HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiang Mai


tech tips with Mr.Tech Savvy

An American Redneck in Chiang Mai

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 difficult.
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 TV.
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 book”).


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

Dear Mistersingha,
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.

Dear Hillary,
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?
The Travelers
Dear Travelers,
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 I hope you find our new restaurants simply delectable. You can always invite me too.

Dear Hillary,
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?
Dear Dreaming,
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!

Dear Hillary,
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?
Mighty Mouse
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!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

There is so much more to photography than record shots

Simple 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 portraits.
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 have worked.
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 these days?
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 disaster.
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 yet.
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 [email protected]

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 or 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.

…and 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.

Licorice 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: Mark Gernpy

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 reviews.
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
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

Presidential Pandemonium

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.
Hill: Zzzzzzzzz.
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 it?
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 homework tasks.
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 the situation.
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 learn!
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 encounter.
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. has listing of jobs, although not many in the Chiang Mai area these days, and an interesting forum. is very helpful, with lots of teaching material to download and many helpful hints. 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]


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 Free!
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
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.
3) Speed
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 it.
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 [email protected]
Till then… Tata ;-)

An American Redneck in Chiang Mai:

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 bad?
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 simple.
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 sad.
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.