The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Mobile phones and young children
My latest research has shown
that mobile phones are a hazard to all children under the age of two. When
swallowed, there can be serious effects, even requiring surgery, and the
battery is decidedly toxic. Public health authorities are pushing for
legislation to make mobile phone manufacturers label their phones with a
health hazard warning.
If that was not chilling enough, Australian scientists are investigating if
children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of radiation from
Apparently, a study of 110 adults at the Australian Centre for
Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research, partly funded by the Federal Government,
confirmed mobile phones cause a change in brain function by altering
brainwaves known as alpha waves.
The centre, at Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology, is now
investigating the effect on 40 children aged 12 to 13, and 20 people aged 55
to 75 years.
Associate Professor Rodney Croft, from the centre, said while studies had
been conducted on adults, the effect on children had, until now, remained
“Although there’s a tiny effect on healthy young adults, there is a
possibility that it could be much stronger in children or the elderly,” said
the worthy professor. However, there was no indication from the adult tests
if the effect on health was positive or negative.
Mobile phones are hardly new technology, although the latest 3G variety
seems to be able to do everything from cleaning the house, watering the
garden and washing the dog, as well as making and receiving telephone calls.
There have been claims that using mobile phones produces brain cancer
because people with brain cancer have used mobiles, and that is about as
stupid as claiming that shoes are the greatest killer in the western society
because 99 percent of people who died last year wore shoes.
Now the article I read admitted that scientists worldwide agreed there is no
evidence linking electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones to
adverse health effects, but claims still persist that frequent use can cause
headaches, nausea, problems with concentration, cancer and brain tumours.
The new Australian study comes as France’s health ministry warned parents to
prevent children using mobiles when reception is poor or during high-speed
travel. Authorities in France advised limiting the use of mobiles overall.
This is almost as sensible as the (now rescinded) order in the UK that
mobiles had to be turned off in hospitals because they interrupted cardiac
pacemakers. I am yet to see a pacemaker which comes with the warning “Do not
use mobile phones with this device. Communicate by semaphore flags only.”
However, there’s no smoke without fire, as it says in my local fire station
and last month the National Research Council of US called for more studies
into the possible health hazards of wireless devices and base stations on
children, unborn babies and pregnant women.
Researchers fear children may be more vulnerable because the exposure dose
received by a child’s brain is higher than an adult’s and their nervous
system is still developing.
With one in four Australians aged six to 13 now having a mobile phone,
children will also be exposed to radiation for longer than their parents.
A British study noted many cancers take 10 to 15 years to appear, and most
testing had included few participants who had used mobile phones for longer
than a decade.
Professor Croft admitted Australian studies using unborn or newborn mice had
failed to find significant changes in growth rate, brain function and
behavioural development. However, I also believe we should keep mobile
phones away from mice as they can play havoc gnawing on the cases.
The professor of public health at the University of Sydney, Bruce Armstrong,
said the French decision against excessive use by children was prudent. “We
don’t know that use of mobile phones causes harm to children but we don’t
know with certainty that it is safe in all circumstances,” he said.
And that, gentle reader, is what it is all about. We don’t know if anything
is “safe” in all circumstances, but there is a burgeoning industry out there
calling for funds to “prove” that shoes actually don’t kill people. Give
Heart to Heart
I see a lot of girls in my local shopping center, and many are quite
nice. I see them resting on the seats. I know you say we older farangs
should stay away from the bars, but will I find Miss Right in the
shopping center? Or do I have to lie about my age (I’m a pensioner) and
go back to university? What should I do? I’m getting tired of being
Dear Lonely Larry,
What shower did you come down in, my lonely Petal? Must have been the
last one. Will you find Miss Right waiting on the bench for you at the
supermarket? No Larry, you will only find Miss Take there. Mistake if
you talk to her and Miss Take all your money by the time you reach the
checkout counter. These are freelance girls who can disappear very
easily and you will never find where she went or came from (other than
Aisle B next to the hot dog counter). They are more dangerous than the
girls from the bars. At least Hello Sexy Man bar will still be there
tomorrow, and the mamasan knows the ID of her girls. As far as lying
about your age, that’s not such a bad idea. I heard of one 70 year old
chap, when seen walking down the street with a cute 17 year old, told
his friends it was easy. “I lied about my age. I told her I was 95!” If
you are getting really desperate, talk to the girls in the optical
stores. They are all well dressed and university graduates. You must be
needing glasses at your age, so you’ve got a good excuse for being
there. They also do eye checks for free, and that’s a free offer without
a hoop of balloons outside either. Don’t despair, Larry. Just be nice to
everyone you meet. Very soon someone will snap you up for whom you are,
and not just to get their hands on your pension.
One of the girls at my office has been very friendly to me recently.
Holds my hand when talking to me in the corridor, and always goes out of
her way to talk to me and smiles a lot in my direction. Her English
seems pretty good, but I don’t know if she is married or not. She did
ask me what I was going to give her for Xmas and this knocked me over a
bit, so I did get her some chocolates. Where do I go from here?
From the sketchy details you have given me, Petal, it is very hard to
know exactly what is in the lady’s mind. However, she obviously does
enjoy her chats in the corridor. You say you don’t know if she is
married or not, so how is Hillary going to know! But it is easy to find
out. Next time you are having a chat in the corridor, why don’t you just
ask her? “Are you married?” is not difficult to say, is it? If that
momentous step is too daunting, just ask one of the other girls in the
office if she is married. Thais are very inquisitive and all the office
girls will know each other’s marital status (and ‘martial’ status too).
Loosen up a little, or maybe you’d like to join Lonely Larry in the
supermarket. The price check lady in the vegetable section is fairly
unattached, I believe!
My letter is a little bit different from all the usual no-hopers who
write in to you. I’m a happy, single man, well off, get my pick of the
ladies, so why am I writing to you? My only problem is that after a
couple of nights, the ladies all want to move in with me. Some of them
bring over not just a change of clothes, but a whole wardrobe full. I
have no intention of settling down - and why should I? Like I say, I get
my pick, so why spoil it. You must have heard the saying ‘why buy a book
when you can join a library?’
How lucky are you? You get to wake up with the most adorable man in the
world, in your opinion - yourself. Time to change your name to
Narcissus, though I would suggest you take all the mirrors down in your
bathroom, or you might find yourself falling in love just like the long
departed Narcissus. Poor Narcissus saw his reflection and fell in love
with it, and could not be away from it, and pined to death looking into
the pool. Meanwhile the nymph Echo who fell in love with Narcissus also
pined away, just like your ‘lucky’ ladies who try and leave their
clothes in your wardrobe. It is not often I can indulge myself in
mythology and poetry, but Pete, read this little poem penned many years
ago by William Cowper (AD 1731-1800) and entitled:
“On an ugly fellow”
“Beware, my friend, of crystal brook
Or fountain, lest that hideous hook.
Thy nose, thou chance to see;
Narcissus’ fate would then be thine,
And self-detested thou would’st pine,
As self-enamored he.”
You may think you are God’s gift to women, but you’re just another meal
by Harry Flashman
The lens makes all the difference - Part 2
couple of moths ago I wrote on What Lens? In the article, I
commenced by stating, “Would you pay 2,000 baht for a camera,
and 10,000 baht for the lens? Sounds stupid, I know, but I
would. When you boil everything down to basics, the lens is the
arbiter of the final image, not the camera.”
Through the article I strived to suggest what lens you might
consider using in different photographic situations. When going
for blue skies, I suggested that the lens to use to increase the
blue color of the sky is the widest angle lens you have in the
bag. To photograph your newly commissioned “genuine” Sunflowers
by Van Gogh use the telephoto long lens and stand back. I
finished by stating when photographing rampaging tigers I would
use the longest lens in the world. A close up lens to photograph
its dental work would not be my idea of fun! So it gave some
rough guides as to what lens to use under different
circumstances. However, that is not the complete story.
You can select the correct lens for the job in hand, but
unfortunately, that does not mean your finished photograph will
have all the sparkle and sharpness you might want. There is
another factor to be taken into account when selecting the
lenses for your bag - and that is quality.
I was reminded of this when I read a letter from an amateur
photographer to a reputable newspaper (there are some others as
well as this newspaper!). It went, “Love your sample photos,
particularly the sharpness of the detail. I have the Canon 400D
twin lens kit and do not seem to be able to get this clarity. Is
it me or the lens?”
The photography columnist wrote back, “Here’s the sad truth of
the matter. Canon’s retail price for the 400D body with two
lenses - an 18-55 mm and a 75-300 mm zoom - is $1350. It is a
bargain. You are getting a camera with lenses of film-equivalent
focal lengths of 29-480 mm. That is amazing, until you consider
that the Canon 100 mm f2.8 macro lens that we have been trying
for the past two months costs $1000 on its own. And the 60mm
lens we have also been using sells for $750. So two lenses for
$300 starts to look a little improbable.”
In actual fact, photo lenses are excellent examples of the old
dictum - you get what you pay for (or in Thailand ‘som nam na’)!
For example, I picked up the kit lens that came with a Nikon D50
the other day. It was so light it almost floated away in my
hand! I then compared it with any of the Nikon prime lenses in
my bag, and there was the world of difference. There was also a
world of difference in the end results.
It was not the camera body, it was purely the lens. The light
plastic lenses in the locally made kit lens are not as good as
the heavy optical glass lenses in the expensive prime lenses
from the same manufacturer.
To be able to produce a kit lens at the price, something has to
be sacrificed. Optics are just acceptable and resolution,
autofocus accuracy, colour fidelity and contrast are all just
good enough. They take acceptable photographs, and that is it.
“Acceptable”, but not brilliant.
The photography columnist mentioned in his reply to the
photographer with the twin lens kit that he had just been
testing the new Olympus Zuiko 150mm f2 lens (300mm film
equivalent). It was a compact 160mm in length and was heavy
because it contained a lot of glass and mechanicals. He had
never seen a zoom lens of comparable focal length that was as
good. Sadly, it would only fit an Olympus or a Panasonic/Leica.
And it costs $3470!
Just as you can’t buy a Mercedes with Toyota money, you won’t
buy the best lens in a bargain basement body and kit lens
special. Sad, but true.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
The Writing is on the Wall (St) part 1
Just for a moment try and imagine that your investment
portfolio is US$100 million.
Then remember that within a traditional long-only equity fund the return is
entirely dictated by:
- The direction of the equity markets
- The extent to which stock selection outperforms/underperforms the equity
markets after paying the fund’s fees
- The manager’s discretion to choose how fully to be invested. Most equity
funds range between being 95-100% invested and this tends to have more to do
with inflows and outflows from the fund itself than with a strategy to
So, if your US$100 million portfolio invests long only into the equity
markets, it’s a hostage to the fates of the markets plus/minus any added
value from picking stocks that outperform the broad market that they are
part of, less any fees.
Looking at it like this helps to explain our preference for active, adaptive
investment management that tries to reduce the reliance of the portfolio’s
returns on the performance of just a single asset class at any given time.
You might think therefore that we would welcome the latest investment trend
from the United States - 130/30 funds.
Managing your US$100 million as a 130/30 fund, the fund manager has the
ability to hold US$30 million in short positions, by borrowing stocks and
selling them short. The short sales generate cash that is invested on the
long side - combining the US$100 million initial investment with a further
US$30 million of additional long positions, creating the eponymous 130.
The idea is that the short positions the manager is taking are balanced out
by the leveraged long positions. So the net result is a portfolio that is
still only 100% invested, but you get two portfolios for your money - a 130%
exposure to upside and a 30% short exposure on weak stocks. Long/Short (L/S)
investing of this nature is something that we are very keen on.
This was the technique behind what is generally recognised as the first
hedge fund by Alfred Winslow Jones. This was done, extremely successfully,
in 1949 and remains an extremely valid investment strategy today. In
practice good L/S funds derive their alpha in a number of ways. Mainly,
- Good L/S managers tend to be active stock pickers and not closet
benchmarkers; their stock selection sets them apart from the dross that is
the majority of unimaginative long only equity managers
- Additional exposure on the long side generates additional gains
In practice we tend to find that there is little contribution from shorts
during positive periods in the market - the effect of these during the good
times tends to be neutral at best and in many cases a slight drag on
returns, but these come into their own during downturns generating a
disproportional profit to substantially offset losses on the long book.
We regularly review how well our preferred L/S managers manage to capture
the upside in booming equity markets and protect against the downside in
falling ones. We remain convinced that well run L/S equity funds provide a
better return over the complete business cycle with the added re-assurance
of much less volatility and far less risk as any falls during downturn are
either contained or totally mitigated.
So why are we not rushing to embrace 130/30? Well, there are a couple of
reasons. One valuable feature of L/S is the ability to vary the exposure
during market cycles. The most flexible funds are able to vary between
almost exclusively long and completely market neutral (i.e. as short as they
are long), even in some extreme cases taking a short bias. This provides the
most flexible showcase for the L/S equity manager’s talents and tends to
achieve better results than some arbitrary fixed allocation between the long
and short ratio. In good times a fixed 30% short may generate negative
returns hurting the portfolio’s overall return whereas during bad times, it
may be less than the manager might choose to short if he had absolute
discretion. L/S is an approach to equity investing that would benefit almost
all investors but the benefit becomes diluted with the imposition of
artificial restrictions such as 130/30.
The second reason we are not enamoured with 130/30 is that just about every
US, European and UK investment firm has announced they are ready to launch a
130/30 fund. They have almost been tripping over themselves with
announcements recently from the likes of Threadneedle, Resolution AM, UBS,
Investec, Blackrock, Aegon that they are either moving into this space or at
least considering doing so.
If all of these organisations had high quality stock-pickers to start with
then you would not mind and you’d expect them to make a real success of
130/30. But with so many benchmark-huggers rushing to become active managers
overnight then there is a real risk that, without the stock-picking
expertise or the knowledge of long/short portfolio creation (a very specific
science), these new managers’ short and long bets could fail to perform
simultaneously - not exactly something we want to promote.
To be continued…
The above data and research was compiled from
sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd
nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in
the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as
a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading
the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on
Life in Chiang Mai:
by Mark Whitman
Bombs, Boys and Burma
Before going any further I must tell you that the only
near lethal thing I can concoct is a vodka-martini, but of course security
people at airports cannot be expected to know that. So the following was
partly my fault. I checked in at Suvarnabhumi Airport a week or so ago and
in my carry on bag had packed a few items including shampoo and shaving
cream in what I thought were allowed sizes. This proved not to be the case
and my bag was x-rayed a second time.
The polite young lady checked through the potions and decided that three of
them were above the current limit and asked me to throw them away. I
explained that one of them was a very expensive shaving cream (Clinique,
since you don’t ask) and suggested it be put into a plastic container and
This means form filling. She calmly stuffed all items back in the wash bag
with the admonition, ‘not do this next time’. Naturally I agreed and was
free to create whatever bomb these gels and liquids were suited to. Like
most people I am happy to have security checks rather than be hi-jacked or
blown out of the sky but is there really any point to them if they are not
This return flight followed a few days in Pattaya visiting friends who
bizarrely choose to live there and a couple of others on holiday. The place
is coming to resemble a Bosch painting and in no way would I want to be
there for more than a long weekend, whereas 25 or more years ago it was
still pleasant with something of Thailand about it and did not boast the
hundreds of bars and other distractions, least of all at Jomtien where I
On my last evening I went to deliver something for a friend who had been in
Chiang Mai, and headed home without going to Pattaya. It meant going to a
bar in Sunnee Plaza, and I must say that was dismal experience with many
youngsters, (some could have barely been in their teens), sitting around
looking for customers. The owner of the bar I went into openly flaunted the
law with many of his young lads being well under 18. There really is no
point in organizations and authorities placing expensive advertisements and
posters saying ‘stop the sex trade’ if the local police and others turn a
blind eye to what is going on openly in the streets. Customers create the
demand, bar owners arrange to fill it and glue sniffing, excess alcohol and
cigarettes and unprotected sex naturally follows. The root cause is poverty
Personally, I don’t care what people do to their health or how they enjoy
themselves provided no one else gets hurt in the process. Drink yourself to
death, pollute your lungs. Fill up the hospital beds, if you must (and
hopefully pay for the privilege). But with a law that quite rightly allows
sex with people of 18, it seems reasonable that this should be enforced. Or
is that just too prudish?
On my walk to Jomtien Beach I fell in behind a farang (50ish) and a Thai
(30ish, I would guess) who were in animated conversation. The following
requires no commentary, although my colleague Hillary might raise a wry
smile as she sips her champagne and nibbles the Godiva chocolates.
Farang: I don’t understand it. I just DON’T UNDERSTAND!
Thai: What to understand?
F: Well for a start what I don’t UNDERSTAND is why he left me. For
that…that guy. He’s older than me and I may not be that good looking but I’m
better looking than HIM. I just don’t get it.
T: You not understand.
F: No I don’t.
T: No, I mean you NOT understand. Nothing to understand. This guy he
offer more money than you. No matter if you good looking. No matter if you
25 and really handsome. Young boy he tell mama I really love this guy but he
have no money. This old man he o.k. and he really like me, take care, plenty
money. And mama say you forget young man and go with old man.
F: (The sound of silence…)
T: NOW you UNDERSTAND.
Meanwhile things go on much as before in Burma and, at the risk of saying I
told you so, I must ask whether writers on the subject are really surprised
about that. Last week there was a plaintive article stating that the
generals had broken every ‘promise’. The crackdown continues, there have
been no constructive meetings between Ang Saan Sui Kyi and the junta,
diplomatic efforts are at a standstill and even New Zealand is working with
the fascist regime. And the writer seemed surprised at this. Money talks,
China is only concerned with trade, the Asean countries have ceased making
noises. Not even a bark to go with no bite. Will the new government here be
less sympathetic to the generals? I hope so. Will the opportunity for
pressure during the run up to the Olympics be taken? Will America tighten
its embargoes even more? Just possibly, but then other countries fill the
gap. Will another in-country revolt be possible? And if it happens will they
get more support this time? I begin to wonder if the optimism of September
has evaporated entirely. Sad if that is the case.
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Charlie Wilson’s War: US Drama - Directed by Mike Nichols.
Starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. That rare Hollywood commodity these
days: a smart, sophisticated entertainment for grownups - snappy, amusing,
and ruefully ironic. How an unlikely trio of influential and colorful
characters conspired to generate covert financial and weapons support for
the Afghan Mujahideen to defeat the Russians in the 1980s - and armed
America’s future enemies in the process. Snappy, amusing, and ruefully
ironic. Rated R in the US for strong language, nudity/sexual content.
Generally favorable reviews. At Airport Plaza only.
27 Dresses: US Comedy/Romance - Frothy, funny, and formulaic, a
pleasantly predictable romantic comedy. Mixed or average reviews.
Valentine / Krit-ka-Jaa: Thai Romance/Comedy - Unremarkable Thai
comedy with several love stories, except that here a “tom” lesbian and a
transvestite switch bodies after a traffic accident in Phuket, and they get
to like their new bodies, feeling even more comfortable than before.
Ghost-in-Law: Thai Comedy/Horror - The usual Thai combination of
horror with slapstick comedy. Father gives newlyweds a huge mansion as a
gift, but bride’s mother schemes to wrest ownership for herself. The bride
suddenly dies, and comes back to haunt her mother-in-law and those that
Chocolate: Thai Action - A superior Thai action film that is a huge
hit in Thailand, with a new martial arts star. Within the conventions of a
martial arts movie, it’s really quite inventive. A young autistic woman has
developed uncanny martial arts skills by watching television, and from
living next door to a Muay Thai academy. She discovers a list of debtors in
her ill mother’s diary and goes collecting, finding herself up against an
organized crime ring.
CJ7: Hong Kong Comedy/Sci-Fi/Family - [* File contains invalid data |
In-line.JPG *]Delightful! An extremely poor Stephen Chow finds a toy in the
junkyard for his young son - a toy which is a sort of Chinese E.T. The movie
is dubbed in Thai, and although supposedly without English subtitles, it did
when I saw it. I thought the movie marvelously odd and quirky. The kid is
great, and Stephen Chow is amusingly droll.
Death Note: L: Change the World: Japan Thriller [* File contains
invalid data | In-line.JPG *]- What a pity that this fascinating film is
shown here in a Thai-dubbed version only! (Despite that, I’ve now seen the
film twice.) The character “L” who is the focus of this movie is an
absolutely mesmerizing and unique creation. This prequel to the previous two
Death Note films shows this youth in all his glory, as the world’s greatest
detective, using his superior intellect and deductive skills to solve the
most baffling crimes. No slouch intellectually, he is the world’s most
infuriating slouch physically. He is skinny and hollow-chested, despite
continually eating candy on a skewer. He single handedly keeps the eye-liner
industry in business. His reactions to people are exceeding strange,
especially with females and young children. His fate, as we know from the
second Death Note movie and the 108 volumes of the original story in manga
form, is to end the string of deaths due to the “Death Notebook” by writing
his own name in it, thereby signing his own death warrant. It’s all very
complicated and convoluted, a modern-day legend, and simply terrific.
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. Not for the faint
of heart, not for the squeamish, not for dislikers of Sondheim. But you
should give it a chance to work its wonders on you. Reviews: Universal
acclaim. At Vista only.
American Gangster: US Crime/Drama - With Denzel Washington and
Russell Crowe giving performances I found mesmerizing; their ultimate
confrontation in a talk across a table is truly fine. An American gangster
negotiates drug-running contracts with Golden Triangle drug lords during the
Vietnam era. Generally favorable reviews. At Vista only.
open Feb. 21
Jumper: US Adventure/Sci-Fi - With Samuel L. Jackson. A genetic
anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers his
“jumping” ability when he is a child, along with the fact that this gift has
existed for centuries, and he finds himself in a war raging between
“Jumpers” and those who have sworn to kill them.
Kod (Handle Me With Care): Thai Romance/Drama - A three-armed man
from Lampang worries he might be considered a freak, decides to remove one
of his two left arms, but his girlfriend likes him the way he is. (Really,
I’m not making this stuff up!)
Kung Fu Dunk: Hong Kong/Taiwan Sports/Comedy - With superstar Jay
Chou as an orphan turned Shaolin martial artist who somehow ends up playing
basketball using his Shaolin skills.
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
123 reasons to live in Chiang Mai
Today the Internet informed me, and mankind, that the temperature in my
former home state of Minnesota reached 40 degrees below zero…Fahrenheit.
(It’s a moot point since 40 below is the very point where Celsius and
Fahrenheit meet.) The lowest temperature was officially recorded in
Embarrass, Minnesota, which says exactly what this information does for the
image of Minnesota around the world.
finally froze over in America.
It’s 83 degrees above zero as I write this here in Thailand, hence the 123
reasons to live in Chiang Mai, calculated in degrees of temperature
difference. Somehow I endured similar weather as a child, trying to have fun
in these life-threatening situations. We’d get up at dawn to watch the
firemen chop the dogs of the hydrants. Squirrels would be throwing
themselves against electric fences to warm up. To survive hitchhiking, you’d
only hold up a photo of your thumb. You learn the advantages of layering
clothing to keep warm, which basically means wearing everything you own.
Flashers in overcoats are forced to run up and just describe themselves to
The cold is powerful. At my father’s cabin in northern Minnesota, we walked
outside on a splendid, sunny day to see a thermometer reading of 57 below.
To prove a local legend, we threw a bucket of hot water up in the air and
watched it freeze into ice pellets before hitting the ground. Dad and I also
demonstrated this miracle while trying to write our names in the snow with
urine, though I don’t suggest this stunt for women. It’s hard enough for a
man to avoid the cold teeth of the zipper, but buttocks frozen to the ground
is a frightening possibility.
During a recent trip to Malee’s Nature Lovers Bungalows near Chiang Dao, a
peaceful spot sometimes interrupted by Malee’s three-year-old son Peter, who
has a little more energy than a nuclear power plant about to explode, I
learned that a classic Minnesota cold calamity also occurs in Thailand. Me:
“How Peter? He’s very quiet today.” Malee: “He put his tongue on the freezer
and it stuck there.” Fact: bare skin, especially the wet kind, can instantly
freeze to bare metal. This phenomenon has happened to every child in
Minnesota at least once, or perhaps often to very slow learners or people
with permanent brain freeze. Kids have a strange, uncontrollable desire that
forces them to put their tongue on random metal in the dead of winter. In my
case, it was the car door handle. My tongue and lips immediately became one
with the handle. This terrified child didn’t calmly mumble, “Mom, would you
please bring the hair dryer out here to the driveway?” My reaction was sheer
terror as my head jerked backwards and left a frozen tongue fossil on the
At a gathering here of several Americans and Canadians, I asked if this had
happened to anyone else. The reaction was unanimous and matter-of-fact.
Robert: “Sure, I put my tongue on a shopping cart.” Whoever: “Yeah, a door
knob for me.” Todd initially said, “lamp post”, but then listed a few other
odd items, which put him in the slow learner category. (I hope he doesn’t
read this column and try the snow-writing trick.) Just imagine the trauma of
poor little Robert wandering through a subzero parking lot in search of his
mother with his tongue frozen solid on the handlebars. That memory alone is
enough to keep him in Chiang Mai for life.
I am no longer cold-blooded enough to exist in Minnesota. Last year I was
frozen there a few times during the summer. Considering the current
climate of finances in America, I’m just hoping my funds are not frozen.
Perhaps this cold cloud over America will have a warm silver lining during
this year’s frenzied presidential campaign: maybe a few politicians will be
forced to keep their hands in their own pockets.
Doc English The Language Doctor: Humanistic Language Teaching
Hello! I hope that your children are
progressing well and studying hard. I had the chance to check out the
Nintendo Wii game console recently and I must say that homework faces some
stiff competition these days. I did not buy one because I think I’d never do
any work with it lying around. When I was a kid there were no home computers
and nothing on telly, so I did my homework out of sheer boredom.
This week we look at Humanistic Language Teaching (HLT). Essentially, this
is a teaching approach that allows children to feel more valued, more
involved in the teaching process and more in control of their own learning.
Like many teachers, I often feel that my lessons are in danger of becoming
too teacher-centered, because I plan lessons, deliver them and then decide
what is right and wrong in my own classroom. I am under pressure to deliver
a curriculum, deliver facts and to get lessons started and finished on time.
There is often little time for chat and for developing new ideas. Sometimes
teacher-centred lessons can be really BORING for students. If you have ever
sat in an adult class, or listened to a lecture, you must have found it
really boring to sit there for ages without being allowed to interrupt or
contribute to the discussion. It’s like being at a dinner party where you
are not allowed to speak, your opinions are not valued and you have to
listen to some windbag go on for ages about the price of butter in Foodland.
The HLT approach emphasizes a need to listen to students, encourage them,
foster new ideas and share tasks. There is a focus on spoken communication,
rather on just reading and writing tasks. The teacher is seen as a
facilitator and equal to the student, there to guide the student rather than
So, how to begin as a Humanistic teacher at home? First, provide plenty of
time for warm ups. Before rushing into homework tasks, ask your child about
their day. Ask them what they liked and disliked. Take time to discover what
they are learning at school and how it relates to their homework task.
Next, choose a subject to talk about and listen to your child. Let them
practice talking without interruption. Value what they are saying, not how
they say it. Perhaps you could discuss an event at school, what happened and
why. Encourage and reward their efforts with praise, don’t criticize. The
expression of feelings is very important in HLT. Let your child know how you
feel about the event.
Check that your child’s homework is neither too hard nor too easy. If it is
too hard and the child is unable to complete it on their own, send it back
to the teacher with a note that a slightly easier task is required. If it is
too easy, again let the teacher know. Generally teachers would not be
offended by such an action. The child should be able to complete the
homework on their own and it should also relate to what they are doing in
class. Homework should be aimed at a level of ability slightly higher than
your child’s current level of ability. For example, when reading, books
should have a just a few new words and structures.
It does not matter if your child makes a few mistakes, as long as they try
their best. Don’t correct any errors as the teacher will want to see these.
Teachers use errors to gain a picture of a child’s development. If you
correct them all, the teacher will get an incorrect picture of their current
ability. Correct using hints and tips, never put the child down or make them
When reading, ask your children to express opinions on the story and how
they would feel in a similar situation. You can do this also when you watch
TV together. Ask your children to make predictions on what will happen. They
will have to imagine themselves in a different role to do this and think
about other people’s feelings.
Finally, if your child is simply not in the mood to study, don’t force them.
If you are able to coax them to the table, make sure they walk away from
each homework session with a sense of accomplishment. Remind them what they
have learnt and what they have achieved. Never give a back-handed compliment
such as, “You did well, considering…” Always make them feel good about
themselves. The point is not for your child to finish the work, or even to
get it all right. The achievement is in the process of learning, not the
product or result. If my students have tried their hardest and feel good
about what they have achieved on any given day, then that’s good enough for
me. If we don’t finish or even if they have learnt something different to
what I intended because they chose the path of the lesson, than that’s fine.
I hope you enjoyed hearing about HLT. If you want to find out more you can
check out: http://www.hltmag .co.uk and if you want some humanistic language
exercises you can carry out with your children you can visit these
child-centered sites for younger kids: http://pbskids. org and
http://www.sesame workshop.com/sesamestreet. For older children, you might
like to visit the BBC site at http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/ and click on
links to ‘PSHE’ and ‘Citizenship’.
That’s all for now ladies and gentlemen. Remember you can mail queries,
complaints and suggestions to [email protected] This week I would
be particularly interested to hear your opinions and suggestions on Pattaya
schools and on education in general, in the ‘Land of Smiles’.
Welcome to Chiang Mai:
Have car - or motorbike - will travel!
Now that you’re over the shock of pulling
strings to get your driving licence, the next priority is the interesting
one - finding your vehicle! We’re assuming, of course, that your first
priority is to buy a car, rather than the ubiquitous Honda Dream motorcycle.
What you may not have realised yet is that, in order to purchase a car in
Thailand, you’ll need to make yet another trip to the Immigration offices.
On this occasion, you should go to the small office on your left - the same
place you went to for your proof of residency letter for your driving
licence. This time, mention that you need proof of residency in order to buy
a car. Or a motorbike. Or a lorry. Or whatever else you fancy! You’ll need
the letter to enable the registration of the vehicle to be transferred to
you. And, remember, you cannot get this letter unless your visa is valid for
one year. If you’re only here on a 90 day tourist visa, you’re stuck with
public transport, taxis, or tuk-tuks!
New cars are, in Thai terms, expensive, as are newer second hand cars. If
you feel you’d be happy with an older model, the price can drop
dramatically. Remember that most Thai owners do not drive long distances at
90 miles per hour for the life of their vehicle, so engines will tend to be
in better condition in high mileage cars than they would be in your home
country. Another reason for this is that car engines in Thailand don’t have
to endure “cold starts” for a good proportion of the year! Bodywork, too,
tends to be in better shape, as, with no snow and ice to contend with, roads
are not salted here. The one thing it is essential to check, of course, is
the air conditioning system, you would not appreciate its needing a recon in
the height of the hot season, would you?
There are many retailers of used cars in Chiang Mai, most with large lots
crammed with cars and trucks. Perhaps a more useful way to find what you
want at a good price is to ask for recommendations to a good repair shop who
are used to dealing with farangs, and who will search for the make and model
you have decided on. Another way, (but you will need a Thai friend for
this), is to watch out for cars parked along the superhighway, the major
roads, and in the motor trade districts in town. These will have a “for
sale” sign on them, together with a telephone number. Hence the need for a
Thai friend…not only to start a conversation with the owner, but to start
the bargaining process! We might also mention that, if you attempt this
yourself, you may find that the price goes up dramatically when the owner
realises that you are not Thai!
When you have found - or someone has found for you - a suitable vehicle, the
next, and very important, step is to have it checked out by a reliable and
knowledgeable mechanic. Given that the Automobile Association doesn’t exist
here, (if it did it would speak Thai and be no use to most of us!), the best
way to go about this is to ask around in the expat community for a
recommended repair shop who are happy to provide this service. If problems
are discovered, you may then decide to either look for another vehicle or
cost out the repairs and have the afore-mentioned Thai friend try to bargain
the price down accordingly. Remember, if something does go wrong, repairs,
both mechanical and bodywork, will cost a fraction of what you were used to
paying at home - unless you go to a main dealership, of course.
So, you’ve found your dream car - what now? You will have been given the
car’s documentation by the owner, and will, of course, before payment, have
had said documentation thoroughly checked over by the same Thai friend (or
your recommended repair shop) to make sure that the vehicle is totally and
absolutely legal. You now have to re-register your car in your name.
Fortunately, you know exactly where to go to achieve this - the same place
you got your driving licence! First, you have to take your car to the back
of the building, where it will be given a short - very short - condition
check, mostly involving emissions. Yes, the local authority IS taking
pollution seriously! And, if we remember correctly, they do check the
brakes, lights, etc, as well… You should give your documents and purchase
receipt to an attendant; they will be processed and returned to you at the
main building 3 days later. If your road tax has expired, you can renew it
easily at the same offices when you collect your registration documents.
Final step - insurance, again obtainable at the same offices, or you may
prefer to ask a friend for a recommendation. There are three levels of motor
vehicle insurance - the lowest is, for all practical purposes, useless! The
second level, comparable to an extended third party fire and theft insurance
in the West, is usually considered adequate, and interestingly, includes
transportation to hospital and basic medical care in cases of injury caused
by a road accident. The third level is extremely “fully comprehensive”, but
more expensive as a result.
Advice on the purchase of a motorcycle is similar; most people will be happy
with a Honda Dream or similar, as ten million Thais can’t be wrong! Reliable
and economical in use, easy to live with, a reasonable price when new, even
cheaper in the cold season when the purchase price can drop by almost 50%,
what more do you want? If you do want more - for example, a Honda 750,
seriously “big” bikes can be purchased second hand in Chiang Mai for
reasonable prices at specialist dealerships. Essential if you want to ride
the mountain roads! However, if you are considering buying a second-hand
bike, it is even more essential to rigorously check all documentation, and
preferable to buy from a registered dealer such as Honda itself. We hate to
mention this, but there is a strong market both here in Thailand and on the
borders for stolen bikes, and a good few undesirables who work very hard to
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?:
Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao
The Cape Leadwort -
two beautiful blues
Of all the colours with which flowers thrill us, the most luminous colour in
shade of half-light is blue. At dusk, when reds turn black and other colours
lose their brilliance, blue seems to glow, taking over, even stealing, the
One of the best plants for this effect comes originally from the Cape of
Good Hope, the southern-most point of Africa. Its flowers are a beautiful
sky-blue, one of the most effective true-blue shades that Nature shows us.
Never out of flower, Plumbage Capensis develops into a bush of considerable
size, averaging 6 feet tall by 6 feet wide. If you have limited space in
your garden, it will react well to pruning to a more convenient shape and
height if required.
Plumbage Capensis is readily available right now; this is a good time to
purchase and plant, as this species prefers the dry season. It will,
however, need careful watering until the rains come if newly planted. A new
variety producing flowers of a particularly brilliant shade of blue is also
now available. However, if blue is seriously “not your colour”, this lovely
bush also comes in white!
For a wonderful display, you could pant the new, brilliant blue variety in
the foreground, placing the slightly softer blue of the original version
slightly further back, and finishing with the white variety further away.
This will give an exaggerated perspective when viewed, a very attractive
prospect. If you are concerned about placing bleu with other colours,
remember that it looks startling with scarlet red, cool with silver foliage,
and restful and rich with salmon pink.
The Cape Leadwort is, surprisingly, quite happy in a pot, which makes it a
good subject for a window box, as it enjoys good drainage and will trail to
your heart’s content. As it has no scent, you could try planting it with
white Jasmine, adding silver Centauria as a contrast.
Tip of the Week
For your window boxes and hanging baskets, try adding some water
retaining jelly, available where you buy your potting soil. This
substance expands and absorbs water, and increases the water
retentiveness of the soil itself.
Protect your important files - Move your My Documents away
Most, if not all, of us store our documents, pictures,
music and video files in the most common place in the world - “My
Documents”. Windows XP gives you the freedom to keep your My Documents
folder in any location you wish.
Now you may ask, “Why should I move My Documents somewhere else?” Remember
the day when the guy at your favorite computer store said, “Sorry Sir. Your
Windows crashed, your files are lost and we cannot do anything about it but
to format your computer.”
Let’s not let that day come back to us. Moving your My Documents away from C
Drive or “System Drive” can save your files when your computer accidentally
crashes or needs to be formatted for any reason. Plus, My Documents tends to
be a very large folder as we have music and videos in there as well. By
moving it to another drive, it frees up a lot of space in your C drive.
To do this, you must have a second drive, like D drive, in your computer.
Here’s a simple and safe way to relocate your My Documents folder in Windows
1) First, you will have to create a “My Documents” folder in a new location.
I recommend that you create one in D drive. The path should then be “D:\My
2) On the original My Documents icon, which is usually on the Desktop,
right-click mouse on the icon and select properties and you will get the “My
Documents Properties” box.
3) Under “Target folder location”, click “Move”.
4) When asked to “Select a Destination”, choose the location of the new My
Documents folder you have created earlier, which is, the My Documents folder
under the D drive. Then, click OK.
5) Click OK again on the My Documents Properties box. You will then be asked
to confirm if you want to move the files from the old location to the new
location; verify and click Yes. The files in your old My Documents will then
be automatically moved to the new one in your D drive.
Your My Documents is now officially moved to a new and safer location!
For more computer tips, log on to www.mrtechsavvy.com.
Does the word computer seem like “100110110” to you? Ask
Mr. Tech Savvy for help. Or if you’d like to impress the ladies with your
computer skills, suggest a tip and find it featured here next week!
Go ahead, send them to
Till then… Tata ;-)
Just for Geeks
www.geogreeting.com – The coolest way to send greetings to your friend!
An American Redneck in
Chiang Mai: by Michael LaRocca
Run for the Border: Part II
Yos made a friend on the Thai side of the border. On the
Lao side of the border, there was the “friend” again, so Yos asked for
directions to the Embassy. Friend informed him that he didn’t have all the
pieces of paper he needed and thus couldn’t drive in Laos. This is why I
never talk to strangers. I think the guy was full of it and Yos is far too
trusting for a man my age, but what could we do? The clock was ticking, Yos
was convinced he couldn’t keep driving, and it’s even possible he was right.
It was Thursday morning, around 9. Embassy closes at 12. The plan was to
apply for our visas Thursday morning, get them Friday afternoon, then return
home fast. If we missed that Thursday morning window, and applied on Friday
morning instead, we’d slam up against some holidays and get our visas next
Wednesday afternoon. And that, friends and neighbours, would suck.
Yos’s face was something you wouldn’t want to see. Same look he had when the
Thai Immigration heavies invaded our office a week earlier, the end result
of which was this Laos trip. Friend’s news broke Yos’s heart. I quickly
slapped some money into Yos’s hand, told him not to worry, and said we’d
meet him at the Embassy in Vientiane. Friend and his associate, whom we
shall call Sloot, were mighty quick to swipe our luggage. Whisk through
paperwork for Visa On Arrival, “through the back door, haha” he said after
Sloot literally did enter the back door.
Friend and Sloot had an associate, or so it seemed. I thought the guy was a
gangster disguised as a monk. I still do, in fact. I didn’t see the bulge of
a gun in his orange robe, but I don’t care. He didn’t look devout to me.
Leaning on walls with that “air” of a gangsta - you know what I mean! I
christened him “Enforcer” - but not to his face. By 10 a.m., we were in a
van. Behind us, Enforcer and a monk who looked like a monk. In front of us,
we’d eventually learn, a Thai lady who is in fact a Georgian (USA not USSR)
with a lady friend who never spoke. In front of them, Friend behind the
wheel and Sloot beside him.
Georgia Peach claimed to have rented this vehicle for the entire day, not to
be associated with Friend and Sloot, and that she was only doing us a favour
because of Southern hospitality. Enforcer, she said, was a monk who she
either had “helped live in the US” or “would help live in the US”. She was
firing it so fast and furious that Jan and I heard differently. Whatever. At
the end of this surreal, stressful, and seriously messed up adventure, we
were where we needed to be, at least 90 minutes before closing time. We
didn’t get screwed out of any money. What we paid for our Visas on Arrival
was the price posted on the wall and the Internet, and we didn’t pay for the
ride. I still feel there was some screwage involved somehow. Just my
instinct. Note from the future: Friend found Yos at the hotel later that
evening. Okay, so he’s probably a pimp.
Applying for my Non-Immigrant Type B visa, as owner of a business, was quick
and painless. I knew it would be. The Immigration Police in Chiang Mai, who
told me to get out of their country, also told me I had perfect paperwork.
No worries. Jan applied for a Non-Immigrant Type B visa, in her case as a
prospective teacher for a university here in Chiang Mai. Guess what? New
law! It wasn’t a law two days ago but now it is. All teachers must have a
certificate stating that they have no criminal record. Nobody told us that
before our trip, so we didn’t have one. Thank you, John Mark Kerr. Who
didn’t, it transpired, even do it.
To be continued…
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