HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dogs - Man’s best friend

Beer and More  

Money Matters

Your Health & Happiness:  Flowers are a great way to say ‘I care’

Orchids means love and beauty

Lilian Tip

Not only love, wisdom and beauty are in the meaning of orchids, it is also the Chinese symbol for fertility while the name originates from the Greek orchids, (‘testicle’) and its history is one of lust, greed, and wealth.

A beautiful white Phalaenopsis orchid

In ancient history is reported that Greek women tried to control the sex of their unborn children with orchid roots. If the wife gave her husband large, new tubers to eat, the baby was supposed to become a boy but if the mother ate small tubers, she would have a baby girl. The orchid in the photo belongs to the Phalaenopsis genus, coming from the Greek ‘phalaina’, a moth, and the ending ‘opsis’ indicating resemblance, alluding to the flowers. At least 50-55 species of epiphytic orchids with purple-tinged leaves and moth-like flowers with a three lobed lip are known today, mainly distributed in South.

Orchids were a collector’s item by the 1800’s and by today, nearly 25,000 different varieties are described. They are still collector’s items, but more in western countries, as the days of orchids being the ultimate symbol of social position, wealth, and power have passed.

A pink orchid conveys pure affection; the popular Cattleya orchid denotes mature charm, so is often used in corsages for Mother’s Day.

The Doctor's Consultation: Syndrome X. A new “X”treme sport?

by Dr. Iain Corness

No, not an “X”treme sport, but rather far from it. Unfortunately Syndrome X, which is otherwise known as the Metabolic Syndrome, is a classic example of what we medico’s call ‘co-morbidity’. This is the situation where one disease process or ailment affects, or “X”aggerates, another disease process you may have. In these situations, the combined effects can be life threatening. It is also a syndrome possessed by around 40 percent of adults over 40.

Now there can be many occasions when you have more than one ailment at one time. You can have a sore throat and a broken leg all at the same time, and these conditions have no real bearing on each other. The broken leg will get better and the sore throat ditto.

However, the combination of diabetes and obesity can be disaster waiting. The combination of diabetes, smoking, obesity, hypertension and high triglycerides (blood fats) is cardiac dynamite. Your conclusive heart attack is a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’. The risk factors stemming from all those conditions become not a case of simple addition, but are multiplied.

The problem from your point of view is that most of these factors come on very slowly, and become part of your daily living. You’ve smoked for years and never had a smoker’s cough, so why stop now? Every time you get some trousers made the waistband has to be that little larger. Your belt has been let out two more holes over the past two years. Your doctor said you had a “Little bit of blood pressure” three years ago, but you haven’t been back to check, as you feel quite OK in yourself. Your ‘triglycerides’? “My what?” Your blood sugar? “It was OK last time it was checked five years ago!”

The big problem is that the “Little bit of blood pressure”, even say 150/100, can produce a very dangerous situation when the person with that BP has elevated blood sugar as well. Or smokes. It is the multiplication effect again. Whereas you can (almost) ignore mild elevations like 150/100, if you have nothing else wrong, ignoring it when there are other conditions co-existing brings up that co-morbidity problem again. And the likelihood of a cardiac calamity.

Likewise, a “little bit of extra weight” that we all excuse ourselves for carrying, may (just ‘may’) be fine for someone with no other medical conditions, but represents an enormous risk factor for someone with the Metabolic Syndrome.

For those who like figures with their information, here are some chilling ones. Between 87-100 percent of people with fatal coronary heart disease, or a non-fatal heart attack had at least one of the following risk factors - smoking, diabetes, increased blood fats and high blood pressure. Syndrome X, or the Metabolic Syndrome, is characterized by having Diabetes, increased blood pressure, and raised blood fats. Can you now see the importance of doing something about weight, blood fats and blood pressure? I for one would not like to be sitting with a condition that gives me between 87-100 percent chance of a cardiac problem.

So what is this week’s message? Quite simply, if you have diabetes, do something about the other risk factors. Stop smoking to start with and then get your BP and blood fats checked. If you don’t even know what your blood sugar level is, then get a check-up and find about all of it!

In the meantime, take 100 mgm of aspirin each morning. It is cardio-protective. I do!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
We have been here for six months and I suppose we are considered very well off. I have a problem though, and I don’t know if it is related to the fact that we have money. I have an increasing attraction for our new young maid. She is very beautiful and charming and appears to be interested in me too. We have not spoken about this, but I will hold her hand when we are in the street and she does not pull away. I know my husband would not approve of this so I have not said anything to him either. Should I tell him? Should I tell her? I am unsure of what to do.

Dear Angela,
You are certainly new here, aren’t you, Petal. Holding hands with another woman is perfectly normal and acceptable behaviour here in Thailand. It does not indicate a romantic relationship beyond a simple friendship, and certainly not the one you are implying. What you should do is sit down and think about why you are looking to have any sort of an ‘affair’. Has the relationship with your husband lost its sparkle? Start holding his hand, instead of the maid’s.
Dear Hillary,
Discovered Rambling Sid Rumpo the other day in an anatomy classroom. He was, as usual, nadgering his artefacts but took time off to write a quick verse in the cunning old Celtic tradition.
“Whilst thinking of Hillary
I burst a capillary,
Is she a butterfly,
Like a fritillary?”

Dear Mistersingha,
You are the one starting to ramble, my reneging Petal. And even if like Rambling Sid, your nurglers are irritated and you have numutization of your third sensory strunod (thank you Neddy Seagoon, 1952) you also have no concept of rhythm and rhyme. Allow me to pen a couple of lines myself.
“Mistersingha, you’re a pain,
You’re reneging again,
You promised some goodies,
Some chocolate foodies
And Miss Hillary’s bottled champagne.”
When I receive the promised gifts I will take you off my black list (the immigration police are not the only ones with such lists!)
Dear Hillary,
My aunt came to Thailand last month for a visit. I was excited, as I had not seen her or my uncle for some years. Imagine how I felt when my aunt arrived without my uncle, but she had a man from Bangkok in tow. She said my uncle did not feel like travelling at his age (in his eighties but my aunt is much younger) but she didn’t want to disappoint me by not coming. She didn’t say anything about the ‘boy’ she was with, but I know they stayed in the same hotel room, but I didn’t ask about the sleeping arrangements. (I only have a very small studio so they couldn’t stay with me.) She did not explain anything, but didn’t hide anything either. Honestly, Hillary, should I tell my uncle or should I tell my aunt she is not welcome here again? I am so confused. Please help.
Confused of Chonburi.

Dear Confused,
What exactly are you confused about, Petal? That your aunt should have a rent-a-boy in tow? That your uncle didn’t come? Do you really know the whole story? After all, as you say, you didn’t ask and I’m sure you also didn’t ask what was the relationship between your aunt and your uncle. For all you know, they could be the leaders of the local swingers group, or into ‘open marriage’. The problem is just the fact that you did not find out what really was the situation. My advice would be to live and let live. Your aunt would not have been so open if she was hiding anything. From your point of view I would not say anything unless your uncle asks. After that, the truth is always best, but I think the arrangement was probably one that your aunt and uncle were OK with, and so should you.
Dear Hillary,
I used to be very friendly with a girl in a local cafe and often used to just pop in for a coffee and to say hello, as her English was not very good. About three months ago she disappeared and the new waitress could not tell me where she had gone. I bumped into her in a shopping centre the other day and her English was much better, so I decided to ask her out for dinner. She told me she couldn’t go as she was working in a bar, but I could see her there. I was just so disappointed. How could a sweet young girl from a restaurant turn into yet another bar girl? I still like her a lot. Should I try to get her to leave?
Dear Marty,
In a word, No! There’s an old saying - You can take a girl out of a bar but you can’t take the bar out of the girl! If that’s what your sweet young thing wants to do, you have to accept it. She has her reasons for working there, and they are probably financial. You do not need to start a relationship based on financial need and your presumed ability to supply the cash to cover that need. Beware, young Marty. Beware!

Camera Class:  How give black and white some sparkle

by Harry Flashman

The first commercially available film was black and white, and the older readers will remember those days. It is in fact only relatively recently that colour became the norm for amateur photography.

After you got your snaps back in bright colour, nobody wanted to shoot in black and white (B&W) anymore, other than a hard core band of photographers who could appreciate the stark contrasts that B&W could give, without the distractions produced by colour. Anyone who has seen Ansel Adam’s prints will attest to that.

Having had a query sent to me recently about shooting in B&W, I dug deep in the archives. Pauline, this is for you! And anyone else who would like to experiment.

However, like all things that seem easy, there can be traps for the unwary. The concept hinges on a condition called ‘reflectance’, which determines the degree of ‘grey’ depicted in a black and white print. Imagine a red boat against a blue background. If both have the same degree of reflectance, then the B&W film will produce two very similar shades of grey. In colour, you have a vivid contrast, but in B&W you have a grey boat against a grey background. No contrast at all.

The answer to this lies upon being able to alter the relative reflectances of the different colours in the scene. If you could make the red stand out more, as far as the film in the camera was concerned, then you would get a different shade of grey between the boat and the background. Fortunately, this is not all that difficult.

The trick requires filters. Not the crossed star, soft focus or centre spot type filters, but coloured filters, with the usual ones being red, yellow and green. What these coloured filters do is to let the light reflected from its own colour to pass freely through the filter, but other colours are ‘held back’ to various degrees. In this way, for example, using the red filter, the light from the red boat passes through more easily, while the blue background is held back. The final effect is a light grey boat against a dark grey background.

Even more simply, the more light that gets through, the lighter the shade of grey. Use of a green filter when taking a landscape also produces a stronger variation of the greys resulting from the different green shades. To increase the effect even further, add a polarizer to the coloured filter and you will really get some contrasting shades in the final B&W print.

The next step is difficult to predict because many factors that may alter the reflectance, but prior experimentation will take away some of the guesswork. As in all things, practice makes perfect.

Now while so far it sounds as if all you have to do is to screw on a couple of coloured filters and you become the 21st century’s answer to Ansel Adams, there is another factor to consider. All these coloured filters require an increase in exposure times to get enough light on to the film emulsion. A deep red could require 2 times the usual exposure (called 2 ‘stops’), denoted by a 4X. At this stage just believe me that you halve the “X” factor to get the number of stops!

The upshot of all this is that you can end up with a shutter speed of around 1/8th of a second or even slower, particularly if you are shooting with a tiny aperture of say f22 to get good depth of field. This is far too slow to hand hold the camera. The fix? It’s called a tripod. Ansel Adams used one, and so should you if you want those pin sharp black and white images worthy of archiving.

So that’s the story of B&W. Use ‘contrast’ coloured filters, use a tripod and get great B&W prints. Remember that you can get B&W films now that can be processed in C41 colour chemistry, so you can get your pictures done at your favourite photo processing outlet.

Dogs - Man’s best friend: From wolf to dog

The wolf as the hunter or the scavenger?

Nienke Parma

The first skeletal remains of wolves with clear dog-like characteristics were found in Europe and are about 16,000 years old. However, recent DNA research shows the wolf must have been domesticated earlier, and not in Europe but in the Middle East and Asia.

It is not certain whether the wolf was tamed by human beings or even whether it domesticated itself. It is assumed that in the beginning wolves and humans avoided each other, but as they were both after the same prey they must have met during the hunt.

During their cultural development humans became more inventive and hunting techniques improved. This was at the expense of the wolf as much of their prey was taken. However, humans tended to leave leftovers at their campsites. The wolves, also scavengers, took advantage of this easy food source. And once it became regular, the wolves came more constantly.

For the human beings, the presence of these scavengers with a predictable behavior was an advantage. They prevented outbreaks of disease caused through rotting material. They also kept other predators away from the human campsites.

At some point the humans must have acknowledged their usefulness and were tolerating them as long as they did not behave aggressively towards the humans. In fact they were rewarding the friendly ones and chasing away the aggressive ones. In such a way a selection took place over generations in a natural and friendly manner resulting in wolves becoming less shy and aggressive.

It also must have been inevitable that the humans have taken care of wolf cubs. As the brain structures of the young cubs are still ‘open’ they would have, through imprinting, become submissive towards the humans who took care of them, and as a result look to them as being their leader.

For more information on dog issues, boarding or training contact LuckyDogs 09 99 78 146 or [email protected]

Beer and More: Beer in modern times

The peculiar Bavarian beer test

by Karl Eichhorn, Chiangmai Malting product manager

With the start of the 19th century and the industrial development, important technological changes took place, and breweries were no exception. Milestones in this advancement include the invention of the steam engine, cooling equipment (1876 by Carl von Linde), the discoveries of Louis Pasteur (pasteurization of beverages); and the isolation of individual cells of yeast, being the basis for the growing of cultured yeasts.

A peculiarly designed bottle of Thai’s Singha beer.

However, in certain areas of the trade, traditional methods for beer testing prevailed. The Bavarians, in particular, had a peculiar way of doing that. If there were doubts, members of the town council and respectable people with respect to their position, weight and stature, met to check the strength of the beer. The honorable testing committee, all in typical ‘lederhosen’ (short leather trousers), sat down on the benches of the inn, but only after some of the brew to be tested had been spilled over the bench.

After a short drinking session the committee arose by command. Drastic punishment was waiting for the brewer, if his beer did not glue the investigators to their seats. If on top of this, the beer was found to be hardly drinkable, the brewer was forced to drink all of his product all by himself, a real torture.

But there are not only Bavarian beer jokes, witnessed by the fact there are countless Irish beer jokes such as Q: What’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral? A: One less drunk.

Money Matters:  Scott Campbell’s views on Thailand cont.

(written at the start of May 2004)

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

Continuing our mini-series on the views imparted by Scott Campbell, the portfolio manager whose ‘Growth Fund’ has been judged by S&P to be the best in its sector for the last 6 years, during his first ever visit to Bangkok, last month we turn our attention, once again, to property.

I have been recommending an underweight position to global commercial property for some time now and recent research has led to a further reduce recommendation and sale within our portfolios. There are two major reasons for this strategy.

The first is the recent and imminent further rise in global interest rates. Like bonds and equities, rising interest rates off 45-year lows is not bullish for the asset class. Commercial property is essentially valued on a yield basis and as Government bonds rise, so too do the expected yield on property investments. By way of example, an office building with rental income of US$1,000,000 is currently priced at 8% capitalisation to give a valuation of US$12,500,000. If the expected rate of return rises with bond yields to say 10%, then the capitalisation of the building falls to US$10,000,000 or a fall of 20%. Of course, leveraged commercial property investment vehicles will fall even further with a 50% gearing example in the example above causing a fall of 32%. A blow out in interest rates to 12% means a fall to US$8,333,000 or 33% un-geared. Valuations by directors and independents of commercial property funds are using historically low capitalisation rates and this is the time to start reducing rather than increasing exposure. The income yield will be swamped by the fall in capital value.

The second reason is the behaviour of listed property funds in recent times. My experience of listed commercial property trusts is that they tend to lead property unit trusts or other collective vehicles with physical property assets at director valuations by 6 months. The market tends to discount the expected moves in interest rates in advance in much the same way as they do earnings of industrial and financial companies. The Real Estate Investment Trust Index (REITs) in New York price 200 day moving average has been broken in April.

The decisive breakout in April on interest rate concerns is a lead indicator for physical commercial property assets and funds. This index is obviously US focused but the same concerns and price action is happening in the entire developed world. Rising interest rates in the Western world are not indicative of a time to be overexposed to commercial property there regardless of location, location, location?

Residential Property - Bubble?

Led by articles in the FT last weekend and various features in the Economist over the past 18 months, is the housing bubble. Since 1956 UK house prices have risen, in real terms, at a trend rate of 2.1%pa. This has made housing an excellent investment but prices have gone through huge cycles. At their peak in 1973, prices were 43% above trend and in the 1988 peak they were 36% above trend. At the end of last year they were 37% above it. Tony Dye, of past fame for losing his job at Phillips and Drew for calling the Tech bubble in 1999, says UK house prices could fall by 30% over the next five years to bring prices back to trend. The usual argument of “affordability” dynamics have changed does not wash according to a study by Andrew Farlow of Oxford University. In Sydney the problem is even worse and Reuters noted in the weekend that properties have doubled in the past six years and now only offer yields of 2.5% and it now takes in excess of 30% of family income to service the debt. All this at 45 year low interest rates and expectations are that rates will only increase over the next 30 year life of the mortgage. The Western world housing market is definitely in a bubble, you only need to ask Japanese, Hong Kong, and most Emerging Market property investors about their yields, debt servicing and large falls in capital value over the past few years.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Graham Macdonald on [email protected]