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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiangmai


tech tips with Mr.Tech Savvy

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Athlete’s foot for non-runners

Have you ever had the most intense itch between your toes? An itch so bad you have scratched until the web spaces between the toes were starting to bleed? If so, you probably have had Athlete’s Foot, a condition that even non-runners can get.
It is one of the most common conditions in the world, and there is a whole ‘family’ of similar afflictions, that don’t just limit themselves to your feet.
But let’s return to the ‘foot’ side of the condition first. Yes, athletes do get it. Why? Because athletes, like so many sporting groups tend to stand around shower/changing areas in their bare feet, spreading the little organism that causes the condition.
And there’s more than just the itching, stinging and burning between your toes, especially the last two toes, you can also get itching, stinging and burning on the soles of your feet complete with itchy blisters, cracking and peeling skin, especially between your toes and on the soles of your feet, excessive dryness of the skin on the bottoms or sides of the feet and nails that are thick, crumbly, ragged, discolored or pulling away from the nail bed.
The correct name is Tinea, and we have several types depending upon the area of the body that is affected. In the scalp we call it Tinea capitis, on the body - Tinea corporis, on the hands - Tinea manum, on the feet - Tinea pedis and in the groin we call it Tinea cruris, otherwise known as Dhobie itch, Jock itch or Crotch Rot!
The organisms which cause all these are called Dermatophytes, and they have the ability to live in skin and so can invade hair and even nails. Imagine the dermatophytes are like cabbages planted in the garden and growing in the soil, with roots growing downwards. The most common has the exciting name of Trichophyton rubrum, a noble name for an organism that can live in the soggy bits between your toes, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The symptoms generally consist of a spreading “rash” with reddened edges that becomes itchy and eventually quite painful as the infection goes into the deeper layers of the skin. This is the result of the organism putting out roots which extend deeper.
Unfortunately, there are a number of other conditions that can manifest themselves in a similar fashion, including psoriasis, eczema and some forms of dermatitis. This is the usual reason for “Athletes Foot” preparations that do not work - it wasn’t “Athlete’s Foot” to begin with!
There are various diagnostic methods, but the most accurate way, however, is to take scrapings and examine under the microscope for the tell tale fungal “roots”.
So what can you do if it really is our friend Trichophyton that is cropping up between your toes and other unmentionable places? The first thing to do is not to use high powered steroid creams, but use a topical anti-dermatophyte preparation like Canesten cream. You can alternate with a weak steroid, but remember that the steroid does not “cure” the problem - it only masks it. And if it does not settle quickly with the cream(s), go and see your doctor.
With some very stubborn cases it may be necessary to use oral medication to attack the organism through the blood stream, but these can have some fairly unpleasant and nasty side effects, especially on your liver. If your liver is already having problems straining the blood out of the beer stream then you need to use extreme caution.
To prevent re-occurrence it is necessary to be very careful where you put your toes, never share towels and jump over communal bath mats - but even then you may find it comes back. Remnants of the organism start putting out their roots and the cycle is on again. And stop scratching!
Some dermatologists also believe that you should put your socks on before you put on your jocks. This way Dermatophyton spores can’t fall off your feet and get carried up to the groin to continue their interesting work in that warm, moist area, which is just great for growing fungus. You have been warned!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
In reply a couple of weeks ago to “Happy Camper” who had just celebrated 15 years of happiness with a lady who came from a bar, you wrote “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.” Don’t you think you are being a bit sweeping? When you look around, there are lots of happy marriages, so I put it to you that the exception is the unhappy marriage where the foreigner gets ripped off (and then writes to Hillary), rather than the other way around. Have you any statistics to back up your argument, Hillary?
Statistical Sam
Dear Statistical Sam,
Unfortunately neither of us, you nor me, can have access to the kind of statistics you want. So I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours, my Petal! Divorce rates are generally quoted as being around 50 percent both here and in the West, but there is no breakdown as to whether the Thai partner came from a bar, was a professional lady, from university, etc. And by the same token, no statistics as to where the man came from. Of course there are probably more opportunities here for the older farang to make an unsuitable liaison. The Thai women are not so stand-offish as the European style women, and set their sights a little lower. If they can clean out a pensioner of one million baht, that is a lot less than one million dollars an overseas gold-digger would be trying for.

Dear Hillary,
You tried to explain to someone called Mona (I’ll bet you made that up) about the situation between young Thai girls and older foreign men. You only touched on the real reason – money. You did make a little mention of it in your reply, where you said “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.” That’s what you wrote. Hillary, it is only a win situation, not a win-win. Everyone knows (unless they’re blind) that the poor old guy is going to lose in the end. You even said it – “until the money runs out”. So he loses everything. That’s not a win in my book. She is the only winner. It’s criminal the way they get away with it.
Dear Bart,
It’s time you showed a bit of heart, young Bart. You have spent more than enough time here in Thailand to understand the rules of the game, but you do not show much compassion for the players. Of course it is a game, and everyone acknowledges that, and like all games, it has to come to an end. The players can opt out any time they like. However, most of the old foreign men with young ladies hanging off their wallets are here on holidays. They have bought a commodity, just like they bought an air ticket and then bought a hotel room and then bought someone to help them enjoy it. They have budgeted for the expenses. They are not complaining. If you are trying to say it is criminal, then it is a victimless crime. Time to live and let live, Petal.

Dear Hillary,
I am a single male, so I do get around town a bit. The other night I saw my boss’s wife at a boys club. She was there with another woman and they seemed to be drunk. They bought a few rounds of drinks for some of the boys. They were laughing and having a good time and the boys looked as if they were having a good time too. I did go over and say hello, but she ignored me and went back to the boy she was sitting with. The problem for me is whether I should say anything to her, or to my boss? I see his wife every week as she comes in to supervise the pays. What do you think I should do, Hillary?
The Spy
Dear Spy,
You have been seeing a lot more than is good for you, Petal. Have you thought why you want to get involved in something that does not concern you? If the boss’s wife goes to bars, then this is something between the boss and his wife, and not you. All that you will do is put your job on the line if something goes wrong. I wonder if your real reason for wanting to tell your boss is because you were rejected by the woman in question. If she doesn’t play games with you, then you will make life difficult for her and stop her little games too? Stay well clear of all this, Mr. Spy and try and pick up women in other bars that are safer for you. Getting between a man and his wife is dangerous. You have been warned. And for that matter, what were you doing in a boy bar anyway?

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Is the ‘thinking’ camera here yet?

With the digital evolution (remember it was not a ‘revolution’, as all cameras still work as light-tight boxes with glass at the front and a light receptor at the back), it does not seem too far fetched that the all-singing, all-dancing cameras of today will be able to do everything automatically.
Cameras that will even “think” for you and work out the required shutter speeds for the kind of shot you are going to take. After all, the technology now exists that can recognize a smile and won’t let you take the picture if the subject isn’t showing some teeth. With this sort of equipment we should all be award winning photographers. However, we are not award winners by virtue of the camera technology.
The reason for this is actually very easy to understand. While the modern camera can get the exposure close enough and the shutter speed correct for the type of shot, it cannot arrange the items to be photographed in the correct position. Nor can the camera position itself in the right place relative to the subjects to be photographed.
To illustrate what I mean, take a look at these two shots. The brief is to photograph a house (in this instance it is The House restaurant in Chiang Mai, for all the northerners with sharp eyes). The shots were taken in the Auto mode. The electro-trickery in the camera has managed to handle the exposure settings, so that each photo is correctly exposed. Each shot has the subject in focus, but the lower shot is much better. Why? Because in the upper shot there’s a tree, pathway, gravel, a shed and, oh yes, there’s a building in the background! But by walking several meters closer, in the lower picture the photographer has made the building the “hero”. The brief has been accomplished – a photograph of The House, but this was done by the photographer using his brain, not by the technology of the modern cameras.
One of the principal rules of photography is to remember just who or what is the “hero”. This is one thing the camera as a piece of equipment does not know. It is not a mind reader. You have to arrange the items and compose the shot to make the subject the hero. Always remember the rule, “Walk several meters closer” and do it. More good shots are rendered useless by being too far away from the camera, than by being too close to the lens.
Another classic situation where the camera has absolutely no idea of what you are doing is the holiday shot where you want to get your friends in front of the hotel, or in front of a temple or whatever. You know what you want, but nine times out of ten, the amateur photographer comes away without the definitive shot. Here is how to avoid the shot of the Chaophya Park Hotel with several little people standing in front of it, so small they are unrecognizable!
With these “people in front of a special place” shots, before you begin to position the humans, first you have to compose the background of the picture by moving the camera into a position so that you have all you want of the special building. Only after having done that, now is the time to put your subjects into the frame. You will note the quirk in human nature where they will immediately move backwards to be close to the building, making sure of ruining the shot for you before you begin! To get round this behavior, what you have to do is while looking through the viewfinder call the people forward till they fill the viewfinder. Even go for a waist-up view to get the person even larger in the photograph if you wish. The people are the real “heroes”, not the building. It just shows where you were.
With this approach you will get shots that can be geographically placed, and the people in the shot can be recognized. The photo you had in your mind all along! The technology may belong in the camera, but the “eye” is yours. Just remember to use it!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Why people are worried, part 4

Ivy League

The new markets needed people who wanted to lend. The first few years of the new millennium provided both the people and products to suit what was needed following on from the crash and the ensuing low interest rates. Up until this time most balanced investment portfolios, pension, and endowment funds had just divided up their portfolio between the traditional bonds, cash and equity. This form of management had seen the value of what they managed crash around the turn of the century and looked for a new solution.
They looked East (well, more accurately, the East Coast) for the answer. The epiphany moment came after they found out what Harvard and Yale universities did with their endowment funds. For many years these had been diversifying a lot more than any other equivalent type funds by putting their money into equities and bonds but also into property investments, private equity, commodities hedge and foreign equity funds. The managers of these endowments had long believed in the need to genuinely diversify in order to avoid suffering the same as everyone else during a bear market and also in order to have access to a wider range of opportunities during bull markets.
This strategy was proven to be right when both funds, in 2000 and 2001, achieved gains of over 30% during this period, when most US investors suffered a bloodbath. People were jealous and embarrassed that they had not been as active with their own fund management. This brought on the great flow of money into hedge funds over the last few years. University endowments alone have invested more than US$40 billion into these kinds of funds.
As Business Week said at the time: “Just as most colleges look up to Harvard University, most investment managers look up to Harvard Management Co., the in-house firm that manages $27 billion for the university. Over the past decade, Harvard has posted a 15.9% annual return; vs. just 10.1% for the median large institutional fund… They are the Mickey Mantles of the investing world.”
They, too, distinguished between the diversified approach of Harvard Management and that of the average investor, quoting Chief Executive Jack R. Meyer as saying, “There’s not much plain vanilla in our portfolio.”
Meyer adopted a model portfolio soon after he arrived at Harvard from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1990 and recently was holding just 15% of the fund into U.S. stocks, and 11% into conventional U.S. bonds, whereas on average American individuals or institutions were holding well above 90% allocated to these 2 investments.
Meyer’s core belief has always been the need for real diversification – non-correlated investments that don’t just move in lock-step with each other. Equity diversification therefore means international and emerging. Bond diversification means foreign bonds, high-yield bonds, TIPS [Treasury inflation-protected securities], and emerging-market bonds.
As long as 3 years ago Meyer was already drawn to commodities – so called alternative assets (commodities, hedge funds, etc.) were the second biggest class of investments within the portfolio. At that stage around three quarters of Harvard’s allocation to commodities was invested in timber. “It’s one of my favorite asset classes right now because if you have a little skill, you can buy timber today [and achieve] a 7.5%-to-8% annual real return, assuming flat real log prices,” Meyer observed at the time, going so far as to take on board three professional lumberjacks onto the payroll to select the forests Harvard bought and to help to manage them.
This emphasises the diversification within the portfolio – if the ‘safe’ 7.5-8% yield from timber was the ying then the staggering 28.7% annualised return on exceptional private equity funds such as Kleiner Perkins, is definitely the yang.
But can private investors draw any lessons from what Harvard does? Meyer believes that they can as long as they genuinely diversify and come up with a portfolio that looks a little like Harvard’s covering multiple asset classes.
Most investors failed to follow this advice and in general the markets followed the dangerous combination of greed and facility. Wall Street marketed exactly what it told them that they needed and enough people bought it. This was the securitization of bank loans that we mentioned when we talked about Boulder West. The loans that used to comprise assets on the balance sheets of banks were now being turned into securities that could be sold on the world’s markets. When Resolution took over S&Ls US$400 billion of assets they managed to offload them within a very short space of by creating new asset classes.
By the mid 90s Wall Street had become even more adventurous, widely trading these securities as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, with the kinds of dicing and slicing techniques mentioned earlier – they were sorted into tranches with a different rating of risk and return. The more risky ones were open to losses if some of the underlying loans defaulted. However, other tranches proffered lower returns as the higher risk tranches would suffer first if there were any trouble.
Despite their opacity and potential risks and in many cases sub-prime content, many of the CDOs were given triple-A ratings from the ratings agencies such as Moody’s and S&P. Attracted by these ratings investors such as banks, insurance companies and pension funds who might usually be expected to be rather conservative invested in them because of their ability to deliver higher returns then genuinely AA caliber assets.
The demand for these assets created a supply of lending that was no longer as interested in the credit quality of the individual borrowers. In other words the problem started to self-perpetuate as many people who could not previously get a loan were now given the money they wanted. After all, in the US the government stands behind the lending system and therefore this level of regulation was believed to count for something. Sprinkle the magic fairy dust of government guarantee and AAA rating and all of a sudden it looked like you really could polish a turd. The risk was moved to those investors who were willing to take them. The investors believed that the risks were negligible. The borrowers who wouldn’t normally be able to obtain or afford credit were suddenly having it thrust upon them. In turn this permitted the banks to give out more loans. The newly confident investor would choose what level of risk was appropriate and fortunes were made by those people who set these deals up. Oh happy days!
Except that the ever increasing spiral came to a crashing halt in 2007 when investors realized that they did not actually have any idea what the real value was of what they had bought and had no idea of what risk they had actually taken on. This was because there were so many layers of what was between the original loan and the end product that it was almost impossible to detect what was good and what was bad.
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

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Hillside 4 Charity party is well covered elsewhere in the Mail, but I cannot resist a short comment in admiration of the many people who contribute to making this an important and enjoyable event. I missed the first event, which was rapidly organized in response to the Tsunami, for the simple reason that I was in the midst of that tragedy in Phuket. Subsequent parties have contributed up to a million baht each time for a chosen charity and if this year it fell slightly below the ambitious target that might be because of the postponement, and keeping the prices so low considering the food, drink and entertainment which is offered. All in all a good time was had and with nearly 400 guests it was an ideal chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances.
The only criticism I heard came from quite a few Thais and some farangs, with whom I agree, that the Thai food was a little bland. With other stalls catering for those who like milder food might we not up the heat a little next year. I say next year, but there is always the chance that something so complicated might become bi-annual, with a somewhat less ambitious event happening on alternate years. It’s a thought. And here’s another.
I know that most people prefer to support a charity for humans but why not have that as the main cause and state that a donation - say 50,000 baht - would be given to two animal charities who have their work cut dealing with ill treated and neglected creatures whose only ‘crime’ is that they are vulnerable to our abuse.
There’s no doubt that the treatment of animals in Thailand is at odds with the dominant faith. To a large extent, I blame farangs who respond to- or create? - a market by visiting Monkey Shows, Elephant ‘circuses’ and such ‘attractions’ as those with giant snakes confined to boxes hardly large enough for them to uncurl. The same applies to the so-called zoos here and in places such as Pattaya where tigers are kept in captivity. They are poorly supervised and are obnoxious anyway and contradict nature. I was glad to read that the Night Safari with its chequered history is to be under new control, so let’s hope that the Chiang Mai zoo and the Safari are soon improved, if indeed, they continue to exist. How sad it is that there are more elephants in captivity than in the wild, with so many used as begging bowls and lumbering sadly around concrete jungles. And none of this takes into account the lack of care given to animals in transit, usually to badly run slaughterhouses. If people wish to eat animals that is their choice but it is sad that intensive breeding and lack of care should be accepted as a necessary part of the food chain. Anything to keep down costs and maximise profits seems the rule. Something that is not, of course, confined to Thailand.
Nor is racism, which reared its ugly head on a recent visit to Tawan Daeng, a huge eating and entertainment place off Nimmenhaenda Road. I went there with three other farangs and about 15 Thais to celebrate the 30th birthday of a Thai friend. We had booked a table and turned up around 10 pm. Random checks of ID were in place and after quite a few of us were settled we found we were several short. Checking outside we found that one young man, (he’s 27 but seems young to me), was refused entry. Odd since he quite often goes to the same place with friends. Nothing would budge the obstinate doorman and it took us only a few seconds to decide that if he could not come in - because he is Thai Yai - then we would certainly not stay.
The bill was soon settled, a few items of food packed up and the whisky carried off. To their credit the waiters were apologetic and the door staff looked shamefaced, though intractable. We quickly headed to the wonderful Ney Ney restaurant just off the Super Highway where they not only served up the food we were carrying and quickly brought beer and mixers for our ‘imported’ alcohol but made us realize that most Thais are warm, friendly and tolerant. Even so, days later that ugly experience stays in my mind as I recall a handsome, well mannered and hard working youngster being made to stand on the steps and be humiliated. In Britain and most other countries that I know such an action would be illegal and I would have called the police to ensure that they were prosecuted. This being Thailand we made less fuss than we should and all they lost were twenty customers that evening and, I hope, in the future.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street:
US Thriller/Drama - A truly gruesome work of art, with Johnny Depp outstanding in this brilliant Stephen Sondheim musical/opera. I loved it. “What you will see is as dark as the grave. What you will hear is some of the finest stage music of the past 40 years.” Rated R in the US for graphic bloody violence. All the throat slashings have been censored in Thailand (with “pixilation” - along with the label on the gin bottle!). Even so, I warn you, it is not for the faint of heart, not for the squeamish, not for dislikers of Sondheim. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
American Gangster: US Crime/Drama - With Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe giving performances I found mesmerizing. A far-from-true story, as it turns out, from our own backyard here in Chiang Mai, as a black American gangster negotiates drug-running contracts with Golden Triangle drug lords during the Vietnam era. Small parts filmed here in Thailand. This is also censored in Thailand, with the needles of the addicts shooting up, and guns, fuzzed out and blurred. Generally favorable reviews.
First Flight: Thai Drama - A well-meaning enterprise beset with technical difficulties, this film certainly has its heart in the right place, as it attempts to create pride in the early years of Thai aviation and the formation of the Thai air force.
Siyama: Village of Warriors: Thai Action - Three Thai girls studying ancient Thai warfare are miraculously transported in time back to the time of an Ayutthaya battle, arriving just as a battle is about to begin between the Thais and a ruthless enemy, causing great confusion.
Enchanted: 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.
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 exciting thrills, but I couldn’t wait for these uninteresting people to die. Mixed or average 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.
Scheduled to open Feb. 6-9
Thai Action (Feb 6) - An autistic girl is a genius at martial arts.
CJ7: Hong Kong Comedy (Feb 6) - Stephen Chow gives a toy to a homeless boy which is actually a powerful alien device they want back.
Atonement: UK/France Drama (Feb 7) - Nominated for 7 Oscars, only rarely has a book sprung so vividly to life, but also worked so enthrallingly in pure movie terms. A dazzling adaptation of Ian McEwan’s celebrated 2001 novel, it’s a period piece, largely set in 1930s and 40s England, about an adolescent outburst of spite that destroys two lives and crumples a third. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
L: Change the World: Japan Thriller (Feb 9) - This prequel to the previous two Death Note films focuses on the popular main character “L” as he uses his superior intellect and deduction skills to solve various crimes.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Sick Trips: Part One

On our Give-Live-Ride Thailand Charity Motorcycle Tours, we raise about a million baht every year for less fortunate Thai children while trying to keep alive unfortunate bikers from the USA who are good at riding straight, flat roads in Minnesota, but not necessarily twisty, 45-degree angle roads in Thailand that disappear regularly around blind corners. Unfortunately there are a few unscheduled stops at hospitals along the way.

Lynn received the “I’m Perfect Award”

Last year’s trip started at the hospital soon after meeting riders on New Year’s Day on Koh Kood, a sparsely populated Thai island close to Cambodia. Jim and Janet, 70 and 50-something, arrived after flying from Minneapolis to California to Tokyo to Bangkok to Trat, then on a speedboat through choppy seas and onto another ferry. In a blur, Janet said hello and disappeared into her bungalow as we detected severe disturbance in her chin area. Around 8 pm Jim appeared at our door pleading to get Janet to a hospital. She’d contracted some odd skin disease in America, slathered on a raft of salves and potions, but continued the trip against Jim’s wishes. Half-liquid, half-crisp, yellow-orange pus hung off a purple, swollen lump that burned and itched. We thought her chin may have come alive and was developing a brain of its own. She looked like one of those creatures in a horror movie whose face starts to melt just before it explodes into gelatinous material. The rickety sangtiew bumped on stones and ruts, up and down, over hill and dale to the one and only hospital we all prayed would be open. A twenty-something slim man with flowing, shoulder-length hair sauntered in wearing shorts, a soccer jersey bearing the number 69 and flip-flops - perhaps the boyfriend of a nurse? No, the doctor was in.
After inspecting her inflamed chin that was now beginning to grow fingernails and a pancreas, he perused Janet’s vast storehouse of ointments, then frowned as he held up a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and asked, “You used this?” His tone would have been the same had he asked if she used a carving knife to remove a cinder from her eye. He gave her some pills and requested she throw away her medicines and only wash her chin with warm water and gentle soap. His simple advice worked and after days of hibernation in her dark bungalow located on a bright sunny beach, she made it to Chiang Mai to join the ride, although she chose to use the truck most days since we all worried that if she did indeed get her helmet on, upon its removal her chin would come off with the helmet, just like those one-piece plastic nose and glasses.
Ritchie may have contacted the same disease as Janet on the way over, but it lodged on the skin inside his stomach and he missed the first day of riding. As we all rode out of Chiang Mai on Day Two, Mr. Most Experienced Biker With 50 Years of Riding had recovered but dropped his bike on the first turn around the moat and luckily was not run over by the 6,527 Honda Dreams surrounding him. He got the “Ralph Award” and the “I’m Back Award” and stayed upright for the rest of the trip. Chris went down somewhere on some gravel to take home his Thailand Road Rash of Courage while leaving the bike he had borrowed (mine) with a similar rash. His wife Barbara got the “Ba Ba (Crazy) Award” for resting her camera on the ledge of a hotel balcony and nearly falling off while setting the time exposure, as her camera took a photo of the rest of the group gasping air as we expected her to disappear from view. Andy also got the “Ralph Award” but somehow rode the entire day with 153 temperature, diarrhea and a sweaty, sheet white face. We avoided riding close to him in case the brown strip behind him was not oil or dirt. Lynn received the “I’m Perfect Award” for always being cheerful and never getting sick, perhaps due to the fact that she daily transfused her entire blood system with a close cousin of rubbing alcohol: Singha beer. Oh yeah, our support truck died on top of Doi Angklang mountain, presumably infected in the radiator by Janet’s chin disease.
Although young Sebastian went down on a curve, his 22-year-old bones were still rubber enough to bounce him back to finish the trip. He also received the “Ba Ba Award” for taking precautionary measures to assure his winter white skin wouldn’t start on fire in the heat by purchasing some Thai sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 20. Upon noticing his pleasant herbal odor and millions of tiny, caked bubbles on his skin, Thai Joom inspected his “sun block” tube and asked, “You used this?” His sun block was actually shampoo and “20” was the price in baht. He was very red, but very, very clean.

Doc English The Language Doctor: Learning English on the Web

Welcome back! This week we are looking at the internet as a resource for teaching and learning English.
All parents these days know that the internet can be used in a variety of ways to teach children; however, it’s often hard for us to work out which sites are most suitable. The best sites to choose are those that follow a national curriculum, such as the BBC site ( or the Scholastic Site (
On the internet you can find activities for your child to play alone, or for you and your child to play together. You can find information to help you teach your children, or materials to use for teaching at home. Older children can use chat utilities or email to practice their English online and you can use the internet yourself to talk to groups of parents and professionals to gain more information on learning and also to share ideas. The internet is a great resource for learning and teaching and it should be an integral part of your teaching program at home.
Sometimes your child can use these internet activities at home, but they will be more effective if you can sit down and work through them together. You can help your child notice things on the screen and provide technical support! Sometimes children skip rapidly through activities to get to the end and need to be encouraged to take their time and listen or read instructions more carefully. Some of my students seem to spend all night on the computer, but I think that one hour a day on the computer is more than enough for any child. Don’t let the computer become a virtual nanny! If children hunger for more, you can usually find printable activities on the web sites I have included this week.
There are a variety of sites catering for young learners who have not yet developed keyboard skills and good letter recognition. Sites such as Sesame Street (www. and Cbeebies ( provide good listening practice and the songs and the interactive stories help introduce your child to learning English in a positive way. They also help train children to use the mouse and refine their fine motor skills and coordination.
For slightly older children (aged 4-5) there are a number of useful sites for teaching phonics and reading. Sites such as Sparklebox (www. and Starfall ( have a good selection of downloadable materials and online activities. They are also great for teaching phonics (letter sounds) as children can listen to and repeat the sounds.
Children beginning to read and write in English will enjoy the huge number of downloadable materials at the American Enchanted Learning web site (www. To get the best out of the site you may need to pay a small subscription fee, but it’s well worth it as kids really enjoy the exciting range of activities on offer (book making, crafts, puzzles and projects).
Everyone loves a good story. Interactive stories are good for practicing listening skills and motivating your child to read. Try this Scottish site (www.ltscotland for some great stories online.
For older children, sites such as Epals (www.epals .com) and Kids Space (www. enable your child to correspond with native English speakers around the globe. Register and your child may soon be able to chat with children in Australia, America and the UK. Having an English speaking pen pal is a great way to introduce your child to foreign cultures and a gaining a greater understanding of Western cultures provides more motivation for learning English. It’s best to liaise with the children’s teacher before you start the exchange and look up the school on the internet to ensure that the school is reputable and the exchange is properly managed. With Epals, you can monitor all ingoing and outgoing mail yourself, to ensure there is no impropriety.
When your kids search the internet they are in danger of bringing up a whole load of inappropriate sites. To ensure safe surfing you can set the home page to the ‘Yahooligans’ web site (http: // Your kids should find all the information they will need to complete their homework safely on this site. If you need to provide a more restrictive use of the internet, try Net Nanny (www.netnanny .com) to restrict the type of web sites your child can access.
For parenting tips and help teaching your child at home, try the Family Education site ( I find their weekly newsletter very useful and they have a lot of information on teaching reading and teaching children with special educational needs.
Finally, single parents can enjoy making English speaking (and non English speaking) pen pals through sites such as English Town (www. and Bell English (
If you want to recommend a good site for learning, please mail me and I’ll include it in this column. Mail it to [email protected]
That’s all folks! Happy surfing!

Welcome to Chiang Mai:

The “drive” of your life!

It doesn’t usually take long for a new arrival in Chiang Mai to notice that driving habits here are - how can we put this? - obviously rather different than those in the home country. Unless the home country is situated somewhere in the southern Mediterranean… Seriously though, in the USA and more particularly in the UK, all the fun has been taken out of driving by a succession of ever more restrictive laws designed to provide a steady stream of revenue for the local authorities and the government, whilst not doing a lot for actual road safety. By the time we get here, we’ve been “dumbed down” to the extent that we’ve almost lost our natural driving ability. Now’s the time to get it back! However, there are rules to remember, and, because almost no-one actually does remember them, they should be taken seriously!
Those of us who drove on the left at home need to remind themselves regularly to use, and keep on using, the left hand door mirror, until it becomes second nature. Not because you might hit the kerb (what kerb?), if you don’t, but because, at any one time there will be at least 10 motorcycles passing you on the inside, usually two abreast. Each will have at least two passengers, some will have three, and some will have included the baby and the family dog in the trip. No, I’m not joking… None of the riders will be wearing helmets, except at the end of the month, when the local traffic police lie in wait for them and issue “on the spot “ fines, or something like that…
Frequent use of all driving mirrors is a good idea here, due to the unpredictability of Thai driving habits.
The problem isn’t just the motorbikes, it’s the fact that there are no official “lanes” on Thai roads, and therefore almost no lane discipline of the kind you became used to in your home country. The white lines here are for decoration… You are therefore likely to find the oldest tuk-tuk in Chiang Mai happily chugging along at walking pace in what seems to you to be the fast lane, and the 6.30 luxury bus to Chiang Rai breaking the land speed record in the inside, slow lane. Luxury buses are lonely and insecure; as a result, they like to travel fast, very fast, and in convoys of at least 5. Best avoided at all costs. Another manifestation you may not expect is the queue at the U-turn, again in the outside lane, and usually totally stationary. And remember, the U-turn usually works both ways - the traffic’s turning onto your side if the carriageway as well as onto the other side! The part of the carriageway it’s usually turning into is the inside lane - right across in front of you!
Signalling your intent is essential in Chiang Mai, and, because very few drivers will notice your indicator, mirror usage is essential! Taking a great deal of care when you change direction or speed is also essential - but you’ll get used to it! An instinct for self-preservation will develop which will tell you if the guy in front, or behind, or opposite, or wherever, is going to do his own thing in spite of you. It helps to keep your speed down until this part of your natural driving ability has reasserted itself!
Aggressive driving is less common here, but if you do encounter it, the vehicle concerned will be either a truck or a four-by-four half the size of a tourist bus - let them get on with it, they’ll get theirs one day. The opposite of aggressive driving is far more common, we call this the “Shall I, Shan’t I “syndrome - usually they “Shant”. Traffic lights in Chiang Mai can be interesting, to say the least - on the main intersections of the ring roads and the Superhighway, every set seems to do its own thing. You must not assume that the lights will change in the same order as they would at home. A red light is often regarded as a suggestion; drivers continue through until the opposing traffic actually moves, and sometimes even afterwards! And the revving up of the engines of 100 motorbikes and 60 vehicles at 5.30 p.m. when the countdown to green gets to 15 seconds has to be heard to be believed. Especially as, if you are in the front line and put your foot down as in the normal manner at home you’ll have a clear road ahead and behind for at least a minute! Remember also that at most intersections, even if the lights are against you, you may turn left provided it is safe to do so, except when the small set of lights below the main set is at red. We like that one! As for speed limits - at present they are 80 km in town and 90 km out of town… in theory. Except for the afore-mentioned buses, trucks, and four-by-fours…
When driving along small sois or country lanes, never, ever assume that oncoming vehicles will remain on their side of the road - most of the time, they won’t!
Drink driving is a very serious issue here - blood/alcohol level limits are low and penalties are high, including a mandatory prison sentence, and, quite possibly for a farang, an enforced exit from Thailand. You should be very watchful when driving at night, as the law on this issue is very often ignored.
Other differences may possibly get you into trouble - for instance, at home, flashing your lights may mean, “go ahead”, here it means “get out of the way, I’m coming through”! Motorcyclists and particularly cyclists may not use their lights after dark; you should be aware of this when driving at night. One very specific warning - both during the daytime and at night, be very sure to avoid the large number of street dogs you will see on every type of road in and around the city. It’s likely that you would never forgive yourself if you ran over one…and, sadly, it does happen.
In short, drive with a mind to protect yourself and others - even the street dogs and, on country roads, the occasional cow! And remember, in your home country you were just a “motorist” - here in Chiang Mai, after a short re-learning curve, you’ll remember what it’s like to be a driver! Be safe, take care, and have fun!

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


Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao

Resplendent Salvias!

Everyone knows the brilliant scarlet Salvia Splendens, used all over the world for its spectacular glowing colour in annual bedding schemes. They may not, however, know that in the tropics this Salvia is in fact a perennial, and can become quite a large. bushy plant if left to its own devices. Another surprise is that it will also seed around the garden area. These days Salvia can be found in many other beautiful colours as well as in its original stunning red, all of which can make spectacular additions to any perennial border.
It’s not only the colours that are varied - there are many different species of this popular plant, some of which you may not even immediately recognise as Salvias. All are very garden-worthy, and you should identify them by looking for the characteristic tubular flowers - receptive to the proboscises of moths and butterflies -
which emerge from the often attractively coloured bracts at the base of the flowers.
These varieties are well worth seeking out, and are easily propagated from cuttings.

Tip of the Week
Always include short-lived plants that seed around in the garden at random, and when weeding try to recognise the young plants and leave them to grow where they choose.
This method will always have the effect of softening a “rigid” garden display, and result in a more pleasing and relaxed appearance.

Increase font size on Windows without using spectacles

This one is especially for those who want their new technology to come with BIG text size on the screen. On Windows XP, it is possible to increase the size of almost every text that you see on your screen.
Here’s how simple it is:
1) Right-mouse click on your desktop, on any empty area.
2) As a menu pops up, click Properties. You should get the Display Properties box.
(You can also find Display Properties in Control Panel)
3) Select the Appearance Tab
4) In Font Size, choose Large and click Apply
5) Click OK
This would change the default font size used all over Windows. To some it my look awkward, but for others who hate small text sizes, this is a great help.
All right, you can take off your spectacles now.
For more tech tips,
log on to

Just for Geeks
Did you know is the top-five most visited website in the world today? Make a quick guess, who is number one?