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

Letters from Lek

Your Health & Happiness:  The Lily

Lilian Tip

The lily, known as a symbol of purity, stands for a huge family of flowers, a family with over 400 different species, mostly bell shaped elegant flowers. Lilies have a beautiful scent and a reputation in medicine as well as perfume and (don’t laugh) as food. Lilies are edible.

Many legends can be found surrounding lilies. Probably the oldest one says that the lily sprang from Eve’s tears, when upon being expelled from the Garden of Eden, she learned she was pregnant. Another legend tells of lilies, unplanted by any human hand spontaneously appearing on the graves of people executed for crimes they did not commit.

Even today, people all over the planet believe that planting lilies in a garden will protect the garden from ghosts and evil spirits. Even dreaming of these graceful flowers has a special meaning. If you dream of lilies in spring, your marriage will be a happy one, but if it is during winter, turn around and go back to sleep as it is said, this is the announcement of a premature death of a loved one.

But wherever you live, lilies imply purity of the heart. And despite the fact we associate lilies with white, meaning innocence and sweetness, they come in a variety of colors. In Christian symbolism the lily represents purity, chastity, and innocence, while in medieval times, lilies also symbolized feminine sexuality.

The Doctor's Consultation: Use by ... ?

by Dr. Iain Corness

My wife is scrupulous about expiry dates. If the wrapper on the bread says 26th of August, I can guarantee it will be in the bin on the 27th. Even though it has been kept in the refrigerator and there is no sign of mould and I wanted toast on the morning of the 27th. At the stroke of midnight my toast becomes unfit for human consumption!

After that long-winded introduction, this week’s article relates to the expiry dates of medications, a question that is often asked of me. And just why they have a “Use By” date at all.

The first concept you have to get your head around is why medications, and even tablets and capsules, have an “expiry” date. The reason is simple, and can be compared to wine that has become “corked”. When wine goes “off”, a chemical change has occurred, and the pleasant tasting wine becomes vinegar. Likewise, with medications, which are all chemicals (even aspirin, which is acetyl salicylic acid), a chemical change occurs and the original medication is no longer the same chemical compound. This means that its ‘bio-availability’ is not the same any longer.

However, like 60 kph speed limits where 59 kph is “safe” and 61 kph is “dangerous” - a totally ludicrous concept, the same exists for the expiry date on medications. If it says use before 26th of August it does not mean that on the 27th of August the medication changes into chalk. In today’s non risk taking world, the manufacturers are covering their posteriors. They have to imagine that you are going to maltreat their medications and the expiry date really represents the “worst case” scenario.

Let me assure you that on the 27th of August, that medication is still good (just like my loaf of bread). In fact, many of the charity organizations go around the doctors’ surgeries in the western world, collecting “out of date” drugs to be used in the developing world. In Vietnam a few years ago the pharmacies used to sell medications with the expiry date cut off the foil wrappings. You can guess where they came from!

Another reason for short expiry times could be that the shorter it keeps, the more has to be manufactured and bought. But of course the large drug companies wouldn’t think that way, would they? That’s just a thought from old cynical brains like mine!

So how should you store your prescription medicines? Well the first thing is to look at the box and it generally tells you the ideal storage place and temperature, but if it doesn’t then you won’t go far wrong with storing it in the door of the household refrigerator. This is particularly so for liquids, suspensions, eye drops and the like; however, with opened bottles, there is always a very short expiry on them, generally around 30 days from the date of opening. Do not be tempted to extend this time. It is not worth it.

For individually wrapped tablets in blister packs or foil, then a cool dark cupboard is fine, but for capsules, it is even more important to keep them cool. Again the door of the fridge is a good place.

There is one other important consideration regarding keeping medications at home - children. You must keep drugs away from all children. Many medications are brightly coloured, suspensions are sweet and children are attracted by them.

And my loaf of bread? My chemical engineering mate Alan Coates tells me it oxidizes, but not right on the stroke of midnight!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I married my Thai fianc้e after a year of engagement. She is a professional lady and we have always done everything in a proper fashion. My wife is 15 years younger than me and this gives us a problem. When we go out, many foreigners assume that my wife must be, or have been, a bar girl even though she in no way acts like one. She has no tattoos or wears sexy dresses or even smokes. I realize that as high as 85 percent of all Thai-foreigner marriages are between bar girls and “sex tourists”, but this is not so for other 15 percent of Thai-foreigner marriages. Please tell your readers that not all Thai-foreigner marriages are between bar girls and “sex tourists,” and stop making false assumptions.

Dear Jack,
Now you’ve got all that off your chest, do you feel a little better, Petal? However, I think you have made a few false assumptions yourself too. Where did you get that figure of 85 percent of Thai-foreigner marriages are between bar girls and what you call “sex tourists”? Let me assure you that sex tourists do not come to Thailand to get married. That is why they are sex tourists - they want the fun in bed without the filling out forms at the local Ampur office. Honestly, Jack, 85 percent of Thai foreigner marriages are between people such as yourself and your wife. The foreigners who “look down” on you are the foreigners who are not in the marriage market, just the bar meat market. Ignore them, my Petal.
Dear Hillary,
Advice needed urgently, Hillary my Petal! There I was at a new bar and met this vision of loveliness. She speaks very little English but seems like a very genuine person. She comes from Buriram, and that’s about all I managed to find out after about four hours and several “lady drinks”. The biggest problem was only that she doesn’t speak much English, but we got by OK. By the end of the night I was pretty drunk and lent her 5000 baht. What should I do? Should I keep going, or should I give up now before I get in too deep?

Dear Nelson,
You’ve got the telescope to the blind eye. Haven’t you! After four hours of lady drinks you give this “vision of loveliness” 5,000 baht. How were you communicating with your vision? It wasn’t English, according to you, so I presume it must have been in Braille. Or was it just in mathematics? You certainly did come down in the last shower. That is 5,000 baht you will never see again. But look at it this way - there is a very grateful buffalo up there in Buriram, thinking about you. And by the way, I am not your Petal, Petal!
Dear Hillary,
We read your column every week and want to start a Hillary Fan Club. Of course we would like you to be the patron of honour. Where can we contact you?
Three Fans

Dear Three Fans,
Hillary is blushing, but you really are very silly people. How can you contact me? You just did, Petal, didn’t you? But if you really want to start such a club, I will be delighted to be patron of honour (but definitely not matron of honour) provided you charge a hefty annual subscription (keeps the riff-raff out) and the money is donated to my favourite charity, the Champagne and Chocolate Fund for Aging Agony Aunts (CCFAAA). Let me know when you’re up and running, Petal.
Dear Hillary,
My wife went out the other night with a girl friend for what she called a ‘girls night out’ and came home at two in the morning well under the weather. What do you think I should do about it?
The Weather Forecaster

Dear Weather Forecaster,
Sounds like you had better get her an umbrella and a rain coat real soon.
Dear Hillary,
A few weeks ago a guy wrote asking whether you thought his letters to his Thai girlfriend had got through as he had gotten no reply. I thought you really brushed him off too lightly. This is a real problem, as I have had letters go missing many times when I have posted them from overseas to my girlfriend in Pattaya. It is not only Pattaya, as letters I have sent to girls in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Korat, Khon Kaen and Phuket have also gone missing. I think you shouldn’t just dismiss these real problems for guys overseas. It is very worrying when you don’t get anything back.
Steve from the Sandbox

Dear Sandbox Steve,
Are you really serious, or are you trying to impress me with how many Thai girlfriends you have? The answer to all your problems is called the email system. You can write away to your heart’s content and be happy in the knowledge that all the Noys, Aoys and Toys will get your undying love - though you will obviously have to do yours with a CC to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Korat, Khon Kaen, Phuket, etc, because I am sure you are far too busy to write separate emails! Only problem is getting the A drive to accept the $100 banknotes that will be asked for!

Camera Class: Giving your subjects the golden glow

by Harry Flashman

Ever looked at those wonderful photographs of people positively ‘glowing’ with health and vitality and wondered whether people actually ever look like that? Sickeningly brimming full of goodness, and golden hues just radiating from their every pore. Well, I am sorry to tell you, but like so many things in photography, it is a fraud! A photographic ‘trick’ but one that you can use to your own advantage. A trick that will cost you about 100 baht for the equipment and three minutes to master!

However, all photographic tricks still have to conform to the basic rules of physics, in particular the rules of light. Light travels in straight lines and will bounce off any non-translucent object. And that, quite simply, is the scientific basis to this trick.

The ‘golden glow’ that comes from the subject in the photo is really just reflected golden light, bounced back on to the subject. People shots benefit from this warm healthy look and when you use the technique properly, the subjects will look many years younger because you can get rid of saggy chins quicker than a plastic surgeon can say, “Get your wallet out!”

Now in the photographic sense, the natural golden glow comes in the late afternoon, with the sun getting low on the horizon. There are good scientific reasons why this is so, but here is not the place to discuss them. Just accept the fact that late afternoon sun is the “warm” time. Take pictures at this time of day and you will get that golden glow - but our photographic trick will allow you to get that warm golden glow at any time of day - and control it as well, something you cannot do so easily with the sun as your light source!

What you have to do is build a light reflector that reflects that warm colour. Go to the newsagent and get some gold foil paper. The sort of wrapping paper you use for wedding gifts. It may be embossed or patterned, and in fact it is better if it is, but must be gold in colour. Glue the gold paper on to a sheet of cardboard or polystyrene sheet approximately one metre square. You do not have to be deathly accurate or neat. If the surface gets a little ‘scrunched up’ that is fine too. Your capital outlay is probably around 50-100 baht. Not bad, so far!

Now you have a reflector, which if you play with it near a window for example, will shine “gold” on to any subject. You are now ready to impart that golden glow.

The best photos for this exercise are people shots taken outdoors, with the sun behind the subject. This we call ‘back lit’. You will find that the subject’s hair becomes very bright around the edges, almost like a ‘halo’ effect.

Now for the addition of the golden glow. To do this, you position your reflector to shine some sunlight back towards the subject. Prop the reflector in the best position to give the degree of golden glow you want (I generally just prop it up with the camera bag, or you can get an assistant to hold it for you) and look through the viewfinder. See what a difference this makes? The ugly chin shadow has gone as the light is coming upwards, and the subject now looks brilliantly glowing and healthy. The one metre square reflector will also impart catchlights to eyes to make them sparkle as well. The end photo has shiny hair, bright eyes and a golden complexion radiating warmth. A fabulous picture.

Now, the downside! It is more difficult to get the correct exposure setting in the backlit situation. If your camera has a Backlight button, then use it. If not, walk in close to the subject so that the person’s face fills the frame, and take your exposure reading from there. Use the exposure lock, or just memorise the readings and put them in on manual mode. It is worth it.

Dogs - Man’s best friend:Domesticated dogs

Couch potato, feral or stray

Nienke Parma

Domesticated dogs can be roughly divided into three categories. In the first category are all those dogs belonging to an owner, whether pure-bred with or without pedigree.

The Dingo is a typical feral dog, erect ears, straight back, lean and muscular, short haired coat.

The second category comprises the feral dogs. These are domestic dogs that left their human families or were abandoned and re-adapted themselves to the wild. Two groups can be recognized: the first exists of those having returned to a wild existence many centuries ago. The most well-known, and oldest pure bred of dog in the world is the Dingo that, as a domestic dog, was brought to Australia. The oldest Dingo fossils date from 1450 BC, although it is thought the dogs were there even long before this time. In Sri Lanka there is the Sinhala Hound. Also this is a very ancient type of feral dog. There is evidence of the presence of domesticated dogs of more than 11,000 years ago. When he is taken care of, the Sinhala hound seems to be an alert, watchful, sweet and obedient pet. Other examples are the New Guinea Singing Dog and the North American Native Dog or Carolina Dog.

The second group comprises semi-wild feral dogs that have established themselves as packs and survive through scavenging on the garbage of human society. A fairly well-known example of this group is the Pariah Dog from India, although dogs similar to this type are found all over Southern Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. A ‘nice’, anecdote: in Nepal the Pariah Dogs are caught once a year during a National celebration then bathed, groomed and garlanded. The other 364 days of the years these dogs are left on their own in order to survive.

Typical with these feral dogs is that after several generations a common type develops with very similar characteristics and looks as the Dingo despite the different locations in the world. This suggests that the actual ancestor of the domestic dog was a rather small type of wolf with short hair living in the (semi) tropics and not the huge, thick-coated form that we think of today as the typical wolf.

The last category comprises the stray dogs. These are also abandoned domestic dogs, but they have not been able to re-establish a wild existence. For their survival they still heavily depend on human benevolence.

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

Beer and More: The Bitter taste of beer

by Karl Eichhorn, Chiangmai Malting product manager

The bitter taste of beer stems from its hops content. Two main varieties are used for the brewing of beer: bitter hops and aroma hops. They are characterized by different contents of so-called alpha-acids.

Chemical beer hop structure

Hops do also contain many other components, which are rare or unique in nature. In this context, phenyl flavanoids have to be mentioned, and here in particular a compound called phytoestrogen. It is hypothesized that phytoestrogen is beneficial to health and the fight against a number of diseases, especially cancer.

In search of compounds effective against the development of cancer, scientists examined around 2000 different components found in various food items as well as beer. With regard to beer, they noted Xanthohumol (XAN) as the most interesting and promising compound. Laboratory work indicated that XAN inhibits the development and growth of cancer. In comparison with resveratol, found in red wine, XAN was 200 times more effective. However, more research is required in this field to confirm the findings.

Meanwhile, the state brewery Munich-Weihenstephan produces and markets a XAN-rich beer made from wheat and yeast which contains 15 times as much XAN than the ordinary brew.

Polyphenolic compounds, entering the beer through hops, have been found by Prof. Keukeleire to be specifically effective against breast, uterus and prostate cancer.

This leads me to another ‘not yet’ confirmed theory, the buffalo theory of beer drinking and brain development. Just think - a herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo, much like the brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. The slowest buffalo are the sick and weak so they die off first, making it possible for the herd to move at a faster pace. Like the buffalo, the weak, slow brain cells are the ones that are killed off by excessive beer drinking and socializing, making the brain operate faster. The moral of the story: Drink more beer, it will make you smarter.

Money Matters:  Scott Campbell’s views on Thailand 

(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 Oil.

Oil prices have risen steadily since last February after OPEC agreed to reduce official production quotas by 1m barrels a day from the 1st of April to prevent a build up of supplies during the second quarter of the year and NYMEX Oil futures have been very volatile at levels just below US$38 a barrel. The big question is whether oil is a medium to longer term investment opportunity?

Martin Spring, in his private newsletter on global strategy mid-March concluded that there is a persuasive case for a core holding of energy, particularly hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) in any equity portfolio. At the time of writing crude oil is currently trading 17% above its average price last year and global demand shows no sign of weakening. Oil stocks in the US, the biggest consumer, are at their lowest levels since 1975, while in the advanced nations as a whole, stocks are only enough to meet 28 days use. The basis of Martin Spring’s article forms the core of the conclusion below.

At the conclusion of the Iraq war, oil prices were meant to be closer to US$20 a barrel but several factors have been driving up prices: The most significant has been demand from China. Last year China accounted for more than a third of the global increase in demand and overtook Japan to become the world’s second biggest importer after the US. Secondly, supply disruptions in major producers such as Venezuela, Nigeria and Iraq have prevented a build up of stocks from their low levels. The OPEC cartel instructed its members to cut production next month in an attempt to keep prices above US$30 to offset the weakening purchasing power of dollars. Finally, investor interest in commodities as an asset class has seen speculators buying oil, with the net long position in futures contracts representing about 70 million barrels of crude.

Arguments for and against the future of oil prices are: Bears conclude that with the US and China facing economic slowdown and growth sluggish in Europe and Japan, global demand for oil will go flat. The US maybe, but Asian demand should sustain a 2%pa growth rate for the foreseeable future. Higher prices are undoubtedly encouraging exploration and development activity, especially in Russia, Central Asia and West Africa which will increase supply and reduce dependence on the Middle East but this can take years and numerous dollars. Geological, infrastructure and political difficulties of developing new production will also inhibit expansion. Giant oilfields such as Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar, Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and the UK’s North Sea are approaching the end of their productive lives and no fields of equivalent size have been found to replace them.

Optimal Fund Management concludes that oil is a tangible asset, a scarce resource and not easily replaced or created. Supply is limited and demand is bullish from the emerging economies. This fits with our medium term portfolio strategy of overweighing tangible assets versus financial assets. A rapid rise in the oil price may also be a double edged sword in that it would be very bearish for the developed markets’ fragile debt laden economies. Technically, US$40 a barrel is key resistance level and if broken could lead to a major breakout. Commodities will be the story for 2004 even though a stronger USD may temper extravagant gains. We are bullish.

The easy way to play this theme is to buy the major oil companies. However, these stocks are not performing and suffer from a number of corporate accounting excesses that trouble financial and industrial stocks i.e. Shell and its recent reserve problems.

The second option is to buy a fund that invests in diverse portfolio of energy stocks within all capitalisations. We prefer this latter VALUE route and the Guernsey open-ended Investec Global Energy Fund is a solid performer, managed by Tim Guinness a very experienced investment professional. For those who prefer listed trusts or the New York listed ETF funds the iShares Dow Jones US Energy Sector Index Fund, iShares Goldman Sachs Natural Resources Fund, iShares S&P Global Energy Sector Index Fund, HOLDRS Oil Services or SPDR – Energy can provide exposure. For the more aggressive investors, buying oil futures via spread bets and the like is also an option.

Short term noise surrounding supply and demand will probably increase but the long term fundamentals of oil as an investment class is one that clients should consider as a satellite to a core holding in an Optimal Fund Management managed fund.

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]

Letters from Lek

Hi Kids!
Have you ever sat around with your friends and had nothing to do because you didn’t know what to talk about? Sometimes it is good to tell a short joke and that way it’s good to liven up the group. Sometimes the best jokes are just short and quick to tell, and the important thing is; they are easy to remember. :)

Today’s joke week, as I decided that my column was getting a bit boring for you kids. So get ready and off we go into the joke world!

1. What would you get if you crossed a puppy with a mean boy?
A bully dog

2. What kinds of cats like to go bowling?
Ally cats

3. If there were ten cats in a boat and one jumped out, how many would there be left?
None! They are all copy cats!

4. What do you get if you cross a cat with a canary?
A happy cat

5. What do you get if you cross a beagle with a giraffe?
A dog that barks at airplanes

6. How do you spell mousetrap in three letters?

7. What kind of dog can jump higher than a house?
Any kind! A house can’t jump

Stay cool!