Family Money: Investing
Capital Part 1 - Acceptable Risk
The biggest dilemma facing every potential investor
with more than a modest amount of capital is where to place their
Everyone wants his investments to produce a reasonable
return. At the same time, they want to limit the risk of potential loss
that accompanies every type of investment - even bank deposits, where
fluctuating exchange rates may lead to a capital loss in your base
currency, not to mention the risk of the bank closing its doors never to
open them again. (Remember BICC?)
The traditional ‘safe’ investment is an
interest-bearing account with a reputable and stable bank. But in a
climate of low interest rates, the return on investment is often
insufficient to meet the depositor’s needs.
Many investors avail themselves of the professional
portfolio management services offered by private client divisions of
However, these services are available only to investors
looking to place substantial sums of capital with such an institution -
typically at least US$500,000.
Also, most such services see their task as managing
risk more than producing capital growth - and indeed, this is what many
millionaires are looking for. They require a steady, modest return on
their investment without the risk of losing any of their capital.
That’s okay if you happen to live in a low-inflation
area, or the annual return from your capital well exceeds your annual
But how about investors with less than this significant
amount of capital, or who for one reason or another are looking for higher
gains than the quite modest performance usually returned by most banks’
private client investment services?
I am often asked how a private portfolio management
firm such as mine, specialising in personal portfolio management for
modestly wealthy individuals, goes about constructing and managing a
capital investment portfolio.
What criteria are used? What factors determine the
makeup of the portfolio? How actively is it managed? How often is it
rearranged? How frequently do we report to the client? How do we get paid
for our services?
As this is my special area of professional interest, it
is perhaps appropriate for this 200th edition of ‘Family Money’ that
we look further at this complex and fascinating topic.
Portfolio construction for any amount of capital -
large or small - is an intensive, personalised task, based on both the
economic and psychological profile of the client.
Whenever you invest capital, several criteria should be
considered - and these will differ markedly from one individual to
For most people money is an emotive subject, and
investing one’s hard-earned capital tends to be a fairly emotional
decision. So before making specific recommendations we first have to
identify a client’s personal investment profile. This we do by asking a
series of questions. There are three main categories.
First, what is the objective of the investment? Is it
for a specific objective such as buying a house, or holding your
retirement fund, or the kiddies’ college fund, or what?
Second, what is the time frame of the investment? Is it
for parking some cash for a limited period of, say, one or two years, or
for a longer-term objective such as funding your retirement for the next
15 or 20 years?
Third, the risk-aversion profile of the client has to
be determined and understood by both sides. What degree of risk can you
accept? And as an extension of this, what degree of risk should you be
accepting, given the objectives of the investment?
Before making any kind of capital investment, the
overall primary objective should be clearly identified. Is the objective
to create new wealth or to conserve existing wealth? In other words, are
you looking for capital growth or income?
For some clients, wealth conservation is the
over-riding consideration: the portfolio must not lose money.
For others, wealth creation is the main objective:
producing capital growth from which to draw down a regular income (a
pension, if you will), or ad hoc amounts of cash as may be needed at some
date in the future.
The investment strategy that is applied to these
fundamentally different objectives must take certain basic factors into
If you’re looking for growth, the wealth creation
scenario usually requires more risk to be attached to the portfolio. All
other things being equal, such a portfolio will typically have a greater
exposure to equities. And while higher growth can be expected over the
longer term, this inevitably means greater short-term volatility. In some
instances, this might be inappropriate to the client’s investor profile
and his needs & objectives.
The wealth conservation scenario can and should be
conservatively stanced: it will have less exposure to equities, more to
low-risk elements such as cash, bonds, and guaranteed funds. But the
likely returns will be lower also.
For most international investors, the risk their
portfolio is exposed to is defined as not having money when they need it,
or running out of it before they die.
For instance, many people retiring with a relatively
modest amount of capital believe they need to produce higher growth to
generate the income they want to draw out to meet their cost-of-living
What they fail to take into account is that higher risk
equates to higher volatility, which can lead to capital loss in the short
term if their investment selection was flawed or the markets turn against
A retiree with a modest nest-egg may say he wants to
generate income, whereas what he really expects is to produce significant
capital growth from which to draw down that income.
On the other hand, a millionaire who says he wants to
see capital growth may really want to conserve his capital; and in order
not to risk that capital, he must expect to generate only a modest income
These two opposite ends of the investment spectrum have
confused their real investment objectives. And hence, they may be confused
about the returns they can realistically expect in relation to the risk
they should be taking on - as distinct from the risk they might be willing
to take on.
Many retired expatriate residents of Pattaya are living
on an income stream generated from capital. Most have investment
objectives that fall somewhere between the two extremes of wealth
conservation and wealth/income generation - or put another way, a
combination of the two.
All too often, however, an individual investor will
have positioned his portfolio too far towards one end or the other of the
risk spectrum: either he’s overly conservative (usually from fear of
losing money) or he’s too aggressive (because he needs to produce more
income to support his lifestyle than can reasonably be expected from the
As touched upon already, it is a paradox that
millionaires - who can afford to take on a higher degree of risk and
accept an associated short-term loss - will typically be more geared
towards wealth conservation, while one with a more modest amount of
capital - who should be conserving his capital because he cannot afford to
lose it - may have exposed himself to a relatively high degree of risk in
the attempt to produce a higher income to support his lifestyle.
An aggressive stance is all very well when the markets
are kind and the portfolio’s making gains. But what about when the
Investors always say they can take a long-term view
until they’re losing money. Then they look very closely at the money
they’ve ‘lost’ - even though this may be only an erosion of profit
on paper. They forget the nice gains they made in 1999 and look at the
loss they suffered this past year - even though they were made to
understand at the start that growth averaging around 10% per annum was
what could reasonably be expected from a strategically-balanced
median-risk offshore portfolio.
If world markets go up by 15% and the manager makes
20%, most would agree that he’s done a good job. But similarly, if the
markets go down by 15% and he’s made a loss of only 10%, he’s still
done a good job - although many investors might disagree.
In both cases, the portfolio manager has achieved a
positive Alpha (relative growth) of 5% against his benchmark index.
But similar criteria are applied by the banks that
provide private portfolio management services in judging a portfolio
In fact, most banks have a success-margin of only 2%:
if the manager makes 12% when the market has gone up by 10%, he’s earned
his bonus; similarly if the market drops by 10% and his portfolio dips by
only 8%, his performance is considered to have been equally good.
In both scenarios, he’s beaten the index by 2%. This
may not seem much, but it’s not as easy to achieve as many people may
Nonetheless, limiting losses in the bad times as well
as making above-average returns in the good times is, in my view, a
fundamental criterion by which you can weigh your portfolio manager’s
performance - and whether you should perhaps be looking for another one.
A conservatively-structured investment will tend to
produce a lower return, with less associated risk of capital loss. A more
aggressively-structured portfolio may produce higher returns, but it may
also produce capital loss in the short term. Return tends to be directly
related to risk, and this should always be identified and objectively
quantified before taking on any capital investment.
As mentioned earlier, many investors want to generate a
regular income-stream from their capital while at the same time conserving
their wealth. To achieve this objective calls for a strategic mix of
holdings which are likely to produce capital growth (equities) and those
that will produce an income (bonds & cash). This is the typical model
of what used to be called a ‘managed’ fund - now more appropriately
termed a mixed asset-allocation fund.
The risk attached to such a mixed portfolio will also
be balanced somewhere in the middle. A ‘Goldilocks’ portfolio, if you
will, that is not too hot or too cold, but just right for the investor’s
Generally, such an allocation mix can be adjusted to
take changing market conditions into consideration - moving to a more
conservative stance (more bonds, less equities) in the bad times, and a
more aggressive stance (higher proportion of equities) when conditions
look more favourable.
Over the longer term bonds have outperformed cash
deposits by a significant margin, and equities have outperformed bonds by
an even wider margin. But in the short term equities are more volatile
than bonds, which themselves are more volatile than cash.
However, no matter what your risk-aversion profile is,
and hence your ability to accept risk, if the investment is for some
short-term objective, whereby you will be needing the capital in the
not-too-distant future, you should only be taking on a very limited degree
of risk. Otherwise market reversals may result in your getting back less
than the amount you put in - that is, you could lose some if not a
significant portion of your capital.
Hence a short-term investment should consist primarily
of cash deposits, money-market funds, with perhaps a small basket of
international fixed-interest securities (government bonds).
If on the other hand you can take a longer-term view,
you can afford to take a somewhat more aggressive view, and include
equities in your portfolio.
Even though the value of an equity-based portfolio will
fluctuate from month to month, you should train your eye on the
longer-term goal, rather than on the short-term fluctuations, since these
are inherent in a more aggressive portfolio. If you cannot accept
volatility, you shouldn’t be taking on an aggressive portfolio.
Nonetheless, remember that until you cash in your
investment, any profits or losses are only profits or losses on paper.
Even if your portfolio value is down now, you’ll only suffer a loss if
you cash it in. If you can hold on for another year or so, the paper loss
may still turn into a handsome profit. Look what happened within 18 months
of both the Crash of 1987 and the Global Meltdown of 1994.
But similarly, wonderful paper profits can be eroded
just as fast: remember what has happened to the hi-tech and telecomms
sectors over the past 18 months!
However, this simply means that a more aggressive
portfolio needs more careful monitoring, and adjustments should be made
when danger signals arise or opportunities beckon. (But that’s the hard
part: identifying those trends means predicting the future, and no-one
succeeds very well at that all the time.)
As a rule of thumb, though, if the capital you’re
looking to invest is only a relatively small proportion of your overall
wealth, you could perhaps afford to take a more aggressive stance. But if
it’s all the money in the kingdom, you should tend to be more
(to be continued next week...)
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
Further details and back articles can be accessed on his firm’s website
Snap Shots: A
local photo shoot
by Harry Flashman
When you live in Thailand you should try to take
photographs of subjects that the folks back home cannot take in your own
country. While there are plenty of unique items to photograph in Thailand,
one of the more spectacular is Wat Yarn (Sang Warraram). This is a
multiple site of temples, temples and more temples, each built in a
different style of architecture, ranging from classical Thai right through
to Khmer and even Chinese.
had not been to Wat Yarn for some time and I was amazed at how spectacular
the grounds have become. This place is a photographic paradise! Or should
I say, a photographer’s paradise!
To get there, head down Sukhumvit Road, heading towards
Sattahip, passing the Ambassador City Jomtien on your right, then Ocean
Marina. Keep going through Bam Amphoe township and turn left (signposted
to Wat Yarn) at km marker 160. This is around 15 km out from Pattaya
central. Travel 5 km up the side road and you cannot miss the complex.
this photo shoot three lenses were used, the 24 mm wide angle, the 50 mm
standard lens and the 135 mm portrait lens. This is around the
capabilities of many of the “zoom” lenses these days, so you would be
able to reproduce almost all of the shots I took. I should point out that
the majority of the shots were taken with the 24 mm lens, but the more
usual 28 mm would be just as good (and produce less
With most of the temples you should take an overall
wide angle view first, composing the scene to be one that you personally
find pleasing. Take the shot horizontally (landscape) and vertically
(portrait). Some times you can get a better effect by this method, rather
than sticking all the time to the landscape format for landscapes!
As you walk closer to the temple, look for small
details for you to use your longest telephoto lens. Structures such as
these do have many interesting details. Remember too that you can get many
other interesting photos by looking up as well as forwards.
those of sound mind and wind, there is the 250 step climb to the Khao Din
hill-top mondop with its Buddha footprints. Harry here decided that a view
of the steps, with the naga style balustrade was more than adequate on
that particularly hot day!
For me, the most interesting temple in the Wat Yarn
precinct was the large Chinese style temple housing Tang Dynasty bronze (Vihara
Sien). The giant statues in the forecourt looking for all the world like
an enormous chess set. When taking a shot of one of these bronzes, it also
pays to include a person so that the true size can be seen.
An afternoon at Wat Yarn is a rewarding experience, and
it is well worth enlarging your best shots and mounting them to be used as
wall art. Will make great Xmas presents too.
Modern Medicine: Laughter
really is the best medicine
by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant
We live in difficult times. What with visa
requirements, work permit requirements, living as an alien in another
culture and other such problems, it is easy to become disenchanted with
one’s lot in life. Add to that some medical problems, especially ones of
a chronic nature, and it becomes an even simpler matter to become
However, medical science has been able to demonstrate
that for illness and injury there is a much better outcome if you keep
smiling, despite adversity. Even “fatal” forms of cancer have a much
better prognosis when the sufferer maintains a positive outlook. I must
admit that when I started to reply to the question, “How are you?”
with the answer “I am always well,” I have been significantly much
better since that time. Not “scientific” evidence I know, but I am
convinced! In fact, for many a patient, about whose problems I could do
little, I would say something like, “I can’t fix your arthritis, but I
can tell you a joke.” They always left the surgery feeling better than
when they arrived.
So here are your jokes for today. With VIAGRA such a
hit, Pfizer is bringing forth a whole line of drugs oriented towards
improving the performance of men in today’s society.
DIRECTRA - A dose of this drug given to men before
leaving on car trips caused 72 percent of them to stop and ask for
directions when they got lost compared to a control group where only 0.2
percent asked for directions.
PROJECTRA - Men given this experimental new drug were
far more likely to actually finish a household repair project before
starting a new one.
CHILDAGRA - Men taking this drug reported a sudden,
overwhelming urge to perform more child-care tasks, especially cleaning up
spills and little accidents.
COMPLIMENTRA - In clinical trials, 82 percent of
middle-aged men administered this drug noticed that their wives had a new
hairstyle. Currently being tested to see if its effects extend to noticing
BUYAGRA - Married and otherwise attached men reported a
sudden urge to buy their sweeties expensive jewelry and gifts after taking
this drug for only two days. Still to be seen: whether the drug can be
continued for a period longer than your favourite store’s return limit.
NEGA-VIAGRA - Has the exact opposite effect of Viagra.
Has been undergoing clinical trials on U.S. presidents.
NEGA-SPORTAGRA - This drug had the strange effect of
making men want to turn off televised sports and actually converse with
other family members.
CAPAGRA - Caused test subjects to become
uncharacteristically fastidious about lowering toilet seats and replacing
toothpaste caps. Subjects on higher doses were seen dusting furniture.
PRYAGRA - About to fail its clinical trial, this drug
gave men in the test group an irresistible urge to dig into the personal
affairs of other people. Note: Apparent overdose turned three test
subjects into special prosecutors.
LIAGRA - This drug causes men to be less than truthful
when they are asked about their sexual affairs. Will be available in
Regular, Grand Jury and Presidential Strength versions.
A subject close to your heart. I have been living in
Pattaya for over a year and would dearly love to find a purveyor of decent
chocolate, especially dark chocolate. Apart from the usual supermarkets
which have a very limited selection unless you want milk chocolate, I have
not found anywhere to assuage my desire to pamper myself of an evening,
you know, feet up, comfy chair, good book and a large bar/box of dark
bitter chocolate. As you must have experience of the more elite
confectioners in Pattaya, I would be most grateful if you would share your
knowledge. I am not really worried about cost because when you think about
it, for the price of a couple of lukewarm Singha’s in some drinking den
one can have a much more gratifying tasting experience without losing the
use of one’s hearing.
An unashamed chocoholic
You really don’t understand Ms. Hillary, do you
Petal. I do not buy chocolates, I eat the chocolates that my devoted
readers send me. You will have to continue looking, and when you have
found chocolate Nirvana you can send me a box. Oh, by the way, no hard
My girlfriend was living with another foreigner 10
years ago in Bangkok. He was doing some real estate deals, and at one
point bought a house in my girlfriend’s name. Shortly after he sold the
house again. He has now long been gone from Thailand. My girlfriend has
now received a letter from the revenue department. They would like to see
her, as they say she owes business tax on that house. She does not own any
money apart from what I give her. And I am not interested in paying her
former boyfriend’s business tax. Could Hillary please ask her legal
staff what she should do?
No problems! While I am at it, what else would you like
Hillary to do? Change the light bulbs? Unblock the drains? Rewire the
house and re-hang the front gate? Oh, I almost forgot, wipe your little
botty as well? What sort of service do you think Hillary is running here,
Poppet? This is a column for advice to those with problems of the heart,
not for those looking for free legal aid. Why don’t you go along and ask
a lawyer yourself, my precious? There are plenty of good ones around
My wife’s eldest daughter, 13yrs, is pressing to be
allowed to have a small motorcycle, to which I object although I have,
during the past two school holidays, ensured that she can ride one safely
and instructed her in road craft. My objection is due to the fact that she
is too young to hold a licence. My question is, firstly what is the
youngest age that a teenager can legally obtain a licence and secondly can
low powered motorcycles be ridden without a licence and if so below what
Like so many aspects of life in Thailand, it is
difficult to get a “straight” answer, as you have already found,
haven’t you? My sources say that a motorcycle license can be obtained
legally at 15 years of age, and at 18 for a car, but there are very
obviously some underage riders out there. The very small scooter style
bikes are illegal to be used in Pattaya and you cannot get any insurance
for them, making them very dangerous to ride in all respects. The dividing
line is on wheel size rather than engine capacity. With the shocking head
injury statistics associated with motorcycles, Hillary believes you are
doing the right thing by teaching your daughter to ride in a safe way and
to wear a proper helmet - and correctly fastened, too.
Is it always confusing when a chap is trying to take
out a “proper” Thai lady, rather than one of the girls from the bar? I
read in a Bangkok paper that young courting couples can go for five years
without even kissing. Is this normal? I have been trying to build a
relationship with a Thai lady (an accountant) but she is forever telling
me not to rush, but just to take things slowly. Since I am retired, I
probably do not have the time to wait around that long. What do you
suggest, Hillary, to speed up the process somewhat?
Dear Pedro (the swift?),
Congratulations, Petal. You have found the essential
differences between Thai ladies and Thai (service) girls. While both can
be charming and lovable, the behaviour patterns in the initial stages of
the relationship are very different. With the local girls, commencing the
relationship is easy, and after a while (generally a few months to around
a year) she will decide whether you are worthwhile continuing with as far
as a long term relationship is concerned. There are often many broken
hearts with this way of getting to know the girl of your dreams. With the
local ladies, it is the reverse. During the initial phase, which can take
years, she is deciding whether it is even worthwhile starting a
relationship with you. There is less chance of a broken heart, but a lot
more chance of frustration for the foreigner. Get a copy of Bangkok Angel,
written by Mike Smith, who has been through these problems. You can order
it from the Pattaya Mail’s web site.
Business people in Pattaya are split between those
who are expecting a bumper high season and those who fear the worst.
And there are indeed some reasons for caution. Predominantly, the air
terrorist atrocities in USA in September will have all manner of spin
offs, not least the fact that people may not feel as safe as they did
in jumbo jets. We have been accustomed to thinking that hijackers
always have guns or bombs on board. We now know that small knives,
even razor blades, may be enough in the hands of fanatics to take over
a plane by force provided the villainous determination is there.
Another lesson is that it doesn’t take years of training to learn
how to fly a jet into the World Trade Center. An average person could
well manage it after a three months’ induction course. One thing is
for sure. The costs of insurance and security precautions are set to
skyrocket whilst, for freight, sea travel is set to boom in
popularity. The implication is that airline seats for people are going
to cost a lot more. Analysts are already predicting hikes in the
region of 30% and maybe much more if fuel costs go through the roof in
the medium term.
The police crackdown on late opening of bars and
clubs in Bangkok and Pattaya hit the headlines in August and
September. Internet chatlines have been carrying some of the more
extreme predictions, e.g. that all go go bars will be closed down
within a year or that the 1960 law outlawing prostitution will be
invoked to arrest customers as well as service personnel. However,
chatlines are not noted for their sobriety and a walk about in Pattaya
around 01.30 hours suggests that the prophets of doom are off key. The
amber liquid is still flowing freely in the niteries, although you may
have to box a little cleverer to slake your thirst half an hour later.
Yet you can’t have it both ways. It used to be said that the wild
west atmosphere of Pattaya - by the way an exaggeration as the police
have always known exactly what is going on - was preventing families
from visiting the resort and pumping much needed foreign currency into
the economy. Now we are told that Pattaya is doomed financially if
people can’t get overly drunk in the wee hours. The truth probably
is that neither extreme position is credible. Pattaya has always been
a paradox, all things to all people, and that’s not about to change
En masse prediction
Although heralded before the US terrorist attacks,
airlines have in fact been boosting flights to Thailand in
anticipation of the high season. Finnair announced it was flying an
additional 21 charters into Bangkok. SAS is set to introduce the
larger A340, replacing the Boeing 767 on its Asian routes from
Copenhagen. Air France intends to increase capacity by replacing the
252 Airbus with a 390 seat Boeing. The one airline bucking the trend
is Garuda which no longer uses Bangkok as a stopover on flights to
Jakarta. Although it will be surprising if, for the whole of 2001,
there will actually be a double digit increase in tourist arrivals
into Thailand, the country is on track to receiving more than ten
million overall. What could torpedo these plans is if tourists as a
whole cancel their winter holidays out of safety concerns or if the
airlines cut capacity on transcontinental routes.
This is not the first time there have been grave
concerns about Pattaya’s future. In the late 1980s, many believed
the threat of an AIDS pademic would drive visitors away by the
thousands. It never happened in the way envisaged. Fears about
personal safety, for example after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in
1990, did cause a downturn in visitor arrivals for a time but on a
short term basis. There have been police crackdowns on the bars
before, most notably in 1995, but without any discernible effect on
the development of Pattaya. Indeed, there are many times the number of
entertainment outlets available now than six years ago, although the
main holidaymaker growth in the resort has arguably been from Asian
countries such as Japan, Taiwan and more recently China. A particular
and largely unnoticed aspect is the progress of Jomtien in
establishing itself as a separate and independent seaside resort.
Interestingly, it has largely zoned itself away from nightlife apart
from a selection of drinking dens where the beach road meets the main
Jomtien to Pattaya main road.
On balance, Pattaya’s success is set to continue
unless airborne tourism across the world takes a sustained nosedive.
If there are further air terror attacks or worse on the ground, if
airfares double, if there is a lengthy world recession, then the
writing will indeed be on the wall for holiday resorts world wide. We
have learned that a jet airliner is a lethal weapon in the hands of
determined fanatics. That was chapter one in a 21st century saga which
will not be completed for years, if ever. How quickly confidence in
international air travel can be restored is certainly the billion
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
Every society has its little idiosyncrasies. I know it is
devilish to smile a little when a foreigner comes to Thailand and sticks his
or her foot in it, so to speak. What our visitors must understand is that
Thais have this sense of the ridiculous, especially when it is not
perpetrated on them. They giggle helplessly as they watch the newcomer
wander through a minefield of esoteric and irrational cultural tics. The
seasoned traveller finds these experiences actually provide the spice in the
journey. Total surrender to the humour of their impossible situation is a
special gift. This is a key which will open many doors which otherwise would
be locked to them forever.
Naturally every faux pax is not humorous. Some can be
terribly embarrassing or downright provocative. Thailand does have a lot of
cultural taboos which are taken earnestly. Ancient customs practiced in a
traditional society are serious business to the locals. Of course a guest in
the Kingdom is forgiven honest mistakes. No pre-orientation session is going
to prepare the newcomer for some of the encounters which lie in wait around
Buddhist temples and monks are surrounded by taboos which
exist mainly out of reverence. For example, one should always sit at a lower
level than that of a monk. Never sit or lie with one’s feet facing a
Buddhist statute. Feet are considered lowly objects in comparison with other
features of the human anatomy, and therefore in Thailand we think a lot
about where and how to place them. Shoes are always removed before entering
a temple. In the countryside, when monks are on their morning rounds and
locals offer them food, Thais will often slip off their sandals before they
pass the food to the monk.
Special restraints are placed upon women when in the
presence of a member of the Buddhist clergy. They must not physically touch
a monk, sit close to him, nor directly hand food, money, or other offerings
so that her hands touch his. A simple cloth will always be provided to hold
the offering, or a man can pass the offering for a woman. And of course,
modest dress is expected of women when they enter a temple. Women should
also not wear hats inside a temple. If on a crowded public bus, women must
not share a seat with a monk, even if she must stand through the journey.
Some of these special taboos for ladies are evoked for the purpose of giving
the monk space and privacy, for he is a celibate and has taken religious
vows. They are not intended to repress women or infer that they are inferior
in anyway. Women do not offer monks fragrant flowers. Everyone must take
care not to actually step on the threshold when entering a temple, but must
carefully step across it. Buddhist images have their own set of taboos. For
example, never put a Buddhist image in a trouser pocket, wear a broken
image, or walk under a clothesline wearing one. Never say that you will
‘buy’ an image, but that you will ‘rent’ one instead.
Women in Thailand are raised to adhere to Thai ways which
will perplex a newcomer. We can refer to these cultural niceties as taboos,
or simply a catalogue of dos and don’ts which make up a list of good
manners practised inside local society. Thai women are taught not to give
perfume or cologne to a man as a gift. A well bred Thai woman will not be
comfortable holding hands and kissing in public. That display of affection
is considered private, and embarrasses other Thais forced to observe it.
Thai women should not comb their hair in public, and if she is not married,
should never sing in the kitchen. Married or not, whistling in the house is
a no-no. And so is sweeping the floor at night.
A member of the fair sex of the Kingdom doesn’t try on
her wedding dress before that special day, nor will most Thai ladies marry
on a Thursday. The kitchen is an area which has an individual energy and
demands some behavioural discipline. Thais never cry in their kitchens,
especially when they are cooking. Tears in other people’s food bring the
worst kind of bad luck, especially for the diners. Women here never remove
their skirts by slipping them over their heads. They don’t fly kites. They
never keep cut hair at home, in the way some Europeans will keep locks of a
loved one’s hair in a locket or scrapbook. Broken dishes and cracked
porcelain will be removed from under the family’s roof and set into an
outdoor area. Ladies here don’t bring children to funerals. Pregnant women
do not sit on stairs, even to rest a little. And they never bathe at night,
so that last shower before the sun goes down is important to them. Never
tell a new mother her baby is beautiful in case an evil spirit is looking
for just such a cutie. The list goes on. And on. And on.
Women’s World: Lady
with the lamp
by Lesley Warner
I always thought of Florence Nightingale as a romantic
personality fighting for her dreams and becoming some sort of angel to the
sick and injured during the war. But actually it was only two years out of
her life of 90 years that were spent as the angel in the Crimean War, and it
was these two years that made her famous.
Florence had wealthy parents, William and Frances
Nightingale. She was born in Florence, Italy on 12 May 1820. When they
returned to England the Nightingales divided their time between their two
Florence was very much admired in the family’s social
circle. She should have been content to enjoy the benefits of a wealthy
family and make a good match (marriage) but Florence had other ideas.
One day in 1837 while she was in the garden at Embely,
Florence maintains that she had what she described as her ‘calling’.
Florence heard the voice of God calling her to do his work.
Florence developed an interest in the social questions of
the day, made visits to the homes of the sick in the local villages and
began to investigate hospitals and nursing.
In the 19th century nursing was not considered a
respectable profession for a well-educated lady of Florence’s background.
Florence’s parents decided to send her to Europe with friends. They
travelled to Italy, Egypt and Greece, returning in July 1850 through Germany
to Kaiserswerth, near Dusseldorf, where they visited Pastor Theodor
Fliedner’s hospital and school for deaconesses.
The following year Florence returned to Kaiserswerth and
did three months nurse training. She then took a vacancy as superintendent
of the Establishment for Gentlewomen during Illness at No. 1 Harley Street,
London in 1853.
In March 1854 Britain, France and Turkey declared war on
Russia. The allies defeated the Russians at the battle of the Alma in
September but reports in The Times criticised the British medical facilities
for the wounded. Sidney Herbert, the Minister at War, who knew Florence
socially and through her work at Harley Street, appointed her to oversee the
introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey.
On 4 November 1854, Florence arrived at the Barrack
Hospital in Scutari, with 38 nurses. The doctors were not impressed but
within 10 days fresh casualties arrived from the battle of Inkermann and
there were enough injured to keep the nurses and doctors busy full time.
The ‘Lady-in-Chief’, as Florence was called, wrote
home on behalf of the soldiers. She acted as a banker, sending the men’s
wages home to their families, and she introduced reading rooms to the
hospital. In return she gained the undying respect of the British soldiers.
The introduction of female nurses to the military
hospitals was an outstanding success, and to show the nation’s gratitude
for Florence’s hard work a public subscription was organised in November
1855. The money collected was to enable Florence to continue her reform of
nursing in the civil hospitals of Britain.
When Florence returned from the Crimean War in August
1856, four months after the peace treaty was signed, she hid herself away
from the public’s attention.
In November 1856 Florence took a hotel room in London
that later became the centre for the campaign for a Royal Commission to
investigate the health of the British Army.
During the decade from 1862 her main concerns were the
health of the Army in India and the state of Indian public health, the
development of irrigation and the system of land tenure.
In 1860, with the public subscriptions of the Nightingale
Fund, she established the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St
Thomas Hospital. This was said to be her greatest achievement, to raise the
level of nursing to become a respectable profession for women.
Although Florence Nightingale was bedridden due to
illness contracted in the Crimea for many years, she campaigned tirelessly
to improve health standards, publishing 200 books, reports and pamphlets.
In recognition of her hard work Queen Victoria awarded
Florence the Royal Red Cross in 1883. In her old age she received many
honours, including the Order of Merit (1907), becoming the first woman to
Florence Nightingale died at home at the age of 90 on 13
Animal Crackers: Salamander
- a land going Newt?
by Mirin MacCarthy
Salamander is the common name for about 320 species of
amphibians with tails. They include all the members of the order Urodela,
including the newts (family Salamandridae). Salamanders may live permanently
in fresh water, but generally live their adult lives on land only returning
to the water to breed. On the other hand, Newts are primarily swimmers,
though some adults that live part of their lives on land may have a
“warty” skin when out of water.
is easy to mistake Salamanders as lizards, but they lack the scaly skin and
external ears and claws that are characteristic of lizards. Salamanders are
also a very old group that split off early from the other amphibians such as
frogs but are related to them by characteristics of tooth form and skin
The family Salamandridae live on all continents except
South America, Australia, and Antarctica. The families Hynobiidae and
Cryptobranchidae comprise the most primitive salamanders, and they practice
external fertilization, with the eggs laid in water and sperm deposited over
them. Hynobiids live in eastern Asia, and the cryptobranchids live in China
and Japan (the giant salamander) and North America (the hellbender).
Another family, the Ambystomatidae occurs in the New
World from Canada to central Mexico and includes the tiger salamander and
The families Sirenidae (sirens), Necturidae (mud puppy),
and Amphiumidae (congo eels) occur only in the south-eastern United States.
All of these are permanently aquatic, with reduced limbs and some larval
features. The family Proteidae occurs in the caves of coastal Yugoslavia.
The animals are gilled, blind, and un-pigmented - adaptations to life in
The most abundant family, containing about 200 known
species of salamanders, is the Plethodontidae. Evolved in the Appalachian
Mountains of the United States, it has many species in eastern and western
North America, a group of species that has invaded the tropics and radiated
extensively, and two species in Europe. This family contains burrowing,
tree-living, stream-dwelling, and terrestrial species.
Since salamanders are amphibians, their skins are
sensitive to being dried out; therefore they are found in or near water and
damp places. Many are brightly coloured. Most adults hide by day and feed at
Generally salamanders are 10 to 15 cm long, though the
largest, the giant salamander of Japan, Andrias japonicus, grows up to about
180 cm and weighs about 25 kg. Salamanders have short bodies with tails,
usually 4 legs (some have two back legs and only vestigial front ones),
well-developed heads often with large mouths and eyes, and a smooth, moist
skin. Their colours include brown, black, yellow, or red, and often have
light or dark spots, bars, or stripes. The skin contains many glands, some
secreting mucus to help maintain moisture and others secreting a toxic or
irritating substance when the animal is frightened.
Internally, salamanders share a number of features with
other amphibians, such as a three-chambered heart. The respiratory system
typically involves gills in larvae and lungs in adults, and some adults have
gills as well. Oxygen uptake can also occur through the skin and the mouth
membranes (as in the plethodontids, the lung-less salamanders).
Salamanders are carnivores, feeding on insects, worms,
and similar prey. Some plethodontid species can flip their tongues the
lengths of their bodies to catch prey. As in other amphibians, water is also
absorbed through the skin.
Some species (for example, the axolotl) display neoteny -
that is, the larval features persist into sexual maturity. In many
terrestrial species having direct development (no larval stage), the females
brood their eggs. They coil around the clutch, protecting it from predators
and even from fungus.
The life span of salamanders may be 1 to 60 years,
depending on the species. They are components of a balanced ecosystem. They
serve as food items for various predators, including fish, snakes, and
birds. Recently they have contributed much to science from studies of
ecology and evolution, behaviour, and general physiology to genetics,
endocrinology, and cell structure and function. Clever little Salamanders!
The computer doctor
by Richard Brunch
From Terry Sanderson, Map Ta Put:
One of our employees created a database in MS Access to allow us to track
orders. Whilst it works fine at the moment, we now need to change it, but it
was converted to a MDE file and the employee that created it is no longer
with the company and nobody knows either her whereabouts or that of the
original MDB file. I can of course extract the underlying tables but without
the forms and other functionality these are not really of much use. How can
I recreate the MDB file?
Computer Doctor replies: I am not aware of a way to
do this. The creation of the MDE file is a one way process that removes
certain information like the VBA source code and creates a token format
which is a sort of halfway house between source code and an executable. The
purpose is two fold, firstly it protects the intellectual property of the
developer and secondly it prevents users making changes to the structure
either intentionally or unintentionally. Regrettably you are either going to
have to locate the MDB file or else be prepared to start development again
from a clean slate. Another alternative although cumbersome and depending on
what changes you now need to make could be to process the changes in another
file. Good luck!
From Ingar Gjersdal, Norway: As a farang moving to
Pattaya just over the New Year, I have some questions concerning ISP's. Does
anyone in Pattaya provide broadband services or if not at least ISDN?
Computer Doctor replies: The Internet in Thailand is
still emerging and there are changes afoot so the information I am giving
now may not be accurate at the time you arrive here in Pattaya. Presently
there is no broadband connection available here but several of the ISP's
provide ISDN, commonly, Loxinfo, KSC and INET. Also you may find Turbo
Internet from Shin appropriate - the link directly for this is http://www.cscoms.com/en/product/turbo.html.
For up-to-date information before you arrive you can check the various ISP's
websites or contact them via e-mail. A full list of all the ISP's can be
found at www.thnic.net
From McDonald, Pattaya: I am using MS Outlook and
have created several sub-folders within the folder "Main Identity's
Contacts". Each sub-folder contains different address contacts. The
issue is...I'm attempting to copy only one specific sub-folder, export the
contents to floppy A: as a WAB file and import to my Outlook address book on
another computer, hence not re-creating each contact on the 2nd computer.
What actually happens...all the contacts, in all folders, transfer to floppy
A: and then when I upload to the 2nd computer's Outlook, every contact
address from computer 1's entire address book is copied to computer 2's
"Main Identity's Contacts". I'm sure it's just my lack of
knowledge and would greatly appreciate your input on how to transfer a
sub-folder address book from computer 1 to a sub-folder on computer 2. Any
advice would be greatly appreciated and thanks for your continuous support!
Computer Doctor replies: So far as I am aware, it is
not possible to export from any version of Outlook, be it 97, 2000 or XP as
a .WAB file. If you select the option to Export to a File then Personal
Folder File (.PST) and from the next screen the Folder/s you wish to export
either selecting include sub folders or not as appropriate, then selecting
the destination as your A: drive you will have a PST file containing only
the required information. Reversing the process on the second machine,
selecting Import/Export then From another Program or File then Personal
Folder File (.PST) and browsing to the A: drive where your exported file is
located will enable you to import just the required data and allow you to
either overwrite or create duplicates as needed.
A Slice of Thai History:
Franco-Thai War 1940-1941
by Duncan Stearn
Part Two: The Road to War
In June 1940, Thailand signed Non-Aggression Pacts with
both Japan and Britain. Following the fall of France to the Germans that
same month, the Thais approached the new Vichy-aligned government in
Indo-China, believing they would be more amenable than their predecessors.
The Thais were sadly mistaken, but the British, concerned about the very
real possibility that Indo-China would fall to the Japanese, put pressure on
the French to enter negotiations with the Thais.
In August 1940, Japan, aiming to improve their strategic
position against China, demanded that the Vichy government in Indo-China
give them the unfettered use of three northern Vietnamese airfields as well
as allowing 5,000 Japanese troops to be stationed in the Red River Valley.
The French colonial administration agreed in principle to
the demands, but haggled over the details. By September 1940, the Japanese
were effectively in control of northern Vietnam.
Thailand, led by Prime Minister Pibul Songgram, offered
to sign a Non-Aggression Pact with France, similar to the one then in force
with Japan and Britain.
Talks, led on the French side by Admiral Decoux, the
Governor-General of Indo-China, commenced early in September 1940 with six
major points to be addressed between Thailand and France. These involved
clear demarcation of certain border areas as well as the return of some
territory to Thailand.
The negotiations lasted just two weeks before they broke
down through the intransigence of both sides. In retaliation, the colonial
French authorities began making life difficult for Thais doing cross-border
business. A number were arrested and in October matters were exacerbated
when Khun Canta Sintharako, after crossing into Cambodia to visit his
business partner, was beaten to death by police in front of his family.
The Thai government demanded an investigation, a formal
apology and a renewal of border negotiations. The French reply, according to
the Thai version of events, came in the form of military provocation.
French military aircraft began flying over Thai territory
while artillery began shelling border posts. French patrols then began
making incursions into Thailand.
Thailand responded by sending aircraft to patrol the
border with orders to attack any foreign troops they encountered on Thai
soil. The army also moved artillery units up to the border and began
returning French fire.
The French claimed that the provocation came from the
Thai side with units being sent across the Cambodian border in probing
Whichever nation was at fault, by November, border
incidents were getting more common and more serious. The French sent their
bombers in at night to attack military positions and border towns while
avoiding Thai aircraft.
The Message In The Moon
: Sun in Gemini/Moon in Cancer - The Pendulum
This combination is the most creative of all the Gemini
combinations. But it is also the one most prone to neurosis, depression and
mood swings. The Gemini’s need to give practical expression to new and
innovative ideas is enhanced by a Cancer inner nature that is imaginative,
highly sensitive and sympathetic. Intuition, versatility and high
intelligence combine to help assure the success of people born into this
sign. Just a few outstanding natives of this combo are Igor Stravinsky, Jean
Paul Sarte, and Franze Kafka.
The gifts inherent in the Gemini-Cancer far outweigh any
limitations. But like all highly emotional and imaginative individuals,
these people must learn to cope with a variety of difficulties. Certainly
they must come to know themselves and with self-knowledge comes self-esteem.
Hypersensitive and impressionable, it is difficult for
this group to separate their own feelings from the feelings and moods of
those around them. Spouses, co-workers and friends are often able to exert
undue influence over these natives. So naturally it is vital for them to
live, work and create in an environment which is relatively free of tension,
discord or animosity. In a highly charged atmosphere, these individuals tend
to become moody, despondent and withdrawn. It is important to learn to
become master of ones own surroundings. It is also imperative that the
Gemini-Cancer does not become such a chameleon that he or she is forced to
blend into the scenery. These people must insist on their own individuality.
Sometimes they work so hard for other people’s happiness that they
sacrifice much of their own.
This Sun-Moon sign has an exuberant and light-hearted
approach to life, but sad to say, some of these natives do have trouble with
their self-image. Certainly it is wise to recognise sensitivity as a great
strength rather than a weakness. Once greater confidence is gained, these
people can become more assertive. When this happens, there is simply no
limit to what they may be able to accomplish.
That ability to adapt to surroundings makes them
excellent role-players. Many Gemini-Cancers excel in the theatre. When they
learn to use that discrimination and intuition for choosing a lover, friend
or associate, they will find they are less accommodating at the expense of
their own well-being. It is vital to learn to say no. Otherwise others will
certainly take advantage of that good nature.
Subject to mood swings, this combination may periodically
retreat from the world. A certain amount of seclusion for contemplation and
introspection might be beneficial. However, prolonged isolation could be
disastrous. It is very important to stay socially active. All that charm and
affability, that quick incisive wit insures popularity, especially with
members of the opposite sex.
In romance the Gemini-Cancer is experimental, imaginative
and responsive to the needs of a partner. That partner, however, must
understand that sensitive nature and emotional make-up, and give the
generous amounts of love which is required by this sign. A spouse must be
able to give emotional support, encouragement and loyalty. Although this
Sun/Moon sign will have many romantic affairs, that search for the ideal
partner is important, for eventually these natives must find the solace and
stability of a happy home and domestic stability.
Antiques, are they
genuine?: The categories of antique furniture
by Apichart Panyadee
To arm against deceptions, the collector must be aware of
what makes an antique genuine, and the background of restoration. He needs
to know what the expert or dealer looks for in an antique, how restoration
occurs, and how it is graded. Pieces can be allocated into five categories,
from perfect original to outright fake. Within these categories there are
degrees of restoration, from minor to major.
The Perfect Piece
The "perfect piece" has all of its structural
parts intact and glue, blocks, inlay, surface, edges, finish, etc., in a
perfect state of preservation. It retains its original brasses, finials, and
decorative carving. The true antique radiates its own authenticity and shows
the following features:
Patina - the surface quality of the piece, a natural glow
that develops after many years of care and shines out to the observer.
totally faked 'Chippendale' corner chair, which was, however, accompanied by
a fraudulent history which traced it back to the American Revolution
Erosion of edges - this natural erosion develops after
generations of waxing, polishing and handling.
Shrinkage - wood shrinks across the grain which causes
irregularities where elements are joined. After 200 years, mortise pins
become compressed and pop out. A chair's splat with its vertical grain
shrinks from side to side, while the crest, with its horizontal grain,
shrinks from top to bottom, causing a minor break in the flow of the design
where they meet.
Queen Anne corner chair; Philadelphia, c. 1740-60
Color of structural elements due to oxidation - these
structural elements were left untreated and therefore oxidized naturally
over the centuries, turning various shades of brown. To simulate this
natural color, the faker must stain the altered pieces of wood, and this
produces an artificial color which can be easily spotted by the trained eye.
Contrast of structural color depending up on exposure -
structural elements that are more exposed to air will oxidize more and turn
a darker brown than protected elements. For instance, the undersides of the
bottom drawers of a highboy will be darker than those of the upper drawers.
All of these points reflect the natural ageing process over the centuries
and can be seen by the naked eye.
This is a basically intact genuine article with a few
missing blocks, a possible crack in a bracket foot or a small missing
segment, some chewed off edges on a drawer lip, a segment of molding broken
or missing, a chipped toe, finials or pendants restored, some or all brasses
replaced, drawer runners replaced, cracks filled in, and so forth. These are
still fine pieces; they just show normal wear and tear of everyday use for
200 years or more.
Major Restoration (Original Design)
This category will include the piece with greatly
restored areas of inlay, or with a new foot or feet, a new drawer front, new
base, a case piece with new bonnet, or a piece restored a generation ago,
but with a family background that might give it a false promise of complete
Queen Anne highboy with added bonnet top, which subsequently only added in
decreasing its value
All these restorations are part of the preservation
process and restore a piece to its original form. They may or may not
seriously devalue an item. Unfortunately, many of these restorations are
poorly done, sometimes by amateurs, but often by inexperienced
cabinetmakers. In this area, the loudest differences of opinion occur. And
to a great degree, these dissenting opinions depend on the importance and
rarity of the piece in question. Defining these restorations requires
experience and judgment when considered by dealers and collectors.
Major Restoration (to create a more valuable form)
A piece that has been altered to increase its price falls
into this category. This is the area of fraud. Value is being created where
it did not exist before. These pieces have been altered to deceive and, no
matter how beautiful, they are misrepresentations and false bargains. These
pieces may appear in a private or public sale with a wonderful provenance
which may be true to the original form. But the altered section will not be
revealed in the catalogue. The seasoned expert knows what to look for
because over the years, he has accumulated his list of likely alterations,
and he therefore examines a piece with these things in mind.
The Complete Fake
This is a piece which has no roots in history, but has
been created with the intention of deceiving, and is a vicious crime
perpetrated on the collecting public. Important forms are made from scratch,
sometimes with the aid of old parts, but more often with new wood. These
items are created by a skilled craftsman with the knowledge of regional
motifs, forms and woods. Today, with many pieces of American antique
furniture fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars, the incentive to fake
Updated every Friday
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