Watering The Storm

There’s supposed to be a huge snowstorm bearing down on the Midwest, including our little neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio.  Some people apparently are worried about it.

Last night, Kish and I went out to dinner, and our waiter asked us — only half facetiously — whether we had scurried off to the supermarket to lay in supplies of bottled water.  68212843 - closeup on mineral water green bottles in raw and linesWhen I looked puzzled, he helpfully added that an incoming winter storm was supposed to arrive overnight and drop 4 to 6 inches of snow on Columbus.  The message was clear:  winter storm = need water.  Lots and lots of water, apparently, and not the out of the tap variety, either.

Of course, we didn’t go directly to the store to buy a case or two of bottled water.  I’ve never succumbed to storm frenzy, and I’m not quite sure why other people are so susceptible to it.  In the Midwest, in winter, a snowstorm that drops 4 to 6 inches of the white stuff isn’t an everyday occurrence, but it’s certainly common enough that people shouldn’t freak out about it.

And the need for bottled water baffles me, too.  I don’t drink bottled water under normal circumstances, so why would I suddenly start doing so because of a snowstorm?  I’m perfectly happy with whatever comes out of the faucet.  And winter storms aren’t like hurricanes that might knock out water facilities and leave people without electricity or water for days or even weeks.  To my recollection, we’ve always had water even in the aftermath of the greatest blizzards, like the Great Blizzard of ’78.  And the nice thing about a snowstorm is — it provides its own supply of water.  If Kish and I get really desperate, we can always scoop up some of the white stuff and wait for it to melt.

As I write this, I see that snow has started falling.  The storm must be here!  You know, it kind of makes me thirsty.

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Unfizzed And Unfazed

I can’t even remember the last time I had a full-calorie soda.  It’s a time period that can be measured in decades, and it might stretch back into the mid-1980s.  At some point I switched to diet sodas and then I pretty much stopped drinking sodas altogether.

Apparently I’m not alone.  America is in the midst of a long and significant decline in the consumption of soda generally, and full-calorie soda specifically.  The drop in consumption is having the incidental effect of reducing calorie consumption by kids — but we’ve nevertheless still got a serious obesity problem.  The decline in people guzzling fizzy soft drinks, without a commensurate decline in obesity issues, suggests that sodas can’t bear the entire blame for our country’s tubbiness troubles.

What are Americans drinking instead of sodas?  The article linked above says bottled water sales are jumping, and based on my personal observations I’m guessing that consumption of coffee also has increased.  In fact, Americans who used to satisfy their sweet tooth with a Coke may simply have switched to some high-end, caramel-flavored, whipped-cream-topped coffee concoction — which may also explain why obesity rates haven’t tracked the downward path of soda drinking.

I don’t drink either bottled water or high end coffees.  I long ago decided that some tap water over ice, with a lemon slice, would do me just fine.  It quenches my thirst, cools me down, and has a nice light tartness to it — as well as being cheaper, less fattening, and more environmentally friendly.

Bottled Water Tale

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A large bottle of Icelandic Glacial water is prominently displayed atop the minibar complex in our hotel room. With a bottle designed to look like jagged chunks of ice, it sits next to the coffee maker and high-end iced tea options.

The story on the bottle explains why Icelandic Glacial should be your preferred hydration choice: “Over 5,000 years ago, long before the first humans reached remote Iceland, a massive volcanic eruption created a unique underground spring, complete with its own natural filtration system–pristine lava rock. Now known as the Olfus Spring, this is the origin of Icelandic Glacial Natural Spring Water–the source of an epic life.”

Wow . . . an epic life? No wonder the price for the bottle is a hefty $6!

I know we’re in the desert, but $6 for water seems even steeper than a craggy Icelandic glacier to me. I think I’ll settle for something less than epic, save the $6, and just walk ten feet around the corner and get the free stuff from the bathroom tap instead.

The Swimming Swine Stiffs Of Shanghai

Imagine strolling along one of China’s rivers and then seeing and smelling, with disgust, a dead pig floating past.  Then imagine glancing upriver and seeing hundreds of swollen swine bobbing in the water.

That was the scene along the Huangpu — now pronounced Huang-Pee-YEW! — River in Shanghai.  With improbable precision, authorities say 5,916 deceased pigs have been pulled from the river. Some unlucky bureaucrat evidently was tasked with providing a comprehensive count of the carcasses.

The Huangpu River provides a major source of drinking water for Shanghai and its 23 million residents.  Because hogs aren’t the cleanest residents of the planet even when they are alive, and because death inevitably produces gases, fluids, and other fruits of decomposition that no rational person would want to consume, the citizens of Shanghai have expressed alarm about drinking water tainted by the cadavers.  Chinese authorities have assured them that the Huangpu water quality is safe, but the citizens are skeptical.  I’m betting that the same bean-counting bureaucrat who determined that 5,916 pigs were involved will soon find a 11,943 percent increase in the consumption of bottled water by our Chinese friends.

Curiously, the source of the thousands of perished pigs, and their cause of death, hasn’t been determined.  I’m just a city boy, and I know the Chinese interior is big, but 5,916 pigs sounds like a lot to me.  You’d think the same precise carcass-counters in the Chinese government could readily detect the disappearance of a vast herd of hogs.  And wouldn’t you want to know where the pigs came from, and how they died, before you determined that the water in which the swollen ex-swine were bobbing was safe for humans to drink?

Apparently, not in China — where first you count.