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
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
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?
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!
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?
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
Control Depth of Field - the second rule?
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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