HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

DVD of the Week

Let's Go To The Movies


Bridge in Paradise


Life in Chiang Mai

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Do you mind if I smoke?

How many times have you been asked, while in a social situation, “Do you mind if I smoke?” and before hearing your reply the person is lighting up. I used to say, “No, that’s fine,” to be polite. Now, I say “Yes, I do mind, but please feel free to smoke outside.”

I too, was a smoker - many years ago, before we (the medical profession) worked out how dangerous the habit really was. As well as being ridiculous in a social context. Rolling up dried plant leaves and sticking them in your mouth and setting fire to the end of it sounds like a pretty silly proposal, particularly when you now know it is dangerous.

Unfortunately, when you start smoking, it becomes very difficult to stop smoking. This is because smoking is not just a habit like chewing on a pencil when concentrating. Smoking is an addiction. What you have to realize is that nicotine is more addictive than heroin. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but that really is the crux of the matter. You take nicotine into all of your metabolic pathways until you “need” to have nicotine to be able to function. Nicotine becomes part of your metabolic chemical chains, and they don’t work properly without it. Now you can see just why you feel so dreadful when you go without cigarettes (nicotine) for any period of time.

To give up cigarettes there are many, many ways, ranging from acupuncture, hypnosis, the I Ching, acupressure, Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT), chewing gum, patches, nasal spray and many others all the way through to Cold Turkey!

Interestingly, all of the above methods need the smoker to become committed to ceasing cigarettes. The success rate really hangs on that commitment. Leaving aside hypnosis and acupuncture, about which I know very little, but the good books tell me do not enjoy high success rates, let’s look at the other methods. The majority rely on Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). All the gums and sprays do is to make nicotine available for you in measured doses - much like cigarettes do. You get the craving, you chew the gum. You get the craving, you squirt the spray.

Patches are slightly different. They deliver the nicotine slowly over a 12 or 24 hour period and are supposed to stop the craving before it happens. But often do not.

After stabilizing on the NRT it is time to bring the dosage down, which is the next hurdle at which many fall. The end result can be cigarette smoking plus NRT - a potentially fatal combination. In fact, I strongly believe that NRT should only be done under close medical supervision. Too much nicotine can kill too!

So what is the best way? It’s called Cold Turkey. The proof is in the numbers. There has been enough research done and the prime factor is that the quitter has to be committed to the concept of becoming a non-smoker. Doing it (quitting) for somebody else, because you lost a bet, because you are being nagged into it by your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend is doomed to failure, I am afraid. This is something which requires your total commitment. 100 percent all the way. When I gave up smoking (yes, in my teenage years nobody thought that smoking was bad for you. Smoking was being cool and ‘adult’) and I thought it would be a bad scene for a couple of days, and then found that it was a couple of weeks of torture. Here I am almost three decades later and I could begin smoking again tomorrow. It requires dedication and commitment. Yours! No one else’s!

So, I admit that those who go Cold Turkey may go through a rough time with withdrawals initially, but the majority are still non-smokers after one year. The same cannot be said for the others. The “hard” way is ultimately the best way.

You have to make the decision to quit. You set the day. You tell all your friends that you are now a non-smoker - and you stick to it! Best of luck, the ball is in your court.


Care for Dogs: By Ana Gracey

Duchess & Ellie

These two Dachshunds are mother and daughter. Since they have been through such an ordeal in their little lives and Ellie, the daughter of Duchess, is still very attached to her mother, we would like to home them together. Duchess is between 3-4 years old, very friendly and now sterilised. Ellie is only a few months old and still extremely shy. Both are fully vaccinated. We recommend that they live outside as they can be destructive, but training may combat this. If you can offer them a loving, stable home please 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 visit the shelter & meet them or any of the many other dogs waiting for you. www.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary;

Please tell “Nobody’s fool” to complete the real estate change so that I can move in. He has been keeping me in Singha’s and I do like his girl enough. As she works often I can go out with her ‘sisters’ while she’s away. Keep it coming my good friend.
Jerry Singha

Dear Jerry,
To bring the readers up to date, three weeks ago “Nobody’s fool” was transferring the title deeds of his house to his girlfriend, the cashier at the bar. He wrote, “Now, bless her compassionate soul, she is kindly allowing me to transfer the ownership of my two houses to her name, thus saving the annual dues I have been paying because they have been registered in Limited Companies.”

He was very happy to do this, though I did question the advisability of such a move, but now you are insinuating that you are cuckolding him behind his back. And not only with his newly numerically enhanced Nok, but with her sisters as well. Jerry, how could you? Have you no shame? Is there no honor left amongst the males in Thailand? And these same people have the temerity to suggest that the Thai ladies are untrustworthy. Some days I just cry myself to sleep.

Dear Hillary,
(This email came in after Jerry’s letter was received by the office, but again refers to the original letter three weeks ago.) The last time I wrote to you I misspelt your name. Please accept my apologies, it was purely a little gender confusion, and thank you for your considered reply.

You will recall how much I praised my lady Nok. Well, things have now changed since she has obviously come under the spell and evil influence of a wicked man.

I recently visited the UK for a few days and when I returned found my key would not open the front door. I rang the bell and this man came to the door and told me, in no uncertain terms that I will paraphrase to meaning “please move away with jerky movements” as this a family newspaper. When I told him this was my house he said it wasn’t as it is now in Nok’s name and he will call the police if I pester them again. He said the same applied to my car. I know my Nok, who he would not let me see, would not do this to me without being in some way forced to.

Anyway, since then I have seen a For Sale sign at the house, and on my other one that I also put in her name. I am happy this is Nok’s way of making sure I do not lose out financially and will give me the proceeds when both are sold because I know she truly loves me, as I do her.

In the meantime do you think I should temporarily stop her allowance and discontinue sending her family 50,000 baht a month? I do not want her to suffer any hardships because of this bad man, but a little guidance would be appreciated. Sorry I can’t afford chocs or bubbly. However, you will be welcome to some sticks of Blackpool rock if you are interested.
Nobody’s Fool

Dear Nobody’s Fool,
The letter above yours may have come as a bit of a shock to your neatly closed mind, but at least you know what the man’s name is, the one who so rudely told you to ‘shuvoff’, if I read between your lines correctly. I could be crass and say that “opportunity only ‘Noks’ once” and I think your little cashier has responded to the call.

It is time you went to see one of the nice glasses dispensaries around town and get your rose-colored ones changed for the usual clear varieties. I doubt very much that your angel Nok will return to you bearing large parcels of cash from the sale of the houses. That notion you should get rid of immediately. If you ever do see her again, it will not be a pleasant meeting, I am afraid.

You ask whether you should “temporarily stop her allowance and discontinue sending her family 50,000 baht a month.” That’s about the first bit of real sense you have shown in all our dealings so far. When you are so hard up that you cannot even offer me some chocolates and fizz, why would you even contemplate sending 50,000 baht to her family, plus goodness knows what you have been sending to her! Do you realize, my Petal, just how much chocolate and champagne you can buy with 50,000 baht? And I’m talking the good stuff here - Belgian chocs and French fizzwater. And every month too! Oh dearie, dearie me. Why don’t I meet such bewildered buffoons before they throw all their money away? Dear Nobody’s Fool, you know just what you can do with your stick of Blackpool rock! (But before you do, do they still make it with the letters B-L-A-C-K-P-O-O-L all the way through it?)

There is a famous quotation, “Its quite true there’s a fool born every minute. It’s also quite true they don’t die that fast.” You are living proof!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

What do you need to be an ‘Events’ photographer?

The festive season is over, but if you have a half decent camera, you will be asked to take photographs at all the forthcoming events. Happy Xmas! Happy Anniversary! Happy Birthday! Congratulations on your engagement, graduation, marriage, baptism! Congratulations on the divorce! Have a great vacation! It just goes on. Every week there will be some sort of celebration. Have a look in your own family album and you will undoubtedly get all sorts of memories - here’s Gary when he graduated, Bill’s birthday, Wanda’s wedding or even Felix’s funeral.

For all these people, the event is an important milestone in their lives, in some way or another, and so the event deserves to be recorded properly. And guess what, you can’t do it with one shot. It takes a sequence of shots.

So to make sure that you can get the event in its entirety, here are a few hints. The secret is to start long before you get to the event venue and sit down and make yourself a list. A checklist, in fact. What you have to remember at all times, is just what is this event all about? Let us assume that the party you are going to record is a birthday. Here’s what you should be thinking about.

What do you need to show? Firstly you have to show that it is a birthday, not just any old party. Secondly you have to feature the person whose birthday it is. Thirdly you have to show who came to celebrate the birthday and fourthly any significant gifts that were received. Not even Henri Cartier-Bresson would be able to get all that lot into one photograph!

It should go without saying that you have checked your camera, it does work, you have spare memory stick/card and you do have spare batteries for the flash. Here is the type of list I would draw up if taking photographs for your child’s birthday:

1. Shot of birthday boy looking at a birthday card (close up - this gives the visual clue that it is a birthday)

2. Birthday boy opening present (close up - more clues)

3. As above with parents and friends standing around (wide angle shot)

4. Mother placing candles on birthday cake (classic clue)

5. Father lighting candles

6. Blowing out the candles (close up - an absolute “must”)

7. General shots of people singing and clapping

8. Happy time shots

Note that all these shots are designed to set the scene, show the participants and nominate the “star”. There are varied shots, some close up, some group shots and together they make a package called “Billy’s Birthday”.

Probably one of the most important items to remember is my adage - “Walk several meters closer!” When people are just small dots, you cannot pick out who they were, several months later. Do not be afraid to walk in close - this one factor alone will result in much better pictures.

For many of the shots, you will also have to be prepared, because when the action happens at an event, it can happen very quickly. For example, blowing out the candles. You can’t say, “Sorry, I wasn’t ready. Can you do it again please?” The name of the game is to know what you need to shoot, and be ready for it.

Now when you come to put them in the family album, you have a nice group of pictures which many years later will continue to say “Billy’s Birthday”, unmistakably. And you made it happen photographically. Well done!

So next time you are going to photograph an important event, plan your shots, take them deliberately according to the plan and be amazed at how much better your results will be!

One final word of warning. When you have become the ‘official’ photographer for any event, you cannot be the life and soul of the party until you have taken all the shots on your list. You are being relied upon to come home with the goods. You can’t do it with a belly full of gin and tonics!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Why commodities should always be a part of your portfolio

Ever since the turn of the millennium people have started to take notice of commodities. People have found the volatility is usually less than the more traditional equity and bond asset classes whilst at the same time, for the most part, showing sustainable growth. It has also become a lot clearer to most how to understand the basic fundamentals.

People have cottoned on to the fact that with the emerging markets in a period of continued growth they need commodities. They have also seen that there was not nearly enough investment in this asset class in the 1980s and 1990s which has meant the prices would basically keep on going up as more and more were needed. Even when taking into account the sudden drop post-Lehman, commodities can still seen to be a good investment.

Just to cite a few examples, gold went from under USD260 per oz in 1999 to over USD1,200 late last year. Also, in 1999, oil bottomed out at USD10 per barrel and went up to USD150 by the middle of 2008. These were exceptional but also the broader Reuters CRB Index (RCRBI) which covers a broad range of commodities had its best ever year in 2008 since its inception in 1956.

As stated above, there was a correction in 2008 whereby oil dropped to USD35 per barrel and the RCRBI retreated to seven year lows. Despite all this though, prices have jumped this year due to exceptional growth in most emerging markets - especially China where the Shanghai Index has grown by 80% this year - and cuts in production costs.

So, now commodities have rebounded, what can we make of this and how can we plan for the future? Goldman Sachs believes commodity prices will continue to rise as there will be more and more demand from Asia and other emerging markets and, as stated before, the lack of investment in this asset class has meant certain commodities are not as available as they could be. This is why China has been buying up mining companies in Africa and elsewhere.

While there are some proponents of the theory we have reached the end of this commodity cycle most people agree there is still a long way to go before the upward trend finishes. It would seem that investors would agree with this and the pension and hedge fund managers are looking to get in whilst the prices are still comparatively cheap. Until recently commodities were only a tiny part of their respective portfolios and this was usually only via a tracker index just so they could say they were invested in the asset class. However, they are now looking for more varied and sophisticated strategies.

One of the reasons for this is that commodities can offer good protection against inflation. For example, when prices go up then this will usually include things like oil and sugar, etc. These days, with the ever-present problems of fiscal and monetary easing, this is vital. It is true that this usually depends on supply and demand but, at the moment, there is not exactly a glut in almost any type of commodity.

There are different ideas on how to invest in commodities. You can do this through the equity route and invest in the companies which are involved, either directly or indirectly, or you can enter the market via the asset itself. Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) or Exchange Traded Commodities (ETCs) are equally as good if you want to use the latter method. It just depends on the goals of the investor as to which should be used. It must be remembered that just because one does well that the other will follow although this can, obviously, happen.

If you are not sure of what to do then you can always follow the advice of Evy Hambro who manages one of our favourite commodity funds, the Blackrock Gold and General Fund. He recommends averaging, i.e. do not commit everything at the same time. Hambro points out that, “equities go up and down a lot more…the long term average for a one percent change in the value of gold results in a three percent change for its equities. Sometimes it’s even ten percent so it is a much higher beta.” To further reduce volatility Hambro suggests diversifying across the whole commodity range.

Another of our recommended funds is the Moonraker Commodities Fund. The manager, Jeremy Charlesworth, agrees that there is definitely a difference and he concentrates much more on commodities themselves, options and futures rather than equities. One of the reasons for this is that it negates having to consider how a company is run which can have its own influences on price.

Let us return to Hambro and his fund. This has returned nearly 22 percent per annum over the last five years. The fund typically invests in fifty to eighty companies as well as cash. Well over eighty percent invests in precious metals with over 16% in two companies - Kinross Gold and Newcrest Mining. The fund manager has no loyalty to any part of the world but does believe that most of the gold in America and Australia has already been found and so will concentrate elsewhere with new investments. One of the countries he is looking at is Thailand but he has worries about making too much commitment to somewhere like Vietnam, Indonesia, Russia and other places as things are not as stable as where most of his present investments are. He will risk a bit but not a lot.

Hambro believes gold still has a long way to go and that banks will be big buyers as an alternative to money. He thinks the real price, inflation adjusted, for gold should be around USD2,800 per oz.

This is in the long run though. Many people think gold is due a correction before it starts to climb again. This uncertainty is causing confusion and, to a certain extent anxiety, amongst prospective investors. Barings manager, Andrew Cole, believes it would be unwise to invest in gold until the price has dropped. However, many people are lining themselves to buy when this has happened. When it does then many think it will be too cheap to ignore as, in real terms, if it is compared to its peak of USD850 in 1980, it is well down on what its value should be. Pictet, Credit Suisse, John Paulson are just some of the people who have just launched or are about to release on to the market new gold funds. Central banks are also looking at the gold situation as an alternative to FX. They cannot all be wrong.

What of other commodities. Well, Dr Marc Faber recently pointed out that, when adjusted for inflation, sugar was at two hundred year low. Now, as people who know me will attest to, I am not the greatest health freak in the world and it is a commodity which will always be needed whether the likes of Dr Atkins and Jane Fonda like it or not. Dr Faber also likes agricultural commodities.

Another relative and popular newcomer to the market recently has been forestry. The large university funds at Harvard and Yale have been invested in this for quite some time now. Not for the first time, they have shown the way and now this is a thriving fund industry. In 2008, wood fell to new lows but the prices have been improving ever since. However, forestry held its own as people expected timber to improve and new technology is coming in which is eco-friendly. It is also possible to make money two ways, either by selling the tree or waiting for timber to be cut. We have long been fans of Plum Creek Timber and the Phaunos Timber Fund is another one we will look at soon. Pictet also has its own fund which shows good potential. GMO Renewable Resources invests in more traditional places and will not look elsewhere for the foreseeable future. Exchange Traded Funds are also a good way of dipping your toes into this market. The one real problem for this particular commodity is climate change and its affect on the world as we know it, i.e. fire, too much rain, not enough rain, temperatures, etc.

Oil, along with natural gas, is expected to do well. New finds are being discovered all the time but usage is also increasing, in fact it is being used more quickly than it is found. Therefore, we just have to revert to the old economic dictate of supply and demand to see that these commodities will be needed for many years to come as there is no mass viable alternative. This being so, it is hard to see the price of oil falling below USD50 per barrel and it will probably be a lot more.

I am often asked how much of the portfolio should be in commodities. There is no easy answer to this as it depends on a person’s investment strategy and present fund make up. For example, if you are already in a fund of funds there is a chance you may already be in commodities and not even know about it. However, without doubt, you should hold some in your portfolio - for a multitude of reasons.

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]

DVD of the Week: By Mark Whitman

The Narrow Margin (1952)

Two L.A. cops are sent to Chicago to escort the wife of a gangster (murdered by the mob) back to testify against the syndicate. The journey is to be made by train. Before they board one of the cops is shot and it is left to the remaining man to guard her. Help comes from unexpected quarters, both small and very large.

From the brisk opening credits, typical of the period and the genre (film noir), this riveting thriller/suspense story hurtles you on a journey from Chicago to Los Angeles with - to borrow the term from Japan – the speed of an aptly named ‘bullet train’.

This gem has been described as ‘best B-movie of all time’ and even limiting that comment to film noir (leaving out westerns for example) we’d have to consider, say, the magnificent Gun Crazy or masterly Detour (among others) ahead of it. But the remark is far from ridiculous.

At the end of a breathless 72 minutes, director Richard Fleischer has made a film – shot in 13 days – which shows his mastery of cinema, which overcomes budget and tight schedule. He went on to bigger things (his masterpiece is Mandingo – an attack on racism and the evil of slavery) but was in his element here.

There is no music in the film, except for incidental songs on a record player, but the soundtrack, especially the clever use of the train, brilliantly underscores the tension. The acting is sturdy and believable, perhaps lacking the finesse which ‘stars’ would have brought but amply compensated for by Charles McGraw’s performance as the gruff cop and by Marie Windsor as the ‘moll’.

The dialogue crackles with innuendo and hard-boiled exchanges – sometimes bitter and sardonic but always with a point. No waffle here. There is not a four-letter word in evidence and the violence is hinted at but never apparent. It has to be viewed with an understanding of censorship pressures, which offer a welcome freedom in other ways – such as the relationship between the cop and the young boy that belongs to an earlier age.

There is romance in the air though not a kiss is exchanged. Justice triumphs and all is sort of well with the post war world. The star of the movie is the train, which belongs to that earlier age like the freshness of the work itself. This is classic film noir, from a second golden age of Hollywood and one of the small studios (RKO) which thrived in the era of double features. If you enjoy brisk, uncomplicated entertainment then this is for you. Find it at the DVD Movie and Music shop: 289 Suthep Road. Tel: 053 808 084. Open every day from 9a.m.until very late.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Shutter Island, scheduled for last Thursday, turned out to be a no-show throughout Thailand.  That’s a disappointment!  I was looking forward to this horror fantasy directed by Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, and Max von Sydow.  It’s now on Major Cineplex’s list for April 15.

Now playing in Chiang Mai

True Legend / Su Qi-Er: China, Action/ Drama/ History – Su Qi-Er is a wealthy man living during the Qing Dynasty who loses his fortune and reputation as a result of a conspiracy against him.  After being forced out onto the streets, Su dedicates his life to martial arts and reemerges as a patriotic hero.  With David Carradine, Jay Chou, and Michelle Yeoh.

Shown in Chiang Mai in a Thai-dubbed version only, no English subtitles.  At Vista it’s shown in 2D; at Airport Plaza it’s shown in partial 3D.  There are only two 3D sequences, with a total time of about 18 minutes, cut into many small 3D segments; the audience is instructed to put on and take off the 3D glasses during viewing.  Director Yuen Woo-Ping said they wanted to make the film entirely 3D, but that would have cost several million dollars more and another five years to complete.

The film features one of the final performances by actor David Carradine, who died in a bizarre accident in Bangkok during post-production.

Little Big Soldier: China/ Hong Kong, Action/ Adventure/ Comedy – An old soldier kidnaps a young enemy general and takes him on a long journey to collect a reward.  The role of the Little (Young) Soldier was originally written for Jackie Chan (and by Jackie Chan), who came up with the idea of the story twenty years ago.  It took twenty years to wrap up the script, and now Jackie Chan is cast as the Big (Elder) Soldier instead.  The film is also produced as well as written by Jackie Chan.  Shown at Airport Plaza only in a Thai-dubbed version only, no English subtitles.

The Wolfman: UK/ US, Horror/ Thriller – An excellent spare, dark, and brooding gothic version of the famous tale, told with great style and much blood.  For those who like gothic straight-up horror and blood, this is a welcome $85 million remake of the 1941 Lon Chaney movie.  Starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins.  Rated R in the US for bloody horror violence and gore; 18+ in Thailand.  Vista also has a Thai-dubbed version.  Mixed or average reviews.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: Canada/ US, Fantasy/ Comedy – The Mount Olympus gods are not happy: Zeus’ lightning bolt has been stolen, and high school student Percy Jackson is the prime suspect in this sprawling and entertaining teen adventure.  As Percy finds himself caught between angry and battling gods, he and his friends try to catch the true lightning thief.  Logan Lerman as Percy is an excellent new teenaged hero similar to Harry Potter, but for me a lot more interesting.  There’s one short additional scene during the closing credits.  Mixed or average reviews.

Confucius / Kong Zi: China, Biography/ Drama – Set in 6th Century BC, this is the life story of the Chinese thinker and philosopher, from his days as a court official through battles and political intrigues, to his old age as a disillusioned sage.  China has here adopted the Hollywood way of pumping up the romantic and action-related angles of the man, even casting an action hero (Chow Yun-Fat) as the man himself, and portraying him as romantically attracted to a concubine.  Here as in most places in Thailand it’s in a Thai-dubbed version without English subtitles.

Valentine’s Day: US, Comedy/ Romance – Intertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles break-up and make-up based on the pressures and expectations of Valentine’s Day.  With a star-studded cast.  Generally unfavorable reviews.

My Valentine: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – A girl who hates Valentine’s Day meets three young men, each determined to make her his Valentine.  A Thai rom-com, with a mixture of cute young Thais and older TV comedians.

Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – Nine Oscar nominations, including best picture and director.  The highest grossing film in the world ever, bypassing the director’s own Titanic.  It’s a very good film and a major technological breakthrough, plus it’s exciting and beautiful, and has received near-universal rave reviews from critics and fans.  At Airport Plaza the 2D version has returned for one showing a day on weekdays.  The 3D version has departed for now.  It’s in English and Na’vi dialogue (the completely new language created by linguists for the natives), with Thai and English subtitles as needed for both languages.  No longer showing at Vista.  I imagine that showings will resume when Avatar wins the Oscar. Reviews:  Universal acclaim.

Scheduled for February 25

Up in the Air, with George Clooney; Invictus, with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon; and The Book of Eli, with Denzel Washington.

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

What is a plant?

As a gardener it is stimulating to consider what the definition of a plant is. Of course, a motionless tree is strikingly different from an agile dog. However, there are mobile plants like Mimosa pudica (Sensitive plant, Maiyarap). Plants differ from seemingly motionless animals, like sponges, in that the plant is green. The green colour is due to the chlorophyll molecule, which is essential in the chemical transition of carbon dioxide into sugars, using light and water (photosynthesis). In addition, members of the animal kingdom have cell membranes, while plants have cell membranes and cell walls made of cellulose. A plant cell is like a balloon in a cardboard box, while animal cells are just balloons. What about motionless mushrooms then? Like animals they are incapable of photosynthesis. Instead, mushrooms are parasites, symbiotes or decomposers, totally dependent on plants. Studies of the DNA (the cell’s construction map) show that animals and mushrooms are more related to each other than to plants. The difference from animals is that mushrooms have cell walls too, made of chitin. All these three advanced kingdoms, plants, mushrooms and animals, are related to each other, and they all have a cell nucleus (“a map container”), something lacking in bacteria.

However, it is the cyanobacterium, not the plant that is the inventor of photosynthesis. A result of photosynthesis is an oxygen-rich atmosphere. This atmosphere enabled the formation of multicellular organisms, which had incorporated cyanobacteria, forming plants. When the cyanobacteria live inside plant cells they are called chloroplasts. In conclusion, the plant is simply a carrier of the cyanobacteria, and the animals are the smelly scavengers and pests who parasitize on the cyanobacteria and their carriers. The cyanobacteria, the true but discreet rulers of earth, have domesticated man, ensuring he will defend their carriers (the plants) by caring for them in his garden. The dawn of cyanobacteria some 3 billion years ago was indeed a revolutionary step, enabling subsequent multicellular life forms, which are merely variations on the same theme. [email protected]

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Here is a tricky hand to play, assuming that your partner and you have overbid—after all there is no challenge in making easy contracts. It was board 31 from the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai pairs game on February 10th (hand directions rotated 180 deg, for convenience in viewing the hands). North-South were vulnerable and North dealt. Assume you hold the South hand and are in 6H, with no opposition bidding. The opening lead is a low heart. Your hand and dummy are shown below. Obviously you are going to need some luck. How do you plan the play to maximize your chances of taking advantage of any luck going to make the contract?

                          S: J74

                          H: AQJ7

                          D: A10

                          C: Q1093              

S: ?                                                    S: ?

H: ?                                                   H: ?

D: ?                                                    D: ?

C: ?                                                    C: ?

                          S: AK106

                          H: K1085

                          D: Q87

                          C: A5                       

There seems no point in not pulling trumps. Say you pull two rounds and both follow. Now what do you do? The chances of making the contract look very slim if you have a spade loser, so you cash the ace of spades (in case of a singleton queen), win the third round of trumps on board and lead a spade for the finesse. You should lead a low one, not the jack, in case the queen is doubleton, and take the finesse. Eureka! The queen is onside and falls. Now you have four spade tricks to go with four heart tricks, a ruff and the two minor suit aces. But you are still one trick short, so you need to make one of your minor suit queens. Your best chance is with clubs, because you have the ten and nine of this suit. If you cash the ace and lead up to the queen, you hope that West pops up with the king. If no king appears (which probably means East has the king over your queen) you still have another chance—put in the ten and hope that West has the jack. In practice, West has both the king and jack, so you thank the bridge gods and claim your contract. Since West’s clubs are doubleton, you did not even need the queen of spades to fall, because the fortunate distribution gives you three club tricks if you need them. You must be living right! The full deal is shown below. Would your plan have made it?

                           S: J74

                          H: AQJ7

                          D: A10

                          C: Q1093              

S: 8532                                             S: Q9

H: 642                                              H: 93

D: J643                                             D: K952

C: KJ                                                 C: 87642

                          S: AK106

                          H: K1085

                          D: Q87

                          C: A5                     

Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]


The art of giving: expats and charities

One of the greatest things of note in this city is the large number of expats and organizations raising money for the needy of the North. From orphans to hill tribes, from elephants to soi dogs, it seems there is no shortage of residents willing to give of their time and money to help those less fortunate than themselves.

The 200 club helps out several organizations, including the Mae Taeng Elephant camp, while the well organized and well known Chiang Mai Toyride collects toys and money for needy kids who otherwise would not delight in the joys of childhood. Care for Dogs cares for and finds homes for stray dogs and cats and a recent charity concert by H.E. Admiral Usni Pramoj at the Four Seasons Hotel raised money for the Vieng Ping orphanage.

Other worthy causes have come from Grandma Cares, which is hosting an exhibition at the Playhouse Entertainment complex of photos taken by the children who are in the “Grandma Cares” Partnership Program. The pictures will display the children’s perception of family and how their world has been shaped by difficult experiences. The 8th Charity Musical Ballet “Sleeping Beauty 2010” will be performed at the Kad Theatre in Chiang Mai on Sunday, March 28 and will benefit several organizations; the Thai Red Cross and the Volunteers Foundation. Prem Tinsulanonda International School encourages its students to get active involved and so the students have helped organize a charity concert for their Hand to Paws organization. The award winning play, The Vagina Monologues will be performed by local and expat resident women for one day only, two shows, February 28, at the Playhouse Entertainment complex and benefits the Wildflower Women’s home.

All these worthy causes, and the people who selflessly spend their time and money to help them, show the great spirit of community that exists in Chiang Mai. Residents should treasure the pride of community and giving that runs so strongly through this city.

Life in Chiang Mai: By Jane Doh

Chiang Mai University Lecture Series – with Ed Visa!

Students at CMU’s new lecture series get hands
on instruction in the art of Thai food.

As one of those expats who is under retirement age, not married to a Thai, isn’t working here, and doesn’t have a business here, my visa options are fairly limited. Many people in my situation go down the Ed Visa route, usually taking on a Thai Language course. But, as I have been studying Thai ongoing and prefer a private tutor, studying Thai at a language school just wasn’t for me. So, I was very happy to discover a way to not only gain a one year visa, but be part of a group of like-minded people and gain some knowledge. The recently added Lecture series at Chiang Mai University (CMU) has been the perfect solution for me. Not only does it provide the security of an Ed Visa, but also offers a diverse and interesting course to attend. Khun Aey at the CMU Language Institute office (where the course is held) sends an email every week outlining each upcoming lecture, and I find myself looking forward to each class. For example, the last two lectures have been less conventional than the usual lecture format. Our guest lecturer, who runs a successful local cooking school in Chiang Mai, was invited to talk to us about Thai food. She decided that a normal lecture format would not give us a real feel for Thai cooking, so we were treated to an actual cooking class! So, not only a lecture on Thai food, giving us an understanding about Thai ingredients and why they differ from their western counterparts, but also how to put those ingredients together to create delicious Thai food. But, not only did we students get to enjoy the sights, smells, tastes, and experience of Thai cooking, our partners/friends could enjoy the experience too, as we were informed that we were welcome to bring a partner or friend along.

The course feels more like a group get-together, than a formal Lecture/study environment. I had envisioned an auditorium lecture room like my Uni days, but was happily surprised by the comfortable and informal atmosphere. The lecturers deliver interesting and thought provoking lectures covering serious topics that are food for thought; such as the environmental changes to Chiang Mai over a period of 50 years, learning about why Buddha and other Buddhist images are depicted in certain ways (Sacred Geometry), and the meaning of the various Hill Tribes’ woven tapestry designs, what they represent, and why they are important. That is just a select few topics given by highly regarded lecturers, who are also always open to questions and queries.

My fellow students are very diverse themselves, coming from a variety of backgrounds, and vary in ages. Not all who attend require an Ed Visa but many attend purely because it’s an interesting course. I have found my fellow students to be open and friendly. But, much of that is also down to the way the course is handled, it feels personable, and encourages an informal atmosphere.

The staff in the office are not only very helpful, but extremely friendly. If you are interested in joining the course (which has an open joining date) give them a call (053-943-761), email ([email protected]), or pop up to talk to them at the CMU Language Institute office (room 124).

The course costs 20,000 baht, which includes the paperwork for an Ed Visa (if required), and can be signed up for any time./p>

Hope to see you there!

Students attending Chiang Mai University’s new lecture
courses on Thailand and Thai culture.