Friday, March 19, 2010

First heat wave of the year, and umpteenth cold

It got up to 68° F today, which is 16° F above normal for this time of year, so this counts (in my book) as the first heat wave of the year. Hopefully it won't last. While 68° F in itself isn't bad, it's only March, and it's supposed to be a lot chillier at this time of year—when it's warm like this in March, I worry about what it might be like in the summer. Plus, the humidity has gone way up, and it's at 100% right now with light rain. High humidity makes 68° F feel like 85° F, which makes me drip with sweat if I try to go for a walk.

At least the building heat isn't blazing away as it usually does. It's 56° F outside, and 74° F inside, with the radiators cold. Just the heat of everyday living warms things up inside enormously. And I have a window open to help keep the apartment cool.

My weekend will be wasted, since one of my students has kindly infected me with a cold. Actually, I think I always have a cold—I'm always recovering from a cold, developing a cold, or fighting a cold. Without exaggeration I can say that about half the people around me are sneezing and sniffling. They could at least try to stay home when sick. I have to work when I have a cold because I'm paid only for the actual hours that I teach (and that's only paid at minimum wage), but students can postpone classes if they want, so nothing prevents them from spending time at home to recuperate. But they come anyway.

The French still see disease prevention as a kind of theoretical ideal, rather than a goal easily attained by simple prophylactic hygiene. If they'd just wash their hands occasionally, that would help a lot. And if they'd delay their sneezing and blowing their nose until they were out of the crowded subway car, that would also help. But these things do not seem to occur to them. I wonder how Pasteur managed to make his discoveries in this type of cultural climate.

It is interesting to note that France has had the highest incidence of H1N1 influenza in Europe, even though it spent zillions of euro to line the pockets of some private pharmaceutical firms by ordering enough vaccine for just about everyone (whether they wanted it or not). The vaccine was rushed into production, and those lucky contractors rushed to the bank. Now France is trying to get people to actually get vaccinated, even though it has become clear that H1N1 was hyped beyond belief.

It seems that people always panic the most about the things they've prepared for the most, while ignoring things that they haven't prepared for. Unfortunately, chance does not guarantee that the things they'll have to deal with will also be the things they are best prepared for.