After a relaxing weekend in Los Angeles enjoying perfect weather and good company, I’ve just arrived in Ann Arbor, where I’ve got to do some work at the University of Michigan.
Apart from noticing a few more long words (see previous posting) – like ‘ground transportation’ for what we Brits would be more likely to call ‘buses’ – what immediate impressions so far?
One is that everyone I’ve come across so far is very positive about the Obama presidency in a way that harks back to the early days of the Blair premiership in 1997. This is particularly so among academics, who are getting quite excited by the fact that the new president’s economic stimulus package is going to pump a few billion extra dollars into research that they hadn’t been expecting.
Another is that the word ‘pandemic’ seems to be preferred to ‘epidemic’ in much the same way as in the UK, just as the news networks are spending a lot of time finding out that not a lot seems to be happening.
On the streets, the curious thing is that the only people I’ve seen wearing face masks seem to be the Japanese, which I find quite intriguing because there were quite a lot of Japanese wearing face masks on safari in Kenya when we were there in February. When I asked our Kenyan driver what they were worried about, he said that they seem think the air in places like the Masai Mara is seriously polluted, which it isn’t.
I can see that there might be more of a case for protecting yourself against pollution in LA or Detroit, but haven’t a clue whether it’s that or flu that’s worrying them and am, of course, far too polite to ask them.