likewise, the “long” lenses give a very narrow viewpoint compared to what you see with your own eyes.
This is probably one of the best arguments for the use of SLR cameras, because when you look through the viewfinder, you are actually looking through the lens that is screwed on the front of the camera. The compact cameras where you are not looking through the camera’s lens often have a compensation for this, but it is a poor substitute.
99 percent of serious photographers use SLR’s, and the main reason is WYSIWYG. Which brings me to the next important item. The Preview Button. Do you use it? Do you actually know where it is and how to use it? This is ‘real time’ WYSIWYG. Did you realize that when you look through the viewfinder, you are looking through the lens with the aperture wide open? But your shot may be recorded at f16. The preview button allows you to see at f16 exactly what will be on the final print. Use it! What you see is really going to be what you get! Order your ‘wizziwig’ today!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Why people are worried, part 2

Four years ago, MBMG was a minority dissenting voice - we believed that deflation and recession were both inevitable and that by tinkering with economic nature in the way that he did, Mr. Greenspan and his colleagues merely served to delay the inevitable, making it many times worse when it finally would happen. Supporters of his actions state that the economy has grown well, deflation and inflation have been avoided and that unemployment is at acceptable levels. However, all of this has contributed further froth and actually created, or at least heightened, the problems we are now seeing in the housing and sub prime markets. Robert Eisenbeis, who was a research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, has concluded the Fed overreacted to the potential problems of deflation and so kept rates low for too long. Because of this, it “over stimulated the housing market, and now we’re dealing with the consequences.”
Another person to back this stance is Edward Gramlich who was a Fed governor up until a couple of years ago. He has confessed that he failed to comprehend that the low rates were making it very easy for lenders to get clients via sub prime mortgages with low introductory rates. He now says the Fed and other regulatory bodies should have cautioned against what was happening with active supervision of the lenders. He went on, “We didn’t have that, and we’re paying for it now.”
In the middle of 2004, the Fed started to put up the short-term target rate. It went up to 5.25% where it stayed for a year or so. It has just recently dropped to 4.75%. However, such an increase more often than not means that the long term interest rates will go up as well. This is noteworthy as it will affect normal mortgages and many bonds. This time, it didn’t. Two year ago, Mr. Greenspan warned about this and was worried that investors were prepared to accept low returns for taking on risk. “What they perceive as newly abundant liquidity can readily disappear,” he said six months before he retired. “History has not dealt kindly with the aftermath of protracted periods of low risk premiums.” In other words, what goes up must indeed come down and vice versa.
Recently he backed this up by saying, “We tried in 2004 to move long-term rates higher in order to get mortgage interest rates up and take some of the fizz out of the housing market. But we failed.” This was not entirely the fault of the Fed, one main item that nobody considered was the amount of money flowing into America at the time.
The background to what happened can be found in Thailand. In 1997, it devalued (or floated, depending on who you listen to) the baht. This led to other countries in the region devaluing their own currencies and even meant that some defaulted on loans. When the Japanese yen started to fall the Chinese began to worry and “let it be known ... that if things kept going this way they’d have no choice but to devalue.” At the time, the Chinese currency was pegged to the US dollar. So, the US Treasury, worried that such an action would start another surge of yet more devaluations, asked the Chinese to stay firm and hold the peg. They actually praised them when they did so. However, times changed. Due to recessions and undervalued currencies imports were low but exports to the West were on a continual increase. So, in the end, these countries got trade surpluses that fully replenished their foreign-exchange reserves. For example, the Thai reserves which basically ran out ten years ago are now at a very healthy $73,000,000,000. These countries also decided that they would never again be dictated to, as they perceived it, in such a humiliating way by the IMF. So, they have maintained these policies and want to continue with them.
Over the last few years the economic fundamentals show that the Chinese currency should appreciate against the US dollar. However, China has let it rise gradually and certainly not at the pace the US would like to see. The Chinese have done this because they want to maintain their export drive and increase the foreign reserves they have. Already these stand at over $1 trillion.
This has rung some very loud alarm bells in America and a while ago the US asked the Chinese to float their currency. China was very quick to remind the Treasury of how it helped to stabilize the world currency crisis in the late nineties by putting a lot of its spare cash into US Treasuries. By doing this it helped to keep down the long term interest rates in America. The Chinese government has also, indirectly, paid $3,000,000,000 into U.S. private-equity firm Blackstone.
Property loans for everybody
If you speak to any number of small bank owners in the US, they will no doubt echo the words of the owner of a small Colorado mortgage bank called Boulder West Inc. This company has been selling mortgages for the past thirty years. For the first twenty years the person taking out the loan had to file full details of his assets and earnings. Things started to change about ten years ago when lenders eased back on the information they wanted but this was only to people borrowing 70% Loan To Value (LTV). Then things changed a few years ago. The man from Boulder West described how Wall Street investment banks and other major players laid down the law and wanted more mortgages even if this meant giving to those who would not have met the requirements even five years ago. These are the so called ‘sub prime’ clientele.
The owner of Boulder West went on to say, “All of us felt the suction from Wall Street. One day you would get an email saying, ‘We will buy no-doc loans at 95% loan-to-value,’ and an old-timer like me had never seen one, it wasn’t long before the no-doc emails said 100%.”
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

A great delight and source of wonderment of Chiang Mai is the abundance of second hand bookshops, which (seemingly) thrive despite the modest size of the population. I recently recommended three of my favorites to a newcomer who has set up home here after ten years servitude in Bangkok. These were Lost Books, Thapae Books and the nearby Hobo Books. He countered by introducing me to one that had mysteriously escaped me, just behind ‘Hobo’ and owned by the same knowledgeable Irishman. It’s called Backstreet Books and I am indebted to my friendly writer for the tip.
Whereas Hobo Books is small and quietly seductive, offering an excellent in better than average condition, carefully wrapped in cellophane to stave off sticky fingers, its big brother -located at the rear and upstairs - is enticing in a more in your face manner. Groaning shelves contain sections on the arts and entertainment, history, guide books and, of course, modern literature. What makes these and a couple of other shops so special is the variety of works on offer, whereas some of their competitors seem to stock endless duplications. Good in themselves, but just how many editions of Brighton Rock, 1984 or Of Mice and Men do you need? Let alone a plethora of the scribblings of Jeffrey Archer.
The existence of these treasure troves reminds me of Vancouver, another favorite city and a civilized one, which boasts the largest number of bookshops, per capita, in Canada. Perhaps visitors and residents to that elegant conurbation and to Chiang Mai are more literate. Another reason to stay here as opposed to another part of the Kingdom.
Unsurprisingly, I did not see Christopher Hitchens’ book ‘god is not GREAT’ on display. Probably because it is a very recent publication, emerging only last year to a mixture of acclaim and rabid abuse. Also - I suspect - because it is the kind of book which people like to keep hold of rather than sell on. They hawk it round to friends (and enemies?) saying, ‘You simply must read this, it’s amazing’, urging you not just to read it, but love or hate it. And surprise, surprise, you do. Love or hate it. In my case, the former. I was loaned an American edition by a long term refugee from that troubled Continent and it proved the perfect antidote to the Christmas and new year hi-jinks and holidays. No holy days with this book in your hands.
Hitchens attacks the ‘poisonous’ force of religion throughout much of the world’s history with a blend of dark humor, erudition and passion. Just read the chapter ,Is Religion Child Abuse?’ for a perfect example of all those qualities, although the entire work is a cogent attack on those whose arrogance in thinking they ‘know’ something, which is in itself unprovable, is the main thrust of his attack.
This is a white hot read, with his arguments scorching the pages as he argues that man was not made by a god but it was man who found it necessary to create a god and in doing so launched a force - a series of beliefs - which have done untold harm through the ages. His compassion shines through the pages as he vividly catalogues the incalculable tide of pain, mutilation, torture, imprisonment and death which has been wreaked on those of opposing faiths (or no faith) one upon the other.
He does not argue against the right of people to believe in anything they wish. Simply that they leave others alone to do or believe as they wish. And he begs them also not to argue that their belief somehow makes them superior, writing:
‘We do not believe in heaven or hell, yet no statistics will ever find that without these blandishments and threats we commit more crimes of greed and violence than the faithful’.
He is rightly tolerant of everything except intolerance and although on the side of science and ‘the telescope’ does not try to disprove what cannot in itself be proved. What commends the book to me above all its other virtues is his loathing of any form of cruelty - mental or physical - being inflicted on another being, especially children. If he’ll forgive the phrase, amen to that.
Note: Apologies to readers of the report on the International Citizens of Chiang Mai meeting in this column last week. I wrongly transcribed the e-mail address of the group. It should read [email protected] My mistake entirely - sorry for anyone who tried the slightly different address.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
US Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller - I was caught up by this gripping monster attack on New York City. It’s told from the point of view of a small group of people with a video camera recording it as it happens. This film, Blair-witch-like, supposedly shows all that remains of their jittery, hand-held footage. See it if you are one of those who adore shaky hand-held camera work and fast editing in a Hollywood monster movie, believing that the jittering adds immediacy believability. Don’t see it if you’re made nauseous by this same jittering, or are made dizzy by extra-fast editing. Has some spooky, exciting thrills. Mixed or average reviews.
Saw 4: US Crime/Horror - Where did they dig this up? and Why? You will notice that they sneaked it in without any advance posters. Maybe they were ashamed. I saw it, and I’m ashamed to admit it. It has every conceivable form of torture in it, plus all the inconceivable. There are people who love these films, and savor every detail. For them it should be good news that they are already working on Saw 5 and 6 - and still with arch-fiend Jigsaw, even though this episode opens with his disgustingly detailed autopsy. Yes, he really did die in Saw 3, but he’s back, thanks to flashbacks! And to the tapes he thoughtfully left for posterity!
Rated R in the US for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout, and for language. However, it’s PG13 in Thailand. I can’t image anything more sick. Generally negative reviews.
Hitman 47: US Action/Thriller - Based on a video game, it’s simply one meaningless violent encounter after another, with an incoherent plot and inane dialogue. One of the few movies rated NC17 in Thailand, meaning, supposedly, that anyone 17 or under is not allowed to see it under any circumstances. Things have to be pretty bad and bloody to get this rating here, where blood on the screen is par for the course. And it’s rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity. Generally negative reviews.
Mum Deaw: Thai Comedy - A mostly gentle, sweet, and sentimental story - but with a touch of date-rape. Unmarried Mum, played by Thai superstar Mum Jokmok, leaves his relaxed life in the village of Yasothorn to head for Bangkok where he moves into a relative’s vacant house. On the first day a young boy shows up and says, “Hi, I’m Deaw, and I’m your future son.” He explains that, in the universe postulated in this film, if Mum does not make love to Deaw’s future mother very soon, Deaw will be born instead as a puppy to the dog next door. Depending on your tastes, you will find this either nicely sentimental, or excessively maudlin. Currently the top film in Thailand.
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (AVP2): US Action/Sci-Fi - I found this to be an exciting, hyperactive, and confusing gore fest, with an excess of bodily fluids - blood from the humans and translucent slime from the non-humans. Pretty mindless, with truly banal dialogue, and filmed for the most part in murky darkness, making it difficult to know who is killing whom. This is also, along with Hitman, one of the few movies rated NC17 in Thailand. Rated R in the US for violence, gore, and language. Generally negative reviews.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets: US Action/Adventure - No longer the top film in the US, but still doing phenomenal business there, world-wide, and here in Thailand. There are sure to be more in the series. I thought it a lot of fun, though it’s a given that the movie is absolutely preposterous and utterly implausible. If you liked the first film, you will enjoy this one, also. Millions have. Mixed or average reviews.
Scheduled for Thu. Jan. 24
US Animated/Comedy - A smart re-imagining of your basic fairy tales, featuring witty dialogue, sharp animation, and a star turn by Amy Adams. It’s a full-blown musical that switches between Disney’s cartoon universe and the “real” world with cleverness and grace, reminding one of Mary Poppins. The opening 12 minutes, which are delightfully animated in vintage hand-drawn style, set the tone of loving send-up by packing in as many of the old Disney clichés as possible. Generally favorable reviews.
Suay Sink Krating Zab: Thai Comedy/Action - Two friends live in the Bangkok underworld jungle passing their time in small-time criminal activity till an old girlfriend of one of them shows up and causes both of them to fall in love.
. . . and looking
forward to Thu. Jan. 31
Sweeney Todd:
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: US Thriller/Drama - with Johnny Depp in the Stephen Sondheim musical, directed by Tim Burton. Postponed several times, it’s now scheduled for Jan. 31 - but keep your fingers crossed. The reviews: Universal acclaim, and tops at the Golden Globes.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Police Farce

You may think the hardest part of touring is the actual performance. Wrong. The show is a snap compared with trying to stay awake driving through Nebraska, surviving New York hecklers or avoiding policemen. They inherently do not trust entertainers. A lawman may like some performers, but preferably on TV or in another state. Artists in the flesh bring to mind nasty preconceptions - sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Sex is something he wants to keep from his daughter as long as possible. Drugs are bad unless there are enough of them to warrant a mini-series starring the policeman. Rock ‘n’ roll is just another way of disturbing the peace. Police enforce law and order - artists induce awe and disorder.

Entertainers are guilty until proven innocent. Okay, so I’ve broken the law for hours/days/weeks/years at a time. 68 mph in a 65 zone. (Or was it 78?) Artists must speed regularly to make up time lost trying to find concert halls. Some states are way too serious about their speed limits. Pennsylvania patrolman have the choice of sentencing speeders to the electric chair or shooting them on site. The only place I never speed is in my garage. Speed Limit Zero. I haven’t broken the law all afternoon.
Once I left my home state, I became a foreigner, a migrant worker, an illegal alien … no, an alien life form. My bumper sticker did not help: “Join the Army, travel to exotic, distant lands, meet exciting, unusual people and kill them.” When I pulled into some whistle stop with the one and only traffic cop staring out of the donut shop, I could feel him watching me. Somehow he knew I’d been speeding or would speed very soon. I was an unusual person from a distant land and he wanted a reason to kill me.
These crossroads in the South, towns where everyone has the same last name, are home to the world’s fattest policemen, perhaps larger than life because their office actually is the donut shop and it’s their sworn duty to test every batch, protecting the public from possible poisoning. When I lived in North Carolina, I encountered an enormous chief named Bobby Bear. (His father was a grizzly and his mother’s name was Robert.) He had 13 teeth, eight fingers and about 24 hairs trying to escape from underneath his cap, like his scalp was unraveling. His well-fed head sat on many chins, like a basketball dropped onto a stack of flapjacks. Below, his jumbo belly stretched out, barely restrained by iron buttons and steel thread. No need to pin his badge to this horizontal ledge of flesh - he could just set it next to the soda and apple fritters resting on his chest. He could have been cast as the monster in the movie The Blob. (His badge said BOB but only because someone forgot the “L.”) His tremendous torso defied gravity, balancing miraculously on top of two spindly legs, like a huge ham hock on Q-tips. I doubt if he’d seen his feet for years.
Big Bob’s duties didn’t include running after criminals, only donut apprehension and shooting speeders with his radar gun, both of which he performed simultaneously in the comfort of his patrol car. A friend from Chicago stopped in town, bought some donuts and drove off. He was either speeding or escaping with a couple of the chief’s favorites when the siren started to scream. Chief Bob motioned for him to come over to his patrol car. (Bob didn’t walk much, but when he did, he looked like water walking. He moved very, very slowly, flapping thighs trying to find their way around his liquid stomach. We wondered whether there were any bones in his body.)
“Where y’all from, boy?” Chief Bob slurred.
“I’m all from Chicago,” my friend said, ready to bribe him with the bag of donuts.
“Lemme see yer lahsense,” Bob hissed. My friend waited as the Chief scrutinized his license.
“Y’all said y’all’s from Sheecahgo. What’re y’all doin’ with this here Ill-in-nois driver’s lahsense?”
Would you laugh at Mr. Bob? I doubt it, but much holding of the breath and severe pursing of the lips would be necessary to stop your guffaws. Would you explain that Chicago is not a state but actually a city in Illinois? Maybe, but it would be hard not to call him Butthead in the process. This incident convinced us there actually was one bone in Bob’s body. It was his brain.

Doc English The Language Doctor: Lost For Words?

Hello and welcome! Last week we talked about using dialogues to help you and your child practice English on a daily basis. It’s good to start every lesson with a bit of dialogue, so here’s a new one to try. Play the Shopping Game with 2 or more people. The more people you have, the more fun it is. It is a useful game to help build vocabulary and also practice speaking using past tense.
Below I have demonstrated how to play with a group of four people. If you want to make the game easier, you could use picture flash cards to represent shopping items. If you don’t have flash cards, you can always cut out pictures of household objects or food from magazines to use instead. You can also use real items (called ‘realia’) instead of pictures. Your child should know the names of some of the items before the game, but you can introduce a few new ones if you like.
The Shopping Game
Arrange the children and adults in a circle. The ‘teacher’ (T) starts and the Students (S) follow:
T. Yesterday I went shopping and I bought a doll.
S1. Yesterday I went shopping and I bought a doll and a car.
S2 Yesterday I went shopping and I bought a doll, a car and a kite.
S3 Yesterday I went shopping and I bought a doll, a car, a kite and a game.
T1 Yesterday I went shopping and I bought a doll, a car, a kite, a game.
And so on around the circle…
Repeat around the circle and watch the shopping list grow. If the children make a mistake, give them time to self-correct and provide a few hints. The winner is the one who remembers everything on the shopping list of course!
I hope you enjoy the Shopping Game. I’ll provide you with another game next week. If you know a good one you can send it to me at: [email protected] .com and I’ll include it in this column.
Learning Styles
Although some learners have a tendency towards a certain style of learning, the fact is that most of us do not use each style in isolation when we encounter a new word. We tend to use a combination of these different styles. It’s important therefore, for you to cater for all learning styles when you are teaching your child. For example, if you are teaching the words ‘green’ and ‘apple’, first show the apple (visual), let your child touch it, take a bite (kinaesthetic). Show them a flash card with the word written on it and say the word a few times (auditory). Get your child to notice the shape of the word, the sound it starts with, the sound in the middle and the sound at the end. Finally, encourage your child to say the words and write them down.
Show another object to contrast with the first object and to clear any confusion they might have. Show a ‘red apple’ and repeat the process. Put the objects behind your back and encourage them to say what you might have in your left or right hand ‘green apple’ or ‘red apple’. Introduce a few more items and put them in a bag, encourage your child to feel the item in the bag and practice saying the names for the objects in order to guess the name of the item. Finally, show how to write the words and encourage your child to draw a picture of the items and write the names underneath.
Sadly, that’s all we have time for this week. Remember, you can send your questions or suggestions to me via email at docenglishpattaya Don’t forget to find out which learning style you and your child have, there are many tests on the internet to help you find out!
Next week: Teaching Vocabulary

Welcome to Chiang Mai:

The home of your dreams - Part II

If you’ve been brave enough to arrive in Chiang Mai without the faintest idea where, (or in what), you’d like to live, read on! We suspect that even the most laid-back farang’s roots decide that they’d like to be planted somewhere specific after some weeks or months in a local hostelry, however grand. If you still haven’t decided on “location, location, location”, or the type of property you’d prefer, or even if the whole “buying a home” thing scares you witless, then renting is the way to go!
It’s comparatively easy to rent any type of property in any price band for as little as three to six months anywhere in the city - giving you time to decide exactly how crazy you are about your choice and its location. You could even spend the next several years trundling your personal goods from area to area, sampling the best and the worst, until you’re just too exhausted to repeat the experience! If, however, this option appeals, it might be wise to rent furnished, as given the state of some of the roads in this lovely city, you might have very little in the way of serviceable furniture left after a few moves!
Wherever you decide to hang your hat, there are several things you should check out first. A rented home in a small soi in the back of nowhere may attract; at this point several questions should come to mind. The temple at the end of the soi is beautiful and so peaceful - but have you noticed the loudspeaker system, which will roar into action at approximately 7 a.m. every morning - which, in turn, will wake up your neighbour’s five dogs, plus the other seven who live in the soi. Should you drive around the immediate area at 10 p.m. or later to check the Karaoke situation in the charming little local bar? That local school - do indeterminate numbers of teenagers on their motorcycles use your soi as a short cut to and from the main street twice a day? And so on… it’s too late to change your mind after you’ve signed the contract, and, under those circumstances, you’re unlikely to have your deposit returned if you leave before its end date. These and other relevancies like security and maintenance of the immediate area tend to leave most farangs heading swiftly, (albeit reluctantly in many cases), for the nearest gated Moo Baan or condo block! There’s adjustment, and then there’s adjustment…
As mentioned in last week’s article, there are at present a huge number of homes to rent as well as to buy in Chiang Mai. A three bed, two bath, two storied house on a large Moo Baan will cost from 15,000 - 25,000 baht, (and upwards if you want serious luxury), per month, plus the usual services such as electricity, cable or satellite TV, and maintenance charges. Amenities provided usually include a swimming pool, on-site restaurant, fitness room, and the all important (to some), security guards on duty at the gate. Most houses on such Moo Baans will have been built in order to be let by the owner of a particular plot or plots rather than by the owners of the Moo Baan itself. There are, of course, questions that should be asked here, too. For example, you might be wise to check the actual price per unit you will be charged for electricity, as some owners to whom the bill is sent may charge their tenants a little extra! If you wish to rent unfurnished, or with very little furniture, you should be paying less than for a fully furnished property. With the money you save - it all adds up! - you will be able to buy furniture of your choice when you make a final decision as to your long term home. Most furnished homes for rent to farangs provide at least one water heater for showers in one bathroom although water heaters in the kitchen are rare. At least one aircon unit in one bedroom is also usual. “Unfurnished” in Thai terms, means just that - no kitchen, no cupboards, no sink, no water heaters, no appliances, no anything! No need to panic, however, as this is not the problem it might be in the West. All the necessities of life are available at a reasonable price from stores such as HomePro and Global House, who will deliver promptly and fit to your requirements.
The most important checks you will need to make involve the terms and conditions of the actual written rental contract. The involvement of a lawyer experienced in property transactions is highly recommended, if for no other reason that the contract itself, if not in Thai, may be an inaccurate or incomplete translation. You should check that tenant/landlord responsibilities are made clear, and understand that tenants are usually responsible for minor repairs. It’s a good idea to have the contract stipulate (in baht) the maximum amount the tenant must pay for any one repair. The difference between “Major” and “Minor” repairs is not a good subject for cross-cultural discussion when you discover that the lights won’t work! You will be expected to pay a deposit of at least three months’ rent; it will depend on your contract as to how this is handled when you decide to move. If you’re renting a fully furnished home, there should be a complete inventory of the contents attached to the contract. Check, very carefully, not only the condition of all contents on the list, but also their actual presence in the home, and make a note of any minor faults - photos are a good idea. If you require any alterations before you move in, (insect screens, for example, a serious necessity as “recently arrived farang” is the favourite food of the local mosquito population), agree in advance as to who pays. Check that all electrical appliances work properly, and arrange to have them replaced or repaired if they prove to be faulty.
Renting a condo in one of the many blocks around the city is another option, particularly if you’re not keen on gardening! Rental charges will be about the same, but floor area will be considerably less. Plus points include your location, closer to, or actually in the centre of the city itself, and, on higher floors, a stunning view over the city, or, if you get really lucky, the sunset over Doi Suthep mountain! Most condo blocks have a pool and either a restaurant or a café on the ground floor, useful when you forget to shop! In-house telephone lines are standard, as is, these days, an internet connection, but you may well be charged more than the commercial rate. Dependent on demand in the block, at times the connection can slow to an unacceptable speed. You may be lucky enough to be able to connect to cable TV, a much more interesting option than the ubiquitous UBC. Electricity charges to tenants are almost always higher than the commercial rate, sometimes as much as three times more expensive! In the last several years, several extremely luxurious condo blocks have been built, but, as with everything else in life, you get what you pay for!
It helps to remember that owners may have some strong preferences as to the use and maintenance of their property. Culturally based preferences may also have a sensible aspect, for example, if you remove your shoes before you enter your new home or the homes of others, it not only shows respect, but also ensures that polished wooden floors are not damaged! Above all, when you’re finally settled in, look around you, smile, and enjoy your new life!

This article is published courtesy of the “Welcome to Chiang Mai” information folder, available as an email attachment from: [email protected]


Rich, dark and strange!

To me, black is the most intriguing colour to be found in flowers. It’s actually a very deep and rich form of purple pigment; nevertheless it can often look convincingly black. Whether shown as a dark blotch at the centre of a bloom, or as spots or stripes on the petals, it always adds richness and depth to the colour of any flower on which it is found.
Occasionally, to facilitate pollination by scavenging insects, this colour is used by the flower to imitate rotting flesh and coagulated blood, together with a noticeable and unpleasant scent. As flies and other carrion insects are common, the plant does not have to wait long before pollination is effected, as the fake odour combined with the colour is irresistible.
When the supreme example of such plants, Amorphophallus Titanum , housed at Kew Gardens, London, UK, hit the news in 1996, (the occasion of its first flowering), attendants waited with bated breath for the first wafts of appalling odour. Their concern was that the long queue of anticipatory members of the gardening public might be totally overwhelmed by the concentrated stink of a 7 foot tall flower confined in an enclosed tropical glasshouse!
Interestingly, the trickery of the odour is enhanced very cleverly by the plant, as the spadix itself generates heat similar to that generated by a decomposing body, fading together with the smell in the same way that a body would cool. Within several hours at Kew Gardens, the public were able to enter the glasshouse and view the amazing flower without risk of asphyxiation or throwing up!
Such colours and pollination encouragement techniques are common also in the Aroid group of cacti. Some gardeners consider that cacti are dull and uninteresting, but, when they decide to flower, they occasionally surprise and intrigue with wondrous black creations.
Cacti are easy to grow in the dry season, not needing a lot of attention, but they will need protection from torrential rain when the monsoon season arrives. Spray with a fine mist every morning to imitate dew; this will provide sufficient moisture. If your cacti are kept in full sunshine, watering the root soil (but not too much!), will encourage growth and flowering.

Chiang Mai FeMail

Welcome to this issue’s FeMail! We still haven’t heard what you’d really like to read on this page - please do get the letters going! Now that we, (and our bank balances), have recovered from the Christmas/New Year festivities, who is considering what for Valentines’ Day? Noting that the price of gold has (again), gone through its previously achieved roof, are we reconsidering that request for yet another bracelet and settling for the hi-so evening complete with massage? Or don’t we care? Have a good week…

Frazzled Farang Lady Asks, “What’s wrong with my sarong?”

Judy Harcourt
For me, the most intriguing mystery in Asia is the illusive longi, sarong, or phatung. The ability to keep a phatung on one’s body is inborn. Like a spider spinning a magnificent web, Asian people are born with the knowledge of how to keep a longi on their hips.
Longis put me in high stress mode. Even with safety pins, Velcro, ties, and buttons, my longi begins to fall off before I leave the room. Women in Burma, Thailand, Indonesia and India have patiently given me instructions. After their explanations and demonstrations, they smile a big “and there you have it” smile and disappear! This happens only moments before my longi begins to loosen its grip.
In Burma, they wear a longi sewn like a tube. The Burmese men untie it and extend both arms quickly to their sides, snapping it tight. They then quickly tie a fashionable knot in front of their belly buttons. Very jaunty, and very attention getting. Looking out of a 3rd story window in Yangon, Burma, I had the opportunity to observe a woman walking down the street, rearranging her longi. When she expanded the yardage, I solved the lifelong mystery of “what do they wear under it?” There was my answer - nothing!
Last year, I watched a woman walk across the bridge from Burma to Mae Sot. She had a dishpan the size of Spain on her head, fully loaded, and was wearing a longi. That bridge is a looong bridge. I followed and waited for her to adjust her longi. If she had looked down to adjust it, the contents of the dishpan would have stopped traffic. She never once looked down, she never once adjusted her longi. She walked right into Mae Sot with Spain on her head and the longi tight on her hips.
The uses for longis are endless. They can be a nightgown, shower curtain, baby sling, and shawl. They can be pulled high and wrapped around heads and shoulders. This is an emergency move, done only when the mercury drops below a dangerous 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
On March 23, 2007, the Bangkok Post reported. “During a rally for People’s Television, angry demonstrators reportedly threw bottles at officers trying to control the crowd. A middle-aged woman was seen taking off her longi and waving it to chase away the police.” This is not a pretty picture, but does leave us with the thought that every day there is a new use invented for the longi - and I still can’t keep one on!

New Creative Textile Art Group to
explore new and old decorative forms

Maya, an expert weaver with experience in many other types of textile art, is looking to get together a group of people, both farang and Thai, male and female, who want to explore this fascinating and creative art form. Experience is not necessary and both professionals and non-professionals are welcome to join. She envisages that the group will be working with weaving, basket making, quilting, felting, crochet, knitting, tatting and surface design on fabric - and any other relevant techniques they’d like to suggest! Field trips to textile museums, shops, etc, will be included, giving not only an enjoyable day out, but an opportunity to study both antique and modern textiles.
The group meetings will be held once a month at the Raintree Centre adjacent to Narawat bridge. If you are interested in joining, or want more details, please contact Maya on 053-261-692 between 4.30 and 7 p.m.

Risk of mercury poisoning from energy saving light bulbs

Evacuate the room fast - the light bulb’s exploded!

A disturbing warning notice has just been issued by the Department of the Environment in the UK. It concerns the new-style long life low energy light bulbs, which are also freely available here in Chiang Mai, which contain miniscule drops of mercury, a highly toxic substance. The warning refers to the procedure which should be strictly followed in the case of a bulb either exploding, or being dropped and breaking. Instructions include evacuating the room for at least 15 minutes in order to allow the mercury droplets to settle, not using a vacuum cleaner to clear up the glass shards as the sucking action will disseminate the mercury droplets around the room, wearing rubber gloves when you clear up the glass, being careful not to inhale dust from the broken bulb during clearing up, and sealing the bag into which you have placed the shards to prevent the mercury droplets being released into the air. A list if instructions on how to dispose of the broken bulb follows, as the remains should not be dealt with in the normal manner. These instructions do not occur anywhere on the manufacturer’s packaging in which the bulb is sold. It is also feared that unsupervised and incorrect disposal of broken low energy bulbs, (quite likely here in Chiang Mai), could contaminate water supplies.
This alarming document follows several very recent media articles concerning the effect on various health problems of using low energy bulbs. Possible effects include a flare-up of eczema and other skin complaints, migraines and headaches, dizziness and epilepsy. Low energy bulbs are planned to be compulsory in the UK within 4 years, and are in regular use here in Chiang Mai.

Explore your Keyboard – the time saver!

Wonder how you could speed up your day-to-day work on your computer and rest your eyes and save time for your family and friends? To get started, I have here, simple tips for office people who want to shorten their time in getting tasks done.
We all are experts at multi-tasking when sitting on a computer. Ever been in a situation where you find yourself having a whole lot of programs open at a time? And at some point, you wanted to get rid of everything that’s blocking the view of your Desktop icons like My Computer, My Documents or just files on the Desktop. Many of us do that by clicking on the “Show Desktop” button next to the “Start” button on your taskbar. Try the easier way just by pressing and holding the Windows key (between Ctrl and Alt keys) and press “M”. Done with Desktop? Press and hold the Windows key, Shift key and “M” and you should find all of those open or “maximized” programs back on your screen. What a life saver!
Try some more shortcuts below:

Getting started…

Alt + Tab Toggles between open programs
Use this when 2 or more programs are open and you want to switch from one to another
Ctrl + Tab Toggles between open documents in the same program
Different from Alt+Tab, use this when 2 or more documents are open within the same program and you want to switch from one document to another
Alt + F4 Quits any open program – works for shutting down Windows too!
Exactly like the “X” button on the top-right corner of every Windows program, use this to close any program
Ctrl + F4 Closes only the current document
Use this when you want to close only the current open document and not the program altogether

While editing text…

Ctrl + C* Copy
Ctrl + X*Cut
Ctrl + V*Paste
Ctrl + BBold
Ctrl + IItalic
Ctrl + UUnderline
Ctrl + Z*Undo
Ctrl + A*Select All
Ctrl + PPrint
Ctrl + Left or Right Arrow Move the blinking cursor left or right skipping one word at a time
Shift + Left or Right Arrow Make text selection one word at a time

* Can be used while dealing with files and folders as well

While dealing with files and folders…

F2 Rename a file
F3 Open Find tool to search for files or folders in your computer

While surfing the web…

F5 Refreshes the current webpage
Alt + Left Arrow*
or just Backspace
Go back to previous page
Alt + Right Arrow*Go forward one page
Esc (Escape Button) Stops the page immediately from loading
Alt + HomeGo to your Homepage
Home Go back to the top of a webpage
End Go directly to the bottom of a webpage
Ctrl + N Open a new browser window
Ctrl + EnterAutomatically put the preceding “http://www.” and succeeding “.com” when typing a website address in the Address Bar
Shift + Click on a linkOpen the link in a new browser window
Ctrl + D Add or bookmarks the current webpage to your Favorites

* Works well while dealing with files and folders too

Want more? Get your hands on the whole list at

Getting used to these shortcuts can really make life easier, giving back to you all that time you needed to catch a movie with your family!

Does the word computer seem like “100110110” to you? Ask Mr. Tech Savvy for help. Or if you impress the ladies with your computer skills, suggest a tip and find it featured here next week!

Go ahead, send them to [email protected]. Till then… Alt+F4!

Just for Geeks
Don’t like small text size while surfing the web? While on a website, roll your mouse wheel upward while holding the Ctrl key and see what happens!