Columns
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:  Spas and massage venues to be certified

But no laws to control services

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Steps to control the standards of spas and massage outlets have been initiated by the Chiang Mai Public Health Office. It has introduced inspectors to examine the operation and quality of these services in Chiang Mai.

Dr. Poonlarb Chantavichitwong, Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office deputy chief

Recently, a training course for the inspectors was arranged to instruct them in the classification of health services, measurements of inspection and actual inspections.

170 inspectors from every district in Chiang Mai province and from various organizations such as police stations, municipalities, provincial administration organizations, educational area offices, district offices, tambon administration organizations and public health offices were included.

The health service inspection team has been set up in terms of the Health and Entertainment Outlets Act of 1966 to make the booming spa and massage services in Chiang Mai meet high standards so that Chiang Mai can become a regional health care services hub.

After venues are examined, inspection results and evaluations will be submitted to the provincial committee. A certificate from the Public Health Ministry will be given only to those entrepreneurs whose businesses have been approved by the inspectors and the committee. The procedure will take around three months.

If any certified entrepreneur modifies his or her service to fall outside of the Public Health Ministry approved standards, the certificate will be revoked.

However, there is no strict law that can be practically enforced against entrepreneurs. Nor is there any law controlling the use of the word “Spa” used by premises or products that do not provide spa services.


The Doctor's Consultation: 15,000 kids and dead in six weeks! The worm’s tale

by Dr. Iain Corness

There are some people with strong maternal urges, but other than from a card carrying masochist, I doubt very much that anyone would be stepping forward as the maternal volunteer! That being the case, pity the poor old Enterobius vermicularis, otherwise known as the Pin worm. This little fellow comes out of its egg and lives for six weeks only, and at the end of its time, releases 10,000 - 15,000 eggs and dies, its life’s work over.

So why should this little worm be of interest to us? Quite simply - you’ve either got it, or you’ve had it. That’s the statistics. Virtually all children will have been infected by the time they reach high school, and at any one time, 50 percent of all children in the 5-10 year age groups will be harbouring the little worms. Another good reason to stay away from small children!

So how do you know if your children are currently harbouring a host of Pin worms? There are various tests that can be done, from microscopic stool examinations to the simple sticky tape test around the anus which picks up eggs and the occasional wriggling worm itself. However, just as we routinely “worm” the family cat and dog, you can routinely “worm” the children. Single shot mebendazole works well, but you have to repeat the “worming” two to three weeks later to pick up the newly hatched eggs, since the eggs themselves are not affected by the drug.

There are also many other worms that like us. They all have wonderfully exotic sounding names, for some very much non-exotic creatures. There is Ascaris lumbricoides, the human roundworm and Ancylostoma duodenale, the hookworms. There is also Ancylostoma braziliense, a cat and dog worm whose larvae can penetrate human skin and grow slowly under the top layer producing cutaneous larva migrans, a creeping skin rash. This one is often seen in beach volleyball players known colloquially as “sandworms”. And you thought beach volleyball was a safe sport!

Then there’s my favourite - Strongyloides stercoralis, the human threadworm! “Step this way and see the amazing Strongyloides bring a grown man to his knees!” Yes, a super-infection of Strongyloides can be fatal as the worms invade all the tissues of the body producing meningitis, pneumonia and septicaemia.

It doesn’t stop there either, as there is Taenia saginata and Taenia solium, the tapeworms, to be considered too, and their baby brother Hymenolepsis nana, the dwarf tapeworm.

There’s many a peril underfoot, as that is the way that many of these worms get into our bodies - through walking on larval forms with bare feet. And you thought that crossing the street was dangerous.

The other classical way is to ingest the egg forms which can be on vegetables that have been fertilized with infected faeces. Hence the warnings about eating salads at the side of the road. Cooked is OK, but beware the unwashed vegetables.

So if you have been having some intestinal pain, some diarrhoea and itching around the anus, it just might be a worm infestation. How do you check - see your doctor, there are tests that can be done directly and sometimes via the blood, but you won’t diagnose this one by yourself, unless you meet the worm face to face.

And oh yes, worms are very common in tropical climates, though unless they are good swimmers, they’ve probably drowned in our current wet season by now!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
You are always saying that we farangs should learn Thai if we want to live here. That may be OK for you, but for some of us it is not so easy when English is my mother tongue. Where can old codgers like me go to learn?
The Old Codger

Dear Old Codger,
Hillary can forgive your being unable to read Thai or speak Thai, my Petal, but are you blind as well? There are several language schools in town and they have this fact, and the languages they teach, all clearly written in English, your “mother tongue” as you put it. They have posts outside where you can tie up your Labrador and you can put the white stick beside your desk.
Dear Hillary,
I am 16 years old and have just arrived from Australia, but I am big for my age. Do you think there would be any jobs in the bars for someone like me? I have experience in bars and worked for a while in McDonalds after school. I have met a girl here and I would like to stay here to be with her. Is this going to be easy, or should I look at something else?
Big Boy

Dear Big Boy,
You don’t say what part of you is supposed to be “big” but it certainly isn’t the brain, is it, Petal? I could start by asking what is a 16 year old from the Antipodes doing hanging around our bars, when the minimum age is supposed to be 20, but then perhaps you showed the man on the door your “big” bits and he thought you were older. You have absolutely zero chance of working here in a bar, even if you were 46 and all of your bits had grown bigger. Forget the girl, forget the bars and go home to Mummy in Australia, that’s a good boy.
Dear Hillary,
On my weekends off I like to get away from the city and go to the beach. This takes some organizing, but I used to think it was worthwhile just to get away from the endless pressures of work. Now I find our day is spoiled by the never ending pressures from beach vendors all trying to sell bolts of material, food, sunglasses, inflatable toys, model airplanes, massages or nail polish. What can be done about them? Surely the person in charge of the area could tell them to go, but it doesn’t seem to stop them. Have you the answer to this problem?
Browned off on the beach

Dear Browned off,
Hillary agrees with you. These vendors are a pest. There is just one answer to all this, but it does mean you have to travel a little further. If you follow the coastline you will find deserted beaches with pristine sand and no sales people. Mind you, there’s no-one to bring you an ice cream either! The choice is yours.
Dear Hillary,
I have a problem with my girlfriend, but not the usual one you hear about. She is perfect in almost every way. Does not hold her hand out for money every day. Her parents are alive and well and her brother manages to stay on his motorbike OK. The buffalo is well, as are the grandparents and she has no children that I know of. I do not have an excess of sexual demands, and in fact at my age (over 70) I am happy with once a week, and then it is best with Viagra to assist me. What happens though is that when my desires come up hers comes on even stronger and she wants to go for hours and hours. If it weren’t for the blue tablets I think I would die. I am only too pleased to pleasure my girlfriend, but there has to be a limit. What should I do?
Victor V

Dear Victor V,
You do have such a problem, don’t you, my Petal. But the answer is simple. You must stop taking Vitamin V immediately and when you can’t perform, your girlfriend can make up her own mind whether to wait till next week after you’ve managed to wind yourself up (instead of winding up Hillary) or find an alternative. Victor, if you keep coming (or going) this way, you will definitely die. I think it is time that you had a little chat with your wonderful lady and explained the real situation.
Dear Hillary,
This should be an easy one for you to fix, being a lady who enjoys the odd drop as far as I can see. I work in the hospitality industry and have to entertain clients a lot. This does mean that I have to spend a considerable amount of my time socializing, and that means drinking. It has now got to the stage that I think I am drinking a bit more than is good for me. What suggestions do you have?
Tippler Tim
Dear Tippler Tim,
You are right about my enjoying the “odd drop” and it really is just a drop these days, since my readers (especially the one called Mistersingha) keep forgetting to send me any. Your answer is simple. Drink soda with a slice of lemon, it looks just like vodka, and only you and I need know!


Camera Class: Crop and enlarge for impact

by Harry Flashman

Everyone wants to take photographs that make the viewers go, “Wow! Wish I’d taken that.” Well it is not so hard, once you understand that all photographic images are not really 5x4 or even 10x8.

The size you get back from your friendly photo shop is related in most instances to the size of a 35 mm negative. The 5x4 print is very roughly of the same proportions as the 35 mm negative, so what you see on the negative can be reproduced on the photographic paper. This is great in theory, but does not necessarily correspond to the subject you want to photograph. Not everything or everyone fits neatly into a 5x4 format.

For those who shoot 6x6 or 6x7, this is still the case - not all subjects fit nicely into the format of your negatives, unless you take photographs of house bricks!

Take a look at the photograph this week. This is a long tailed lizard, taken by my keen amateur photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt. This is a great shot and was one that Ernie had to use all his stealth to record. Lizards are not renowned for responding to exhortations to “keep still”, but he kept going, until he got the shot, with the head framed nicely contrasted against the light background.

Now look again at the photograph. Long tailed lizards are not 5x4 or even 10x8 (same proportions obviously) or 6x6 or 6x7. When Ernie first brought the lizard pic into my office, he had cropped a little off both the sides to produce an elongated print. We sat and looked at it, but in the end we both decided it needed even more cropping to both sides to get the best from the photograph. We laid sheets of white paper down both sides, and suddenly the lizard became more and more powerful as the subject. The blank spaces either side had been taking the impact away from the subject. Cropping severely brought it out. So now Ernie was left with a long skinny print. Instead of 10x8 it was now more like a 10x4! But that did not matter, when you see the impact in the final print.

The moral to the tale (or the lizard’s tail) is that you should look very critically at some of your better shots, and then sit down with four sheets of paper and begin to look at how you could crop the shot, to give the subject more “oomph”. Pro shooters use two “L” shaped pieces of card, moving them around to find the best cropping situation, but four pieces of A4 printer paper are just as good.

To bring your prints into such that they will look good hanging on your wall, my suggestion is to get an 8R enlargement done (generally around B. 80 in most photo processors) and then begin the visual cropping exercise as detailed above. Be bold, even cropping right close to hair lines, or even into the hair sometimes looks better. Don’t be afraid to crop into elbows when framing up portraits, for example. The idea is just to make the subject stand out.

When you have the best crop lines, then using a guillotine (most photo shops have these too), carefully finish the cropping exercise. It is this final print, no matter what proportions it ends up, that you should have framed and hung as wall art for your home or office. It should also be remembered that the frame requires careful consideration. It is no good to spend all this time on making the subject stand out, and then dwarfing it with a huge ornate gold frame! Don’t let the frame dominate the subject!

Do all this and then people will walk in and say, “Wow! I wish I’d taken that!” They will, believe me. The different shape is an immediate eye catcher, and with the subject matter now being the definite “hero”, you have that powerful head-turning shot you have always wanted.


Dogs - Man’s best friend: The gradual differentiation of dogs

From hunk to beauty queen

Nienke Parma

Before the Industrial revolution (19th century) most dogs were bred mainly for their working abilities. Specific tasks were required and, as a result, the old indigenous breeds became subject to selective breeding for certain traits such as robust bodies for guardians, long legs and agile bodies for faster running, short legs for better digging, thicker coats for cold climates or increased sense of smell for a better tracking dog.

The dog’s character was important: confident non-shy dogs for guardians, independent obedient dogs for the hunt, and confident obedient dogs for herding. Dogs with unstable, too shy or aggressive character were unwanted.

Due to the industrialization people increasingly moved to the cities. Rural life was also subject to mechanization. Many working dogs lost their ‘jobs’ as a result and some of the breeds even became extinct. Luckily, through the centuries men had become so strongly attached to their canine buddies that many moved as pets with their human family members to the cities.

Once in the cities, dog lovers needed to find new roles for their ‘unemployed’ pets and so the first dog beauty competitions were arranged in pubs in the 1800’s. Within a century this had lead to fully organized dog shows. In order for these competitions to work, a ‘breed standard’ (i.e. a blue print) of each type of dog was required, plus a classification system against which all competitions would be assessed. After several attempts were made, in 1873 the first official kennel club was created in England, called ‘The Kennel Club’ (KC). The ‘American Kennel Club’ (AKC) was established soon after, followed by several European kennel clubs. In an attempt to make the different classification methods more efficient, an international organization the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) was created.

Since there are as many different opinions as there are people, several classification systems and breed standards are used by different countries.

In Thailand the official recognized kennel club is the ‘Kennel Club of Thailand’ (KCT), having an office in Bangkok. Being member of the FCI they follow the FCI standards. However, depending the preference of the (international) dog-judge it happens more often a “Best in Show” - dog fulfils more the Australian, English or American breed standards. After all, it is the judge who has the last word. (To be continued.)

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


Beer and More: Enjoy your beer – drink moderately

by Karl Eichhorn, Chiangmai Malting product manager

Let us return to our topic: Beer and Health. Let us ask the question: Should we guzzle beer to promote our health? No, of course not!

As healthy as beer is, its consumption is only advantageous as long as the intake remains limited. This should never be forgotten.

As we have shown, beer contains, besides alcohol, a number of properties which are valuable and beneficial to our health. Beer consumed during meals does not only make them more delicious, but it too stimulates the appetite and supports the digestion of food.

Beer also reduces the effects of a bacterium called Helibacter pylori involved in the excess production of stomach acid which is responsible for gastritis, which can lead to stomach ulcers of stomach and even cancer.

Beer regulates the movement of stomach and intestines, improves the restoration of nutrients, increases the blood flow and inhibits the formation of stones in the gall bladder through heightening the secretion of the organ.

Similarly, since beer is a beverage low in purines it helps to prevent the development of kidney stones. Also, it strengthens the body’s immune system and, no doubt, slows the process of ageing.

Beer contains high amounts of silicon in form of the biologically available orthosilicate. Recent studies have shown that orthosilicate promotes the growth of bones as well as the density of the bone marrow, and thus protecting from osteoporosis.

Let us sum up this chapter with a remark of Prof. Piendl (University Munich): “One beer is better than none, two beers are better than one, but four beers are not twice as good as two.”

Moderate drinking of beer does not only extend our lifespan by estimated 10-20 percent, but it also improves the quality of life by reducing the risk of heart disease. This is achieved by lowering the level of cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) and increasing the “good” cholesterol (high density lipoprotein), and reduction of stress.

Let me end with some words of Dave Barry who used to say: “In the Bowling Alley of Tomorrow, there will even be machines that wear rental shoes and throw the ball for you. Your sole function will be to drink beer.”


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 finished our conversation on hedge funds.

Is it just me or is there a proliferation of hedge fund of funds managers appearing on the scene? Everyone from large insurance companies, main stream asset management companies, banks, consulting actuaries and boutique investment firms/family offices are aligning themselves or setting up hedge fund of funds products these days. It is almost a question of anyone who can buy the Pertac system, subscribe to the TASS or MAR hedge database and produce simulated 10 year sharp/sortino ratios, is in the game. In fact you can now buy the hedge fund index with 10% performance fees, which was exactly what these managers were trying to avoid in the first place?

The FT reported this week in FTfm that Schroders are in secret (or not so secret as the case may be) talks to buy Blaine Tomlinson’s Financial Risk Management, a hedge fund of funds boutique based in London. This follows on from the Man Group purchase of Swiss based RMF and Pioneer’s purchase of hedge fund of fund operator Momentum UK last year. The FT headlines this with “Hedge funds on the brink of big time” and forecast that the industry can grow from the current 2% of investable assets to 7% of US$2,500bn in the next ten years.

Capacity has always been the key issue with hedge fund investing. Getting capacity with managers and maximum capacity within a particular strategy are very important questions? GAM, a leader in hedge multi management has closed many of its multi management hedge funds over recent weeks as capacity constraints cause the portfolio managers headaches. Admittedly GAM has had massive inflows and this makes the decision easier but it does show that if companies are honest with their existing clients, performance will be diluted even at these asset levels, due to capacity constraints. The one positive I can see from this is that the GAM sales director will be able to spend more time watching the England v New Zealand cricket series next month!

It all sounds a bit like INDEXATION as an equity management style in 1999. Companies such as BGI and State Street were winning all the pension fund mandates, as tracking error was low, and this was the “best” way for trustees to allocate to equity markets. Oh, the FT also reported last week that 2 large UK pension funds are to commence allocating large amounts of capital to hedge fund of funds. Caveat Emptor?

Optimal Fund Management has long advocated the use of hedge funds to reduce portfolio volatility and enhance risk adjusted returns and currently maintain 30% in global portfolios. There are many very good hedge fund of fund operators but as Barton Biggs highlighted a couple of years ago, a bubble is forming is this investment style. In our opinion, the real skill is calculating when to be overweight hedge funds and when to acknowledge that being infatuated with them can be dangerous in relative or absolute terms.

Where are the opportunities in hedge funds for the year ahead? Directional strategies such as long short equity, global macro and distressed securities have performed very well of late but it appears time to be taking profits or at least not adding new monies to these strategies in the short term. Many equity hedge managers have a long bias and with valuations stretched, with the noted exception of Japan, the best may be over for a while. Merger Arbitrage is struggling with capacity and performed badly in February. Talks with brokers in New York reveal that merger arbitrage managers are doing deals that they wouldn’t normally do as the pressure mounts, notwithstanding the amount of new Wall St merger deals being announced.

Volatility is undoubtedly likely to be higher in equity, currency, bond and commodity markets. In this scenario, the winning styles will be equity market neutral, CTA’s and fixed income arbitrage. Many commodity traders need trends to develop and according to David Harding, principle of Winton Capital, and one of the founders of AHL, “It’s a bonanza for us. There are plenty of these long term trends in the market.”

Trends in commodity and financial futures led the CTA index up 6% in February and this is likely to continue as volatility rises. Equity Market Neutral has had a lacklustre time of late but is picking up just as “quality” returns to the market and fundamental stock pickers are finding it easier to make money with no beta adjusted bias. Finally, some fixed income arbitrage managers will benefit from the US treasury market volatility and an overweight position in these strategies should yield solid results.

In summary, hedge funds of funds, if managed correctly, are a solid stable asset class but the time to have been overweight was early in 2000 and perhaps a neutral position is best advocated today. Infatuation with any investment style can be dangerous and best tempered when in the newspapers.

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!

Although I am sure most of you know this game, I want to describe it, as it is a very easy and funny game to play in your leisure time. It is called:

Spin the bottle

This game only requires an empty bottle and a few children (the more children there are, the funnier it will be. But too many people will be annoying too). You all have to sit in a circle. Each of you is allowed to turn the bottle one after another.

The child who spins the bottle has to say what the person, on whom the head of the bottle points after spinning has to do. It could be anything, but it shouldn’t be something which could be embarrassing for the person who has to do it.

Of course there could be extraordinary orders, but you have to tell the persons who want to join the game that it isn’t just a usual game and that it could be embarrassing for them.

Now have fun...

…and don’t forget to tell your friends some jokes before the game:

Have fun!
Lek

1. Teacher: “If I had 40 apples in one hand and 50 apples in the other hand, what would I have?
Student: “Big Hands.”
2. Why did the class clown eat the 50 baht note he brought to school?
It was his lunch money!
3. What room can a student never enter?
The mushroom.