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Weekend Reading 23 – Clarity & Madness

Our Weekend Reading series (brought to you by our Patreon backers) continues with a curated selection of articles—and a few other things—from around the Internet that interested us this week!

Important note: This Weekend Reading series is the result of our Patreon backers supporting the show, and is the result of us breaking the $60/month barrier a while back. Unfortunately, we’ve recently dropped below $50/month. We really do like doing this series, though, so we’re going to keep doing this every two weeks for a while at least. (Asking listeners for support via Patreon is extremely helpful, and we love that our listeners do support us, but holding content hostage in some way doesn’t really sit right with us as producers of Christian content.)


First up, I’ve got an article I’ll talk some about next episode as well, but which I found utterly fascinating: “The Holiest City on Earth (Will Drive You LITERALLY Insane)“, Luke Harrington’s description (and armchair analysis) of Jerusalem Syndrome. Honestly, it speaks for itself:

Actually, the symptoms of Jerusalem syndrome—which affects as many as 100 people a year—are almost shockingly specific in their progression. First, the individual will become nervous and agitated and express a desire to leave the tour group and explore the city alone. (Tour guides in Jerusalem are actually familiar enough with the syndrome that many of them will try to step in here and put the kibosh on things.) After wandering the city alone for a while, the individual will become obsessed with cleanliness, bathing compulsively and often cutting his or her fingernails down to the quick.

The next step—and I am not making this up—is stealing a hotel bed sheet to make a toga. (The toga, of course, is a garment more associated with ancient Roman fashion, or frat parties, than with ancient Israelite dress, but the Jerusalem syndrome sufferer has more on his or her mind than historical accuracy.) Those who have studied Jerusalem syndrome note that the toga is always white, which they tie into the obsession with purity; I’d guess it probably has more to do with the fact that hotel sheets are pretty much always white, but then, I’m not the expert.

Every once in a while, I encounter Christians who believe that mental health problems are purely spiritual, and that depression, anxiety, or more serious mental disorders are a sign of a lack of faith, or something that can be merely “prayed away.” I’ll never discount the power of prayer and faith, but there’s a reason many Christians are called to work as mental health professionals! So it’s gratifying to see that Pope Francis understands that even those with great spiritual gifts can stand to talk to a therapist every now and then to “clarify a few things”:

Pope Francis says that when he was 42 he had sessions weekly with a psychoanalyst who was female and Jewish to “clarify some things.”

It wasn’t specified what the future pontiff wanted to explore. The revelation came in a dozen conversations Francis had with French sociologist Dominique Wolton, writing a soon-to-be-published book.

La Stampa, an Italian daily, quoting from some of the conversations on Friday, said Francis went to the analyst’s home. Francis was quoted as saying: “one day, when she was about to die, she called me. Not to receive the sacraments, since she was Jewish, but for a spiritual dialogue.”

High school biology classes tend to lead us to think that scientific names are dry, dusty, and static (if occasionally enlivened by a scientist trying to be witty.) Turns out, however, that rogue taxonomists abusing the system can kill you in the process of accruing scientific prestige:

Before you go rushing to the hospital in search of antivenin, you’re going to want to look up exactly what kind of snake you’re dealing with. But the results are confusing. According to the official record of species names, governed by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), the snake belongs to the genus Spracklandus. What you don’t know is that almost no taxonomists use that name. Instead, most researchers use the unofficial name that pops up in Wikipedia and most scientific journal articles: Afronaja.

This might sound like semantics. But for you, it could mean the difference between life and death. “If you walk in [to the hospital] and say the snake that bit you is called Spracklandus, you might not get the right antivenin,” says Scott Thomson, a herpetologist and taxonomist at Brazil’s Museum of Zoology at the University of São Paulo. After all, “the doctor is not a herpetologist … he’s a medical person trying to save your life.”

In fact, Spracklandus is the center of a heated debate within the world of taxonomy—one that could help determine the future of an entire scientific field. And Raymond Hoser, the Australian researcher who gave Spracklandus its official name, is one of the forefront figures in that debate.


One of my favourite memories from my childhood is trying to find more bookmarks so that I could kind of cheat at Choose Your Own Adventure Books, attempting to avoid a grisly end for the main character. (The alien abduction one was the hardest to get through alive, if memory serves.) I also recall a similar book series about teen drama and trying to avoid the popular kids’ wrath at school. I remember enjoying parts of those books, but also finding them rather vapid and boring after a while. Since then, I haven’t been able to truly find a good substitute in my life for those Choose Your Own Adventure books. The closest I could get was Bioware RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Until very recently when I was perusing the Google Play store on my phone and discovered Creatures Such as We by Lynnea Glasser, a choose your own adventure aimed at adult readers where you are a tour guide on the moon, and the most recent batch of tourists happen to be the designers of your favourite game studio, and you get to choose whether to maintain a professional distance, or pursue friendships and/or romance with them. The cast is incredibly diverse, and the number of choices you get to make is just… satisfying. The first playthrough of the game is free, but after that it costs $5, which I will definitely be paying.

Creatures Such as We is a philosophical interactive romance novel by Lynnea Glasser, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based–without graphics or sound effects–and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Living on the moon is lonely, and stressful, and exhausting. Video games have always offered you an escape to a better life. The easy, happy life you wish you had. Which makes it so frustrating when the game you’ve been playing ends badly. But you have a chance to figure it out, because the next tourist group is the designers. You can debate with them about art, inspire them with the beauty of outer space, get closer to any one specific designer in particular, and finally find out how to get the ending you always wanted.

Theology Nerd’s Wife Has Book Detector Installed. This article is a joke article, but seriously, I need one of those to keep myself in check sometimes.

As Lance tiptoed in the door, apparently planning on quietly slipping the books behind some of the other books stacked in various oddball piles throughout the house, he reportedly jumped in terror at a blaring alarm, which alerted his wife Melissa that he had brought home 27 new books on theology, Christian living, and the Bible.

Vincent Baker, designer of Apocalypse World, the RPG that led to many games that are Powered by the Apocalypse, recently discussed on Twitter the way he designed choices in Apocalypse World. I found the dissection of choice and compromise very interesting, and it’s given words to one of the things that made Monster Hearts and Dungeon World interesting to me. In those games, your actions don’t only have consequences for you. There are consequences for everyone else too. I like that in a game.



Divinity: Original Sin 2 released this week (on Thursday to be specific). I’ve only had a little bit of time with the final version of it, but it’s a very interesting and fun game. In particular, I don’t think I’ve ever seen pregenerated PCs done so compellingly in a video game before. And while it’s a fantastic game and fun in its own right, the thing that makes it more interesting enough to share here is the GM mode. If you remember back to the old Neverwinter Nights games, those promised to do a similar “tabletop on the PC” thing, but the tools were not as elegant as it sounds like they are here.

There are lots of prefabricated maps as well, all of which can be modified or pulled apart and rebuilt. You can build from scratch too, as well as sharing the individual components you’ve built for use in other campaigns. That means you might not find a gothic space cathedral at launch, but you’ll either be able to build one or download one somewhere down the line, provided GM mode finds a community.

While I’m pushing stuff to buy on you, I may as well mention that Reviving Old Scratch is on sale for $3 again. That book was a very impactful read for me and also gave rise to Episode 110 of our podcast.

I recently came across this rather wonderful story about a church searching for a pastor and a pastor searching for a church to serve. I really like the humility and warmth of all parties involved, and it think it’s a reminder that faith isn’t really supposed to be this grandiose thing.

Then a letter arrived from a woman named Amy on behalf of Granby Presbyterian. Handwritten. A single page. They ­didn’t drill him with knucklehead questions. They only asked if he was actually interested in being a pastor. The next morning, Jonas rose an hour early to work out his reply.

Finally, the dream of delivery drones is already a reality – for medical supplies in Africa! A company called Zipline is using drones to get life-saving supplies to medical professionals in Rwanda and Tanzania, and it is every bit as cool asit sounds.

By focusing on carrying critical medical supplies, Zipline has gotten off the ground faster and in a bigger way than other, more mundane delivery pioneers. It’s a lot easier to convince regulators to tolerate the potential safety risks of delivery drones falling out of the sky when those aircraft are making lifesaving deliveries to hospitals rather than carrying shoes or pizza.


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