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


Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Will 2010 be another year of abuse?

I think most of us, when pressed, will admit to abusing our bodies. We punish our livers (New Year being a fine example), we also punish our brains with alcohol and we punish our joints and cardiovascular systems by being overweight. We also regularly make New Year resolutions to stop doing all of the above, which generally lasts until the first of February!
However, after many years in the primary health care business, I realized that most patients self-select into two very different groups. There are those who worry about every symptom they ever get, and on the other side are those who ignore their body’s telling them of things that are amiss.
It is between these two sides that the field of self-monitoring lies. With some patients they will slavishly carry out examination and recording far more than their disease process would require, but for others, they will just not do these simple procedures, as they refuse to admit to sickness or ill-health in any way.
It is important here to state that I am discussing long term monitoring of chronic ailments, such as hypertension, diabetes or asthma. I am not asking patients to become doctors and make their own diagnoses. Sometimes it is hard enough for experienced doctors to do that!
This whole business of self monitoring is something that actually gets much space in the medical literature, and the medical profession itself is also quite divided over this issue. Here I will try to provide the ‘middle ground’, which itself is not without certain problems.
Let’s take Blood Pressure problems first. In actual fact it is quite difficult to get accurate blood pressure readings. Blood pressure is a dynamic factor in the body. Step off the kerb and be narrowly missed by a speeding motorcycle going the wrong way up a one way street and your blood pressure will rise immediately. If it doesn’t, it probably means that he hit you and you are already dead. There is also a well documented type of high blood pressure reading called ‘White Coat Hypertension’, which is where the BP goes up as the white coated doctor gets closer.
So what is your ‘real’ blood pressure reading? For me, one isolated raised reading does not mean you have hypertension. All that the one reading means is at that particular time, for any number of reasons, your BP was elevated. It could be down again tomorrow. Only by taking serial readings will you (and your doctor) really know.
Let us now imagine that a definitive diagnosis of hypertension has been made. This is where self monitoring can be very good. You can return to your doctor and give him serial readings, taken at home, and these will probably be closer to the ‘real’ numbers than ones taken in the sterile and sometimes frightening doctor’s office. Mind you, this does depend upon accurate home measurement, using accurate equipment.
However, the physicians with the care of diabetic patients are not so enamored of glucose self monitoring as the cardiologists are with BP readings. There is little evidence that home blood glucose monitoring improves outcomes in Type 2 diabetic patients. There may even be negative effects associated with it, including increased distress and worry. Regular hemoglobin A1c levels may be more appropriate than daily finger pricks. Since the Hb A1c levels show the overall diabetic control over the previous three months, it is actually a more consistent monitor, but that test is not available as an easy home testing kit. It’s back to lining up to see your diabetic specialist on a regular basis, I’m afraid.
And so to asthma. The respiratory physicians seem to be more in agreement with home monitoring for this chronic condition. Serial lung function testing with simple hand-held devices can show the asthma sufferer the trends of decreasing or increasing respiratory function. At predetermined levels, the patient can be instructed to initiate different therapies to stop them going into a full-blown asthma attack. This is self monitoring towards a preventive end. The main aim in asthma treatment.
The message is simple. If you have a long-term condition, don’t ignore it, but monitor it! And report to your doctor regularly.


Care for Dogs: By Ana Gracey, Care for Dogs

Dog of the Week – Bo

Bo is an older guy of real character. He doesn’t take any nonsense from those dogs without manners at the shelter, but is all in all a really friendly fellow. Bo is healthy, sterilised with all his shots and would make a great guard dog as long as he is not kept on a chain or in a cage – he would truly benefit from a loving forever home with older children and/or dogs. You can tell he’s seen alot in his life but is still handsome with a luxurious tawny and white coat. Can you offer him a stable home to retire to? If you think Bo 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] to make an appointment to meet him at the shelter. www.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
On weekends my family and I like to get away from the city and go to the beach. This takes some organizing, but I used to think it was worthwhile just to get away from the endless pressures of work. Now I find our day is spoiled by the never ending interruptions from beach vendors all trying to sell bolts of material, food, sunglasses, inflatable toys, model airplanes, massages or nail polish. What can be done about them? Surely the person in charge of the area (concessionaire?) could tell them to go, but it doesn’t seem to stop them. Have you the answer to this problem?
Beach Boy
Dear Beach Boy,
I think everyone agrees with you. These vendors who interrupt the enjoyment of just being on the beach are a nuisance. Not only that, but if you have been to the beach enough times you will have seen a sudden exodus as they flee from the pursuing boys in brown. But please understand that the ‘crime’ is not selling on the beach, it is selling on the beach without the license! Yes, I have the answer to all this, but it does mean you have to travel a little further. If you follow the coastline you will find deserted beaches with pristine sand and no sales people. Mind you, there’s no-one to bring you an ice cream either! The choice is yours.

Dear Hillary,
I am 17 years old and have come over here for a holiday with my Dad from Canada. The girls in Thailand are just so more beautiful than the ones at home. Dad lets me come with him to the bars and says it’s OK. Do you think there would be any jobs in the bars for someone like me? I have been to bars before and worked in McDonalds after school. I’m big, so I look older too and have met a girl here and I would like her to be my steady. Is this going to be easy, or should I forget about it?
Big Moose
Dear Big Moose,
You don’t say what part of you is supposed to be “big” but it certainly isn’t the brain, is it, Petal? I could start by asking what is a 17 year old from Canada is doing hanging around our bars, when the minimum age is supposed to be 20, but then perhaps you showed the man on the door your “big” bits and he thought you were older. Or perhaps your Dad thinks it is funny to get you into these places. There are good reasons that the minimum age is 20, and not 17. You have absolutely zero chance of working here in a bar, even if you were 47 and all of your bits had grown even bigger. Forget the girl, forget the bars and go home to Mummy in Canada, that’s a good boy. You’ve wasted enough of my time already.

Dear Hillary,
I love coming to Thailand, it is really such an exciting place to visit. There are only a couple of downsides for me. Bartering and tipping. Can you give us some pointers on how to do it, and how much to leave as a tip? If the establishment charges a “service fee”, should you tip as well? What do you do as someone living there, for example? I believe that the wages are not high for some of the people in bars and restaurants and they need the tips, but I do not want to throw money away either? What’s your tip about tipping?
Tippy Toe
Dear Tippy Toe,
Half the fun of coming here on holiday is the bartering side of buying, my Petal. Don’t get too hung up about it. They will give you a starting price and you should generally come back with about 40 percent of that. The shopkeeper will then come down a little, you go up a little and so on. Keep smiling, it is a game remember! If you find you are haggling over 20 baht, convert that to your home currency and see if it is worth the hassle of continuing. Don’t leave something you want for the sake of 50 cents!
Tipping? There are two situations here - service charge or no service charge. If the establishment adds on 10 percent (the usual amount), then as far as Hillary is concerned - that’s the tip. There are some places that no doubt pocket the service charge, but that’s not anything of your doing, nor can you change it. That is something between the employees and the owners to work out. However, if you feel that the waiter or service provider has gone well beyond that which could be expected, then you should reward with a little extra something for that person, irrespective. You know the sort of things I like - a little fawning, groveling and lots of compliments. In an establishment that has no standard add on service charge, then it really is up to you. Small change left over or up to 10 percent is quite acceptable. The Thai people are grateful for anything you leave them. It all adds up by the end of the day.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Why “Auto” can sometimes trick you

Automatic cameras have become so good these days, there is a tendency to think they are foolproof. You are guaranteed a great shot every time. Correct exposure, sharp as a tack and looking professional. Unfortunately in the real world, that does not necessarily happen, as this photographer found out.
Dear Harry,
A question for you regarding my Sony Cyber-shot. I recently was a guest at a beautiful wedding, the reception was quite well lit so I thought rather than use a flash and have everybody look like ghosts I would turn the flash off.
What I had not taken into consideration was that the shutter speed would be slower without the flash. Most of the photos were blurred, either by me shaking, or the people I was photographing moving during the shot.
At least I am assuming that was the cause of the bad shots, what is your opinion Harry?
Thanking you, Sunny.
Your assumption is spot on, Sunny. The clever brain (or electronic smarts) inside the camera knows that a certain Exposure Value (EV) is required to produce correctly exposed shots. That EV has two variables, but which are related directly to each other, and they are the size of the aperture and shutter speed.
Now even though you felt the venue was well lit, and I do often tell people to turn off the flash to stop the rabbit in the headlamps appearance, that venue’s ambient lighting was not enough to get to the EV required without some extreme values in aperture and shutter speed.
I will presume that you had the camera on full ‘auto’ and not on Aperture Priority, but the result would have been around the same. The electronic brain knows you can’t hand-hold at much slower than 1/30th second so will try to use that shutter speed and open up the aperture to whatever is needed to get the correct EV. That’s the theory.
However, when the camera runs out of aperture setting, then all that is left for the camera brain to adjust is the shutter speed and its little electronic brain gives it an even slower shutter speed, at which you cannot hand-hold. Blurred shots are the result.
Now whilst all of the above is relevant, there were a couple of points in time at the reception where you could have averted the disaster. When you were composing the shot there would have been a winking indicator in the viewfinder to tell you that the camera felt flash was needed. You chose to ignore that, deciding that your brain was better that the Cyber-shot brain. At times that can be so, but not this time!
Secondly being a digital, the Cyber-shot gives you the opportunity to review all shots after you have taken them. All within a few seconds too. You could have looked at the first shot on the three inch LCD and would have seen that it was blurred and worked out then, what you worked out later, that the shutter speed was too slow to hand-hold, despite the image stabilization feature. Sometimes we can ask too much of our equipment!
You could also have then gone into the menu and tried to up the ASA rating in the camera, since it will go to 3200, albeit with some ‘noise’ and lack of sharpness as the trade-off. Even at only 800 ASA, you would probably have got away with it, but it’s easy to be wise in retrospect.
So what was this practical lesson all about? Really, the message is to remember that any automatic camera has limits. “Auto” does not equate with “fool-proof”. The second message was to check your shots after you have taken them. That is what the LCD/digital camera can give you over the old film technology, where you waited for a couple of hours to see if you had a usable shot.
Thank you Sunny, and please keep taking shots. Photography is a pastime that does give you the opportunity to improve, and the more shots you take, the greater the improvement.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Cooking the books

As regular readers of this column will know, one of my favourite quotes is, “Lies, damn lies and statistics”.
I was reminded of this recently when the US government announced its latest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures. These were better than people thought they would be and so the markets went into overdrive amidst investors buying anything and everything they could. This mania lasted all of 24 hours after more figures came through which showed consumer spending was down by one half of one percent and people buying houses were as common as Raith Rovers supporters after Gordon Brown declared his support for them. Those who had just bought stock and shares were now trying to sell.
Also, Forbes Magazine stated that “New home construction is 74% below the peak it reached in January 2006, the drop is far more dramatic than the 46% decline in 1981 and well ahead of the 60% fall between 1986 and 1991.”
What is even more disturbing is that there are now nearly 20 million homes in America which are unoccupied and empty. And they want to build more? Twenty million homes is a lot of property to sell. So, by the end of the particular week in question the markets were actually down.
As Dan Denning, author of the best selling The Bull Hunter, says, “Don’t believe the GDP hype, the big problems in the economy - too much debt, too much leverage, too much government - are still there. They didn’t go anywhere overnight. We’d suggest that getting sucked back into stocks now because of the US GDP figure is a very bad idea. Of course, we could be wrong, maybe stocks will go up another 20% from here. Or 30%. Or 50%. But it’s not likely. It’s more likely that the recession is over, but that the Depression has just begun.
“It’s begun because what the US GDP numbers actually show is a private sector in full retreat as its income shrinks, its assets fall in value and the cost of servicing debt rises. Into that terrible breach the public sector has stepped, armed with an arsenal of inefficient and stupid programs that give the illusion of economic activity, but actually prevent the economy from liquidating excess capacity and bad debt (the two conditions required for a real recovery).”
Couldn’t have put it better myself. If everything is as tickety-boo in the Land of the Free as we are meant to believe then how come no-one is spending and everyone is feeling as though they are suffering from a permanent hangover?
The real answer, to misquote Sir Winston Churchill, is that the way the GDP is worked out is a deceit wrapped in a lie inside a fraud. How can something that looks so good be so bad? Well, it is the way things are calculated - lies, damn lies and statistics. For example, GDP does include government spending but, at the same time, does not subtract the actual borrowing the government undertakes to fuel its spending. It goes without saying that what the government spends is not an accurate reflection of what happens in the private sector.
We have been taught that one of the best ways to judge how healthy an economy is faring is to look at the GDP. This is usually expressed in either positive or negative growth and allows the politicians to comment accordingly. However, the brutal fact of the matter is that GDP is about as much use as a bag of spuds at telling us how healthy a country’s economy really is. To show this, we need to understand how the GDP can be worked out. There are three alternative methods:
1. Expenditure
2. Income
3. Value Added
Hypothetically, it should not make any difference which of the above is used as they should all produce the same result. However, when theory is put into practice this is hardly ever the case. For example, when governments spend money like it is going out of fashion, as has been the case this year, then there is considerably more growth when calculated the expenditure way. This is because of the way it is worked out. The expenditure method, which is what most people use to find out what the GDP is, works out how big an economy is by adding up the expenditure and then taking away the imports. This is a simple way of looking at it:
GDP = Government Spending + Gross Investment + Private Consumption + (Exports – Imports)
Why is this wrong? Well, technically it is not. However, it does lead me back to the end of the first sentence: “Lies, damn lies and statistics”. Let’s look at an example. Most people who have even the most basic grasp of economics accept that Australia did go into recession. However, the Aussie government would have you believe otherwise. In fact, it wants you to think it all is hunky-dory in the land of the wallaby.
Like a lot of countries all over the world, Australia pumped money into the economy as if there was no tomorrow. Kevin Rudd, the Australian PM, would have us believe this saved the country from suffering the worst. However, if the GDP had been calculated by either the Income or Value-Added methods then Australia would definitely have been in a recession. This was explained by the economist, Dr. Rose of RMIT University in Victoria, “The income series... indicates a pretty minimal year all round. Both the September and December 2008 quarters showed an actual fall in the level of output, the very definition of a technical recession. Over the year, the level of GDP has fallen 0.4 percent, by no means as bad as elsewhere, but more in keeping with the general experience across the economy.
“The third measure shows the changes in GDP according to the production-based data. Here, too, (in the Value-Added) we have the ingredients for a technical recession, with an actual reduction in the level of output in both December 2008 and March 2009. Across the year, GDP has fallen by 0.7 percent.
“While the stimulus package appears to have been able to distort one of the three sets of national accounting measures we used, beneath it all the Australian economy, in keeping with the rest of the developed world, has gone through a recessionary phase from which it is only now beginning to emerge.”
Good argument, well presented. Put another way, the only way the Aussies could say they had not gone into a recession was by using the Expenditure method and this only worked because of the amount of cash the government put into the economy itself. It may seem harsh to say the Australian politicians are actually lying but the fact is quantitative easing cannot be sustained and to say the economy is recovering when people are still in the brown stuff is very hard to swallow.
To put it succinctly, there can be no recovery via financing debt on through improvement in real production. So a better way to calculate things would be to say NET government spending when doing the aforementioned equation, i.e. government spending MINUS government borrowing equals NET government spending. If this happened then the end figure would look a lot more realistic. No country can spend its way out of recession or depression. Once people realize this then we will be back in the real world.
The point is that if the free market does not want to buy something then why should the government use what is already borrowed money to purchase it and then show it as a net positive? The basics of it are real economic advances are done when manufacturing is on the up, production increases and people start to make true profit for themselves and the companies they own or work for without any direct or indirect government stimulus. They are not made by, “Lies, damn lies and statistics”.

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

All that heaven allows

Super exhibition at the Tamarind Village Resort Hotel

If I believed in heaven, it would most likely take the form of a little patch of land on the corner of Suthep Road, just across from the CMU Arts Building. There a small emporium, known simply as the DVD Film and Music Shop, boasts an incredible stock of ‘about 20,000 titles’. Not far from ‘heaven’ indeed.
Agreed that number of movies and concerts could represent the other side of the coin, hell indeed. It is quality not quantity that counts. Instead of their actual marvellous stock the collection could be dominated by dozens of the recent ‘torture’ movies which have recently disgraced American cinema, plus a surfeit of Thai comedies. Worse still it might contain the entire output of Michael Winner.
They might even give precedence to the repetitive mumblings of Woody Allen or the inane vulgarities of Mel Brooks, even the violent posturings of Tony Scott or Guy Ritchie. They could have a page in their catalogue devoted to great comedy actors and list Hugh instead of Cary Grant. They could collect Robin Williams’ movies like a spiteful child collects insects in a match box. Who knows what nightmares could befall us? The films of Marty Feldman listed as comedy not horror or the maunderings of Merchant -Ivory listed as drama.
The good news is they don’t do those things. True they will have some of the above and worse still you will find the Coen Brothers version of The Lady Killers alongside the original by Alexander MacKendrick and Meryl Streep as a phony nun in 2009’s worst ‘quality’ movie, Doubt.
But the aberrations are comparatively rare. The selection of titles is remarkable for its overall quality. Wander down the narrow aisles, glance at the covers of the DVDs and one is obliged to stop at every short pace and pick up a new box: each a timely reminder of the magic of cinema. Read the titles and one’s movie past, present and near future flashes before one in the manner of someone drowning, reliving life at a million frames a second not 24. How many movies has one seen in a lifetime? Impossible to recall exactly. In my case I’d guess at around the same as the shop’s stock: 20,000. Possibly rather more, excluding re-viewings of course, which can be up to 15 or 20 times in the case of films by Bresson or other giants of cinema. A lot of trash included, but that’s a working life.
Given the harsh reality of film distribution in Thailand and the paucity of worthwhile movies up in Chiang Mai, we must be especially grateful to the specialist outlets and this little oasis. It is unique in the City and I wonder if it even has an equivalent in Bangkok or indeed other capitals. Now all we want is an equivalent shop stocking decent music CDs.
Admittedly watching a movie on a small screen (even a larger than average t.v. with good sound) is no real substitute for the cinema experience. My simple rule is to see films first on a proper screen and accept that most repeated viewings ( unless one lives in Paris, London or New York, Brussels and so on) will have to be via these recordings. It’s no different from the fact that hearing a great orchestra perform a work is inevitably rare. We make do with discs.
On my most recent visit to this treasure trove I decided on a little experiment. I made my first three choices: the new Terence Davies work, his first ever documentary, Of Time and the City, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May, Gaspar Noe’s astounding portrait of a man alienated and unhinged by a past of loneliness and cruelty, I Stand Alone(1999) and Elem Klimov’s masterly war film, Come and See (1985), a work which sadly ended his career.
To make up a quartet I asked for a film not on show or listed in their director’s catalogue (this, by the way, is listed Thai style, alphabetically by given name so see A for Hitchcock and also for Kurosawa). I asked for The Hole and the computer threw up an Iranian film. Look under the original title, Le Trou, I suggested and there it was, Jacques Becker’s final masterwork. Within 10 seconds the film was in my hands. A work that I had not seen for 30 years and which I am happy to say was as fresh today as on its release even more years ago.
So happy viewings indeed. From next week a short new column, somewhere in these pages, devoted to a ‘DVD of the week’. Some new, some older, but titles all worth seeking out.
Patterns, Passages and Prayers
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the museum charting much of the history of Chiang Mai, which is open at the Three Kings Monument Building. Should you go there, it is worth your while moving on just ten minutes away to the calm and leafy environs of the Tamarind Village Hotel which is in ‘walking street’. There you will find a marvelous exhibition (admission free) devoted to the traditional cultures of the Golden Triangle.
It is the inspiration and work of a former professional musician, Victoria Vorreiter, who is a superb photographer. Much of the exhibition comprises her luminous and beautiful images of the people of the many tribes there, made over recent years. In addition there are artifacts, clothes, instruments and so on, well displayed in an upstairs gallery.
The exhibition opens at 11 in the morning until 6p.m. and will continue until April 30th. There are cds and books on sale and limited edition photographs but you can simply go along and enjoy the beauty of the images. Visit or phone 053 418 896 or go to for further details.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

ANow playing in Chiang Mai 
US, Animation/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi – A dark and delicious animated excursion into a remarkably detailed world after almost all life has been destroyed on Earth by a series of terrible wars.  Nine rag dolls that carry within them the spark of souls and life have been fashioned as a last-ditch effort toward the hope for an eventual resurrected life on the planet, and two of them have already been destroyed by malevolent machines that have run amok.

 #9, the ninth and last and most advanced figure to be fashioned, voiced by Elijah Wood, meets who’s left of his predecessors, #1 through #8, all voiced by distinctive actors, including Christopher Plummer as the fearful leader, #1, Martin Landau as #2, and Jennifer Connolly as the token female #7.

This visionary world was first created as an 11-minute short subject by Shane Acker while a student at UCLA, and was nominated for a 2006 Oscar.  This expansion of the fearsome fable, produced by the relentlessly gothic Tim Burton, is a big treat for more mature animation and science-fiction fans searching for adventure, inspiration, and complete originality.  And it’s a triumph for the young director.

It’s absolutely brilliant animation of a strange, haunting, horrific parable.  Not for kids but for the child within adults.  Most likely it won’t last past tomorrow in Chiang Mai, as it’s decidedly for specialized tastes.  If you’re interested, catch it while you still can.

Mulan: US/ China, Adventure/ Drama/ Romance – Based on the Chinese folk heroine Hua Mulan who, when her country is threatened by invaders, sneaks away from home and dresses up as a man to join an all-male army where she eventually assumes a historically critical role in defending her nation.  It’s the same story of a cross-dressing heroine in ancient China that has been told in many films before, including the 1998 Disney animated feature.  This new version is a large-scale effort, similar to other historical costumed battle epics that have come out of China in recent years, all beautifully-produced.

Kru Bann Nok / To Sir With Love: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – The life of a volunteer teacher determined to teach children in the Isan backcountry.  This is a remake which director Surasee Patham has made of his own classic 1978 social drama Kru Bannok (The Rural Teacher).  He was never satisfied with it.  It’s the same story as the 1978 film: An idealistic new teacher comes to an impoverished rural schoolhouse in 1970s Isaan.  There, he runs afoul of the local powers-that-be for being so daring as to try and educate the country kids.

Best Supporting Actor / Yak-Dai-Yin-Wa-Rak-Kan: Thai, Drama/ Romance – Romantic comedy-drama about two childhood friends, one of whom was always in the shadow of his better-looking, more-popular friend. 

Bodyguards and Assassins: China, Action/ Drama/ History – A group of martial artists attempt to protect Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the “Father of Modern China,” 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.  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.  It’s 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 Na’vi in the 3D version.  The Vista version is 2D and Thai-dubbed only.  Reviews: Universal acclaim.  Don’t miss it!

Sherlock Holmes: US/ UK/ Australia, Action/ Crime/ Thriller – A new take on the Holmes canon.  A bit of the old Holmes still shows through, but purists will not be amused.  Mixed or average reviews.

As It Happens / Bang Earn Rak Mai Sin Sud: 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.

32 Thun Wah / 32 December: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – The top film in Thailand for several weeks now.  It’s yet another Thai “rom/com” with 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 21

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – 3D: US, Animation/ Family – I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve seen it and it’s quite enjoyable!  It has quirky humor, likeable characters, and solid slapstick.  Generally favorable reviews.  Will be shown in 3D.

The Spy Next Door: US, Action/ Comedy/ Family – With Jackie Chan.  A former CIA spy looks after his girlfriend’s three kids, but one of them accidentally downloads a top-secret formula, leading to a run-in with a Russian terrorist.

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

Orchids II

One reader wrote in and asked for advice regarding orchid cultivation. Since there are 22,500 species worldwide, different species have different requirements. If you know the scientific name of your orchid, then you can study the literature and create the correct environment. You should consider three basic parameters: soil, light and water. As to soil, you need to ascertain if you have a ground orchid, or a tree (epiphytic) orchid. If you have a ground orchid, such as Haemaria discolor (Jewel orchid, wan nam thong ), you should plant it in humus rich soil with good drainage. Other ground orchids like Paphiopedilum (Venus slippers, rongthao) prefer a rocky, humus poor soil, with perfect drainage. If your orchid has many greenish aerial roots, it is a tree orchid. Such an orchid can be tied directly to a tree trunk, a piece of wood or plastic. Do not cut the living aerial roots, as they support the orchid with vital minerals dissolved in dew or rain. Some tree orchids appreciate to develop the roots in coconut fibers, but other species, and even your tree trunk, may rot in a moist environment. Do not apply high concentrations of nutrients to any orchid. Your orchid will do fine without any nutrient additions, but weekly low concentrated additions (2g/l) of an NPK 15-15-15 will increase blossom. Do not apply any water or nutrients if the orchid has become dormant during the dry season (losing leaves).
As to light, tree orchids with broad leaves such as Phalaenopsis generally likes it shady, while a species with narrow leaves like Papilionanthe teres (Butterflywing, ueang mok kulap) prefer it sunny. If you know the geographical origin of your orchid, you can allow rain forest orchids such as Vanilla planifolia daily misting, and monsoon orchids such as Dendrobium senile (Monkey hand, Ueang chani) a dry dormancy in the dry season. Some ground orchids demand a calcareous environment, while most tree orchids suffer if the pH of the water is over 7. For additional advice, come to Folbert Bronsema’s talk on orchids on January the 24th, at Dokmai Garden. [email protected]

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Suppose you are playing in a pairs competition scored using matchpoints. Making even ten more points than the opposition is critical, because then you get a top. This why, in matchpoints, you see a lot of no trump contracts even when a trump contract would be much easier. After all, making two hearts or two spades scores only 110 points, while making two no trumps scores 120—the critical extra ten points. Imagine you are sitting South. You deal and NS are vulnerable. The bidding and hands are shown below: 

                                   S: KJ103

                                   H: 762

                                   D: Q9

                                   C: J1032              

S: 982                                                      S: 76

H: J1095                                                 H: Q83

D: A1073                                                D: J8654

C: 84                                                       C: A53

                                   S: AQ54

                                   H: AK4

                                   D: K2

                                   C: KQ97               

South   West      North     East

2N        P              3N           All pass 

Following the maxim of trying to make the extra ten points to get a top, North raised you to 3N, rather than attempting to find an eight card fit in a major. West leads the jack of hearts. You breathe a sigh of relief that the defence did not start with their best suit, diamonds. East encourages by playing the eight and you win with the ace. Looking at dummy you know that most other pairs will be in 4S. Four spades is most likely to make ten tricks, losing only one heart and the aces of diamonds and clubs. Now comes the decision. You have four spade tricks, three club tricks (after forcing out the ace of clubs) and two top heart tricks, making nine for 400 points. But this is a bottom compared to those who make 4S and thus 420 points. What do you lead next?
Let’s say you choose a club. East will win the ace and lead back the queen of hearts. You duck one round and then win the king. You take your nine tricks, but when you try to get a diamond trick, West pops up with the ace and claims the last heart to hold you to your contract and a bottom in matchpoints. You never make a diamond trick. So how can you make ten tricks for a top? Your only chance is to steal a trick early on. At the second trick you lead a low diamond to the queen. West is bound to duck (wrongly, but almost inevitably). Now you switch to clubs and hope that, when East wins the ace he will continue hearts. Then you can win the king and cash your spades and clubs for a total of ten tricks—four spades, three clubs, two hearts and the diamond which you stole on the second round. The diamond play endangers the contract, but you score 430 points and beat out all those in 4S. You get the top, not the bottom. The moral of this story is that sometimes it pays to lead your weakest suit in no trumps at your earliest opportunity. You can often win that first trick and persuade the defence to steer clear of their best suit until it is too late for them!
Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at –HYPERLINK “”—www.bridgeclub If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: –HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected]