HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Snap Shot

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

A Slice of Thai History

Personal Directions

Women’s World


Family Money: Modern Myths about Stocks - Part 2

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

Last week we started looking at why & how many private investors still have dangerous illusions about the best ways to identify cheap shares and the most successful investment styles.

6. Directors’ Dealings Can Be Ignored

Investors ignore director’s dealings at their peril. Granted, share-dealing on a small scale can largely be ignored. But investors would be wise to heed any large purchases or sales – especially if directors deal in clusters. A large share disposal might send out a bad signal, so watch out also for persistent small disposals. It’s similarly a sound move to consider selling out if the founder of a company is doing the same thing.

Investors should also be wary of interpreting heavy director buying in the wake of bad news as a bullish sign. The directors may be trying to appease angry institutional investors, or attempting to shore-up the share price.

According to London Stock Exchange regulations, directors cannot deal when they are in possession of price-sensitive information, or in the two months before an earnings’ announcement. Unfortunately, these rules are often loosely interpreted.

On a broader front, investors should keep an eye on the overall ratio of directors’ buys-to-sells. That’s because directors have historically displayed a good record of calling market troughs. According to one research firm, the directors’ buy-to-sell ratio in the year to date now stands at 4.8 to 1. That compares with a long-term historical average of 3.3 to 1. However, the early part of the year traditionally sees more buys, as directors deal ahead of the end of the tax year, so the ratio is not giving any strong signals at present.

7. Companies Can Buck An Industry Downturn

When an industry enters a downturn there’s usually no shortage of companies that claim they’ll ride out the tough conditions unscathed. This is because of some unique strength the group is supposed to enjoy.

In one instance, a CEO claimed his business produced a “must-have” software package. Three profit warnings over the next 15 months left these claims looking rather hollow.

Another company, after a wave of redundancies, was found to be buying back its own products to boost the morale of its remaining staff. Sure enough, this proved wishful thinking. Demand for the company’s goods evaporated, and the shares dropped from 290p to 39p. When an industry enters a sharp downturn, everybody suffers.

8. Have Faith In Company

When a new management team with a strong track record takes over the helm at a struggling company, its share price often enjoys an uptick as investors anticipate a turnaround. But investors should always focus on the economics of the industry, rather than the supposed flair of management. The former will overwhelm even the most skilful managers. If those economics are unfavourable, the group is best avoided. As Warren Buffett notes, “When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for poor fundamental economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact.” Another of Mr Buffet’s saying is apt in this context. “You should invest in a business that even a fool can run, because someday a fool will.”

9. Buy Initial Public Offerings

Research has proven that initial public offerings (IPOs) usually under-perform the market, and often by a very large margin. This is not surprising. When a business conducts an IPO, it both chooses the time it enters the market, and the price investors will have to pay. If it doesn’t like the prevailing market conditions – or feels it can only get the float off the ground by slashing the price of the offering – the float is usually pulled (unless the firm is desperate to raise funds, when it should usually be avoided anyway).

Investors in the UK are too well disposed to IPOs after the wave of privatisations in the 1980s and 1990s, when the government sold shares in nationalised industries at bargain prices that almost guaranteed good returns. But the investment banks that price IPOs today don’t have to worry about alienating the electorate with losses. That means there aren’t too many IPO bargains.

10. Discounted Cash Flow Models Are The Best Way To Value A Company

Following the technology, media and telecoms (‘TMT’) bubble of the late 90s; many investors are highly sceptical about valuations derived from discounted cash flow (‘DCF’) models. DCFs are even labelled ‘discredited cash flow’ models by some. And the cynicism is warranted. The problem with DCFs is that a small change in the discount rate can have an enormous impact on the valuation. That means unscrupulous analysts can arrive at almost any value they want. Investors should also be wary of some of the projections made in DCFs. During the TMT bubble, this usually centred on forecasts of stratospheric sales growth, which subsequently failed to materialise.

11. Companies Can Grow Profits Smoothly

Investors love companies that post reliable earnings growth. The market even pays a premium for this ‘certainty’. In the real world, though, where demand can fluctuate wildly from one year to the next, no company can grow profits smoothly for years on end. Granted, it may appear this feat is being achieved in the profit-and-loss (P&L) account. But look deeper, and there’s bound to be some earnings’ manipulation at work.

The most common method is where groups use provisions to ‘smooth’ earnings. In a good year, a firm will set aside a large amount of provisions so that profits don’t increase too much – and reach a level that it may struggle to match the following year. And in a bad year, the dent from provisions in the P&L is likely to be modest. This is called ‘smoothing profits’. Even well- respected companies – such as GE – are accused of ‘smoothing’.

12. Highly Acquisitive Companies Can Create Value

According to academic research, most acquisitions destroy value. And the only real benefits from a deal are reaped by the shareholders of the company acquired, rather than the acquirer.

But despite this evidence, many companies are addicted to deal making. This can potentially become very dangerous. As the company becomes larger, the next deal has to be bigger to make a significant impact on earnings. And big deals carry large execution risks. This was the problem Rentokil faced in the late nineties.

Another problem with serial acquirers is the opportunity presented by constant deal making for cooking the books. Restructuring provisions and write-offs can be utilised to fiddle future profits. It’s also very difficult to assess the amount of organic growth – if any – a highly-acquisitive company is generating.

Snap Shot: The Wonderful Weegee (1899-1968)

The father of Photojournalism?

by Harry Flashman

Photography can breed some wonderful characters, and I have met quite a few. However, one I would have loved to meet was just known as Weegee, a living caricature of the press photographer. A man who rewrote his own biography almost daily and had the brass nerve to stamp on the back of his photos “Credit Photo by Weegee the Famous”. You have to love people like that!

He was born in 1899 in Europe, the second of seven children to Jewish parents. His name was Usher Fellig. In those difficult times in Europe, full of anti-Semitism, his father left in 1906 to go to the land of opportunity - America, with the family following him four years later.

His father was a strict Jew and young Usher, who by now had changed his name to Arthur, rebelled against the discipline and left home aged 15 and earned his living selling candy on the streets and washing dishes in restaurants.

He slowly drifted into photography, becoming a photographer’s assistant. His job was to load and change the glass plate holders and to prepare the magnesium flash powder. He apparently rebelled again and was soon back on the streets, where he spent many a night in old tenement buildings and flophouses. This experience was to give him a different viewpoint on life in the big city, New York.

His next assignment was working in the darkrooms at city newspapers, and doing the occasional stint as an extra photographer, but again, after a period of time, his need to work on his own and not under the dictates of others saw him going freelance.

He hung around the Manhattan Police HQ and would ride out to the scenes of gangland murders, shooting film with hard-hitting images. Those pixelated images you see on the front pages of Thai newspapers owe their heritage to Arthur Fellig - except he did not blur any details!

It was around this time that he decided to leave “Arthur” behind and became Weegee. There are a few stories as to how he came to adopt this name, but the best (and probably most likely) was that it was his way of spelling Ouija, the popular psychic fortune telling apparatus. Weegee claiming that his psychic powers enabled him to be first at the scene of any disasters, murders or fires. Of course, the fact that he had a police radio installed in his car also helped! He had a typewriter installed in the boot of the car and would sit there, at the scene of the crime, and type out the copy to go with his photographs. The ultimate hard-bitten newshound.

After the war, Weegee moved into Hollywood, making several small movies himself, as well as having small cameo roles in other films. He produced a book about New York called The Naked City, which inspired the film of the same name. He worked as an advisor for several producers including the Stanley Kubrick classic1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb. (If you haven’t seen it, try and get a copy - brilliant stuff with Peter Sellers).

By now, Weegee was becoming a ‘minor’ celebrity and this drove him on to produce more books, including Weegee’s People (1946), Naked Hollywood (1953) and Weegee by Weegee, An Autobiography (1961). The latter was seen by some to be Weegee’s attempt to reinvent himself (or perhaps an example of believing his own press releases!). However, the “character” that Weegee had built up became the inspiration for the 1992 film The Public Eye, starring Joe Pesci.

Weegee remained someone who fought against being pigeon-holed, probably stemming back to his authoritarian childhood, but must surely be remembered as the father of popular photojournalism. He died in 1968.

As a photographer, you have probably contributed to the photographic world when critics say later that others have modelled their work, or been influenced in their work by yours. Weegee is credited with influencing Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander, amongst others.

Modern Medicine:ADHD. A ‘real’ problem?

by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant

The other evening we had an interesting discussion regarding ‘uncontrollable’ children, and the problems this brings for parents and teachers. I had written about this before, so I felt it was time to review my previous words and bring them up to date.

Is your child inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive? If so, you may have a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, otherwise known as ADHD. On the other hand, you may just have a brat!

ADHD has been around for a few years and is widely accepted, with huge relief, by parents with these sorts of children, while at the same time, it has not been so readily accepted by mainstream medicine.

One of the reasons for that is conventional medicine really does strive to show and prove an underlying reason for any condition, before just accepting it and handing out medication. Medicos, especially of my era, tend to be conservative as regards our practice of medicine, so we look to world trends and diagnostic definitions before plunging headlong in ourselves with impulsive diagnoses including that of ADHD.

Consider if you will, the other conditions that may produce a child with hyperactivity and inattention. These include disorders of learning, disorders of conduct, hearing deficiency, epilepsy, nutritional problems, mood disorders, phobias and even lead poisoning!

However, getting back to ADHD, there now appears to be some world consensus regarding this condition, and the group of symptoms including poor learning, poor concentration, easily distracted, an inability to learn from past mistakes and poor behavioural control are taken to indicate the possibility of ADHD. Psychological testing of the child can also help with the diagnosis, but by and large it is done from parent and teacher descriptions of the child’s behaviour.

ADHD appears to be a condition that arises from a biological metabolic result of a genetic anatomical variation in brain architecture. If that seems a mouthful, don’t worry, it is! What seems to happen in these children is insufficient activity in certain receptor areas in the brain which results in under-arousal and an inability for the sensory input (information) to be retained long enough to be processed and converted into long term memory.

The treatment is geared towards stimulating the “slow” centres in the brain with psychostimulant medication. This is where some of the controversy occurs. Why give stimulants to an already hyperactive child? Surely this would make the situation worse?

Surprisingly, the results with children diagnosed as having ADHD showed 80% of the children improved. The scientific studies did not stop there either. What they did was give children alternating cycles of two weeks of stimulant medication, followed by two weeks on “chalk” tablets (placebo), and then two weeks on active medication again. Neither the child nor its parents or teachers knew which cycle was being given, only the doctor. Now this was the “acid” test.

And what a test! One child had to stop the trial because his behaviour was so bad on the placebo, that both the child and its parents asked to go straight back on the medication. The other children’s parents and teachers also knew when the child had active medication. So it does work - but only for 80% remember.

So where does this leave you, the parent of a query ADHD child? It means there may be help - but you must go through formal channels of assessment first. I hope your child is one of the 80%.

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Hello Hillary,
I read your column every week especially when abroad as at present, as the full flavour of Pattaya is easy to recall when reading your articles. This week you had an article about spam received by email. May I suggest to yourself and your readers they download a small program from www. This will enable you all to delete and blacklist unwanted mail before downloading from your ISP. Spammers can also have the mail bounced back very simply, loading up their in boxes as a deterrent. About 90% of all the emails I receive are deleted at ISP level and never downloaded providing a secondary benefit in reducing the risks of a virus infecting my system if attached to an email.
Email Edward

Dear Email Edward,
Many thanks for your advice, which as you can see, I have passed on to our readers. And I hope it works! However, without wishing to sound like a wet blanket, I have used a similar program with my Hotmail address, and in no time I have so many spam accounts “blocked” that I go over my quota very quickly. Castration might be a method by which we could stop future spammers, and the threat might be enough to make the present generation of them think twice. Or am I being a little too harsh?
Dear Hellary (sic),
I am an elderly gentleman who travels back and forth from the U.K. to this beautiful country working and holidaying. For most of my life I have been an honest man and always pride myself on it, well now my pride is worth nothing! I for the past year or so have been leading a double life. When I am here I have a lovely angel of a lady who takes care of me and likewise I take care of her, I have recently bought her a brand new car, also a house and really she doesn’t want for more...well as of yet anyway. The thing that is getting me down is back in England I have my wife of 37 years and she is oblivious as to what I am doing here in Thailand, I have been as cunning as a sewer rat and feel that is a good description for my poor excuse of being a man! Do you Hellary (sic) think I should fess up to my wife who has stood by me through thick and thin, put up with my irritations and provided me with a stable relationship and always darned my socks to be with my bit of fluff that makes me feel young and virile (with the help of viagra anyway). Or should I go back to being “Mr. Floppy” in England whose only outlet is opening socks and pants at Christmas and my birthdays whilst talking about the price of fish. I feel now in my older years as if I should have the answer as with age comes wisdom but sadly am at a loss.
A Fruity Old Fogey

Dear Fruity Old Fogey,
I get the feeling that your letter is not all that it appears on the surface, my Petal. Are you talking about yourself, or are you pointing the finger at someone else? Hillary (note that it is spelled with an “i” not an “e”) is able to read and remember email addresses, and your ‘nom de plume’ and the email handle do not go together. Are you writing this out of spite? Or even jealousy? However, if I were to accept your email at face value, I would imagine that your wife back in the UK would have already worked out that all the hamburger buns at the BBQ were not kosher and has adapted her life to suit the situation as well. However, if it really is “getting you down” then you have to look at your situation and act as you see fit. Neither Hillary nor “Hellary” can assist.
Dear Hillary,
My girlfriend (Thai) has been making excuses to stop me meeting her family. We have been together for four months now. She has told me about them and tells them about me when she speaks to her mother, but I have still never met her or her sisters. It is always “next time” or “next week” but it never happens. They do not live in our town, but they are not far away, and do visit the place when I am not here. Is this usual for Thai people, or do you think that my girlfriend is hiding something from me?

Dear Sam,
Thai families are a very close unit and it just may be that your Thai girlfriend is not totally secure in the relationship with you, so she does not want to present you to her mother yet. Rather than just saying this directly, Thai people tend to go the roundabout route. Stop worrying Sam, or trying to push the issue. Your girlfriend will introduce you to her folks when the time is right - and it is obviously not right now. Four months is not a long time, after all.

A Slice of Thai History:The Dutch in Thailand

Part One: The start of a trading relationship 1590-1611

by Duncan steam

Virtually from the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese led European nations in trade with Thailand, continuing even after the annexation of Portugal by Spain in 1580. However, at the start of the seventeenth century they were supplanted by the Dutch, who, between 1608 and 1767, had the longest running trading post in the country, located in the capital of Ayutthaya. The post was owned and operated by the Dutch United East India Company (the de Verenigde Oost Indische Compagnie or VOC), a collection of traders formed in 1602 to facilitate commerce in the Asian region.

The Netherlands, eager to shake off the Spanish yoke, had begun a war of independence in 1568. By 1579, they had managed to gain control in the northern provinces, but still faced another 69 years of turmoil before Spain finally granted independence. Therefore, it was imperative Dutch traders find new and lucrative markets to bolster their economy and provide the funds needed to continue the war against Spain.

Dutch ships had first begun calling along the Thai coastline in the 1590s, during a period of major conflict between Burma and Thailand. The wars with Burma, as well as against Cambodia, had seen a sharp decline in international trade and consequently King Naresuan looked to European powers to strengthen his economic base. He also believed strong trade relationships with seafaring nations like Spain (through her control of Portugal) and the Netherlands would help protect his long coastline.

Naresuan had become concerned at Portuguese expansion in the Southeast Asian region. The Portuguese were present in most of the areas where the majority of Thai trade was conducted and even though Ayutthaya had employed troops from Portugal from as far back as 1553, and continued to do so, their mercenaries had also been used against him and he was not willing to trust their motives. This uneasiness led Naresuan to open relationships with other European trading nations.

The Dutch were struggling to make inroads into Southeast Asia because of Portuguese and Spanish resistance, and so the opportunity to establish a relationship with Thailand came at an opportune moment.

Ayutthaya served as a meeting point for Japanese, Persian and Indian merchants selling textiles, silks, minerals, porcelain, ivory, hides, rice, tin, and wood among others. The revenue earned from taxes and duties enriched the ruler and the state.

The Dutch soon realised that to do business in the country meant currying favour with the ruling elite by way of gifts of gold, silver, precious stones, and armaments. The VOC deducted the costs of these gifts as legitimate business expenses. It is noteworthy that the trading post barely made a profit throughout its long association with Thailand, but still served as an important centre for the Dutch.

The masters of Dutch trading vessels anchored in Pattani in 1604 learned that Naresuan was planning to visit the Emperor of China to pay homage and asked if they could accompany him and his entourage. Permission was granted, but Naresuan kept postponing the mission and in the meantime hoped to inveigle the Dutch into using their well-armed vessels to bulwark Thai foreign policy. However, the Dutch claimed they were ill-equipped for sustained military action and their primary interest was trade.

The first Dutch diplomats to the court at Ayutthaya were well received by Naresuan, who suggested sending a diplomatic mission in return to the Netherlands. However, Naresuan died in 1605 and it was his successor Ekathotsarot who sent a mission to The Hague, in 1608.

The mission to the Netherlands consisted of five prominent Thai nobles and they travelled in vessels supplied by the VOC, a Dutchman who had lived in Thailand for six years served as their interpreter. The Thai delegation met with Maurice of Nassau, the Prince of Orange, and inspected the VOC warehouses and shipyards. The Thais were greatly interested in the Dutch method of shipbuilding and, for years afterwards, traders from the Netherlands would give drawings of shipyards and ships as gifts to them.

The Thai delegation returned to Ayutthaya in 1610, bringing Pieter Both, the first governor-general of the VOC (to 1614) with them. When they arrived in Thailand they found that King Ekathotsarot had recently died and been succeeded by Sisaowaphak. His reign was short and after his death in 1611, Songtham assumed the throne.

Personal Directions:The whistle-blower

by Christina Dodd

Whilst sitting and enjoying a meal the other night in the peaceful surroundings at a small restaurant near my home, suddenly the quietness and relaxed atmosphere was interrupted! The restaurant, which up until now had provided no assistance to patrons parking their cars (probably because they were quite capable of doing so) had just employed one of Thailand’s favorite sons - the dedicated and ever-enthusiastic “whistle-blower”!

For a small establishment such as this, why did it need a whistle-blower? People had been successfully parking their cars without incident for almost a year now since its opening. The fact that the place did not have the shrieking sounds of whistles was a real drawcard - apart from the great food and friendly service. So I asked the owner why he felt it necessary to hire this fellow. He replied that the young man was in need of a job as he had recently been laid off at another restaurant and had no source of income for his family. Upon hearing his reply I commended him on his actions. It was a very kind thing to do and it is wonderful to know that people like this young restaurant and business owner do exist in this world and are responsible towards others. But I couldn’t help asking him the question, “Do you think he could do his job quietly?” And I didn’t mean to blow softly, I meant to do his job without the whistle entirely!

Now, for those of us who have lived forever in Thailand this is a question that normally would induce shrieks of laughter from people that would last for days. I must admit it is a tall order to fill, but I thought, “Why not try?” Human beings can be trained to complete almost any task. After all, this exuberant whistle-blower learned how to “blow his whistle”, so therefore, he should be able to learn how “not to blow it” - makes sense to me. Does it make sense to you?

So the dutiful restaurant owner, who actually agreed with me about the noise (once it had been pointed out to him) went over to the fellow and explained that he should try to assist people parking by using hand signals only - and not blow his whistle. After some animated instruction and guidance, we all went back to doing what we were doing and continuing with our meals and conversation.

Sneaking a peek to see how long it would take before the “sweet shrills” filled the air again, I was surprised to watch how the parking attendant gestured to the first car which happily found its spot. He actually did it without making a noise. Well done I thought. Then came the second car, brimming with contented passengers which was parked smoothly - and in silence. He was getting the idea of using hand signals as a substitute method. Thinking to myself that this guy is trying and really giving it his best, I began to relax and chat away with friends. Then, the silence was broken!

Soft and almost timid “breep breeps” gradually became full-blown “BREEP BREEPS” and we were back to square one. The owner looked at me with an embarrassed face and ran over to subdue the fellow. Then we were on again. For about five minutes everything was fine and then it happened - the young parking attendant just didn’t have it in him to keep that whistle silenced. As I watched him “blow with gusto”, he seemed so at home and so in control. He was his own man and feeling good about it. The owner came over to apologize and explain that it would take some effort to change the situation. I explained to him that it might be an idea to take away the man’s whistle for starters to see how that would work, and then perhaps equip him with appropriate clothing and a torch.

Whilst we may laugh and have a joke or two about this, it really is interesting to make note of a few points. The main thing here is that customers have been coming to this restaurant and parking without an attendant for months. People are capable of this. Just as people are capable of not blowing their whistles nor indeed requiring the use of a whistle to park cars. If people have been trained sufficiently in the first place with the right tools of the trade - there would be no need for whistles anywhere in this country.

Training takes effort though, and it takes concerted application. Unfortunately if both parties are not willing to give it a hundred percent and stick with it, then there is no meaning to it and the results speak for themselves. Sure it was good for the restaurant owner to try to instruct the whistle-blower not to blow his whistle, but it takes more than a few attempts. Yes I know it is a simple task, but if you have been doing something forever the same way it is very difficult to “not do it” so quickly. Habits become a part of us and it takes real effort to change them.

Perseverance and patience both go a long way to helping those around us either in the workplace or in our own private life learn and take on new skills, and try to unlearn bad habits. My whistle-blowing friend at the car park of the restaurant will certainly have to work hard at it unless of course they take his whistle away. But somehow I don’t think they have the heart to relieve him of it. It has been with him for years and he has known no other way of parking cars. If however, the restaurant management gives serious thought and effort to proper training, they will be able to have a parking attendant (who needs his job) who can successfully and quietly park cars. Then everyone is happy and the whistle-blower will have a bright new torch to keep him amused!

Until next time, have a great week! For more information on our training programs please don’t hesitate to contact me at Christina.dodd

Woman's World:Diet for a healthy body Part 2

by Lesley Warner

To continue with what constitutes a good diet I would suggest: ‘variety as they say is the spice of life.’ Although it’s good to remember that it is far more beneficial to consume additional carbohydrates and less fatty foods whenever possible. We all recognize the word cholesterol - it’s not essential in the diet as it is made in the liver. Cholesterol is associated with foods from animal sources such as eggs and cheese and it is wise to limit the daily intake to 300 mg or less. Also keep salt to a minimum and increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables.

We need protein the diet to replace that lost in the urine, feces, saliva, sloughed skin, hair and nails. It is well to remember that during pregnancy, recovery from injury or surgery the body requires more protein. The average recommended intake of protein per day is 56 g/d for men and 45 g/d for women. Proteins vary in quality with high quality proteins providing essential amino acids. The essential amino acids are histidine, tryptophan, threonine, valine, phenylalanine, leucine, methionine, lysine, and isoleusine. Highest quality proteins are generally from animal sources (eggs, meat). Plant proteins are usually deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids.

Carbohydrates, although beneficial are not essential, but in their natural state complex carbohydrates such as starches provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. It is recommended that a minimum daily intake of about 100g should be consumed to prevent muscle wasting.

Although we are constantly told to avoid ‘fats’, dietary fats are a vehicle for fat-soluble vitamins, a concentrated source of energy, and the source of the essential fatty acid linoleic. Deficiency of linoleic acid leads to hair loss, dermatitis and poor wound healing. As we all know fats also improve the taste and satisfaction of foods. However, don’t get carried away with excitement ... remember, diets high in fat, particularly saturated fats, are associated with obesity, coronary heart disease and cancers of the colon and breast. Dietary fat intakes should be limited to 30% or less of total calories.

Another thing to start thinking about is replacing the electrolytes and minerals you’re losing when you perspire; for example, sodium and potassium. This is an important issue that many people forget especially when living in the tropics. They are easy to take, economical to purchase and highly recommended when consuming only bottled water.

It was suggested to me this week that I am not giving any advice to those people that need to lose weight. I’m sorry, I was not discounting the problem of overweight. To be honest the same rules apply for the diet but I will give some tips to help those that have a problem losing those extra pounds.

One way to start is by making important lifestyle changes. You will then find it easier to stick to new eating habits. For example, do not keep unnecessary extra food in the cupboards like crisps, chocolate bars, and biscuits. Try keeping a bowl of baby carrots or corns, snap peas and broccoli on hand for snacking instead. Remember, water is filling as well as being good for you, try drinking a glass of water when you feel like a snack - you will be surprised how it fills you up.

Don’t be tempted at the supermarket - write a list and stick to it.

Always eat breakfast; it fuels you for the day and you’ll be less hungry at lunch. Try this tip I found, it sounds delicious: mix some fresh or frozen fruit with milk or juice and ice cubes. Pour everything in the blender, whisk together. Ideal for breakfast.

It is not necessary to clear your plate. They say you should always leave the table able to have eaten a little more.

Give up one bad eating habit, for example when I’m traveling on a journey I consume crisps for the whole length of the trip.

Don’t go below 1,200 calories or aim for more than a one to two-pound weight loss per week.

I read a good article the other day that suggests one of the best ways to lose weight is sleeping. They reckon that a woman’s metabolism rises 40% when she’s asleep! So I have found the answer to why I am so skinny, I obviously spend too much time asleep.

Wine: Cool wines for hot Asian food

by Ranjith Chandrasiri

With Asian food, wine is not a traditional match but it is not an impossible one. What it takes is a little more imagination.

Asian style cooking, after all, is classic and traditional in its own right, in a different way from European cuisines. There are differences in ingredients and cooking style and in the sense of balance and harmony. Whereas, say, classic Italian cooking relies on a certain purity and freshness of ingredients, and French cooking on depth of flavour in sauces and natural stocks, in Asia the emphasis is on the constant balancing and contrasting of tastes and textures.

Take for instance Thai beef salad where each bite brings a dozen different tastes, and one needs to pause between mouthfuls to fully enjoy its taste. Green papaya, cucumber, seeded chilli julienne, mint, coriander and onion are just the start of individual tastes of extreme complexity. Add acid, cooling coldness, heat, mild bitterness, light refreshment, and then the sauce that is chilli hot, pungent with black vinegar, tempered with the sweetness of palm sugar and mutated with the saltiness of fish sauce. About 50 more things to consider than with most European food, and that is before one even starts to consider the textural differences, of crunch, soft, slimy and more.

The basic (Southeast Asian) palate is hot, sour, salty, sweet, and sometimes bitter. If you order a green papaya salad from a street vendor in Thailand, the last thing the vendor will do before serving the salad is to give you a small spoonful of the salad, asking for your opinion. If you’d like it hotter, more chillies will be added; if you want it saltier, more fish sauce; more sour, lime juice will be added; sweeter, more palm sugar... And while this balancing act takes place in an individual dish like a green papaya salad, it also shapes a meal, determining what dishes should be served alongside others...

The strong and authentic flavours of say Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese food are quite a contrast from China, where the diversity of flavours ranges from incredibly delicate dishes of the coastal regions where fresh seafood abounds, to uncomplicated almost bland flavours of everyday Chinese cooking. Then you have the court cooking of Peking and the exotic and sophisticated nuances of the Cantonese kitchen, to the incredible pungent flavours and chilli heat of the Sechuan region.

Not that this emphasis on contrast, balance, and varying textures is exclusive to Southeast Asian and Chinese cooking. In Germany, for instance, there is a lot of balancing of sweet, sour, salty, and fatty/meaty textures (sauerkraut, wurst, sauerbrauten, etc.); which is why the Germans are more apt to drink off-dry to medium sweet Rieslings, or else beer, with their foods, as opposed to the bone dry styles of wines predominant in France, Italy and Spain. Not surprisingly, many of today’s food and wine experts strongly recommend German Rieslings or beer with Southeast Asian and Chinese foods as well. The natural sugar/acid balance of Rieslings is quite compatible with the hot, sour, salty, sweet elements of Asian food; and beer provides a slightly bitter undertone that adds further to the equation. It’s a question of harmony and balance and it certainly works in Asian food settings.

The trick to matching wine with Asian style cooking is to start with the premise that we need wines that emphasize a balance, as opposed to sheer power of taste sensations. This is why the classic “power” wines of the world - made from grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay - are not an easy match for Asian foods. Although there is nothing wrong with intensity, the difficulty with these types of wines is that they tend to be high in alcohol, low in acid, and (in the case of Cabernet) excessively hard in tannin. The best wines for Asian foods are those with moderate levels of alcohol, softer tannin, crisper acidity, and sometimes (not always) a judicious amount of residual sugar.

Ranjith Chandrasiri is the resident manager of Royal Cliff Grand and president of the Royal Cliff Wine Club, Royal Cliff Beach Resort, Pattaya, Thailand.
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