The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Men and the hewers of stone
With the current push for
women’s health clinics and practitioners, it is easy for men to feel left
out. After all, you’ve no uterus to become cancerous, and although you do
have vestigial breasts and it is possible to get breast cancer, I don’t
suggest you go looking for breast lumps every month after your non-existent
However, there are some specific male areas, and these centralize around the
genito-urinary systems. In the medical business, Urologists are sometimes
called the hewers of stone and drawers of water, because much of their work
deals with kidney stones and assisting men to be able to pass water
adequately. We men do suffer at times, it’s not only the ladies who have
Your urinary system is a remarkable collection of organs, beginning with the
kidney, the “super filter”. The kidney filters the blood and allows the
important stuff like blood cells and nutrients to continue waltzing around
your circulation, but taking out the nasties, and at the same time helping
balance the acidity/alkalinity of the body. Clever little organs, the
To keep your kidneys in top shape does not require special kidney exercises,
you will be pleased to know. In fact, there is nothing you can do
‘physically’ to make the kidneys perform, but fortunately there are some
things you can do to keep them in top condition.
The first is to drink plenty of water every day. And by ‘water’, I mean the
plain and simple H2O style water, not the stuff that has been mixed with
hops, distilled with grain or left to age in oak casks. Making the kidneys
exercise, to filter and regulate the circulating blood volume, is simply
carried out by drinking several liters of water every day. Yes, it is that
easy. On your desk at work keep a glass of cold water beside you and empty
it every 30 minutes.
The advantages you get from this are enormous. First off, you have
immediately lowered the chances of forming kidney stones, a potentially
dangerous (and always painful) condition. Being a card carrying coward, I
have always preferred the drinking water option to the lying in bed groaning
with pain alternative. In fact, around 15 percent of people will experience
stones in their lifetime (especially in the hot climates) and men outnumber
women between two to three times. We also know that if you do not change
your lifestyle, you are very likely to develop another stone within two
years after the first episode. We men do suffer at times, it’s not only the
ladies who have ‘specific’ problems!
The kidneys drain to the bladder by two tubes called Ureters. These do not
do much, other than connect the kidney to the collecting vessel (bladder).
However, if a piece of stone gets stuck, you will soon know about it. Renal
colic sorts out the men from the boys! Ultimate pain!
From the bladder, the urine gets introduced to the outside world by another
tube called the Urethra. This is short in ladies and is the reason that
women get Cystitis (bladder infections). It is longer in the men folk,
allowing us to stand up to pee and become obsessed with how long or short it
really is. After the age of 40 give up the ‘Who can pee the highest’
However, we chaps have another problem in that region, as far as getting the
urine from the bladder to the far wall of the urinal. This is called the
Prostate, and it encircles the Urethra and when enlarged, closes down the
internal diameter of the pee tube. This makes it difficult to pass water and
you dribble on your shoes. The prostate can also become cancerous, an even
less pleasant state of affairs. We men do suffer at times, it’s not only the
ladies who have ‘specific’ problems!
Yes, you can have a check-up for this area too. Just ask to see the hewers
of stone and drawers of water!
Your Health & Happiness: Researchers find three more “Obesity Genes”
Battle to find slimming “wonder drug”
Scientists in Seattle announced last week that recent research
has resulted in the discovery of three more genes related to the
development of obesity. The research report, published in the journal,
“Nature”, identifies the three genes as LP1, Lactb and Ppm11. All three
appear to promote weight gain; as a result it is hoped that
pharmaceutical drugs could be developed which would attack the genes.
Any pharmaceutical company which managed to beat all the rest in a race
to develop such drugs would reap enormous financial rewards. However, as
in all gene- blocking medications, stringent tests would have to take
place to ensure that side effects were kept to a minimum. It would also
have to be borne in mind that such side effects might take many years to
become apparent. Medical experts and doctors, however, remain skeptical,
and continue to stress that a combination of diet and exercise is the
only successful method of losing weight and keeping it off. They
consider that a breakthrough in available treatments based on recent
discoveries concerning genetic predisposition to obesity lies far in the
future, whilst the obesity epidemic and its effect on health is very
much in the present worldwide, with the numbers of those affected set to
double by 2050.
Thailand’s Medical Council warns
No, it doesn’t give you a
feminine complexion overnight…
In a reaction to a recent fad amongst Thai transvestites, the
Medical Council of Thailand has issued a warning against getting cheap
castrations in the hope that a more “feminine” appearance may be gained
as a result. Such operations, it states, can be dangerous and there is
no guarantee that the desired results will be achieved.
A well-known gay activist, Nalee Theerarojjanaphon, initially made the
Medical Council aware of the problem by reporting the case of a 16 year
old Chiang Mai boy who had undergone castration in the hope that it
would improve his complexion. Clinics were warned that to perform the
operation on boys of under 18 years of age was illegal without parental
approval; licences would be withdrawn and premises closed for one year
if the law was found to have been broken.
A medical expert from the Ministry of Public Health, Supachai
Kunaratanapruk, stated that there was no medical evidence that removal
of testicles can change sexual appearance or skin condition. Complete
sex-change operations are available in Thailand, but are extremely
expensive and require a long period of psychological and physical
preparation. Castrations, on the other hand, cost approximately 5,000
baht. Natee believes that the upsurge of interest in the operation has
been fuelled by advertisements for the service on the internet.
Heart to Heart
I never realized I was smart until I came to Thailand two years ago. Let
me explain why. I have always used my common senses back home and here
in Thailand and I never had any problems but to many farangs
(foreigners), they just can’t help themselves. Thailand receives the
world’s biggest jackasses and fools and every week I see or hear about
some farangs who gets into some problems with bar girls or Thais and
complains and cries about everything and everybody here. I’m tired of
these fools and jackasses bad mouthing Thais and Thailand. If they don’t
like it GO HOME and stay there. Why do we get so many ugly, foolish,
ignorant, disgusting farangs who makes us all look bad in front of Thai
Dear Happy Camper,
You don’t sound all that happy to me, Petal, your letter is full of
grumps and grouches. I agree that there are many foreigners who don’t
seem to use much common sense (why is it called ‘common’ when there’s so
little of it around?), but I think you are overstepping the mark when
you start painting your jackasses and fools as being “ugly” and
“disgusting”. I also agree that there is nothing to be gained by
foreigners when they start bad mouthing Thais and Thailand, and you do
have to wonder why they left their own countries in the first place.
There can be many reasons I believe, and not all of them are lawful! Of
course it is not too difficult to see why some of these people become
cannon fodder for the sharp-shooters in the bars. It must be difficult
to survive the “Buy me cola, darling” when all they are used to in their
home countries are women who want to put them down all the time. “What
are you looking at,” being a standard western woman’s response to a
bright appreciative smile. Perhaps you should be producing a lapel
button which says “Don’t complain to me - I like it here!” Finally,
don’t let the idiots spoil it for you. You don’t have to drink in beer
bars, and if you take the effort to learn the language, then you don’t
have to talk to the foreigners either, as there are 60 million Thai
people out there who would like to know about you and your country of
After getting to know one of the bar girls quite well in my local beer
bar, she asked me for some money to send to her mother as her daughter
was sick and stays with her mother. It wasn’t much, only 5,000 baht and
I really didn’t care if she repaid me or not. The only problem is she’s
come back to me twice more since then and it’s starting to add up. It’s
now 25,000 baht and that’s getting up a bit, even if she doesn’t charge
me anything any more for short-times and stuff. How do I tactfully tell
her that there’s no more loans and I’d like her to start paying back the
money I gave her? And please no sermons, my buddies are good at doing
that, but they’ve got no answers for me.
Dear Sam (the sucker),
The whole situation revolves around the phrase “the money I gave her”.
She looks upon it as a gift, which you did originally, but now you want
to change it into a “loan”. It’s a little late for that, my Petal. No
matter how many short-times, as you quaintly put it, you are never going
to see the 25,000 baht again. How do you tell her tactfully that the
well has run dry? Quite easily, next time she asks, just say no. She
won’t fall apart, she’ll just move on to the next customer. That is the
occupation that these girls have chosen. They live by their wits and the
guilty consciences of the suckers they fleece. Kiss it good bye,
literally and metaphorically.
I met a woman at the party last night and I can’t get her out of my
mind. I didn’t get her name as we only briefly saw each other across the
room, before she flitted away, so I haven’t even spoken to her, but
there was that spark of magic there in her eyes promising just so much.
Can you help me find her again? I think I am going mad with desire. She
was wearing a yellow dress, and with her dark hair and dark eyes, the
effect was fantastic. I must find her again.
What sort of a love struck calf are you, my myopic Petal? How would
Hillary know where to find your lady with the bedroom eyes? I wasn’t
even at your party. Or perhaps I was and enjoyed it too much? Oh my
goodness! Perhaps the woman was me? Was I wearing yellow last night? Did
she leave a glass slipper by any chance? Back to reality. Have you had
your hormone levels checked recently? You are not going mad with desire
young man, you are just mad. But to show that Hillary has a heart, I
have published your letter. If any woman answering to your description
calls, I will let you know. Promise.
by Harry Flashman
Looking after your investment
something costs very little, we tend to look after it the same
way. When we are looking at 50 baht items, they are easily
replaceable with loose change. The same does not go for cameras.
In fact, some of today’s cameras, even in the consumer range,
are no longer cheap. It is difficult to find any half-decent
camera less than 10,000 baht, and that is far too much money to
be needlessly throwing away. So here are some tips on how to
look after your photographic investments - investments that can
be quite big ticket items too.
To show you the money that can be involved in photography, my
favourite lens was a 40 mm Hasselblad wide angle, with a huge
bit of glass on the front, that would cost in Thailand today
over 200,000 baht. Worth looking after?
However, even humble point and shooters will benefit from being
looked after. Any camera will give you better and more reliable
service, and not let you down when you are about to take the one
shot that will make you millions of baht in the international
The first concept is to understand just what it is that will go
towards destroying your camera. Usually these are simply dust
and grit, moisture and condensation, battery acid and being
dropped. Looking after your investment is then a simple case of
countering the above factors.
Moisture and condensation are the easiest ones to counter, but
the dampness comes from more than just being caught out in the
rain. Thailand has a hot and humid environment. How many times
have you taken your camera outside from your air-conditioned
office and found you could not see through the viewfinder
because it had steamed up? That is condensation. The way round
this is to keep small sachets of silica gel in your camera bag,
or in the little “socks” you keep the lenses in. When the silica
gel changes colour you can pop them back in the micro-wave and
rejuvenate them very easily. Many bottles of tablets come with
perfect little sachets in the top of them.
There will also be times when you get caught in the rain, or you
may even want to get rain shots. The camera body is reasonably
waterproof, but you should carefully wipe the outside of the
case dry afterwards, and especially blow air around the lens
barrel and the lens mount.
Dust and grit is the ever present danger in the environment.
Ever had a small piece of grit in your eye? Often, I will wager.
Small particles such as that can be very bad for the lens
focusing and zooming mechanics too. If the camera back is
opened, while changing film for example, any airborne grit can
get into the shutter mechanism and damage it, or even just get
stuck on the spring loaded pressure plate that runs on the film.
This can leave a linear streak on the film, damaging every
negative in the series - and ruining your prized photographs.
There is really no secret here. Load and reload in the cleanest
environment you can, and carefully blow out the back of the
camera every time you open it up. Never brush bits away with
your fingers - your sweat is corrosive!
That leads us to the even more serious type of corrosion -
leakage from batteries. Just about every camera in the world
these days has a battery, even if it is just to drive the needle
on the light meter. Acid leakage (and even acid fumes) from a
battery can totally ruin a modern camera, getting into the
electronics so that it never works properly again. The answer
here is to discard the batteries every twelve months, even if
they seem to be fine, and if you are not going to be using the
camera for an extended period, then take the batteries out
Finally, keep your camera in a soft case that can absorb some
shocks. Not the silly leather or plastic thing it came in. If
you have not got one - then go out and buy one today. They are
very inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost of the
camera! Protect your investment!
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
Commodities have continued to be positive despite the
recent turmoil in the world’s markets. The real question is how long can
they continue to do this?
Quite naturally, people are concerned about what is happening in the US,
especially as the American consumer continues to cut back on spending.
However, the general consensus is that commodities will stay strong due to
continued development in Asia and large infrastructure projects all over the
This is not just in the short term but also the long one. This is because of
the urbanization of Asian economies such as India and China. Also, over the
last thirty years there has been a distinct lack of investment in much
needed infrastructure due to the cynicism of politicians building for today
to get re-elected and not tomorrow so people can benefit. This shows that
commodities are going to be as much needed in the West as they will be in
the East. Finally, there is the need for new investment in alternative
energy sources which will mean further use for commodities.
Our old friend Supply and Demand will be critical in the pricing of
commodities with the price of a particular commodity going up when it is
needed whilst others go down.
What is beyond doubt though is that the value of commodities in general will
continue to increase and any times of surplus and lower prices are not going
to last long.
What is beyond doubt is that China has a massive thirst for commodities and
this is not going away any time soon. It is having a positive spin off for
Africa, as growth rates are stronger there because of Chinese investment.
This, in turn, offers some interesting investment opportunities, if one has
the stomach for risk. Anyone thinking of this should only be thinking of the
very long term.
Many fund managers now agree that emerging markets are generally in great
shape and Asia can decouple from the west in the near future. I am not so
sure about this as a large percentage of the Asia population is still
bordering on the poverty line but, without doubt, the middle class in urban
areas is increasing by the day.
One fund manager working for Invesco thinks that inflation is down to cost
push, not demand pull, hence interest rates will not curb inflation. This
doom and gloom merchant (right up my street!) also reckons that global food
stocks are very low at the moment and doesn’t see that changing any time
soon. He is also predicting that interest rates are going to 1% in the US
and hence the dollar has further to fall.
As we have said before, unlike money, you can’t print gold. Even if
sub-prime were to be solved in the very short term, most people think this
will effect the price by USD100 - therefore, gold is going up because of
inflation, not just uncertainty. Also, gold bull markets usually last 10
years, the shortest before that has been 7 years. We are still a couple of
years short of that target. Another bullish factor for gold is that South
African mines are operating at 90% capacity and will probably do so until
2012. The IMF is holding a lot of gold, but the US is the largest voting
member of the IMF and they have never agreed to a gold sale. The gold
producers are now closing their hedges. What is interesting is that in terms
of gold holdings, the Gold ETFs are now the 7th largest central bank in the
So as to help those who are bullish on commodities, below is an analysis of
how we expect commodities to perform:
Base metals – In the short term the market will be flat due to a lesser
demand from the western world and a current large surplus. There may even be
falling prices. However, there continues to be a good, strong demand in the
Middle East and Asia for aluminium, copper, lead and tin so prices will rise
before the end of the year as the surplus is eroded and supply cannot cope
with demand. The aluminium market is currently very tight, but could get a
lot tighter if the Chinese start electricity rationing.
Steel and raw materials - General opinion is good for these as steel
manufacturing is predominantly in the control of the developing world. Also,
the de-stocking of steel in 2007 has left markets tight in North America and
Europe. In iron ore and coking coal, spot prices are up to 100% higher than
current contract prices, which are forecast to rise at least 50% for the
year beginning April 2008. Thermal coal prices have also gone up quickly as
rail and port traffic jams in Australia have disrupted supplies whilst
demand for coal in China remains particularly strong.
Energy - Prices now seem to have settled at high levels due to sustained
high demand. Supply, though, continues to disappoint, with non-OPEC
countries failing to deliver increases as forecast and OPEC itself reluctant
to increase output too rapidly.
Soft commodities - These have had an excellent run recently and look to get
stronger due to such things as biofuels and government regulation. As
agricultural land is in short supply due to the requirements of the energy
sector and so, crop rotation will be high and prices volatile. Brazil is a
great way to play the soft commodity theme, as the country is agriculturally
To conclude, commodity funds have evidently become popular again, with
USD100 billion of new funds bought to the market in the last couple of
months. Also, one should not forget that there is a 95% correlation between
the share prices and the commodities themselves and it is worth remembering
that if the Chinese were to increase their gold holding it would take away
three years of supply from the market. So, should commodities be part of
your portfolio – ABSOLUTELY!
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
First, sterilize the needle before inserting under the finger nails to avoid risk of infection…
A kind reader wrote to me after an article which was
headed “You may take the Thai out of Thailand but…” mentioning that my
attribution of its sentiment to the photographer Bruce Weber was not
accurate. Well, I had only said he made it ‘famous’. My correspondent said
he knew of its use in relation to the first World War after which he
produced, “You may take the boy off the farm but not the farm out of the
Most likely it precedes that too, and if I knew my Shakespeare better I’d
bet he said something along the same lines, since there seems nothing that
that the greatest writer ever to put quill to parchment has not said in one
form or another. Mentioning Shakespeare reminds me of the most arrogant
thing I have ever heard; his own gravestone epitaph devised by the once
highly revered writer - especially by himself - Theodore Dreiser. It was to
read, “Shakespeare, I come”, and no doubt did so in this case and the one
I’ll attribute though - at the risk of a further correction - the saying
“Hell is other people” to the writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
Certainly it stems from his play Huis Clos, which has its tiny cast confined
to a room and proving just that point. Since the fame of that play and its
resultant film, the remark has become everyday parlance, bandied about at
airports and elsewhere so that it has lost the impact, as has the remark
“Hell on Earth”. This sentiment was used recently on the poster for Rambo
IV, the Sly Stallone movie shot in Thailand and ‘dealing’ with the situation
in Burma. The film, which may still be playing in Chiang Mai, has John Rambo
being sought out by a group of American missionaries intent on taking
supplies, medicines and the ‘good book’ to the oppressed victims of the
Burmese junta. It reminded me of the mail I received- and mentioned in this
column - last autumn from that country where the writer said, ‘We are in
hell’. Then and there it seemed to have force and meaning. Not far from us
in Chiang Mai and yet a million miles away, it seems. Well, Stallone’s movie
never recovers from the use of actual footage of atrocities at the opening
of the film, since no recreated brutality could equal that and, to be
honest, it is just simplistic bang-bang heroics, although its heart is in
the right place and the message forcefully put. It serves to remind the
world that a group of people have, entirely for their own selfish ends,
ruled and terrorized and impoverished an entire nation for decades and have
done so with unspeakable brutality.
And yet we are told - and have had it reported in newspapers in Thailand and
throughout the rest of the world - that these generals and their thugs and
soldiers who deny human rights, condone rape and imprisonment and torture
are not as bad as they are painted. And this is because they meditate and
are Buddhists. Do they meditate within earshot of the gun fire and screams
of the victims in the cells or as they peruse the advice given to torturers
to make sure that needles are sterilized before use on their charges, to
avoid infection and risk of early death. It’s all right, we learn, to
inflict excruciating pain on a fellow human - just don’t kill them - yet.
President Bush seemingly thinks the same, since he has condoned the
continued use of waterboarding by the C. I. A. amongst other horrors. We are
assured that he is another devout man who prays daily. So that’s all right
as well, then.
I was reminded of the hypocrisy surrounding such excuses in a small and
wryly amusing way last week when a famous film writer, visiting Chiang Mai,
mentioned a Catholic friend who maintained that he eschewed bad thoughts and
committed no sins for at least 12 hours either side of confession since this
made him feel even more ‘pure’. Presumably his penance and the absolution
which followed were not quite enough. How easily some people let themselves
off the squalid hook they hang themselves on. Let’s hope that history and
the courts which will one day judge these monsters will be less lenient. Of
course one does not have to be complicit. I’m a great believer in the adage
that if you are not against something you must be for it. I wonder who first
A propos of which I went along to the peaceful demonstration outside the
Chinese Consulate last week, where opponents to the tragic events ins Tibet
and Burma met. Of course, such gestures have little effect, they are merely
an act of conscience. It needs big actions by important people to attract a
response. Last month Steven Spielberg resigned from his role as creative
director of the forthcoming Olympic Games. The actress Mia Farrow had goaded
him into this and she is working to ensure similar actions from others
involved. How good it would be to see the Prime Minister of Britain decline
his invitation to the games. He, like his predecessor Tony Blair, is a
regular church-goer but seems disinclined to let actions speak as loudly as
fine words. Too late now for the games to be boycotted I suppose. But at a
personal level that is easily done. No trips there or to Burma. No absolving
the leaders of those countries from blame, just because they meditate.
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
No Country for Old Men: US Crime/Drama/Thriller - Oscar 2008 Best
Picture, Best Directing, Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem), Best
Screenplay. Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon some dead
bodies, a stash of heroin, and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio
Grande. With Tommy Lee Jones. Rated R in the US for strong graphic violence
and some language. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Congratulations to the two movie venues for bringing this film to Chiang Mai
- I never expected to see it here. It’s a widely acclaimed picture, and the
craftsmanship is superb. The archfiend played by Bardem is the most
terrifying portrayal you’ll ever see.
However, having gotten that out of the way, I have to say I really didn’t
like the picture. I admire the skill with which it was made, but I found the
characters for the most part repulsive, and I simply don’t want to see so
much violence in my entertainment. It’s the Academy’s choice for “Best
Picture,” not mine. But this is a minority view, as the film is highly
Doomsday: UK Action/Sci-Fi - Authorities brutally quarantine a
country when a virus strikes. The consensus is it’s a pale imitation of
previous futuristic thrillers, minus the cohesive narrative and charismatic
leads. I say it’s repugnant, and utter trash. Rated R in the US for strong
bloody violence, language and some sexual content/nudity. Mixed or average
Baan Phee Perb : Thai Horror/Comedy - The usual.
Fool’s Gold: US Adventure/Comedy - US Adventure/Comedy - A modern-day
treasure hunter is obsessed with finding the legendary 18th century Queen’s
Dowry - 40 chests of priceless treasure, lost at sea in 1715. Has little
chemistry among the performers, humorless gags, and a predictable storyline.
Generally negative reviews.
Hormones / Pidtermyai Huajai Wawoon: Thai Comedy/Romance - A Thai
hit! And I like it! An endearing Teen-oriented Thai romance directed by
Songyos Sugmakanan, who made 2006’s excellent ghost/coming-of-age story,
Now I’ll reveal a secret about the movie: not in any of the advertising and
publicity, but very much in evidence in the film, is one of Japan’s best
known porn stars, Sora Aoi. Well, former porn star, now that she is
appearing in main-stream films. She definitely has curves in all of the
right places, and is quite a - how should I put it - vibrant personality.
She attempts to drive one boy’s affections away from his true love, in a
passionate encounter on the beach. Does he stay true to his love? See it to
Hormones has four interwoven stories, and at the moment my favorite has to
do with Joe, a nerd. He is hapless dealing with women, but he tries very
hard, and has decided to concentrate on the most popular girl in school.
He’s a scripter - he scripts out his life, writes out appropriate dialogues,
and has them posted around him for use as needed. He’s better at writing
than speaking, so that’s how he expresses his love - like with signs: a huge
sign at the school playground, or a whole pack of signs, like cue-cards,
which he shows to his girl one at a time, standing on her doorstep, while
she is wondering what is with this guy!
Shutter: US Horror - This is an American remake of the wildly
successful Thai chiller. This Shutter is a near replica in all respects, but
with an American cast, and filmed in Japan. Without a doubt a classic spook
story, with some real chills, but I think the Thai version is superior.
The Water Horse: US/UK Adventure/Fantasy/Family - I loved this film
about the mythical “water horse” of Scottish legend. Excellent portrayals by
the large cast, and especially the young boy. Excellent British
movie-making, with a lot of heart. See it! Preferably at Airport Plaza where
the projection and music systems can do it justice. Generally favorable
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,
so if you’re under 8 or 9 years old, take heed. Generally favorable reviews.
to open Apr. 3
Vantage Point: US Drama/Thriller - Eight strangers with eight
different points of view try to unlock the truth behind an assassination
attempt on the president of the United States. Critics say it’s exciting and
has an interesting premise, but fractured storytelling. Mixed or average
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
Today officially begins Clean Week #2 - last week we quit smoking. She quit
once. I quit three times: Tuesday till Friday night, Saturday morning till
last night and again today. We went to the allergy clinic when her skin
rashes became unbearable, after her neck turned red and inflamed when I
kissed it. The doctor said she’s allergic to either the polluted air in
Chiang Mai, to cigarette smoking or to me. I told him I wanted another
opinion. He said, “I think your breath is killing my office plant.” She
decided to keep me if we stopped smoking by taking the doctor’s advice and
medicines. We set a quit date and started popping expensive pills a week
before it while focusing on all the ugly, wicked, bad and nasty parts of the
disgusting habit. Doctor Allergy said to avoid friends that smoked, but we
couldn’t think of any. We’re the people we’re supposed to avoid.
a light? I hid these from the doctor but he took away my matches.
It’s rough to understand what the pills actually do, though they’re touted
to reduce the craving desire. The fine-print warning on the pamphlet lists a
raft of “common adverse reactions”: insomnia, hypersensitivity, rash,
anorexia, agitation, anxiety, depression, headache, tremor, dizziness, taste
disorders, concentration and visual disturbance, abdominal pain,
constipation, lack of energy, sweating and fever, which are the same adverse
reactions of smoking, minus the lung cancer and death. The insomnia is
formidable, stealing from us those peaceful, unconscious, smokeless hours
when we have no desire for, or capability of, lighting up. Would I rather
smoke until I’m dead or just stay awake until I kill myself? I lie sleepless
every night for hours, ruminating relentlessly: “Did I sleep yet? I don’t
know, did I? Wait! I think I just slept…but maybe not. Did I dream I smoked
or did I get up and smoke? Honey, will you please bring the sledge hammer to
the bed?” She quit taking the sleepless pills after a few days, just before
the black bags hanging under her eyes were resting on her shoulders.
Most of my life I didn’t smoke and hated cigarettes. I started as a junior
in college, but my mother said she’d quit if I’d quit, and if I didn’t, she
wouldn’t send me any more brownies. Luckily her mouth-watering delicacies
were way more addictive than stinky cancer sticks, so termination was
simple. I smoked again while traveling overseas for two reasons: 1) In 1972,
everyone smoked; 2) When you’re thumbing across Turkey and are picked up by
gypsies in a horse-drawn wagon, who, though dirt-poor, offer you a gesture
of friendship in the form of a grimy coffin nail, you either smoke it or
stab them in the heart. I smoked for a few months then quit for 28 years.
I’m not sure how something I hate crept back in at age 50, possibly because
of a personal midlife crisis, though I’d rather blame it on my neighbors,
well, the one neighbor who smoked…and on crazy Brit Paul who lived with me
for a month before leasing my house when I moved south. Fiercely intelligent
and equally as ridiculous, we’d party too hearty and daily smoke scads of,
as he called them, “gaspers.” One night I came home to find him in the
backyard, smoking and meticulously burning his “flaming car accident victim
costume” for a Guy Fawkes Party. I shout, “How worried should I be that my
future renter is using my expensive set of barbeque utensils to roast his
clothing on my Weber grill?!” He says, “Oh! They’re not my clothes. They’re
yours.” (Cheeky Limey stole them from my Salvation Army donation bag.)
Why stay with that something you hate? The only marginally positive reason
for smoking is the companionship with other druggies, like singing the blues
with your buddies while everybody drinks themselves to death. It’s the
destructive, abusive relationship you can’t leave. Let’s call her Anita
Drag. You’re sick of her; she beats you up; she’s even illegal in public
places, but you still want her all the time. You have to take her everywhere
even though she smells revolting and your friends hate her. She tarnishes
your image and your teeth, but you can’t stop sucking her butt, you pathetic
Dr Allergy also suggested we tell everyone we’ve quit so they’ll give us
support. This column informs all citizens of Chiang Mai in hopes that I’ll
get accolades and encouragement on the streets, but mainly so I absolutely
cannot start again, because anyone that sees me will know I’m a spineless
addict, stuck on Anita Drag, still kissing ash.
Doc English The Language Doctor: Many theories on the subject of ‘Language Acquisition’
A few parents have asked me ‘What is the
best time for my child to start learning English’? This is an interesting
and perplexing question. Obviously we want our children to start learning
English early enough for them to become proficient, but if they are learning
two or more languages at the same time, won’t they become confused? I’ll
discuss the various theories on the subject of ‘Language Acquisition’ as
best I can, so that you can make your own mind up.
Language Acquisition is the process by which we learn a first (or second)
language. Normally most of us learn our first language when we are babies
and our second language when we are older, perhaps at Primary school or even
later when we are adults. Some people seem to be better at learning a second
language than others (I place myself in the ‘others’ category).
Most theorists on the subject of language acquisition are generally divided
between two ‘camps’. The first camp believes that children are born with an
innate ability to learn new languages (the ‘Nativist’, or ‘native’
theorists). The other ‘camp’ of theorists believes that we are not born with
the skills to speak a language. This second camp believes that languages are
something we learn from our peers and language skills are passed on from
generation to generation (the ‘Nurture’ theory). There are also a
substantial number of theorists who believe that both camps are right and
both theories on language acquisition are true. In addition, there exist a
great number of theorists who probably don’t give a hoot and wish everyone
else would stop arguing and get on with solving the problem.
If you go with the ‘Nature’ theory, then it seems everyone has an ability to
learn a language from birth, no different from birds learning to sing, or
dogs learning to bark, even if they are born and left in isolation from
birth. However, some case studies have proved that children who have been
denied opportunities to talk at a very early age (perhaps through neglect or
isolation) often never reach full fluency in their first language, let alone
Many theorists believe that there is a ‘Critical Period’ for learning a new
language and that this period ends at age 12. It does seem to me that
although I think it’s possible to learn a second language at a later age,
younger children have more success learning languages than adults. Children
who learn a second language at an early age seem to be better at speaking
without a trace of an accent! Despite the theories, however, there is no
excuse for not trying to learn a second language well into adulthood.
So why are kids better than learning languages than us adults? There are
several reasons for this. The first is that they are less inhibited. Younger
children are generally pretty confident and they don’t get embarrassed when
they make little mistakes speaking. Generally we find this ‘cute’ and we
provide them with lots of encouragement and opportunities to use their
language skills, such as playing games with them, singing songs, asking and
answering questions, etc.
As our children grow older, they become more aware of the world around them,
more self-conscious and shy about making mistakes and sadly we are perhaps
less forgiving of their mistakes too. Their little language errors are no
longer considered ‘cute’ and may be so swiftly and brutally corrected by the
teacher that it’s not uncommon for older children entering a second language
situation to enter a ‘silent world’ and cease talking altogether, rather
than put up with criticism from their teachers and peers.
As children grow up, the school curriculum changes too. Whilst younger
children have plenty of opportunities to play and talk in the classroom,
older children must spend long periods reading, writing and listening to the
teacher. Speaking opportunities and opportunities for discussion may be less
common (except in an ESL or EFL classroom of course) and children may choose
to make friends only with children who share their native language.
Anyway, for the reasons I have mentioned (and more besides), generally I
would say that the earlier your child can start learning a second language,
the better. Generally your child won’t become confused between the two
languages, as long as you provide equal practice in each language and you
don’t over-do it! Most theorists agree that parents play an important part
in children’s language acquisition. Children need an extraordinary amount of
language ‘input’ when they are young. They also need a great deal of
practice using the language in a nurturing environment where they are not
criticised, but allowed to experiment with the language (perhaps using
‘Tinglish’ (Thai/English) to start off with and then gradually evolving two
distinct, parallel languages).
If you are thinking of enrolling your child at a bilingual or international
school or kindergarten, ask about the opportunities your child will have to
speak, listen to, read and write the language. Look around the school, talk
to the staff and students and observe a lesson or two. Will the school
provide the ‘nurturing’ environment your child will need? What special
provisions and support does the school provide for new students? Whatever
age you decide to start your child learning a second language, you want your
child to be supported and to see the process of learning a language as an
enjoyable one and a positive experience.
That’s all for this week mums and dads. As always, if you have any
questions, suggestions or complaints, you can mail me at: docen
[email protected] Enjoy spending time with your kids.
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?:
Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao
Gossamer thin angel wings - Tough as old boots!
may have noticed, outside Thai houses, delicate tissue thin leaves in
wonderful unleaflike colours being carefully nurtured in pots, watered daily
and making a glorious display in pink, white, red, black-veined, or blotched
colours - any colour seems possible as long as it’s not the normal green of
leaves in general. These are Caladiums and you would be forgiven for
thinking that they are rare, expensive and in need of painstaking care and
attention; especially when you notice that each leaf has been individually
staked with a stick and carefully wired. Well, if you want to lavish this
sort of attention on these plants - go ahead - it will have its rewards,
particularly if you want to enter your specimen plant into competitions at
flower shows and win prizes! However, you don’t have to go to those lengths,
as these plants are very difficult to kill and will, surprisingly, grow in
full sun without scorching. If left without watering during the dry season,
they will die down to their underground corms and merrily re-emerge when the
rains come! What a lovely surprise to look forward to each year - but don’t
forget where you planted them and dig them up by mistake! If you have a
collector’s mentality, these plants are great, as they display an infinite
variety of forms. It’s great fun to choose your favourites, but it’s a
gamble too, as the small young leaves display camouflage colours to protect
them during their juvenile stage and look completely different in their
adult foliage! With their clearer colours and sometimes strong veining, they
seem to be shouting “Here I am in all my glory - come and find my arum -
like flowers and pollinate me!” Grown from meristems, there are
exceptionally good named varieties and the adult form can be looked up. If
grown from seed it’s rather like gambling on the lottery as you may have
picked a new prize winner! Even if you didn’t, there’s no way you can be
disappointed as all your plants will be beautiful and sometimes quite
Tip of the Week
When using a clay pot, place a broken piece of pot, (crock) over the
hole in the bottom, as this will prevent the roots and soil from
blocking the hole and causing water logging. Free drainage is
essential for most plants to allow the roots to breathe air - if
they can’t do this they will drown and die!
We love our computer, let’s keep it clean
Let’s be honest, we are the laziest when it comes to
computer maintenance. We know how to copy, download, transfer and install
files and programs on our computer so much that it half turns into a box of
junk. When the computer is overloaded with unwanted or never-used files, the
question is, “Who’s going to clean that up?” Of course not the computer!
Keeping your computer clean is the first step to making it run faster. A
computer can only run smoothly if we maintain and do clean-ups regularly.
There are a big bunch of files sitting in your computer that were
temporarily generated, copied or downloaded onto your computer, especially
when you surf online. These files help in loading visited web pages or
opened program files faster. After a few days, most of them do not have much
use and can be removed from your computer safely to re-gain free space.
Here’s the simplest way to get rid of that old junk on your computer. Trust
me; it’s really quick and easy. Many of you may already know this, but let’s
face it, when was the last time you did a disk cleanup?
1) Go to Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools and open the Disk
Cleanup utility program.
2) You will be prompted to “Select Drive” for clean up. Being the most
crucial one, let’s start our clean up with C Drive. Select the drive from
the list and click OK.
3) The program will scan and analyze “junk” files which can be removed from
your computer to clean up space. This can take awhile depending on the
temporary files on your computer.
4) Once the scanning is done, you will get a list of file types that can be
deleted. By default, some of them will already be selected. Apart from
those, you might want to select “Recycle Bin” as well, if you decide to
clean up that too. Another one you should choose to clean up is “Temporary
Files”. Click OK and when you are asked to confirm the clean up, click
5) The cleanup utility will take awhile to do the work for you.
6) Repeat the steps if you want to clean up other drives as well.
Told you it was easy! Make this a regular practice, at least once a week and
you will stop thinking about buying a new computer.
Just for Geeks
InternetWorldStats.com, about 20% of the world’s population is using
the internet today. While the world’s population is 6,606,971,659*,
there are currently 1,319,872,109* internet users around the world.
* Estimated values
The answer to last week’s Just For Geeks – Answer and
Win! question “What does “http”, “www” and “com” stand for in
a web address?” is:
http stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol.
www stands for World Wide Web (of course!)
com stands for commercial.
Wasn’t that easy? Once again we had a lot of entries coming in. The lucky
winners to take away Apacer 1GB USB Flash Drive each are Pete Eades
and Russ Blohn. Congratulations!
Till next week … Tata ;-)
An American Redneck in
Chiang Mai: by Michael LaRocca
Redneck on a bicycle
In our last less than thrilling episode, I was following a group of
neon-clad hard-core bicyclists to an unknown destination, unable to speak
Thai and one of the few farangs in a group of over 50. We were going north,
north, and north some more. Ignorance is bliss, so I must have been
ecstatic. I eventually found the other 50+ riders at Rajabhat Agricultural
University. We did a bit of climbing. Beside me, one Thai yelled “gear one,
one, one, one, one.”
There was a rest stop at the top of this paved road, where I found many
Thais lying on the ground. “Sleep!” one guy yelled. But then, on the dirt
path, our leader yelled “Go go go go go!” I jumped on my bike and “goed”.
This was a mountain path. Thick fine sand with tiny pebbles. Up and down
hills and mountains. Some tough riding that almost killed me.
Note to self: Get bicycle fixed because the lower 18 gears will be useful on
the next mountain. Actual near-death thought: At least it’s not raining.
Eventually, after sitting down and letting the dizzy spells pass, I caught
up to the group again. I’ve been told that getting lost, and using cell
phones to find each other again, is a feature of every long ride, and again
part of the fun.
“I see a bunch of trees. They’re green. And some grass. What do you see?”
We rested in a beautiful area. Lots of flowers and stuff. Benches. So quiet
and relaxing. Asked six people for directions and got six different answers.
Found a scale model of the campus and took digital photos of it. Took a
“victory photo” of our little band of five while I wondered just how far
behind us the rest of the pack was. Finally, one of our scouts returned and
told us the way home. And he’s a stronger man than I am. Without that rest,
I might not have made it. Oh, and be sure to take enough water. I restocked
at the workers’ cooler. Many riders offered to share, but I’d feel guilty.
Better to steal from the equally generous workers when they’re not looking,
because I’m so silly.
Back on the paved road, which we’d been sitting only 10 minutes away from, I
saw a sign that said Chiang Mai 26, Mae Rim 10. As our band of eight
wandered on home, I wondered “Are we really 10 km past Mae Rim? How’d I miss
that?” The answers are “yes” and “I don’t know.” Eventually, I motioned the
last of the leaders on by. I was no longer gasping for air, but I wasn’t a
ball of energy either. “Y’all go on ahead, I’ll live.”
In Mae Rim, when I stopped for more water, I was passed (again) by the
tandem bicycle. Big smile and wave. Wait a minute. There’s no way that
bicycle handled the mountain roads. I think they sat at the rest stop until
we left, then followed us. Note from the future: The guy is now my bike
mechanic, so maybe I shouldn’t write that about him. Elvis would kill for
Later, I was passed by a truck with six bicycles in the back, and six
neon-clad riders waving at me. Still later, a familiar guy waved at me from
a songtaew stop up ahead. Two more of us, parked. “Me. Tired. Too tired.” I
smiled, waved, coughed up a little blood, and resumed my ride.
Just kidding about the blood. This leaves at least 30 riders unaccounted
for. As slow as I was riding, surely someone would’ve passed me. Dogs, cats,
granny bikes, small children on foot. Instead, I assume those other riders
haven’t been to the mountaintop.
Ten hours after leaving home, I returned, exhausted, dehydrated, in pure
agony. My neck was redder than ever, I was still gasping for some oxygen,
and Picasso squinted at my stench.
We ride again Sunday ! http://www.cmcycling.org/