The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Living Wills - have you made yours?
There was a small paragraph in
one of the Bangkok English language daily papers reporting on the fact that
Living Wills were now accepted as being legal in Thailand. I cheered as I
read it. It was ‘about time’, in my opinion.
However, there is confusion in the minds of many people as to what a “Living
Will” actually is and what it covers. Borrowing from the Mayo Clinic in the
US, it states on their website: “This written, legal document spells out the
types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you do and don’t
want, such as mechanical breathing (respiration and ventilation), tube
feeding or resuscitation. In some states, living wills may be called health
care declarations or health care directives.”
The important words to note are “life sustaining” and “resuscitation”.
Neither of these concepts imply medically assisted suicide, or euthanasia.
Once again from the Mayo Clinic, “Injury, illness and death aren’t easy
subjects to talk about, but by planning ahead you can ensure that you
receive the type of medical care you want, to take the burden off your
family of trying to guess at what you’d want done.”
Remember that we are talking about terminal situations here. Not situations
from which it would be reasonably expected that you will recover and still
have a good quality of life. A fractured hip when you are 90 is a serious
situation, but provided you are healthy otherwise, then it would be expected
that you would recover. You might need a stick for a while, but you would
still be able to have a beer with your mates or play Scrabble or whatever
your pursuits were before the incident. In other words, the expectancy of a
reasonable quality of life is there.
However, if you are in the terminal phase of metastatic cancer, which has
progressed despite treatment, the future quality of life is not there.
Artificially prolonging life under that situation is then covered by the
As an example, the following is a copy of my own Living Will. Again I ask
you to note the following:
The Living Will is made while in sound mind. It is not something you
scribble out while lying in God’s waiting room.
An example of a Living Will. “Being of sound mind and understanding all the
implications, I ask that this document be brought to the attention of any
medical facility in whose care I happen to be, and to any person who may
become responsible for my affairs.
“This is my ‘Living Will’ stating my wishes in that my life should not be
artificially prolonged, if this sacrifices my Quality of Life.
“If, for any reason, I am diagnosed as being in a terminal condition, I wish
that my treatment be designed to keep me comfortable and to relieve pain,
and allow me to die as naturally as possible, with as much dignity as can be
maintained under the circumstances.
“As well as the situation in which I have been diagnosed as being in a
terminal condition, these instructions will apply to situations of
permanently unconscious states and irreversible brain damage.
“In the case of a life-threatening condition, in which I am unconscious or
otherwise unable to express my wishes, I hereby advise that I do not want to
be kept alive on a life support system, and I do not want resuscitation, nor
do I authorize, or give my consent to procedures being carried out which
would compromise any Quality of Life that I might expect in the future.
“I ask that you are sensitive to and respectful of my wishes; and use the
most appropriate measures that are consistent with my choices and encompass
alleviation of pain and other physical symptoms; without attempting to
“Being of sound mind at the time of making this declaration, I ask that you
will follow my wishes. It is my conviction that Quality of Life must be the
main consideration for all decisions, not length of life.
“In witness hereof, I have signed this document, which has also been signed
by witnesses, who have read and understand my wishes.”
Care for Dogs:
By Ana Gracey, Care for Dogs
Banjo, dog of the week
a character! Anyone would be lucky to earn the trust of this
wonderful dog who is, at first, nervous around new people and then
warms up so much he cannot get enough and rubs his little head and
neck up against them in paroxysms of delight! Banjo is a healthy,
sterilised 2 year old. Oh Banjo, we’ll miss you when you go but I
think it is inevitable that someone will fall for you soon. If you
think you could be the one, come down and meet him. He’ll be
waiting. Contact Care for Dogs, English (08 47 52 52 55) Thai (08 69
13 87 01) or e-mail: [email protected] .org to make an appointment
to meet him at the shelter. www.carefordogs.org.
Heart to Heart
Happy New Year, Sawasdee pee mai. I have been away from your column for
a while but you’re still as sassy (in a good way) as always, your wit is
as sharp as ever too. Sometimes I don’t think you’re a woman, you’re way
too practical. Keep up your good works and keep these handsome men
(that’s what they want to hear) honest. If I ever happen to be in Chiang
Mai, I will definitely stop by to see you with a box of chocolate.
Your fan from USA
Dear My fan from USA,
Aren’t you the sweetest one! Flattery will get you everywhere (as
always) and chocolates will get you even further. You did not mention
the French champagne, which was obviously an oversight on your part, but
now I’ve reminded you, you will remember, won’t you, my Petal. (Although
I have this preference for French bubbles, in today’s desperate world,
even Napa Valley bubbles are acceptable!) I hope you have a wonderful
year, and don’t worry about the handsome men, they will still be
responding to “Hello handsome man, come in, sit down please (and give me
I’ve always take interest in your comment’s re poor spelling and in a
recent issue, a letter was published in ‘Mailbag’ from myself containing
the word ‘prostate’ (a male organ) which should have read ‘prostrate’
(lying flat), possibly because of my often illegible printing or
longhand, (I’m now into computer writing but am dreadfully slow).
Whatever the reason for the mistake “of no matter some will say”, but
the enclosed cartoon of mine was published many years ago using an
incorrect spelling thrice (my mistake) and is still an embarrassment to
this very day.
‘Inexplicably’ this particular publication subsequently published little
of my work, which may illustrate another way how poor spelling can be
disadvantageous and supports your view’s, which is why I have addressed
my letter and said cartoon to yourself should you wish to use or find
room for it in your column? ‘Check and recheck’ I must reintroduce.
What a tale of woe, but thank you for the mis-spelled cartoon, which I
have printed with your self-flagellating letter, so the embarrassment
can continue to this very day. (Mind you, Dorian, it shows you were into
this global warming malarkey long before Al Gore, so you were a bit of a
trendsetter.) But these days you are a little martyr, aren’t you!
I really must encourage you to use the computer to write your letters,
as all the usual programs will automatically check the spelling for you.
This way you could ‘detach’ yourself from the excruciating
However, these programs would not pick up your random use of the
apostrophe. “Comments”, not “comment’s” and “views” not “view’s”. When
you throw an apostrophe and then an S after it means “belonging to” and
you did not mean “belonging to the comment”, or “belonging to the view”
did you Petal.
My Thai boy friend is driving me slowly crazy with his giving in to his
family at all times, and now we are an item, the demands are coming on
hot and strong. Anything they could even possibly want, he will give
them, even if it is personal items of jewelry that I have given him.
These items get changed into folding money, I am sure. They want money
and he has any, he will dish it out - only problem is that it is my
money that he is doling out, not his. And it’s not just a few hundred
baht here and there, it’s by the few thousand here and there. I believe
that it is the custom in Thailand that children look after their
parents, as a matter of duty. I did not know that this covers a grasping
avariciousness by the family towards the children. Is this the norm for
this country? It seems that the family condones this behavior, and even
encourages it. If it is, I think I will make some other country my next
port of call.
Duty to one’s parents is a well documented part of Thai culture, but how
that is applied is not clearly stated. You are obviously worrying
because your finances are part of all this, so you should perhaps
consider that you have a duty to your bank account, and not to your
boyfriend’s parents. However, once you give something to your boyfriend,
it is his decision as to what he does with it. It is also your
prerogative to ignore the begging from your boyfriend, no matter what
the reason for the asked for hand-out. There are many families in
Thailand that are not so avaricious. In all countries there are cultural
differences, you have come across one extreme in this country. There are
others in Thailand not so extreme. The choice is always yours. I think
you should seriously review this relationship. From what you are saying,
it all seems a little one-sided to me.
Detatched or Detached?
by Harry Flashman
Art is all around you
Reclining Buddha in Ayuthaya.
Temple sunlight in Chiang Mai.
Orchid in macro by the late Ernie
Parasailor’s view in Jomtien.
I am a believer that photography is one of the many ‘art forms’
that we practice. In the visual arts, everyone thinks of
painting on canvas first, but photography is in there too. In
fact I would rate photography far higher than ‘performance art’
where you slash your wrists in front of an audience or dismember
a cow in the name of vegetarianism, or carry out certain
quasi-medical maneuvers with a speculum like Annie Sprinkle for
Now whilst a painter has an idea in his or her head and then
laboriously commits that idea to canvas, with art photography it
is usually a very different process. By the way, under the
umbrella of ‘art photography’ I am not including (for the sake
of this exercise) sultry black and white nude studies which sit
astride the border between ‘art’ and ‘porn’. If you cross your
fingers it’s ‘art’, if you cross your legs it’s ‘porn’.
No, the final product in art photography should be one which
makes the viewing audience say, “What is that?” or “How did he
get that?” In other words, the final picture or image brings on
a question. In that way, the viewer will spend more time
looking, and the image is now rapidly approaching art.
However, to produce some ‘art’ with your camera does mean you
have to keep your eyes open and be ready to shoot when something
catches those open eyes! The vines in the first photo were in
the car park at work and were just begging to be taken.
The temple shot was taken in Chiang Mai, and the sunlight
filtering through the smoky atmosphere presented this photo
The remarkable shot of a reclining Buddha was taken by amateur
photographer Gary Stubbs and as well as being one of the classic
‘frame within a frame’ photos, it has the added feature of
hiding the main subject, stimulating the inquisitive nature of
The parasailing shot was taken in Jomtien, and instead of being
the usual shot of the parasailor from the beach, the
photographer took a camera up with him to get this very
different shot from his holiday.
The final photo this week is this surreal image from the late
Ernie Kuehnelt. Taken while experimenting with a macro lens, the
full possibilities of these very different images came to him,
and this is the result.
Try something different this weekend. You might just produce
your own work of photo art.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.
Many analysts have thought most
assets have been overvalued for quite a while now and that the politicians have
had to keep interest rates at virtually zero whilst pumping money into the
economy as if there was no tomorrow so as to keep their respective countries
Bill Gross of PIMCO is definitely in this camp. He believes most of the
developed countries, especially those in the western hemisphere, have been
“significantly and artificially influenced by asset price appreciation for
decades.” This is definitely the case in recent years when people have
refinanced assets and gone spending. Put another way, all the supposed growth we
have seen over the last decade has been done by borrowing and not the usual
method of increasing production. People have gone for the quick buck and tried
to make money via the markets and not the economic foundation that is in reality
their reason d’etre. These days people look for market growth and not the more
basic things like GDP growth or falling unemployment.
What does this mean? Well, the implication is that people feel good when the
markets are up and bad when they are down as this could be affecting their
pockets directly. They do not really mind if an economy is not doing well
providing any downturn does not cause them to lose money.
Now, in the good old days, the health of the stock markets and GDP went up and
down hand in hand. This is not the case now. The new economy which has come
about has seen an increase not only in share and stock prices but in all asset
classes. In many cases more than the economic growth is needed to justify these
rises. Let’s remember it is only less than fifteen years ago that the Dow Jones
was at 4,000. Last year it went over 14,000. Was the production there to justify
this? Obviously, the answer is a deafening NO. If one went with GDP growth as
opposed to market sentiment then the market should be less than 8,000 not over
10,000. As said before, this is not just applicable to equities but also most,
if not all, other asset classes.
If you look back to what has happened since the end of World Was II, you will
see that in the early years it was usually economic growth that led the way and
not increases in the price of assets. We got richer the old fashioned way - by
actually making things.
However, as Reagan and Thatcher came to power, things began to change. With
fancy finance and the use of things like derivatives and leverage assets started
to come to the fore. With the occasional blip, as in the beginning of the 1990s
and 2000s plus last year, put aside the rise in the price of assets has
definitely outstripped manufacturing. Put another way, over the last thirty
years, it would have been better to invest in the markets than it would have
been to put your money into anything that actually produced something or helped
better a child’s education.
Basically, thanks to finding it so easy to borrow, people were able to push up
the price of assets to over one hundred percent of what they should have been.
It is immediately apparent to what this implies. When the Dow Jones is at 14,000
then it should have been half that. It is presently around the 10,000 mark and
the real value should be 5,000. A house worth USD200,000 is actually worth
USD100,000. Commercial real estate should be for the de-leveraging chop as well.
Bonds (high yield and corporate) are not immune either as they were also
This is where the problem starts as those in charge realise that the value of
assets now has to be supported so as to make sure that the GDP results to come
are in positive territory. Unfortunately, the borrowing society that we have
created cannot go away overnight. Therefore we have to support the present
situation which is why we are going to have low interest rates and government
bailouts, in various forms, for the foreseeable future.
PIMCO has calculated that assets in the USA have been overvalued by USD15
trillion but still have to be supported to keep the economy’s head above water.
It is interesting to note that China is also throwing money at its economy but
they are creating more production outlets so that exports will continue to drive
its economy and try to increase its domestic markets at the same time. Luckily
for them, they do not need to maintain a false economy.
The most important thing for the US, though, is that interest rates are kept as
low as possible. Bill Gross believes that, “nominal GDP must show realistic
signs of stabilizing near 4% before the Fed would be willing to risk raising
rates. The current embedded cost of U.S. debt markets is close to 6% and nominal
GDP must grow within reach of that level if policymakers are to avoid continuing
debt deflation in corporate and household balance sheets.” If he is right then
we are going to have these low rates well into 2011 and the Fed will want to see
sustainability and reliability before starting to increase interest rates.
Getting risk spreads back to normal is vital for future growth. However, this
could cause unwanted volatility as without the governmental guarantees and low
interest rates investors would not spend money again. Practically zero rates
forces people to buy.
Is it important for rates to stay low or should the relevant governments let go
of the reins and let nature take over? The latter should have been done when the
present crisis began but it is too late for that now since, as mentioned before,
asset appreciation has been artificially elevated for decades. So as to prevent
prices falling these low interest rates must be maintained for quite some time
Bill Gross reckons a good way of looking at this is by studying the bond
markets. At the moment he believes the total bond market will yield no more than
3.5%. If anyone wants more than that then they will have to take more risk via
equities, distressed mortgages, etc., and hope we are in a V shaped recovery.
This is just not the case. The risks outweigh whatever the rewards may be.
To go with Gross, “Investors must recognize that if assets appreciate with
nominal GDP, a 4-5% return is about all they can expect even with abnormally low
policy rates. Rage, rage, against this conclusion if you wish, but the six-month
rally in risk assets - while still continuously supported by Fed and Treasury
policymakers - is likely at its pinnacle.”
Ever since the recession began and it became clear the authorities answer was
quantitative easing, the Bears have kept reminding us on such facts as continued
debt, massive public spending and rising unemployment. The markets have ignored
this and gone up for the last eight months. Recently though, some indications
have begun to appear which support these arguments. For example, the Vix Index,
which measures volatility in the major equity markets, has gotten worse.
Financial shares have also gone down when compared with the rest of the market.
As a senior economist said last week, “The bears are right and the rush to issue
paper, the higher oil prices and the continuation of contraction in bank
lending, have finally broken the markets’ back.”
Not all is doom and gloom though. Certain asset classes will fare better than
others and by having a liquid, multi-asset allocation portfolio you should
protect yourself against sudden losses and also beat the bank.
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
Life in Chiang Mai:
By Mark Whitman
Love Cinema, Hate Airport Major and Vista
Avatar: a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes?
Just a week or two ago I
wrote that small screen home viewings were no real substitute for the cinema
‘experience’, the thrill of seeing a movie – possibly brand new - well
projected on the BIG screen. It’s an opinion I still hold in broad terms but
certainly the two complexes in Chiang Mai seem intent on undermining that
enthusiasm, with their continued disregard for the comfort and care of their
Possibly the most irritating aspect of Airport Major’s failures is the
underlying and mistaken assumption that they are offering quality service. I
am reminded of a cinema in the U.K. which had the idea of keeping the arc
surrounding the screen lit with red lights during the credits or opening of
the movie. When I complained a member of staff said, “It’s deliberate. The
manager calls it superior presentation”…. Rubbish, of course and fortunately
Going to the unwieldy complex at the Plaza is tiresome anyway. But arriving
only to find that they have arbitrarily changed their times by an hour or
even cancelled an early screening is doubly annoying. Assuming the screening
is as announced, the first problem is the snail’s pace queue, exacerbated by
too few windows open at peak times.
Why, one wonders, have reserved seats? And if they are thought necessary,
why not limit them to evening or ‘special’ performances? Why the incessant
exchange of paper? Stickers and rewards being applied by hand. Long debates
about seating. And what possesses them to keep to an antiquated notion of
‘special seats’ at inflated prices? Towards the back too, when any serious
moviegoer knows that the optimum location for seeing the screen is centre
about a third to half way back. Admittedly the seating is generally
comfortable but once inside that is all that might be said for it.
On my most recent visit I had arrived hoping to miss the bulk of the run up
to the feature. No such luck. Fifteen minutes into the advertised programme
the lights were still up. We were then subjected to 30 minutes of inane
advertisements – only those in Japan are worse, I have found- and numbing
trailers which seem to comprise much of the forthcoming films.
Make sure that once the film has started that you have thought to bring
additional clothing since the icy temperatures (loathed also by Thais, who
are too polite to complain) require battle dress to make them bearable. This
I was told was a sign of the aforementioned ‘superior presentation’ and
shows off the (hyper) efficiency of the system. What a waste of money. No
wonder prices have gone up dramatically in the past year or so.
Admittedly, Vista does not keep the auditoria as cold and they play less
ads’ and trailers. But they too seem to ignore potential audiences by
playing the same film in three or four cinemas and often only in Thai,
either dubbed from the original or without subtitles. Last week they
advertised To Sir, With Love as having EST but on arrival this was not the
case. Is your Thai good enough to follow a complicated film?
Meanwhile back at Major and 45 minutes later Avatar began and I must admit
that it had not got off to a good start. Also I was later told (and this was
a double edged compliment I felt) that the movie ‘is better in the second
half’. And that was the half I did not see. Still, if after 70 minutes a
film has not shown itself to be of the slightest merit one can hardly be
blamed for making a discreet exit. ‘Ankling’ in the immortal term of
Avatar seems a surprisingly flabby work: tedious to watch and even duller to
listen to, with some of the most banal dialogue it has ever been my
misfortune to hear. O.K. so we are told that it is the visual quality that
makes it special (let’s not even mention the feeble, over familiar score by
Horner) but this seemed predictable and corny, lacking beauty and
conviction. It had all the finesse of the old Buck Rogers movies one saw at
what were called the Saturday Morning Matinees. And the ‘hero’ was
incredibly unappealing and surrounded by cardboard cut outs – the butch
officer, the dikey scientist, the callous accountant and so on.
The notion, it would seem, was to make a new fashioned ‘western’, with the
captured white man dragged into the presence of the Chief and assorted
‘braves’, but defended by the Chief’s daughter. Love is in the air! It owed
something to The Last of the Mohicans and Run of the Arrow but if Cameron
(not to mention his complete lack of humour) had one tenth of the talent of
either Michael Mann or Samuel Fuller, directors of those films, Avatar might
have been worth sitting through. Instead it seems a version of the Emperor’s
new clothes, with people so impressed by the alleged expenditure of 240
million dollars and countless years of preparation that they are reluctant
not to ‘like’ it. Though, when pressed, no Thai I have spoken to really
enjoyed the experience. Let’s hope it is another nine years before Cameron
makes another movie. And by then let’s also hope he has regained a sense of
the ridiculous and also of conviction which made Titanic such enjoyable
nonsense. Qualities sadly lacking from this lumpen work.
Let's Go To The Movies:
by Mark Gernpy
playing in Chiang Mai
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: 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. I thought it would be shown in 3D, but I was wrong; Avatar
continues in the only 3D cinema.
The Spy Next Door: US, Action/
Comedy/ Family – With Jackie Chan. A former CIA spy looks after his
girlfriend’s three kids, and one of them accidentally downloads a top-secret
formula, leading to a run-in with a Russian terrorist. Jackie Chan fans may
be running to see this, but people in the real world think it’s a sad little
movie entirely designed to set up Chan’s stunt sequences as he fights with
pots, pans, and ladders. Reviewers say it’s flat and witless – one of
Chan’s worst ever, a juvenile, generic, sitcommy mess that utterly fails to
thrill or amuse. But, what do they know?
Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/
Sci-Fi – The Golden Globes last week awarded the Best Picture, Drama prize
to Avatar, and its director James Cameron was named Best Director.
In the movie industry this raises the prospects for the film at the Oscars
coming February 2 (Thai time). In accepting the award, Cameron said, “Avatar
asks us to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other,
and us to the Earth. And if you have to go four-and-a-half light years to
another, made-up planet to appreciate this miracle of the world that we have
right here, well, you know what, that’s the wonder of cinema right there;
that’s the magic.” Yeah, right on! A film that shows the wonder of
cinema. That it is.
From the writer/director James Cameron,
this is a truly 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. Already it’s hit the billion-dollar mark at the box
office worldwide, and it’s gotten near-universal reviews from critics and
fans. Of course it will win the Oscar!
In English and Na’vi dialogue, with
English and Thai subtitles as needed in the 2D version, but unaccountably 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 – The Golden Globes best actor award went
to Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. This is a new take on the Holmes canon but
once you get over the shock of seeing Sherlock played as an action figure,
it isn’t all that bad. A bit of the old Holmes shows through. Purists,
however, will not be amused. Jude Law plays Watson. Mixed or average
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. This new version of the oft-told
story is a large-scale effort, similar to other historical costumed battle
epics that have come out of China in recent years, all beautifully executed.
Kru Bann Nok / To Sir With Love:
Thai, Comedy/ Drama – The life of a volunteer teaching children in the Isan
backcountry. This is a remake director Surasee Patham has made of his own
classic 1978 social drama Kru Bannok (The Rural Teacher). It’s the
same story as before: An idealistic new teacher comes to an impoverished
rural schoolhouse in 1970s Isan. 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. When they grow into adults, nothing
changes. A minor variation on the standard Thai rom/com, exploiting the
inscrutable mysteries of Thai courtship rituals.
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.
32 Thun Wah / 32 December: Thai,
Comedy/ Romance – Yet another Thai “rom/com” with this one taking place on
the 32nd of December, in which a young man with amnesia forgets which of his
three girlfriends he truly loves.
Scheduled for January
Tai Hong: Thai, Horror/ Thriller
– This omnibus film consists of 4 short stories of death and horror,
directed by Poj Arnon (Bangkok Love Story, and all those transvestite
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?: By Eric Danell, Dok mai Garden
On Slugs and Snails
Slugs (no shell) and snails
(with shells) may become pests in a Chiang Mai garden. The Tropical Leather
Leaf (Laevicaulis alte sensu lato, tak nang) is a flat, brown slug which
often hides its tentacles. It is well adapted to the dry lowlands, hiding
underground at daytime, and feeding on your plants at night. Another Chiang
Mai gastropod is the East African Land snail (Achatina fulica, hoi tak
African). It can grow big as a hand, and has a conical and quite ornamental
striped shell. These snails eat plants and even concrete to get calcium for
their shells. The snail was imported from China in 1931, when it was
introduced as food. A third invasive gastropod is the Golden Apple Snail
(Pomacea canaliculata, hoi cherry). It is an underwater snail, with
yellowish round shells that can grow big as an apple. Its spectacular pink
eggs are laid above water level. This snail was introduced from South
America to clean fish tanks, and was promoted as a food source as well. It
was found in the wild in Thailand in 1984, and is now the most serious pest
in rice and taro fields. This has resulted in an increased use of
pesticides. This seems unnecessary, as many wild fish, birds, mammals and
crabs eat the snails. Since such predators are almost extinct due to cats,
dogs and hunting, the snails propagate out of control. Also in natural
wetlands, this snail eradicates the native flora, and outcompetes its Thai
cousin Pila polita (hoi kong), which has white eggs and darker shells. All
of these gastropods may be vectors of the rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus
cantonensis, pajat toa gom), a nematode that resides in lung arteries of
rats, and may infect humans, causing fatal encephalitis as a result of
undercooked snails or unwashed vegetables. Slugs and snails can be
controlled by fowl, herons, frogs and hedgehogs. Nocturnal snail hunters
such as fireflies, which are most spectacular beetles in any garden, benefit
from a heap of branches to promote breeding. Gardeners can make a difference
by creating a refuge for Thai wildlife! [email protected] dokmaigarden.co.th
Bridge in Paradise :
by Neil Robinson
Here is a tricky deal to bid no matter which direction you are seated—both
sides risk a potential top or a bottom with their bids. Try bidding it from
both NS and EW directions, and see where you end up. It was board 9 from the
Bridge Club of Chiang Mai pairs game on January 13th. East-West were
vulnerable and North dealt.
C: AK82 C:
At the table where I sat North opened
the bidding with one diamond. With three of the high card points being a
singleton king, many might not open this minimum hand. East made a weak jump
overcall to two spades. South, with a truly dreadful hand but encouraged by
six card support of partner’s bid suit and favourable vulnerability, raised
to three diamonds. West, with the best hand at the table, raised his
partner’s spades to game. North, with five good diamonds and a strong
suspicion that four spades would make, raised to five diamonds as a
non-vulnerable sacrifice. This was passed around to West. Now what would you
bid? The choices are pass, double or five spades. One of these bids gets you
an average, one gets you a near top, and one gets a bottom. But how do you
work out which is which?
North East South West
1D 2S 3D 4S
5D P P ?
At our table West eventually passed.
Five diamonds is not a pretty contract. There are no diamond losers, but the
best you can do outside the trump suit is to lose a spade and then throw a
club loser on dummy’s queen. This way you go down only two: losing one
spade, one heart and two clubs. This gets an average for both sides. Double
would have been a better result for East-West, but not as good as making
your game in spades. A bid of five spades, instead of double, converts your
near top to a solid bottom. East-West are bound to lose one top spade and
the two red aces—making game, but going down one in five spades. At the
table, Jean-Claude Barret and Richard Walker pushed their opponents into
five spades and reaped the reward by getting them down for a top for
North-South. In the East-West direction, Dennis Hudson and Martin Bagnall
bid their opponents out of going to the five level, and made four spades for
a top in their direction. Well done to these pairs. So how would you have
bid it—a top, a bottom or a middle?
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: