Vol. VIII No. 41 - Tuesday
October 13 - October 19, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Columns
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

Dengue Fever - it’s here again

The teenage daughter of a friend of mine has just spent several days in my hospital. The presenting symptoms included dizziness, weakness, a high fever and body pains. A quick blood test was in order and very soon we had the answer - Dengue Fever. Unfortunately, the variant she had was Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, a potentially fatal condition if ignored.
Last year, there were 180 cases in Northern Thailand and 10 fatalities this year. That’s more than died from the SARS epidemic in Thailand that had people cringing in their homes afraid to go out without a gas mask.
So, despite my previous pleas (and those of the Public Health Department), Dengue Fever and its potentially fatal variant, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) is still with us. The latest figures (and my friend’s daughter) have now prompted me to repeat my advice on this subject. If you remember reading about it before, I apologize, but the subject matter is very important. This is an important condition, that can be avoided.
However, first you should understand a little more about Dengue. It was first described in 1780 by a Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia (so it didn’t start here), when the name Break Bone Fever was applied, with the symptoms of pain in the bones and rise in temperature. The name “Dengue” came in 1828 during an epidemic in Cuba. The new name was a Spanish attempt at a Swahili phrase “ki denga pepo” which describes a sudden cramping seizure caused by an evil spirit! Let me assure you that the local brand of Dengue Fever owes nothing to spirits, evil, bottled or otherwise.
Like Malaria, the virus is carried by mosquitoes, this time by one called Aedes aegypti. The virus itself is related to Japanese encephalitis, Murray Valley encephalitis and Yellow fever, and there are four “serotypes” or subgroups of it.
The mosquito lays its eggs in water containers, preferring the clean water found in water tanks and pots, in the saucers under pot plants and even under the pet’s food dish. Inside discarded car tyres is another favourite spot. These mosquitoes are not of the adventurous type and feed during the day and spend their time within 200 meters of their hatchery. Consequently, the eradication of any local breeding areas becomes very important towards maintaining your own health, as you can see. Keep your home free from lying water for a radius of 200 meters and you’re looking good!
Simple Dengue (if you can call it that) has an incubation period of around four to seven days and then the full blown symptoms of high fever and headache begin. The headache is usually behind the eyes and is made worse by eye movement. From there the pains progress to the limbs with acute muscle pains, which gave it the old name “Break Bone Fever”. Interestingly, some patients complain of a metallic taste in the mouth. (Please don’t ask - I have no idea why!)
On the other hand, Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever can certainly be fatal! It appears that Serotype 2 may be the culprit here, but does not usually produce DHF unless you have been previously bitten by types 1, 3 or 4. In addition to the symptoms of Classical Dengue the skin begins to bruise very easily as the blood haemorrhages into the skin. Children are also more susceptible to this than adults. This also becomes much more of an emergency and sometimes ends up being treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of your favourite hospital.
With our ability to treat the viral ailments being very limited, the defence against the Dengue virus lies in the preventive measures. The other precautions are to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts, especially at sun up and sun down, when the mosquito is at its most ravenous. The other factor to remember is “D” for Dengue and “D” for DEET. DEET is the magic ingredient in mosquito repellents, so when you go to buy some, check the label - if it has DEET, then get it. And then remember to use it!

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I lived with a Thai girl every day of nearly five years. I found in her in a bar. She was very beautiful (waaay more beautiful than I) and half my age; ignorant as a bowling ball, but quite clever actually.
I sent her family money every month, plus occasional other sums, gave her gifts of gold, went to the village, paid for her brother’s Buddha party … the same old stuff. I am not made of money. I work here.
During those five years all she ever did was buy clothes and such, eat, talk to her friends and family on the phone (what about I cannot imagine). I paid for everything and maintained her entirely. And I was happy to do it.
I got sex from her, sometimes fun/sometimes indifferent companionship; and of course the silly “I love you” sentiment flowed forth from her about a million times. That was the deal. It was OK with me. It was very peaceful. We rarely disagreed about anything.
In those five years I repeatedly offered to send her to school to learn … whatever she wanted. I offered to set her up in a small business. I had computer internet connections in our room, to which she never paid the slightest attention, despite my offer to teach her. She never did a thing. Never went to a class of any kind. Nothing. I simply couldn’t interest her in anything … but my wealth … which evidently she thought was far greater than it is.
I tried to encourage her self-esteem, pride and to hold her head up above the Thai cultural opinion of prostitutes like her. And teach her she could do better. Deaf ears.
She did learn to speak very good English from me. And I learned to speak Thai somewhat from her, but only by default; meaning she taught me only by speaking Thai when she couldn’t find the English words.
When it dawned on her that I was never going to be able to build my house she left … still as ignorant as a bowling ball (except for her language skill) … and went back to the go-go bar, where she’s doing very well I think.
The reason I tell this story is that I see the letters in your column from delusional and disillusioned farang who are seeking relationships and variously thrilled, confused and disappointed by their romances with Thai women.
I’ve known guys who had Thai wives for 15 years only to find they had a Thai husband/boyfriends all that time and to whom they lost everything, their money, their children, you name it. I’ve known guys who have lost more than that in two weeks. Guys who brought their wife back home where they hated every minute of life there and wound up back in Thailand. The happiest guys I know only go short time.
The point is these people are not like us. To them, love, life, ambition, morality all of it is not the same as it is for us. You will never truly grasp Thai culture and they will never grasp farang. When they are with a farang they have two distinct and different lives.
I suppose there are many exceptions to this frustrating reality; but I’m confident it’s pretty rare with bar girls. I just want to caution all farang to keep that in mind.
I miss her a lot because we spent five years together and I feel very tender toward her. She misses me not at all and couldn’t care less. That’s the difference.
John Smith

Dear John,
Your letter saddens me, for many reasons. It is obvious you do “miss her a lot” and you are trying to get over her by writing your letter. However, you should have known what sort of a person she was and her background before you began the five year association. A little time taken before setting up house with anyone is a good idea - but you didn’t do that, and are happy to place the blame on her, rather than look at your own part in this human disaster.
You write of education opportunities, offers of being set up in business that were all ignored - yet you persisted in this relationship which was really going nowhere, which could offer you nothing more than sex and indifferent companionship. Why did it last five years? Because you thought all that was necessary was to supply money. However, you ignored the fact there was perhaps something more she wanted from the relationship (money or otherwise) and so she left.
You also make some too sweeping generalizations about Thai women and their understanding of farang culture. You write “To them, love, life, ambition, morality all of it is not the same as it is for us.” Be honest my Petal, what do you and your “happiest guys I know only go short time” show to the Thai girls about the farang concept of love, life, ambition and morality? Is there a real difference? I doubt that your “happiest guys” have any real dedication towards your vaunted farang concepts. The farang marriage vows include “love” and “honor”, traits which you say the Thai people do not understand. I could just as easily point out that farang marriages also fail (USA 48 percent), so perhaps the farangs don’t understand them either?


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Free art photo project

How would you like to be able to photograph some original art? In a country where ‘copy’ art reigns supreme, there is still an adequate repository of art ready to be recorded - and that is on the side of busses.
I have written before about personal photo projects as a way to improve your photographic techniques. Once you start to look at how you can present a subject photographically, you are on your way to thinking like a photo pro, and not someone who is just snapping pictures.
I was reminded of this the other day when I was going through some photos in my collection, and there were all these bus photos. A somewhat ‘stalled’ personal project, I have to admit. Then I looked out the office window and there was this fabulous bus parked outside, covered with hundreds of thousands of baht in artwork. Since I always keep a camera close to me, after 10 minutes I had what I wanted.
Actually, I have always loved Thai busses. Wonderfully painted, gaudy bucolic beasts that roar along the highways almost blowing small vehicles from their paths as they thunder through. I had started the small photo project of my own, to record some of the incredible paintings on the sides and tails of these busses. 100,000 baht busses with million baht paintwork.
However, if you want to begin one of these photo projects, you have to have a camera with you and ready. This has also been one of the subjects I have covered before, calling it “Be Prepared” (with apologies to the Boy Scouts Association), if you save some articles.
To take these shots I used a polarizing filter to decrease reflections and also bracketed in half stop increments over three exposures. If you miss your bus shot, by the time you go back, it will have gone, so it is best to cover all the bases! And it is worthwhile using the polarizer to richen up the colors.
Some of the artwork on these busses is well worth enlarging and framing. For example, the fish would make a very pleasant addition in any children’s room.
Photo projects, as I have said previously, are a good idea to stimulate your creative self, but think about then expanding your project to include friends, relatives and acquaintances, you can pool thoughts and techniques to improve your own results. And the end result could even be a photo display in one of the more ‘arty’ restaurants around town.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Recovery? Anyway, back in the real world… (Part 2)

Recently, I wrote an article in the Pattaya Mail which compared the present day fiscal policies of many Western governments with that of the Weimar Republic. It is worth revisiting this briefly.
Earlier this year, the UK announced it would put in GBP150 billion of new money into the economy to get people spending again. As we know, President Obama has promised a lot more than this. As when the American Democrats got back into power earlier this year, the German Democratic Socialist government was elected by vowing to increase wages, improve education, give better healthcare, bring in a shorter working week and introduce a welfare system. Oh yes, they also had to carry on paying for the reparations incurred from the First World War (WWI). How could they do this? There was only one way, print money as fast as possible. Just so you understand what this can do to a currency, at the start of WWI, one US Dollar was equivalent to roughly four Marks. Just nine years later there were one trillion Marks to a US Dollar.
Why am I mentioning this again? As long term readers of this column will know, I am a great believer in history. As the philosopher Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. The result of what happened in Germany in the 1920s was hyperinflation. Could this happen in Europe and America now? No, probably not BUT this does not mean there may not be a large increase in inflation.
Whilst it is true that the UK and other countries are not having to pay off war reparations, it is true to say that people in the western world have never borrowed so much as they have over the last few years. In many cases families have borrowed money from lenders knowing they have little chance of paying it back. According to the Asian Development Bank USD50 trillion has had to be wiped off the value of assets. Now, this is the bit that confuses me: here we are up to our eyes in debt and the government is trying to get us out of it by creating … wait for it … more debt! It is not us who will be paying this off, if it can ever be re-paid, it will not be our children, it will be our grandchildren.
With interest rates so low, the Fed, the ECB and the Bank of England have no room to move. The only option they think they have left is to carry on printing money. This, in itself, creates a house of cards. The credit rating agency S&P has said the outlook for the UK is now “negative”. It has also said there is a chance is may cut the triple A credit rating the UK has always had. This will make borrowing even more expensive on a governmental scale.
Europac fund manager, Peter Schiff, has stated, “This is pure inflation, Latin American style. This is hyperinflation. This is Zimbabwe. This is the identical monetary policy, this is what the Weimar Republic did and we’re going to have the same result.” I think this is a tad over the top but it has to make us sit up and take note.
However, the reality of it is that this is what governments want. Well, not hyperinflation but certainly inflation. They are pouring money into banks, reduced interest rates to almost zero, buying pension fund bonds and a lot more. Unfortunately, this points to inflation, so it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ it will start.
One thing is for sure, we have not yet seen the worse of this recession. Remember, the Great Depression started in 1929 but the Dow did not bottom out until 1932.
So, what to do? At risk of sounding like a broken record, diversification is the easiest way to avoid trouble. Create a portfolio that has something of everything. There are still equities out there that will make money just make sure they are the right ones. For example, Neil Woodford of Invesco Perpetual said that the rise in price of ‘cyclicals’ was “astonishing”, even more so given there has been “no tangible sign of any improvement in profitability for many months now.” So, cyclical shares should be avoided like the plague now but you can always look at companies that are non-cyclical.
Another type of equity to look at now is those companies that actually do pay their dividends. But do not look for companies that pay ridiculously high ones as this is usually an indication they need cash and this is just a way of attracting lump sums that you may never get back. However, good solid companies like utilities should be okay. The thing here is that dividends help share price stability. If the share price does go down it will not probably not dive too much as the yield will then start to pick up which will attract investors back to the company.
However, even equities that look good can end up costing you money. If we return to the Weimar Republic, there was one share index that from 1918 to 1923 went from 126 Marks to 23,680,000 marks. This looks wonderful until you compare it with the equivalent in US Dollars. If you take this into account then the gain actually become a loss of over sixty percent. Equities are a good place for capital during high inflation but not the only solution.
Cash is usually good and should always be part of a portfolio but when high inflation is around it is not wise to have too much as it can become almost worthless due to the printing presses.
Bonds should also be considered but only good corporate ones that pay out reasonable and reliable dividends.
Property is usually good. I know we said avoid it at the start of this article but this is only for the next year or so. Anyway, you can always hedge against property falling and make money that way. The worst of what we will have to suffer from inflation will not happen until late next year or 2011. If we go back to the Weimar Republic, the one good thing was that inflation basically got rid of people’s mortgage debt. However, because almost everyone needed cash they had to re-mortgage using much worse terms than the original mortgage. Another kick in the teeth for investors was that the government froze rents so landlords lost their income from that.
Commodities really come into their own during a high inflation period. They hold their own better than anything else during a time like this.
People who have to foresight to invest in safe currencies, commodities and diversify right across the board will do the best in the forthcoming catastrophe. And that is the real world.

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

Readers Write…

I was reminded recently of a line from an old movie, the name of which I forget. The speaker, a tough gangster (Bogart, Cagney or – I think – Edward G. Robinson) says. ‘You can dish it out but you can’t take it’. It made me think of the role of the critic and remarks or comments made by various people over the past week or so.
A couple were commenting on recent articles about food and one was a more general criticism of this newspaper, sent in e-mails to me and many other people. Though perhaps not, as would have been more constructive, to the editors or the Managing Editor. The last one was a polite thank you, of which more later.
One friend asked accusingly through a haze of Black Label, (during the preview show at the new Lanna Lavender Hotel), ‘Have you ever owned a restaurant?’ This was a follow up to his question as to why I felt qualified to act as food critic. The answer was a simple ‘no’, which, given the noisy circumstances, was enough.
I could have said that outside of Film School I have never made a movie but that has not stopped me being gainfully employed as a film writer, lecturer and programmer for decades. A case perhaps of those who can do (often badly, which would be no satisfaction) and those who don’t teach or criticise.
With food, of course, it is easier. Well, assuming that the level of expertise approximates to making good home videos. Most of us have a lifetime of second hand experience, through being at the home stove with Mum, reading cookery books and working through recipes or eating out in many different restaurants in many countries. Many will have been to Thai cookery classes over here. It does not mean you are going to open a restaurant but gives you some sense of the ingredients and techniques involved.
It also teaches you that it seems easier than it is. Rather like learning the local language! And that brings me to the second commentator, who took umbrage at my saying that it was neither possible nor necessary for us farangs to learn to cook Thai food. It might be fun to try (and, my goodness, a lot of the sour looking farangs in Thailand look as though they could do with a good dose of ‘sanook’) but that is as far as it goes.
Back in the U.K. or wherever home might be it is easier, because one can go to the local Thai supermarket, check though a few recipes and spend endless time preparing, then wow the recipients, not least through the novelty factor. It won’t be quite the same with Café de Nimman or Sabeidee Santitham a few minutes away.
The other criticism was directed more at the Chiang Mai Mail in general and at my columns only by implication. The point of it was that there is not enough about the activities of farangs in Chiang Mai. And this begs the question -what would you as a reader like to see in these pages? Information about forthcoming events (if so please send it in), more reviews of cultural or other local events? More photographs or more general news?
Running a local paper is increasingly difficult ( running anything involving print is getting more difficult!) but it is worth doing so to serve the community. But feed- back is needed. Sadly, we get too few letters to the Mail. A friend ‘threatened’ to write to the ‘paper after an unhappy experience at a local eatery, which I had reviewed favourably. ‘Go on’, I said, but send a v copy to the restaurant as well. Or better still would be to return with the same Thai friend with whom he went there and sort out the problem. Don’t get in a farang tizzy and storm out. This is Thailand. I never review places on one visit.
Anyway, I am quite sure that the Mail would welcome your mail, since a letters page is a lively part of any newspaper (in the case of The Guardian, which is the one I write for in the U.K. it is arguably the best page) and that is up to you. Though perhaps most farangs are too busy writing to our agony aunt about sex and money to be concerned about road congestion and other matters.
Which brings me neatly to my last person. Someone who actually was moved to say ‘thank you’ for a recent article on the deplorable state of Chiang Mai’s pavements (or side walks as he calls them). He too had been bothered by the excess of posters and the problems that these eyesores caused. Happily the election is over and they have – to my pleasant surprise – been taken down with amazing rapidity.
The City has a new Mayor and let’s hope he has plenty of energy, being a young and committed person. Not knowing the policies of the contestants I can only hope that the choice w as a good one. He certainly has work to do if Chiang Mai is going to move forward in the dreadful economic climate. The city needs investment and progressive, tolerant leadership and a root and branch overhaul of the services here. There are far deeper concerns too, but these are not exclusively local. For the moment let us just hope for action and a view of the future of Chiang Mai, not a blinkered sense only of its past.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Special Note: Michael Jackson’s “This Is It,” a performance tape of rehearsal footage for the show Michael was working on at the time of his death, is being presented world-wide on October 28, for two weeks only.  That includes Chiang Mai’s Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza where it will be shown in high-definition Digital format.  Tickets are on sale now, at 150 baht.  In other cities, many showings are already sold out, but not here.
I’ve seen several short segments, and I think he looks great and moves in a way that is a wonderment.  This is turning into a huge event in many cities throughout the world, though not here in Chiang Mai as yet, but in Bangkok lines of fans wrapped around the block at box office ticket counters throughout the city, and by the end of the first day it was reported that all tickets for the first showings across Bangkok were sold-out.  In London, “This Is It” sold more than 30,000 tickets in its first 24-hours of sale, setting the biggest ever one-day sales record in the UK.
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Fame:
US, Comedy/ Drama/ Family/ Musical/ Romance – An updated version of the 1980 musical, which centered on the students of the New York Academy of Performing Arts.  Starring Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth.  Critics say the film is undone by its choppy editing, its incomplete characterizations, and its apparent desire to appeal to the High School Musical generation.  It looks like a cheesy production which is almost laughably bland and watered-down in its desire to appeal to the widest possible audience.  The original was so good, this one is simply not needed.  Generally unfavorable reviews.
The Ugly Truth:
US, Comedy/ Romance –– The consensus seems to be that, despite the best efforts of Gerard Butler and Kathrine Heigl, The Ugly Truth suffers from a weak script that relies on romantic comedy formula, with little charm or comedic payoff.  Heigl plays producer of the early morning news on a Sacramento station anchored by a bickering married couple.  The broadcast is low in the ratings, and so her boss brings in a macho local cable personality whose ideas about the battle of the sexes date back to the cavemen.  Rated R in the US for sexual content and language; 18+ here. Generally unfavorable reviews: 28/38 out of 100.  At Airport Plaza only.
Whiteout:
US/ Canada/ France, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – The consensus is that this has moribund pacing and an uninspired plot.  U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), the only marshal assigned to Antarctica, must investigate a murder there within three days before the Antarctic winter begins.  It’s Antarctica’s first homicide.  Rated R in the US for violence, grisly images, brief strong language, and some nudity;13+ here.  Generally unfavorable reviews. At Vista only.
G-Force:
In digital 3D at Airport Plaza, 2D at Vista. US, Action/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – A specially trained squad of guinea pigs is dispatched to stop a diabolical billionaire from taking over the world.  A pleasant, inoffensive animated farce about a team of superspy guinea pigs, with non-stop manic action.  Mixed or average reviews.
District 9:
South Africa/ New Zealand, Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – I enjoyed this; it’s got a bit of everything in it, and for me in a satisfying mix.  Aliens made first contact with Earth 28 years ago.  Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology.  Neither came.  Instead, the aliens were nearly-dead survivors of an accident to their space craft, and were rescued by the authorities of South Africa.  Rated R in the US for bloody violence and pervasive language; 15+ here.  Reviews: Generally favorable reviews.  Vista is showing a Thai-dubbed version.
Sorority Row:
US, Horror/ Thriller – A group of sorority sisters try to cover up the death of their house-sister after a prank gone wrong, only to be stalked by a serial killer.  Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, some sexuality/ nudity and partying. (!)  Generally unfavorable reviews.
Phobia 2 / Haa Phrang:
Thai, Horror – Literally “five crossroads,” this is a five-part horror anthology by five different Thai directors.  It’s a mixed bag as it would have to be, but I’m rather fond of it and I think it’s well worth checking out if you at all like Thai horror films.  At Vista only.
The Proposal:
US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – With Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds.  A pushy boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada.  Mixed or average reviews.  Airport Plaza only.
Oh My Ghosts / Hortaewtak 2:
Thai, Comedy/ Horror – Usual Thai comedy featuring popular Thai comedians.  Three companions in garish drag, tired of being frightened by horrible ghosts that haunt their dorm, summon a spirit to help them get rid of them.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Here is a deal for those who use Blackwood, particularly Roman Key Card Blackwood (RKC). RKC is a very useful variant of Blackwood, in which there are five key cards: the four aces and the king of the trump suit. The deal comes from the 2009 World Team Championships in Sao Paolo, Brazil. North-South were vulnerable and South dealt. Sitting North-South for the USA were Doug Doub and Adam Wildavski. Take a look at the hands and decide how you would bid it sitting in their seats: 

                        S: J10652

                        H: AQ3

                         D: KQ109

                        C: 10          

S: 84                                   S: 9

H: K104                             H: J9865

D: 876543                          D: 2

C: J8                                   C: KQ6432

                        S: AKQ73

                        H: 72

                        D: AJ

                        C: A975         

A possible bidding sequence is shown below: 

South      West              North       East

1S            P                     4C             P

4N           P                     5D             P

5N           P                     6D             P

6S            All pass                           

Four clubs by North is a splinter bid showing a singleton or void in clubs and at least four spades. South now knows he has no losers in clubs so he asks for aces (or key cards—the answer in this case is the same). North bids 5D to show the one missing ace. 5N by South tells his partner that they have all the aces (or all the key cards), that he is interested in grand slam and asks for kings. North shows one king. South, knowing that they are missing two kings signs off in small slam. The bidding looks precise, but they missed a cold grand slam, with five spade tricks, four diamond tricks, two outside aces and two club ruffs on board adding up to 13 tricks.
So how did the US pair bid it? Exactly as above, except that they play the meaning of the 5N bid a little differently. It still shows all the key cards, but it asks North if he has a source of tricks. If so, go directly to grand slam. If not, bid the number of kings. North looked at his KQ109 of diamonds (opposite at least the ace) and bid 7S directly—the two missing kings do not matter. I really like this treatment and will try to use it in future—unfortunately I seem to be picking up a lot of two point hands recently and I find my partner gets irritable if I bid grand slam with that holding!
Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at www.bridgeclubchiangmai .com or contact Chris Hedges at:  oga. [email protected] If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]



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