The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
The Rabbit and the Ferret
I have just returned from
having a gastroscopy, that wonderful diagnostic procedure where, by the
wonders of modern technology, your friendly gastroenterologist can actually
send a camera down your oesophagus (esophagus if you come from the left hand
side of the Atlantic ocean), into your stomach and then a sharp right and
into your duodenum. In this case, my duodenum.
Now this was not a procedure that I decided to have upon a whim, or having
nothing better to do one Friday morning. On the Thursday evening I had eaten
some wonderfully spicy Spanish prawns, but before I had finished the main
course, I had this intense burning feeling in the area we doctors describe
as the epigastrium, but you would probably know as the ‘solar plexus’.
I excused myself and went to the toilet where I spat out what seemed like
liters of mucous that were coming up my oesophagus as the burning pain
continued unabated. I tried drinking some cold water, but not only would it
not go down, but it came straight up again. Resorting to the finger down the
throat, I was again unsuccessful, other than renewing the mucous tsunami.
Now I know my own body reasonably well (I’ve had it a long time), and I was
fairly confident in my diagnosis of oesophagitis, but since the symptoms
were still there the next morning, it was time to talk to the
The time was set and I was told to change into the hospital gown and taken
through to the procedure room. There I had the choice of sedation or local
anaesthetic. I chose the local, preferring to know exactly what is happening
to my body at all times.
The actual procedure isn’t too bad. A little uncomfortable perhaps, but with
the local anaesthetic in the throat, the flexible tube and camera slips over
relatively easily. Dr Thitima kept up a running commentary on the state of
my never before viewed anatomical insides, which are inflated to allow
proper vision, and I was relieved to hear that my problem was only an ulcer
where my oesephagus went into the stomach. It could have been worse. Ulcers
Procedure over, you go to the recovery area where you are then monitored to
make sure everything is right before you get dressed. It was during this 10
minute wait that the problem with the ferret began.
For those who are not knowledgeable on ferrets, they are a domesticated
animal originally used for hunting rabbits, though some are kept as pets.
The California State Bird and Mammal Conservation Program found that by
1996, approximately 800,000 or so domestic ferrets were likely being kept as
pets in the US. Goodness knows how many pets there are in the world now,
though some states in Australia prohibit ferret keeping, along with public
nudity and selling deep-fried prawns on the beaches.
But back to my ferret. As opposed to poor old coyote, who never quite
manages to nail Bugs Bunny, a ferret will pursue and catch his rabbit in its
warren. While lying on the stretcher, a strange gurgling effect began
happening in my insides. This is known as ‘borborygmi’ (that’s why my
medical course took six years - the first four years were learning to spell
the big words) and I could follow the gaseous gurgles as they ran through my
small intestines. Like a ferret after a rabbit, they turned left and hopped
around the spleen, encircled the kidneys, turned hard right at the bladder,
sidestepped the appendix and bolted into the large bowel, where it all
seemed to go quiet.
I dressed and suddenly I knew I had to break wind. Or the ferret had caught
the rabbit, or something similar. I hastened to the toilet, anal sphincter
at maximum closure, and in the confines of the stall was able to let the gas
go. I was afraid of flying round the room backwards. As (Sir) Mick Jagger
sang in ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, “It’s a gas, gas, gas!” It certainly was.
So that’s what to expect if a gastroscopy is ordered for you. Some
discomfort, a quick diagnosis and a gaseous ferret unleashed. Now you know.
Heart to Heart
I took a friend over to Thailand on a bit of a working holiday over
Xmas. Well, I was working and he was playing but he enjoyed himself very
much. That was so much that he came back again on his own for the New
Year, and used me as the excuse, which I wasn’t happy about. He told me
he took up with the same girl from the bar we used to drink at, and she
seems a nice enough sort of girl, but the problem is the chap is already
married to a really nice woman in the UK. They’ve been married for about
15 years, she’s stuck to him through all the bad times and now things
are looking better and they have two kids and a nice home, and now he
tells me he wants to give it all away and move to Thailand to be with
his “girl friend”. How do I get some sense into him? He’s going to lose
everything he’s ever worked for all his life, if his wife doesn’t kill
It’s a common problem, my Petal. The English lads come over here for a
holiday and everything seems to be free and easy. (Well not quite
‘free’, but very reasonable.) The holiday ‘romance’ is so much fun, the
Thai girls are so easy to get along with, no wonder they think that this
is so much better than at home with the married relationship going a bit
stale and the kids being demanding. What they conveniently forget is
that the free and easy bar girls are just doing their job, making
tourists believe in fantasies. And it is just that - a fantasy. If it
wasn’t a fantasy, why does Hillary get so many ‘broken heart’ letters
every week? How do you get some sense into him? It’s difficult, Neil, it
really is. Getting someone off Thai bar girls is harder than getting a
confirmed 20 year smoker off the ciggies. There are plenty of books for
them to study, such as Stephen Leather’s Private Dancer, or even this
weekly column, but will they believe it? That’s the problem. They all
think “their” girl is different, and some of them are - some have blonde
hair! But beneath it all, they are working in the bar to make money.
Bigger money than they could make at the Tesco check-out. It’s a
financial relationship, not a ‘love’ or even a fun relationship, as your
friend will eventually find out. Show him this letter, Petal, you sound
like a nice caring guy.
A couple of weeks ago you told some poor chap who had gone out to
Thailand to see the girl he was pretty sure he was going to marry, that
he should just like it or lump it when the girl in question had gone off
with some other guy to Chiang Mai. You also came up with the sweeping
statement that “90 percent of those guys never show up again”. Of
course, when you are saying it’s OK for them to go off with someone else
who just happens to be there at the time, and bad luck for the poor sod
who had gone out to see her, no wonder. You are excusing very poor
behavior, my Petal Hillary. I reckon you owe him better advice than you
You are guilty of quoting me out of context, Petal. You are conveniently
leaving out my statement, “If you’re here for a good time, then go out
with the good-time girls. If you’re looking for your life’s partner then
you don’t begin in a bar.” He was looking in the wrong place, that is
what I was trying to tell him. If you want to buy some cheese, then you
don’t find it in a hardware shop. Can I be any more plain than that?
That’s the best advice he could possible get.
Following on in the vein of that naughty man: ‘unbeliever’, may I ask
the thorny question, ‘Are you actually a lady of the female gender?’
Your approach in your column seems very masculine to me; why don’t you
publish a visual image inside your ‘heart’ at the top of your column,
unless you look like Claire Raynor or Marge Proops? Are you going to
give me a literary lashing for my cheek, wearing only thigh-length
boots, a thong and nipple tassles (sic), like Madame Whiplash? Ooh, I
Submissively yours, John Thomas.
Dear Submissive John Thomas,
May I ask the thorny question, ‘Do you really have a John Thomas?’ What
have I done to engender doubts on my gender? Your approach seems very
British to me, being so disrespectful to my sisters in The Sun and The
Daily Mirror, such newspapers known for their consistent high standards.
Or should I say, standards. And who are you referring to in the
thigh-length boots? You or me? By the way, before you get too excited
with your verbal imagery, it’s ‘tassel’, not ‘tassle’, Petal. I will
publish my photograph the day you get photos of your John Thomas
published in these pages.
by Harry Flashman
Taken at f4
Taken at f16
What’s DOF? Quite simply, it is Depth Of Field, and mastery of
DOF really is the second rule of photography in my opinion.
Before you ask, the first rule is to walk several meters closer
to the subject!
The Depth Of Field in any picture can often make or break the
entire photograph, but knowing how to manipulate the depth of
field improves your photography instantly!
The term DOF refers to an optical one and depends solely on the
lens being used and the aperture selected. Altering the shutter
speed does not change the Depth of Field.
Depth of Field really refers to the zone of “sharpness” (or
being in acceptable focus) from foreground items to background
items in any photograph. This is different from what the eye
sees, as the eye can instantly focus on near and far objects,
giving the impression that everything in your field of vision is
in sharp focus. The camera, however, gives you a slice of time.
The first concept to remember is “1/3rd forwards and 2/3rds
back.” Again this is a law of optical physics, but means that
the DOF, from foreground to background in your photograph can be
measured, and from the focus point in the photo, extends towards
you by one third and extends away from the focus point by two
For those of you with SLR’s, especially the older manual focus
SLR’s, you will even find a series of marks on the focussing
ring of the lens to indicate the Depth of Field that is possible
with that lens.
Take a look at this week’s photograph, and look at the
background. It has been made into a soft blur. How did I change
this DOF sharpness? Answer, with a flick of the wrist!
You see, for each focal length of lens, the DOF possible is
altered by the Aperture. The rule here is simple - the higher
the Aperture number, the greater the DOF and the lower the
Aperture number, the shorter the DOF. In simple terms, for any
given lens, you get greater front to back sharpness with f22 and
you get very short front to back sharpness at f4.
For example, using a 24 mm focal length lens focussed on an
object 2 meters away - if you select f22, the DOF runs from just
over 0.5 meter to 5 meters (4.5 meters total), but if you select
f11 it only runs from 1 m to 4 m (3 m total) and if you choose
f5.6 the Depth of Field is only from 1.5 m to 3 m (1.5 m total).
On the other hand, using a longer 135 mm focal length lens
focussed at the same point 2 meters away, you get the following
Depths of Field - at f22 it runs from 1.9 m to 2.2 m (0.3
m) and at f5.6 it is 1.95 m to 2.1 m (a total of 0.15 m).
Analysis of all these initially confusing numbers gives you now
complete mastery of DOF in any of your photographs. Simply put
another way - the higher the Aperture number, the greater the
DOF; the smaller the Aperture number the smaller the DOF; plus
the longer the lens, the shorter the DOF, the shorter the lens,
the longer the DOF (just remember the ‘opposites’ - the longer
Now to apply this formula - when shooting a landscape for
example, where you want great detail from the foreground, right
the way through to the mountains five kilometers away, then use
a short lens (24 mm is ideal) set at f22 and focussed on
a point about 2 km away.
On the other hand, when shooting a portrait where you only want
to have the eyes and mouth in sharp focus you would use a longer
lens (and here the 135 is ideal) and a smaller Aperture number
of around f5.6 to f4 and focus directly on the eyes to give that
ultra short Depth of Field required.
Master it this weekend, and just remember that these optical
laws hold good for all cameras, be they film or digital.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
Investment picks for 2009 - what to look out for
Look at 1929 to 1932 - a four
year losing streak that saw the Dow Jones fall 89% from 381.17 on September 3rd
1929 to a low of 41.22 on July 8th 1932.
2008 has been one of the worst
years in living memory for many investment classes. So where do we go from
here? What can investors expect in 2009? With a slightly flippant look, please
see our thoughts for the rest of this year.
“You know until you see the light, there ain’t no end, no end in sight…” - Steve
Lukather, David Paich, Simon Phillips, Mike Porcaro and Bobby Kimball of Toto
As many regular readers know, we have been negative on equities since 2007
and continue to be wary. Historically, around 70% of all years since records
began have been positive for equity indices and 30% have been negative. The
chart below shows the extent of the negative years.
Although we are skeptical about selective use of historical precedents to
predict the future, we continue to believe that the history of the Great
Depression contains the best clues as to how the current devastation might play
out. As the Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot
remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is good advice even now.
We should therefore recognize the possibility that the effects of the current
crisis may linger for quite some time to come and there may be no respite for
equities in the year ahead so cautious opportunism should be the prevailing
In 2007, with the Dow at 14,164, we expressed concerns that a correction could
drag the DJIA below 7000 to a range as low as 3500-5000. This remains our
expectation - the Dow dropping below 7000. UK and European equity markets should
fare little better. The outlook for the Australian market could be even blacker
than for other developed markets. Asian markets should bounce back more quickly
and more strongly once the bottom has been reached and, while it is far from
clear that we are currently anywhere near the bottom, keep a sharp eye out for a
time to get back into Asian markets.
“Get out and get what you can ... No time to understand” - Ian Anderson, lead
singer, Jethro Tull
The property bubble of the last two decades has dwarfed all other bubbles.
But like all bubbles it has burst.
Falls approaching 20% in UK and US property markets in 2008 could be the thin
end of the wedge and we would continue to look to sell (at almost any price)
rather than buy property in UK, USA, Australia, Spain, Ireland, Greece and
Portugal among others, where holding or buying property looks like an extremely
Anyone determined to hold onto property should consider insuring the value of it
with Two Seasons Property Protector which is designed to go up in value by the
extent that property falls in value, BUT ‘costs’ only around 5% of the property
value (e.g. in return for paying a one off ‘premium’ of $50,000 you can ‘insure’
a $1,000,000 property).
Opportunities may start to appear in Asian property markets in 2009. Japanese
REITs as well as Thai residential property linked with land both merit
“I can’t get no … satisfaction” - Keith Richards & Mick Jagger of the Rolling
Rates are now mostly at historic low levels. For the foreseeable future we
expect muted further cuts. Treasuries may no longer be a safe haven. For the
first time since the Great Depression there is systemic default risk across
major developed sovereign debt markets as well as in smaller developing markets.
Corporate debt will yield opportunities but the longer the recession drags on,
the farther away these opportunities remain.
However, there are still opportunities in certain funds that spread the currency
risk such as the Asian Century range of funds which do not exactly set the world
on fire but do offer better returns than most banks out there.
“The candle blew out long before the legend ever did” - Bernie Taupin (for Elton
Commodities have corrected from the speculative bubble that drove them to
such levels that in June last year we warned of air pockets and recommended that
investors follow our lead selling out of this asset class. The immediate
direction of industrial commodity prices will remain under pressure driven by
gloomy economic news. Longer term themes like food and water look to be a
“Got Brass… in pocket” - Chrissie Hind, the Pretenders
Precious metals have a great deal of potential to rally now. We believe that
every portfolio should hold gold as a hedge against the failure of other asset
classes and the continuing depreciation of most major currencies.
“You take me up, oh ho, you take me up to the higher ground” - Tom Bailey, The
Venture Capital (VC) might never be a more attractive proposition than it is
now, thanks to a dearth of liquidity, especially in historically inefficient VC
markets such as here in Thailand. The mai’s (Market for Alternative Investments
- part of the Stock Exchange Thailand) innovative matching SME venture
programmes and the Peak XV Venture Fund offer opportunities to investors willing
and able to exploit this.
Hedge funds and alternative assets
“I wish I knew you, I wish I knew you before” - Amy MacDonald
People sometimes confuse non-mainstream investments with genuine hedging
strategies. The hedge fund class overall fell in value far less than traditional
equity or property funds last year and anyone unfamiliar with individual sectors
such as managed futures missed out on making around 20% in 2008 while low
volatility liquidity funds yielded 0.5%-1.0% each month in a range of
currencies. Luckily, it is not too late to join this asset class - strategies
providing liquidity and a genuine hedge should continue to strongly outperform
“I’ve seen the future, brother; it is murder” - Leonard Cohen
The global economy could struggle even more this year than last and western
property markets, listed equities and certain corporate debt instruments may be
the biggest victims. Illiquid strategies are best avoided and could be the
year’s horror stories. Sovereign debt no longer seems to justify the risks and
cash remains an important asset class allied to an active brief to seek out the
definite opportunities that are still out there.
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
Cause for Celebration
No, I’m not talking about the inauguration of President
Barack Obama into the White House. That – quite rightly – will have been
heralded, cheered, mulled over and discussed by every pundit, newspaper and
radio and TV station in the world. No one has come to power with higher
expectations made of him. Now all we have to do is wait until the end of the
100 day ‘honeymoon period’ and wait for the sniping to begin as people
realize that miracles – contrary to myth – do not happen, and that the mess
left behind by Bush and his fellow torturers is going to take years to sort
My celebration is far more modest and is inspired by an email from my movie
colleague on this paper, who notes a quintet of films coming to Chiang Mai
in the very near future. All are of great interest and at least two should
be unmissable. Put alongside the masterworks being shown at the Alliance
Franšaise in February, this should prove the best cinema-going month in the
city for many a year. Let me say immediately that, although I’ve seen all
the great French films many times, the following comments on the new
‘Hollywood’ works are based on reviews from the USA and the UK, plus
comments by friends and from general knowledge of the directors and others
involved and, let’s be honest, prejudice and instinct.
First off, on January 29 is an adaptation of a fascinating 1922 short story
by F.Scott Fitzgerald, whose masterpiece The Great Gatsby has eluded
film makers on two occasions but whose shorter works seem to have been
translated to the screen with great success. The Curious Case of Benjamin
Button is directed by David Fincher, whose brilliant and disturbing
Se7en, Fight Club (both with Brad Pitt) and, more recently,
Zodiac have placed him among the leading American directors of the past
The story tells of Benjamin, who enters the world as an old man and gets
younger each day, regressing from aged dependency into childhood, passing
through ‘history’ backwards. A wonderful premise for the story, now a lavish
movie, starring the talented Brad, who plays Benjamin throughout most of his
A week later, on February 5, we are promised not one new movie but two.
Gran Torino is the very latest work by the redoubtable Clint Eastwood,
who continues to astonish us with the quality of his work in the twilight of
his career. Nudging 80, Clint, whose career stretches back to an appearance
in a Francis the Mule film, through his mature years as a mega star turned
director, has, in the past decade plus, given us great films. The best of
these were the two takes on Iwo Jima, one from the American side and the
other – and better – from the Japanese. Changeling opened at the
Cannes Film Festival last year but has yet to surface in Thailand. He
followed it with Gran Torino, claiming that it will be his last work
in front of the camera, but adding that he could not resist the role of the
crusty Korean War veteran, because both the character and his age suited
him. Although he remains a Republican, there is a new mellowness and decency
about his work that contradicts his earlier right wing movies.
In those earlier days, he would have been an opponent to the lamented Harvey
Mill, whose life is depicted in the new biopic Milk, directed by Gus
Van Sant and starring Sean Penn, who is cast against type as the murdered
gay activist who came to prominence when he moved from New York to San
Francisco in 1972 and organized that city’s gay life into a political force.
He worked from the grass roots up through to the elite of the city and
became Mayor, only to pay dearly with his life in 1978. He was assassinated
by a fellow worker (what is it about America and their murderous guns that
insists on killing off their best people?), but his work lived on. This is
the film in the quintet that I have the most hopes for, not least because of
its maverick director’s wonderful talent, which has matured with films such
as Elephant, the short Le Marais and Last Days.
The remaining films open later in the month and are likely to prove less
exciting. Revolutionary Road is directed by the stage-bound Sam
Mendes and stars his wife Kate Winslet. The reviews have been unkind or, as
my gentle colleague would say ‘mixed to average.’ He has a kindlier view of
movies than I have, accusing me of having seen ‘too many.’ My suspicions
about the Mendes film are that it will be ‘another’ Atonement,
directed with talent but also with a very heavy hand.
The same might apply to the intriguing sounding Valkyrie, directed by
Brian Singer of The Usual Suspects fame. This has been around a while
and stars Tom Cruise, sporting an eye patch as Col. Claus Schenk Graf von
Stauffenberg, one of the officers who sadly failed to rid the world of
Hitler before the end of the war. It was meant to re-ignite tiny Tom’s
career, being a serious movie which offered a role against type. Sadly for
him, he attracted more attention for his manic turn as the egotistical
producer in the spoof Tropic Thunder. That’s show business, I guess!
Anyway, keep your eyes on the film column for times, locations and the
programmes at the Alliance Franšaise, which are on Friday evenings at 8 p.m.
Let's Go To The Movies: :
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Red Cliff Part 2: Hong Kong War/ Action – The second and final
half to John Woo’s magnum opus Red Cliff, and an epic of grand scale
in the Chinese manner. Produced and directed by John Woo. Both
Chiang Mai theater chains should be ashamed of themselves for showing this
large and beautiful film in a Thai-dubbed version only, with no English
subtitles, thus effectively making this large-scale Chinese epic unavailable
for those who do not understand Thai.
Hod Na Haew: Thai Comedy/ Drama. More comedy with popular Thai comedians
The Elephant King: US/ Thai Drama/ Romance – Filmed for the most part in
Chiang Mai. Two American brothers – one domineering, the other
introspective – as they binge on drink, drugs, and women in Chiang Mai. The
mother dispatches the younger son Oliver off to Chiang Mai to do everything
he can to lure his reckless, older brother Jake back home to the U.S. to
face pending fraud charges. Oliver finds the intoxication of Chiang Mai
hard to resist, and as he falls deeply in love for the first time, his
brother Jake slips deeper into despair, and the seams of their relationship
begin to come undone. Rated R in the US for sexual content, drug use,
language and some violence. Mixed or average reviews.
Blue Sky of Love / Fah Sai Jai Chuen Ban: Thai Drama – A supposedly
comic view of the bloody events of 6 October 1976, when student protests
created a revolutionary period in Thai history. It’s the story of a
university girl who leaves her comfortable life in Bangkok to join a
Communist Party army in a remote forest, and then falls in love.
The Fatality / Tok Tra Phee: Thai/Taiwan Mystery/ Horror – An
unsuccessful man in Taipei commits suicide, only to wake up in the body of a
coma victim in Bangkok. His new life is almost perfect – he now has a
stable job, a healthy body, and a beautiful wife, but as the two souls fight
for control of the body they start developing supernatural powers over life
and death itself, leaving havoc in their wake. A Thai-Taiwanese
Australia: Australia Drama/ Adventure – Set against the backdrop of
World War II, this is Baz Luhrmann’s epic, sweeping tale of an English woman
(Nicole Kidman) who inherits a sizable cattle ranch “down under.” Mixed or
average reviews. At Vista only, and only in a Thai-dubbed version.
The Happiness of Kati: Thai Family/ Drama – Based on the best-selling
novel by Ngarmpan Vejjajiva. Not enough believable conflict in the script
to make it a compelling drama, but it is well-acted, and beautifully and
lovingly photographed. Best described as a loving tone poem of a film to a
certain Thai way of life and living.
Quarantine: US Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – A television reporter and her
cameraman are trapped inside a building quarantined by the US government
after the outbreak of a mysterious virus which turns humans into
bloodthirsty killers. It has the single hand-held camera style of such
recent movies as Cloverfield. Some people find the “one actual
camera” trick leads to heightened reality; others find that the constant
jiggling of the picture and rough-shod editing gives them a terrible
headache. If you think you can put up with it, you will find this to be a
quite frightening movie, as I did, once the introductory first 20 boring
minutes are over. Rated R in the US for bloody violent and disturbing
content, terror, and language. Mixed or average reviews.
Yes Man: US Comedy – Jim Carrey as a man who signs up for a self-help
program based on one simple principle: say “yes” to everything for an entire
year. Mixed or average reviews.
Bedtime Stories: US Comedy/ Fantasy – Starring Adam Sandler. A
surprisingly pleasant and amusing family-friendly movie about a hotel
handyman whose life is changed forever when the bedtime stories he tells his
niece and nephew start to mysteriously come true. The director is Adam
Shankman (Hairspray). Generally negative reviews.
Scheduled for Jan 29
Inkheart: Germany/ UK/ US Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – 106 mins –
Brendan Fraser and Helen Mirren. Based on Inkheart, a 2003
children’s fantasy novel by prolific German author Cornelia Funke (who has
been likened to J.K. Rowling), and the first part in Funke’s Inkworld
series, the other two books being Inkspell and Inkdeath. The
fantasy trilogy concerns the adventures of bookbinder Mortimer “Mo” Folchart
(played in the film by Brendan Fraser at the insistence of the author) and
his 12-year-old daughter, Meggie, a voracious reader. As revealed in the
film’s prologue, Mo is a Silvertongue, a person with the rare ability to
bring the characters in a book to life simply by reading the text aloud.
Directed by Iain Softley. Mixed or average reviews.
Fireball / Tar Chon: Thai Action/ Martial Arts. The world of
underground barbaric fighting in Thailand.
Don’t Misss :
by Andy Archer
The College of Music of Payap University and
Bennett Lerner and friends present ‘Nocturnes and Barcarolles’, the third
part in the series featuring the music of famed French composer Gabriel
Faure (1845-1924) and his contemporaries. The solo pianist will be, of
course, Chiang Mai’s own Bennett Lerner, who will also be accompanying
mezzo-soprano Sheilagh Angpiroj, performing music by Faure and Reynaldo
The concert will take place at Payap’s Saisuree Music Hall on January 31,
beginning at 7.30 p.m. Admission is 200 baht, with a 100 baht concession for
students. For more information, please contact 081-804-3920. This will be a
superb concert, and definitely not to be missed.
Chiang Mai Flower Festival: between February 6 and 9, with parades
around the city’s moat road of beautifully decorated floral floats, floral
competitions, displays of all different species that grow here in the north
during the cool season, beauty contests, traditional markets, musical events
and exhibitions. See page 1 of last week’s issue for full details and times,
or contact TAT on 052-248-604 between 8.30 a.m. and 4.30 p.m.
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?:
Succulents are easy
Succulents belong in areas less severe and harsh
than those in which cacti successfully survive. As a
result, they do not need such a formidable armoury
of defences against their environment. In fact, they
mostly have no defences at all, although a few
species such as the Agave (Agavaceae
family), native to America, do have spikes, far
fewer than do cacti. The European equivalent is the
Aloe (Asphodelaceae family),
considered by the Romans to be the medical panacea
for all ills. They resemble the New World’s Agave,
but have no defences at all.
Succulents store water in their leaves; both
Agave and Aloe have rosettes of fleshy
leaves with the absolute minimum of stem, and tend
to hug the ground. Any stem that extends underground
will send up hundreds of ‘babies’ around the mother
plant which can be broken off and grown
individually. This is the plant’s strategy – if the
mother plant ends up as a good meal for a predator,
the ‘babies’ remain in the ground to grow normally
in its place.
The Kalanchoe family of succulents has an
infinite variety of interesting shapes, leaf colours
and textures, and will also grow hundreds of
‘babies’ on the edge of the leaves which fall off
onto the soil below, where they quickly root and
begin to grow. If they do not produce these complete
small plants attractively set at the edge of their
leaves in their thousands, the fleshy, water-filled
leaf itself drops off and will root and produce baby
plants before it shrivels and dries up.
The Euphorbiaceae family look very similar to
cacti, simply because they use the same strategy.
They have the same swollen, water-filled stem for
survival, but unlike cacti, they can produce green
leaves after rain to maximise growth in favourable
conditions. These leaves will drop off in dry
of the Week
Although succulents will not die when you forget to water
them, they can look ugly when they drop all their leaves. If you
want them to thrive and look beautiful, you must remember to
water them regularly.
Bridge in Paradise :
by Neil Robinson
Whenever you have four trumps (or you believe your partner has), then the
best line of defence is often a forcing one. You try to find the
partnership’s best suit and force declarer to ruff in the hand with the long
trumps. The purpose is to shorten declarer’s trump holding to the same as
yours. Even better if you can reduce declarer’s holding to less than yours –
then you are in control of the hand. The deal below is an example of a
forcing defence. With neither side vulnerable and South dealing, this was
South West North East
1S P 2S P
3S P 4S All pass
The full deal is shown below:
S: 7532 S: 4
H: 853 H: K10942
D: A5 D: 9843
C: KJ94 C: A107
Imagine you are sitting
West. From your point of view, defeating the 4S contract does not look good.
So what do you lead? If you lead a spade, a heart or a diamond, then South
will make the contract. Declarer pulls trumps in four rounds, forces out the
ace of diamonds, crosses to dummy and leads the queen of hearts. Since the
king of hearts is on the right side, he makes 10 tricks (five trumps, two
heart tricks and three diamond tricks). The defence takes only the ace of
diamonds and two club tricks. Contract made.
However, you have four trumps, so it is time to try the forcing defence.
Indeed, this is your only hope of defeating the contract. Your strongest
suit is clubs, so you lead the four. You are fortunate to find your partner
with an honour. He wins the ace and leads back a club. You win the king and
lead a third high club. Declarer ruffs and has to use all his remaining
trumps to pull yours. Now, when you win the ace of diamonds, declarer is
helpless. You lead the nine of clubs and take the setting trick. Contract
defeated. If this was your planned line of play, congratulations! Please
send me your interesting hands at: [email protected]