We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.
Grab the entire list as a Readlist.
Vanessa Rancaño reports on the lucrative and wasteful single-serve coffee trend.
East Bay Express: Vanessa Rancaño - Waste: The Dark Side of the New Coffee Craze
I recently spoke with Sylvan, the founder of Keurig. He hasn’t been involved with the company since he was squeezed out in 1997, before Green Mountain bought it and made it a household name. I asked him if he’d thought about the environmental implications of the product while he was building the prototypes. “Not at all,” he told me, on the phone from Boston. “There’s nothing green about it.”
On health care costs
Nina Bernstein picks apart the chaotic costs and markups that drives the price of $1 bags of saline up to over $500.
The New York Times: Nina Bernstein - How to Charge $546 for Six Liters of Saltwater
It is no secret that medical care in the United States is overpriced. But as the tale of the humble IV bag shows all too clearly, it is secrecy that helps keep prices high: hidden in the underbrush of transactions among multiple buyers and sellers, and in the hieroglyphics of hospital bills.
On Chris Ware
Intelligent Life magazine profiles cartoonist Chris Ware.
Intelligent Life: Simon Willis - An Everyday Genius
Comics, he says, are meant to be read and not, like fine-art drawings, looked at. He wants his drawings to tell stories, "like typography on a page". It’s about visual clarity but also emotional clarity. "Jimmy Corrigan" was planned as a short exercise in emotional truth-telling, to see if he could make pictures that meant what they said without "the taint of irony". And never having met his father, he hoped, as he wrote later, that once the story was finished "I would have 'prepared' myself to meet the real man". That short exercise turned into a 380-page graphic novel which took seven years.
On future bodies
Geoff Brumfiel investigates the future of the bionic body and the latest developments in prosthetic innovations.
Smithsonian.com: Geoff Brumfiel - The Insane and Exciting Future of the Bionic Body
This latest iteration is a bionic hand, with each finger driven by its own motor. Inside of the molded forearm are two electrodes that respond to muscular signals in the residual limb: Sending a signal to one electrode opens the hand and to the other closes it. Activating both allows Meyer to rotate the wrist an unnerving 360 degrees. “The metaphor that I use for this is learning how to parallel park your car,” he says as he opens his hand with a whir. At first, it’s a little tricky, but you get the hang of it.
Simon Parkin writes about the wonderfully weird "sightings" of Bigfoot in Grand Theft: Auto San Andreas.
The New Yorker: Simon Parkin - The hunt for one of gaming's most mythical creatures
The Bigfoot debate of the game closely mirrors that of the real world, in which believers often clash with skeptics. Silver’s certainty in the creature’s existence is absolute. “I one-hundred-per-cent believe Bigfoot exists within San Andreas,” he said. Krimmel agrees: “I do believe the creature exists. I have encountered him more than once. I would say he is proven.” But critics say the myth’s disciples are fooling themselves.
Reporters from Le Monde spent two months in Damascus reporting on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Le Monde: Jean-Phillippe Rémy - Chemical warfare in Syria
At first, there is only a little sound, a metallic ping, almost a click. And in the confusion of daily combat in Jobar's Bahra 1 sector, this sound didn't catch the attention of the fighters of the Tahrir al-Sham ('Liberation of Syria') Brigade. 'We thought it was a mortar that didn't explode, and no one really paid attention to it,' said Omar Haidar, chief of operations of the brigade, which holds this forward position less than 500 meters from Abbasid Square.
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Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.