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Instagram-friendly Bibles are here to court millennials 

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Brian Chung was working as a campus minister with the national Intervarsity Christian Fellowship a few years ago at the University of Southern California when he decided something was wrong with the Bible.

Chung, now 30, would stand at the back of the room during Intervarsity events and hand out New Testaments. The reaction from college kids was always the same; they’d take the book and flip through the pages. Faced with small fonts and outdated language, they’d snap it shut, hand it back, or toss it, disinterestedly, in their backpack.

“That experience reminded of getting my first Bible and finding the book to be really intimidating,” Chung says. “Even the first few pages are usually just descriptors or maps, and don’t draw you in with any stories. I thought there must be a better way.”

Chung, who studied graphic design in college, grew up in a Buddhist household but converted to Christianity in college. He met another Christian USC student at Intervarsity, also named Bryan Chung, who was studying animation and digital arts. The duo became friends, and eventually business partners. In 2016, they debuted their company Alabaster, a brand that has redesigned the Bible for the Instagram generation and expects to sell $900,000 worth of Bibles by the end of this year.


Brian Chung and Bryan Chung, the founders of Alabaster.
Alabaster

Alabaster sells Gospels, Romans, and Psalms Bibles that have been artfully laid out next to original photography (the company’s Gospels of Mark and John are sold out). Its hardcovers Bibles sell for $78 and paperback softcover books are $38.

These are no ordinary religious books. They have that Kinfolk-inspired, vaguely Scandinavian vibe that has taken over coffee shops, fashion boutiques, and interior design Instagram. Their pages are clean and spacious, and the religious texts are placed next to original photography that’s solemn yet alluring: forests of trees, mysterious caves, a de-petaled rose, mist above the ocean, a woman holding a candle.

“We want these books to be true and relevant to millennials,” Bryan Chung said during a recent phone interview. “We are all on our iPhones, but we also respond really well to visual imagery, and so it has to really grasp our attention. If it does, it can change the way we think.”

Flipping through Alabaster’s Bibles is soothing, intriguing, and even inspiring. The pages are inviting from the introduction; describing Psalms, Alabaster calls the text “raw, honest poems from thousands of years ago” where readers can “learn about mourning, grief, lament, love, joy, forgiveness, and what it means to connect with God in the midst of our complex lives.”

Creating religious texts for the selfie generation might seem like something of a Hail Mary pass, considering this age group’s faith is waning drastically. According to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study from 2015, young adults born between 1981 and 1996 are much less likely than older Americans to attend religious services or pray. The Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University last year found that 35 percent of Americans consider themselves “nones,” or atheists and agnostics, and almost half of that 35 percent are millennials. This is a stark contrast to 1986, when only 10 percent of young adults said they didn’t affiliate with a religion.

This has been dubbed an “exodus,” and it does not discriminate by religion. A Public Religion Research Institute survey from 2017 found that more than half of young Jews today say they “have no religion.” Young evangelical Christians are dissociating from their churches “at record levels,” while one study found that millennials are abandoning Catholicism at a faster rate than any other religion. Even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which traditionally has a steady rate of membership, has seen a small decline from young worshippers.


Alabaster books are laid out on white, minimalist pages, with original photography.
Alabaster

There are a plethora of reasons young people say they are turned off by the religion they were born into, or religion in general. Some cite the conservative views of many faiths, like opinions on politics or same-sex marriage, as well as outdated structures of power. But the co-founders of Alabaster believe these issues shouldn’t be blamed necessarily on religion as much as its existing structures.

“Christian art and design can come off as really cheesy,” says Brian Chung. “But faith, like everything, needs to meet the culture where they are. So we’re creating materials that are approachable, and also represent the intersection of art and faith.”

Alabaster Bibles don’t just stand apart because of the hipster photography and typeset. They also specifically use the New Living Translation, which came out in 1996, as opposed to the King James Bible, which was published in 1611.

“A big part of faith is in the language,” Bryan Chung says. “It felt off to be reading and using words you can barely pronounce or understand. That’s not what will interest people.”

Although the Instagram generation that Alabaster, which first launched on Kickstarter, is designing Bibles for is hooked to tech, Brian points to the indie publication industry, where zines like the Gentlewoman, Kinfolk, Hypebeast, Drift, and Cherry Bombe have built cult followings.

“People love to say that print is dead, but specialty printing is very much alive,” Bryan adds. “Typically, Bibles in people’s homes are placed on a bookshelf and are not the centerpiece of a house. But people tell us Alabaster books are their new coffee table books. They sift through every page, slowly and carefully.”


“People love to say that print is dead, but specialty printing is very much alive,” says Bryan Chung.
Alabaster

“As a pastor that enjoys photography, I loved this Gospels set,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “if you love photography and Jesus, you will enjoy this set.”

“I’ve always wanted to own something like this,” an Alabaster customer wrote on Instagram about the company’s Psalms. “Thank you so much for using your creativity and working hard to make this happen. May your business and creativity keep prospering!”

Alabaster’s founders say their goal is not missionary — not outright, anyway. They do believe new forms of religious texts will help faith-focused millennials connect more deeply.

“Our favorite stories are about people who don’t consider themselves religious picking up our books and enjoying them. We like the idea that it’s opening up a dialogue for people who would otherwise not think about religion that much,” says Bryan Chung. “‘Convert’ is not a word we think about a lot at Alabaster. [But] we think religion asks deep and meaningful questions that people might not always think about on their own. Mixed with art, we think that’s really interesting. If our books contribute to that, we’re happy.”

According to the Barna Group, a research group that studies faith, 47 percent of millennials still use a Bible. And Alabaster has already proven there’s an interest. Last year, the company sold more than 10,000 Bibles and made $300,000-plus in sales; Alabaster believes sales will triple in 2019 with some upcoming wholesale deals.

Much of the hunger for its Bibles has come from abroad; the company’s largest customer demographics are in Singapore, Australia, Canada, and England. Alabaster also has an in with Hillsong, the evangelical megachurch that’s become popular among Christian celebrities. The co-founders of Alabaster became friendly with Hillsong creative director Cassandra Langton through Instagram, and the church agreed to sell the company’s Bibles at its Creative Conference last year.

The books from Alabaster, Elizabeth Angowski, an assistant professor of religion at Earlham College, points out, have extremely Goop-y vibes — in terms of both aesthetic and their Goop-esque markups. Their price tag, she notes, “strikes me as a feature of lifestyle brands aimed at audiences of a certain status.”

Costs aside, Angowski believes religious leadership shouldn’t take issue with Alabaster’s millennial-focused Bibles, although she does see how its rebranding of beliefs could ruffle some feathers.

“I do find it interesting that this company says it aims to give readers ‘a fresh visual experience and heightened level of contemplation’ by adding photos,” she says. “I wonder, in that statement, is it implied that textual sources without images — or even their specially chosen images — are then, by extension, somehow less conducive to higher contemplation? I think that form and content should be considered in tandem when it comes to reading and interpreting any literary work, but here we seem to have an argument that this newly designed form is not just about appealing to a particular subset of folks aesthetically. Alabaster makes it sound like a matter of enhancement of, possibly even a correction to, the reading experience.”

Modernized imagery may or may not help readers access a higher spiritual plane, but the Alabaster co-founders say they intend to remain a Christian company, and don’t envision printing other religious texts like the Quran or the Book of Mormon. Instead, they intend to keep printing books from the Bible. The company will debut Proverbs early this summer, and will likely move on to Genesis next.


Alabaster books, according to one professor of religion, have extremely Goop-y vibes.
Alabaster

In the meantime, buzz around the company is attracting investors like Daniel Fong, an entrepreneur behind the furniture company Million Dollar Baby, who invested $100,000 in Alabaster.

“I think there is a big need for a product like this right now,” says Fong. “It’s beautifully made, and there’s nothing else like it. From my perspective, there’s a hunger for unique ways to access religion, and I can see them becoming really popular, especially in China.”

To Fong, the business opportunity in alternative faith concepts goes beyond printing. A long-term goal for the company, he says, is to establish itself as a religious platform, where it can provide spiritual materials for study groups and workshops. The idea, he says, is to strip away the preexisting structures of faith. This is already happening in niche religious communities, like Orthodox Jewry, for example, where millennial Jews are meeting for Shabbat and High Holiday services on their own or in their own makeshift synagogues.

“The research says that people are looking for a different alternative to the church and its sermons,” he says. “Traditional Christianity is very church-based, but to provide manuals, or magazines, or reading guides for people to create their own environment? That would be very unique. That could change the way people think about faith altogether.”

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20 People Share Secrets From Their Jobs and Now We Can’t Sleep Well

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Almost every job has its own secrets and nuances that very few people know. The people of different professions shared secrets from their jobs on Reddit and on Twitter and some of their stories may seriously change the way you see the world.

We at Bright Side, of course, don’t have any secrets like these, but as it turns out, not all other professions are as transparent as they seem to be.

  • Truck driver: 9 out of 10 truck drivers travel with a smartphone on their windshield watching a TV-series. Stay away from big trucks.
  • Disney World employee: There are secret tunnels underneath both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom (and probably other parks too) that enable the cast members to travel across the park pretty quickly and easily.

Comment from a park-goer: My father suffered a heart attack while visiting Epcot. I have never witnessed a faster medical response with professionals appearing from seemingly nowhere with just as fast transport through underground tunnels. It was a lifesaver. He was transported to a Disney hospital where he received great care after an emergency surgery and our stay was extended by 3 weeks.

  • IT support people: (help desks, computer repair shops, Geek Squad, etc.) are mostly just better at Googling than you are.
  • Employee at a flour factory: Wheat flour is not actually white. We use chlorine to make it look more attractive. This also increases the gluten level in flour, and this is why people are more gluten-sensitive today.
  • Rescue team member: When you are a young lifeguard, you always have a radio with you 24/7. And you always listen to what happens in the city. If you are going, for example, to a birthday party in your own car and then you hear there is a fire on a nearby street, you turn the car and drive there! (I have my own gear in the car). @Moscow_Spasatel
  • Olive oil factory employee: We had only one kind of oil but we put it in 27 different containers and sold it at different prices. Some of them were labeled as imported, some were called the highest quality oil. But it was the same oil in every single bottle.
  • IT-service engineer: When someone is fixing your computer, they also often look through the data on your hard drive searching for something funny or embarrassing. So, before you give your computer to an IT service, clear your browser history, and copy all the important data to an external drive.
  • Candle factory: Paraffin candles are dangerous and poisonous. Because I know what we added in there (even to the candles that say “100% paraffin”), I will never ever use candles again. If you need to use them for some reason, buy candles made of bee’s wax without any scents.
  • Sommelier: Wine isn’t vegan. It’s not even vegetarian in some cases. The filtering (refining) process uses egg whites, and sometimes isinglass (fish parts).

  • Movie theater: A large bag of popcorn that costs the customer $5.99 (at the time) cost the movie theatre 6 cents to produce, including the butter, the kernels, the bag, the power used by the popper and the time it took the concession employee to fill up the bag and give it to the customer.
  • Internet services: Most “subscription services” will raise their prices over time because they expect you to just live with it. This applies to phone bills, cable packages, internet service, insurance plans… Call up, politely complain about the price. Skip the canned “well the price has gone up because inflation/rising costs/age/end of promotion” and continue to politely say it’s too much, your budget can’t handle all your outgoings and you may need to drop the service. Either you are speaking to someone who can reduce the price, or they can put you through to a person authorized to reduce the price.
  • Mechanic: If you want to go on vacation and you don’t know where to leave your car, get it to a mechanic. Many people do this. It’s ridiculously cheap and you can be away for a month! It is much more expensive to use parking lots. @Neformatws
  • Pharmacist: I’ve worked at several factories that manufacture medications. And the rules were the same everywhere: if you dropped pills on the floor, just put them back into the bottle. So, maybe your medications are not as clean as you think.
  • Librarian: The amount of toilet paper, random items, and bills used as bookmarks that are left in returned library books is unbelievable!
  • Doctor: We spend so much time to be good at what we do, that we know almost nothing about other things.

Is there something about your job that is kept secret?

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The spring equinox is Wednesday, March 20: 7 things to know about the first day of spring.

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The vernal equinox is upon us: On Wednesday, March 20, both the Northern and Southern hemispheres will experience an equal amount of daylight. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of spring, with daylight hours continuing to lengthen until the summer solstice in June. For those south of the equator, it’s the beginning of autumn.

Technically speaking, the equinox occurs when the sun is directly in line with the equator. This will happen at 5:58 pm Eastern time on Wednesday. (A few hours later, at 9:43 pm, you can look out for the “supermoon”, the last one until 2020.)

Below is a short scientific guide to the most equal night of the year.

1) Why do we have an equinox?

The equinox, the seasons, and the changing length of daylight hours throughout the year are all due to one fact: The Earth spins on a tilted axis.

The tilt — possibly caused by a massive object hitting Earth billions of years ago — means that for half the year, the North Pole is pointed toward the sun (as in the picture below). For the other half of the year, the South Pole gets more light. It’s what gives us seasons.


NASA

Here’s a time-lapse demonstration of the phenomenon shot over the course of a whole year from space. In the video, you can see how the line separating day from night swings back and forth from the poles during the year.



NASA/Meteosat/Robert Simmon

And here’s yet another cool way to visualize the seasons. In 2013, a resident of Alberta, Canada, took this pinhole camera photograph of the sun’s path throughout the year and shared it with the astronomy website EarthSky. You can see the dramatic change in the arc of the sun from December to June.

This is a 6 month pinhole photo taken from solstice to solstice, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. We are one of the sunniest cities in Canada, and this shows it nicely.

Posted by Ian Hennes on Saturday, December 21, 2013

(You can easily make a similar image at home. All you need is a can, photo paper, some tape, and a pin. Instructions here.)

2) How many hours of daylight will I get Wednesday?

Equinox literally means “equal night.” And during the equinox, most places on Earth will see approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.

But not every place will experience the exact same amount of daylight. For instance, on Wednesday, Fairbanks, Alaska, will see 12 hours and 15 minutes of daylight. Key West, Florida, will see 12 hours and six minutes. The differences are due to how the sunlight gets refracted (bent) as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at different latitudes.

That daylight is longer than 12 hours on the equinox is also due to how we commonly measure the length of a day: from the first hint of the sun peeking over the horizon in the morning to the very last glimpse of it before it falls below the horizon in the evening. Because the sun takes some time to rise and set, it adds some extra daylight minutes.

Check out TimeAndDate.com to see how many hours of sunlight you’ll get during the equinox.

3) Over the course of the entire year, does every spot on Earth get an equal number of daylight hours?

In the summer months, the northernmost latitudes get a lot of daylight. Above the Arctic Circle, during the summer, there’s 24 hours of daylight. In the winter, the Arctic Circle is plunged into constant darkness.

So does this mean the number of daylight hours — in total, over the course of the year — equal out to places where the seasonal difference is less extreme?

The answer to this question is somewhat surprising: Roughly speaking, everywhere on Earth sees a similar number of daylight hours every year. But the equator actually gets slightly fewer daylight hours than the poles.

As astronomer Tony Flanders explained for Sky & Telescope magazine, sunlight at the poles gets refracted more than sunlight at the equator. That refracting results in the visible disc of the sun being slightly stretched out (think of when the full moon is near the horizon and looks huge — it’s being refracted too). And the refracted, stretched-out sun takes slightly longer to rise and set. Flanders estimated that the equator spends around 50.5 percent of its year in sunlight, while the poles spend between 51.5 and 53 percent of their years in sunlight.

And, of course, this is how much sunlight these areas could potentially receive if the weather were always perfectly clear; it’s not how much sunlight they actually see, nor the strength of the sunlight that hits their ground. “Where are the places on Earth that receive the largest amount of solar radiation?” is a slightly different question, the answer to which can be seen on the chart below.



US Energy Information Administration

4) Can I really only balance an egg on its tip during on the equinox?

Perhaps you were told as a child that on the equinox, it’s easier to balance an egg vertically on a flat surface than on other days of the year.

The practice originated in China as a tradition on the first day of spring in the Chinese lunar calendar in early February. According to the South China Morning Post, “The theory goes that at this time of year the moon and earth are in exactly the right alignment, the celestial bodies generating the perfect balance of forces needed to make it possible.”

This is a myth. The amount of sunlight we get during the day has no power over the gravitational pull of the Earth or our abilities to balance things upon it. You can balance an egg on its end any day of the year (if you’re good at balancing things).


This man is very good at balancing eggs.
AFP/Getty Images

5) Is there an ancient monument that does something cool during the equinox?

During the winter and summer solstices, crowds flock to Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. During the solstices, the sun either rises or sets in line with the layout of the 5,000-year-old-monument. And while some visit Stonehenge for the spring equinox too, the real place to be is in Mexico.

That’s because on the equinox, the pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula puts on a wondrous show. Built by the Mayans around 1,000 years ago, the pyramid is designed to cast a shadow on the equinox outlining the body of Kukulkan, a feathered snake god. A serpent-head statue is located at the bottom of the pyramid, and as the sun sets on the day of the equinox, the sunlight and shadow show the body of the serpent joining with the head.

This is easier to see in a video. Check it out below.

6) Are there equinoxes on other planets?

Yes! All the planets in the solar system rotate on a tilted axis and therefore have seasons. Some of these tilts are minor (like Mercury, which is tilted at 2.11 degrees). But others are more like the Earth (tilted at 23.5 degrees) or are even more extreme (Uranus is tilted 98 degrees!).

Below, see a beautiful composite image of Saturn on its equinox captured by the Cassini spacecraft (RIP) in 2009. The gas giant is tilted 27 degrees relative to the sun, and equinoxes on the planet are less frequent than on Earth. Saturn only sees an equinox about once every 15 years (because it takes Saturn 29 years to complete one orbit around the sun).


Cassini Imaging Team/NASA

During Saturn’s equinox, its rings become unusually dark. That’s because these rings are only around 30 feet thick. And when light hits them head on, there’s not much surface area to reflect.

7) I clicked this article accidentally and really just want a mind-blowing picture of the sun


The sun blew out a coronal mass ejection along with part of a solar filament over a three-hour period (February 24, 2015). Some of the strands fell back into the sun.
Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA

The image above was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in 2010 to better understand the sun.

This past summer, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will come within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun (much closer than any spacecraft has been before). The goal is to study the sun’s atmosphere, weather, and magnetism and figure out the mystery of why the sun’s corona (its atmosphere) is much hotter than its surface. Still, even several million miles away, the probe will have to withstand temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s essential to understand the sun: It’s nothing to mess with. Brad Plumer wrote for Vox about what happens when the sun erupts and sends space weather our way to wreak havoc on Earth.

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Kitten Doesn’t Understand How Tails Work Yet

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Occurred on March 16, 2019 / Hanoi, Vietnam

Info from Licensor: “This kitten still doesn’t understand why the dog’s tail keeps hitting it in the face.”

View at DailyMotion

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