Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Recipes from Rattana

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Family Money: Sheltering Your Money Offshore

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

Expats must ensure their financial base is both flexible and adequately supported during times of uncertainty and volatility, such as we have experienced in the past several months.

Wherever you are in the world, knowing how to mobilise your assets effectively, swiftly and safely is considered by financial managers as nothing short of essential. Leaving your capital to languish in a bank deposit account may seem the safest thing to do, but it ensures it is being eroded by inflation, and may be losing you alternative investment opportunities that are still very low risk and likely to produce a much better return, even in the relatively short term.

This preparation of money movement Ė often referred to as "a flight to quality" Ė means expats should be asking themselves the following questions:

*How safe is the jurisdiction in which my wealth is based?

*How safe are the key investment vehicles my money is placed in?

*How can I avoid capital loss?

*How accessible is my money if I decide to move it to another investment instrument/provider?

When it comes to financial manoeuvring the entire scenario facing any expat can be wrapped up as follows: What should I buy? What should I sell? And when should I carry out these transactions?

A reputable independent financial adviser is the individual with the critical skills most needed by expats who either cannot answer those questions themselves or who are dissatisfied with the answers they have been given by either their current adviser or provider.

What you are looking for is an experienced and reputable adviser who:

*can answer your questions satisfactorily, in language you can understand;

*will recommend a strategic course of action which is in keeping with your overall financial goals and aspirations;

*can assist you with the effective mobilisation of your funds;

*can assist you with carrying through the necessary transactions, or carry them out on your behalf.

Whereís the best?

Next you need to check the regulatory environment in which your monies are kept or will be kept. When you buy a house, you probably pay at least as much attention to where the house is situated as to the accommodation on offer. But how often do you stop to think where your bank, financial adviser or product provider is situated, how that jurisdiction is viewed and whether it has sound regulation to protect you in case things go awry?

The choice of offshore jurisdiction has an important bearing on the quality and security of investment products on offer and the protection and compensation schemes available to investors: these are key issues to research visŗvis any offshore financial centre. (The countryís official web site is perhaps the best place to check on these matters in the first instance.) A jurisdictionís approach to regulation is demonstrated by how committed it appears to be in observing high regulatory standards. For instance, in relation to banking, is it a member of the Offshore group of Banking Supervisors?

Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are all premier offshore financial service centres with sound regulatory laws and the necessary supervisory muscle to safeguard the reputation of those islandsí financial services sector. For instance, the Isle of Manís Office of Fair Trading has established an ombudsman whose job it is to arbitrate between consumer-complainants and offshore financial servicesí providers. This ensures a further layer of consumer interest and protection within the industry, and has had a profound effect on the Isle of Manís status as a leading offshore financial centre.

There is one other professional body which also has the services of an ombudsman for expats, and that is the Offshore Financial Trade Association (OFTA). OFTA has just celebrated its first anniversary, and at the end of last year reported a total of 143 members with a further 28 being processed. Their director general was recently quoted as saying: "The OFTA Ombudsman scheme is key to our aim of raising the level of consumer protection in the industry. It is all the more vital as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism because litigation for the individual in the international arena is even more fraught than in the domestic courts."

But what if your preferred financial adviser is operating from an unregulated environment Ė such as Thailand? Again you can gain some peace of mind from asking the right questions: First, does your money go directly to a reputable offshore investment provider, or via your adviserís bank account? If the latter, steer clear. But if your adviser never handles your money, but acts as an independent intermediary between you Ė the investor Ė and a range of reputable offshore providers, then you can be reasonably sure that the offshore provider has already checked out his companyís modus operandi and bona fides, and is satisfied that this intermediary is not going to run off with your money and will deal with you honestly.

Ethics and "best advice" are a conjoined subject which you should consider carefully before signing up for any recommended investment. Consider whether it meets your investment objectives, is within acceptable risk parameters, that you fully understand how it works, the charges involved and any early redemption penalties that might apply.

Ensure you know who will be providing you with ongoing professional advice Ė and how frequently. Does your adviser or his firmís designated portfolio manager have enough experience and track record of success to be able to provide you with ongoing portfolio management on either an advisory or discretionary basis, or is your adviser simply a product salesman (at which many are very good, but hopeless when it comes to constructing and managing a portfolio that is appropriate to your needs and risk-aversion profile, and prevailing market conditions)?

Then, how long has your adviserís firm been in business? How long has your adviser been with that firm? Lived in this country? Worked for how many firms before this one? Does he have a Work Permit? (Ask to see a copy.) Otherwise, what guarantee do you have that he will be around to advise you after heís collected his first tranche of commission? His word as a gentleman?

If thereís any doubt, thereís no doubt: ask what alternatives are available, and go through the same steps to ensuring you fully understand what it is you are investing in, for how long, and what you can reasonably expect to get back. If the answers are less than transparent or satisfactory, find an alternative adviser.


Personal Directions: Training is a long term investment in the future

By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates

When times are tough in business and the economy is equally shaky, most companies tighten their belts and begin to put the brakes on spending. Thatís the logical thing to do. They look more closely at ways of saving on their budgets and sadly, that usually means cutting training budgets first up. This is what most companies do. I donít agree at all with it but this is the general reaction and trend that develops when the business climate is far from favourable.

Recently, however, I was fortunate enough to prove this general behavior wrong. Despite the SARS epidemic, which has had serious consequences for many companies in the travel industry, and the overall downturn in this industry on a global scale since September 11, a Dutch gentleman by the name of Rob Waardenburg, who owns and runs Rowaco (Thailand) Ltd, decided that this was the "perfect time" to invest in his people and to "not" take anything away from them. He therefore decided to treat them to a three-day teambuilding and motivational workshop away from all the stress and worry of the business.

It really is refreshing to meet someone with insight and vision. We had been talking for quite some time about doing some form of training and I wasnít expecting it to come through at the time that it did. Rob called me very eager to get on with things. We planned the program in a matter of what seemed moments so that all the staff at Rowaco could get together and be together for these very special three days. Rob had no doubt that this was the best time to do it!

People seemed to fly in from all over, meeting up in Bangkok for the initial part and then all traveling down to Cha-am for the remaining two days. Staff had a rare opportunity to mix and share each otherís company, have some fun, eat and drink and actively work together in a way that they had never done before. No-one, except for two or three people including Rob, had ever participated in a teambuilding program and certainly not one like this. And on the insistence of the young Thai general manager, Khun Boonthien, the whole office closed up bringing along all staff at every level including the office maid, driver and building caretaker.

This is what it is all about - as far as I am concerned. Everyone is important and has a role to play.

The three days brought out the best in each individual. It was tough-going. No chance to just dance around and see the sights. It was filled with activities to provoke thought and emotions at the deepest levels. It was also a huge wake-up call for a lot who had become rather complacent in their jobs and who had not been doing their fullest to contribute to the companyís well-being.

Looking at specific problems and issues and then tailoring the program content accordingly is the only way to present and conduct these, or indeed, any program. It is so easy to just throw together some humorous games and fun activities and let all the participants come away having had "a great time" enjoying themselves and having had some good meals as well. But that is not what it is about. Training has to be able to get to the source of the problems that exist in order to address them and to begin to change or rebuild or improve the situations that exist as a result.

Then it can go one step further. After the training and the "feel good effect", what then? How do you as a manager or supervisor or CEO keep the feeling alive? It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort to do this because people so easily revert to their same old ways unless they have committed seriously to doing otherwise.

I am a firm believer in following-up after all my programs. Following-up to ensure the momentum is in place and that the benefits derived short-term can be converted to long-term benefits. It is an integral part of any training program otherwise people feel suddenly left up in the air to fend or themselves, when they still need to know how to forge ahead with the same enthusiasm and feeling they felt during the training program.

Usually two weeks after any program is a good opportunity to recap and review the results. Also it is a good time to focus on other areas that may need attention and sometimes it is only after an initial program that theses areas surface and reveal themselves. In this way clients are also adding to their long term investment in their people. Not just abandoning them and saying, "well you did one program so you should know everything now!"

If you are dealing with people in any kind of business and you want to make a success of it, then you are in with those people for the long haul. There is nothing instant when it comes to quality training unless job specific of course. It all takes time and adults who work are just like children, they have to be shown by example and in the simplest possible way in order to get a clear and true picture of what is being conveyed.

As for Rowaco and follow-up, yes we will be doing it to ensure the best possible results for them. No matter how large or small a company, it is essential to continue with this process for a certain period. Many companies I find are insisting on this process because they themselves are not equipped to do it. Either their staff are not qualified, do not have the time or do not have the resources. This is quite often the case and personally I believe that it is more of a bonus in some ways to have "different faces" involved because they take away from the sameness that accompanies the usual HR faces and personalities of a company.

If you are looking for teambuilding or other management or staff development programs, please email me at [email protected] com or visit our website www.asiatrainingassociates.com

Until next time, have a wonderful week!


The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Athleteís foot - for the non-athletes!

by Dr. Iain Corness

It is that season again, when Athleteís Foot seems to be on the increase. The hot soggy weather brings out the hot soggy condition where the web between the toes gets so itchy you could happily scrape it with a coarse file. But donít. Help is at hand.

Many people have a never-ending battle with Athleteís Foot. This is one of the most common conditions in the world, and you certainly do not have to be an athlete to get it - but it helps! Why? Because athletes, like so many sporting groups, tend to stand around shower/changing areas in their bare feet, spreading the little organism that causes the condition.

So letís talk about the condition. The correct name is Tinea, and we have several types depending upon the area of the body that is affected. If it is in your scalp we call it Tinea capitis, on the body - Tinea corporis, on the hands - Tinea manum, on the feet - Tinea pedis and in the groin we call it Tinea cruris, otherwise known as Dhobie itch, Jock itch or Crutch Rot! What a wonderful grab bag of conditions to say the least.

The organisms which cause all these are called Dermatophytes, and they have the ability to live in skin and can invade hair and even nails. The most common has the exciting name of Trichophyton rubrum, a noble name for an organism that can live in the soggy bits between your toes, Iím sure youíll agree.

The symptoms generally consist of a spreading "rash" with reddened edges that becomes itchy and eventually quite painful as the infection goes into the deeper layers of the skin. This is the result of the organism putting out "tentacles" which extend deeper. Yes, it is like a grass, growing and spreading its roots.

Unfortunately, there are a number of other conditions that can make themselves evident in a similar fashion, including psoriasis, eczema and some forms of dermatitis. This is the most usual reason for "Athletes Foot" preparations not working - it wasnít "Athleteís Foot" to begin with!

There are various methods of clinching the diagnosis, including examination with a special Woodís Light, which allows you to look at the affected region with UV light. The most accurate way, however, is to take scrapings and examine under the microscope for the tell tale "tentacles".

So what can you do if it really is our friend Trichophyton that is cropping up between your toes and other unmentionable places? The first thing to do is not use high powered steroid creams, but use a topical anti-dermatophyte preparation like Canesten cream. You can alternate with a weak steroid, but remember that the steroid does not "cure" the problem - it only masks it.

With some very stubborn cases it may be necessary to use medication by mouth to attack the organism through the blood stream, but these can have some fairly unpleasant and nasty side effects, especially on your liver. If your liver is having problems straining the blood out of the beer stream then you need extreme caution.

To prevent re-occurrence it is necessary to be very careful where you put your toes, never share towels and jump over communal bath mats - but even then you may find it comes back. Remnants of the organism start putting out their tentacles and the cycle is on again. And stop scratching!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

I canít beleieve (sic) what you said to the Irish bloke, Caring Chris. His girl was obviously talking to other falang who send money to her or visit her when they come on holiday. Itís a wonder the poor guy in question didnít have to foot the bill for the Izuzu (sic) pickupís axle. Long haired gentleman on a motor bike - Harley no less, sounds like a decent citizen to me. Never met you but are you a man (katoey in print drag)? Spent a good chunk of last year in good auld Pattaya (8 months) not working enjoying, and had a decent shop working girl friend, who I know has some other falang interest. Anyway what I want to ask you (donít know if youíll publish this or not) is how to amicabally (sic) end the relationship without: a) the girl in question losing face, and: b) me in question not losing face as I have quite a few Thai friends. Girl is a bit neurotic. In England I would just sit down with a girl and talk and end things on a kind note. Thailand is a different kettle of fish altogether (no promises of marriage etc.) no money changing hands except for dinner and movies every now and again. Known the girl for 3 years odd now, no calls for money for sick buffolo (sic). Maybe Iím a cheap Charlie but didnít buy any gold - only thing I bought was a pair of glasses for her. Only reason I send this e-mail is because of the poor Irish bloke (me being Irish too) hit a note and wanted to ask.

Not anon

Dear Not anon,

Thank you for your colourfully spelled email. You appear not to understand Ďreading between the linesí in my advice to Caring Chris, but donít let that influence your Irish viewpoint (or spelling). Now to your problem and the parting of the ways for you and your long term girlfriend. Looking dispassionately at the situation, you are quite the heart and soul of generosity, arenít you? In 3 years you bought her a pair of glasses! 175 baht from the stall at the side of the road! (I am presuming that the gift was spectacles, and not a couple of tumblers.) And you are worried about how to amicably end the relationship! Just sit her down, as you would do in England, you say, and tell her to put the glasses on and look carefully at you. She should see just what a cheap Charlie you really are, and will run for cover like a startled gecko. As far as her having another male interest, can you blame her? You gave her no money, no gold, no promises of marriage, but took her for dinner and a movie "every now and again." I feel sorry for the poor girl, she must be soft in the head, as well as being blind, to put up with someone so mean for so long. As far as Hillary being a katoey - you have to be joking, Petal, surely! Let me assure you that Hillary is no katoey - Hillary works on the WYSIWYG principle. What You See Is What You Get.

Dear Hillary,

I have a local bar that I frequent and like many expat bars in Thailand, there appears to be an endless supply of young ladies to keep one company when you go in to have a cold one. During a rainstorm the other evening, one young thing told me that her apartment roof leaked very badly and so I took pity on her and gave her some dry shelter for the evening. This act of charity is now backfiring badly, as when I drop in for a chat and a gargle on a coldie, all the girls rush off and get Miss Lasnite Leekiroof, and now I seem to be stuck with her. She is a nice enough sort of girl, but she hardly bowls me over. This cramps my style, and not what I want in my local bar, where I want to be footloose and fancy free. How do I get to play the field again, Miss Hillary?

Shane

Dear Shane,

Are you the same "Shane! I warned you about those tablets" who was in the news recently? If so, no wonder you donít want to be bowled over by a mere slip of a girl, and want to get back to play the field. Fortunately in the types of local bars you frequent, you donít have to play at first slip forever. All you need to do next time you pop down for a quick cold beer is to tell Miss Lasnite Leekiroof, when the other girls push her in your direction, that you would actually like to talk to her sister Miss Neksnite Leekiroof, and hereís a 100 baht if you will bring her over to you and make the introduction. I think you will find that 100 baht introduction fee should be enough to mend her broken heart, or to stuff into the cracks in the leaking roof.


Camera Class: To shoot like a pro - read like a pro

by Snapshot

People who enjoy taking photographs often wonder what it would be like to take photos for a living, or even just as a little "pin money". Some of the best photographers I know started just that way. They enjoyed working with their camera, somebody saw their work and asked them to take a photograph for them, paid them some money and they were off and running! Professional photographers.

Harry Flashman began the same way. Wanting to take a shot of a bright pink concrete truck, I contacted the concrete company. As a Ďthank youí I gave them a large print. That shot ended up giving me a three year contract to do a glamour calendar for the company. I was off and running too! A professional photographer!

In those early days, I had one essential piece of equipment that I still have today, and still use today - no, it wasnít the tripod. It was a book! Written by professional photographer, Richard Sharabura, it was called "Shooting your way to a $ Million". Written in 1981, the advice is just as pertinent today as it was 22 years ago. Anyone who has ever contemplated any form of "pay me for my pictures" should read this book.

One of the finest pieces of advice I was given in the early days, which I also got out of a book, was just "Without any pictures, you are just a gypsy with a camera." In other words, it is no good just saying you can take photographs - you have to have some examples to show people. Now in the pro world, this is called your "book" or your portfolio. This is looked at by an art director, who then decides if he likes your work, he will give you more. It is that simple.

For you, just starting off, if you know of someone who wants pictures taken of their restaurant food, it doesnít do much to show them 48 great shots you have taken of horses. At the early stage, you need to have good shots of different subjects - people, lifestyles, food, cars, horses, golf, kids, portraits, sunsets, nightlife, samlors, - you must be getting the idea by now! Stick them in an album and you have something to tote around to show people.

So how do you get to take great shots of people, lifestyles, food, cars, horses, golf, kids, etc., etc.? Well, you read about it in books, thatís how! Did you know that everything you ever needed to know about taking pictures has already been written down for you? Master photographers have spent great chunks of their lives to tell you and me how to do it! Sometimes you may think that the photography books you buy are too expensive, but how many books that you buy will tell you how to make money with them after reading them?

Of course you do have to do a little more than just reading. You do have to take photos as well! A good exercise is to imagine that you are a newspaper photographer, taking pictures for a paper just like the one you are reading right now! Pretend that the editor is sending you out to cover a feature, and give yourself one feature every weekend. So each week you have an assignment (this is a good exercise for students also) and go out and cover it pictorially. Hereís a few for you to try: the bus station, shopping, nightlife, the local laundry, life as a petrol pump attendant, beggars, and taxis. The list is as big as your imagination.

Now go out and illustrate that topic, as if the editor had told you to cover it. Make your shots describe the action, scene or activity. Think about how you are going to do it and how you are going to show it. Make the subject the "hero" and use plenty of film.

You get better in photography by doing it more often - just read all about it first.


Recipes from Rattana: Plakapong Manao - Fish with Lemon sauce

This weekís recipe is for the fish lovers out there and almost all types of fish can be used, but the readily available local plakapong works well here. The recipe calls for four long red chillies, but if the family like this toned down, you can simply reduce the number, and I recommend that you remove the seeds before chopping. With all chillies, remember not to rub your eyes after working with them!

Ingredients serves 2-4

Plakapong 1 medium

Cooking oil 30 ml

Garlic finely chopped 2 cloves

Chillies, long red finely chopped 4

Fish sauce 30 ml

Lemon juice 15 ml

Sugar 2 tbspns

Soup stock 60 ml

Flour 2 tbspns

Coriander leaves as garnish

Cooking Method

Clean the fish, rinse and pat dry. Now shallow fry the fish, making sure it remains moist, remove and set aside.

Heat the oil and add the garlic frying until it is golden in colour. Now add the chillies, stirring quickly and then the fish sauce, lemon juice, sugar and soup stock.

Pre-mix the flour with 30 ml of water and add 5ml of the flour mixture at a time to thicken the sauce slightly. When the consistency is thick enough, place the fish on a serving platter and pour the hot sauce over it. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately.


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

In this issue I am going to focus on a question which is often on my mind, and I am pretty sure on yours too, as I get a lot of questions about this. Can I speed up / improve my internet connection?

I am sure many of you have seen the claims in the pop-up adverts on many web sites which state: "WARNING. Your Internet Connection is not optimized!" or "Speed up your Internet Speed 3 times." Is this just so much hot air, or do these boosters really exist? Just what is bandwidth and what has it got to do with my internet connection?

What is bandwidth?

Lets start with bandwidth. A very simple analogy to understand bandwidth and internet traffic is to think of highways and cars. Bandwidth is the number of lanes on the highway and traffic is the number of cars on the highway. If you are the only car on a highway, you can travel very quickly. If one lane is closed or if you are stuck in the middle of rush hour, you may travel very slowly since all of the lanes are being used up.

What is Thailandís internet highway network?

Basically Thailand has four fibre optic cables which carry our traffic to the world. Two can be considered superhighways similar to an 8 lane motorway in the USA, Europe or Australia. One is a two lane country road and the fourth is a footpath. Any loss of signal or problem with any one of these cables seriously impacts on our ability to connect to the world wide web and the result is really slow downloading and frequent time out messages. "Error: The requested URL could not be retrieved."

Can you really accelerate?

ISDN, ADSL, Cable and Satellite are all options we can consider apart from dial-up modem connections. In Thailand, price must be a consideration. Also, there is some software available which can tune up your computerís dial-up settings. However, if thereís one thing I have learned in Thailand, that is: fastest is not always best.

Can I improve modem speed?

Modem speeding packages have been around since Internet use became widespread and for many years I have used a couple of different applications to improve performance.

Speeding your dial-up connection doesnít necessarily make your modem connect at a faster speed. The speed indicator that your modem gives you is actually deceptive. For example, if you connect at 28,800, that is the optimal speed that your modem and the service providerís modem negotiated when you connected. But that doesnít mean that the packets of information being sent between those modems is traveling at that speed. In fact, they are probably sending and receiving information at a speed that varies depending on the packet sizes (based on your computer settings) and on how busy the service providerís server is at that time.

Another example is the 56k modem. Although they are meant to connect at 56k, most of the phone lines in the world canít handle transmitting information at that speed. So even though it may say it is connected at 56k, it is probably really communicating at a lesser speed. This is especially true here in Thailand where phone line quality seriously degrades performance.

These kinds of applications help your modem & computer work more efficiently and effectively. You will not necessarily see a change in your connection speed. Rather, you should see an enhancement of your existing connection, resulting in increased speed in browsing the Internet.

Here is one of the applications which I have successfully used. Modem Boost is available from http://www.modemboost.com and gets a 4 Star rating. Best of all its FREE.

More recent accelerator offerings allow you use your PC to store web pages and/or smart caching of web pages on dedicated web servers.

So whatís the difference and whatís a cache?

The concept behind this is simple enough. Somewhere in the world, someone has provided a computer which provides space for your internet browser to store web pages. Alternatively this space may be on your own computer. Obviously you also have to use an application which links to this service. When you go to a web site, your internet browser (say Internet Explorer/Netscape and the application) save the web page you visit on this server or your PC. When you go back to this web page sometime later, the server or your computer already has the page stored and so it can be displayed faster because its already stored waiting for you to see.

The disadvantage of this system is if the web page is dynamic and the content frequently changes, you may be looking at something that is out of date next time you visit. However, some tricky programmers thought of this. Content from your first visit can now be stored and then later visits limit the information you download to only the content that changes, making for a faster download.

Variations to the theme include applications which browse ahead of you and looks for links on any web page you visit and start to store web page content which you may or may not visit.

You get the idea. The pages you frequently visit are stored somewhere and when you visit that web site again, its much simpler to just recall what is already stored. Just to make life even more interesting, this service has developed to the point where the service providers have located computers around the world so you can store your web page visits on a computer that is close to your location, making for even faster loading onto your PC.

Most of these services are piggybacked to your choice of Internet Browser. Artera and Propel are both services which can speed up first visits to web sites by compressing page text and graphics. Proxycon relies on some exceptional technology to cache information on its servers. However, be prepared for monthly fees as these services are not free.

Artera can be downloaded from Artera Group at www. arteragroup.com and costs $10US per month. Itís easy to use but the least effective of the three and gets a 3 star rating. Propel Accelerator can be downloaded from www.propel.com and is speedy, inexpensive and the most configurable service. A cost $5US per month gets a 4 star rating. Last but not least, Proxyconn Accelerator is a good choice if you visit the same sites over and over again. You can download this one from www.proxy conn.com and gets a rating of 3-1/2 for a cost of $9US per month.

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