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

Ask your local US Consul

Family Money: An Alternative View

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

I receive opinions and commentaries from fund and investment managers all the time. Some make sense; some are self-servicing. But I recently received one that takes a clear but different view on global markets than is being spouted daily from the TV business news.

Written by Robert Skepper of Brewin Dolphin Securities, London, it made such sense to me that I thought my regular readers - especially those who are nervous about investing into the markets at this time - might find it as interesting and thought-provoking as I did.

Robert has very many years of experience in the financial industry, and now heads up Brewin Dolphin’s Portfolio Management Service in London. So, like me, he has to get it right more often than he gets it wrong! This recent commentary for professional financial advisers I am pleased to reproduce here in full, with Robert’s kind permission, of course.

A personal view by R.B. Skepper

“We are now faced with two markets - the pre-war market and the post-war market. As a result of the antics of President Chirac, it now looks almost certain that Saddam, encouraged by this and his principal propaganda machine - the BBC - (not The World service) will not disarm unless attacked physically. The French president has brought contempt on himself and humiliation on a great country. It is difficult to find in living memory another example of a head of state who has behaved so waywardly, with the possible exception many years ago of President Lumumba of The Congo. He threatened to eat a dissenting member of his cabinet. The French president also keeps odd company in that part of the world.

“As to the peace marches and the 120 Labour MPs who voted against the government, their roots go back directly to the same group who wanted us to abandon our nuclear deterrent in the 1950s, and to the pre-war Labour members who voted for our total disarmament in the Thirties (The Labour leader in the Lords called for the closure of every army recruiting station in the country in 1928). This disastrous unpreparedness resulted in Britain avoiding only by a hair’s breadth the loss of our own freedom in 1940.

“Luckily on this occasion we have courageous leadership - unlike in the Thirties when we had no leaders, just followers of popular public opinion, who lacked the courage to warn of the dangers of the easy way out. The House of Commons voted 3 to 1 in favour of the government’s strong stance against Saddam, and even the Labour party voted 2 to 1 in favour.

“The Al Qaeda are stateless desperados, who depend for their shelter, training establishments, and bases, on evil dictatorships who accept them in return for money or more likely mafia style protection. We saw in Taliban-terrorised Afghanistan how they thrived and multiplied. Like mosquitoes you have to spray the swamps where they breed. Any softening to a vile regime like Saddam merely reinforces such dictatorships everywhere.

“Latin America was a morass of dictatorships when Galtieri of Argentina overstepped the mark and invaded the Falklands. The same siren voices were heard then advising compromise. But Mrs Thatcher did not flinch, and within six months of Galtieri’s defeat nearly every other dictatorship in Latin America had collapsed, and the ‘wailing wall’ in Argentina had no more missing victims to add to the previous 30,000. To leave Saddam triumphant will just multiply the hiding places for terrorist activity.

“The market in its pre-war mode is at an extreme of nervousness. Investors are staying out because they fear the market may fall further. But stock markets have always been very poor investment guides at their extremes. In 2000 the market encouraged investors to buy stocks on ludicrous valuations that stood little or no chance of ever being justified by future earnings growth. Now the exact opposite has happened. Markets are discouraging investors from buying shares when values are so low and dividend yields so high that they offer much better immediate returns than fixed interest, and the prices assume that there will be no growth ever again! Strongly established retailers like Sainsbury, Dixons W.H. Smith offer running yields over 7% and leading brewers and hoteliers like Scottish & Newcastle, Six Continents, and Hilton (with Ladbrokes betting) yield in excess of 7%. Pharmaceuticals are lower than they have been since 1980, yet that industry is certainly growing; and many engineering companies are selling for about the scrap value of their assets, let alone their operational value. In the insurance and savings industry, companies like Legal & General, Aviva, and the Pru are almost assuming that the savings industry will cease to exist. Values like this have not been seen in the UK market for years. They are much more depressed than the early 90s.

“The UK market - as opposed to the US market - has suffered from the downward spiral effect of stock market falls feeding directly through to company profit and loss accounts via the (temporary) destruction of pension fund asset values, forcing companies to dip into profits to plug the gap. Though there is a pension problem in some US companies, traditionally pension policy there has been much more fixed-interest orientated than here, so it is less universal. But the spiral will work in the opposite direction as well. Any substantial recovery in the stock market immediately relieves companies of their pension problem. What has caused the exceptional falls here will also contribute to an exceptional rise when recovery comes. Those who have been panicked out of the market or cannot enter for fear of a further fall will by definition miss much of the upturn.

“Historically markets have rallied between 30% and 100% in the first full year after a market bottoms. That is when most of the money gets made, and those who know individual companies well, are voting with their feet. Director buying in the UK in the last six months exceeds selling by a ratio of 17:1. They scent at least 100% upside from these levels. They believe their company shares have fallen to absurd levels.

All Clear

“I believe the share blitz is actually over. There will still be the odd doodlebug that hits a company here or there whose trading turns out to be worse than anticipated. But that, when we move to the post-war market, an indefinable weight will lift from markets. The world post-Saddam will actually be a safer place, and the opportunities to start solving some of the Middle East’s other perennial problems will be enhanced.”

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Growing old - (dis)gracefully!

by Dr. Iain Corness

Last year, my eldest son (29 years old and a strapping 6’6") and I went to the UK to visit my dear old Mum and my sister. While there we decided that father and son might like to go and explore the nightlife in the fairly large city close to my sister’s rural retreat. Upon asking where we should go in town for some drinks and dancing, I was told by my junior sibling, “Oh there’s nothing for you there!” “What do you mean?” I replied. “You’re too old!” was the answer. Resisting an immediate urge to give her a clip behind the ear for insolence I said, “But what about him?” pointing to 6’6" of youth and enthusiasm. “Oh he’s too old too,” was the response. What a sad indictment of today’s world! At 29 years of age, this young fellow was considered to be too old to go out and enjoy himself? Of course, for me at age 60, as I was then, it was practically sinful to even contemplate it!

There is an unfortunate tendency in the western world to write everyone off after the age of 25 it seems. But why should this be? The only real difference between “old” people and “young” people is that the older group have much greater experience. There is precious little of substance worth doing that older people cannot do. And I am not talking here about people under the magic (and arbitrary) 65 year retiral age. I am talking about anyone still wandering around the planet unaided, no matter how old they are. For example, if you are 80 years old and want to do a parachute jump, can anyone tell me why not?

The reason I say this, is that by the time a person is 80 years old, they have a fair idea of what they can or cannot do. After all, they’ve had that same body for 8 decades, they must know it pretty well by now. The problems you come up against when deciding to do something is not usually a “physical” restraint, but a mental one. You get conditioned by the western society that you are ‘over the hill’ and you must sit in the corner and quietly rot away.

Well, that’s exactly what will happen to you if you do sit quietly in the corner! Like any living creature, you need stimulation (and I’m not talking about the ‘stimulation for hire’ bars), and mental stimulation will get you going physically as well. Forget about your chronological age and think about things that you want to do - and then work out how you are going to do these things.

Obviously, if you are 80 years of age and you tell me that you want to run a mile in 4 minutes, this is not only impossible, but it is silly! However, if you tell me you want to take up running and want to train for the marathon, I will say, “Go ahead!” I might suggest starting off with shorter distances and work on from there, but the concept is the same - if you want to do something - go ahead and do it.

Do not accept “age” as a barrier to anything. Work out how to do it and get on with it. Live life to the fullest, every day, for as many days as you have got left!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

This might sound crazy, but I am having a problem with women in this country. It’s not finding them - it’s getting rid of them that is bugging me. Every time I have a liaison the girl appears later that day with a suitcase and make-up bag and is ready to move in and settle down. Is this normal for this country, or is it just that I pump iron and am very good looking? I am not a Cheap Charlie either. What can I do Hillary? Is it just because I am a big catch?


Dear Hunk,

I like your style, Hunk, so shy and humble. I just hope that one of these days one of these liaisons doesn’t pop your ego, because you will end up flying backwards around the room for 3 minutes before coming to rest. Why don’t you just post your bank balance on the internet as well? Are you a big catch? No, Hunk, my Petal, you are a big sucker who cannot see past the end of your Spandex exercise outfit. It’s time you found better girls to take home. As an additional item, buy a copy of the book “In the Bedroom Out of Trouble” by Bud Knackstedt and Oiy Ford, The English Thai Version. ISBN 0-9644569-3-1. Just exactly what you need to keep you out of grief, achieve more depth in your relationships, avoid legal and embarrassing personal problems and generally improve your life!

Dear Hillary,

I want to be rid of the easy bar scene and sincerely want to settle down with a “nice” Thai girl. The person I am looking for will be professional, educated and attractive and will have never worked in the entertainment industry. She should be single and have no children. It would be a bonus if she spoke English, but that is not needed 100%. Where do I find my princess?


Dear Johnson,

Your lady will be easy to find. Just join in on the end of the queue of other hopeful males all chasing the illusive butterfly. When you get to the top of the queue, she’s yours! Honestly, what is wrong with you gormless guys? Stop looking in the entertainment industry and look for professional women who work in the same field as yourself. If your profession is propping up a bar, then you’re already in the right place for the sort of mate you need, but if you are a professional join the necessary chambers of commerce, service organizations and the like. Your princess is out there, it’s just that you have to kiss a lot of toads if you are not looking in the right place.

Dear Hilary (sic),

I have been visiting Thailand regularly for the last 6 years and during the 3 visits I have made in the last 12 months I have grown particularly fond of a charming young lady from your country. We exchange email across the globe on a regular basis in which she tells me (against the trend displayed by farang ladies) how handsome, loveable and understanding I am. Yesterday I received a mail from her explaining that she was in a real spot of bother because she is sick and can no longer work. This has lead to her being unable to pay her rent. Now although she doesn’t like doing so, she has requested that I send her some money, and she has given me the bank details of a charitable young Thai gentleman who has offered to marshal my transactions for her. I immediately went out and auctioned all my possessions and have withdrawn my savings from a high interest account. I was wondering oh Helpful Hilary (sic) if you could (a) tell me the most tax efficient method of transferring my funds to my Tilac, and (b) if you would consider running some sort of charitable event to help her in her moment of plight?

Yours in sincerety (sic),

Generous Graham

Dear GG,

What an amazing coincidence! Your initials remind me of a horse, and probably the back end of it too, my Petal. A tax efficient method for funds transfer would be to just send everything in cash to the kind young Thai gentleman, who I am sure will not pay tax on the windfall, so you can rest assured that whatever your Tilac gets has been tax free, less handling, freight, banking, grafting, slicing off the top, placing under the table and other minor charges against the sum which the young man in question will have had to impose. Unfortunately for your Tilac the only charitable events Hillary runs are for the Preservation of Champagne and Chocolates Foundation, of which Hillary is the proud patron. One other small point, GG, my name is Hillary, with two ells. Please get it right in future, especially when you send me the next letter asking if I know how to find your young lady who will have gone up-country for an unspecified period of time to an unspecified address. By the way, in your letter you didn’t mention the name of your Tilac. Her name isn’t Pisinurai, is it?

Camera Class: Camera shake. It’s not just from the drink!

by Snapshot

Probably the second most common mistake I see being committed by amateur photographers is poor technique, which is eventually translated as fuzzy fotos! It is so common here in Thailand when I tell you about it, you will see it yourself, over and over again.

There is a reason for it. With today’s Point and Shooters which are so small that they practically fit in one hand, the tendency is to do just that - one handed photography! Let me assure you that while one handed picture taking may look sharp, the end result photograph won’t be.

Now then, how many times have you seen a photographer holding the camera in one hand, raising fingers on the other hand, as he says, “nung-song-sam” (or even “one-two-three”)! The answer is many, many times. And each one of the resulting photographs is not as sharp as it should be.

With the larger cameras, SLR’s and the like, it becomes even more important to avoid camera shake. After all, why spend thousands of baht to buy super sharp lenses and get soft “blurry” photographs. You might as well have stuck with a cheap disposable “camera in a film box” and saved your money for booze - which will also give you the shakes just as easily but possibly more enjoyably!

The simple fact of the matter is that to get sharp photographs, the camera must be held still while the shutter is held open. Now, in most daylight situations if the camera is set on “auto” it will select a shutter speed of around 1/125th of a second, and while that sounds “fast” it really isn’t. You will still get noticeable “softness” in the final print if the hand holding the camera has allowed any movement.

The secret really is in the grip. And it is a two handed one. You will not see any professional photographer taking shots with one hand free. I also recommend that you take a short breath in and then hold it while gently squeezing off the shutter. Another good practice is to keep the elbows in by your sides, and even lean against a solid object, like a telephone pole! Your camera will also most likely have two “hand/finger” impressions on either side of the camera body. They are not there for decoration. Use them!

Camera straps

Another trap for the unwary amateur photographer is the camera strap in the photo routine. Ever got prints back with a strange blurry dark shape running across the photo? That was the camera strap hanging down across the lens when you took the shot. With Point and Shoot compact cameras you will not see this when you look through the viewfinder, because you are actually looking through a separate viewing lens system, not through the main camera lens itself.

You will never have this problem if you wear the camera strap around your neck at all times when taking the shot. If you prefer to keep the camera in your hand, then wrap the strap around your wrist. The idea of having the strap is to stop the very expensive, and very delicate camera falling on the ground where the concussion kills it or into the sea where it dies a rapid death by drowning.

Camera straps are an important item, not just an advertising space for the camera manufacturer. Use them!

Lens Caps and Skylight filters

The quality of the camera’s optics dictates the ultimate quality of your photographs. The bit of glass at the end of your lens can ruin the end result if it is not clean, or worse still, if it is scratched can ruin the lens. Skylight filters as the outside element are really a ‘must’ and if you have not got one, then do so today.

Skylight filters protect the expensive bit and the lens cap is the final protection. Keep the cap on at all times other than when taking the shot. Even in the camera bag. Use them!

Recipes from Rattana: Chicken Adobo with Coconut milk

This is a Filipino dish which is not spicy, but the garlic will come through. Best served with steamed white rice, this item has its origin in Spain, where it was a chicken stew. Requiring a marinade, remember to leave for enough time for the flavour to permeate the meat. I recommend putting the meat in a ziplock plastic bag with the marinade for two hours in the refrigerator, turning once.

Ingredients serves 4-6

Chicken 1 kg

White vinegar 150 ml

Garlic crushed 10 cloves

Black peppercorns crushed 1 tspn

Bay leaves 2

Salt 1 tspn

Stock (beef or chicken) 1/2 cup

Thick coconut milk 1/2 cup

Vegetable oil 3 tbspns

Cooking Method

Cut chicken into 5 cm cubes. Prepare the marinade of garlic, pepper, salt and vinegar and bay leaves and pour over chicken (see introduction).

In a large saucepan pour meat cubes and marinade and simmer over a moderate heat till all the liquid evaporates.

Now add the stock, simmering on low heat and till all the liquid has evaporated and the chicken is slightly tender.

Pour in the coconut milk and cook over a moderate heat until the coconut milk is completely absorbed by the meat. At this stage add oil and fry until meat is deep brown with a slightly crisp surface.

Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

I am sure many readers have wondered how to improve the speed at which they can download music, images, files and other content available on the Internet. Windows provides a nice safe and basic method for downloading, but is there anything else available and what should you consider when choosing a download manager.

Several readers have written asking about this and a couple mention that they are using Go!Zilla (read my review below).

Download managers seem like a good idea, but do they deliver? Here is what I think after testing 5 different download managers (downloading the same file, at the same time of day, from these five different applications).

DAP (Download Accelerator Plus) from Speedbit is free (with adverts) or $33.95 (about 875 Bt) without. This is a good download manager and the free version is relatively inoffensive. After configuring the program, it looked for multiple mirror sites to download the file I requested and then downloaded parts of each file from up to 7 different sites. This certainly speeded things up and I just about had time fetch a cup of coffee and the file was on my PC. One big plus is the ability to resume, stop and restart a download. This is especially useful when your Internet Connection is cut in the middle of a download. You can also set up recurring downloads (batch transfer) as well as set up DAP to download at a time of your choice (a scheduler). You can integrate DAP into Internet Explorer (IE5) as well as Netscape and it can be set as the default download manager. DAP also integrates with your Anti-Virus software and can be set to test and check each and every download file. DAP gets my 4.5 out of 5 Stars Rating and is available from

GetRight is free for up to 4 simultaneous connections or $25.00 (about 625 Bt) for up to 10 connections. One useful feature is the ability to set up recurring downloads. While the GetRight configuration is simple, the documentation is anything but. One plus was the installation did politely ask if I wanted to integrate GetRight into IE5 and Netscape. Unfortunately I not only had time for a cup of coffee during the download, I also had time to prepare lunch, cook lunch and eat lunch and the file was still only 60% completed. So GetRight does not significantly improve download speeds despite the multiple connections and promises made. Getright gets a 1.5 Star Rating and you can get GetRight from Headlight Software -

You have probably never seen anything like Go!Zilla unless like so many people you got hooked by their sales message. The user interface is monstrous. The free version comes with adverts or pay $25.95 (about 650 Bt) for no adverts. During the installation, I was encouraged to choose the Advanced User Interface or the Basic User Interface. The Basic User Interface was only slightly less impenetrable than the Advanced. Go!Zilla integrates into Internet Explorer but not Netscape. Registering gets you Tech Support and an integrated Unzip. There’s also the Go!Zilla file search service for the user pay member. Like GetRight, I had time to make lunch, drink several cups of coffee and eat lunch while I waited for the download to complete. That’s all I can say that’s good.

Now the downside is much more serious. Go!Zilla includes in the User Agreement (read the small print) permission for Go!Zilla to look for and capture marketing information from your Internet browsing habits. This means Go!Zilla is considered Spyware. Once on your computer, even with a Firewall installed, Go!Zilla captures and sends back information on where you have been on the internet, what you looked at and what you did (they claim they do not look for personal information, but its a small step from capturing where you go to capturing who you are). For most of us that’s ho hum and a bit of yawn if Fred Nobody at Go!Zilla headquarters is checking my reading habits at the Sydney Morning Herald or Chiangmai Mail Online. But is this really OK and ethical? Especially for someone who enjoys some of the internets more exotic content? My advice is don’t go for this one and if its installed, uninstall it straight away. If you must, you can get Go!Zilla from www.radiate. com Go!Zilla gets no rating at all for being unethical and being Spyware and don’t come to me afterwards to try to uninstall the application, the spyware (which is separate) or the additional useless applications installed at the same time.

Amongst the simplest download managers is Internet Download Manager which is free for a 60 day trial, or $25.95 (around 650 Bt) to register and avoid being switched off when 60 days expires. The interface has an offbeat cartoony look (which my kids would love) and keeps a silly shopping basket window for you to drag links into. What I found most annoying was the constant interruptions when it kept popping up and asking me if I wanted to download the links in the basket. I also had time for breakfast, lunch and a mid-afternoon coffee before the download was completed. IDM also managed to slow down other things I was doing on the Internet. If you’re really interested you can get this from Tonec Inc at and this application gets all of 1 star.

Last and not least, Kontiki was never intended as a general purpose download manager. Nonetheless it has all the essentials and its free. It integrates with Internet Explorer and Netscape. It can open multiple server connections and in addition was by far the best at accelerating download transfers. Kontiki doesn’t have a scheduler or do batch downloads, but, it does come without banners and spyware. Kontiki is part of the company’s secure media distribution network which accelerates the distribution of rich content such as high resolution videos to end users. Most nerds and internet savvy whiz kids have discovered that Kontiki can do the download job very fast and very well, even though it was never intended to be a general download manager. The one downside I found was that when I emptied the download list inside Kontiki, this action also deleted the actual download files (thank goodness for Windows Recycle Bin). You can download Kontiki from Kontiki Inc, at and this download manager got a 3-1/2 star rating for deleting my files. By the way, I didn’t have time to make the coffee as this file downloaded before I left the room.

If you have any tips that you’d like to share, or any questions about your internet or pc experience, contact me: Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.

[email protected]

Ask your local US Consul

Dear Consul,

I’m a Thai guy who has a residence in Bangkok, but now I’m working in Chiang Mai. I’m wondering if I can apply for the visa in Chiang Mai? Or do I have to go to Bangkok? I’ve been denied for a visa from the U.S. Embassy before, with the reason that I don’t have enough money. I think the reason is not that I don’t have enough money (as I’m showing 1.6 million baht in my account), but I think the U.S. government never lets anyone get into the USA. Or maybe I have to travel to another country first to let them believe that I have enough money to travel everywhere?

- From a Thai guy who wants to go to Six Flags National Amusement Park in USA so bad


You know, if all the myths about the U.S. Consulate and diplomatic service in general were to be compiled, “no one ever gets a visa” would be right up there with “there’s a secret transmitter under the White Chedi.” They’re both completely false, of course. Especially the latter. Er ... if anyone asks, I never said anything about that, ok?

Of course the State Department would like you to come to Six Flags and have a good time and, not coincidentally, spend your apparently plentiful tourist dollars. It’s CONGRESS that doesn’t.

Just kidding. But you might be forgiven for thinking so if you look at the law. In translation from legalese, it says: Every applicant must be considered to be an intending immigrant (that is, should be denied a tourist visa) unless he or she can prove otherwise.

In other words, the visa applicant is guilty unless proven innocent. It sounds downright un-American, but there are several reasons for the law: (1) like every country in the world, the U.S. has measures to help reserve its jobs for its citizens, (2) the law helps maintain stringent security standards, and (3) unfortunately, not everyone is as honest as you, Mr. FATGWWTGTSFNAPIUSASB, and ... I know this is shocking ... people have been known to disguise their intentions when talking to a visa officer.

That said, many people do manage to “prove otherwise.” The current visa refusal rate in Chiang Mai is unchanged from previous years: generally, only one-third of applications must be refused. I realize that doesn’t actually get to your question, though, which is: Will I get a visa?

Answer: I don’t know. I haven’t seen your application, and no one particular thing, including, believe it or not, 1.6 million baht in the bank, can guarantee a visa.

Myths number three and four, right after “no one gets a visa” and, ah, that other one, are “you need a six-figure bank balance for a visa” and “you need to show, even if your father writes the letter, a high salary.” Wrong, and wronger. In fact, sometimes otherwise perfectly “issue-able” visa applicants damage their credibility by claiming that the five million baht deposited in their account hours before the interview was due to a bumper longan harvest - never mind that their job letters say they’re computer programmers, and the rest of the application makes clear the closest they’ve come to a longan farm is seeing one on TV.

It’s not the amount that’s important; it’s the consistency of the story the records tell. All other things being equal, an accountant earning 10,000 baht per month, with a long employment history and steady savings, regardless of how modest, is more likely to get a visa than someone with a lot of money who can’t show how they came by it.

Don’t get me wrong, Mr. FATGWWTGTSFNAPIU
SASB; I’m not talking about your situation in particular. I don’t know why your visa was refused. Money may not have come into it at all. There are other connections to one’s home country besides economic, and officers look closely at those, too.

In fact, it’s those non-monetary factors that mean that although you certainly can apply in Chiang Mai, you may want to spend some time in your new city before you do. It’s easier to show ties to your country if you can show ties to your town, and, unfortunately, having just moved means not having deep roots. The Consulate wants to see deep roots.

Prior travel is important, too - not because we want to see that you can afford it, but because it’s helpful if you can demonstrate that you’ve complied with another country’s visa laws. Someone who hasn’t overstayed in Geneva is a better bet to not overstay in Chicago then someone who’s never left Thailand.

So, in short, Mr. FATGWWTGTSFNAPIUSASB, there are no promises in these sorts of matters, especially without a visa application in front of me. Certainly, you might qualify tomorrow; I couldn’t say without knowing the full story. Alternatively, you could first immerse yourself in your new home, watch your business thrive, and explore the fabulous theme parks of Europe. And then come pay us a visit. Just let the Chedi know you’re here.

Honestly, I kid -

The Consul

Now, easier to reach! By the time you read this column, the Consulate will have a new telephone system, including pre-recorded information, in Thai and English, on many topics of interest. Give it a try - same phone number, 053-252-629.

Have a question about visas, passports, travel to the United States, services for American citizens, or related issues? Ask the Consul. Send your e-mail to [email protected] with “ask the consul” in the subject line. If your question isn’t selected, you can get an answer by calling the Consulate at 053-252-629, from 8 to 4.