The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Just a stone’s throw away
We have just come through the
hottest spell in the Thai calendar and the incidence of kidney stones rises.
Why? Quite simply, dehydration. The lack of water concentrates all the
chemicals in the urine and some of them form kidney stones. Did you ever
‘grow’ sugar crystals at school? You increase the concentration and
eventually a sugar crystal will form. Your kidney stones are very similar.
I was reminded of this topic when my neighbor went down with the problem. He
is a classical case. He has had stones before and was living in a cold
climate up till recently, and having come here, his water intake was poor.
Kidney stones may contain various combinations of chemicals. The most common
type of stone contains calcium in combination with either oxalate or
phosphate. These chemicals are part of a person’s normal diet and make up
important parts of the body, such as bones and muscles.
A less common type of stone is caused by infection in the urinary tract.
This type of stone is called a ‘struvite’. Another type of stone is a uric
acid stone, but are less common, and cystine stones are rare.
Looking at the common calcium oxalate stones, there are some foods rather
rich in oxalates, so if you are prone to stones, I suggest you stay away
from rhubarb, spinach, beets, wheat germ, soybean crackers, peanuts, okra,
chocolate, black Indian tea and sweet potatoes.
The stones in the kidney begin as small concretions, not much bigger than a
grain of sand. If there is enough water flowing through the kidney, the
early stone is washed away down the ureter (the tube connecting the kidney
to the bladder) and is passed within the urine. The problem occurs when the
stone gets a little larger and jams in the ureter.
How do you know if you have a stone stuck in the ureter? Quite easily. You
begin to experience one of the most painful situations known to mankind (and
yes, women can get stones too, though not as prevalent as men). Ureteric
colic will bring grown men to their knees. Believe me. The pain can be
referred to the penis, and some people report the feeling as if they cannot
fully empty the bladder. You may also begin to pass blood-stained urine.
Interestingly (if you haven’t got a stone), is that stones as small as 2 mm
have caused many symptoms while those as large as a pea have been quietly
passed. In fact, the initial treatment for small stones which are not
causing symptoms is for the patient to start drinking many liters of water,
with the increasing volume of resultant urine washing the stone out. In my
own clinic I used to suggest the owner of the stone pass urine on to a tin
wall. He would hear the ‘p-tang’ as the stone ricocheted off the tin!
But what do we do if you present at ER all grey and sweating in pain? Well,
first we have to make the definitive diagnosis, though the presenting
symptoms will generally point us on the right path and give us a push. You
will be asked for a urine sample and then have an X-Ray and/or ultrasound.
In the meantime we should have dribbled some magic giggle juice into your
veins and you will be feeling much better.
However, we still have to get that stone(s) out of the ureter. The easiest
way is Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL). In this procedure, the
stones are bombarded with shock waves from the ‘lithotripter’ which breaks
the stone into pieces small enough to pass out with urination. The
lithotripter is focussed on the ureteral stone inside the abdomen and whilst
the shock waves pass easily through the body, they are stopped by the stone
which then begins to fragment, eventually being small enough to pass.
Remember a good first step to prevent the formation of any type of stone is
to drink plenty of liquids - water is best. Not water brewed with hops and
stored in colored glass bottles! And if you have had a stone before, you are
a prime candidate for another.
Heart to Heart
A guy wrote to you a couple of weeks ago wondering just how the local
expats make it through the day with all the nudge-nudge wink-wink you
know what I mean side benefits that are available here and you suggested
it was the same as just getting over the kid in the candy store thing.
Hillary, I am sorry to say, Petal, you are not really right. All that
happens is that half of the expats settle down and get married but the
other half never get out of the candy store, and what’s wrong with that.
I know of guys who are in their 70’s and 80’s and maybe even older who
still go to the bars every day, and even if it does take a couple of
blue diamonds to get them going, does it really matter? They’re having
fun, the girls get paid and surely that is a win-win situation. You
would have to agree, Miss Hillary, as well as admitting that you were
wrong for once.
Dear Blue Diamond,
What you describe is certainly a win-win situation Mr. Blue Diamonds,
but is real life just as much a win-win situation? Unfortunately no, as
you will have seen from the thousands of letters that have been posted
in this column over the years, Petal. If it were such a win-win
situation, why would anyone be complaining about their lot? Here’s the
real situation. The ones that get married suffer from the same divorce
statistics as marriages in their own countries, with about 50 percent
down the drain. That’s real marriages. Then there are the ‘marriages of
convenience’ (mia chow - rented wife) which also do not last (usually
because the money dries up and the mia chow departs with whatever is not
too hot or too heavy), and then a large portion of the remainder just
get tired of the lack of the chase. The foreplay being restricted to
“You want short time?” Followed by “OK. How much?” This is hardly hunter
and hunted. There’s no conquest, let along no contest here. You would
have to agree, Mr. Blue Diamond, and some of the chaps you think are in
their 70’s and 80’s are probably only 45, but very dissipated.
I know this is a bit out of the ordinary, but do you know where I can
get winter weight clothes for Europe made? I have been here in Thailand
for a couple of years and the clothes are not warm enough for the
European winters. Because clothes are so cheap here, that’s why I’m
Dear Frigid Frank,
Writing to me with your wardrobe problem Frankie, is like writing to the
Pig Breeders Monthly about problems with your pet giraffe. If you were
having problems with the other sort of frigidity then I could certainly
have pointed you in the right direction, but where do you get woolly
jumpers? I really don’t know, my Petal. I would suggest Pratunam markets
in Bangkok and ask there. Pratunam is the center of the clothing
retailing/wholesaling industry, but don’t take the giraffe, there isn’t
I’ve lived in Thailand for five years (three in Phuket and two in Chiang
Mai) having been sent out here from England by my company. I love it
over here and used to send great emails back to my mates telling them
all about what a super time I was having. Here’s the problem. It seems
to have backfired on me though, as now those same mates are arriving in
Thailand at least two a month and expect me to take them round
everywhere and show them the sights, and what’s more they expect me to
pay for it as they’ve had to fork over for the air fare. I only have a
two room apartment, and these guys are coming over in twos and threes
and then want a lady for the night as well. I am getting like a stranger
in my own place. How do I get them to stop using me like a hotel, but
still remain as friends?
Harry the Hotel
Dear Harry the Hotel,
This is not the first (nor will it be the last) time I have heard of
this problem, but it is easily fixed. Since you are in contact with your
friends by email, all you have to do is to tell them, after they
announce they are coming over, that you are really looking forward to
seeing them, but unfortunately there is no room in your apartment, but
you will find them a hotel near by, and how much do they want to pay per
night? You can also warn them that you are currently very busy, so won’t
be able to look after them every night, but you will keep the weekends
free to be with them. That is enough to let even the thickest skinned
friends know that you are not running a hotel, that you are not on
holidays even if they are, and get the relationship back on a more
healthy level. Try it and see if it doesn’t work. If they complain at
this, they weren’t real friends anyway, were they?
by Harry Flashman
Stage photography for amateurs
in Thailand you have many opportunities to try your hand at
stage photography, even if it is just for Likay or similar Thai
In stage photography, you are not in control of the model. You
also have some very difficult composition and lighting problems
to contend with. You cannot quite ask someone in the middle of
Othello’s death bed scene to hold that pose and say “Cheese”.
Mick Jagger will not also stop for you to focus while running
frenetically from one side of the stage to the other.
The lighting too is quite different from that you normally
experience. Stage lighting is generally tungsten based and sharp
(what we call “spectral” lighting). Spots for the performers and
floods for the background are the hallmarks of the usual stage
lighting. The use of spots in particular is used to highlight
the principal performer or action on stage.
Successful “stage” photographs have managed to retain that
“stagey” lighting feel to them, so that instantly you look at
the image you know it is of a performer on a stage somewhere.
Remember that, as a photographer you are recording events,
people and places as they happen. You are a mirror of the world!
The secret of retaining that stage feel is in the lighting.
Because it tends to be dark, the first thing the average
photographer will do is to bolt on his million megawatt
gerblinden flash gun with enough power to light up the far side
of the moon. While understandable, I do not endorse that
approach to stage photography, but more on that shortly.
Do you use a telephoto lens? No. Because it gets you too far
from the light falling on the performers. Again it is the old
adage of “walk several meters closer” for this type of
photography too. Use a standard lens and get close. If needs be,
find which row seat you need to be able to do this. All part of
Now in the good old ‘film’ days, you got hold of some “fast”
film. 800 ASA if you could, but 400 ASA will do. It was a good
all-round film that does not give too “grainy” an image, yet
will allow for handholding the camera in the stage situation.
However, with today’s digital cameras, I have found you can run
the camera on a nominal 100 ASA, or 200 ASA at most. (Anything
over this and the digital image begins to break down.)
So, what about lighting? Pro photographer’s tip: leave the flash
in the bag, or turn it off at the camera. Now I know it is dark,
but you are trying to retain the stage lighting effects. In
other words, you are going to let the stage’s lighting
technician be the source of light for your photograph.
Now get a seat as close to the action as you can, and then
select a lens that can allow you to fill the frame with the
performers. Funnily enough, that will be, in most cases, the
‘standard’ 50 mm lens. Shots that show an entire dark stage with
two tiny little people spot lit in front are not good stage
shots. In fact they are not good anything shots! If all you have
is a fixed lens point and shooter, get as close to the front of
the stage as you can. You can still get the scene stopping shot
- you have just to get very close. OK?
There is also the ‘problem’ with white balance with digital
cameras. The constantly changing lights with stage performances
means that the digital camera can get very confused, but
honestly that is not a problem. You will still get an image that
says “stage performance”, which is what you want.
Next time you are getting shots of people on stages, try turning
the flash off, and you will see the end result is much better.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
A tax free Thai retirement, fact or fantasy?
Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) explained, part 1
Most long term British Expatriates in Asia have little
intention of spending their retirement back in the UK. The climate is often
cited, as is what appears to be the ever increasing incidence of violent
crime back home.
However, probably the most common reason for not wishing to return is the
cost of living in Britain. With its ever increasing tax regimes, often being
implemented due to a European Union directive that, to the casual observer,
appears crazy, the United Kingdom has become a very expensive place to
For European expatriates the politically correct European Union directives
have produced an unexpected benefit, however. One of the “Four Freedoms” in
European Union law is the “Free Movement of Capital”, including pension
funds. This EU Law was formulated into UK pension legislation on April 6,
2006, with the launch of Qualifying Regulated Overseas Pension Funds
This ruling from Brussels now means that, subject to certain conditions, you
may move your pension fund offshore and draw your retirement income tax
free. Wherever you live in the world, a UK Regulated Pension Plan will be
subject to UK tax.
So the initial question is not too difficult to answer: do you want to pay
tax on your retirement income, or not?
However, you need to know all the parameters, potential risks as well as the
benefits before jumping in.
Therefore, the aim of this article is not only to inform you of the numerous
benefits of QROPS, but also to explain the limits and explode a few myths
that are being sold as benefits by less ethical “advisers”.
There has already been one case of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
overturning a QROPS transfer, winning the right to charge the individual a
large income tax bill, after he had paid a hefty commission to the
“international sales and marketing consultants” involved.
1. Your retirement income can be drawn free of UK income tax from
a QROPS, and free of Thai income tax, because in Thailand it is offshore
investment income and not earned onshore.
2. You are never obliged to purchase an annuity like a UK scheme. Ultimately
when you and/or your spouse dies, with an annuity there is nothing to pass
on to your children or estate.
3. With QROPS what is left to your estate is free of UK inheritance tax.
4. Provided you have been an expatriate for at least 5 years you may take a
30% tax free lump sum immediately. In the first 5 years offshore this is
limited to 25%, the same as a UK pension.
5. QROPS gives you much greater control over your income stream than a UK
6. With a UK pension, when you purchase an annuity your spouse may benefit
after your death from the pension, typically receiving 50%, subject to you
taking a lower income for life from the outset. With QROPS you take your
full income and should you pre-decease your spouse the income stream may
carry on 100% and tax free.
7. Furthermore, you may place both or all of you and your spouse’s
pension(s) in the same QROPS making income and estate planning much easier.
8. Because of actuarial calculations the earlier you purchase an annuity in
the UK the less income you receive. With QROPS you may draw your income from
age 50 (age 55 from 2010) with no actuarial reduction for taking income
9. You are protected from future UK Pension legislation.
10. You have unlimited investment choice.
11. Subject to obvious UK inheritance tax avoidance, you may make unlimited
additional contributions to your QROPS, and these contributions will be
subject to inheritance tax relief on the seven year sliding scale.
12. There is always a risk that if you have a “company pension” that the
company could become insolvent. Over 200,000 people in the UK have lost a
pension that they assumed was guaranteed. Up until late 2007 no one had
received a penny from Gordon Browns much vaunted “Pension Protection Fund”.
A QROPS protects you against this risk.
1. You will be charged an additional 15% tax on top of your
marginal rate of income tax if ever you “repatriate” and move back to the
UK. QROPS are only for you if you are certain of your expatriate future.
2. There are trust fees involved, both initial and ongoing, with some
trustees charging these fees as a percentage. Clearly this can become very
expensive on larger funds. Find a QROPS that has a flat charge if possible.
3. Obviously, if you transfer out of a “defined benefits” (final salary)
pension you loose the guaranteed income stream from the UK scheme. If the
fund or funds you choose to invest in under perform the result will be a
lower pension income.
4. You will be taxed at 25% on the transfer value above your “lifetime
allowance”. However, for 2007/2008 that “Lifetime Allowance” is £1.6 million
and rising annually, so in many ways it would be a nice problem to have!
5. If you have left the UK less than 5 years, any income drawn up until you
have been an expatriate for 5 years will be subject to UK income tax. You
will be able to draw a tax free lump sum of 25% of the fund, however, within
the first 5 years.
6. Some old style “Defined Contribution” (Money Purchase) or “Personal
Pension” schemes may have exit charges prior to your selected retirement
1. The main myth that is being used currently as a sales tool is
“100% tax free cash lump sum!” To achieve QROPS status, i.e. to be
“recognised” by HMRC and therefore be “qualifying” to receive pension
transfers tax free, the QROPS trustees/administrators must enter into a
“spirit of co-operation” with HMRC. One of the main tenants of this “spirit
of co-operation” is that at least 70% of the funds transferred will be
designated to provide the retiree with an income for life. Clearly if the
“spirit of co-operation” is broken by taking a “100% tax free cash lump
sum”, then HMRC will remove the QROPS status and you could be left with a
very large tax bill.
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
It’s an ill wind that blows…
By the time this article appears next week, I suspect
that the situation in Burma will have reached some kind of ‘resolution’ -
either with aid belatedly being allowed in or the escalation of a natural
disaster into a man-made catastrophe, whereby the generals in control of the
country will be responsible for a crime against humanity and the murder of
thousands of men, women and children.
If they ‘win’ again against the raging tide of world opinion, as they did
last September and on many occasions before during the past decades then the
free world is culpable in the crime, perpetrated by the increasingly
When one reads that even the good offices of the Thai Prime Minister - their
nearest neighbour - and other representatives of the ASEAN countries have
been largely ignored, one wonders just how long they can survive such
isolation. The fierce winds that have wrecked huge areas of Burma may just
yet have brought some ‘good’ in awakening those who did not fully understand
the enormity of the generals’ previous actions. And those who understood the
mind set of those in charge may have to think again. It is, of course, for
the ASEAN leaders to take the lead. Western countries cannot fully
appreciate the situation - we are outsiders. But even those of another
culture, race, religion and region can see what it is going on.
Millions of words have been directed against the junta, thousands of hours
of air time, on both TV and radio, have tried to expose what is going on.
And yet their obstinacy knows no bounds. Either they exist in luxury ivory
towers miles from the tragedy, or they simply do not care. Can it be that
they are truly without the intelligence and imagination to understand what
is happening around them or are they creatures of a mentality that was
characterised by the Nazis in the 1930s and by despotic rulers throughout
the world in more recent years?
What we can only hope for is that those nearest to them, who have so far
been less critical of the regime, will try to reason with its leaders.
Thailand, China, India and others near neighbours have the only chance of
bringing about a peaceful solution. As I write, the French, the Americans
and the British have ships and helicopters within a few miles of the
stricken area, and could bring in massive aid within hours. To do so without
permission will be to invade Burma’s air space and countryside.
If that happens - and many people advocate such an action - it will have
possibly grave consequences. Thailand will be in an especially difficult
situation since it has many thousands of American troops stationed within
the Kingdom. Let’s hope that its political leaders and those of other
countries has yet another try at opening up Burma to outside help, with no
political interference. At this stage all that matters is to help up to two
million people from disease and starvation. They have been in the dark too
long and deserve light, peace and freedom. What happens later is what
concerns the generals. For now a superhuman effort is needed to convince
them to accept help to avert even greater tragedy.
And here as promised is the second of our contributions to the column from
students in Chiang Mai. This week it comes from Enis Aksu from Payap
University entitled ‘Being a Farang in Chiang Mai’.
“When I came to Chiang Mai, I felt like I’m in a different world. Chiang
Mai is the second biggest city of Thailand, but I call Chiang Mai as a town
because you can not see that much pollution and do not have the problems of
big cities etc…. So this city teaches to everyone that you can live your
life without having any problems. Life here is slower than life in Bangkok.
However I love to be in Chiang Mai. Especially being a farang in Chiang Mai
is really good. What makes a farang different than Thais? Answer is easy; a
farang has white skin, a farang looks like an artist for Thais and a farang
who can speak Thai is fantastic.
Every foreigner will notice when they come here that most of Thai people
powder their faces to avoid getting a tan. They are not as black as
Africans, but they admire people who have white skin. I love to hear
children saying ‘farang, farang’. They can’t find any similarity between
their selves and a farang. If you are a white skin person like me, everyone
will look at you while you are walking on the street. Europeans and
Americans want to have bronze skins so they spend lots of money for that. In
contrast, people spend money to be white. It seems weird, but it is true.
In Bangkok there are lots of foreigners so a farang is not that important
there. Although Chiang Mai is a touristic city, you will attract eyes to
yourself everywhere if you are a beautiful farang girl or a handsome farang
boy. People of Chiang Mai will see you as an actor or a pop star. That’s
what I experienced. When people see you, they may look at your face again
and again because they think that you seem like an artist.
The most important difference even between an ordinary farang and a farang
like me is being able to speak Thai. When you speak in Thai, Thai people
will count you as a Thai. Therefore you will have similarity with Thai
people. Also it makes Thai people surprised. When I sing a Thai song, Thai
people want to listen it several times. And I reach the apex of pleasure of
being a farang.
In summary, being a farang is so nice in Chiang Mai. Having white skin, look
liking an artist, being able to speak in Thai differ you from Thais. In
Chiang Mai people love farangs. They are not as black as Africans, but they
admire people who have white skin. You will attract eyes to yourself
everywhere if you are a beautiful farang girl or a handsome farang boy. When
you speak in Thai, Thai people will count you as a Thai. Therefore you will
have similarity with Thai people. I love to be in Chiang Mai.”
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: US
Adventure/Action - Yes, Indy is back! With Harrison Ford, Ray Winstone, Shia
LaBeouf, and Cate Blanchett, and directed by Steven Spielberg. After living
a quiet life as a professor, Indiana Jones is thrust into a new adventure
when he races against agents of the Soviet Union to make one of the most
spectacular archaeological finds in history - the Crystal Skull of Akator, a
legendary object of fascination, superstition, and fear. On his way, Jones
meets a new buddy Mutt, and they set out for the most remote corners of Peru
- a land of ancient tombs, forgotten explorers, and a rumored city of gold.
There, Jones finds that Soviet agents are also hot on the trail of the
fabled Crystal Skull. The story and style are very much in keeping with what
has made the series so perennially popular. More than welcome. Early reviews
are generally favorable.
Penelope: UK/US Comedy/Drama/Fantasy - This modern fairy tale depends
wholly on the charm of Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, and Catherine O’Hara;
if you enjoy them, you may well enjoy this slightest of fables. Mixed or
Memory: Thai Horror/Mystery - Thai superstar Ananda Everingham plays
with great charm a psychiatrist trying to decipher the causes of the fear
and anxiety he sees in the eyes of a girl of seven, possibly the victim of
child abuse. A really nice Thai horror film, with some of the world’s
greatest squeaking doors.
Speed Racer: US Action/Drama - Basically a family film based on the
classic anime series about a boy who was born to race cars, filmed almost
entirely in front of a green screen, with the backgrounds and foregrounds
added later. The film is brimming with superb special effects that are
technically inventive and seductively surreal, with a sweet plot, and some
thrilling races. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon play the parents.
Seeing Speed Racer yet again reinforces for me how truly original and
visually sophisticated the film is. (Note for film buffs only: watch the
diegesis. I haven’t seen such delightful playing around with the diegesis
since Last Year at Marienbad. But because the characters so intensely
believe in their film world, even as it constantly changes, it becomes real
for us as well. And notice the incredible variety of wipes used. It’s
amazing, and playful, and fun.)
The new vocabulary is so innovative that there is a book just published on
May 13 called “The Art of Speed Racer” which includes, along with the
script, more than 300 new words which were created to describe innovations
in cinematography introduced in this movie. For example: ‘Faux
lensing’ toward a ‘Photo Anime’ film format; designer shape de-focus;
infinite depth of field; bling and super-bling flare enhancements.
It’s deliriously dense, with more than 2,000 effects shots, often layered on
top of each other. The overall effect, if you get into it, isn’t just a
store window of technology. It is, as Mom says of Speed’s mastery behind the
wheel, “inspiring, and beautiful, and everything art should be.” That’s what
the Wachowskis are aiming for, and, I think, what they’ve achieved.
Special effects pioneer John Gaeta oversaw the visual effects for this
movie, as well as the entire Matrix Trilogy of the Wachowski Brothers (and
for which he won an Oscar). Referring to himself and the Wachowskis about
Speed Racer he says, “How many disturbingly dark movies can you make before
you start wanting to experiment in another way? We were in an anti-Matrix
place, we wanted to make a bright, optimistic world, and push the happy
button. It was a blast.” And it is a blast, worthy of your attention.
Generally negative reviews - but see it, if any of this whets your interest.
For me, there’s simply a wealth of things to enjoy in this film.
Iron Man: US Action/Adventure - Superb popular entertainment. A huge
hit in the US and around the world, not only with the public, but with
critics and reviewers as well. You’ll like it. Generally favorable reviews.
Phobia/See-prang: Thai Horror - Four quite good horror stories by
four Thai directors. Quite well done. I particularly enjoyed the “In the
Middle” segment, about four young guys out camping, and bedded down for the
night telling ghost stories; and the fourth story, “Last Fright,” about a
very self-controlled flight attendant and her interactions with a Middle
Eastern princess, both alive and dead, on her specially chartered flights.
At Vista only.
Scheduled for May 29
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: UK/US
Adventure/Family/Fantasy - One year after the incredible events of The Lion,
the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the kings and queens of Narnia find themselves
back in that faraway, wondrous realm, only to discover that more than 1,300
years have passed in Narnian time, and things are not going well. Generally
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
He who hesitates is…?
He who hesitates may not survive the week.
Most would say “he who hesitates is lost” and though my Internet research
couldn’t pinpoint its origin, I suspect an ancient, male philosopher coined
this saying while attempting to rationalize why he wouldn’t ask for
directions. (In modern times, it has evolved into “he who hesitates is worse
than lost, he is miles from the next exit.”) After observing, battling and
surviving Thai traffic, I believe the spirit of this saying may have started
here, but I prefer to follow a look before you leap, better safe than sorry
version: “he who hesitates is alive”.
Although Thailand is the “Land of Smiles” with a reputation for being
“laid-back”, and its people have the capability of dropping into the Land of
Nod, anywhere at any time of the day, whether they’re at work or not, this
mellow behavior vanishes on the roads, especially at stoplights. Many motor
bikers seem absolutely incapable of waiting for a red light to change. Do
they think they are above the law, if there indeed is a law? Do they believe
they’re invisible? Perhaps they feel invincible with steel-plated crash
sandals, skin stronger than cement and indestructible boneheads so they can
use their helmets to protect the wire baskets carrying them. Or maybe they
just have to go to the bathroom really, really badly. As time ticks toward a
light change, the tension builds on the Stop Side and the pace quickens on
the Go Side. The yellow caution light in Thailand means “throw caution to
the wind” inspiring the last stragglers to speed up and fly through
intersections, just as the opposing motorists, having changed the unchanged
red light to green in their minds, advance menacingly and aggressively,
mentally screaming: “Just do it! He who hesitates is lost! The early bird
gets to be road kill!” Most times it works, like two schools of fish passing
through each other in the ocean, but I’ve seen too many dead guys on the
road in Thailand, and I don’t want anyone drawing my outline in white chalk.
I often work my way up to the front line, on a big bike that could leave
everyone in the dust, then chant, “he who hesitates is alive” and wait till
the mad dogs have left the line. I hesitate when motorcycles lurch out of
blind roads onto highways without a glance behind or to the side, an
apparent assassination attempt or a personal death wish in their heart. I
hesitate entering the one-way side of the four-lane highway from my
driveway, not only looking to the right where cars are supposed to come
from, but also to the left where anything with wheels or hoofs may be
bearing down on me.
The “he who hesitates” theory can be altered for many situations. If you
neglected the “he who hesitates is alive” option and walked down the wrong
dark alley in Pattaya, immediately switch to the original “he who hesitates
is lost” option while fleeing from the “he who never hesitates to rob” gang.
Avoid the nasty ice in your beer made with germ cocktail water that turns
your intestines inside out with the “he who hesitates survives” option that
also applies to the love-you-long-time-ladies who, in a very short time, can
turn your life inside out. “He who hesitates pays less” serves you well at
the Night Market when you walk away, the price drops 50% and the stall
shark’s pitch changes to “Come back! How much you pay?” If you visit me at
my bungalow, you’ll experience the “he who hesitates is lunch” option as you
scamper from your vehicle to my door through the red ants swarming in the
Doc English The Language Doctor: Which thinking hat are you wearing today?
Often it seems like teachers are just
teaching students how to think, rather than what to think. Teaching
sometimes appears to be simply the process of transferring ‘facts’, and
neglects to include the process of teaching students how to find the ‘facts’
out for themselves. This second process is called ‘Critical Thinking’. This
week we discuss how you can encourage your kids to become ‘Critical
If your children are having problems reading and interpreting a story or
text, writing a half decent story or essay and/or solving a mathematics
problem requiring several steps you might find this article useful.
Definition of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking means ‘reasonable, reflective,
responsible, and skillful thinking that is focused on deciding what to
believe or do’. A person who thinks critically can ask questions, gather
information, sort through this information, reason from this information and
come to conclusions.
Children are not born with the power to think critically. Critical thinking
is a learned ability that must be taught. Some individuals never learn it.
What is a Critical thinker?
Raymond S. Nickerson (1987), an authority on
critical thinking, characterized a good critical thinker in terms of
knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and habitual ways of behaving. Here are
some of the characteristics of such a thinker.
* Uses evidence skillfully and impartially
* Organizes thoughts and articulates them concisely and coherently
* Suspends judgment in the absence of sufficient evidence to support a
* Understands the difference between reasoning and rationalizing
* Attempts to anticipate the probable consequences of alternative actions
* Understands the idea of degrees of belief
* Sees similarities and analogies that are not superficially apparent
* Can learn independently and has an abiding interest in doing so
* Applies problem-solving techniques in domains other than those in which
* Can structure informally represented problems in such a way that formal
techniques, such as mathematics, can be used to solve them
* Can strip a verbal argument of irrelevancies and phrase it in its
* Habitually questions one’s own views and attempts to understand both the
assumptions that are critical to those views and the implications of the
* Is sensitive to the difference between the validity of a belief and the
intensity with which it is held
* Is aware of the fact that one’s understanding is always limited, often
much more so than would be apparent to one with a noninquiring attitude
* Recognizes the fallibility of one’s own opinions, the probability of bias
in those opinions, and the danger of weighting evidence according to
Teaching Critical Thinking
One way to teach critical thinking at home or in
the classroom is to follow a program, such as de Bono’s ‘Thinking Hats’.
Edward de Bono’s thinking hats were developed in order to illustrate the
various ways of thinking when problem solving. Each of the hats represents a
different method of thinking. The hats help us understand the different ways
that we think and help us understand how others feel about a problem. If we
look at a problem together, from different angles (wearing different hats)
it will help us solve the problem more constructively and enable us to use
our critical thinking skills more efficiently.
Hats represent six thinking strategies. De Bono believed that if the various
approaches could be identified and a system of their use developed which
could be taught, that people could be more efficient thinkers and work more
Each way of thinking is symbolized by the act of putting on a coloured hat,
either actually or imaginatively. This he suggests can be done either by
individuals working alone or in groups. In my school, children enjoy making
the hats and putting them on when they are using a different thinking
strategy. Every time you read or carry out an activity, you can try using a
different hat to approach the problem, or to interpret a story in a
The Red Hat represents Emotional thinking. The Yellow Hat represents
Positive thinking. The Black Hat represents Critical thinking. The White Hat
is purely the facts. The Green Hat is Creative thinking. The Blue Hat
represents the Big Picture, sort of looking at it from all the viewpoints.
I don’t have enough room to include more information on the Hats, but you
can find out all about De Bono’s ideas at his web site http://www.
edwarddebono.com/Default.php and more information on using Hats at
That’s all for this week ladies and gentlemen. If you want more information
on critical thinking skills please email me at: docenglishpat [email protected]
Enjoy spending time with your kids.
Welcome to Chiang Mai:
A change of climate?
Many resident expats we’ve spoken to feel, (as it seems
almost impossible to get a residence permit here, however many hoops one is
prepared to jump through), that, as “guests”, however permanent, their views
are not, and never will be, heard. Or that, even if anyone’s actually
listening, those views will be ignored. One of this paper’s main stories
this week is actually a continuation of a series of news items which began
with the recently elected Mayor Dr Duentemduang na Chiengmai’s talk at the
Chiang Mai Expat’s Club, and her exclusive interview with the Mail’s
reporter. Subsequently, the Mayor gave a talk at Alliance Francais, and
regular monthly question and answer sessions have been set up at the Art
Museum just behind the Three Kings’ Monument in the old city. On all of
these occasions, much to the surprise and delight of the expat community, Dr
Duentemduang stressed that everyone, whether Thai or foreign, whether
resident or “guest”, is a citizen of Chiang Mai, and that everyone is
welcome to make their views on the city and its development known in a open
and constructive manner.
The latest development in this welcome and, some would say, long overdue
process is the seminar which took place last Friday, and which is reported
in full in this issue of the Chiang Mai Mail. The issues on the
agenda, (although we noticed that air quality, burning and pollution were
not stressed - maybe the organisers have short memories), are relevant to
everyone’s enjoyment of the city and its environs. We have heard the comment
many times, and not only from our expat colleagues and friends, that under
previous administrations, the city had become run-down and uncared for in
many ways which affected the lives of its residents. Frequently mentioned
were the pathways around the moat and the appalling and very overdue state
of the superhighway project. Amazingly, within a few months of the Mayor’s
election, both issues were successfully resolved, thus giving certain
foreign residents the problem of finding something else to complain about!
Joking apart, there are still many issues of neglect and lack of planning
which need to be addressed; pollution and the dry season’s poor air quality
must surely be included in the considerations - but at least the thousands
of foreign residents in Chiang Mai will now have a chance to put their views
and possible solutions forward together with those of the Thai residents.
Of course, there may be a major problem with this - many of us are not even
slightly conversant with basic Thai, let alone the complications of the
issues in the seminar’s agenda. We do, however, have help in the form of
Khun Boong, of Boutique Travel, whose “Green Chiang Mai Project” is now
heavily involved with the Mayor’s campaign. Boong herself is committed to
local ecological solutions, is bi-lingual, and is more than happy to take
our suggestions, points to be made, and questions, translate them and put
them forward on our behalf to the relevant local authorities. She can be
contacted by email at www.retireinchiangmai.com. The Chiang Mail Mail
is also more than happy to help, please email us at
This column has mentioned integration of the diverse communities in the city
on several previous occasions; this innovative initiative on the part of Dr
Duentemduang is integrating in itself if taken seriously by concerned
residents in all the separate communities. If it succeeds, it must surely be
of great benefit, not only to the infrastructure and environment, but to all
who live here. Stripping aside nationalities, religions, ages, educational
standards, financial positions, and all the rest of the imposed social norms
that try to persuade us that we are different, or, worse still, better,
integration must surely begin with diverse peoples with the same basic needs
joining together to improve their immediate environment and their own and
their families’ quality of life. Dr Duentemduang has stepped “outside the
box” with this initiative; please, don’t let’s leave her standing there on
This article is published courtesy
of the “Welcome to Chiang Mai” folder, available as an email
attachment from:- [email protected]