Vol. V No. 46 - Saturday December 2, - December 8, 2006
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Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

The Doctor's Consultation  by Dr. Iain Corness

Check-ups - what do I need?

After writing about check-ups last week, I have had many queries as to which particular package was indicated for the people concerned. Unfortunately, asking “What package should I have,” is almost like asking “How long is a piece of string?” However, there are some general guidelines you should follow, and much depends on your age and your personal and family medical histories. I shall try and unravel the piece of string for you now.
If you are a non-smoker under 30 years of age, play sport every weekend, train regularly during the week, have never visited a doctor other than childhood immunizations and have both sets of grandparents alive and well, then a very simple general check-up is all that is needed. You are not at high risk, but it is good to have a baseline to compare against as you get older, and congratulations on being a far-thinking person! For the Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, the “Essential” check-up package will provide that good baseline, and if everything is normal, then a repeat check every two years will be fine.
If you are under 40 years of age, but by now have given up the regular training and weekend sport, you are in a somewhat different situation medically. Your ‘risk’ category is higher and now is the time to really look at your cardiovascular system in particular. Lipid (blood fats) profile and a check on your red and white cells and a blood sugar reading will indicate most major future problem areas. If both sets of your grandparents are still around to celebrate your birthday, and your check-ups have been normal, then continue your biennial check-ups, but if the grandparents are dying off, then step up the frequency of the checks to every year, and ask for the Deluxe check-up package. There is also the personal question of sexual history. If you have been in the habit of going to some of the pleasure palaces specializing in horizontal recreations (and you know what I mean), then you should add in an AIDS and Hepatitis screen as well. Relax, it is a simple blood test!
By the time you are in the 40-50 age bracket, physical wear and tear has become evident. You are also looking very intently at whether you have become “at risk” from the cardiac point of view. Now is the time you should be looking at exercise stress tests and vascular screening (called the ABI or Ankle Brachial Index). This is in the Superior package. Now is also the time that you have to apply yourself to correct any lifestyle factors which are going against your general health. Now! Before it is too late. And, by the way, if you are female then you should throw a Thin Preparation Pap Smear into the annual equation as well.
But it gets worse! When you pass the magic 50 number, you have reached the age where you really have to be watchful. From your age factor, if nothing else, you are considered to be ‘at risk’. If you have become overweight, smoke cigarettes and get no exercise, then you have a much greater risk! It is the Superior package again, but if you are a male, then you should add in your prostate cancer screen, the PSA blood test (as well as the others such as AIDS/Hepatitis if you are still indulging in nocturnal horizontals).
By the time you pass 60, then it might even be prudent to look at the Premier check-up package. This checks everything from head to toe. Really! It even includes a foot massage! It is commensurately more expensive, and even requires you to spend some time in the hospital ward, but if you are having some doubts about your health, then it might be worth the indulgence.
Please remember that these recommendations are very general. If you have been having some symptoms of disease, or have a poor family history, then it is worthwhile discussing these with the doctor before deciding which check-up package and add-ons you should have. The important factor is to get into the habit of regular checks. Your family will thank you.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Your column can easily be enlarged to monster size at the expense of that corny old consultant. Who wants to read about the ins and outs of sundry organs when you can give us a detailed analysis of the perishibility factors relating to heavy-duty knicker elastic. I rest my case and Pater rests his splod. Let us have an unexpurgated Aunty and not an Aunty caught short willy-nilly!
Mistersingha
Dear Mistersingha,
Talk about the prodigal returning! Just when I thought you had pulled out your paddle and had paddled off to different climes, here you are bobbing up again, as large as life and twice as lively! I shall pretend to ignore the fact that the chocolates and bubbly are still owing, even though everyone will see through the pretence.
Now, as far as usurping the space put aside for other columnists writing for this paper is concerned, there is no way I would such a thing. There is a code of ethics in journalism, which you would not have realized, since ‘ethics’ does not feature in your life, or vocabulary, I am sure. However, please do not let me stand in the way of your scientific breakthrough regarding knicker elastic. And thank you for worrying as to whether I have been “caught short willy-nilly”. This does not happen as willies do not come into my equation.
Dear Hillary,
Thank you for brightening up everyone’s days. Yours is the first page of the paper that I open every week, just to kick start a good weekend. I do have a question. Do you know how to erase porn off your computer? I use a work comp and don’t want the IT department to see that I do the occasional trawl around some of the more raunchy web sites. Any ideas, Petal?
Porno Pete
Dear Porno Pete,
Don’t “Petal” me, young Pete with the excess hormones, but thank you for the nice words. Keeps this old crone going, really. Now, when you ask about “any ideas”, do you mean do I know any more web sites for you to drop your line in and go trawling, or how to furtively look for the salacious sites without being discovered? You can always erect a screen around the monitor, I suppose. Or there is the other alternative. You could do a proper day’s work, instead of ‘trawling’, so you would have nothing to worry about. Leave trawling to the fishermen, I say, they have a hard enough time of it already.
Dear Hillary,
I suppose you’ve been asked before, but I’ll do it again then. Who writes all these dopey letters? Do you, or are their (sic) people at the Pattaya Mail that do it for you. I can’t believe the numbers.
Bacchus
Dear Bacchus,
Have you ever heard of your namesake, the abacchus (usually spelt abacus)? Once you know how to work one of those, you can really begin to “believe the numbers”. But for the record, all kinds of dopey people write in with their “dopey letters”, and you can add yourself to that list! Satisfied now? You might also spend a little while learning the difference between “their” and “there”.
Dear Hillary,
My husband’s mother and father are coming out for a holiday next month. This will be their first trip to Thailand and I am wondering where we should take them. They are both in their 60’s, so we must be careful of the venue.
Monique
Dear Monique,
What have you to be careful of, my Petal? Will Pa-in-law become an aggressive drunk and molest the waitress, or Ma-in-law shoulder the girls out of the way at the chrome pole paradise? Honestly, what is the world coming to? Stop worrying! Pattaya has more amazing things to do and go to than just about anywhere in the world. You should put the following on the agenda, one of the lavish on stage transvestite shows such as Tiffany’s, a visit to some of the restaurants out over the water on Walking Street like King Sea Food, take them to the tourist entertainment outlets like Nong Nooch gardens, zoos and other similar venues, enjoy relaxed BBQ’s with music at the Captain’s Corner for example, a bit of Elvis on Thursday and Fridays at Jomtien Boathouse, food and dancing at the Hard Rock Cafe and even take them to a go-go bar. After all, they are here and someone will ask them on their return what they were like. Grab one of the “bar hopping” guides which will show you the kinds of places you might like to take the in-laws. Relax and enjoy their being here. They’re old enough to tell you what they want anyway!
Dear Hillary,
I think your advice is daft. What right have you got to tell people what to do? Why don’t you go back to your dog-house or wherever you came from?
Frank
Dear Frank,
To be perfectly frank, which I’m not since I’m a Hillary, I have as much right as you have, my Petal. And, since you are the one with a bone to pick, perhaps it is you that should be living in the kennel? Woof! Woof!


Camera Class  by Harry Flashman

The hand-held exposure meter is now officially dead

The hand-held exposure meter is now officially dead. Those of you hoarding your old light meter should take the batteries out, clean it, place it in a cabinet with some silica gel, and make a card with “Old fashioned light meter” written on it, and start your own photographic museum.
Now the reason I say that is not because light meters are not useful in photography - they are! However, the light meters inside today’s cameras are so good, you don’t need to check them with a bulky, hand-held piece of extra photographic equipment. Sometimes technology can work in your favor.

Light meters, both external and internal work on something called 18 percent grey. All photographers who want to understand photography a little more should become acquainted with the colour known as 18 percent grey. Why? Because after you understand 18 percent grey, you have complete control over blacks and whites in your photographs - and by that, I mean in colour photography, not just the B&W kind.
The really dedicated photo buffs will recognize 18 percent grey as being the cornerstone of the “Zone System” and Ansel Adams superb prints are trotted out with sage mutterings that if you understood the zone system, then your photos would look like his too. This is, unfortunately, frog spawn. Ansel Adams spent many hours painstakingly printing his B&W work, specifically burning in some areas, holding back others and if you think he didn’t then think again.

However, here is the “short course” on the Zone System. What you have to remember at all times is just the simple fact that the meter in your camera knows intimately what is 18 percent grey, and is programmed to produce as much 18 percent grey as possible. In other words, point the camera at your subject and the meter will work out a combination of shutter speed and aperture to give an exposure to get the whole shot as close to 18 percent grey as possible. This is irrespective of whatever name the camera manufacturer gives to the metering system and how many points it meters from. The common denominator is 18 percent grey, and that comes from the settings your meter dictates.
Now this works for the majority of shots - 18 percent grey is close enough, and the processor at your friendly photoshop can adjust the rest from there - but it is always a compromise. You do not even realise what a compromise it really is until you take a photograph of a white car or a black cat, and see that it has been printed grey.
This is one reason why I keep on saying that if you run the camera in the fully A for automatic mode, you will only get A for “average” pictures. What you have to do to get whites or blacks is to run the camera in the metered manual mode instead. Remember that when you are photographing the white car the exposure indicated by the camera is the one that will make the white colour 18 percent grey. To get the colour back to white it will need more light on the film.
Here’s what you do. Let us imagine that your camera tells you that the exposure should be f16 @ 1/60th of a second. You need more light to fall on the emulsion, so make your exposure f 11 @ 1/60th and another at f8 @ 1/60th. That gives you both one and two full stops of light more. One of those two will give you a white car.
Now when photographing a black object, the camera meter will indicate a shutter speed and an aperture to give you another 18 percent grey object. There is too much light falling on the film emulsion this time. What you have to do is cut down on the amount of light getting into the camera. Again imagine that the indicated exposure is f16 @ 1/60th. You want to darken things, so take two shots with one at f16 @ 1/125th and another at f16 @ 1/250th. Again this is one and two stops decrease in light levels. One of these will give you a black car!
Simply - to produce white, give it more light. To produce black, wind it back!


Money Matters  Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.

Investment Portfolios - Part 2

The dictionary definition of an investment portfolio is: “An aggregate of investments, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, arts or even fine wines. What distinguishes an investment portfolio from net worth is that some asset classes are not considered investments. This is usually because that will not appreciate in value, or may even depreciate such as cars, televisions, computer equipment, clothing etc.”
The majority of investment portfolios consist of common stocks in listed companies and/or government or corporate bonds. These can be acquired directly by an investor or a portfolio manager, acting on his/her behalf, who will select individual stocks and shares for purchase. Alternatively, they can be held through investment funds where the cost of employing an investment manager to make these decisions is spread over a large number of investors buying units in a ‘collective’ investment.
Bonds and shares/stocks represent just two of the investable asset classes that are available - there are also three others:
Property - commercial or residential, whether owned directly or whether syndicated (i.e. a group of investors combine to buy a single property) or through the shares/stocks in a traded property company or through funds, generally knows as Real Estate Investment Trusts - where a group of investors combine to own a number of properties via collective investments. The main effective differences between a property company and a REIT is that a REIT’s value is based directly upon its net asset value and the income that it generates is set aside as a yield. With a property company its share price is determined by market supply and demand for its shares and rental income is a receivable of the company with the company able to decide how much of its free cash flow can be paid to shareholders as dividends.
Cash and Deposits - these can include overnight money market deposits, fixed term deposits, Certificates of Deposit, promissory notes and short term bonds as well as collective investments such as money market funds. These can also be managed to generate currency gains as well as deposit interest.
Alternative Investments - this is basically everything not covered in the four ‘traditional’ asset classes - derivatives, such as futures and options, commodities, hedge funds, etc. These can often be used in conjunction with traditional assets as a source of added diversification.
It has long been our belief that if a financial institution, of whatever description, designs a portfolio that does not look to exploit the investment opportunities of all 5 asset classes then it is selling its investors short of the potential that they could realize. This is what the majority of private banking portfolios mentioned last week have failed to do. When you choose a new car, would you randomly exclude 60-80% of the models available? If you insist on constructing a portfolio from just one or two asset classes, and not all 5, that is exactly what you’re doing. Also, as you can see from today’s graph, no single asset class does well all the time, therefore it is vital to have free access to all of the available options at any given time.

Five Asset Class Performance Since 1998

For some time now the MitonOptimal Core Diversified Portfolios have performed exceptionally well because the fund managers recognise that 90% of return derives from asset allocation, i.e. making the right big picture calls. Also, to unlock the potential of all of these asset classes, a fund manager must take both an active and a highly pragmatic approach to asset selection. MitonOptimal believe that an investment should perform in absolute terms not just relative terms. In their opinion, if something is not likely to outperform cash then they should hold cash. This explains why, during the recent market dislocations, they were up to 35% invested in cash and deposits within some of their portfolios. All of this, in no small part, explains why MitonOptimal continue to garner an impressive array of awards purely for the performance, especially the risk-adjusted performance, of their core portfolios. From the MBMG perspective, these core portfolios form around 50% of the holding of our clients’ portfolios. While the actual proportion varies from client to client, we tend to regard these as the bedrock for just about every client because they are, to varying degrees, suitable for just about every client’s needs.
Whilst each client’s portfolio is individually designed to suit the specific currency, liquidity, risk and security requirements of each individual client, we couldn’t help but notice, some time ago, that the portfolios of the vast majority of our clients have around 80% commonality with each other when adjusted for currency bias - that is to say that 80% of the total portfolios of most of our clients are broadly the same apart from than the currency aspect. It’s only the other 20% that gives most portfolios their specific flavour. This is not that surprising - most investors want reasonably similar levels of risk and return and liquidity and, in many cases, personalising a portfolio really involves tweaking our optimum portfolio to give it either less or more liquidity and/or more or less risk in return for more or less return. Recognition of this high level of commonality and overlap has created an opportunity for improved administration and cost saving within a client’s portfolio.
By aggregating the common elements of client portfolios into a new fund, based in Guernsey and regulated by the Guernsey FSC, this means that instead of issuing a sell and a buy instruction in respect of say 1,000 clients every time that we, when advised by MitonOptimal, wish to change the asset allocation within a portfolio we would simply issue a single instruction instead of 1,000 instructions. Please remember that each buy and sell currently costs GBP 45/USD 85/EUR 66/AUD 112, so reducing from 1,000 instructions to just 1 reduces the cost, in this example, from GBP45,000 to just GBP 45. That’s a saving of GBP 44.95 for each and every client each time that a buy and sell is transacted. Pretty quickly, at this rate, significant savings can be achieved. Furthermore, other economies of scale within the portfolio can result in additional savings and certain institutional funds that might normally only be available in minimum amounts of say US$1 - 5 million can now be bought through the new Guernsey fund and the benefits enjoyed proportionately by all investors. The concept of the Personalised Portfolio Bond wrapper is to allow all investors to access the very best investment opportunities. To a large extent it does this although it doesn’t allow access to those most exclusive funds with high investment minima. This problem is now solved by the new approach.
These new funds, which are technically known as a Protected Cell Company, are available in Sterling, Euro, US Dollar and Australian Dollar. It is worth noting that the funds will be audited and that the weekly prices will be published meaning even greater levels of accountability and transparency.
In short, the investment strategy and methodology should be little changed from any highly successful private client portfolios - the historic performance of these can be shown via monthly performance fact sheets - but the implementation of this strategy should be more efficient, cost-effective and accountable.
For investors these new funds are a major step forwards as it combines the expertise of companies like MitonOptimal with the personal service of a good IFA. It also gives even greater institutional buying power and with reduced costs thus allowing the client the potential to make more money without further exposure to any greater risk.
One day, all investment portfolios will be managed like this...

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 Graham Macdonald on [email protected]



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