Songkran Arrives, Part III

After Part II

April 12-16, 2004

Monday, April 12, 2004 (pre-journal)

Steadman returns:


This impostor, whose real name is unknown, frequented the streets of London in the early part of the twentieth century and lived upon the credulity of the too charitable metropolis, in which place he was only known by the familiar appellation of Toby. He was a Negro, and during the passage from Bermuda to Memel, while on board a merchantman, lost all his toes; this accident was however, of great service, by rendering him an object of pity and compassion, during his daily perambulations.

The use of his own language was also a great help to him, in fixing the attention of passengers, and a great inducement to many to extend their charity to the apparently distressed stranger; indeed, he left no method untried to work upon the various dispositions of those he supplicated. Very often he would preach to the spectators gathered around him, and sometimes would amuse another sort of auditors with a song; and when begging, he always appeared almost bent double, as if with excessive pain and fatigue. But when his day's business was done, he laid aside all constraint and walked upright; and at the beggars' meeting there was not a more jovial member than he. From these midnight revels he adjourned to a miserable lodging, from which in the morning he again sallied forth in quest of those credulous persons, who will ever be found in so extensive a metropolis as London.

In this way passed many years of the life of Toby, until the indiscriminating hand of death snatched him from a state which he had so long abused and degraded.

Ellie's Journal: Day 6

Today my mom, sister and I went on another exciting boat ride. This time we went without Alf and Watcharee. Once we got on the boat, the driver asked us if we wanted to take a different route. We thought that would be fun. We found the fish again and fed them some more bread. Our driver said that they were catfish and that people would catch them in the river. The river we were traveling on is called the ChoPraya.

This evening at dinner we were given cool coloring books. Flora's had animals and mine had fruit. Flora did a very good job coloring the lion orange and blue. I colored a purple mung fruit. Alf put a breadstick on my placemat and said it was from the Easter Bunny. I put it on his placemat and said it was from the Easter Bunny.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Last night we had our Easter Bunny dinner at Chao ... The Oriental Hotel's Italian restaurant, located on the water. From here we had a good view of The Peninsula and the river traffic. Ellie worked on her coloring book.

Reader L.S. of Amsterdam in the Netherlands writes: "Now that your family week is coming to an end, can you return us to something a little less wholesome? Please!"

PS: Ellie discovered Photo Shop 7.0.1TM; and a repercussion-free way of tormenting her little sister, Flora.

PPS: These are from Patty's camera:

Click for more Click for more

Tuesday, April 13, 2004 (pre-journal)


The TALES continue:


Wybrand Lolkes was a native of Holland, and born at Jelst in West Friesland, in the year 1733, of parents in but indifferent circumstances, his father being a fisherman, who besides this most extraordinary little creature, had to support a family of seven other children, all of whom were of ordinary stature, as were both the father and mother. Wybrand Lolkes, at an early age, exhibited proofs of a taste for mechanism; and when of sufficient age, was, by the interest of some friends, placed with an eminent watch- and clock-maker at Amsterdam, to learn that business; he continued to serve this master for four years after his apprenticeship, and then removed to Rotterdam, where he carried on the business of a watch-maker, on his own account, and where he first became acquainted, and afterwards married, the person who accompanied him to England. His trade of watch-maker, however, failing, he came to the resolution of exhibiting his person publicly as a show; and by attending the several Dutch fairs obtained a handsome competency. Impelled by curiosity and hope of gain, he came to England, and was visited at Harwich (where he first landed) by crowds of people; encouraged by this early success, he proceeded to London, and on applying to the late Mr. Philip Ashley, obtained an engagement at a weekly salary of five guineas. He first appeared at the Ampitheatre, Westminster Bridge, on Easter Monday, 1790, and continued to exhibit every evening during the whole season. He was always accompanied by his wife, who came on the stage with him hand in hand, but though he elevated his arm, she was compelled to stoop considerably to meet the proffered honour. At this time he was sixty years of age, measured only twenty-seven inches in height, and weighed exactly fifty-six pounds.

Mynheer Lolkes was a fond husband; he well knew the value of his partner, and repaid her care of him with the most fervent affection. He had by his wife three children, one of which, a son, lived to be the age of twenty-three and was five feet seven inches in height.

This little man, notwithstanding his clumsy and awkward appearance, was remarkably agile, and possessed uncommon strength, and could with the greatest ease spring from the ground into a chair of ordinary height. He was rather of a morose temper and extremely vain of himself, and while discoursing in broken English was extremely dignified as he imagined. He continued in England but one season, and through the help of a good benefit, returned to his native country, with his pockets better furnished than when he left.

(*) Newbies probably have no knowedge of NEWNES. It is a dictionary of dates, last revised in 1962. Some entries appear strange and not very relevant ... but, to quote the compiler, Robert Collison:

"Some of the entries may, in comparison with their neighbors, seem trivial, but it does seem that life being not wholly serious there is scope for items which, in spite of their poor claim to immortality, have an immediate interest for the curious."

Ellie's Journal: Day 7

Today is our last day here. I'm very sad about that. We are going to dinner with Alf and Watcharee at 6:00. We had tea in the author's wing of the hotel today. I had a delicious piece of apple cake. Its crust was very scrumptious. I'm going to miss swimming in the pool every day. But most of all I am going to miss Alf and Watcharee. But now it is back to normal rain in boring Seattle. I'll see you on the airplane journal. Good bye Thailand, hello Daddy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004 (post-pre-journal)

On Monday night Watcharee and I ... along with Patty, Ellie and Flora ... had dinner at The Peninsula. It was our last Bangkok meal together (for this trip) as the three girls had to catch a 6AM flight to Tokyo the following morning ... making a 'family' breakfast right out of the question. Anyway, after the first course, I did what I have done every night for the past 32 years: I popped down two aspirins.

The following letter to Patty's husband (a well respected medical doctor ... internal medicine, no less) will explain what happened next:

Dear Doctor Sam:

Last night during our farewell dinner Patty saw me take two aspirins (Bayer ... not some cheap knockoff brand). And she asked me why I was doing it.

Amazed, I said "Patty, don't you know that you should take a couple of aspirins every day for your heart ... thins the blood ... prevents strokes ... etc.".

She said "Dad, that is such old thinking ... that has been totally discredited."

Sam, I have been a two Bayer a day man since early 1972 ... when my doctor friend, Buddy Heiss, told me about the prophylactic powers of aspirin. Now it is early 2004: some 32 years have passed ... (or, about 11,688 days). Translated into aspirins this means I have swallowed 23,376 of them (*). As I have always bought the Bayer bottle that holds 60 aspirin (to ensure that I never risk going past the "best if used by ..." date) ... well, this means that no less than 3,896 bottles of Bayer have passed through my medicine chest during these last three-plus decades. Capping this has been my habit to shun discount stores and buy my stuff from legitimate pharmacies with in-staff board-certified pharmacists on duty at all times; meaning that, more likely than not, I have paid FULL price for each and every aspirin. At $2.49 a bottle this boils out to be $9,701.04, not counting taxes. Considering that the dollar was once worth a great deal more, I figure that I have washed down the equivalent of a Buick (in 1986 'mid-point' dollars).

Usually I take my pills with a bottle of Perrier or Evian to ensure a pure transit of the medicine. As the transporting liquid usually exceeds the cost of the aspirin by a factor of at least 20, it could well be that I have washed down some prime waterfront real estate on top of the Buick.

Say it isn't so, Sam!

(*) Not counting ones that I have taken for legitimate pains or ones that I have taken because I couldn't remember if I had popped my daily prophylactic dose or ones that have slipped from my hand and have rolled into an inaccessible spot.

Dear reader, I am sure that I am not the only one who has sworn by "... an aspirin a day ...". As soon as I hear from Doctor Sam I'll post his reply.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004 (pre-journal)

Doctor Sam replied quickly [5:52AM, his time] (*): less than three hours after I left the aspirin message in his 'inbox' ... (hey, it really does help to have a doctor in the family). He said:

Dear Alf,

All the training I have had in medical school and beyond has not prepared me in how to counsel a family member who has swallowed a Buick with leather appointments, but here goes.

Yes, an aspirin has been recommended for years to patients under various scenarios. The first is secondary prevention. This is using aspirin to prevent the second heart attack, stroke or other vascular event. Your situation would be considered primary prevention or trying to prevent the heart attack or stroke in the first place.

Large studies have been done on both groups of patients. In general, if a person has any risk of developing heart disease, etc. like hypertension, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol or significant family history of heart disease/stroke (of which I believe your family lived to old age and only suffered the occasional cough from Baker's Lung ... only kidding) then I do not recommend aspirin. If you do not have the above risk factors Alf, what is the answer? I would say you should continue what you are doing as it has served you well. My concern is the dose of aspirin. Studies have not been able to reach a consensus on what dose is best. It is generally advised that for primary prevention you take 81 mg per day of aspirin (the so called "baby aspirin"). When I was a child I was forbidden to eat much candy so I would snack on the orange flavored St. Joseph's. Ahhhh.

So Alf, I imagine your pills are 325 mg per day of aspirin which is 650 mg passing your lips daily. I would recommend decreasing to 81 mg per day. So far the higher dose hasn't hurt you and since nothing has happened to your health perhaps it has helped you- but that is not a well controlled experiment. We would need your twin to be the control and he would have been restricted from aspirin use.

Overall, take 81 mg per day. So in the end maybe you have swallowed a Ford Falcon from 1962. That should pass easier.

I am off to the airport to pick up the girls. I am excited to hear about their adventures. Did Flora have any trouble with the authorities? At times she rambles on about the nuclear age and it may scare some - until they see she is three years old.

Thanks for taking the ladies on a BKK adventure.



(*) OK, he had to get out of bed before dawn anyway ... to pick up Patty and the kids at SEA/TAC: a strangely located airport that is inconvenient to both Seattle and Tacoma users, but it is where it is because Boeing likes the location.

PS: Reader Bull has jumped into this aspirin thing with a convincing quote that the little pills do more than just ward off 'the big squeeze':

Overachiever: Ancient aspirin full of new wonders
Carolyn Poirot
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Apr. 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Aspirin, the old standby for headaches, fevers and aching joints, is now widely used in the fight against cardiovascular disease and looks like a good bet to stave off colon, prostrate and pancreatic cancer and, perhaps, cancers of the esophagus, stomach and rectum.

Although the old medical advice, "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning" is often offered in jest, aspirin helps provide relief for most of the things that ail you, which helps account for the fact that 29 billion aspirin tablets are taken each year in this country.

"Today, two out of five of those who take aspirin do so to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Bayer, the company that introduced the old wonder drug in 1899."

See! I was right about Bayer! And compared to a nice clean heart attack that can finish you with just an: "Ohhh ... I think I ate something a little too spicy", the other ways of passing upstairs seem much grimmer, less fun for bedside relatives and far more prolonged for the one with the ganglia of swarming cells:

"...Colon, prostrate and pancreatic cancer and, perhaps, cancers of the esophagus, stomach and rectum..." can probably be avoided by a dose of aspirin.

Patty, you were WRONG!

P?: I am not sure how many S's should be after this P as this story is fast developing. My webmaster, Paul, has just wired this:

Alf, I had to hop in the car and head south to the library before I could share my aspirin thoughts, but I see Doctor Sam has beaten me to it! Plus, of course, he actually knows what he's talking about, so his response is more valuable in any event. Anyway, by a surprising coincidence, I saw a St Joseph's television commercial within the past few days, targeting its 81mg "children's" product at post-adolescents like us. (I think it was Sunday morning, during one of the political talk shows. This is a good placement for such advertising, in my opinion, because these discussions often bring me close to cardiac arrest these days.)

What I have heard previously is what the St Joseph's people say (and what Sam confirms): 81mg is the magic number. I noticed that the Bayer tablets in your illustration appeared to be 500mg each, with is stronger than the standard 325mg. So perhaps you have been taking a full 1000mg a day, or more than 12 times the recommended amount.

By the way, in another coincidence arising out of Sam's message to you: My family actually had a Ford Falcon in 1962 (although none of us tried to swallow it). We always had orange-flavored St Joseph's around. Perhaps I'll start popping them again. Buddy's recommendations on medications always seem well considered.

P. Whatever:

This whole thing is getting very hard to follow ... Paul writes:

Alf, am I reading this wrong?:

[Sam:] "In general, if a person has any risk of developing heart disease, etc. like hypertension, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol or significant family history of heart disease/stroke ... then I do not recommend aspirin." [end Sam]

He says if there's any risk, he does NOT recommend it. Is that right (perhaps because if there's a risk of these things, then an individualized diagnosis is important) or should that "not" not be in there?

Maybe Medicine is becoming more like Law: "On the one hand ... the weight of the evidence might suggest ... perhaps ... Oh, let's flip a coin on this one."

As I get older I am more inclined to believe that fortune tellers have the answer ... palmists, too. Tea leaves, how the cards come up ... life lines on the palm. Linda Santarelli may have grasped and figured out the significance of everything everyone else has ever worried about.

God only knows what "P":

In a message dated 4/14/2004 2:07:57 AM SE Asia Standard Time, Dr. Sam writes:

Subj: Re: On going ...
Date: 4/14/2004 2:07:57 AM SE Asia Standard Time

Hang on there. I DO recommend aspirin in those situations. Stop the presses.


Wednesday, April 14, 2004 (regular journal)

Patpong gears up for Songkran:

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Exactly a week and a day shy of a year ago I wrote to THE ETHICIST at the New York Times. Mine was not, compared with what was going on in Iraq, a pressing (nor widespread) ethical problem; but, it bothered me every time I went into my local Fort Lauderdale 7 Eleven. But, I was not surprised that the New York Times ignored me. Though, admittedly, I felt ego pain.

But, this ethical issue has continued to plague me.

Fortunately, I discovered that THE TIMES (*) also has its own THE ETHICIST column ... under the editorship of a London based local ethicist. And, as the "Best if used by ...." stamp is also found on the milk that I buy from my local Bangkok 7 Eleven, I just cut and pasted what I had sent a year ago to New York to the London franchise:

The first row of gallon jugs of milk in my supermarket all had expiration dates three days off into the future. But I noticed that the bottles behind them carried expiration dates that allowed for a longer shelf life. I attempted to take one of the bottles in the front row; but, my girl friend said: "don't be silly, take one that will last us longer."

Who is right? Should I have insisted that we take one of the 'leading' bottles as this would have allowed later purchasers to take a 'fresher' jug ... or, should I have reached behind the prominent ones and ensured ourselves a more leisurely consumption?

Would it have made any difference if we were 'slow drinkers' ... and the later 'best-if-used-by-date' would have better met our needs?

Am I optimistic about a reply? Yes. THE TIMES is more receptive to eccentric letters than are the 212s (is that the right 'right' area code?) that censor output from The New York Times.

(*) There is no need to qualify this as the "London TIMES" because only THE TIMES is from London; all other "TIMES" newspapers must carry the local prefatory geographical prenyms ... from New York to Wokingham to Hindi to Jordan to Kenya and on and on and on ...

PS: Armed Songkranists guard my local massage parlor.

PPS: Our car was attacked (*) on the way back from Ayutthaya ... with water and powder:

(*) "Blessed".

Friday, April 16, 2004 (pre-journal)

Yikes! Even McDonald's is being guarded by Songkhranistas:

PS: Can you guess the caption?

PPS: The caption:

"It's Roscoe, Senator. He's going to take our attack ads door to door."


Bangkok, Thailand

Hi: 106F Lo: 81F

Friday, April 16, 2004 (main journal)


Do you remember Noi? She used to work with Watcharee at The Oriental. Now she is one of the managers at The Sizzler near The Marriott Riverside.

Golf and I were ordering take-out at the next-door KFC (**) when we saw her.

Watcharee has been practicing Karaoke at home. She is quite good at it.

(*) Also spelled 'Bandung'.

(**) We also spent money at McDonald's.

Next: Part IV

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