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


How does your garden grow?

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Have you got “sugar”?

I certainly do hope you have some sugar in your system, or otherwise you will grind to a halt in no time. Sugar is needed for us to perform properly, and when you get that burning desire for a chocolate bar, it is generally because your blood sugar is getting low. But that is not an excuse for habitual chocaholics!

Glucose is a type of sugar found in fruits and many other foods (this includes lactose and fructose). It is the main source of energy used by the body. Most of the carbohydrates that people eat are also turned into glucose, which can be used for energy or stored in the liver and kidneys as glycogen.

“Sugar” is also the name often used for “Diabetes”, an important condition that is diagnosed and monitored mainly through a simple blood test - the Blood Glucose level.

To stop the sugar levels just increasing daily, a balance is achieved through a hormone called Insulin which helps the body use and control the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin is produced in areas of the pancreas called ‘islets’ and released into the blood when the level of glucose in the blood rises. In simple terms, people who do not produce enough insulin develop Diabetes. People can also develop Diabetes if they do not respond normally to the insulin their bodies produce. This occurs most commonly when a person is overweight, and since obesity is on the rise, so are various types of Diabetes.

Blood glucose levels that remain high over time can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels, which explains why good glucose control is important.

There are many ways to carry out blood glucose tests, including Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS). This is a measurement of blood glucose after fasting for 12 to 14 hours. For an accurate fasting blood sugar test, do not eat or drink for 12 to 14 hours before the blood sample is taken; however, water can be freely taken, as otherwise hemoconcentration occurs to give a falsely high reading. This is often the first test done to detect diabetes, and explains why fasting blood tests are usually done when having a medical check-up.

The other common test is called the Random Blood Sugar (RBS). A random blood sugar measurement may also be called a casual blood glucose test. This is a measurement of blood glucose that is taken regardless of when the person last ate a meal. Sometimes several random measurements are taken throughout a day. Random testing is useful because glucose levels in healthy people do not vary widely throughout the day, so wild swings may indicate a metabolic problem.

An oral glucose tolerance test is simply a series of blood glucose measurements taken after a person drinks a liquid containing a specific amount of glucose. However, this test is not used to initially diagnose diabetes.

To monitor the treatment of diabetes, there are another couple of tests which can be carried out. The commonest is Glycated Hemoglobin, otherwise referred to as HbA1c. This test actually is an indicator of the average glucose concentration over the life of the red blood cells (which is taken as over the previous three months).

Another is the Serum C-Peptide which is used to investigate low blood sugar levels, done by measuring the C-Peptide which is produced by the Beta cells in the pancreas.

“Normal” levels may vary from lab to lab, but generally the range taken for FBS is that the level should be less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Diagnosis of diabetes needs a fasting blood glucose level higher than 125 mg/dL on two separate days.

A fasting glucose level below 40 mg/dL in women or below 50 mg/dL in men that is accompanied by symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may indicate an insulinoma, a tumor that produces abnormally high amounts of insulin. Lower than expected glucose levels can also indicate Addison’s disease, an underactive thyroid gland or pituitary gland, liver disease (such as cirrhosis), malnutrition, or a problem that prevents the intestines from absorbing the nutrients in food.

“Sugar” is important. How is your level?


Care for Dogs:

Fluffy Pui is looking for a family

Introducing Pui. Could you take time to brush me or even take me to the salon every now and then? I promise I won’t mind. People say I am very handsome and I think I am too. I’d love a chance to live with a family of my own outside the shelter. I’m healthy, sterilised and vaccinated boy of 3-4years old so you can just pick me up whenever you like.  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 him or any of the many other dogs waiting for you.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

So it’s someone called Jerry Singha who is the villain of the piece. But life, as always being full of surprises and coincidences, is looking brighter and I now have every hope of everything returning to normal between myself and the lovely Nok.

In a bar the other night I met three very charming young local men who it seems are unfortunately permanently out of work. Obviously American sports enthusiasts as they were all carrying baseball bats. After a few beers I told them my sad story and was amazed that they appeared to know this man Jerry who has poisoned the mind of my Darling. Well, I assumed they did, because they said if I paid them 20,000 baht each (half then and half when I get the signed papers) they would go visit and persuade him to give me back my two houses and car before he went into an ICU hospital ward next week. They explained they could be very persuasive and make this man see right from wrong so, bearing no ill will, I asked them to wish him a safe recovery from whatever malaise he has, which apparently could be life threatening. There are God fearing gentle and kind good Samaritans everywhere!

I gathered from your last reply to my letters you in some disapproved of my relationship with Nok and seemed suspicious of her intentions. But surely now my above experience will give you back some trust and faith in our fellow man?

Yes, the rock has the word “BLACKPOOL” stamped all the way through and although my dog has chewed one end of it I have saved a stick for your good self.

Nobody’s Fool

Dear Nobody’s Fool,

It is unselfish people like you that make the world go round, or the money go round at least! I would be a trifle worried about hob-nobbing with American baseball enthusiasts in Thailand, if I were you, my Petal. Most of them are probably not quite as spontaneously charitable as the ones you have met in Nok’s bar. You must let me know where it is, so that I can advise my friends to give it a wide berth. (I never go to bars any more. Last time I went to one I did not get picked up, offered money or even a lady drink. Men just aren’t the gallant buccaneers they used to be in my day.) Never mind, Nobody’s Fool, everyone is rooting for you, even Macho Mouse, in the letter below yours.

Dear Hillary,

Surely the Jerry Singha vs ‘Nobody’s Fool’ is a wind up? They seem more like Dick Dastardly and Muttley than real people. Incidentally, I went to a bar in Jomtien the other afternoon that advertised a meal for 99 baht. Imagine my shock and awe when on walking in I saw about 10 ladies in skimpy attire, looking to hire themselves out as escorts for a modest fee. To be honest I was more interested in the food, so not wishing to appear rude I hid in a corner till it came. I won’t be going there again unless it’s with my trusty walking stick to fend them off with; not that they all rushed at once to escort me upstairs (or anywhere else for that matter). I don’t know if I should feel insulted.

Mr Macho Mouse

Dear Mr Macho Mouse,

I think you and I have a lot in common. I used to be a wallflower at parties - now they don’t ask me at all! However, looking at your situation my Petal, are you sure these were escorts and not just titillating waitresses? The owner must be getting desperate with meals and skimpy attire and all for B. 99. Sounds like a bargain and when I asked the boys at the office what did they think, they all wanted the address. Should you feel insulted? No, but I’d change my handle if I were you. “Macho” doesn’t seem to fit the behavior somehow. But keep “Mouse”, that seems to fit. By the way, many years ago one of the correspondents was “Mighty Mouse”. You’re not related, are you?

Dear Hillary

My work colleagues have all decided that I am gay because I don’t live with anyone, while they all are living with a succession of local girls. Every week I hear another tale of woe and how they have been cleaned out. Every week I thank my lucky stars that this is them not me. They just go straight back into another relationship, which ends up just like the previous ones - a disaster. They seem to think that I have something against women, while I don’t, but they keep on saying over and over, “Got a feller yet?” I haven’t got anything against gays either, it’s just that I’m not one. How do I get them to understand at work?

Getting Annoyed

Dear Getting Annoyed,

Jai yen yen! Maintain a cool heart! They are only keeping this up because you continue to rise to the bait. When they get no reaction from you, they will eventually stop. It may seem hard, but just a “Suit yourself,” response and nothing else will produce the desired result. By the way, don’t comment on their relationships and they will give up commenting on your (lack of relationships) too.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Getting professional results

Every so often I will dig out some old photographs that I took as an enthusiastic amateur, and I am sorry to say that there are very few that I am proud of. The concepts I explored were good. The delivery of those concepts was not.

I have written before about how a misguided friend delivered a very expensive camera outfit to me on his return from an overseas trip. I had asked him to enquire how much the Hasselblad cameras were in the duty free stores, but he decided that I had empowered him to buy one on my behalf. In the long run that was a good decision, but in the short term it was a huge financial drain, just when I didn’t need it. It was at that moment I decided that the Hasselblad was going to have to pay for itself. And if it were to bring in money, it meant I was going to have to become good enough to charge for my photographs.

The next step in my photographic career was to go to all the bookstores and purchase books on photography. Initially I was selecting ‘how to’ books, especially those which gave examples of photo projects. These I devoured until I could reproduce the results that professional photographers like Michael Freeman explained in his instruction books.

After that I began to give myself my own project subjects, imagining, for example, that I had been hired to do the photography for a catalogue of artificial flowers. I had a friend who did import these, so it was not too difficult to borrow some for my own photo shoot.

In this way I learned to shoot to a layout and was able to size the photo illustrations to fit. I also, from the books, learned how to set up a small studio at home in the spare bedroom. Rolls of background papers were found and the catalogue items photographed against them. I had no expensive flash heads, but used internal reflector tungsten lights. I very quickly learned how this changes the overall color of the shot, and how by using blue gels I could correct for the overly warm tones of the tungsten lighting.

By this stage, being used to handling the camera, I began to give myself projects to be photographed outside. These were mainly “advertising” style of shots with models in some physical setting, looking at a fashion style of layout. Fortunately there were enough amateur would-be models wanting to parade in front of the would-be photographer’s lens in return for a few prints. We all learned together!

I also began to learn to use shadow, instead of bathing the models in floodlight (or the sun). All of a sudden, my shots began to have an air of mystery and were starting to look professional, as well as now having a 3D look to them. Shadow is the photographer’s friend!

Eventually I was ready to present my work as a professional, and to do this you place your best shots together, which is called your ‘book’. This is not a real book, but should show your work in the best possible way. The local photographic equipment store showed me some books belonging to semi-pro shooters and I made the decision to present only transparencies (slides), but a minimum of 6x6 cm (the Hasselblad size, otherwise known as two and quarter inch square), with the rest 5x4 inch. This made it look as if I had a 5x4 camera, which I didn’t, but the Hasselblad transparencies were sharp enough to be duplicated and enlarged (known as ‘dupes’ in the trade).

I bought a portable light box, mounted all the transparencies on heavy dark card so that they could be thrown on the light box for viewing, and I was ready to meet the art directors - the people from the ad agencies who dole out the work to the photographers. Eventually one gave me an assignment, and I went on from there. Get one and the rest are easy.

I had become a professional shooter.

Money Matters:  John Sheehan Global Markets Asia

The inevitable demise of Western Democratic Capitalism? Part 1

Imagine you were a shareholder in a company that showed great promise. Annual performance budgets prepared by the directors at the beginning of the year projected solid returns for the shareholders and a bumper year. The directors seemed to place self-publicity above the company, but they talked a good game, and if they delivered what they promised, everyone would profit.

John Sheehan, Global Markets Asia

Then part way through the year the market dropped. For months after, the directors perpetuated a state of denial until one day they announced to the stunned shareholders that their business plan was in fact hopelessly out of touch with market reality and the company had made a massive loss that would take decades to repay. On top of this the directors had absolutely no idea that the downturn was coming!

Upon further investigation it became clear that they had been massaging their indicative numbers in order to artificially boost their own image and accomplishments, whilst their response to crisis demonstrated their total incompetence and a complete lack of understanding of the business they were involved in!

Then to cap it all the directors started withholding critical information and borrowed more cash against shareholder funds in order to bail out the third party suppliers that had been a major contributor to the market crash! The directors seemed incapable of creating meaningful budget cuts needed to put the company back on track and at the time when the shareholders needed the company to produce more from less, they went the other way and recruited more employees that yielded less productivity! The shareholders only had the chance to remove the directors once every five years or so, and even if they were to do so the new directors would re-hire exactly the same senior managers and consultants in order to maintain continuity. Meanwhile, for the foreseeable future, the company will likely lose money every year with bankruptcy looking increasingly inevitable.

Would you as a shareholder put up with such a ludicrous situation? Of course not - the directors of the company would be immediately and summarily fired and criminal negligence proceedings would likely be filed! Government support for protecting shareholders from corporate incompetence of this kind is unilateral and exemplified by Australia’s newly proposed shareholder protection legislation. Yet when governments fail hopelessly in managing their own economies, a double standard is evident. Unlike the private sector, the electorate tolerates Government’s appalling ineptitude and awful performance and allows them to keep their jobs!

The political system is running out of fuel

The 2008 crisis has exposed glaringly obvious government incompetence that is not going away and things may likely get much worse. How long can this go on and how far does it have to go until social unrest develops?

People are already realizing that politics have been hijacked by the media and spin machines, irrespective of which faction is in power, and parties or ideology are becoming increasingly irrelevant. How often does one hear people complaining that all the political parties have polarized towards each other? How long will it be before society concludes that it is the current democratic capitalist model that emerged after the Second World War, and has boomed unrivalled since the fall of communism that is now failing? For how much longer will Main Street allow Washington to be presided over by Wall Street? How can it be in a rational world that Wall Street is permitted to privatize its gains and socialize its losses? Around the globe, how long will it be until we get to the stage where rural Main Street can no longer realistically co-exist within the same jurisdiction as Wall Street and civil strife erupts? How long until the wealth divide reaches a point where the super-rich capital exchange city states decouple and emerge as separate entities?

Many political commentators in 2009 noted the political conundrum whereby western governments are now pursuing socialist policies whilst communist China has been practicing rampant capitalism. Sales of Das Kapital, Karl Marx’s 1867 epic have enjoyed a renaissance in Germany in 2009 as a new younger generation seeks alternatives to capitalism. One only needs to look at the state of places like Iceland from the following recent New York Times article to see how relevant Marx was: “One by one the mighty banks have been seized by the government, and Icelanders, aghast, have been told that each and every one of us owes millions of dollars, to whom, we don’t know. We accepted the capitalist system, which now appears to have been a gigantic casino without an owner. We did in the end believe that we could get ‘money for nothing’ and now we face the fact that we will get nothing for our money.” As a result of burgeoning demand, a new edition of the 1848 “Communist Manifesto” is due to be published in Iceland later this year!

To be continued…

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

DVD of the Week:

Crime Wave (1952) and Decoy (1946)

This is one of those splendid Warner Bros releases in double bill form offering classics from the hey-day of film noir and crime movies. The better directed of the two and the more straightforward crime film is by Andre de Toth, made in 1952 but not released until ’54 because it was considered too tough and unsympathetic.

The second intriguing and rare film is Decoy, written by actor-writer Nedrick Young and directed by Jack Bernhard who used it to introduce a British actress (he met and married her when stationed in the U.K. during the war) to American audiences. Sadly Jean Gillie died aged 33 after one more Hollywood appearance. She plays the wonderfully villainous Margot – ‘who treats men the way they have been treating women for years’ - out to destroy everyone around her for a pot of gold: 400,000 dollars from a bank raid.

This DVD lasts well under three hours and offers two contrasted gems and offers great insight into movies of the period and, in the case of Crime Wave, a gritty picture of police work and cheap hoodlums. The films were quickly made and were the product of studios like Monogram known as ‘poverty row’. The greatest exponents were R.K.O. but other studios also produced fine films. Their origins were in the social conscience works of the 1930s, documentaries and neo realist films from Europe and the hard boiled writings of authors such as Jim Thompson.

Crime Wave develops the documentary style of the immediate post war years (see Naked City) and stays on the streets for authenticity, but here it is Los Angeles not New York and intriguingly they had access to the actual L.A.P.D. offices, using hand held cameras and wild track sound. The star is Sterling Hayden as a tough cop, mooching and growling around the Department like an angry bear.

The story follows a young couple (he is an ex-con) forced against their will into an involvement with a bank raid. The pace is fast, the acting serviceable to good (there’s a fine performance from Jay Nevello as a former doctor turned vet.) and the photography is full of shadowy figures, in your face close ups and the towering Hayden photographed from below. De Toth was a no nonsense director who made great use of cars and ‘mean streets’ and made many action movies and westerns.

Decoy is well worth a look, especially for one key scene. The story follows Margot’s efforts to get the money from her boyfriend, who is in jail. When he is sentenced to die from lethal injection she gets a doctor, who is in love with her, to inject the corpse with an antidote. The scene when the crook returned to life is the highlight of this bizarre work, made even stranger by his violent death minutes later.

It’s great to be able to see these films from an uncluttered period of Hollywood history, made before television got tinsel town so scared that they threw more and more money at wider screens but forgot about content on so many occasions. These come up fresh as new paint. Available from DVD Movie and Music, 289 Suthep Road.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Alice in Wonderland (3D): US, Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – This is not your usual Alice, and it would be more truthful to call is something like “Alice Returns to Wonderland”, because it’s a new story, a riff on the original, with Alice all grown up as a late teens girl about to be proposed to. She returns to Wonderland to find the strange land even more frightening than before, in the hands of a cruel despot who is making life miserable for everybody. Alice is charged with ending the evil and bringing things back to what passes for normal in Wonderland. Tim Burton, plus this particular Alice (Misa Wasikowska), plus Johnny Depp in another of his way-out-there tragicomic performances, plus 3D – it all adds up to an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind movie experience. Mixed or average reviews. In 3D, and at Major Cineplex Airport Plaza only.

Green Zone: France/ US/ Spain/ UK, Action/ Drama/ Thriller/ War – Discovering covert and faulty intelligence causes a US Army officer to go rogue at the start of the Iraq war as he hunts for those elusive “Weapons of Mass Destruction” believed to be stockpiled in the Iraqi desert. Rocketing from one booby-trapped and treacherous site to the next, the men search for deadly chemical agents but find only an elaborate cover-up. Starring Matt Damon, directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93). Rated R in the US for violence and language. Vista has a Thai-dubbed version as well.

Daybreakers: Australia/ US, Action/ Drama/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – For me, a most excellent and exciting vampire film in the old school. In the year 2019, a plague has transformed most every human into a vampire. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the dominant race plots their survival; meanwhile, a researcher works with a covert band of vampires on a way to save humankind. But be aware, it’s a true vampire film, and as such is very bloody indeed, with many gory deaths and a slew of decapitations, including close-ups of the severed heads seemingly on the verge of speaking a few final words. Starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, and brief nudity; 18+ in Thailand. At Airport Plaza only. Mixed or average reviews.

The Book of Eli: US, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Thriller/ Western – Not for everyone, but I found it thoroughly engrossing. The story revolves around a lone warrior (Denzel Washington) who must fight to bring society the knowledge that could be the key to survival. Gary Oldman is great as the despot of a small town who’s determined to take possession of the book Eli’s guarding. Directed by the twin Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen), who inject some fresh stylish fun into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I think Denzel is terrific! Rated R in the US for some brutal violence and language, 18+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews.

Dear John: US, Drama/ Romance/ War – A romantic drama about a soldier who falls for a conservative college student while he’s home on leave. Intensely weepy, if you’re a 12-year-old girl. Airport Plaza only. Mixed or average reviews.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: Canada/ US, Fantasy/ Comedy – Zeus’ lightning bolt has been stolen, and high school student Percy Jackson is the prime suspect in this sprawling and entertaining teen adventure. Logan Lerman as Percy is an excellent new teenaged hero. At Airport Plaza only. Mixed or average reviews.

Who Are You?: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – About a mother whose son has withdrawn from social life and locked himself away in his room for five years. Thai only, at Vista only.

The Little Comedian / Ban Chan: Thai, Family/ Comedy – A family comedy troupe harbors a black sheep – a son who isn’t funny and is constantly upstaged by his filthy-mouthed younger sister. Directed by Witthaya Thongyooyong, one of the directors on the famed Fan Chan. Comedian Jaturong Mokjok plays the father of the clan.

Kong Phan / Gong-pan: Plot: You’re in the Army now! Ain’t it fun?! It’s been called a “gays in the military romp.” Studio synopsis: “Jiwon, a young lad, is enlisted to the army where he meets his new and unusual friends.” At Vista only.

Scheduled for Mar 18

Nak Prok / Shadow of the Naga: Thai, Action/ Drama — A long-shelved monks-with-guns crime drama, it’s the story of three thieves who bury their loot on the grounds of a Buddhist monastery, and when they come back later to dig it up, they find a temple has been built on the spot. So they ordain as Buddhist monks while they figure out how to get their treasure. The film premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, but its strong depictions of the thieves robed as Buddhist monks have kept it out of Thai theaters until now.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Chiang Dao, about 80 km north of Chiang Mai, is a land of beautiful, narrow valleys between steep, forest covered mountains. It is well worth visiting if you are in northern Thailand. This hand was dealt on a trip to Chiang Dao. Our bridge table was in a charming valley, shaded by tall trees and with a mountain rising up so sharply that it almost looked within touching distance. Lulled by the surrounding beauty, I made a bid I was to regret.

Once upon a time, in a simpler age, when a player bidding Standard American opened 3N, they meant it. It showed a powerful balanced hand with 25-27 high card points. Those days of honest bidding are long gone, to be replaced by gambling 3N openers. My Acol bidding friends tell me it is the same in Acol. The gambling 3N shows a long (7 or more cards) running minor suit. Depending on agreements, the bidder may or may not have an outside entry. The bidder hopes that partner has a couple of tricks, can stop the suit led, and has at least one card in the long minor to lead to declarer’s hand. Then, presto, nine tricks and game made.

The biggest advantages of the gambling 3N are its preemptive value—it can be very difficult for the opponents to find their best contract—and that 3N sometimes makes. Probably its greatest disadvantage is that it gives the opposition a roadmap to the hands. I was sitting East when this deal came up, with neither side vulnerable and North dealing:

              S: AK862

             H: K852

             D: 7

             C: 865   

S: Q4                   S: -

H: Q104              H: 763

D: KJ1098          D: Q63

C: 1097                               C: AKQJ432

             S: J109753

             H: AJ9

             D: A542

             C: -          

This was the bidding:

North  East        South     West

P           3N           4S           5C

5S         6C           P              P

6S         All pass                                                                                              

I opened 3N after North’s pass. South made an aggressive 4S overcall. My partner raised my presumed suit to the five level (if my suit were in fact diamonds, I could always correct). North was happy to raise his partner, in view of his very adequate support for the bid suit. I bid 6C, to raise the ante and North, with the reasonable hope that his partner was void in clubs, made the wise decision to raise to slam.

South ruffed the club lead, pulled trumps in two rounds, played the ace of diamonds and eventually trumped three diamonds on board. He led towards the jack of hearts, to try and make an overtrick, hoping that I held the heart queen. When the finesse failed, he made twelve tricks (6 spades, 2 hearts, the ace of diamonds and three diamond ruffs), and had nearly taken all thirteen. I was left regretting my ill-judged decision to bid 6C, thereby pushing the opponents into a cold small slam made with only 20 high card points between the two hands. Such is bridge in paradise!

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]

MAIL OPINION : Bag snatching back again?

Although relatively new to Chiang Mai I am aware that there are off and on spates of drive by bag snatchers. Well, the friend of a friend of mine had her bag snatched off her shoulder as she walked down the street by a guy on a motorbike right. Not only did this happen right in front of me but it was not on that busy of a road. It was just that quick, nobody had a chance to react. She managed to get the last 2-3 digits of the license plate, but the police did not seem able to help. She will now have to change all her locks, get a new ID card, new bank card, and new telephone. She lost all her phone contacts. A woman’s life is in her purse, and unfortunately for us, we don’t seem to be able to leave bits and pieces behind.

I make sure I only carry one credit card, not both. Despite exhortations that it’s the law to carry your passport I am more than reluctant to do so now. So, I carry a copy of my passport and my driver’s license. The Thai driver’s license has the passport number on it, so perhaps that would be good enough for the police as a form of ID. It seems a catch 22 situation. Carry your passport and face losing it, or carry your passport and face trouble with the police if they ask you to produce it.

So, it is time, once again, to clasp your bag closely to your body, it seems. Keep aware of what and where your bag is. And maybe buy a bag with thick straps so that it won’t be as easy to grab. Another friend told me about his sister who had the same thing happen to her a few years ago. But, she had a big bag, and she was holding tight. He made the grab and nearly came off the bike trying to get it. Lucky for her she didn’t get hurt, but he didn’t get the bag.

Do desperate times make for desperate people? Or was it simply a greedy man who had his eye out for an opportunity?

How does your garden grow?: By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden

Tree parasites

This time of the year, during the hot dry season, many trees shed their leaves. Quite often you will observe that some branches do not shed the leaves at all, and in fact, the leaves look quite different from normal. In that case, you may have spotted a parasitic plant, Dendrophthoe (kafak). This aggressive parasite is not specific, but attacks many different trees, such as teak (ton sak), mango (ma muang) and Lagerstroemia (tabek). A closer look will reveal that the parasite produces runners that grow along the host’s branches, and now and then, parasitic “roots” (haustoria) dives through the bark of the host and into the vascular tissues, where the parasite steals water, minerals and sugars. Such an entry-point is often swollen.

Parasitic plant, Dendrophthoe.

The parasite resembles a light green bush when mature. The longest specimen I have ever observed was six meters. The parasite weakens the host, reduces fruit formation and may even kill the host. In Thailand, there are six species within the parasitic genus Dendrophthoe. Sometimes it is erroneously referred to as “mistletoe”, but mistletoes do not run along the branch, they emanate from one point only. Mistletoes belong to the family Viscaceae, while Dendrophthoe belongs to the Loranthaceae family. Ironically, the Dendrophthoe parasite is parasitised too, by a mistletoe (Viscum articulatum, kafak ton pao)! That mistletoe looks like a bundle of dark green branches. When a parasite parasitises another parasite it is called a a hyperparasite. The only way to reduce the stress on your beloved mango is to cut away the branch with the parasite. The hot season is a good time for pruning, as you easily find the parasites, and fungal spores that may infect your tree via the pruning wounds, are scarce. Use pole saws or climb the tree and use pruning saws. The parasite is spread by birds which eat the fruits, and the bird droppings that hit the branches contain the seeds that start a new infection. Regular control is necessary and early discovery and removal saves labour and damage, and also reduces further spread in your