The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
How to beat Alzheimer’s!
I have stopped worrying about
Alzheimer’s disease. Between Google and my four year old daughter, I can
find anything. In the mornings when I leave home, there is Little Miss, with
index finger outstretched, showing me just where I parked the car last
night. And Google, the patron saint of writers, is always there to remind me
of the things I had forgotten. Now all I have to do is get my brain
hot-wired into a wireless network and I can meet the world head on.
However, we’re not quite there yet, so we (you and me) have to retain as
much cerebral function as we can. And it turns out that it is not all that
We have known for some time that if you don’t use your muscles, they waste
away. By not using your hands for physical work, the skin on your hands gets
thin. However, we also know that if you use your muscles again, the muscle
tissue builds up and becomes strong once more. If you use your hands again,
the skin builds up and becomes thicker. The message is that all is not lost!
Recovery is possible.
However, we were always told that the one organ of the body that could not
reverse the wasting process was the Central Nervous System. Once it started
to fail, that was it. Dementia was just around the corner.
That view has recently been challenged and the results are comforting, to
say the least. Experiments have been carried out that showed that by
inducing stress in an animal resulted in chemicals being released. This on
its own was nothing new, but what was new was the fact that some of these
chemicals produced a difference in the brain’s anatomy! The idea that the
brain could not change was incorrect! It could be ‘short-circuited’
resulting in a new wiring pathway.
What was even more exciting was that if the animal was restored to its own
‘safe’ and non-threatening environment, then the brain reverted to its
pre-stressed anatomy! It was possible to ‘re-wire’ the brain.
In turn this has led to much research into the effects of stress and its
reversal, and then on to Alzheimer ’s disease (if I have remembered to spell
it correctly)! And if it were possible for its reversal too!
Returning to the research, we have shown that stress can physically damage
nerve cells used in storing memory. We have also found that mindless
watching of the goggle-box also produces a decline in brain function. In
fact the numbers are more worrying than that. It has now been found that
people with no stimulating leisure activities, and who are couch potatoes
instead, are nearly four times more likely to develop dementia compared to
those people who have leisure stimuli and do not waste hours in front of the
Taking that a step further, and turning the scientific data around to be
useful, it has been found that in being the converse to the couch potato,
intellectually stimulating leisure activities had a ‘protective’ effect for
the brain and its capabilities. What is more, they have also found that if
you are doing a job you enjoy, then this was again protective, but a dull
job with no stimulus or challenge was another way to head downhill.
This does not mean that we all have to take up chess tomorrow, because in
place of intellectually stimulating hobbies, it has been found that physical
exercise itself stops memory loss and stimulates growth of nerve cells.
Another protective factor appears to be marriage! Those who have never
married have twice as high an incidence of dementia than those who are
married. So there you are, rather than say that your wife is driving you
insane, it appears that she is driving you towards sanity instead.
So the secret towards staving off dementia and Al whatsisname’s disease is
to have a job you enjoy, get some exercise, watch a very limited amount of
TV and settle down with a good cook (sorry, that should have read “a good
Heart to Heart
How could I ever have doubted you? Just when I was ready to strike you
out of my rolodex (remember them?), up you come with a (small) bottle of
Bacardi Orange and a Mars bar. Such beneficence! What a paragon of
largesse you have become. It was a veritable cornucopia in a Tesco-Lotus
bag you dropped off at the office, though I doubt that one small bottle
and a Mars bar really qualifies as cornucopia. However, Mistersingha, my
purple petunia, I do thank you and I can honestly say your offerings
have been drunk and eaten.
We are coming over your way again, after five years away from Thailand.
We have kept up to date by reading the Chiang Mai Mail, and we always
read your column first, Petal! There must have been many new restaurants
in that time, can you recommend a few we should try?
Thank you for the nice words, but you neglected to tell me just where
you will be going in Thailand. I also suggest that rather than coming
through me, go to Miss Terry Diner in Pattaya at [email protected]
.com or in Chiang Mai go to diningout @chiangmai-mail.com. I hope you
find our new restaurants simply delectable. You can always invite me
First off I would like to say I love reading your column. I do not have
promises of champagne or chocolates and I am sorry for that. I do have a
question for you though. Do all girls in Chiang Mai flirt with all
tourists or am I just a walking sign board that says here I am come take
advantage of me? Well I don’t really know who is taking advantage of who
but at times I feel that there really is a spark, a kind of connection.
Am I dreaming this or is it possible?
First off, thank you for your kind words, though wrapped around a bottle
of bubbly makes them even better. Now to your specific questions – do
all girls in Chiang Mai flirt? No, all girls do not. A percentage do,
and that percentage increases exponentially as you approach the bar
areas, until after you have passed through the “Welcome! Sit down
please,” threshold, the percentage is nigh on 100 percent. Is there a
spark, a kind of connection? Of course there is! That connection is
called “money”. As the book says, No money, No Honey!
If the bars are to close at one in the morning, it means that my
eardrums will not have to suffer the onslaught of unmitigated noise
masquerading as music, it means that I will have every opportunity to go
home to bed in a somewhat sober state, it means that if I feel lonely
after midnight I won’t have to pay bar fines, it means that I will be
able to wake up in the mornings feeling fresh and alive. Yikes! The
thought of waking up in the mornings rather than late afternoons, the
thought of having good eardrums capable of hearing my landlord bashing
on my door for his rent money, the thought of becoming sober and
actually feeling my hangover, the thought of attracting a pretty girl
and falling in love is enough ruin my very existence. Is there something
in between these extremes that could be regarded as appealing?
Dear Mighty Mouse,
Still traipsing around the bars I see. Still getting drunk. Unable to
get up till the afternoons. Oh Mighty Mouse, what are you doing to
yourself. You used to be such an upstanding member of your community.
Perhaps the people you associate with have pulled you down to these
depths, Petal. I hope not. But help is at hand from Hillary. There are
many alternatives, Mighty Mouse. For example, you can stay at home and
watch old detective movies on the late night cable TV. They should
appeal to you. You don’t have to be lonely either, as I believe the
Ministry of the Interior will be manning an after midnight hot line
(perhaps that will be a ‘warm’ line, on reflection), for lonely people
such as yourself, with no particular place to go, as Chuck Berry once
sang (before midnight naturally). Of course you will have to be older
than 35 years of age to be out at night after midnight, even if it is
just walking home by yourself, but I’m sure you knew that already. Think
of the money you will be saving. Think about what you can do with that
money too – but make up your mind before the pub shuts!
by Harry Flashman
There is so much more to photography than record shots
shots are those you take of your wife at the beach with her
sister and your brother-in-law. You know what I mean, and you
have taken lots of them in your lifetime. Photographically, we
call these ‘record shots’ as all they are doing is recording and
event. No ‘art’ or even artistic input by the photographer.
Here’s a simple (and cheap) way to put some art into your
photography by using filters, without having to buy expensive
filter kits. Filters can be used with any camera, film, digital,
compact or SLR, but digital will certainly give you an instant
result. I also believe in not spending too much on filters, and
when I say cheap, the first one costs 1 baht (and is
recoverable) and gives you a center-spot soft focus filter. It
will enhance portraits, particularly of women, giving a soft
dreamy look to the photo. Using this filter just means the
center is in focus and the edges are nicely soft and blurred.
This effect is used by portrait and wedding photographers all
over the world to produce that wonderful “romantic” photograph.
You will need one can of hairspray, a one baht coin and a clear
piece of glass or plastic (perspex) around 7.5 cm square. This
piece of perspex needs to be as thin as possible to keep it
optically correct. One supply source can be hardware shops,
glaziers and even picture framers.
Having cut out your square, put the coin in the center of the
perspex and then gently wave the hairspray over the lot. Let it
dry and gently flick the coin off and you have your first
special effects filter – the center spot soft focus.
Now set your camera lens on the largest aperture you can (around
f5.6 or f4 is fine). Focus on your subject, keeping the face in
the center of the screen. Bring up your magic FX filter and
place it over the lens and what do you see? The face is in focus
and the edges are all blurred! You’ve got it. Shoot! Take a few
shots, especially ones with the light behind your subject. Try
altering the f stop as well, as this changes the apparent size
of the clear spot in the middle. Simple, cheap and easy art.
Here is another, the Super Sunset Filter. This one will give you
that wonderfully warm “tropical sunset” which will make people
envious that they aren’t over here to enjoy such spectacular
endings to the day. To produce the warm glow, just take off your
sunglasses and place one side over the lens. It’s that simple!
Just look at the difference yourself, with and without the
sunnies. The camera will see it the same way.
Soft romantic effects can be produced super inexpensively as
well. The first is to gently breathe on the end of the lens just
before you take the shot. Your warm breath will impart a “mist”
to produce a wonderfully misty portrait, or that early morning
mist look for landscapes. Remember that the “misting” only lasts
a few seconds, so make sure you have the camera pre-focussed and
ready to shoot. If you have control over the aperture, try
around f4 as well.
Here’s another. Use a piece of stocking (pantyhose) material.
Stretch it over the lens and tie it on with a rubber band. Cut a
small hole in the middle and go ahead and shoot romantic
There are also other ways of bending, refracting or just
generally fooling the camera’s lens system. This you do by
holding transparent materials in front of the lens when taking
your photographs. I suggest you get small pieces of glass or
perspex (around 10 cm by 10 cm) and use these as the final
filter. You can even use semi-transparent material like shower
screen glass. The concept is just to produce a “different”
effect, one that the camera will pick up. It is very difficult
to predict the outcomes in these situations, but you can be
pleasantly amazed at some of the results. The main idea is to
give it a try!
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
This is not the first credit crisis and
it won’t be the last, part 2
In 1907, things were of course tad different to now:
banks declined to lend money out to anyone that needed it at less than 100%
interest. Nowadays people are panicking at more than 7.5%. Once more, Morgan
stepped up to the breach. He persuaded the big financial institutions to
stump up another USD25 million. However, this wasn’t enough and the same
companies had to pledge a further USD10 million. Initially this appeared to
Still, the problems came. Unrelenting creditors kept insisting on having
their money back. The problem looked to be escalating to a scale beyond that
which even Morgan and his associates could afford. Clearly even more
liquidity was needed. Morgan gathered his group one last time and they vowed
to put in another USD25 million. Fortunately that was enough to break the
back of the crisis and everything started to return to normal.
However, there were people who thought that Morgan had planned all of this
from the start just so he could buy things on the cheap. The Anti-Trust
faction manoeuvred things so that a Federal Reserve Act was in place before
the start of World War I which was meant to stop this type of situation. You
could maybe compare this with the effects of and responses to globalization
However much of a hero Morgan and his confreres were perceived to be at the
time; it is only with hindsight that we can see the ultimate dangers of
their actions. Had there been a systemic banking system failure in 1907 the
human misery and economic suffering would have been widespread. Not nearly
as widespread, however, as it was to ultimately prove in 1929 when the
system supported bubble had inflated to even greater proportions and its
inevitable bursting occurred with devastating global consequences.
The real question now isn’t whether we face problems ahead - it’s whether
we’re at 1907 again, 1929 again or somewhere totally new. The reality is
that 2008 will bring its own problems but echoes of the two previous crises
will ring out loudly throughout the year ahead of us. We agree with Mark
Twain that “history doesn’t repeat; it chimes…”
Another highly respected market commentator with a pen almost as sharp as
Twain is Tim Price who recently said of what is going on now, “The point
being, a monumental financial debacle involving a deficiency of savings and
a secular credit pyramid, naive borrowers and unprincipled mortgage brokers,
unprincipled mortgage lenders, unprincipled investment banks and naive
investors occurred during an otherwise benign economic environment. ‘Only’
the housing market became problematic, but that was sufficient ultimately to
provoke international financial crisis. Now the IMF has added its voice to
the chorus expressing concern over prospects for the UK property market.
Citigroup’s Buckland and Sharp-Pierson are probably right, in that the tide
has turned for credit markets for this cycle, and not in a good way. It
would be nice to think that the equity bull run still has legs, as they
suggest - but the gathering and deepening storm clouds (not least the
ominous rises in the prices of oil and gold) suggest otherwise, at least as
far as western markets are concerned.”
There are many reasons why financial crises happen, but a recurrent theme
throughout history is that many people tend to think that things aren’t as
bad as they really are until realization dawns, way too late. For instance,
there are almost four million people in the UK spending more than 25% of
their wages paying off unsecured lending (the government’s official
definition of financially overstretched). And yet only one in 45 people
surveyed will admit to pollsters that they are heavily in debt, according to
debt management company Chiltern.
“Unfortunately debts don’t go away, they need to be re-paid and ignoring
them will just make the situation worse,” said a spokeswoman for Chiltern.
Too true and when that happens at a global scale, it’s a recipe for
The Bank of England has basically echoed this and has said the UK equity
market is “particularly vulnerable” to a downturn. As has been pointed out,
things over the last twenty five years have changed significantly whereby
most working adults have got some access to the markets by either investing
directly or via pensions and life policies. They could take a real hit if
the markets plunged. The BoE has stated that there is a real risk of the UK
financial markets taking a beating as the credit crunch has some way to go
With money becoming more expensive and loans harder to get, it is the first
time buyer and ‘Buy-to-Let’ mortgage payers who are most likely to suffer
first. The former are presently paying about twenty percent of their income
in mortgages. What is significant about this is that it is the highest
proportion since just before the last property crash. This is exacerbated by
the latter where rental yields are at least a couple of percentage points
lower than the cost of a mortgage. This may precipitate an even bigger
slowdown in the housing market than was first envisaged.
The knock-on effect is there for all to see. The BoE has issued further
warnings in a recent report where it says, “The financial system is more
than usually vulnerable to further adverse shocks - sourced either in recent
events or from new sources, such as the equity markets or a weakening
commercial property market.” This will give many people much to worry about
in the run up towards the end of the year. The report goes on, “A deeper
downturn in the United States and rising credit defaults could trigger a
further round of asset price falls.”
The mechanisms now exist to bail out systemic problems but we should see
these as being palliative treatments that will ease the immediate symptoms
and suffering. The underlying causes need a far more radical treatment. A
bail-out will initially ease the pain but the excessive debt will have to be
worked out of the system - only one type of surgery is known for this - a
severe and protected recession or depression. Anyone who would have you
believe otherwise has not studied their economic history.
If they had they would tell you that real diversification among all asset
classes, an active adaptive approach to asset allocation and a healthy
regard for preservation of capital are the three weapons that you need in
your armoury at times like this, now as always. Plus ca change…
You have been warned!
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
Don’t just sit there, do something. It will make you feel good.
There are just two main dog charities in Chiang Mai and I
wish there were more, or better still the need for none at all. But that’s
unlikely. You can contact either of these via their web sites at
www.carefordogs.org or www.lannadog.net or call in at Care for Dogs out
towards Hang Dong or Lanna Dog Rescue at Sansai. I urge you to check out
their sites, visit the shelters, to consider adopting one of their lovely
creatures (there are cats too if your space is restricted, at Lanna), to
send a donation or even become a much needed volunteer if you have the time.
So many options and all of them desperately needed.
two months later.
Last week I went out to Care for Dogs and it was a sad but wonderful
experience to see the love and affection given to the 80 or so rescue dogs
that are currently being cared for - some who were sick or injured, others
neglected and a few badly ill-treated. These rescue centers could take on
far more charges if they had the space and the money but as it is they look
after the most needy cases such as Licorice, who has been with them for a
while and nursed back to health but still needs a home, now that she has
been vaccinated, neutered and is ready to begin a new life.
In the knowledge that a photograph is worth many thousands of words, this
column is given over for the first and probably last time, to images from
the rescue centre. They have quarantine facilities, a room for nursing
puppies, a large central free roaming area and other sections such as the
one in which a whole group of recent arrivals were sheltering in the half
dark, underneath a kennel area. These dogs had been saved from a living
hell, kept in closed cardboard boxes all their lives and denied light,
exercise or proper care. Cruel or just appallingly thoughtless? It does not
matter now I suppose since they are in good hands and may eventually be able
to lead normal lives.
on her arrival at the shelter…
The single most telling comment made to me was about another lovely dog
which said Karin, was “taken from us as a puppy and brought to us as a dog”.
No sense of responsibility, even to a living creature. How sad not just for
the dogs but for the people who never realize just how wonderful it is to
have a devoted companion who asks for so little in return. I will quote for
the last time the wise words of Anatole France, who long ago wrote. “Until
one has loved an animal a part of one’s being remains unawakened”.
I know this to be true from my much lamented Dan in the U.K. who died from
an enlarged heart - a symbolic ending if ever there was one - and from Judy,
our characterful rescue dog at the house. So please think carefully what you
might do to help: however small, it will make a difference. This is not - as
you will have gathered - my usual sort of column but one I hope you will
respond to. Animals are not just beasts of burden, a source of food or to be
gawked at in zoos, circuses and the like. They deserve our attention just as
much as humans, since the compassion we show to them reflects on us just as
readily as any concern we show to our fellows.
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
The Spiderwick Chronicles: US Adventure/Drama/Fantasy – Freddie
Highmore plays rebellious Jared, who finds a secret room in the old house
his family has moved into, with a book written by his uncle depicting in
exhaustive detail the creatures of a “hidden world” all around us. He reads
the book, and in the process awakens an evil Ogre and a horde of goblins
hell bent on obtaining the knowledge hidden within the book to destroy
mankind, and creature-kind as well. An excellent and richly detailed family
film. But it has some truly horrific moments, like the old Disney classics
(just remember what happens to “Dumbo” and “Bambi”), so if you’re under 8 or
9 years old, don’t say you weren’t warned. Generally favorable reviews.
John Rambo: US Action/Drama – The ex-Green Beret killing machine is
living in Thailand and is recruited to ferry a church group of idealistic
doctors on a humanitarian mission to Burma, despite the dangerous civil war
there. When they are taken prisoner, he agrees to return with a small
mercenary force to rescue them, setting up a battle sequence against
impossible odds. Rated R in the US for strong graphic bloody violence,
sexual assaults, grisly images, and language. Mixed or average reviews.
Step Up 2 the Streets: US Drama/Dance-Musical – A couple of vibrant
dance sequences and some unintentionally hilarious bad acting. “Probably the
single most racist movie that will be released by any major American studio
in the first 10 years of the twenty-first century, not that anyone
affiliated with the picture is aware of that fact.” Mixed or average
Atonement: UK/France Drama – A powerful story. The scenes on the
beach at Dunkirk include some of the most masterly camera work of any recent
film. It is a privilege to watch the result of director Joe Wright’s vision,
like the experience of being transported in a time machine. Robbie and two
Army friends stagger along the beach jammed with drunken or half-crazed
soldiers awaiting rescue amid complete chaos, and, in one long, breathtaking
sequence – a masterpiece of planning and execution – Wright gives us the
whole spectacle, the soldiers milling around aimlessly, the beach, the sky
and a Ferris wheel in the back, and the horses having to be killed because
there’s nothing to feed them. Rated R in the US for disturbing war images,
language, and some sexuality. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
10,000 B.C.: US Adventure/Drama – Director Roland Emmerich is a
director committed to delivering old-fashioned, undemanding escapist fare –
at all costs. And the costs are high indeed: In the name of visceral thrills
and chills, he sacrifices narrative logic, emotionally involving stories,
and intriguing characters with any semblance to real individuals. As he does
here. I’m afraid I was mostly laughing at it, when I wasn’t cringing. But
everyone agrees the visuals are terrific. Mixed or average reviews.
The Mist: US Horror – I loved this film, bleak and uncompromisingly
misanthropic though it is. Demonstrates Stephen King’s favorite point that
people are basically no good. Lock a few of them in a room, and they’ll soon
find reasons to start killing each other. And some of it done in the name of
religion, of course, as by the horrible religious zealot in this film. I
loved the author’s solution for her. It has one of the most chilling and
dispiriting endings to a film I’ve ever seen. Rated R in the US for
violence, terror, and gore. Mixed or average reviews.
The 8th Day: Thai Horror/Thriller – Unusual Thai horror film which
depends on psychological spooks rather than booms from the soundtrack to
achieve its scary effects. Little girl is seen entering a house and
disappears, with the proceedings watched by a medical student doing his
thesis on the event. At Vista only.
Jumper: US Adventure/Sci-Fi – Remember to check your brains at the
door and you’ll be all right – provided you enjoy wild action movies. Samuel
L. Jackson is a hoot as an evil fanatic with shocking white hair. It’s about
a young man who can teleport to any location he wishes, and those out to
kill him. You will certainly enjoy some of the photogenic places he “jumps”
to. Generally negative reviews.
The Ghost and Master Boh / Phi Tawaan Kab Archan Taa Boe: Thai Comedy
– Your usual Thai low-class comedy with the usual comedians.
Salad Tadeaw: Thai Action/Fantasy – Nine kids find themselves
stranded on a remote island where they encounter pirates and giant beach
creatures. Pretty standard fare, except for the kids, who steal the show.
to open Mar. 20
Shutter: US Horror – A remake of the wildly successful Thai
chiller which starred heartthrob Ananda Everingham – the top Thai film in
2004. After they have a horrible accident, a pair of newlyweds sees evidence
of a supernatural presence in their photos.
Note: The Water Horse has been postponed to March 27.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
John Rambo in Burma
Visually entrancing 10,000 B.C.
Do not dare to read The Chronicles!
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
On the campaign trail in America.
As the American presidential election nears, the tube is littered with
coverage of candidates on the campaign trail hanging out with normal
citizens, kissing babies at day care centers, wearing funny hats while
driving tractors, watching rich CEOs of major corporations illegally
transfer funds and helping the Mafia fling opponents wearing cement shoes
into the harbor. Just kidding! They don’t cover the last two on TV.
I personally don’t know why anyone would want the job. The moment you get
it, half the country dislikes you. The half that might care for a few months
is immediately on your case for favors and handouts. Most of the world hates
you and about a billion people actually want to quickly blow you up. Just
kidding! Millions of those billion would rather see you die slowly in the
desert, buried up to your neck in sand, next to a red ant hill. You live in
a boring white house that you can’t even paint, surrounded by fences filled
with googling faces, and your 24/7/365 roommates are hulking, hairy men
whose brass knuckles drag on the ground, who probably sleep with you in your
bed while still wearing stiff blue suits, black wingtips and headsets.
Although I’d love to see a Democratic president/vice-president, I can’t
imagine that America is really ready to accept either: 1) a woman; 2) a
black man, whose last name is way too close to America’s arch-nemesis Osama,
and whose middle name, though he chooses not to use it, is Hussein; or 3),
both of them, even if they could ever settle the age-old controversy of
Women on Top vs. Man on Top. Right now the Republicans appear solid behind
crusty conservative curmudgeon McCain and are laughing all the way to the
vote bank as the Democrat contenders beat each other up in public. McCain
doesn’t have to say one negative thing about his opponents since they’re
doing a splendid job of airing their dirty laundry themselves. The
Republican Party could probably even win with strange, new tactics like
nominating an inflated doll shaped like a white male or by selecting a
B-movie actor to just play the role of President. Just kidding! They already
did the actor thing: his name was Ronald Reagan.
Hillary Clinton, hence referred to as “Hill” since she lives on Capitol
Hill, and Barack Hussein Obama, hence referred to as “Bar”, since it’s
easier to pronounce correctly and sounds appropriately American, are acting
more like ornery little brats in the backseat than respectable
politicians.(Just kidding! There are no respectable politicians.) How can
you tell if politicians are lying? Their lips are moving. What do
politicians do when they die? They lie still. Uncle Sam is driving with
300,000,000 citizens in the front seat:
Bar: You’re stupid!
Hill: I know you are, but what am I?
Bar: You’re a monster!!!
Hill: Liar, liar, pants on fire!
Bar: Hill poked me!!!
Hill: Did not! I was just pointing my finger!!!
Uncle Sam and the citizens: Shut up already!!!
Respectable Internet site says: “Days since Senator Clinton promised she was
not interested in attacking Democrats - 119. Days that Senator Clinton has
spent attacking Democrats since making that promise - 115.” Bar said Hill is
trying to “hoodwink” and “bamboozle” voters; his advisor called Hill “a
monster…stooping to anything.” Hill has questioned Bar’s worldly experience,
not-so-subtly suggesting she already has presidential experience, saying she
wouldn’t need a foreign affairs primer while on the job. Hmm. It seems she
wasn’t even aware of affairs going on in her own zip code. Who knows? Maybe
it actually was Hill dressed up as Bill, greeting royalty in foreign lands,
while Bill lounged at home, acting like royalty and requiring that his aides
get down on one knee. Just kidding! I think she got down on both knees. It’s
rough to recover from her past and present involvement with a basically
good, loving man, who chose to love a little too much and let the
presidential power go to his head, so to speak.
Bill: Y’all wanna mess around?
Hill: Not tonight. I have a headache.
Bill: Oh yeah, well, I have AIDES.
Some folks seek fortunetellers, numerology experts or throw I-Ching coins to
predict the future. I prefer to rearrange the letters of names and see what
comes up. President Hillary Clinton rearranged becomes “Horny, intrepid,
still clean” or “Old tyrant in spine-chiller.” President Barack Obama
rearranged becomes “Top-rank, macabre, biased” or “Pick a bad, earnest
Rambo.” At least we’ll be done with President George Bush, rearranged to be
his mandatory greeting from his cabinet members: “There’s God! Super Being!”
I prefer to go with “Super-dense, bright ego.”
Doc English The Language Doctor: Monitoring your child’s progress under a personal tutor
Hi, welcome back. Last week we looked at
what to look for in a personal tutor and how to engage one. This week we
look at how to monitor your child’s progress under a personal tutor and how
to find out if they are being ‘over tutored’.
Once you have established with your tutor what should be taught and when
(plus what should be paid!), then you can begin tutoring. If your child is
being tutored at home, provide a quiet area away from any distractions.
Provide a few drinks and snacks for both tutor and child, so that they can
stay refreshed and keep their energy levels up. Ensure your child has
stationery and paper. If your child is attending a language centre and being
tutored there, ensure you arrive early so that both tutor and child have
time to relax and meet each other before starting.
You may wish to stay and observe whilst your tutor is working, but try to
not interfere. Your tutor may feel uncomfortable if he feels he is being
watched and you will distract your child’s attention away from their tutor.
Provide a fun activity or go for an ice cream together afterwards, so you
can talk about the lesson and unwind. By going for an ice cream after each
lesson, your child will associate the tutoring with a tasty reward and will
feel more positive about it. The trick is to find a language school that’s
next to an ice cream parlor.
After a few weeks of tutoring, begin to notice any changes in your child’s
attitude to the burden of extra lessons. Are they enthusiastic about being
tutored? Has there been any change in their motivation for learning, their
ability at school and/or their confidence? Flick through your child’s school
books. Are they managing to finish work? Do they look like they have been
enjoying the task and presented it nicely? Are the teacher’s comments
positive? Is your child getting higher test results? If so, then the
tutoring is working.
If things aren’t working out, discuss things with your tutor and allow him
to suggest changes to the tutoring schedule or the content of the lessons.
It’s important to build a relationship based on trust between your tutor,
your child and yourself. You should not feel bad about making
recommendations to your tutor and your tutor should be skilled enough to
accommodate recommendations into their tutoring to and suggest improvements
of their own.
It’s obvious that tutoring can benefit most children at some time in their
lives (as long as you can afford it!), but how can you tell if your child is
in danger of being ‘over-tutored’ or ‘over-schooled’? In addition, how can
you tell if your child is not enjoying school, or finding the challenges
there too great? What symptoms should you look for and what can you do about
Children can find the challenges at school overwhelming sometimes and they
may display their anxiety in many different ways. Younger children may
return to babyish habits, such as thumb sucking and clinging to a rag or
toy. They may find it difficult to sleep at night and may be reluctant to
communicate. In older children, there may be violent outbursts and
unwarranted aggression. Children may make regular claims that they are too
sick to attend school and they may also lack enthusiasm for carrying out
All of the above may indicate that your child is finding the challenges at
school too great. They may also display similar symptoms if there are other
problems at school, such as a problems integrating into school life and
making friends. Perhaps there have also been occurrences of bullying or your
child may feel ‘picked on’.
If your child is displaying anxiety about school (or tutoring) there are
many things you can do to make their life easier. First, talk to your child
about the problem, and then make an appointment to see their teacher. If
‘over-schooling’ is the cause, then talk to the teacher about the volume and
complexity of their homework. Allow the teacher to suggest changes. If your
child is struggling in class, again allow the teacher to suggest changes,
such as allowing your child to work in a different group and on different
tasks, more matched to their ability. Your child may also be eligible to
receive help from support staff.
Conversely, problems at home can cause anxiety at school. If there is a
problem at home, then you should explain this clearly to your teacher. It
will help them make provisions for your child. Don’t feel shy about coming
forward. Your teacher may be able to help ease your child’s anxiety about
If over-tutoring is the cause of the anxiety, then decrease the amount of
tutoring, or ask the tutor to provide a wider variety of fun activities, not
just reading and writing.
That’s all for this week mums and dads. As always, if you have any
questions, suggestions or free Marmite on offer you can mail me at:
[email protected] Enjoy spending time with your child.
Welcome to Chiang Mai:
We’re here - We’re settled - What now?
Teaching in Thailand? Part II
Although readers of last week’s article may
have received a somewhat negative, if objective, view of the joys of
searching for, finding and getting established in a teaching job in Chiang
Mai, this week we have to tell you that it’s not all bad news.
Except, of course, the bad news we didn’t tell you about last week…
Your first destination, of course, will be a language school, (preferably
recommended by a friend or former student) which provides a TEFL course
which is approved by the Thai Ministry of Education. This approval is
essential, as the majority of employers will not accept TEFL certificates
from non-approved training establishments. The course will run for at least
four weeks, will be tough, and will cost around 30,000 baht - hardly the
“few baht in the high street” description we read recently. You should
remember that a TEFL course is intended for teachers who wish to teach
English as a foreign language, not English as a second language, (TESOL).
Most teachers we have spoken to are of the opinion that very few Thais will
achieve, or even wish to achieve, the latter standard unless they are
planning further study in the UK or USA. In teaching Thais, either adults,
or, more particularly, children, it is important to remember that the way to
succeed is to give them what they want, which is not necessarily what you
think they need, nor what you would be expected to provide in a school in
your home country. This may sound crazy - but, it works! They actually
You will be provided with some classroom experience during the course, but
it’s unlikely that this will prepare you for actual teaching in school, any
more than it would in your home country! Where, of course, if you want to
teach in a junior school, you may not even need the degree which is
presented as being so important here… If you enjoy challenges, you may have
realised by now that walking into a room filled with around 40 very noisy
and unruly children of varying abilities, some of whom want to learn and
some of whom definitely don’t, and none of whose language you can
understand, is probably one of the most challenging moments you’ve had in
years! Take heart, however, we know quite a few good teachers whose first
instinct was to turn and run, (and a few who did!), most of whom are now
loving every minute of their time in the classroom. Well, almost every
minute. Seeing results, both in language learning and in actual classroom
discipline, usually sadly lacking until the kids have got used to you, is,
we’re told, very rewarding! At the beginning, your TEFL instructors will
give you all the help and advice you need, from actually getting a job,
through lesson plans, course books, and any other problems you may
One problem they may not be able to help you with is that of highly
qualified native English speaking teachers’ negative attitudes towards you,
particularly if you’ve been lucky enough to land a job without a degree.
We’ve never been able to quite understand this, as we believe that teachers
are born, not made. The actual ability to communicate with a roomful of
youngsters has nothing at all to do with a high level of academic ability,
nor with a desk drawer full of impressive qualifications. In Thai schools in
particular, fun, (sanook), is considered as important as basic learning; as
a result, a teacher who is full of enthusiasm and who has a knack of
relating to small people will find that not only will they want to learn,
but they will enjoy the process and will therefore take it seriously in
their own way. Again, remember, This is Thailand!
If you eventually decide that the above is not for you, another option may
well be private tutoring. This, of course can be very rewarding, both for
the teacher and the pupil, as it is much easier to communicate the vast and
numerous differences between Thai and English on a one-to-one basis. The use
of prepositions, for example…However, you must remember that you have to
“set the rules” with the parents as well as with the student, and this can
be trying. For example, if you do not specify that payment must be made in
advance for, say, 10 lessons, you may well find that you are in receipt of a
telephone call to cancel a lesson half an hour before your student is due to
arrive. Cancellations, of course, please remember, are not refundable! Try
to set up a course of a certain number of lessons during which your student
can be expected to actually improve his/her English - if you do not do this,
said student may disappear after the first five and, although you will have
been paid, you will also have been wasting your time, expertise, and effort.
If you have a quiet area in your home, it is perhaps better to have your
student come to you as there will be less familial distractions to deal
with. Children are notorious for their attention spans, or, rather, the lack
of them! You may also be able to work in a language school on a private
tutor basis, but we do know of instances where the monthly salary for this
type of work is rather late in forthcoming, and you may also find that
lesson times are changed or dropped altogether with very little notice. It
is best to avoid this option if at all possible; if you can’t, then at least
be realistic about demands that may be made by the establishment.
There are several websites which may help, www. ajarn.com has listing of
jobs, although not many in the Chiang Mai area these days, and an
interesting forum. www.daveseslcafe.com is very helpful, with lots of
teaching material to download and many helpful hints. www.teflwatch.org has
a “hall of shame”, listing schools and organisations which are best avoided.
As regards TEFL courses, CMU’s has had good reports, (although class sizes
may well be too large to benefit the slower learner), and Text and Talk
Chiang Mai, (on Thwyang Road near Nakornping Bridge), have regular TEFL and
advanced courses, have no more than 8 students on each course, and are
recommended by many teachers.
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 Human Touch!
I have recently heard of a newly conceived garden in England which uses the
position of areas of grass, mounds and spiral lakes as representations of
our knowledge of quantum physics! Perhaps the idea is that any aliens who
catch a glimpse of it through the almost constant cloud cover over the UK
may assume by observation of this clever imprint on our landscape that we
are more sophisticated than our general behaviour might indicate! This idea,
though, may well be a natural progression which began with the invention of
the Elizabethan Knot Garden, in which the arrangement of the hedges showed
how original designers of gardens could be even when using geometric
concepts, based, in that instance, on weaving.
Later, the Georgians created the “Landscape” movement, which transformed the
views around the great houses of the English countryside into physical
manifestations of the ideal as shown by famous landscape artists of that
era. This development, of course, was totally in tune with contemporary
philosophies such as Rousseau’s theory of the “Noble Savage”. Nature, it
seemed, could only be placed on a pedestal and worshipped when man was able
to prove, by carefully manicuring and cultivating the countryside, complete
and full control over it!
The Japanese, in their tiny city and town gardens, created idealised
miniatures of the island and mountain landscapes that they had known and
loved. It seems that what makes a garden, as opposed to what Nature itself
has provided in a given area, is the human manifestation of need and ideas
inherent in the design itself, no matter how “natural” the effect.
Just as the Dutch flower paintings represented on one canvas flowers from
all seasons and species, usually in order to show off their owner’s enviable
collection of rare and expensive plants, our Chiang Mai gardens allow us to
display a multifarious collection of flowers, trees and plants from all over
the world. We should be extremely grateful to all the great “plant hunters”
who, over the last several centuries, have given their money, time and often
their lives in order to discover and distribute world-wide the horticultural
treasures that we now take for granted!
Tip of the Week
Before pulling out that weed, consider whether it is beautiful
enough to at least be tolerated! It could be the easiest plant to
grow that you’ve ever discovered, and, just because it’s classified
as a weed here, it doesn’t mean that it’s disregarded everywhere! It
might be a prized specimen on the other side of the world…
Five Reasons why Gmail
stands out among them all
Gmail has become a part of our lives. A big one for many.
And for those who don’t have an account yet, here’s what you are missing:
1) Space. Lots of space.
6497 MB available to you as of today, and counting! This is as close as it
gets to having unlimited space. Ask your friend to send you emails with
attachments of 10 MB a day and it would still take him 2 years to fill up
your mailbox. My own Gmail mailbox has over 2500 emails and yet it never
crossed the 5% mark. Gmail is very generous at this feature so why not take
advantage of this? Never delete emails again. Use this as your email backup.
Or how about using Gmail as your virtual 6.5GB Flash Drive?
2) POP? Free. IMAP? Yes, Free.
The feature we always wished for with free web-based email is to be able to
download emails to your emailing software on your computer like MS Outlook.
Gmail lets you do just that with POP download feature. The best part, its
The same for IMAP. Don’t download but sync your emails on your computer,
laptop or even your mobile phone through the IMAP feature. Every action is
automatically synchronized with all your devices. Mobile users can check
their mail by pointing their browser to http://m.gmail.com
There’s more. You can even download emails from other accounts that you have
POP access to Gmail mailbox. This allows you to check multiple email
accounts from one location.
With the standard version of Gmail, it’s almost as quick to check your mails
as you were doing with the email software on your computer. The web-based
email is fast and highly responsive. Try your hand at it and find out if
it’s fast enough for you.
4) Kick spam in the face
Spam and junk mails are the annoying part of our communication life. Get rid
of it. Gmail is very effective when it comes to blocking unwanted messages.
To my experience, Gmail leads at this feature. It can never be a 100% clean
mailbox, but for Gmail, 99% is possible.
5) Forgot that mail? Search it!
We love Google and we know it’s the best search engine on the planet. Use
the same technology to search your email. Looking for an email sent to you 2
years ago? Remember what it was about, put in those keywords, and let Gmail
search feature find it in a flash!
Other features that will help make your communication life better may
include archiving emails, auto-saving into Drafts as you compose a new mail,
chatting with your contacts from the mailbox itself, really “Quick
Contacts”, displaying emails of same context in a group or “conversations”,
and countless more… Judge it yourself and let us know what you think about
For more tips and tricks to enhance the way you use your computer, visit
Just for Geeks
Why not backpack your ideas, to-do
lists, notes, clippings, photos and have them on the go? Check out this
really cool organizer tool -
Ewan, Winner of the Just for
Geeks Answer and Win,
shows off his 2GB Flash Drive.
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 ;-)
An American Redneck in
He’s Not A Picasso
All cats are special, but some are more special than others. Such as Miss
Picasso. If she ever had any doubt, the new kitten removed them. She saw him
climb into a rubbish bin and looked at him with all the disgust he deserved.
He also makes this horrid squeak like an air raid siren, and when he hits
the litter box everybody runs for cover. How can something so tiny smell so
Picasso lived in about ten flats in mainland China, and we were there a
little over four years. But, here in Chiang Mai, we’ve lived in the same
place for a long time, over a year, so she’s gotten a bit bored. Sleep, eat,
sleep, try to move the dinner time to an earlier time every day because
there ain’t much else happening. I’d noticed my lovely little lady cat
getting a bit lethargic. But what to do? I dunno. Watch her get fat and take
comfort in the fact that she’s not growing as fast as I am?
Someone gave me a photo of the kittens to scan into a JPG file. Jan saw the
photo and talked me into bringing Picasso a little buddy. Then Jan talked
herself out of it. But by then I’d already seen the critters. You know how
little tiny kittens can melt a cold hard black redneck heart, don’t you?
Since Picasso is a lady cat, we needed a boy. There were two. I chose the
one who was too small to be named Buster. Picasso is small, and I’d like for
her to always be able to smack the new guy around like a ping pong ball.
He’s not supposed to be my cat, or Jan’s cat. He’s supposed to be Picasso’s
cat. If she doesn’t like him, he’s outta here. It has always been just that
Friday, Picasso was horribly outraged. Hissing with her ears back, fangs
bared, eyes wild. Noises from the sound effects department. She lunged at
the evil intruder and scared the mess out of Jan. The kitten was frightened
too, by the way. He’d just been yanked from a happy home with four siblings
and a loving Calico mom, and thrust into the lair of the evil Calico. She
was gonna kill him for sure.
Saturday, he woke up alive. A good start. He slept on my pillow, in fact.
Picasso was in the adjoining “dressing room” where she sleeps quite often,
nestled within my underwear. Preferably worn, but let’s quickly change the
subject, I shouldn’t be so flippant. Friday, Picasso was so offended that
she hid under the bed. I hated to see that. Her home, seven years as our
sole and always most beloved cat, and she was intimidated by a half-pound
moron. He’s lovable, sure, but he’s still a moron. More lower class than I
am, too, and that’s saying something. Picasso hissed at me whenever I
touched her, and sometimes when I didn’t, simply because I brought home it.
Jan was frightened, Picasso was outraged, kitten was terrified, and I was
Kitten is dumb enough to eat Picasso’s food. I bought him kitten food, which
he inhales, and it’s about the only way to shut that squeaky squealy
Siamese-sounding mouth, although he can eat and scream at the same time. On
the other hand, he arrived litter trained. He’s quick to return affection,
he purrs for me a whole lot, and he loves to rub his face in my beard for a
good scratching and then just sleep on me.
On Sunday night, I took a shower. I don’t want you to get the impression
that I do this every Sunday, but I did on this particular Sunday. Both cats
wanted to watch. Picasso was beside the sink and kitten was on the floor.
She was hissing and howling at him for all she was worth, and she happened
to see her own face in the mirror. She’s always been a mirror girl. But that
particular sight left her speechless. She decided to lie down and groom for
a bit. He stayed on the floor, because what else would he do?
Nobody died, although he did get wet paws. She looked on disgusted at what a
moron he is. I believe this will be a common theme.
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