Good morning, Hank, it’s Sunday, May 3rd, 2 days before your birthday. And as you can tell from the grey speckled wall behind me, I am in an airport. Fancy that. So Hank, today I’m gonna talk about swine flu – PANIC! But before I do that, I’m wanna talk about me. And you. Mostly me. Nerdfighters, if you wanted to go to the event in Melbourne, Australia, but you couldn’t get a ticket, good news, there’s a second event. Link in the sidebar. And also, I’m going to be in Sydney on June 3rd. Secondly, Hank, as you know, on Thursday night, my book, Paper Towns, won an Edgar Award. An award given out by the Mystery Writers of America to the best mystery novels of the year. Hank, this means that I now own a bust of Edgar Allen Poe. That’s right, I own a bust. So Nerdfighters, I need your help. Please answer the following question for me in comments: What can you do with a bust of Edgar Allen Poe? [singing] What can you do with a Poe bust? Oh, and Hank, about you, your birthday is on Tuesday, uh, I’m gonna getcha a little something. Hopefully nerdfighters, you’ll make some videos and do some stuff as well. Please do not ask for my attention right now. So Hank, here’s a little-known fact about me: I am somewhat terrified of new and strange diseases. I think it’s because when I was in college, I had to fulfil a Science requirement, so I took a class called ‘AIDS, Ebola, and Emerging Viruses’, because it was purportedly easy. And it was kind of easy, but the downside was that I learned about AIDS, Ebola, and emerging viruses. Which are just not topics that hypochondriacs should be exposed to. Anyway, Hank, you could imagine my dismay when the news broke about H1N1 flu, or swine flu, or oinkbarf. I think oinkbarf is its technical name. Here was this flu in Mexico, travelling easily between people, killing 10% of its victims, most of whom were between 25 and 45. Hank, I find it alarming when people between 25 and 45 die of flu, first off, because that’s the same thing that happened during the pandemic of 1918, which killed more people than all of World War II. And secondly, because, Hank, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but it so happens that I am between 25 and 45! So, of course, I was extremely alarmed. But then, since then it turns out that people may have been slightly overreacting. Uh, it appears for instance that oinkbarf does not kill 10% of its victims, but closer to 1%. And also it appears they kill not just those between 25 and 45, but, y’know, just people generally. Now Hank, I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m still a little bit terrified of oinkbarf. In fact, that’s probably why I’m calling it oinkbarf. But what interests me is why we’re all so afraid of it. I mean, obviously, there’s the fact that if 10% of people who got it actually required hospitalisation, we would, like, run out of hospital beds in short order and everyone would freak out. But my suspicion is that our fear of pandemic goes deeper than that. What pandemic forces us to think about is the fact that not only am I going to die, and you’re going to die, but everyone’s going to die. And in fact, there will come a time when there are no human beings left to remember that there were ever human beings. Which is, I’m willing to acknowledge, a little bit alarming. Hank, F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that the test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold 2 opposing ideas in the mind at the same time. In that same essay, he wrote,” I must hold in balance the sense of the futility of effort, and the sense of the necessity to struggle.” But in general, the way that we respond to the futility of effort is by, y’know, ignoring it. So I just don’t think about the fact that someday that no one will read Shakespeare, let alone my books. Even though it is an Edgar Award winner. I don’t think pandemics make us afraid of death, I think they make us afraid of oblivion. They force us to grapple with the futility of effort. Also, they make us barf, which isn’t fun either. Hank, nerdfighters, wash your hands, cover your coughs, and find a way to hold in balance the futility of effort with the necessity to struggle. Hank, I, for one, am gonna keep struggling on. Ergo, you’ll see me on Tuesday.