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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

H1N1 - a swine of a virus

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the H1N1 influenza epidemic had spread all over the world and had become a pandemic, and as a result, people have gone into pandemonium mode and outright panic. It is time to put the record straight.
Firstly, a little history, old and new, on this current “novel” H1N1 virus, which has gone from being a not very virulent virus to now having become an ‘industry’.
In 1918, the developed world had just finished WWI (the war to end all wars!), and had successfully killed 15 million of its population and wounded another 21 million. The war was followed by an influenza epidemic, which struck the weakened population. This was the Spanish Swine Flu of 1918-1919 and it managed to kill around 50 million people world-wide. It was of the H1N1 type. It was highly contagious, and very virulent and killed somewhere between 10-20 percent of those who contracted the influenza. That’s one in five - that is virulent.
The Spanish H1N1 also wiped out whole pig farms, but the pigs got a bum rap, as they caught the virus from us, not the other way round. The mode of transmission was droplet infection via the air, before you ask.
The next time the piggy tried to get revenge was in 1950, but the virus was not very virulent but the authorities kept some H1N1 in the laboratory for further studies later. We were safe as it was under lock and key.
However, the next notable emergence of Swine Flu was in 1976 at the American outpost of Fort Dix. This was again an H1N1, but was different from the 1950 variety. The US government of the day immediately instituted a mass vaccination program, which resulted in 40 million civilian vaccinations and 532 cases of the Guillain–Barré syndrome (a rare side effect of influenza vaccination), including 32 deaths.
Then came another outbreak in 1977, but this was again a different strain from the Fort Dix one, but it was identical to the one that had been locked away in 1950. This finding suggested that the 1977 re-emergence was a well orchestrated breakout by the virus, or more probably an accidental release from a laboratory. We were soiling our own pig pen again!
And so we come to today, where H1N1 “Swine Flu” is on everyone’s lips. Every day the newspapers have a running total of the numbers of people infected with H1N1 and the cumulative total of deaths attributed to the ‘pandemic’ virus. Nine in Thailand as I write this, but it will probably be more by the time this is printed and published. However, do you know how many people die in Thailand each year from the ‘ordinary’ seasonal flu? Around 200-300 at last count. So should we be so worried?
Now where did this barrage of Swine Flu information come from? It came from the WHO, that’s who. Let me assure you, with my journalist’s hat on, and not my medical mask, journalists do not ring the WHO saying, “I’ve got a hole to fill on page 2. Do you have any good diseases this week? Swine Flu, that sounds great. That should do nicely. Thank you.”
No, the WHO began to inform the world, as it should, that there were the indications of an influenza epidemic coming, and that when it had spread through many countries it had reached the level of being a ‘pandemic’, called “Level 6” in WHO-speak.
Unfortunately, the WHO did not tell the media that the danger of viral infections has two requirements - how easily it passes from one host to another and how lethal is the ensuing infection.
The ‘pandemic level 6’ only refers to the contagious nature of the virus and H1N1 is certainly highly contagious. However, with only around 400 deaths in the world from this Swine Flu virus, just how lethal is it, when the seasonal flu kills 36,000 people each year just in the US alone? Simple answer: not very lethal at all.
Returning to the Thailand situation, just how many cases have there been? Quite frankly, we don’t know. Many cases never reach hospital, or are never tested for H1N1. But the published numbers infected will be less than the actual ones, for those and many, many other reasons. Having said that, the number of deaths is reasonably accurate, and the nine represents one in 10 million of the population, where seasonal flu comes in at one in 250,000 of the population.
Which one should you worry about most?

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
A delicate problem my dear, but one I am sure you will be capable of advising not only me, as I am sure you have met this situation before. I am one of those expats who spends two months overseas and then two months here. Like most expats in my situation, you eventually end up with one steady girlfriend who you find in your local bar and who looks after and cooks for you when you are here and does whatever she wants when you aren’t here. Unfortunately, I have been having a little daily dalliance when I’m in residence and although I thought neither knew about the other, I know my cover has been blown at least in one direction. The new one is now telling me that the old one has a Thai boyfriend who stays in my condo while I am overseas, and even though I don’t have the ‘moral’ high ground, this annoys me a lot, though I haven’t said anything - yet. One of my drinking buddies says it’s not like that but just that Number 2 is trying to get rid of Number 1, so that she can move in and take over. So, Hillary, what should a man do under these circumstances? Number 2 seems to hold all the cards, but I don’t want to be played like a sucker. Should I get a Private Eye to keep the place under surveillance, or should I just have it out with Number 1? Do you think Number 2 would contact Number 1 if I do nothing?
Bart
Dear Bart,
You certainly have caused yourself to have a problem, Petal. I also note that you state that Number 1 is a “steady girlfriend who looks after and cooks when you are here and does whatever she wants when you aren’t here.” “Does whatever she wants,” Petal? Those are your words, yet when given an allegation by someone who has a more than vested interest in the case that perhaps she is doing something she wants, you are “annoyed a lot.” Three words come to mind here - sauce, goose and gander. Or as they say here ‘som nam na’ (you are getting what you deserve). If you hadn’t decided to slip away for your daily dose of dalliance, as you put it, then you wouldn’t be feeling guilty and then trying to shift that blame on to your girl and your paramour (oh, I love using some of those old time words). You have to also remember that there is no love lost between the bar girls when it comes to lining their piggy banks. This is what they do for a living, Bart the Butterfly. So they will do everything in their power to increase their monthly salary. You have placed yourself in the situation, and really only you can get yourself out. You hope that by finding out Number 1’s unfaithfulness you will be morally justified in kicking her out. My suggestion is to rent the condo out for 12 months and say goodbye to both Number 1 and Number 2 and grow up a little before you return.
Dear Hillary,
The girls in Thailand are all nice, but they certainly have a funny clothes sense. They wear all these over-blouses and frills everywhere and the silly platform sole shoes we threw away years ago. The layered look went out about at least 10 years ago too. I thought they would have a much better dress sense than the western women, but it seems that isn’t the case. Any idea why, Hillary?
Swinging Londoner
Dear Swinging Londoner,
We wear what feels best for us. Just as you do in England, even in swinging London, though I haven’t heard that name for a while. I also get asked about the shoes many times, Petal, but when you are only five foot two inches you need the heels and platform soles to be able to keep the motorcycle upright at the traffic lights. See, it’s easy when you take our different living situations into account.

Dear Hillary,
Have you ever stopped to count where your letter writers come from? When I see that the same problems crop up for all nationalities it is pretty amazing, when you think about it. I’m from Australia and I can’t really complain. I come over about three to four times a year, and I don’t look for the same girl as I don’t want to settle down yet, but I always find someone nice to “take care you”. That makes it so much easier than back in Aus, I can tell you, Hillary. If you look twice at any Sheila down under you’ll either get a smack in the mouth or demands for a wedding ring and all the trimmings. Don’t ever change.
Pete from Aus
Dear Pete from Aus,
I am so glad you are happy in the service, Petal, but I must admit I haven’t sat down and worked out where all the readers come from, but it certainly is from all over. When you say “the same problems crop up for all nationalities” just shows how clever and industrious are the ladies in Thailand, that they have learned to deal with multinationals! Yes, stay clear of the Australian “Sheila’s” and spend your money up here - we need it!


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Shooting movies

Video is becoming more popular every day. Have a look in the window of a camera shop and you will find as many video cameras as there are still cameras. In addition, many still digital cameras also have a video capability as do many camera phones these days, so there is probably just as much video work being done as still.
The main difference between still and video lies in that still photography freezes a moment in time, while video photography tells a moving picture story.
For the still photographer it is a case of looking at the background and then working out the best combination of shutter speed and aperture. For the video photographer it is a case of working out the story line and then how to shoot the various elements in the story.
One of the ways you can pick the first time video user is the fact that the camera operator spends much time taking shots of still subjects. Having not made the mental adjustment from still photography, many minutes are taken up with a video of his wife standing by the front door of the hotel. That was a ‘still’ shot. With video, you film your wife checking out at the cashier’s desk, picking up her bags and walking towards the exit. Then you rush outside and the next footage is her coming out of the hotel and hailing a taxi. You have just shot a living ‘story’.
So where can you go to ‘learn’ this new art? Just as still photographers have photographs in books and magazines to study, the video photographer has a very ready source of informative examples to scrutinize. This is called TV! Sit down in front of the goggle box and see how the pros do it. Even the dreadful Thai soap operas have good cinematic technique, despite the glaringly obvious story line! So start to look critically at technique. Where was the camera, relative to the subject? Did they “zoom” in or was it one far shot and another close up to follow? How many times did the cameraman actually use the inbuilt zoom? You may be amazed to see how seldom!
Here are a few more “rules” which can help you produce better video. Firstly, no rule is absolute, but you should have a good reason to break it. Having said that, let’s look at a few basics.
You should shoot people in full or three-quarter profile to let the viewers see both eyes. The one eyed effect does not look good. Again, look at TV. When two people are talking, the camera shoots over the shoulder of person one to shoot the second person face-on to the camera. When the first person replies, the shot is taken the other way, over the shoulder of the second person. You can also take shots of the person who is listening to the other speak. These are called ‘noddies’, because the person will be nodding while listening to the other speaker.
When shooting people, place the subject’s eyes one-third down from the top of the frame no matter the type of shot. It is that old rule of thirds again. Dead central is boring!
Another shot to avoid is one with large distances between people. Again, look at the soaps on TV. The people are really standing much closer than they would in real life (in each other’s personal space in fact), but if you have them a meter or so apart, you lose ‘contact’ in the video.
Focusing. This is a common problem with still cameras with Auto-Focus (AF), and 99 percent of video cameras are AF too. The magic eye in the camera focuses on a spot in the middle of the screen. When you are filming a couple, if the magic dot is not on one of the people, they will end up out of focus and the background perfectly sharp.
Application of these simple aspects of video photography will give you (and those who watch your videos) a much better end product, and a much more satisfying one for yourself to produce.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Is this a Recession or a Depression?

Since the end of the Second World War, the major force that has driven the American economy has been consumer spending and its seemingly never ending ability to keep on going through all economic ups and downs.
How was this done? The Truman years saw the beginning of post-war revival as people had saved money during the war. Then, in the 1950s, after the Korean War, Americans were back at work without having to think about war for the first time in over a decade. They created families and homes which meant spending money. The US was also the biggest lender on the planet as well as the biggest exporter and manufacturer.
Then things started to go down hill. Complacency set in. Also, this was not helped by the government in the early 1970s getting rid of gold backing for the US dollar. Just over ten years later, America was no longer a net creditor to the rest of the world, it was a net debtor. Fifteen years ago, the US consumer was actually spending more than they earned and over the last ten years they have not bothered to save anything at all.
What is different this time is that the consumer is not spending, he is spent. Even in a recession, they continue to buy. Okay, the economy needs a bit of time to recover but this soon happens. Mainly, this was due to the central governments trying to encourage the end user to spend no matter what. This was achieved by easier credit. Each time it worked thus driving the consumer into more and more debt - which is why the financial companies boomed and got more and more greedy as they compiled bigger and bigger debts.
This time though, things are different. Governments have a new answer - almost zero interest rates and building up central debts of 13 trillion US dollars. The problem though is that the end users already have everything they want and are still trying to pay for it. The only way they can do this is not to spend any more money on anything. Put another way, this is not a quick dip in the cycle of growing consumer demand and debt (recession) but a complete reverse of the cycle as there is no more consumer demand, less debt which implies more savings - where possible (depression).
Assuming this does happen then the price of assets will continue to fall as will bond prices. Stocks and shares will come down to levels where they look reasonable. Decent companies should have P/E ratios of between 5 and 14 and the dividends should be more than five percent.
However, Caveat Emptor! Beware what you buy as there will have been many changes in the economy. For example, many retailers will have gone bust. The standard of living in the West will have declined. The good news though is that many of the people who got us into this mess will not be able to get a job in the financial world again - let’s face it, they should never have had one. But why let facts get in the way of prejudice. Short selling had little or nothing to do with bringing financial institutions down. Banks supported by regulators and governments created this mess through lax lending in pursuit of profit.
On top of this, the US Treasury department recently announced that net sales of long term equities, notes and bonds totaled USD43 billion, compared with buying of USD34.7 billion. Including short term securities such as stock swaps, foreigners sold a net USD148.9 billion, after net buying of USD86.2 billion the prior month. Is this the beginning of the end for US bailouts? Can capital be raised? Will China start to sell?
Meanwhile Mexico put tariffs on USD2.4 billion of U.S. merchandise after Congress suspended a program to allow some Mexican trucks to deliver goods across the U.S. This is not the first time that Congress or the Obama administration (buy American plan in the stimulus package) has showed signs of protectionism. We expected this ugly genie to escape the bottle but not so early. This too is a very bad sign.
The more that unfolds from this global financial crisis, the more some economists say that we may be in the early stages of an economic catastrophe rather than a recession. I would not go that far but it is a depression and not a recession.

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

NEWS and VIEWS

And how could the U.N. Director General be so optimistic?

‘When I hear someone talk of culture, I reach for my revolver’. No one is quite sure who originally said that: probably Goering, perhaps Hanns Johst, and there is certainly a variant from Louis B. Mayer. Certainly a neat riposte came from a certain Dr I. A. Good, ‘When I hear the word ‘gun’, I reach for my culture’. The great divide – always with us.
But for most people it’s not a fear or hatred of culture which deters, just antipathy or laziness. A raft of feeble excuses is offered: ‘I didn’t know it was on’, or ‘It’s along way out to Payap’, (or there’s ‘too much traffic’ in town – if it’s at AUA). Or ‘I’m busy that evening’ (for which please read – ‘I’m watching a rubbish soap on the goggle-box’).
Even more painful to witness is the shocked response when told that a concert or happening has a price tag. During the interval at last week’s excellent concert by the C.M. Youth Philharmonic I heard a 30-something farang query the price of a forthcoming piano recital for which tickets were on sale. This event, on Friday 24 July, is being given at Payap, Keaw Nawarat Campus, from 7.30 p.m. and the tickets are just 140 baht. The players are hoping to raise funds to attend an important music seminar in Bangkok and no doubt there are other costs involved, including paying for rehearsal rooms, the hire of the Recital Room 201 on the night and so on. Why should anyone assume that it might be free?
The programme certainly sounds interesting with two works each by Bach, Chopin and Mozart and one by Haydn, Brahms and Rachmaninoff. One pianist is Widhida Supaporn and she opens the evening. The second is Achira Assawadecharit, who played so well at the concert mentioned. A highlight of the evening will be a performance of a Mozart piano concerto in which he will play the piano solo with teacher and pianist Bennett Lerner taking on the exacting orchestra part of the work, which he tells me is ‘quite daunting’.
Now classical music may not interest you and that’s fine- an honest ‘no thanks I’d sooner listen to pop’ is no problem. Or perhaps you like movies. If so, take a tip and look out for Public Enemies, which opens this month. It’s the new work by that ace director Michael Mann, a rare Hollywood phenomenon in making big scale movies with plenty to offer alongside the often explosive surface. His films include Ali, The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Collateral and The Insider. He also introduced Hannibal Lecter to the screen in Manhunter, made a thoughtful TV debut with Jericho Mile and a controversial feature debut with Thief. He also went to the same film school as I did, though, sadly for me, there the similarity ends. Except to say how much I agree with one of his comments.
Mann once remarked (despite considerable success in TV – he created Miami Vice, later directing the movie) ‘A 65- feet wide screen with 500 people reacting to the movie. There is nothing like that experience’. Amen to that. DVDs and the like are fine if a movie has come and gone, perhaps years, even decades ago, or when one wants to re-view a film. I’ve see works such as A Man Escaped or The Big Sleep perhaps 20 times and only half of them in a cinema. One simply has to accept the limitations of availability, time and general convenience, especially in a cinematic backwater such as Chiang Mai or indeed anywhere in Thailand. But Mann’s films are certainly composed for the big screen experience.
True, I’m recommending this latest one without having seen more than trailers and reading reviews in the New Yorker, Empire and elsewhere and having seen a dozen or so of his earlier efforts. It stars Johnny Depp as the gangster Dillinger, with a fine supporting cast. I’m most intrigued by the prospect of Billy Crudup as J.Edgar Hoover, the sexually ambiguous – yet homophobic – right wing head of the F.B.I, and Christian Bale as his law enforcer. Bale, a cold unlikable, though talented, actor, seems perfect casting as the opponent to the glamorously glossy Depp.
The production sounds epic with some 500 personnel involved behind the scenes, including ten producers, (Mann and Robert de Niro among them), and an army of special effects people to recreate 1930s Chicago and other locations. There are over a hundred people in front of the camera and no doubt the actual filming with pre and post production took a year out of all their lives, not accounting for years in conception. The cost? Probably little short of a hundred million dollars. And you can see it for around a hundred baht. A snip if ever there was one.
Mann, a wonderfully visual and lucid director, has a ‘soft’ spot for criminals, realising that both sides of the law have ambiguous roles. I doubt, though, whether he would find much to empathise with in any consideration of those arch criminals who rule Burma.
A couple of questions along the way…does anyone really believe that an unwell, overweight, middle aged American, (John Yettaw), really swam across the lake to Aung San Suu Kyi’s heavily guarded home? Does anyone regard her protracted trial as little more than a black farce, designed to punish her for her integrity and keep her from involvement in the so-called future elections? And does anyone believe that the visit of the UN Director General, Ban ki-Moon did anything but harm to her cause and further humiliate both him and his useless emissary - who has been to Burma eight times without causing a ripple?
The state papers were able to photograph the UN leader with the generals when he finally got to see them. They reportedly smiled a lot and told him that the time was not opportune for him to meet the detainee. Did he expect anything else? The Burmese junta has no respect for human life at any level. Prisoners or statesmen. They simply do not care for anything except themselves and their cohorts and the exploitation of the country, its people and its natural resources, for their own ends. His visit was as ill timed as it was no doubt well meant and, as we know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
: US/ UK, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Mystery/ Romance – The latest and darkest Harry Potter episode, the Sixth.  Is it the blockbuster the movie folk hope it to be?  Will it thrill us all?  Early viewers tend to say yes!  But you must go see for yourself! Y ou know you will see it, sooner or later. Right?
Generally favorable reviews so far.
As Harry Potter begins his 6th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he learns more about the dark past of He Who Must Not Be Named.  And although the forces of He Who Must Not Be Named are growing, that’s not the only hazard Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to contend with, as another sort of fickle magic is in the air: teenage hormones.
They are saying that it’s a dazzlingly well-made film as Voldemort (… oops! There I go again, naming him!) tightens his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds, and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was.  Indeed, the story heads for one major character’s death at the end of Part Six, in preparation for the final awful confrontation between Harry and archfiend Voldemort in the climactic “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” now being shot as a two-part film, to be released November 2010 and July 2011.
The series of Harry Potter books by British author J. K. Rowling has really turned into a phenomenon!  “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is the sixth book in the series; the first book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was first published in 1997 with an initial print-run of 500 copies in hardback, three hundred of which were distributed to libraries.  Two hundred copies!  But at the time the “Half-Blood Prince” was published, July 16, 2005, the book sold nine million copies in just the first 24 hours after its release. Nine million!
And that record was beaten by the performance of the next and last book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” published just two years ago, and which sold 11 million copies within 24 hours of its release: 2.7 million copies in the UK and 8.3 million in the US.
Yes, quite a phenomenon.
I find one of the most interesting aspects in the “Harry Potter” movie series has been the watching of the three main cast members — Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson — as they grow up: very literally age from children into adults.  For years now, we’ve seen their slow and often graceless shift into puberty.  Early glimmerings of romance were present in the previous film, but here the stirrings return in full force as Harry pairs up with Ginny Weasley, and Ron, after some fumbling, embraces his long-foreshadowed connection with Hermione.
And don’t overlook some of the other developing personalities, especially in this film Draco Malfoy, played by the rather interesting actor Tom Felton, who really comes into his own in this episode as he attempts to fulfill his evil destiny.
Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs:
US, Animation/ Comedy/ Romance – If you enjoyed the previous two installments, you should like this one as well, because it’s more of the same, with even better animation.  With the voices of Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, and John Leguizamo.  Mixed or average reviews.
Wongkamlao:
Thai, Comedy – Popular comedian turned director Mum Jokmok both directs and stars in this well-received romantic comedy which parodies Thai high society and soap operas
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:
US, Action/ Sci-Fi – Super-intense! This film has a high noise level, smashing images, a loud and relentless score, and everyone yelling their lines at high speed – if this is your idea of fun, go.  Generally negative reviews, but that doesn’t seem to matter. It’s hugely popular.
Scheduled for July 23
Public Enemies:
US, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ History – With Johnny Depp as the criminal John Dillinger and Christian Bale as G-man Melvin Purvis in this Great Depression-era drama about the FBI’s attempts to shut down organized crime.  The film features a strong supporting cast.  Rated R in the US for gangster violence and some language.  Generally favorable reviews.
Dear Galileo:
Thai, Comedy/ Drama – From Nithiwat Tharathorn, one of the famed “Fan Chan Six” – i.e., one of the six neophyte directors who collaborated while in University on what is probably the most enchantingly delightful Thai film ever, Fan Chan (My Girl) (2003).  All six have since gone on to direct other films — this is Nithiwat’s second film on his own; his first solo film was the sweet Seasons Change (2006) about students at a music college.  In Dear Galileo he continues his examination of students in love as two teenage girls plan to backpack for a year in the “Big Three” of Europe – London, Paris, and Rome.  Filmed on location in Europe.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

This bridge puzzle comes from Eddie Kantar, the well known bridge author.  West dealt: 

                      S: 4

                      H: Q1064

                      D: 9762

                      C: K754        

S: 10                                    S: 9653

H: 72                                    H: J9853

D: AKQ10854                    D: J

C: Q109                               C: A86

                      S: AKQJ872

                      H: AK

                      D: 3

                      C: J32              

The bidding was:

West           North         East       South

1D               P                 1H         4S

All pass                                        

Imagine you are sitting South. When the bidding comes round to you, you can hardly bid any less than four spades, in view of the fact that you have nine tricks in your own hand. Surely partner will be able to contribute one trick—or will he? The ace of diamonds is led, followed by the king. East shows out on the second diamond. Before reading on, decide on your plan for making the contract.
The obvious plan is to ruff the second diamond, draw trumps, cash the ace and king of hearts and lead to the king of clubs, hoping that West has the ace. No good—East takes the king with the ace and you lose three clubs and a diamond. So what play works?
The first important thing is to keep the two of trumps! Ruff the second diamond with the seven and draw three rounds of trump, noting the singleton in West’s hand and leaving one trump outstanding with East. Now cash the ace and king of hearts and lead the two of trumps. East is forced to win. You are giving up a trump trick but East is end played and is forced to give you two tricks in return. A heart lead will give you two heart tricks, the ten and queen. With a club lead the defence can take the ace of clubs, but no matter which hand it is in, you can now get to board with the king and can then cash the good queen of hearts for the tenth trick. The moral is to hold on to your lowest trump when you have a long trump suit—you never know when it might come in handy!
Chiang Mai now has an official bridge club—the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai. We welcome new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at www.bridgewebs.com /chiangmai/home.html or contact Chris Hedges at:  [email protected] .co.uk. If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected].