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Money matters

Snap Shots

Modern Medicine

Learn to Live to Learn

Heart to Heart with Hillary

PC Blues - News and Views

Psychological Perspectives

Money matters: Oil gushes higher, continued

High oil prices and heightened political risk likely to remain a feature – The views of one of our analysts

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

In Summary

Reports that oil has never been higher priced are true in a strict sense, but they are heavily biased and not really accurate. Oil prices are hitting all time highs, but in inflation adjusted terms oil is no where near to eclipsing its all time highs witnessed 25 years ago.

It is not correct to attribute the current oil price to terrorism. While these geopolitical tensions are definitely bullish for oil they are not the whole story. When the current oil bull started in late 1998, George W. Bush wasn’t president yet, September 11th was 33 months away and the second war on Iraq was 51 months into the future.

Oil is not in a bull market today simply because of terrorism, but because of a fundamental supply and demand shift. The great nations of Asia, primarily the giants of China and India, are growing rapidly and need to vastly increase their energy consumption. Since much of the world has already been explored for crude, there is not enough new oil coming online to feed both the industrialised West and the industrialising East. This demand increase could be tempered by a global slowdown or recession, which would cause a sudden dramatic spike down in oil prices, however previous recessions have shown that in such circumstances demand tends to level rather than fall significantly and any price fall will ultimately be followed by a subsequent price recovery as the supply demand imbalances remain in the system.

Thanks to the US fed’s inflation of the US dollar, the nominal prices of goods and energy is rising. Long term commodities markets can only be really understood through the true strategic perspective of monetary inflation.

Oil first hit $40 a barrel in today’s dollars in early 1974. It then meandered near $40 for a half a decade before shooting up with most other commodities in the great commodities bubble of 1979. Oil’s real all-time monthly high in constant 2004 dollars was $92 per barrel witnessed in April 1980. $92 per barrel makes today’s $41 level look relatively cheap by past decades standards.

Global oil demand is growing far faster than global supply, so oil prices have to rise clear the market. This is how the free markets always work to remedy a chronic supply/demand imbalance.

Important information

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance. The value of any investment and the income from it can fall as well as rise as a result of market and currency fluctuations and you may not get back the amount originally invested. This information is only a summary and may be subject to change without notice. It was obtained from what we believe to be reliable sources. However, its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. You should note that investing in some of these markets could result in the possibility of large and sudden falls in the price of shares. The shortfalls on cancellation or loss on realisation could be considerable. You could get back nothing at all. Nothing contained in this report should be construed as an offer to invest. Anyone considering investing in these markets should seek professional guidance.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Graham Macdonald on [email protected]

Snap Shots: Painting with light

by Harry Flashman

The accepted definition of ‘photography’ is ‘painting with light’. To be honest, I do not know who originally coined the phrase (or if I did know, I have forgotten), but it is a good starting off point - especially the ‘painting’ concept.

Another quote from the savants is “There is art and there is photography. They are not the same.” This I can go along with, for some types of photography - but not all. The style of picture which I call ‘record’ photography, is not art. These photographs ‘record’ what is in front of the lens and that is all. The photographer has precious little input into the image recorded on film. The person who sets up a camera with an automatic exposure and photographs the Niagara Falls with a 50 mm lens has just made a ‘record’ shot. The resulting photograph will show the Niagara Falls, no more, no less and no ‘art’.

The person who goes to the Niagara Falls and gets as close as they can to the base, and photographs upwards at the water cascading down with a 24 mm lens with several neutral density filters allowing a two second exposure to blur the water has put ‘something’ into the picture. That something might be called creativity. That ‘something’ might even be called art! This is not a record shot. In fact, Richard Avedon, who died last month said, “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.” Now we are getting closer to an artistic input concept.

Recording what is ‘there’ without interpreting it in some way is never art, but the camera can be a very powerful tool for the artistic soul. However, sometimes you have to work hard to get it.

Take a look at the picture this week. Unfortunately, in the newspaper it is in black and white reproduction, while in the original this was very brightly coloured. Taken by an amateur, Ernie Kuhnelt, it was produced by a photographic technique that Ernie has been experimenting with for a while. Taken originally on slide film with a speed rating of 50 ASA, the photographer was looking for an effect, rather than for an image of any subject in particular. The effect that was wanted was one by which the viewer looked and said firstly “How did the photographer produce that?” followed by “What is it?”

I am not usually enamoured of ‘modern art’, but I have to admit that I was very taken with Ernie’s photograph - and believe me, it is a photograph, being a rendition (rather than a ‘record’ shot) of a sacred tree in Pattaya, festooned with coloured ribbons around the trunk. Again I apologize for the B&W printing (more accurately grey and grey), but use your imagination and look deeply into it. Suddenly you can see the image, and you can also sense something else. This image is ‘alive’. It has movement.

The original image was taken on ASA 50 and with a very small aperture to require a slow shutter speed. During the photograph, the camera was moved, as if ‘panning’ to shoot a moving object. Different shutter speeds were tried, as were different angles, as with this type of experimental photography, it is almost impossible to predict the result.

From his images on the one roll, Ernie selected two for enlargement, this being the better of the two, in my opinion. He is going to continue experimentation, as this has given his personal photography a new dimension and impetus.

The moral in this week’s column is to stop taking ‘record’ shots, no matter how ‘pretty’ they might be. If I had $10 for every photograph I have ever seen in competitions of fungi, I would be a rich man. Whilst all very fascinating, the photographer did nothing to get those shots - just be there and press the button. Instead, start trying something new. Be it a new film stock, speed rating, filter, movement - the list is endless. Just try something wild and you too might have produced a personal piece of art.

Modern Medicine: Capsules with ‘eyes’ report on your inner self

by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant

Soon it will no longer be a case of your doctor asking, “How are you feeling after taking the capsules?” it will be a case of your doctor telling you what your insides look like, after taking the capsules!

Yes, the stuff of science fiction is here now - small guided robots that can sail through your gastro-intestinal system (from top to bottom) and report on how things are looking deep down inside.

In some ways the technology is similar to the current endoscopic examinations, where we insert long flexible tubes with a ‘seeing eye’ at the tip into the gut. Usually this is done as an ‘upper’ endoscopy working from the top down, or a ‘lower’ one working from the bottom (literally) upwards.

The advance is now that we will not need the flexible tubes. There is a ‘seeing eye’ you can swallow, which will beam the pictures out of your body, without being physically attached to the monitoring system.

This fantastic journey in medicine follows the recent advances in miniaturization by Japanese company RF System Laboratory. They have produced the Norika 3 RF Endoscopic Robot Capsule which can deliver a live video of the patient’s gastrointestinal system.

The Norika robot capsule uses an incredibly small colour camera which is placed inside a micro capsule that is swallowed by the patient. Image technology allows for magnetic variable focus, so the operator can look carefully at significant areas.

The capsule camera travels through the digestive system and its position can be controlled by using a joystick. The amount of light can also be adjusted and even switched to the infrared spectrum for multiple analyses.

To receive the signals and send pictures back, a special vest has to be worn by the patient to provide wireless transmission. Digital technology allows the communication with the capsule.

It does not even need to be driven manually, as automatic operation is possible as sequential programs can be easily transferred to the CPU inside the camera capsule.

The magic capsule is 9 mm in diameter and 23 mm in length, which is larger than most capsules, but still possible to swallow. The case is made of resin. Around the camera lens are four white LEDs and magnetic coils for focus adjustment. Two tanks with air valves are in the centre and a there is a capacitor to store electric power and a microwave video signal transmitter. 40 percent of the capsule is free space, which can be used for surgical purposes such as medication sprays, laser treatment, and pH estimations.

Now if you think that one is small, the same company has another of these little whizzers called the Norika Jr Endoscopic Robot Capsule which performs most of the operations of the first capsule but is even smaller in size being 5.8 mm in diameter and 15mm in length. To do this, they had to ditch the internal controlling units, but being so small it can be used for babies and the elderly.

This ‘space age’ technology actually came from the RF System Laboratory’s work with the Japanese Experimental Module Project, initiated by the National Space Development Agency of Japan in 1997. It was important to measure information from within the body in no-gravity situations but scientists wanted to obtain data directly from the gastrointestinal system by using non-invasive techniques.

It has taken several years to get to this far with the device, but it certainly will not be a bitter pill for the patients to swallow in the near future!

Learn to Live to Learn: What kind of people are ‘IB’ people?

by George Benedikt

I have met and worked with IB students from all over the world and over a period of time, one is struck by a marvellous realisation. They invariably have a wonderfully insightful, compassionate global perspective, combined with burning intellect and a great sense of humour, united by a common educational experience.

If I had to create the ideal profile for a young person, then they would be IB diploma graduates. Culturally sensitive, politically aware, generous, kind and the sort of person you would definitely want as a son or daughter-in-law.

When schools, organisations and businesses talk about creating ‘Tomorrow’s leaders today’ and advertise that ‘Anything is possible’ using much over-used kinds of homily, the difference with the IB diploma programme is that it really is true – or at least we hope so!

Now that the diploma is in its thirties, we should be seeing the results soon. And the teachers? So much, as in all schools, depends on the quality and nature of teachers but with the IB programmes, even more so. The curriculum demands teachers of daring, initiative, imagination and creative ้lan, committed to their students whatever happens to themselves.

They need (and the IBO authorization recognises this as well) to be believers in the IB doctrine and examples and role models for their charges. Great IB teachers will become great friends with their students and bridge the gap of distrust created by a hundred and fifty years of intransigent and insular educational thinking.

Instead of basing their approach on fear and distance, your ideal IB teacher will demonstrate love, bravery, compassion and above all, integrity.

Schools flying the IB World School flag will be proud to do so and will celebrate and encourage excellence in their staff and faculty and cherish their parent body. In an IB school, people aren’t afraid of telling each other, “Hey, well done!” or even sharing their own good practice with others. ‘Showing off’ - that ancient idea - doesn’t come into it.

As Pele the magician was once asked by the journeyman footballer, Peter Storey, “Why do you show off?” “Because I can!” replied the master.

You should see the IB philosophy shining through all aspects of an ‘IB world school’ culture. The school’s own mission statement should reflect the IB mission statement and there should be a sense of unity and understanding from the earliest years to junior high school and senior high.

If a school’s new to the IB there is room for patience. If there’s in-school resistance to any of what I’ve just written, well I’m afraid that they’re probably not really serious about it. Now that’s ideology for you.

In this region, the school to offer the IB diploma programme most recently is ISE, the International School of the Eastern Seaboard. There is no question that starting the diploma is a challenge, but talking to the superintendent, Ron Schultz, there is no doubt that they are ready and prepared for what lies ahead.

Nonetheless, they have some way to go to emulate The Regents School (even if they wanted to), which is established as our region’s major academically high achieving international school and with good reason. Quality, highly motivated staff help create the ideal conditions for success.

Other growing schools in the region are considering which pre-university route to take - and it is important to realise that the IB diploma, ‘A’ levels and ‘APs’ are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, good planning might very well involve providing a course of some description whilst preparing for another some way down the line.

Typically, the adoption of ‘A’ levels fits such a bill. Classically, a small school will want to offer something ‘manageable’ for a small number of students, whilst looking ahead to a time when the number of students is sufficient and level of academic persuasion is such that the school as a whole, in consultation with parents, students and faculty (i.e. all interested parties) can decide to chart a different course (pun intended).

The underlying and essential aspect to all of this is planning, vision and communication. Schools that ignore any or all of these essential aspects to 21st century international education are drastically under nourishing their interest groups.

Schools recognize that building a pre-university programme has whole-school implications financially, philosophically and otherwise. However, it is absolutely crucial that schools consider the “big picture”.

Once a well-keep secret, the letters ‘IB’ have got out and whilst I am reasonably sure that the IBO don’t see themselves as existing in a competitive market – winners often don’t – you can be certain that any school that is authorized will automatically find their reputation enhanced, their numbers increased and the dead wood of the faculty discarded. How on earth then, are the ‘A’ levels and the ‘AP’ going to compete with this? We shall see.

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Do you think it is a good idea to be seeing one girl over here, but have a little one on the side as well? I know the Thais do it, as all the rich ones seem to keep a ‘mia noy’ tucked away somewhere. I have a nice girl, but just need a little extra now and again.
Dear (two timing) Tim,
You say you know the Thais well, Tim my philandering Petal, but your letter shows that you don’t know them well at all. The Mia Noi situation that you describe with the rich Thais is one that is tolerated by the number 1 wife to keep the peace (and the money) in the marital home. In the farang situation, you are treading on very dangerous ground. Jai yen yen (a cool heart) is not always the case here, and retribution for straying can be very cutting, including the famous Bobbit procedure. So if you don’t want to be ‘bobbed’, stick with your ‘nice girl’.
Dear Hillary,
I would like to respond to the subject from your recent column. Unlike the person you answered, I did marry, provided mobiles (2), watches (1 for every day), cars (2), motorcycles (2) and houses (2). After all these, my lovely Thai wife still has no concept of time. When we need to go somewhere and I ask how long it will take; her answer is either going to be: “not long” or “long time”. Of course her answer depends on her mood and can change depending on her mood (so not long can become very long and vice versa). Even going to a gold shop does not work. Since I’m a time-freak, calculating in seconds, this can be rather frustrating, what can I do? (Besides changing myself?)
Dear Time-freak,
Petal, you have one great big problem on your hands here. Despite watches (one for every day of the week), phones and cars and houses, your Thai wife apparently remains a timeless jewel in your life. You have already played the final ace - the gold shop, so you are really wound up. However, I would recommend that it is really time that you have to drop your time-driven nature and look at ways to adjust your time-frame. What can you do other than changing yourself, you ask, but you don’t suggest in your letter what it is you want change yourself into. (The local hospital can arrange all sorts of wonderful plastic surgery, adding bits here, snipping off bits there - the choice is yours!) If you don’t change physically or mentally, there’s only one further change that can be made. Time for a new wife? Sorry Petal, Hillary can’t help!
Dear Hillary,
Are there no rules of the road here? Just today I saw a young girl on a step through motorcycle, she couldn’t have been more than twelve, wobbling her way into the traffic outside Tesco Lotus. She had no crash helmet and neither did any of her two passengers. Isn’t there a minimum age for driving and why aren’t car safety belts and motorcycle crash helmets enforced for all passengers? I don’t scare easy, having driven lorries in Europe, believe me they are crazy there, but it seems to me most Thai drivers and passengers have a death wish. They continually cut down the inside of you on motorbikes and rush in front of you into the minimal gap you kept for safe driving distance, stop dead in front with no warning, and sit or stand on the open tailgate of an overloaded pick up. Don’t they have any regard for their own life and safety? What is more I believe that in an accident the foreigner is always in the wrong. Can you explain this?
Dear Craig,
Yes of course there are road rules here but no-one enforces them very much. This is Thailand, and isn’t that why you came here in the first place? As far as the minimum driving age here, looking at the drivers and riders, I think it is aged eight up-country and aged ten on the highway. I agree with you that driving or riding here is a hazard for the unwary. The answer is, “beware”. Thais do value life, but you have to realize they have a different perspective on it. They also believe they get another go at it, so easy come easy go, from their point of view. The old one about the farang always being in the wrong is simple to explain from a Thai viewpoint, “If you weren’t there in the first place you wouldn’t have been there for me to run into.” However, this is really just an old apocryphal tale, I believe the local police do try to apply the law equally and equitably.
Dear Hillary,
Sorry to go back to the Vitamin V subject again, but while previous letters have all been full of taking it till it drops off, kind of riding the horse till it can’t go no further, has anyone done any study on just how much can you take? This is a serious subject, so a serious answer please.
Dear Victor,
Hillary give a serious answer? Just who do you think I am, Petal. This is a column for the lovelorn, not a kiss and tell in the pharmacy.

PC Blues - News and Views: VoIP - a briefing

I recently came across a good article describing the present state of VoIP. What is this? Telephone calls through the internet!

This is something like the tail biting the dog.

In the beginning, all telephony was analogue. That is, you spoke into a microphone, and your voice was converted into a varying voltage which went down the wire to the receiver, amplified here and there when the signal became weak. Some decades ago now, this inefficient system was digitised: at the telephone exchange, the signal was turned into noughts and ones, like the noughts and ones in a computer, and this stream was sent to the receiving exchange, where it was turned back into an analogue signal for the receiver’s phone. Such a system is much less susceptible to noise, and makes more efficient use of the wire: you can carry more traffic between exchanges using the existing wires.

Your computer’s dial-up connection uses this system through its modem. The computer makes noughts and ones, and gives them to the modem. The modem turns them into an analogue signal of tones, which go to the exchange, only to be turned back into noughts and ones. And so on, to the destination. Such awkwardness!

Several years ago, someone realised that you could connect a microphone to a computer, and send the voice input over the internet. One step further and you could make a ‘phone call’ from computer to computer over the internet. Another step, and you could make a phone call from a computer to an ordinary phone. This technology gathered pace because it was cheaper to do this internationally than it was to make international calls.

The economics here need some explanation. In an ordinary phone call, you establish a circuit from caller to receiver, and pay for this circuit even when neither party is talking: the circuit carries ‘silence’, and uses what is called ‘bandwidth’. You pay for bandwidth. An internet connection, however, operates in packets. If you monitor your dial-up connection, you will see that the data flows in fits and starts. When there is a packet to be sent, or received, that is the only data that is moved. There is no data sent for ‘silence’, and so the bandwidth used is less than for an ordinary phone call. [The connection to the exchange is still an ‘ordinary’ phone call! The bandwidth saved is between exchanges.]

Another feature of the internet is that packets sift through the internet along a variety of routes: there is no single circuit between source and destination. Whether that affects the economics, or not, I cannot say. It does, however, mean that if there is a broken connection at some point, the packets will merely take a different route: for a voice call, the call would be lost, with consequent irritation.

VoIP is now big business. Major companies have switched their phone systems over to using it internally, and soon the telephone companies will do likewise. The last step will be to digitise the ‘last mile’ - the link between the exchange and the subscriber. For those who have broadband installed, that is already done. Those who have broadband should use it for phone calls, otherwise they will be paying over the odds. [I suppose this depends on how reliable your broadband connection is! But most people round here have a mobile - also digitised!]

A second commercial consideration here is the computer you use to connect to the internet. Modern computers use a lot of power. If you are going to have a computer which is always on, to handle the broadband phone/data/fax connection, you really need a low-powered computer, otherwise you are going to get very high electricity bills. You are also going to want an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). With a low power computer, you can use a cheaper UPS. And finally, this computer should run your firewall, to protect you from viruses and other creepy-crawlies. There is a potentially large market for such boxes, fitted with a broadband interface and network card, preloaded with the best in firewall protection, phone book, dialler, answer phone and fax software, and sold as a package with a good USP unit.

Psychological Perspectives: Understanding terrorism: A role for the behavioral sciences

by Michael Catalanello, Ph.D.

I had occasion to visit New York City during the summer after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the American Pentagon. Like many tourists in the city during the months following the attacks I found myself at the site in lower Manhattan where the twin towers once stood. Onlookers and groups of tourists from many countries were filing past the site, occasionally stopping to look, offer a prayer, or shed a tear.

As I stood outside a page fence surrounding the perimeter, and surveyed the huge vacant area of destruction euphemistically known as “ground zero,” I remember having two thoughts. First, I was struck by the immensity of the area that was affected by the attack. My prior impression of the area formed from images on my TV screen had not prepared me for the huge, sprawling acreage that lay before me.

My other thought was an awareness that this tragic, watershed event was the product of the psychology of a few, that was having a profound effect upon the psychology of many around the world.

Terrorism, it seems, is different from war and traditional military conflict. Terrorists strike suddenly and unexpectedly. Acts of terror, by their nature, occur indiscriminately, killing and injuring civilian men, women, and children. Unlike conventional war, terrorism can seemingly strike anyone, anywhere, at any time. And terrorism has an indirect effect on many others, like you and me. It can reduce our feelings of security. It impacts upon our emotions. It can elicit intense feelings of anxiety, confusion, helplessness and vulnerability.

Writing about the psychology of terrorism, psychologist Philip Zimbardo observed, “Terrorism is about imagining the monster under our beds or lurking in dark closets - the faceless, omnipotent enemy who might be the friendly candy man, our neighbor, or some horrible creature of our imagination. It has no one place, time, space or face. The power of terrorism lies precisely in its pervasive ambiguity, in its invasion of our minds.”

It seems fashionable and politically expedient for politicians and demagogic leaders to talk tough about terrorism. They portray terrorists as wildly irrational, evil monsters intent upon wreaking havoc and murdering innocents. This perspective is reinforced by the terrorist declaration, “You love life, but we love death.”

According to Zimbardo, the view of terrorism as the work of madmen “…fails to adopt the perspective of the perpetrators, as an act with a clearly defined purpose that we must understand to challenge it most effectively. And such negative labeling lulls us into thinking it is random, not comparable to anything we do understand, and is making us disrespectful of the high level of reasoned intellect behind these deeds, however distorted or diabolical it may be.”

A strong military response to terrorism is the popular political prescription. In the aftermath of 9/11 Bush vowed to track down the terrorists and kill them. His opponent, Kerry mirrored this rhetoric, but added that his methods would be “smarter.” For a politician, the suggestion that terrorism can not be wholly eliminated is usually interpreted as a sign of weakness, to be exploited by one’s political opponents.

Can terrorism be eliminated through military means? Can we be sure that killing a terrorist, killing a hundred terrorists, killing a thousand terrorists, or bringing them all to justice would bring us any closer to eliminating this unfortunate scourge?

“Unlikely,” in Zimbardo’s view, “…unless we know what are the root causes of the hatred against America, unless the ideological, political and social bases of the mentalities of the next generation of potential terrorists are more fully appreciated and efforts to change them are engaged.”

I suppose if a candidate were ever to suggest trying to better understand terrorists, it would amount to political suicide. Nevertheless, psychology, as the scientific study of human behavior and mental processes, is well equipped to investigate terrorism, and has already begun to shed light upon this phenomenon.

Perhaps, as we begin to better understand the social backgrounds, worldviews, motivations, and impulses of the people attracted to this form of behavior, our understanding will suggest more effective means of controlling this scourge than through traditional violent means. Such methods might include, for example, efforts toward reducing the root causes of terrorism, promoting feelings of solidarity and cooperation among the diverse groups populating our world, creating constructive means for groups to meaningfully air grievances against more powerful nations of the world.

Dr. Catalanello is a licensed psychologist in his home State of Louisiana, USA. He is a member of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Asian University, Chonburi. Address questions and comments to him at [email protected]

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