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The Doctor's Consultation

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Agony Column

Camera Class by Snap shots

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Life in Chiang Mai

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

You never had it so good

A friend of mine is in hospital in the UK. He has been there for three weeks, but he should not have been there. My mother was in hospital in the UK for five weeks, but she should not have been there. Why? Because she was merely taking up a bed because the doctors in charge of her case had not yet made a diagnosis, so she must stay in for further tests. My friend was also waiting for procedures, waiting for results and waiting for the medical fraternity to tell him what was next.

All of the above sounds quite reasonable, until you find out that to have an echocardiogram there is a wait of several days, and another wait for the results. Ditto for a colonoscopy. Ditto for blood tests. Ditto for anything else, but not including bed pans, which can be delivered reasonably promptly, I am assured by my mother.

I did manage to talk to my mother in her hospital bed. It is quite simple really. You ring the hospital and then get the telephone number of the ward she is in, as they cannot transfer your call, as there is some problem with the switchboard. Then you ring the ward directly, and the nurse will give you the telephone number of the phone they take to the bedside. “But please wait a few minutes, so we can take it to her while she waits for your call. You’re lucky today, the phone wasn’t working last week.” So eventually you do get to speak to each other.

In the chat, I find out that mother had a fall while in hospital and has hurt her hip. She cannot get about and now has to use a Zimmer hopper. Previously she could walk normally. I asked if she had had an X-Ray of the hip. Negative.

I rang and after two days managed to speak to the doctor looking after my mother. He agreed that an X-Ray of the hip would be in order, so he promised he would arrange it. Of course that took a couple of days, and the results likewise, but he assures me there was no fracture. I wish I could have as much faith in his diagnostic ability with X-Rays as he has. It would have been nice to get the hospital in the UK to email me the digital X-Rays for my radiologists here to look at, and also to my radiologist son in Australia. Unfortunately, this was not possible, and the treating doctor did not know if the hospital had an email address. I shouldn’t complain, as in 1815 when they laid the foundation stone for the hospital, the UK was a little busy celebrating the Battle of Waterloo to worry about emails.

But back to mother occupying a bed in the UK for five weeks. The biggest hold-up seems to be the fact that the cardiologist hadn’t seen her, and it is he who wants further tests. To bring you right up to date, mother has had a series of ‘fainting’ attacks causing the falls. I asked the treating doctor why mother was yet to see the ‘Great Man’ and was told that he had been on holidays, there was Easter, and there was only one cardiologist. So mother (and I) were left waiting.

In one of the hospitals in the Bangkok Hospital group, the entire process would have taken three days at the outside. Living here, you never had it so good!

By the way, the Bangkok Hospital group has added a new hospital to its network; this one in Hua Hin. It has already started to treat out-patients and on April 6th will open an in-patient department with 50 beds, operating rooms and an Intensive Care unit.

Hua Hin, with its large number of ex-pat retirees has always been a gap in the Bangkok Hospital network and the local ex-pat community is very pleased that it has opened. So, if you are in Hua Hin and need medical care to a similar level of care as you are used to in the Bangkok Hospital network elsewhere, it is now available in Hua Hin. Telephone 032 616 800 or via the Contact Center 1719.


The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Swallowing a camera

I had one of those great procedures where you swallow a camera. That wonderful diagnostic procedure where, by the wonders of modern technology, your friendly gastroenterologist can actually send a camera down your oesophagus (esophagus if you come from the left hand side of the Atlantic Ocean, or the right side of the Pacific Ocean), into your stomach and then a sharp right and into your duodenum. In this case, my duodenum.

Now this was not a procedure that I decided to have upon a whim, or having nothing better to do one Friday morning. On the Thursday evening I had eaten some wonderfully spicy Spanish prawns, but before I had finished the main course, I had this intense burning feeling in the area we doctors describe as the epigastrium, but you would probably know as the ‘solar plexus’.

I excused myself and went to the toilet where I spat out what seemed like liters of mucous that were coming up my oesophagus as the burning pain continued unabated. I tried drinking some cold water, but not only would it not go down, but it came straight up again. Resorting to the finger down the throat, I was again unsuccessful, other than renewing the mucous tsunami.

Now I know my own body reasonably well (I’ve had it a long time), and I was fairly confident in my diagnosis of oesophagitis, but since the symptoms were still there the next morning, it was time to talk to the gastroenterologist.

The time was set and I was told to change into the hospital gown and taken through to the procedure room. There I had the choice of sedation or local anaesthetic. I chose the local, preferring to know exactly what is happening to my body at all times.

The actual procedure isn’t too bad. A little uncomfortable perhaps, but with the local anaesthetic in the throat, the flexible tube and camera slips over relatively easily. Dr Thitima kept up a running commentary on the state of my never before viewed anatomical insides, and I was relieved to hear that my problem was only an ulcer where my oesephagus went into the stomach. It could have been worse. Ulcers are fixable.

Procedure over, you go to the recovery area where you are then monitored to make sure everything is right before you get dressed. It was during this 10 minute wait that the problem with the ferret began.

For those who are not knowledgeable on ferrets, they are a domesticated animal originally used for hunting rabbits. The California State Bird and Mammal Conservation Program found that by 1996, approximately 800,000 or so domestic ferrets were likely being kept as pets in the US. Goodness knows how many pets there are in the world now, though some states in Australia prohibit ferret keeping, along with public nudity and selling deep-fried prawns on the beaches.

But back to my ferret. As opposed to poor old coyote, who never quite manages to nail Road Runner, a ferret will pursue and catch his rabbit, running through the rabbit warren. While lying on the stretcher, a strange gurgling effect began happening in my insides. This is known as ‘borborygmi’ (that’s why my medical course took six years - it was learning to spell the big words for the first four years) and I could follow the gurgles as they ran through my small intestines. Like a ferret after a rabbit, they turned left and hopped around the spleen, encircled the kidneys, turned hard right at the bladder, sidestepped the appendix and bolted into the large bowel, where it all seemed to go quiet.

I dressed and went to meet a patient, when suddenly I knew I had to break wind. Or the ferret had caught the rabbit, or something similar. I excused myself, and hastened to the toilet, anal sphincter at maximum closure, and in the confines of the stall was able to let the gas go. I was in fear of flying round the room backwards. As (Sir) Mick Jagger sang in ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, “It’s a gas, gas, gas!” It certainly was.

So that’s what to expect if a gastroscopy is ordered for you. Some discomfort, a quick diagnosis and a gaseous ferret unleashed. You have been warned.


Hi! I’m Pookie, I’m about 18months old - a larger sized doggie with a velvety coat and a goofy personality to match my brown spots. I’m good with people and other dogs and I sure love my food! I’d love you to take me home with you.

Contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) Email: [email protected] to make an appointment and do just that!

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Say “No!” to bar fines
Hi Hillary,
I’ve been in Thailand many times and I have many good friends who work in bars and I know many of the bar girls have a Thai boy friend who they support and buy drugs for and most bar girls are loyal to the bar and to the Thai people and I want every falang to know that they don’t have to pay bar fine or money if they want a Thai girlfriend. Don’t waste your time or money with Thai lady or any Thai who ask you for money just walk away. I love Thailand and I think Thai people are very friendly and easy going I’m going back soon again and not every bar girl is bad but never send money, send it to some school or orphanage.

Dear Dieter,
Does your advice about walking away from any Thai who asks you for money extend to bus conductors? If that is the case, look at all the money I can save on the (rare) trips to Bangkok! But jokes aside, my Petal, I agree with you - just never hand over money (unless it is to the aged Agony Aunt’s charity appeal - a very good cause administered by me) as this is the wrong way to begin any relationship. One of my friends (I do have more than one) who married a Thai lady said, “During our time when we were going out together, she was the only woman who never asked me for money.” There certainly is a lesson to be learned there, one that many farangs have not fully understood. Mind you, since she controls the family finances these days she’s got all the money! (Why can’t I find a man like that?)

Anyone for a Tatt?
Dear Hillary
Let me say first of all that I really appreciate your column and your replies to many farangs, some of them pretty stupid or ingenuous or just suckers. I like your answers sometimes ironic or harsh and biting but always hitting the nail on the head. But let me go on to my question. Walking daily along Jomtien Beach I noticed that a remarkable number of Farangs are totally tattooed with picturesque, lustful pictures.
Meanwhile in the evening I enjoy watching Historic, Planet or Geographic TV channels. Lately Historic is programming a series for TV showing how is life in jail even in a maximum security prison. All inmates have their body entirely tattooed with funny or diabolical images.
Do you think dear Hillary that the above mentioned farangs are former convicts happily or are only exhibitionists?
Have a good day,
Concerned Farang

Dear Concerned Farang,
We will never know, will we, my Petal? I suppose you could always go up and ask them if they have ever done ‘time’, but that could be considered a tad personal. You could always take a camera and say you are going to publish a book on tattoos, and if they are merely exhibitionists they will jump at the opportunity. If, however, they are escaped convicts, they will probably jump on you and your camera. No, on reflection, you are better off going to Naklua Beach.

Too old to throw a leg over?
Dear Hillary,
I am thinking of buying a motorbike to ride around the city, even though it is many years since I last ‘threw my leg over’. I have a lot of worries about this as I have heard that a lot of bikes are stolen and end up crossing the border. What is your feeling about this?

Dear Valentino,
Feelings about what, my motorcycling Petal? Whether you are still good enough to throw the leg over, or whether your motorcycle will take its destiny into its own handlebars and rush across the border? Really, motorcycle riding is something that Ms. Hillary does not do as I consider it far too dangerous. The 80 percent of road accidents are with motorcycles, and that’s enough for me. I have no desire to become a statistic.

Ladyboy love?
Dear Hillary,
You have been warning everyone about the dangers of falling in love with bar girls, though I can see just how easy it is. They promise so much, but then… Now here’s my problem. I am becoming very friendly with a ladyboy, and I am sure we will end up “having an intimate relationship” (there are some words you can’t use in a family newspaper, my Petal). What I am wondering, is there any future in this sort of relationship?

Dear Chuck,
You are asking the impossible question, Chuck. In any relationship, be that M-F, F-F or M-M, the factors that control the future of the relationship depend upon the feelings of the two individuals, and their emotional stability and maturity. I do not see any difference between the three types. I know of people in these three relationships which have been steady for many years, but there are also just as many that do not last. Go slow, Chuck, that is my advice right now. If you were really sure, you wouldn’t be writing to me!

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Rellies from Hell
Dear Hillary,
Like many British expat pensioners I am living off the small pension I get from the old country. This is enough for me and my lady as we don’t have expensive tastes and eat at the local markets and such, and it has been good for the last year. But now her two grownup kids have come to stay with us from their village. It was going to be for a week, and then it was two and then it was a month. It’s been three months now and they just sit around and drink Thai whisky, don’t work and live off me. At first I didn’t mind, but it’s costing me more than my pension and I don’t like dipping into the bank account that’s supposed to be for emergencies. I feel I have to do something. She tells me it is the Thai way. You know these things, what should I do?

Dear Ernie,
You certainly have to do something my Petal - you have to show them the door! And ask them to close it on the way out! You are just being used. Forget all this nonsense about Thai ways and the family, the way the system works is that as soon as they are old enough the kids support the old folks, not the other way round. Put your foot down and tell them they either have to contribute and keep you in Thai whisky, or return to their village.

Unchained melody
Dear Hillary,
When you read my letter (email) please don’t just discount it as being another of “those” letters from bilked foreigners, but please read it through as this one is genuine. Despite not wishing to have anything to do with women from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ (my idea of a joke), six months ago I found that I was getting very fond of a young lady who worked in a bar here. I come over three times a year for a week and in between times we began to keep in touch via email, and I thought I was beginning to understand something about the Thai culture. It got that she would wait for me at the airport and see me off afterwards, and in all ways looked after me very nicely (and not like the women back in the US). Never once did she ask me for money, and I began to think that all those letters I read before in your column showed just what mugs they really were. This time it was different. I had found a gem. Last time I came over I had given her a gold chain but this time she wasn’t wearing it, so I asked why and she told me she had to pawn it to help pay the mortgage for her father’s land. Then she said she didn’t have a job anymore and couldn’t go back to the bar she worked in before because she would lose face because she didn’t have the chain, and asked me to buy her another one. I blew my top, I’m afraid and I know it’s a no-no in Thailand and walked out leaving her in tears. Now I don’t know if I’ve done the right thing. I am really feeling bad about all this. What do you think, Hillary?

Dear Wilbur,
Dear me! Why can’t I meet people like you? You have been here for a grand total of two weeks and you start throwing gold chains about like you are fishing for tuna - except you are the fish on the end of the chain, coming in hook, line and sinker! Let me assure you that you have done the right thing - there’s a lot of land out there, and it’s all under finance! Every last rai of it. Don’t finance any of it yourself.

How to make millions overnight
Dear Hillary,
Right now I just made $25 million, and all it will cost me is a fax. Three separate emails in one day from people all over the world who have ‘over-invoiced’ accounts and have the surplus ready to be disbursed, or have been left money after their father was unfortunately murdered, or finally they were given money to use for a secret arms shipment and they ran off with the cash. Grand total today of $92 million and they will give me 25%. The senders of the good news were an accountant, a senior minister and an African princess. Hillary, do people actually fall for this? Surely if enough people bring this to everybody’s attention we can stop the nonsense? Or do you believe these emails too?

Dear Multi-millionaire,
The emails are real, it’s just the subject matter that is phony, Petal. Unfortunately there are still people who get suckered in by the thought of all that lovely money. It’s a very basic human emotion called Greed, my Petal. The more zeros you put after the number, the greater the greed and the bigger the sucker. Hillary doesn’t know what to do about the unwanted emails, my in-box is stuffed with unforgettable offers, millions of dollars and do I want to see women doing contortionist activities with free access for three days? Like you, I have managed to miss all these wonderful opportunities.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Parky - the extraordinary showman

Norman Parkinson has been dead for many years, but the photographic world is that much poorer without him. He was a photographer who could lend his hand to photograph any subject, be that fashion, portraiture, reportage or travel. His version of the Pirelli calendar remains one of the best, with subtle reference to the tyre manufacturer through the use of the tread pattern in each of the 12 nudes. He was a man who gave great thought to how he would take any shot - not just working out the exposure details.

Norman Parkinson

However, I will always remember Norman Parkinson for the famous tale of his apprenticeship and his reaction to the ‘superiors’ of his day. He was indentured to Speaight of Bond Street, the ‘Court’ photographer in 1931 when he was eighteen years old. Those were the days when you paid to be allowed to work under such important people, and Parkinson’s fee which he had to pay was three hundred pounds to able to learn from the ‘great man’.

Speaight had once photographed Kaiser Wilhelm in the trenches and would regale his students with the tale, and how he used a bed sheet to reflect the light into the face of his famous subject. “What do you think the exposure was?” he thundered at Parkinson. “About a fortnight at f8,” was his cheeky reply. That quick-witted response epitomizes Norman Parkinson’s approach to photography as well. Quick to adapt and an underlying sense of humor.

After leaving Speaight, Parkinson set up his own studio in London. He was twenty one and willing to experiment with lighting and was soon in demand from the young debutantes of the day. However, Parkinson soon felt hemmed in by the confines of his studio, but when Harper’s Bazaar magazine commissioned him to photograph hats out of doors, Parkinson was off.

With a hiatus for the war years where he worked in aerial reconnaissance, Parkinson came back with a rush and worked for the international Conde Nast group, with the bulk of his work going into the British and American Vogue magazines. He is credited as having had an enormous influence on post war American fashion photography, setting the trend in that country also in using the outdoors as the backdrop.

His favorite way of shooting outdoors was “contre jour” (against the light) and to use a fill-in flash to light the foreground. Parkinson did this because when you take a shot with the sun behind you, there is no way you can control or modify the light source, but by using fill-in flash he would retain total control, balancing the foreground illumination against the light from behind the model, as supplied by the great celestial lighting technician. This style of photography I have mentioned many times in these columns and is worthwhile experimenting with.

Like all true professionals, Parkinson carried more than one camera on a shoot and would have two sets of medium format cameras (Hasselblads) and another two sets of 35 mm cameras (Nikons). Before committing the final scene to film, he would check all his exposure settings by taking some Polaroid instant films. He even said in 1981 that he had not used an exposure meter for over twenty years. Mind you, with seasoned pros such as Parkinson, he would have been able to guess the settings and be spot on over 90 percent of the time, though “about a fortnight at f8” was only said in jest.

Whilst he is best remembered for his fashion work, Parkinson was also a very skilled portrait photographer. With regards to this type of work he said, “I try to make people look as good as they’d like to look, and with luck a shade better. If I photograph a woman then my job is to make her as beautiful as it is possible for her to be. If I photograph a gnarled old man, then I must make him as interesting as a gnarled old man can be,” Norman Parkinson, a true professional. He said that to be a good photographer you need to be “a journalist who uses his nut.” We can all still learn from Parky.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Come alive with Still Life photography

One aspect of photography, which is generally ignored by the amateur, is ‘Still Life’. This is a shame because shooting still life can be one of the most amazingly creative and satisfying aspects of photography. The ability to position and light a subject to produce a pleasing result can fill up an entire day. In fact, the pros can take a couple of days to get a still life shot just right. That’s right. A couple of days! No exaggeration.

Still Life by Richard Sharabura.

You see, there are so many aspects to be covered in still life photography. It is not just a case of placing the subject on a sheet of paper and pushing the button. Still life photography teaches you every important aspect of the artistic side of photography, as well as honing up your basic photographic skills.

The first good thing about still life shots is the subject doesn’t complain and tell you to hurry up and, “Is my mascara smudged?” You can also just pick up the subject and move it in any direction to suit the shot. You don’t have to ask for permission. Oh yes, there are many advantages in having a silent subject!

Let us begin with lighting. The secret to all still life shots is to have two light sources. This can be daylight plus flash, two flashes, electric lights, daylight and a mirror - but you need two. One to basically light the subject and the other to light the background.
Lighting the background isolates the subject from the background and makes your subject the “hero” in the shot.

The other secret in the lighting is to produce a diffused light source. With un-diffused light, you will get far too many distracting shadows, which with small table-top objects can ruin the overall effect. You can diffuse your lighting by shining it through some scrim cloth, transparent net curtain material or through some frosted plexiglass - the sort of material they have over fluoro lights, for example.

The next important item in still life photography is your own eye. You will find there are even books on the subject, but what you have to do is to look at your table-top and arrange the items in a manner that is pleasing to your eye. Do you want them overlapping, or at some distance from each other? Generally there is one dominant item - bring it to the foreground and then arrange the supporting items after that. Some overlap generally works well.

Having got that far and you are now pleased with the composition, you then have to look through your camera. Help! It doesn’t look the same as it did with the naked eye! What’s gone wrong? It is because of the differences between the lens and your eye’s focal length. You now have to look through the camera and adjust the table-top items to produce the pleasing composition you saw with your own eye. Yes, this takes time. You can see why the pros take so long!

After you have the composition to your satisfaction - you have to light it. This is where daylight or tungsten light becomes easier than flash - at least with the sun’s (filtered) rays or diffused tungsten you can see what you are going to get. (In the pro studio, the flash units have tungsten “modeling” lights so that you can get the idea of how the flash will illuminate the subject, and where the shadows will lie before popping the shutter.)

Generally, I light the background first, then bring in the foreground (subject) lighting, carefully noting “spill” of one light source into the area of the other. Again, this can take hours! In fact, you can change the whole look of a table-top scene just with the balance of lighting used.

Remember too, that the exposure settings used in the camera depend upon the foreground lighting (not the background), and for most situations (but not all) the background can be brighter than the foreground, to “wash” it out a little. But again this is experimentation.

No, Still Life photography is not easy, even though it sounds straightforward. Perhaps it is easier to help the model fix her mascara after all!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Are Commodities Accommodating?

According to Barclays Capital, the emerging markets (EM) requirements for the world’s natural resources are growing at such a rapid pace that commodity prices are likely to become a lot more volatile. Amrita Sen, who is a commodities analyst at Barclays Capital, stated her opinion shortly after food prices went through the roof and mining companies all over the world announced good profits due to the growing demand from the EM - especially Asia.

Ms Sen was speaking at a recent event in London which announced BarCap’s 2011 Equity Gilt Study which is a long term study of the returns of financial assets. The analysis shows that demand is so great that technology and production cannot keep up. The report goes on, “The rise of India and China has completely altered the face of the global economy. These economies have accounted for virtually all of the demand growth in the past few years.”

Allan Conway of Schroders and who heads up their EM department said that investors must get used to food crises happening more often and this is down to the growing wealth of the people living in China and India. He carried on, “It is likely to a recurring problem. This is the second food crisis in two years and we will have to get used to this whenever there is bad weather or a bad crop.”

Conway has also noted that the increasing price of staples has been one of the reasons for the recent troubles in the Middle East. Barclays does not disagree, “Resource scarcity is a crucial social, political and economic factor of our era and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.”
Going back to the Barclay’s report, it is also interesting to note that the links between food and fuel have gone up with fifty percent of the rise in worldwide corn consumption now being used for ethanol production.

This is not the only problem though. Sen believes that with the world wanting more and more commodities it could have serious repercussions for the global economy. Whilst admitting the fact that there was not much individual consumption in China or India these two countries were “driving the commodity market, and in a lot of cases global GDP is being influenced by them.”

Precious metals play an important part in the commodity markets as well. Dr. Marc Faber sees that there could be short term volatility here, especially in gold and silver, but this will only be in the short term. However, he is forecasting the possibility of gold dropping to around USD1,200 or even less but is not worried as the fiscal problems of America and yet more monetization will soon see precious metals soaring again. He does raise the point that if gold does fall to these prices it would be a good time to buy.

Like Sen, Faber is concerned about other commodities as well. He believes they are well overbought. He thinks they are almost at a parabola stage, i.e. going straight up. When this happens there is a chance they will head right back down. Maybe not now but it will happen sometime just as they did in 2008.

According to Faber, this cycle usually happens when higher prices means supply will improve thus giving the potential problem of causing the markets to fall. It must be stated that the cycle for industrial commodities will be longer than that of soft ones as it takes longer for production to materialise. Faber does not care how much money the Fed is printing, he believe this cycle will happen and there will be volatility in commodity markets.

Faber is not a fan of Quantitative Easing as he believes inflation has to happen with more and more money coming into the world. The Fed thinks the best action it can take is to expand the money supply to ease the public debt that stands at four times the size of its economy. Therefore, even with the short term volatility, precious metals are still well worth having in a portfolio.

Faber is not that impressed with T-bills or deposits. He also believes the Fed will try and maintain its interest rate below that of inflation. This is so as to try and avoid the worsening impact from the credit market collapse which expanded to over three times the American GDP. Faber explained, “The US public debt could be much higher if unfunded liabilities like Medicare are included. There are not many options. The US will need to keep printing money for the time being.”

Like Sen and Conway, Faber has worries about the Middle East but puts the reasoning down to oil rather than soft commodities. With the rising demand for black gold in EM and America he thinks there will be geo-political problems for all oil producing countries. Whilst not good for the people of these countries it will help the prices of commodities increase.

The general uncertainty of what is going on worries Faber, “If there is a war, gold and silver would be desirable investments to hold. There will be times like the 1990s until 2008 when gold outperformed stocks and vice versa in 2009. But the key is flexibility. We don't know how the world will look in 10 years' time.”

Without doubt, the world’s economies are in for interesting times over the next few months and maybe even years. Like MitonOptimal, Faber believes there will be a short term rebound in the US Dollar but this will not last long. Scott Campbell believes it will not go into Q4. Faber says the value of the Greenback has to go down as the Fed is more than likely to increase its printing of money over and above the USD600 billion which they have already committed to. He says, “Paper [money] will have less and less value with the exception of currencies not printing money, considering what central banks plan to do. Inflation will be an issue in Asia and the Western world. (But) I think governments around the world will increase interest rates sufficiently to combat inflation.”

Finally, Faber is concerned that the slowdown of the Chinese economy may also affect the world economies as it may lead to a reduction in the demand for commodities and so affect the likes of Canada and Eastern Europe.

So, how accommodating are commodities? Well, they should definitely be a part of a portfolio. Depending on how much volatility you are prepared to take will then result in what percentage you decide to invest. In the long term though, with careful nurturing, they will do well for you.

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.

Absenteeism Portfolio Management

Today we have a special report from Scott Campbell - Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer of MitonOptimal.

Marc Faber, the famed editor of The Doom, Boom and Gloom Report to which we subscribe, was apparently moderating at an investment forum in Moscow recently where he asked his fellow panelists, "If tomorrow you were supposed to go to jail for 10 years and were allowed to make only one investment, which you would not be able to touch for this period, what would you choose?" Considering his panelists included Nouriel Roubini, Nassim Taleb, Hugh Hendry and Russell Napier, the answers were pretty enlightening.

In addition, this week on a subscriber asked the question of what one should do when leaving a portfolio to a spouse upon death who has had no involvement or interest over the past 40 years.

These answers make for interesting reading.
The answers to Faber’s question were: a basket of western multi-national stocks which benefit from emerging markets (Roubini), land in Lebanon! (Taleb), large high-return emerging market stocks (PIMCO EM fund manager), basket of Asian currencies (Napier), tobacco stocks (Hendry) and gold (Faber himself).

We devised the charts on this page from Bloomberg to look at the past 2 ten year periods and clearly picking the large under-performer of the previous period would have rewarded handsomely. Gold and EM equity massively underperformed in the 1990’s and Developed Equities (S&P500) in the 2000’s. We picked gold and EM over the past ten years but now we agree with Roubin that a basket of western multi-national high dividend stocks which will benefit from the emerging world boom would be the place to be after a dismal past ten years.

The next question is more behavioural and subjective. "I know my way around the investment world, but my wife has no interest. What happens upon my death? Should I leave her with a portfolio of unmanaged stocks, mutual funds or a money manager? All of these might be ok, but things change. The obvious similarity with the above debate is that what may have worked for the past 10 years may not work for the next 10. Also, as people get older their investment objectives change.” Two important points came out the discussion for me:

1. Succession planning to minimize tax implications is important but ensuring that all family members sit down and understand the actual investment portfolio and how it is to be managed is more important.

2. 30 years ago, income objectives were easily met by building a portfolio of long dated western government bonds as runaway inflation peaked.

Today, those same investments are a massive avoid at the end of a long bull market as deflation has worked its way through the system and the reflation season begins again.
An income yield portfolio must incorporate commercial property and high yield equities (which are more volatile) but will provide a growing income yield in the face inflation over the next 30 years. This time period could be important if American congressman Ron Paul is to believed, “We have so much unemployment, it is so undercounted. The free market economists report that there is probably 22% of unemployment. They [the Fed] pumped in $4 trillion, they should have added a lot of jobs, but how much did it cost us, and that of course is the price inflation that will come. We are moving into another 30 year period where we are going to see a reversal of interest rates, and we are going to see a crashing of the bonds like we saw 30 years ago and it’s going to last a long, long time. The Fed deserves the blame for the inflation, and for the unemployment.”

Looking forward is vital. Jesse Livermore was one of the most outstandingly successful traders of the early 20th Century, immortalised in Edwin Lefèvre’s “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator”. On the few occasions when he lost money, it was invariably because he chose to override his own rules. He said many insightful things about the psychology of successful investing, but perhaps his most pertinent observation was the following: “After spending many years in Wall Street and after making and losing millions of dollars I want to tell you this: it never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It always was my sitting. The big money is made by the sittin’ and the waitin’, not the thinking.” He did not plan things differently when he decided to end his life, "I seem to remember that Jesse Livermore, despite being an extremely active trader, chose to put together a portfolio of high yielding rail and utility shares for his wife before his suicide. I guess he knew that he would be trading less actively in future.”

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]

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai through April 12

Source Code: US/ France, Mystery/ Romance/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – A film everyone seems to be raving about it. I can personally verify now that it’s simply terrific in all ways as a thriller and mystery. It stars an excellent Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. A younger brother to Inception, it has the complex infrastructure of top-tier science fiction. Gripping, well directed, well acted, highly recommended. Generally favorable reviews.

Mindfulness and Murder / Sop mai ngiab: Thai, Crime/ Mystery – An ex-cop Buddhist monk investigates a murder of a homeless youth in the grounds of a Buddhist monastery in Bangkok. The police do little to investigate, leaving Father Ananda - a former homicide detective - to try and solve the crime. With the help of an orphaned boy, Ananda travels the canals of the city to unravel the clues and catch the killer. Nicely captures the mood and details of life in a temple.

Permanent Residence: Hong Kong, Drama/ Romance – Explores, in complete abandon and full nudity, the life story of a gay young man who pursues an impossible love with his straight boyfriend, and contemplates on the mortality of his loved ones. Unrated in the US; 18+ in Thailand. In English and Chinese (Cantonese) with English and Thai subtitles. At Vista only.

Ha Zard: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – When a university of comedians is facing a downturn and all its comedians are endangered, some comedy students team up to save everyone’s careers. Has at least a cameo from every comic in Thailand, plus excessive excrement and flatulence comedy routines – so very popular.

The King’s Speech: UK/ Australia, Drama/ History – In my view a beautiful motion picture, with everything you could wish for. Thanks to Vista, we’re finally able to see this here. Oscars for best picture, best director (Tom Hooper), and best actor (Colin Firth). Rated R in the US for some language; 15+ in Thailand. Reviews: Universal acclaim. Vista only, and only once a day, at 8 pm.

King Naresuan III: Naval Battle: Thai, Drama/ War – The chapter three of four of the King Naresuan epic, continuing the story of Thai's king and warrior in the Ayudhya era who fought against the invasion of Burmese troops that aimed to overpower the Ayudhya Kingdom. The filming of the story of King Naresuan began in 2002 and is still continuing on the huge set built in Kanchanaburi (and which is open to the public). Nearly the whole army garrison in Kanchanaburi is in the movie as extras, plus hundreds of elephants, horses, and other animals. Sort of a 10-year public works project for the province. The film is rated “P” for “Promote” – meaning the Thai government has given it its seal of approval, and everyone should go see it. The Bangkok Post’s critic, Kong Rithdee, said the “P” should rather stand for “Pedestrian.” But it is spectacular – for all that money, it had better be.

Hop: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family – The funny and entertaining story of the Easter Bunny's teen son and his quest to make a name for himself. With a live-action James Marsden and cuddly-cute animated bunnies and chicks. Mixed or average reviews. Vista version is Thai-dubbed only; Thai and English versions at Airport Plaza.

Rango: US, Animation/ Action/ Comedy/ Family/ Western – An absolute delight! Rango is your more or less ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West. Stars Johnny Depp. Generally favorable reviews.

SuckSeed: Thai, Comedy/ Musical – A story of teenage boys who set up their rock band called SuckSeed just to impress the girls. Has been very popular, now at Vista only.

Vanishing on 7th Street: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – An apocalyptic thriller/ horror about a mysterious, seemingly global blackout that causes countless populations to simply vanish, leaving only their clothes and possessions behind. A small handful of survivors band together in a dimly-lit tavern on 7th Street, struggling to combat the horror. Long sections build a nice sense of dread and mystery. With Hayden Christensen and John Leguizamo. Rated R in the US for language. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista only.

Gnomeo and Juliet 3D: (Shown in digital 3D) UK/ US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy – A version of Shakespeare's play, set in the world of warring garden gnomes. Gnomeo (voice of James McAvoy) and Juliet (voice of Emily Blunt) have as many obstacles to overcome as their namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors. Mixed or average reviews. Airport Plaza only.
Sucker Punch: US/ Canada, Action/ Fantasy/ Thriller – The most imaginative film since Inception, but you probably wouldn’t like it. A gritty, violent, fantasy-based, primarily female-driven story. Generally unfavorable reviews. At Vista only, now in Thai only.

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

Is there an important relationship between epiphytic orchids and birds?

The Vanda liouvillei (Photo Courtesy of Dokmai Garden)

Yesterday at breakfast I saw a huge Black kite sailing in to Dokmai Garden from the south. When it reached the centre it began circling, using thermal winds to gain altitude. I like this kind of bird watching, a huge bird moving slowly for several minutes, giving me plenty of time to observe characters like the forked tail and white under-wing patches.

I also registered a new bird to Dokmai Garden in a mango: The Golden-spectacled Warbler. It took me a lot of time to finally observe the characteristic grey cap with two black stripes. This little bird was constantly moving around in the crown, probably catching insects. While observing this new bird species (number 80 in our list), I also observed tailor birds, scaly-breasted munias, oriental magpie-robin and spotted dove.

I looked down at the Vanda liouvillei orchid which grows in the same tree, about one meter up from the ground. It has over 200 flowers, in spite of no nutrient additions. I kept thinking how on earth it gets the nitrogen up there. The bark is fairly smooth, no other epiphytes apart from crustose lichens. The literature usually suggests the epiphytic orchids sustain on degrading cork cells of the bark, but to my knowledge cork or suberin is exceptionally hard to break down and does not contain much mineral nutrients. The abundance of birds and the flourishing orchid made me come up with the hypothesis that in a healthy forest ecosystem, crowded with birds, there will be plenty of bird droppings to support the orchids’ needs for nitrogen (just imagine a chicken house). Such droppings may burn leaves, but mostly the droppings would hit another branch. Morning dew and rain would dissolve the bird droppings and a diluted nutrient cocktail would coat branches and trunks, where the orchids’ aerial roots can pick up what they need.

Is anyone aware of any ecological study comparing orchid health in a living tree compared with orchid health on orchids growing on bark pieces in an equally shaded area? In a nursery the orchid grower usually sprays NPK 21-21-21 every 2-4 weeks during the growth season, but nobody sprays NPK in the forest. For the Orchid Ark this means we should absolutely focus on keeping orchids in a woodland. Orchid ecology may encompass more essential elements than fungal symbionts for seed germination and pollinators for reproduction. Please let me know if anyone has read an actual article on this issue. [email protected]

Life in Chiang Mai: By Colin Jarvis

Work Permit Confusion

I was sitting in a bar the other night, listening to some good music being played by some first rate British musicians. I went to the Gents and when I came back there was no band and no music. The band had been arrested by police investigating the validity of the band members’ work permits.

The British and American Consuls have been trying to clarify exactly when a work permit is needed but they do not seem to be getting very far. In this article I will put forward some simple rules that I think will help keep you out of trouble and I will discuss, if they are willing, the details with the appropriate authorities and report back to you.

I was surprised to discover, only a few weeks ago, that charity workers do need a work permit; regardless of whether they receive pay or not. It would appear that if they are not a Thai national and, let us say, they run a jumble sale on behalf of the flood victims in the South of Thailand, they will need a work permit. As will all the people who come to man the stands.
The first point to realise is that whether one is paid or not is irrelevant.

Another complication is that there are many different work permits for many different activities. The cost of these varies depending on the likely income generated. We should also remember that some activities are prohibited. These include any form of manual work, agricultural work, construction work, woodworking, working in a shop, hairdressing and beauty treatments, and many, many others.
Another complication is that any work permit may be restricted so that, for example, a musician may only be allowed to play in one specific venue.

It may be easier to understand when a work permit is required if one understands the motivation behind the complicated work permit procedure. Essentially, it seems to me, that these rules are simply designed to preserve employment for Thai people and to remove foreign competition. Indeed this is the purpose behind work permits in just about every country. However, there is no doubt that the Thai system is more complicated than in many other countries.

So what have we learned so far? We have learned that receiving payment is irrelevant. We know that the purpose is to ensure that Thai people do not have to face competition.

It seems fairly simple therefore that a work permit is going to be required if one undertakes any activity that could be undertaken by a Thai national and that they could get paid for it if payment was available.

So, if you cook a meal in your home, or do housework does this mean you need a work permit? Could be, I am not entirely clear but I suspect no one is going to worry about it.

If you mend or service your car should you have a work permit? Again the answer could be yes as you are undertaking manual work. However, it is possible that there may be an exception if you're working on your own property.

I say this but I'm not that sure. I happen to enjoy making things out of wood and have well equipped workshop. I do not sell anything I make and I undertake projects entirely for my own pleasure, including, occasionally, woodcarving.

The Thais do not have a word for workshop, such places are a factory as no one would want to undertake such work for pleasure. The importance of the "shed ", beloved of so many Westerners, is not understood in Thai culture. I put a sign on my workshop saying it "Colin's factory". It was just a joke to rebut the jokes I received for having such a facility. When the immigration people came round to interview me for my married visa they strongly suggested by take down the sign as it might cause me to be arrested. No joke!

My conclusion is that if you do anything, outside your own property, that some Thai could undertake and earn money for, then you need a work permit. You will probably not be asked to get one unless you upset someone who then telephones the police to complain about you.

A blind eye is turned in many situations but, because of the recent arrest of some musicians, several performances with a charitable purpose behind them, have had to be cancelled for the simple reason that no one wishes to get out and sing or perform in public in case they are arrested. If one is an amateur musician who plays three times a year for your favourite charity, you still apparently need a work permit and not having one may leave you liable for arrest.

So I shall pop down to see the appropriate people and discuss this with them, if they are willing, and will probably have to organise several work permits for myself. I will let you know the results soon.