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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

Grierson-Gopalan Syndrome

Medical people are egotists. We all love to have our names perpetuated by having some syndrome, disease or condition named after us. Drs. Grierson and Gopalan are examples of this, having been jointly named as having described the ‘hot foot’ syndrome. I have a personal interest in Drs Grierson and Gopalan, because I’ve got it. Hot feet have been with me all my life.
Researchers who have by now gone through many feet of data (sorry about the pun) have found that it was first described in 1826 by a doctor called Grierson. Gopalan, by comparison, was a real Johnny Come Lately having only written down his description of my nocturnal hot feet in 1946.
So be it, this week I would like to introduce you to the Grierson-Gopalan Syndrome, otherwise known as the Burning Foot Syndrome, which we medico’s happily shorten to BFS. It is a fine example of how much we know about the human body, and conversely, how little we really do know! Sort of like the “More you know, the less you understand” concept often applied to expats living in Thailand.
Not only have I got it, but so have many of you who are reading this. Is this you? For almost all my life I have been unable to have my feet under the bed sheets, needing to hang them out in the cool breeze, because they feel so hot. My father also had this complaint and I was heartened to see that the pundits examining this medical mystery call mine an Autosomal dominant familial disorder, when one’s forebears also have/had it.
But back to medical examination of the feet. It may also be of interest to know that the researchers have found an increased incidence of BFS in Asia and the Far East during a hot summer. (Now there’s some earth shattering news!) It also seems more prevalent in people over the age of 50, and is worse at night. Ah, the medical dragnet is tightening.
Further investigation has turned up all sorts of conditions of interest to the hot foot sufferer. These range from Vitamin B deficiency, malabsorption syndrome, chronic alcoholism, diabetes, kidney failure, inactive thyroid gland, compression of the tarsal nerve at the ankle, trauma to the nerve, erythromelalgia, chronic mountain sickness, Gitelman syndrome, Leishmaniasis, multiple sclerosis, psychosomatic disorders and the last, “idiopathic”. Let me tell you, that most of those you don’t want. Stick with idiopathic.
Taking the last first, “idiopathic” is a wonderful medical moniker. This is translated as a disease or condition of unknown cause. “Yes, Mrs. Smith, we know what you’ve got. It is called BFS, but since it is ‘idiopathic’ we don’t really know what causes it, or what to do about it!” What wonderfully comforting people we medico’s are.
However, we can do some tests. Have we ever got some tests for you! We can begin with a complete blood count, red cell indices, biochemistry, check your serum levels of Vitamin B, check for diabetes, check your stool for malabsorption, bung in a thyroid check, do a bone marrow aspiration, check your serum and urine electrolytes, do some nerve conduction studies (include a nerve biopsy in that), do some molecular genetic studies and then perhaps some MRI screening of the ankles.
My medical research colleagues do have some general words of advice, however. It is suggested that first off we should reassure the patient - see the response to Mrs. Smith and “idiopathic”. Then you should wear open and comfortable shoes and cotton socks. Soaking your feet in cold water for 15 minutes is also suggested and avoid the heat! No problems with that in Thailand. Apart from that, if you’ve found something wrong, correct it, but you usually don’t find anything. Amazing what you can learn in a six year degree course!
When all that fails, you can just try hanging your feet out from the end of the bed and making sure the sheet only reaches your ankles. It works for me. I’m sure it will for you too!

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
My reply to concerned parties as to why I don’t get a job, have a girlfriend, or have any friends may help people to realize what true peace is and how to have it. What makes my life of less value if I don’t work? My life in this world is of much more value for being out of it. Holiness is not a concept, it’s a fact. What decreases my value as a human being if I don’t play a role in society? Society is a load of crap. It’s just people doing whatever they can to get money in order to satisfy their desires which can’t be satisfied. I have no desires, live alone on one small meal a day, meditate 5 hours every day, am very healthy, sleep well, and live in peace and bliss. All the money in the world cannot buy the peace I am in, so why would I seek to be a part of any system when I am living the unrealized dream of society, free of things, free of thoughts, free of cares. No one tells me what to do and I tell no one what to do. When you go beyond authority you become an authority, but that just means people look to you as a model of freedom. It’s been said that if you want peace, then prepare for war, and that’s what conflict on earth has only ever been about; people fighting to control others, or people fighting to be free of the control of others. Peace, or freedom which is the same thing, is to be unconditioned, free of the influence of anything or anyone. And what would be the purpose of clinging to a woman when I have happiness? How could a man in peace be driven to seek out what would destroy his peace? Where is the need for friends when you have no need? If you realized ‘at-onement’ with the infinite universal intelligence that you exist in and that you are, you would truly know what peace and happiness is. It’s not about things or people, it’s about you.
Blissed

Dear Blissed,
Thank you for your (rather lengthy) letter, and I am glad for you that you are happy on your one meal a day and living the somewhat monastic existence you describe in your missive. I note that you have decided that “society is a load of crap.” However, you are still happy to use the trappings of our society, such as the internet and emails, while claiming to have no part in that society. You have eschewed money, but how do you get your food? Or do you grow it yourself, becoming a slave to the vagaries of the weather and passing pigeons? There is a phrase you should mull over and that is “no man is an island” and that includes you too. The fact that you have come out with your protestations of not needing anyone for your inner peace, without being asked, shows that you needed an audience to listen to your assertions. I really do hope you remain “blissed” and trust that this has been a blessed experience for you as well. However, you are quite correct when you say that happiness is not about things or people, “it’s about you.” (By the way, this talking point is now closed, to leave space for people with questions, rather than people with assertions.)

Dear Hillary,
I have been reading your column on dating and have enjoyed it very much. As I am going to be there in March for the first time I am writing. It seems that everyone I ask (single men like myself) talk about being at the bars as the way to meet the working women of Thailand. While I realize this is not the only way I do have a question. If one is not a big drinker will I offend if I do not drink a lot or wish to leave to go see music, movies or see the country?
Bob

Dear Bob,
I can assure you that the ladies from the bars have not the slightest interest in how much ‘you’ drink, only in how much ‘they’ drink, while you are paying of course! This is because they receive a percentage of the cost of the ‘lady drinks’ which you will find are about twice the price of yours, while they get nothing from the price of your drinks. This is how they make money, as they are ‘working’ women as you rightly pointed out, getting their monthly salaries in many ways. It works like this, since you have not been here before, Petal. They generally receive a small wage (or retainer), and then their lady drinks percentage plus a percentage of the so-called ‘bar fine’ which is what the punters (like you) pay for the honor and glory of taking one of the blushing young ladies away from the bar to see music, movies or the country. Anything else is a private arrangement between the lady and the customer, as you have to realize that there is no prostitution in Thailand, because the statute books has said so since about 1966. While you are paying for things, you will not offend; however, when the money bin gets dry, you can expect to be left for someone with a fuller wallet.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Electric powered photography

While the automotive world is flirting with battery power, the photographic world has been wedded to batteries for decades. There is hardly one ‘mechanical’ camera left, other than perhaps some of the Russian copies of formerly western cameras. Cameras such as the FM2 and F3A are mechanical, but have a battery to run the inbuilt auto-exposure light meters. Some of the medium format cameras such as Hasselblad and Mamiya are mechanical, but these are not in the popular 35 mm format. Pure mechanical cameras are out, and batteries are in.

Look at the white crystals.

That brings problems unique to battery power. All but the most delinquent photographers know to look after their cameras. Lens caps are there to be used. The camera gets wiped dry after being in the rain. Most cameras these days turn themselves off after a period of time to conserve their batteries. However, it is those same batteries that can do untold damage to the electronic innards of today’s cameras.
When using a camera with motor drive, it suddenly stopped. Nothing worked! Now, the motor drive on the older Nikons is separate from the body and can get condensation between them and you’ll end up getting nothing. The answer is to unship one from the other, wipe and wriggle as you reattach and bingo! But not this time. Repeating the procedure did not work, so I disconnected the drive and was forced to wind on manually, but the light meter was now working.
What had not occurred to me at the time was the fact that when I was attached to the motor drive, there was no power, yet disconnecting the motor and its eight batteries, I once again had power for the LED’s, light meter and such.
It was the next day before I looked again at the problem, and then remembered that when the motor drive is disconnected, the camera uses its own small cadmium battery, but when hooked up to the motor drive, the camera draws its power from the motor drive battery pack. So this was why I had light meter facilities, but none when I attached the motor drive.
I then began to think how long it was since I had checked the eight batteries in the driver. Possibly a year! Opening up the battery pack case, I was greeted with a shower of white crystals and a group of sweating, leaking AA batteries. Six out of the eight were leaking. Hence no power.
Mentally castigating myself for such errant carelessness I pulled the motor drive battery compartment apart to see the extent of the damage. I was very lucky - no corrosion was evident. However, I did remove the batteries and then immersed the battery pack case in very hot water. This removes the crystalline substances that leech out of the batteries themselves. A gentle blow dry and very careful inspection showed there had been no lasting damage. The phrase, “Just in time” kept going through my head!
Also interestingly, the six batteries that had begun to leak were the least expensive of the two types of battery in the drive. There is a lesson here, isn’t there?
In fact, there are two lessons to be learned. The first is to check batteries every three months, I would suggest, rather than just waiting for the batteries to fail or become erratic. And secondly, you get what you pay for - so buy the best you can. It will serve you well in the end.
This little scenario would have been much worse if the battery pack had been internal with the camera works themselves. The discharging batteries also give off fumes that attack and corrode the complex electronic circuitry. That little problem can destroy the camera totally - and that is no joke!
So I escaped this time around. After 200 baht for new batteries, the motor drive and camera are functioning just perfectly. Till the next time - unless I make a note in my yearly planner to check every three months. It will be good insurance. Think about it too. Now with 2009 on us, make a battery check a good resolution.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Not all funds let you down, part 2

“Looking at the macro issues in more detail there are probably three ways in which the current problems could be resolved without intervention. Oil prices could fall, allowing central banks to increase support for financial markets and reducing pressure on growth (notably in Emerging Markets). Oil prices could stay high but stabilize, without inflation becoming broadly embedded, again allowing more flexibility to protect the rest of the economy. Finally, an improvement in credit market sentiment and liquidity could emerge, mitigating the negative effect of higher commodity prices. Of these, clearly the first is the one that is most likely to happen quickly enough to change things in the short-term.
As to the likelihood of any such moves we are fairly pessimistic. Taking the chance of a meaningful oil price fall first we should begin by noting that we are far from clear as to why it risen so sharply in the last year so being too dogmatic about its prospects feels uncomfortable. Neither the bulls nor bears’ explanations of this move seem persuasive. Bulls argue that a genuine resource constraint is finally being acknowledged in market prices (Peak Oil). Such a view may well be ultimately right but it is difficult to see why its effect should have been so pronounced recently, given that the production shortfall it assumes will not be evident for several years.”
[Please note that all quotes in this article are from Lansdowne UK Equity Fund, the largest holding in the Turnstone European fund, which along with Orbis, Berkshire Hathaway and GAA makes up the majority of our equity exposure right now…]
Our fears on this are threefold: firstly, that the contagion of higher commodity prices seems to us one that continues to expand, especially through reduction, in capacity, of other industries. In food, for example, high feed prices are causing meat producers to reduce unprofitable stock, temporarily increasing supply but ultimately leading to materially reduced supply and higher prices. This trend is being exacerbated by the credit crisis which is again militating against capacity additions. Secondly, our sense is that most of the industries facing such pressures are increasing prices (often at the expense of volume) rather than cutting gross margins, and transport being obvious areas where the pass-through has been pretty linear.
Finally, while developed market labour may not yet have responded to the cost of basic goods, one would expect such a move to take some time and there are increasing indications that wage demands and industrial action are rising. Moreover, the effect on goods prices may well be more driven by developing market labour costs given current manufacturing bias, costs that are clearly rising substantially in response to higher prices. As an example, we suspect that goods out of China are now facing 15% labour cost inflation on top of an appreciating currency, a sharp contrast to conditions seen in recent years.
Thus, again, we see the chance of inflation not responding to cost pressures being far less certain than presumed by the bulls and would note that, even were they right, evidence from this is not likely to be conclusive until oil prices stabilize on an annual basis - i.e. not until a year from now unless prices start to fall.
Looking at the final aspect of potential organic improvement to the situation, basically an endogenous improvement in credit markets, we are also unconvinced. With treasury yields around 4%, even elevated spreads struggle to offer nominal returns near any levels that feel compelling enough to attract untarnished capital given headline inflation. Meanwhile, as described above, capital positions, if anything, appear to be worsening given increased doubts about the availability of capital.
Indeed, we would be far from surprised to see the situation for credit markets deteriorate rapidly. Credit spreads, generally being below March levels, look to be a risky position given the deteriorating economic outlook. While the threat that rebuilding capital through equity-raises becomes more difficult which suggests that management’s willingness to expand their gross loan-books will be very limited (and could turn negative).
Finally, one has to take on board the point that the asset most obviously riskily mispriced by ‘speculators’, if interpreted as non-natural owners, is the US bond yield (and consequently fixed income instruments in general) given the reserve holdings of exporters. One can quite easily imagine a situation in which such ‘speculation’ is reversed as oil importing creditors seek either to buy oil or improve their buying power through revaluation of currencies. Meanwhile, the oil-exporting creditors are also faced with a dilemma of whether their currency linkage with the US dollar is as appropriate given the relative strength of their economic prospects and those of the US.
So, in aggregate, we are doubtful that anything material will occur quickly enough to solve the market’s current concerns organically. The question then moves to whether policy-makers shift of focus towards oil prices can in any way change the situation. Instinctively one has to be a bit sceptical: it is not as though previous policy was framed to higher oil prices rather than support the housing market while if there were an obvious way out one suspects the people involved would probably have considered it by now.
The key point here is that the “economy can’t heal itself; we should feel that policy makers will try to fix it and generally that’s not good news.
Effectively the options open are threefold in type, obviously each has multiple nuances - not least as to whether implemented through monetary or fiscal policy. One could aim to restrict overall growth in an attempt to stabilize commodity prices, ignore commodity prices as not being inflationary in the long-term (see argument above) and stimulate the rest of the economy or find specific policies designed to influence the oil market.”
Lansdowne shares our reservations about the effectiveness of intervention: “We are left with a view that there is no obvious way out of current difficulties, either from a policy or a market-driven perspective.”

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

Don’t rain on my parade

Scaring away much needed tourists with high prices

Last week I went along with many other people to the Flower Festival and, on the last evening, bought several lovely plants. On Saturday February 21, I intend to visit the Gay Pride ‘festival’ which takes place, also, in the centre of Chiang Mai. Would someone please tell me what the crucial difference is between these two events, which involve a lot of hard work, floats and parades and side events designed to give pleasure to visitors and residents – Thai and farangs – alike. They are equally part of Chiang Mai’s social and cultural life and an expression of life in this city.
And yet, it seems, the Gay Pride event has had to wait a long time for permission for its celebration and there seems some ambiguity about whether it will actually take place. I wonder if the Red Shirts’ march on Sunday February 8, which disrupted the traffic and caused problems during the flower festival, had any trouble getting permission for its parade?
Another problem has been some opposition from gay people in the city who see a perfectly justified expression of a life style as somehow ‘not culturally correct’. And yet as far as I am aware it is organized by a funded body, M Plus, which is officially recognized as a charity which seeks to warn young people of the dangers of unsafe sex and help those with problems.
Quite what gets people hot and bothered about gays and lesbians putting their heads above the barricades which have been erected around them for centuries is also inexplicable. Such bigotry has no place at any time, certainly not in today’s so-called tolerant society. Haven’t we moved on from a lack of understanding of one person’s sexual preference, which is no more a concern than the colour of someone’s hair, their skin or the shape of their nose.
The organizers of the event will no doubt ensure that it proceeds in an orderly fashion, that the participants do ‘not frighten the horses’ and that a good time is had by all.
The Lord Buddha is reputed to have said, ‘The greatest crime is hatred’. And prejudice is indeed a form of ignorance and hatred. I think we should be tolerant of everything except intolerance.
I will admit to not knowing the background to this seeming problem. What worries me about it is the secrecy and rumours which circulate. If there is a good reason (public safety?) for not holding it, then it should be stated. If there is no real reason for an embargo on such an event (such parades are held throughout the world annually, many of them on a vast scale) then it should go ahead. Why not? If someone can give a good reason I would be only too willing to listen to their case and judge it on its merits. We live – hopefully – in a free society - let’s have any discussion in the open not behind closed doors and in ‘secret’.
On another note, some friends visiting from England recently took their hire car to Doi Inthanon (three farangs and two Thais). On arrival, they had to pay for the car and passengers to enter the National Park. No surprise, I suppose, but the visitors were discriminated against and had to pay far more than the Thais. As soon as they got to the entrance of the gardens a second amount was demanded. And when they visited the new temples in honour of the King and Queen (this was the main reason for a return visit) they were charged again to use the escalators.
No one in the party felt that they should not pay for the chance to visit the site, but everyone felt that the substantial difference between the charges for foreigners and Thais was unfair. They also felt – given that the pound has settled around 50 baht – that the overall costs were high. If Thailand wants a return of tourists and long term visitors it is about time that it stopped pricing people out of the market. It is apparent that business is dropping off, especially in the more expensive venues and hotels.
I recently went to a National Park with four family members in my car. We were each asked for 400 baht. I turned round and headed on a little way to the Queen’s Gardens where we paid a tenth of the price for a super visit. From what I could see the Park was empty. Is there any sense in this policy?
I read recently that the new Prime Minister is considering a new policy with regard to visas. Possibly, a 90-day permit at no cost, rather than the present 30 days free with a costly extension after that period and an absolute maximum of 90 days. There are quite a few people who wish to stay here for several months and avoid the winter period in, say, Europe. Provided that they have sufficient funds and an appropriate passport is there any sensible reason for not granting an initial 90 day visa with an option for an extension of 30 days at a time? I can’t think of one. Except perhaps short-sighted prejudice. And that is neither sensible nor a reason.


Let's Go To The Movies: : Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
US Drama/ Fantasy/ Mystery/ Romance – with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton.  Nominated for Oscar best picture and best director.  It’s the tale of one man, born elderly in 1918, who ages backwards through the 20th century.  I don’t see how anyone can really like this, but I seem to be in the minority.  It’s so utterly nonsensical I couldn’t get involved, even at 166 mins. Great makeup! – worth seeing for that alone!  But thirteen Academy Award nominations? Perhaps Benjamin Button is the big-budget love story with just the right combination of qualities (nostalgic Americana, epic romance) that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences routinely admires.  The screenplay is by Eric Roth, who wrote Forrest Gump, which this reminds me of. Generally favorable reviews.
A Moment in June:
Thai Drama/ Romance – Well received Thai drama set partly in Chiang Mai and Lampang.  Directed by O. Nathapon, who is also active in theater and draws on his theater experience to devise an impressive crossover of cinema and stage through a play-within-a-film.  Three couples – gay, elderly, and fictive – engage in a melancholy dance of indecision and regret.
Push:
US Action/ Thriller.  The deadly world of “psychic espionage” where artificially enhanced paranormal operatives have the ability to move objects with their minds, see the future, create new realities, and kill without ever touching their victims.
Confessions of a Shopaholic:
US Comedy. Nonsense wherein Isla Fisher plays a fun-loving girl who is really good at shopping.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans:
US Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – Traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans.  Michael Sheen (Tony Blair in The Queen, David Frost in Frost/Nixon) and Bill Nighy (Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) revisit their roles from Underworld in this prequel to the horror-action series.  Rated R in the US for bloody violence and some sexuality. Mixed or average reviews.
Before Valentine:
Thai Romance/ Drama. Four takes on love, made by three Thai directors: Songsak Mongkoltong (The Screen at Kamchanod), Pornchai Hongrattanaporn (Bangkok Loco), and Seri Pongnithi (Ghost in Law).
Fireball / Tar Chon:
Thai Action/ Martial Arts.  The world of underground barbaric fighting in Thailand.
Hod Na Haew:
Thai Comedy/ Drama. More comedy with popular Thai comedians from TV.
Scheduled for Feb 19
Valkyrie:
US/ Germany Drama/ History/ Thriller/ War – The near-miss assassination of Adolf Hitler by a ring of rebel German army officers on July 20, 1944, starring Tom Cruise.  Given the subject matter, it could have been an outstanding historical thriller, but I think it settles for being a mildly entertaining, but disposable yarn.
Based on a the true story of cadre of Nazi officers who grew to oppose Hitler’s murderous pursuits and made several attempts to kill him in the late stages of WWII, Valkyrie features a top-flight cast.  It is 1943, and though he has come to be disgusted by Hitler, Count Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) has risen to the level of lieutenant colonel in the German army.  Convinced that Hitler must die, Von Stauffenberg falls in with a group of similarly disillusioned officers ,played by Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and Terence Stamp.  Stauffenberg is at the center of several attempts on Hitler’s life, culminating in a bombing that kills a handful of his officers and leaves Hitler only slightly injured.  Basically a well-crafted, thinking-person’s action movie. Directed by Bryan Singer.  Mixed or average reviews.
The Wrestler:
US Drama/ Sport – Mickey Rourke whose portrayal of an over-the-hill athlete has already won him a wheelbarrow full of accolades, including a Golden Globe and a Bafta, is now strongly in the running for a best-actor Oscar.  I think it’s quite a wonderful performance of a loser of a professional wrestler – Randy the Ram – that you wouldn’t ordinarily care about.  But you end up caring about this man considerably.  Directed by Darren Aronofsky.  The actor recently admitted he could empathize with his character’s struggles because of his own turbulent life.  Rourke - who spent 15 years in the Hollywood wilderness - said: “Randy has been in the twilight of his career for several years.  He thinks he has one more game in him - one more shot.  He wants to come back again.  I know what that feels like.”  Rated R in the US for “violence, sexuality/nudity, language and some drug use.”  Reviews: Universal acclaim.  Its arrival in Chiang Mai is uncertain.
Seven Pounds:
US Drama/ Romance – Will Smith is an IRS agent who is depressed and guilt-ridden about mistakes from his past.  He sets out to make amends by helping seven strangers.  Woody Harrelson also appears as a blind pianist who befriends Ben.  Grim and morose, it’s also undone by an illogical plot.  Generally negative reviews.


Don’t Misss : by Andy Archer

6February 20-22: The 2nd Worldwide Holistic Healing Seminar. Come to the Empress Hotel’s Conference Centre and learn all you need to know about safe and natural ways to improve and maintain your health: 40 speakers on diverse techniques, many booths, practitioners, etc. This is a fascinating and ever more popular way to boost your quality of life, deal with the causes of disease rather than its symptoms, and to learn about traditional health-boosting wisdom from all over the world.
February 21: Small Wonders concert. Kad Theatre at Kad Suan Kaew is the venue for an unusual concert organised by the Chiang Mai Charity Calendar as a fundraiser for rural children, with students of all ages and nationalities performing in two concerts, one at 2.30 p.m. and the other at 5.30 p.m. The shows will be accompanied by a children’s art exhibition and a charity auction of the original paintings used in this year’s Charity Calendar.
February 24: Chiang Mai Expats Ladies’ Lunch. Come and join us! We will be enjoying the beautiful Nimman Bar & Grill restaurant located in the Kantary Hills Hotel, at the end of Soi 12, Nimmanhaeminda Road. Lunch begins at 12.30 p.m. –come from 12 midday. You can order from the menu – they have many choices, both Western and Thai, with lots of options at or below 200 baht. Since we have to give the restaurant a count for their setup, if you are coming, RSVP is essential. The deadline is noon Monday, February 23. If you change your plans and are unable to come, let Judy know on [email protected] yahoo.com, or call on 085-246-1321, so that our numbers are accurate.
February 25: Chiang Mai Friends’ Group Meeting will take place at the La Gondola Restaurant, beginning at 5 p.m. with a special afternoon tea (included in the meeting fee of 150 baht), and a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones! The meeting itself will start at 7 p.m., and will include the presentation to members of the group’s eagerly- anticipated new website. The CMF group meetings are not just social occasions, as CMF is committed to integration, cultural understanding and positive support between the Thai and Expat communities, and is also, importantly, active in environmental concerns. Membership of CMF gives foreign residents in Chiang Mai the opportunity to become involved with the host city, and to be of real help to the community. Please confirm before 23rd if you are coming, by contacting Pick on 053-206-121 or 089-433-4926, or email on chiang maifriends @gmail. com.
February 27-28: That Takes Ovaries at the AUA’s theatre on Rachadamnoen Road in the old city. A new version of the highly successful performances of this challenging and fascinating theatrical concept first staged in Chiang Mai last year. The play relates true-life stories of the means by which individuals survived crucial periods in their lives, and learned from their experiences. Proceeds will go to the Zonta Fund for children orphaned by HIV/Aids, in support of the grandparents who are looking after them. The show starts at 7.30 p.m. - tickets cost 350 baht and include a glass of wine or a soft drink.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

When is it right to lead a trump as the opening lead? I sometimes hear the adage “when in doubt lead a trump.” There are some good reasons to lead a trump, but this is not one of them – this bridge adage is not worth following. So, what are the good reasons? I plan to cover them in the next few columns. The number one reason is to cut down dummy’s ruffing power. For dummy to ruff usefully, then dummy must be short in a suit which declarer holds. How do you know that this is the case? The answer is that you listen to the bidding. Take this as an example, with South dealing and E-W vulnerable:

East      South     West      North
             1S            P              1N
P           2D           All pass

North accepted South’s second suit, so he must be short in the first suit, spades. The full deal is shown below:

             S: 3
             H: Q9764
             D: Q87
             C: K1094               
S: K97                 S: Q1042
H: A1053             H: J8
D: A52                 D: 643
C: 863                  C: AQ75
             S: AJ865
             H: K2
             D: KJ109
             C: J2       

Assume the defence stays away from leading trumps. Instead, West leads a club, one of the unbid suits. At first sight, it looks like a good lead. Assume dummy ducks and East wins the queen. East switches to the jack of hearts, ducked to dummy’s queen. Dummy leads a spade to the ace and a spade is led back to be ruffed on board. Now, dummy leads a heart to king and ace. West leads back a club to the ace. East tries another club. Declarer discards a spade and takes the club trick on board. At this point, declarer has four tricks and the defence has three. Dummy leads a third heart which is ruffed in hand while West follows helplessly. Now another spade is ruffed on board and another heart led back to be ruffed, and another spade led. Whatever the defence does, the cross ruff limits them to only four tricks – one heart, one diamond and two clubs. The contract makes with an overtrick.
Now consider what happens if West leads a low trump. Declarer can win, cash the ace of spades and ruff a spade. However, whatever dummy now leads, the defence can win and lead another trump. Now, dummy has no trumps left and few or no entries. Provided the defence play carefully, declarer is in a hopeless situation and is limited to only six tricks – one spade, a spade ruff, a heart and three diamonds. The contract now goes down two, instead of making an overtrick. Please send me your interesting hands at: [email protected]