Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Coronary Conclusion in 2010?

Those who are avid health (or sickness) watchers will know I really mean “Coronary Occlusion”, but it was too much temptation to use Mrs. Malaprop and end up with “Coronary Conclusion”. Because quite simply, that is what it can turn out to be - your conclusion.
The sad part of coronary conclusions (otherwise known as heart attacks) is that nine times out of ten you can actually avoid it.
Before launching into the real life factors in the situation, a little understanding of what constitutes a heart attack is in order. I think everyone understands that you have both red blood cells and white blood cells. The function of the red ones is simply to carry oxygen to the tissues, so that the tissues can survive. The heart muscle is no exception to this rule. This hollow muscular pump needs oxygen just like all the other organs you keep inside you - spleen, kidneys, lungs, bowel and so forth. Take my tip - keep them inside you if you possibly can!
However, the inside lining of the heart (muscle) is smooth and impermeable to the oxygen tied to the red cells. You see, the heart does not get its nutrition from the blood it pumps through it. In fact, the oxygenated blood supply to the heart is through some specialized arteries called the “Coronary” arteries. These run along the outer surface of the heart muscle and then split up into smaller tributaries which dip into the heart muscle to supply it with oxygen.
Now if we are to consider that the heart muscle is probably the most important muscle in the human body (well, physiologically it outranks the other much more highly publicized muscle in males!) then it become important that this heart muscle gets a good supply of blood. And the quickest way that the supply can get altered is by blocking off the coronary arteries. This is most usually done via a slow process by which a small obstruction in the artery slowly gets bigger and bigger until eventually it totally blocks off the blood supply and the heart muscle “starves” of oxygen and that section of the heart muscle, supplied by that artery, just dies. We have a name for that death of heart muscle too, and it is called a “myocardial infarction”.
This event of blocking is called a Coronary Occlusion, which may end up as a coronary ‘conclusion’ if the section of dead muscle is large enough! The actual death of the muscle resulting in this myocardial infarction is often shortened to the simple M.I. (The heart muscle is called the myocardium.) But of course, the simpler name is ‘Heart Attack’.
In short, cardiac health is mainly involved in keeping the coronary arteries clean and clear. This is where our old friend Cholesterol comes in. You see, the deposits inside the artery are generally made up of this chemical and other blood fats. This makes a “sticky” patch in the artery and some blood cells get stuck there. This causes a clot to form and you have all the precursors needed to block the artery, with the occlusion leading to the infarction, and leading to your family claiming early on your life insurance policy.
To be able to keep your arteries clear you need to have a nice low cholesterol, which can be done by diet plus medication if required. But first you need to know what your cholesterol level is. This requires a blood test, which can be done at my favorite hospital.
The most likely candidates for a heart attack are overweight, hypertensive smokers, with high cholesterol. If this is you, do something about it today. Well, perhaps that’s being a little bit too melodramatic, but you are certainly one of the cardiac high risk people in the population.
As I wrote at the start of this article, whether or not you have a coronary conclusion can be under your control. Stop smoking, lose weight, keep your blood pressure in the normal range and keep the cholesterol low.
You can drive your own destiny. Start today. Don’t let 2010 be your last year on the planet!

 

Care for Dogs: By Ana Gracey, Care for Dogs

Dog of the Week – Judy Black

This is Judy Black – a real celebrity at Care for Dogs. She will actually hold your hand in hers and place her other paw on top like a confiding aunt,
gazing at you with great understanding, alongside a compassion that almost borders on pity – so unfortunate for you that you are not a dog! She loves to trot around in the woods with her fellows but care must be taken not to let her off the lead for even a moment, as every chicken in the area will agree…sadly her compassion doesn’t stretch that far! She would make a wonderful addition to any home with or without children as long as they have a very secure garden or yard and have time to take her for regular walks and give her lots of attention. She’s currently the Care for Dogs mascot and often accompanies us on educational trips into schools. To say the least, the kids love her and so will you…call the shelter for an appointment and we’ll see if we can fit you into her busy schedule…If you think Judy Black could be a good match for you or anyone you know, then contact Care for Dogs, English (08 47 52 52 55) Thai (08 69 13 87 01) or e-mail: [email protected] carefordogs .org to make an appointment to meet her at the shelter. www.carefordogs.org


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Hope you got enough champers over Xmas and New Year so you won’t be trying to get people to bring you some each week! The same goes for the chocolates. I think you should just stick to looking after the poor people who write in each week with problems that they bring on themselves. They don’t deserve sympathy, old girl. The need a damn good kick up the posterior, so why don’t you start the New Year by telling them how the real world works?
Joey

Dear Joey,
Aren’t you the bringer of peace and joy to the neighborhood, my Petal. First you try and cut off my bubbly at the source, then throw out the chocs, and tell everyone with a problem they brought it on themselves, so bad luck, old chum.
I’m sorry to deflate your self-opinionated balloon, Joey, but there are many genuine people in the world who, through no real fault of their own, find themselves in a problem situation. Human emotions do not quite follow the laws of simple physics or mathematics. One and one can often make three, if you can follow my gist, and it’s not outside your narrow viewpoint. The ‘real world’ as you call it, Joey, is the world in which we find ourselves. It may not be the ideal world, especially your ideals, but it is the one we live in. Mine needs champagne to uncork my bubbles and chocolates to sweeten me up. You, on the other hand, are a miserable lost cause. And that’s how the “real world works.”


Dear Hillary,
You won’t remember me, but you did give me such good advice last year. I was the guy with the GF here, but I was only here on holidays, for one month a year. I took your advice and looked a bit more realistically at the relationship and realized I didn’t have a relationship. I was just sending money to some bar girl who most likely had others doing the same. I had asked you how would I find out if she was back working at the bar or not, and you made me see sense. I stopped sending money, and the loving emails stopped as well. I just want to tell other guys in the same situation that if your GF speaks in broken English, and her emails are perfect, then she’s not writing them, is she?
(ex)Doubting Thomas

Dear (ex)Doubting Thomas,
So nice to know that our little column here has been of great help. When I get letters like the one at the top of the page from people like Joey (hand delivered with no return address), it makes me quite sad, but then when I got your email, it really helped sparkle up my day, and I was very happy to reply, as well as print it in the column. Now that you are an “ex” Doubting Thomas, you will find you can make lots of lasting, good relationships from now on. Congratulations on ‘coming of age’.


Dear Hillary,
Thank you for your nice reply to my letter. I thought I should tell you I think I have got to the bottom of the deteriorating toilet roll saga.
Yesterday I bought a packet of my favorite envelopes, I have purchased the same ones for the last four years. Guess what? They were half the thickness of the previous packs I had bought!
So putting two and two together I presume it’s the companies helping save the world by using less and less paper. Or could it be giving us less but charging the same? No, that’s not a nice thing to say at this festive time of year is it?
Hillary on a more sober note, Linda, an English lady living in the same Mansion as myself decided she would not send Christmas cards or send her family gifts this Christmas. Instead she wanted to visit the local blind school here in Chiang Mai. We went together and both came away in tears, promising to get the school two 56 kilo bags of rice which they needed. Those of us who can see are so lucky, this is not a pedestrian friendly city Hillary and for blind people as you would know, impossible to walk anywhere.
I wished I could speak perfect Thai to speak with the children, as I’m sure some would love to learn English. If there’s any foreigners here in Chiang Mai who can speak Thai they would be so welcome at the blind school, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] Thanks again for your column, Hillary.
PS. I liken that new toilet tissue to be on a par with what is called ‘Ultra Fine’ in sandpaper terms.
Love and Good Wishes to You All.
Delboy

Dear Delboy,
Aren’t you the sweetest thing, but it is so heartening to hear of people actually ‘giving’ of themselves and their time during the festive season, which is supposed to be the time of goodwill. Having corresponded with Delboy for many years, I can vouch for his good intentions, and blind children anywhere deserve the best we can give them, to compensate for the loss of their sight.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Did you retire at the end of 2009?

Did you retire at the end of 2009 and find you are bored already? And this is just the second week in 2010! It’s going to be a long year as one of the quickest ways to get old is to retire and have nothing to do. There is a limit to how many times you can sit on the beach, or play golf. No matter how much of a beach fanatic you are, or an avid golfer, there can certainly be too much of a good thing. This is why I ask you to consider photography.
As one gets older, physical activity is important - just getting out of the house or condo is an enjoyment in itself. This is where photography is so good. Give yourself a small photo project and out you go and illustrate it.
Photography is also an ideal pastime for our seniors, because it is something that can be picked up and put down at will, it is not too physically demanding, and modern cameras can assist in the areas where age has taken some toll. And the end result is something that can give you great joy, be that award winning sunsets or just pictures of the grandchildren.
To play golf you need golf clubs. To play photography you need a camera. Get one with autofocus (AF). There are many reasons for this, but since sharp focus is necessary for a good final print, let the camera do it for you, when sharpness in vision is something that becomes very problematical as you get older. Provided you can point the camera in the right direction, the camera will do the rest.
Most AF ones are a little more expensive, and work by moving the lens in and out electronically to focus on the subject in the middle of the viewfinder, just as if you were doing it yourself. They do this quickly and accurately and will usually give an audible ‘beep’, or a green light in the viewfinder to let you know the focus has been set. Do not be afraid to try the new advanced cameras, they make life easier, so just use them to your advantage.
Another problem often associated with aging is stiffening of the fingers. This would make it difficult to thread the film into the take-up spool. Forget that old technology! A digital camera does away with film and any of the problems associated with it. Nothing could be simpler or more fool proof.
Zoom lenses also save you having to go the distance. Is it just too much of a hassle these days to walk up to distant objects to get close-up details? Then a zoom lens will do it for you. With a zoom lens it is no problem at all to get a close-up, a wide angle and a distant shot from the same camera position. Maybe an autofocus digital compact camera with an inbuilt zoom lens is just the camera for you. Just push a button to make the zoom bring the subject closer or farther away.
As we get older, we are also more prone to the shakes. Today’s digital cameras can even compensate for the tremor, with anti-shake technology. This makes photography for seniors even easier.
Today’s camera manufacturers have taken the fears out of flash too. Most new cameras have their own in-built flash which comes on when the light levels are too low, will set their own flash power and give you perfectly lit indoor night shots every time.
So there you have it, retirees. There are cameras available now which can get you into photography! If you once had the ‘photographic eye’, then that ability is still there. All you have to do is get the equipment to let you use and enjoy it again. Look for suitable AF digital compacts with built in zoom, anti-shake technology and auto flash.
Pricewise you are looking at spending something around B. 10,000. There are plenty of choices in the marketplace. Something from the major brands such as Nikon, Canon, Olympus. A hint to the family around birthday should suffice.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The New East or the Old West?

GRAPH 1

Some readers have asked me for my thoughts on equities for next year and how things will pan out. Without reverting to my usual realism of caution, caution, caution, it is an interesting question. To use the dictum of Scott Campbell and Martin Gray at Miton Asset Management, the most important thing is the allocation of assets is a lot more important than the fund you have selected (see graph 1).
However, where to start? Emerging Markets or Developed Markets? Naturally, I am not just talking about Asia here but also South America and elsewhere. Likewise, Japan is with the old, developed countries when doing any comparison like this. Which will do better than the other and when will we start to see the difference?

GRAPH 2

Let’s look at the recent history of both. Over the last ten years the Emerging Markets have done well. This is especially true if you compare 2008 and 2009 until the end of October. If you had invested in the Emerging Markets then you would be in profit. If you had invested in the S&P 500 you would be still carrying a double digit loss.
As one UBS strategist, Jon Andersen, put it recently, “Not even the worst economic crisis in the postwar era has been able to derail [the emerging markets].”
As anyone who wants to cover their backside will tell you, past performance does not mean future gain. However, it does at least give an indication of how funds should perform and what the fund manager is looking for when it comes to selecting what he wants. As well as the very practical ideas of Miton, the first thing a good manager will do is look at a company balance sheet. Speaking basically, this will immediately show what is owned and what is owed. It gives a good indication of what the finances of a company look like.
Obviously, if a company has a lot of assets and does not owe much then it should be able to withstand any economic downturns better than one that does not own much and carries much debt. Most of all if a company needs to borrow then it should be avoided if at all possible. As Martin Whitman has said, “Even the strongest, best-quality issuers can be brought down, or almost brought down, if they continually have to refinance.” Many people came croppers last year having invested in companies who were in exactly this position. What has all of this to do with developed and developing markets? Well, a balance sheet is also important when it comes to looking at a country’s finances.

GRAPH 3
Believe it or not, the health of a nation’s balance sheet is more than a tad important too. If a country is in the pooh with regards to debt then it usually does not grow as much or as reliably as one with a healthy balance sheet. Anderson has actually designed a graph that shows this. If a country has high debt levels and deficits then it will earn a high ‘stress’ index score. Having done this he then plotted the index (inverted) against GDP growth which is a rough measure of economic growth.
Unsurprisingly, there is a close connection between the two (see graph 2):
What this implies is that if the emerging market countries have good, strong balance sheets then they grow at a better rate than when they have weak ones.
The last time the emerging market sector had such a good, steady long run was way back in the sixties and seventies when they all grew at over 5% per annum. It is not a coincidence that their balance sheets were also in good nick. Because of this the emerging markets were reasonably healthy enough to survive the oil crisis of the mid-seventies without too much trouble and investors in this sector did rather well whereas those who had anything in the developed world were hit with the deep depression of the time.
According to Anderson, “Between 1965-1980 the dollar-adjusted return on nascent equity markets in Mexico, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brazil, South Africa and other lower-income nations ran into the hundreds of percent - while indexes in the US and Europe were essentially flat over the same 15-year period.”
It must be emphasized though, like all cyclical events, all of these things go up and down like a lift. Just look what happened to the emerging markets after the recession of the early 1980’s. Many countries had inflation over one hundred percent and some of the currencies had their value cut in half. Also, as you can see from the graph, the balance sheets did not do too well either.
Investing into many of the Emerging Markets did not bring in massive returns in the last decade either. Obviously some countries did better than others. However, if you had invested USD100 in a general emerging market fund in 1990 then you would have got USD100 back at the turn of the century. It is only since then that the Emerging Markets have got their act together, cleared the massive debts and have been on an upward swing ever since. Needless to say, this will not last but, for the moment, Emerging Markets are doing well and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Anderson has figured out that, “All the preconditions are in place for a protracted period of strong economic growth.” He believes this will be at least 5%+ which knock the growth rates of the western world into a cocked hat.
Actually, the growth rates of the Emerging Markets are already there for everyone to see. This graph shows the industrial production of emerging Asia compared to the United States (see graph 3).
Despite what happened last year it looks as though Asia is doing well. From a production point of view, it dispels any theories about Asia not being able to de-couple from the western power-houses.
The chief economist at Nomura Research, Richard Koo, has it right when he says that the western world economies are suffering from a “balance sheet recession”. Basically, they have too much debt which means that they have to concentrate on paying this off rather than make an actual profit. This repayment is going to take years, if not decades, to pay off and, in a domino type effect, will inhibit growth and production.
Therefore, if I had to look at one point of the compass, I would counter the words of Horace Greeley and John Soule and say, “Go East, young man”

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 Sam Oglesby

Chiang Mai, Then and Now

(This week’s column is by an American writer whose memoir, “Postcards from the Past - Portraits of People and Places” contains a chapter on Thailand.)
 Forty years ago I stood on a hill overlooking Chiang Mai. It was late afternoon and the final glimmers of the setting sun caught the gold on a wat’s spire in the green, distant valley. A gentle breeze caressed my cheek and a temple bell tinkled from a nearby monastery. I turned to my companion, a young farang aid worker who was a colleague, and murmured, “It’s all so perfect. There’s no place else I’d rather be!” He looked at me, smiled and shocked me with his reply: “Get out of here before it’s too late!”, he said. When I asked him to elaborate on this cryptic advice, he shook his head and laughed, saying “You’ll find out soon enough what I mean!”
In those days I was young and idealistic and Chiang Mai was still a small town, really a big village. I still remember the most newsworthy event of that now distant time - the installation of Chiang Mai’s FIRST traffic light. Progress and growth were in the air and I found it exciting to be a part of it. I was engaged in a number of projects that bore fruit literally and figuratively over the years as northern Thailand’s agricultural productivity increased by leaps and bounds. In retrospect, this was a simpler time when easy solutions to small-ish problems brought quick results that made almost everybody happy. 
Fast forward four decades to a more complex age. I find myself in Chiang Mai once again as we enter the second decade of this still new millennium. This time I’m here not to “do good”, but to have fun. This visit is for relaxing, not for changing the world. I have mellowed and put a lot of mileage under my belt but I still reflect on what my colleague said to me on the mountaintop way back when about “getting out before it’s too late.” I think what he was trying to tell me was: as foreigners we may come to love Thailand - most certainly that will happen; we may live here for years and years; we may become fluent Thai speakers; we may even marry a local person and feel we have integrated perfectly into Thai society. But we must always remember that we are guests and that there are “rules” to follow, rules that mostly have to do with respect. Otherwise, if we ignore these rules, we foreigners will become victims of frustration and disappointment.
As “culturized” as we may think we are, our outlook will always remain somewhat foreign. While that might not be a bad thing - fresh perspectives are often what is needed to solve knotty problems - for our own good and the benefit of this society which is hosting us, we musty tread lightly and cautiously, spreading our pearls of wisdom and our endeavors to make improvements in such a way that takes into account that there is - or should always be - a Thai way to solve Thai problems.
It is somewhat ironic that many of us come here to the Land of Smiles drawn by its beauty and charm, its good value for our money and the ease, grace and efficiency with which things get done and then we often start complaining about one thing or another. Chalk it up to human nature - once the bloom is off the rose and the honeymoon has run its course, we no longer see the glass half full, but start viewing it as half empty. We have several choices at this juncture: going back to where we came from; grinning and bearing - and hopefully still continuing to enjoy - the reality that is Chiang Mai or ? How shall I describe it? Trying to make a difference in a way that is practical, culturally respectful and, hopefully, innovative.
Having delivered what risks becoming a boring lecture, I will turn to one problem in Chiang Mai that, to me, cries out for urgent attention: an out-of-control traffic situation that seems to be teetering on the brink of disaster. As part of an alarming trend towards environmental degradation that encompasses a host of problems from agricultural fires to unregulated burning of trash, the present crisis of vehicular congestion and exhaust emission must be addressed by creating a reliable, cost effective public transportation system.
As Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai has NONE of the needed, reliable elements that are present in Bangkok to move people around. The capital is served by metered taxis, a sky train, a subway and a comprehensive, well-run bus system, not to mention river taxis. Chiang Mai, on the other hand, depends largely on the operation of the red-minivans or “song teows” whose rapidly increasing number is threatening grid lock and dangerous pollution. Let’s put our heads together and mobilize the political will to find a Thai solution to a looming crisis that is becoming an environmental disaster and an economic millstone, which will in the medium and long-term discourage development and the all-important growth of tourism.
In the not too-distant future, if things continue on their reckless course on Chiang Mai’s roads, more people will be saying, “Let’s get out before it’s too late.” We don’t want that to happen to this beautiful, northern jewel. I am not suggesting that foreign residents of Chiang Mai should take the lead or even play a major role in this endeavor. I only offer my opinion as a foreigner who loves Thailand and who knows that a Thai solution will be found. Sam Oglesby’s new book, “Encounters: A Memoir - Relationship Journeys from Around the World” will be published in March 2010. It also contains a chapter on Thailand. His email is: [email protected]
Many thanks to our guest writer, Sam Oglesby. Chiang Mai Mail encourages residents and tourists alike to submit letters, articles and opinion pieces relevant to life in Chiang Mai.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

A very weird and scary thing happened as I was watching Paranormal Activity! About 16 minutes after the movie started on opening day last Thursday, the film caught fire!  A section of the film just burned up, very quickly, and the lights immediately came up in the cinema.  I thought for a brief moment that it was a part of the show, to make us all think that demons were at work even here, even as we watch the film.  But I was assured that no, it was not planned to burn a hole in the film at each showing.
Nevertheless, it was quite unsettling, especially since I have heard that spooky things have happened to people who watch the film (like what happened to Director Steven Spielberg – see below).
Now playing in Chiang Mai 
Paranormal Activity:
US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – A gfound footageh film, in the line of The Blair Witch Project.  In other words, grealh film footage foundafter those who shot it are no longer around to explain it.  Here, a suburban couple films some nighttime phenomena that are frightening them to death – some demonic presence in their home is not pleased.  Opinions are all over the lot on this one, but it averages out to ggenerally favorable.h  Rated R in the US for language.  I thought it truly creepy and scary.
Maybe therefs more to it than that.  Maybe there truly is some paranormal activity somehow embedded in the film.  Steven Spielberg apparently thought so.  Rumor has it that after hearing the acclaim about the 2006 original, Spielberg took a copy of the film home to see for himself, and while viewing it his bedroom door locked itself from the inside; he needed a locksmith to open it!  The experience supposedly jarred him so much that he returned the film to the studio in a garbage bag.
Audiences have been reported to walk out of test screenings claiming it was too scary to finish watching.  So Ifd better say, see it at your own risk!
Bodyguards and Assassins:
China, Action/ Drama/ History – A group of martial artists attempt to protect Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the gFather of Modern China,h from an assassination attempt at the beginning of the 20th century.  A meticulously-crafted historical movie with careful attention to detail, and apparently a last hour that is all gut-spilling action.  But, shown here only at Vista in a Thai-dubbed version with no English subtitles.
Avatar:
US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – From writer/director James Cameron, a major achievement and a technological breakthrough.  Itfs a film of universal appeal that just about everyone who goes to the movies will want to see.  In English and Na’vi dialogue, with English and Thai subtitles as needed in the 2D version, but no English subtitles for Nafvi in the 3D version.  The Vista version is 2D and Thai-dubbed only.  Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Sherlock Holmes
: US/ UK/ Australia, Action/ Crime/ Thriller – A new take on the Holmes canon.  Ifd say that once you get over the shock of seeing Sherlock played as an action figure, it isnft all that bad.  A bit of the old Holmes shows through.  However, purists will not be amused.  Mixed or average reviews.
As It Happens:
Thai, Drama/ Romance – A romantic comedy about a young man and woman who keep running into each other in various far-off places around the world.  At Airport Plaza only, in Thai only.
The Treasure Hunter:
Taiwan, Romance/ Sci-Fi – A story about time-traveling lovers who end up in Genghis Khan’s Mongolia to search for an ancient treasure, with Korean pop-star-turned-actor Jay Chou.  Fairly devastating reviews.  Thai dubbed only, with no English subtitles.
Did You Hear About the Morgans?:
US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play an estranged New York couple whisked into the witness protection program and sent to Wyoming.  Nothing much happens.  Generally unfavorable reviews.
The Storm Warriors
: Hong Kong, Action/ Fantasy – A martial arts film by the twins Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang.  Style is truly great; substance is questionable.  Unfortunately, in a Thai-dubbed version only, no English subtitles.  But I loved the visuals, and the fantasy.
32 Tan-Wah:
Thai, Comedy/ Romance – Yet another Thai  grom/com, h this one taking place on the 32nd of December.  A young man with amnesia has forgotten which of his three girlfriends he truly loves.
Scheduled for January 14
Mulan:
US/ China, Adventure/ Drama/ Romance – Based on the Chinese folk heroine Hua Mulan.  When her country is threatened by invaders, a young girl defends her father by sneaking away from home and dressing up as a man to join an all-male army where she eventually assumes a historically critical role in defending her nation in a time of war.
Kru Bann-Nok / To Sir With Love:
Thai, Comedy/ Drama – The life of a volunteer teacher determined to teach children in the back-country.


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

Feedback on Mexican sunflowers

My article on the Mexican sunflower, which can be read on Chiang Mai Mail’s website (No 51, 2009), sparked four readers to send me comments. In my column I explained that the obliteration of a subtle Thai ecosystem composed of 2200 species, has been transformed into a tourist attraction. Innocent tourists are transported to mountainsides in Mae Hong Son where the mighty forest was once situated, now covered by the yellow weed called Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia, bua tong). One reader remarked that this has happened in England too, where today’s innocent citizens and tourists admire unproductive moorlands, which once were covered by forests. A reader also explained that uneducated politicians and people in Queensland (Australia) used to refer to their rainforests as “scrublands”, in order to cash in money for clear cuts. Fortunately this primitive behaviour has been changed. Not only did it save biodiversity, but also increased Queensland’s annual tourism income, much more than a single clear cut. As a result of visiting tourists, local people learned to appreciate their forests, even feeling pride that tourists cross the oceans to come and see their unique forests. Local people replaced the word “scrub” with “rainforest”. People with “rainforest” on their properties increased the value.
Unique original landscapes are much more economically valuable than resort style gardens which anybody can make. Two readers suggest that we should try to promote the same pride here in Chiang Mai. Properties holding “Monsoon forest” should become the most valuable properties. Here we need the help of the real-estate dealers. It might be hard to define a monsoon forest, but a 5 rai property encompassing at least 10 species of indigenous trees is a good start. People frequently ask me how they can promote birds, butterflies and other wildlife, and the best answer is “diversity of indigenous plants” and “shrub”, in contrast to a “tidy” garden with no leaves on the ground or hiding places for lizards and birds. Everybody can help in restoring Thailand to its former glory! [email protected]


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Here is a hand from the 2009 Gold Cup semifinal in Scotland, as reported by Andrew Robson. This was a team contest, using IMP scoring, so the important thing is to make your contract. Overtricks are of little importance. I found it instructive because it illustrates the value of keeping your options open when planning the play of a hand. South dealt and NS were vulnerable. 

                                   S: AQ

                                   H: AJ9876

                                   D: K106

                                   C: AJ                      

S: 10                                                            S: J876

H: K1052                                                    H: Q3

D: AQ83                                                     D: J7542

C: 10854                                                     C: K3

                                   S: K95432

                                   H: 4

                                   D: 9

                                   C: Q9762                  

South   West      North     East

2S         P              4S            All pass 

South opened with a weak two spade bid, which North raised to four. Imagine you are sitting South. At both tables, West led a club to dummy’s jack and East’s king, followed by a club continuation to dummy’s ace. Without looking at the EW hands, decide what you would play from dummy for the next trick.
At one table, declarer decided to pull trumps and started off by playing the ace and queen of spades. When neither trumps nor clubs split, the contract was doomed, losing two clubs (the king and ten), a trump and the ace of diamonds. Poor splits seem rather likely in view of South’s distributional hand and thus the declarer at the second table decided on a more flexible plan, keeping open the possibility of running dummy’s long suit, hearts, or making the contract with a cross-ruff. He played the ace of hearts and ruffed a heart, noting the fall of the queen. This was followed by a trump to the ace and a third heart, ruffed low while East discarded a diamond. Next came declarer’s singleton diamond. West played the ace and led back another diamond. Dummy won the king and led a fourth heart, ruffed low since declarer knew West had to follow. Declarer had scored seven of the nine tricks played so far, and the last four cards in each hand were as below, with the lead in declarer’s hand. 

                              S: Q

                              H: J9

                              D: 10

                              C: -                      

S: -                                                     S: J87

H: -                                                     H: -

D: Q8                                                 D: J

C: 108                                                C: -

                              S: K9

                              H: -

                              D: -

                              C: Q9                    

East now has more trumps than declarer, but is helpless to stop declarer scoring three more tricks (and making the contract) with a cross-ruff. Declarer led a club and ruffed it on board, then led a diamond back to ruff with the nine of spades. Finally he scored the spade king. Flexibility won—a premature drawing of trumps would have restricted the options to only losing ones!
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]