Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Recipes from Rattana

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Best wines of Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia

Family Money: When is ‘The Right Time’?

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

A wise philosopher a couple of centuries ago said: “The best time to invest is when blood is running in the streets.”

More recently, the internationally-renowned financial manager Dr Mark Mobius has said, “The best time to invest is always Now!”

But many folk only want to invest when there’s peace in the world and they see their favoured markets rising steadily for a period of time - but never when they’ve fallen.

This often reflects a fundamental fear of what they don’t fully understand - just like some people are irrationally afraid of thunder. If you hear the thunder, the real danger - the lightning - has already come and gone!

Of course market timing matters if you’re looking to invest a sum of capital. Common sense (which is a surprisingly rare commodity) tells us we should buy cheap and sell dear. But few investors follow this maxim. They are motivated not by common sense or understanding of fundamental investment strategy: they’re driven simply by the twin emotions of fear and greed.

This leads them to hesitate before buying in (no matter whether it be a stock or a fund) until they have seen price gains which indicate they would have made a profit. Then they finally buy in, expecting prices to continue rising and produce them a profit. If you stop to think about it, this argument is totally fallacious.

The investment which has already gone up in fact has a greater chance of reversing as shrewd investors take profits.

On the other hand, a stock or fund which has dropped recently may have a fundamental reason for its fall (accounting malfeasance, financial difficulties, or a slump in that market sector), or it may be temporarily out of favour, or inherently volatile because of the investment sector it concentrates on. It may be a potentially very good investment, or it may be a lemon - you have to do some research and objective appraisal to determine which.

But this assumes you are looking for short-term gains rather than adopting a longer-term investment strategy. This style smacks of speculation rather than strategic investment, and tends to be very much driven by those two twin emotions mentioned earlier: fear & greed.

Unit-Cost Averaging

One way to even out the bumps is to invest regular amounts into your chosen fund or (better) basket of funds.

As you buy units from month to month, over time you will have actually paid an average price for them; it really won’t have mattered too much whether the unit price went up and down in the meantime. What is important is the price when you come to encash those units. So even if the unit price slumped in the middle of the program (when you were able to buy lots of cheap units for the same amount of money), if the price at encashment is higher than the average you paid over time, you will have made a profit.

Of course, the corollary is also true, so you shouldn’t encash your units until the price has risen above the average you paid for them.

This relieves an investor of the natural psychological concern as to market timing. When the market is up, you buy fewer expensive units; when the market’s down you acquire more cheap units for the same amount of money.

You are doing automatically what all wise investors should do - buy less at top and more at bottom.

Few investors are consciously willing to make that decision, however, because of the psychological pain and fear in a falling market, and the euphoria of greed in a rising one.

This principle is clearly demonstrated in the following example.

In our example, Fund #1 is a good, stable performer. The price of units rose steadily throughout the contributory period, so the same regular contribution bought progressively fewer increasingly expensive units as time went by. Our investor paid an average price of $1.62 for his 30,933.46 units, which at the final price of $2.85 at maturity were worth $88,160.35. If he encashes them, he will have made a profit of $38,160.35.

The more volatile Fund #2, however, enabled our investor to buy lots of “cheap” units when the fund performed poorly. Thus he paid an average price of only $0.73 for his 68,603.67 units, which at their maturity price of only $1.33 were worth $91,242.88. Although Fund #2 performed relatively poorly, his gain of $41,242.88 at maturity was greater than in Fund #1!

What does this tell us about portfolio selection for a savings program? Is it so vitally important to constantly monitor your portfolio’s performance, calculating its value every month or so? Is it necessary to switch out of a fund immediately it performs poorly for a period? In the case of a contributory savings plan, the answer to each of these questions is clearly “No!” At the risk of repeating myself, provided the price at encashment is higher than the average price paid for units, an investor will always gain.

It is worth remembering however that Unit-Cost Averaging does not apply to lump-sum investments, where all the units are bought at one time and for the same price. Appropriate portfolio selection and market timing then become much more critical issues, and a strategic balance of “good performers” more appropriate.

To return to our example, for a lump-sum investor Fund #1 would have been a better choice, as it put on 185% over the 10-year period. Over the same period Fund #2 would have gained only 33%, and given a capital investor a lot of heartache along the way!


The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Aspirin? The Elixir Vitae?

I suppose we are all looking for the elixir of life in one form or another. I know that I am enjoying life too much to want to see it curtailed by such trifling things as getting older. No, give me the elixir of life. No ice thank you, I’ll drink it straight!

Now all this came to mind following the visit to Thailand last week of Dr. Corness junior, who came to pay his respects on his way through to taking up a posting in the UK for a couple of years.

Dr. Jonathan grew rather vertically when younger and is now a strapping 6’6" (nearly 2-metres) tall. While this does give him a decided advantage in changing light bulbs and getting an uninterrupted view at the movie theatres, it produces its own unique problems as well. One of these is plane travel. Try folding 6’6" into a Z shape and getting it into a standard plane seat.

Now the airline companies do keep the emergency exit row seats for these giant basketballer type people, but only if you get to the airport early enough to reserve them. So far Dr Jonathan has found that three hours wasn’t early enough! Return to the cramped Z scenario.

I have written before about the “economy class syndrome” where there is a (theoretical) risk of blood clots when flying cramped up with legs at peculiar acute angles (and not so cute also). For people like my son, the risk does increase, and he was aware of this; however, rather than buying a business class ticket, his Scottish heritage came to the fore and he went for the economy seating, but spent a few baht on the antidote. Aspirin.

Yes, good old aspirin, one of the earliest effective drugs known to mankind, a drug which is still amazing us all with its abilities. Let me assure you that aspirin is much more than a headache killer.

In therapeutic doses to stop the throbbing head or settle throbbing joints, we are looking at something between 300-600 mgms four times a day for most people; however, at that dosage you run the risk of upsetting your stomach, to actual bleeding and ulceration. There are also people who show allergic reactions to aspirin, from asthma right the way through to anaphylactic shock and death! Yes, this is potent medicine.

However, there are other conditions for which aspirin is the drug of choice, and not in the big doses either. We are talking here of 100 mgm doses taken once a day only. This way the chances of allergy/asthma and gastric bleeding are greatly reduced. The condition treated here is aggregation of platelets. This is where the red blood cells sort of form into clumps and these are the start of the Deep Vein Thromboses (DVT’s). And this is the real cause behind the Economy Class Syndrome.

Now Dr. Jonathan, being a good lad, also suggested that Dr. Iain should take 100 mgm of aspirin a day - not because I am flying bent up triple, but medical science has found that by taking 100 mgm of aspirin daily you lower your chances of heart attack, something much higher on my personal risk table than Economy Class Syndrome.

So I am listening to the new young bloods of medicine, and swallowing my medicine every morning. I hope it is the Elixir of Life!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

Here’s some good news for a change. Four years ago I wrote and asked you for advice. I was to become a father for the first time, at 48 years of age and my Thai girlfriend only 21 years old, pretty scary! You gave me good advice and anyway, here I am still in Thailand. I set myself a target to lose no more than 50,000 pounds (hard earned previously in a very savage world) and am happy to report that yes I married, yes I remain happy with my projected 50,000 loss which is now a gain of an extra 200,000 pounds and I have a baby daughter. I left the bright lights and moved to my wife’s poor provincial rice farming village where I spent 12 months along with 22 villagers building a beautiful house on 80 rai of land, where I also overlook rice production. Now 80 rai of rice should seem viable? It is and it isn’t. Totally dependant upon workforce and weather, both totally undependable! So I began a little business, “Village Home Stay.” This is for anyone wanting to have just the briefest insight into real Thai people (who are really honest, proud, caring and loving people) and who want to see real life, beautiful countryside, amazing temples and historic sites. Nothing here is set up for tourists; here it’s all real, from people making silk from the worm to the cloth. There are no entrance fees and open and closed signs. Here we are surrounded by genuine beautiful young and not so young Thai village folk. Their smiles are not to sell you more beer, just seeing you, a real foreigner is reward enough. If you or your readers fancy a break just phone me or go to Khorat and ask for Jimmy the Welsman. We’re 75 kilometres from the city but someone there will point you towards our village. It’s easy to find - it’s the only one with 300 villagers and one Welshman. No go-go’s, no bars, but there is beer and I give cookery lessons in egg and chips. Sorry no internets or email here. Normal communication is quite simple - you just shout loudly to each other!

Jimmy

Dear Jimmy,

Thank you for the letter (which I had to chop down, Petal, sorry). Your story is lovely and shows that if you keep your head on straight and take things slowly in this country, you can find your own paradise, as you have with Lamai and baby Lizzie. Some of you who have gone rushing blindly into relationships should think about this. Now I know that this column is not really for advertising, but your story was so touching, Jimmy, that I have included your telephone number if anyone wants to contact you further. Readers please note that this is not an endorsement, as I have never visited the Village Home Stay. However, you do sound like a nice couple. Jimmy and Lamai’s telephone number is 01 393 0501.

Dear Hillary,

Is it possible to meet a Thai girl who does not want to drive a snow plough through your wallet? Every time I think I have found “the one” it ends up that I will be lucky if I have one baht left in the bill-fold. They start out alright, looking after you very well, so you keep going back to the bar, then you make the big decision and take them away from there to give them a better life and everything is rosy for a while, then comes the hand out for this and for that and a new fridge for her mother and then a big lick to pay off father’s land mortgage. It doesn’t end till the money ends, then they’re gone! This has happened to me three times so far and I have been so badly burned I don’t think I’ll bother trying again. Do any of your readers have a suggestion, or perhaps even you yourself Hillary?

The Burn Victim

Dear Burns Victim,

I do feel sorry for you, Petal, but there’s a very basic fact that you seem to be missing, especially since you have gone down this road three times already. Why are you continuing to go to the same places looking for a long-time mate, when you are lining up at the short-term holding pens? You are going to the marketplaces where they sell affection but you are looking for enduring love. You are trying to buy a Mercedes in the motorbike shop! Unfortunately for you, there is no “marriage market” even though there are places that seem to promise this. Love and affection are never sold. Start looking elsewhere, Burns Victim, and you will find there are some wonderful girls out there, hoping to meet a nice man like you to fall in love with - not to fall into bed with. Get the message, Poppet? Perhaps you should read Jimmy’s letter above so that you can get some hope again. Stay away from the meat markets and you won’t have to end up in the burns unit again.


Camera Class: Being framed - or it’s a frame-up!

by Snapshot

If you’ll pardon the pun, framing your photographs is an art. You can spoil a brilliant shot with lousy framing, and you can salvage an ordinary “record” shot by brilliant framing. Now, get a brilliant subject and brilliant framing and what a picture! A prize winner.

I have spoken before about the Rule of Thirds, and quickly recapping, put the subject of your photo at the intersection of thirds if you can possibly do it. In other words, one third in from either side and one third down (or up) from the top and bottom. This “off centre” approach does make for a more interesting photograph. Now that’s easy!

The next item to make your framing up more interesting is what we call the Frame within a Frame approach. Take a look at the photograph with this week’s article. It says something. The man is framed by the patio opening, and you straight away wonder “where” this is and “who” this is. Note that his head is one third down from the top and one third in from the right, so there’s the classical placement again. To get this type of shot, find the window first and walk in close enough to get the window frame within the edges of the photo itself. In other words, leave a little on all four sides, then just position the subject within it. No magic, but you’ll get a magic shot. (By the way the picture was taken at Greg’s Kitchen in Pattaya, and that is Greg the proprietor.)

In the frame-up above, the subject is actually inside the frame, but there also is the situation where the frame is in the foreground and the subject is some distance away. This frame within a frame will pull your eyes deep into the photograph, giving it much extra depth. The second photo is a classic example of the “Frame within a frame” technique when applied to distance shots. The archway on the chedi I was standing in frames the next chedi in the line. You see a repeat of this archway on the distant one. You immediately know there are more than one of these structures and by looking “through” the first arch you have given a 3D effect to a two dimensional medium.

Now, let me assure you that the chedi’s did not line themselves up in this order. Producing this shot required some input from the photographer! It was a case of prowling around the site and seeing what was available. This frame-up did not happen by accident, I was actively looking to produce such an effect, and in fact, attempted this shot on three occasions with other chedi’s before I got the one I wanted. As I have said many times, good photographs do not “happen” - they are made! And YOU, the photographer, make it happen.

Now there will be times when you would like to improve the shot by framing, but there is no handy archway, window or whatever. This is where you have to be even more creative. Look around for overhanging trees or ground bushes that can be used as “frames” to hide some part of the shot and thus accentuate your subject matter. A little hidden area always heightens the curiosity of the viewer, and just by doing that you have produced a better shot. It’s that easy!

The message from today’s column is not to be satisfied by just pointing your camera at the subject and going “click”. Look for ways of enhancing the photo to make it more interesting. Framing up is a good start.


Recipes from Rattana: Fish fillets with garlic potatoes

This week’s recipe is for fish lovers. You can use most kinds of fish fillets, sea bass, NZ ling or even cod. Do ensure that you very carefully fillet the fish, or that your supplier has done so. The flavour is quite delicate and you should be able to enjoy the garlic, both in the sauce for the fish and through the potatoes as well.

Ingredients serves 4-6

Fish fillets 600 gm

Potatoes (steamer size) 500 gm

Garlic minced 1/4 cup

Capers 4 tbspns

Onions diced 1/2 cup

Dry white wine 1/2 cup

Butter 250 gm

Tomatoes diced, peeled 1/2 cup

Fresh parsley chopped 1 Bunch

White balsamic vinegar 30 mls

Salt and pepper

Cooking Method

In a skillet, deglaze with extra virgin olive oil, and sear fish on both sides until golden brown. Remove fish from skillet and place on a draining stand then cook in 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes.

In the saut้ pan, add 2 tablespoons of butter plus capers, tomatoes, 1 teaspoon garlic and onions. Deglaze with white wine, add 3 teaspoons of chopped parsley. Reduce liquid by one third, add vinegar.

Prepare mashed potatoes by boiling, then add 2 teaspoons of minced garlic during the final mashing.

Serve the fish on the top of the potatoes and drizzle the sauce over the fish.

Garnish plate with 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley.


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

By Dr Byte, Citec Asia

Question: Your bi-weekly report is interesting and informative. A question: Am I the only person in Chiang Mai that is continually frustrated by the extremely poor Internet access? I buy my Internet access via a pay as you go scheme and am currently using the Inet Access Kit along with a local dial-up network Chiang Mai access phone number. I have a direct phone line which ‘seems’ clear but I cannot establish anything like a reasonable connection time as the line keeps dropping out or the download speeds are really slow. The line constantly drops out. Is this a scam to ensure I keep having to make a new connection and therefore pay higher phone bills? Tambon Suthep

Dr Byte replies: Try other dial-up numbers for Inet or switch to other ISP’s like CSCom or Loxinfo. It is certainly true that different phone numbers behave differently depending on where you are in the city. Most ISPs have a large selection of numbers you can call and changing the number used may help. I often use Inet and have used LoxInfo’s dial-up services and have noticed similar problems, although sometimes connection problems can arise from the modem used (or the driver). Technical support gurus at citec Asia and at the various ISP’s always recommend an external modem and blame many support problems on soft (Windows) modems. So one option would be to buy an external modem.

Question: Virus hoax? I trust you can give me advice on what appears to be a virus but perhaps not the worrying kind! I was sent a warning to the effect that a virus had been passed by a friend and they thought they may have passed it onto me plus anyone in their address book. The Virus is named ‘jdbgmgr.exe’, which is sent automatically by messenger/address book whether or not an email is sent to the contacts. It also has a teddy bear icon beside it. It apparently sits there for 14 days before damaging the system! Whatever you do, you should not OPEN IT. I was given the routine to get rid of it, which I have followed checking all files. Yes, there it sat on my C drive. Then I eventually deleted it to the recycle bin. Then deleted it from there as well. As far as I can tell, no harm is apparent on my system, although when I went back to check again later, there it was still sitting on my C drive. Have now tried a number of times but it still remains. What I would like to know is, is it harmful and why doesn’t it go away? Any ideas? Chiang Mai

Dr Byte replies: This is a hoax - see vmyths.com or other similar sites which we described in the last issue. You can also just type the name into Google and you will discover all about it.

Question: Google in Thai? Where is my Google in English? My main search engine is google.com and until recently I was very happy with it. The search page springs into action in English. But now whenever I enter www.google.com I get connected to www.google.co.th and the page appears in Thai. How can I go back to the English version? Need your advice. Thanks. Chiang Mai

Dr Byte replies: Type in www.google.com/en into the address bar and voila, Google in English will appear. Save this opening page as a Favorite or open your Explorer Options and make this the default startup page. That way, Google will always start in English.

For a while now, Google in its wisdom has been offering its opening page in the language according to the IP address of the user. They perform a reverse DNS lookup and can tell what country your ISP is in. If you use a Thai-based ISP to access the web, it detects that you are from Thailand and offers the page in Thai, although, as explained, you can override this.

If you have any questions you would like answered, or have suggestions you would like to make, please contact Dr Byte at Chiangmai Mail. Next time we will be looking at tuning Windows to make it run faster, so get in touch if you have a particular problem or question in this area.


Best wines of Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia

By Ranjith Chandrasiri

Italy’s northeastern region is barely mentioned in most guidebooks and rarely visited even by Italians, which makes it a great place for travelers seeking to leave the beaten path. Whether you like snow-capped mountains, warm sandy beaches, lagoons teeming with water birds, remote alpine hamlets, Roman ruins, palatial country villas, rocky coastal cliffs, bustling international seaports or picturesque fishing villages, your tastes will be thoroughly satisfied in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, one of Italy’s most versatile regions.

Aside from these, the Friuli Venezia Giulia is home to one of Italy’s most famous wineries: the Vigneti Fantinel. No other wine label from this region has achieved so much world-wide recognition than the family-run Vigneti Fantinel.

The family estate was founded in 1969 by Mario Fantinel. Known and admired for his long experience as both hotelier and restaurateur, “Paron” Mario was driven by the passion of producing wines dedicated to the conviviality of the hospitality business. The two vocations fused together to turn the love for the land, vineyards and the wine -making art into a single reality: inevitably so, because genuine passion wins out in the end.

Headed by later generations of the Fantinel family, the Fantinel S.P.A. estate has a production capacity that ranks among the most interesting Italian wine-growing farms and extends its vineyards over 250 hectares of land. The Estate’s driving philosophy is the same as it has always been: total quality, respect of tradition and continuous research, to maintain and improve the characteristics of taste and genuineness that are the mark of outstanding wines.

Tucked under its belt is the 1997 International Wine Challenge “Seal of Approval” for the 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon. In April of that same year Fantinel was given the “Diploma of Great Merit” for its 1995 Collio Sauvignon DOC in the 36th National Competition of DOC ad DOCG wines at National Wine Trade Fair in Venice.

A year after, it won the “Diploma of Great Mention” for the 1996 Friuli Grave Cabernet Sauvignon DOC in the 32nd “Vinitaly” International Oenological Competition, followed by another International Wine Challenge “Seal of Approval” for the 1997 Pinot Grigio.

New York-based Wine Spectator magazine included the Fantinel Merlot Grave del Friuli Barone Rosso in its May 15, 1998 “Shopping Guide” as “Best Purchase” with a score of 86/100. The same issue of the prestigious magazine featured descriptions and technical appraisals of the Pinot Grigio Sant’Helena Collio Vineyards 1997 (88/100), Cabernet Sauvignon Sant’Helena Grave del Friuli 1996 (87/100), Cabernet Franc Sant’Helena Grave del Friuli 1997 (85/100), and the Pinot Bianco Sant’Helena Grave del Friuli 1997 (82/100).

Ranjith Chandrasiri is the resident manager of Royal Cliff Grand and founder of the Royal Cliff Wine Club, Royal Cliff Beach Resort, Pattaya, Thailand.

Email: [email protected] com or [email protected] royalcliff.com