The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
There has always been
discussion about the advantages of early detection, as far as cancer is
concerned. Unfortunately there are still people who say that if you get it,
you’ve got it, and you’ve had it. I am not one of those. It isn’t over until
the fat lady sings, as they say.
These days there is enough clinical evidence to support the fact that the
end results for all cancers show an improved survival rate with early
detection and treatment. The same cannot be said for late stage cancers, I
In the UK they have actually been studying early detection with the National
Cancer Director Professor Mike Richards indicating that work is well
underway to catch more cancer cases earlier and improve the longer term
treatment for cancer survivors.
Professor Richards said, “Cancer treatment in Britain has improved vastly in
recent years and we are now beginning to see the impact on our survival
rates. Recent cancer mortality figures for under 75’s show that nearly 9000
more lives will have been saved in 2007 compared with 1996 and we are on
course to meet our target of a reduction of at least 20 percent in cancer
death rates by 2010.”
The NHS in the UK, despite its many shortcomings (waiting lists being just
one of them), does keep good statistics, and it is statistical analysis
which can keep us heading in the right direction. UK Health Minister Ann
Keen said, “I welcome the first annual report which details the excellent
progress the NHS has made in improving cancer outcomes and services. This is
evident in the reduction we have seen in mortality rates and improvement in
one-year survival rates. The challenge now is to keep up this momentum and
ensure that we continue to make further improvements. We are committed to
providing cancer patients with the best possible services to taking action
to prevent cancer in the first place and to detecting it at the earliest
possible point. The HPV vaccination program, extensions of the bowel and
breast screening programs and a new national awareness and early diagnosis
initiative will help to make this a reality.”
With breast cancer screening, Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Breakthrough
Breast Cancer said, “Breast cancer is the UK’s most common cancer and we
have been concerned for some time that women remain unaware of the full
range of breast cancer signs and symptoms. At the same time not all women
invited to breast screening attend. Breast awareness and screening are key
to detecting the disease at the earliest opportunity and we know that the
earlier breast cancer is diagnosed the better the chances of successful
treatment. Breakthrough looks forward to working with the government to help
improve cancer awareness and detection which we hope will improve survival
With that sage advice, have you, my women readers, had a mammogram and do
you regularly practice breast self-examination?
On the common male cancer of the prostate, much work is also being done
there, in the field of early detection and grading of tumors. Progress on
reducing the mortality rate is firmly linked to the research agenda.
Critically important is the need to develop a new generation test capable of
distinguishing between aggressive and slow-growing forms of prostate cancer.
This could form the basis for a screening program and would enable treatment
to be focussed on those men for whom prostate cancer presents a serious risk
Medicine is an ever evolving science, and even though we are currently
trying to develop these new screening tests, does not mean that we have
nothing at this stage. It may not be the gold standard, but the PSA, and
particularly serial PSA’s, can give a usable guideline, especially when
correlated with DRE (digital rectal examination) and ultrasound. Some
researchers say that the important factor to watch is the rate of change of
PSA, rather than the simple PSA level, and I would agree with that. Again a
very good reason to get your PSA checked with your annual check-up (which
you do have each year, don’t you).
All males of over 50 and women of over 40 should consider annual
examinations. Earlier if there is a poor family history!
Heart to Heart
These chocolates are for you. Sorry I had to get one of your staff
members to deliver them for me. I’m really a bit shy.
Aren’t you the sweetest little Petal! Yes, the staff delivered them
unopened to my office. (They know I would have killed them if they had.)
Belgian as well. You have some class, Petal, which is more than I can
say for that Mistersingha and his Mars bar or whatever. Thank you again,
Mike. I am pleased to you read and enjoy the column.
Re Archie’s letter he is quite correct in what he says. I am a U.K.
citizen living in Thailand and my wife is a Thai who has never visited
the U.K. As a pensioner I applied for my wife and was told, no problem,
and was sent a form. As well as returning the form they required the
National Insurance No.
Marriage certificate (they have to do the translation)
And if applicable - Divorce paper or death certificate of spouse
These all have to be notarized (I did this with Barry Kenyon at
Immigration). It took me a full nine months before it was completed, but
they pay you from the date you register plus an extra three months. They
will not go back to the day you are married unless you register from
that date. On completion my wife also received her National insurance
No. But don’t give up it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. If
you have paid the full stamps it will be worth about 50 pounds a week to
you. The place to apply to is:
The Pension Service,
International Pension Centre,
Newcastle upon Tyne
For an application form Tel. 191 21 87777
Hope this is of some help Hillary.
This has been of great help, and although really outside of my sphere,
you have given the contact details for all the previous writers to find
out for themselves. Thank you, on behalf of all the Thai spouses who
might just get a little more spending money each week!
Here we are at Xmas time again and here we are spending heaps of hard
earned cash buying useless Xmas and New Year cards, and sending them off
to people who never contact you at any time other than Xmas. Why do we
bother carrying on with this charade? Surely people realize by now that
they are being conned by the stores. The original idea of Xmas spirit
has long gone.
You really are the milk of human kindness, aren’t you! I wonder why
people would even bother to send you a card at Xmas, you are such a
misery bag. For the rest of us, Xmas is a time when we can remember
friends and acquaintances and just send a quick note to say, “You are
not forgotten.” If it is the cash that you object to, then you can
always make your own cards or send an email, but I don’t suppose you
have a computer and 60 baht in the internet cafe for an hour would be
far too much. I hope you enjoy your Xmas! On your own.
Is it possible to meet a Thai girl who does not want to drive a snow
plough through your wallet? Every time I think I have found “the one” it
ends up that I will be lucky if I have one baht left in the bill-fold.
They start out alright, looking after you very well, so you keep going
back to the bar, then you make the big decision and take them away from
there to give them a better life and everything is rosy for a while,
then comes the hand out for this and for that and a new fridge for her
mother and then a big lick to pay off father’s land mortgage. It doesn’t
end till the money ends, then they’re gone! This has happened to me
three times so far and I have been so badly burned I don’t think I’ll
bother trying again. Do any of your readers have a suggestion, or
perhaps even you yourself Hillary?
I do feel sorry for you, Petal, but there’s a very basic fact that you
seem to be missing, especially since you have gone down this road three
times already. Why are you continuing to go to the same places looking
for a long-time mate, when you are lining up at the short-term holding
pens? You are going to the marketplaces where they sell affection but
you are looking for enduring love. You are trying to buy a Mercedes in
the motorbike shop! Unfortunately for you, there is no “marriage market”
even though there are places that seem to promise this. Love and
affection are never sold. Start looking elsewhere, Burns Victim, and you
will find there are some wonderful girls out there, hoping to meet a
nice man like you to fall in love with - not to fall into bed with. Get
the message, Poppet? You don’t buy cheese in a hardware shop.
by Harry Flashman
I received a letter the other day from reader Ian Sherratt who
had read the item on time exposure, and decided to give it a go.
Here is the letter, and his photograph.
Funny that you should write your recent article on time exposure
shots. I’ve just bought a new box of digital brains (Canon G10)
which gave me a chance to practice on the “smiley” moon the
other night. FYI: 15 secs. at F ?
Sherratt’s ‘smiley moon’.
It was my first real attempt at anything other than “auto”
settings. It’s a pleasant feeling to think that you actually
contributed in some small way to getting an acceptable result. I
am sure you know what I mean.
Thank you, Ian, and you will see that I have cropped your
original shot somewhat to give more emphasis on the two stars
and the moon.
Of course, Ian Sherratt, with his new digital Canon G10, was
able to preview the shot to see if he really had got the shot he
wanted. And, of course, if you didn’t get it, then you just try
again! For many this is the best thing about digital
photography. No more agonizing wait at the photo processors to
see if you did get “it”.
The second shot this week is of a neon sign, and again was taken
with a digital camera, so the photographer could see straight
away whether the end result was satisfactory. It was actually
one of three exposures (called “bracketing”, with one half stop
difference between each exposure). In this instance, it was the
lighter of the three which worked out the best, but all were
In general, sensible bracketing will give two usable images, so
do check in your camera’s manual (you have read it, haven’t you)
if you can select auto-bracketing. As an aside, also see whether
your camera has a grid pattern for the viewfinder. It will help
you get rid of sloping horizons and toppling buildings.
Getting back to night photography, recording neon signs is
actually very easy, provided you turn off your flash, be that
remote or the on-camera one. The illumination provided by flash
is much stronger than the light produced by neon lighting, so
with a flash shot you will wash out the colors, and show just
the glass tubes of the sign.
You can safely allow the neon tubes to dictate your exposure
settings, and then set the bracketing for one half stop above
and below that indicated by the exposure meter in the camera.
Provided that the shutter speed can be hand held, then do the
different settings with the f stop. You do not have to worry
about depth of field, so you can shoot as wide open as you can,
to give yourself an acceptable shutter speed. The neon shot here
was hand-held at 1/15th second, using the camera’s own image
As reader Ian Sherratt has found - experiment and put fun back
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
Dumb Investment of The Month -
without profits funds?
Obvious contenders for Dumb Investment of This Month are the
various artificially sliced and diced credit vehicles such as CDOs, CDSs, SIVs
that have brought about the credit crunch because the market had no reliable
basis for valuing them.
MBMG long warned against the eventual impact of these financial time bombs.
French bank BNP spoke up last year admitting that the artificial value ascribed
to these assets bore no resemblance to the realizable value of the sum of their
parts. The realization that bank balance sheets were overvalued brought on the
sub-prime crisis. The banking sector was no longer able to borrow against these
suddenly worthless assets heralding the credit crunch.
Our client portfolios had no exposure to sub-prime or to western commercial and
residential property or lower quality fixed interest. We had very little
exposure to equity markets which suffered in the fallout.
We also warned against artifice in investment. Encarta suggests some of the
following synonyms for artifice: pretence, ploy, trick, lie, sleight of hand
ruse, deception, deceit.
Transparency sounds a lot better to us than any of those. Investors should
demand full transparency right now and not the glossy allure of expensive
marketing materials for opaque schemes (DIoTM notes that the quality/cost of
marketing materials is often inversely proportionate to the quality of the fund
In particular we’re very wary of artificially priced investment funds. There are
plenty of examples of this - with profits funds retain some of their surplus
investment returns during good times to fill in shortfalls during bad times.
In the example here the profits in the crooked shaded areas of over-performance
are held back and used to cover losses in the black shaded areas. The straight
line represents the published price of the fund. However that only represents
the true value of the fund at the brief points where the crooked and straight
lines actually intersect. When the crooked line is above the straight line the
price of the fund is actually less than the fund is really worth and therefore
investors are effectively buying into the fund at a discount. They can never
realize the discount but it is held back to protect them against any losses if
markets fall. This was the case a year ago and was a good time to buy or hold
with profits for anyone who wanted some participation in equity upside with
protection against the downside.
However when markets have fallen like now then the asset value of the fund may
now be much less then the fund price - in which case you are actually paying a
premium to either buy or even hold this kind of asset. You’re simply being
overcharged because of an inefficient market pricing mechanism. Therefore it
makes no sense to buy or hold with profits funds at this time.
This applies to individual with profits policies and to traded endowment funds.
At the very best you will now have several years of underperformance before
eventually moving back into surplus. At the very worst the discrepancies in
pricing may lead to you being refused the right to take your money out without
paying a penalty resulting in you losing very heavily on a ‘safe investment.’
At least with profits allow you to make a reasonable estimate of how overvalued
the fund price is because the underlying assets themselves are generally liquid.
With specialist assets (like specialist property funds buying assets such as
student halls of accommodation within open ended fund structures) it can be
impossible to say. However, the price of these funds, where the capital value of
the asset hasn’t been adjusted for prevailing conditions, would appear to be as
much as 100% over valued currently compared to genuinely market-priced
structures such as listed property or real estate investment trusts - i.e. the
underlying asset values may be as little as $50,000 for every $100,000 invested
into such funds.
This is a time for certainty rather than speculation. The fact that many of
these artificially priced funds show a constant month on month or year on year
return isn’t a source of comfort to us - it’s a cause for concern. It merely
means that the current fund price may have become a long way separated from the
value of the underlying assets.
Any investment right now that doesn’t have a clear relationship between the
underlying asset value and the fund price could face real problems ahead. In the
above examples, TEP or student accommodation funds could easily fall by 50% or
more in value in the same way that sub-prime assets already have. Some of these
may be well-managed and may thrive despite the current situation. Others
patently won’t and therefore, even more than sub-prime, these are our current
dumb investment of the month. If you are holding any assets where the pricing is
less than transparent, we can provide an overview of the risks facing that
particular asset. Where these risks are too high hopefully you can still get out
… before it’s too late!
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
Manners Maketh Man
Classi- Jazz and the EU Film Festival
At the opening of the EU film festival last week, the
reception was full of Thais and farangs, mostly dressed up somewhat for the
gala occasion, with a goodly sprinkling of ‘cocktail’ dresses and smart
jackets and ties. It was an amiably elegant affair with a few speeches and
some foreign Consuls and V.I.P.s along with the rest of us. This preceded
the opening film from France, Ulzhan (directed, though by a
distinguished German film maker and shot in Kazakstan) which was one of the
17 works on show.
Naturally the CM Mail was represented and my colleague there – a
sprightly social butterfly – was zooming around but found time to hiss at me
between clenched teeth, ‘Look at them, don’t they know any better? Shorts!
Have they no manners? Some farangs! You should write about it.’ Well his
wish is my command and I quickly told him that I would use my old school
motto, Manners Maketh Man, as the topic for this week’s Life in….
Let’s be clear, I am not talking (nor is he I suspect) about a need for
prissy behaviour, or false politeness and formality but about the basic
concept of ‘good manners’, which I think of as respect for a particular
situation and for other people in the broadest sense. Particularly a respect
for a culture which may be alien to us but which we should respect enough to
find out what is ‘correct’ behaviour, in order not to offend our host
Well these guys in their scruffy shorts and un-ironed shirts might have been
acceptable on the beach at Pattaya but in fact their attitude was rude in
any country, not only Thailand. Naturally their disregard for the hosts went
unremarked, although I suspect that the Thais who greeted us so graciously
were secretly surprised at such impoliteness. Thais are famously non
confrontational and the chance of a comment being made was as unlikely as
snow in Chiang Mai on Christmas day.
There is a pleasant formality to much of Thai social interaction, in their
greetings, their propriety of dress and the physical interaction even
between married couples when in public. Open displays of affection are not
forbidden of course – as say in India – but are certainly not for public
display and most people know that other ‘rules’ apply.
It is not done to touch people on the head (except for the very young) or
point one’s feet directly at others. Shoes come off not just at temples but
when entering homes. And very casual dress – shorts and tank tops – should
never be worn at temples. The guys who think it butch to parade around on
their motor bikes shirtless would be better off in Pattaya, I guess.
It pays also to speak with a modest amount of care, especially with Thais
who do not know one well. Criticism is not appreciated, especially when
offered directly and will yield nothing except resentment. And what passes
for humour in the west – sarcasm or irony – has to be used with great care
and even then accompanied by a broad smile and playful gestures to indicate
that it is not meant to be hurtful.
And as we find out soon enough, the farang characteristic of impatience is
neither understood nor appreciated. I have one acquaintance who is impatient
and discourteous to a fault and I think this is the result of a combination
of self importance and incipient racism. This is unattractive at the best of
times but when ‘dealing’ with situations in Thailand it is also counter
productive. It is a source of amazement to most of us that when faced with
the inherent good manners – and sometimes deference – of Thais (especially
those who are serving people of all nationalities) that someone should react
with such boorishness.
And that was something in evidence it seems at the concert at the Kad
Theatre recently. An Australian friend rang me the Sunday morning after the
splendid performance by the CM Youth Philharmonic Band and asked whether I
had enjoyed it. ‘Greatly’, I replied, ‘especially the second half when the
players came into their own.’
Not knowing that I was writing this piece, he suddenly mentioned how badly
behaved some farangs had been during the performance and especially at the
close. A small group had shown no regard for those around them and during
the presentation of the flowers to the performers – a Thai custom – they had
noisily got up and said goodbye to friends around them, standing up and
blocking the view of the audience and eventually leaving the Kad.
They may not have cared about this charming custom and were as paying
customers entitled to leave at any time. Good manners would have meant a
quiet exit even when the actual concert had ended. They were as guilty of
disrespect as the farang who chose to sit during the playing of the Thai
national anthem before a cinema screening recently. This man is as entitled
to his views on any subject but if he felt unable to show his respect in
this case he should have come into the auditorium after the anthem. As it
was he caused embarrassment to those around him, Thais and visitors, and
Let's Go To The Movies: :
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Happy Birthday: Thai Drama/ Romance – Starring Ananda Everingham.
A weepy love story, and almost incomprehensible to anyone without a deep
intuitive understanding of Thai customs and social behavior. For most of us
the courting behavor is an unfathomable mystery, and quite foreign. Ananda
is a travel photographer who travels around Thailand with his
guide/girlfriend, until she has a car accident and ends up in a hospital in
a coma, while Ananda waits endlessly at her bedside for her to wake up.
Maddeningly tedious to most farangs, I’m afraid, though the Thais I was with
seemed to enjoy the first half a good deal. Beautiful location photography.
The Day the Earth Stood Still: US Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Other
than the child, I enjoyed this! If you like sci-fi thrillers, you should
too, except for the child. Of course, you have to be willing to accept a lot
of the “aliens invade Earth” conventions. I did, and found it a lot of fun.
Except for the child, who simply spoils every scene he’s in – and he’s in it
a lot. Seems to me he’s a sterling example of why you shouldn’t adopt stray
kids. However, the bright side of it is he’s apparently a thoroughly spoiled
brat of an actor who very likely will take to drugs and self-destruct soon,
saving us from having to see him again. (But none too soon – would you
believe, he’s now been given the role of the Karate Kid in the upcoming
sequel?) As for Keanu Reeves, he’s perfect for the part of the alien!
Absolutely perfect, because he really is an alien himself! I think all of us
have always known that.
It didn’t fare too well at the US boxoffice on its opening weekend; it did
better overseas, but created only a tepid boxoffice response here in
Thailand. Seldom have I seen such rants against an actor as there were for
the boy in the movie, who most reviewers call an atrocious actor in a badly
written part that was even more badly directed. I think he skewered the film
way off the track and filled viewers with irrelevant hate toward the child
as a person and as an actor, and brought into the film irrelevant issues of
race. And all because he was given the part through the power and influence
of his father, Will Smith, who seems determined to turn him into a star
whether we like it or not.
In this remake of the landmark film of 1951 with Michael Rennie, Keanu
Reeves now plays the alien Klaatu who travels to Earth with a simple
mission: to save the planet. He lands his space ship in Central Park, New
York, and tries without success to announce his plans to the world via a
speech at the United Nations. He’s shot and taken into custody instead. Thus
rebuffed, he goes to his backup plan: He will destroy everything on earth,
then re-populate our planet with clones of the current species. All, that
is, except humans who he feels are responsible for Earth’s destruction and
must be permanently eradicated. He unleashes swarms of dust size robots who
sweep through New York and the surrounding area dissolving everything in
their path. As mankind fights to survive, one female scientist, along with
her brat of a son, tries to convince Klaatu to stop the earth’s destruction
and give us all a second chance.
Transporter 3: France Action/ Crime – It’s an action movie all right
– a lot of explosions, car crashes, and men being violent and assertive. All
quite brilliantly done, and seasoned with just the slightest bit of plot and
humor. If that’s what you like, this is for you. It stars Jason Statham as a
former British Special Forces soldier turned mercenary, whose specialty is
delivering risky items in a timely fashion. Mixed or average reviews.
Ong-Bak 2: Thai Action/ Adventure – With Tony Jaa, who also directed.
It’s quite dark, and exceptionally violent. Not for children! But it’s
extraordinary in many respects, and approaches almost every aspect of an
action film in a new way. And it seems a terribly personal film for Tony
Jaa, in which he apparently is trying to exorcise some inner demons. A
fascinating attempt, and quite exciting.
Traitor: US Drama/Thriller – With Don Cheadle. At Vista only, and
probably in its last days. See it while you can. Another serious look at the
world of moral uncertainty amid the war on terror. I am very fond of this
movie, but it’s gotten only mixed or average reviews.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua: US Comedy/ Adventure/ Family – In this
Disney talking-animal comedy (not an animated movie) a pampered Beverly
Hills Chihuahua finds herself accidentally lost in the mean streets of
Mexico. Overall, mixed or average reviews. I found it amusing with some
parts quite a lot of fun.
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?:
The house plant which epitomises Christmas is
the ubiquitous red poinsettia, in almost
every home in the West at this festive time of
year. The brilliant red is often taken to be
large petals, but, as with all euphorbiaceae,
are actually red-coloured modified leaves known
as bracts. The actual flowers are strangely
shaped and relatively insignificant, nestling in
the centre and looking for all the world like
yellow stamens. The seeds are perfectly
spherical and resemble small marbles.
These potted house plants are ever-popular at
Christmas, and come in pale creamy yellow, pink,
and striped form as well as in the more normal
red. The bracts come into colour and the
flowers form when the day is less than 14 hours
long, resulting in their flowering in winter.
During the long summer days, they only produce
green leaves, which allows the plant’s growth
into large bushes, up to 3 metres tall.
If you plant your Christmas potted poinsettia
in your garden, you may well be amazed at
the eventual size of the tree it produces! As a
mature specimen, the plant’s winter flowering
will be spectacular.
As flowering is a photosynthetic response to red
light, be careful not to plant out near any
source of artificial light at night, such as
street lamps of terrace light, as this may well
confuse the plant into thinking that it is still
summer and causing it to inhibit its flowering
and colouring. Even switching alight on and off
in its vicinity during the night is enough to
stop the flowering, which possibly accounts for
many people’s experience in that last year’s pot
plant grew very well, but never flowered again!
The plant is easily grown from 3-4 inch
cuttings. As with all euphorbiaceae, it
produces white latex when cut, necessitating
sealing the cut stem to stop it ‘bleeding’ by
dipping it in boiling water. .
of the Week
Poinsettias can be used as cut flowers after
sealing the stems. Better still, for large arrangements, remove
the plant from its pot and wrap the roots in black plastic. Push
a cane through the root ball and use this to place the entire
plant into the middle of your display. Provided the plant is
removed occasionally and soaked in water, the display will last
Bridge in Paradise :
by Neil Robinson
This column is again about defence. The deal this week is an example of the
sort of good defence that does not seem too difficult when you read about
it, but that somehow is very difficult to think of when I am at the table!
It is an illustration of the fact that good defence often starts with the
bidding. The hand is from the 2003 Lederer Memorial tournament in London
and was reported by Simon Cocheme. David Burn and David Price were sitting
EW. Imagine you are sitting West, holding this hand:
EW are vulnerable, NS
non-vulnerable. North deals and passes. East bids 3C. South doubles.
What do you bid and why? Here is the full deal:
S: 107 S: 654
H: Q4 H: J9
D: AQ832 D: 105
C: A1085 C: KQJ932
This was the bidding at the table:
North East South West
P 3C Dbl 3D
4C P 4H All pass
Price (West) reasoned that
with the unfavourable vulnerability, a 5C sacrifice would probably be too
costly, so instead of bidding 4C, he bid diamonds, the suit he wanted led in
defence. Of course, he expected North to be declarer. North bid 4C to show
willingness to play in either major. South bid 4H, and Price was on lead.
He therefore led the club five, in an attempt to get his partner in the
lead. East won the jack and returned the diamond ten. West took two
diamond tricks and then led a third round. Declarer now had a choice of
ways of going down. If he ruffed low on board, then East would over ruff.
If he ruffed with the king, then he would lose a trump trick to the queen.
Precision defence defeated an apparently cold contract.
Cocheme noted that Burn (East) apologised for his delay in leading at trick
two: “I knew you wanted a diamond switch, partner, but it was a while before
I realised that my jack had won the first trick!”
Please send me your interesting hands at: [email protected]