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

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Drug Addiction

Reading a book the other day, it mentioned that the principal character was on “purple hearts”. I remembered the popular drug nickname, but couldn’t remember its correct name, so I went to the purveyor of all knowledge, Mr. Google.

Sure enough, one of the sites gave me “Drinamyl” (the trade name) and my mind could stop enquiring; however, the information on the site was more than just comprehensive, it was terrifying. Just go to http://www.cocaine.org/argot.htm and you will see why. Just how many illicit drugs is the world consuming these days? Forget the YaBa and Ice as used by the ‘clubbing’ set locally, the list of the so-called recreational drugs is beyond comprehension. That site alone has 24 pages of drugs and drug slang terms, most of which I have never heard of. Perhaps I am knocking around with the wrong crowd?

Back to the list: have you ever tried an Amp joint - a marijuana cigarette laced with some form of narcotic? Did you know your aunties? Aunt Hazel - heroin, Aunt Mary - marijuana and Aunt Nora - cocaine?

Then after all the slang terminology comes the list of substances people out there are trying, forgetting the usual heroin, cocaine, rohypnol, marijuana and LSD and mescaline, but there are drugs such as PCP (phencyclidine), methcathinone, psilocybin/psilocin, MDMA, fentanyl, gamma hydroxy butyrate and more. It prompts the question, what is wrong with today’s society, that it has to retreat from the ‘normal’ world into the drug culture?

As a practicing doctor, you become used to the endless streams of drug addicts who try all kinds of inventive ways to get you to prescribe their particular drug of addiction. There are the ones who appear with multiple photocopies of reports from hospitals overseas stating that the person is on the waiting list for some operation, but in the meantime needs XXXX (which of course is just one of the addictive drugs the person is taking). Then there is the patient who comes in and appears to be very open about it all, “I am a drug addict, doctor, and I am under Dr. Somebody in some Other-Town (a long way away). Dr Somebody gives me enough medication for a week, but unfortunately I have to stay here for an extra two days. Can you just let me have enough for two days, that’s all, as I’ll be back in Other-Town on Monday to see him?” If you ring the telephone number given as the doctor’s surgery, it either never answers, or it is a lone voice claiming to be that doctor, but who very quickly gets tripped up when asked some medical questions. Yes, drug addicts can be inventive.

Then there are the ones, usually female, who play on your heart strings. “Doctor, I’ll be honest with you, I have been a drug addict, but I am giving up next week. I’ll not be needing any more after that, but if you could just give me a week’s supply, I’ll come back and see you next week for you to guide me through the withdrawals, because I know I can trust you.” (Yeah, Yeah!)

Like most doctors in the front line, you persevere with these drug addicts for a while, but eventually you give up. I had a sign on the wall of the waiting room which said, “Under no circumstances, will Schedule 8 drugs be prescribed.” But they still tried.

In 40 years of medicine I have only seen one successful ex-heroin addict. One. I have my own theory about this, and this is not the result of research, but just a gut feeling after observing drug addicts and their behavior for many years. I believe that after a period of time, the drugs permanently affect the working of the brain, so “normal” or rational decisions are not made, and in fact can no longer be made.

By the way, if you think the drug culture has some sort of honor amongst thieves, it doesn’t. They even have their own slang terms for those who rip each other off. A “Beat artist” is a person selling bogus drugs and “Beat vials” are vials containing sham crack to cheat buyers.

Please keep your children away from drugs.

 

Introducing Rascal

Since his sterilisation, this little rascal has turned into a much calmer, gentler, less dominant dog with lots of love to give - as well as his undying loyalty – to the right owner.

Rascal is a healthy, good-looking medium sized boy of 1-2 years old. It’s about time he left the shelter and went to his forever home. Could Rascal be the King of your Castle?

If you think you could offer Rascal a place in your heart…Contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) email: [email protected] to make an appointment to meet him. www.carefordogs.org.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

Thanks again for taking the time to reply to us, and I truly understand your reply. Of course I meant the back of the head slapping in the proverbial sense. Everyone comes here with the idea of a good time or life in mind. It was just an idea I had while sitting here at the computer bored during a recent rain, contemplating the problems of my two-week millionaire friends. You were right about every aspect of your reply, and I now feel my offer was way out of bounds. You do just wonderful on your own, and there are other places for me to offer whatever advice I could provide. That is until I find something more worthwhile to do with my time.

In previous posts I mentioned we are newly retired here, and now that most of the business of that is done, it is time for me to find other activities more suited to our lifestyle than worrying about the troubles of farangs which is your job. It is time for us to get involved with more like minded expats. We haven’t been in a bar in two weeks, not even those owned by my friends. So while you are current on the changes in Thailand, I’d be speaking of only history, a time that has passed never to return.

Of course I will continue to read your column, but I think maybe the next time you hear from me it will because I’ll be the one needing the advice. Hope that time never comes, but I know where to find you if I need you.

Have a great day, keep doing what you do.
Les and Lawan

Dear Les and Lawan,
How gracious of you, and I do hope you find something to fill in the days, now that you are retired. The old advice is still the best - find a hobby, but make sure the hobby isn’t 150 cm tall with long black hair. That hobby can be quite dangerous. Golf is safer. Best of luck to you both.

Dear Hillary,
Our son is 21 and still lives with us in the condo. He hasn’t got a job, so spends most of his time in front of the computer. The other day I wanted to use it and found that when I checked on the history in the menu, he has been regularly looking at porn sites. Every day! Is this dangerous? Should I, or his father, speak to him about this? Or should we just ban him from using the internet? I am very worried about this, but hope that you may have come across this sort of problem before.
Marie

Dear Marie,
This ‘problem’ is far from new. I am sure your husband would have secretly read his father’s collection of Playboy magazines, generally “hidden” under the bed, and it wasn’t for the words either. The porn sites on the internet are really just the same as the ‘naughty’ pictures used to be in the girlie magazines, for the same reasons. Don’t even think that banning his internet time will work. However, you do have a problem - and that is a 21 year old son with no job and not enough to do with his time. Why is he not at college or university? Why is he not employed? The voyeur aspect you are worried about is part of growing up. Lazing around the house is not. I suggest you and your husband come to grips with this and get something for the young man to do. And soon.

Dear Hillary,
I’ve been away for a couple of years and since I’ve come back I see it’s the same old same old problem, but if these guys stopped to read your column they would stop a lot of heartache. The girls are great fun, but for the sake of the little man, don’t get serious. How many times do they need to be told, if it seems they can’t read either? Just sign me off as “Amazed”.

Dear Amazed,
Like you, initially I was amazed, but no longer. The males who write to me, remind me of the behavior of lemmings, where the whole pack rush over the cliff, leading to total destruction. The unsuspecting male tourists come here in packs, complete plane-loads it seems, and they descend on the bars, where the ladies of the night are waiting like killer whales ready to eat baby seals. And do they ever get eaten! And when the tourists get back to their home countries and send off the money they promised to their faithful darlings, after a few months the rush of hormones slows down and they wonder what they have done, and then start to complain to me, and how do they get their money back after their mate tells the sucker that his faithful girl did not go back to the village, but is still working from the bar. Really you have to hand it to the bar girls. Every last one of them turns in Oscar winning performances, so they deserve the financial rewards they get, and the over-eager males deserve the financial drain that comes from it. Do they read? No, they haven’t got the time!


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Bracketing for beginners

Bracketing is one of the best ways to ensure that you get as close to perfectly exposed photographs as possible. It is an essential in pro photography, and is easy to do for amateurs. But most weekend photographers have never heard of it. Why?

If you read any good photographic book and you will come across “bracketing”. With modern cameras being so good, almost intuitive if you read the publicity blurb (hint: don’t read the blurb, but do read the manual), then why should bracketing still be necessary?

First off, let’s define bracketing. This is taking the same subject three times with three different settings. Basically, more light than you imagine is needed, the correct amount of light, and finally, less light than you imagine.

Now I do not really care how you get the “correct” setting, whether you get it from the camera’s built-in light meter, or from a hand held light meter, or even if you used the photojournalist’s f 8 and be there, the important factor is just that you do have a ‘starting point’ to work from.

I am also aware that most cameras these days do have a good metering system, taking readings from various points in the viewfinder and working out a good average, but you must remember that all the camera can do is give you a ‘good average’. This does not mean that it is the ‘best’ exposure.

There is much in the literature, too, about how good digital cameras are in problematical light situations. Surely the digital range is enough to get you out of trouble, under any situation? Simple answer is, No. If you are looking for a really good final image, you have to give the camera as close as you can to the ideal exposure for that picture. There are limits in how far you can go away from the ideal.

What I am preaching here is that you should always try for excellence in your photographs. Do not think that if there is not enough light, then you can fix it all with Photoshop or other fancy computer technology. You can’t. It will end up as a trade-off between detail, brightness and contrast. And nothing beats correct exposure in the first place.

So we return to bracketing, one of the oldest methods of getting a properly exposed print, and still significant in the digital age. As stated above, you have to have a starting point, and what you have to do is to decide just what is the main element in the photograph you wish to take. Is it the person, or is it the countryside, or is it the building, or water on a lotus leaf? Having decided on the main element try and get a light meter reading from it. Even walk up close so that the main element fills the viewing screen and get your initial light meter reading exposure values. This is the starting point, so set you camera to the values indicated. Such and such f stop at so and so shutter speed. If you have metered correctly, then you will get an image that is close to perfect. But only “close”. To get that perfect exposure, now you bracket.

The easy way is to take two more shots, one set at half a stop “under” exposed and the other at half a stop “over” exposed. Now you can do this easiest by changing the f stop (aperture) by half a stop, as most lenses have the half stop increments, while the camera has full stops with the shutter speeds.

The three shots shown here were bracketed with the half an f stop increments, as it is always very difficult to estimate bright exposures. As you can see, the third one is probably best, though the first one is also acceptable. The dark one is throw away value only!

Nest time you are trying something just a little tricky - remember to bracket the exposure!


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Is everything as bad as some people say? Part 2

For the past two weeks we’ve been looking at the facts. Now let’s see what one of the world’s leading economists, Nouriel Roubini thinks about it all. For those that do not know who Roubini is, he forecast the property market, financial and banking crises. He is worried because:

- “The crisis is not over…we (will) move from a private to a public debt problem. We socialized part of the private losses by bailing out financial institutions and providing fiscal stimulus to avoid the great recession from turning into a depression. But rising public debt is never a free lunch, eventually you have to pay for it.”

- He also believes Greece will lead to catastrophes in other countries, “We have to start to worry about the solvency of governments. What is happening today in Greece is the tip of the iceberg of rising sovereign debt problems in the Eurozone, in the UK, in Japan and in the US. This... is going to be the next issue in the global financial crisis.”

- Roubini believes that Greece, Spain and Portugal will have to leave Euroland. Naturally this will cause real problems for the Euro as a major reserve currency.

- Weak governments in the west worry him as in the US the Democrats and Republicans just seem to want to look after themselves and not the country. Roubini is also concerned about Germany where Merkel has lost the majority in the legislature. This is not all; Japan has a weak government as does Greece.

- Surprisingly, he is cautiously optimistic about the UK as the new coalition shows signs of sticking together but he does say the GBP6 billion of cuts is not nearly enough. However, they do have the benefits of an independent currency although that itself may cause problems as, “inflation will go up and that erodes the real value of public debt. In that scenario the value of the pound will fall sharply.”

- If Euroland is to survive then it should follow the Germany model and go through the comparative short term pain of “structural reform and corporate restructuring”. However, the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) may not have enough time to do this before they go under.

- Roubini reckons, “We are still in the middle of this crisis and there is more trouble ahead of us, even if there is a recovery. During the Great Depression the economy contracted between 1929 and 1933, there was the beginning of a recovery, but then a second recession from 1937 to 1939. If you don’t address the issues, you risk having a double-dip recession and one which is at least as severe as the first one.” He ends, “We are witnessing the worst global economic crisis in the last 60 to 70 years.”

There is almost a never-ending source of information about the situation we are now in. The important thing now is how to interpret all of this and try to take advantage of it. Before we do that, let’s look as things as they stand now:

- All the central banks will do for the foreseeable future is print money 24/7. As one of my favourite people, Dr. Marc Faber, said recently, “Central banks love to see asset prices go up.” The problem is that this seems their only goal and they have no other plans.

- The great misbelief that people have is that printing money can get a nation and its people back to the good life. This is just rubbish. To quote Faber again, “If debt and money printing equalled prosperity then Zimbabwe would be the richest country.” Then, and I love this, “Mugabe is the economic mentor of Bernanke.”

- The US housing bubble was built on debt and this debt is still around and will be with us for a long time to come.

- Faber also asks the question when the housing bubble was still going on, “You have to ask what they were smoking at the Federal Reserve” as prices were increasing by nearly 20% at the same time interest rates were going up.

- People seem to have lost faith in the banks and the markets and so are hoarding their money. If the economies of the western world are to get a kick-start then the money supply needs to be inflated by a minimum of six percent per annum.

- The fiscal problems that exist are actually a lot worse than we are being told. When one adds together the private and public debt and then includes unfunded liabilities as well, then the total debt works out to be more than 800% of GDP. This is more than twice what it was in 1929.

- The currencies of the western world will depreciate. It is the central banks that are not in control, because they continue to use the printing presses, not the markets. However, this may provide light at the end of the tunnel. It must be remembered that when the Mexican Peso went down by 95% nearly 30 years ago, Mexican funds became so undervalued they ended up a real bargain. Hopefully the same may happen again although it must be said that the light at the end of the tunnel may be a train with a bloody great headlamp heading straight for you.

- In a survey conducted by the UK Telegraph many economists forecast that, “the Euro will have broken up before the end of this Parliamentary term.”

- The survey’s findings underline suspicions that the new Chancellor, George Osborne, will have to fire-fight a full-blown crisis in Britain’s biggest trading partner in his first years in office.

- Of the 25 leading City economists who took part in the Telegraph survey, 12 predicted that the Euro would not survive in its current form this Parliamentary term, compared with eight who suspected it would. Five declared themselves undecided. The finding is only one of a number of remarkable conclusions, including that:

- German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s acknowledgement that the Euro is facing an “existential crisis” has done the Euro no favours.

- Two of the eight experts who predicted that the currency would survive said it would do so only at the cost of seeing at least one of its members default on its sovereign debt. Andrew Lilico, chief economist at think tank Policy Exchange, said there was “nearly zero chance” of the Euro surviving with its current membership, adding: “Greece will certainly default on its debts, and it is an open question whether Greece will experience some form of revolution or coup - I’d put the likelihood of that over the next five years as around one in four.”

- Douglas McWilliams of the Centre for Economics and Business Research said the single currency “may not even survive the next week”, while David Blanchflower, professor at Dartmouth College and former Bank of England policymaker, added: “The political implications [of Euro disintegration] are likely to be far-reaching - Germans are opposed to paying for others and may well quit.”

- Four of the economists said that despite the wider suspicion that Greece or some of the weaker economies may be forced out of the currency, the most likely country to leave would be Germany. Peter Warburton of consultancy Economic Perspectives said: “Possibly Germany will leave. Possibly other central and eastern European countries - plus Denmark - will have joined. Possibly, there will be a multi-tier membership of the EU and a mechanism for entering and leaving the single currency. I think the project will survive, but not in its current form.”

- Tim Congdon of International Monetary Research said: “The eurozone will lose three or four members - Greece, Portugal, maybe Ireland - and could break up altogether because of the growing friction between France and Germany.”

- The recent worries about the Euro’s fate followed the creation last month of a USD1 trillion bail-out fund to prevent future collapses. Although the fund boosted confidence initially, investors abandoned the Euro after politicians showed reluctance to support it wholeheartedly.

So, are things as bad as some people say? Yes, absolutely! At the risk of sounding like a broken record the solution is to diversify as much as you can and put as many eggs into as many different baskets as you can. The East is outpacing the West when it comes to buying. They are purchasing more cars and using more oil than ever before. They are expanding whilst the American and European nations are not. According to the US Census Bureau the world’s population is 6.8 billion and 80% of them are from the emerging markets. In fact one third of the world’s people come from just two countries and both of these are in Asia - India and China.

- Emphasis should go on:
a) Emerging markets - especially Asia
b) Precious metals
c) Agriculture
d) Water
e) Oil
f) Healthcare

AND above all LIQUIDITY! There is money to be made and it is possible to beat the banks with good, low volatility funds but do not have any loyalty to one asset class and consider concentrating more on Asian currencies.

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

Insomnia (Norway 1997) Insomnia (U.S.A. 2002)

It’s easy to knock movie sequels and remakes, despite exceptions such as Godfather 11 and French Connection 11 which are better than their predecessors. Remakes are even more problematic since we often recall the original with nostalgia, perhaps affection and when travesties such as the Coen Bros. reworking of The Lady Killers or George Sluizer’s own remake of his classic The Vanishing or the incomparable Michael Haneke’s U.S. version of his Party Games come along we justifiably recoil in horror. And no one has ever explained the rationale behind Gus van Sant’s shot for shot remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho.

But in the case of the two versions of Insomnia there is less of a problem for two reasons: first the original was not that widely seen and secondly the American version is also extremely good. The Norwegian original with a screenplay by Nikolai Frobenius became a critical and fairly commercial success and Hollywood and the British born director Christopher Nolan decided that it deserved an English language version with a bigger budget (40 million dollars as against less than two million) was called for.

Nolan and co. kept to the original concept and although their movie is over 20 per cent longer (118 minutes against 96) and has international stars it still has quite a gritty feel to it, though it is less tough than Erik Skoldbjaerg’s original Insomnia. The narrative tells of a brilliant homicide detective who is brought to an alien environment to sort out a murder which has the locals baffled.

Early on in his investigation he accidentally shoots his police partner, which just happens to be somewhat fortunate given his somewhat murky past. The film is as much a psychological examination of the increasingly fraught cop as it is a dark thriller. In the original the cop is superbly played by Swedish actor Skellan Skargard, with an unnervingly cool detachment and complete lack of sentimentality. Five years later Al Pacino did the honours and again acts brilliantly, presenting a character also with ice in his veins and little sense of remorse.

It’s slightly difficult to pin point the fundamental difference between these two intriguing movies, though the superficial changes are there to see, one has the guy traveling from Sweden to a remote part of northern Norway, where it is light almost 24 hours a day. The second shifts an L.A. cop north to Alaska and he too is unable to sleep in the new environment. The backgrounds are each fascinating and the locals well drawn as are the local female police chief who admires the newcomer but gradually uncovers the truth and the killer they are both hunting.

So what’s the real difference? Why are they both worth watching? In the first version the policeman is a darker portrait of a disturbed man. He is at one stage actually willing for a young man – the murdered girl’s boyfriend – to take the blame if it gets him and the real killer off the hook. His cold nature is nowhere better shown than by that and another specific scene. He needs a bullet from the killer’s gun, which he has found, to replace the bullet from his own gun held in evidence. It has to have been fired into an animate object.

In the original the cop finds a large dog in a nearby alley. He takes it some food and whilst it is eating shoots it, quickly extracting the bullet from the dead creature which he then tips into a large refuse cart. Too tough for Hollywood? Certainly. In the remake Pacino discovers an already dead dog, shoots it and extracts the bullet.

Both the men are self serving, selfish liars but Skargaard goes the whole way suggesting the man’s utter loneliness, his sexual frustrations and a teetering on the edge of insanity. Pacino is also intense (so what else is new?), edgy and tired but there’s still room for a glimpse of humanity – Hollywood style. Both these movies are available from the DVD Film and Music Shop in Suthep Road, just across from the arts building of CMU University.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps: US, Drama – Oliver Stone directs this follow-up to the acclaimed 1987 film – 23 years later. There are some really good turns by a number of people: Michael Douglas, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella, Josh Brolin. Some of their scenes are well-done with a lot of intensity in the execution. But without much point or purpose, for me. Oliver Stone seems to visit many of the events of the financial crisis without explaining what’s really going on. I think if you were very familiar with the events, you could bring your already-formed feelings to bear on the scenes you witness, but without being so primed, it really makes no sense. Everyone is very intense and angry and confrontational about something, but what about is not explained. They might give the excuse that the issues and the manipulations are way too complicated to explain to the populace in a popular movie, but I don’t think that’s true. Hard work, and requires thought, but very possible. The comics do it all the time, and Jay Leno and the others do it every night. Think of Jon Stewart, or Bill Maher.

I find the movie profoundly unsatisfactory; too many things don’t make sense, that seem to sound an alarm, but without any clarity about what the alarm is about. Still, it shows a lot of skill in filming scenes where much of great moment seems to be happening. Mixed or average reviews.

Devil: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – A group of people trapped in an elevator realize that the devil is among them. Produced by M. Night Shyamalan, which the directors and crew are desperately trying to live down, being that his name, post-Airbender, is as welcome as the devil himself. Mixed or average reviews.

Detective Dee: China/ Hong Kong, Action/ Crime/ Thriller – When the mysterious deaths of a series of loyal subjects threatens to delay the 690 A.D. inauguration of Empress Wu Zetian, she summons the infamous Detective Dee back from an exile into which she cast him eight years earlier. Starring Andy Lau and Tony Leung, and based on a Chinese folk hero.

Resident Evil: Afterlife: UK/ Germany/ US, Horror/ Sci-Fi – The series continues. Terrible reviews, but the series has always been a big hit in Thailand; they must have found the formula that works here. Rated R in the US for sequences of strong violence and language. Generally negative reviews. 3D and 2D versions at Airport Plaza; 2D and Thai-dubbed only at Vista.

The 3D version is real 3D, using the same cameras James Cameron created for Avatar. His systems and cameras remain at the cutting edge of 3D technology. Why they would want to use this marvelous technology for a zombie flic is another question entirely, but I want to help clear up the confusion as to what kind of 3D is actually being used under the generic and often misleading label of “3D.”

Eternity / Chua Fah Din Sa Lai: Thai, Drama/ Romance – A class act in many ways, and always solid Thai filmmaking. It’s one of the most interesting Thai movies to come along in some time, for a number of reasons. Based on a revered and classic Thai novel of 1943, the film depicts a forbidden love story in which adulterous lovers are physically chained together for all eternity. Starring Ananda Everingham.

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. A real hit in Thailand, it’s been the top film by a considerable margin since August 19.

The Snow White / Tai Tang Glom: Thai, Horror/ Thriller –Two students stealthily dissect the dead body of a pregnant woman just to get the dead infant in her belly to do black magic. But the magic doesn’t work, and they’re hunted by the ghost of the dead woman. Rated 18+ in Thailand. At Airport Plaza only.

Scheduled for Oct 7

Red Eagle / Insee Daeng: Thai, Action/ Thriller – Ananda Everingham puts on a red mask and gets into action in this re-launch of an action franchise from the 1950s and ’60s that starred the legendary leading man Mitr Chaibancha. A highly anticipated, wildly hyped movie.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (3D): US, Animation/ Fantasy – A new animated feature that has gotten wide-ranging interest for its cutting-edge animation, and use of 3D. It’s about a young barn owl who is kidnapped by the owls of St. Aggie’s, ostensibly an orphanage, but where owlets are brainwashed into becoming soldiers. Our hero escapes to the island of Ga’Hoole, to help its noble owls fight the army being created by the wicked rulers of St. Aggie’s.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

This column was printed in the last issue, but unfortunately a bug crept during the printing process and scrambled the hand diagram, with the result that it was incomprehensible. I hope that it makes more sense this time around. The deal comes from a Bridge Club of Chiang Mai coaching session. South dealt and East-West were vulnerable. The question is how to bid it.

                        

The bidding that actually occurred at the session is shown below. You may well think that is perfectly reasonable bidding and ask why the deal is of any interest. One reason is that N-S can make a five diamond game, but stopped at only the three level. West will probably lead the jack of hearts, partner’s bid suit. Declarer wins this and pulls one round of trumps, noting the fall of the queen. This indicates a 4-1 split and means that West has a natural trump trick. If West ruffs therefore this will cost declarer nothing, because any ruff will be at the expense at a natural trick. Consequently, declarer switches to clubs so as to be able to ruff a club on board if necessary. When West wins the ace of clubs he cannot afford to lead trumps, because this gives up the natural trick. He will probably lead a spade which declarer ruffs. Declarer continues playing on clubs, ruffing the fourth round on board, and now pulls two more rounds of trumps and plays out high hearts. In total the defence can score no more than one trump and the ace of clubs. 

South   West       North     East

1D        P              1S           2H

3C        P              3D           All pass 

Declarer’s game is not the only one that can be made. East-West can make four spades, played by East, against any likely defence. South, being void in spades, is unable to lead a trump to cut down on ruffing on board and will probably lead a high heart or club. The third round of hearts will be ruffed on board and the defence will likely take only two hearts and a diamond.

So here is a deal where both sides can make game, but not bid them! I cannot see any reasonable way for North-South to bid their five diamond game and I certainly cannot see how East-West can find their four spade game, particularly after North bids spades. So how would you bid the deal in such a way as to find the available games?

Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site 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

Upcoming World Animal Day

There are a plethora of these “World Days”; from Indigineous People to Non-violence, Literacy, Tuberculosis, and more, and all causes worthy of honoring and consideration. However, World Animal Day, which will be held in Chiang Mai this month, is a cause dear to my heart as so many animals’ plight is a direct result of human interference. They have no voice so someone must speak for them. World Animal Day is being held a day early, on Sunday, October 3 at the CMU Art Center and a long list of local and national organizations are taking part.

Originally started by ecologists in 1931 by scientists concerned over the plight of endangered species, the event has evolved into including all animal life and is celebrated in many countries around the world.

October 4 is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. A man who was well known for his love of animals. This is the man who said, “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.” An attitude not always found even today, 784 years after his death. While not a Catholic, one can’t help but admire his love of animals and concern for their welfare.

World Animal Day celebrates animal life and urges us all honor the diverse ways they enrich our lives, honor their relationships with us and to campaign on the five freedoms for all animals; freedom from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury and disease, the freedom to express behavior appropriate for their species and freedom from fear and distress.

As the latest landmine victim made her painful way over the border from Burma to the Lampang Elephant hospital, it is a sad fact that for many creatures under our care, this is not the case. So, join the event on Sunday where the Chiang Mai Zoo, Lampang National Elephant Institute, Elephant Nature Park, Friends of the Asian Elephant, Care for Dogs, Lanna Dog Rescue, the TSCPCA and more will be on hand with booths, information and more. Feel free to bring your pets and learn more about the ways we can help those who must rely on us to voice their cause.


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

What is a rain forest?

In the previous garden column I listed some temperate species which are very difficult to grow in the Chiang Mai valley, and some which are possible to grow. The reasons for the difficulties are either lack of cold at our elevation (around 350 meters above the sea level), and/or excess humidity and water during the hot rainy season. Since it is difficult to induce cold in the Chiang Mai valley, temperate species are harder to grow than tropical rain forest plants. The term ’rain forest’ means different things to different people. It was originally coined by Schimper in 1898 to describe ever-wet forests without dry seasons. Such forests are rare on earth, so an expanded definition by later authors suggest that a rain forest has no leafless period, a maximum drought of 4 weeks and an annual rainfall of minimum 1800 mm per year. Such forests occur between the 5ฐ parallels north and south of the equator. Even if we use this expanded definition, there are no rain forests anywhere in Thailand. When we watch nature programs on TV, the speaker usually use the term ”tropical rain forest”, which is why many people believe the tropics automatically means a rain forest climate. The ’tropics’ is defined by astronomy, a place where the sun, at least parts of the year, will be directly above the head of you (zenith). This occurs between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn (the parallels 23ฐ 26’ north and south). Chiang Mai is situated at the 18th parallel and therefore we are well within the tropics. Within the tropics there are rainforests, glaciers, deserts or monsoon climate like in Chiang Mai. The monsoon climate is a heat-driven weather system, with periods of rains and droughts. The Chiang Mai climate  resembles central India more than Bangkok. Of nationalistic and fund raising reasons, tourist attractions and even local scientists use the term ’rain forest’ for any tropical forest. For a gardener, it is important to know in what climate a plant thrives, to create a glorious garden. www.dokmaigarden.co.th. www.dokmaidogma.wordpress.com.


Life in Chiang Mai: By Mark Whitman

Twenty questions

A few of which actually deserve an answer

1.In which month during the year 2015/2558 will Chiang Mai achieve a total traffic gridlock?

2. Will there be a general election in Thailand before Song Kran..that’s Song Kran 2010/2555?

3. Is the election scheduled for Burma this November a complete sham?

4. Or just a 99percent sham?

5. Why do some farangs look as though they have dressed in the dark, from clothing most charities would reject?

6. Are these the same farangs who choose to remain in Thailand and spend much of their time whinging and complaining about life here?

7. Will the baht fall against major currencies during the coming few months without government intervention?

8. Is there a chance of a high season in holiday centres without such a fall?

9. When will the award winning movie Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives eventually surface in Chiang Mai?

10. What dictates the policy in the Vista Cinemas in Kad Suan Kaew showing foreign films dubbed into Thai and Thai films without English sub titles?

11. Will the derelict areas around the night bazaar and behind the d2 hotel ever be redeveloped?

12.If so, to where will the remaining five sleaze bars relocate?

13. Since so many Thais (reportedly 92 per cent) are Buddhists, devout or otherwise, why do they eat meat and allow so many animals to suffer in so many ways?

14. Are the animal sections (alligators, tigers an so on) in Pattaya’s Million Year Stone Park the most pathetic among the Kingdom’s many ill kept ‘attractions’?

15. Why do normally polite young Thais wear T- shirts emblazoned with slogans such as ‘A good f… deserves a good breakfast’?

16. Why are so many second- rate farang restaurants in Chiang Mai still in business?

17. Is it because they charge far more than they should and gullible tourists don’t know any better?

18. Will Thai wine ever achieve true international status?

19.Will the government ever see sense about the over high tax on wine and also the stupidity and impracticality of having parts of the day forbidding the sale of alcohol to adults shopping in super markets and other outlets?

20. Why did the Thai chicken cross the road in Huay Kaew?


Day Tripper: A gem of a museum

By Heather Allen

I must admit to a fascination with museums. Especially ones in old buildings. I enjoyed the Seri Thai museum in Phrae, set in a wonderful old Colonial style building. And I was in seventh heaven at the Dara Pirom Palace Museum. Originally built in 1914 by a former Royal Consort of King Chulalongkorn, Phra Ratchachaya Chao Dararasmi, born in 1873, she was the 11th and youngest daughter of Phrachao Inthawichayanon, the 7th Lord of Chiang Mai. Reputed to be a beauty, she lived in Bangkok until HM the King’s passing when she returned to Chiang Mai and built this lovely golden teak home encompassing Thai and Western features. After her death in 1933 the home became the property of Chulalongkorn University and fell into disrepair. Renovated in 1998, and made into a museum, this lovely old building features furniture and other pieces that belonged to the Princess as well as a room featuring Northern Thai textiles. Found inside the Dara Rasmi Border Patrol Police Camp in Mae Rim, the entrance is about 200 meters past the camp entrance. Open Tuesday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.