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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Family Money: Hedging Your Investment Bets
Snap Shots: Red Eyes without tears
Modern Medicine: Twinkle, twinkle little star

Heart to Heart with Hillary
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
Women’s World
Animal Crackers
The Computer Doctor
A Slice of Thai History
Guide to buying a large dog
Down The Iron Road
Antiques, are they genuine?

Family Money: Hedging Your Investment Bets

By Leslie Wright

Last week we discussed how currency movements can affect the value of your international investments.

Holding a globally-diversified portfolio is a scenario which can be especially confusing for investors who think in terms of a third currency such as Sterling, Deutschmarks, or Swiss Francs. What effect does currency fluctuation have on your investments?

If you’re living in Thailand, maybe working here on contract and having a substantial part of your earning paid in US Dollars, spending Baht, and holding hard-currency deposits “back home” in Sterling, Deutschmarks or Swiss Francs, it can all get very confusing.

To get a clearer understanding of how currency movements might affect your international portfolio, let’s look at a couple of examples.

Sterling investors holding Dollar-denominated assets

A Sterling-orientated investor is holding a Dollar-denominated portfolio. If he bought those assets with Sterling and their Dollar value is the same now as when he bought them (perhaps because the market went down in the meantime, and has only recently come back up to where it was when he first bought those assets) but the Pound has weakened in the meantime against the Dollar, his Dollar-denominated portfolio will be worth more Pounds if he encashes his holdings now. He’d have made a windfall profit in Sterling terms.

However, if that portfolio happened to be invested entirely in the UK, the Dollar value of those assets would have lessened in line with the currency movement, but are worth virtually the same in Sterling terms as before any currency movements.

As an analogy, imagine you’ve bought a house worth ฃ100,000 in the UK. If you had paid for this in cash with offshore earnings in US Dollars when the Dollar stood at 1.52 to the Pound, you would have paid US$152,000 for the house.

For simplicity let’s assume that the house is still valued at ฃ100,000.

Now that Sterling has weakened against the Dollar, that ฃ100,000 house is worth roughly US$141,000 in Dollar terms. If you sold it now you’d have made a loss of US$11,000 just on the currency movement - if you’re a Dollar-orientated investor. But if you’re a Sterling-orientated investor, you’d still get back ฃ100,000, so it wouldn’t really matter what the currency movements had been in the meantime.

Movements of other currencies have the same effect

This same analogy holds true for any other currency. If your base currency - the currency in which you think - is the same as the currency in which the assets are held, relative currency movements have no effect on your assets’ value.

If, however, your base currency is a different one from that in which the assets are valued, the value of those assets in your base currency will rise or fall inversely proportionately to movements of the valuation currency against your base currency.

You could make a windfall profit - or you might suffer an exchange-rate loss if you encash those assets when the valuation currency is weak against your base currency.

This factor has to be borne in mind when investing internationally, or thinking of encashing your investments.

Complex portfolios

The situation becomes more complicated when an investor constructs a portfolio which comprises several items, each of which is denominated in a different currency.

Each part has to be considered separately - but in combination can provide a “safety net” or hedge against currency movements.

A globally diversified portfolio will inherently be holding assets spread all over the world. Of course, these individual assets will be bought and sold in the currency of the country where they’re located and traded. Shares in a Swiss chocolate factory will be quoted in Switzerland in Swiss Francs; shares of a Korean steel mill will be quoted in Won in Seoul; shares in a Colombian emerald mine will be quoted in Pesos in Bogota; a French pharmaceutical firm’s in French Francs (or Euros) on the Paris Bourse, and so on round the world.

If an international institution managing a globally diversified fund feels it would be advantageous to its investors to hold those particular assets I’ve listed (plus of course a lot more), it will have to quote a single price to potential buyers of the fund’s units which these investors can understand and relate to.

Such a global fund might therefore be denominated in US Dollars - or it could equally well be denominated in any other major international currency such as Sterling, Deutschmarks or Swiss Francs. Up to a point it’s rather arbitrary, in fact, because of the diversity of the underlying assets in this type of fund.

Fund managers hedge their bets

The managers of the fund will, however, look at relative strengths or weaknesses of currencies when making decisions as to buying or selling any particular underlying assets.

If the currency in which the fund is denominated is particularly weak or likely to be devalued, they may protect their investors’ interests by holding very few or no assets valued in that weak currency in their fund.

For example, in 1992 when Sterling was about to be devalued, wise managers of Sterling-denominated globally diversified (or ‘managed’) funds hedged their funds’ assets into Dollars, holding few if any assets in the UK. Thus, when Sterling devalued by some 25% against the Dollar, the price in Sterling of most of these funds shot up (because the Sterling value of internationally held assets increased inversely proportionately to the currency movement, as discussed earlier), and the ‘international’ value of their Sterling-denominated funds in Dollars, Swiss Francs or Deutschmarks was virtually the same as before devaluation.

As a result, Sterling-orientated investors made a windfall profit, whilst international investors were almost unaffected by the fall in Sterling relative to their base currencies.

Sometimes an institution offers two or more global funds denominated in different currencies. The objective of the fund managers is to optimise gains in each fund’s denominated currency, so the underlying portfolio of what otherwise would be identical funds might be slightly different in, for example, that institution’s Dollar-denominated global fund from their Sterling-denominated global fund, to reflect the managers’ views on currency movements which would affect the fund’s value in that denominated base currency.

The shrewd move, then, is to spread your investments through several markets and across several asset classes to protect yourself against potential currency movements, and to have faith in the abilities of professional fund managers, part of whose job it is to protect international investors like you and me against currency movements by ‘hedging’ their funds.

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: Red Eyes without tears

by Harry Flashman

There are a few causes for “red eye”. Ignoring the obvious ones of late nights with excessive alcohol intake and scratchy contact lenses, “red eye” is a condition often seen with many flash photographs these days. The photographic cause of “red eye” is the flash burst illuminating the back of the eyeball! This is particularly a problem with cameras that have their own in-built flash.

The reason for this is that the beam of light from the flash is very close to and parallel with the lens axis, so the lens “looks” directly into the back surface of the eyeball as well as the flash beam. Another reason for the prevalence of “red eye” is that in low light situations (and that’s the times when you have to use flash illumination) the subject’s pupils are dilated and it becomes even easier to see into the eye.

Photo by Michael Busselle

Now, to get around this problem, professional photographers will often use a flashgun mounted off to the side of the camera. In this way the flash actually comes across the subject’s eyes at an angle and “red eye” is less likely to be apparent.

The clever camera manufacturers have now begun incorporating a “pre-flash” mode before the main flash fires to make the pupil contract, so it is less likely that you will see inside the eyeball. The only problem here is that many people imagine that the “pre-flash” going off means picture taking is over and move away just as the main flash fires. Best to warn the subject that there will be two flashes, with the real one being the last one!

How fast is your film?

The “speed rating” of film is generally given by an ASA number. The higher the number, the faster and more sensitive the film. The most “usual” film speed is about 100 ASA, however, it makes a lot of sense to go for some different film speeds.

The trick is to adapt your film use to the kind of picture you want to take. Confused? Don’t be. The rationale behind film speed is simple. The faster the film (the higher the ASA number) the better it is in lower light levels. To put it simply, if you want to take shots in the evening without using a flash then select a film with ASA number up around 1600 or even higher. That film is five times more sensitive to light than your usual 100 ASA film. Or put another way, it will satisfactorily expose film at one fifth of the amount of light that the “normal” film needs.

All this super sensitivity comes at a price, though. And that is “sharpness” and clarity. The faster the film, the more “fuzzy” it gets.

Sometimes you may want to get that “soft” romantic look in a portrait. Again this is where you use the fast film and enlarge for the portrait. That “grainy” look is now at your command! Good for “glamour” portraits too.

At the other end of the scale, the lower (and slower) ASA numbers need a lot more light for proper exposure, but the film emulsion gives pin sharp clearly defined images. Pro shooters will often use 50 ASA film to get that crisp picture that will withstand big enlargements.

If you have a camera with DX de-coding, then the camera will automatically adjust for the different films used. However, if your camera has manual adjustment for film speed, remember to set the new ASA rating or you will have wasted a complete roll. And also remember to re-set the film speed when you go back to your usual film again.

In answer to your question, what does Harry Flashman use for everyday? Try 200 ASA for a good all-rounder, and I use a mixture of Konica (nice and cheap too) and Kodak, if I can’t get the former brand. No matter what film you use, though, keep it cool in its canister. Nothing ruins film quicker than heat.

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Modern Medicine: Twinkle, twinkle little star

by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant

How I wonder what you are

I really do love that euphemism for having a pee - having a twinkle! It is actually quite amazing just how many words are used by the average Anglo-Saxon family to describe one of nature’s most basic and instinctual acts. From pee-pee, to passing water, to Number Ones, to doing a “wet” - the list is endless. When about to ask a young child about its bladder habits I would always speak to the parents first and say, “What do you call it in your house?”

And that roundabout beginning leads us to Urinary Tract Infections, otherwise known as UTI’s in the med bizz. This is a condition which can result in another really pesky condition and very common in women, called Cystitis. This is an inflammation of the bladder and the body responds by sending you messages that you have to quickly go to pass water, but when you get there it is a burning and scalding teaspoonful and half an hour later it is a repeat performance, all over again.

It is said, and probably with some correctness too, that the short Urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside world) is the reason for this, while the male, with the longer Urethra does not have the problem. One wonders if this was the start of the so-called “penis envy”?

The usual symptoms of a UTI begin with the burning and scalding and frequency (going to the toilet many times a day) and sometimes there is blood in the urine as well. If the infection is coming from the kidneys there can also be pain in the loin region and the patient can be quite ill, with fevers and rigors (uncontrollable shaking).

The usual method of attack from the doctor’s point of view is to examine the urine, and the best way is a Mid-Stream Urine (MSU). In fact, if you are going to see the doctor you can cut out a bit of waste time by taking along your MSU in a clean bottle at the time of consultation. The MSU is obtained by passing water into the toilet, then passing some into the container and then finishing in the toilet bowl again.

The doctor may elect to have the urine examined and cultured for the micro-organism involved, or it may be just a simple dipstick test, with the doctor quite sure of the diagnosis.

The end result is generally some antibiotics and something to make the urine more alkaline if there is a lot of pain on urination, but one of the cornerstones of all UTI treatments is for the patient to really drink lots and lots and lots and lots of water. Really flush the urinary tract through, taking the bugs away and out of the body.

Of course, if the UTI’s are recurrent, then it will be necessary to investigate further and see why this is so. Sometimes the Ureters (the tubes from the kidneys to the bladder) are malformed, or there can be stones in the kidney which may predispose the patient towards this condition. Generally we would begin with an ultrasound and work on through from there - but the majority of UTI’s are a simple infection.

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Dear Hillary,

I have met a Thai girl last year, since then I have been coming to Thailand every 3-4 months, solely to see her. I have even split my holiday evenly in regular intervals to see her frequently - that how much I like her. We have exchanged the phone numbers and the e-mails and we have been in contact with each other from time to time. However, I seem cannot enlighten her with the meaning of “about” or “around”. You see, she is always eager to know when I will be arriving to Thailand next time and when I reply to her “in about 3 months”, she takes it literally to be 90 days, because when I call her the next time - for instance in 2 weeks - she starts enquiring me with my arrival date and when I reply to her in about 3 months, somehow she gets upset as in her mind I have changed the date and should be arriving in two and a half months and not three. Hillary, you know how is the situation working as a professional for a leading company, you cannot be sure when you will get your next leave, it depends on your boss mode, it easily could be 1-2 weeks postponed. Please help me in finding correct words to convey her what I mean when I say “about”. I even tried “approximate” but that even confuse her.


Dear Alley,

I take it from your letter that English isn’t your mother tongue either, so you already know some of the problems your girlfriend is having in trying to communicate in another language. You have also found the answer yourself when you say in your letter that it could be 1-2 weeks postponed - in other words, you are saying that it will be in “about” one to two weeks. When you want to say you will be coming back in “about three months” then what you have to say is “coming back in 3-4 months” and your Thai girlfriend will know that this means “about”. Remember too, that one reason why she will want to tie down the dates is that she has to organize and arrange her life too, please don’t forget that.

Dear Hillary,

About ‘Baz’ the wartman, I once had some warts on nether regions, luckily my wife is a nurse and I went to the hospital and the doctor gave her some ‘Posafalin’ (not sure if this is the correct spelling). It was in a liquid form, it got rid of the little devils. You have to get this on prescription in the UK. I also know that they have this in cream form. I suggest ‘Baz’ contacts the ‘one and only’ Doc Iain for correct spelling and to see if its available here. Sorry no chocs or wine this time Hill’s.


Dear TJ,

Is there anyone left who has not become involved in Baz’s warts? Perhaps we should do blow up photographs as a centrepiece in next week’s Pattaya Mail? By the way, the correct spelling, according to the good Doctor Iain, is “Posalfilin”, but he also says it is contra-indicated for the sort of virus that Baz has on his Willie the wonder wand. I repeat, Baz is better off returning to the skin doctors. People are getting worried in Pattaya about the exposure his warts are getting in this column and may stop reading just in case they are exposed and catch them too. To be safe, here in the office, we even burn his emails after they have been read. And be warned, neither Norton 2000 nor McAfee will detect or destroy this virus.

Dear Hillary,

I have lived in Pattaya quite some time now and for the past two years have parked my car in the same area in South Pattaya with no problem. Recently, somebody has been placing nails and even screws under my tyres. The air has been let out on number of occasions over the past few months. Generally I park my car near a motorcycle taxi stand and I suspect that they are the ones committing the malicious attack on my vehicle, but there is no proof. The simple solution would be to park my car elsewhere but this would inconvenient for me. What should I do?


Dear Perturbed,

This is a job for a super sleuth Private Investigator, one who will lie in hiding and get video evidence to convict your terror of the tyres. However, this could be expensive, so it might be better to just get the help of our friendly police force, but this will also be expensive in the long run. Then again, have you stopped to consider just why the taxi motorcycles have begun to dislike you? You have been parking there for two years you say and suddenly they have turned on you. What did you do to them? It is important to remember too, that just because you may be paranoid doesn’t mean that people aren’t out to get you! Park somewhere else, Petal. It’s easier. Simplest is always best.

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Your land rights

Last week’s comment on owning land has led to requests for a bit more info, so here we go. In Thailand, foreign nationals can own a unit(s) in a registered condominium or even a building as distinct from the land it is built on. It is also possible to hold a registered leasehold of up to thirty years for all types of titled land or buildings. Appropriate extension clauses can make this period even longer. Typically, farangs ‘buying’ a house for thirty years establish a Thai company with themselves as minority shareholders. There are taxes to pay at the point of buying and of selling as well as (in theory) levies on any rental income.

Amity treaty

But foreigners may not own in their own right freehold land, nor may they own more than 49% of the shares in a Thai company. The only partial exception are US nationals because, since the 1970s, they have benefited from the so called ‘amity treaty’ which allows for a Thai company under certain conditions to have special rights of company ownership which can extend to one hundred percent American ownership. However, the legal process is complicated and such companies as have been established do not own freehold land anyway.

40 million or bust

In 1999 there was indeed a change in the law to allow a foreigner in his own right to purchase one rai of land on which to build a house provided that he or she had invested 40 million baht and kept it in Thailand for three years. However, no such houses have yet been built as the detail has not been finalized by the Ministry of Finance. One unclear aspect is whether you could build a house out of the 40 million baht or whether the investment is separate. Also no one seems to know if the investment can be cash or bonds or equities or a combination, or even a large capital injection into an existing business venture.

Overheard in Soi Seven

1st man. I’m looking for the most disreputable bar in this street. Which side is it on?

2nd man. It certainly won’t be on yours mate.

The property future

For most farangs then, the situation remains basically as it has been for the past ten years. If you prefer not to be a renter, either buy a condo unit or establish a Thai company with the property or house leased back to you. Alternatively, you can put the ownership in the name of a Thai you can trust, or think you can anyway. In all cases, purchase only through a well established real estate agent with a proven track record you have checked out. And the golden rule is to put your money only into a dwelling which is the love of your life. It’s nice to think property prices in Pattaya will rise in real terms, but nobody knows for sure. Remember that houses in England fell in value for a hundred years after the battle of Waterloo (1815). Pattaya’s present success on the property front owes much to the government’s generous immigration policy which has spurred the numbers of retirees and farang investors on long stay visas. Who knows if the policy will be the same in five or ten years?

Readers’ queries

KH asks if a Thai citizen entering Thailand on a foreign passport need only show his or her Thai ID to stay up to one year. According to immigration, a Thai using a foreign passport needs a visa to enter the country just like a national of the foreign country which has been adopted... FY wants to know if any foreigners are covered by the government’s thirty baht health insurance scheme. No, the plan applies only to Thai nationals. Thai spouses who marry a farang, and their children, are included provided they keep Thai nationality... DS queries whether he can buy a mobile phone here for local use when on holiday. You can by purchasing a pre payment card in advance. But there is likely to be a minimum monthly usage, so you can easily lose the number when you go back home if regular payments lapse.

Even more reasons for not exercising

I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.

I admit to having flabby thighs, but fortunately my stomach covers them.

The advantage of exercising every day is that you die healthier.

If you are going to try cross-country skiing, start with a small country.

I don’t exercise because it makes the ice jump right out of my glass.

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Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Below the average

Boy! Did Thailand get a bad report card during the last survey by the Hong Kong based Political Risk Consultancy Ltd.! We ended up in the corner with dunce caps and at the bottom of the heap with Vietnam, Indonesia, India and the Philippines. Apparently the only people dumber than we appear to other countries are the nations of Burma, Cambodia and Laos. Do we really deserve this spanking? Of course we do.

The survey pointed out a long laundry list of failures which have not been seriously addressed. These issues hinder Thailand not only from recovering from the economic catastrophe of 1997, but moving ahead with political and social reforms. The evaluation of the legal system was termed ‘multifarious’. Our nation’s national leadership has a history of ambiguity, and government policies were proclaimed to be inconsistent. Corruption in this society is a way of life which has never been much of a secret. And many foreign investors are in a state of permanent confusion as to exactly where they stand because of the whimsical enforcement of our legal system. To add to the list of criticisms, our environment is deteriorating rapidly, and our education levels are a source of alarm. The whole nation needs to be ‘reprogrammed’. In a nutshell, Thailand is still seen as backward and politically immature.

Did we get any kudos at all? The survey admitted that all Thais are not the same. I guess that meant that we are not all barefoot peasants riding rickshaws. Apparently some Thais have ‘vision’. The fight against communism was noted. Those who demanded a new Constitution were applauded for their foresight. The ASEAN Free Trade Area got a mention. And apparently we all got a gold star for keeping food cheap. When the subject of vision was debated, I wonder why they didn’t acknowledge all the millions of overseas Thais living in the rich Western countries. Certainly they display vision.

After this survey was reported, I found a truly enlightened message from a Thai citizen posted on an Internet message board. In this gentleman’s view, reprogramming Thais will never be successful because the people are all ‘right brain’ users. According to him a right-brain dominant culture means that arts, music, emotions, earth and motion rules life inside the society. People who primarily use the right side of their brain are ‘touchy-feely’ people who’s hearts (and stomachs) rule their heads. Oddly enough, a few years ago, a Western teacher in Thailand caused quite a stir in the press when he described Thais as sweet and charming people who were generous and friendly. He went on to add that as endearing as the culture and its people were, Thais seemed to be “all heart and no brains”. The explanation on the Internet seems to be telling us that no brains is inaccurate. Half a brain would be more to the point.

The Net message went on to compare right-brain people to those who think with the left side of their brain. This is the analytical side of the human brain. This side is the one to use when we want to think ahead, plan for the future, and work out cause and effect of actions and consequences. Western education is based on the philosophy that the act of thinking can be taught as a skill. The Thai who posted this message went on to add that Thais are mentally in the same category with Malays, Filipinos and Indonesians. They have no thought for tomorrow and only focus on the now, and this will never change until Thailand’s whole educational system is dismantled and replaced with a new one.

Left brain, right brain, no brains. Poor Thailand. We do seem to be all in a muddle here. Personally, I think it would be nice if we all could make greater use of both sides of the brain. Science says that the human race only uses perhaps 20% of our inherent capacity. Stroke patients learn to use new areas of the brain for speech, memory and motor skills, and are taught with special techniques to bypass the damaged sectors. I do, however, shudder at the thought of all Thai teachers being replaced with left-brain instructors. The idea sounds a little Orwellian to me. Look what happened to Singapore.

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Women’s World: A different type of challenge

by Lesley Warner

I decided to take another look at some of our famous ladies of the past. Have you ever thought about some of these ladies in our history and wondered how they found themselves in such awful situations? If we think that the challenges and goals we set ourselves these days are difficult, how about some of those past goals? Let’s look at what they achieved. Take Joan of Arc - how on earth did a young country girl from a poor family end up leading a war in partnership with her King?

Joan of Arc

Back in Joan’s time (1412-1431) a female had a role in the house. Up to the time she was considered old enough to marry, which could be anytime after 13 or 14 years old, she would help her mother in the house or father on the land. It was no different for Joan. She was born the third of five children to a farmer, Jacques Darc and his wife Isabelle de Vouthon in the town of Domremy on the border of provinces of Champagne and Lorraine. She tended cows for her father and learned housekeeping skills and religion from her mother.

When Joan was about 12 years old, she began hearing the “voices” of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret believing them to have been sent by God. These voices told her that it was her divine mission to free her country from the English and help the dauphin gain the French throne. Quite a daunting task, one would have thought, for a grown man let alone a 12-year-old girl. They told her to cut her hair, dress in a man’s uniform and to pick up the arms. I know that to us, these days, she just sounds crazy but think what a courageous and determined young lady she must have been to reach her goal.

Joan convinced the captain of the dauphin’s forces, and then the dauphin himself of her calling. After passing an examination by a board of theologians, she was given troops to command and the rank of captain.

At the battle of Orleans in May 1429, Joan led the troops to a miraculous victory over the English.

Charles VII was crowned king of France on July 17, 1429 in Reims Cathedral. At the coronation, Joan was given a place of honor next to the king. So from tending the cows she found herself standing next to her king; what a triumph!

In May 1430 the Burgundians, who were allies of the enemy, captured her and they sold her to the English. Neither King Charles nor the French did anything to save her. After months of imprisonment, the English handed her over to the ecclesiastical court at Rouen. She was tried for witchcraft and heresy by a tribunal presided over by the infamous Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, who hoped that the English would help him to become archbishop. She was told that to wear men’s clothes was a crime against God but she continued to wear them and this was classed as defiance and finally sealed her fate. Can you imagine being put to death because you wear trousers?

On May 30, 1431 she was executed in the most ghastly way, she was burned at the stake in the Rouen marketplace. Imagine she was only nineteen years old but look at what she had accomplished. Charles VII made no attempt to come to her rescue so she died alone after fourteen months of unpleasant interrogation.

In 1456 a second trial was held and she was pronounced innocent of the charges against her, a bit late for Joan. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

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Animal Crackers: The Praying Mantis or is that the “preying” mantis?

by Mirin MacCarthy

Other than the Sacred Scarab it is difficult to think of an insect that has stirred human imagination more than the Praying Mantis.

Take these facts from all over the world - The word “mantis” comes from ancient Greece and means “diviner” or “prophet”, and many cultures have credited the mantid with a variety of magical qualities:

French peasants - If a child is lost, the mantids praying-stance points the way home.

Turks and Arabs - The mantid always prays toward Mecca.

Southern U.S. - The brown saliva of the mantid will make a man go blind or kill a horse.

China - Roasted mantid egg cases will cure bed wetting.

Africa - If a mantid lands on a person it brings them good luck and it can also bring the dead back to life.

European Middle-ages - The mantis was a great worshipper of God due to its time spent in prayer.

The mantis is also famous for its almost human mating habits - when the male and female have finished mating, the female eats the male!

Mantis is the common name for a long, slender, winged insect common in warm temperate and tropical regions throughout the world. Also called praying mantis, they have received this name for sitting back on their rear legs and holding their stout front pair of legs together in an attitude reminiscent of prayer. While that is what it may look like, the green and brown insects are actually waiting for insects that constitute their food.

The common European mantis reaches a maximum length of about 6.3 cm. This species was introduced into the United States to help control injurious insects. It is now widespread in the north-eastern part of the United States. The common mantis of the southern United States, the Carolina mantis, is a native species about 7.6 cm long, which is also known in the South as the Rearhorse or Mule Killer.

The Praying Mantis has a short life span of less than one year. Mantis babies usually hatch from their frothy egg-masses in late April or May, or whenever the weather begins to warm up, depending on the region. Mantis babies are wingless, but otherwise resemble the adults. By August, mantises that have survived are adult, and by September or October, most of them die.

Mantises are the only insects that can turn their heads from side to side, and this is done to best focus and use their multi-faceted eyes. Their front legs are equipped with sharp spines that enable the insects to grasp and hold their prey. Once held, the mantis bites the neck to stop the animal struggling and devours its dinner at leisure.

Oh yes, the Praying Mantis really is the “preying” Mantis and is a carnivore, eating other insects, other Mantises, its own young, small reptiles, frogs and even birds.

One interesting feature of the Praying Mantis is the “radar” detector which it possesses. In the bodies of some species of mantis there is a hollow chamber. A fairly recent discovery is that these chambers provide the mantis with a means for detecting bats. Apparently, the mantis in flight will drastically change its flight pattern (often hurling directly to the ground in a crazy spiral) when certain frequencies of sound are ‘heard’ by the mantis. The sounds emitted by bats when looking for their dinner, such as Praying Mantises!

In their scientific classification, Mantises make up the order Mantodea. The common European mantis is classified as Mantis religiosa, while the Carolina mantis is classified as Stagmonantis carolina.

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The computer doctor

by Richard Brunch

From George Powers, USA: Dear Doc. I am planning to move to Thailand soon, and I have acquired a large amount of IT equipment in the U.S. These include computers, monitors (21”) which I love, servers, printers and more. My question is, can I convert them to 220 volt 50 cycles, or should I toss them out and start all over. I have over $25,000 U.S. invested.

Computer Doctor replies: George, many people come to Thailand from the US and have the same dilemma. In essence, to convert individual pieces of equipment to run on local electricity would be prohibitively expensive, a more economical solution is to purchase a transformer here that will have sufficient capacity to run all your equipment, which I imagine you will locate in the same place. I consider you will need to spend in the region of 2,500 – 5,000 baht. Also, bear in mind that you may have customs duty to pay and this is applied in a casual manner, so beware!

From Oscar Norman, Burton on Trent: Firstly, let me say I love your column and the Pattaya Mail which I read avidly on the Internet. I have a Pentium III 350 MHz PC with 256Mb SDRAM and a 20Gb Hard Disk (ATA 66). I enjoy installing and tinkering with programs, like the free ones you get on PC magazines. I particularly like graphics programs. Although, after a quick try I often find the newly installed program to be either inappropriate or useless so uninstall. The problem is that my PC is becoming slower and slower and although I am a tinkerer, I am by no means an expert and frankly would throw my arms up in horror if I had to reinstall the system from scratch. I think I’d have to trust to a shop but the labour rates are fairly high and as I am on a pension this would have to be a last resort. Any advice that you can give me would be appreciated.

Computer Doctor replies: The danger with installing many programs and then uninstalling is that some residuals often remain behind. If you have been installing a lot of graphics programs it is quite likely that they installed a multitude of fonts, excessive fonts being one of the quickest ways to degrade system performance. You also need to be aware that most programs install fonts by default. In any event, as a rule you should not exceed 250 – 300 installed fonts on your system, if you have more than this and I suspect you have then you will need to uninstall some using Control Panel > Fonts. It is wise to copy the entire fonts folder to another directory before commencing this chore as if you need to reinstall one, it will be readily to hand. Be particularly careful when uninstalling that you do not uninstall any of the standard Windows Fonts or those installed by applications like Office as if you do then you will see some rather strange behaviour on your screen.

Another thing to bear in mind is that if programs are installed and uninstalled regularly then the hard disk will rapidly become fragmented, so it is a good idea to defragment the drive. Use either the Defragmenter included with Windows or a third party utility like Executive Software’s Diskeeper which provides a better alternative and allows for ‘smart scheduling’ so that once set you don’t have to worry about having a fragmented hard drive.

If neither of these solutions improve things for you then it is likely that the system has become damaged and realistically the best solution would be to do a clean install, of course making sure that you backup any data and configuration settings that you may require. If it really does come down to a clean install, providing you have protected your data and time is not an issue, do try to do a reinstall yourself, after all it will save you money but if you come to grief then you can resort to your local shop at that point.

Send your questions or comments to the Pattaya Mail at 370/7-8 Pattaya Second Road, Pattaya City, 20260 or Fax to 038 427 596 or e-mail to [email protected]

The views and comments expressed within this column are not necessarily those of the writer or Pattaya Mail Publishing. Richard Bunch is managing director of Action Computer Technologies Co., Ltd. For further information, please telephone 01 782 4829, fax 038 716 816, e-mail: [email protected] or see our website 

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A Slice of Thai History: Franco-Thai War 1940-1941

by Duncan Stearn

Part One: Background

If it is correct that one of the first casualties of war is truth, then certain previously accepted ‘facts’ about the Franco-Thai War of 1940-1941 need to be re-examined with greater scrutiny.

The Thai accounts of that brief war and the French versions tend to differ, sometimes by degrees and occasionally quite markedly. This is particularly so with regard to the causes of the war and especially the naval battle of Koh Chang.

France and Thailand had been on the verge of war on a number of occasions from the mid-19th Century onwards, as the French sought (successfully) to extend their empire in Indo-China and the Thais struggled in vain to hold on to the vestiges of control they exerted over their ostensible vassals of Laos and Cambodia.

King Rama V (1868-1910) - like the Meiji emperors in Japan - recognised the need to modernise, especially militarily. The pace of this modernisation was slow and, unable to seriously oppose French expansionism, the Thais lost control of Laos and Cambodia and were only saved from further humiliation by the intervention of the British. Lodged firmly in Burma and the Malay Peninsula, Britain came to an agreement with France to maintain Thailand as an independent buffer state between their separate empires.

Following the First World War (1914-1918), Thailand hired German advisers to help build and train a Thai army. By 1935 Thailand had a modern army of some 50,000 troops and it was in this year that yet another border incident took place between the Thais and the French.

A Thai-run logging company, owned by Khun Inta Bangcongcit, would purchase logs in French-controlled Laos and float them down the Mekong River to Thailand. However, the French allegedly broke the logging agreement, causing Khun Inta to lodge a complaint with the French authorities. They responded by arresting and beating Khun Inta and allegedly raping his wife. This prompted Thailand to make an official complaint to the League of Nations. France was ordered to pay compensation to Khun Inta and his wife, but the French failed to comply with the order.

This complaint was also the catalyst that led to Thailand re-negotiating a series of treaties regarding navigation, commerce and extraterritoriality with some 13 nations, including Britain, France, the United States and Japan.

In 1938, Thailand approached France and asked to renegotiate their common boundaries to prevent future incidents similar to those of Khun Inta occurring. The French refused to enter into any form of negotiations.

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Guide to buying a large dog : St Bernard

by C. Schloemer

Good points: friendly, loyal adores children, easy to train, supremely intelligent.

Take heed: hindquarters prone to weakness, needs plenty of space, not renown for longevity.

The St Bernard is a gentleman. He is powerful, but easy-going. This dog makes a most loveable family pet because he is so good with children. The tots can pull his ears or tail and he understands. Because this breed is so intelligent, the St Bernard is easy to train.

Eager to please, his happy nature makes him a devoted companion for the owner who has the space this breed needs and deserves. Like all working dogs, the St Bernard is happiest with a job to do. A farm or country home is an ideal environment for this dog, since they are often found performing herding and drafting tasks.

This breed has natural path finding abilities, rescue and herding instincts. Families with small children who are proud owners of St Bernards have wonderful anecdotes of how the family pet tends to herd the toddlers away from open gates, busy streets, and swimming pools.

Size: the taller the better, provided that symmetry is maintained. Good proportions and substance are the hallmark of a fine St Bernard.

Exercise: do not give the young St Bernard too much exercise or start his working task at too early an age. Short, regular walks for the first few months are recommended. Long exercise routines and exhausting walks will prevent this breed from acquiring its full strength and endurance. After the first year, the St Bernard has developed sufficiently to be put to work.

Grooming: that magnificent coat is easily maintained with daily brushing.

Origin and history: shrouded in legend and the mists of time, the origin of this breed is subject to many theories. It is most generally accepted that the St Bernard is a descendant of the Roman Molossian dogs. But it is named for the St. Bernard Hospice in the Swiss Alps, to which it was introduced between 1660-1670, where it became famous for rescuing climbers in the Alpine mountains, particularly the St. Bernard Pass.

It is likely that large dogs were first introduced into this region as watchdogs and companions for the monks during the long winter months when the hospice was fairly isolated. The lonely monks took the dogs along with them on their trips of mercy, and soon discovered the breed’s highly developed sense of smell in locating people lost during storms.

During the 300 years that the St Bernard has been used in rescue work, it is estimated they have been responsible for saving literally thousands of lives. They have an uncanny instinct which warns them of approaching avalanches. There have been reports where this dog will change direction or position for no apparent reason, seconds before an avalanche of ice and snow come hurtling down a mountainside.

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Down The Iron Road: ‘TGV’ - The French High Speed Train

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


This article is to mark the completion of the French high speed rail link between Paris the Mediterranean port of Marseille and the introduction of a new time-table, from 10th June this year which achieves a time of just three hours by rail between the capital and the port; this by no less than 16 trains per day, at an average speed of 155 mph (241 km/hr).

Development of high speed by rail

Although high speeds on test by such curious machines as the German Krukenberg railcar, propeller driven like an old aircraft, and the records of ‘Mallard’ (see an earlier ‘Down the Iron Road’) and other freak steam efforts were well recorded, the high-speed era began after W.W.2, and in mountainous and densely populated Japan, where the narrow gauge and steam-operated line from Tokyo to Osaka had become hopelessly insufficient, and the decision was made to build a high speed (European) gauge electric line to connect these two cities. Gestation time for such a railway is not short, and it was some years before, in October 1963, the line was to the open to the public. Someone panicked on maximum speeds and decreed the maximum to be 125 mph, and not the planned 155 mph, but this was adjusted during test running. Signalling was not on the line-side in accordance with tradition but driver’s cab; this has been followed for the French TGV - (Train a Grande Vitesse’ - simply ‘High speed Train’).

The next train to Bordeaux - an impression of the TGV Atlantique prototype

It is worth mentioning that one of the original ‘bullet-nosed’ power cars has been presented to the National Railway Museum at York, and will soon be on show; also as a point of pride, no passenger has been killed on this ‘Shinkansen’ Line - not one passenger has lost his life in an accident. The Japanese word simply means ‘New Main Line’. We do not need to comment that the first line was a huge success, and that ‘Shinkansen’ lines have been built all over Japan the over the years.

The French ‘TGV’ Network

To reach Marseille from Paris on ‘TGV’ lines has taken almost 20 years. This is a question of pure finance, and the provision of best service with the money available. ‘TGV’ trains can run freely over the lines used by ‘other’ trains, only providing that the current supply is compatible, and although the standard for the TGV lines is 25 kV 50 cycles, some of the connecting lines still remain at the earlier 3000 V DC. The French have for years run their electric locomotives on to the lines in neighboring countries, and are by now past masters at multi-voltage operation. The French government and rail administration were of course most interested in the possibility after 100 years of procrastination, in the likelihood of a tunnel being built under the English Channel, but the British government raised many difficulties, at one stage undecided whether it ought not to be a road, rather that a rail tunnel (or both?); there were very strong objections within the ruling Tory Party led by Mrs Thatcher against the provision of any public money for the project.

A ‘TGV’ Meditertanee leaves one of the massive viaducts on the approach o Marseille, near the Aix-en-Provence station.

All was finally raised from private sources, although lack of funds almost stopped work more than once. None of this pleased the French at all, as the next area into which they wished to introduce TGV working was the busy industrial area in the northeast, all of it not too far from the vicinity of Calais, near the site of the tunnel’s French portal.

To keep TGV development on the go, they had therefore to start on another and less profitable area, the southwest, and so the TGV Atlantique was born. Intended destinations are, at least at first, Rennes and Bordeaux: my map and the text which came with it do agree as to how far they are advanced on each line, but I suspect the TGV Bretagne has reached Le Mans, and the TGV Aquitaine is at Tours. And at last some kind of agreement was set out for the boring of the Channel Tunnel itself, with little doubt the biggest single engineering project of the 20th century. This is no place to tell the story, even were I able.

Into the tunnel

Map of ‘TGV’ routes, present and proposed. Lines shown ‘dotted have TGV services but running at more conventional speeds. ‘Dark’ areas at top show Belgium and Switzerland; lighter area between shows part of Germany and Luxembourg. Part of Spain, with Barcelona, is at the bottom left.

I have mentioned more than once the difference in ‘loading gauge’ (height and width) limits between the railways of Britain and those of neighboring countries. The early intention that trains for Paris, Brussels, and maybe other continental places should not all start from London, but should run through from major British cities as well. This compelled the British trains to fit British conditions, and although all have been built to do so, some trains were designated as ‘North of London’ and were in some respects slightly different from the standard. An interim scheme when the new terminal at London’s Waterloo station was opened, was to run a number of connection services from main centres direct to Waterloo at a connecting facility; it was found to be so poorly patronised that the whole question of ‘North of London’ trains even now may be dead. Another ‘dead duck’ was the concept of sleeping car trains between London and Paris (and maybe Brussels, which I seem to have ignored - sorry) - but the Tunnel is full of freight traffic at night and the presence of such quick-transit trains for short sleeping times was plainly a nonsense - but seen so at the time!

The plan, then, is a regular service via Lille, to both Paris and Brussels: it is now working well, but to keep the record straight, it is not just the British who got things wrong - there was bad delay in getting planning permission for the building of the TGV line in Belgium, and a ‘slow’ time table had to be used for a time.

To be continued...

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Antiques, are they genuine?: Boston and Philadelphia Fakes

by Apichart Panyadee

In the 1920’s, when collecting and interest in American antique furniture began in earnest, a number of fakers in Boston were busy making pieces from old parts. Creating rare butterfly tables from plain tavern tables, block front bureaux from straight front ones, veneering over solid fronts, adding inlaid eagles, fans and bellflowers to plain tables, clocks and chests, they managed to turn out a considerable inventory of these items. They were also recreating some fine Federal pieces such as Hepplewhite and Sheraton sewing tables, tambour desks, card tables and veneered bureaux.

Original block and shell Connecticut secretary c. mid-1800

At the same time, in nearby Philadelphia, dishonest cabinetmakers were making elaborately carved scrolled top highboys and chests-on-chests from plain flat top ones. These enterprising deceivers carved pedestals and legs of plain tripod tea tables, added English mahogany trays as tops, and made more valuable piecrust tea tables, or made similar tables by using the bases of fine pole screens and adding birdcage supports and piecrust tops. Very clever, indeed.

A good example of an improvement, but not necessarily a downright fake (unless it is sold as an original), is a block and shell Connecticut secretary which appeared in an auction flyer for an estate sale held on site, and off the beaten track. It was basically original with the exception of the brasses and feet which were added in the 19th century. The same secretary as it appeared after ‘improving’ had the feet removed and replaced with more sophisticated ogee bracket feet which had to be set back from the mouldings to cover the marks left by the turned feet. The brasses, with the exception of the side handles were replaced.

Same secretary as it appeared for sale after ‘improvements’

The primitive bonnet with original finials was removed and the tops of the doors were reshaped to accommodate the new, more sophisticated arched bonnet top. The escutcheons on the doors had not been repositioned and were too high and close to the tops of the doors. Finally, the finials and Corinthian capitals from the original item were later used on another ‘improved’ piece. Today, experienced collectors would not be fooled by such abundance of re-crafting, and poorly proportioned changes to an antiquity. However, these practices were directed toward the beginner, or amateur collector, and to those individuals who were more interested in finding a bargain than doing research on the genuine articles.

American cabinet makers were no more principled than their English counterparts. In 1845, an article appeared in the Portland, Maine Transcript, concerning the faking of Mayflower furniture, the faker describes how he is going to cut down an overly large bed to one that is more of a saleable size. “He says we have no idea of the enlightened interest which the ladies have taken in everything antique, and he feels quite certain that he could sell it (the bed) at a very handsome price, especially if he adds a little carving to one corner and breaks off the top of one of the posts.”

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