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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

How to live to be 110? Be happy!

There has been much discussion over many centuries as to whether your personality can predict your disease pattern. The simple answer is, “Yes it most certainly can.”
After much research, including clinical studies, the researchers have the answers. Be happy and stay well. Be aggressive and get heart attacks and cancer.
Now that does not mean that all happy folk live to be 110 and the misery bags turn in their credit cards at age 45 - but there is enough evidence to show that your personality type influences the kinds of diseases you will get later in life. Time for some introspection perhaps?
However, this latest research is really nothing new, it is more of a reinforcement of previous knowledge. In the times of Hippocrates, the healers were interested in the personality of the patient, because even then they felt that this had a bearing on the disease process. This conclusion was reached after observation of the patients. This combination of mind and body and disease is the basis for holistic healing, and even though Hippocrates and his healers did not have all our pharmaceutical treatments, wonderful tests and MRI’s, they did not just treat the disease, but also treated the person. Unfortunately there is also a tendency in our new super-scientific age to treat the test and forget to treat the person.
So why do we fall ill in the first place? Is it a personal weakness, is it just “lifestyle” or just plain bad luck? Since I am not a great believer in “luck” be it good or bad, my leaning after many decades of medicine is towards a type of individual “weakness”. After all, you can take two people with the same lifestyle but one gets ill and the other does not. Why? Simply, the sick person was more “susceptible” than the other - in some way they had a pre-disposition or call it a “weakness”. Simplistic I know, but it seems to fit. We just have to find it and counteract it.
So what factors seem to be involved in bringing about the pre-disposition. Genetics is one, and do play an important part. If your parents are diabetic then you will most likely have the problem too, but it is not absolutely inescapable. The modern scientific studies with large numbers of people have come up with interesting statistics. One famous researcher, Eysenck, lumped us all into four main personality categories.
Type 1 have a strong tendency to suppress their emotions and tend towards “hopelessness” and are unable to deal with personal stress.
Type 2 people, on the other hand, are also unable to deal with personal stress, but react to life with anger and aggression.
Type 3 is less clear-cut with a mixture of all these personality traits.
Type 4 covers the optimistic and relaxed who deal much better with interpersonal stress and external stressors.
Using these broad categories and looking at disease profiles that each type gets returned some interesting facts. Type 1 was the cancer prone group, Type 2 got heart disease, Type 3 got both while Type 4 people were not prone to either cancer or heart disease. Can you see what’s coming next?
Eysenck did not stop there. He went on to show that when people modified their personality they also modified their disease profile. When you think about it, this is staggering stuff! By attention to your personality profile you can modify your disease profile!
The most significant personality trait was “anger”. Learn to modify your anger response (and this can be done and is part of the concepts involved in Buddhism) and you become less “at risk”. This is the “jai yen yen” (cool heart) - but you can modify your personality to incorporate this. That last sentence can make you live ten years longer, happier and disease free. Forget all the wonder cures, just look at yourself first! Hippocrates did more than say oaths!

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
What happens with these Thai women when they get hooked up with us foreigners? My little woman has gone crazy about sport and this Twenty 20 cricket stuff and sits up till all hours watching it. Before that it was some football world cup or something, or the nation’s cup in rugby. By the time she comes to bed after watching something on ESPN, I’m away with the zzzz’s. As the only wage earner, I have to go to work, but she sleeps in till lunchtime. This sport thing of hers is meaning there’s not much sporting fun for Larry at the end of it, if you get my drift. She wasn’t like this when she first moved in. Any suggestions, Hillary?
Larry
Dear Larry,
This is a much deeper problem than just the cricket, my Petal. With my glasses I have 20/20 vision and can see much further than the Twenty 20 cricket. Can’t you see the trend here, Larry? You get up early and go to work, while she sleeps in. You go to bed and she sits up watching athletic men on the telly. But it is your hard-earned money that she uses to live the life of luxury, sleeping in till noon. The alarm clock is telling you something Larry. If she’s not prepared to share the same hours as you, she’s not prepared to share her life with you. You have two options. Get a new “little woman” (how I hate that British phrase), or give up your job and get one that starts at mid-day. The first option will be easier!

Dear Hillary,
I will admit I’m new in Thailand, and also admit that I have found a very loving lady who used to work in a bar I used to use before I paid the ransom to get her out of there. The relationship between the both of us is very good from my point of view, and now after three months I am looking at making it something more permanent. (Maybe getting my ransom’s worth?) We have been living in my apartment that I rent, but it is too small for the two of us, especially when we get guests who stay over, including Nok’s brother and cousins at the weekends, so I thought I should get something bigger. A house would be the way to go and Nok is very much in favor of this. I think that coming from farming stock up in the north east they have an attraction to the land. Only problem is this ownership thing. My mates tell me I cannot buy land in my name, only in her name. I wouldn’t mind this so much, but common sense tells me that if I’ve only known her for three months, this might not be too secure a way to get a house, or keep a house. What do you think Hillary, is there some way I can get the property put in my name, not hers?
Aussie Bill
Dear Aussie Bill,
By the time I had read half way through your letter, I was about to give up on you, but you redeemed yourself when you used the magic words “common sense”. Yes, my star-struck Petal, you have indeed only known your Nok for three months, and even though the relationship might be wonderful right now, how will it be in three years? You have to develop the long range vision here, Aussie Bill. You have to remember that before you bailed her out of the beer bar “prison” she was in, her job was to keep foreigners happy, make them feel loved and wanted and find ways to get those foreigners to donate to her favorite charity - her! Now that may sound a bit harsh to you, but these girls don’t go and work in a bar because they can’t get a job in Tesco’s. They select the life and its lifestyle themselves. A very well known statement goes, “You can take a girl out of the bar, but you can’t take the bar out of the girl.” How did this piece of information get into popular culture round here? Because there is more than just a slight element of truth in it, Petal. Now getting back to your predicament - go to a reputable real estate agent (that’s not an oxymoron, try a Real Estate Brokers Association (REBA) member) and discuss the options with them. There are ways you can retain ownership, but the way to do this is well beyond the scope of this column, and anyway, I live in a tent erected in the editor’s back garden (he won’t let me use the front garden as it makes him embarrassed, he says). And while you are looking at your future, I would also make sure that the “brother” has the same parents as Nok. Stranger things than this have happened, more than once, in this country. I get the feeling that as well as the relationship only being three months, that you have only been here three months and one night (to meet Nok) yourself. Slow down Aussie Bill. “Time” is not only the great healer, it can be the best tutor. Give yourself some.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Control Depth of Field - the second rule?

Control of Depth of Field really is the second rule of photography in my opinion. Before you ask, the first rule is to walk several meters closer to the subject!
The Depth of Field in any picture can often make or break the entire photograph, but knowing how to manipulate the depth of field improves your photography instantly!
The term Depth of Field is really an optical one and depends solely on the lens being used and the aperture selected. Altering the shutter speed does not change the Depth of Field.
Depth of Field really refers to the zone of “sharpness” (or being in acceptable focus) from foreground items to background items in any photograph.
The first concept to remember is “One Third forwards and Two Thirds back.” Again this is a law of optical physics, but means that the Depth of Field, from foreground to background in your photograph can be measured, and from the focus point in the photo, extends towards you by one third and extends away from the focus point by two thirds.
For those of you with SLR’s, especially the older manual focus SLR’s, you will even find a series of marks on the focussing ring of the lens to indicate the Depth of Field that is possible with that lens (and you probably wondered why there were all those extra marks on it!).
Take a look at this week’s photograph, which is really two shots, taken seconds apart of the Chinese lion statue. More importantly, look at the background. In one you can clearly see the leaves on the bush and the fountain spray, while on the other it is a soft blur. How did I change this Depth of Field sharpness? Answer, with a flick of the wrist!
You see, for each focal length of lens, the Depth of Field possible is altered by the Aperture. The rule here is simple - the higher the Aperture number, the greater the Depth of Field possible and the lower the Aperture number, the shorter the Depth of Field. In simple terms, for any given lens, you get greater front to back sharpness with f22 and you get very short front to back sharpness at f4.
For example, using a 24 mm focal length lens focussed on an object 2 meters away - if you select f22, the Depth of Field runs from just over 0.5 meter to 5 meters (4.5 meters total), but if you select f11 it only runs from 1 m to 4 m (3 m total) and if you choose f5.6 the Depth of Field is only from 1.5 m to 3 m (1.5 m total).
On the other hand, using a longer 135 mm focal length lens focussed at the same point 2 meters away, you get the following Depths of Field - at f22 it runs from 1.9 m to 2.2 m (0.3 m) and at f5.6 it is 1.95 m to 2.1 m (a total of 0.15 m).
Analysis of all these initially confusing numbers gives you now complete mastery of the Depth of Field in any of your photographs. Simply put another way - the higher the Aperture number, the greater the depth of field; the smaller the Aperture number the smaller the Depth of Field; plus the longer the lens, the shorter the Depth of Field, the shorter the lens, the longer the Depth of Field (just remember the ‘opposites’ - the longer gives shorter).
Now to apply this formula - when shooting a landscape for example, where you want great detail from the foreground, right the way through to the mountains five kilometers away, then use a short lens (24 mm is ideal) set at f22 and focussed on a point about 2 km away.
On the other hand, when shooting a portrait where you only want to have the eyes and mouth in sharp focus you would use a longer lens (and here the 135 is ideal) and a smaller Aperture number of around f5.6 to f4 and focus directly on the eyes to give that ultra short Depth of Field required.
Try it this weekend.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

What do the Ivy League University Endowment Funds do that we don’t?

The Ivy League Universities are ahead of the field when it comes to diversified multi-asset class investing. They have been doing this successfully for over twenty years. By using this methodology with investments they have constantly achieved incredible success whilst maintaining low volatility and only occasional reverses to continued growth.
Professor Harry Markowitz, the Nobel Prize winner studied the concept of investing via the multi-asset approach. He ended up calling it the Modern Portfolio Theory. This study indicates just how risk adjusted returns can be improved by diversification across assets with varied correlations. Modern Portfolio Theory is at the centre of how the Ivy League Endowment Funds invest their money. They use this principle above all others to build the portfolios that are the envy of most domestic and international investors.
These Funds have access to some of the best fund managers and private equity portfolios in the world. Naturally, this also helps in how successful they are. What we all want to know is how they do it and can we follow them in their success with our own money. The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. It is very possible for the rest of us mere mortals to achieve high levels of risk adjusted return which will obtain better results than the traditional equity/bond portfolios and most balanced investment funds.
What are US
Endowment Funds?
They are funds which are non-taxable and are established to make payments for funding anything that the education facilities needed. The money is collected from many different sources including legacies, gifts and investment returns. In America alone there are more than 700 endowments with an average of USD400 million in funds; the largest fund has nearly USD30 billion. So, why do these funds achieve so much better results with such consistency? It is important to look at how it is done and planned. Once we have seen this then this is a major step in understanding how it is all achieved. To begin with let’s look at the larger endowment funds. Those with a value of over USD1 billion have managed to give an annualized return of 12 percent. This is about 3 percent more than a traditional US portfolio while operating at a lower level of investment risk.
Also, the US endowment funds are active and imaginative portfolios that have access to all the asset classes. This gives more diversification benefits than most funds can offer, which leads to higher potential gains whilst minimizing volatility. This can be seen from the fact that the large endowment funds hold just over 60% in equities and bonds whereas an average US endowment fund will hold almost 85%. The extra diversification is one of the main reasons for the superior long-term investment performance.
The other main thing to consider is that these funds are usually planned with long-term investment targets whilst at the same time maintaining a non-volatile approach. This means that they do not have to be subjected to the vagaries of having to time things in the markets so as to generate results and income. It also means they should have cheaper trading costs.
The Super
Endowments of Harvard and Yale
The asset allocation of the ‘Super Endowments’ of Harvard and Yale are always up there with annual results that usually put them in the top 10 of US endowments. From 1996 to 2006, Harvard and Yale returned 15.2 and 17.2 percent respectively. This performance is a lot better than that of its rivals. Just to back up what was mentioned above, the Harvard endowment fund is also the largest in the US at USD29.2 billion and the Yale Endowment fund is the second largest at USD18 billion. The latter did take a hit this year but it is still ranked up there with the best. This also shows that fund results should always be looked at over a period of time and not a couple of months.
The Super Endowment funds are amongst the most innovative when it comes to multi-asset investing. At the end of last year only 47% of their portfolios were in traditional assets. Compare this with the 86% for the average endowment and 61% for the other average large endowments. If you look at the alternative assets, the majority have been placed in hedge funds. Other funds do this as well. Where they differ is that the Harvard and Yale funds have a much larger slice in commodities and private equity.
As with most endowment funds, the asset allocations of the Super Endowment funds have been very stable. Since 1999, they have repositioned just 8.5 percent of the portfolio each year. The non-volatile allocations show the long-term goals, the need to select assets through economic cycles and whist keeping costs at an absolute minimum.
Index investing using the asset allocations
of the Super
Endowments
Given the consistent out performance of these funds it is tempting to try and benchmark them and follow what they do. The trouble with this is that most people cannot invest in the same way as these funds, especially when it comes to such things as private equity. However, reasonable returns can still be had by following the multi-asset approach of these funds within an index tracking portfolio. If you did this then the following would transpire:
Since 1999, your own special portfolio would have just 52 percent in equities and bonds and would return an average of 9.3% per annum. Compare this with 4.4% for a US Equity and Bond portfolio.
Also, these results have out-performed many managed funds. For example, if compared with UK balanced funds since 2001 the total return of the index tracker has been considerably more than most of the funds rated by the S&P and with a lot less volatility. This indicates how important it is to have a multi-asseted portfolio.
Summary
These Endowment funds have, year in and year out, managed to achieve good investment returns with low volatility. This is due to the multi-asset methodology they adopt and not being afraid to go into the alternative asset classes.
Obviously, most investors cannot invest in the same way. However, from the above it can be seen that by following the same ideology then an individual investor will achieve returns that have managed to outperform more traditional portfolios. This is also true for some of the better managed funds. But it must be remembered that these Ivy League funds have a long investment goal along with low liquidity needs.
All of this is very similar to our favoured fund managers Miton Optimal. Their own investment philosophy is very similar by the fact they are Global Tactical Asset Allocation Specialists who utilize the multi-manager approach and focus on absolute not relative returns. Also, they are not constrained by benchmarks. Basically, what this means is that they can outperform in both Bull and Bear Markets. On top of this they can be overweight esoteric areas whilst at the same time have an active response to changing conditions. If they do not like an area then they are not obliged to invest there. This is why they have won so many awards from S&P, Lipper and Multi-Manager over the last five years.
 

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


Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

I joined another of the protest marches to the Chinese Consulate in Chiang Mai recently and very impressive it was too. People assembled in an orderly fashion in the nearby park and at 9:30am - with police guidance - occupied one of the traffic lanes, crossed the bridge and regrouped outside the austere white building. No one came out to meet us. Apologists for the regime do not engage in dialogue.
A series of prayers, a couple of simple speeches and a few minutes silence in memory of the victims of the junta and we all realized that such actions are largely ineffectual except as oxygen for publicity and to inform passers by. But they are essential as part of the consensus of world opinion that will one day exert enough pressure on the generals so that they will ‘engage in dialogue’ as the euphemism goes.
There is an element of self gratification in such actions. A sense of having to do something along with the e-mails, the petitions to boycott the Olympics, the letters to the EU leaders asking for action not words. After all, if you are not against something then you must be for it. Fence sitting is not an option in respect of Burma.
I thought of this at the Saturday morning meeting of the Chiang Mai Ex-Pats Club, where went to hear a talk about the education and social work done in the Lak Tong Village area (e-mail: [email protected]). This village in the Thai-Burmese border is one of many where poverty is endemic, educational opportunities minimal for those unable to attend the Thai government run schools and work now made impossible by the nearby occupation and mining of land by Burmese forces. The Temple area has been cut in half with one section occupied by the army. The influx of refugees, who are given some help by Thai authorities, will only exacerbate the difficult situation.
After the interesting presentation it seemed appropriate to broaden the discussion to the situation in Burma itself in the hope that the normally interminable meeting and the banter and jokes culled from ancient Christmas crackers could briefly be replaced by useful information and possible individual or group action my members of the club.
But the topic was deemed political. With the entire civilized world joined in condemnation of the Burmese generals it seemed difficult for me to see what was controversial about the topic. People who are afraid of their own shadows can never walk in the light. But having been granted a couple of minutes microphone time (rather less than the so-called comedians) I tried to explain my view and give a little information.
An irate and ill-mannered member shouted that he came to the Club purely for social reasons and would not listen to such political talk. He was tired of the divisions in the organization (which seemed a separate issue). I can only repeat what I said earlier. If you are not against it, then you are for it. I’d hate to have that said about me in the context of Burma.
It puzzles me as to why they would not welcome a representative from the local Free Burma group to address the group at one its fortnightly meetings. The same holds true of the group trying to promote ways of halting the growing pollution in Chiang Mai, who were spurned last year. If the Club hopes to be more than a live chat room and an excuse for visiting watering holes and getting information about car buying or how to take decent photographs (all fine in themselves) then it must surely take on new directions and become a vibrant part of the social and cultural life of the city rather than sit in complacent isolation.
Naturally at the meeting there was a flurry of sympathy for the children of Lak Tong, but no direct action at the meeting, although donations can and will be made at the Wat Suan Dok in Suthep Road where supplies and money are collected. The food and medicines and books will help short term and the volunteer teachers give some guidance to children who pay just one baht a day for their schooling. But what is needed is long term action and political involvement so that a future as a laborer or farm work paid at subsistence level is not their only future. Rather than make donations the Club might consider adopting such a village and transform its very existence.
And long term too the million and a half refugees from Burma need to be able to return home if they wish. The Thai government and many agencies help feed them, many find work here illegally and at low wages but they must ultimately find a place in their own beautiful and potentially rich country if they wish.
By refusing to acknowledge that the Club, an admirable concept which has helped many people in the difficult period of relocating here, did itself a disservice and more importantly a disservice to the people of Burma who have endured 45 years of neglect from the free world.


Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Surf’s Up: US Animation/Family – This is a laid back, visually stunning animated movie presented in a witty “mock-umentary” format, complete with virtual crew and “handheld” cameras. Splendid CGI effects. An absolute charmer, say the generally favorable reviews.
Opapatika: Thai Action/Fantasy – a supernatural action film revolving around a class of Thais – the Opapatika – who are born fully formed as spirits, demons, or angels – and some few as humans. One of these humans is the young and handsome Jirat. He is immortal, but finds his endless life to be a burden, and longs to be released from it. This apparently fits in well with the needs of his fellow Opapatika - Sadok, who can only survive by eating the flesh of other Opapatika to replenish his flagging strength.
Film has been in post production for two years now, which has led to considerable anticipation. Director: Thanakorn Pongsuwan.
Stardust: UK/US Adventure/Fantasy – Robert De Niro is a flying pirate who dances and tries to outdo Johnny Depp – a performance not to be missed! It’s a delightful fairy tale for everyone, funny and romantic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It has enough visual razzle-dazzle, humor, and well-drawn performances to create a lively, fantastical experience. Michelle Pfeiffer in particular gives a wild, wicked portrayal as the witchiest of the three witches. Not at all just for kids. Highly recommended for people who enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean and the like. Generally favorable reviews.
The Kingdom: US Drama/Thriller – Jamie Foxx. Terrorism against the US inside Saudi Arabia, and the FBI tries to export its finesse in fighting terror to a foreign land. Good, quite exciting, muddy politics. Rated R in the US for intense sequences of graphic brutal violence, and for language. Mixed or average reviews.
The Last Legion: US/UK/France Adventure – With Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley. Sweeping story of the Fall of Rome and its last emperor, 12 year-old Romulus Augustus, the boy who ruled just one day before losing it all. And who then discovers “Exaliburnus,” the legendary sword of Julius Caesar, which becomes the “Sword in the Stone.” Just good enough to make you wish it were a lot better. Generally negative reviews. In a Thai dubbed version only, only at Vista.
Black Family (Krobkrua Tua): Thai Ultra-low Comedy – Thai family robs bank to save farm. Quite popular.
Doraemon: Nobita’s Dinosaur 2006: Japan Animated – A boy and his friends get extremely attached to a baby dinosaur. Extraordinarily emotional at times with some quite nicely designed animation. Kids should love it. Unfortunately in a Thai dubbed version only, and only at Airport Plaza.
Invisible Target: Hong Kong Action – Big time cops-and-robbers in Hong Kong – loud, fast, action-packed, adrenaline-pumping, explosive, and overall entertaining. (Thai dubbed version only, and only at Vista.)
Body #19 (Body Sop 19): Thai Thriller/Horror – Man gets some clues in his nightmares that lead him to morgue drawer #19, and to gradually unraveling the mystery of the dead body inside. A first-time effort by director Paween Purijitpanya that is mostly standard Thai horror with some interesting twists, slow, sometimes beautifully shot, usually with excellent camera work, and which has some nice evocations of mood. A director, I think, to watch.
Underdog: US Action/Adventure – Underdog has been transformed into semi-CGI animated life in a talking animal live-action film. Superdog flies around, fights evil, and does good. Unremarkable, mostly forgettable, but I thought it pleasant enough, and mildly amusing. Generally negative reviews. At Airport Plaza only.
Resident Evil 3 - Extinction: US Action/Sci-Fi – Unaccountably popular in Thailand, raking in huge amounts of cash. It feels very much like a video game, with rooms to explore and levels to achieve and zombies to shoot. Great moody desert vistas, a creepy ghost town Las Vegas, fascinating underground grid structures, scary laboratories where icky research is being performed – it’s all perfectly lovely to loo