Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snap shots

Money Matters

DVD of the Week

Let's Go To The Movies

Bridge in Paradise

MAIL OPINION

How does your garden grow?

Life in Chiang Mai

Day Tripper

Depression

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Blood Pressure. Is it dangerous?

I certainly do hope you have blood pressure (usually known as BP), because if you don’t you are definitely dead! So, having no BP is certainly dangerous. However, if your BP is too high, it can also mean you could be claiming early on your life insurance policy - or your relatives will, on your behalf.

High BP (hypertension) is known as the “silent killer” as there are very few symptoms of an increase in blood pressure, until a vessel bursts somewhere, generally catastrophically! The good thing is you are dead within minutes, so you won’t linger.

Blood Pressure is needed to supply all the organs of the body with oxygen which is in the blood. This is done by the red blood cells which carry the oxygen, with the pump to drive the system being the heart. The tubes from the heart are the arteries, and those returning the blood to the heart are the veins.

This heart-arteries-veins-heart system is a “closed” circuit. In other words, no leaks, otherwise you would be continually losing the life-preserving blood, but to make it go around, there has to be a pumping pressure (just like the oil pump in your car).

The heart squeezes the blood inside itself and pumps it out into the arteries. This squeezing pressure is called the Systolic, and is the upper number quoted when we measure your blood pressure.

After the squeeze, the heart relaxes to allow the blood to fill the chamber, ready for the next squeeze. The pressure does not return to zero, because there has to be some pressure to refill the chamber. This resting or ambient pressure is the lower number quoted and is called the Diastolic. BP is then typically quoted as 120/70, being 120 (systolic) / 70 (diastolic). The actual pressure number is measured in a millimeters of mercury scale.

So what is your correct BP? Many years ago it was thought that your systolic BP should be your own age plus 100, and the diastolic did not matter that much. That was not correct! While many 60 year olds had a systolic BP of 160, research showed that this was not a ‘healthy’ pressure. To lower the risk, the BP had to be significantly lower.

The following table shows the categories of BP measurements.
Optimal: less than 120/80
Normal: less than 130/80
High-normal: 130–139/85–89
High blood pressure (hypertension):
Stage 1: 140–159/90–99
Stage 2: 160–179/100–109
Stage 3: 180 or higher/110 or higher

The problem with running at high pressure is that the heart is having to work harder, and therefore may be subject to heart failure. The arteries are also subjected to higher pressures than they were designed to cope with and can burst, making the risk of stroke so much higher. Other organs don’t like working at the high pressures either, and kidneys, in particular, can go into failure mode.

So how do you find out (before it is too late) if your BP is too high? Quite simply by repeated measurements. Note I write “repeated”. Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, one elevated reading does not mean your BP is always high.

Blood Pressure is a dynamic situation. Lying down you can have one BP. Get almost run over by a baht bus and you instantly have another much higher BP. Blood pressure tends to be higher in the morning and lower at night. Stress, smoking, eating, exercise, cold, pain, noise, medications, and even talking can affect it. The single elevated reading does not immediately mean you have high blood pressure. Conversely, a single normal reading does not necessarily mean you do not have high blood pressure. In fact, the average of several repeated measurements throughout the day would be a more accurate picture of what is going on than a single reading, but quite frankly, you do not have to go to that extreme.

As part of the routine in most good hospitals and clinics is the measurement of your blood pressure. You should get this done at least twice a year, in my opinion. Rising or elevated readings do mean you should get medical advice. Have it checked today.

 

Gentle Old Bill

Here’s Billy!

Good day to you. I am a lovable old grump! I have my good eye to you in this photo as the other one is blind. Despite this, I have a lovely, fluffy toffee coloured coat and enjoy a good pet. I would dearly love a home of my own away from all these other more boisterous dogs. Young pups today have no respect for their elders! Make an appointment to meet me asap. Jer gan mai!

If you think you can offer Billy the forever home he so deserves Contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) to make an appointment to meet him or visit www.carefordogs.org.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

My GF won’t let me take photographs of her. She says she is “mai suay” and puts her hand over the lens every time I try. Is this a cultural thing or what? She lets me take as many shots as I want with all her clothes on, so why not some good arty shots as well? Any pointers on what I should do?
Lennie the lensman

Dear Lennie the lensman,
It is quite obvious that your girlfriend is shy if nothing else, and you should be aware of the fact that most Thai women are very modest, even in intimate surroundings. When she says she is “mai suay” (not pretty), that is just an excuse so that she does not have to explain to you that she would be embarrassed by all this. You also do not say how long she has been your girlfriend. You have to go slowly, Petal. If you have real feelings for this girl, buy her a new outfit and photograph her in it in the park. Otherwise, put the camera away if you want the relationship to continue.

Dear Hillary,
Are there any sorts of clubs or something where you can meet Thai women, the better class ones if you know what I mean. I’ve only been here a few weeks, but I intend to stay for a while. I’m 64, not married (divorced) and I’m not looking for a bimbo. What’s the right direction?
George

Dear George,
An experienced gentleman like yourself should join the various chambers of commerce and networking events promoted by groups like Networking One in Chiang Mai. It is at these networking evenings that you meet women involved in business (and not the naughty business), who are there to promote their businesses and are not there for the express purpose of finding a farang wallet. Best of luck in your searching. As I wrote to the chap called Lennie the lensman, you must go slowly. OK?

Dear Hillary,
You are always crying out for champain (sic) and choclates (sic) when youre (sic) giving advise. Don’t you know there (sic) bad for you? Why do you do it?
Jason

Dear Jason,
You didn’t do well at school, did you Jason. Failed O Levels, especially (sorry about using a big word, Petal) spelling. I can see I will have to go through this slowly for you. Champagne and chocolates (note the correct spelling, that’s a boy) are full of calories and because I am underweight, I need the calories to put it back on. I am addicted you could say, and a daily bottle of bubbly would overextend (oops, there I go again with long words, sorry) my budget, so that’s why I look for generous correspondents (people who write in, Petal) in the column. I’m sure you understand. Mark the bottle “For Hillary only” and leave it at the office.

Dear Hillary,
I’ve been here for a while now, so I know a little bit about what happens. After a few months and getting to know one of the bar girls quite well in my local beer bar, she asked me for some money to send to her mother as her daughter was sick and stays with her mother. It wasn’t much, only 5,000 baht and I really didn’t care if she repaid me or not, so I gave her the money. The only problem is now she’s come back to me a few more times since then and it’s starting to add up. It’s now 25,000 baht and that’s getting up a bit, even if she doesn’t charge me anything any more for short-times and stuff. How do I tactfully tell her that there’s no more loans and I’d like her to start paying back the money I gave her? And please no sermons, my buddies are good at doing that, but they’ve got no answers for me.
Sunny

Dear Sunny (the sucker),
You say that because you’ve been here a little while now, you know what happens. You might know what ‘happens’, but you certainly don’t know what it ‘means’. The whole situation revolves around the phrase “the money I gave her”. She looks upon it as a gift, which you did originally (“I really didn’t care if she repaid me or not, so I gave her the money”) but now you want to change it into a “loan”. It’s a little late for that, my Petal. No matter how many short-times, as you quaintly put it, you are never going to see the 25,000 baht again, without spending a small fortune on Vitamin V tablets which will increase your costs again making the contra deal not worthwhile anyway (even if you have the stamina). Now, how do you tell her tactfully that the well has run dry? Quite easily, next time she asks, just say no. She won’t fall apart, she’ll just move on to the next customer with a wallet in his trousers (as well as other bits). That is the occupation that these girls have chosen. They live by their wits and the guilty consciences of the suckers they fleece. Kiss it good bye, literally and metaphorically.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

“Timely” photography

A standard photograph is merely one moment in time, 1/60th second frozen for eternity. The famous French photographer Lartigue (1894 - 1986, was particularly good at this. So was Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 - 2004), who coined the phrase “the decisive moment,” showing photography gives longevity perhaps?

However, in time lapse photography, you record a series of these decisive moments, one after the other, all related to each other. This kind of photography will show such things as the development of a flower, or the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. You know the sort of thing - all very National Geographic or Disney World. Any of you who have seen the film “A Zed and Two Noughts” will also remember those scenes of bodies decomposing, all done by time lapse photography. Time lapse should not be confused with time exposure photography. Time lapse is multiple exposures, time exposure is one long exposure.

Time lapse photography is probably the easiest, yet most spectacular form of wall art that any photographer can produce. And you do not need fancy equipment. In fact you and your point and shoot auto-everything compact can do it.

Now while all this style of time lapse photography sounds expensive and even time consuming, it does not need to be so. You can produce your own time lapse shots with any old camera. It just needs a little planning.

There is one photographer who on her birthday takes a photo of herself in the nude. This she has done for the past 30 something years and has produced a time lapse record of human aging. This series of shots has been studied by the medical profession, as it is the only such record that has been undertaken in the world. So, if it doesn’t depress you too much, there’s an idea for you!

No, for me, I want more instant gratification than that. I believe you should pick on something that can allow you to produce a finished product in the sort of time frame that you could sit with comfortably (and not lose the photographs taken previously). So let us look at some items that you could do easily, with just a point and shooter.

Here is one suggestion - buy a rose (they sell them in all bars every night) and place it in a vase by the window and shoot it at lunchtime. Leave it exactly where it is, and take one lunchtime shot every day for the next week. In that time, it will have spread its petals, begin to die, the petals will shrink up, the stem will bend over, the water will have gone cloudy and other attributes that will only become obvious when you study the shots. However, to capitalize on this you must mount the seven shots, side by side, in order from the left. You have just produced a work of art in a week!

So you haven’t got the stamina for a week. What else can you do? Well, there is always the record of one object in daylight. Take six shots, one every two hours, of your house, for example, starting at 6 a.m. You will see how the different time of day produces different light, the sun’s movement produces different shadows and again, by mounting them side by side, in order from the left, you will have produced a work of art in one day!

So you don’t want to spend a day getting your definitive time lapse shots, so look at taking one hour. In that time you can document the progress of a snail along a wall, or serial shots of people walking down the street, or the way your beer glass empties. Just light it from behind with natural lighting to get the best effect. Probably repeat this a few times over a Sunday, with the final shot being a glass of water and two headache tablets.

The photo this week comes from Eadweard Muybridge and was taken in 1878 to prove that horses at full gallop have all four hooves in the air at one point.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Is the Baht too strong?

For the past year-and-a-half exporters, local business chiefs and trade associations have complained about the increasingly strong Baht and its negative impact on their orders, revenue and profit lines.

Expats remunerated in major foreign currencies and local investors with overseas interests have been hit by a similar problem, with their paycheques and savings losing value by the day.

Most grievances have been aimed at the central bank’s alleged intervention in the money markets to shore up the Baht, leading to repeated calls on the government to “do something” and twist the bank’s arm into weakening the Baht, or at least letting its value settle naturally.

Both the Bank of Thailand and the Finance Ministry have vehemently denied any intervention has taken place, saying the Baht is just moving roughly in line with other regional currencies. But then, no-one believes what central banks or governments say any more, do they?

However, the Baht has indeed underperformed other regional currencies by about 10% over the year ending in January, with many analysts blaming domestic politics for this weaker performance. Mark Mobius, the legendary fund manager at Templeton Asset Management who manages about $34 billion in emerging market funds, says the local economy, equity markets and currency have dragged since 2004 because of political risk.

Closer examination of the BoT’s foreign reserves data shows that the central bank has, however, been intervening in the money markets of late not to support but rather to weaken the Baht by purchasing US Dollars and selling off the local currency.

But very recent data shows some interesting and new emerging trends if you look at the region’s leading currencies and track their performance against the US Dollar. Over the past two years the Malaysian Ringit and Indonesian Rupiah have marginally outperformed the Baht, but the three have maintained a pretty tight pack, with the Philippine Peso lagging.

Over the past year only the Ringit and Rupiah outperformed the Baht, but only the Ringit did so for the first half of this year, although the Rupiah, Ringit and Vietnam Dong all outperformed Baht during the second quarter, even though the local currency has bounced a little since the end of the latest wave of political unrest in May.

Compounded by fears over the country’s political stability and the ability of local firms to fulfil orders, this strengthening Baht will directly affect sectors such as tourism and increasingly damage Thailand’s export competitiveness. Exports remain a key driver of the overall Thai economy accounting for as much as 75% of gross domestic product.

The threat of a serious weakening of major currencies - which some analysts see as inevitable with the greenback falling below THB25:USD1 - is heightening these fears.

Mitigating the impact of these currency issues calls for some intelligent action from the BoT. Opinions may be divided over what form that action should take, such as pegging the Baht to its current Dollar value prior to a collapse of the greenback, but the central bank has a long history of coming up with innovative, leftfield solutions to its foreign exchange problems.

When the local economy became more connected to global trade flows in the nineteenth century, Siam’s currency units, originally the Tical and then the Baht, were both derived from simply weight measures of the amount of silver they were composed of - a coin was literally worth its weight - a tical was a measure of weight equivalent to around 15 and a quarter grams - in silver. Foreign exchange rates were easily worked out as an approximation of the relative weights of the respective currencies and indeed were fixed against other silver-backed currencies. As a result when paper currency, backed by silver reserves, was introduced. Baht banknotes also had their values in Straits Dollars and Indian Rupees printed on them - 5 Baht being worth 7 Rupees or 3 Straits Dollars.

The decimalised Baht system was introduced in 1897, with one Baht divided by 100 satang. Five years later, in 1902, the government started to more actively manage and modernise the currency system in response to greater fluctuations in the relative values of gold and silver. While Baht had been fixed against silver-backed currencies, a fall in the price of silver relative to gold had weakened silver standard currencies such as the Baht against gold standard currencies such as Sterling. The Baht fell from eight to the Pound in the 1880s to 10 in the 1890s, then plummeting to 21.75 by 1902.

At this point many currencies abandoned the plunging silver standard but, prior to doing that, the Thai government initiated an ingenious method for revaluing the currency. The Baht was allowed to rise when the value of silver increased relative to that of gold, but any declines were simply ignored. By 1908, this method caused the currency strengthen to 13 Baht to the Pound, which allowed Siam to follow many other former silver standard countries and peg its value to that of what was still the major regional and global trading currency. The peg value was updated on a couple of occasions, to 12 Baht in 1919 and 11 Baht in 1923. Following World War II and a brief period of linkage to the Yen, the greenback replaced Sterling as the primary trade currency and therefore the peg currency for the Baht.

Nonetheless for 95% of the last century, from 1902-1997, the Baht was either a managed or pegged currency until the Asian financial crisis erupted in Thailand in July 1997. Floating the currency, which saw the Baht’s value roughly halve, hitting a low of 56 to the Dollar the following year, was a boon for exports - rising from 13% of GDP in 1972 to about 50% in 1998 - which declined in value but rose in volume, and tourism, which soared due to Thailand’s exceptional value.

But now the tables have turned. Asia is leading the global recovery and the region’s currencies are strengthening at a time when the West’s lacklustre economic fundamentals are leading into a disinflationary period that will be characterised by anaemic growth. Furthermore, Europe has been struck by a sovereign debt storm that could dwarf the 2008 financial crisis.

A more pragmatic “Thai” solution may exist, one which could help fend off the criticisms of protectionism that re-pegging the Baht will certainly bring. I’m not sure what such a solution would look like, but I have confidence that the economic wizards at the Bank of Thailand have more than a few impressive currency tricks hidden up their sleeves.

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 Brian Baxter

Scarface (1932 and 1983)

“If one does not love the films of Howard Hawks, one cannot love cinema.” Eric Rohmer

Fifty years and a seeming eternity separate the two versions of Scarface. One was made at the height of the depression, bootlegging and gangsterdom by the U.S.A.’s greatest native-born director, Howard Hawks. The second by a brilliant technician, Brian de Palma, who flaunts vividly coloured violence and a running time twice that of the original masterpiece.

They depict the rise and fall of a megalomaniacal hoodlum who, through sheer magnetism and audacity, rises to become the brutal head of a network of gangsters- only to find that his reach exceeds his grasp and that the world is not his for the taking.

In the first film, Tony Carmonte is played with power and concentration by Paul Muni whose finest hour was this movie and at the same period, I am a Fugitive from the Chain Gang. In the revamp Al Pacino acts with similar bravura, creating another volatile, ruthless monster, albeit a sleeker, crueler one.

A few months ago I wrote a column about genre movies, citing Scarface (Hawks) as the best ever gangster movie. Re-viewing it only confirms that view. No portrait of that era or of crime from a later period compares with it in vitality. For all the datedness of some aspects (over acting of the mother, occasional dialogue, a preachy sermon from a newspaper editor) it remains timeless and vividly true. It is an early work by Hawks who remained unsurpassed as a genre director from the early 1930s until El Dorado over four decades later.

With absolute mastery he tackled westerns (Red River, Rio Bravo), war movies (Dawn Patrol, Sergeant York), screwball comedy (Bringing up Baby), film noir (The Big Sleep), satire (I Was a Male War Bride), His Girl Friday), musical comedy (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), drama (To Have and to Have Not) and everything in between, including science fiction and historical epics and my personal favourite Only Angels Have Wings, starring Cary Grant whose work with Hawks was the highlight of a great career.

Quentin Tarantino described Hawks as “The greatest story teller in the history of cinema” but another director Jacques Rivette got to the heart of his stylistic genius writing, “Each shot has a functional beauty ….. the orderly succession of those shots has a rhythm like the pulsing of blood.” In short he was the exemplar of ‘camera stylo’, where the camera writes and owes nothing to any other medium, thanks to their unique sense of rhythm – the pre-requisite of film.

In Scarface, the star is the swaggering, vulgar Muni who dominates the film with his brutality and incestuous love for his sister, Cesca played wonderfully by Ann Dvorak. But it is Hawks’ camera that creates the vitality and makes the film so alive - watch the murder in the bowling alley, or the tommy gun and calendar montage,

among other startling sequences.

Scarface had a troubled history thanks to studio and censorship problems and there is a second ‘softer’ ending (shown on the same DVD among the extras). The film was dropped from circulation and only re-appeared thanks to Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘re-release’ in 1979. Perhaps that inspired the remake which appeared just four years later. That too is worth seeking out at the Film and Music DVD shop in Suthep Road, as is, of course, Coppola’s memorable Godfather series. Just remember that writer Ben Hecht and Hawks showed how it might be done.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Toy Story 3: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy – Do see this! It’s truly entertainment! Even better in 3D. Andy, the boy who owns the toys, is now 17 and ready to head off to college, leaving Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, and the rest of the toy-box gang to ponder their uncertain futures. Starring the voices of Tom Hanks and many other talented actors; there are 302 characters in the film! Has the same Pixar genius as WALL•E, and the heart of 2009’s Up. If you enjoyed those, don’t miss this. It’s inspired, and I loved every minute of it. In real 3D at Airport Plaza, 2D and Thai-dubbed only at Vista. Reviews: Universal acclaim.

Splice: (Canada/ France/ US, Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Two young, rebellious, and to me mostly repulsive scientists defy legal and ethical boundaries to forge ahead with a dangerous experiment: splicing together human and animal DNA to create a new organism. The creature rapidly develops from a deformed female infant into a beautiful but dangerous winged human-chimera, who forges a bond with both of her creators - only to have that bond turn deadly. I found the two leads disgusting human beings and their relationship with each other a dismaying demonstration of the worst in human behavior. An unpleasant movie. Rated R in the US for disturbing elements including strong sexuality, nudity, sci-fi violence, and language. I’m in the minority; it’s received generally favorable reviews.

Piranha 3-D: US, Action/ Horror/ Thriller – A new type of terror is about to be cut loose in a beautiful lake. After a sudden underwater tremor sets free scores of prehistoric man-eating fish, a group of strangers must band together to stop themselves from becoming fish food for the area’s new razor-toothed residents. With Richard Dreyfuss in the cast – you remember him, the original battler of things in the water that bite. Rated R in the US for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language, and some drug use.

Salt: US, Action/ Thriller – I found this engrossing, quite entertaining, and skillfully done. Just fun. And Angelina Jolie is magnetic, a true wonder, a star in the real sense of the word. A bombastic, complicated, old-school spy action-thriller. Generally favorable reviews.

Woochi / Jeon Woo Chi: The Taoist Wizard: South Korea, Action/ History – Popular record-breaking Korean film from last December, with many Korean stars. 500 years ago in the Chosun Dynasty, a time of evil goblins and Taoist Gods, the hero Woochi is a powerful and talented wizard not unlike Harry Potter. Framed as his master’s murderer, Woochi and his dog are imprisoned inside a scroll by three wizards until 2009, when he is freed by the wizards to battle with evil goblins in modern day Seoul, the same pack of curious goblins who made his life a living hell five centuries back. In Korean with Thai subtitles only, no English subtitles, at Vista only.

Hello Stranger / Kuan Muen Ho: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – Riding the local wave of fascination in all things Korean (but especially the boy-band, pop-star craze), comes another rom-com about Thais in that country of wonder that seems to breed only cute muppets. In Thai only, no English subtitles, and at Vista only.

The Expendables: (Scheduled.) US, Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – Directed by Sylvester Stallone. A team of mercenaries head to South America on a mission to overthrow a dictator. Rated R in the US for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language. Mixed or average reviews.

The Holy Man 3 / Luang Pee Teng 3: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – The continuing misadventures of a young, self-confident, and stubborn monk (once a rock star) who, in trying to escape from a world of confusion, only finds more confusion. In Thai only at Vista, English subtitles at Airport Plaza.

First Love / Little Thing Called Love / Sing Lek Lek: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – A young and ordinary high school girl has a big crush on a heartthrob senior at school, played by for-real heartthrob Mario Maurer. To make him see that she exists in his world, the girl tries to improve her physical looks and tries to become the star at school. In Thai only at Vista, English subtitles at Airport Plaza.

Scheduled for Sep 9

Resident Evil: Afterlife: UK/ Germany/ US, Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – The series continues. This time, in a world ravaged by a virus infection turning its victims into the Undead, Alice (Milla Jovovich), continues on her journey to find survivors and lead them to safety. Her deadly battle with the Umbrella Corporation reaches new heights. A new lead that promises a safe haven takes them to Los Angeles, but when they arrive the city is overrun by thousands of Undead. Rated R in the US for sequences of strong violence and language.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

I was sitting South on this distributional deal. Imagine you are sitting West and defending against my contract. You hear the bidding below. You lead a high diamond against three spades doubled, and this is what you see. Your lead is ruffed on board. Declarer leads the ace of hearts from dummy and then leads a low heart, with everyone following. You win. What is your plan for the defence? West dealt and North-South were vulnerable: 

                          S: KQ9852

                          H: AJ84

                          D: -

                          C: J42         

S: 6                                        S: ?

H: KQ2                                 H: ?

D: AK932                             D: ?

C: K1063                             C: ?

                          S: ?

                          H: ?

                          D: ?

                          C: ?                          

West    North     East        South

1D        Dbl          P              1S

Dbl       3S           Dbl          All pass 

Declarer’s play looks a little strange. Why not cross to his hand and try a finesse in hearts, leading towards dummy’s AJ, in the hope that West has the KQ? West did most of the bidding, so might well hold the missing high hearts. Then, if declarer leads twice towards dummy, he can score the jack. It looks like declarer has problems getting to his hand twice. Also, declarer did not try to pull trumps, in spite of having so many on board. Putting both these facts together, declarer probably has only two hearts and plans to ruff dummy’s two losing hearts in hand before pulling trumps.

So, is there any hope for the defence? If declarer has the ace of spades, then the answer is no. Declarer will win six spade tricks, the ace of hearts and two heart ruffs in hand, adding up to nine tricks. Even if East has the ace and queen of clubs, defence is still hopeless. All you can win is three clubs and a heart. So, the only hope for the defence is that East has the ace of spades and a couple more (and that seems likely from East’s double). Having thought that through, you lead a spade. Eureka! East wins the ace of spades and leads a low spade back. Now, declarer’s goose is cooked—see the full hand diagram below. Declarer takes five spade tricks, two aces, but only has one trump left in hand to ruff a heart. He goes down one doubled. 

                        S: KQ9752

                        H: AJ84

                        D: -

                        C: J42           

S: 6                                         S: A103

H: KQ10                               H: 9652

D: AK1032                           D: QJ7

C: K1063                              C: Q95

                        S: J84

                        H: 73

                        D: 98654

                        C: A87           

The bidding might need some explanation. West opened 1D and North doubled for takeout, instead of bidding his spades. This gives NS a chance to find a heart fit, if there is one. I briefly thought of passing the double, because of my long diamonds. However, my hand is so weak, I thought they would make 1D. So, I was left with a choice of two three card suits to bid. I chose spades because my partner’s takeout double guarantees at least four spades, and I could bid spades at the one level. West now doubled for takeout, telling his partner to bid something, and showing that he had a good hand. To my considerable alarm, partner bid three spades. East, with his good nine points and good spades, reasoned that EW must have the majority of the points (he was right—EW have 24 high card points to 16 for NS) and decided to double. It was a good decision, if only his partner were thinking about the defence.

Very fortunately for me, when I played it, West did not think the defence through. After winning the heart, he switched to a club. I won the ace in hand and ruffed a diamond to get back to board. A heart from board was ruffed low in hand and another diamond trumped on board. Now, another heart was ruffed in hand with the eight. By now, I had taken seven tricks—two aces, three diamond ruffs on board and two heart ruffs in hand—and I still had the KQx of spades on board and the jack in hand. Between them, I was bound to take two more tricks, making the contract. I was lucky—it should be defeated. Would your plan have got it down?

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


MAIL OPINION : By Shana Kongmun

It never rains but it pours

While the rains continue, the streets fill with water and we all don either our wading boots or our flip flops (depending on one’s personal concerns regarding “things” in the water) one word seems to be on everyone’s mind; flood!

The Mayor was concerned with heavy rains and told the Chiang Mai Mail that he planned on having the river dredged (from reports, it appears this may actually have been done), drains cleaned, canals unblocked and the water flow improved. He expressed the biggest concern for the water that cannot be controlled, that flowing down the mountains and into the basin that is Chiang Mai.

Regardless of what efforts have been made, we still have overflowing streets (mind the potholes you can no longer see) with Huay Kaew and the Night Bazaar inundated. The Ping River is dangerously close to overflowing and two villages have had their wooden bridge washed away in flash flooding.

That said, I also understand that the dams are not full and we are not necessarily out of the drought woods yet. With the water needs of the City and of the farmers and orchardists, we need full dams before we can breathe easily. So, here’s hoping that we receive enough water to get us through the next dry season without getting severely flooded out in the rainy season. What the odds are of that is a very good question indeed. In Chiang Mai, as in many parts of Thailand, it seems the happy medium is so difficult to find.


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

Monsoon gardening in the rain

So far this morning (August 7th) we have had 29 mm of rain –wonderful music in the ears of a gardener. The water itself is, of course, important as it will replenish our water reservoirs so we can endure the dry season. Mealy bugs which torment so many ornamentals in the dry season tend to disappear this time of the year, probably as myriads of predatory insects and spiders are around. Our roses always look terrible in the rainy season, because without spraying they disappear between chitin jaws. The prime time for roses is the dry season when many insects aestivate. Our workers do not come to Dokmai Garden when it is raining and my Thai family almost panic if I leave without an umbrella. Since Thai rains are warm I see no reason to stay indoors, or to stunt the work by devoting one hand to hold an umbrella. It is important to inspect the garden during the rains, making sure the drainage is sufficient. This morning I checked the outdoor shower, which contains representatives of all nine classes of land plants on earth. One pot with a native ’whisk fern’ (Psilotum nudum, ’rafa pu’) was accumulating water well above the soil surface. Such a poor drainage is not acceptable. I have to change the soggy rice bran with fluffy coconut fiber and fresh compost, and maybe exchange the pot with one equipped with better drainage holes. It can also be wise to put the pot high up. If I had studied the pot at a later time, I may not have seen the standing water, but being puzzled by the death of the plant. Quite often gardeners blame the termites for the death of their garden plants, but in most cases the termites simply feed on the already dead plant tissues. The cause of death of a plant may have been another insect, a fungus, dog urine or poor drainage. The freshness after a rain, the glistering emerald green and the break from the roasting sun is such a joy! www.dokmaigarden.co.th. www. dokmaidogma.wordpress.com.


Life in Chiang Mai: By Mark Whitman

Wasting lives

The strange disappearance of Uncle Boonmee

An American friend insisted recently – when driving without his seat belt fastened – that such a careless act was in ‘the name of freedom’. Since it was his car I had no right to comment further, except perhaps to note that in the event of an accident his likely incapacity might endanger other passengers. Rather like the dangers from passive smoking I guess. You have a right to kill yourself but not other people. This attitude is one I normally associate with the right wing elements of society – those who reject ‘state interference’, even in the name of sensible laws.

In Thailand this laissez-faire attitude is the consequence not of political thinking but more a social and cultural response: giving people their space, not interfering or commenting on their behaviour. The result is the same, of course. If you die as the result of stupidity or a so-called principle the effect is the same. Suffering for others, enormous cost, social problems. A needless death.

Choosing not to wear a crash helmet, or a seat belt, to drive carelessly or too fast or when drunk is unfair on other people: accidents cause chaos, leave dependents, hurt other people, cost vast amounts of time and money. They are sometimes inevitable: a temporary black out, a stray dog, a patch of oil, a careless pedestrian, failed brakes. Even so protecting yourself is just common sense.

And if people will not use their common sense, then this is a case when the law has to be enforced. So why don’t the authorities and police in Thailand finally grasp the nettle and do something about the carnage, especially at Songkran? Seat belts, since they were introduced in Sweden decades ago, have saved countless lives. As a long time Saab owner it has become second nature to buckle up. It is simply a case of ‘education’ and the little message – you know it makes sense.

Helmets are more of a problem. Over here a combination of the heat and vanity stop riders wearing them Also when they do many helmets are little better than useless, being too fragile and ill made. But being vain is simply no excuse. After all a smashed face is not much to be vain about. In Italy for years, youngsters carried their helmets. In Vietnam they disregarded the need for them as steadily as in Thailand.

In both countries the authorities decided enough was enough and clamped down hard. There are more road blocks these days than previously and more fines issued but it must surely be time for stricter action. Too little regard is paid to road safety here. The test is casual, vehicle road worthiness is disregarded, breath tests and speed checks hardly apply. And yet the number of cars and motor cycles increases daily by the thousand. And pedestrians are treated as fifth class citizens. Time for a change.

Uncle Boonmee

Many readers will recall that this May at the Cannes Film Festival a Thai feature film walked off - for the first time ever – with the Palme d’Or: the most prestigious prize in the film world. The film called in English ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’ was directed by the country’s foremost film maker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and was bought for distribution in many countries. It opened almost immediately after Cannes at one cinema in Bangkok for just a month of restricted screenings, one in the evening and two at weekends. It was not censored in any way and received a 15 certificate. In the one month run it took in one million baht at the box office.

Since then, silence. What has happened to the film? It has not played at any other cinema in the capital and so far as I know it has not been on view since. Certainly not in Chiang Mai. And yet the film was a sensation at the time. People who saw it commented on its gentle and stylish qualities. The film brought great honour to Thailand and to the film industry and of course to its talented director. The award was a piece of Thai history. Why was the success not built on? Is there some reason why people are afraid of celebrating such a success and a world class film director? Or is it simply a case of another type of censorship, against a film shot in the north east of Thailand and a director who speaks his mind?


Day Tripper: Wats of Chiang Mai

By Khun Chok

I’ve been living in Chyiang Mai for 2 years now and decided its time I started to look inside some of the local temples I drive past most days.

The closest to me is Wat Lok Molee on Chang Puak Rd. The entrance gate off the road to the Temple is guarded buy 2 giant Yaks (warriors). The temple itself is beautiful, has nice gardens with cute clay characters and the Chedi at the rear is one of the biggest and oldest in town.

The second temple visited was just down the road Wat Pa Pao, was suggested to me by a friend. It’s a Burmese Wat and not well maintained, so it has a real feel of age about it. It is small and simple with 4 dragon type figures protecting all corners of the Chedi. I really like being there, just gave me a calm feeling.

We visited two other Wats across the road, Sri Phum Rd, I’m sorry I didn’t get their names, One was closed , however the other has some beautiful porcelain Buddha statues in the temple and a very friendly monk with lots of questions. Any chance to practice their English.

Then off to the famous Wat Phra Singh,, its much bigger than the others with grounds to match, I really liked walking around the gardens at the rear, well planned to entice you around, well maintained and little surprises like the reclining Buddha in the small building at the rear. The huge canopy of trees keeps the gardens cool and relaxing. Wat Phra Singh is many people’s favorite.

Then to finish off this short tour we had lunch at Wat Suan Dok, Another of the larger temples, they have many other facilities for learning and education and a great little vegetarian restaurant on the grounds. The white Chedi are very stunning, amongst other structures, in time I will learn more terminology for the other structures.

There are dozens more wats to visit in Chiang Mai. I think they are a great place to be.


Depression and men

By Dr. Ron Perrin

For years, depression was seen as a woman’s issue. And given that women visit psychiatrists and counselors more than men do, and that women seem to have an easier time expressing their emotions, it’s understandable why mental health professionals were convinced that more women suffered from depression than men.

Yet men commit suicide four times more often than women do. More men than women abuse drugs and alcohol and initiate violence. Clearly, men aren’t less likely than women to become depressed; they’re just less likely to recognize and seek help for depression, and they have different ways of dealing with it.

Generally, men are raised to be in control, independent, strong and rational. We are trained to see life as a constant battle for what we consider our just rewards - - a good job, a nice house and car, a fit body, our machinelike mentality leaves little room for difficult emotions like confusion or sadness. It’s considered unmanly to even admit these feelings, which we believe will slow us down or, even worse, break us down. Rise above your hurts and pains, we are told.

Unfortunately, what happens to a lot of us in trying to “rise above” the pain is we turn to behaviors that numb the pain - - drugs, alcohol, affair, gambling. These devices exact a toll on our bodies, bringing down our physical health along with our metal health.

Depression affects our bodies. In a recent medical study depressed men were twice as likely as the nondepressed men to develop coronary artery disease or have a sudden cardiac death. The increased risk lasted for up to 10 years after the onset of their depression.

Growing old certainly involves a variety of life stressors that can lead to depression. Some people have trouble making the transition from full time productive careers to retirement. Others have been forced to retire because of chronic health problems or disability. For some, mounting medical bills threaten their future financial stability. The loss of a loved one, or serious illness in a lifelong friend, or in your spouse, can add tremendous caretaking responsibilities, and also creates much sadness. Lack of mobility, either due to physical illness, loss of driving privileges, can result in social isolation and loneliness. All these factors can lead to depression. However, despite these problems, older people are, for the most part, satisfied with their lives. Depression is not normal, at any age.

Depression disorders make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Such negative thoughts and feeling make some people feel like giving up. You should realize that these negative views are part of depression, and typically do not accurately reflect your life situation. Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect. Psychotherapy, especially cognitive psychotherapy, is specifically designed to change the negative thinking associated with depression. Confidential Appoiontments. Dr. Ron Perrin. Psychology – Psychotherapy. 085 – 6187245.