Vol. X No.4 - February 9 - February 22, 2011



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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

How does your garden grow?

Day Tripper

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Knees up Mother Brown! Getting to grips with ‘Arthur’

Hands up all the readers over the age of 60. Hands up all those readers over the age of 60 who don’t get stiff knees in the mornings. Not so many hands this time!

As you get older, you will get to meet ‘Arthur’. That’s almost a 100 percent money-back guarantee. And since it is my money that might go astray, I must be very confident. The ‘Arthur’ I am referring to is one of the banes of mankind and is “arthritis”.

Unfortunately, there are many types of arthritis, and descriptions of these go back into antiquity. Perhaps the oldest known type of arthritis, called gout or gouty arthritis, has been described since Hippocrates in the 5th century B.C. In fact, at one time, the term “gout” was used to describe all types of arthritis. Then it was known as the “Disease of Kings” due to its association with rich foods and alcohol consumption, something in which the commoners were not able to indulge. Things have certainly changed.

One of the most common forms of arthritis today is osteo-arthritis, and rather than being of a biochemical nature, osteo-arthritis is much more of a mechanical wear and tear situation. In America, the estimated incidence is that 37 million adults are suffering from it.

Unfortunately, we all wear out. Joints in particular are mechanical devices, with one bone sliding on another with a slippery bit (called cartilage) in between as the bearing surface, cum-shock absorber.
Most joints, especially knee joints, are designed to last our three score years and ten, and that’s about it. We do know why they wear out, and because they are mechanical, increase the loading on the joint and it wears out quicker. Imagine that your knee has been designed to hold up 80 kg for 70 years, and now increase that loading to 120 kg. That same knee now has to support 50 percent more than it was ‘designed’ for, so you can expect it to wear out 50 percent sooner. Simple.

So they hobble down to the doctor and ask for something for the pain. The doctor flips mentally through the latest medical drugs for this condition, and most probably will hand over some Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s) and tell the patient to lose weight.

Now I am not saying that this is totally wrong - but - when the NSAID’s first came out (hands up all those who remember Indocid) they were heralded as being the answer to these problems. Some were even supposed to ‘grow’ new cartilage. The answer the osteo-arthitic’s prayers.

Unfortunately, we very quickly found that Indocid and its ilk drilled holes in the lining of the stomach and were more than slightly dangerous. So we developed newer and better and more stomach-sparing NSAID’s. Unfortunately, these too produced problems.

Nothing daunted, we came up with even newer and more wonderful NSAID’s, which came with even newer and more wonderful array of side effects. So wonderful that one called Vioxx had to be withdrawn by the manufacturers.

So what can the poor patient do? Most patients have already tried paracetamol, hot water bottles, someone else’s great new tablets, NZ green lipped mussels, a cabbage leaf (which does work for mastitis, or so the ladies tell me), various herbal or homoeopathic medications, yoga, meditation, magnets, copper bracelets, muttering mantras and goodness knows what else. Exercise does help to improve the mobility in the knee joint, and by strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the knee, give it more stability. But it will not re-grow cartilage.

There is another avenue in the treatment, and that is direct injections into the affected joints. This produces spectacular results, but unfortunately are short lived. However, even a couple of weeks can make it such that the person can go on holidays and actually enjoy some mobility. But it is not the long-term answer.

Finally, there is surgery, which is currently the treatment of last resort. Since around 90 percent of patients show lessening of pain, improvement in functional status and overall quality of life, I think we should be looking at operation sooner, rather than later. But that’s just my opinion.

 

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Biting on a bullet

We have just had three visiting American anesthetists lecturing at my hospital as part of our CME (Continuous Medical Education) requirements. It was interesting to exchange medical practices between Asia and the US.

One of the visitors, Dr. Tony Tsai, mentioned the history of anesthesia, so I thought we might look at that, this week. We marvel at the surgical advances in the past century, but while I take my hat off to the surgeons, the real praise goes to the anesthetists. Without the advances in anesthetics, brawny assistants would still be holding patients down while surgeons attacked with scalpels and saws and the patient lay there screaming.

Yes, that was the way it was up to around the Crimean War 150 years ago. The best surgeons were the quickest surgeons. The incredible searing pain only had to be endured for a shorter time. The famous surgeon, Dr. Pott, was able to disarticulate an ankle and dip the soggy end of the lower leg into boiling pitch in 15 seconds. Bite on the bullet for quarter of a minute! Yes, we have improved a little since then.

The first anesthetic agent was ether, dribbled on to a mask to knock the patient out and allow the surgeon to take his time and become meticulous in his approach. The first public demonstration of ether anesthesia took place on 16 October 1846, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The anesthetist was William Morton and the surgeon was John Warren; and the operation was the removal of a lump under the jaw of a Gilbert Abbott. Those three have left their mark in medical history.

While there have been enormous advances since then, I can remember being a medical student and assisting at an operation in outback Australia in 1964. The anesthetic was ether, dribbled on to the patient’s gauze mask by the matron of the public hospital, and it was a Caesarian section for twins. There was no air-conditioning and it was 43 degrees in the theatre, where the fumes were making us all woozy. Amazingly everyone survived the ordeal, mother, twin sons, the local doctor, the matron and me.

Despite outback Australia, anesthesia progressed in the rest of the world. Chloroform was introduced by James Simpson, the Professor of Obstetrics in Edinburgh, in November 1847. This was a more potent agent but it had more severe side effects, including sudden death. However, it worked well and was easier to use than ether and so, despite its drawbacks, became very popular.

The next major advance was the introduction of local anesthesia - cocaine - in 1877. Things definitely did go better with ‘coke’! Then came local infiltration, nerve blocks and then spinal and epidural anesthesia, which in the 1900s allowed surgery in a relaxed abdomen, and is still used today, especially in obstetric anesthesia, where the mother can be anaesthetized without the baby being affected as well.

The next important innovation was the control of the airways with the use of tubes placed into the trachea. This permitted control of breathing and techniques introduced in the 1910s were perfected in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Then came the introduction of intravenous induction agents. These were barbiturates which enabled the patient to go off to sleep quickly, smoothly and pleasantly and therefore avoided any unpleasant inhalational agents. Then in the 1940s and early 1950s, there came the introduction of muscle relaxants, firstly with curare (the South American Indian poison, but not administered by native blowpipe) and then agents less dangerous.

In the mid 1950s came halothane, a revolutionary inhalation agent, which was much easier to use, but now superseded by even more potent, but less dangerous anesthetic agents.

According to Dr David Wilkinson of the Association of Anesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, “Anesthesia is now very safe, with mortality of less than 1 in 250,000 directly related to anesthesia. Nevertheless, with today’s sophisticated monitoring systems and a greater understanding of bodily functions, the anesthetic profession will continue to strive for improvement over the next 150 years.”

On behalf of all patients requiring surgery in the future, may I thank Dr. Tony Tsai and his colleagues all over the world. No longer do they have to bite on a bullet!


Sweet dogs need a home together

Daeng & Emma

Introducing Daeng & Emma! These two 2 year olds have never been apart and spend all their time together at the shelter. They are both very healthy and incredibly sweet-natured. Emma is often shy around new people and can be a little nervous – so no toddlers! Unless we can find someone who has room for them both, they will never have a chance of a life outside the shelter. Contact Care for Dogs English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) if you could be a good match for these 2 special girls.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

My Dear Hillary,
You jumped right on my malapropism 'campain' which was incorrectly spelled on purpose. I know I have caused you much work on your spell checker and am so solly. Butt, your attack on my abbreviated moniker KOTW (keeper of the WOW) was questionable. Do you ever read this paper? Do you read the mail from KOTO (keeper of the ocean)? He has stolen a slogan that is actually a reference to an acient (sic) Japanese stringed instrument that is used today. Being that his quest is to get left over cigarette butts off the beach so it doesn’t gag the wildlife (katoyeys after dark?), he should be forced to change his slogan to KOTB: Keeper Of The Butt. I have had enough exposure to the overused ‘WOW’ exclamation that I will now suggest that adverts use the word “SEX!” to grab the pubics (sic) attention.
KOTW

Dear KOTW (aka Singha Jerry),
I am glad I have given you something to do with your time, between Singha beers, in looking up esoteric information. I am sure you also found that the Japanese koto is similar to the Chinese guzheng during your ‘Googling’, neither of which are played in your adopted country of Thailand. And while we are on about your pronunciations, just where did you get “katoyeys” from? The more usual English spelling of the Thai word is “katoey” as it is a transliteration (feel free to look it up, my Petal). I am also quite sure that your use of “pubic” rather than the correct word “public” was just an involuntary Malapropism, but never mind, it ended up quite apt. However, “acient” for “ancient” doesn’t quite cut it, I’m afraid. Please say ‘Hello’ from me to you other friends on the steps of the 7-Eleven.


Dear Hillary,
I have just had my 1 baht gold chain torn from my neck as I was riding my motorcycle along Beach Road. I fell off as they yanked and broke it, and they just scooted away. Nobody stopped them and I think the passers by just thought I was drunk and fell off. Nobody got the number plate of the bike they were on, either. I went to file a report with the police, but there’s not much hope of getting it back. The police said they thought it was part of an organized gang, but that doesn’t do anything for me either. Does this go on all the time? Not good for tourism, I tell you. I’m not coming back.
Pete

Dear Pete,
Sorry to hear of your loss, Petal, but tourists are warned not to display wealth in a flashy way. The robbers must have spotted your gold chain being worn outside your shirt, to know that you were an easy target. I am not trying to put the blame on anyone, but there are certain dangers in all tourist resort cities throughout the world, and that is why there are these types of robberies going on. Please don’t let it spoil your holiday, but just put it down to experience, which will stand you in good stead anywhere in the world at a later stage.


Dear Hillary,
Year after year, I see and hear many lonely, ignorant, old, fools complaining about bar girls and freelancers. But can you really blame them? What do they expect? Thai girls, well as all girls in the world want to be with someone their own age and not someone who can be their grandfather’s age.
Thailand and especially the bar areas attract some of the worst quality tourists and expatriates is the world. We have alcoholics, druggies, perverts, pedophiles, psychos, delinquents, criminals, crooks, losers and loners. I know we do have some good “dirty-old-men” here who treat these girls and women nicely and get along fine.
So stop whining. We have a good thing going here and enjoy Thailand while it’s still affordable.
Happy Camper

Dear Happy Camper,
Oooh, I must meet your friends! Are all of them alcoholics, druggies, perverts, pedophiles, psychos, delinquents, criminals, crooks, losers and loners? No wonder you have such an attitude. I would too, surrounded by all that lot! However, getting back to your letter, I wonder if it should have been quite as bitter as it seems to be? In actual fact, the old adage is very pertinent here, “You get what you pay for!” So if your motley lot of alcoholics and all the others are happy to pay for the pleasures, knowing there is no permanence being offered, then let them continue, and ignore their complaints. By the way, not all the farangs in the bars are “alcoholics, druggies, perverts, pedophiles, psychos, delinquents, criminals, crooks, losers and loners”. I met a very nice chap the other evening. I just can’t remember his name!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary;
You have been bloviating for years over proper spelling and grammar so it was so tempting to give you something that you really enjoy. Correcting the writer; whether he/she be of an English speaking country or not, you (sic) them or correct them with your imperial and vast knowledge of this language. You column needed some other venue other than the regular drivel of poor men who come to Thailand to be consumed by the land shark bar girl. Year after year you give the same advice; it’s your own fault you ignorant man... and don’t forget to bring me chocs and bubbly when you return with more money to make the same stupid mistakes. Bar Girl Love! In your latest column, you made a rediculous (sic) point of exalting my use of KOTW. If you had paid any attention to my previous submissions you would have noted that if (sic) stood for “Keeper Of The Wow”. Sanook (fun), which is dreadfully missing from your often pointless weekly submissions to your rag. (Slang, English newspaper.) So, maybe you can put more effort into your column and stop demonizing the poor guy who submits his ‘new?’ problems to you.
KOTW, Singha Jerry

Dear Singha Jerry, self-styled Keeper of the WOW,
Do you remember Mrs. Malaprop? You would do better at letter writing if you checked your use of long words in the dictionary first. “Imperial”? I think you actually meant to write “imperious”, Petal. Now “exalting”? That means “raising up”, Jerry. Was that what you meant? And “demonizing”? It all gets too confusing, and I will even ignore the spelling errors this week. I can only suggest that your next missive (or even missile) be sent after partaking of only one bottle of your favorite sanook beverage, not several.

Dear Hillary,
I came to Thailand for a two week holiday and met a young girl, as you do. We got along well, so I paid for her company for 10 days, up till the day before I left. That was when she started ringing me up and asking to see me, saying she was in love with me. Even if she couldn’t be with me for my last night she wanted to come and see me before the taxi picked me up. I felt bad about this but all my mates told me to forget about her, but I kept on answering her calls, and there were plenty of them, I tell you, but the mates stopped me from giving in, but I still felt bad about it all. What do you think I should have done? I’ve been thinking about ringing her from home, but just don’t know.
Mike

Dear Mike,
You forgot where you met this young lady who fell madly in love with you after 10 days. You paid for her company, my Petal. It was a business arrangement, not a matrimonial contract. By making you feel indebted to her, she was much more likely to extract even more money from you, which is why she wanted the face to face meeting, even on that last morning, you never know what you can get, even if it is just what is in your wallet. You don’t say how old you are, but you are obviously a babe compared to the lady from the bar. What should you have done? Just what you did do, and that was to cut the relationship once the period of hire was completed. It was a short-time holiday romance, and a paid one at that. Next time you come over, you will hopefully be more mature, more wise and keep a tight hold on your wallet.

Dear Hillary,
I read all these tales of woe that your letter writers send to you about losing money and getting ripped off. I read the books like Private Dancer and Money Number 1 and they are full of the same tales of woe. Is it really that bad in Thailand? Surely there are some good ones out there, or are they all on the make? Do you know how many marriages to bar girls go t’s up? Can’t be ‘all’ of them, can it? I’ve met so many great girls on my holidays each year and I can’t believe that they would be anything other than great wives for some lucky guys. What is the real situation?
Gary (from GB)

Dear Gary (from GB),
Even in your own country ‘mixed’ marriages fail, and that’s just marriages between men and women. You men just don’t understand us, Petal. Now make it a marriage between cultures and there is even more chance of failure. And I am talking about people who go into marriage who are ‘In Love’ and still have the stars in the eyes. Now look at the marriages you want to examine - the love sick visitor and the hardened professional girl behind the bar. One has been convinced that this is the marriage made in heaven. Besotted Bob just wants the ring on her finger, while business girl Bee can’t wait to investigate a joint bank account. She is in the banking business, Gary. This marriage lasts as long as the bank accounts.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

“Auto” can be good for you

No flash.

No flash, but after using Photoshop.

I spend a lot of time in this column suggesting to the weekend photographer that he or she should take the camera off the ‘auto’ setting and start manipulating the image the camera records. After all, the ‘auto’ setting is one the camera gives you as being the ‘average’ reading - but we would like to think our shots are better than ‘average’.

However, automatic cameras have become so good these days, there is a tendency to think they are foolproof. You are guaranteed a great shot every time. Correct exposure, sharp as a tack and looking professional. Unfortunately in the real world, that does not necessarily happen, as this photographer found out who wrote:

“Dear Harry,
A question for you regarding my Sony Cyber-shot. I recently was a guest at a beautiful wedding, the reception was quite well lit so I thought rather than use a flash and have everybody look like ghosts I would turn the flash off.

What I had not taken into consideration was that the shutter speed would be slower without the flash. Most of the photos were blurred, either by me shaking, or the people I was photographing moving during the shot.

At least I am assuming that was the cause of the bad shots, what is your opinion Harry?
Thanking you, Sunny.”

Your assumption is spot on, Sunny. The clever brain (or electronic smarts) inside the camera knows that a certain Exposure Value (EV) is required to produce correctly exposed shots. That EV has two variables, but which are related directly to each other, and they are the size of the aperture and shutter speed.

Now even though you felt the venue was well lit, and I do often tell people to turn off the flash to stop the rabbit in the headlamps appearance, that venue’s ambient lighting was not enough to get to the EV required without some extreme values in aperture and shutter speed.

The electronic brain knows you can’t hand-hold at much slower than 1/30th second so will try to use that shutter speed and open up the aperture to whatever is needed to get the correct EV. That’s the theory.

However, when the camera runs out of aperture setting, then all that is left for the camera brain to adjust is the shutter speed and its little electronic brain gives it an even slower shutter speed, at which you cannot hand-hold. Blurred shots are the result.

Now whilst all of the above is relevant, there were a couple of points in time at the reception where you could have averted the disaster. When you were composing the shot there would have been a winking indicator in the viewfinder to tell you that the camera felt flash was needed. You chose to ignore that, deciding that your brain was better that the Cyber-shot brain.

Secondly being a digital, you had the opportunity to review all shots after you have taken them. Instantly. You could have looked at the first shot on the three inch LCD and would have seen that it was blurred and worked out then, what you worked out later, that the shutter speed was too slow to hand-hold, despite the image stabilization feature. Sometimes we can ask too much of our equipment!

You could also have then gone into the menu and tried to up the ASA rating in the camera, since it will go to 3200, albeit with some ‘noise’ and lack of sharpness as the trade-off. Even at only 800 ASA, you would probably have got away with it, but it’s easy to be wise in retrospect.

So what was this practical lesson all about? Really, the message is to remember that any automatic camera has limits. “Auto” does not equate with “fool-proof”. The second message was to check your shots after you have taken them. That is what the LCD/digital camera can give you over the old film technology, where you waited for a couple of hours to see if you had a usable shot.

Thank you Sunny, and please keep taking shots. Photography is a pastime that does give you the opportunity to improve, and the more shots you take, the greater the improvement.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Bag fillers that make photography easier

Do you have a camera bag? Is it full of ‘stuff’? If it isn’t here are some tips on what really needs to be in the bag. To start, have you ever stopped to wonder just what pro shooters have in their very large camera bags? Well there will be a choice of lenses, two or three camera bodies, and a whole host of ‘stuff’ that makes photography much easier.

Best taken with remote release.

The first item is for all those demented people who want to take dog pictures. On the few occasions that I have tried to photograph pet animals it has been hours of frustration and very little fun. However, the one item that all dog photographers should have is a box of matches. One little rattle and Rover pricks his ears up and looks intelligent. Or as intelligent as Rovers can look. This even works for children (but take my tip and never be conned into photographing pets or children)!

So after the box of matches, what else should you have? For my money it is a torch. Any photographer who takes his camera out at night will need one. Even if just to see what way up the batteries go in the flash, which always runs out of volts just when you don’t want it to. Setting shutter speeds in the dark can also be difficult. Or even seeing what aperture you are selecting on the lens barrel.

Another small, but definitely handy item is a remote release for the shutter. Any time you are trying to do a time exposure, it become very difficult holding the button down and not making the camera tremble - especially with long exposures. Cheap, does not take up much space, and very useful.

While talking about time exposures, another useful “camera bag” item is a miniature tripod. I have one that was made by Polaroid a few years ago which folds up small and even fits into the side pocket on the bag. With something like this you can mount the tripod on the roof of the car and take five minute moonlight shots if you need it. Often called table-top tripods. There are some I have seen with “springy” legs but they are not much good. I’ve got a springy legged one as well as the Polaroid one. Get one with solid legs.

Now the next one is not so easy to get here, but you can always get someone to bring you one in from overseas. With the bright sunlight here, the magic brain inside your camera that sets the exposure settings can get confused. The answer for consistently correct exposures is an 18 percent grey card. This you place beside the subject and take a meter reading from it. You then set the camera to that f stop and shutter speed and you have the correct exposure for the main shot. If you are serious about getting the correct exposure, and particularly if you shoot slides, one of these is invaluable. You can just fold it up and slip it in the camera bag very easily. However, another trick is to select an 18 percent grey camera bag, and you just take your reading directly from there.

The next item is again not a true photographic item, but is invaluable. It is a waterproof marker pen. How many times have you written details, names, etc., on the back of a print, to find that it has rubbed off on the face of the next print and so forth? Totally annoying and often requires another set of prints to be made.

The last item that is worth considering, if you are a serious photographer, is a battery charger. You will go through heaps of batteries if you are shooting regularly. This gets expensive. Buy two sets of the rechargeable batteries and a charger and your photography expenses will be a lot less. This is particularly so with the new digitals. They eat batteries, so keep a freshly charged spare in the camera bag at all times.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The fallacy of the balance of trade

The rhetoric by the U.S. to pressure China into strengthening the Yuan is more than a tad interesting. They are saying it is undervalued and is causing harmful imbalances to world trade, adversely affecting the global economy given China’s role as the world’s largest exporter. Arguably, this was the main financial story for 2010. If you knew your history well you may well conclude that this accusation lacks any basis in reality.

Adam Smith, the great eighteenth century economist, was a keen observer of contemporary events with a historical perspective and of its causes and effects on the economies of nations. In his grand work, ‘The Wealth of Nations’, he states that “Nothing, however, can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade.” (Book IV, chp III, part II). If trade were perfectly balanced, there would be no progress, as the advantage of one nation that creates prosperity in that nation can only come at the expense of another. His profound statement of the invisible hand also works at the national level as all exchange is motivated by self interest.

In today’s world, this basically means that China is selling goods on the market cheaper and other nations are not able to compete. Since the U.S. is the main importer of Chinese made products and the American dollar is the reserve currency through which most international trade is denominated, China has accumulated a huge amount of dollar reserves (2.5 trillion) that it then recycles back to the U.S. by purchasing U.S. Treasury Bonds effectively lending the money back so that the American consumer can continue purchasing more goods. This summarises the commercial relationship between these two nations and it has been going on for more than a decade.

Just like most other things in life, trade is a zero sum game where if one nation is getting richer by selling goods and getting money in return, another by definition is poorer, buying and consuming giving up money in exchange. This was how England in the nineteenth century and America in the twentieth became the wealthiest nations in the world. They simply were the manufacturing powerhouses of the world and provided goods the people of other nations world wanted at the most competitive rates.

The moral in this is that all nations have and will continue to act in their own self interest and any talk of a group of nations co-operating in a kind of idealistic utopian world for the benefit of everybody is completely unrealistic and unsupported in history. The only motivating force that has ever bound nations, industries, groups or individuals to co-operate with each other was that of self interest.

Penalising Peter to give to Paul was the mantle of communism which led to its collapse in Russia and Eastern Europe a couple of decades ago. People also remember what led to Tiananmen Square. Profit motive or individualism was taken away by force. At the national level this cannot be enforced by one nation upon another except by force of arms.

In this latest battle of words the U.S. has used an old trick of blaming currencies for its ills. Instead of looking at decades of failed policies and tax regimes that has driven capital and jobs offshore seeking a lower cost to make goods and services, the U.S. politician has sought to point the finger at an easy target, in this case supposed currency manipulations by China.

In the U.S., it now takes a husband and wife to provide the same quality of life that a generation ago only required one. The government has subsidized the public sector at a cost of half the national private income for the last three decades. Since the average American consumer can now no longer afford to buy more expensive locally made products, it is China that has benefitted by filling the gap.
Just recently, the U.S. congress, to back up its accusations, passed a bill through the House but is still pending Senate approval that will impose duties on imports deemed given unfair subsidies by foreign governments. If the bill becomes law this will effectively make goods even more expensive for the average American rendering their condition all the more intolerable with real un-employment above 15% and over 40 million people on food stamps.

It is not a wise strategy for America to antagonize the Chinese, with its huge spending and lending power and ability to produce cheap goods, given the fragile state of the U.S. economy. In retaliation and possibly as a prudent investment strategy China can sell its holdings of U.S. Treasuries, given the policies coming out of Washington and the Federal Reserve, to further weaken the dollar, and to align China’s long term strategy of evolving to a consumption based economy relying on regional and other emerging market economies for trade that is surely to decline from the U.S. and other developed economies. Asia is already exporting within itself and this will only increase. For the Americans to take the strategy they are pursuing is probably about as sensible as sensible as Napoleon invading Russia.
 

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]


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Climate Change - Have we got it right? Part 2

The science is comparatively simple. Six molecules of carbon dioxide plus six molecules of water in the presence of chlorophyll in plant leaves plus incoming solar energy (a.k.a. sunlight) produces one molecule of carbohydrate plus, and this is the important bit, six molecules of oxygen - 6 CO2 + 6H2O + solar energy = C6H12O6 + 6O2.

So carbon dioxide is an important part in a plant’s carbon cycle but strangely, though it is so important, it is actually a trace element in the atmosphere as well. Therefore, it can be argued that if the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere is increased then there is increased plant growth. It follows therefore that the trees and other plants welcome any increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and adds to their photosynthetic activity.

If you agree with this then surely it follows on, from the points of view of trees and plants, that any increase in carbon dioxide in the air from petrol engines, etc., is welcome. It may be deduced that any attempt by man to reduce the output of carbon dioxide is actually counterproductive in terms of plant growth and the production of oxygen. I must state here and now that I completely accept there are other pollutants such as sulphur which are harmful to the environment but, given the above, is carbon dioxide?

I am also aware of the counter-argument against carbon dioxide. It is stated that by having excess CO2 in the atmosphere it captures incoming infra-red rays consequentially raising the world’s temperature. To deal with this argument you can do no better than to read John Emsley, The Good Chemical Guide - Rhone-Poulenc: “The Earth’s atmosphere keeps the temperature reasonably stable, smoothing out the daily changes and seasonal ones. The vapour that does this so effectively is water. Without water, the average temperature of the planet would be 33C colder than it is. Water is very good at trapping a lot of the infra-red rays which would otherwise be lost to space, and water vapour alone is responsible for a warming of roughly 32C, or about 97% of the greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide helps a little bit as well, accounting for about 1C.”

To the urban dweller in London, trees are pleasant to look at, provide nice shade in summer but those pesky falling leaves in autumn are a real nuisance. They do not appreciate the tree is actually taking heat out of the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis and, due to the enormous latent heat of evaporation, by the trees as the water is transported from the roots to the canopy and evaporated off as vapour in the atmosphere. Just ask anyone living in the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia what they think of trees. They love them and not surprisingly, as the moisture content in the air is virtually zero as there are no trees in that part of the world.

Some cynics say that the carbon dioxide hysteria is nothing more than a ruse by desperate scientists to get more funding so they are not out of a job. The same can be said of politicians who use it as an excuse to raise taxes and then do not spend the money on protecting the environment.
Both groups would be better occupied in using the billions of dollars collected from the taxpayers to try and save the world’s watersheds and stop the deforestation to grow bio-fuels.

Whilst it has to be accepted that, at the present rate of consumption, fuel oil will soon run out as a resource it should not be blamed for the greenhouse effect. Mankind has to look seriously at the looming energy crisis but without this senseless and useless diversion of the public’s attention and money to false global warming scares and the evil carbon dioxide emissions. The powers that be must examine the causes and not the symptoms.

So what has all this got to do with a financial column in a provincial newspaper? Well, as stated above, people should be made aware of the potential misdirection (some might say misappropriation) of their hard earned money. The other reason is, as a potential investor, caveat emptor. Today, illiquid assets promising fixed returns are a common feature of some of the more questionable funds being promoted in the market. The more sinister products also incorporate assets that are essentially impossible to value.

Some potential investments cater to ethical investors who want to earn decent returns from socially responsible financial products. Many forestry funds fall into this category, but on scrutiny more than a few fail to provide a robust investment strategy to back up their claims of above market rate guaranteed returns.

Market traded timber, as a commodity, has a verifiable price which can be used to forecast the value of an investment in that commodity. Teak is a good example of this. However, for some other timber products, which are not traded, there is no such data.

With no verifiable market price and no empirical/historical data available it is impossible for an investor to check the price assumptions that are used to generate future guaranteed prices and returns on investment. This is something to bear in mind the next time a ‘once in a lifetime’ forestry fund with guaranteed returns of 20% or whatever arrives in your email inbox. If you are interested in these types of funds then look for direct investments into such companies as Plum Creek Timber as it is large, listed and liquid. Alternatively, look at funds which invest directly into this sort of company. Above all - remain liquid.

Please be careful when you are trying to save the planet. You may save yourself a lot of damage as well.
 

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

Brief Encounter (G.B. 1945: Dir David Lean)

Can a film be perfect? So completely achieved in terms of sound and image that it is impossible to think of changing one shot. Rare indeed, I’d say, but if asked I’d cite Bresson’s L’Argent as one example of such perfection. There must be others.

Can a film be perfect, despite imperfections? Certainly and this week’s choice of DVD (available at the DVD Movie shop at 289 Suthep Road), is certainly a case in point. Brief Encounter, David Lean’s best work and also the finest English film I know is not without its imperfections. But they need not concern any sympathetic viewer: They are the result of the period in which it was made (mid forties) and the importantly when it was set (the late 1930s).

The film might easily be dismissed by young viewers or those unwilling to relish its period setting – or setting of a by-gone age. But do we dismiss Jane Austen’s novels, even though they are more easily accepted as ‘period’ works? Not that Noel Coward’s 30-minute play, Still Life, on which the film is based compares with Austen’s masterpieces, but the point is valid The moral order of the time is perfectly caught and timeless.

In Brief Encounter, the little imperfections which grate – such as the children or some of the cockney humour – don’t matter a jot. This is art masquerading as life and life transformed into art.

It is elegant, consummately well made (editing, camera etc.) and contains a central performance unsurpassed in the history of British cinema. Celia Johnson as the married woman who meets – by chance – a doctor on a railway station and falls in love plays with such nuanced delicacy and inner truth that she became known for a whole generation as ‘Laura’ and never achieved anything comparable on screen. Trevor Howard in a less complex role shows just why he became Britain’s best screen actor alongside James Mason.

Brief Encounter started life as one of none half hour plays by Coward, written in the mid thirties, to be performed over three evenings. It is considered the best of them. The setting of the playlet was suburban train station. Here the action is opened up and any resemblance to ‘theatre’ entirely forgotten. The soundtrack is masterly, from the opening sounds of an express train and the chords of the accompanying piano concerto (used extensively but integrally) and the dialogue and internal monologue from Laura is flawless.

The story is simple: a housewife, leading a comfortable, dullish middle class life with a mild mannered husband and two kids meets a doctor on her way home, whilst waiting for a train. He too is married, though we never see his wife. A mark of the film’s maturity is that the concentration is on the woman’s possible infidelity rather than the conventionally more acceptable of a man’s likely dalliance.

They fall in love: without willing it, without the possibility – given the time, the place, the characters – of consummating their love, let alone having it flourish. Delicately, complex emotions are allowed not to wither and die but to bloom, yet remain in the dark. The film is, in a word, heartbreaking. So intense, so understated and so of its time that it achieves perfection in terms of emotional truth and a rhythm that Lean maintains from the bravura opening until the devastating conclusion.

Watching it countless times over the years I marvel each time at its timing, gentle humour, observation and poignant humanity – even in the harsh scene when their attempt at a private meeting is brutishly interrupted by a (gay?) friend of the doctor. I have also become convinced (possibly alone in the world!) that Robert Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac owes much to the earlier film, emotionally and even physically: another film about sacrifice and chivalry and also a sublime masterpiece. Watch the Lean first and a day later the Bresson and see what I mean……..


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

The Rite: US, Drama/ Horror/ Thriller – Anthony Hopkins is at his spooky best again as the filmmakers trot out the well-worn possessed/ exorcism/ priest scenario. If one can believe such things, this is “inspired by true events.” We follow a skeptical seminary student as he reluctantly attends exorcism school at the Vatican, and while in Rome, he meets an unorthodox priest (Hopkins) who introduces him to the darker side of his faith. Generally unfavorable reviews.

Fair Game: US, Action/ Biography/ Drama/ Thriller – Director Doug Liman’s exciting fact-based drama of former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson; his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson; and the events of 2003, when her identity as a CIA operative was leaked by a revengeful White House after her husband wrote an op-ed piece criticizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Generally favorable reviews. At Vista only, with thanks for bringing this important and rousing film to Chiang Mai.

Teng Nong Jiwon Bin: Thai, Action/ Comedy – A comedy about a pilgrim and a wealthy jeweller whose destiny has brought them together on a plane. This seems to be tickling all the right funnybones, and looks to be a smash hit.

The Next Three Days: US/ France, Crime/ Drama/ Romance – I enjoyed this; it was a nice puzzler. A woman is arrested for murdering her boss with whom she had a public argument. She was seen leaving the scene of the crime and her fingerprints were on the murder weapon. Her husband spends the next few years trying to get her released but there's no evidence that negates the evidence against her. When the strain of being separated from her family – especially her son – gets too much for her, John decides to break her out. Directed by Paul Haggis (Crash), and starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, and Liam Neeson. Mixed or average reviews.

Shaolin: Hong Kong/ China, Action/ Drama – A story of Shaolin monks who protect and shelter civilians during war, this is a beautifully photographed, finely acted big budget spectacle that doesn't only rely on star power and action to deliver the goods, but actually is a thinking man's film on the philosophical aspects of Buddhism. Unfortunately, it’s shown in Thailand only in a Thai-dubbed version. Starring Jackie Chan and Andy Lau.

The Green Hornet: US, Action/ Comedy/ Crime – A strange piece, designed to be nothing but a thoughtless piece of fluff. As such, it’s okay. Seth Rogen as the Hornet is an unlikely and uncomfortable super-hero, and almost unlikeable. Cameron Diaz is the romantic interest, but the unrestrained pleasure is the arch-villain played by Christoph Waltz, the Austrian actor who took the film world by storm by his marvelous portrayal of a Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds. Of special interest to Asians is the role of the hero’s sidekick Cato, played by Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou. He acquits himself well in this – his slight acting skills and his shaky use of English is underplayed, and to cover we are served a number of funny sight gags and some impressive martial arts. If you approach it with a relaxed frame-of-mind, you should find it entertaining enough. Generally unfavorable reviews.

Meet the Parents: Little Fockers: US, Comedy/ Family – These people are still around, and I still don’t want to meet them. In this third installment of the series, the test of wills between Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller escalates to new heights – or would that be depths? Generally unfavorable reviews.

Sud Khet Saled Ped: Thai, Comedy – Kohtee Aramboy and Tukkie are among the Thai comedians in this film with an untranslatable title, engaged in comic antics much like all that has gone before in Thai comedies. Seems to be what the population wants to see.

Maybe

If these show up, see them.
The Fighter: US, Biography/ Drama/ Sport – Highly praised film up for Oscar best picture, director (David O. Russell), actor in a supporting role (Christian Bale), two actresses in a supporting role (Amy Adams and Melissa Leo), best adapted screenplay, and best editing. A drama about boxer "Irish" Micky Ward's unlikely road to the world light welterweight title. His Rocky-like rise was shepherded by half-brother Dickie, a boxer-turned-trainer who rebounded in life after nearly being KO'd by drugs and crime. Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale give two outstanding performances. Rated R in the US for language throughout, drug content, some violence, and sexuality. Generally favorable reviews.

The King’s Speech: UK/ Australia, Drama/ History – One of the top contenders for best picture and 11 other Oscars, this is the story of the suddenly crowned King George VI of England, who suffers from a debilitating speech impediment. With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for her husband to see an eccentric speech therapist. Reviews: Universal acclaim.


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

The Chiang Mai Royal Bamboo Project

Are you interested in bamboos? Although the Khamtieng flower market north of town has many plants for sale, the vendors can rarely give you a scientific name or provide information in English. The scientific name is important for obtaining information whether the plant will die or not in the Chiang Mai valley. I saw lovely bonsais at Macro north of town, but many of the species used were temperate Chinese, and therefore they will have problems with our much hotter climate.

A good option for bamboos is to visit the Royal Project. Simply go to the roundabout at the Royal Flora show/Night Safari, turn right, and go another 1200-1400 m until you see a wooden sign painted in white on your right hand side. I have been there twice without finding any staff, so I suggest you phone ahead: Khun Aad 083-3240961. Khun Aad can provide essential information if a bamboo is suitable for high or low elevation, or if they are runners which will take over your lawn or kindly stay within their clump. He can also tell you their origin and their scientific names. You can see many species in a tall stage, and purchase small specimens in plastic bags. One of my favourite species is ’blue bamboo’, Dendrocalamus sericeus. It grows very tall, has thick culms suitable for construction, but the loveliest trait is the waxy surface rendering the bamboo a bluish appearance.

To see fully grown specimens in their splendour, go to Mae Kanin Tai on the way to Opkhan National Park (simply follow the road signs further down the canal road). At Dokmai garden we have planted a small specimen in the parking and one inside the actual garden. Another bamboo is Dendrocalamus brandisii, a giant! Making a bamboo tunnel is very effective as you can see at The Tamarind Village Hotel downtown. A bamboo tunnel is also good for attracting many wild bird species. Dendrocalamus asper is perhaps the most commonly grown edible bamboo, also available here. www.dokmaigarden.co.th. www.dokmaidogma.wordpress.com.


Day Tripper: Is it me, or is it Hot?

Staying in town

By Heather Allen

Besides temples, spas and shopping, Chiang Mai has more than a few interesting things on offer for those who don’t feel like travelling far. The Chiang Mai National Museum offers an interesting view of history in the area, from pre-history through Lanna culture to present day with interesting displays with English information housed in a beautiful renovated building.

Nearby is the Tribal Museum, located in Rama IX Park, which offers a really extensive selection of hill tribes handicrafts and textiles. Covering the range of Akha, Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Lisu and Yao tribes, the well documented and researched collection clearly explains the differences in tribal dress and traditions. With exhibitions covering housing, agriculture, fishing, musical instruments, religious beliefs and jewelry, this museum is a true gem for those interested in learning more about the hill tribes people.

Just a little bit further is the Textile & Coin Museum found at the Bank Of Thailand. This museum has quite a few interesting displays, including an explanation of how many ancient peoples used textiles to barter and was used in the early transitional stages to currency. A variety of textiles from across South East Asia are on display at this museum and the choices are well made as the finest textiles are on display from Cambodia, Burma and even India.

So, take a day out in Chiang Mai and learn more about the unique cultural heritage this city has to offer!



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