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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiang Mai


tech tips with Mr.Tech Savvy

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Lead for your pencil - off the ‘net

Spam should not be confused with SPAM. One is a daily internet nuisance, while the other is a sort of manufactured meat product. According to Hormel, the meat manufacturers, SPAM was derived from the words “SPiced hAM” and that was in the 1930’s, long before the internet and the unwanted in-box fillers, now called “Spam”.
Every day I receive Spam, offering me the opportunity to keep a battalion of beauties satisfied. These are the internet email offers of cut-price drugs that will keep me in a state of perpetual priapism, a continuing (and painful) male erection and the term was coined after the Greek god Priapus who is shown in paintings to have a central member like a third leg.
However, this is actually a serious situation. If specific drugs are only available through pharmacies, on the prescription of a doctor, is it safe to just buy over the internet, without any doctor’s advice?
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, “Patients who buy prescription drugs from websites operating outside the law are at increased risk of suffering life-threatening adverse events, such as side effects from inappropriately prescribed medications, dangerous drug interactions, contaminated drugs, and impure or unknown ingredients found in unapproved drugs.”
The FDA goes on to warn that “medications prescribed by a doctor have restrictions to benefit the patient. Before the practitioner issues a prescription for a drug the doctor must first examine the patient to determine the appropriate treatment. Subsequently, the patient receives the drug from a registered pharmacist working in a licensed pharmacy that meets state practice standards.” That situation is certainly not the case when you look at buying blue diamonds over the ‘net, is it? Are you really fit enough to indulge in horizontal folk dancing, when the wonder wand has said “enough!”
The incidence of internet pseudo-pharmacies is also very high. In the US, according to the American Medical Association, there are at least 400 web sites (and probably closer to 1,000) that both dispense and offer a prescribing service - half of these sites are located in foreign countries. But with no regulation, are the blue diamonds really Viagra?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has been fighting drug counterfeiting since it became a major threat in the 1980s. The problem was first noticed by the pharmaceutical industry. They saw that their own products were being copied, and it went on from there.
In fact, the WHO estimates that 25 percent of medications bought in street markets in developing countries are fake. My own experience in some of the poorer SE Asian countries has been that another 50 percent are real but out of date, leaving around 25 percent genuine manufacturer’s stock.
Some authors say that the figures are even worse than that. An international study published in Tropical Medicine and International Health in 2004 found that 53 percent of Artesunate tablet packs sold in the region did not contain Artesunate, a vital antimalarial drug. You can see the danger.
The reports come in from all over the world. The WHO cited the case of a counterfeit iron preparation that has killed pregnant women in Argentina. Hundreds of children in Bangladesh suffered kidney failure and many died due to a fake paracetamol syrup diluted with diethylene glycol, according to a study published in the BMJ in 1995.
The FDA in the US estimates that worldwide sales of fake drugs exceed USD 3.5 billion per year, according to a paper published in April 2005. The Center for Medicines in the Public Interest in the US predicts that counterfeit drug sales could reach USD 75 billion globally in 2010 if action is not taken to curb the trade.
According to WHO, drugs commonly counterfeited include antibiotics, antimalarials, hormones and steroids. Increasingly, anticancer and antiviral drugs are also faked. And you can add to that, the ‘blue diamonds’. Never forget the phrase “Caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware).
You have been warned. Get your medications on a doctor’s prescription from a pharmacy you can trust. Or suffer the consequences.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I see you have let that Mistersingha person back into the forum, and all for a bottle of Bacardi Breezer and a Mars bar or something. How the mighty has fallen, Hillary old girl. I remember when it was French champagne and Belgian chocolates or nothing. I love your column, but don’t let your standards slip.
Dear Misterchang,
Thank you for your concerns over my welfare and my predilections, but this has been a time of austerity, my Petal. Everyone has to pull in their belts, the government tells us, so little Ms. Hillary has had to reign in some of her excesses, I am afraid. I fully realize that a Mars bar made in Malaysia is a long way from Belgian chocolates, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles, as they used to say. The Bacardi was actually very refreshing too. By the way, Misterchang, this column is hardly a “forum”, though I do welcome anyone who wants to drink from the font of Hillary’s wisdom.

Dear Hillary,
Is there anywhere you recommend going to at Songkran? I’ve been here a few years, seen all the madness, done all the water throwing and trashed the T shirt. I don’t think I can stand another Songkran, but can’t leave Thailand at present. Some suggestions, my Petal.
Songkran Sam
Dear Songkran Sam,
I have news for you Sam, and it’s all bad. First, I am not ‘your’ Petal and second, everywhere you go in Thailand, they will be playing Songkran, so there’s not much you can do without leaving the country. The neighboring countries are no good either, as they celebrate their own Songkran as well. Since you’re tied here, I suggest that you board up your condominium, make sure your microwave is working, stock up on plenty of frozen TV dinners, grab a couple of cartons of your favorite beer and watch TV for the three, four or five days of insanity. If it were the French champagne and Belgian chocolates I could have been tempted to keep you company. If you hear a knock on the door, I’m the one in the wellies and umbrella.

Dear Hillary,
A few weeks ago some Russian women wrote to your newspaper wanting to get to know Paul from your TV station. I am much better looking than him, and I know he has a Thai girlfriend and I like large ladies, so could you let me know the contact details for the Russians. Many thanks.
Dear Vladimir,
Just what do you think I am running here? This is not “Make a Match in Moscow” or “Sleepless in St Petersburg” (it was so cold last night I was Vladimir frozen). I really do not care whether you are better looking than television’s Paul and like large ladies, I cannot just start throwing names and addresses out the window to anyone who writes in. There are plenty of Russian lady tourists in town, just say “Hello” or more formally “Zdrastvooitsa” or something phonetically similar. With your pen name and direct approach, you can’t go wrong, my Politburo Petal.

Dear Hillary,
You may think this request is too simple to publish, but I am sure my problem is one suffered by many young men in this country. I am from the UK, here for a couple of years, and am enjoying just being with such nice people (and the nice girls). Here’s the problem, I have met a right stunner. She is super and works in an office near mine, in the same building. I have done the homework through the Thai staff in the office, and she’s not married or attached or anything like that, but here’s the problem. She doesn’t speak English. I really want to get close to this woman (she really turns me on), but I haven’t got enough Thai to be able to chat her up or anything. What’s the next step, Hillary?
Pasa Angkrit
Dear Pasa Angkrit,
What a wonderful pseudonym you have chosen, Pasa Angkrit indeed (‘English language’ for those who cannot speak Thai). But what a dilemma! Here you are, hormones raging at the thought of this nice young woman who really turns you on, even though you have never spoken to her, or even got close enough to smell her perfume! And you don’t know how to pop the question. Or any question, for that matter. You have just discovered a simple and inescapable fact, my Petal. The country you are in for the next two years and the country the woman lives and works in, is called Thailand. That’s not tongue tie-land, either. This is her country, and the language she speaks gets her everywhere she wants to go, and everything she wants to do. There is a lesson for you here. If you want to get to know this Thai lady, then go and learn some basic Thai. After a few lessons, go and try it out on her (the language, Petal, the language). If she thinks you are a nice chap, she will even help you with the pronunciations. However, if she doesn’t respond, then you have to accept the fact that you didn’t make her hormones explode, the way she made yours. Best of luck with the language course. That is “Choke dee” as you will learn in lesson 2.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Never believe what you see

It used to be that people would claim “photographic proof” to demonstrate the veracity of something or other. How could you deny the existence of anything, if you had a photograph of it? After all, look at the Loch Ness monster. Nessie is real, there are dozens of snapshots of her, whilst all these other pretenders such as Big Foot are myths. You’ve never seen a photograph of Big Foot, now have you?
However, as we sauntered into the digital age, it became very obvious that not everything you saw in a photo was necessarily ‘real’. Mr. Photoshop soon put an end to that reality nonsense, complete with his filters and contrast and brightness adjustments. No, it was an all-new ball game.
But pro-shooters have been bending the truth for years. Even before Mr. Photoshop. Let’s look at a few examples where the photographer has to stretch the truth somewhat. Ever tried photographing champagne? There’s never enough bubbles to make it look as if it has just been poured. What to do? Drop some sugar into the glass. Only a few grains are enough to give the almost still glass of champers that “just opened” fizz look to it. You also have to bring the light in from the back of the glass, as well as from the front. Stick the flash head in behind and a large white reflector beside the camera and you have the ultimate shot.
While still on wines, if you try and shoot a bottle of red wine, it comes out thick dark maroon or even black. Restaurateurs who have tried photographing their wines will agree. So what does the pro shooter do? Well he has a couple of courses of action. First is to dilute the red wine by about 50 percent and secondly place a silver foil reflector on the back of the bottle. So what happens to the half bottle of red that was removed to dilute the wine? The photographer has it with dinner. Silly question.
And so to food photography. This is one area where there are more fraudulent practices than any other. Cold food can be made to look hot by sprinkling chips of dry ice to give “steam” coming off the dish. Not palatable, but it looks OK. Cooking oil gets brushed on slices of the cold meat so that they look moist and succulent.
That is just for starters. In the commercial photography studio, the dedicated food photographer would erect a “light tent” of white polystyrene and bounce electronic flash inside. Brightness is necessary to stop the food looking grey and dull. If you do not have bright sparkly light then potatoes will look grey, and even the china plates look drab and dirty.
In places such as the USA, there are very firm rules about photographing food. Mainly the fact that you are not allowed to use substitute materials which “look” like food, but are actually not. This covers the old trick of using shaving cream as the “cream” on top of cappuccino coffee for example, or polystyrene foam as “ice cream”. Personally I think this is a load of ballyhoo, because the photograph is just to represent what the food will look like - you don’t eat a photograph, now do you!
Even in simple portraiture, the concept is to show the sitter in the best possible way. For example, if the person has “bat ears” the portrait should be taken with the head turned so that one ear disappears from view. Not “lying” but presenting Mother Nature in a different way. And always remember that when all else fails, it’s a quick trip to the retouchers.
Another area of deception is real estate brochures. I have inserted an architect’s model of a hotel, as not yet built, into the aerial shot of a beach resort city. This required working out the height of the helicopter relative to the height of the model and then combining the two slides. It took two 12 hour days in the studio to photograph the architect’s model and another day in the lab to combine the images.
Never believe anything you see!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

More on Commodities - part 2

Last week we mentioned China and South Africa (SA) separately. Now let’s look at them together along with Africa as a whole. The potential of these two countries working hand in hand is staggering. Already China has purchased one third of SA’s biggest bank - Standard Bank. It goes on as the Chinese buy up more and more as the economic boom in China has triggered a global search for commodities (China is opening a new power station every 17 days). In its quest to discover new commodities, China is changing the landscape of Africa. Beijing’s long term strategy is to remove itself from the vagaries of international commodity markets, it wants to deal with the countries and companies directly and the Chinese see South Africa as the gateway to Africa. Chinese trade with Africa is now at USD100 billion. However, importing back to China is proving more of a challenge as it is having to build a massive infrastructure in Africa - roads and ports, etc., in order to get the commodities back to the motherland.
The Chinese are not stupid. They bring in their own people with them to do the work. It is not one of M&A, but to take strategic stakes and to look and listen. In their private capacity, the Chinese are buying up farms like kids at a candy store. It must be remembered that the Chinese often say they have a 100 year view, profits are not that important to them.
Life is not all rosy though. The Chinese presence is creating major angst in Africa, as Africa is not high tech and China is leading to many African manufacturers closing down. A huge employer of people in Africa is the mines and it does not help when the Chinese try to automate a lot of these mines. There is a perception (and probably rightly so) that Africa will get fleeced by China, as they are removing the family silver. It is a shame that America is so unpopular in Africa currently, as they provide a lot more aid than China do and they are not being appreciated for it.
What all this really means is that it is interesting to note China’s attitudes to business and how different it is from the West. This has major implications for commodity shares, as China has the possibility to control supply and hence cannot afford for the commodity majors to form monopolies. China’s 100 year view on companies does change the playing field for those who want to compete with them. Africa needs to get its house in order if it does not want to end up being robbed blind by the Chinese.
For the very brave this could open up opportunities for investing in Africa itself. Why? It is simply that Africa has what Asia wants and that is helping to push up African growth rates. Asia has the stomach for Africa as it does not care about war or famine, it just has a seemingly never ending thirst for commodities. When growth rates start to rise above 6% (as you are seeing in large parts of Africa), then growth moves away from being a purely commodity story to one of banking and telecommunications - for the purposes of this argument we will ignore Zimbabwe as it remains a basket case and it will stay this way for some time. Mugabe will not step down as he is too greedy and especially after what happened to Charles Taylor.
However, as for the rest of Africa, it is generally believed that the Rand will continue to come under pressure, thanks to the Current Account Deficit which is running at 7-9% of GDP. Also, growth in SA will slow due to the electricity problems, but it will still grow north of 3%. This is partly a function of the fact that African markets are driven more by domestic investors and that foreigners play a very small part.
Africa is enjoying some very strong growth rates, with Angola in particular being one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The media does not focus on the positive aspects of Africa, preferring to report stories of wars and famines. The reality is that Africa is growing very nicely and has been since 1988. Despite the impression the media might give about Africa, corporate governance in many countries is very impressive and in fact companies are squeaky clean. Africa is a growth destination and the World Bank, IMF and the African Development bank predict that it will continue. Real growth per capita is growing, thanks to strong growth and a falling population.
There is no doubt about it. Africa is indeed a tough place to do business, due to poor infrastructure, but this is a positive as well as a negative as it means that, for the companies that are there, competition is not that fierce. Banks are the early beneficiaries of growth in Africa. Retail banking is just starting to take off - for instance the home loan market does not exist in Egypt which is hardly surprising really when you consider that doctors and teachers have had to go on strike to get a pay increase from USD50 per month! But elsewhere there is real potential.
Back to commodities. Commodity funds have clearly become the flavour of the month, with a USD100 billion of new funds bought to the market in the last couple of months. The aluminium market is currently very tight, but could get a lot tighter if the Chinese start electricity rationing. There is a 95% correlation between the share prices and the commodities themselves, hence many see prices going a lot higher.
The fundamentals for soft commodities are very good and anyone who thinks that the supply and demand for commodities is not in their favour must be smoking their socks. We hold commodities via MitonOptimal in the Core Diversified Fund and feel more comfortable than ever in holding it, despite recession warnings out of the US.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

Directing movies: You’ve either got it - or you haven’t…

The film program at the Alliance Francaise has yielded some gems recently, notably Rene Clair’s charming Le Silence est d’Or and a few days ago Jean-Pierrre Melville’s majestic Army of the Shadows. If you missed those, make a note of another classic, Louis Malles’s feature debut, Lift to the Scaffold which will be shown at 8 pm on Friday April 18. This stylish thriller stars Jeanne Moreau, Lino Ventura and a grown up Georges Poujouly who astonished the movie world a few years before in Forbidden Games.
Lift to the Scaffold also achieved fame through its memorable jazz soundtrack by Miles Davis, later released commercially. His only one, I believe. At just under 90 minutes in length, the movie marked the emergence of a young man who had previously worked as an assistant to Robert Bresson, made a couple of shorts and co-directed a documentary. Still in his mid twenties, Malle directed a tense thriller to rank with those of John Huston (The Maltese Falcon), Nicolas Roeg (Walkabout) and Roman Polanski (Knife in the Water), among other debuts.
He went on to become a prolific and controversial film maker, whose works included Les Amants, Lacombe, Lucien and Murmur of the Heart. Sadly, he died in his early sixties but he helped France grow out of its sprightly new wave period and made at least a dozen films of real stature.
And mentioning debuts, reminds me that Alexander Mackendrick’s super comedy Whisky Galore will be on show at the Gymkhana Club on April 25 at 7:30 pm as part of their season of Ealing Comedies. One of the same director’s two masterpieces, The Ladykillers, was screened there earlier in the season. His other great work, Sweet Smell of Success, was made in the USA.
Meanwhile, in the commercial ice boxes of Chiang Mai we have had a few movies of interest on show, including the Thai romantic comedy Hormones and the dully absorbing Atonement. Of more interest was No Country for Old Men and this may be hanging on somewhere in town when this article appears - certainly it will be out on DVD. We have waited a while for the Chiang Mai release of this work, widely considered a return to form by the very uneven Coen Brothers. It came after Oscar wins, including those for best direction and best movie, (aren’t they the same?), and one for Xavier Bardem, who collected his for worst haircut worn by a psychopath although it went out under the title, ‘best supporting actor’.
It always amuses me to note the Academy’s votes going to actors who get beaten up, make themselves look ugly or demented, suffer silently or who battle against deformity or disability. I rest my case against all their frothy awards on the sad, simple fact that Cary Grant did not receive one of those prized statuettes, despite appearing in and being the major contributor as an actor to a score of films, any of which were ten times better than Atonement or No Country for Old Men.
But these, of course, were classic comedies such as Bringing up Baby, I was a Male War Bride and Monkey Business. “Hollywood logic” decrees that even the comic genius of Grant and director Howard Hawks could not be taken seriously.
Looking to the future, we are still awaiting the arrival in Chiang Mai of There Will be Blood, which - since we are mentioning Oscars - received many nominations and scooped for Daniel Day-Lewis the award for best actor for his rich character study of the heartless oil prospector. The role and aspects of his performance, especially the voice, were eerily reminiscent of John Huston in Polanski’s best movie, Chinatown.
There Will be Blood is based, like all the other films mentioned in this column upon a novel - in this case Upton Sinclair’s “Oil!”, which was banned on its publication because of Sinclair’s characteristic criticism of the establishment and capitalism. This prolific writer - a million words in one year just to magazines - finally lost track of his work, much of which was written under pseudonyms. But he knew how to best the opposition.
When “Oil!” was banned, he went out and sold a copy on the streets and was arrested. It turned out that inside the wrapper of his book was a copy of the Bible and in his defense he showed that he had liberally quoted from the ‘good book’ in his own scandalous work, which had not been read by its censors. He was let off.
Whether he would have approved the adaptation of his work by writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson we shall never know. Nor, in my case, care since I am firmly of the belief that once an author has taken the money and potential fame offered by movies he must face up to all consequences afforded by a translation to another great art. Movies are a director’s medium and all that need be expected of them is to distill the essence of the original. A truly great director such as Robert Bresson has often worked from novels, sometimes unacknowledged, such as Pickpocket which was inspired by Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and is - at 75 minutes duration - its equal as a work of art.
Anderson, who is probably the best director working in the USA at present, adapted “Oil!” himself, and since I - like most people - have not read it I don’t know how ‘faithful’ it is. Who cares when we have a film of this extraordinary power? Anderson, like the clutch of directors mentioned above, showed his talent at an early age with his debut - also a thriller - Hard Eight. Like Malle, Roeg, (who was older, having been a cameraman), Polanski, Huston, Mackendrick, and the Coen brothers with Blood Simple, you can see from the very start the work of potentially major directors, just as one can see with Joe Wright that it is just a question of industry, intelligence and talent. None of which is enough to create a masterpiece. Like a great orchestral conductor, the film director may improve with age and experience, or make become mannered or flashy, but unless the special spark is there at the beginning then practice does not make perfect.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Street Kings:
US Crime/Thriller - Compelling, exciting film of a veteran LAPD detective implicated in the execution of a fellow officer, and forced to go up against the cop culture he’s been a part of his entire career. He questions the loyalties of everyone around him, as he finds that in the process of attempting to keep urban city streets safe, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Based on a story by bestselling crime writer James Ellroy (Black Dahlia, White Jazz, L.A. Confidential), a brooding cynic who experienced his mother’s gruesome, unsolved murder when he was ten years old. The LA-based writer has been attempting to overcome that childhood trauma ever since, through his noirish violent fiction. Keanu Reeves plays an alcoholic Vice Squad cop whose police methods amount to outright brutality and legal assassinations that have long been covertly approved and elaborately covered up by his boss, a suave and cunning Forest Whitaker. Rated R in the US for strong violence and pervasive language. Mixed or average reviews.
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. The film, which starts out very nicely indeed, turns into a really mindless car chase. But it is an exciting car chase, with many crashes and explosions. Mixed or average reviews.
Art of the Devil 3: Thai Horror - Torture porn. Last week I advised you to stay away from this one. I didn’t heed my own warning, and saw it. It does have some very nice landscapes, rather nicely photographed in a moody way. And of course unrelenting torture. Should you desire step-by-step instruction in the art of pain, this is for you. In particular it demonstrates in superbly clear manner how to stitch and pin, and indeed staple, a person’s eyelids open so he will be forced to watch you as you torture to death his entire family. So if something like this is on your agenda, you might want to check it out. The most popular film in Thailand last week.
Ku Kuan Puan Maesa: Thai Comedy - The usual, with the usual comedians.
Sex is Zero 2: Korea Comedy/Romance - The Korean American Pie returns - a very popular (in Asia) college sex comedy that manages to be raunchy, funny, sexy, and emotionally sincere all at the same time, or so they say. In the style of American gross-out college comedies, it follows the exploits of a group of students, which eventually takes a serious turn. (Thai-dubbed only; no English subtitles)
An Empress and The Warriors: China (Hong Kong S.A.R.) Drama/War - Set in ancient China before its unification, when countless kingdoms battle for supremacy. Beautifully costumed and photographed war epic. (Thai-dubbed only; no English subtitles) At Vista only.
I.C.U.: Ghost College of Fine Arts: Thai Comedy - The usual.
Orahun Summer: Thai Comedy/Drama - Boy monks have misadventures during the summer. At Vista only.
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.
Hormones / Pidtermyai Huajai Wawoon: Thai Comedy/Romance - An endearing Teen-oriented Thai romance. A very appealing cast has tiny teen 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 very likeable boys whose deep friendship is threatened when they both fall for the same girl; a college student who faces a test of loyalty when he meets his fantasy girl when his steady girlfriend is away. If you like this sort of thing, you will enjoy this very much. At Vista only.
Scheduled to open Apr. 17
Horton Hears a Who!:
US Animation/Family - With Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett. A whimsical, witty, feature-length version of Dr. Seuss that’s neither overblown nor smutty nor emotionally hollow. “A treat for the eye, an epic event. This film is delightful, one hundred percent.” Generally favorable reviews.
The Forbidden Kingdom: US Action/Adventure - The first collaboration between martial arts masters Jet Li and Jackie Chan. Based on the Chinese epic story ‘Journey to the West’, one of the four great classic novels of Chinese literature.
Scheduled for April 24
There Will Be Blood:
Scheduled for Major Cineplex. US Drama. Widely hailed as a masterpiece, this sparse and sprawling epic about the underhanded “heroes” of capitalism boasts incredible performances by leads Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, and is director Paul Thomas Anderson’s best work to date. WSJ: “What’s so remarkable about this film is not its time frame but the wealth of its detail, the eloquence of its images, and the sweep of its ambition.” Oscars for Cinematography, and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Day-Lewis). Rated R in the US for some violence. Reviews: Universal acclaim.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Shaggy Soi Dog Stories

Of the estimated 6,000,000 dogs in Thailand, approximately 3,000,000 of them live within earshot of our bedroom. They may be heard most any night, at any time, giving vocal support to the hyperactive dogs occupying our bungalow complex, who diligently and uproariously attempt to warn everyone in our postal code of dangers lurking in the darkness: our neighbor’s return home, an insect moving, a car headlight hitting a nearby leaf or invisible aliens invading from another planet. The entrance road dead ends at twelve mini-homes in a circle surrounded by a small river, trees, bamboo, gravel driveways and no fences, where twenty some dogs roam, scavenge and breed, though only two officially have homes. An organic, self-sustaining security system, the POD (Pack of Dogs) subsists mainly on buffets of rotting food from neighborhood garbage bags supplemented by miscellaneous leftovers from the landlord that didn’t make it into the garbage bags.

Dreaming of USA Humane Society Drop Boxes: Got a puppy? Leave a puppy. Need a kitty? Take a kitty.
Every dog is a father mother brother sister daughter son illegitimate offspring of every other dog and seems to have at least one crippled appendage from a past attack by the rest of the family. Their total combined brainpower is considerably less than a head of broccoli. After four years of living here, the POD still doesn’t recognize me and probably thinks I’m one of the invading aliens that has suddenly become visible.
Their one remarkable trait is the ability to sleep in the sun when it’s a hundred degrees. Just imagine putting on a fur coat and lounging on baking gravel for hours, only getting up to move because the patch of sun you were lying in, for some strange reason, slid over a few feet. An astounding skill, but perhaps only useful for a POD that wants to harass humans, because each individual dog must sleep in the exact middle of the driveway, wait until your car tire is poised to crush its leg, then painfully slink away while staring at you with a pathetic, but somewhat irritated, scowl that says, “You have to leave again? Can’t you just drive your car over there through the bushes?”
If you ask what breed they are, I would have to be very specific and say, “Dog.” Further classification may include: 1) the shorthaired “Brown Dog,” five of them that are always groveling, in heat or pregnant; 2) the lazy, longhaired “Leaf Dog,” a shaggy thing that sleeps 23/7 while attracting leaves, needles and debris which cling to its fur, so it resembles a compost pile with legs; 3) the landlord’s “Beagle Mutation,” stunted and stupid with deformed paws that stick out horizontally, which make him look like the ugly kid who always got beat up in grade school, eventually causing a terminal ornery disposition and the propensity to bite the hand and ankles of anyone that doesn’t feed him. Although named “Dang Thai,” he is generally called “Damn Thai” or a raft of other four-letter words that, unlike “Dang,” do not mean “Red.” Being the privileged landlord’s pet, he’s the short, snooty, rich kid on the block that regularly gets beat up by the POD when the landlord’s not looking. He also hates us because his nemesis lives with us.
In quintessential Thai fashion, we adopted, or were adopted by, our friends’ adopted dog when they moved away: a Default Dog. His name is Gluay, which means “banana” in Thai, and sounded cute until we learned he got it because he likes to lick his banana, especially when we have visitors. Tall, sleek and strong, the landlord never cared for him since he could whip Dang Thai anytime and frequently did. Visitors ask, “Is this your dog?” Answer: “No, he just lives here. He’s his own dog, but likes our food and company.” He’ll disappear for days and return smelling like Roadkill Meets Rubbish, but a bath is not in the cards. I’ve tried to gently coax him under the hose, but I might as well try to wash a random pedestrian on the street. He has learned to love us, and would probably kill for us, which unfortunately may be the telephone man when we’re not home.
The good news? He’s our Buffer Dog and keeps the POD at bay. The bad news? By alerting us at night of the neighbor’s return, headlights and invisible aliens, his bark starts the neighborhood bay, which sparks the Sansai bay, which incites the Chiang Mai bay, which ignites the Lampang bay, all the way down to Bangkok. Maybe I’ll get some sleep if I can just learn the fur coat on the scorching pavement in the sun trick.

Doc English The Language Doctor: Teaching using TPR

When I first started out in language teaching I often encountered children who had no written or spoken English at all. I did not speak any foreign languages at this time and so I was unable to translate words from English into my students’ native languages. This made conversation very difficult and teaching pretty much impossible at first. However, I soon learned more strategies for teaching beginners and the benefits of the TPR method of teaching. TPR quickly helped me become more confident working with beginners and helped make my English lessons more enjoyable.
Children learn to listen to a language before they can learn to speak it (or read or write it). The TPR method can help you improve your child’s listening skills and make them more receptive to listening to and learning English. You can teach your child to ‘anticipate’ and ‘predict’ words through your actions and gesture and you can encourage your children to guess the ‘gist’ of what you are trying to say by providing a sequence of actions or spoken commands that they can learn to recognize and respond to. TPR is also a fun way to introduce the language and it can be very physical, so it is good exercise too! Young children love short doses of TPR and with a little practice, so will you.
TPR stands for ‘Total Physical Response’ and was created by a guy called Dr. James J Asher. It is based upon the way that children learn their ‘mother tongue’ (their first language, or ‘L1’) from birth. The theory goes that parents have ‘language-body conversations’ with their children, the parent instructs their child and their child physically responds to this. The parent says, “Look at mummy” and the child responds by looking, or the parent says “Come here” and gestures towards the child. The child responds by moving towards their parent. These conversations continue for many months before the child actually starts to speak itself. Even though it can’t speak during this time, the child is taking in all of the language; the sounds and the patterns. Eventually when it has listened to enough language, the child reproduces the language quite spontaneously. TPR attempts to duplicate this effect in the language classroom.
In the classroom the teacher plays the role of parent. The teacher starts by saying a word (‘sit’) or a phrase (‘look at me please’) and demonstrating an action. The teacher then says the command and the students all do the action. After repeating a few times it is possible to extend this by asking the students to repeat the word as they do the action. When they feel confident with the word or phrase you can then ask the students to direct each other or the whole class.
TPR can be used to teach and practice many things:
* Vocabulary connected with actions (run, jump, stand, sit)
* Tenses past/present/future and continuous aspects, such as routines (every morning I clean my teeth, I make my bed, I eat breakfast)
* Classroom language (pick up the pencil, close your book)
* Imperatives/instructions (stand up, sit down)
* Story-telling (children respond to different parts of the story)
When using TPR at home, remember that children need lots of visual clues to help them memorize a word or command. If you use gesture, pictures and movement to emphasize the word, your child will find it easier to memorize the words. Don’t ‘over-use’ TPR, just a few minutes every day playing ‘Simon Says’ maybe fun, but not all day, every day. Reverse the roles sometimes and have your child give you instructions. Play a robot game and get them to guide you around the house, crashing into stuff if they get the command wrong. As your children get older they will tire of TPR; however, by that time hopefully they will be fluent!
Use TPR for a few minutes a day and the results should be impressive. You can even use songs and video and do aerobics together, responding physically to specific words in songs, or actions on a music video.
OK, enough exercise for today, I’m off for a cup of tea and a lie down. I’m getting too old to teach TPR these days; I’ll have to find myself the equivalent of a teaching ‘stunt double’.
You can find more information on TPR at this TPR Web Site <http://www.tpr> and there are some good activities on the BBC Web Site for young learners <> - check out the Tweenies and ‘Copy Me Do’ for some really catchy dance moves! Check out ‘Bogglesworld’ for a ‘Spell Book’ containing lots of TPR activities for young children <>.
That’s all for this week. As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or lame jokes, you can mail me at: [email protected] .com. Enjoy spending time with your kids.

Welcome to Chiang Mai: by Tess Itura

What can we do to help?

Increasingly, you’re reading in the Chiang Mai Mail about charities, events which support charities, organisations which need volunteers, abuses of human rights, Burma, street dogs, Hill Tribes, single parents, orphans, refugees, poverty, drug and substance abuse, AIDS, - the list goes on. And on. Whether you’re already here, or planning to come here, you will have realised that such issues are a great deal more “in your face” in Thailand than they are in your home country. Yes, of course you were aware of poverty, of abuse, of alcoholism and crime at home, but most of us, in our relatively comfortable lives in the West, were unable to take an active part in making other peoples’ lives more acceptable. Responsibilities of family, of work, of maintaining a home; all these things usually came higher up the list of “must do’s”. Many of us will have salved our social consciences by donating whenever possible, the tremendous world wide response to the devastation and death caused by the tsunami demonstrated that our hearts are in the right place, (even if some of our governments needed a little prodding), and many more of us will have worked with the disadvantaged in some way through our churches. However, we were also aware that our governments provided social security to many people, and the major charitable organisations seemed always to be in funds, supported by the first world economies in which they were based.
When you arrive in a new country, it takes effort and concentration to construct a lifestyle and get used to doing things somewhat differently. Most people need time to adjust and to relax when everything is sorted; I called my time my “gap year”! During that time, I made new friends, and took a serious look around my new environment. What I began to see, with new eyes, caused some concern, which wasn’t helped a lot by reading the local news in this paper! As a result, I started to research on the internet. What I found convinced me that there is a real need for foreign residents in Chiang Mai and its surrounding areas to become positively involved in helping those who cannot help themselves. Donating is fine, and very welcome, but hands-on involvement shows real results. Many of my friends help out at orphanages, both government supported and those run by religious charities; others volunteer to teach English to monks at Wat Suan Dok. The animal charities both in and outside the city always welcome volunteers; if you are a dog-lover, Care for Dogs and the Lanna Dog Rescue will train you in basic care. A large part of their work is involved with going to the many temples which house stray dogs in order to vaccinate and sterilise in an effort to both reduce the number of street dogs in the city and to prevent the spread of diseases including rabies. The elephant camps will also welcome volunteers, although is has to be said that the Elephant Nature Park, the only “as nature intended” home for these wonderful beasts, is at present a commercial organisation and you must pay to work there. However, I understand that the owner is in the process of converting it to a foundation. Friends who go there regularly tell me that is has been one of the most wonderful experiences of their lives. A limited in numbers but essential service for single mothers and young victims of domestic abuse and rape, most of whom come from the minority groups outside the city, is provided by the Wildflower Home, who house, care for, heal and train a small number of these unfortunate women. There are at present expanding their operations, and need volunteers for construction work, agricultural work and general help. Links to their website and those of other charities who desperately need your help are at www. If you have an interest in alternative therapy, a wonderful way to help would be to take a Reiki healing training, and commit some of your spare time to going on organised visits to hospitals and psychiatric facilities to give healing to those who really need it. You can find out more, including how to become a practitioner, at This technique really does work, and you can use it on yourself as well. A “win-win” situation!
A new and welcome way to give of your time and experience, and also to learn more about Thai life and customs, has been provided recently by Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai, the recently elected Mayor of the city. She is determined to make Chiang Mai a “Green City”, and, having made the welcome statement that “the residents of Chiang Mai, whether Thai or foreign - we are all ‘Chiang Mai people’”, has inaugurated our involvement with our city by asking for volunteers to help in certain areas of the Songkran Festival. She has also indicated that our help and advice would be welcome in other projects. For further information on this, and advice on how to help, please visit the website of the Chiang Mai Friends Group, www.retirein
Incomers to Chiang Mai have many reasons for their decision to undertake the complete change in lifestyle that the move from their home countries represents; but all of us benefit in many ways from being here. Whatever our previous jobs, abilities and concerns were, we all have many talents which could be of use in giving back just a little in return for our new lives, friends and activities. One of the greatest rewards we will receive from doing so is the feeling that we really “belong”.

This article is published courtesy of the “Welcome to Chiang Mai” information folder, available as an email attachment from: [email protected]


Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao

For contemplation, study passion flowers

The common name of this lovely plant refers, of course, to the passion of Christ, not erotic passion - although recent studies with chemical extracts from the plant have been found to improve health and benefit your love life! Catholic missionaries in South America used this flower as a convenient tool to demonstrate to the natives that a sign from God which explained the Easter Passion could be found amongst their indigenous flora. The ten petals, they decided, represented the Disciples of Christ, minus Judas Iscariot and doubting Thomas. The five sepals were the four apostles plus St Paul, and the many stamens the multitude that condemned Christ to death. The pistil divided into three sections represented the three nails that pinned him to the cross.
Here in Thailand, Passiflora edulis, in its purple and yellow-fruited form with black and white flowers, is commonly seen. Instead of eating all the seeds, try sowing some as they will germinate like mustard and cress. You will, as a happy result, have plenty of climbing plants to ramble up trees or along your balcony and which will reward you with tasty and nourishing fruit. This fruit can also be blended with plenty of sugar, ice and water to make a delicious soporific drink, ideal before bedtime or at any time you want to feel relaxed. Many varieties exist, all with beautiful flowers in many colours, shapes and sizes; all are garden-worthy and with edible fruit. If you see one which looks different on your travels abroad, don’t forget to collect its seed, as Thailand could well benefit from more wonderful examples to enhance its gardens and add variety to the fruit market.
These plants are the natural food for the beautiful Swallowtail butterfly, and if the leaf petiol is examined closely you will find “butterfly egg” mimics which deter the female from laying too many eggs on one plant. If this should happen, the large number of resultant caterpillars would voraciously devour all the leaves.

Tip of the Week
If you have trees don’t be afraid to plant climbers to ramble through them, when they flower they will provide added interest when the tree is out of flower itself.

The Battle of Browsers

Do you remember Netscape Navigator and how it used to look on our old “boxed” computer screen? That same “navigator” was the first commercial internet browser introduced in 1994. It started off very well, being the dominant browser with up to 90% of users worldwide. The only competitor that Netscape had to battle with at the time was Microsoft’s one and only Internet Explorer. Referred to as the First Browser War, It was a beginning of a ruthless competition. And eventually, the year 1998 gave way to Netscape’s defeat with IE souring to over a 90% monopolizing share of internet surfers. It was evident that IE enjoyed a sweet symphony of being the leader in the browser war from then.
At that point of time, it was obvious to say that if you have browsed the internet, then you have used Internet Explorer at least once in a lifetime. Or if you are a Windows user, you are sure to have used it and probably are a big fan too.
During subsequent years, there came along a lot of new names and brands with new features and designs. But the one that we have surely heard of and which has really shown success is Mozilla Firefox. With newcomers becoming more and more popular, it brought us to an era of a Second Browser War. By this time, we’ve barely heard of the name “Netscape”. After a long struggle with its competitors, Netscape’s doubtful existence officially died a cold death on March 1, 2008.
Let’s look at the top three warriors that are battling it out in today’s war.
Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer still leads in the browser race today. Including all versions, IE holds an over 50% user share. Its popularity significantly owes to the fact that Windows operating systems comes pre-installed with IE. While over 85% of the people around the world use Microsoft Windows operating systems, it is no doubt that majority of internet surfers are attached to IE. However, recently, as numerous others have proven this war to be a tough one, IE has been struggling to maintain its superiority. Introduced with the public release of IE7 in 2006 were features like tabbed browsing, phishing filter and search tool. It might have proved a little success but by this time, these were no longer exclusive features. The competitors would have emerged with the same and even more features to offer their users. IE7, therefore, did not succeed as expected. Nevertheless, Microsoft announced its beta release of IE8 recently, which we eagerly wait to see some great enhancements.
The closest competition to IE today is Firefox, and to be exact, according to, the percentage of Firefox users is now above 35%, which has never stopped growing since its first release. Standing in the second position, Firefox is an open source browser developed by Mozilla and supports Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Firefox has certain highlights that definitely please its users. These include features that allow users to add extensions or change the browser’s interface by applying downloadable skins. Moreover, being an open-source platform, independent software developers can create extensions on their own to tune up the browser in the way they want and share them with Firefox fans around the world. This creates a strong community of users who will always try to improve the browser. While the testing version is already out, Firefox is giving finishing touches to its new 3.0 version.
Safari, an official browser by Apple, is one of the youngest entries into this war. Having only about 2% users in hand, Safari has a long way to go to get closer to IE and Firefox. However, its growth rate is believed to be very interesting. The infamous iPhone and iPod Touch that have taken the world by storm come with Safari as the default browser. With more such gadgets being sold, the popularity of this browser is inevitably boosted. Just recently, Apple released its latest Safari update for Windows, the 3.1 version, claiming it to be the fastest browser. With this, Apple does hope to widen its market on the Windows platform.
The world has already bid farewell to one of the major warriors of this war, while there are still stronger ones working extremely hard to dom inate this battle. As the technology devotees pursue the fate of this war, common users enjoy the result of new and better products. The war has a lot more coming its way for us to expect the unexpected. We shall wait and watch.

Site of the Week

Just for Geeks

This is one website travellers must not miss. TripIt is a unique, free online tool for travellers to organize all their travel plans in one place. To start with, all you have to do is forward your travel itineraries to a given email address and they will all be organized for you. The tool will put your flight, hotel and car rental confirmations on one page which can be easily accessible anytime on the website or even through email. You can print these itineraries while you are travelling or even share these travel plans with your friends.

Does the word computer seem like “100110110” to you? Ask Mr. Tech Savvy for help. Or if you’d like to impress the ladies with your computer skills, suggest a tip and find it featured here next week!
Go ahead, send them to [email protected]
Till next week… Tata ;-)