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facts & arguments

A man and a dog drink water from a fountain during a sunny day in Prague as temperatures hovered over 28 degrees Celsius on July 12, 2011.David W Cerny/Reuters

Not global warming?

This spell of warm, humid weather occurs almost every year in Canada. Meteorologists call it "summer."

Beat the heat herbally

"Before air conditioning, sunglasses and sun-block cream, bamboo fans and the 'big five' were favoured across Shanghai to combat the summer heat," says The Shanghai Daily. "Even today wan jing you (cooling essential balm), feng you jing (medicated cooling oil), ren dan (panacea pills), fei zi fen (prickly heat powder) and hua lu shui (floral water) are still popular summer health-care products among Chinese people. … Wan jing you, literally million golden balm, is usually composed of menthol, mint oil, camphor oil, eucalyptus oil and Chinese cinnamon. It has functions such as dispelling pathogenic heat, refreshing the mind, repelling pests and relieving itchiness. It can also help relieve headaches, sunstroke and car sickness when applied to certain acupuncture points."

Spare the bride

"Before air conditioning, antiperspirants and perfumes, hot temperatures and high humidity created odours," says The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La. "To reduce the smells, brides would carry a bouquet of flowers, and the tradition continues."

Cooling your menagerie

"If you own a rabbit, watch out for signs of overheating - lethargy, heavy breathing and panting," says The New Straits Times in Malaysia. "To cool them down, mist them with cool (not cold) water or blanket them in a cool (again, not cold), wet towel while wiping their ears with a damp, cool cloth - a simulation of being burrowed within the cool underground, which is a natural state for rabbits in the wild. … For tanked-up mice, one website has this advice: Put old tiles in the freezer for an hour or so and then place them in the tank, so that your mice can lie on them if they get too hot. … Since mice use their tails to regulate their temperature, a shallow dish of water allows them to dip their tails in to cool down."

Risqué in Richmond

"In July, 1920, the weather was normal for Richmond: It was stifling," reports the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch. "During those long, humid days before air conditioning, many residents cooled themselves with refreshing dips in Byrd Park's Shields Lake. Although the weather was normal for that month, the dawning decade brought some sudden breaks with tradition as a greater social permissiveness took hold. The Richmond News Leader presented evidence that the trend had arrived [in the city] 'Members of the gentler sex,' the newspaper said, had been seen riding through the city in streetcars and automobiles while wearing only bathing suits. Some of the more modest women covered their suits - hardly risqué by today's standards - with raincoats until they reached their destination. But others were brazenly wearing 'no outer garments to protect the sensitive eye of the moralist.' Although no laws had been broken, city officials reacted quickly and ordered bath houses built near Shields Lake to preserve the city's decorum."

Tricky ceiling fans

"Ceiling fan owners take note: If your ceiling fan doesn't seem to work properly, despite the blades turning around, check the switch above the blades," The Sun-Herald in Sydney, Australia, says. "The counter-clockwise summer setting ensures the blades spin to push air down, while the winter switch reverses the spin to pull warm air up and spill it down the sides of the room."

Closed for the summer

"Before air conditioning became more commonplace in the 1960s, the [Coachella Valley]nearly emptied out as triple-digit temperatures arrived, and businesses from Palm Springs to Indio would shut down or curtail their summer hours," reports The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif. "… Some still observe those seasonal rhythms, figuring it's cheaper to close than to keep staff and run the air conditioner for a dwindling number of customers. Jillian's restaurant in Palm Desert [closed]on June 10 and will reopen Oct. 20. That saves an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 that the restaurant would probably lose by staying open, according to bookkeeper Angela Van Driel."

Casual dress at work

"One summer's day, many years ago," says The Canberra Times in Australia, "a National Capital Authority executive reportedly followed the sound of beautiful music and stumbled upon a sweaty man in his underpants furiously playing the National Carillon. It was before air conditioning had been installed and in an effort to cool down, the musician had decided to remove his trousers and shirt."

Thought du jour

"We are so saturated with the conviction that rain is invariably and immutably chilly, wet and grey, and leads to colds, mould and mud, that we can't encompass the contrary knowledge that, for almost all the rest of the world, rain is little short of a miracle."

A.A. Gill (1954-) British writer