Pattaya Mail turns 12

Vol. XIII No. 45
Friday November 11 - November 17, 2005

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Fun City By The Sea

Updated every Friday
by Saichon Paewsoongnern

 



 

COLUMNS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Money matters 

Snap Shots  

Modern Medicine  

Learn to Live to Learn  

Heart to Heart with Hillary  

Psychological Perspectives  

Money matters: A brief(ish) history of Stocks (Part one)

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

Like all expats returning from the homeland a few pounds heavier, a couple of weeks ago we made our new start. Our resolution wasn’t just a determination to lose a few inches rather than have to have our suits let out again by Bobby at Raja’s. In addition, following a request from one of our long time readers as to what we would do with investment capital right now (as opposed to what we’d avoid even with somebody else’s bargepole, which is more fun to write about but seemingly less fun to read about), we undertook to give our own eccentric (for want of a less kind description) take on the various asset classes and what to do about them from a positive stance. We’ve already covered the world of private equity investment, with a promise that, after a decent interlude to allow more market bitching, we’d be back to pick up the rest of the equity market pieces.

Well that interlude is seemingly over, so time to get our teeth into equities. Let’s start with a brief history of equities. It’s generally accepted that the Dutch East India Company or Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (happily this was usually abbreviated to VOC) was the precursor of the modern public company. It was a co-operative arrangement founded in Amsterdam in 1602 to undertake maritime trade expeditions, mainly to the relatively newly discovered (as far as much of Europe was concerned) Spice Islands for the benefit of its common stock holders - it was not actually the first company to issue shares. (That distinction probably belongs to Stora Kopparberg in the 13th century. Granted a charter from King Magnus II of Sweden in 1347 this originally private company flourished, changed its name to Stora, merged with Finnish forestry products company Enso in 1998, acquired U.S. company Consolidated Papers Inc. in 2000 and currently has some 45,000 employees, is the fifth largest pulp and paper manufacturer and can be looked up under ticker symbol SEO on the New York Stock Exchange).

Getting back to 16th century maritime mercantilism: In the century following the opening of the sea routes to the Indies (not just India but also all of south-east Asia) by Vasco da Gama in 1499, over 200 voyages were made around the Cape of Good Hope to the east. The chief motivation was initially the spice trade, but around 1600 other trading commodities were discovered in the Orient and, ultimately, these took a more prominent place than the spice trade (in 16th Century Europe, pepper alone enjoyed a status roughly equivalent to a combination of chocolate, royal jelly, alcohol, vitamin tablets and crack cocaine today - and was priced accordingly).

Only around half of all the (mainly Portuguese ships) that went off to the Indies ever came back. In 1580 the two great Iberian sea-faring nations, Spain and Portugal, united. The pre-eminence of the allies effectively closed the sea route to Asia to other European nations.

Towards the end of the 16th century, Dutch traders from various towns decided to contest the rights for the import of spices from Asia. In order to finance the ships and equipment, private companies were formed such as the Brabantse Compagnie, the Rotterdamse Compagnie, the Compagnie van Verre, which in turn merged with the Second Compagnie in Amsterdam and was called the Old (Oude) Compagnie. Within a few years these companies equipped 15 fleets of 65 ships (of which over 50 were to actually return fully laden with goods). They fought the Portuguese, the English and each other. The result was a dramatic fall in the price of spices. With largely economic motives the Dutch merchants decided to co-operate.

On 20 March 1602 the prime companies of Holland merged to form the VOC on the suggestion of the “landsadvocat” of the province of Holland, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and the General Governor Prinz Johann Moritz von Nassau. At the beginning the company was run by six kamera (chambers) in the major trading centres: Amsterdam, Seeland, Delft, Rotterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. Each chamber appointed its own directors to the 75 strong board of directors. From these the actual executive board of 17 members was elected. The original paid up share capital was 6,424,588 guilders, a huge sum at that time.

The key to success in the raising of capital was the decision taken by the owners to open up access to a wide public and to accept shareholders as part-owners. Thus the shares were sold rapidly, mostly at a nominal value of 3000 guilders, and they were tradable (i.e. any Dutchman could buy and sell them). This last feature was the real innovation.

Continued next week…

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: Photographing your house – before it falls over!

by Harry Flashman

Did you know that after people, one of the most common objects photographed is houses? There are plenty of good reasons for this. A house is the most expensive item you will ever buy, so that makes it rather special. Unless of course you are in the habit of buying new Ferraris.

We do not stop at just our own houses either. Noteworthy houses or even stately homes seen on vacation get our cameras pointed at them. In the UK it is Big Ben, or the White House when visiting the USA. Unfortunately, the photo you get back is many times not representative of the way you saw the house in real life.

The commonest problem is the ‘House Falling Over Backwards’ followed by the ‘House Falling Over Sideways’. One is easy to fix, the other not.

To get a whole house into the viewfinder, the usual way is to use a wide angle lens, or the zoom at its widest setting. This is where we come unstuck. The wide angle setting exaggerates the perspective of the house and it is that which makes it look as if it is falling over backwards.

To counteract this is not easy. The first thing to do is to try to elevate the position from where you are taking the shot. The higher up you get, the less the perspective effect shows. If you have to take a 20 storey skyscraper, go across the street and climb to the 10th floor of the building opposite and shoot from there. The half way point will cancel out the extreme perspective problems.

If you cannot get an elevated viewpoint, then try to use the standard or even a telephoto lens and move backwards to get the entire house back inside the viewfinder frame. These lenses do not exaggerate perspective like the wide angles, but getting far enough away can be a problem.

Now the falling sideways look. This is simply bad framing by the photographer. It is very important to make sure the sides of the house are parallel with the sides of the viewfinder before you pop the shutter. Most people remember to get the horizon parallel with the bottom or the top of the finder when taking landscapes, but forget to look at the sides when shooting houses. Failure to check this results in a snapshot where the house looks like it is the victim of acute subsidence. Not a good look! Especially if you are trying to impress your friends and family back in Boston with the house you are renting or buying in Thailand!

The other problem comes when you want to photograph the interior. Interiors are not easy, and even the pros will shudder when asked to do some interior shots. The biggest problem is lighting. If the curtains are not drawn over the windows, there is a source of extreme brightness in the picture as well as dark areas in the corners. This will confuse the electronic exposure meter in the camera and you will either get a “normal” window with very dark foreground, or a completely white “blown out” window with “fogging” of the picture.

One way to get over this is to draw some light drapes across the windows to cut down the brightness. White voile curtains are the best for this. They work as light “diffusers” and decrease the otherwise impossible contrast in the scene.

The other way is to set the camera’s exposure readings for the view from the window, then fill in the front of the room with electronic flash. This is called “balancing” the flash output, and if you bounce the flash off the ceiling you will get a very natural, bright and airy look to the interior shots. But it is not simple. Take a few different exposures as a precaution.

Of course, you again have to be aware of the exaggerated perspective and make sure the camera is held straight, and shoot from around half way between floor and ceiling. Just really concentrate on getting the edges to line up with walls and window frames and you will get a very pleasing result.


Modern Medicine: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). What is it?

by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant

As medical technology becomes more sophisticated, newer forms of diagnostic procedures are developed. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of these and is a test that provides pictures of organs and structures inside the body, similar to X-rays and Ultrasound in some ways.

However, MRI images are produced using a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy rather than X-radiation and in some instances can also produce an image far superior, and much more safely, than the standard X-ray.

For an MRI test, the area of the body being studied is positioned inside a “coil” which produces a strong magnetic field. The MRI can detect tumors, infection, internal bleeding and other types of tissue disease or damage. It can also help diagnose conditions that affect blood flow. Tissues and organs that contain water provide the most detailed MRI pictures, while bones and other hard materials in the body do not show up well on MRI pictures (as opposed to X-rays). Being computer controlled, the images are captured digitally and are in a form to be saved to computer and can be transmitted to other computers, as well as producing “hard copy” films for viewing on the light box.

In some cases a contrast material may be injected during the MRI scan to enhance the images of certain structures. The contrast material may help evaluate blood flow, detect some types of tumors, and locate areas of inflammation. This contrast medium is different from the ones used in CT scans and other X-rays, and not as likely to produce a reaction in some patients.

The actual procedure to get the MRI images is also quite different from the usual X-ray or CT scan. Since the procedure relies on magnetism, any metal in the patient’s body would mean that the person is not suitable for MRI studies. This includes pacemakers, artificial limbs, any metal pins or metal fragments in your body (especially in the eyes), metal heart valves, metal clips in the brain, metal implants in the ear, or any other implanted or prosthetic medical device (such as a drug infusion pump). Even the metallic intrauterine devices (IUD) may prevent you from having the MRI test done. The magnetic field is so powerful that it will pull metal objects across the room, stop watches and obliterate encrypted details on credit cards!

Since the area of the body to be examined has to be placed within the magnetic field, you are placed on your back on a moving table that is part of the MRI scanner. Your head, chest, and arms may be held with straps to help you remain still. The table will then slide into the narrow tunnel that contains the electro-magnet. Depending on the part of your body to be examined, your head, limbs (such as your legs), or your entire body will be moved into the center of the magnet. Having had an MRI, I can tell you that the tunnel is very narrow, and your nose and elbows touch the inside of the walls, so if you tend towards claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), this procedure certainly produces anxiety. Add in the fact that when the actual image is being produced, the tube thumps and bangs and whizzes, while the technician is telling you to hold your breath! By the way, the procedure also takes somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes in general, so you do need to lie and relax, close your eyes and pretend you are lying on a beach somewhere! If you do suffer from anxiety over such procedures, then you can be given a relaxant before the MRI is done.

Finally, the MRI machines are exceptionally expensive, so the MRI scans are proportionally costly as well, but they can provide some life-saving information.


Learn to Live to Learn: Responding to Demand

with Andrew Watson

In today’s world, where visible advances in communications and technology happen daily, yet where half the world’s population is without basic amenities, in a world where industrialized countries and regions grow increasingly wealthy (at the cost, in many cases, of polluting the planet), whilst ‘developing’ countries struggle under the combined weight of debt burdens, political upheaval and natural disasters, education has a crucial role in shaping a future that can be safer, cleaner and more healthy, politically, economically, socially and spiritually.

Whether we like it or not, we live in a world dominated by demand, by desire, by craving, increasingly characterised by what I have previously referred to as “the cult of the immediate”. For the part of twenty first century societies colloquially described as the “haves”, today is yesterday’s tomorrow, and it’s already too late. Rushing everywhere at such a speed, until we find, there’s no need. No time to slow down. No time to stop. No time to think. Perhaps, I sometimes speculate, we have entered an era epitomised by Bertrand Russell’s provocative proposal, “Most men would rather die, than think. Many do”. A dangerous time indeed. Exciting, but dangerous.

For the “have nots”, there is the grind of monotony, the pressure of survival, the reliance on basic instincts on a daily basis, in a cruel and unforgiving environment which seems to constantly present images of opulence which will forever remain a distant dream and tantalising visions of a party to which they are not invited.

As I write, Paris is besieged by riots, as the disenfranchised, disengaged and disillusioned vent their utter despair at what life doesn’t offer them. Where is the future? Maybe in the past. Is Paris just the latest in a cycle of repeated and inevitable historical social unrest, or the start of a wider revolution? If we think it’s inevitable that’s worrying. Inevitability is the other side of predictability and that’s what always seems to be evident in the response to events like civil unrest. I guess the great fear of the power brokers, the “haves”, is that violent insurrection left uncrushed might be part of a new revolution. Which in short, is why the use of force to suppress unrest appears so depressingly familiar.

Actually, I wonder whether people outside Paris, or France take much notice of it now. The proliferation of avenues of news media seems to have diluted interest in local, regional and world events to such an extent that the drive to satisfy a million daily yearnings renders the world outside the individual, irrelevant.

However, in dealing with the increasing divide between rich and poor there is a choice. It is a choice that successive political regimes of every ilk have failed to grasp. It is the choice between prevention or reaction. Within the former, there is necessarily an imperative to recognise the reality of the existence of the plaintiff, and the common humanity which binds us together. It also requires, I propose, the capacity for listening. As Jim Collins in “Good to Great” articulates, “There’s s a huge difference between the opportunity to have your say and the opportunity to be heard.”

To act to prevent also requires political and moral courage, usually from an existing, but often from an emerging leader. In short, what is required is a response to demand. There is a certain irony in living in a global capitalist market economy which by its very nature readily responds to economic demand, but so often appears to ignore the often more obvious demands of humanity. What do those suffering in poverty or without hope wish for? I think the answer is simple: something better. But also, they want their ‘truth’ heard and the brutal facts of their existence confronted.

I have just returned from a very pretty, aesthetically superior Trade and Exhibition Conference at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre in Bangkok, entitled “Biotechnology: Challenges for the 21st Century.” I can’t help thinking when I’m strolling in luxurious ease around these events about the cost of setting them up, the purpose, and I ask myself questions like, “Who is it for?” and “How will the economic hubris and business bravado help the short, medium and long term future of the globe and its occupants?”

They talk about a “New Chapter of Life”. Biotechnology, I was assured, is a key driving force in the economy. It’s to do with genetically modified crops, genetically modified fish, amongst other things. The fish are remarkable. Zebrafish (no, not half Zebra, half fish) have had part of a jellyfish’s DNA implanted in them so that they become luminous. Weird. The reason? The objective is to get them to light up like a Christmas tree when the waters they inhabit become polluted at a certain level. Of course, some bright spark has realised the commercial potential of luminous Zebrafish and they are now available in pet shops, which means that they have entered the world outside the laboratory. So, look out for them in a pond near you.

The thing is, there was lots of talk about “transforming scientific innovation into commercial success” and considerably less, as far as I could tell, about what I (am I alone?) perceive as a demand to transform scientific innovation into improved conditions for humanity.

OK, I recognise that it was a trade show, and there’s no doubting that the expertise and innovations on show were brilliant, awe inspiring and cutting edge and have already had some positive effects on some people’s lives. But as one of the exhibitors bluntly revealed, “Whether we like it or not, we live in a capitalist world. If you don’t like it, you had better go and live in a Kibbutz or something”.

Funny, that idea quite appeals sometimes. In the meantime, I’m left to ponder, that for all the technological advances throughout history, the divisions between people and nations, rich and poor, proliferate. Perhaps we could respond to that demand?

[email protected]
Next week: We Are All Individuals


Heart to Heart with Hillary

My dearest Hillary, whom I love,
You are so sexy, because you sound like a real man. I also am a real man who seeks true happiness with a woman much like a real man. Tell me, oh fail (sic) Hillary, do you at least have stubble? Hillary, you are just about the dumbest person I have ever known – and trust me, I’ve known a lot of hookers living here. So many people write to you in search of real advice, and all you offer them is sarcastic remarks along with a kick-in-the-ass. Who do you think you are? You pretend to have this column to offer advice, but all you offer is complete humiliation.
Surely, you will not publish a letter like this as your column is fake. When and if people actually do write to you, you choose to only publish those that seem as though they would entertain the readers of the Mail and that you could give one of your ‘oh so funny’ answers to. Time is short and I must run, my love. No chocolates, champagne or flowers for you.
Tequila Tom

Dear Tequila Tom,
Sorry to disappoint you, my vitriolic Petal, but my column must be real as I have published your diatribe (sorry, email) in its entirety, complete with typos. I am so glad, and the readers too, I would imagine, that you have known a lot of hookers living here. It is such a difficult task after all, but if that is how you measure your success in the ‘real man’ stakes, then so be it. Please keep your chocolates, champagne and flowers for those who are almost as dumb as me. It may brighten up their day.
Dear Hillary,
I rented a small apartment, from a Thai lady I met socially, for six months last summer. She asked me for a deposit equal to two month’s rent, which I paid, because she said I would get it back at the end of the contract. When it was time for me to go back to the UK she would not give me the deposit because she said she was waiting for the bill for the electricity and water and telephone. I wrote to her from the UK but she never replied. When I came this time I went looking for her, but nobody seems to know where she has gone. This has really annoyed me and I was wondering how I can stop this happening again? Have you any suggestions, Hillary?
Roger

Dear Roger,
Unfortunately my Petal, you went into the rental contract with your eyes shut and your brain in neutral. This is not the UK. There are no agencies over here to help unthinking people get their unwisely spent money back. Just learn from the experience and next time rent through a reputable real estate office, which will hold the deposit in trust and credit your account after all the bills are paid. As for last year, put it down to experience. Two months rental is probably a small price to pay for it.
Dear Hillary,
Our driver had an accident with our car, which he took without our permission one night, and was taken into custody by the police. Apparently he has to stay in jail until there is settlement and agreement between our insurance company and the motorcycle he crashed into. Is this the usual in these instances or should we have intervened?
Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,
Firstly, never intervene, no matter how well intentioned that intervention might be. Thai law grinds along in its own sweet way, without any need for help from others. Just take the advice of a good and trusted Thai lawyer. Your husband’s work will be able to supply you some names. Unfortunately, you will be without the car for some time, but that’s just tough luck, I’m afraid. Next time make sure your driver can’t get the keys.
Dear Hillary,
I am not Thai, but like many Thai people, I am a hopeless timekeeper. My husband gets very annoyed if he has to wait for me and is threatening that next time he will just drive off and leave me at home. Do you think he means it, or is he calling my bluff? Or should I try to work out how to be on time? Everyone else in Thailand seems to run late, so why shouldn’t I? Why can’t he just take things as they come like everyone else I know?
Tina

Dear Tina,
One minute you sound as if you want to be punctual, but in the next breath you want your husband to change. You are going to have to make up your mind girl before you’ll ever be on time, and before the time is ‘too late’. Who’s got the problem? Clock-watching Clarence or Timeless Tina? I believe that it is you, Petal. However, it is easy to be on time. You already know how long it takes you to get ready, so start getting ready, no matter what the excuse, that much time before you are due to leave. Anyone who is consistently late is either totally disorganized or doing it deliberately as an attention seeking device. Next time set your alarm clock and drop everything when it rings.


Psychological Perspectives: Men are from Mars, women are from Venus…. NOT!

by Michael Catalanello, Ph.D.

The conviction that men and women are psychologically vastly different from one another seems to permeate our culture. What does the psychological literature suggest? Is there scientific support for the gender gap?

In his hugely popular book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, (1992) John Gray proposed that psychological differences between the genders are so fundamental as to suggest that we come from “different planets,” communicate in different languages, have different expectations from our relationships, and relate in different ways. Gray’s book has sold over 30 million copies, and has been translated into 40 languages.

This idea that males and females are vastly different, known as the gender differences hypothesis, seems widely accepted, and has some intuitive appeal. It provides an explanation for all of those supremely frustrating experiences we have had in our dealings with the opposite sex.

The only trouble is that the gender differences hypothesis appears to be wrong. Research published last month in the journal American Psychologist suggests that males and females are more alike psychologically than different.

Psychologist Janet Shibley Hyde of the University of Wisconsin – Madison examined the major meta-analyses that have been published on the topic of psychological gender differences. Meta-analysis is a statistical method of combining the results of many studies that examine the same question. It is used to arrive at general conclusions when there are many, perhaps hundreds of studies bearing on a particular issue.

Over the years, hundreds of studies have looked for gender differences in a variety of areas, including mental processes, communication patterns, social and personality styles, measures of well-being, and motor behaviors. Rather than supporting the gender differences hypothesis, Hyde’s analysis lends support to the alternate “gender similarities” hypothesis, which proposes that males and females are alike on most, but not all psychological characteristics.

In 78% of the cases examined, gender differences were in the small or close to zero range. Even on such things as mathematics performance and verbal ability, where strong gender differences are generally assumed to exist, published research findings suggested small to no difference between males and females. Likewise, results concerning the magnitude of gender differences in aggressive behavior proved ambiguous and inconclusive, according to Hyde.

Although men and women appear very similar psychologically, gender differences did emerge on a few variables. Moderate to large gender differences were found on some measures of motor performance, including throwing velocity and throwing distance. Large gender differences were also found for some sexual measures, including incidences of masturbation, and attitudes toward casual sex. Males and females reported an equivalent degree of satisfaction with sexual activity, however.

Is there any harm associated with exaggerating claims of differences between males and females on psychological variables? Some theorists suggest there could be. For example, in a society that promotes the idea that women are more caring and nurturing than men, men may reach the false conclusion that they are incapable of caring and nurturing behavior, even in their roles as fathers. Conversely, women who do not conform to the caring and nurturing feminine stereotype could encounter gender discrimination in the workplace.

Similarly, the belief that boys perform better on mathematics than girls is contradicted by the research examined by Hyde. Nevertheless, this erroneous belief persists in our societies. One unfortunate consequence of this stereotype is that parents and teachers could fail to encourage mathematically talented girls to pursue careers in fields requiring mathematics.

There may, likewise, be a downside to the notion promoted by writers like John Gray, and contradicted by the research, that the languages spoken by men and women are fundamentally different. Individuals of both genders, influenced by this belief, might conclude that work toward improving communications between the genders is doomed to failure.

The preponderance of scientific evidence supports the overriding similarities between men and women. Nevertheless, there seems to be a resistance among many to letting go of the deep-seated conviction that the genders are fundamentally different in their psychological make-up. Perhaps as we understand the undesirable consequences of clinging to these antiquated beliefs, our societies will move toward a more enlightened attitude that is in tune with the scientific research on the issue. We are, indeed, from the same planet.

Dr. Catalanello is a licensed psychologist in his home State of Louisiana, USA, and a member of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Asian University, Chonburi. You may address questions and comments to him at [email protected], or post on his weblog at http://asianupsych.blogspot.com


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