HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiangmai


tech tips with Mr.Tech Savvy

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Drug interactions and dangerous liaisons

Now that I have got your attention, there are (have been) plenty of dangerous liaisons in the world, and we’ve probably all had one (or two). Correct? However, the liaisons I want to discuss today are the interactions between various drugs and how to avoid a fairly explosive situation in the way some drugs can interact with you. This is a topic I discuss almost annually, as unfortunately in the hospital we do see the problems that these liaisons can produce. Still one of the biggest problem areas in the pharmaceutical world.
Let us start with easily come-by drugs that are taken almost daily. What is the commonest drug taken by human beings in the western world? Hands up all of you who said alcohol. Yes, our old friend ethanol, AKA booze, is really a drug. It is a depressant, it dilates arteries and does all kinds of neat things to the body, the liver (and the brain). One of the big problems though, is that alcohol can heighten the effects of other drugs. In other words, it is not a simple 1+1 additive effect – the combination multiplies the effects of both the alcohol and the other drug too. For example, the anti-anxiety drug Valium (which I used to call the “Health Food of the Nation” in my younger and more cynical days practicing in Australia) plus alcohol make a very nasty cocktail. This combination produces “space” travel without having to go to Cape Canaveral. A most dangerous way to be bombed out of your brain.
Simple cough medicines are another group of drugs that do not combine well with alcohol. A couple of beers and a shot of something for your cough can combine to produce a lethal combination. Lethal in the fact that the interaction can make you fall asleep at the wheel.
Let’s imagine that you have now found out that you have high blood pressure and have gone on a type of medication called Beta Blockers. They do work well at reducing blood pressure. They also stop trembling hands, and many people take them for this – even concert pianists. There are some drawbacks, though. One it can exacerbate asthma, and two, it can make Willy the Wonder Wand not work like it used to. A dangerous way to draw a halt to dangerous liaisons!
Some of you will be on medication to reduce your blood sugar, a condition we sometimes called NIDDM (Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus). You may also get indigestion. There is a particularly nasty interaction between certain sugar reducers and some antacids, which can make you go into a hypoglycaemic coma. Again, not the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
Now here’s one for all the people who have had a stroke, or a heart attack or a deep vein thrombosis and have been put on a blood thinner, such as warfarin (also known as “rat poison”). Got a headache today? Taken a common old aspirin for it? You have just set the scene for a hemorrhage, as the effects of these two are again multiplied.
When researching this article, I went to a drug interaction website which informed me “Please wait while we are loading our database of more than 5,000 drugs and herbals and 11,500 potential interactions. Caution: not all drug interactions are known or reported in the literature, and new drug interactions are continually being reported. This information is provided only for your education and for you to discuss with your personal healthcare provider.” 11,500 potential interactions! Think about it.
So just what is the message I am putting across this week? Well, it is simple. Whilst it is great that you can just wander into a pharmacy in Thailand and buy all the cheap drugs you want and self-medicate with whatever you think you need, there can be a downside to all this. And it can be a big downside. Letting your doctor prescribe is much safer than doing it yourself. After all, the doctor has been trained to look for the dangerous liaisons!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary.
Having read Nok’s letter two weeks ago, it is understandable she appears to have a low impression of farangs. When holidaying in Thailand I am amazed at the number farangs I get talking to in bars, restaurants etc that claim to be more than comfortable in the money department. I listen to their ‘extraordinary’ life stories and the fabulous wealth they claim to have accumulated. Unfortunately Nok does not have benefit I have of being English and therefore can see straight through them. Usually because they don’t have a good enough memory to be a liar and end up contradicting themselves! I agree Hillary with all the advice you gave Nok but would like to add the following. Not all farangs are the same, anymore than all Thai’s are the same. I have a Thai friend but am not wealthy, do not live in a big house in the country, do not drive a Rolls Royce, etc. When I first met my friend and we started to enjoy each other’s company I told them the truth. I do what I can to on my average income and I am appreciated because he understands I have to make sacrifices in my life to do so. I cannot afford to buy him a car or condo, but the money I send each month supplements his income and makes life a little more comfortable for him and his parents, something I find quite humbling. All I have to offer is myself. I’m glad in one way I’m not rich because it can only be me he is interested in and not any vast amount of money on offer.
Nok, we farangs, be straight or gay, are not all dreamers or Cheap Charlies. Westerners may have more money than a lot of Thais but most of us are normal everyday folk, despite what they may tell you. Follow Hillary’s advice and try for different employment. There is, I’m sure, an honest and genuine farang out there for you if that’s what you want, but like Hillary I doubt you will find him on the bar scene. I wish you all the luck and happiness in your life, whichever direction it goes.
Simon from England
Dear Simon from England,
Thank you for your very well balanced letter for Nok, and I hope that between both our answers, the young lady does indeed find the man of her dreams (or even the lady of her dreams, since you have been so forthright, my Petal). You are also correct that when you point out that when you are not rich (and not claiming to be), then the attraction is something more spiritual than financial, and as such, less likely to fall apart when the money box is empty. Having said all that, I am still hopeful that my knight in shining armor is on the horizon. His tardiness being from the fact that he is dragging several chests of gold bullion to shower on me, plus the rose petals of course!

Dear Hillary,
I want to ask you about elephants. I thought that it was against the law for elephants to be in town, complete with their touts in tow, “selling” the elephant’s food to unsuspecting tourists. What people don’t seem to know is that elephants are dangerous beasts and killings by elephants are very common. Why isn’t the law enforced? It is a good one, for the protection of tourists, and yet it is broken every day. Surely the police could catch and fine these touts so that the elephants can be returned to the wild where they belong? Have you any statistics on the dangers Hillary, that might convince people to run away when they see an elephant approaching and have nothing to do with the beggars?
Dear Jumbo,
The elephant situation is not as cut and dried as you would make out. Less than half of the around 3000 elephant population in Thailand is made up of “wild” elephants. The wild elephants are also suffering as the ‘natural’ environment becomes less as forests are felled and resorts and factories spring up, all places that do not favor the elephant. It is also not possible to just return domesticated elephants to the wild. Just the same as you cannot return domesticated birds or domesticated monkeys to what was their natural habitat.
Certainly there is legislation. ‘No City Elephant’ has been the policy of Bangkok Metropolitan Authority and the police since 1992, and has been published. Unfortunately, elephants cannot read. However, there are also laws relating to children riding motorcycles, wearing of motorcycle helmets, drink driving and running red lights. Anyone who has been in Thailand for more than five minutes will know that these laws are not vigorously pursued either.
While I agree that there are killings by elephants, these are not “common” as you have claimed. With 400 people killed in road accidents over this festive season, this perhaps puts a slightly different slant on dangerous elephant attacks, of which there were none reported in the same period.
There are human beggars on the street outside my office complete with small children, which I find more objectionable than having mahouts (not ‘touts’, Petal) with elephants wanting 20 baht for a bunch of bananas, which does bring joy to the tourists.
Let’s tackle major problems first, Jumbo.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Digital tips

This week I thought it time to return to basics, and though it is slanted towards the digital users, much of this still relates to general photographic principles, irrespective as to whether you shoot on film or digitally. It is still the old formula of light through lens and falling on sensitized material.

My favorite noodle lady

Let’s begin with the very basic first principle of holding the camera steady. It is very easy in the excitement of it all, to move the camera while depressing the shutter. You will get an image, but it will be ‘soft’ and if you try and blow it up you will be disappointed. You are even more likely to get a soft image if you hold the camera in one hand while holding up one - two - three fingers on the other hand. However, there is a digital advancement just becoming available, and that is an anti-camera shake mode. With some cameras, the anti-shake is in the lens, whilst with others it is in the camera body. Either way, this is a worthwhile factor to look for, especially as you get older.
Another tip is to find out how to turn the auto-flash off! Today’s digitals will add flash if a cloud passes between you and the sun, but many great shots are lost by this. Practice using ‘natural’ light, particularly that cold early morning light, or the warm sunlight late in the afternoon. Remember too, that neon lights look best without using flash in the camera.
When taking portraits, the expressions on the faces of the sitters make or break the final image. Forget about saying “Cheese” and let the sitter relax while you shoot as many images as you can. With digital you do not have to develop the lot. You can look though them all and delete those you don’t want very easily. You will also get a more natural photo as well.
The next item is for any camera user, and incidentally, any painter. Remember the Rule of Thirds. Do not position the subject slap bang in the middle of the picture, but one third the way from either the left or the right and one third from the top or bottom of the print. This goes for horizons as well. Never leave the horizon in the center, but position it to either give more sky, or more land, depending upon which is the more interesting.
Recently I mentioned WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) - always look carefully through the viewfinder or intensely scrutinize the LCD screen to make sure verticals are vertical and people are not growing antlers out of their ears, or standing in a dump. There is a preview button available, so learn how to use it so that WYSIWIG is what you actually wanted.
One of the main reasons a photo can ‘fail’ is because the photographer was too far away from the subject. “Walk several meters closer” has been my catch-cry for many years. Make the subject the hero and fill the frame. Be daring and walk in really close. Remember that digital photography allows you to experiment at “no cost” (well not for D&P at least).
I have been mentioning shooting as many frames as you like (or can). You will need a massive media card in your digital for this. I have seen some cameras sold with an 8 MB card, which will allow you half a dozen shots and that’s about all, unless you are on the least resolution mode. Get a 1 GB or 2 GB card!
I mentioned resolution - shoot on the highest resolution the camera allows, even though it means you eat up more of the card. If you want to get some half decent prints which might need selective enlargement, you will be pleased that you shot on high resolution. And remember you cannot really judge how sharp a photo is from the LCD.
Finally, with Auto-Focus, learn to allow the camera to take up the focus on the subject, and then use ‘focus lock’ so that you can compose the shot, remembering the Rule of Thirds while you do it.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Why people are worried, part 3

Up till about ten years ago, the sub prime market was basically the domain of home-equity lines which were used by borrowers to manage debt and by loans on mobile homes or the like. However, after rates did not go up after 2001, the lending institutions were in a position where they could offer a borrower who had even a dubious credit rating an adjustable-rate mortgage with introductory rates that were thought to be reasonable. Old bankers tell tales that potential clients were being offered ridiculously low mortgages to start off. However, many were totally unaware that this only lasted for a couple of years before going up to a much higher band - sometimes as much as three percent more than a creditworthy customer would get. People did not comprehend how much they would be affected by an increase once the Fed put rates back to normal levels.
This is where the slippery slope began. What with potential property buyers on one side, and major financial institutions on the other, both parties wanted more and more sub primes. The market went from over USD160 in 2001 to nearly four times that for last year.
To begin with there were not many problems. This meant that the credit ratings for the bonds supported by the mortgages were not really troubled. This gave a false picture of the situation and so the normal standards that were in place began to slip. Last year nearly fifty percent of all sub prime loans were given to people who did not have to fully account for the money they earned which meant it was easy for them to be less than truthful about how good their credit was.
The reason that things were not picked up as quickly as they could have been were that the price of housing was going up so quickly that people who were defaulting were easily able to re-finance the property they had originally taken the loan out on in the first place. This finished last year when the cost of property stopped going up. This then made the identifying of those who could not repay their mortgages a lot easier to spot.
On both sides of the Atlantic, if a major lending institution gets into trouble the central bank asks people who have deposits and savings accounts not to panic and keep their faith with the bank/credit union/building society they are with.
The problem is that in certain parts of the world and certainly in North America these are no longer the major lenders. After the S&L crisis of twenty odd years ago, the government ordered that the main banks, etc., keep more capital to guard against those loans that were regarded as not safe. To circumvent this problem lenders gradually exploited the situation by selling off their loan books via the likes of Wall Street and ultimately on to a third party (or a number of third parties as the same loan could be broken down or ‘sliced and diced’ into different segments).
As soon as these loans could not be re-paid by the borrower problems arose. For example, New Century Financial, which was the second largest sub prime lender in the USA last year, started to suffer when this happened. However, as they did not have any forms of safeguard in place they were up that well known creek when Wall Street told it to buy back some of the poor performing loans. So it had to ask for Chapter 11 around Easter. This was one of the first major signs that the sub prime was not in the healthy position that people thought it was.
damaged as well
Individual borrowers were not the only people who were in trouble. Five years ago, Yellow Pages became available and it was sold to the Carlyle Group and other interested parties for US$7,000,000,000 of which over US$5,500,000 was borrowed. This was not seen as a problem because the company has a good cash flow that could be used to pay off the loan. However, the buyers then borrowed nearly another US$1 billion in order to pay a dividend to Carlyle and the other investors. They then took out another US$250 dividend so that the private-equity buyers had got almost all their money back (in cash terms it had cost just a net $250,000,000 to buy a $ 7,000,000,000 company).
By 2006, there were loads of large leveraged buy-outs. Very lenient credit markets allowed private-equity companies to achieve big deals and award themselves even bigger dividends.
Exactly the same was happening as with the sub prime situation in that the lenders started to ease up on borrowing standards. Certain financial institutions were doing deals on debt for businesses that did not even have a good cash flow. The most famous one was Chrysler but there were many more. In the middle of this year the investors started to worry. What this means is now a lot of the banks are in the situation where they have promised to lend hundreds of millions of US dollars. They thought they could then sell this debt on but now find that there is no-one prepared to buy it.
The stark reality of this is that when Morgan Stanley and other Wall Street acolytes recently released their latest results, they each showed losses of hundreds of millions of dollars on credit transactions but the lion’s share of these were deals that they had agreed to do but had been left holding the baby - transactions that they basically couldn’t get out of.
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

Learning to speak Thai can be instructive in more ways than one

The most interesting aspect of learning Thai (again!) is not the growth in vocabulary but the intriguing insight it gives into Thai manners and culture. Just a small example: my teacher at NES was explaining the term for people who are easy going, relaxed and so on. A disposition which is - as we know - as indispensable to Thai life and communal well being as a ready supply of rice. I asked how one might describe someone who was just the opposite, introducing her to the lovely word ‘tetchy’ by way of explaining what I meant. I mentioned of course that this was a characteristic common among farangs.
She seemed to find the notion of being critical of someone as problematic as finding the word to describe them, whereas in English we are spoiled for choice:
rude, abrasive, impatient, irritable, impolite, argumentative, graceless, quick or short tempered, aggressive, bolshy, inflexible, truculent and of course tetchy, among others.
She finally came up with ‘yung-yaak’, defined as complicated and therefore a euphemism if ever I heard one. So far as I can tell this might literally be rendered as ‘busy-difficult’, suggesting to me someone who is rather pre-occupied or self-centered and therefore brusque.
A few days after that lesson I had occasion to think of that definition when an e-mail was forwarded to me from a Mail reader who was understandably annoyed by my carelessness in a paragraph about the meeting of the International Citizens of Chiang Mai earlier this month. During that busy meeting - conducted in two languages - I had noted the e-mail address of the main organizer and, having handwriting which most doctors would envy, later typed it up and changed the letter “h” into “tr”. Mea culpa. It was entirely my error, nothing to do with the sub-editor or printers. Our reader had been inconvenienced by this ‘serious error’, and wrote suggesting it was of rather more importance than could possibly be the case. It was not, after all, the hot line to the ambulance service specializing in heart attack cases. I realized that no Thais would allow themselves to be so incensed. A request for the correct information and a mild questioning would have been enough. Mai bpen rai would have taken over and ‘no problem’ or ‘not to worry’ would have been the order of the day. In the context may I offer up a new ‘translation’ of that time honored phrase as, ‘nobody died’.
Certainly when one thinks of all that’s truly amiss with the world - the poverty, bigotry and cruelty which surrounds us - we need a sense of perspective and an awareness of how insignificant we are in terms of the planet and its untold millions of years of history and pre-history. On one of the attractive bookmarks sold by the Care for Dogs organization there’s a delicious photo and a timely motto, ‘Most of the time our problems are self created’. Or, in this case, created by a careless journalist.
A couple of weeks ago I briefly reviewed the book, ‘God is not GREAT’ and praised Christopher Hitchens for his erudition and powerful writing. I did not bother to mention at the time an odd error in his chapter Is Religion Child Abuse? (a definite “yes” from him). He wrote that the Jesuits said, ‘Give me a child until he is ten and I will give you the man’, suggesting that the school of Ignatius Loyola was probably not the first to understand that early upbringing and environment ‘create’ the adult. In quoting the age as ten, he changes the well established original, ‘a child until he is SIX’. A mistake? Or perhaps his own ‘translation’ which his editor allowed through. I recently quoted Anatole France in this column, substituting “being” for the more widely used “soul”. Thus: ‘Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s being (soul) remains unawakened’. In Hitchens’s case it does not detract from his overall thesis which might be summed up by another quote, this time from Lucretius, ‘to such heights of evil are men driven by religion’. Equally I don’t think my changing the word by the French writer detracts from the overall sense.
A couple of days before writing this column I went to Chiang Rai and the surrounding area in a party of four farangs and four Thais, comfortably travelling in two cars. Very pleasant it was too, despite the knowledge that within eyesight of the tortuous road we were taking for part of the journey was a country full of evil and fear, ruled by despots who were not the religious zealots of Hitchens’s book, but those who oppressed the most peaceful expression of a faith in an abuse of power. What I find most surprising about the September uprising in Burma was the sad fact that the Monks seemed to receive so little support from their fellows throughout Asia and the rest of the world. And now the subject has all but disappeared from the press and from seemingly political concern. I wonder whether ‘my’ Prime Minister Gordon Brown discussed the subject on his visit to China last week where he was given a preview of the new Olympic stadium. Probably not. Too concerned about future trade, I expect.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
US Animated/Comedy – A smart re-imagining of familiar 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; reminds me of Mary Poppins. Generally favorable reviews.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age: UK/France Drama – An Oscar nomination went to Cate Blanchett for what I consider a stellar performance. The movie is a sumptuous costume drama, awkward history. Mixed or average reviews.
The Flock: US Crime/Drama – I found this a very disturbing film about sexual predators and a federal agent (Richard Gere) who tries to keep one thousand of them – his “flock” – from harming others. Seems to me it wallows in the perversity it condemns. Rated R in the US for perverse content involving aberrant sexuality and strong violence.
Le Grand Chef: Korea Comedy/Drama - Two young chefs compete in a cooking contest to win control over a famous restaurant. A very popular Korean film. Thai-dubbed version only.
Suay Sink Krating Zab/Busaba Bold and Beautiful: 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.
Cloverfield: US Action/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 I didn’t particularly like 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. Has some spooky, exciting thrills, but I couldn’t wait for these uninteresting people to die. Mixed or average reviews.
Saw 4: US Crime/Horror - Where did they dig this up? And why? You are aware, I am sure, that this series began with the premise that a crazy guy hooks up victims to contraptions so designed that to escape one has to cut off an appendage, like a foot. Then it evolved into a series of similar games, where a victim could free oneself by killing, or doing an even worse act, on another person. Over four films now the games have gotten increasingly bloodier and more cruel. If this is your idea of fun, see it. Rated R in the US for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout, and for language. Generally negative reviews. Airport Plaza only.
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. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity. Generally negative reviews. Vista only.
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.
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. Rated R in the US for violence, gore, and language. Generally negative reviews. Vista only.
Scheduled for
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. Keep your fingers crossed. The reviews: Universal acclaim, tops at the Golden Globes, and Johnny Depp is up for Best Actor Oscar.
First Flight: Thai Drama - A much-delayed production plagued by problems, this film recounts the early years of Thai aviation and the formation of the Thai air force. Seems to have been an immensely complicated and expensive undertaking, with many technical difficulties.
American Gangster: US Crime/Drama - With Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. A true story from our own backyard here in Chiang Mai, as American gangster Frank Lucas negotiates far-ranging drug-running contracts with Burmese drug lords during the Vietnam era, involving the shipment of heroin in the coffins of US servicemen killed in Vietnam. Some parts were shot in Chiang Mai.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Break A Leg

Thousands of people have told me to “break a leg” before a show. I normally say, “thank you,” though I’d rather say, “Oh yeah? I hope you get hit by a truck.” Why say, “break a leg,” and not “get small pox” or “drop acid in your lap?” I understand it’s a generic good luck wish, perhaps reverse psychology - if I’m thinking about breaking a leg, maybe I won’t, however, if I concentrate hard enough on not breaking a leg, I’m certain to smash my head on a low door frame.
People should say, “dislocate a finger,” since I’ve done that routinely. I’ve been in one fight in my life. At a party in high school, some guy shoved me, and instead of shoving back, I hit him in the face. The fight ended immediately and though his face was fine, my thumb swelled up to be the size of his head. I’d won the battle, but I’ve been at war with my thumb ever since. (It’s still sticks out like a sore thumb because it still is.) An inept basketball maneuver, a dramatic skiing fall and a post-concert equipment loading mishap sent one little finger into new painful, multi-colored, swollen dimensions three separate times. Later I actually dislocated it on stage and had to yank it back into place and continue performing. When normal people are sick or in pain, they can hibernate in their bedroom, ingest all drugs in the medicine cabinet, eat hot fudge sundaes and watch TV, although for an artist, “the show must go one,” and it did, but I wished everyone would break their leg on their way home.
I’ve been attacked by bunji cords, those colorful, rubber or nylon cords with sinister hooks on both ends. These instruments of death are useful for securing one thing to another, but often lash out viciously at the innocent securer. It was a peaceful night in North Carolina; the show was a success and my van was almost loaded. I was completing the final task alone: stretching a bunji cord, the heavy duty kind made from steel-belted radial tires, diagonally across the back door opening to keep equipment from falling out when the doors were opened. As I secured the top hook, the bottom hook shot out of its hole faster than the speed of thought and imbedded itself in my neck. It made a sound like an arrow entering John Wayne’s chest in an old western movie. Unlike John, who could casually pluck out the arrow and pick his teeth with it, I screamed as I ripped it out, removing a wedge of flesh from my neck. It made another sound on the way out, one I remember from the movie Nightmare on Elm Street. I bled all over the sidewalk, tied a Scott Jones promotional t-shirt around the wound and throbbed the night away in my hotel room.
When something horrible happens right before a concert, you can’t just tell the audience to come back tomorrow, and then call every other venue to request they move the performance one day later. Three minutes before my introduction in San Antonio on a 25-date concert tour, I jumped off a Texas-sized loading dock, caught my left foot on an invisible doorstop and drove my right ankle into the asphalt. I wanted to throw up, go to the emergency room and immerse myself in a vat of morphine, but “the show must go on.” The foot grew with each song, straining the shoelaces to their breaking point as I hobbled around stage, finally requesting an office chair with wheels so I could finish the show. Later in the emergency room we learned there was only soft tissue damage, but I had to continue my tour with my right foot resting on the dashboard to keep the swelling under control while driving with the inexperienced left foot manning the gas and shift pedal.
The National Museum of Art in Washington, DC was presenting a major Georgia O’Keefe painting exhibit, which I dearly wanted to see, but I could barely walk, so I rented a wheelchair. (It should be a requirement for all human beings to spend one day in a wheelchair to experience the prejudice and scorn that everyday folks heap on the disabled. People avoid you; they don’t look you in the eye; you feel like an invalid - “not valid.”) I went with two friends, one a stunning blonde who had forgotten her regular glasses and was forced to wear her prescription sunglasses in the museum. She wheeled me around as I raved about the grand paintings and our friend told the gawkers who stared at us: “Don’t worry. It’s just the blind leading the blonde.”

Doc English The Language Doctor: Teaching Vocabulary

This week we look at ways to teach your child new vocabulary. Children (and adults) have a limited capacity for learning new words. Our brains can generally only absorb a few new words at a time, but how we are taught the new words and how we learn them can make a real difference.
Some people are better than others at memorizing new words and have more strategies for remembering new words. Other people (and I include myself in this category) can only learn a few new words at a time and the words will have to be repeated many times or they will be lost. When I hear a new Thai word I have to write it down and repeat it several items before I can remember it. I also need to associate it with a situation, action or another word with a similar sound.
Different people have different ‘learning styles’, or ‘ways of learning’. If you want to find out what your learning style is, you could try this little test
Some learners will only remember a new word if it is shown to them and they can actually see it, possibly with an accompanying picture to signify meaning (visual learners). Perhaps they may also find it useful to write the word down many times and they are good at recognizing words by their shape. Other learners need to hear how the word is spoken and speak it themselves, repeating it several times (auditory learners). Other children need to ‘touch’ the word or play around and rearrange the letters (kinesthetic learners). For the younger kinesthetic learner, it may be helpful for them to play with ABC blocks, rearranging them with their hands to form the new words. They may also benefit from making the word in plasticene, or from touching and feeling an object that represents the new word.
Using Word Books
Perhaps your child can make a ‘Word Book’ (rather like a simple dictionary) and write down new words in the book, in alphabetical order. Having a book to fall back on if they forget provides your child with a little more security and helps maintain confidence levels. They can include a picture to illustrate each new word they learn.
Putting words Into Categories
Sometimes it’s easier to remember words if they share characteristics or meaning. Putting words into categories is a useful way for children (or adults) to remember new vocabulary: try this exercise:
1. On a piece of paper, make two huge overlapping circles, rather like a Venn Diagram:
2. Draw labels for each circle. Label the First Circle ‘Kitchen’ and the second ‘Living Room’.
3. Next, cut these words out and see if you can put them into the right category. Some of these things could be found both in the Kitchen and the Living room, in which case they will go in the middle. Some of the things don’t belong anywhere, in which case you can put them outside of the circle. There are a few blank spaces for you to fill in words of your own choosing.

TV Toy  
Plates Cooker  
  Light Sofa
Table Chair Sink
Toilet   Fork
  Computer Bed

4. Carry out the exercise together and discuss where words should go. Let children decide where they want to put things. As long as they can justify their decision, then that’s fine. This exercise is useful as it helps children categorise and remember names of common household items, but it’s also useful because they learn how to discuss preferences and argue their case!
Sadly, that’s all we have time for this week. Remember, you can send your questions or suggestions to me via email at [email protected] 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!

Welcome to Chiang Mai:

Pets, vets and other helpful hints!

You love being here - do your pets feel the same?

Having considered which subject in this series to introduce next, we finally chose one close to our hearts, the welfare of our pets in a new and unfamiliar environment.
Before we and our dogs arrived in Chiang Mai, we searched the internet without success for details of recommended veterinarians in the area, without much success. When we finally did arrive, it transpired that there are many such surgeries in Chiang Mai, mostly referred to as “Animal Hospitals” in English, but, as might be expected, they are mostly very different from the ones we were used to in the West! The first, and major, problem, of course, concerns language - how to be absolutely sure that you are being understood as regards symptoms and previous medical history is a daunting challenge. Although most practitioners have, during their training, had to be able to read English well enough to study papers etc, generally they are not so proficient in speaking or understanding. Which, when your beloved pet is sick, can be distressing in the extreme.
You also should not expect the wide variety of ultra-modern drugs and treatments, including some operations, which have been available to you in the West. You should be able to use a local surgery for the basic health needs of your pets, such as worming, inoculations, heartworm preventatives, etc, but it is unlikely that you will be able to use it for anything but the most basic surgical needs. The veterinarians themselves are very caring and concerned, but you should remember that Thais do not like to be the bearers of bad news! Also, and we hate to mention this, there is a genuine reluctance to be involved in euthanasia unless your pet is in absolute extremis, due perhaps to the Buddhist religion here in Thailand.
However, it’s not all bad news - there are veterinary surgeries and one animal hospital where reasonably good English is spoken and where your pet will receive carefully diagnosed treatment for most problems. The Chiang Mai University Small Animal Hospital is staffed by final year students together with a number of professors who oversee diagnoses and proceedings. The University itself has a highly regarded veterinary degree course, and it’s not unknown for visiting Western specialist vets to work within the hospital on complicated cases when they are not lecturing. A highly recommended veterinary practice, the Ban Mha Ka Maew Animal Hospital, is located not far from Airport Plaza, on the Superhighway at Chiang Mai Land. Please note the full address at the end of this article. The vets and staff speak good English, the facilities are modern and reassuring, and excellent care is given. Dr. Om, one of the senior vets working at the practice, has a 1st class Honours degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Kansas. This is the preferred surgery of Care for Dogs, the animal rescue charity, who use its services on a regular basis, report satisfaction in all areas, and recommend it highly, as do we.
The really good news, (for those used to the soaring cost of maintaining their pet’s health in the West), is that charges for veterinary services in Chiang Mai are very low in comparison. Sterilisation of a female dog, for example, will cost you 900 baht at the Ban Mha Ka Maew Animal Hospital. Certain imported medicines may seem expensive in Thai terms, but it helps to remember how much the same drug would have cost you in your home country! As far as we know, pet health insurance is not available here, but, at least for farangs, is not really necessary in financial terms.
If you are bringing your pets from colder areas such as the UK, Northern Europe and the north of the USA, you should note that they will be exposed to many more disease and discomfort producing elements than in their home country. Constant heat can be a problem for heavy-coated dogs, who may well take a very long time to acclimatise, if ever. Heat exhaustion can be particularly dangerous in dogs who are unused to high temperatures, but can be controlled in obvious ways - placing the dog in an air-conditioned room during the heat of the day, regularly providing very cold water, ice cubes, and rehydrating fluid, using a floor level fan directed onto the dog’s favourite resting place, or internet purchasing of cooling tablets, which seem to be unobtainable here. We might also suggest a fairly drastic haircut…Thai dogs, however, (one or two of whom you may be tempted to acquire once you get here), are hardly ever affected by heat.
The real problems are internal parasites, fleas, biting insects, heartworm, and, worst of all , ticks, infection from which can be fatal, although these may be a familiar sight and a well-known problem in certain areas of the West as well. Apart from fleas, most of these do not occur in the UK and the colder countries, and need to be taken very seriously if you and your pet are new arrivals. Protection against ticks is essential as they carry a large range of unpleasant infections and diseases. If a tick infestation has occurred, and your pet seems uncomfortable or feverish, veterinary advice is essential. Heartworm and worming medication should also be given regularly.
Don’t panic about rabies - it does exist in Thailand, as it does in the USA and many European countries, but is fairly rare. Animals from the UK do not need the otherwise mandatory rabies inoculation, as the country is officially rabies-free.
Animals from the USA and the Euro Zone need proof of vaccination, but will have been given this in their home countries together with the usual annual combination vaccine. The best prevention is to not let your dog mix with other dogs as you may have in your home country. If you are planning to arrive from the UK, and do decide to vaccinate, we would suggest that it be done before you arrive in Thailand. As regards other diseases, there have been recent outbreaks of parvovirus and distemper; regularly vaccinated animals should not be affected.
Complete dried dog food and the usual canned varieties are easily available at reasonable prices both at superstores and at your local veterinary surgery, but specialist imported foods can be expensive. Mixer biscuits are not available, as most Thais use rice instead! We have found that our dogs thrive best on frozen minced chicken for pets, (from superstores), cooked with lots of green vegetable, carrots, mouli and white cabbage, mixed with rice and a few handfuls of dried dog food.
You’re right - most nights they eat better than we do!
Ban Mha Ka Maew Animal Hospital’s address is 255/10-12 Mahidol Road, Pada, Muang, Chiang Mai. Tel: 053-205155/053-204215. We sincerely hope you won’t have to visit them very often!

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?: A tree with pearls!

Stuart Rodger,
“The Englishman’s Garden”, Chiang Dao

The Clerodendron group of small trees, bushes and climbers are all lovely ornaments for your garden, covered with flowers in season which resemble tiny butterflies contrasting beautifully with the rich dark green of the slender leaves. One of my favourites is readily available in full flower at this time of year, with its streamers of delicate flower heads cascading elegantly down from the branches in the manner of a weeping willow.

Clerodendron in full flower.

Before the flowers open, they strongly resemble white pearls, hence this particular Clerodendron’s nickname, ”The Pearl Plant”. As the delicate flowers open, they reveal pretty little stamens resembling antennae; the petals themselves resemble butterfly wings. Although Clerodendron only flowers once every year, it is a delight which is well worth waiting for. This variety needs shade and moisture in order to thrive and to be seen at its best, and will grow to the size of a small tree, some 2.5 to 3 metres tall.
If you have just the right space in full sun, another variety, Clerodendron Ugandense, is the right one for you. Fully grown, it is bushy in shape and size, and displays the most elegant sky blue flowers, which appear from a distance to be upside-down!
If you need a climbing version of this lovely plant, you should look for Claredendron Splendens, which has glorious red flowers with the added bonus of showy white bracts which last long after the flowers have faded. You may also find the pink form of this climber, whose bracts are an interesting reddish pink in contrast.
All of the above are easy to grow, and delightful to behold.

Tip of the Week
Most climbers do best with shade and moisture at their roots and their heads in full sun. This way they can flower in full view of their prospective pollinators.

What ELSE you could do with

Searching online is fun, when you know you’re going to get what you’re looking for in seconds. Most of us trust and use Google for almost everything online. You may not know that Google offers you even more than just plain searching. Try these tricks and I’m sure you will enjoy Google even more!
Google: Your World Clock
Google can help you find the time of any location around the world. All you have to do is type “location time” into the search box and you’ll get the exact current time of that location. For example, type “Lisbon time” and you should get the current time in Lisbon, Portugal.

Google: Your Quick Currency Converter
Type “2.99 USD in THB” and you would get the value of $2.99 in Thai Baht currency. Don’t know the code for that currency? Just type “2.99 US money in Thai money”. That would fix it. Neat!

Google: Your Calculator
Even when you cannot find the calculator on your desk, Google can help you. Do a quick calculation, right there in the same search box. Type “1234+5678” and you should get “6912”. Go ahead, try something more complex.
Google: Your Weather Forecaster
Just like time, type location and “weather” and Google will give you a 4-days weather forecast of that location.

For more Google tricks, log on to
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… Tata ;-)

Just for Geeks
Think you’re fast at typing? Check your speed at