Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Cat’s Home! What’s Next?

Dogs - Man’s best friend

Language Works

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

The Doctor's Consultation: AAA – and it’s not your credit rating!

by Dr. Iain Corness

AAA stands for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, and as I have often pointed out, we doctors love acronyms. I am sure that the education bodies have decreed that the medical course should contain three years of acronyms, as well as another three years of clinical practice.

So what is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)? First off, what is the aorta? The aorta is the main artery of the body, directly connected to the heart and taking the vast majority of the blood from that important central pump to the abdominal organs and the legs. This artery is around 2 cm in diameter.

However, a situation can occur, whereby the artery begins to bulge and can grow to four or five times the normal diameter. It is this swelling that is called an ‘aneurysm’. Being of the Abdominal Aorta then explains the AAA description. An aorta is considered ‘aneurysmal’ when it grows more than 50 percent over its normal size. By the way, aneurysms may occur in any blood vessel in the body, but the most common place is in the abdomen below the renal arteries (the blood vessels that provide the blood to your kidneys). Interestingly, aneurysms are four times more common in men than women and occur most often after 55-60 years of age. Elderly males have yet another aspect to monitor, as well as their prostates!

The danger of the AAA comes from the fact that this can burst, like an over-inflated balloon, and the patient experiences a catastrophic internal haemorrhage. This is generally fatal. Aneurysm rupture affects approximately 15,000 people per year making it the 13th leading cause of death in the US. The incidence of aortic aneurysm increases every decade as the population ages. Fortunately, early detection and diagnosis is increasingly possible as more sophisticated medical screening methods become available.

So why does this aneurysm occur? Aneurysms are caused by a weakening or damage in the wall of a blood vessel. There are many conditions known to contribute to the weakening of the artery wall including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and inflammation or infection.

Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is the most common cause of abdominal aortic aneurysms. This occurs when substances such as cholesterol, minerals, and blood cells build up in the walls of the artery, and thus damaging it. The muscular wall of the aorta weakens and with the pressure inside the artery, it begins to bulge. High blood pressure may speed up the weakening, but it is not the cause. Aneurysms also tend to run in families, so there is the thought that genetics may play a role in who gets an aneurysm. (When in doubt, blame your parents – for everything!)

There is a strong link between cigarette smoking and the occurrence of aneurysms. Smokers die four times more often from ruptured aneurysms than non-smokers. Aneurysms in smokers also expand and weaken faster than those in non-smokers, making this the one hundred and twenty thousandth good reason to give up cigarettes.

Unfortunately, until an AAA bursts, there are generally no symptoms to let you know you have one of these ‘time bombs’ sitting in your belly. The discovery is then usually during an annual physical, where it can be palpated by the doctor, but by far more accurate is an ultrasound, which can give exact dimensions, and thus progressive indication of how rapidly the swelling is growing.

The answer to this is an operation to replace the swollen, weakened artery, with a suitable piece of highly expensive ‘garden hose’ of correct length and diameter. This is a major operation, but once you have had an AAA detected, there is no other way around the problem. There is also some work being done on encasing the aorta to contain the swelling, but this is not the usual method of ‘defusing’ an AAA.

You should be lining up for a routine health check every 12 months, after you reach 40 years of age. When was your last one?


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
No choccies and champers for you this week, my petal! I’m afraid I must correct your column of March 10. Captain Roy Brown, the airborne hero who shot down the Red Baron in April 1918, was not British but Canadian (from Ontario), although he was fighting with the Royal Flying Corp at the time. You can read all about it at http://www.billybishop.org/bishop-baron.html.
A Canuck in Paradise

Dear Canuck in Paradise,
In your haste to cut me off from my chocolate supply line, you must have skimmed my reply and missed the salient details. I wrote, “Captain Arthur “Roy” Brown, was the British Sopwith Camel pilot who chased the Red Baron to his death, thought to be from an Australian AA gunner on the ground.” Note the fact that Sopwith Camels were a British plane, so my phrase “British Sopwith Camel” is correct in fact. Your Canuck, who was flying the British plane, did not however kill the Red Baron, but as I also wrote, “his death, thought to be from an Australian AA gunner on the ground.” The bullets that killed the famed aviator were not from the machine gun on the Canuck pilot’s plane, but were of the caliber of the Australian ground forces AA units! Here I was, trying to insert a little education into the column, and I find the world is full of Sopwith Camels with loaded machine guns, trying to blow poor Hillary out of the skies! If they only knew how to make chocolates in Canada, I would get you to send me some as an apology.

Dear Hillary,
I’d just like to say how much I enjoy your column but not as much as I enjoyed my last two months with my girlfriend of three years in Pattaya. I often hear farang complaining about their Thai girlfriends, stop whinging and don’t expect your Thai girlfriends to put up with things no European lady would. Am I the only farang (Irish) man in Pattaya happy with his girlfriend? Counting the days to get back to Somporn and Thailand.
Sabai Sabai Des

Dear Sabai sabai Des,
You are not the only farang man happy with his girlfriend in Pattaya (or elsewhere in Thailand, for that matter), there are many of them. The success or otherwise of a relationship in Thailand, as in anywhere on the planet, depends upon the two people in that relationship. If you have gone into the relationship with your eyes open (and your wallet closed), and have the best of intentions yourself, then you have a greater than 50 percent chance of success. Many farangs will not apply the same standards of fidelity they expect from their girlfriends, to themselves. These relationships, must fail. I am glad you are enjoying yours, my Irish (four leaf) Petal.

Dear Hillary,
The wife of one of my husband’s friends will be coming to visit next month, along with a couple of her girl friends. They would all be in their 50’s, and shocked me when they wrote and said they wanted to see a “sex show” while they are here. Do you think it’s proper for me to take them to some of the more outrageous places, or what? I’m really blown away by this. What do you recommend, Hillary?
Shocked and Shamed

Dear Shocked and shamed,
There is nothing to worry about, my dear. Everybody knows we don’t have sex shows in Thailand. The nice policeman told me so. However, if you’re really worried, get your husband to take them. There will be a little man holding a grubby list in the red-light areas which will have enough sex shows with more positions than the Kama Sutra. But if you look carefully, you will see that position 47 is exactly the same as position 23, except you cross your fingers. At 50 years of age, I doubt also that your friends have enough dexterity to do the contortions.

Dear Hillary,
You are often telling people that they should learn Thai if they are living here for some time. I have retired here, but at my age (70), I find it very difficult to learn a new language at my time in life. Is there any quick way of doing this, or do you have any special tips for people trying to learn this (for me) very difficult Thai language?
Linguistic Larry

Dear Linguistic Larry,
We are really going educational this week, aren’t we my Petal. So you want tips about talking (Thai). What next? Larry, it is a problem I know, but if you are retired and not working, then there is one quick (but none of them are easy) way to learn. It’s called Total Immersion and Hillary’s language teacher friends all tell me it is the quickest. Go and stay in a village up-country in a little local hotel and put yourself into the situation that you have to speak Thai or starve! I am told that in six weeks you will have picked up reasonable Thai and you are on your way to complete mastery of the tongue. You will probably have picked up a small language teacher as well, so you can practice 24 hours a day. Lots of luck and “Chok dii, Kha”.


Camera Class:  Why Kodak is doing (digitally) very well

by Harry Flashman

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Kodak, the grandfather of film, was now the top digital camera seller in the US and ranked third in the world. A tremendous result for a company that everyone predicted would go to the wall, as digital technology overtook film imaging.

To stay on top of the game, Kodak took a huge leap of faith, boasting that their next-generation camera offers medium-format image quality and yet with 35 mm flexibility.

One of their top end cameras was the Kodak Professional DCS Pro SLR/n, where “n” refers to the Nikon mount so it takes the top of the range Nikon lenses, while there is also a SLR/c which has the Canon mounting.

With digital cameras like these, one enters a whole new world of ‘computer’ terminology, where, as Kodak says, the DCS Pro SLR/n digital camera contains a new high performance imaging system with an entirely new 35 mm size CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) sensor, which delivers 14 million pixels with a total available ISO range of 6 to 1600.

Without having to get into e-jargon, 14 mega pixels is an outstanding number, and to cover the “film” speeds of ISO 6 to ISO 1,600 is a huge range. With that capability, Koadk said the DCS Pro SLR/n was ideally suited for wedding photographers and event, portrait, commercial and advanced amateur photographers as well.

“The DCS Pro SLR/n combines the best of medium format image quality with the convenience and flexibility of 35 mm photography. Its high ISO provides excellent performance in low-light settings and captures images with stunning detail that wedding and event photographers expect. It also creates amazing images at low ISOs using long exposures,” said Madhav Mehra, General Manager, Professional Digital Capture. “We’ve accelerated the evolution of the digital SLR with this camera. The DCS Pro SLR/n is able to merge high-resolution and the best image detail with a broad ISO range,” he claimed.

Some of the key features were a full-size sensor, so photographers could regain the benefits of true wide-angle lenses and can use their F-mount SLR lenses the same way they used them with 35 mm film. With many other digital SLR’s, the image area is smaller, and you have to apply a conversion factor to the lenses, as for example, a 24 mm wide angle lens does not give the same broad lateral coverage in a digital camera, as it would on a film camera.

Aside from a broad ISO range, the camera’s feature set included long exposure capabilities, enabling exposures of up to 60 seconds at lower ISO settings.

The camera captured images at about 1.7 frames per second. Images could be saved as DCR raw files, normal JPEG files or ERI JPEG files. The ERI-JPEG files provide two stops of exposure latitude and extended color space within a JPEG workflow – a benefit which Kodak claimed no competitor offers. This is equivalent to ‘bracketing’ in the old film days, to try and get the best exposure. Now in the e-era, this camera did it for you.

With the electronics covered (and in fact you could download upgrades from the internet for the DCS Pro SLR/n) and Messrs Nikon (or Canon) supplying the high quality optics, it would seem that a camera such as this had the best of both worlds. There is only one major drawback. Kodak stopped production of it in May last year!

So if this camera was so good, why pull the plug? Kodak explained it very simply, “Kodak has today (31st May 2005) confirmed that the DCS Pro SLR/n and DCS Pro SLR/c digital SLRs have been discontinued and will no longer be manufactured. Kodak will continue to develop CCD and CMOS image sensors and this announcement does not affect their consumer digital cameras. Kodak was keen to stress that this does not mark the end of Kodak digital SLR’s but that they wished to concentrate on market segments which are more profitable.” So there you have it – the bean counters said there was not enough profit in high-end professional equipment!

However, that’s why Kodak continues to make money. And will be around for many years to come, as they have not lost the financial vision!


Cat’s Home! What’s Next?: Colorpoint Shorthairs: We are Siamese if you please! (Part 3)

Linda L. Galloway, PhD, FGA, DGA

Take one Siamese and paint its points (ears, paws, tail, nose, genitals) in myriad colors and there you have what is now known as the Colorpoint Shorthair! These lovely colored Siamese type cats, first created around 1947-48, in fact have 16 different point colors instead of the four traditional colors of the original Siamese (seal, chocolate, blue, lilac). They are the first cousins of the Siamese, named as a separate breed by CFA (Cat Fanciers’ of America) in 1964.

A Colorpoint Shorthair looking distinctly Siamese!

The early breeders of these elegant creatures concentrated on fabulous red and cream colors using hybridizations with domestic shorthairs. More solid colors were introduced with time. And then came the tabby or lynx point varieties which added stunning tiger stripes to the colored points. Next the parti-colors or torties were developed as an interesting phenomenon of the red gene. Torties are particularly memorable because of their loving but independent, distinctive attitudes (better known as “torti-tude”!). It’s as if the blotchy halloween-like markings of red, cream and black on their faces give them an unpredictable clown-like nature. They are the Lucille Balls of the cat fancy to be sure! And true enough, the tortie pattern is sex-linked, so torties only come as females. Their parti-colors are the product of the red gene on top of the four original Siamese colors, with random “blotching” of the reds and creams against a dark background. With some luck, a blaze may appear as a symmetrical split of the red/cream colors on one-half of the face and the Siamese solid color such as black (seal) on the other half, giving these lovely creatures a striking appearance.

Colorpoint Shorthairs have the same elegant structural standards as their Siamese cousins, differing only by their unique point colors and patterns. Like all their relatives (short and long haired alike so including the Balinese, Javanese, Oriental Short and Long Hairs), they require little grooming and so they are especially good in households with allergies to cats since they have little dander. Only an occasional bath is recommended but you must allow the freshly bathed cat to dry in a warm spot without blowing dry (it

puffs up the coat!). As with the Siamese and Oriental Shorthairs (but different from the Long Hairs), the coat must be brushed with the concave side of a small rubber brush to remove loose hair and make the coat lie straight and flat. The coat can then be “finished” by smoothing with a chamois cloth to add some gloss.

As with all pedigree cats, price depends on type, bloodlines, distinguished wins in the lines (Grand Champions, National or Regional Wins, Distinguished Merit titles). Kittens are usually available after 16 weeks of age, inoculations and neutering/spaying, providing their new owner with a most wonderful and beautiful pet! For more information on pedigree cats, or cats in general, contact me by email ([email protected]).


Dogs - Man’s best friend: Dogs: General Health Care: Grooming

Nienke Parma

Grooming promotes a clean and healthy coat and skin, gives the opportunity to check for irregularities such as tangles, bumps, wounds and parasites, and it’s rank-confirming.

The 13 year old Lady Jasmin.

Tangled coats form perfect hotbeds for skin parasites, bacterial and fungal infections. Old hair, dirt and foreign objects, like grass seeds or twigs, can get stuck in it, new hair can’t come through properly, the skin can’t breathe properly, and flea and tick sprays and powders can’t reach the source, resulting in irritation, biting and scratching and a damaged skin with an high chance on infection.

Combing and brushing at least once a week, keeps the coat free from tangles, removes old hair and foreign objects, improves the air-flow and stimulates the blood-circulation as well as the natural skin oil production, the animal’s natural protection against parasites, bacteria, fungi, heat or cold and/or dry skin.

It is best to start with the least sensitive body parts, the shoulders or hindquarters, back, head and neck, and then down to the softer parts and the paws. Brush or comb always in the direction of the hair-growth with short firm and gentle strokes, right behind the other hand that holds the skin tight. Too rough grooming can injure the skin or scare your animal, resulting in possible growling, snapping or biting. And an animal that has learned it can stop it’s owner actions by showing aggression may become difficult, if not impossible, to handle. Being too soft, though, results in a nicely groomed coat’s upper layer while the under-layer becomes more tangled. Therefore, make sure you reach the skin and brush every part of the body, meaning also behind the ears, under the armpits, the abdomen, the tail, around the anus, vulva and penis.

All dogs, no matter the coat length, are entitled to grooming sessions. For long and half-long coated dogs a comb with smooth round teeth and a brush with natural bristles or a wire-pin brush are suitable. Rough and curly coats need a wire pin brush, and smooth coats a rubber brush and a moist towel to remove dust and old hair.

Many owners think it’ll be easier to cut the animal’s coat. However, the old hair remains in the coat making it difficult for the new one to grow, changing the hair structure into a soft and easily tangible one, decreasing the air-flow, and often gives irritation. Therefore, for most dog breeds stripping the old hair out is much better than cutting, which isn’t painful when done properly as the old hair is already loose anyway. Exceptions are some curly coated breeds, like the poodle, Bedlington and Kerry Blue Terriers; their coats need to be cut.

To be able to reach all body parts the groomer has to put the animal in all sorts of submissive positions, such as laying down or on its side. Grooming is, therefore, not only good for the dog’s health, but above all, when done well, it allows you to give your dog a few moments of special attention, enough to establish a pleasant bond.

For more information on pets’ health, dog and cat boarding, dog training and behavior please visit www.luckydogs.info or contact LuckyDogs: 09 99 78 146.


Language Works: Myths Meanings and Origins

by Ian Smith

An email from my Brother

My brother Don, who turns 70 this year, is what you might call an email junkie. I say this with some pride as I know many people of his age are still reluctant to trade in their quills, leave alone enter into the alien landscape of cyberspace.

But Don is no technophobe. I get an average ten emails per day from him, mostly forwarded jokes and photos. Apart from keeping him and his delightful wife Mary never far from my thoughts, there is the added benefit of never lacking light reading material.

Trivia

A few days ago, one of his forwarded emails caught my linguist’s curiosity. It began as a list of mostly unrelated trivia: the identities of the kings in a set of playing cards; the meaning of horse’s legs in statues; windshield wipers and laser printers were invented by women and so on.

However, the last four items were related in that they were each about the origin of a word or phrase. Unfortunately, one of those words does not belong in a family paper such as the Chiangmai Mail, but here are the other three:

In Shakespeare’s time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase ‘goodnight, sleep tight’.

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride’s father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month or what we know today as the honeymoon.

In Scotland, a new game was invented. It was entitled Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

I accepted this trivia at face value at first. Certainly, ‘sleep tight’ and ‘honeymoon’ seemed plausible enough – but G.O.L.F.?

Etymology and Dave Wilton

Etymology is the study of word origins. For anyone interested in language, it gives a fascinating perspective on how living languages evolve over time. Google (have you noticed that google has recently become a verb?) the word etymology and you will be faced with eleven million links to choose from.

By a happy accident, I ended up in Dave Wilton’s Etymology page. It seems Mr Wilton is THE expert on word myths and has even written a book about it. Added to that, his passion, painstaking research and witty prose frequently make the truth a lot more interesting than the myth.

As I had half suspected, all of the word origin items in the email were fanciful bunkum. The story about Shakespearean beds is quite correct, but the phrase ‘sleep tight’ comes from much later. For a while, in the 18th Century, the word ‘tight’ could mean soundly or roundly, a meaning it had not yet acquired in Shakespeare’s day.

The word honeymoon first appeared in the 16th century, quite some time after the fall of Babylon. According to Wilton, ‘the moon is not a reference to the lunar-based month, but rather a bitter acknowledgement that this sweetness, like a full moon, would quickly fade.’ It seems a cynical view of marriage is nothing new.

And Golf? Simply derived from an old Germanic word meaning ‘club’.

Terrifically Terrible

Next in this week’s ramble through word meanings and origins, if you take a look at most English-Thai dictionaries, you will find ‘terrific’ and ‘terrible’ listed as synonyms; that is, words having the same meaning.

Both words are translated in the dictionaries as naklua – literally ‘worthy of fear’, and there was a time, not so long ago, when they did both mean frightening. Indeed, there are still traces of this meaning in modern English usage; we talk about a ‘terrific’ or ‘terrible’ storm.

But these have now become secondary meanings. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the primary meaning of ‘terrific’ is ‘very good …’, whereas the primary meaning of ‘terrible’ is ‘extremely severe …’

These two words are my quick ‘litmus test’ when evaluating an English-Thai dictionary. Unfortunately very few pass.

Nicely done Melanie and Mike

Finally for this week, thinking about word origins reminded me of one of my teachers correcting our usage of the word ‘nice’. We could not, we were told, say that we had had a nice holiday, because ‘nice’ did not mean ‘pleasant’ – it meant ‘accurate’. ‘How can you have an accurate holiday?’ he would scrawl in nasty red ink across our innocent essays.

I would like to think that Mr Nameless was stuck back in the 19th Century of his own childhood, but he really wasn’t that old. He was simply confusing a word’s meaning with its etymology.

Dave Wilton offered no advice on ‘nice’ so I looked up another favourite etymology website: Melanie and Mike’s Take Our Word for It. I found that ‘nice’ had indeed meant ‘accurate’ for a couple of centuries, and there are still traces of it in modern usage; for example, when we say ‘nicely done’. What Mr Nameless was probably not aware of was the extraordinary history of the word before its ‘accurate’ phase.

In the 13th Century, ‘nice’ meant, believe it or not, ‘foolish or stupid’. A hundred years or so later, that had evolved into ‘wanton’, and later still ‘extravagantly dressed’. By the mid 15th Century, it had two completely separate meanings: ‘strange’ and ‘lazy’. However, by the end of that century, it referred to dress again, this time with a more positive meaning: ‘elegant’. In the next century, it flipped again to negative: ‘fastidious’ and ‘effeminate’; and back to positive for the 17th Century: ‘refined’ and ‘cultured’.

So ‘nice’ (13th Century) Mr Nameless, if you can choose your period for the word ‘nice’ so can I, and I choose mid 15th Century. Strange and lazy – now that is my idea of a nice holiday!

If you are interested in word origins, the link for Dave Wilton’s site is: http://www.wordorigins.org and Melanie and Mike’s: http://www.takeourword.com

And as always, if you have any questions, or would like to vent your spleen, feel free to email me at: [email protected]


Money Matters:  MBMG Special Update - Commodity investing: As good as it gets?

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

It is awfully tempting to cut back on ones commodity exposure, especially after the spectacular run we have seen over the last couple of months. The rally in mining equities, in particular, is now 32 months in duration and relative to the previous cycles since 1972, is the longest in duration. We would argue, however, that the cycle has still much further to go and that we could see another strong year from commodity investments. The market has been focusing on demand factors, but it our belief that investors will increasingly shift their focus to the supply side of the equation in 2006.

Over the last couple of years mining companies have been loathe to spend money on Greenfield developments (iron ore and coal excluded), despite the significant demand from China and other emerging market economies. This is not surprising when one considers that experienced mining executives have long memories of the ‘old days’ in the industry, when commodity markets were characterised by short upward shifts in commodity prices and long down-cycles.

Mining executives, today, are too focused on returns and do not have incentives to take on risk to build new mines or smelters. Share buybacks, higher dividends and M&A are a lower risk strategy than developing a mine, with four-year lead times and the uncertainty of where prices will be once the project is finished.

The other factor influencing companies’ decisions is the inertia within the industry to raise long term commodity assumptions, which were dragged down during the 1998 Asian crisis. Credit Suisse First Boston argue that they are far too low, especially given the rising costs of building new mines and smelters, with them estimating that costs have jumped between 20% and 50% over the past five years. In just one example, CSFB argue that to justify a return in investment on a new copper mine, the long term copper price needs to be close to $1.50 per pound, compared with current industry thinking of $0.90 per pound. Similar outcomes are true for nickel, zinc and platinum.

Most producers believe that current high prices will be short-lived; hence producing assets are being run very hot, with capacity utilisation kept higher for longer. This increases production risks. In addition, high commodity prices encourage labour groups to push through wage increases (at a time when companies are already focusing on minimising cost pressures), thus increasing the likelihood of work stoppages.

In a recent project update, BHP Billiton wrote the following: “Industry wide, the supply side response to continued strong global demand for raw materials remains constrained by a shortage of people, equipment and supplies. This has led to tight labour markets and difficulty in sourcing construction and drilling plant and machinery, which in turn has led to rising input costs. Currency strength against the US dollar is also adding further pressure.”

Caterpillar, the mining equipment supplier, has also made similar comments, as can be seen by a recent FT report in which they had the following to say, “Mining equipment is sold out through 2007 and that the cycle has legs and looks stronger than upturns in the 1980’s and 1990’s.” However, Caterpillar also said that they “are cautious about creating overcapacity and that they have had difficulty in obtaining some supplies, such as tyres, restricting their own production, which is being felt by their customers in the mining industry”.

In yet another reason why the industry has been slow to build new capacity has been US Dollar weakness. With the onset of this weakness in 2002, commodity currencies began to strengthen and strengthened even more as the physical commodity prices themselves began to rise in 2004. Currencies such as the Rand, Chilean peso, and the Australian and Canadian dollars have appreciated by between 25% and 50% since 2002. The strength of these currencies has created additional cost pressures on local producers and discouraged new projects, despite rising commodity prices.

Over the last few months, growth investing appears to be back in vogue and investors are starting to ask for higher earnings streams. This has led to increasing M&A activity in the commodity space, as the big majors realise that it is cheaper and a less risky strategy to buy a smaller start up company, than go into these projects themselves. CSFB are predicting that 2006 will be one of the most active M&A years for corporations in the past two decades, as the big miners start to appreciate that there is still significant value that exists in a target’s share price, provided they eventually come round to adopting higher long-term assumptions.

This in itself will underpin the mining sector this year. However, there is not an infinite supply of smaller companies out there and it will only be a matter of time before companies are forced to spend on exploration once again. But the fact remains that the longer they hold out, the longer the commodity cycle will be sustained.

The recent price rises in many commodities is still daunting, however, but when one looks at them in inflation adjusted terms, the moves do not appear so big. In reality, base metals have been one of the worst performing assets since 1973. Over that time period they have significantly underperformed real estate, equities and bonds. In real terms commodities are not expensive.

Positive supply and demand fundamentals, coupled with attractive “real” valuations have not gone unnoticed, with UBS and Macquarie estimating that around $80 billion has been invested in commodity index funds for 2005, up from $55 billion in 2004 and less than $30 billion in 2003. Based on UBS’ calculations, they estimate that the equivalent of around 3-4% of total annual production has been ‘bought’ via these indices. But there appears to be more liquidity to come with Bloomsbury Minerals Economics predicting that investment in commodity index products could rise from around $80 billion currently to $105-$115 billion by the end of 2006 and $140-$150 billion by the end of 2007.

If these predictions are correct that the impact on base metals could be significant. UBS estimate that new funds flow into these indices during 2006 could increase the fund position by another 50%. In each case investment could be sufficient to either intensify a market deficit, or in some cases turn what could have been a surplus into a deficit.

In conclusion, we do not believe that this is as good as it gets and in fact we believe that the best is yet to come. However, this recommendation needs to come with a health warning, especially if the US consumer does precipitously slow down in the second half of 2006, leading to an inevitable slowdown in China.

Commodity investments will be impacted by this, which we think will present a great buying opportunity to buy these assets at cheaper prices, for the growth in China is not a one year story, but one that we are going to see played out for the next 10 years. According to research from Macquarie Bank, even if China were to slow down from current growth rates, China is still likely to account for 30%+ of world demand by 2010.

Finally, as David Fuller of Fuller money fame so eloquently said, “With approximately one billion people in the developed world and another five billion in developing countries, the largest of which are scrambling to increase GDP and the standard of living for their burgeoning populations, it is not difficult to envisage a steepening demand curve for all resources, many of which are finite.”

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]


Life in the Laugh Lane: Teeth are Fun

by Scott Jones

Many dentists kill themselves in America. Their high suicide rate is probably caused by daily routines of charging an arm and leg to remove a tooth while inflicting pain on wide-eyed, terrified people who hate them, working in a haze of halitosis from patients whose breath could actually strip paint from the ceiling and spending 40 hours a week worrying if their next victim will bite them, taking a finger in exchange for each tooth removed.

Dental Safety Technique #19

This may also be true in Thailand since I’ve never seen an old dentist. They all look about 17 years old, having gone from puberty right into dentistry. Here in the Land of Smiles, teeth are fun and “fun” is the Thai word for teeth. During a recent root canal at Funsabai (“Comfy Teeth”) the staff was friendly and cheery with canines and cuspids so white and bright I had to wear sunglasses if more than three of them smiled at once. Pop music played in the background as Dr. Drill and the Dentalettes sang along while probing my mouth with sharp metal objects and keeping the beat with suction devices that sometimes reached into my stomach. Farang patients were happy to be there knowing the cost for an entirely remodeled mouth plus a plane ticket to paradise cost half as much as a few fillings in their own countries.

In spite of this carefree atmosphere, I was still tense from the memory of the most intense pain I’ve ever felt during Dental Hell in Kentucky, where dentists have marginal experience since its inhabitants as a whole have very few teeth. (The toothbrush must have originated in Kentucky because if it were invented anywhere else, it would have been called the “teeth brush.”) My degenerating tooth gave out during a performance tour so I spent my two-day break in the Land of Gums at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. After an eternity of excavation of four roots in my large molar I was sent to my hotel to throb for the evening. The next day Dr. Ken Tucky tested yesterday’s deconstruction site by sticking an ice pick into each root hole…before giving me the Novocain shot. Unfortunately he had missed a root and stabbed his saber into the remaining raw nerve. I think I actually catapulted from the chair through the ceiling into the morgue on the next floor.

The dentist at Funsabai (named Win, a perfect moniker for instilling confidence in patients) did nothing to stress me out. He was sensitive, gentle and meticulous. Even his Novocain shot was painless unlike my last dentist in Chiang Rai who plunged a syringe the size of a cattle prod through the gums and into my brain in search of the individual cell that controls tooth pain. (I suspect Win just placed his needle into the cavern left by the previous dentist.) However, on the second day, I was back in the Land of Gums. Win put his drill in my mouth before the pain-killer. (He had told me there were only two roots on the tooth. Right. “Okay, I’ll let you probe my canals with your Tools of Torture while I hold this scalpel next to your eyeball.”) Not wanting to put a Scott-shaped hole in his ceiling and force the entire clinic to commit suicide, I instructed him on the ABCD’s of Dentistry: Anesthesia, Be Cool, Drill. Then I put on my motorcycle helmet.

Overall it was a very positive experience even during the times when they put a towel over my eyes so I couldn’t see that Dr. Win plus two other dentists plus seven dental assistants plus random people gathered from the street all had their hands in my mouth holding hoses, files, pliers, shovels and a queen-size mattress to keep my cheek away from the teeth. Next time I’ll try Novocain shots in my ears and nose as well so I don’t have to hear the incessant whine of the drill or smell the burning enamel. Perhaps some trendy teak teeth? Or may just suicide.