The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Are you ready for your Coronary Conclusion?
Those who are avid health (or
sickness) watchers will know I really mean “Coronary Occlusion”, but it was
too much temptation to use Mrs. Malaprop and end up with “Coronary
Conclusion”. Because quite simply, that is what it can turn out to be - your
The sad part of all this doom and gloom is that nine times out of ten you
can actually avoid the Coronary Occlusion, the fancy name for the condition
also known as a “heart attack”.
Before launching into the real factors in the situation, a little
understanding of what constitutes a heart attack is in order. I think
everyone understands that you have both red blood cells and white blood
cells. The function of the red ones is simply to carry oxygen to the
tissues, so that the tissues can survive. The heart muscle is no exception
to this rule. This hollow muscular pump needs oxygen just like all the other
organs you keep inside you - spleen, kidneys, lungs, bowel and so forth.
Take my tip - keep them inside you if you possibly can!
However, the inside lining of the heart (muscle) is smooth and impermeable
to the oxygen tied to the red cells. In other words, the heart does not get
its nutrition from the blood it pumps through it. In fact, the blood supply
to the heart is through some specialized arteries called the “Coronary”
arteries. These run along the outer surface of the heart muscle and then
split up into smaller tributaries which dip into the heart muscle to supply
it with oxygen.
Now if we are to consider that the heart muscle is probably the most
important muscle in the human body (well, physiologically it outranks the
other much more highly publicized muscle in males!) then it becomes
important that this heart muscle gets a good supply of blood. And the
quickest way that the supply can get altered is by blocking off the coronary
arteries. This is most usually done via a slow process by which a small
obstruction in the artery slowly gets bigger and bigger until eventually it
blocks off totally and the heart muscle “starves” of oxygen and that section
of the heart muscle, supplied by that artery, just dies. We have a name for
that death of heart muscle too, and it is called a “myocardial infarction”.
This event of blocking is called a Coronary Occlusion, which may end up as a
coronary conclusion if the section of dead muscle is large enough! The
actual death of the muscle resulting in this myocardial infarction is often
shortened to the simple M.I. (the heart muscle is called the myocardium).
But of course, the simpler name is ‘Heart Attack’.
In short, cardiac health is mainly involved in keeping the coronary arteries
clean and clear. This is where our old friend Cholesterol comes in. You see,
the deposits inside the artery are generally made up of this chemical and
other blood fats. This makes a “sticky” patch in the artery and some blood
cells get stuck there. This causes a clot to form and you have all the
precursors needed to block the artery, with the occlusion leading to the
infarction, and to your family claiming early on your life insurance policy.
To be able to keep your arteries clear you need to have nice low
cholesterol, which can be done by diet plus medication if required. But
first you need to know what your cholesterol level is. This requires a blood
test, which can be done at your favorite hospital.
The most likely candidates for a heart attack are overweight, hypertensive
smokers, with high cholesterol. If this is you, do something about it today.
Well, perhaps that’s being a little bit too melodramatic, but you are
certainly one of the cardiac high risk people in the population.
As I wrote at the start of this article, whether or not you have a coronary
conclusion can be under your control. Stop smoking, lose weight, keep your
blood pressure in the normal range and keep the cholesterol low.
You can drive your own destiny. Start today.
Heart to Heart
After saving for three years, I have been on an extended holiday here in
Thailand for the past six weeks and will be going back to Blighty in two
weeks time. I have had a delightful guide and non-complaining companion
who I found I in a bar who has been with me for all that time, and I
have looked after her well in return including a weekly allowance of
15,000 baht for her to spend on anything she wants. I would like to give
her something when I leave for her to remember me by, and want you to
suggest something that she will like. Please keep the suggestions within
a reasonable budget. I am not a Cheap Charlie but it is the end of my
What do you really expect me to say, my Petal? Why not buy her a house,
a motorcycle and a year’s free veterinary bills for the family buffalo?
You’ll be able to get all that for under five million. And since you
don’t want to appear as a Cheap Charlie, throw in a house for Mumma and
Papa as well. That’s another 800,000 baht as houses are cheap
up-country. Chris, come down from the clouds, you have had the services
of what we call a ‘mia chow’ (rented wife) for the past six weeks, for
which you have already paid 60,000 baht a month which is well above the
going market price. She will remember you by whatever you have bought
her until it has been converted into folding currency (“He was the nice
farang man who bought me this gold chain which I am now taking to the
pawn shop”). Enjoy what is left of your holiday and spend your money on
My wife always forgets when her visa runs out and it always ends up with
me having to pay for her overstays. I even said I would handle it if she
wanted (we have a secretary in the office who handles all this stuff),
so that this did not happen all the time, but she asserts her
independence all the time and calls it interfering if I say I’ll take
charge of it. This has happened more than just a couple of times too. If
she would only get her visa in line with mine, it would be so much
easier. I am getting a bit tired of it. How do I make her see some
sense? I don’t want to run her life, she is perfectly capable of doing
that herself. I just don’t like unnecessary hassles.
Dear Vic the visa,
You have a problem that will even be difficult for Hillary to fix, but
as always I am ready for the challenge. You don’t say whether your wife
is from the West, but I’ll guess that she is. I believe independent
western women should be given their independence, so why are you paying
for her overstays? With independence comes the responsibility for your
own actions, but she is making you responsible for her actions. This is
not independence at all. This is subjugation. She doesn’t want
independence, she wants to be the boss. Vic, you have to put your foot
down, give her all the independence that she wants, with everything that
goes with it. If you are lucky, she will amass such a huge bill from her
overstays that she will be deported. Don’t pay for the return ticket
either. Some people learn the hard way.
You may think this is silly, but I’m from America and I am not used to
going into a bar to be propositioned. I don’t want to have someone ask
me where I come from. It is my business only if I am married. I don’t
want people to know how much money I make. How many children I have is
my affair. Why doesn’t someone tell these girls in the bars that not
everyone wants to tell them personal details? All I want is a quiet
What are you worried about? Is there some dark secret you are hiding
from us all? A skeleton in the closet? Are you on the run from the DEA?
Has the CIA got a file on you? Has your ex-wife been employing private
investigators to find you to slap the alimony claim on you? Or worse,
has the IRS found out about your fraudulent claims for 2005/6? My next
question is why are you drinking in beer bars? These girls aren’t from
the CIA or the IRS, they are just doing their job as drinking companions
as well as they can and you’re lucky they can converse as much as they
can. If you don’t want the girls to talk to you then don’t drink in beer
bars. It is like going to a rock concert and complaining they’re not
playing Mozart. It’s the old horses for courses thing, Petal. If you
just want a quiet beer, you can buy a bottle of beer from the
supermarket and sit alone in your room or restrict your drinking to the
more up-market watering holes!
by Harry Flashman
The Golden Glow
you know the one factor that stands out in professional glamour
shots? It is what I call the ‘Golden Glow’. That is what
emanates from those wonderful photographs of people positively
‘glowing’ with health and vitality and have you ever wondered
whether people actually look like that? Sickeningly brimming
full of goodness, and golden hues just radiating from their
every pore. Well, I am sorry to tell you, but like so many
things in photography, it is a fraud! A photographic ‘trick’ but
one that you can use to your own advantage. A trick that will
cost you about 100 baht for the equipment and three minutes to
However, all photographic tricks still have to conform to the
basic rules of physics, in particular the rules of light. Light
travels in straight lines and will bounce off any
non-translucent object. And that, quite simply, is the
scientific basis to this trick.
The ‘golden glow’ that comes from the subject in the photo is
really just reflected golden light, bounced back on to the
subject. People shots benefit from this warm healthy look and
when you use the technique properly, and the results can be
Now in the photographic sense, the natural golden glow comes in
the late afternoon, with the sun getting low on the horizon.
There are good scientific reasons why this is so, but here is
not the place to discuss them. Just accept the fact that late
afternoon sun is the “warm” time. Take pictures at this time of
day and you will get that golden glow - but our photographic
trick will allow you to get that warm golden glow at any time of
day - and control it as well, something you cannot do so easily
with the sun as your light source! The celestial light
technician can hide behind clouds at any time.
What you have to do is build a light reflector that reflects
that warm color. Go to the newsagent and get some gold foil
paper. The sort of wrapping paper you use for wedding gifts. It
may be embossed or patterned, and in fact it is better if it is,
but must be gold in color. Glue the gold paper on to a sheet of
cardboard or polystyrene sheet approximately one meter square.
You do not have to be deathly accurate or neat. If the surface
gets a little ‘scrunched up’ that is fine too. Your capital
outlay is probably around 50-100 baht. Not bad, so far!
Now you have a reflector, which if you play with it near a
window for example, will shine “gold” on to any subject. You are
now ready to impart that golden glow.
The best photos for this exercise are people shots taken
outdoors, with the sun behind the subject. This we call ‘back
lit’. You will find that the subject’s hair becomes very bright
around the edges, almost like a ‘halo’ effect.
Now for the addition of the golden glow. To do this, you
position your reflector to shine some sunlight back towards the
subject (that is why the sun should be behind the subject). Prop
the reflector in the best position to give the degree of golden
glow you want (I generally just prop it up with the camera bag,
or you can get an assistant to hold it for you) and look through
the viewfinder. See what a difference this makes? The ugly chin
shadow has gone as the light is coming upwards, and the subject
now looks brilliantly glowing and healthy. The one meter square
reflector will also impart catch lights to eyes to make them
sparkle as well. The end photo has shiny hair, bright eyes and a
golden complexion radiating warmth. A fabulous picture.
Now, the downside! It is more difficult to get the correct
exposure setting in the backlit situation. If your camera has a
Backlight button, then use it. If not, walk in close to the
subject so that the persons face fills the frame, and take your
exposure reading from there. Use the exposure lock, or just
memorize the readings and put them in on manual mode. It is
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
More on Commodities - part 1
In late March, we discussed why commodities need to be
part of a portfolio. Given the fact that the financial world continues to be
in turmoil and there are agriculture shortages, the need to explore
alternative energy sources, changing food demand and a growing water supply
crisis ... there are good reasons why you should be looking to buy into this
sector! Global food stocks are very low at the moment and there is no reason
to believe that this will change any time soon.
It would be quite difficult not to have some awareness ... in one issue of
Hong Kong’s ‘South China Morning Post’ on Monday February 25, 2008, six
different articles outlined why these areas collectively represent the most
topical growth sector with excellent potential returns over the next few
1. Drinking water crisis in Northern China, despite huge snowstorms and
disrupted weather patterns over Greater China in recent weeks.
2. Record spiking price increases for wheat.
3. Sugar gets sweeter as commodities gain preference ... grains have lagged
other commodities in recent years.
4. Alternative energy in China ... plans to increase solar energy
electricity output four-fold within 2 years.
5. Indian farmers courted by politicians ahead of elections … “Thousands of
villages still lack roads and access to medical care, schools, clean water
6. Subsidies benefit farmers and boost rural consumption ... ongoing and
increasing demand for commodities at 8 different phases...
People also forget the knock-on effect of all this. For instance, let’s just
take China as an example; there are tax breaks to improve the standard of
living for Chinese farmers. These farmers are producing grains and livestock
to feed China, one fifth of the world’s population. By having a more
disposable income to spend on living standard changes such as improving diet
and housing, farmers are providing extra employment both directly on the
farm and, indirectly, others by purchasing new goods, e.g. a fridge. This
then gives further and expanding employment for the people manufacturing the
(presumably Chinese) fridge. More fridges means more commodities used in the
manufacturing of the fridge. More fridges means the demand for electricity
goes up to run the fridge. This, in turn, then means that therefore more
fuel and ultimately, alternative fuels, will also be needed.
The cycle goes on as fridges enable people to store more food of a higher
quality, thus enabling changes in global food consumption. This means new
soft commodities with potential high earnings coming on to the market. And
so on and so on. Basically, China is recognising its position as an emerging
economy, one likely to become the next driving force behind global
economics. Many people are seeing this. Although soft commodities may appear
to be a crowded trade in the short term, the longer term story remains
These are interesting times. Let’s look further afield, if soft commodities
continue to do well then one must look at Brazil as it is a great way to
play the soft commodity theme, as the country is agriculturally rich.
Also, as discussed earlier, 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.
So, Africa in turn offers some interesting investment opportunities.
It is generally thought that the Emerging Markets are generally in great
shape and many fund managers feel that Asia can decouple from the West. BUT
inflation is a worry, with emerging market managers, gold fund managers and
commodity managers believing that the inflation genie is out the bottle
already. Despite the fact that platinum and gold have been having a rough
ride of late almost everyone agrees that the long term trend is still
Inflation is the key. Some fund managers believe that we are in a state of
cost-push as opposed to demand-pull so lower interest rates will not curb
inflation. They think that interest rates in America could go down to as low
as 1.00% which means the US dollar has further to fall. Unlike money, which
the US has been printing like mad recently, you cannot print platinum or
gold. Also, gold bull markets usually last 10 years so we have some time to
The facts for commodities go on. South African mines are operating at 90%
capacity and will probably do so until 2012. The IMF holds a lot of gold,
but the US is the largest voting member of the IMF and they have never
agreed to a gold sale. Gold producers are now closing their hedges. Now it
really gets interesting, in terms of gold holdings, the gold ETFs are now
the 7th largest ‘central bank’ in the world.
With regards to platinum, it is even worse (or better depending on which way
you look at it). The market was tight before the power outages in South
Africa, now it is just mad. Couple this with the knowledge that jewellery
demand has still not fallen for platinum and so fund managers reckon that
this precious metal may well reach USD3,000 by the end of the year.
To be continued…
The above data and research was compiled from
sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd
nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in
the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as
a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading
the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on
Life in Chiang Mai:
by Mark Whitman
“Do nothing ‘till you
hear from me…”
A few weeks ago in one of the national papers there was a
strip cartoon showing an elderly lady seated on a sofa with a young boy.
She’s bemoaning that fact that people don’t communicate anymore, never write
letters and don’t talk much. Soon computers and text messages will rule the
world. The boy replies that the way the world is going, it will probably
have ended before that happens. She replies, ‘You’re such an optimist’.
I thought of one of the ‘messages’ implicit in this when a couple of people
chided me for not including contact details other than websites when writing
about two dog charities recently. Not everyone wants a computer! So you may
get in touch with Care for Dogs (www.carefordogs.org) by telephone on 086
913 870 or 081 907 73260 or call there at 12 Moo 11, Wiang Dong, Nam Prae,
Hang Dong. For Lanna Dog Rescue, which also helps cats, (www. lannadog.net)
you can ‘phone on 086 192 6311 or 053 212 810 or contact them at 6/9 Huay
Kaew Road, Soi 3, Chiang Mai. They both need donations, volunteers and most
importantly welcoming homes for their dogs, who are neutered, vaccinated and
brought back to health before they are rehoused.
Also harking back to an earlier column I mentioned a writer whose chosen
epitaph was Shakespeare, I Come! He was not the only one with delusions of
grandeur. The poet Gertrude Stein once asked a friend (Jacques Lipchitz).
“Besides Shakespeare and me, who do you think there is?” Not that one minds
people with inflated egos if they have talent and for actors at least that
goes with the territory, but a sense of humor helps relieve the arrogance.
I prefer W.C. Fields’ epitaph. The actor suggested for his gravestone, ‘I’d
rather be here than in Philadelphia’. And the great playwright Eugene
O’Neill asked for ‘There is something to be said for being dead’. Another
poet, Langston Hughes wrote his own epitaph and for his ‘exit’ music asked
for the jazz standard, ‘Do nothing ‘till you hear from me’. He may have
inspired a writer friend of mine, David Shipman, who opted for Fred Astaire
singing, ‘Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again’.
Yes, a sense of humor helps and as James Thurber, (no doubt among many
others), remarked, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry
alone’. Certainly most Thais I know subscribe to that.
At the risk of recalling another point made here, a word - no a plea - in
respect of Chiang Mai’s current face lift. The Mail and this column has been
supportive of the clean up campaign and the efforts of the Mayor and others
to improve the city’s infrastructure and cleanliness. With the pavements
around the moat and the water itself greatly improved would it be too much
to ask for a blitz on the sidewalks which most of us actually use. And use
it must be said in fear of injury - or worse, thanks to some motor-cyclists
who use them also! How about a start on the length of Huay Kaew Road which
is a busy street with shops, schools, the CMU, restaurants, offices, condos
and hotels throughout its length? There are pot holes, broken trees, broken
paving stones and numerous ugly and dangerous hazards from one end to the
other. Look after the tourist areas by all means but don’t forget the people
who live here.
I don’t know how many words will be in this piece. I start and eventually
end my ramblings. A few hundred I guess. None of them important in
themselves of course, since it is only by juxtaposition that words, filmed
images, individual notes, colors on a canvas become remotely significant.
Like people? No man entire unto himself and all that. Well it occurs to me
that by the end of the forthcoming Songkran Festival a similar number of
people, mainly Thais and a few farangs, to the words here will have died,
mainly as the result of careless and selfish behavior. They may not see
themselves as important but in relation to others they are. They will leave
behind friends, family, fellow students and misery, loneliness and poverty.
How much longer will the casual driving tests, lack of enforcement of safety
regulations and tolerance of lethal actions be tolerated? Sorry guys, a few
road blocks to catch youngsters without helmets is fine as far as it goes,
but is not nearly enough.
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Vantage Point: US Drama/Thriller - Eight different views of an
assassination attempt. I find it amazing how they can take such a
fascinating idea and muck it up so badly - in script, acting, direction!
Turns into a really mindless car chase. Mixed or average reviews.
No Country for Old Men: US Crime/Drama/Thriller - Seeing this yet
again only reinforces my viewpoint that it’s simply too violent and mindless
for its own good. Beautifully done, yes, with outstanding performances and
intense and well-controlled direction. Javier Bardem is a nightmare come
true, and one of the most frightening screen portrayals I’ve ever seen. But
it’s way too violent for me, and I don’t get the point. Especially the point
of the story that’s told at the very end of the film, supposedly wrapping up
the film’s message.
I’d prohibit the film from being shown if I could. Too many kids are going
to think Javier Bardem too cool for words, and try to emulate the neat way
he kills people.
This is the 2008 Academy Award’s Best Picture, Best Directing, Best
Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem), and Best Screenplay. A hunter stumbles
upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin, and more than $2 million in cash
near the Rio Grande, and makes the deadly mistake of deciding to keep the
money. With Tommy Lee Jones. Rated R in the US for strong graphic violence,
and some language. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Art of the Devil 3: Thai Horror - Torture porn. Stay away.
Dream Team: Thai Family/Comedy - Five-year-old boys compete in
Kindergarten tug-of-war championships.
Nak: Thai Animation/Family - Nak the ghost in a new incarnation:
helpful, this time around.
Doomsday: UK Action/Sci-Fi - Authorities quarantine a country as it
succumbs to fear and chaos when a virus strikes. The literal walling-off
works for three decades, until the virus violently resurfaces. An elite
group of specialists is urgently dispatched into the still quarantined
country to retrieve a cure by any means necessary. With Bob Hoskins, Adrian
Lester, and Malcolm McDowell. I think it’s repugnant, and utter trash. Rated
R in the US for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual
content/nudity. Mixed or average reviews.
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 40 chests of priceless treasure,
lost at sea in 1715. I think it’s pleasant in part, and has some very nice
scenery, but I found little of interest in the characters or their
interactions. Apparently, some people think Matthew McConaughey is really
sexy, but to me he looks like a beach bum badly in need of a shave, shower,
and haircut. Generally negative reviews.
Hormones / Pidtermyai Huajai Wawoon: Thai Comedy/Romance - A Thai
hit! The most popular film in Thailand again this last week, without doubt a
major Thai hit. And well deserved: it’s an endearing Teen-oriented Thai
Hormones has four interwoven stories, and you know what you’re in for with
the likes of a teen romance movie: tiny problems and minor heartbreaks
magnified to earth-shattering proportions. There’s a girl who’s head over
heels with a Taiwanese idol she’s only seen in movies; two boys whose
friendly rivalry spins out of control when they hit on the same girl; a
college student who secretly has a major crush on his female friend; and
another college boy who faces a test of loyalty when he meets his fantasy
girl when his steady girlfriend is away. If you like that sort of thing, you
will enjoy this very much.
The Water Horse: US/UK Adventure/Fantasy/Family - I really love this
fantasy film about the mythical “water horse” of Scottish legend. It’s not
just for kids - in fact, if I were I child I would be terrified by some
parts of it. And adults will be reminded of many things they are terrified
of, as well: 1) the abuse of children that seems to have been endemic in
England; 2) the usual criminal incompetence of military officers (especially
in Britain); 3) the blithe acceptance of the highly immoral British class
system; and 4) the acceptance as normal behavior man’s desire to shoot
things. Excellent portrayals by the large cast, and especially the kid. The
monster is exquisite, and finely realized. Breathtaking scenery of Scotland
(much of it filmed in New Zealand), and magnificently photographed. Has
solid drama to it, fine characterizations, excellent British movie-making,
with a lot of heart. See it! Generally favorable reviews.
Scheduled to open Apr. 10
Street Kings: US Crime/Thriller - With Keanu Reeves. A veteran
LAPD cop finds life difficult to navigate after the death of his wife. When
evidence implicates him in the execution of a fellow officer, he is forced
to go up against the cop culture he’s been a part of his entire career,
ultimately leading him to question the loyalties of everyone around him.
Best Supporting Actor Javier Bardem
Doc English The Language Doctor: Travel Games
Hello, welcome back. If (like me) you love
to travel around this glorious country, then you’ll need a few games to play
on the road. There are plenty to offer so I will showcase some here for you
today. They are copyright free, so go ahead, indulge yourselves … just don’t
get car sick.
Everyone loves the game of Bingo. Maybe it’s the thrill of shouting ‘Full
house!’, or getting one over on your friends. Whatever the reason, I have
never taught a student who did not enjoy playing Word Bingo, except when
they lost :(. Here’s how it works…
Road Trip Bingo encourages reading fluency and practices reading skills as
your child has to look out for and read and spell signs and notices along
your route. To play, first prepare a few cards containing grids like the
ones in graph 1 (normally containing 6-12 boxes, depending on your child’s
ability). Complete the grids with words your child is likely to encounter on
You could add in any words you like. Alternatively, if you have two or more
children, you could give them a blank piece of paper and encourage them to
write their own words. Afterwards they can swap grids with a partner and
challenge their siblings to find the words themselves.
Try also Car Bingo for two players. Try to spot the words in graphs 2 and 3
on the backs of cars and the person who crosses them off first is the
The Alphabet Game
The object of this game is to complete the
alphabet first. As you see the letters on sign posts and shops your child
says the letter and points. Once a letter has been claimed other players
cannot use the same letter.
Person Place or Thing?
One person states they are either a person, place
or thing and the others then ask questions (are you green, can you walk, are
you edible, etc) until they guess what the person is, then they are next.
Choose a Subject
The first person names a country (e.g. Vietnam),
and the second person names a country that starts with the last letter of
the previous word (e.g. Myanmar). The subject can be changed to celebrities,
animals, cities, birds, beasts and relatives…
Each person counts the number of Buffalos (or
chickens, cows, etc) passed on their side of the car. If they pass a Police
Stop they lose all their points (and/or a ‘donation’ to the man in the
peaked cap). The person with the highest points at the end of the trip is
Think of something under the category animal,
vegetable or mineral. Other players then ask questions - either ‘yes’ or
‘no’ - until they guess correctly.
Two facts and a lie
One person says three ‘facts’, e.g. “I haven’t eaten somtum for a month”, “I
came first in my English test”, “I brushed my teeth this morning”, and the
others decide which one is the lie.
Bored with English? Take a break and play a Maths
Game. For this game, each player looks for double numbers in license plates.
High doubles (99) score more points than low ones.
When you reach your destination and you are out
shopping at the supermarket, try challenging your child to find words
(either on products or on signs around the store) that start with the
letters of the alphabet shown in graph 4. (I’ve missed out the last letters
on purpose as it’s pretty hard these days to find a product that starts with
‘x’!). If they complete the board, don’t forget to give them a treat!
If you want more travel games to pass the time on those long journeys, try
‘Mom’s Mini Van’ web site for games and downloadable activities:
That’s all for this week mums and dads. As always, if you have any
questions, suggestions or jokes, you can mail me at: doceng
[email protected] Enjoy spending time with your kids.
Welcome to Chiang Mai:
by Tess Itura
Where to, what to, how to - why is it so difficult?
A major problem, particularly if incoming foreign residents, (or
“guests”, as we are charmingly referred to), do not have a Thai partner,
is the seemingly never ending “how to, where to, what’s on and where,
how much, how do I” question - or questions! So much that we took for
granted in our home countries relied on our ability to communicate,
probably without our even realising that this was so. Here, even with a
well practised talent for mime, we’re on our own, even more so than we
would have been in Europe or South America, both popular destinations
for retirees and other expats, because we can’t even read the darn
alphabet! This, of course, negates entirely the usual reaction of
looking a word or phrase up in a dictionary, or, at the very least,
makes that option a difficult and time consuming process. Road signs in
the city, fortunately, seem to be mainly written in English as well as
Thai, as do many restaurant menus, and the major supermarkets have
translations on their price tags, but residents’ requirements far
outstrip these, albeit helpful, innovations. Residents are not tourists,
and contribute significantly to the local economy, however difficult the
initial stages of this process may prove to be.
English language publications in the city are of use, but the main
complaint this writer hears is that interested parties are more likely
to find out about an event they would have liked to attend after it had
happened than before. Both this paper and the City Life magazine publish
lists of what’s on around town, but these tend to be aimed more to
either the big hotels’ promotions and events, (out of the financial
reach of many retirees, particularly since the fall of the dollar and
the rise of the baht), or well known monthly meetings. Admitting
prejudice, this writer considers that the CM Mail’s list is a great deal
more comprehensive and therefore useful, but, as with most publications,
space is limited, and much that could be included is not as a result.
Many of us have our own transport, and would be happy to travel to
surrounding areas or even provinces if an event was of interest. If,
that is, we’d had advance notification somewhere of its happening! Local
media, please take note!
It occurred whilst writing this to make a comparison with the position
of immigrants who enter our home countries. Although, particularly in
the UK, incomers are now being encouraged to learn the English language,
there is not such an immediate necessity, as most will choose to live in
already long established communities where shops and service providers
from their own nationality are ready to serve them in their own
language. Also, commercial organisations such as banks plus local
councils etc are beginning to provide suitable services for resident
minority groups which even extend to bi-lingual information. Which, you
may have noticed, does not happen here very often, if at all. The
difficulty of and expense of starting up any business here if you are
not of Thai nationality unfortunately precludes the above conveniences
from happening at present in Chiang Mai, although a good few farang
owned bars and restaurants seem to have found ways!
Bars, pubs, and restaurants are fine, and useful, but what happens when
the car breaks down or you need a plumber or electrician? That, of
course, is when it gets complicated as all you can rely on is a
recommendation from a friend. If you’ve only been here a few weeks, and
don’t know hardly anyone, this may be difficult to obtain.
The “Welcome to Chiang Mai” folder, on which this column is based, has
been hesitant in the past to recommend, except in a few cases, simply
because either purely personal experience or that of a few very trusted
and objective friends has been hard to come by. A website for the
“Welcome” folder is under construction; some recommendations will be
posted in the future, but here, as I’m sure most readers appreciate by
now, these things take time! The Chiang Mai Expats’ Club, it seems, has
been deficient in this as well, surely it would not have been beyond its
capabilities to put together a comprehensive list of suppliers,
craftsmen and service providers who are reliable, trustworthy, don’t
overcharge too much and who speak just a little English? Their sparse
list of “farang friendly merchants” and sponsors is just not enough.
What are Expats’ Clubs for if they don’t recognise this need and try to
provide a solution? Coffee morning style meetings are all well and good,
but a sense of the reality of living here should prevail.
Basically, it does seem that some kind of infrastructure is required to
support incomers, who usually intend long-term residence, and whose
numbers seem likely to increase as costs and other impacts on quality of
life in the West also increase. These incomers, of course, bring
financial benefits to the local economy, which is suffering here as it
is in the rest of the Kingdom. Tourists also bring some benefit, but
travel, like everything, is fashion-driven; what happens when the
tourist revenue decamps to another, more fashionable destination?
Local media, the Expats’ Club, and trustworthy local commercial
organisations, both Thai and farang, should all be involved in creating
a practical, free support structure for permanent residents. Provide a
good, reliable, honest service and advertise it - whether it’s concerned
with legal or financial matters or how to find a pair of size 14 shoes -
these rules are the same worldwide. Until this happens, if it ever does,
and this writer rather doubts that it will, there will be very little
sense of belonging or true integration of the two very diverse
communities in the city. It’s simple; when a section of the community
feels excluded, for whatever reason, it finds it difficult to feel “at
home”. Which is a shame.
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?:
Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao
Sherlock Holmes’ Meerschaum in climber form
This week’s suggestion is a group of climbers that have the most
fantastically shaped flowers whose tube strongly resembles the Dutch smoking
pipe known as a Meerschaum, much loved by, amongst others, Sherlock Holmes!
Whereas the pipe, when balancing on the lower jaw, is designed to hold the
maximum weight of tobacco along with the maximum length of pipe to cool the
smoke, the flower takes incoming insects on a long journey through a false,
foul smelling “intestine” to the inevitable source of pollination and
reward, trapping them before allowing their escape. Almost invariably, the
flowers are meat-coloured green and hairy with red-brown blotches, and
always provide a fascinating shape to observe and study. Sometimes one has
to search for the flowers amongst the foliage and they are often worth
growing for the leaves alone. However, a number of species are spectacularly
showy in flower and these are worth seeking out for the garden. Two species,
originally from Brazil, are particularly recommended - the first,
Aristolochia elegans, (aptly descriptive but more correctly known now as
littoralis), has neat oval brown spotted flowers approximately 3 inches
across hanging elegantly down from the vine in a most pleasing manner,
appearing reminiscent of the fabric calico, and thus explaining its common
name, the “calico flower”. The second, Aristolochia gigantea, has very large
brown flowers that hang down like limp pieces of cloth. The most showy
species, Aristolochia grandiflora comes from the Caribbean and features
flowers approximately 8 in diameter with an elegant twisted appendage
hanging down from the vine itself - ideal for viewing underneath an arch or
pergola. Remember, though, to give it plenty of headroom so that you can
walk underneath when it’s in flower. This flower, when in bud, illustrates
perfectly the reason for this genus’s botanic name, taken from the Greek
“aristos”, (best) and “locheia”, (childbirth). Its other, more ancient,
common name is birthwort, as it resembles the human birth canal. Ancient
apothecaries believed that the Gods sent such signs to indicate a plant’s
medical usage. It’s true that A. grandiflora does have a poison that
swallowtail butterflies use to make themselves unpalatable to predators by
eating the leaves - who knows, it may have may have a medical use for humans
too. At present it actually is being used in tumour research - let’s hope a
use can be found. The most popular Aristolochia in Thailand is the “rooster
flower”, Aristolochia labiata. Beloved of Thai children, this variety is the
easiest to find and has attractive blue-green leaves. All varieties are easy
to grow from seed or cuttings.
Tip of the Week
Don’t be greedy when taking cuttings as a small length will often
root quicker than a long cutting!
Living Life Online
It has been too long since we remember the time we created our first email
account, leave alone learning how to connect with a Dial-up connection.
Since then, we’ve come a long way. Today, the moment we sit at a computer,
there’s a least chance we’re not connected.
Thanks to the rapid growth in technology, the internet speed is becoming
closer to the speed of light day by day. With this effect, the line between
“offline” and “online” rapidly thins down, making the majority of our lives
Sure, everything is going online. Our childhood videos, our graduation
pictures, our personal diary, we’ve already posted them there. We explore
the entire planet’s surface from the same screen we check our emails. And
what about those essential tasks you do every day when you are offline?
Like Microsoft Word, Excel or Power Point, these basic applications that you
use every day in your offices or at home can be found in plenty online. And
most of them are free! Yes, it’s true. You have most features and
functionality just as you had it with those offline applications.
Additionally, we can share documents, photos, audios and videos with friends
to view and enjoy or collaborate with co-workers to edit and approve. This
wasn’t possible in offline mode. And Hey! Don’t forget, it’s free! No more
buying and installing those expensive softwares.
Another practical use of these online applications is that it is an
anytime-anywhere tool. Tired of carrying your laptops with your favourite
software when you travel? As long as you can find a nice cyber cafe, you
don’t need to worry about those softwares ever.
How does that sound? Here’s a list of online alternatives to your favourite
softwares you should fall in love with. Enjoy!
Just for Geeks
Bring family closer; build a family
tree, create timelines and share photos with Geni –
Does the word computer seem like “100110110” to you? Ask
Mr. Tech Savvy for help. Or if you’d like to impress the ladies with your
computer skills, suggest a tip and find it featured here next week!
Go ahead, send them to
Till next week… Tata ;-)
An American Redneck in
Chiang Mai: by Michael LaRocca
Surgery in Chiang Mai
I must have picked up some bad karma from my recent “Buddha With Muscles”
crack., because I’d just learned I was having throat surgery on Monday. I’d
been under the knife three times in my life, not counting stitches. Age 8,
tonsillectomy, ether. Age 25, inguinal hernia, and a better general
anesthetic. Age 26, vasectomy, local anesthetic. And now, age 43, throat
I’ve snored for years. Window rattlers back when I was slim and sober. Sleep
apnea where I quit breathing long enough to annoy Miss Picasso. Probably a
significant loss of “deep sleep” as a result because I kept waking myself
up, even though I’ve never been aware of it. Learning to function, and even
to excel, in what has essentially been a sleep deprivation experiment
lasting at least 20 years. The time had come to end it.
Doctor Google gave me three choices. Somnoplasty, 30 minutes of low
frequency radio waves, spend 4-6 weeks sneezing up bloody nasal tissue, live
happily ever after. Adenoid removal, several days of pain and discomfort,
some additional healing time, and then all is well. Valvuloplasty, surgery
under full anesthetic, preceded by fasting, followed by a breathing tube,
strapped to the bed so as not to remove the tube, pain and suffering,
hospital time, a liquid diet for a day or two.
I wanted Door Number One, ladies and gentlemen. I said so when I made the
appointment. Doc took one look, immediately said “strange” in English, and
proceeded to tell me my soft palate is a big flapping mess. Somnoplasty
would be a waste. Snip snip scrape scrape. Door Number 2 and 1/2, we’ll call
Thailand is a popular destination for “medical holidays” and the operation
was a complete success, but due to a slight communication problem you’ll
have to start calling me Michelle now. That wasn’t funny… As you work your
way up from the first floor to the tenth, English improves until you meet
the blood pressure checker who’s limited to asking how many times you peepee
and poopoo today. Those are the medical terms. And how many times did you
peepee today, dear reader? Did you count? She said “1 2 3 4?” while holding
up fingers. You don’t have enough fingers (and toes) to count my peepee. Or
is that more than you needed to know?
I wrote the rough draft of what you are reading with pen and paper, with
catheter in the back of my right hand. Excuse me while I rest. Zzz…
zzz...Okay. I’m back. Before you ask, I have not yet received any
medication. Not even a beer. Surgery is 12 hours away, at 8 am on Monday.
This madness is sober madness.
Saturday afternoon, I thought Ram hospital called to confirm surgery, but
actually a client called to confirm availability. Nope. Next afternoon,
while I was in Ram hospital, a different person called to confirm
availability. Nope. Four hours later, I was still in the hospital when she
called, very drunk, to confirm availability. First I’d heard of Thailand’s
sudden shortage of fat foreign tourists.
I read a folder called “Information” and am available to edit. The best line
Information on the details of hospitalization cost. The hospital must inform
details of service facilities provided and also the following:
3.4 - Service for keep body when the patient die Not if. When.
I chose not to share this with Jan before I got home. These are the kinds of
thoughts she has too often as it is. I tend to think as little as possible,
but if I suddenly start getting more oxygen to my brain after this surgery,
that could change. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Oh, three times to x-ray my
chest. During the second one, I thought maybe the tech messed up the first
one. But during the third one, I thought maybe the first two showed I can’t
have surgery because I should’ve died three weeks ago. But six hours later,
the tech came to my room to tell me my heart was normal. A bit black,
perhaps, but I got that from Daddy.
I woke up from surgery at 10 Monday morning, fully alert. I’d forgotten how
fast I shrug off anesthesia. No pain, either. My voice was fine. I was
scheduled to be in the hospital for two more days. Half a day later, as they
were hooking up my third IV of the day, I decided I’d had enough and checked
out early. I walked home, arrived a little before midnight, and scared the
heck out of Jan. But hey, if I’m going to die I should do it at home so Jan
doesn’t have to pay anyone to keep body.