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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Don't Miss


Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Check-ups. Are they a waste of time?

Do you work on the principle that you would rather not know about any underlying or sinister medical conditions you may have? After all, we are all going to die one day, aren’t we? Despite all advances in medical science, the death rate will always be the same - one per person! So why bother?
However, check-ups are inherently involved in that important feature called the Quality of Life. Longevity alone, with no Quality, just isn’t worth having. For example, being stuck in a wheelchair as a double amputee for the last 20 years of your life because you did not know you had diabetes. Not the Quality I would want - or you, I am sure.
The concept behind check-ups is to find deviations from normal health patterns at an early stage. Early enough that the trend can be reversed, before damage has occurred. This includes high Blood Pressure (BP), a significant factor in poor future health if unchecked now. High BP affects many organs in the body, not just the heart. Unfortunately, elevated BP generally gives no warning symptoms.
Now blood sugar. It requires sky-high sugar levels before the person begins to feel that something might be wrong. And by then the sugar levels have affected vision, the vascular system and many other systems, all of which can decrease your Quality of Life in the future. Amputation of limbs I have mentioned already. Order your wheelchair today.
Cardiac conditions and abnormalities can also very adversely affect your Quality of Life, but are very easily found during a routine check-up. Blood tests and an ECG (EKG if you come from the left hand side of the Atlantic) can show just how well the cardiac pump is functioning, and how well it will continue to function in the future. The inability to walk more than 30 meters certainly takes the fun out of walking to the pub, yet this can be predicted!
Another of the silent killers can be discovered in your lipid profile, with cholesterol and its fractions HDL and LDL being intimately connected with your cardio-vascular status. Detecting abnormalities now can mean that you can get through the deadly 50-60 year age bracket with clear coronary arteries and a clean bill of health.
There are so many conditions that can affect your enjoyment of the future, but can be discovered early. Renal (kidney) function and liver function can be monitored through an annual check-up, as can prostate size (indicated by the PSA blood test) or breast tumors (by mammogram).
If you are a non-smoker, under 30 years of age, play sport every weekend, train regularly during the week, have never visited a doctor other than childhood immunizations and have both sets of grandparents alive and well, then a very simple general check-up is all that is needed. You are not at high risk, but it is good to have a baseline to compare against as you get older.
If you are under 40 years of age, but have given up the regular training and weekend sport, you are in a somewhat different situation. Your ‘risk’ category is higher and now is the time to look at your cardiovascular system in particular. Lipid (blood fats) profile and a check on your red and white cells and a blood sugar reading will cover most major future problem areas. There is also the personal question of sexual history. If you have been visiting the horizontal pleasure palaces (and you know what I mean), then you should add in an AIDS and Hepatitis screen as well!
By the time you are in the 40-50 age bracket, physical wear and tear has become evident. You should be looking at exercise stress tests and urgently correct any lifestyle factors which are going against your general health. By the way, if you are female then you should throw a Thin Preparation Pap Smear as well.
But it gets worse! When you pass the magic 50 number, you are considered to be ‘at risk’ anyway. If you are a male, then you should also add in your prostate cancer screen, the PSA blood test.
See you in the check-up department.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I was going through some back issues and I was very interested to read your advice to someone called Valentino who had a problem with his Harley Davidson. I don’t have one of those heavy American monsters, as I have a fine British motorcycle (a Triumph) and I park it in the garage when I go off shore. I have noticed that when I come back these days, it no longer leaks oil on the garage floor. I have my suspicions that my wife is giving it to a Thai boyfriend, and the motorcycle is staying at his place while I’m away. Why she would do this is beyond me as I give her everything she wants, gold chains and everything. I really cannot think of any other reason for the garage floor to be so clean. Do you think the seals have taken up, or what is happening? Is there another logical answer?
Dear James,
Just what have I brought on my head this time? Now it’s a motorcycle clinic! I remember Valentino. I thought I was about to be wined and dined by a curly-headed Italian when the letter came through. But back to your problem. No, my Petal, the seals on your Triumph have not taken up. My motorcycling friends all tell me that good British bikes always leak oil, so the seals haven’t ‘taken up’. They suggested that you go and check the level of oil in the crankcase. That looks like a logical answer. I think you will probably find there is no oil left. That is the most likely explanation with your British bike. Unless it was made in Japan, whereupon it is really a copy bike! Check the serial numbers, Poppet. And talk to the nice man at the motorcycle shop, not Hillary. You could of course, try locking it up while you are away. A good heavy chain, like the gold one your wife wears, with a strong combination lock, should be enough to keep it in the garage, and you will see if the drip is from the motorcycle, or riding the motorcycle.

Dear Hillary,
Dad is a widower, Mum died one year ago after a long illness. They were a devoted couple and we all took it hard. I am the only daughter. After six months, my father’s brother suggested Dad go on a holiday to Thailand, a place he has been to many times. When he came back after three weeks in Thailand, he was a changed man. Now he says he has a girlfriend over there who has been writing to him every day since he was there. I thought he was just joking until he showed me the emails he has been getting, asking Dad when he is coming back as she misses him and even says she loves him. I asked Dad how old she was and he was a bit shifty on that but finally admitted she was in her twenties. Dad is 74! I asked him what does she do and he said she works in a bar there, and I think they slept together when he was there, but I can’t ask him too much. Everyone in my family says I should mind my own business, but when it is my father that it is about, I say it’s my business too. What can I do about this? It’s just not right. I am so worried about my Dad.
Dear Janet,
I can understand your worrying, and I also understand that this has been a stressful time for both you and your father, losing a mother and a wife. What you have to understand is that life goes on, and everyone has their own ways of dealing with grief. You are dealing with it by taking on some of your mother’s role in looking after your father, while your father is dealing with it by seeking warmth and enjoyment in the arms of a woman. He may be 74, but that is not that old. After all, Charlie Chaplin was still popping out children when he was 73. You should be happy for him that he has a romantic interest. (Just be aware, however, that this younger woman may have a financial interest in the association - but that is up to your father!)
It may interest you that in July 2006 an 88 year old Indian farmer, Virmaram Jat, from a village in Rajasthan, became the father of twin boys by a woman forty-five years his junior. Virmaram, a vegetarian, has never smoked cigarettes, drunk alcohol, nor heard of Viagra. He takes long walks every day and has been drinking fresh camel milk since childhood. Keen to share his knowledge with others, Virmaram said that he has intercourse daily and that the best time is between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. He also said that he wants to have more children. So if your father starts ordering camel milk from the local milkman, you may have small problems coming.
Really Janet, your father’s lifestyle is his decision. You can advise him if he asks for it, but remember that unsolicited ‘advice’ is never appreciated. Just be there for him, when he needs it.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Camera maintenance simplified

The manufacturer of your highly technical motor car tells you when to bring it in for service, but your camera gets ignored, does it not? Since a top of the line camera can represent a very expensive investment, surely we should look after and service it as well?
I have been asked many times about what people should do (or shouldn’t do) regarding looking after their investment. The first thing to remember is that cameras are very delicate pieces of equipment. They have lots of moving parts (shutters, apertures, mirror system etc) plus expensive optical glass in the lenses and viewfinder, let alone all the fancy electronics, batteries and such. The humble camera is not so humble these days. Even the pocket point and shooters are claiming eight megapixels and upwards and optical zoom lenses.
Let’s start with the outside and clean it. Do not get the kitchen universal “Spray ‘n Wipe” all purpose cleaner and spray liberally. The family that sprays together doesn’t always stay together, and many of the commercial cleaners react badly with modern plastics. With a clean soft brush (like a child’s water color paint brush, or a lady’s make-up brush) gently wipe the nooks and crannies on the surface. Round the eye piece and all the little edges, and under the knobs. Now dampen a cloth with plain water and gently rub it all over the exterior of the camera body. By now, the camera should be looking like new again - but we’ve hardly started!
The next item to deal with is the lens. Unscrew the lens and put the camera body aside somewhere safe. With your soft brush gently dislodge any dirt and dust from the lens barrel. What is really good here is one of the soft blower brushes available in most camera shops for around 180 - 300 baht, depending on fancy packaging and a little bottle of cleaner. Go for the brush only type - do not use commercial camera cleaning fluid anywhere near your camera! Blow brush the lens elements as well (front and rear).
Now with a very clean damp cloth and exceptionally gently, clean both the front and rear surfaces of the lens. Use a spiral motion to clean from the centre to the edges. Use a fresh piece of the cloth and give it one last swipe. Put the cleaned lens aside safely.
Now let’s turn our attention to the camera body. This is where you have to put in the majority of your time, and the ultimate care and attention. There are certain things you must never do. Let’s look and note these first. You must NEVER touch the mirror or the focussing screen with your fingers. Even to change the focussing screen, you will be supplied with special tweezers by the manufacturer.
The other part of the camera that should never be touched with your fingers is the shutter. This is a very delicate part of the workings and can be bent or twisted very easily. The other NO NO is oiling or spraying with CRC or other similar lubricating fluids. Leave lubrication to the manufacturers agents or camera repair shop only.
Now if you own a film camera, open up the back of the camera and clean the internals with the blower brush again, taking particular care with the channels where the back fits in as it closes. You are quite likely to find small particles of dust and dirt in the cassette holder area, as this is the part you open up every time you change film. The pressure plate inside the back has to be completely clean too, because the film emulsion runs across it. Any dirt or grit there will leave a scratch on the negatives.
The last area to check is the battery compartment. Again, a quick brush and blow should be enough. Do not use the damp cloth in here. Finally, if you don’t know how old the battery is - then change it for a new one.
That’s it. Your camera is now sparkling clean and ready for your next project this weekend.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Running Scared, part 2

Currencies continued…
Since 2002, MBMG has been exploiting the relative weakness of the US dollar versus euro, Swiss franc, Australian dollar and to a lesser extent sterling to derive currency attribution on investment portfolios and to achieve savings on multi-currency loans. The only exception to this was a period from the end of 2003 when we favoured a technical bounce in the USD on the grounds that it had become oversold. This call has provided good dividends for our clients.
We generally aim for currency attribution of 2-4% per year. This broad trade over a 6 1/2 year time frame has yielded well over 5% per year. We have also gone with subsequent secondary plays such as shorting sterling versus euro, Swiss franc and AUD. Clients with USD denominated portfolio bonds who have adopted our managed currency strategy are showing gains of almost 6% for the first half of 2008, at a time when equity markets have recorded double digit losses. If you can get sentimental about a trade, it would be this one. But you can’t. For now, we are slamming this door firmly closed.
As western economic outlooks have become more and more unclear, we have been actively advising both investment clients and multi currency mortgage clients to return holdings to their base currencies to eliminate all exposure to currency risk. During this time we have been monitoring currencies and paying close attention to currency allocation within our portfolios and multi-currency mortgages. It is a contradiction that we are telling investors to hold liabilities and assets in base currencies - the former should be in something weaker than base, the latter in something stronger but the uncertainty around making these calls is at an unprecedented level. I cannot think of any currency where there is not the possibility for both significant strengthening and major weakness. We just do not know what is round the next corner for any currency.
The highest probability trade is for a recovery in USD. Structurally, recession would result in reductions in the twin deficits giving the currency a huge boost. However, loose fiscal policy (printing a lot more dollars) would push the value of the greenback a long way further down.
From a fundamental point of view the USD is looking oversold - we forecasted these levels but we saw them coming later into the recession and being the bottom - the springboard for recovery. The question is; did we underestimate the dollar’s demise or have currency markets gotten ahead of themselves?
Recent behaviour is supportive of the idea that we are seeing a floor being formed. The dollar is finding it hard to strengthen but it also keeps abutting against resistance to any further weakness. This may well be forming a platform. Alternatively, it may just be a juncture at which the markets are looking for clues as to which way to go next. The very public prospect of central bankers publicly performing policy flip flops on a daily basis is not making the picture any clearer.
Fears of a repeat of 1929 may well have been priced into the euro, explaining its current pricing but at this stage we believe that the reality is that such fears are receding. Financial institutions in the west have written off amounts that will ultimately most likely reach at least $1-2 trillion (in the American sense of trillion). They, and their CEOs, or rather ex-CEOs in most cases, have learned a hard lesson.
New investors have had to step in and the Federal Reserve has had to supply huge amounts of liquidity to prevent the fall of huge institutions. Shareholders have borne the brunt of this and the collateral damage has not yet fully spread into the real economy. However, the fundamentals for economic recovery and currency appreciation remain optimistic. On balance you would expect that at some point the Greenback will recover from here and recover strongly. There is a very real possibility, however, that it will not.
The UK continues to feel the effects of its exposure to the credit crisis as financial institutions see their share prices continuing to fall amidst fears of insolvency in high street banks and lenders. As discussed in a previous update the UK, in comparison to the US, is considerably more dependant on the financial sector to sustain a strong economy. Recession looms and debt in the UK remain at record highs.
Our favoured euro trade now has the potential to fall from its pedestal in the coming months. According to Goldman Sachs, this is due to fears that European banks may need to raise as much as 90 billion euros ($141 billion) to keep their financial ratios at current levels amid a decline in credit markets.
Regulatory pressures and a sharp turn in the European credit cycle are the two main causes for concern. I wrote last month - “The USD is at a fork right now - waiting behind it is the euro - the fate of the euro is largely an inverse relationship with the dollar as well as a reflection of its own intrinsic merit”. I believe that more or less describes our stance on the euro and its fate over the next 18 months.
Just as you might expect that this could be the peak for the single currency with a nasty tumble down from here, do not rule out the possibility of significant further strengthening. Signs of cooling expansion in the region’s largest economy Germany may deter the European Central Bank from further increasing borrowing costs, diminishing the allure of euro-denominated assets.
The Swiss franc is in a similar boat. More on that next week.

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

Such Sweet Thunder

A great concert, the forthcoming EU Film Festival and Bennett Lerner plays Gershwin… And, yes Obama wins

Not long after returning from the calm delights of Koh Chang, I was lucky enough to be among the capacity audience, (a thousand-seater hall had to have extra chairs in the aisles!), for the last night of the five country tour given by the Unit Asia jazz quintet.  And what an evening it turned out to be.  It must rank as one of the half dozen best musical events of the past years in Chiang Mai.  The group had been touring for a month and seemed to be energized, not tired, giving us an interval-free concert lasting over two hours and containing electrifying playing of compositions by members of the quintet and others.
Koh Mr. Saxman was already known to local audiences for his vibrant playing, but the three Japanese players – Isao Miyoshi, Shigeki Ippon and Hiryuki Noritake - were also a revelation, and Tay Cher Siang on keyboard was so dexterous that one wished to be behind the players to see if he had two pairs of hands.  Some of the pieces were gentle, especially those by the pianist, others more spirited, and certainly among the highlights was Mr Saxman, in which the composer and drummer, (Noritake), played an extended duo which nearly brought the roof down.
Thanks are certainly due to the tour sponsors, Payap University, Japan Foundation, Yamaha and the Consulate-General of Japan in Chiang Mai, for backing a tour that must have opened the ears of many people throughout Asia to the delights of brilliantly played modern jazz.  The E.C. Cort Auditorium at Payap was the place to be on November 8 and, if they return, I’ll be first in the queue.
We’re certainly onto a winning streak in Chiang Mai, with two other major events to look forward to.  Thanks to sponsorship from the ever-growing EU, the now regular Film Festival of works from EU countries will be held again in Bangkok, then in Chiang Mai.  No doubt the Mail’s film guru will cover it in detail soon but, for now, key dates for your diary.  It opens in just over three weeks on Thursday, December 11, with a French film, Ulzhan, and closes 16 movies later on Sunday, December 21 with a work from the Czech Republic, Empties.
Many of the 16 movies will be screened twice, some only once.  The entrance charge has been kept at the ludicrously low price of 70 baht, and all the films are shown in their original language with English sub-titles, except for the British entry, Control, which will have Thai sub-titles.  This is especially fortuitous since it will appeal to young Thais, who should enjoy its cautionary tale of the pop singer Ian Curtis of the Joy Division.  It played successfully at the Cannes Film Festival premiere, and features a stunningly handsome lead actor, Sam Riley, as the 1970s punk performer, in a fine big screen debut.
If previous EU Festivals are an indication of quality, we should be in for a welcome change from much of the rubbish that turns up commercially.  All screenings will be at the Vista cinemas at Kad Suan Kaew.
By chance, the German entry Edge of Heaven, is being shown twice, (13th and 19th), which is good news, since it clashes with the big scale concert being held at the adjoining Kad Theatre on  the Saturday December 13, beginning, (we hope), at 19.30. This underused venue will be home again to the Chiang Mai Youth Philharmonic Band and the soloist will be Bennett Lerner in a performance of George Gershwin’s spirited Rhapsody in Blue.  I’m not sure which version of the work will be played nor as yet of the rest of the programme.  Watch this space, and see you there.
And a short P.S. about the subject on which possibly too much has already been written – the wonderful event of November 5th, which heralded an end to the nightmare years of the Bush administration.  I was lucky enough to be invited to a lavish breakfast party and savoured the delight of the Americans and fellow Europeans there, who also have a lot riding on the hoped-for vision and energy of Barack Obama.  But, amongst all the tears of joy and euphoria, let’s remember three things.
Firstly, no one in the untold millions of years since ‘time’ began has ever walked on water.  And there is no reason to think that Obama can or will.  Let’s give him a chance to build his boat.
Secondly, let’s not forget that nearly half of those who voted, (and millions stayed apathetically away from the most heralded and important election of their lives – how sad!), cast their ballot for an ageing and politically dubious hero from an unspeakably vile war, who catastrophically chose as a running mate a woman whose intemperate views and ludicrous beliefs place shame on the very people who supported her.
And thirdly, as I write this, let’s note that some people in the U.S.A. are planning to assassinate the President-elect.  This alarmist comment is based on sad historical fact, since some of their greatest leaders, (political, social and religious), have suffered that fate and there is no reason on earth to suggest that such intemperate behaviour has become a thing of the past.
Of course, any country which has allowed the growing ownership of weapons (has the figure passed 300 million yet?) can only be seen as condoning murder and violence.  Coming from a country in which guns are illegal and where policemen remain unarmed, (except with special permission), such a policy passes my comprehension.
And for all the talk of the ‘right’ to bear arms, I know that this is an insane view.  Guns kill, and are an unnecessary evil, as has been illustrated too many times in schools, on university campuses, in the streets and at political rallies. Anyone who supports such ‘freedom’ and Wild -West vigilante action may well come to rue that support in the coming months or years.  I hope I am wrong.

Let's Go To The Movies: : Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
007 – Quantum of Solace:
UK/US Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – Starring Daniel Craig and Judy Dench. Really a continuation of the 2006 Casino Royale, which was a reinvention of the James Bond film series for present-day audiences.  Here, with a different director, I found the undertaking greatly diminished in charm and style and elegance, with the action sequences more mindless and muddled, the plot vastly more convoluted and confusing, but with much to still like if you’re a fan of Bond films.  Generally favorable reviews.
Painted Skin:
China Action/ Fantasy – A love story centered on a vampire-like woman who eats the skins and hearts of her lovers in order to maintain her beauty.  Adapted from an ancient Chinese ghost story, it is not a ghost story per se, in fact goes to great lengths to avoid being scary.  It doesn’t even mention the forbidden word “ghost” in order to get by mainland China censors.  This film is Thai dubbed only/No English subtitles.
Coming Soon:
Thai Horror – Perhaps to replace the cancelled 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.  Film pirates and illegal copyists take note!
Body of Lies:
US Action/ Drama/ Thriller – Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe has been resurrected and is playing a regular engagement at Vista.  I’m happy about that, as I like this film very much.  It’s an exciting spy movie as dark as night and as ruthless and vile as Abu Ghraib.  Smart and tightly drawn, it has a throat-gripping urgency, with some serious insights.  If you like an action movie with some thought behind it, you should see it at Vista only, and thanks to Vista for bringing it back. 
Tropic Thunder:
US Comedy/ War – I heartily recommend this, 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 about a group of actors who set out to make the biggest war film ever.  It’s full of low comedy and much dirty talk.  Rated R in the US for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content, and drug material.  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 who murdered his family.  Basically for fans of the game and action movies, but it has some striking and stylish visuals in a somber mood that I really liked, and an intense performance by Wahlberg.
Scheduled for Nov 20
US Drama/Thriller – With Don Cheadle.  Another serious look at the world of moral uncertainty amid the war on terror.  I am a lot more fond of this movie than most reviewers.  I think Don Cheadle gives another outstanding performance in this film – really a great person to watch.  And I found the story (by Steve Martin – yes, him) very engrossing.
Burn After Reading:
 US Comedy/Crime – I really enjoyed this interesting movie which stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, and John Malkovich (the whole team of serious anti-government, anti-CIA rabble-rousers) in another expose of dirty dealing and incompetence in high places.  But this time it’s a comedy!  Clooney, for example, seems to have a hobby of building homemade sex toys in his basement.  I found it very funny indeed.  With Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins. Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen.
US Comedy/ Horror – Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein (son of Pop artist Roy), with Jess Weixler and John Hensley. Dawn, a high school student, works hard at suppressing her budding sexuality in the local chastity group.  A stranger to her own body, innocent Dawn discovers she has a toothed vagina when she becomes the object of violence.  As she struggles to understand her anatomical uniqueness, Dawn experiences both the pitfalls and the power of being a living example of the vagina dentata myth.  More enjoyable than I thought it would be, it is still pretty sick and unpleasant, and with the number of appendages that eventually litter the ground, I think Teeth bites off more than it can chew.  Mixed or average reviews.
Sex Drive:
US Comedy – With Josh Zuckerman and James Marsden.  An eighteen-year-old sets out on a cross country drive with his best friends determined to lose his virginity to a red-hot babe he met on the Internet.  Randy and raucous.

Don't Miss

Saturday November 22.The College of Music and the Thai-Japan Center at Payap University presents ‘Duo Violin and Piano concert’, featuring Yuiko Shigemasu on violin and Sachiko Namekawa on piano. The concert will take place at Saisuree Chutikul Music Hall on Mae Kaow Campus, beginning at 7.30 p.m. Tickets cost 200 baht, (100 baht for students).
Sunday November 23. An exclusive presentation entitled ‘Thai Spirit Houses’ by Michael Pearce at the Café Pandau at 24/4 Nimmanhaemindha Rd Soi 13. Michael is a PhD. graduate in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Queensland, Australia. This presentation will enlighten you on the importance of Spirit Houses in Thailand, the fascinating culture behind them and how they are viewed by Thai people in modern society. The presentation starts at 6.30pm, and costs 450 baht which includes a buffet dinner and one beverage plus a donation to the Single Mothers Project. Reservations are required because of limited seats, please contact booking Please see our Art, Music and Culture page for a full report.
Tuesday November 25. The Chiang Mai Friend’s Group monthly meeting will take place at Uniserve, in the grounds of CMU’s Conference Centre, at the Suthep Road end of Nimmanhaeminda Road. Come at 5.30 p.m. for food, chat and meeting friends, menu supplied by the Lemon Tree Restaurant. Meeting starts at 7 p.m, and costs 80 baht, to include tea and coffee plus biscuits.
Wednesday November 26. Care for Dogs are presenting their first-ever fundraiser - entitled, “Paws for Cocktails” - well, it would be, wouldn’t it! This unmissable event will take place at Zoe’s Yellow Bar and Bistro, on 48/4-5, Rathwithi Road, near the Irish Pub as you go toward the Rasta Bar area. There will be cocktails, raffles, auctions, and a lot of fun, all geared to supporting dogs at the shelter and in temples. For further details, please call Care for Dogs on 084-752-5255, or visit the website at
Wednesday November 26. This month’s Expat Ladies’ Lunch will be at a “tried and true” favourite of all who love Italian food- and who doesn’t? Arcobaleno is located at 60, Natwaket Road, near Wat Gate off Charoen Rat Road. For further details, including the menu, please email [email protected] .com, Cost is 300 baht, including tea, coffee, water, bread and salad with the meal, but not including gratuities. Meet at 12 Noon for a 12.30 lunch - guaranteed to be good!


The Fish-Tail Palm

There are two palms native to the northern forests here in Thailand and in Burma which can easily be distinguished from other palms by their leaves, which have “frilly” edges similar to a fish’s tail.
Caryota mitis
forms a cluster of stems, each of which, on reaching its maximum height, will start to flower at the leaf axils all the way down the stem.  The flowering marks the end of that particular stem’s life; subsequently it will die after fruiting.  However, never mind, as this process will take several years, and the dead stem will be replaced by another from the abundant younger stems clustered at the base, each taking its turn to bloom, fruit and die.  The overall effect is a broad tower of lacy leaves from the ground to the top, which can reach 8 metres tall and can occupy quite a large ground space.  Abundant seedlings can be gathered to grow-on from around its base.
Caryota gigas
, the giant Thai mountain fish-tailed palm is an exceedingly noble palm, impressive in its dimensions, as each individual leaf frond can be 6 metres long by 4 metres wide, creating an enormous umbrella of leaves atop a thick stem of up to 40 metres tall!  The canopy of millions of fishtails evenly spread along each side frond gives the impression that it is half tree- fern, half palm.  It is a glorious sight, and gives plenty of shade underneath its spread.  This wonderful palm, Caryota gigis, is only found on one high mountain, in Nan province, Doi Phu Ka, and nowhere else in the world. 
These are the palms which look natural here in the northern forests of Thailand - the more usual palms, seen everywhere in the city and its surrounding countryside have been introduced from further south or from abroad.

Tip of the Week
All dates are the fruit of the palm, (obviously), and will happily and readily germinate if you plant the seed after eating the soft fruit.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Here is a bridge puzzle, with acknowledgments to Peter Harris. You are sitting South. How do you make 7NT after the lead of the jack of spades? Decide on your plan before reading on below the diagram. 

                      S: AKQ
                        H: QJ10
                        D: J109876
                        C: 2               
S: J109653                            S: 842
H: 987                                   H: 65432
D: 542                                   D: 3
C: 6                                       C: K543
                        S: 7
                        H: AK
                        D: AKQ
                        C: AQJ10987                

The North-South hands certainly have plenty of high cards between the two hands.  In fact, with the club finesse working, you have 14 tricks (three top spades, three high hearts, six high diamonds and two clubs).
The big problem is communication between the two hands.  The opening lead has removed your only entry to dummy.  If you come to hand too soon you will eventually lose a trick to the king of clubs and go down.  So, to make the contract, you must stay in the North hand.  You win the spade on board and play the other two top spades, throwing away the ace and king of hearts from hand.  Now, you play the three hearts from board, throwing away the ace, king and queen of diamonds from hand.  Then, you take the six good diamonds on board.  Finally, at the thirteenth trick, you lead the two of clubs to the ace and make the contract.  Note that the South hand, with 23 high card points, only took one trick!
Next week, some famous bridge quotes. Here is one from Alfred Sheinwold: “Since the average person’s small supply of politeness must last him all his life, he can’t afford to waste it on bridge partners”. Send me your interesting hands at: [email protected]