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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Family Money: Keeping a Sharpe Lookout
Snap Shots: Konica Hexar - a User test
Modern Medicine: Tonsillitis - another pain in the neck

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Animal Crackers: Wotsa Wombat?
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
Women’s World
Shaman’s Rattle
The Message In The Moon
The Computer Doctor
A Slice of Thai History
Guide to buying a large dog
Antiques, are they genuine?
Down the iron road

Family Money: Keeping a Sharpe Lookout

By Leslie Wright

The terms ‘Alpha’, ‘Beta’ and ‘Sharpe Ratio’ will be familiar to sophisticated investors, but most people won’t have a clue what they refer to.

An investment manager, on the other hand, has to be familiar both with the terms and what they represent. They are fundamental to picking above-average performers, with below average volatility.

Alpha: The Alpha describes the theoretical reward obtained by one investment when the second investment has a zero return. Its relative growth, in other words.

To calculate the Alpha, the returns of each are taken and compared together to identify their relationship. This reveals relationships between investments in both bull and bear markets.

Even when the absolute return on an investment has been negative, it may still have outperformed the relative market index. In this case its Alpha will still be positive, as the index will have been counted as zero for comparison purposes.

Thus if the market index has dropped by 18% over the period in question but the fund you’re looking at dropped by only 12% over the same period, your fund will have an Alpha of +6%.

When applied to portfolios, it can be considered to be the return over and above (or below) the market through portfolio strategy. Good managers have a positive Alpha.

Beta: The Beta is the amount the first fund moves when the other fund moves by one unit. Beta is a measure of relative volatility (absolute volatility is calculated by standard deviation).

If one fund always goes up and down by 1.5 times the performance of the index, its Beta will be 1.5. This implies that if the return of the index is positive, then 1.5 times this positive return can be expected of the fund. Hence, if the index goes up (or down) 10%, the fund goes up (or down) 15%.

Beta thus represents the volatility of the first investment versus the second. It is only an estimate and to be accurate there has to be a perfect correlation between the two investments.

Monthly volatility (or standard deviation): Standard deviation is a measure of absolute volatility. It is the measure of the square root of the variance of each monthly return from the mean. The larger the figure, the higher the volatility and thus its associated risk.

Sharpe Ratio: The Sharpe Ratio is a commonly used measure for comparing performance relative to commensurate risk. This calculation reflects the average annual rate of return for a designated period of time less a risk-free rate, divided by the standard deviation of such returns.

In essence, the Sharpe Ratio measures a portfolio’s return relative to the total volatility of the portfolio. Put simply, a higher Sharpe Ratio indicates stronger performance on a risk-adjusted basis.

Regression Analysis: Regression statistics can be used to compare the relationship between funds, markets, or a specific benchmark index. They do not make the assumption that the variables (funds) are related as cause and effect, but permit them to be influenced by other variables (markets).

A typical example of the kind of funds and their associated risk ranging from low to higher risk are: money market (cash) funds, fixed interest (bond) funds, balanced (managed) funds, traditional market equity funds, emerging market equity funds, and warrant funds.

The investment industry assigns ‘rule of thumb’ numbers to these differing funds to indicate the associated risk.

The lowest risk investments - cash deposits or money market (cash) funds - are assigned a risk factor of 1. This indicates low risk, which equates to low volatility. Cash funds will thus have a low Beta. However, they will also typically have a low Alpha.

Emerging market equities tend to be a lot more volatile, so have a higher Beta. They will also tend to have a higher Alpha. The rewards are potentially higher, but so are the potential risks of associated losses. Hence on the ‘rule-of-thumb’ scale they are assigned a risk factor of 5.

Most amateur investors tend to look only at last year’s performance in choosing ‘performers’. Sadly, top performers last year all too often turn out to be poor performers this or next year, leaving investors smarting and puzzled.

Smart investors who have access to the appropriate technical information therefore look for investment funds that have a high Alpha and high Sharpe Ratio, with a relatively low Beta.

These numbers enable you to compare apples with apples on a meaningful basis, as well as apples with oranges or lemons if you wish.

Leslie Wright is managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd., a firm of independent financial advisors providing advice to expatriate residents of the Eastern Seaboard on personal financial planning and international investments. If you have any comments or queries on this article, or about other topics concerning investment matters, contact Leslie directly by fax on (038) 232522 or e-mail [email protected] Further details and back articles can be accessed on his firm’s website on

Editor’s note: Leslie sometimes receives e-mails to which he is unable to respond due to the sender’s automatic return address being incorrect. If you have sent him an e-mail to which you have not received a reply, this may be why. To ensure his prompt response to your enquiry, please include your complete return e-mail address, or a contact phone/fax number.

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Snap Shots: Konica Hexar - a User test

by Harry Flashman

It was almost one year ago that Ernie Kuehnelt came into the office with his “new toy” - the “retro” looking Konica Hexar, a Leica M6 “copy”. At the time, Ernie let Harry play with it, but it was too new for me to get my hands on it properly and run some film through it. One year down the track, that has changed and I have now spent a few days and a roll of film with this camera.

The “retro” looking Konica Hexar, a Leica M6 “copy”

The first and most obvious factor about the Hexar is the weight. This is not a lightweight “plastic” point and shooter. This is a solid camera and as such gives a feeling of confidence to the photographer. A small, but important factor.

The controls are on the top of the camera, including a digital film numbering read-out and battery condition. There is a rotary control of film speed, with the rating being either assigned to the DX automatic control, or you can set the speed manually for up-rating film in dark conditions, for example. You can also “bracket” using this dial to allow shots at 1/3 of an EV stop above or below the setting selected.

Another dial allows manual setting of shutter speed, up to an amazing 1/4000th of a second in manual mode, or there is also an Aperture Priority auto mode, with the aperture at the photographer’s whim. The actual exposure monitoring is done through the lens, even though the focussing is not, this being a “Rangefinder” camera. The shutter is a carbon fibre/aluminium alloy unit to allow the very fast shutter speed. Also on the top is the on/off switch with positions for single shot photography, or continuous mode with shooting at 2.5 frames per second. For an “old” looking camera, that is a great feature.

In use, I must admit that I could not fall in love with the focussing system. In the middle of the viewfinder there is a small square area which acts as a split image. You move the focus on the lens barrel until the square area and the region around it coincide. To be perfectly honest, the semicircular split image as per my beloved Nikons is a lot easier to use.

While dealing with the viewfinder, being a rangefinder camera, you can actually see the lens barrel in one quadrant of the viewfinder, another rangefinder quirk that I did not like. On the left side of the viewfinder, the shutter speed that the Aperture priority selects blinks momentarily, but again I found it hard to see it.

From my point of view, there are not too many advantages in the rangefinder versus SLR camera systems. Sure, the SLR’s are more bulky and the top end models tend to be heavier, but I am happy to put up with this in return for being able to see “exactly” what the film is seeing through the lens.

Mind you, the sharpness of the final photographic image is only as good as the lens the image comes through, and this is where Konica have really thought ahead. The mounting for the lenses (and it takes a number of them - it is not a “compact” fixed lens camera) is the same as the world famous Leica lenses, so you can use those lenses on this camera. In fact, Ernie’s camera was fitted with a 35 mm Leica lens for this test session. My reading of the subject, however, suggests that the three Konica lenses, a 28 mm, a 50 mm and a 90 mm have all received rave reviews by the photographic press, so there is probably nothing to be gained by opting for the (expensive) Leica item.

The results from the camera were excellent in the Auto mode, and the sharpness was as you would expect from the Leica optics. Despite all this, the “iffyness” of the focussing system made this a camera I did not want to own; however, for Rangefinder enthusiasts the Konica Hexar is an opportunity to own a “modern classic”.

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Modern Medicine: Tonsillitis - another pain in the neck

by Dr Iain Corness Consultant

One of my friends has just had her tonsils out. This is nothing extraordinary as most of us got our tonsils yanked when we were about three years old. However, my friend who has children of her own is obviously a little older than a toddler.

Tonsils are interesting little (or in some cases, not so little) glands. They live in the back of the throat and can become acutely infected which we call Acute Tonsillitis, or can carry a low grade infection for many months or even years, known as Chronic Tonsillitis.

The infecting organism is also of interest and can be a Virus, or Chlamydia, or bacteria such a Streptococcus or Staphylococcus, Mycoplasma, Fungi or Parasites. Another interesting snippet is that the most likely organism varies with the age of the owner of the rotten tonsils. In the 2-7 year olds it is Haemophilus influenzae which is the culprit, while in the 8-14 year olds it is Staphylococcus aureus and after that it becomes a mixed bag.

With an acute tonsillitis you will often hear the child’s voice change, and when you look inside the mouth there will be two “strawberry” shaped masses in the back of the throat. They will even have little white follicles on them, like strawberries. They can get so big that they will even meet in the midline, displacing the uvula, the little ‘clapper’ that hangs down in the centre. Pain radiating up to the ears is another frequent symptom, and the younger ones can run temperatures over 40 degrees C which is a worry for most Mums. Another symptom of an acute attack is bad breath, so if Junior can knock over the cat with one breath, have a look at his tonsils!

An appropriate antibiotic settles the acute attack fairly quickly, but it is very necessary to make sure the child takes the full course of medicine. With the more chronic attacks, the pain is less, the temperature is less, but the patient does not feel well, and antibiotic treatment is usual. Of course, it is necessary to identify the causative organism, and a tonsillar swab is usually taken to identify the nasty little blighter. It is also important to treat the other symptoms, such as pain and the elevated temperature, and paracetamol is the drug of choice for this.

When I was a child (in the days of hardship before ballpoint pens and cellophane paper) one good attack of tonsillitis was enough to have you prostrate under the surgeon’s knife, but these days we are a little more circumspect. With more than 10 acute attacks in 12 months we would recommend tonsillectomy, or if there was a continuous low grade chronic infection, again the advice was to yank the offending organs.

I am sure my friend will feel better after having her chronically infected tonsils removed - after she has got over the acute effects of surgery!

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Dear Hilary,

I have been to Thailand 18 times, but unfortunately on my last visit, I actually got a “knock back” from a bar girl. As I have been so many times, and have a lot of Thai friends, I have picked up quite a bit of the Thai language. The reason for my “KB” was that I was a farang who spoke, not Thai very well, but Thai too much. Although my ego was shattered for all of twenty seconds, I pulled myself together and continued to enjoy my night out, and the rest of my stay. I have my 19th visit planned for Xmas/New Year, and you are very welcome to join me and my friends for an evening out, with guaranteed Champagne and unlimited chocolate. I love to read the Pattaya Mail from here in the UK, and maybe if you decide to accept my invitation, you could go to the bar in question, and politely tell the pretty young lady that she made a big mistake. I have a very good heart, but life is full of ups and downs.

Best wishes,


Dear Thai Duncan,

Ooooh what a lovely man you are. Champagne and unlimited chocolates! What a shame it wasn’t chocolates and unlimited Champagne (French, vintage, of course) and I would have come immediately, my precious Petal. However, since you have been here 18 times already, you will no doubt realize that the chances of the pretty young lady still being in that particular bar are not high. Come to think of it, the chances of the ‘bar’ still being there are probably not all that good either. Just remember that there are plenty of other pebbles on the beach, and Hillary is sure you will have another wonderful time this year too. Keep learning Thai - as you have already found out, you can be surprised at what you can pick up - or how you can be dropped.

Dear Hillary,

I read with astonishment the letter written to your Dear Hillary column by my friend, Tully. Although truly a very dear friend, Tully hasn’t a clue. It is not my purple bank notes that the girls seek me out for, it’s a particular body part of mine. Known as the “prettiest” in Pattaya it has become a legend in certain circles and although I can’t use it very often it has made me very popular in town.


Dear “Jerry”,

You and Tully sound quite a pair. Jealousy, intrigue, purple persuader finances, bar girls and unusable popular body parts. All the ingredients for another Stephen Leather exciting yarn. I shall let him know about you both. You can expect a telephone call. However, while waiting for the call, it would be interesting for you both to reverse your roles. Let Tully flash the purples, while you see whether the popularity of the prettiest part continues. Do let Hillary know. It’s not often you can become part of a sociological experiment!

Dear Hillary,

I am a big fan of Thai music, but finding out when concerts are going to be on so that I can time a visit to see one is very difficult. I believe Jintara appeared in Pattaya earlier this year but I only heard about it after the event. Where are concerts advertised, and do you know of any in Pattaya later this year? I mostly like morlam and lookthung singers. The music is Thailand’s biggest attraction for me these days, after all, you can find girls, sea and sun anywhere.


Dear Pete,

Pete, my poor Poppet, there’s much more left than just music. There’s champagne and chocolates too. As far as the concerts are concerned, the Pattaya venues just tend to put up big billboards outside. Next time you are down here to busily ignore the girls, sea and sun, visit the Palladium, Hollywood and the new X-Zyte disco and they should know their forthcoming concerts.

Dear Hillary,

I notice that most of the letters you get are from farang males who are complaining about what has happened to them in the bar scene. Surely they must see that there is a big difference between that side of Pattaya and the other side? If they were only to look past the end of their noses they would appreciate that there are some truly wonderful girls out there. I have been married to my Thai wife for four years now and there has never been a “bad moment” in all that time. She is beautiful, intelligent (a qualified accountant) and caring. I do not have to change the locks on my doors or worry that my suits will be cut up. She does not need ropes of gold to hold her in the marriage, or motorcycles, or houses. We have a partnership and mutual trust. Why don’t some of these men look for the “good” girls?


Dear Amazed,

There may be lots of reasons. One may be that the supply of “wonderful girls” is much less than the demand, so the single males gravitate to the good-time girls, of which there is a more than adequate supply. Look after your wonderful wife and buy her plenty of chocolates (you can send the champagne to me, Hillary, c/o Pattaya Mail) and continue to build on your mutual trust. Bar scene farangs generally are not looking past the end of their noses - it is some other part of the anatomy.

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Work permit hike

Pattaya’s six hundred farang work permit holders are fairly passive about the long predicted increase in official fees from 1,000 to 10,000 baht. It isn’t the Labor Office official fee which bothers them anyway, but the “en route” payments to lawyers and others required to process and hasten a very complex bureaucracy. Since the alien labor act of 1979 was amended to allow work permits in a number of new occupations, applications are said to have quadrupled.

Death disco

Now here’s a sombre opportunity even without a work permit. If you are one of the resort’s pool of bankrupt songwriters but still have grave interests and tendencies, think about turning to writing dirges for funerals. In the USA, crematories and cemeteries are desperately searching for alternatives to Candle In The Wind and The Funeral March which are said to dominate the market. Publishing contracts are readily available for those with a flair for consoling grieving relatives with a guitar harmony or whatever. Start off by visiting

Decibel problem

What exactly can you do if the disco opposite you is still playing loud music at 4 o’clock in the morning, or mowing the lawn, thus preventing you from sleeping? Grapevine passed this reader’s query to our esteemed agony aunt Hillary, but she insisted on a gift of an outsize bottle of champagne and a huge box of chocolates before even considering such a mundane matter. This column suggests making an official complaint, moving house or blowing your brains out, which all amount to much the same thing.

Four legged theft

A neighbor’s tiff in Jomtien Nivate turned nasty this week after a farang accused the guy next door of stealing his wife’s jewelry by jumping over the low dividing fence when the door was left open. Heated guilty and innocent pleas abounded until the inevitable fight broke out and the fuzz were called. Inside the second guy’s house, several rings and two watches were indeed discovered hidden under a rug in the cat’s basket. Tiddles, Pattaya’s first alleged cat burglar, refused to make any comment.

A dog’s life

According to a survey from the prestigious and newly founded PAPS (Pattaya Area Popular Surveys), the first thing that 46% of local expats do on returning home is to kiss their pets. This is before coming to grips with any spouses or human relatives who may be slaving over a hot stove or whatever. Other findings from PAPS reveal that 26% of expats insist on a home cooked meal for their pooch, whilst 13% go to the doggie beauty parlor at least once a month. A staggering 1% actually thought their pet was a genius. A correspondent with two Spaniels, for example, claimed that his dogs always know when it is thundering and lightning outside. Apparently, they begin to bark.

Excellent reports

Quite a number of happy eaters have reported on the top quality pub food, and reasonable prices, to be enjoyed at the Pig and Whistle in Soi 7. When GEOC (Grapevine Eating Out Collective) made a surprise visit, we were struck not only by the appetizing liver, bacon and onions and mince and mash being consumed by trencher persons, but by the decor and ambient and friendly environment all round. Many bars in Pattaya have tried to create the atmosphere of an English pub, and the Pig and Whistle is certainly the cream of the crop.

Foreign approaches

Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists (Hong Kong dentist)

Because of lewd suggestions, you cannot entertain guests in your bedroom but we suggest you use the lobby for this purpose (Costa Rican boarding house)

We are specialist in women and other diseases (Italian doctor)

Customers who think our waiters are rude ought to speak to the manager (Nairobi restaurant)

Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves (Moscow cemetery)

It is strictly forbidden on our Black Forest camping site that people of a different sex, for example men and women, live together in one tent unless they have been joined together for this purpose.

And finally

To the guy who doesn’t believe you can eat as many steaks as you can digest for 275 baht inc. Try The Captain’s Corner buffet, opposite the mini golf on the way to Jomtien, where there’s no limit. At the moment anyway.

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Animal Crackers: Wotsa Wombat?

by Mirin MacCarthy

Wombats are one of those strange Australian marsupials, animals that carry their young in a special suckling pouch on the mother’s belly, just like the better known kangaroo.

There are three species of Wombats, called the Common, the Northern Hairy Nosed and the Southern Hairy Nosed, depending on the location mainly, and the Northern Hairy Nosed species is getting to be quite rare. It now survives only in a small national park near Epping Forest Station in tropical Queensland, and is likely to become extinct if threats continue, as it is Australia’s most endangered mammal. The greatest threat to the poor old wombat is actually the domestic dog and interstate transport trucks, with carcasses regularly being seen lying at the side of Australia’s main highways.

The Wombat is a stout, sturdy animal with a large blunt head. It has small ears and a very short tail and has short, stubby but very powerful legs with broad claws, which it uses for digging. The wombats’ teeth grow continuously, and a single pair of chisel-like incisors is found in each jaw. Wombats grow to about 1.3 metres in length and can weigh up to 36-40 kg for an adult male. The female of the species is a little smaller and has a backwards facing pouch to stop dirt from getting in it while she is digging tunnels. In this pouch she keeps her “Joey”.

The common wombat of southern Australia is the largest, and its thick, coarse fur varies in colour from yellow to black. The two other species of hairy-nosed wombats differ from the common wombat species in having longer, pointed ears, a hairy muzzle, and soft, silky fur.

Wally Wombats are also known for their poor eyesight, which may go far towards explaining why so many end up as ‘road kill’. Many people think of them as a slow animal and not very dangerous. This is, however, incorrect, as they can cause a very nasty bite and are capable of running at speeds of up to 40 km per hour. If you find one in a burrow, it is wise to leave it undisturbed. Dogs going down burrows will often come off the worse for wear too, or may even be killed, as the wombat will crush the dog to the roof of the burrow as a form of self defence.

They are nocturnal animals, sleeping in their burrows during the day and coming out to forage at night. They are herbivores, grazing on native grasses, roots of shrubs and leaves. They may wander over a territory of up to 3 kilometres each night searching for food before returning to their burrows, and although wombats may share their burrows, they are possessive about their feeding territories. They mark these areas by leaving smells and droppings around the edge of their territory, and snorting and snarling at any intruder.

The Joeys live in their mother’s pouch for around 9 months and can survive in the pouch for up to one week if the mother wombat has been killed. Australians know to check the pouches on any dead wombat, and a few Joeys have been successfully raised in captivity. However, they do not make good pets. Attempts to domesticate wombats are generally unsuccessful, and cases of “pet” wombats eating the legs off tables or burrowing through walls of houses are well documented.

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Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Out of Vogue

A phenomenon which is sweeping the Western democracies and the industrialised countries in Asia is the decline of two parent families. The latest population figures in the USA, for example, show that in the past decade the number of married couples with children living at home together is rapidly shrinking. For the first time, people who live alone - one forth of the population - outnumber married couples with kids.

At the same time, single parenting is growing. In fact, the number of married households in America would be dropping even faster if it were not for the contributions of one group in particular; foreign immigrants. Recent analyses find that traditional American ‘two parent families’ are increasingly new immigrants, particularly Asian and Hispanic. The demographics show that these families are clustered in parts of the nation which attract the largest numbers of immigrants, particularly the Western, South Western and coastal regions of the USA. By the end of the 1990’s, out-of-wedlock births among whites in America had soared past the 25 percent mark. Research is also finding that marriage rates are dropping among parents throughout the industrialised world. At a record 33 percent, America’s out-of-wedlock birth rates are actually lower than those of the United Kingdom, France and Scandinavia, and about the same as Canada’s.

Japan, Asia’s leading industrial nation, and its most advanced modern society, is seeing young Japanese women deferring marriage to a later age, and even consciously deciding not to enter into marriage at all. Japanese men are finding the acquisition of a wife is becoming difficult as their nation’s women become more career oriented, and less inclined to stay at home, bear children and do housework. They are increasingly unwilling to give up their freedom provided by this new lifestyle.

These findings alarm politicians. Folded deep in American President Bush’s 2002 budget, is $60 billion for grants to “promote responsible fatherhood”, and “strengthen marriage” with programs designed to be promoted and administrated by various religious and government organisations. Other governments of the world are addressing this issue with similar appropriations of state funds designed to provide money and assistance to their citizens with the view of aiding the population in the age old institution of marriage.

The government of Singapore has long been instrumental in this new field of endeavour. Fearing a sustained drop in the birth rate of the Republic, government sponsored ocean cruises for single men and women were introduced more than a decade ago. Special tax breaks for married couples with children were introduced, as were a myriad of social service campaigns which encourage men and women of similar educational and economic backgrounds to socialise in enticing surroundings in order to promote romance, culminating in marriage, and eventually, children.

Throwing government money at this problem may evoke new and original ideas on how modern societies can help married couples to stay married, or it could, like so many state sponsored projects, become just another bottomless pit into which taxpayer’s earnings are dropped. Perhaps the question we should be asking is, what do immigrants from underdeveloped countries know about the advantages of marriage and stable families, that those in highly sophisticated and modernised nations apparently do not?

One thing which parents in less affluent societies have more of is need; often quite desperate need. In poor communities, either in their home countries or enclaves which they have formed as immigrants in an adopted country, people turn to each other for survival because they have to. There is rarely a social and economic safety net into which they can drop in times of hardship. Family support may be their only choice. However, as the immigrants in rich countries assimilate and prosper, and governmental support to the needy becomes more effective, the actual consequences of irresponsible behaviour, such as divorce, dead-beat parents, and a blas้ attitude about lasting marriage are less devastating to those involved. So, instead of teaching the industrialised world about the virtue of marriage, new immigrants may find their own families breaking down.

To reverse this trend will require a social sea change. Marriage seems to have gone out of fashion because it involves so much time and sacrifice that modern men and women have simply decided it is more trouble that it is worth. Trends and fashions do change, however. Perhaps sometime in the future marriage will have to become ‘chic’ again. At the moment, it seems it is not very much in vogue.

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Women’s World: I want to do it, I'm going to do it

by Lesley Warner

A reader (obviously a fan of Sandra Bullock that is) asked me to write about the beautiful Sandra; personally I like her ‘girl next door’ image. She was born on July 26, 1965 in Washington D.C. to mother, Helga (German opera singer) and father, John (American voice coach). Sandra spent the first twelve years of her life living between Salzburg, Austria (during opera season) and Arlington, Virginia, as her mother’s work required her presence in both cities. Sandra performed on stage for the first time when she was at the tender age of eight, assuming the role of a gypsy child in a play with her mother.

She got the scar on her head when she fell into a lake and hit her head on a rock when she was 11. Sister Gesine Bullock broke Sandra’s nose with her elbow while opening a garage door when they were kids; imagine your horror when you have aspirations to be a movie star, one can only imagine what she did to her sister.

Sandra was an above average student; she attended Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA, where she joined the cheerleading squad. There was never any doubt in Sandra’s mind about what she wanted to be when she grew up (as you can see from the heading, her personal saying) it was always acting for her. After being voted “Most Likely to Brighten Your Day” by her senior class, she graduated from WLHS in 1982. She later enrolled in E. Carolina University in North Carolina, USA where she studied acting. Without waiting to graduate she moved to New York to pursue a career on the stage. This led to acting in television programs and then feature films. She gave memorable performances in Demolition Man (1993) and Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993) but did not achieve the stardom that seemed inevitable for her until her work in the smash hit Speed (1994).

In 1996 and 1999 she was in Chosen by People (USA) magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. In October 1997 she was ranked no. 58 in Empire (UK) magazine’s “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time” list.

She had a three-year relationship with Tate Donavan, her co-star in the film Love Potion No. 9. When the relationship ended it left Sandra emotionally damaged, but she has recovered well, claiming the two are “really strong soul mates”.

Sandra played the supporting role of a kidnapped victim in The Vanishing, a waitress in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, a “wannabe country singer” in The Thing Called Love (for which she wrote and performed her own song titled Heaven Knocking on My Door), and a futuristic street cop in Demolition Man. It is this role, which seemingly clinched her part as Annie, an “average ‘girl’”; in the 1994 box office smash Speed. In 1995, director Jon Turteltaub gave Sandra her first starring role as Lucy in While You Were Sleeping. That same year, Sandra rocked the box office again as Angela Bennett in The Net.

Joel Schumacher, director of A Time To Kill, sums it up well. “I’ve known Sandra for years. She’s one of my favorite people on the planet. To know her is to love her.”

She doesn’t have the “I’m famous” bug. When asked in an interview with 48 Hours, “Is it correct to call you a superstar?” Sandra responded, “No it’s not.” She refers to herself as an “actor who happens to be fortunately working a lot.” She simply loves what she’s doing.

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Shaman’s Rattle: The Three Religions of China

by Marion

In many ways, China has been like a sponge - absorbing those societal values that will work for Chinese society from the many influences that have been brought to bear upon her over the centuries.

“The cradle of Chinese civilization” is in the basin of the Yellow River, and archaeological evidence shows the Shang peoples were well entrenched and had a demonstrable society by the 12th century BC, which incidentally also marks the emergence of the Greek culture. 800 years later Chinese society was well differentiated, and certain tenets of that society are still recognizable today in the 21st Century AD, almost 3000 years further down the Chinese time-line.

It has been the strength of the Chinese social system that has helped China to survive external influences, even when those influences have come through military coups. The warlords might have won the battle, but the Chinese society won the war.

The oldest religious influence that can be documented and still surviving today in China is that of Taoism. The earliest Taoist text dates back to the 6th century BC and is called the Tao Te Ching, written by the Chinese sage Laozi.

Initially the Taoist way of thought was that the world had a “natural” order that dictated behaviour. Studying the world of nature, these early Taoists believed they would solve the mysteries of life. Such fundamentals as water and the winds were systematically investigated, leading eventually in China to the beginnings of true science as we know it.

However, over the years Taoism followed a more popular path, ascribing spirits or gods to inanimate objects which were then worshipped by the followers. Fengshui (which means wind and water) was practised by the Taoist priests, giving a method by which buildings could be positioned so they did not offend the spirit of the site. (In Thailand we just pop a spirit house in one corner and say we are sorry we disturbed them!)

The second religious influence on Chinese society is Confucianism, named after its founder Kongfuzi, AKA Master Kong (551-479 BC). Around this time there were several warring states within China and Kongfuzi promoted a highly structured, hierarchical society, in which the ‘Family’ was the most important element. He believed that social cohesion would be achieved by everyone within the family knowing their place and function, and carrying out those duties to the best of their abilities. It was Kongfuzi who preached the virtue of filial piety and veneration of one’s elders. Confucianism was also involved in sacrifice, not so much to appease spirits or gods, but to be used as a reminder of obligations and duties within the family unit. However, there were no ‘priests’ per se, so many would say that Confucianism is more of a philosophy than a religion. This may be so, but Confucian principles are practised today with religious fervour in China.

Also during that 1st century BC Buddhism was introduced to China by the silk traders from India and central Asia. This was the religion to introduce the concept of transmigration of souls, and with it the cyclical view on life. Your existence in this lifetime was influenced by what you did in the last one.

The concept of Hell was brought by the Buddhists, and the Chinese believe that the soul, following the death of the person, arrives before Yen Wang, the keeper of the register of all good and bad deeds. As you can see, there is certainly a more than passing similarity to St. Peter standing at the pearly gates with his book. It is Yen Wang who decides whether or not you can join the Buddha, or return back to earth with a “Must try harder” mark in the report card! The concept of the sanctity of life also comes from Buddhism, and was a strong factor in pushing vast numbers of Chinese into a vegetarian lifestyle.

The Chinese do not consider these three philosophies as being mutually exclusive and it is often said that in the journey through life you will find yourself as a Confucian in business, a Taoist in retirement and a Buddhist as the end draws nigh.

Whatever, as China becomes the new economic giant in the world, you will still see the basic principles of all three religions being practised by the Chinese people. After all, they have worked for the last 3000 years to perfect them - why change a good thing now! Agreed?

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The Message In The Moon: Sun in Taurus/Moon in Cancer - The Accommodator

by Anchalee Kaewmanee

Tranquil and self-controlled, this person projects an image of security, stability, and confidence. That Taurean personality is sensual and determined, and simply overflows with industry and determination. The Cancer’s emotional make-up is sensitive and full of imagination, even though a trifle reticent and insecure. Therefore, despite that facade of stability and strength, the individual is not quite as sure of himself as it may seem to others.

Charm and diplomacy work here to great advantage, for this combination possesses a gentle and endearing personality which draws people closer. In this case, kindness and tact work wonder where aggression and toughness fail. The Taurus-Cancer instinctively knows how to deal with people. That ability to adapt immediately to any circumstance (and to appear to be on all sides at once) enables this person to go far in life. A word of caution is pertinent. People born into this Sun-Moon sign must resist giving so much of themselves and their lives away that they have lost sight of themselves.

Like all Taureans, natives of this combination have remarkable powers of concentration. And the Cancer Moon provides the ability to absorb and retain knowledge effortlessly. Once something is learned, it is not forgotten. But this also extends to the emotional realm, and can be a drawback. That fine sensitivity also helps to interpret a minor insult or affront as a threat or rejection.

Holding back feelings of hurt and frustration for long periods of time, this personality often prefers to brood, rather than discuss some serious upset. Often this repression of feelings can lead to a lapse into cynicism and lethargy. Learning to express those feelings of anger or hostility honestly can help to make them go away.

A gentle, peaceful soul, the Taurus-Cancer finds it difficult to be aggressive, particularly in older years. Fortunately, this individual has the goodwill and approval of close associates, and most people look upon him with favour. That is lucky, for with this particular sign, self defence is unlikely. Learning to express opinions more assertively is a form of self-expression. This can be a step toward a happier emotional life.

It is always wise to guard against adopting a complacent or smug attitude in life as one ages. The Taurean Sun and Cancer Moon native is in danger of becoming a little too contented. Therefore, it is essential that they continually push themselves to the limit a bit more often to realise their capabilities. So many strengths and talents are found in this sign that it would be a shame to waste them. That depth and imagination will lend itself to creative fields of endeavour, especially in architecture and design. But too often, people born into this group are drawn to careers which offer the most financial security, so it is unlikely they will embark on such a precarious future unless the position is secured in some way through a family business or corporation.

Lucky in finances, this sign has a positive feel for money and how to invest it. Frugal and forever cautious in speculation, a career in real estate or the stock market, land development, banking or finance is certainly an ideal choice.

Basking in the joys of creature comforts, this duo usually has plenty. That Cancer Moon provides a strong domestic urge to settle down into a stable and happy home arrangement. In relationships the Taurus-Cancer combination needs a loyal, honest, and supportive partner to satisfy a strong need to be loved and reassured. A happy home is usually the foundation on which this sign can base all the other achievements in life.

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The computer doctor

by Richard Brunch

From Harold Jackson, Pattaya: I have a friend who has given me an internal Yamaha CDR-W. He has given me also an Adaptec SCSI card and cable. My PC is running Windows ME. I am definitely a user not normally getting under the hood, so to speak. Do you think I should do it myself or take it to a shop? Also, what software should I use to make the CD’s?

Computer Doctor replies: Yamaha CDR-W’s are quite reliable and relatively straightforward to install. So I think you can tackle this operation yourself. Firstly, ensure that you have a spare bay in which to locate the CDR-W drive and secondly a spare slot in the motherboard for the SCSI card which I imagine is PCI. If the answer to both is yes, then you can proceed. You will need to check that the two devices are not using the same SCSI ID, normally the card would be on 7 and the CDR-W on 3; however, should you already have SCSI devices installed then you will need to ensure that no conflict exists and if possible combine all devices on the same SCSI card. But before physically removing an existing card, as with any other piece of hardware, uninstall the device within Windows using Device Manager. Once these are set and installed, you will notice when you boot that the SCSI card displays a list of devices detected and ensure that this shows all your SCSI devices, then Windows ME will detect firstly the new SCSI card and in all probability the driver will be within ME. If not you will need to supply this from CD or else download it from Adaptec’s website. After this is successfully installed, the CDR-W will be detected. Check within Device Manager that there are no conflicts and all your SCSI devices are shown as working. It is a good idea at this stage to restart the PC after which you can install the burning software which will make your CD’s. My personal choice of burning software is Ahead Nero.

From Louis Jackson, Rayong: I have received an e-mail from Loxinfo this week telling me I have to change my telephone numbers for connecting. I am a bit unsure how to go about it, can you advise please?

Computer Doctor replies: This has been a cause for many e-mails and telephone calls this week. As you have not said which operating system you are using I will briefly touch on the three main ones. It must be stressed that this does not just affect Loxinfo but all Dial up connections to ISP’s and indeed normal phone to phone dialing. As I understand it, with effect from the 5th July although there is supposed to be a three week grace period, it will be necessary to prefix all numbers with the local area code even when dialing within the same local area. So for instance Loxinfo would become 038258000 instead of just 258000. Within Windows 95/98 open My Computer then Dial up Connections, select each dial up connection you use in turn and right click on it, select properties, connection, then insert the appropriate local are code as a prefix to the telephone number. For Windows ME you gain access to the Dial up settings through Start, Settings, Network and Dial up Connections thereafter, find locate the connection telephone number and add the relevant prefix. For Windows 2000, the procedure is: click Start, Settings, Network and Dial up Connections, right click on all the connections in turn, select Properties and from the General Tab, click the Alternates button and from the next screen select Edit and add the prefix to all the telephone numbers, OK all the way out.

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A Slice of Thai History: The struggle to retain independence

by Duncan Stearn

Thailand has always been proud of the fact that of all the nations that comprise South-East Asia, she alone never came under the sway of a European nation.

While the Philippines was occupied first by the Spanish and then the United States, Brunei, Malaysia and Burma came under the control of Britain, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam were held by France and Indonesia was part of the Dutch Empire, Thailand remained an independent state.

The reasons for this are bounded up in the imperial rivalry between France and Britain, geographical fortune and the willingness of the monarchy, especially King’s Mongkut and Chulalongkorn, to play a deft political game.

The first real European threats to Thailand’s sovereignty came in the early part of the 19th Century when the First Burmese War broke out between Britain and Burma.

Lord Amherst, the Governor-General of British India, declared war on Burma in February following an attack launched by Burmese forces against a British detachment occupying Shapuri Island the previous September.

Amherst enlisted the aid of Thailand as an ally, although the Thais in the end took very little part in the conflict.

The war ended in February 1826 with the surrender of Burma. The Burmese were forced to cede Arakan, Assam and the Tenasserim Coast to the British.

The following June, Thailand signed the Burney Treaty with Britain. Negotiated by Captain Henry Burney, the treaty of commerce ceded the Malay state of Kedah to Thailand while Britain received the islands of Pangkor and the Sembilans. Thailand acknowledged the independence of the Malay states of Perak and Selangor.

These states had been the subject of a planned Thai offensive in 1825. Despite the fact that Thailand was an ally in the Burmese war, Robert Fullerton, the British Governor of Penang, had sent a flotilla of gunboats up the Trang estuary to prevent the sailing of the 300-strong Thai invasion fleet.

Rather than confront the British head on, the Thais opted for peaceful negotiations that resulted in the Burney Treaty.

In October 1826 the British signed the Low Treaty with the Sultan of Perak. Captain James Low of the British Navy had been sent to the sultan’s court with orders to counter Thai influence. Low forced the Thai advisers out and concluded a treaty by which the sultan agreed to have no political dealings with Thailand or any other Malay state.

However, in 1827, a diplomatic incident took place between Britain and Thailand after Captain Low, with the consent of the Sultan of Perak, attacked and destroyed a pirate centre on the Karau River.

The Raja of Ligor, a Thai military commander, claimed the Karau River was in Kedah Province and the action had violated the 1826 treaty. It was later shown that the Karau was in fact part of Perak.

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Guide to buying a large dog: Bloodhound

by C. Schloemer

Good points: charming to look at, good with children, superb tracker, ideal for family pet if you have the room

Take heed: sensitive and easily hurt - use only voice control, needs plenty of exercise

The Bloodhound is a delightful animal with a nose that is second to none. If follows its quarry, but does not kill. Indeed it is loved by children and will make a cherished family pet. This breed needs ample room, with a large garden and plenty of walks on the lead. If the owner is interested in the show ring, the Bloodhound is very popular at dog shows. The breed is often used in police work since its tracking abilities are unparalleled. Training any of the hound group of dogs needs gentle patience. Bullying a hound will not bring rewards in obedience. To train a Bloodhound, it is best to use voice commands only. A series of consistent commands repeated in a gentle voice will prove to be the best method.

Size: Height: dog 63.5-68.5 cm, bitch 58.5-63.5 cm. Weight: dog 40.8 kg, bitch 36.3 kg

Exercise: The bloodhound needs plenty of exercise. These dogs really need to have a gallop. Best to join a Bloodhound Club if possible and take part in organised events. The Bloodhound is not an apartment dog, so owners without access to enough room will be happier with another choice of breed.

Grooming: Daily brushing with a hound glove is recommended. Regular ear inspection is essential.

Health care: Bloodhounds are subject to torsion (stomach gases building into a bloat). A large number are affected and it can prove fatal if not treated within minutes. Be ready to seek immediate help from a qualified veterinarian.

Origin and history: The Bloodhound is said to have been brought to England by William the Conqueror in 1066, and to be one of the purest of the hound breeds.

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Antiques, are they genuine? : Tankards

by Apichart Panyadee

Perhaps one of the most common fakes is the conversion of an 18th century tankard or mug into a more useful jug. This was done exclusively during the 19th century. The covered tankard became fashionable in the 19th century, and provided the innovative silversmith with an object which could be converted into a variety of items.

A comparison between a 1766 tankard (left) and a coffee pot made from a tankard of the same period.

The most common alteration was to a jug for hot or cold liquids. Often conversions from tankards to mugs included chased decoration, as in the mood of Landseer, whose paintings and engravings were so popular at this period. These altered items are perfectly legal and saleable as the additions of spout and finial will have been later hallmarked.

A better attempt at deception, but the tankard shape is still obvious.

Apart from the marks, the outline from the handle, the lid with thumb piece, and the body and foot immediately suggest a tankard. The fact that there may be hallmarks on the base and inside the domed lid is also a clue.

Tankards are the only pieces that will have a combination of four hallmarks on the base and lid as a matter of course. The conversion of mugs and tankards became so commonplace in the late 19th century that silversmiths began to copy fakes.

There are items which are less obvious alterations, for example, those which are in elaborate disguise. But there are recognisable clues; the spreading foot and/or thumb piece is quickly spotted. Mock Queen Anne fluting which was popular in this period is also a give-away, when combined with a hallmark for 1760, because at that time, very few people knew that a hallmark would reveal a date.

There was no attempt to disguise the tankard in this conversion.

Although Octavius Morgan first demonstrated there was a date letter system to the Society of Antiquaries in 1851, it was another 25 years before people became familiar with the more detailed works of W. Caffers and W. J. Cripps. Universal recognition of the British hallmarking system was certainly not apparent until the publication in 1905 of English Goldsmiths and their Marks, by Sir Charles Jackson F.S.AS. and probably not easily available until the first edition of Bradbury’s Book of Hallmarks was published in 1927.

Sometimes there is no attempt to disguise the shape of the tankard. This ‘honest’ conversion may have been made from a plain piece and perhaps one or more features will have been added, such as the spout and finial, and these pieces will have been assayed and marked. A tankard which has been converted to a pouring vessel may have the thumb piece which is used for convenient pouring.

Many coffee pots are ‘legalised” conversions from tankards. There will be a similarity in size and taper to a tankard. Genuine coffee pots can be subjected to the addition of decoration alone. This is not illegal and while in Victorian times it would have enhanced the appeal and value of a piece, today it would probably diminish it.

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Down the iron road: Doctor Beeching wields his axe!

by John D. Blyth, P.O. Box 97, Pattaya City 20260

The quiet before the storm

The arrival of the new railway chairman was, it seemed, greeted with an ominous silence from both sides; he did nothing to show himself, whereas it was in tradition for any new senior officer to make the rounds of his new ‘parish’ and get t know both staff and supervisors. But in all the years in which he and I were working only a few hundred meters apart, I can honestly say I never set eyes on him. The reason was plain, as a total outsider he didn’t want to display his total ignorance of what made the railway ‘tick’, other than that of pure finance. But what was he doing? – He was writing a book, published in due course, and called ‘The Re-shaping of British Railways’. Re-shaping? – Hmm, it sounded a bit more than drastic, as indeed it was. The new railway map – there were many of them at that time – looked more like a skeleton.

The new shape

Nothing was safe. Had the doctor remained a bit longer, there would have been no railway west of Plymouth, now west of Swansea, nothing much north of Glasgow or Edinburgh. Newcastle to Edinburgh, closed (now a well-paying high speed route); the only way into Scotland was to be via Carlisle, one route thence north, the line via Ayr, and the so-called Border countries line, both to go. I haven’t space to list the main lines to be lost in England. The concept here was to decide which was the better-paying line of a pair, when these stared and ended at the same places – the ‘duplicate routes’ policy which, if implemented would have deprived many towns of importance of any railway facilities at all.

3,300 hp ‘Deltric’ Diesel-Electric locomotive, powerful but very complicated

Other than those very near to London or another very large city, branch lines were to go, so were small intermediate stations on main lines. I recall that on the London – Reading section we left the bigger stations alone and grouped the others, and one day I was handed the file for the two closest to the main Paddington terminal – Action Main Line and Westbourne Park… ‘they can’t be making much money’ was the comment. By chance I found the figures from a count of passengers at each. Joining and alighting, for two well-separated weeks; multiply up to make a year’s use, and – bingo ! – there were four-and-a-half million people getting on and off our trains in a year. ‘Do we close?’ I asked; ‘Give me that file,’ said the boss, and the question was not asked again for a long time. In fact Westbourne Park was closed, by our successors, long after my retirement, by a deliberate and progressive run-down of the train service to less than half its frequency, to make room for an extra track for the planned service to and from Heathrow Airport. I had a lot of fun at the public hearing – “They just weren’t ready for you, were they, John?” commented a friend, along for the fun.

More dishonest was the decision to close the 3miles between Ashchurch and Tewkesbury – the former a junction on the main line to Birmingham, with branches to Malvern and Evesham. Tewkesbury is an ancient market town with a magnificent Abbey, two rivers for the anglers, a host of old black and white timbered houses, and a hotel mentioned in Dickins’s ‘Pickwick Papers’ : ‘…At the Hop Pole at Tewkesbury, they stopped to dine…’ – so a haunt for tourists too. ‘Never mind’ said the railway, ‘It’s only three miles to Ashchurch, and there will be a bus service to connect with all trains.’ Three years later they quietly closed Ashchurch as well. A new station on the site of the old one took until the year 2000 to build, and at a cost of ฃ1ฝ million.

Not all closures

So the ‘Beeching Axe’ became so famous that it is still remembered; it virtually passed into the English Language. Beeching could see a good idea if he was shown one, but his ‘ideas men’ had, I think, quite a thin time. But a few good ideas came up, were developed and costed, passed Beeching, and were brought in. One was ‘Merry-go-round’, a scheme to deliver coal from collieries to power stations, almost without the train ever stopping. At the loading end it was done very fast from overhead conveyors and on arrival the wagons, which had self-discharging doors, dropped their loads while passing over the reception pits, literally non-stop. Sadly this was to have a short life due to the warfare between the miners’ leader, Arthur Scargill, and Mrs. Thatcher, which resulted in this coal-laden island having almost no coalmines left. Opportunely, North Sea Gas was just coming on stream, and this took over in most cases. Merry-go-round was a pure Gerry Fiennes concept; by contrast no one seems sure who thought of ‘Liner Trains’, fixed formation trains conveying containers, the idea being to shunt the containers rather than the wagons; this too caught on and worked well. Finally there was a wholesale re-organisation of the express passenger service under the trade name ‘Inter City’ – It all caught on and the introduction of 125 mph trains a few years later was the salvation of this part of the service. ‘Inter-City’ caught on in Europe, too… But where was Beeching in all this? No more than counting up the money.

Gerard Fiennes, an “ideas man”

It was the same with freight, even though the Doctor’s first known act was to cancel the building of three major marshalling yards, each of which would have hurried the traffic along and saved money doing so; he is also said to have interfered with two block load trains which ought to have been money spinners too… I feel that, to him, freight ought to be on his faster’ new Motorways; if rail borne it got in the way of passenger trains which ought to have been profitable, too. So such freight ‘ideas’ as came through were from the ‘ideas’ men such as Gerry Fiennes, whose picture I include – to show what he was not like!

Finale, such as it was

The Doctor left us, it seemed, very quietly, but too big to be under a cloud; I think it was another ‘Left’ Government, with a fiery Transport Minister, Mrs. Barbara Castle, that eased him out; her legacy was to see through a massive list of station and line closures already approved by parliament, and which had to be effected.

How had he done? He had not brought British Railways to a state of solvency nor made rail travel more attractive to a single customer. He had deprived hundreds thousands of erstwhile passengers of rail track which, only now, we are seeing the need for due to the inadequacy of the motorway system; he took no regard or consideration for the needs of traders, especially in rural areas, and removed any kind of public transport from many of them.

“Could have done better’? – What had he done that a trained and useful railway officer could not have done – better?

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