Several (underhand) ways to save money on a night out.

Students are always looking for ways to save money. Nearing the end of term there is some partying to be done so here are a few methods, some better than others, for saving a little bit of cash when you’re out.

1. Be a sneaky drink thief – There is always one friend who leaves their drink unattended. Don’t be afraid to sneak yourself a cup.

2. An obvious one, leave your credit card at home – Take a limited amount of money with you so you can’t break the bank balance.

3. Buy a dirty pint – One of these should be enough for one evening. A concoction of everything that is unpleasant. Very much a traditional birthday gift.

4. Hire a designated driver – Find a brave and, more importantly, a patient friend to put up with the nights antics.

5. Do a runner from the taxi – A controversial method but one that can save you several dollars nonetheless. This may be necessary however if you cannot find that patient friend.

6. Sneak into the bar/club – Side or rear entrances are perfect for those who love to avoid cover charges.

7. Don’t order Wings, make your own masterpiece – A fine achievement for any night out, returning home to cook yourself a luxurious meal (depending on your definition of luxury).

If applied correctly you can save yourself a king’s ransom, ready for another night.


All of your textbooks could weigh less than 2lbs

Hardback and paperback used to be the only choices when it came to books. However as technology advances in the 21st century new options are becoming available, and one of the world’s biggest corporations is getting in on the act.

Having sold nearly 15 million iPads by the end of 2010 Apple is looking at ways to make iPads a regular tool in many classrooms around the world. They have paired up with online publishing company Inkling to make a range of textbooks available, exclusively on the iPad. Two of the world’s largest educational publishers, McGraw-Hill and Pearson have made investments worth millions into Inkling, which was established in San Francisco in 2009. The former will make their top 100 textbooks and medical school curriculum available through the service. Whereas Pearson will publish their 24 most popular MBA titles as well as the top undergraduate arts and science books. So does this new form of publishing have the durability to replace a good old fashioned textbook?

Nat Herold is the proprietor of Amherst Books in Amherst Center. He is of the belief that the concept of eBooks is merely a fad. “The problem with this type of technology is that in 10 or 15 years it will be outdated. Something bigger and better will come along to replace it.” Mr Herold, who opened his store 8 years ago, believes it is actually the older generations who are using this new technology and not the present ones. “I know of many people over the age of 65 who have started using these devices. I talked to a panel of college students and none of them had an iPad or a Kindle.”

The iPad is still a relatively new implement that has classroom potential but it is not Apple’s first foray into the world of education. In May 2007 iTunes U was launched. Through this over 800 universities around the world, including Cambridge and Harvard, made hundred of thousands of courses available for free downloading. Students can gain access to audio and video lectures and exclusive interviews. Dr. Eric Poehler is an Assistant Professor in Classics at Umass Amherst, which also uses iTunes U. He airs on the side of caution when it comes to this, “I’m very much in favour of using open sources however by putting all of this information online it cuts the value of our employment.” It is not just students that can obtain this access. It is available to everyone. “This increased availability means that anyone can cause the destruction of someone’s words after they have been written,” Dr. Poehler stated. In theory non-enrolled students can gain access to information and courses that students have to pay thousands in tuition fees to experience.

Despite his rather negative opinion of iTunes U Dr. Poehler believes that, with the iPad, Apple has developed a tool that could transform the classroom. “I use the iPad pretty consistently in the classroom for power-points and attendance forms. Of course I use it for textbooks. For one of my classes I have made all my readings available in PDF form.”
Clearly the iPad has already started to manifest its way into classrooms but is it really a financially feasible method of education?

In the year 2010-11 the estimated cost of textbooks for college students per year averaged over a staggering $1000 nationally. Compare this to the cost effectiveness of the iPad. The base cost for the device is around $500. If the cost of the iPad could be balanced out with the cost of the eBooks it requires then Apple may very well be able to challenge the conventional textbooks. Alexander Jones is a Junior at UMass Amherst. He thinks that the iPad has a lot of educational potential. “I would certainly use an iPad for my textbooks. It would definitely beat carrying a rucksack full of books around with me all day.” In spite of his positive thoughts he concedes that there are a few issues with the idea, “$500 is a lot of money to spend in one go. So I think that if I could afford one I’d buy one but it’s unlikely on such a tight budget.” Nat Herold echoes this opinion. “Publishers have been charging far too much for electronic text. They can sell a Biology textbook for $180 but the physical cost of that book may be as little as $2, that is an outrageous amount.”

There are both positive and negative aspects to using the iPad as an educational tool but it is still a very recent development in the educational world. Users are able to highlight certain paragraphs within an eBook and leave notes on the section they have chosen. Their notes are there for everyone to see and discuss, enhancing class discussion. It is certainly more convenient to have all your required texts in one single place. That place could very easily be an iPad within the palms of your hands. There is a degree of uncertainty with the level of security regarding content on the iPad. Dr. Eric Poehler states, “With all this information online I do take caution sometimes when I put my work up there. At times it can be hard to tell who owns the copyright. Also there is a problem with the terms of fair use.” Dr. Poehler’s views back up the problem that absolutely any person with access to iTunes can gain access to materials on iTunes U and its other resources.

Apple is clearly making huge technological strides that could seriously impact how college students are educated. The deal struck with Inkling proves that they are committed to this initiative. This move could be the start of the transformation from the physical process of print and set type to a world of digital learning. There is still a distinct affinity for some people towards the physicality of books so this transition may take some time yet.

‘Investigative’ journalism

The tactics that James O’Keefe has employed in order to further his story are not that uncommon, especially within the United Kingdom. They are journalists but they are journalists who have a blatant disregard for the ethical codes that they are meant to follow. However, in some cases, these can be the most effective method to highlight the seriousness of a story. The prime example would be the documentary ‘The Secret Policeman’, which aired in the UK in 2003. In this the journalist, Mark Daly, went through his training steps and was eventually initiated into the Greater Manchester Police Force. His goal was to highlight the excessive amounts of racism that were apparent within the British police. Using the same methods as O’Keefe, a hidden camera, he was able to expose many police officers misusing their authority in a racist fashion against Asian members of the community. Daly’s work was a success as it resulted in the resignation of 10 officers. But more importantly it gave viewers the bigger picture and as a result of his work a major inquiry into racism in the police force was launched. I think in cases such as these, where there is a serious issue to be dealt with, the kind of tactics adopted are essential and there could be a certain degree of lee-way when it comes to the ethical codes.

However there are those who abuse these ethics for purely entertaining purposes, or even just to invent a story. Again I will highlight a case in the UK. A reporter for the newspaper ‘The News of the World’ disguised himself as a Middle Eastern sheikh who wanted to buy Chelsea football club. Using a hidden camera he interviewed the then England national team manager Sven Goran Eriksson. In the interview Eriksson claimed he would be willing to leave his job to join Chelsea as manager. When the story was printed in the newspaper there was outrage in the sports world. There was no story here until the journalist, now known as the Fake Sheikh, invented it by deceiving his subject. There is no excuse for using these ‘investigative’ methods for such a purpose. I am unsure whether I would ever employ these tactics myself. If my story hinged on it and it would provide the public with a greater insight then I would strongly consider it.

A new form of journalism?

In his article James Fallows highlights a quote from Barack Obama, “I’ve been surprised by how the news cycle here in Washington is focused on what happens this minute.” This is very much a focus for modern-day media, with cable networks on round the clock updating viewers on every little news event. I am not entirely familiar with either Gawker or Twitter, I still prefer reading a newspaper over reading an article online.

It is hard to consider Twitter journalism. Yes people can update their “followers” as to the world’s goings on, but in only 140 characters. It could be seen as attempt to condense the news, which could encourage the omission of details. In that case we will never get the full story. Scouring through Twitter you will come across feeds from respectable news sources such as the New York Times. However these are often just snippets of the full story. I am not a Twitter user and I don’t think I will be. I can see why some people would argue a case for it being a form of journalism but I believe it stands simply as a form of social networking.

As inappropriate as some may consider it, people will read a story about Christine O’Donnell and her encounter with a Philadelphia stranger. With stories such as these Gawker is providing a form of journalism. Not necessarily a high standard of journalism, nut one nonetheless. They are providing a service to readers, which is a key component of journalism. There is a market for this kind of journalism. Nick Denton defended his publication of the story, “She lies about who she is; she tells that lie in service of an attempt to impose her private sexual values on her fellow citizens; and she’s running for Senate. We thought information documenting that lie—that O’Donnell does not live a chaste life as she defines the word, and in fact hops into bed, naked and drunk, with men that she’s just met—was of interest to our readers.”

Many consider these outlets as new forms of journalism. Gawker certainly has more journalistic credentials than Twitter. However the most effective and reliable form of journalism will always come from the respected and established outlets.

Clear message, unclear execution.

“I’m really pleased with the turnout, but there have been a few technical difficulties,” stated Steven McCloud, an employee at the UMass Graduate Center. He was referring to a Teach-In event held at the UMass Student Union, which took place on Tuesday April 5th. Various speakers enlightened the crowd throughout the day. However the methods that were used to do so often prevented a clear and effective message. On one occasion Geoffrey Sachs was speaking to the crowd via a live video feed. As he was about to make a key point the video feed stopped, leaving the crowd wondering what he was about to announce.
Unfortunately for the event this was not a one-off occurrence. The live video streams were often rather blurry and unclear. “Support our unions and support our labor,” and “Send a signal that our system isn’t broken but Washington is,” were two clear messages expressed via the online speakers. Despite the obvious importance of these messages it was hard to really feel the emotion of the speakers due to the unclear feeds. McCloud said, “I have to admit that I prefer the live, in-person, speakers as opposed to this video format.”
New technology is being developed and used all around us, as a means to ensure that a message can be widespread and inclusive. However it may be the case that it is not quite the most appropriate method to fuel the passion of these crowds just yet.

Always give your name.

In his Slate article Farhad Manjoo stated, “I don’t want anonymous commentators.” I would tend to agree with Manjoo’s point of view. A writer or commenter should always have to be associated with their work. This way the reader can put a name to an opinion or view expressed in a comment. It provides a certain degree of accountability to that comment. It could be argued that if a commenter is required to provide their real name when commenting then users will refrain from leaving derogatory or offensive comments. Many Facebook users attempt to clean up their profiles. By this I mean that they will ensure that nothing potentially embarrassing or controversial appears on their profile as they are considering the fact that their friends will be looking at it or maybe even potential employers. They do not want to be associated with anything too “spicy”. I think that if users had to provide their real name when leaving comments on news sites then controversial comments or offensive comments could well decrease, or maybe disappear altogether. Manjoo has a rather cynical view of the anonymity of the internet. He states, “If you give a normal person anonymity and an audience, this theory posits, you turn him into a total fuckwad.” I can see where he is coming from with this comment. If you browse through the comments left under YouTube videos you will find comments left by people with ‘usernames’. Not their real names. A lot of the comments left by these users are deliberately inciteful and offensive. These are the “fuckwads” that Majoo refers to. A prime example of this is with the teen singer Rebecca Black, who has received a barrage of abuse online for her music. People are leaving comments and posting videos that involve her dying. Enforcing rules to make using your real name mandatory could very well get rid of this kind of commenting. I can understand that people may wish to leave out their details when commenting online in fear for safety. However providing real names is important to make the internet and commenting more accountable.

The future for water may not be bottled

Filling up a glass of water from your tap at home could well be the equivalent of purchasing a bottle of water from your nearest shop. That is the conclusion of a 2011 study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The study also suggested that filtering tap water at home could be a healthier option than drinking it from a bottle.
Out of the 173 bottled water brands in the United States over half failed a transparency test carried out by the EWG into their products. None of the brands tested did enough to earn themselves a grade ‘A’ in the study. What does this mean for the future of bottled water? And is it really as unreliable as stated?
In 2004 the United Kingdom experienced similar problems when Dasani was launched in February of that year. Within a month the company the company stated that the supposedly ‘pure’ water they were selling was actually just tap water taken from a local mains supply. The misery was compiled for the company owned by Coca-Cola when it was discovered that Dasani contained a chemical called bromate. This chemical has the potential to cause cancer. Coca-Cola had intended to release Dasani in France and Germany but after the issues in the UK this plan was scrapped.
Dasani provides a vague and uninformative description of how its water is processed. They describe using a local water supply, filtration and a process known as reverse osmosis. No-one from Dasani was available for further comment regarding these methods. In the EWG study 18 percent of the brands tested failed to list the source of their water. 32 percent of the brands did not provide information regarding their purification processes. Although it is not actually a legal requirement for water companies to provide this information it could be time for changes given the results of the EWG study. Dasani is not the only water company that provides misleading information regarding the source of their water.
Beverly Watson, Consumer Response Representative for Poland Spring, stated, “We are committed to providing products that live up to our customers high standards.” Is this really the case? Poland Spring does contain a list of water sources on each bottle, all of which are located in Maine. “Poland Spring is sourced from natural underground spring sources in the state of Maine,” Watson claimed. She continued, “The water goes through a multistep quality process involving a 0.2 micron filtration and disinfection process.” This process is designed in order to remove particles in water which are as small as 0.2 micron in diameter.
Despite this apparent clarity offered by Watson and Poland Spring regarding their sources there is still a grey area surrounding the subject. 21 year old Austin Fuller is a former employee of Poland Spring. During the three months he spent working in the factory in the summer of 2008 he noticed a number of potential misdemeanours with the company’s production claims. “They have different locations where the water does not have a spring source. It is a different source altogether from those which are mentioned,” claimed Fuller. Poland Spring is also responsible for the production of Nestle water, which is the company’s discount brand. Fuller continued, “They would use the Poland Spring labels on the Nestle bottles to pass them off as something different.” This sort of evidence makes the claims in the EWG report look a lot stronger. In some US states the revolt against bottled water has already commenced.
Vermont’s Secretary of Agency of Natural Resources, Deb Markowitz, is one of those leading the charge against bottled water. She stated, “How safe is our tap water? Actually – it is so safe that it is also safe to bottle and sell to consumers!” Vermont, along with the states of Colorado, Illinois and New York, has banned bottled water from its state buildings in an attempt to get people to change to drinking filtered water. “Bottled water is not consistent with environmental stewardship. Think of all the plastic waste and toxic chemicals that are used in the production of plastic bottles,” she claimed. She continued, “Don’t waste your money on bottled water. If you don’t like the taste of your local water then buy a filter.” The Vermont state government spent $213,000 on bottled water alone last year, “The Vermont state government will be rejecting bottled water and phasing it out of our buildings,” was Markowitz’s emphatic statement.
Tap water is far more sustainable than bottled water. On 23rd March 2011, which was World Water Day, the World Bank made a rather startling statement. They claimed that by the year 2030 the global demand for water would be 40 percent greater than the global supply of water. This may seem shocking at first but the facts support the comments, especially when much of the Third World is without a regular or sanitary supply of running water on a daily basis. The World Health Organisation highlighted that 884 million people in the world do not have access to a safe supply of water. That equates to approximately one eighth of the global population. The United Nations Human Development Report drew attention to the fact that the average American uses around 400 litres of water every day when they drink, wash and cook. There is a misconception that water is a comfortable natural resource compared to others, such as coal and oil. The World Bank’s predictions may not be that far off the mark.
Next time you walk into your local shop and decide to buy a bottle of water think twice. Despite the obvious financial benefits of not purchasing it you may very well be choosing the healthier option for both yourself and the environment as a whole.