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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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’
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
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
‘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
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Cloverfield: 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
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
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
Enchanted: 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
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
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
“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
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.
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
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 @gmail.com.
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
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
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]
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?:
Rich, dark and strange!
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
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
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?”
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
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
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:
Alt + Tab ||
Toggles between open programs|
Use this when 2 or more programs are open and you want to switch from one to
|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
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
Use this when
you want to close only the current open document and not the program
While editing text…
Ctrl + C* ||Copy|
Ctrl + X*||Cut|
Ctrl + V*||Paste|
Ctrl + B||Bold|
Ctrl + I||Italic|
Ctrl + U||Underline|
Ctrl + Z*||Undo|
Ctrl + A*||Select All|
Ctrl + P||Print|
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|
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|
Right Arrow*||Go forward one page|
Esc (Escape Button)
||Stops the page
immediately from loading|
Home||Go to your Homepage|
Go back to the top of a webpage|
Go directly to the bottom of a
|Ctrl + N
Open a new browser window|
+ Enter||Automatically put the preceding
“http://www.” and succeeding “.com” when typing a website address in the
on a link||Open the link in a new
|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!
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