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Saturday, September 26, 2009


Tooth story, latest chapter

To put these present tooth issues in perspective I'd like to go back to the beginning.

I had teeth that were giving me lots of twinges, thermal aches and such. This dentist in Mahasarakham was recommended. He removed a couple of old fillings and replaced them and told me to come back in three months. Up to that point everything was fine.

Apparently most Thais don't come back for follow up if they feel fine. He was surprised to see me back. The teeth were not bothering me, at least way less than before. In retrospect, I think he saw this as an opportunity to 'make business'. He told me that the second tooth had a crack and that I should get the root canal treatment and a crown or I would end up with continued troubles. He's the expert, I thought, I took his advice.

After all the troubles (see earlier blogs) I got a second opinion from a dentist who said that my continued pain was coming from the tooth next to the one that had been treated. She suggested I not go back to the first dentist but return to the specialist in Khon Kaen.

I did. She checked it all out and I put my case that I wanted either her or her husband to put the crown on the tooth and also to do the root-canal treatment on the next tooth. She called her husband to take a look, for a second opinion. He was reluctant that they should do this for 'ethical' reasons, ie I had been referred to them by the dentist in Mahasarakham and it was unethical for them to take his patient from him. I've encountered this before in Australian medical practice. The ethics towards colleagues are higher than the ethics to the patient.

I explained that I'd been upfront with the dentist in Mahasarakham and told him I was going to get it finished in Khon Kaen and that he should call him and get his OK before he went ahead.

He spent ten minutes on the phone and came back in to say they had agreed that I should return to Mahasarakham to finish the treatment.

During this discussion I mentioned something about them having treated the second tooth and I was corrected. No they had treated the first one. It took me a little while to wake up. It seems that somehow they'd got the wrong tooth. I didn't think of it while I was there or I would have asked to see the original referral document (if they still had it). Did he tell them the wrong tooth? Did they get the wrong tooth? Or am I still confused?

But one thing they all seem to agree on is that the second tooth is the one with the crack and that is the one from which I am getting pain at times (thankfully not now).

Someone recommended another dentist in Mahasarakham. I caught a sorngtheau into town one night to pay her a visit but I backed out. I found the clinic but I changed my mind. Somehow all of this has undermined my faith in dentists. The temporary crown is still in place. The tooth is not bothering me. For the moment I have decided to leave well enough alone.

About a week later I was riding my bicycle home from the night market. My phone rang. I stopped and took the call. It was the wife of the dentist in Mahasarakham. She told me my crown was ready could I come in and have it fitted. I said that I didn't want to do that. 'OK. Thank you,' she said. And that was it.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009


Say no

My mother who is 96 recently went into hospital because she was having difficulty breathing. Here is a report I have received.

'...the upper chambers of the heart, the heart beat is irregular. She has not had a heart attack. This problem with the heart only started a few weeks ago. Because of the difficulty of her breathing it is putting extra stress on the heart. If she was to go home she would be back in again in about 4 to 6 weeks and then it would be the end.'

The report went on to say she has been hiding her pills and they think this means she wants to end it. I disagree strongly.

I think my mother and I are very similar on this one. We both believe that drugs don't make you better, they make you sick. When I was diagnosed with prostate troubles, the drug the urologist scared me into taking caused symptoms ten times worse than the ones I had. I only took one. That was several years ago. And my prostate condition is still manageable without drugs. I think my mother believes the drugs are, if not actually killing her, at least making her much sicker. I don't blame her for hiding them.

Perhaps in thirty years time I'll be in a similar situation. When my time comes I hope to die naturally, not because of the drugs someone makes me take. However, I hope to be a little different from my mother. Instead of hiding them, I trust I'll be able to just say 'no'.

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Monday, September 14, 2009


Too many strays

There must be more stray dogs in Thailand than in any other country that I have ever visited. It is an aspect of Thai Buddhism that people take care of stray dogs. If you feed a dog, that is considered to make merit (good karma) for you. I have not seen this, at least not so commonly, anywhere else.

When I was in China there were stray dogs on the campus where I was staying. I never noticed anyone feed them until some Thai students came to stay. I was having dinner with them one night and when we finished they collected all the scraps off our plates in a plastic bag. 'What's that for?' I asked. 'To feed the dogs.'

Mahasarakham University has grown since I was here in 2003. There are twice as many students. And it seems there are at least twice as many dogs on campus. They (the dogs) are not aggressive, at least not towards me, but at times they can be noisy. Often that's early in the morning when I'm trying to sleep. As I ride my bicycle around the campus I notice there is also a lot of sexual activity going on among the dogs. I decided something has to be done before they multiply more and more.

My friend and boss was recently appointed as a vice-president of the university. Prior to this, it was easy to see him. I could walk into his office for a chat just about any time. Now it seems he spends most of his life at meetings and going backwards and forwards to Bangkok. I mentioned to his secretary how hard it is to see him these days. She suggested that she would make an appointment on my behalf. By time we met the list of things I needed to discuss with him had become quite long. But right near the top was the dog population issue.

I suggested to him that it would be a good project for the veterinary science students to catch the dogs, sterilise them and release them. He was inspired and immediately picked up his phone and rang the head of the veterinary science department who was also enthusiastic about the idea. It's nice. My friend has a lot more sway as vice-president and indirectly it gives me a little more sway.

The MSU veterinary science department is quite new. They only have first-year students and they do not have the experience to be able to handle this project. But no problem. They'll borrow a few final-year students from Khon Kaen University and our students will work with them. A decision was also made that our department would chip in some money to buy some drugs to immunise the dogs against whatever canine diseases are prevalent here.

They felt sure the students would be enthusiastic about the project too. They would see it that they are improving the dogs lives and thus they too would gain merit from the exercise.

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Friday, September 11, 2009


My garden

I do like to have a few plants around me but I don't have much opportunity where I'm living now. Well, there is a tree outside my bedroom window which attracts birds to wake me in the morning. I would love to have a few potted plants inside but this place is so tiny, there just isn't room.

Then I moved into a new office. There is room in the office for a few plants. That inspired me to start looking around. When the stalls turned up on campus for the Science Fair there were a few that were selling orchids. As they were in hanging pots it dawned on me that I could hang them on the window grill in my flat.

The woman who sold them to me was quite keen that I look after them properly and between her lousy English and my lousy Thai I got to understand that they needed to be watered morning and night. Trust they'll survive when I head off for Khon Kaen for the root canal treatment.

They've been there a few weeks now and as you can see they're looking quite healthy, even have a few new shoots.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Scammed through facebook

Here’s a story of yet another internet scam. Not so long ago I received a similar letter from a facebook friend—someone who is a friend of a friend and who I have never actually met in person. It never occurred to me at the time that it might be fake. I thought to myself ‘he’s got a hide’ and sent an email saying I couldn’t help out at the moment. In this particular case the person was asking for US $2,500 because he’d lost his wallet in London.

I look at it this way, assuming the request was genuine, if someone is asking for something from me that I would not consider asking from them then I have no reason to feel bad about rejecting the request. When I travel, I do it on the cheap. If I lost my wallet, even in London, I doubt that I would have been carrying $2,500 in it. I can live for a long time on $2,500. I doubt that I would ever need to ask anyone to transfer $2,500 to me and if I did I have a relative who handles my finances in Australia. If that relative got such a request I think they would know if I’d written it. If the writing style was different they should be suspicious. There is no one else I would ask. And certainly not someone I’ve never met.

If you follow the link above to the article I’m referring to, read the comments. There are many suggestions of ways to avoid this sort of thing happening. Most importantly, don’t trust your information to facebook. I’ve written before about not giving sites access to files on your computer. Facebook and many of its subsidiary applications request access to your files. Don’t allow it. Get a life. Find some other way to communicate with people.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009


Root canal update

This follows on from my previous dental report.

I needed to go back a few times for the dentist to make and fit the crown. The next time I returned he said he would give me an injection. I said OK. I wasn't concerned if I had an injection or not. I had decided that I would use some relaxation techniques and control the pain on my own.

He jabbed me several times but I wasn't aware of any numbness. He didn't seem to take too long before he started working on my tooth, preparing for the crown. There was some pain as he worked but I did not complain. I used my own techniques to keep it under control. He took a cast to prepare the crown and then put on another temporary crown.

On the way home I could feel a little pain and I was aware that there was no wearing off of the numb feeling. There was no numb feeling! Had he put any anaesthetic in that injection or was it a placebo?

By the following morning the pain was quite intense. It lasted for about a week. I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't want to go back to that dentist, not if he believed my pain was psychosomatic. If that was the case, he'd discounted the possibility that there could be some dental reason for the pain.

I decided I needed a second opinion but I had a complication in that my throat was also sore. A friend had H1N1 swine flu and was in hospital. (Perhaps an overreaction.) On Friday we were chatting online and he said that his symptoms were just a sore throat and a temperature. We've had a lot of hot, humid weather lately and it feels like you have a temperature whenever you are out in it. I decided I needed to be sure. On Saturday I went into town to do my shopping and I bought a thermometer. When I came back I checked and it was exactly normal.

I went to see the doctor on Monday and he said he thought the throat problem was caused by the tooth. He recommend I see a dentist who comes to the university clinic on Tuesdays. She was able to demonstrate quite convincingly that the pain was coming from the tooth next to the one that had been treated. She tapped the treated tooth, I felt nothing. She tapped the next tooth—intense pain. She shot a burst of air at the treated tooth—nothing, the next one—intense pain. She squirted cold water on the treated tooth—nothing, the next one—intense pain. It was pretty convincing.

So, how incompetent is my dentist? Has he been treating the wrong tooth all along? I have no way of knowing but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. What I'm sure of is that he certainly wasn't able to diagnose the real source of my pain this time. The clinic dentist advised that I go back to the root-canal specialist in Khon Kaen and get all the work done by her and that's what I'm doing. The pain has since subsided I might add.

I wasn't able to get into my usual Sunday morning appointment this weekend as the dentist is going to Bangkok. I took a Saturday afternoon slot. But I didn't make it. This morning when I took a sorngtheau to the bus stop there was a bus there when I arrived. But they wouldn't let me on. It was already overcrowded and there seemed to be a quite a few students waiting already for the next one. I joined them. When it arrived about half an hour later it was seriously overcrowded already and there were about 20 or 30 students who were attempting to get on too. I decided to give it a miss. I rang the dentist and booked my usual 10 am Sunday slot next weekend.

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Friday, September 04, 2009


Real or not—revisited

I was visiting the Biological Sciences Building again. When I walked past the room where I'd seen the dead bodies I peeked in. They were still there. Maybe not the same ones but ones in a similar state of dismemberment. There was a class of medical students busily cutting them up. I wandered in and had a chat with their teacher and here is what I learned.

People will their bodies for medical research and/or study. After death they are put in chemicals to preserve them. Two years later they arrive at MSU where they are kept for one year.

The university uses them to teach human anatomy to students of medicine, nursing and other relevant courses. In this case the students were second-year medical students. Anatomy is seen as belonging to the Biology Department so the bodies are kept by them and students from other faculties visit for their anatomy lessons.

I stayed about ten minutes for this chat but admit I was feeling mildly queasy again. I chose to not look too closely at the corpses. These young med students, on the other hand, appeared to be completely comfortable as they hacked away and pulled out bits and pieces that they compared to the pictures in their anatomy text books.

Denial of death is very strong in Western society and perhaps humanity in general. I've written before about the use of the euphemism 'to pass away' because, for some reason, we are afraid to mention death. The idea that we should die and end completely is something we seem to not be able to accept. We have to go to heaven or be reborn.

While Buddhism appears to accept the concept of rebirth it is a little vague on what is reborn as Buddhism denies the existence of a soul.

Buddhism teaches detachment from the body we are living in and also from any others that we might happen to become attracted and attached to. Theravada Buddhism in particular teaches one to contemplate one's own or another's body as a rotting corpse as a means of bringing about this detachment. I'm not aware of any lay Buddhists here who put this into practice. A friend who considers himself to be a staunch Buddhist could not bring himself to look at any of my photos of the corpses.

I suspect those young medical students have learned detachment in a very practical way. Maybe we could all gain something by this type of interaction with the dead.

This is a follow up to an earlier blog.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009


Dad's advice for buying a camera 6

Hi Dad,
Thinking I might go for the canon because a little extra weight isn't really an issue for me. When buying the SD card do I need ultra 11 or standard. Do I need an LCD screen protector?

Love Mel

Hi Mel

I think that's a good choice then. Just make sure the price you pay is a good saving on what they are charging for the new model otherwise you might as well buy the new one. I assume it's better but I haven't really checked it out.

Is there a card that comes with the camera? What sort? How much memory? When I've been looking at cameras in Aust in the past they tend to give you a card with a piddly memory so you have to put out extra for one and you buy one that suits you. In Malaysia the shops were generally offering 1GB cards included as an incentive to buy the camera. But they are standard. When I asked about Ultra, they didn't want to know about it. So, I got my 1GB standard and I shopped around and found another shop where I could get a good deal on an Ultra but I only got a 500 MB. I use that as my main card and use the 1GB standard as a back up. Don't get to use it often. The batteries usually run out first.

BTW, if your new camera is 10MP it will fill up a card twice as fast as a 5 MP (or maybe it's four times as fast). So, maybe a 1GB card is a good idea. Depends how many photos you can take in a day. It's rare that I will fill up both my 1GB and 500 MB. But that's a really interesting day.

Anyway, to answer your question. For taking pics, 90% of the time it doesn't matter. For downloading to your computer the Ultra is quicker. The other time it is useful is if you get into the habit of taking burst photos. (I rarely do—mainly because I don't think of it but it is a good idea.) For example, if Iz is running across the soccer field you can point the camera, focus once and hold the button down. It will take maybe five photos per second without refocusing (assuming he stays about the same distance). Not sure but maybe you'll get one or two more per second with the Ultra.

I don't have an LCD screen protector but if it is cheap or free go for it. If it's exxy I don't see the point unless, of course, little boys like to point at it with grubby fingers. Anyway, it's more important to keep their fingers off the lens. One of the problems with big lens is that they can collect fingerprints. You allow someone to look at the LCD and if they don't know better they wrap their fingers around the camera right onto the lens. I try to avoid letting anyone hold my camera for this reason.

I think I mentioned about batteries. Not sure what sort Canon uses. Some use standard batteries. Which is handy but they're bigger. Panasonic use special ones. I can't even swap them between my Panasonic cameras. It's good to have a backup and in the case of Panasonic I found that cheap Chinese copies are just not worth it even though they're a fraction of the price. Panasonic ones are exxy but worth the difference. Unfortunately their Thai website doesn't answer service enquiries and the shops don't stock them. They miss out on a sale and I'm not too well off for batteries. The point is, if I had my time over, I'd buy two (or maybe even three) of the genuine ones when I bought my camera.

The other problem I'm having with mine at the moment is downloading. The cable is something that is interchangeable, at least between my Panasonic cameras. But I threw the spare one away so that I'd have less to carry. Now, the fz20 won't download direct to either my Mac or my work PC. Thought it might be the cable but with the fx3 is OK. Not a big deal. I bought a card reader for about $A3, I take the card out of the camera and put it in the reader in the computer. If you have two cards and you are taking photos at home, you can put one in the reader and keep on taking photos with the other.

Anyway, have fun. Look forward to seeing the photos. And remember, the biggest fault most people make is including huge amounts of irrelevant background. You have a good zoom. Use it to get in close.



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Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Dad's advice for buying a camera 5

Next thought, Lumix DMC FZ28. All 3 are in a similar price range. This one maybe slightly cheaper but much of a muchness.
Love Mel

Hi Mel

I've been looking at a few reviews. Have you seen this one?

It compares many of the long zoom compact cameras available at the time. That includes both the Panasonic fz28 and the Canon SX10 IS. And those two cameras won. The Pentax wasn't in the review because it's newer. If you haven't already, you should read this review, in particular the conclusion. Because, the difference between these two cameras comes down to what sort of photographer you are. The Canon takes slightly better pics but it is much bigger. The Panasonic is closely behind in quality but is much smaller and lighter. Which is more important to you? BTW, there is now a Canon sx20 IS to replace the sx 10 IS. This means two things. 1. You might want to take a look at it to see if it is better still and 2. There might be better deals on the SX10.

And there is still the Pentax. The wobbly lens is the biggest thing against it in my book. Take a look in the shops and see if the lens seems wobbly to you. If it's not then maybe it is a good choice.

One thing to remember with this sort of camera, the way they get such a big zoom in such a small camera is by reducing the size of the sensor. Generally, the bigger the sensor means the better the quality. (That's what SLRs have, a big sensor) I can't really say, but I suspect that the quality of pics from these cameras might not be as good as I get in mine. The quality issue is most noticeable with low-light shots. I see it in my shots and you might see it in some of yours. So, for example, if you want to get a shot of Hamad performing at night it could be challenging. If you are up close you can use the flash. Then again you might not want to do that either because the flash makes reflections and sometimes it affects the colours. If you can't use flash because you are not so close, you can zoom in but the picture becomes a bit 'noisy', ie a bit speckly. Having more zoom with a small sensor creates noise in low light situations. It will also depend on stage lighting. Often I take night shots in that sort of situation and the lighting is so good there is no problem even without flash.

The point is, all these cameras will have this problem. If you want to avoid the problem you go for a midrange camera without the big zoom. Then you've got to get in close to the subject. Personally, I like the zoom. For you, how important are those night shots?



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Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Dad's advice for buying a camera 4

Was thinking could maybe go for the pentax x70, or now looking at the canon SX10IS. What do you think?


I can't find a lot about the Canon but the specifications sound good.

The Pentax zoom shot on the Steve's review is absolutely amazing. Wish my camera was that good. The main thing Steve says that’s bad is that the lens is a bit wobbly. Not sure if that is bad in the long term. And that the battery life is short. I think you'd want to get a second battery—buy authentic—when you get it. Add that onto the price. And always keep one fully charged and then you never run out.

I'd be handling both of them in the shops and decide which one feels best for you. How do they compare in price? What sort of battery does the Canon take? How does the weight compare? The Pentax seems to be fairly small for what it does. Seems like my sort of camera except for the wobbly lens. If it was for me, I'd probably buy three batteries and then never run out.

Anyway, I'm going to bed. Tell me what you decide.



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