Wednesday, October 31, 2007
"That's a great Album" he says pointing to his music.
"Inside a Whale's cock?" I read.
"That's just disturbing" offers Tom.
"To be honest" I reply "I'd find it more disturbing to have a Whale's..."
"Well exactly" says Tom.
"They might not be that Big" suggests Rob.
"Right someone google it" says someone else.
"No" I say. so does everyone else.
"Oh for goodness sake" says Tom googling Whale Penis.
Then he clicks on the first site. Church of the Whale Penis. A group of people who's sole purpose in life they have decided is to be the number one site on google for 'Whale Penis'. So seriously are they about being number one that the registered a web site.
As the former number one site for the words awful and vicar I find I can relate to this. As can everyone else in the room. In fact we find the whole thing utterly hilarious. With comments such as "Look they've actually registered the domain whalepenis.org" and "look at that photo it's so funny" when Karuna (the only woman in the room) cuts in with:
"When you've all quite finished being immature..."
"We're not being immature" someone protests.
"To be fair people" I say "we are all gathered around a laptop giggling at the word 'penis'"
At which point acknowledging the fact that we weren't 14 anymore we all decided to do some work. Tom did some physics. Robin did some geography and Rob did some Maths. I went away and blogged about whale Penises.
I was the most mature person in the room.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The trouble is when you try something new you have need to start at the beginning.
Only thing is although I gave up maths when I was 14 years old, obviously it is not actually possible to live in the modern world without doing the odd bit of number work. I have a bank account. I often use a watch or clock and hardly a day goes past when \i don't count something.
So where do I start. I could just get one of those books that teach you GCSE or A Level but I'm pretty sure that I'm not quite at that level yet.
Which is why I picked the book I have.
It starts with "Place value".
We use the decimal system, the book explains, the decimal system uses ten digits: 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9.
OK that is simple enough.
These are arranged into columns. Units, tens, hundreds, thousands etc. So not too difficult there then. The book goes on to explain that the fact that we use the decimal system does not mean that the decimal system is the only way of recording numbers. Well this is not actually news to me. As a theologian, I know the Latin, Greek and Hebrew method of recording numbers. These all used letters to represent numbers.
In fact one of the most famous numbers in history is recorded in Greek: χξς
Known to you as 666.
There are loads of theories as to what this one means. Partially because it is so obscure. My favourite theory is that it is just a repetition. You see if you take the first and last number 600 is the letter 'CH'. 6 is the letter 'ST'. This is the first and last letters of the word Christ. The middle number 60 is the letter 'X'. Now if you look closely it looks a bit like a snake, so this number has often been associated with Satan. So shoved between 600 (ch) and 6 (st) this could just be Satan's Christ in number form, and not either Martin Luther or the Pope as has been suggested at various points. It could just be that the bloke writing that bit of the Bible is just saying you have heard that Satan is going to send up a Jesus....and look here is his name written as numbers.
I like that theory because it is simple.
It also indicates a certain view of numbers that the ancient world had. You see in a world in which literacy was so much less widespread than today....and numeracy even less numbers must almost have seemed mystical. After all a bloke who can tell you the how big the three angles on your equal sided triangle without ever measuring them must seem almost magical.
Which is sort of where I am at really. At the moment I know nothing. Or maybe I don't. (Double negatives I have a feeling that there is a mathematical rule there). So I begin to decipher the numbers.
At the end of the first bit of the book there is the first exercise. All very easy and concerned with place value. This is primary school stuff. Still no harm is practising is there?
Question 1: What is the value of 5 in each of these numbers.
I answer: tens, hundreds, thousands, units.
Completely wrong. The answers turn out to be: 50, 500, 5000 and 5.
Maths lesson one: Read the questions CAREFULLY. Or stick to theology!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
So this could now become one of those mobile blogs where people constantly blog their entire lives. In fact at the very moment Jess (third year Occupational Therapy) is accusing me of blogging about their conversation about the Frog and Fiugate last night. But I wont do that because taking your laptop everywhere in order to blog the minutia of your mind numbingly mundane existence is almost a shit as blogging. Just blogging full stop. A subject, I have, I believe, expressed myself on before.
So at this point I shall just draw a veil over the student house. And leave all their jolly jappers to your imagination.
Karuna is coding.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Of course at the time many mocked me. "Yellow" they said in mocking tones "It'll never work. You'll be Simon Stevens till the day you die."
Today at chaplaincy we got mail.
I think the mockers will now be eating their words wont they? Right I'm off now to open a bank account.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
"What's up?" I asked.
She grumpily explained that Maths was getting her down. Karuna studies Maths so obviously this makes her grumpier than say your average history student. As I have been trying to understand what makes mathematicians tick I decided to probe a little further. Apparently some times Maths just sucks the life out you some times. Even if you are a Mathematician.
"Look at my notes" she continued "They're all covered with 'Why would you care.....whyyyyyy....whyyyyy....and that sort of thing."
"Every permutation is either even or odd. An even permutation is expressible as a product of an even number of transpositions. An odd perm. is expressible as a product of an odd number of transp. BUT WHY WOULD I CARE???" I read.
"Karuna, Karuna...you seem overwhelmed. It's like you're falling into a vertex of Maths."
"No it's not"
"Well it is a bit."
"No it's nothing like that. A vortex is a swirly thing that goes round and round. Whereas a vertex is the corner point of a polygon"
"Um...maybe" I said "but surely being a mathematician it would be more appropriate if you fell into a vertex whereas you would only fall into a vortex if this was a dodgy episode of Dr Who and I was David Tennant who was quite short."
Karuna gave me point four of a withering look but I continued to think about her falling into a vertex.
Then I came over all xkcd for some inexplicable reason.
I can only assume it is something to do with the fact I have been thinking a lot about maths recently.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
You see I work for a University. Not just any old University. Southampton whilst not really well known abroad is one of Britain's better known. It's in the Russell Group which if you are reading this in North America roughly translates as Ivy League (not the word roughly queue a whole series of comments about how Russell Group is not exactly Ivy League...yes I know, I understand both terms and I am using them in an approximate way)
Anyway the point is that this place is all about academic success. So for the most part I keep my own story to myself.
You see Laura and I always had this same discussion. She would say "I don't do theology" and I would say "I don't do Maths". She would reply "But Maths is easy". But I really don't do Maths.
At her funeral her parents spoke of her having tried to understand theology, and I listened to her supervisor speak of Laura's work. He said that what she was working on was very very simple. Anyone could understand the problem but that the maths involved in solving it was very very complex. I understood what he was saying but I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand what Laura did. I couldn't, though.
Laura tried so hard to do an OU course in humanities, before she died. In fact it was her inability to get it that depressed her among other things. At least she tried. I, on the other hand, don't do Maths.
Truth is, I gave up Maths when I was about 14 or 15. I carried on turning up to the lessons but I spent most of it doing nothing. That's not strictly true I actually spent most of my Maths Lessons lusting after Angela Alitson who sat opposite me. I thought we were made for each other, but then she went off with Gary Pugh. I KNOW - Gary Pugh, you're as shocked as me aren't you.
So obviously there wasn't much time left over for work.
So I didn't do any.
Of course Maths wasn't the only thing I didn't do. I would be easier to tell you about the things I did do than the things I didn't. In the end obviously I left school with hardly any qualifications and began my career in catering at McDonalds.
Later on I became a Christian, and in spite of myself I found myself profoundly interested in Theology. I was given a Bible, and for the first time in my life I read a book from cover to cover. Then, despite the fact that my church didn't want me to, I decided to go to University. Now I should point out at this point that everyone who knew me told me give up on this one because clearly I wasn't up to doing a degree and I suppose in a way they were sort being sensible, but I worked and worked and managed to talk my way into a small religious college in West London. It helped that I got a couple of labels that apparently I should have been given at school, but mostly it was just down to me selling myself. They let me in, the took a risk and then a couple of years latter I was able to pull off the same trick to get myself into the University of Cambridge.
All of which makes me quite confident when it comes to theology.
But not Maths.
Now Laura is gone I find myself wanting to know more, I find myself trying to reach out to her and I want to do that thing she always wanted me to. The trouble is I gave up Maths in before GCSE so I didn't quite know where to start.
So I've bought a book and I'm going to try something different.
No more words, just figures. I've packed my lunch and I'm off into the land of Maths.
It's all a bit of an adventure really....
I'll keep you posted.
Soton Uni Suicide Grief Clergy Chaplain Southampton University
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Just got back from the Fame Auditions. Showstoppers.
I've sort of finished the whole Big Tick business, but c'mon FAME!
I grew up with this on the TV. I used to plead with my parents to let me stay up half an hour later because it finished at 8.30. Fame! Leg warmers! Dodgy hair styles! The 80s!
This is musical theatre so I had to do the full lot. Started with a but acting. Then I had to sing a song, I picked Will Young's "I think I better leave right now" because it seemed the ideal audition song and it was low and slow (like me).
I then did the dancing audition.
5, 6, 7, 8, and Bounce, bounce, kick, kick (at this point I booted one of the other people auditioning in the head), thrust, thrust, punch, punch and FINISH.
I wont get a part, what with me not being able to sing or dance, but it was great to do. As I left the room I turned to the choreographer.
"Thanks for that" I said "being Uni Chaplain I don't get much chance to do much..."
Should be a good show. Hopefully I'll get tickets.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The thing about being busy is that it doesn't give you time to stop, and think. Probably the blog has reflected that. Yet of course just beneath the surface strong currents stir.
Ever since Laura died I've been grieving on and off. It been a sort of dull ache in my life. I suppose the busyness has been helpful reducing this huge thing into manageable chunks. I have lost people before. My grandmother only a couple of years ago and the Vicar of my home church, the man who originally sat me down, helped me think and pray about what God wanted me to do with my life and then recommended me for ordination died in 2004.
But this is different.Laura was only 30 and the manner of her going has been so hard to accept. So this is probably the biggest grief I have faced. It's the first time I've faced major grief as a so called professional. It's become remarkably professional grief.
I wonder if other professionals deal with their personal lives like this. Pregnant midwives? Teachers being educated? Social Workers having their kids taken away - Oh no, don't take the children, you'll have to fill in form two four seven in triplicate and get it counter signed. You wont leave work before about 9 o' clock tonight!!!
It's almost like I've been passively watching myself grieve at the same time as grieving.
"Oh look there's the guilt....there's anger!"
A student sent me an e-mail the other day to complain about the chaplaincy web site. Instead of reading it and replying with my opinion, I found myself going off on one in the chaplaincy, at the top of my voice with a barrage of four letter words. Luckily he wasn't there. As soon as I had stopped shouting I worked out this wasn't about him or the web site.
Sometimes I 'see' Laura everywhere. Sometimes I forget to think about her and then feel guilty for ignoring her. Sometimes talking helps. I found myself in student house recently. We ended up talking about grief and people we lost.
The other weird thing I've spotted is how the grief just sneaks up on you when you aren't expecting. I can say "My friend committed suicide." easily, but then I find myself talking about fractions and bursting into tears. Silly really. Guess it's just what happens when you grieve a mathematician.
Lura did Maths. A fact I keep coming back to. I don't. Yet what I want more than anything else is some sort of connection with her. I guess that must be the denial.
Soton Uni Suicide Grief Clergy Chaplain Southampton University
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
In the actual Southampton
I got up yesterday and this was what I saw:
Yes that's right, Alex's shoes.
Alexandra's actual shoes in my actual hall.
A friend of mine came round and said "Ooooo....Nice shoes! Are they yours?!?"
Alex of course had just had a party (more details undoubtedly on her blog). I did attend and took part in 'dancing' (photo's available on facebook) then made my way home. Myself being the only person in the room with a full time job and therefore one of the few with a car, I of course ended up as chauffeur to the hoards. So having dropped off Adrian and Nick I came across the sad sight of Tom and Alex (who had actually left before us) staggering home. So we put them in the back, of course.
Alex last seen being carried bare foot into Tom's house complaining about the fact that her feet hurt. At the time I should have asked myself exactly where Alex's shoes were.
So got home...unpacked the car...found the shoes....went to bed.
They are still in my possession.
Now don't get me wrong here. It's not the strangeness of this that I mind, not the whiff of sexual impropriety. No it's the fact I seem to have become the sodding lost property department for the Chaplaincy. I had already returned Tom's USB stick to him earlier in the day.
Still you never know what you're going to find on your hall floor after a hard day's chaplaincy. At least it wasn't a student.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
So Internet searches.
Today on google I discovered I am the first site on google for 'Awful Vicar'. Which means if you type that and hit "I'm feeling lucky" it will bring you straight here
I also found out that I'm the second site if you are looking for Kate and Jowett and Porn.
Who'd have thought!
Monday, October 08, 2007
Saturday I finally got into bed at 2am. Got up about 11am.
Sunday I got up about 11am again.
So I'm still a bit fuzzy. Tom meanwhile is a lot fuzzy, having ended freshers week by vomitting into the hood of someone's hoodie after someone else bloodied his nose.
Apparently there is always once in the academic year when he has to get stupiedly drunk, so well done him for getting it over and done so quickly this time.
Here is a relaxing video:
I make no appologies for posting it. I'm in a lets just sit and listen to music mood. All while doing not to much. So that video says more than words. At least I think so.
Press play and I challenge you not to be carried away by the beautiful music and wonderful images, just like I was when I first saw/heard it.
Go on I challenge you, refuse to be inspired. Just post "Actually Yellow that was crap....mostly becasue I have no soul" in the comments.
No? OK go here then!
Saturday, October 06, 2007
As always freshers week crept up on me without me spotting. Having arrived without permission freshers week proceeded to trash the bedroom, empty the fridge, throw up in the sink and take a dump on the hall carpet of my life.
22,000 people arrived on campus on one day, and probably about 6,000 of them had never been here before. It was a riotous carnival of sound and colour and beer.
Boy was it busy. Someone had a great idea at some point that we should open chaplaincy every day at 9 and, from then until 1pm, give a cooked breakfast to everyone who wanted one. The students of chaplaincy went with this one and organised it themselves. Secretly I worried that this wouldn't work. That no one would hear about it and that on the first day I'd end up sitting in chaplaincy with 4 dejected students, 300 eggs and no one to eat them. Silly me. Just left home? Just got up? Fed up with your own cooking already? Course you are! Chaplaincy was heaving um...a bit like many a fresher round here. In one hour chaplaincy served 60 breakfasts.
So my job was to circulate and meet as many of the hundreds of freshers we had in the building as possible. Then at lunchtime we had a bar-b-q. The afternoons were spent variously. Mostly we sat in chaplaincy and taught the freshers the subtle art of pouring forth conversational shite. This is far from as easy as it sounds. Within these four walls the speaking of the testicle has been raised to an altogether higher level. It's a bit like a Victorian Parlor Game. The point is not just to knit with the 'brown yarn' but to pass the conversational crap around the room like a tea cake. Each and every person must have their turn. With careful coaching the results were pleasantly surprising. Many freshers showed much potential in this area.
In between times I wrote the text for a nice shiny tea themed chaplaincy web site.
Wednesday saw me stood in the middle of the Bun Fight (which every other University calls 'Freshers Fayre') for around 6 hours. That was when I noticed I was beginning to tire somewhat. I say tire what I mean is that I could no longer feel my feet they seem to have been replaced by two throbbing pains at the end of my legs.
Evenings were spent in one of a number of drink establishments in and around the University of Southampton.
Then there was the inductions to hundreds of students. I went for my usual of being a bloke standing at the front of the room explaining how to practice your faith at University in the style of Ricky Gervais. At the Electronics and Computer Science inductions the bloke following me said, and I quote:
"Well this next talk is on IT. Which is going to be a bit more boring than the chaplain's talk. Still I think you're job as computer scientists is to go into the world and make IT as exciting as Chaplaincy!"
I kid you not. I nearly wet myself as I left the room. Can't imagine that there are many ECS departments with that as their goal!
Finally there was appearing on student radio for 4 hours.
We finally got to Friday evening and I felt Egypt after the plagues. I had eaten nothing but greeeeeeeeece all week and drunk beer. I resolved to have an early night so after Christian Union and the pub I made my way home. I didn't get very far, on the pavement outside was a student busy being sick. No not alcohol, he just hadn't eaten enough or drunk enough for the whole of freshers week and generally got over tired. So with the help of a couple of passing policemen I waited another 45 minutes for him to recover, eat a Mars Bar, drink some water and then I gave him a lift home back to halls.
The perfect end to Freshers Week really!
The next sound you will hear will be me snoring.
PS Thanks to John, Alex, Andy, Tom, Jess Karuna and everyone else who helped out this week.
PPS Sorry for the long post. It's been a long week.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Simon Stevens has a blog.
"I know that" I hear you say "I'm reading it." OK for the last time. My. Name. Is. Yellow. I'll start again.
Simon Stevens has a blog. We've exchanged a couple of e-mails, a telephone conversation and now Mr Stevens has decided to put a link to me on his blog. That wasn't in and of itself important. No what really got me going was how he linked to me.
He has a side bar on which he puts all his links. He starts off with some stuff people have written about him, then it seems there are some websites that interest him. Then other sites.
There's me: "Odd Stuff"
Do you know how that made me feel? Do you? Well I'll tell you. I thought to myself "For once...someone....actually....understands". Someone has put me in my own little category all by myself. "A bit odd". Finally someone gets it. That's me that is. That's my epitaph.
*sniff* Excuse a moment....
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
If you would like to sponsor me click HERE