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

Cheap insurance

I have written about health insurance before, which is really “sickness” insurance when you think about it, and is a necessary expense if you want the best treatment if you do fall sick.
However, you don’t have to wait until you fall ill to see what ailments you might fall prey to - you can actually do some predictions, which cost nothing. Begin with a good knowledge of your parents’ health profile as that is important from your future health’s point of view. We are discovering every day that heredity plays a very important part of your health profile.
Heredity is one of the ‘clues’ to your health in the future, and what you can do to enjoy a long, lively and healthy one. With the increasing research into genetics, we are able to map out our likely futures and can predict such ailments as diabetes, epilepsy and other neurological problems like Huntington’s Chorea and Alzheimer’s Disease, some cancers such as breast, ovarian, lower bowel, prostate, skin and testicular, heart attacks, blood pressure problems, certain blood diseases like Sickle Cell anemia and so the list goes on.
However, you do not need to have multi-million baht examinations done on your DNA to see where you are headed, all you need to do is to start asking the older family members about your inheritance. Not the money - your genetic inheritance in the health stakes.
Have you ever wondered why the questionnaire for life insurance asks whether any close member of your family has ever suffered from diabetes, epilepsy and other ailments and then also asks you to write down how old your parents or brothers and sisters were when they died, and what they died from? The insurance company is not being friendly. What they, the insurance companies, are doing, is finding out the relative likelihood (or ‘risk’) of your succumbing early to an easily identifiable disease. This does not need a postgraduate Masters degree in rocket science. It needs a cursory application of family history.
If either of your parents had diabetes, your elder brother has diabetes, your younger brother has diabetes and your cousin has diabetes, what are the odds on your getting (or already having) diabetes? Again this is not rocket science. The answer is pretty damn high! And yet, I see families like this, where the individual members are totally surprised and amazed when they fall ill, go to hospital, and diabetes is diagnosed.
It does not really take very much time over a family lunch to begin to enquire about one’s forebears. After five minutes it will be obvious if there is some kind of common medical thread running through your family. That thread may not necessarily be life threatening, but could be something like arthritis for example.
Look at it this way - your future is being displayed by your family’s past. This could be considered frightening, when your father, his brother and your grandfather all died very early from heart attacks (as is my family history). Or, this could be considered as life saving, if it pushes you towards looking at you own cardiac health and overcoming an apparently disastrous medical history (as I have done).
This is an advantage that you get provided you are not an orphan. You know what to look for before it becomes a problem. Going back to the family with diabetes, what should the younger members do? Well, if it were me, I would be having my blood sugar checked at least once a year from the age of 20. Any time I had reason to visit the doctor in between, I would also ask to have the level checked. We are talking about a very inexpensive test that could literally save you millions of baht in the future, as well as giving you a better quality of life, and a longer one.
Ask around the dinner table today and plan to check your medical future tomorrow. It’s called a ‘Check-up’!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Is there nothing that can be done about the Thai habit of never being on time? For anything! I am sure my Thai wife will be late for her own funeral. I have tried putting all the clocks in the house 10 minutes forward, but it still doesn’t work. We have arguments about it and she says, “Nobody will die because we are late, so stop getting angry.” I have tried to say it is the height of rudeness to people we intend to meet, but none of that works either. Tell me, Hillary, what does work?
Tempus Fugit

Dear “Time Flies”,

Dear Hillary,
Why is there so much knocking of Pattaya in the media overseas? They seem to make out that Thailand is just one big sex tour venue. Sure there are service girls, but if you ask me, they do a good job for Thailand’s balance of trade figures. For someone based in Thailand like you, what do you feel about this?

Dear Perplexed,
A perennial question, my Perplexed Petal, and one that still amazes me. London, Amsterdam, Mumbai, Berlin, The Philippines, Sydney, New York and just about every city this side of Salt Lake has its red light district. So why the finger pointing at Thailand? Probably because Thailand offers better value for money? In that case, it is probably jealousy-driven.
There is also much more for the tourists to Thailand to do than just the bar areas, and this can be seen by the increasing number of families recently, especially from Russia and India. Chiang Mai has also changed with many more up-market hotels like the Shangri-La for example, and Pattaya has three new hotels for the 2010 season, including the well-known Holiday Inn and the luxurious Centara Grand. If Thailand is such a bad place, would major hotel chains be building here? As I said, I think it is jealousy!

Dear Hillary,
Are you related to the “Abby” agony aunt in the American newspapers? She seems to have been going even longer than you have, or is being an agony aunt the secret to long life?
Agony Alfie

Dear Agony Alfie,
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and is not the same one all the time as Dear Abby was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. I am not American, so we’re not related and Dear Hillary was founded by Hillary. My mother is not called Hillary, or Pauline or Jeanne. Anyway, Dear Abby is always sugary sweet. Dear Hillary is not.

Dear Hillary,
Over the past weeks I have seen, at long last, some farang men who were not complaining about being ripped off by their Thai wives. For the doubters out there - yes, there are very many others who share in the wonderful experience of being married to a Thai woman. Dare I give advice? It is really just the same as for any other prospective long term union irrespective of nationality - the hard part is not the nationality, it is just “man” and “woman” that is so different. Yes, there are many differences in culture to overcome and the rules are not quite the same, but in the end it all boils down to a man and a woman getting to know and understand each other. That doesn’t happen after a couple of sweaty nights either! A good Thai woman with some education and a sensible and flexible farang man who can listen and try to understand can match just perfectly - after all only the fool and his money that are soon parted, but parting with a little here and there occasionally to help the family is expected and is not so bad, is it? I’ve had 16 years experience with the same woman. It is possible to have a great relationship with a Thai woman.
Happy in the service

Dear Happy in the service,
You have made more than a couple of observations that should be looked at carefully, Petal. It is possible, as you have proved, to have a good meaningful relationship with a Thai woman. As you write, “That doesn’t happen after a couple of sweaty nights either!” How true, those are what I call ‘meaningless’ relationships, but if this is the basis for a long term relationship, it must fail. The female becomes very disenchanted and eventually takes whatever she can out of the union. And that is credit cards, PIN numbers and any property she has managed to get into her name, usually houses, condos and motorcycles. The example of “a fool and his money are soon parted,” is so correct.
You also stated “A good Thai woman with some education,” and generally you won’t find one of those sitting on a bar stool saying “Come in, sexy man.” Those farangs who pick their mate from the beer bars are just setting themselves up for a fall. The education you need to look for is of the formal kind, not the school of hard knocks. No matter how tugging at the heart strings are the tales of husbands killed on motorcycles and children left with their grandmothers. The farang does need to be flexible, as you noted, and assisting the family is the nature of the culture, but as you say, it’s not too bad, is it.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Photographing Santa

“Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat” goes the old Christmas carol, and indeed the jolly fat fellow in the red outfit should be squeezing himself down the chimney in a few weeks.
Unfortunately, the entire Santa concept is only available for a couple of weeks in December, and only for the first few years of your children’s lives. One day, son or daughter will inform you that there really isn’t a Santa Claus and the magic moment is over forever, so it is important to get some good shots for the family album.
There are some good ‘commercial’ Santas around so you can plan ahead, because ‘planning’ is the answer for all good, memorable evocative Christmas photographs.
This is much the same as all ‘event’ photography such as weddings, for example - you get one chance and that’s it. With Santa and your child, with another 150 children waiting in line, you can’t very well say, “Can we just try that shot again, and try to look a little happier, Santa.”
Planning for photography means you have to think about the shots you want first. Before you even get there, but let’s plan this together.
It will be an indoors shot, so we may have to look at bringing an off-camera flash (if you have one). If you haven’t, then look at bringing a tripod and using a wide aperture (also known as a ‘fast’ lens) so that the shutter speed isn’t impossibly slow. At last resort, look to setting the camera on around 400 ASA. I do not suggest higher ASA because digital cameras tend to get too much “noise” as the ASA goes up, even though it makes the exposure more simple.
You also want to be close to Santa’s chair, so the shot of child and Santa fills the frame. If you cannot get close enough, then consider a zoom lens, but remember that the majority of zoom lenses do not allow for wide apertures (such as f2.8).
You also have to think about the fact that Santa has a red suit, so if you want to see your child in the shot, make him or her wear light colored clothes, so there is a strong separation between the two figures.
So far, in our planning, it has required a trip to the venue to see how well lit or otherwise, a wardrobe choice for the young star of the show and a look through all the camera gear to make sure you have it ready to go. Of course that also means recharging the batteries, especially if you are going to use flash. Remember that flash photography eats batteries!
The big “S” day approaches and time for you and your child to line up for the big event. Take some shots of someone else’s child to just check on your lighting and exposure values and adjust accordingly. Get as close as you can, so that the final photo is just Santa and child.
When it is your pride and joy’s turn to sit on Santa’s knee resist calling out and saying “smile” as it is much better to record the interaction between the child and Santa. It is that intangible emotion that you want to catch, not the posed shot of child and Santa staring down the lens. It is important to keep that in your mind as you are shooting. Take a look at the illustration this week. This is an oil painting by Todd Krasovetz and demonstrates everything I have mentioned - the light-colored child’s outfit contrasting against Santa’s outfit, and the whole scene is the interaction between the child and the adult Santa. The painter can produce anything he wants, but chose to paint the picture that you can produce yourself in the camera with just a little planning.
Remember to also get some shots around the Xmas tree as your child unwraps his or her presents. Since the child’s concentration will be totally on the present, you can get quite close and record the happy facial expressions.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

A man’s home is his castle, part 1

This proverb has been around for centuries; however, if you believe Jimi Hendrix then, “Castles made of sand fall into the sea eventually”.
In the US at the moment, share prices are on the up with the Dow Jones 30 going through 10,000 which is where it was in 1999. However, unemployment is also on the rise. Company closure is almost 25% up on what it was last year. Even more worrying though is the report by The Associated Press, “The number of households caught up in the foreclosure crisis rose more than 5 percent from summer to fall as a federal effort to assist struggling borrowers was overwhelmed by a flood of defaults among people who lost their jobs. The foreclosure crisis affected nearly 938,000 properties in the July-September quarter, compared with about 890,000 in the prior three months, according to a report released recently by RealtyTrac Inc. That puts foreclosure-related filings on a pace to hit about 2.5 million this year, up from more than 2.3 million last year.” The report went on, “Unemployment is the main reason homeowners are falling into trouble. (And) the unemployment rate - now at a 26-year high of 9.8% - isn’t expected to peak until next year.”
Natalie Holt of Mortgage Strategy recently observed that the number of prime borrowers who are at least three-month in arrears with payments continues to rise, and as Moody’s warns that this will only get worse.
As Bob Bauman has pointed out, the US government is financing 9 out 10 new US mortgages. People say this is impossible, but even the Wall Street Journal has reported that the trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance has stated, “Over the past year, the government has intervened heavily at essentially every stage of the home buying process. In fact, more than 80% of the new residential mortgage loans made this year benefited from some form of government support.”
It does seem unbelievable but it must be remembered that the American government has to come to the rescue of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac last year and basically now owns both of these companies along with their combined USD5.4 trillion in loans. As if this is not dire enough, in an attempt to keep mortgage rates as low as possible, the Federal Reserve has made it well known that it wants to buy almost USD1.5 trillion in debt issued or which has been guaranteed by the US governments mortgage bodies and another USD300 billion in Treasuries, which are the things that set the benchmark for home lending. As if this is not all, the government is offering USD8,000 in tax credits for first time home buyers.
Things do not stop here. Bud Conrad of Casey Research has come up with even more staggering statistics. The pick of this lot has to be the Federal Home Loan Bank which is a “government sponsored entity” (GSE) and is made up of twelve regional Federal Home Loan Banks all of which are individual companies in their own right. This sounds very good but in fact, even though they are ‘sponsored’ by the government, they do not get any legal guarantees from it. What they do is sell debt securities to the public in order to provide money to its member banks which then turn this into mortgage credit for home buyers. Now, get this, there are 8,100 member banks, thrift and credit unions as well as insurance companies which provide the mortgages via the banks. They do not lend directly to the end user.
The banks then collateralize these advances from the mortgages they get. These guys have over USD1.1 trillion of assets and liabilities but only have less than USD50 billion of total capital. This means they are leveraged at about 25:1. This might seem bad enough but over the last six months they have had to write off USD200 billion of bad debt. Given the above, it is not difficult to work out that if just five percent of the loans they have given had to be written off then the FHLB would have no capital left. If only ten percent defaulted then this would be twice what they are actually worth. This is just either breathtakingly stupid or arrogance beyond belief.
Things in Merrie Olde England are no better. People in arrears of at least 90 days on UK mortgage-backed securities have doubled, going from 0.9% in Q2 2008 to 1.8% in Q2 this year.
The Moody’s report picks outs loans originated from the government-backed Northern Rock and Bank of Scotland as particularly poor performing, which is of even greater concern.
The dearth of the re-mortgage market, together with the rise in unemployment, means that prime borrowers are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their mortgage payments.
Prior to the economic downturn borrowers have refinanced their way out of arrears problems or sold their property. Now we have an almost ‘perfect storm’ situation, whereby “increasing unemployment and a lack of financing options has led to a dead-end scenario for borrowers, as they are forced to revert to the lender’s SVR, which in most cases compounds the situation and may cause a payment shock.”
To be continued…

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

A November feast, and more to come

Seated in Buddy’s internet café (the best one in town, opposite Central, Kad Suan Kaew) I couldn’t help but overhear the guy at the next computer. Apart from wondering why such a well run shop does not ban the use of mobile phones, I was also bemused by the conversation. “No, don’t come up, there’s absolutely nothing to do in Chiang Mai. You’ll be bored after a day.” Charitably I decided that the speaker was trying to put his girl or boyfriend off so that he could have the place to himself. Either that or he was so uninterested in life that nowhere on earth would satisfy him.
I was reminded of this more recently when at an AUA concert, given by the excellent Kuala Lumpur Guitar Ensemble. I sat next to a charming American who – it transpired- was researching and writing yet another travel guide to S.E. Asia and China. Interestingly, this was to be for a niche market and aimed at women aged 30 and over travelling solo.
Now the point of these two observations is to note the difference between the dullard and the person who had, in a short time, found so many things to do and write about in Chiang Mai that she was worried about having to leave for Chiang Rai, Laos and further legs of her journey. The real point is that there is often too much to do in the city, and events often clash or overlap and sadly get under publicised. Apart from the established municipal museums and galleries such as the CMU, there are countless art and photographic exhibitions such as the recent Songs of Memory at the indispensable Suri Wong Bookshop. There are occasional plays, including the recent sell out shows of The Odd Couple and the annual EU Film Festival and the excellent screenings at CMU (Saturdays) and Alliance Francaise (Fridays) and two cinema complexes with the odd good movie on release. Plus, of course, the music scene which is one of the joys of the city, ranging from the regular jazz performances at numerous restaurants and bars to 80 concerts a year at Payap University and many more elsewhere. And all this is just in the city. For the more energetic the surrounds hold adventure and magnificent scenery within easy access.
Admittedly some things are not easy to find out enough information about but the expanded CM Mail listings and many in other publications and the City Now website are a help and a keen pair of eyes will find notices all over town of exhibitions and events (the AUA Library board is useful). There are also many ‘clubs’ and other groups and a useful area of information is the Expats Club and its publication and the other freebie In Focus 4 You, both of which can be found in numerous outlets throughout the city. The problem is sometimes a clash of interests, such as the recent choice between the Tango Concert at the AUA and the Songs of the Mountains at Payap, both on the 25th November.
In fact, November contained an embarrassment of riches. Apart from the EU Film Festival, music was dominant and my special favourites were wonderfully contrasted. A tour of the Dutch group, Biggles Big Band, landed at the Mercure Hotel at Chuang Puak on November 12 and was a justified sell out with a generous buffet and a sizzling performance from this brilliant ensemble. This was super big band entertainment with an excellent singer who had enough talent to follow the Sinatra route without stumbling. More such events at the Mercure please.
The other ‘big’ event was some ten days later at the Kad Theatre, as part of the Mekong –Japan Exchange Year. Called The Japanese Music Night it was one of the increasingly successful concerts given by the ever improving Chiang Mai Youth Philharmonic Band and Symphony Orchestra. This was re-formed in 2007 and, after a slightly shaky start, is attracting bigger audiences and becoming confident in both performance and programming, under the guidance of conductor Chaipruck Mekara.
The programme was cleverly constructed and began with a rousing piece from Japan which suited the Band’s enthusiasm and skill. The star of the evening was Atsuko Seta who ended the first half with vivacious performances of two solo works for piano from Japan and then delighted the audience later with a lively rendition of the popular piano concerto in A. Minor by Grieg. I am told that Ms. Seta, who now lives in Chiang Mai, will be playing with Bennett Lerner in a concert early next year.
There were too many other events in November to detail, but they included three piano recitals at AUA, a visiting Russian guitarist and the Malaysian ensemble and Alessio Monti also all at AUA. It seems that December will also be a busy month, perhaps inevitably with some Christmas orientated concerts. There is one on December 5th at the St Luce Chapel and at the same venue on the 11th the Philharmonic Orchestra will be in concert with the Payap Choir for a Christmas Concert. And on Wednesday 9th December the Santi School will be hosting a Christmas ‘singalong’ beginning at 6.30 p.m. You can find out more on 053 224 344. Looking even further ahead there are to be several performances of electronic music during late January and early February and Bennett Lerner will end his ambitious Faure Festival later that month. More details of these and other shows in the Mail later. If you are planning an event please let the editorial department know with as much information as possible.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Although promised, Julie and Julia didn’t show up here last week; I’m disappointed – I was really looking forward to seeing Meryl Streep’s apparently legendary performance.  And I have heard from some of you, voicing your displeasure and dismay.  We had seen previews at Airport Plaza and everything, and its arrival seemed so sure.
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Disney’s A Christmas Carol:
US, Animation/ Drama/ Family/ Fantasy – Brilliant!  Don’t miss it if you at all like animation.  Not the warm, comforting film you might expect from Disney, it is instead a dark and grim tale, and a faithful recreation of the Charles Dickens classic – one of literature’s most haunting morality tales.  Mixed or average reviews, but I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Shown in 3D, which in this case is a marvel, and only at Airport Plaza. (Surcharge.)
It is, in fact, so faithful to the original text that it is a bit difficult to follow at times, since the vocabulary and the grammar are as used by Dickens; even the London accents used are those of the book.
The film for the most part is leisurely presented and takes its time; some of the long passages of silence are truly scary.  The film in general has a spooky stillness about it, broken up now and again by passages of action to please the kiddies and the backers.
But talking about kiddies, it is so frightening, horrifying, and just plain scary at times that I question whether kids under 10 should be taken.  Be forewarned.
It’s a remarkable piece of acting for Carrey.  I also have to mention the brilliant use of music, which I thought was exceptionally apt and expressive throughout, and which rises to a marvelously rousing crescendo during the closing credits.
Ninja Assassin:
US/ Germany, Action/ Crime/ Thriller – A blood-soaked combination of physical stunts and digital trickery, with Korean pop star Rain, who here is only a mild drizzle.  Not recommended, unless you’re easily delighted by ultraviolence for its own sake.  Otherwise, this thinly plotted movie with low-grade thrills about a young ninja’s revenge against his cruel trainers will disappoint.  The shadowy action is too often incomprehensible, except in the general sense that heads, limbs, and torsos are being severed in massive numbers.  The fight sequences feature buckets of blood and a slew of slow-motion acrobatics.  Ten minutes after you leave the movie, all the battles will have blended in your memory into a ceaseless muddle of sliced-off appendages, jets of blood splashing artfully on walls, gurgling screams, and flashing swords.  Rated R in the US for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language. 18+ in Thailand.  Mixed or average reviews.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon:
US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance – It’s a phenomenon, all  right: in the US it had the biggest opening weekend of 2009, an astounding $142.8 million, the third highest-grossing opening ever behind only The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3.  Industry tracker, Box Office Mojo, further reports that on its opening day, New Moon shattered the records for US opening day and midnight showings, thanks to the rush of its fervent fan base.  “The distributor’s exit polling in the US indicated that 80 percent of the audience was female and 50 percent was under 21 years old, which means the sequel brought in more female and younger viewers than the first Twilight.
It was similarly a huge hit internationally.  There’s no doubt about it, the film is brilliantly calculated to appeal to its target audience, virgins dreaming of safe love.  So if you’re a teenaged girl with raging hormones, you’ll love it!  As you will the next in the series, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which completed shooting a month ago and is scheduled for June 30 of next year, or just seven months from now.
Mixed or average reviews.  The Vista version is Thai-dubbed only, both languages at Airport Plaza.
US/ Canada, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – The end of the world, as only Director Roland Emmerich can show it.  Very well done disaster movie to end all disaster movies.  Mixed or average reviews.  A Thai-dubbed version is available at both locations.
Scheduled for December 3

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant: US, Action/ Comedy/ Fantasy/ Horror – A young boy meets a mysterious man at a freak show who turns out to be a Vampire.  Eventually the boy is forced to leave his normal life and go on the road with the Cirque Du Freak to become a Vampire himself.  A mix of scares and laughs, based on the 12-volume book series.  Mixed or average reviews.
Couples Retreat:
US, Comedy – A comedy centered around four couples who settle into a tropical-island resort for a vacation.  One of the couples is there to work on their marriage, and the others fail to realize that participation in the resort’s therapy sessions is not optional.  Generally unfavorable reviews.

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?: By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden

If you do not know the name, you do not know the plant!

Some years ago I went to Chiang Dao to buy medicinal plants. I asked the sellers to write down the “Thai names”. Since I have Tem Smitinand’s eminent book “Thai Plant Names”, I was confident I could find the corresponding scientific names. Soon I realised none of the Chiang Dao names were in the book. A Thai botanist laughed at my surprise and explained “These are village names – wait with identification until you see the flowers”. Southerners, northerners, hill tribes and even people of adjacent villages can hardly discuss gardening with each other, since they use different plant names. Smitinand lists 13 Thai names for the indigenous shrub Polyalthia suberosa, but only four names for the exotic potato (Solanum tuberosum). Since many villagers have never travelled further than 2-3 km in their lives, nor read any books, local names have been preserved. Also, one Thai name can be applied to very different species. One example is “sala”, which refers to the Indian Sal tree (Shorea robusta) under which Buddha was born. Since “sala” also refers to the Cannonball Tree (Couroupita guianensis), that South American tree is erroneously depicted on Thai temple murals and is grown in temple gardens. The two “salas” do not look like each other at all, they just share names. “Pak chi lao” may refer to Dill (Anethum graveolens). However, North American Dog Fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium) is sold at the Kamthieng market as “pak chi lao”. It may have a dill-like appearance, but contains liver-damaging pyrrolizidines, and belongs to a completely different plant family. If you search for a specific plant, you need to identify it yourself, because the Thai name you use may mean something else to the seller. A good book will provide the scientific name, which only refers to one species. Thai and English vernacular names are as many as the stars, but by using the scientific name (its international name), you obtain correct information, ensuring that you have the correct growing information, are cooking the right plant and are using the correct herbs for medicine

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

You are West and you hear this bidding (South deals, EW vulnerable) 

South      West             North         East

1N            P                    2C               P

2S             P                    2N              P

3N            All pass                            

This is your hand: 

S: 863

H: Q6

D: J10765

C: 952 

What do you lead? Some players might try the “safe” lead of the diamond jack. You, of course, think about the bidding first, before leading anything. 1N by South indicates 15-17 points. 2C (Stayman) shows that North has at least one four card major. 2S by South shows four spades (and denies four hearts). 2N by North shows his four card suit was hearts and indicates 8 or 9 points—inviting to 3N. South accepts the invitation, so should have 16 or 17 points. Thus, NS are marginal for making game, with about 25 points in total. You have 3 points, so your partner must have about 12 points. Since your partner has the points, you want to find his suit, rather than trying to set up yours.
But what is your partner’s suit? North has four hearts and South has two or three. Since you have only two hearts, your partner must have at least four, maybe five. So, you lead the queen of hearts.
The full deal is:

                      S: 52

                      H: A743

                      D: K93

                      C: Q863       

S: 863                                 S: KJ104

H: Q6                                 H: KJ1095

D: J10765                           D: 4

C: 952                                 C: A74

                      S: AQ97

                      H: 82

                      D: AQ82

                      C: KJ10         

Your partner overtakes your lead and forces out the ace of hearts. Now, when he gets in with the ace of clubs, he takes the rest of his heart tricks. The contract goes down one—and your partner is delighted with your play!
Now watch what happens if you lead the “safe” diamond jack. Declarer wins in hand and then forces out the ace of clubs. Your partner gets in and leads hearts, but it is too late. Declarer takes the ace of hearts, to add to his three club tricks and four diamond tricks (by finessing you for the marked ten), and the ace of spades, to make the contract. If necessary, or if declarer is feeling really lucky, he can also take the spade finesse. On today’s hand this gives him an overtrick. Your partner snarls at you!
Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at www.bridgeclubchiangmai .com. If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]