The Null Device
A doctor/blogger has a horrifying account of a possible coming bird flu epidemic:
I saw fifty patients that day. Almost all of them were wearing masks, some as rudimentary as handkerchiefs. One came in with a sprained ankle. Another showed up to discuss her diabetes. The other forty-eight came in with panic attacks, frayed nerves, stories of people they knew who were dead or dying, and questions galore. But it was the quiet ones, the ones with headaches and muscle aches and low grade fevers that terrified me the most.
Those persons who had received the regular flu shot in the fall gained a slight protection against the new pandemic strain of the flu. The years supply was exhausted quickly, however, and counterfeit vaccines were selling for $100 on the internet. Despite the governments warning people still paid for them. A five day course of antiviral medication was selling for $5,000, even though it was only weakly effective by February.And, further down in the comments, a few tips for how to avoid getting the bird flu (or any other type of flu):
It has recently been determined that most pulmonary illnesses are spread by hand contamination, not coughing or sneezing as previously believed. If you are out in public or around those who are during an outbreak, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer six times a day will reduce your chance of catching flu by 80%. If there is obvious contamination, use soap and water. Antiseptic soap is not significantly more effective than ordinary soap in this regard. Consciously force yourself not to touch your face in public until you have sanitized your hands.
The worst public sources for air and surface contamination are public restrooms and restaurants. Avoid them. Sanitize telephone handsets and often touched surfaces in work areas, especially doorknobs. Parts of automobile interiors can also be cleaned.
Another newly discovered trick that may work is ordinary store-bought cranberry juice, which has been determined to inhibit cellular adhesion by several viruses, in quantity. It is unknown if it would work for avian flu, but drinking copious amounts as a possible prophalaxis should not be too much an inconvenience, if that is all you've got to protect yourself with.
There will undoubtedly be shortages of several items once an outbreak has occurred. Surgical masks, protective glasses, latex gloves, sanitary wipes and rubbing alcohol may all become scarce, so it is not unreasonable to stock up now.
The Washington Post answers a number of "What If?" questions:
What if Freud had been a woman?
Sex would not be considered the primary force that drives human behavior. Instead, it would be Fear of Having a Large Behind. All men would be haunted by a condition known as "penis shame." The mind would not be divided into the Id, the Ego and the Superego but the Shoe-Desire Region, the Weeping Center, and the If-You-Don't-Know-What-You-Did-Wrong-I'm-Not-Going-to-Tell-You Lobe. Also, sometimes a dried apricot is just a dried apricot.
What if wishes were horses?
Then beggars would ride. But so would everyone else. We would each have, like, 7,000 horses. They would completely paralyze civilization, consuming all vegetable matter in a week or less. Continents would rise several feet, just from accumulated poo. And anytime anyone wished for no more horses, another horse would appear. The world would end in a terrifying, thundering apocalypse of horses, is what would happen.
What if, as originally predicted, heavier-than-air flight had actually been impossible?
Rocket-propelled blimps. Travel would take a little longer, but the 9/11 plot would have failed, comically.