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A little religion-based facepalming for your evening May 27, 2013

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“And yes, those directives include the claim that ‘[t]he Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn’ and a mandate to uphold ‘the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death.” But come on. That obviously does not apply when Catholic Health Initiatives, the Church-affiliated organization that runs the Church-affiliated St. Thomas More Hospital where a young woman and her two unborn fetuses died, is the lead defendant in a lawsuit.

“I grew up in a conservative area and had internalized some challenging attitudes about abortion, poverty, and the death penalty—attitudes aligned with policy that worked against my (and my family’s) interests. Still, I discovered that I was ready to drop everything for a friend who needed my help. Eventually, I learned to hold this level of compassion for complete strangers, too. [...] Here are some things I learned when I began to leave my assumptions behind.”

I am done making excuses for the pro-life movement. I am done trying to explain that the movement is not anti-woman. I am done trying to insist that the movement really is simply trying to “save unborn babies.” I’m done because it’s not true. The pro-life movement supports the exact policies that will keep abortion rates high.”

Texas School District Investigates Muslim Bias in School, Finds Christian Bias Instead: A perfect example of fear-mongering backfiring.”

“This week, a Republican state lawmaker who had backed the voucher system decided to change her mind. Apparently, she thought public funding for religious education was a great idea, right up until she learned that her religion wasn’t the only one that might benefit.”

Same-sex marriage everywhere! April 25, 2013

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The Nevada Senate! The Rhode Island Senate! The Delaware House! The entirety of France! The entirety of New Zealand — complete with Maori love songs from the gallery when it passed!

Also, the current Pope advocated civil unions for same-sex couples in his home country. And Maryland (which has been cool on the same-sex marriage front for a little while now) nixed the death penalty not so long ago.

Sometimes things don’t suck.

Science & history: Muslim inventors, pro-choice establishment Christians, pre-tourism Japan, and more November 27, 2012

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“So there my friend stood, in 1990, in Jericho, believing that the universe was 5,994* years old and staring at a man-made wall that was 8,000 years old.

20 Muslim inventions that shaped our world. You probably know about algebra, but what about quilting, windmills, and fountain pens?

If you were born in or after April 1985, if you are right now 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average.

Images from 1910: “Photographer Kozaburo was the first to produce tourist shots for Japan with an album of 51 collotype black and white photographic prints, which were painstakingly inked in by a team of 100 colourists, and gave Europe one of its first glimpses of life inside the previously secretive state.” Includes some beautifully-chosen then-and-now comparison shots.

Views on abortion from various Christian establishment groups in 1978. Episcopals, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and others articulating positions that are thoughtful, reasonable, and pro-choice.

…the women who were turned away from an abortion were more likely to rely on government assistance, more likely to be living beneath the poverty line, and less likely to have a full-time job than the women in the study who had obtained abortions. They also registered more anxiety a week after they were denied an abortion and reported more stress a year out. They were no more or less likely to be depressed. And women who gave birth suffered from more serious health complications [...] than the women who aborted, even later in their pregnancies.”

“The first photographic images in the late 1820s had to be exposed for hours in order to capture them on film. Improvements in the technology led to this exposure time being drastically cut down to minutes, then seconds, throughout the 19th century. [...] Seems children were just as squirmy then as they are today, because another amusing convention developed: photographs containing hidden mothers trying to keep their little ones still enough for a non-blurry picture.”

6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe About the Founding of America: the title is kind of a misnomer, as the topic is more “ridiculous misinformation you believe about the state of America before the Europeans got here.”

I’m down with the Dalai Lama on this one. September 21, 2012

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An apparently-authentic scrap of papyrus from the fourth century has Jesus referring to “my wife”. Trust Slacktivist to give an interesting breakdown of what that could mean.

End-of-the-world believers: “I got to know a dozen or so believers prior to the scheduled apocalypse….Then, after Jesus was a no-show, I stayed in contact with them—the ones who would talk to me, anyway—over the following days and months, checking back in to see how or if their thinking had changed.”

A history of how people interpreted Christ’s “descent” (these days “descent into Hell”) in the days before the modern concept of Hell had come together.

When Jesus saw this he grew angry, ‘Why did you wreck my roof? Do you have any idea how much that cost to install? Do you know how many tables and chairs I had to make in my carpentry shop to pay for that roof? The reeds alone cost five talents. I had them carted in from Bethany.'”

Old news but good news: “Though the matter won’t be fully resolved until an inevitable Supreme Court case, for now, a federal appeals court this morning ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.” Plus: The first gay wedding on a military base. Awwwwwww. (Bonus: they met through a homophobic church, and started flirting after a fellowship retreat :D)

“All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.” –The Dalai Lama

Science! & Nature! (feat. strong kitties, ancient flowers, fundamentalists, words and colors) September 4, 2012

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You know, sometimes it feels like I take as long to organize these links into elegant topical groupings as I do to actually save the things…

Japanese cat weight lifting: grabbing progressively bigger fish and dragging them away! The winning cats end up waddling away, dragging these gigantic fish they can barely get their teeth around. It’s adorable.

Thirty-two-thousand-year-old flower recovered from the tundras of Siberia…and yes, they got it to bloom.

“Many of these schools [rely on textbooks that] teach their pupils Bible-based “facts,” such as the existence of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster and all sorts of pseudoscience that researcher Rachel Tabachnick and writer Thomas Vinciguerra have thankfully pored over so the rest of world doesn’t have to.

Elaborating on one of the specifics in that link: “What do Christian fundamentalists have against set theory?” It’s pretty mind-boggling.

Atomic theory as expressed in English with all the non-Germanic words removed.

Cross-linguistic color theory! How languages develop color words and in what order, how language affects our ability to distinguish colors, and a massive XKCD-originated survey of color names.

32 innovations that will change your tomorrow: inventions set to come out within a few years that will affect your everyday life. Some seem stupid or gratuitous (hands-free hair-washing? Is it really that hard to shampoo?), but some are particularly useful (medical-detection sensors for your teeth! Synthehol!).

Children, loans, & health care July 13, 2012

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A new round of “the Talk” is becoming a standard: how to react when your kid discovers porn online. Must include “explaining what ‘acting’ is.”

“For the past 10 years, Waschbusch has been studying “callous-unemotional” children — those who exhibit a distinctive lack of affect, remorse or empathy — and who are considered at risk of becoming psychopaths as adults.” Creepy, heartbreaking reading about one family’s struggle with their 9-year-old.

“”As a father, you’ll do anything for your child,’ Reynoso, an American citizen originally from Mexico, said through a translator. Now, he’s suffering a Kafkaesque ordeal in which he’s hounded to repay loans that funded an education his son will never get to use — loans that he has little hope of ever paying off.”

Another borrower spends $23,449.65 to pay off less than $1200 of her student loan debt, and concludes that this whole thing is a scam.

“Yes, apparently when you shove through legislation that allows religious organizations to receive state funding, Christians aren’t the only ones who want it — an Islamic school was one of 38 institutions approved for the voucher program, which is a huge problem for people who believe religion helps children so long as it is the religion of the swamp people they are representing.”

What exactly is Obamacare and what does it change?” via Reddit’s board with a most excellent title, Explain It Like I’m Five.

Jen Sorensen, the cartoonist behind Slowpoke, breaks down the dilemma of self-employed people and health insurance.

A chart of who gets quoted about abortion, birth control, planned parenthood, and women’s rights, broken up by gender.

Actual biblical views on abortion. Mostly in the vein of “this pregnant woman committed a crime whose penalty is death, so she will be put to death,” where the notion of “the unborn fetus is an independent life” never even comes up.

Your on-point video for the day April 8, 2012

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“You want to have the boy crucified and murdered just for dramatic effect?”

“No! Please, that’s sick! Not just for dramatic effect! Do you have any idea how many chocolate bunnies this thing is gonna sell?”

And this is a palate-cleansing post of geeky stuff. March 24, 2012

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The words used to identify ASCII characters, from the familiar to the obscure.

Indian man who wandered away from his family at age 5 finds them again…via Google Maps.

A column written on the death of William Hanna (as in Hanna-Barbera), as written by the characters he was known for.

Some thoughts on small talk from people who aren’t good at it.

House of 1000 Manga reviews Hellsing (the manga, with nods to the animated versions). With appreciation for the style, ridiculousness, and glory all in turn.

What’s the gospel in seven words? The limit forces lots of responses to be perfectly eloquent…and perfectly snarky. A favorite: “Fine, you can use mixed fabrics again.” (Putting it another way: “Having a kid does change everyone, apparently.”) Vonnegut’s version: “Goddammit, babies, you’ve got to be kind.” The Bill & Ted version: “Be excellent unto each other. Party on.” One commenter’s daughter adds: “For God’s sake, don’t be a dick.”

This is a post about civil rights. Mostly uterus-related ones. March 5, 2012

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Image from a school for black civil rights activists, 1960: young woman being trained to not react to smoke blown in her face. Hardcore.

Profiles of seven queer African-Americans, from the dawn of the Civil Rights movement to the present day.

Don’t like the Mormon practice of posthumously baptizing people (regardless of religion, up to and including Jewish Holocaust victims) as Mormons? This handy website automates the process of posthumously conferring homosexuality on dead Mormons.

History and context for pre-Roe abortion, including both the author’s personal experience in the ’60s and a fascinating look at how the battle lines in the US have shifted. In particluar, how the prevailing mindset used to be “before it starts kicking, it’s none of the public’s business.”

And the history of how “life begins at conception” ended up in evangelical dogma. Check out how different the opinions of conservative bible-literalist Christians looked as recently as 1979.

From pro-life teenie to scared young adult in a crisis: “And while I knew there were hardliners who would disagree with her, including the woman who showed me fetuses and told me horror stories in church, those people weren’t there for me when I was scared and lonely and embarrassed. Planned Parenthood was, in the form of the woman who stayed at her job an hour later than necessary to talk a scared young woman through an incredibly safe medical experience.”

Speaking of horror stories and scare pictures: Anatomy of an unsafe abortion (warning for gore). The reason pro-choice people don’t carry gory posters around at pro-blastocyte-rights events isn’t for lack of images to choose from.

Want another? Look up the truly misleadingly named ovarian chocolate cyst (warning for ick). Of the millions of US women 15-44 who use birth control, 58% have reasons unrelated to family planning — including the prevention of such cysts.

Fifteen-year-old faces life in prison for a miscarriage. One of the real, practical results of trying to sneak up on chipping away at abortion rights slantwise.

Rick Santorum’s proposed anti-amniocentesis rules would have killed this author’s daughter. Because clearly his self-important theory-based scaremongering is more important than actual science saving the lives of actual people. (There’s a theme developing here.)

I do love the Onion: Voters Slowly Realizing Santorum Believes Every Deranged Word That Comes Out Of His Mouth.

In an effort to close on a non-sucky note: Memories of growing up with Christian contemporary music, and then discovering Nirvana.

Historical same-sex weddings, fantasy female armor, texting in West African languages, and more January 7, 2012

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How to talk about gender with first graders in a way that gets them thinking and not bullying.

Musings on fantasy armor versus female figures, as crafted by someone who actually makes armor.

A history of Chicago’s underground abortion services in the years before Roe v. Wade.

A cryptographer takes a closer look at Biblical Greek and inadvertently discovers that Paul’s only clear condemnation of homosexuality…was a mistranslation.

Debunking the myth that pre-colonial Africa had no homosexuality. With research!

The tensions faced by a mixed-race family.

How do you keep a language from dying out? Make it available to text in, as is being done with the Mande family of West African languages and hopefully plenty more to come.

Next time someone tells you they support traditional marriage, send them this link: records of Christian same-sex weddings from the 300s through the 1600s.

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