Family Money: Keeping
a Sharpe Lookout
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
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
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
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
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 www.westminsterthailand.com.
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.
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.
“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”.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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 www.spotlightstars.com
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.
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
Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists (Hong Kong
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
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.
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.
Animal Crackers: Wotsa
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Shaman’s Rattle: The
Three Religions of China
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Guide to buying a large
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
Updated every Friday
Copyright 2001 Pattaya Mail Publishing Co.Ltd.
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