Photo: Sean Dreilinger
Here’s a weird thing. If you are over, say, 30 years old, you likely remember a time before bottled water.
Bottled water as a concept has been visible for a very long time, of course, and most histories of the phenomenon mark the introduction of Perrier in 1976 as the genesis of modern bottled water. It wasn’t until the mid-‘90s, however, that bottled water became everyday and, you know, for the common folks. Those of us that remember this period are lucky enough to have witnessed one of the most insane events in consumer history, when the soda industry figured out how to sell the same thing in bottles that people already had piped into their houses.
The coup is this: while that bottle of Aquafina goes for $1.79, the same amount from your tap (which, if you are buying bottled water to begin with, is likely of the same quality) spits out water that might go for $.00063 for the same 20 oz. And that is at the upper end of the municipal water price-range.
It’s hard to know the precise moment when regular drinking water first came into competition with itself, but some would place it at the arrival of Aquafina, PepsiCo’s big foray into bottled water, in 1994. Not long after, Dasani, its Coca-Cola analog, came along, and drinking water had gone from well to reservoir to faddish luxury item to mass commodity—cultural symbol, office supply, omnipotent restorer of health. It is, after all, the stuff of life.
I stopped off at the gas station/convenience store last night in part just to actually take some stock of the water offerings. There were about a half dozen brands, and maybe another half dozen variations on those brands; from the ubiquitous Aquafina and Dasani to Fuji and even good ol’ Evian. These were a full third of all cold beverages on sale.
That last one, Evian, is probably the only one of these brands that to me has ever tasted very different from tap water. And that difference is only in taste, of course, because that’s the only real-world difference between most waters (taste comes from negligible amounts of minerals/chemicals). Water—the two-hydrogens-one-oxygen part of it that we need—does not actually change as long as it remains water. Water is water. In other words, there is no better water or worse water if we’re actually talking about just water. Unless you’re drawing from the Great Salt Lake, most anything water comes with won’t make much of a difference in how much more or less good that water does your body.
It doesn’t matter if it’s in a cup of coffee, the most garbage-y soda ever (Diet Faygo Rock’n’Rye, for the record—but we’re not going there), naked from a mountain stream, or sporting some small amounts of fluoride and chlorine from your city’s most likely excellent municipal supply; your body will use it in all of these forms. In fact, a large percentage of of your water needs come from food. There’s a decent chance that you actually get more water than you need, not less, barring an absolutely hideous diet of, like, Fritos and beef jerky.
Read it all at the Motherboard.
An interview with…
Gady Epstein on China and the Internet
How has the Chinese Communist Party managed to survive the chaos of the World Wide Web? The Economist correspondent chooses books on the world’s most successful case of authoritarian control of the Internet.
You just did a special report for the Economist on China and the Internet. Is this something you’ve been following for a long time?
The Internet has been something that’s fascinated me in China since I arrived in 2002. At that time there were fewer than 60 million people on the Internet. There was a widespread assumption that as it spread nationwide and to a much larger population, it would be much more difficult for the Communist Party to maintain power, or that it would at least undermine them. Some would argue that it has undermined them, but I think they’ve done much better than people expected.
In the 11 years between then and now, I’ve written about various forms of on-line activism, from the bulletin boards and blogs, talking with Boke – an early blogging platform – about self-censorship and the monitors they would hire. I’ve talked with journalists about blogging their reporter’s notebook: whatever didn’t get into their stories that were officially approved to be told, they would tell in their notes online. This fascinated me, that there were these outlets. Over time I’ve developed a more complex understanding of how it works, actually with the help of some of the books on this list.
Yes, what are these books about, generally?
There are three Internet-specific books on the list. Over the years, each of the authors has contributed to my understanding of how the Communist Party manages the Internet, and how effective or not it might be. In the case of Yang Guobin, while he’s clear-eyed about the Party’s abilities to manage the Internet, he still offers a somewhat hopeful interpretation of Chinese activism online. It may not be directly advancing democracy in the Western sense, but it is giving citizens online more democratic-like freedoms and giving them a space, a public forum, where they can develop some of the patterns and habits of democracy. This is something you’ll also find in Johan Lagerkvist’s After the Internet, Before Democracy. Lagerkvist also has a relatively hopeful view. The Internet may not be speeding China towards democratization in the short-term, but he believes that inevitably it will make that transformation easier. He’s extremely cognizant, though, of the technological determinism of the cyber-utopians, this idea that the Internet will just lead to democratization. He rejects that, and tries to offer a different understanding, which is quite helpful. What’s really interesting about Lagerkvist’s work is that he compiles different threads of thought about the Internet, and there are many. This list of books – even just the three that are specifically related to the Internet – are just a fraction of the amount of ink that’s been spilled over the Chinese Internet…
Finish reading at Five Books.
NYU’s ‘Toxic’ Expansion Prioritizes Marketing Over Debt-Saddled Students, Professors Say
In a time of growing alarm over soaring student loan debt, New York University — which graduates the most indebted classes of students in the country — has embarked on an ambitious real estate expansion that could make the school even more expensive.
A vocal group of professors has mounted a rebellion aimed at halting the university’s plans, which call for the addition of 6 million square feet of new space over the next two decades. NYU’s administration has refused to publicly disclose the cost, but faculty critics point to estimates that the build-out could run several billion dollars.
“The situation is so toxic right now,” said Adam Becker, an associate professor of religious studies at the university, and a member of the faculty opposition movement. “People are angry at the place. We feel like we have been pushed into the corner.”
Like many of its students, NYU will need to finance its ambitions through borrowing. The plan’s critics argue that these costs will surely get passed along to future classes in the form of higher tuition and less financial aid.
“I think they should put more money back into scholarships for students instead of expanding,” said Sashika Gunawardana, who graduated from NYU in 2012 with about $150,000 in student loans.
University officials say that NYU must amass more space in order to keep pace with other campuses that can offer faculty and students more room than their school, based on the urban island of Manhattan.
But to faculty opponents, these plans, known as NYU 2031, exemplify what is wrong on their campus and throughout much of American higher education: The post-graduate financial distress of graduates is exacerbated by undertakings like NYU’s real estate ventures and an expensive arms race to recruit and retain elite faculty.
Read more HERE>
A product that had a short, very short, shelf life.
Perhaps slightly obscurred by its charmingly primitive web design, my new favorite website is a fantastic reference resource for delving into American speeches that have changed history as well as discovering new amazing ones.
THE TOP 100 SPEECHES is an index to and substantial database of full text transcriptions of the 100 most significant American political speeches of the 20th century, according to a list compiled by Professors Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst. Dr. Lucas is Evjue-Bascom Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Dr. Medhurst is Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Baylor University (Texas). 137 leading scholars of American public address were asked to recommend speeches on the basis of social and political impact, and rhetorical artistry.
Some of my favorites include, 1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address
“Thank you ladies and gentlemen for a very warm reception. It was one hundred and forty-four years ago that members of the Democratic Party first met in convention to select a Presidential candidate. Since that time, Democrats have continued to convene once every four years and draft a party platform and nominate a Presidential candidate. And our meeting this week is a continuation of that tradition. But there is something different about tonight. There is something special about tonight. What is different? What is special? I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker.”
LBJ’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress on Voting Legislation: “We Shall Overcome”
“In our time we have come to live with the moments of great crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues — issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression. But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, or our welfare or our security, but rather to the values, and the purposes, and the meaning of our beloved nation. The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For with a country as with a person, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans — not as Democrats or Republicans. We are met here as Americans to solve that problem.”
Read it all HERE.
The pignose frog. No words.
I Know What You Think of Me
Recently I received an e-mail that wasn’t meant for me, but was about me. I’d been cc’d by accident. This is one of the darker hazards of electronic communication, Reason No. 697 Why the Internet Is Bad — the dreadful consequence of hitting “reply all” instead of “reply” or “forward.” The context is that I had rented a herd of goats for reasons that aren’t relevant here and had sent out a mass e-mail with photographs of the goats attached to illustrate that a) I had goats, and b) it was good. Most of the responses I received expressed appropriate admiration and envy of my goats, but the message in question was intended not as a response to me but as an aside to some of the recipient’s co-workers, sighing over the kinds of expenditures on which I was frittering away my uncomfortable income. The word “oof” was used.
I’ve often thought that the single most devastating cyberattack a diabolical and anarchic mind could design would not be on the military or financial sector but simply to simultaneously make every e-mail and text ever sent universally public. It would be like suddenly subtracting the strong nuclear force from the universe; the fabric of society would instantly evaporate, every marriage, friendship and business partnership dissolved. Civilization, which is held together by a fragile web of tactful phrasing, polite omissions and white lies, would collapse in an apocalypse of bitter recriminations and weeping, breakups and fistfights, divorces and bankruptcies, scandals and resignations, blood feuds, litigation, wholesale slaughter in the streets and lingering ill will.
This particular e-mail was, in itself, no big deal. Tone is notoriously easy to misinterpret over e-mail, and my friend’s message could have easily been read as affectionate head shaking rather than a contemptuous eye roll. It’s frankly hard to parse the word “oof” in this context. And let’s be honest — I am terrible with money, but I’ve always liked to think of this as an endearing foible. What was surprisingly wounding wasn’t that the e-mail was insulting but simply that it was unsympathetic. Hearing other people’s uncensored opinions of you is an unpleasant reminder that you’re just another person in the world, and everyone else does not always view you in the forgiving light that you hope they do, making all allowances, always on your side. There’s something existentially alarming about finding out how little room we occupy, and how little allegiance we command, in other people’s heads.
Read it all HERE.
Scientists uncover clues to cancer’s spread
Scientists believe they may have discovered a key to developing drugs which could help stop the spread of cancer.
Experiments carried out by a team at University College London has uncovered clues in what causes the disease to migrate from one part of the body to another.
In many cases death is not caused by the primary tumour, but the secondary growth.
The key follows experiments carried out by a team at University College London using frog and zebrafish embryos.
Scientists identified a mechanism which called ‘chase and run’ which showed how diseased and healthy cells follow each other around the body.
“Nobody knew how this happened, and now we believe we have uncovered it. If that is the case it will be relatively easy to develop drugs that interfere with this interaction,” said Prof Roberto Mayor, who led the team.
Finish reading HERE.