Vol. VII No. 44 - Tuesday
October 28 - November 3, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Health, Fitness and Exercise

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Alliance Française de Chiang Mai – November film programme

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

AAA - and it’s not your credit rating

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 hemorrhage. 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 nonsmokers. Aneurysms in smokers also expand and weaken faster than those in nonsmokers, 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?

 

Health, Fitness and Exercise

Cardiac client exercise – Straightforward and beneficial

John Bailey
Aerobic/cardiovascular exercise is the most beneficial to cardiac clients, as it utilises large muscle groups and is rhythmic and continues for an extended and easily measurable period of time. The benefits are, firstly, a reduced heart rate; secondly, reduced blood pressure; thirdly, a reduced demand on the heart; fourthly, a reduced risk of angina, and finally a general improvement in metabolic health and quality of life, all of which result from a given work load.
So, how do you establish that work load? Too much puts you at risk of further damage; too little and you will not benefit. For a normal healthy person, an exercise rate (load) is determined by a percentage, usually 75%, of their age-related maximum heart rate. However, if you have cardiovascular or respiratory problems, especially in later years, you have to be rather more cautious and precise. Therefore, a calculation, called “heart rate reserve,” is brought into play. For example, 220 (the theoretical maximum heart rate for a human) at age 60 minus the age figure results in 160. Deduct your resting heart rate (e.g. 80 beats per minute); this gives you a figure of 80. 40% of “80” equals 32. Now add your resting heart rate (e.g, 80), which gives you a figure of 112 heartbeats per minute. Use this figure as your benchmark heart rate at an effective exercise level. In severe cases of cardio-vascular problems, the start figure, please remember, is 205, NOT 220! Don’t panic – most modern exercise machines have a built-in heart rate monitor, which means you can get a good idea of how hard you have to work to achieve your predicted rate, bearing in mind that the fitter you are, the harder you will have to work to get there!
The above will give you a confident baseline from which to start, but you must remember that the fitter you are, the harder you must work, etc, etc! As a result, you need a subjective method of determining effort. Of course, there is one, called the Borg Scale after its Swedish clinician inventor. This scale measures your perceived rate of exertion (PRE) and is graded from 1 to 10. Zero, of course, is “resting” (and doesn’t really count), with level 10 represents maximal effort. The 40%-45% you need to achieve is classed as moderate and rated 3 on the scale. Next question – How do you tell? Simple. Get a friend or your instructor to monitor you by talking with you. At the point where keeping up exercise and conversation makes you slightly breathless but still able to talk, that’s 3 on the scale! It’s really that easy and surprisingly accurate. After a few sessions, you will be aware of the exact point at which you are working at your optimal heart rate relative to your own fitness level. You can then check the machine for its reading of your actual heart rate. Any drop in your resting heart rate will indicate an increased fitness level.
At this point, though, don’t try to go faster – just try to remember FITT, as, in your case, duration (time) comes first. Low intensity combined with longer duration is the true key to cardiac rehabilitation. Frequency comes second, type is third, and intensity increase is definitely last!
The above is important, so I’ll recap it for you. Regular activity is essential, duration is more important than intensity for cardio protection, the rate of progression is slower in cardio-respiratory cases, activity should be enjoyable as all benefit will be lost if you give up! Another useful way of measuring your activity level is that you should be burning a total of approximately 2,000 calories per week, as no real benefit is available to you above that level. Also, burning, say, 3,500 calories per week, could trigger an event.
Next question – If there is a problem, how do you know when to stop? What are the warning signs? There are many; angina, abnormal tachycardia, light-headedness or dizziness, confusion, loss of coordination, pallor, nausea, drop or failure to rise in blood pressure. If you experience any of the above, STOP! Go straight to your doctor! In any event, don’t push to hard for the first 12 weeks of your new exercise regime. Remember, some of you will only be able to achieve 5-6 minutes’ exercise at any one time, but will be able to repeat this 5-6 times per day. For those of you who are able to achieve 30 minutes at 75% of their predicted maximum, you should be exercising 3 times per week.
Using the above guidelines will enable you to know your own body and its response to exercise in an informed and reliable manner. One big “don’t:” Do not even dream of lifting weights or attempting isometric exercises. More next week…


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I have a problem with my wife’s cooking. It’s not that she’s a bad cook or anything. She does a mean sausage, egg and chips these days, and even has a go at toad in the hole. So you think I should have no complaints. It’s not her British cooking that’s the problem - it’s when her girlfriends come over and they start cooking that Esarn stuff. The really, really, really bad smelling stuff. Honestly Hillary, when I walk in the door of the house I get hit with it. It’s so bad I come close to puking. She knows I hate the smell, but she does this at least twice a week. It puts me right off my food as well. What should I do? She’s a great woman, other than the Esarn cooking.
Laurie
Dear Laurie,
This is an easy one to fix, my Petal. You say you live in a house. All houses have a back door, and Esarn cooking, to be really genuine should be cooked outside. Most homes that foreigners live in have two kitchens - one indoors for the sausage, egg and chips and the other outside for the Esarn, where the pungent and the putrid smells just waft away with the afternoon’s breezes. The one outside is called the “Thai kitchen” and does not get used for toad in the hole, either.

Dear Hillary,
My friends tell me I’ve got no problems, but I am not sure they just want me to lose my relationship. I am a little worried that my husband has been playing up recently. He has been going to bars with his workmates after the office closes and seems to be staying out longer and longer. I have told him he has to let me know when he is coming home, as I have often got jobs for him to do around our condo, and he has to have time to prepare the dinner for all of us (we have a pet poodle). When I went through his pockets the other evening I found a business card for a bar in one of the more seedy areas in town. Have I got a real worry here or not, Hillary. Please let me know.
Waiting Wifey
Dear Waiting Wifey,
You sure do have a problem, Wifey my Petal, you surely do. If my partner were to be telling me to come home and cook the dinner after I spent all day in the office, then I’d even go to bars myself, just as retaliation. Time you learned to cook and fend for yourself. I hope you and the poodle have some lovely romantic candlelight dinners together. Just watch out that its coat doesn’t singe. Have you thought about adopting a pet piranha as well? Wake up, Wifey. Time for you to be looking at what you are doing, not what he is doing.

Dear Hillary,
Have you ever tried crossing the road here in Thailand? You take your life in your hands as nobody slows or makes any effort at avoiding you. Three times this week I have had to jump out of the way of those dreadful public taxi buses and I feel this can do the image of Thailand no good at all. What do you think, Hillary?
Pedestrian Pete
Dear Pedestrian Pete,
Have I tried crossing the road? What a ridiculous question! Of course I’ve tried crossing the road. That does not mean to say that I have always been successful though. Honestly, you men do amaze me at times! I agree that the sight of people like you jumping ineptly out of the way of rampant taxi buses will do our image no good at all. Perhaps you could try ballet lessons at the Chiang Mai Ballet Academy so you could jump with elegance in a “pas de chat” maneuver (or perhaps that should be a “pas de bus” number?). However, if you find that crossing the road is totally impossible, then just take the arm of one of our old folk, and then using them as a shield, force your way through the belching buses.

Dear Hillary,
I am coming over to your neck of the woods at Christmas and was wondering if you could help me with accommodation? I want to keep enough money so that I can go trekking and I want to ride an elephant. Is Malaysia very far away, as I would like to try surfing? I only want to spend about seven quid a day for the place, is this possible? I know it’s probably a funny question, but I’m serious.
Trekker Tom
Dear Trekker Tom,
Don’t worry, my little impecunious one, Hillary has had sillier questions than yours over the years. When I first read your letter, I thought you were asking to come and stay with me, and I was about to suggest that if you brought enough bottles of bubbly, I might just be able to help you. However, it is probably better for both of us if you just find a little pension for around 500 baht a night. There’s plenty of them. No Malaysia’s not far away, but then neither is Cambodia. Spend some of your quids on an atlas, that’s a good chap.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

For killer pix - try contrast

The secret of great photography is not just in correct exposure and placement in the frame. You will get plenty of dull photographs that are perfectly exposed and with the subject at the intersection of thirds. You need to remember contrast!

High Key
Contrast in photographic composition is an effective means of directing the viewer’s attention to the center of interest. When I speak of contrast, I am referring to both tonal contrast, as in black-and-white photography, and color contrast as it relates to color photography.
In B&W photography, contrast is the difference in subject tones from white-to-gray-to-black or from the lightest tone to the darkest tone. In color photography different colors create the contrast.
Tonal contrast is generally expressed as high contrast which has extreme black and whites, or low contrast which has nothing but graduated greys. The first photograph used this week is an example of very high contrast, so much so that detail is blown out, but this is not designed to be a portrait, this was designed to be a photograph that hits you between the eyes.
High contrast gives very black blacks and very white whites, and usually with nothing in between. Low contrast, on the other hand, still has blacks and whites, but everything is predominantly grey, giving a flat scene which still has tones, but in which highlights and shadows have very little difference in densities. In other words, all tones within the scene are very similar in appearance. However, remember that if you are shooting in automatic mode, the camera will be set to deliver 18 percent grey, and not black.

High Contrast
Now you can wander around all day looking for a girl in a black swimsuit on a white sandy beach, or you can manipulate a photograph to produce that image. If you have an advanced digital camera, you can program it to record black and white only and then go from there, but if not, no fear, your software will allow you to do this post camera.
How do you do the manipulation? First convert the color shot to grey scale, then play with the brightness and contrast, and you will very quickly produce an effect like the one used here.
Now high contrast should not be confused with high key. A high key black and white shot is one where the photo shows mostly light tones. Conversely, a low key shot is one that has mainly dark tones. Low key and high key pictures convey mood and atmosphere. Low key suggests seriousness and mystery and is wonderful for Halloween photographs. However, high key creates a feeling of delicacy and lightness. A portrait of a blonde in white against a white background is an example of high key.
Now to contrast in color. This is where an artist’s color wheel comes in handy. By picking colors from opposite sides on the wheel, you immediately have stunning contrasts. Blue and yellow is a classic example. Another is bright red against a luminescent green background.
Cold colors (bluish) and warm colors (reddish) almost always contrast. Cold colors recede, while warm colors advance. Light colors contrast against dark ones, and a bold color offsets a weak color.
Colors with opposite characteristics contrast strongly when placed together. Each color accentuates the qualities of the other and makes the color images stand out dramatically. Color contrast is enhanced when you create the contrast of detail against mass. An example is a single, bright, yellow sunflower shot against a blue sky background.
The most important factor when shooting a scene or subject using contrasting colors is that the two colors have to predominate. A bright yellow sunflower in a mottled green background and a pale blue sky with grey clouds does not have the impact of the yellow and blue.
Kill ‘em with contrast!


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

A beginner’s guide to the credit crunch, part 2

They didn’t get their predictions right?
You could say that! What was contained inside these batches of mortgages, generally referred to as Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) was not really what it said on the label. Sub-prime standards had become more relaxed than ever before, Alt-A misrepresentations seem to have become more widespread, lenders had offered increasingly unsuitable terms (interest rates too low, deposits too low, property sector valuation expectations too high) and above all the banking industry had become so sophisticated at mixing and matching different parts of different mortgages together (so called ‘slicing and dicing’) that the mortgage tranches being presented to the ratings agencies were nothing like the old models upon which their data was based. Rather than recognizing or admitting this, the agencies took their fees and applied what now appear to be wholly inaccurate credit ratings to these CDOs. Because there is a formula for calculating the price of these CDOs, the banks and other institutions, such as pension funds, traded these with gay abandon at what now appears to have been totally the wrong price. Equally these institutions held large tranches of these CDOs on their own balance sheets.
The inflated prices of these assets inflated the asset side of the balance sheets of these businesses, the industry booked excessive profits and paid its leaders excessive bonuses. However, during 2007 it became apparent that the value of many of these CDOs and related vehicles (such as structured products built around CDOs in a way specifically designed to remove liabilities from balance sheets) had been seriously overstated. The price at which these assets were traded began to plummet until soon many of them could not actually be sold at almost any price at all. The weakening of balance sheets made it more difficult for these banks to borrow the ongoing funding that every bank needs to survive.
As stated in a recent article, in February this year Dr. Marc Faber published a list of 10 American institutions who could be insolvent depending on the real value of their Tier 3 (in many cases read sub-prime/Alt-A, etc.) assets.
This list included (our subsequent updates added)
1. Bear Stearns: 313.97% - Bought out by J P Morgan
2. Morgan Stanley: 234.88% - Converting status into bank holding company rather than stand-alone investment bank (like Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers were), has already taken write offs of $ 11.7 billion
3. Merrill Lynch: 225.4% - Bought out
4. Goldman Sachs: 191.56% - Converting status into bank holding company rather than stand-alone investment bank and even following capital injection from Warren Buffet is still rumoured to be looking for a suitor at any price.
5. Lehman: 171.18% - Filed Chapter 11, 15th September 2008, at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York
6. Fannie Mae: 161.48% - Bailed out in largest government bailout in US history
7. Northwest Air: 142.02% - Exited Chapter 11, May 2007
8. Citigroup: 125.06% - the big one! Arranged additional financing through Middle Eastern Sovereign wealth funds but still vulnerable despite that, even after Wachovia merger.
9. Prudential: 119.36% - should be able to work through unless there’s a major widespread panic, which there will be!
10. Hartford: 108.52%. - Reeling from heavy exposure to Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Preferred stock
Other names like Washington Mutual, Freddie Mac, Indy Mac and AIG have also been closed down or bailed out.
However, the problem is not just peculiar to the USA. In Europe, the Belgian, Dutch and Luxemburg governments injected $16.4 billion to save Fortis; Iceland has almost gone belly up and the government has had to step in the save the banks and German financial institutions had to bail out Hypo Real Estate. In the UK, Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley both had to be nationalized while HBoS (the country’s biggest lender) will have to be sold to Lloyds-TSB to ensure its survival. In these cases this was less to do with direct exposure to sub-prime American CDOs as the sheer inability to ensure adequate ongoing funding in a global environment where no-one knows which banks are safe and which ones are not. In such a situation, almost any lending institution is vulnerable although some more than others.
How can banks suddenly be so vulnerable?
The UK banks perhaps highlight this issue the best. The real difficulty for these banks was that to maximize profits they lend money from a combination of:
- Their own cash (essentially profits that they have accrued over the years)
- Investors’ deposits
- Money that they borrow from other banks and sources.
During the last few years the proportions of these have changed hugely. As credit has become both easier and in greater demand, banks could not suddenly rustle up more cash of their own or even more deposits - during this last property boom, savings rates fell significantly as investors wanted to hold less cash since it was just earning single digit returns and to have more property because it had been growing at well into double digits each year. Therefore, major property lenders like Northern Rock, HBoS and B&B managed to punch above the lending weight of their capital by borrowing massively from the money markets.
Another change took place at this time whereby the availability and cost of short term capital as opposed to long term capital meant that banks become increasingly dependent on short term (less than 1 year) and medium term (1-5 year) funding even though typical mortgage terms were 15-30 years. This was OK whenever the banks could keep borrowing the short and medium term money. However, once replacement funding ceased to be available, they simply ran into a situation where they had to pay back borrowing commitments that they simply did not have the means to do with. Rumours surrounding NR, HBoS and B&B led to a spate of withdrawals from these banks that made their cash positions worse and hastened their inevitable foreclosures.
So are any more banks at risk?
Yes. Very much so. The US bail out plan is designed to provide liquidity and confidence - the two things that the markets need globally to try to buy the time to survive the current squeeze. However, it is far from clear that this will work, although if it does the rewards will probably be spectacular. We have published a separate MBMG Global Guide to Credit Risks which looks at the situations facing different jurisdictions and containing suggestions as to action depositors should consider.
What do you mean the rewards will be spectacular?
The banks that held sub-prime assets on their balance sheets previously had them priced almost for perfection; i.e., assuming that there would very little default. The current crisis is now pricing them for disaster - assuming massive defaults and losses. If the truth turns out to be somewhere in the middle then anyone buying these debts now will profit handsomely. Warren Buffet has invested $5 billion into Goldman Sachs partly because of this.
What should I be doing to protect my financial situation and to look to make the most of any opportunities that present themselves?
That is a very good question. For most of our clients, other than reviewing their banking deposits in line with the MBMG Global Guide referred to above, the answer is probably nothing different. Our managed currency portfolios take exposure to every investable asset class and manage currency exposure and risk. This combination of diversification; i.e., the ability to invest is almost everything and anything along with active management; i.e., changing which assets you actually do choose to invest in, means that there is always the potential to make attractive, consistent r eturns, especially with active currency management.
To be continued…

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

A week in politics is a long time

Advice to Obama – Courtesy of Abraham Lincoln

A British prime minister once remarked that a week was a long time in politics – it will never have been truer than of the period between the publication of this column and the outcome of the presidential election in the U.S.A.
I am not American and doubt I’ll ever visit that country again, and yet, I care more about the outcome of the presidential election next week than I do about the gloomy and dire prospect of a Conservative government coming to power in the U.K. in a year or so. Or about the problems in Thailand which affect us all here. Or even the despair in Burma, which is a shame upon the world.
The reasons are obvious, I suppose. We live in hope that the successor to the worst president since the guy who preceded Lincoln and chose to ignore the problems that led to the Civil War will redeem his country and eventually help restore it (and here comes the selfish bit) and indirectly much of the rest of the world. You don’t believe in miracles either? No, but you have to believe in hope, redemption and the triumph of right. Put simply, the world cannot afford McCain and Palin and if they are consigned to oblivion (did she really ever emerge from it?) and Obama is given a strong mandate, then the next eight years could be bracing, optimistic and the stuff that dreams are made of.
Of course, it will depend on many things, not least the man and his advisers. Here is a true story about the aforementioned President Lincoln who, when he took office, found himself surrounded by self-seekers, would-be advisers and job hunters. He gathered a group of them together and told them this story, which he had heard in one of the bayous near the Yazoo.
“Once there was a king who retained an astrologer to alert him of coming events and especially to tell him whether it was going to rain when he went hunting. One day he set off on a grand hunting expedition with a train of lords and ladies and on the way they met a farmer riding a donkey. The king greeted the farmer and the farmer replied ‘Good morning, Your Majesty,’ then asked where the cavalcade was going. When told they were going hunting he replied that they would get very wet.
The king, however, trusted his astrologer and went into the forest, but by midday there was a terrific storm that drenched and buffeted the whole company. They returned home and the king had the astrologer beheaded and sent for the farmer to take his place. When the farmer arrived he told the king. ‘It ain’t me that knows when it’s going to rain, it’s my donkey. When it’s going to be fair weather the donkey carries his ears forward and carries them backwards for bad weather.’
The king decided to make the donkey the court astrologer and, naturally, this was done. But later the king declared that it was the greatest mistake he had made in his life.”
President Lincoln stopped the story there and asked the company why it had been a mistake. They replied that surely the donkey had done its duty. True, said the President. “But after that every donkey in the country assembled in front of the palace and wanted an office!”
Of course, the story rather falls down if you have a potential vice-president who makes the average donkey seem intelligent (which, in fact, it is). They are also companionable creatures and hate being on their own. They can be very noisy and are sadly abused in most countries where they are used as beasts of burden. But, as far as I know, no donkey has ever been thrust into the limelight and taken seriously (?) by the press and other media or been allowed to express opinions that fly in the face of reason, science and fairness. Given the choice between the two, I’d take the donkey any time!


Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Note:
Beverly Hills Chihuahua has been rescheduled for December 4.
Tropic Thunder: US Comedy/ War – I have seen this, and I heartily recommend it, but only for those not easily shocked. You might just have the best laughs you’ve had in years. Robert Downey, Jr. gives another amazing performance, this time playing a black. It’s an action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the biggest war film ever. After ballooning costs (and the out of control egos of the pampered cast) threaten to shut down the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast deep into the jungles of Southeast Asia where they inadvertently encounter real bad guys. Directed by Ben Stiller. Generally favorable reviews.
Queens of Langkasuka: Thai Adventure/ Fantasy – Nonzee Nimibutr’s 200-million-baht historical action-fantasy, more than three years in the making, is for me an entertaining Thai blockbuster – big stars, loads of special effects, lavish costumes, and an exotic seaborne setting.
Max Payne: US Action/ Thriller – Starring Mark Wahlberg. Based on the popular interactive video game, it’s the story of a maverick cop determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his family. Basically for fans of the game and action movies; has some striking and stylish visuals in a somber mood, and an intense performance by Wahlberg.
City of Ember: US Adventure/Family/Fantasy – A fun family film with a subtly dark feel rarely seen in kids’ movies. It has almost everything one could want from a science fiction-based family film: likeable characters, an imaginative setting, and a fast pace. But for me the fabulously designed underground metropolis proved more involving than the teenagers running through its streets. The story: For over 200 years the crumbling, labyrinthine underground city of Ember has been run by a generator. Now it is breaking down and no one knows how to repair it. Ominous blackouts regularly plunge the city into darkness and supplies are depleted. Because the people of Ember, forbidden to venture into the above-ground world, have forgotten their past, they face extinction. Mixed or average reviews. Airport Plaza only.
E-Tim Tai Nae: Thai Action/ Comedy – A boxer in a show in Pattaya falls in love with a Japanese tourist. Looks dreadful.
Luang Pee Teng II / The Holy Man II: Thai Comedy – Bad boy becomes monk, meets misadventures, makes merit.
Eagle Eye: US Action/ Mystery/ Thriller – Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan play two strangers thrown together by mysterious phone calls from a woman they have never met. Threatening their lives and their families, the phone calls push the two into a series of increasingly dangerous situations. I found it very disappointing. The script has the feel of something once substantive, but which was poked, prodded, cut, and crimped until all semblance of intelligence was wrung out of it. Mixed or average reviews.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: US Animation – A new adventure in the “Star Wars” series, here done with animation. The movie has gotten generally negative reviews, most saying that the mechanical animation and a less-than stellar script make The Clone Wars a pale shadow of George Lucas’ once great franchise, and a cheap excuse for a big-screen spectacle. It’s more like a long Saturday morning cartoon, and a trailer for the upcoming new Star Wars series on the Cartoon Network. Parents may be perturbed by the film’s relentless violence. Generally negative reviews. At Vista only.
Scheduled for Oct 30
Saw V:
US Action/ Crime/ Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – Oh, dear! Just in time for Halloween, I suppose. More of the same torture and gore with even bigger traps, such as the glass box trap, (which as you know was originally planned to be used in Saw IV, but is explored more painfully here in Saw V) and the usual life and death situations, all of which we have come to expect from the “Saw” films. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) might be dead, but his traps live on in this fifth “Saw” entry, which finds the series’ production designer David Hackl at the helm for his debut directing stint. Saw IV writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan return for more mind-bending sadism while allaying the misery of anxious movie lovers, as they explain what happened to Corbett, the daughter of Lynn Denlon and Jeff Reinhart, following the conclusion of Saw III that left her in imminent danger. And, Billy the puppet and the red tricycle are finally further explained, thank heavens!
Coming Soon: Thai Horror – Oh, dear! To complete the Halloween pleasantries, I suppose. Not to be outdone by the horror of the US Saw V, the Thais offer up their own version of a bloody scream-fest. This one is about a young projectionist who decides to help a friend illegally film a newly released horror movie, with dire consequences.


Alliance Française de Chiang Mai – November film programme

Friday, November 7, 8 p.m.
Mauvais Sang
(1986)
by Léos Carax with Juliette Binoche • Denis Lavant • Michel Piccoli
Hugo Pratt • Serge Reggiani • Hans Meyer • 125mn. Eng. s.t.
The year of the Halley Comet. Two Rival gangs; one led by a mysterious black widow and the other led by Marc, Alex and Anna; want to get hold of an invention of a vaccine that can stop a threatening virus. In the meantime, a story of absolute love between Alex and Anna is flowering in a ghostly Paris…
Friday, November 14, 8.p.m.
Diva
(1980)
by Jean-Jacques Beneix with Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez
Frédéric Andréï • Richard Bohringer • Thuy An Luu • 115 mn • Eng. s.t.
Jules is a postman who’s mad about Opera. He is crazy about Cynthia Hawkins, a Diva who refuses to have an album of her own; so he tries to record her voice illegally, but he gets into trouble with pirate disc dealers…
Friday, November 21, 8 p.m.
Cause Toujours
(2004)
by Jeanne Labrune with Victoria Abril • Jean-Pierre Darroussin • Sylvie Testud • 87 mn  • Eng. s.t.
My first is a moth (exasperating). My second is a mute (enigmatic). My third is a house (worrying). My all is a film, which takes the form of a fantasy, about mistrust and its opposite, trust.
Friday, November 28, 8 p.m.
À Tout de Suite (2004)
by Benoît Jacquot with Isild Le Besco • Ouassini Embarek
Nicolas Duvauchelle • Laurence Cordier • 95 mn • B&W • Eng. s.t.
When she hangs up the phone after hearing her lover say “We’re coming right now,” she knows in her heart of hearts what she hadn’t faced up to before – that this man she loves, this “prince” from nowhere, is a hoodlum. He has just robbed a bank and a man got killed. It’s the mid-1970s. She’s nineteen years old. Right now, as if in a waking dream, she falls headlong from the tight, narrow space of her father’s uptown apartment into a weaving world of escape – Spain, Morocco, Greece – and from being an almost well-behaved girl into the life she’s always wanted, for better or worse.


HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?: Stuart Rodger

The Horsetail Plant

A great plant for trailing over the top of an earth or other wall or window box, which will also look lovely simply spreading along the ground is Russellia equisetiformis. This plant has long green stems which are similar to the form of a horse’s tail. Small tubular flowers, usually in a vivid scarlet red, show spectacularly when the plant is used to colonise a sloping area, resembling an amazing red-hot lava flow cascading downwards. The plant should be used in this manner, as it will help prevent soil erosion by means of its network of underground stems. A fine effect can be gained by alternating it with Nephrolepis, the “ladder fern,” which has a similar invasive network of underground stems ideal for colonising a sloping area and protecting the soil.
Russellia equisetiformis
can also be found in both a salmon-orange form and a lovely ivory colour which is very suitable for the white garden. Both plants have their uses in hiding the plastic edges of a small pond, or, if your pond is concrete, to mask the edges showing above the water line

Tip of the Week
If you do have to clear the natural undergrowth from a sloping site, replant with an invasive ground cover plant first and let it become established. This will prevent the rain from washing away your soil; taller plants and trees can be added later.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Last week, I was lucky to make a doubled contract. This week, I got greedy and unlucky. I was playing bridge with friends from Chiang Mai at the charming Chiang Dao Nest resort. I was sitting North and picked up a wonderful hand. I was trying to decide whether or not to open a strong, forcing two clubs at my turn to bid. To my surprise, my partner, John Bucher, opened before I had a chance. Sitting EW were Kit Salisbury and Chris Hedges. Here is the bidding:

East        South         West       North
(Kit)        (John)      (Chris)       (me)

P             1S               P              3H
P             4H               P              4N
P             5C               P              5N
P             6H               P              7S
All pass                                             

 I bid 4N, to ask for aces and John replied 5C, showing none. This encouraged me, because he did not have the ace of clubs, which would be wasted points. I reasoned that his points must be elsewhere, such as in his bid suit. I bid 5N, to ask for kings. 6H showed two kings, so I knew he had the king of trumps. I reasoned that, if he only has the queen of his opening suit, my hand is good for thirteen tricks in spades, with only minimal help from my partner’s hand. At the very worst, thirteen tricks are only a finesse away, and opposite most 1S openers, thirteen tricks are cold. So, I bid grand slam. Greedy, yes, but not unreasonable. These were the NS hands:

East dealer, East-West vulnerable

                   S: AJ9
                     H: AK10852
                     D: AKJ2
                     C: -                       
S: ?                                            S: ?
H: ?                                            H: ?
D: ?                                            D: ?
C: ?                                            C: ?
                     S: K10743
                     H: Q9
                     D: 10
                     C: KQJ87            
 

West led the three of hearts. In view of the bidding, this looks suspiciously like a singleton. Once trumps are pulled, hearts will run. Five spade tricks plus six heart tricks plus ace and king of diamonds adds up to thirteen tricks. The only problem is that pesky missing queen of spades. What is your plan for making the contract?
John ducked the heart lead around to the nine in hand. He can take the spade finesse in either direction, hoping to trap the queen in the West hand between board’s ace and jack, or hoping to trap East’s queen between board’s king and ten. John reasoned that, since West was short in hearts, he was more likely to be long in spades. So he played the king from hand, dropping the queen in East’s hand. The good news was that he had found the queen. The bad news was the 4-1 split. He played the ace and jack from board, but this still left one trump out. How to get back to hand to pull it? If he played a high diamond and then ruffed a diamond to get to hand, he can pull trumps. But then he has no way to get back to board to enjoy the hearts (if he overtakes the queen to get back to the hearts he will eventually lose to the jack). The only possibility seemed the faint hope that the lead was not a singleton and to come back to hand by leading to the queen of hearts. Unfortunately, West ruffed and the contract was down one. I was criticised for greed, but I still think it was bad luck!
The full deal is shown below. Double dummy, the way to make the contract is clear – just lead low to the ace of spades, dropping the queen. Play the jack, then overtake the nine back to hand, pull trumps and take thirteen tricks. But how to come up with this line at the table, without knowing all four hands? Did you come up with this plan? 

                    S: AJ9
                      H: AK10852
                      D: AKJ2
                      C: -                  
S: 8652                                   S: Q
H: 3                                        H: J764
D: 96543                                 D: Q87
C: 643                                     C: A10952
                      S: K10743
                      H: Q9
                      D: 10
                      C: KQJ87          

Send me your interesting hands at: [email protected]



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