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

Letters from Nadia

Money Matters

Your Health & Happiness:  ‘Healthy Thailand’ policy placed on national agenda

The government launched its ‘Healthy Thailand’ on December 19 with a campaign with a pledge to put the health of the nation on the national agenda, declaring a target of boosting children’s IQ to 100 and life expectancy to 80 years.

Announcing the campaign at a rally in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra pledged to ensure the transformation of the nation into ‘Healthy Thailand’ by the year 2017, when His Majesty the King will celebrate his 90th birthday.

Witnessed by provincial governors and senior ministerial representatives, the prime minister officially signed the declaration onto the national agenda, describing it as a New Year’s present for Thailand’s 63 million-strong population.

The 17-point campaign is focused on the promotion of good health, warm families, strong society, and a reduction in infant and maternal mortality, the boosting of average child IQ levels to at least 100, opportunities for lifelong education and an increase in average life expectancy from 72 years to 80.

In terms of specific diseases, the campaign will target AIDS, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, dengue fever, mouth disease and diabetes.

All Thais over the age of 6 years will be encouraged to take regular exercise, and consume safe and healthy food. Equally, the government will endeavor to ensure that all Thais live in a society free from crime and violence, a land of love, unity, and care, based on religious and cultural principles.

Listing government policies to bring about the health of the nation, Thaksin spoke of the universal healthcare scheme, the war on drugs, the war on poverty and education reform. However, he noted that the government alone could not ensure a healthy nation, which also depended on the participation of all sectors of society, including the private sector and ordinary individuals from a village or community level upwards.

The prime minister, who demonstrated his commitment to the campaign by engaging in a mass aerobics session with a crowd of over 10,000 gathered in the park, said that ‘Healthy Thailand’ would help the nation’s development. Human resources, he said, were the most expensive of all.

Stressing the threefold goal of good physical health, good mental and emotional health, and good knowledge and education, he said that knowledge was the key to the new society.

Next year Thailand will host the World Health Organiza tion’s (WHO) meeting on the promotion of global health, an event which the government will capitalize on when conducting the ‘Healthy Thailand’ campaign.

Average life expectancy in Thailand has risen from 59.9 years for men and 62 years for women in 1965 to 69.9 years and 74.9 years respectively by 2001. However, during this period Thais have been increasingly prone to conditions such as heart disease, which in 2002 was the third highest cause of death in Thailand after cancer and accidents. (TNA).

The Doctor's Consultation: What are your New Year health resolutions?

by Dr. Iain Corness

This is that time of year when we make all those resolutions that we have absolutely no intention of keeping, but it all sounds good at New Year parties! Well, that’s the truth, isn’t it?

However, there are a few resolutions that if you follow or abide by them you will get even more New Years to celebrate. Interested? You should be - I am offering you up to 10 more years, but like all great offers, there are some conditions that apply!

The first resolution, for all cigarette smokers out there, is to give up the weed in 2005. It is no use trying to deny it. We have shown, more than adequately, that cigarettes are the greatest killers of mankind, even including Osama bin Laden. All smokers are on borrowed time. End of story. And I don’t care if your grandfather smoked 60 a day and lived to be 123. The big numbers that have been examined in studies all over the world say it all - smokers do not live as long as non-smokers. Smokers get all kinds of cancers much more than non-smokers, and that’s all kinds - not just lung cancers. Smokers get more heart attacks than non-smokers. Do you want me to go on? In the face of all the evidence, continuing smoking in 2005 is just plain dumb. So how do you give up? The best method remains your positive desire to give up and then go Cold Turkey. Forget the rest.

The next resolution is very easy. Take 100 milligrams of aspirin every day. Once again, the big numbers prove the hypothesis. Your chances of having a heart attack are very much less by that simple expedient of 100 milligrams of aspirin a day. You can either buy 100 milligram tablets, such as Cardiprin, or take quarter of an ordinary 500 milligram aspirin tablet, which is 125 mgm. Close enough.

Another easy resolution is to get more exercise - daily. This is a resolution that will tone up your cardiovascular system and reduce your chances of having that final coronary occlusion (or as it is often called, a coronary conclusion!). You don’t need to go to a gymnasium, pump iron, take steroids or wear those silly strappy singlets either. Half an hour of brisk walking, or fifteen minutes of exercising each day will do. (I use the Canadian 5BX system and spend 11 minutes a day because I do it quickly!)

Since you are what you eat, or so it is said, your next resolution should be to look at exactly what you do eat. Cut down on animal fats (where you get your cholesterol from) and increase your intake of fish is a good start. Eat ‘Asian’ twice a week, fish twice a week, and sensibly for the other three days.

How’s the alcohol intake these days? Fuzzy heads in the morning? Then perhaps you should include alcohol reduction in your resolutions too. Four ‘standard’ drinks a day for men and two for women (sorry girls, but you don’t handle alcohol as well as we do!). Plus at least one AFD (alcohol free day) per week.

What is a ‘standard’ drink? That is taken as 10 grams of alcohol - equal to one glass of full strength beer (285 ml), one small (100ml) glass of wine, or one measure (30ml) of spirits. One can of regular beer contains about one and half standard drinks, while a bottle of wine contains about seven.

Happy New Year, and stay well in 2005.

Agony Column

Hi Hillary,
Only me. Just to let you know the Belgium chocs (liqueurs) and champagne will be with you shortly as promised. My flight is booked, the only problem I have is finding a room at my favorite hotel, Lek Second Road. But, my problems are inconsequential (I do not think I have ever used that word before) compared to the mail in your column. Have a great Christmas, and a wonderful new year.
Mr. looking for an honest car dealer. (Now that is optimistic in any country)

Dear Mr. looking for that honest car dealer,
You really do sound like a nice man, and someone without ‘unreal’ expectations. Thank you for not asking me to find you a car, though I must admit I have been asked to find even more impossible items. Like Bob, the chap from England, who wanted me to get a message and some money to his lady friend called Nit who worked in a bar in Soi 7. Only problem was that he couldn’t remember the name of the bar, but he did supply a very good description of his girl - small with lovely dark brown eyes and long black hair wearing a black T-shirt and jeans. Since that narrowed it down to around 100 Nits who wanted the Xmas largesse, I had to give up and I spent his 100 baht on a large packet of chocolate biscuits to console myself. Keep up the advanced English classes, I am impressed with your use of ‘inconsequential’. You do get a gold star this week. And Happy New Year to you too, Petal.

Dear Hillary,
A distressing signal from dear old pater back home in the ancestral pile. “The battlements are crumbling, the turrets are wobbly and Daisy, the Friesian, is dry!” What can I do? Do you have a cunning plan (up your bodice) Hillary?

Dear Mistersingha,
Not even Baldrick would bother with a cunning plan that could be used to get you out of your predicament. However, I do not blame you entirely, my posturing Petunia. You see, the real problem stems from your father. It was he who did not teach you to honour your commitments, and even though I have tried (Petal I certainly have tried), you steadfastly fall at the first hurdle. That hurdle is the one where you promised Hillary champers and choccies, about at least one year ago, and then when they did not arrive you gave excuses, and now pretend that the promise was never made. It is time you faced your responsibilities and did something about yourself. It’s not a cunning plan, it’s not conniving, it’s not conning. It’s being honourable, Mistersingha. I wish Daisy, the favourite Friesian, all the best for New Year.
Dear Hillary,
I am an attractive Caucasian girl with my fair share of rich male boyfriends. I am taken out to expensive restaurants where I am wined and dined. At the end of the evening my partner always gives me a gift. My problem is that I am sick and tired of receiving the usual diamond bracelets, gold watches or precious stoned pendants. I would die for a box of chocolates or a bottle of champagne. Hillary, I am aware that you are able to procure these simple gifts from your many male admirers. I need to know how you do it. I was hoping that we girls could get together one night, frock up in our best evening attire and strut our stuff along Walking Street. Are you willing to share your tactics with me?
Minnie Mouse

Dear Minnie,
Hello Minnie, and I am glad to see you are letting us all into the secrets of your life. And what a spoiled little coquette you really are. The reason you don’t get choccies and champers is quite simply because you are too easy with your favours. Hillary could get cartloads of Cartiers and diamonds from De Beers too, if she were to let her standards slip. No, young girl, keep them at arms length, don’t be an easy mark or lay, down too quickly. Tell them firmly that it’s chocolates and champagne at least, nothing else. I am sorry too, that I can’t get together with you, but the night air is not good for me these days, and all the champagne makes my head spin. And while I remember, don’t bother going out with the Mistersingha chap. He reneges on all his deals, and the cows (cash and milking) have run dry. By the way, why don’t you try and meet up with Mighty Mouse, now there’s a man of words and action. He is the local agent for de beers round here. He handles Kilkenny beers, Heineken beers, Tiger beers, Kloster beers and even Singha beers. I think you would definitely get on well together! Happy New Year!
Dear Hillary,
Do you find this social habit of kissing everyone three times a turn-off? I think that social kissing is really disgusting. People are just making an excuse to slobber all over you. It is unhygienic! How can I avoid it?

Dear Henry (Kissinger?),
Are you kidding me? All you have to do is to grab the other person first and make kissy-kissy noises beside their ear, while muttering, “Don’t get too close to me, I’ve got a social disease.” They will leave you alone after that. Happy New Year!

Camera Class: Ringing in the New Year

by Harry Flashman

New Year is always a momentous time, and one that you should try and capture on film. However, so much happens at New Year that there is no way you can get it all on one tiny negative, and there is more to New Year than just a pic of yourself in a paper hat! Photographing New Year takes time, patience and lots of film, so be prepared.

For most people it is a case of eating and drinking, and generally to excess. So here’s the first New Year photography problem. If you try to enjoy an event, and photograph it at the same time, the results will not be what you want. Unless of course you want 30 degree horizons and other photographic signs of insobriety. So Rule number 1 - if you are going to photograph New Year, leave your own celebration until 1 a.m. They’re still celebrating in Delhi, so you haven’t really missed anything.

What you must do is sit down beforehand and work out a ‘shoot’ list. These are the shots you have to take to make a reasonable photo album record of the event, because that is precisely what you are going to produce - a photo album.

The first shot should say what the event is. In this case being New Year, you would look for and photograph a sign somewhere which proclaims Happy New Year 2005, so look for it and snap away. Take two shots, just in case one isn’t quite right.

The next shot has to say the location. If you are having the celebration at one of the restaurants, take a shot of their sign. Let’s imagine you are at the Captain’s Corner, then a shot of the illuminated sign outside is the way to go. Set the camera on ‘A’ for auto, turn off the flash and you’ve got that one.

Your next shots are the ones that will say ‘who’ was at the New Year’s party. These are the ones that show all the guests, but please, please, please don’t line them up in a row like a group of soldiers on parade. Have a look at the social pages and you generally see those types of shots every week. 46 people in a row and the photographer is backed up in the next street to try and get everyone in. No, what you want are candid shots of groups of people relating to each other. People face each other when talking. Look for people greeting each other, hugging, kissing, shaking hands and be ready to snap them. This is where the camera is still on ‘A’ and now you can turn the flash on. Try not to miss anybody, even Aunt Ethel sitting tipsily in the corner. You can always ask another family member to go and chat to her just for the photograph.

As the night wears on, you will get plenty of photo opportunities, and people will often get up to do the awful karaoke thing. Again, this is where you are ready and record it all.

Now here’s a tricky little shot - the ‘magic moment’ is 12 midnight - so include a shot of a watch or a clock right at the exact moment. Now, do you wait till 12 midnight to get it? Of course not. You set your watch or the wall clock to the midnight hour and snap it, because when the real midnight comes, you are going to be busy.

Come midnight and you will get all the physical interactions, Auld Lang Syne being sung and people with linked arms enjoying themselves. At this time you will be busier than a one armed paper hanger.

The other event that happens on the stroke of 12 is the fireworks. There should be lots going off and try to get some star-bursts. Remember how to do these? Time exposure and no flash. Leave the shutter open for 30 seconds and you’ve got it all.

Happy New Year from Harry Flashman! Now go and have a beer! I am!

Dogs - Man’s best friend: Hormonal influence on the dog’s mind

Nienke Parma

Hormones play an important role in a dog’s behavior. Produced by glands, including the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, pancreas, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes, hormones belong to the endocrine system.

They are interdependent with behavior, meaning behavior can affect and be affected by hormones. This is called technically: biofeedback. For example, when a dog undergoes physical or mental stress such as a sudden bang by fireworks the body reacts, simply stated, by releasing through the pituitary gland the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) through which excitability or anxiety in dogs increases. As a result of this, the adrenal gland reacts by releasing corticosteroids that have a moderating influence on excitability and so prepares the animal to stand its ground. Normally both hormones control each other through biofeedback. However higher corticosteroid levels, whether from their own production or by administration, can cause an increased aggressive behavior in dogs.

Interesting is that puppies that early in their lives have experienced this kind of biofeedback on a regular basis due to exposure to all sorts of stimuli will grow up into bigger animals with bigger brains being able to cope better when placed in unfamiliar or unexpected situations. When confronted, these animals will not freeze or flee but instead they will investigate and examine their surroundings.

Also the sex hormone testosterone is to some extent controlled by biofeedback. Studies have shown that winners have increased testosterone levels in their blood while those that loose the game have decreased levels. This extra testosterone helps the winner maintaining its dominant position. Reduced testosterone levels, on the other hand, decreases this chance. At LuckyDogs we use this knowledge in balancing the amount of games an individual dog can win in order for him to gain confidence or to take charge. This is also one of the reasons why children, who are physical and mental not yet strong enough to be dominant over dogs, should not play games with them where the chance of losing is quite high.

Imbalances in the endocrine system can be the root cause for several types of behavior problems in dogs. Emotional disturbances in people such as mood swings, spontaneous aggression, depression, hyperactivity and personal changes are displayed similarly in dogs. It has been shown how important responsible breeding is for the mental and physical health of the animal, as physiologically inferior dogs are more likely to produce offspring with serious endocrine imbalances. Luckily, through administration of hormones together with behavior modification programs, treatment is often successful. Nevertheless, prevention is better than a cure.

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

Letters from Nadia: The big cat incident - Eye of the tiger

Nadia-Estelle Fiat

It was one of those days in Canada, when the sun was out, the birds began chirping and there was snow that was starting to melt. There was still some ice stuck to the roof imitating the ones in the Great Canyon.

My family and I were on top of the hill having a picnic at a ski camp, looking down at the view of a forest below us. My Uncle Paul was reading the news, there was an article on the side saying, “Tiger Lost at Zoo,” that did not interest me. My mom came up to me, “Nadia , can you set the table please?” She laid a tray of dried pork and sticky rice on my side. I started to set the table in the very short amount of time. I went to call my family to eat. We started to enjoy our meal when my cousin, Patrick, said that he heard a Roooaaarrr! First we thought he was fooling around. But then, out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something moving. I looked, nothing was there. From the other side of the hill we heard screaming. My dad and cousin, Tanya, went to look at what was going on. They came back sweating all over. They both started to stutter, not able to make a speech, and said, “Th th th th there ‘s a t t t tiger down there.” Since my dad was always nervous and jumpy, he swung his hand around and grabbed a piece of mom’s pork. He ran over to the edge of the hill, and threw the piece of pork, which landed into the damp and mysterious forest with a TWAPP! The tiger ran very fast, with a kind of limp, to retrieve the piece of meat. Everyone watched to see if it would come back. After about 5 minutes, which seemed like 60 minutes, the tiger didn’t come back. We went on the all glass cable car, down the hill. When we reached the ground we all looked left and then right and then front and finally back, to see for sure that the tiger wasn’t there. Luckily, it wasn’t. We frantically ran back to the car, in case the tiger came back. Tanya, Patrick and I all sat at the back of the car where our parents also kept the food. Uncle Paul started the motors Rrrrrmmmmmmm Rrrrrrmmmmmmmm Rrrrmmmmmmmm! We drove on the glossy road where I was staring out the frosty window. Suddenly, the black and orange cat jumped out of the bushes on the left. The tiger had tracked the smell of dried pork. It sprinted and ran in front of the car, about 5 centimeters apart from the hood. Uncle Paul turned the steering wheel with a swift, reversed, and nearly hit a sign. It must have been our lucky day because we didn’t. We quickly drove home with our mind aiming for the door. Open, close, we slammed the doors and went into to the common room of our cabin. We were safe. But at that exact moment, we heard an ear threatening Roooaaarrrrrrr!

All of a sudden it was like the world had stopped because when I looked again, there, on the front porch, stood a striped silhouetted body reflecting the moonlight with its glossy fur, was the tiger! I didn’t know what to do, but noticed the blood covered scar on its leg. I do not know what came to me, but I walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and cut out a piece of meat from the tray. I slowly walked outside, very scared, but still excited. Each step took forever, until I was face to face with the tiger. I lowered the tray and looked into the tiger’s eyes. I thought I saw a thank you, so I looked at the big cat and smiled, turned around, and went into my bedroom. I fell into a trance, and went to sleep.

The next day I woke up after an adventurous day. My family met at the coffee table and went to look out of the square -shaped window. The tiger wasn’t there. From the inside we could see these round shapes on the ground. We went to see what it was. They turned out to be footprints, about 10 by 10 cm. We quickly took pictures and we thought about all the things we did. I went back into my room, open my American style diary, and wrote down all about the adventure that I had just had, and then I thought in my mind, ‘What a trip’.

Money Matters: Every portfolio needs equities

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Why is it that when we look at most portfolios, in the broadest sense, investors seem to be more emotionally attached to equities than to the other 3 asset classes (cash, bonds and alternatives)? Admittedly neither cash nor bonds are very exciting, and alternatives are still much misunderstood, but look at the performance of equities over the last century. They don’t seem to be the most exciting asset class either.

                                       Return (1) Risk (2) Downside Risk (3) Sortino Ratio (4)

Equities – Dow (from 1910) 5.25%     18.81%         12.72%                   0.40

 Maybe longevity has something to do with it. Property has been around since man started walking upright and retains greater positive investor sentiment than simply investing in REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts). The Dow has been around as an index since 1910 and that might explain why people feel so comfortable investing for a return that equates to less than 1/3 of the amount of annualized risk.

The last 10 years have been a supposedly bull market and yet a comparison of the different asset classes shows equities and properties have trailed hedge funds and bonds alarmingly.

The information ratios (comparison between units of return and units of risk) and Sortino ratios (see the definitions below) of stocks and REITs are so poor in relation to both hedge and bond indices that you might wonder why anyone invests in this way.

The right answer is that a balanced portfolio contains a managed blend of all asset classes, with allocations changing according to pervading economic conditions. Each asset class performs in different ways at different times – every dog has its day, although for equities the dog seems to bite its owner more often than with other asset classes.


(1) Compound annual rate of return.

(2) Annualized standard deviation – a measure of volatility of return around their mean; the greater the number, the more volatile the investment – up and down. If RoR = 10% and St. Dev = 10%, then you can expect returns to range 0%-20%.

(3) Annualized downside deviation – a measure of volatility that focuses upon only losing months; the larger the negative number, bigger your likely loss when things go bad.

(4) A measure of “bad” volatility – rate of return per unit of downside volatility; the higher the ratio the better the result; you will be losing less money for the returns you are getting; a figure > 3.0 is good.

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 Alan Hall on [email protected]