HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Snap Shots

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

A Slice of Thai History

Personal Directions

Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Snap Shots: Pushing the envelope - with a steady hand

by Harry Flashman

Photography is a dynamic hobby. Whether you are photographing people or houses, there are always different ways of doing it. Different lighting techniques, different lenses, filters, exposures, situations and colours. To be perfectly honest, I have never found picture taking to be dull in any way. There was always something to experiment with or just ‘give it a go’ and see what comes back from the photoprocessor.

What I have been trying recently are insanely long, basically hand-held, exposures. What prompted this was looking for ‘atmospheric’ photographs of places at night. When you use the flash you get that ‘startled rabbit’ look on the people and the buildings all look cold and unattractive. However, if use the available light, be that streetlights, car headlights or whatever, you will get a very different ‘look’ to the photograph.

Now I do not believe in too much brainpower when taking personal photographs, so the suggestions are all done in the Auto mode (or the Aperture mode if you have one). Set the aperture as wide as you can get - f 1.4 or f 2.8 works well and then see what shutter speed the camera is going to use, and you will find these are in the range of 1/15th to 1/2 second. Not hand-held numbers, but rather tripod requirements.

However, forget about the tripod (I never carry mine unless it is for specific ‘commercial’ reasons). If the exposure indicated is 1/15th of a second, hold the camera firmly and just lean on a tree, against the wall to steady yourself and fire off a couple of exposures. At least one will be sharp, and decidedly different with the ambient light being the source of illumination.

Now if the suggested exposure is even longer, say 1/8th or 1/4 second, what I do is put the camera on a table, or on top of a wall, squint through the viewfinder and again fire off a couple of shots. The majority of these work out OK too. Now I know that a small tabletop tripod would do all this, but who has a small tabletop tripod in their back pocket?

So after the ‘hand-held’ time exposures, let’s look at exposures covering many seconds. You are going to need the tripod this time! However, the technical details are not difficult at all. What do you need for Time Exposure photography? A tripod and a camera with a T or a B exposure setting. (Use “B” for time exposures up to a minute and “T” for longer ones mainly because your finger will go numb holding the button down for 20 minutes!)

Film stock? The new 400 ASA is fine but you can use anything (I generally just use the standard 200 ASA film). Now you may have read about “reciprocity failure” with long exposures. Give up reading! It’s photo industry techo-speak and won’t stop you getting good pictures, it just changes the colours a bit.

The important point to grasp is that all Time Exposure photography is “hit and miss”. There’s no real way anyone can tell you exactly “f8 and 24 seconds”. There are too many variables, but all you have to do is to take the same scene or picture with several different exposure times - one of them will be right. Believe me!

Here’s the rough guide. In all of these the aperture (f stop) is set on f8. Now to take a street scene at night, try 2 seconds, 4 seconds and 8 seconds. For the interior of a room, lit with ordinary light bulbs, try 5 seconds, 10 seconds and 20 seconds. To take a picture just before dawn try 5, 10 and 20 seconds. Now, for a completely dark, night landscape (or seascape) try 30 seconds, 1 minute and 2 minutes.

Make a note of the order your time exposures were shot in, and jot down the “best” result after you get your films back. Sure, the colours will be strangely different - but if you wanted a “normal” shot you’d have taken it in daylight, wouldn’t you? Try pushing the envelope this weekend.

Modern Medicine: Problems with the packaging

by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant

Our skin is our outer protective packaging. Just like the parcels that say ‘fragile’ and ‘this way up’, our skins similarly should have warnings placed on our protective coats. “Avoid exposure to the sun” would be the first label. In fact, any repetitive exposure to chemicals could be included in that group. Including dishwashing liquid (which is why I avoid washing up as much as possible!).

Unfortunately, after our external packaging has been exposed to chemicals and irritants for many years, it begins to show the ravages of time. And while none of us like getting older - it still beats the alternative! One of those ravages comes under the general heading of ‘tumours’.

Now the very word ‘Tumours’ strikes fear in the hearts of many, but this is purely a term to describe growths on the skin, which may or may not be ‘malignant’. In fact, most skin tumours are not malignant (called ‘benign’), and even with the malignant ones, the majority are not going to kill you. Having said that, it does not mean that you should ignore skin growths. While most will not kill you, they can make the last few years very unpleasant if left untreated.

Looking first at the benign tumours, probably the most common are Seborrhoeic Keratoses. These are the dry slightly raised “warty” lesions that look as if they have been stuck on to the skin. In fact, many people “flake” them off with a well applied finger nail. They come in all colours, and a very simple way to remove them is with liquid nitrogen freezing. This leaves you with a smooth white spot where you had a rough coloured one before. (Ask to see mine!)

Another interesting lesion is the Acrochordon. These are little skin tags that hang off the skin and are often considered to be unsightly by the owner, and can be removed with one suture and one snip.

Another benign lesion is the Keratoacanthoma. These grow fairly rapidly and have a smooth outline. We usually cut them out, because they are actually quite difficult to differentiate from SCC’s (Squamous Cell Carcinomas).

Now we are into the malignant lesions and the three main types are the SCC, the BCC (Basal Cell Carcinomas) and the Melanoma. These develop over a period of time and exposure to the sun’s UV light is the main culprit. Hence our call to all parents to make sure their children are well protected by a Factor 15+ sunscreen. In 60 years time your children will appreciate you, but you’ll probably be dead by then. It’s always the case, isn’t it!

SCC’s are nearly always on sun damaged skin, and fair skinned people are the most prone. There is often a reddened area around a central scaly patch, and with long-standing ones the centre can ulcerate. Again, it is surgical excision or nitrogen freezing.

The BCC’s on the other hand are much more aggressive than the SCC’s. They have a scaly surface and a raised “pearly” edge. Known as “Rodent Ulcers” because they gnaw away at healthy tissues, they can invade and erode cartilage and even bone. Surgical excision is still the mainstay of treatment.

Finally, the Melanomas. These are dark pigmented skin lesions with irregular borders and invade the deeper tissues and can spring up as secondary lesions as well. These tumours can kill you. Wide and deep surgical excision is the treatment of choice.

Skin tumours should not be ignored. If you have some, take them to your doctor for diagnosis today!

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I always read your colomb (sic) with greatest pleasure. Not every letter from the sender-in. Only the letters from the desperate men. I always have a lot of laughs about the “farang” being in doubt about the truthfulness of his “girlfriend”. For me it’s almost unbelievable! You give those desperate men always a good advise. I must say that you put it in a harsh and straight way. Those men come with questions that can easily be answered by their own “common sense”. Why are so many people so bad in the judgement of the person they deal with? If they could only take a minute, letting the blood go to their brains, you would not have to answer all those obvious questions. I like the people giving it straight to me. Keep up the good work Hillary!!!

Dear Roger,
Thank you for your letter, and indeed you are correct when you write of ‘common sense’. Unfortunately it’s not too ‘common’ in certain areas. Your spelling interests me. Are you perhaps Colombian, or just a poor speller, my Petal? Your suggestion of men taking a minute to let the blood go to their brains is an excellent one, however, it has been said before that men were given a brain and a penis, but unfortunately only have enough blood to drive one at a time. You have to pity the poor dears, really.
Dear Hillary,
I am a Californian guy living here and I have been very happy with my beautiful Thai girlfriend who has been living with me for just over a year. As a teacher I don’t make a fortune but there is enough for the two of us to get by. The problem began two months ago when Noi asked to borrow 50,000 baht from me to send to her younger sister up-country who is pregnant. Although that amount is substantial to me I agreed to lend it to her provided she would pay me back. My girl has a good job as a waitress and she agreed to pay me back but now three months later, there is no sign of the money. If I keep on mentioning it she gets annoyed, but 50,000 baht is a substantial amount on my salary. Have you any suggestions Hillary?

Dear Dexter,
Yes Dexter, I suggest that in future you do not lend money to your girlfriends. Any money you have loaned so far consider a gift, and if the requests come too often, or are too high in the stakes, then look for another girlfriend. As you say, your salary as a teacher will not be high. Don’t become an ATM, Petal.
Dear Hillary,
I am sixteen, and last month I caught my younger brother dressing up in my clothes. He is 13 years old. He wears my make up and shoes too and I have to say that he looks kinda OK. I told him that I wouldn’t tell Mum if he just does it at home, but I have found out that he is sneaking out at night in my clothes. Do you think I should go with him to make sure he stays out of trouble, or just tell Mum?
Big Sister

Dear Big Sister,
This is not the sort of problem that 16-year-old girls should have to meet. It is hard enough for you to handle what is happening to you, without looking after your 13-year-old brother as well. Tell your brother that if he doesn’t stop sneaking out you will tell Mum. That way you are giving him a chance. But one chance only.
Dear Hillary,
My girlfriend is absolutely gorgeous. Long dark hair, sweet nature, never complains and a wonderful lover. There is a problem that has been getting worse recently. A few months ago she began asking for money. First time it was to send her younger brother to university. I was happy enough to help out the first time, but now she wants money every month for some other relative in need. It is amazing just how many relatives one person can have. She wants around 10,000 baht every month and honestly I am having trouble saving this amount out of the housekeeping money each month. My husband of six years is starting to think I am wasting the money on drinking, gambling or on men. What should I do?

Dear Lesley,
You are a little one, aren’t you? Heaven forbid that you should be spending the housekeeping money on a man! How could he possibly think that way? Sounds to me as if your husband does not really know who he married all those years ago. Or have you changed over the years? As far as what to do - I think you should read the reply to Dexter and think about your relationship with this woman very dispassionately. It sounds to me as if passion has obscured the dispassionate view. There are plenty of other “long dark hair, sweet nature, never complains and a wonderful lover,” around. Next time just make sure she is an orphan.

A Slice of Thai History: Escape from Bangkok 1945

Part One: Shot Down and Rescued

by Duncan steam

As the Second World War drew towards a successful closure for the Allied nations, it was clear to those Thais in positions of influence that their country’s alliance with Japan would result in possibly severe repercussions once the fighting ceased and the time came for organising the peace.

One of the mitigating factors that would result in Thailand’s punishment being far less harsh than it might otherwise have been, was the Free Thai underground network led by the Regent, Pridi Banomyong, and supported by the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

Many Thais resented the presence of Japanese forces in their homeland, especially since these troops tended to act more like occupiers than allies. So, whenever the opportunity arose to hinder the progress of Japanese war aims, there were plenty of Thais willing to help.

This was particularly the case with downed Allied airmen. A case in point is the story of British fliers William Pugh, Raymond Woods, Cyril Copley, Ramsey Roe, Bill Parsons and Canadian Harry Smith, the 21-year-old flight commander. Their aircraft, an American B-24 Liberator, consisting of 10 British airmen and four U.S. personnel, three of whom were OSS agents who were to be parachuted near Khorat, was shot down by a brace of nine Japanese fighters over Thailand on the morning of 29 May 1945. Luckily they managed to effect a crash-landing, although not without casualties and under fire as the fighters strafed the site. Four of the British airmen were killed during the Japanese fighter attack and one of the Americans was mortally wounded. He died without regaining consciousness. Of the remaining nine, most were injured in some way.

Recognising the need to move as far away from their downed aircraft as soon as possible, they moved off into the jungle. After just 15 minutes or so they heard dogs barking and people shouting. They took cover and determined to fight it out if the noises proved to be Japanese troops. Luckily, the people were Thai locals who took the downed airmen and hid them in their small village.

The following morning, the airmen “were startled by a commotion outside. On glancing through the bamboo screens around us we spotted what looked like a Military Patrol on horseback approaching the village ... What really scared us for awhile was the leader who looked so much like a Japanese Officer.”

To be continued next week...

Personal Directions:  What are we doing here? ... living

by Christina Dodd

Having just spent some time in Australia attending to personal and family matters, I can still hear voices saying to me and asking me why it is that I continue to “stay away” and live elsewhere. This is a regular activity and I’m sure I am not alone in this as many of you have no doubt experienced the same thing; the same set of questions and the same bewildered faces as they continue to not understand why you and I have made the choices and decisions we have, as to where we live.

I don’t know whether it is only me, or whether you also feel this way, but whenever it is time to leave Australia and return to Thailand, I am over the moon! I sometimes can’t wait to get on that plane and rev the engines up and take off! It is not that I am ungrateful or uncaring about the place I have just been or the people with whom I have shared some very valuable time, but I am so relieved to get back to my world. Yes, my world where I can feel first and foremost the warmth of the people around me shine through. It is a very real thing; it is a very true thing to say that where you and I live is an extremely pleasant place to be.

Sure there are problems that confront us. There are problems that will confront us no matter where we live. And there will always be places where everything works better than in Thailand. Seems like this is a criticism shared by many. But hey, do things always work better somewhere else like in the UK or the US or in Australia? And look at how much less it costs you to live here and to enjoy a lifestyle that would cost a fortune in most of our home countries.

This trip away opened my eyes even more so to the fact that you and I are guests in a country where, from my own personal experience, the people seem much more accepting and more open than in most other places. You may differ in your opinions, that is your right, but I can’t help feeling that we are living in a very special place (for many other reasons too) and I am so glad that my life and its experiences have led me here and to where I am.

How about you? Are you happy to be here? Do you feel the same way? I’m sure that a lot of you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be here would you? And now that you are here, may I ask what it is that you are doing here? What do you do to fill your day? You are in a wonderful country and some of you are perhaps retired, so what do you do in your retirement?

Quite often I meet couples or single men and women who have had the opportunity to retire here, or visit for three or six months of the year. And I wonder whether they are really feeling fulfilled and living each day as opposed to existing each day! Just because you have retired doesn’t mean that you stop planning and thinking about what you should do each day. Maybe you might think otherwise, but to my mind a day still needs to have an agenda, no matter whether you are working or not working. And there needs to be a certain level of achievement to what you do in the day. Sure you are in paradise, but it is easy to lose sight of the necessities of life when we are so consumed.

Please don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that you should stop playing your game of golf every day or should stop sitting by the pool. You have most likely worked hard and long to reach the stage where you can choose precisely what you yourself want to do regardless of what anyone else thinks. But despite the fact that you truly deserve to do as you please, it is so very important to continue to enrich your life and bring home a sense of satisfaction that you have made some kind of contribution to what is going on around you.

There are times when we need to take stock at intervals as we grow and develop to put a clearer picture in place as to where we are actually going. Would you ride around in a taxi all day aimlessly without going anywhere specific? It would end up costing you a fortune, the driver probably wouldn’t mind in the beginning but then later on he’d get a bit annoyed because he always has a point to reach - a destination - and to just go around in circles could send him up the wall. You would probably get cranky as well because you know from your own sense of things that we all need focus to what we do.

If in your retirement you are occupied and have a sense of focus and direction in your life - that is tremendous. If you are also active and actually going out and doing things that can help others in their lives, then that is a great achievement. I take my hat off to those of you who seize the opportunity to excel in life and to pursue new and exciting life adventures, especially when retired. To tell you the truth, I really do think the word retirement should never be used. To most it is more like a sentence than a life. I will never retire as I am having too much fun doing what I am doing and there are just so many more areas in my world that I have to cover. I’ll retire at the end of the day and have some sleep - but that’s as far as it goes. And my world is here, in this place that I dream of coming home to, the instant I have left.

If you would like to contact me about Personal Life Planning or indeed any of our personal or business skills programs, then please email me at [email protected]

Until next time, seize every moment and live it to the full!

Social Commentary by Khai Khem:  The ‘coming drought’ is already here

On occasion readers have asked why our publication doesn’t specifically address readers’ comments in our letters’ section. I once wrote that we sometimes do print an Editor’s reply, but mainly our Mail Bag is a forum for the public to get a chance to air their views. It’s a space in our newspaper that is reserved for readers to say their piece and an opportunity for them to actively participate through print. Letters are frequently responded to by other readers and often lively debates and even kudus are exchanged without the intervention of staff writers. We not only value the opinions of our readership but actually look forward to comments, whatever the subject.

This long-winded prologue does have a point. There have been letters recently printed in Mail Bag from residents who are suffering from water shortages. A recent one, printed on March 19, headed ‘Drought on the way’ by Concerned Resident contained a valid warning and convincing reasons why water shortages will become our next pressing problem. Another letter published in the same issue by Whitey, suggested that revelers “Splash some water into my tank during Songkran”. These two letters hit home - MY home.

I live in the Mabprachan area on Siam Country Club Road. Our village was built by a well-known and very reputable developer who, at the time of construction, did everything in his power to build a quality project with professional site preparation and provide well-built homes. A few years ago our location was sparsely populated and the competition for resources and public utilities was not an issue. City water is not provided in this area, but the development has its own arteisan wells. Until lately our water supply was uninterrupted. Now the ground water level has been reduced by insufficient rain and we are often without water until management calls in water trucks to fill the community’s storage tanks.

Although warned that our water supply may be interrupted frequently until Mother Nature sees fit to drench our area with rainfall, we cannot shower, cook or even flush our toilets without water. What used to be “someone else’s” hardship has now befallen us. The tap water simply shuts off without warning and we are all caught by surprise at the most inconvenient times.

Last night I went to sleep with the shampoo suds drying into a crust in my hair because I was in the shower when the ‘aqua vita’ dried up. I saved the last two bottles of store-bought water for the dogs and bit the bullet. In the wee hour of the morning I made a mad dash to the community swimming pool to rinse off. By the way, the swimming pool had LOTS of clean water, but our homes had unwashed dinner dishes piled in the sink and foul-smelling toilets. Husbands and children went to office and school the next morning drenched in cologne and pungent deodorant.

Concerned Resident clearly pointed out the root of the problem. Our manic construction boom in the region has raced ahead of the capabilities of authorities to plan and execute sorely needed projects which supply public utilities - not only tap water, but electricity, garbage collection, telephone service, access roads, fire brigade service, and adequate police protection.

Siam Country Club Road now has shoulder-to-shoulder housing developments under construction on both sides of the road, except at the Mabprachan Reservoir water’s edge. The parallel community of Soi Nernplubwan’s population has exploded with such force that its high-density crowding is overwhelming the entire area including schools which are now being funded by aid from local charity groups.

Established developments such as the one I live in are queuing for fixed line telephone numbers by both TOT and TT&T. Some families have been on the waiting list of both companies for months. How are the concerned authorities going to provide essential public utilities for the hundreds of new homes when construction is completed?

And where will the most vital resource - water - come from? This is just a small section of our Banglamung district, but a perfect example of what is going on all over our region.

Songkran? What can I say? This is one of the most important and earnestly worshipped events in the Kingdom. Traditional celebrations contain ancient rituals which are dear to the hearts of Thais. The water-throwing festivities come once a year and the water used for the activities throughout the kingdom is as important to the Thai New Year as bread and wine is for Christian communion. Water is a precious resource which is becoming scarce all over the world.

Can we encourage Thai public awareness of water shortages during drought years and include a plea for voluntary restraint? Yes, that’s an option. Still, this is no substitute for foreword planning by government to address an issue which is certain to subject all of us to severe hardships in the future.

Does anyone remember last summer when hotels and guest houses hosting tourists had to suffer the incriminations of guests who were victims of intermittent tap water shut-offs? Or the complaints by residents of whole areas in Jomtien, for example, whose housing estates had no water supply for months on end? These objections were aired by people living in areas where city water was supposed to be supplied. But there are literally thousands of residential locations in Chonburi Province where the only source of water is a ground well, or a water storage tank filled by private water truck entrepreneurs.

By the way. Anyone with the time and determination can drive down to one of our local reservoirs and after dark, watch the water trucks fill up their tanks with impunity. This is not a new enterprise. I’ve been watching these illegal operations at the Mabprachan Reservoir for the past 10 years. Residents living near other public reservoirs will also attest to this fact.

I’ve learned not to begrudge people the right to water, whatever the means of acquisition. My evening shower can be dispensed with if it means that a slum family or neglected community is suffering beyond endurance. Banglamung district’s water shortages will be our next SARS, crime wave, closing hour’s dispute and bird flu headache. All were temporary setbacks. Damage control needs quick response, but it looks like we’re in for a long, hot summer. Maybe our ‘ladies of the night’ will have a new role to play. I remember when Britain had a long-lasting water shortage and the public service message was sent out: “Shower with a friend”. It worked wonders.