The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Anyone for an MRI?
Resonance Imaging (MRI) is one of the newer diagnostic examinations that can
be done. The procedure is similar to an X-Ray, in the fact that the end
result shows the internal structures of the body with a test that produces
very clear pictures - but without the use of X-rays. MRI uses a large magnet,
radio waves, and a computer to produce these images.
Some folk are a little apprehensive about these newer
tests, but the risks to the average person are negligible. The MRI uses
magnetic fields, rather than radio-active imaging. However, the magnetic
field is very strong. Walk into the examination room and the MRI can wipe
the details from the magnetic strip on your credit card, stop your watch and
even pull the stethoscope from the doctor’s pocket!
People who have had heart surgery and people with the
following medical devices can be safely examined with MRI: surgical clips or
sutures, artificial joints, staples, cardiac valve replacements (except the
Starr-Edwards metallic ball/cage), disconnected medication pumps, vena cava
filters or brain shunt tubes for hydrocephalus.
However, there are some conditions may make an MRI
examination inadvisable. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following
conditions: heart pacemaker, cerebral aneurysm clip (metal clip on a blood
vessel in the brain), pregnancy during the first three months (we are just
being super cautious here), implanted insulin pump (for treatment of
diabetes), narcotics pump (for pain medication), or implanted nerve
stimulators (“TENS”) for back pain, metal in the eye or eye socket, cochlear
(ear) implant for hearing impairment, or implanted spine stabilization rods.
MRI is also different from X-Rays in what it can pick up.
The MRI can detect tumors, infection, and other types of tissue disease or
damage. It can also help diagnose conditions that affect blood flow. Tissues
and organs that contain water provide the most detailed MRI pictures, while
bones and other hard materials in the body do not show up well on MRI
pictures, as opposed to X-Rays which do show bone well but not soft tissue.
For these reasons, MRI is most useful for detecting conditions that increase
the amount of fluid in a tissue, such as an infection, tumors, and internal
I think most people are familiar with the standard X-Ray
procedure, stand there, breathe in, hold it, now breathe out routine, but
MRIs are a little different. These are done with you lying there and
inserted into the MRI scanner, which is like a tunnel. Those people who are
claustrophobic can have a little problem here, as the MRI “tunnel” is very
tight. When I had my own MRI done I noticed that my nose was close to the
top of the tunnel and both elbows were brushing the sides, and I am
considered a reasonably slim individual. I have to say that although not
claustrophobic, I do not particularly like being in enclosed spaces, and
found that the best way to endure the MRI was to pretend I was lying
relaxing in a field.
During the procedure, which can take up to an hour, you
can hear the operator talking to you, and he or she can hear your reply, but
you still will feel rather isolated in your magnetic tunnel. You can also
hear (and feel) muffled thumps and groans that come from the tube, which can
be somewhat unsettling.
In some cases a contrast material may be used during the
MRI scan to enhance the images of certain structures which may help evaluate
blood flow, detect some types of tumors, and locate areas of inflammation.
The contrast material is injected via a vein, and the MRI operator will
advise you when this is being injected. You may feel a warmth or even
tingling feeling as this is happening, but this is not worrisome.
The radiologist then reviews the pictures produced and
will advise you of the outcome. I hope it will be good news!
Sweet and shy Naam Chok
Hi I’m Naam Chok – I’m a little shy and people don’t always notice
me but I’m here and waiting to be noticed by just the right person
for me. I like to keep myself to myself and won’t bother you much I
promise, just so long as you can walk and feed me and maybe give me
cuddles every day too. I am healthy, sterilised and vaccinated so
you can just take me away when you’re ready. If you can offer Naam
Chok a loving, stable home please contact Care For Dogs, English (08
47 52 52 55) Thai (08 69 13 87 01) or e-mail: [email protected] .org
to make an appointment to visit the shelter & meet her or any of the
many other dogs waiting for you. www.carefordogs.org.
Heart to Heart
I was gratified to read that someone has finally come
out in public regarding the pop-up toaster situation in Thailand (Heart
to Heart in March this year). After reading your column I realized
there is at least one other person experiencing this curious problem. I
must say that your thoughtful attention and technical advice to the
victim show how wide your sympathies are.
Until very recently I have been inserting a chopstick
into the spring loading mechanism of my own toaster. While clearly not a
procedure that gives full satisfaction, at least it discourages the
toast from popping up at inappropriate times. Two days ago there
occurred a new and startling development. Despite wearing rubber gloves
and taking other precautions, I received a very nasty electric shock. At
the same time there was a strange coldness and musty odor in the room. I
had the distinct impression I was not alone.
I am not a person given to half-baked theories or
wild speculation. Nevertheless, bearing in mind that I am on my fourth
toaster, I am beginning to suspect a malign and sinister force is at
work. Frankly, I am having trouble lying straight in bed with the worry
of it all. Do you think I could be onto something?
A Frightened Expatriate
Dear Frightened Expat,
My first question is - do you insert the chopstick when the toaster is
on? If we look at animate objects, insertions of such devices are
associated with extreme pain, my Petal. Ever missed your mouth when
eating Chinese food and ended up sticking a chopstick up your nose?
You’ll know what I mean. Perhaps your toaster takes on some animate aura
when the ‘pop’ is pushed?
On the other hand, since this is your fourth
toaster, perhaps we should be looking at another, more simple reason,
but one that has far reaching ramifications (sorry about the long words
but somebody stole my newspaper this morning and I am forced to read the
dictionary with my coffee). I am led to think along these lines as you
mention, “Despite wearing rubber gloves and taking other precautions,”
you received the electric shock. This prompts me to ask what “other
precautions” have you been forced to take? The mind boggles at the range
this could include. Seat belts on the lounge chairs? Explosion screen in
front of the television set? Hand rails around the kitchen? Gas mask in
the toilet? I’m sorry, you have on the surface given me so much
information, but in actual fact you have given me so little.
Finally, it is not often that I have to recommend
exorcism (mainly because most of my readers can’t spell it), but that
may be your only way out of this endless toaster problem.
Petal! Suddenly, as I wrote the above, the cause
of your problem became obvious. You mention a “strange coldness and
musty odor in the room,” which indicates very sinister forces, for which
the only answer is a wooden stake through the heart! Can’t you see what
is happening? Your chopstick is the wooden stake you are attempting to
push through the heart of your toaster! Remove the stake and it will no
longer feel threatened by you. (And now tell me you have been using a
plastic chopstick and I’ll spit!)
Like you always advise us, look for the “good” girls, and I have found
one, but there’s still a problem. She works in a dress shop and is
really quite a stunner. I pass by every day and if she spots me, I
always get a wave and a big smile. Sometimes I catch her outside the
shop and she is always happy to chat. In English which makes it even
better, because my Thai is not so good. She saw that I had bought a soft
drink one day and told me what soft drink she likes and so I have been
buying a can for her and giving it to her if she is outside. But today
she just looked away and I was too embarrassed to go further. Hillary, I
have put six months into this, and I am starting to feel the chase after
“good” girls isn’t worth it. What do you suggest?
You have been buying soft drinks, smiling like an idiot and nodding for
six months and you wonder why this girl has given up on you? Come on,
Joey Boy, six months and no invitation to dinner, movies, lunch and all
the usual ways of getting to know a “good” girl. I would have given up
on you by three months, Petal. If the man isn’t prepared to take the
next step, what future is there in such a relationship? None! Your girl
from the dress shop was hoping for some excitement in her life. There
must be more than “That dress looks lovely on you, Madam.” She was
hoping she would be saying, “Lunch next week? Yes, what day?” What did
she get? “Here’s a can of soft drink, love.” (Grin, grin, smile.) “D’ya
wanna cola tomorrow?” Some days you men amaze me with your gormless
approach to life. Be a little more brave next time Joey.
by Harry Flashman
Megapixels, shutter speeds and f stops
saw a young photographer last weekend, trying to take shots of
moving action, while fully equipped with a camera phone, and
being bitterly disappointed. The words ‘horses for courses’ came
immediately to mind.
Now whilst I know that camera phone technology has
improved over the years, the end result is always a compromise. Is it a
camera you can get phone calls on, or a phone that takes pictures? It is
like the microwave oven that has a clock built in. Do you buy it to tell
you the time, or to defrost food? (Please do not write in with the
correct answers, there are no prizes for obvious questions!)
It actually stands to reason that if it requires a
boxful of electronics something the size of a reasonable dictionary,
with an expensive piece of glass mounted on it to get great photos, then
you are not going to get the same quality from a camera phone.
No, I use my camera to take photographs only, and do
not expect it to be able to dial San Francisco, nor do I expect the
reverse with my mobile phone.
One of the problems when comparing cameras with
cameras (forgetting camera phones for the minute) is people tend to read
the magic number called megapixels and conclude that it is the deciding
parameter between brilliant, good and not so good. 24 megapixels is
better than 12 which in turn better is than 4.
Whilst the above is partly true, it really does
depend upon what you want to do with the end result. Are you going to be
blowing it up to the size of a barn door, or will it be a 4R (6x4) at
most? If you have been hired to produce photographs for billboards, then
look at a camera with megapixels coming out its strap swivels. Otherwise,
anything from six to 10 MP is more than adequate.
So what should you be looking for when buying a
camera these (electronic) days? To start with, a fast autofocus. Instant
zip-zip, not “pause for a second while I get myself ready and then zip”.
I would also recommend inbuilt image stabilization.
So many photographs are spoiled by camera movement producing ‘soft’
images, that can be overcome with image stabilization electronics. And
as a further small advantage, these types of systems are particularly
good for the senior citizen photographer.
You should also look at the shutter speeds the camera
is capable of. 1/2000th of a second should stop a
railway train (in Thailand, not in Japan) and be sufficient for 99
percent of action photography. It is also advantageous if any proposed
camera has a time exposure setting so you can take photographs at night,
The other factor of importance is the Aperture,
commonly called the f stop. The lens should be able to open up to
at least f 4, and close down to at least f 16. This is to
give you control over depth of field in your picture taking.
Just about every camera (other than a phone camera)
has several modes for you to play with, or to help you. An ‘Auto’ mode
for the days you are feeling lazy, or too rushed to start selecting
shutter speed and apertures, is totally necessary for the weekend
photographer. A for ‘Auto’ is fine for at least 60 percent of weekend
photographs. It is only when we start getting into the remaining 40
percent that we need extra capabilities.
However, unless you are very aware photographically,
a mode setting that selects the optimal shutter speed and aperture for
the action photograph is a good feature to have in your new camera. The
young photographer with the camera phone needed this feature last
weekend - and camera phones don’t have it.
Most cameras these days also have many other modes,
and although I still believe you should know ‘why’ you open up by a
couple of f stops when the subject is back-lit, which is what the
‘back-light’ mode does for you, that isn’t really necessary. I’m just
being old-fashioned, I suppose.
And my camera? 10 MP, 1/2000th shutter speed
and f 2.8.
Money Matters: John Sheehan
Global Markets Asia
The inevitable demise of Western Democratic Capitalism? Part 3
Government crisis response
driven by popularity, not
If 2008 was the year of the crash then 2009 was the year of
the slump. This may sound contrary to the rebound in some speculative markets
during 2009, but which is a better indicator of economic reality, a rise in
speculative capital markets or plunging world output? The underlying reality
that cannot be ignored is that during 2009 the world economy experienced its
greatest deterioration since the Second World War.
John Sheehan, Global Markets Asia
Government’s only response to crisis has been to pump
staggering sums of money into their economies, and the term “quantative easing”
or “QE” for short has entered the popular commentators’ vernacular. Clearly QE
is something only governments can do and is dependant on the idea of continuing
confidence in their ability to raise tax revenue to service debt. For a company,
though, QE is not a possibility, but surely whether for corporation or
government, basic common sense dictates that the concept of printing infinite
amounts of additional debt is just not sustainable.
Governments now seem to be expecting to receive some form of
accolade for so far managing to steer clear of a full blown depression. Bearing
in mind that it’s the governments who are one of the villains that got us into
this mess it demonstrates how warped the democratic capitalist model has become.
Budget deficits have grown to stage where they are now
spiralling out of control and clearly question western government’s inability to
govern. The depressing spectre of states being unable to pay their bills on time
is becoming worryingly familiar. Rather than make the necessary budget cuts and
take the austerity measures needed to put countries back on track, politicians
are more concerned with appeasing the electorate in the short term. Their view
seems to be that it is better to govern a country heading for bankruptcy rather
than lose an election!
2009 and the first half of 2010 are seeing the continuance of
the largest, broadest and fastest government stimulus response in history.
Bankrupt banks have been wrapped up in a multi-trillion dollar life-vest of
public cash and guarantees. Central banks dropped interest rates further and
some expanded their balance sheets. Governments from all parts of the world
embraced fiscal stimulus with enthusiasm like a shopaholic who has just been
given unlimited credit. Extraordinary levels of intervention helped stem panic,
propped up the financial system and countered reductions in private demand.
Two questions remain: Firstly, for how long can the US
continue selling more debt at low interest rates? Secondly, how much can they
print until they run out of steam - there is no such thing in life as a free
lunch, and the only people who will be left to pay the bill will ultimately be
the taxpayers and their children!
What government should have done in 2008 is stick
consistently to the philosophy that created the boom; that is to let market
forces prevail, as the USA did in 1990 and Asia did in response to the 1997
crisis. If they had done so, the financial system would possibly have collapsed
temporarily, widespread business destruction would have occurred and
unemployment would have gone through the roof. Industries in jurisdictions where
they were most inefficient, like cars in the USA would likely have become
extinct. Massive amounts of wealth would have been wiped out as asset prices
These are all appalling events that would have also exposed
the totality of Government incompetence and make them extremely unpopular! But
at least industry and investment would have quickly rebounded back to a point
from which growth could occur again and the process of re-employment and wealth
creation could start afresh. Surely this is a better alternative to the decades
of recessionary economics that have now been unleashed upon western economies
that will eventually cost trillions more than the short, sharp, hard medicine
and ensuing faster recovery that should have occurred?
So why did Government choose the wrong response to crisis?
For the same reason that they allowed their economies during the boom to spiral
out of control; they didn’t know what they were doing!
Within 18 months, the US investment banks had collapsed from
global titans into extinction, so when crisis struck Government were astonished
by the scale of the problem and how far out of their depth they were.
Prior to the Lehman bankruptcy the markets naively believed
that Government vaguely knew what was going on. Lehman’s abrupt collapse
debunked that myth, and it may take many years for market confidence in
Government to return.
Government’s answer to the 2008 crisis was therefore a panic
measure, a knee-jerk response to their own incompetence that was not properly
thought through nor understood. The most worrying thing about all of this is
that Government has convinced itself that it has actually chosen the best crisis
response. It is clear from their comments in 2009 that they believe they have
done a good job, but the reality is that the true extent of their failings will
continue to unravel during 2010 and beyond.
In the meantime the administration will retain its iconic
status as the butt of Wall Street’s private jokes.
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 [email protected]
DVD of the Week:
By Mark Whitman
Ten great films
‘The cinema is a means of
seeing better’. Iris Barry.
‘A true work of art is one from which nothing can be
taken without destroying the whole’. Carl Th. Dreyer.
If you want to provoke a discussion among a group of film
buffs just ask, ‘Which is the second greatest national cinema?’ The handful
of answers depends, naturally, on which is ‘considered’ the premier choice.
This game is on a par with positing which is a ‘favourite’ film, the most
exciting cinematic debut or whether there is such a thing as a ‘perfect’
film. Naturally I ‘know’ the answer to all these questions: equally
naturally they are not the same as your response.
A musician friend, who also happens to be a fairly
fanatical film enthusiast, recently sent me an e-mail relating to the daddy
of all such movie games and quizzes. It was the up to date ‘Top Ten’
listings culled from the regular Sight and Sound polls, which is an
influential magazine published by the British Film Institute. You can check
it out on the internet.
The lists are in two: the first provided by a number of
film critics, of whom Gilbert Adair and Donald Ritchie stand out for their
authoritative and intelligent choices. The second set of ten choices comes
from well known film directors and the most thoughtful of these include Theo
Angelopolous, Michael Haneke, Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismaki, Jim McBride and
In the certain knowledge that we all have our list and
that equally certainly it changes often, at least in part, here is mine.
Asked next week it might have another Bresson or two (A Man Escaped,
L’Argent) or Rossellini (Voyage to Italy, Germany Year Zero), but as of mid
March 2010 here it is. Almost certainly the DVD Movie and Music shop at 289
Suthep Road has the majority of this dektette in stock. Take you pick. Each
fulfils the criteria noted above by critic Barry and director Dreyer.
BALTHAZAR (Fr.1966 Dir Robert Bresson) A donkey, the sins
of man, a sublime masterpiece.
THE BIG HEAT (U.S.A. 1953 Dir Fritz Lang) A brutal take
on gangsterdom and the power of revenge.
GERTRUD (Denmark 1964 Dir Carl Th. Dreyer) The final film
by Scandinavia’s greatest director defines the power of love.
LANCELOT (Fr. 1974 Dir Robert Bresson) An ‘historical’
romance: shades of Brief Encounter. Cinema’s most original work?
THE MATCH FACTORY GIRL (Finland 1990 Dir Aki Kaurismaki)
Finland’s great director ‘reworks’ H.C. Andersen to devastating effect.
ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (U.S.A. 1939 Dir Howard Hawks)
America’s leading home grown movie talent and his perennial theme: men under
THE RETURN (Russia 2003 Dir Andrei Zvyaginstev) Growing
up is hard to do: cinema’s greatest debut?
THE RISE OF LOUIS XIV (Fr. 1966 Dir Roberto Rossellini)
Neo-realism and documentary enter the Court and find it wanting.
ROME OPEN CITY (Italy 1945 Dir Roberto Rossellini)
Cinema’s most visceral war film: once seen NEVER forgotten).
VAN GOGH (Fr 1919 Dir Maurice Pialat) Vincent’s final
days, the artist as a man. Prepare to shed tears.
Let's Go To The Movies:
by Mark Gernpy
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale / Hachiko: A Dog’s Story:
US/ UK, Drama/ Family – This family drama reunites actor
Richard Gere and director Lasse Halstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape).
It’s a remake of a 1987 Japanese film, transferred to Rhode Island.
Born out of real-life events, it tells the tale of Hachi, a faithful Akita
dog who would walk his owner to and from the train station every day. When
the man unexpectedly dies, Hachi continues his daily routine of waiting for
his master at the train station for the next nine years. Mixed or average
reviews: 56 out of 100. But if you’re a dog lover, you will go wild over it,
I guarantee! At Airport Plaza only.
How to Train Your Dragon: US, Animation – Set in the
mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, this animated action
comedy tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn’t exactly fit
in with his tribe’s longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers.
Hiccup’s world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that
challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely
different point of view. Generally favorable reviews: 71/76 out of
100. Shown in 3D at Major Cineplex, Airport Plaza; Vista is showing a 2D
Bang Rajan 2: Thai, Action/ War – The sequel to
Bang Rajan, it continues the patriotic legend of a tiny farming village
that fought Burmese invaders despite insurmountable odds and successfully
held off a foreign invasion until the capital at Ayutthaya could put up a
proper defense. It looks as though this episode will be as ferociously
violent and bloody as the original, with even more buffaloes and mustaches.
Up in the Air: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – Led by
charismatic performances by its three leads, director/ writer Jason Reitman
delivers a smart blend of humor and emotion with just enough edge to be
nominated as best picture of the year, with the best directing and the best
adapted screenplay. Stars George Clooney. Co-star Vera Farmiga plays for me
a fascinating character, and her relationship with Clooney is utterly fresh
and surprising. Rated R in the US for language and some sexual content.
Reviews: Universal acclaim.
When in Rome: US, Comedy/ Romance – Rom-com cliches,
but a pair of young, attractive leads. Kristen Bell plays a young, ambitious
New Yorker who is completely unlucky in love, but on a whirlwind trip to
Rome she impulsively steals some coins from a reputed fountain of love, and
is then aggressively pursued by a band of suitors. Generally unfavorable
Alice in Wonderland (2D): US, Adventure/ Family/
Fantasy – Not your usual Alice, because it’s a new story, a riff on the
original, with Alice all grown up as a late teens girl about to be proposed
to. Escaping for a moment from the ditz proposing to her, she returns to
Wonderland to find the strange land now in the hands of a cruel despot who
is making life miserable for everybody. With director Tim Burton, plus this
particular Alice (Misa Wasikowska), plus Johnny Depp in another of his way-out-there
tragicomic performances – it adds up to an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind
movie experience. Mixed or average reviews. At Airport Plaza only, and not
in 3D this week.
Green Zone: France/ US/ Spain/ UK, Action/ Drama/
Thriller/ War – Courageous director Paul Greengrass takes on the whole Bush
Administration (and the Blair administration too I guess) as he reminds us
all, very forcefully, that there never were “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in
Iraq and the governments knew it, and the whole fiction was created as an
excuse to go to war. Rated R in the US for violence and language. Vista has
a Thai-dubbed version as well.
Nak Prok / Shadow of the Naga: Thai, Action/ Drama –
About a trio of thieves who bury their loot in a Buddhist temple, then
dress as monks in order to retrieve the stolen loot.
The Little Comedian / Ban Chan: Thai, Family/ Comedy –
A family comedy troupe harbors a black sheep – a son who isn’t funny.
Scheduled for Apr 1
Clash of the Titans: UK/ US,
Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy – The mortal son of the god Zeus embarks
on a perilous journey to stop the underworld and its minions from spreading
their evil to Earth as well as the heavens. Starring Sam Worthington as
Perseus, Liam Neeson as Zeus, and Ralph Fiennes as Hades. A remake of a 1981
Ray Harryhausen adventure starring Laurence Olivier, and likely to be the
first chapter in a trilogy based on Greek mythology. It’s one of an
increasing number of films being distributed in 3D — but as a result of the
sort of fake 2D to 3D conversion process, and not originally shot in 3D. (Looks
like they’ll be doing the same for the final two Harry Potter films.)
Bridge in Paradise :
by Neil Robinson
This column is about the value of patience. Many players use
a bid called a negative double. For those who are unfamiliar with this bid,
it is quite simple, but very useful. When your partner bids a suit and the
opponents immediately overcall in another suit, your double is not for
penalties, but is “negative”. It denies your partner’s suit and shows the
two unbid suits. Most particularly it shows any unbid major (lying some
about having the unbid minor is usually acceptable). For example, your
partner opens 1S and right hand opponent (RHO) overcalls 2C. Your hand is:
You have a decent heart suit, but cannot bid 2H (which
shows a minimum of about 9 or 10 points), because you do not have enough
points. So you keep the bidding low by doubling to show the red suits.
Alternatively, your hand is:
Now you have enough points to bid at the two level, but
only four hearts, not enough to bid at the two level. Again, you double to
show the red suits. But what do you do if your hand is as below, RHO
overcalls 2C and the opponents are vulnerable?
If you double, partner will think you have the red suits,
so this is where patience comes in. You pass. Your partner knows that your
pass in this position means either that you are weak, or that you are lying
in wait in clubs. If your partner thinks you are lying in wait, he or she
must double to give you a chance to pass (or, if you are actually weak, to
bid something). The full deal is shown below, with you sitting West and East
dealing and NS vulnerable:
The bidding was as above. South made a reasonable
overcall, with a good six card suit, 12 high card points and a singleton.
But, your partner looked at his void in clubs and knew to double. Your karma
must be good because this has delivered South into your hands, with nowhere
to run to—NS’s longest combined suit outside clubs is spades, your partner’s
Declarer took your spade lead with the ace, and then led
the club queen (a low club is better), hoping to drop two opposing trumps.
You take it and switch to a diamond. Partner takes two top spades (with you
throwing diamonds), and switches to the heart queen. Now, no matter how
South twists and turns, you take a total of ten tricks (2 spades, 3 hearts,
1 diamond and 4 clubs), for down 5. Soon, you are writing plus 1400 on your
side of the score sheet. Ah!—the rewards of patience.
Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For
information on the Club go to the web site at www.bridgeclubchiangmai.com.
If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please
contact me at: [email protected]
MAIL OPINION : Haze Part Two
By Shana Kongmun
The recent rains helped clear the air a bit, much to everyone’s relief.
However, early mornings still see haze and I hear reports of burnings
continuing despite the choking haze that has been covering the North for
weeks. There are reports of storms hitting the North in the coming week; we
can only cross our fingers and hope they bring rain as the burning does not
seem to have abated.
A good friend of mine lives in Pai and has lived there
for several years. He returns to his home country this time every year as
the smoke in Pai is so bad it makes it difficult even for those without
respiratory ailments. He told me the hills around Pai are alight with fires
every night, usually so high up and so far that there is little anyone can
do to stop them. Short of, of course, them not being lit in the first place.
A friend of mine is visiting, thinking of moving here and
starting a business. But, his arrival at the height of the haze is changing
his mind. “Chiang Mai is lovely,” he said to me, “it’s a pity the air is so
dirty”. How true that is. The idea of an annual repeat of the bad air,
already aggravating his allergies and causing him some difficulties, is
making him think twice and three times about doing business here.
How many tourists come and then leave immediately,
telling their friends not to bother with Chiang Mai because you can’t
breathe? How many people move away because they can’t handle the choking,
thick haze? How many businesses up sticks and move somewhere with cleaner
air? How many businesses never get started because someone like my friend
realizes that Chiang Mai is not the place for them?
The solution must lie in education. It must lie in
offering alternatives and it must lie in people realizing that not only are
they damaging their own lives, the lives of their children but those of
everyone around them. Certainly, punishment is necessary, for often the only
thing that will really alter human behavior is a drastic effect on the
bottom line. But, additionally, alternatives must be offered and education
programs must be implemented, starting in schools and starting at an early
If they government isn’t going to consider the long term
health ramifications and its associated costs, perhaps it might consider the
short term economic impact of people fleeing Chiang Mai to find air to
How does your garden grow?:
By Eric Danell,
The Wildflower Season
With so many private and public gardens, national parks
and universities, Chiang Mai could be a centre for new tourist segments who
wish to spend week learning about tropical gardening. The cool season has a
reputation of being the most appealing season to tourists, but frankly,
October-December is not the most exciting period for blossom in Lanna,
although alien weeds like Tithonia diversifolia (Bua tong, Mexican sunflower)
is shown to innocent tourists in November. The Lanna wildflower blossom
starts in January with Congea tomentosa (Phuang pradit, Congea), and
continues with Bombax ceiba (Ngio, Red Kapok) in February, but I personally
feel that the peak season is now, in the notorious hot season. Numerous
spectacular monsoon orchids and native trees such as Shorea obtusa (Teng,
Siamese Sal), Crateva magna (Kum, Crateva), Erythrina stricta (Thong lang pa),
Cassia fistula (Ratcha phruek, Golden shower), Cassia bakeriana (Kanlapa
phruek, Pink shower) and Pterospermum acerifolium (Kanan pling, Banana peel
tree) all display fantastic blossom. Since we have changed the negative
“rainy season” (May-October) to a more positive “green season”, I believe
that the negative “hot season” (March-May) should be replaced with “the
However, Chiang Mai cannot promote green tourism during
the Wildflower Season as long as we have mountain fires. The French explorer
Thorel predicted 150 years ago that these “devastating” fires would soon
disappear. He was wrong. We simply have to conclude that the legislation,
the propaganda of prominent Thai researchers, educational programs initiated
by the Thai national parks and pleas by the King have not been enough. In
March Mae Hong Son had a pollution index exceeding 500, while the limit for
dangerous health problems is 300, and in EU the index is usually within the
range 10-50. Maybe we should bring in consultants from Isaan to explain how
they modernised their land management? Maybe, if we leased police from Isaan,
we could enforce the laws, and finally get rid of a problem causing cancer,
asthma, forest destruction, bad publicity in guidebooks and billions lost
every year due to stunted tourism?. www.dokmaigarden.co.th.
Life in Chiang Mai:
By Heather Allen
Songkran season is creeping up and I, for one, am not
looking forward to the week(s) long festivities. Not so much the festivals,
parties and beauty contests but the incessant water throwing and the
frightening number of drunk drivers. When did Songkran turn into a giant
rowdy party from the genteel and gentle washing of hands?
Songkran, as all residents know, marks the beginning of
the Thai New Year. The date of the New Year was originally set by
astrological calculation. The term Songkran comes from the Sanskrit
“Sankranta” and means “a move or change” - in this case the move of the sun
into the Aries zodiac. Originally this happened at the vernal equinox, but,
as the Thai astrology did not observe precession, the date moved from March
to April and the date fixed on April 13 after 1940. Until 1888 the Thai New
Year was the beginning of the year in Thailand, April 1 was used until 1940
when it was set at January 1. Since then, Songkran has been a national
Water throwing originated as a way to pay respect to
people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddha
image for cleansing and then using this “blessed” water to give good fortune
to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulders. The water is
seen as a cleansing of the past. Additionally, many Thais will use this
opportunity for what we in the West call a Spring Cleaning, a thorough
cleaning out of the old to make way for the new. Many Thais spend this day
at the Wat, paying respects and making merit. How this gentle ceremony
evolved to ranging water wars complete with water pistols, cannons, buckets
of ice water and talc I am not sure.
And a lot of heavy drinking. Songkran is, along with the
January New Year, the worst holiday for traffic accidents, with the numbers
escalating year after year as people drive drunk. Add in to the drunk
driving mix, people getting doused with buckets of ice water as they drive
and it’s no surprise that last year’s fatality rate was the highest in the
nation, with 14 dead over the Songkran period in Chiang Mai.
Parties are fun, and so is a bit of water throwing, it’s
great to see people out on the streets joining in with a feeling of
community and camaraderie, with both foreigners and Thais, expats and
tourists, out throwing water on people.
But, after a few days, at least for me, it grows tiresome
and I fear driving the streets at all times of the day because of the drunks
on the road.