Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
I just ask because we may not have. You might be Karuna in which case we spoke twice today. Or Robin. If you're Robin they we met when you were out with Olivia.
You could have been there when everyone in chaplaincy decided to knit.
I think that was just to weird out any possible newbies.
Odds on you have some connection to the University of Southampton in which case you might have seen me about. Or I've accosted you in the stags. You could even be one of my friends. (If you're my ex....stop reading NOW....move on with your life damn it.) You might be my mum (how embarrassing).
Then again maybe we haven't met and you just read this anyway. If that's you I wonder have you ever wondered what I actually sound like? Can imagine me saying these words? Do you have a picture of me in your head? After all I've often read stuff written by people I've never met, if I ever do or see them on the tele it often surprises me.
Nick Culley came to see me the other day. He's the Vice president of the Student's Union in charge of Communications. He wanted to know if I would be interesting in "taking my blog to the next level." Like a fool I said yes. So he gave me one of these.
Tomorrow I'll show you what I did with it.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Or to give them their full name "Alternative Computing Society". I think this is shortened to Mac soc because mac seems to be the most obvious alternative to what they are seeking an alternative from: Microsoft Windows.
If that last sentence was a bit clumsy then I'm sorry, expressing things clumsily seems to be a bit of a trait in clergy. I'm starting with a clumsy sentence which you have to think about to get and you'll sort of see how I was feeling with most of what this post contains.
I met Mac Soc and they were quite keen for me to reprise "The Big Tick" just once more for them. They missed out. Like the cheerleaders. Which is a shame. They asked if I could come along and learn something called "Latex" which actually sounds dangerously alternative and just nibbling the heals of deviant. I have no idea what this is. Obviously.
Now I have a problem with people who choose Macs on ethical grounds. It seems to me, as an anarchist, that the corporate is inherently at variance with what I believe. It seems to me that you can use a mac because they are better, or even because it makes you look cool and arty, or because your friends do. You can't use a Mac as an ethical alternative to Microsoft because it is not the size of the corporation that matters but the fact that it is corporate. I could have said all of this to the president of mac soc, but magically he read my mind and handed me something called "Ubuntu". It comes on a disk.
I thank him for the disk, not really knowing what it contains and take it back to chaplaincy.
Two days later.
"What's that disk?" asks Tom. I've just found it in my pocket.
"Um...Ubuntu." I reply putting it down (crucially) next to my own laptop.
"You have Ubuntu?"
"Er...yeah I think so."
"You haven't installed it?"
"No...er...I...um....haven't." I have a slight unease at this point.
It turns out that Ubuntu is a bit of an anarchist wet dream, if that anarchist happens to be so computer literate as to dream in ones and naughts ie not me.
Tom puts the disk in my computer. It's a live disk. I didn't know there were dead disks, but I suppose there must be. My computer is switched on and looks very brown.
"Gutsy Gibbon." opinions Tom. Others nod. They ask me how big my hard drive I'm fairly sure it's 100 mega bytes. This opinion generate much laughter. A boot sector makeover later and I have an option screen on the front of my load up. This in turn lets me run Ubuntu. Ubuntu is an alternative to Windows made by some computing collective which sort of satisfies the anarchist in me while apparently satisfying the geek in all the chaplaincy geeks. Of which there seem to be quite a few. Even Alex the history student knows about this stuff.
The trouble is that having set the thing up it doesn't just work. You have to tweeck it. Using Lynx. Lynx is to Ubuntu what DOS is to Windows. Though unlike DOS it actually get used.
So it doesn't quite work. Like there is no sound or Internet. Robin grabs it and starts coding away.
"This reminds me of the best XKCD cartoon ever." says Tom.
"Make me a cup of tea. No. Make me a cup of tea. No. Sudo make me a cup of tea. Alright then."
I wonder why.
(I know this blog post is becoming Google Geek Porn. I can't help it.)
Robin get the internet working. Then he searches furiously through Lynx forums to try to fix the sound. Which he does with quite a bit of code and a restart.
"I miss Lynx" he says in the same way other students say 'I miss my mum' ie self consciously, quietly and checking first to see there aren't too many other students around. Tom and obin proceed to make the screens all wobbly and do other things. MSN obviously doesn't come as standard so I need something that was written by a collective and does the same job. I can't even install things...apparently you need to search for the package and then mark it for install. No more 'click here' then. The MSN thingy doesn't work. As if pre-planned (or indeed in answer to prayer) the President of Mac Soc walks into chaplaincy.
He pauses to tell everyone he is an agnostic (Chaplaincy is like a middle aged man buying underwear for his wife - it seems you can't do it without simultaneously explaining that it's not really for you) then he addresses himself to my problem. Apparently it's something to do with port 80 (I think) and so needs to be manually configured. Apparently Windows just does that.
So now it works.
I take it home. Can it talk to a BT Home Hub? Can it bugger!
Windows: Click connect to the Internet. It finds your home hub and away you go. Ubuntu with a home hub....knock, knock. Ooops no one's in! I have a feeling I can't ring BT with this one.
The trouble is, most people use Ubuntu because they like a bit of a challenge. Whereas people my age remember Windows 98, 95 3.1 and even further and we don't like a challenge because we got bored of that back in about 93.
I spent the afternoon in the garden stamping up and down trying to raise my mole from ECS (well it works with worms) but no luck. Might have to resort to MSN.
I'd love to show you some web screen shot, but I'm writing this with Bill Gates' assistance.
Still wait a minute...isn't Ubuntu is the power of community and all that shit?
Maybe you can help!
Internet, I got 3 words for you: BT and HomeHub and Ubuntu.
Over to you.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Part of me thinks if I was a proper religious blog I should write something about the true nature of love. Then again I could come over all philosophical and talk about one of my favorite books in the world "Works of Love" by Kierkegaard. Peter Bowyer has been suggesting to me for ages that I should pen a series of entries based around Kierkegaard's work but somehow I remain to be convinced that this is what the great blog reading public want.
Maybe I should wax poetical or offer reflections from past relationships "She broke my heart", "I will always think of her when...", "He was more than a woman to me." that sort of thing.
I dunno. I just feel the whole Valentines thing is crap. I mean in a sense if you are reading this on February 14th odds on you're on your own. Since everyone else is busy with the one they love. So I might just be pouring salt into your wounds by mentioning it. Mind you then again there are all the people with someone who are just queuing up to tell you how they don't do anything for Valentines because it's so commercialized, which I think is actually a worse thing to say to someone on their own. Like an atheist saying "Oh yeah I don't do Christmas" to someone who didn't get any presents.
No it's a no win situation really isn't it. If you spend money you will be exploited. If you send a card you might not get one back. Best to move really. Only good valentines story I can think of involves a delightful member of the chaplaincy community (who shall remain nameless to spare his blushes) who bought a hamper of chocolate and honey and flowers and goodies which he sent round to a house of grumpy single people.
I've just become a stereotypical religious blog.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
It seems that the non Biblical Rowan Williams has become a lot like the Bible...difficult to understand, coming from a different era, a bit dense and now it seems you can make him say whatever you want just by ignoring the context.
Over the weekend he tried to clarify. Those who had decided that he was the enemy of the piece just described his clarification as 'back tracking'. This by the same process of making-shit-out-of-gold alcamy which produced the headlines of "Archbishop calls for Sharia Law" in the first place. Remember he said it was 'unavoidable' not 'we should have it'.
The best bit for me was the Sun sending Page 3 girls to engage with the Archbishop, and parking their bus outside Lambeth Palace. This is the great political strategy of the Sun, oft used since Rupert Murdoch sent Sam Fox, in a tank, to take on striking print workers in the 80s. I think they're trying to say "Look this is too complex for you to understand just take our word for it and...um....here have some tits." What I want to know is what I have to say to get this kind of treatment for chaplaincy?
The other master stroke of the Sun was to print Rowan's salary £67,000 p.a. (a couple of grand more than me). This of course is quite modest when compared with other leaders of national organisations but compared with the national average (which I suspect some Sun readers don't even earn) it is quite a lot. This invites people to hate him.
Still the only piece of substance which I liked was from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown shooting down all those who have been arguing that this is not a problem as long as Sharia is a game played between adults. The point is if we have this as a option then it is likely that there will be some differences under the same law. Even if there is a right of appeal to the secular courts that is still a two tier system.
Still Rowan has made his speach to synod and got a standing ovation before he even spoke. The leader of Anglican Mainstream sat down and didn't clap but that just made him look like a jealous schoolboy. The standing ovation means he is unlikely now to be sacked. The story of synod turning against him was pure conjecture on the part of a several journalists who wanted it to happen because it would make a great story and so wrote that it would.
There has been a slight change as well in that the liberals are now coming back to support him. Led by, of course, Gordon Brown. Initially they didn't want to, but then they saw who was on their side (eg The Mail, Conservative Evangelicals and every Send-em-back racist in this great country of ours) and they simply couldn't stomach it. At first the sheer breadth of those ranged against him was his biggest problem, now it's going to finish along party lines.
In the end I don't think that Rowan deserves the sack, I am of Blairite opinion that it is a cardinal sin to piss off the Sun or the Mail. Although they could keep this story running, since in a society as unrelgious as ours it seemed like they had nothing to loose by attacking him but it now seems to me that the non religious nature of our society might just save Rowan. Sheer religious apathy means this story has absolutely no legs.
If they had kept it up he would have been history.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Pan bloody cakes!
Marvellous bloody inventions! Even if I do say so myself!
I mean thank the LORD Almighty for monks with too much flower and too many eggs. Pancakes. The number one way to fill chaplaincy. Everyone loves pancakes! Sent off an invitation to via facebook and the place gets packed.
That was what I found out last week. Yes we managed to have the place full for Ash Wednesday but the place heaved last Tuesday.
It heaved with all manner of people not just your common or garden Sharia Law loving Christians. This meant that in we had people sat around discussing the fact that there was mass at 8.30 the next morning but also someone in the corner playing gay chicken and a conversation in the Kitchen which involved the word 'fisting'. If I remember rightly I think I was part of that one.
Now Gay Chicken might strike you as something done by the Rugby Club rather than your preparations for Lent and you might not put the word 'fisting' with the word 'chaplaincy' but I think it was great to share our little social with such a diverse group of people.
Actually I'm not sure what word does go with fisting. If it wasn't for the words 'Norman' and 'Lamont' I wouldn't even know there was a 'fisting'. That sort of suggests the word 'fisting' belongs with the word 'Tory' like pancakes go with lemon juice. That's obviously not true.
Mind you pancakes have always struck me as vacuous, fatty, overly rich and containing no real value, and too much lemon juice...well.... that has always made my eyes water
but appart from that...
Friday, February 08, 2008
When I was an trainee vicar I went to a lecture with a senior Methodist clergyman. In the question and answer session afterwards he was asked why the media always ignored the Church, couldn’t people like him do more to secure the front page with the good news?
I still remember his reply:
“I can have the front page of every national newspaper whenever I want. I just need to give a speech about how God doesn’t really exist or something else equally silly. The front page is not always worth having.”
I really wish that Rowan Williams was in that lecture instead of me.
Obviously the Rowan was trying to calm Islamophobia but the depth of people’s prejudice means that his comments have had the opposite effect. It’s clear that he has in fact worried many Muslim leaders clearly they recognise that any talk of British Sharia law stokes racial and religious hatred. For that alone Williams needs to carpeted.
When I blogged about this yesterday I thought he would inflame certain opinions. I expected this to play badly in the Times and the Sun. What I did not expect however is the sheer range of opinions against him. He has successfully alienated Right, Left and Centralist political opinion.
He has also alienated many in his own Church. As a Archbishop who has committed much time to holding the Anglican communion together he has shot that work in the foot. I cannot see how, in a world in which certain Anglicans are suffering because of the imposition of Sharia Law, the call for it by an Archbishop can go down any other way than like the proverbial lead balloon.
This is a marketing disaster. It will have major ramifications for the Church. The former Bishop of Durham David Jenkins was and is a clever man who tried to open a debate about the resurrection and set the Church of England back years making it a by-word for unbelief. A conviction about us we’ve only just shaken off and then only with the help of some seriously homophobic clergy. Now Rowan has done pretty much the same thing.
I think there are a number of questions Rowan must Answer:
- Did he plan this or was it an off the cuff remark?
- Did he take legal advice?
- Did he consult Islamic organisations and leaders?
- Did he consult representatives of the Anglican Communion?
- Did he seek the advice of anyone in Parliament?
- Did he run this one by the communication department?
If the answer to these questions is ‘no’ then he has fundamentally failed in his job.
Whatever way you approach this one it’s clear that Rowan Williams has fucked up spectacularly. I can write what I like here. I’m just a junior clergy with a blog read by 20 people. Theologians can say what they like, in fact saying something new and exploring the previously unthinkable is a good way of being a theologian. But the Archbishop of Canterbury can inflame bigotry, place ethnic and religious minorities on the back foot and bring the Church of England into disrepute. It seems that he has done all three of them.
I like Rowan, I like his depth, holiness and convictions, but he has actually damaged our Church and I think it might just cost him his job.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Pointing out that many religious people disagree with the law of the land is a good thing to do. There are many examples of this. Most Christians disagree with the abortion law. They live their lives as though abortion were illegal, and when they work in the health service they do not carry out certain tasks due to conscience. Disagreeing with the law of the land seems to me to be essential in a democracy and you do not need to be religious to do this. Many (sensible) people are republicans they object fundamentally to the way the country is run, as long as they don't try to take matters into their own hands, they are encouraged to try and make things different.
However when a Muslim wants to do things differently the Daily Mail reading public chunter about un-Brutishness and of course this deep held suspicion of Islam is often conjured up with the magic word 'Sharia'. To allow Christians to hold opinions which are at variance with the law to allow Jewish Courts and they to be pathologically opposed to anything Islamic because 'they are going to take us over' is of course hypocritical and the Archbishop is just trying to take heat from the debate and add a little light.
So why the FLIPPIN' CHUFF DID HE USE THE WORDS "SHARIA LAW UNAVOIDABLE"?
How did that help? Is he trying to write tomorrow's headline for the Daily Mail? I know he's probably more intelligent than they are but I think we need to trust them to come up with their own special brand of bigotry all by themselves.
I despair I really do. We picked an Archbishop who is an amazing theologian and what we needed was someone who could actually communicate. I think this sort of thing doesn't help. That is the main reason that, in spite of the fact that 40% of Muslims want Sharia Law (which they are democratically entitled to) most Islamic leaders have deliberately avoided saying this sort of thing. In fact most of them have said the exact opposite. Sensibly they don't want to stoke up problems for themselves. I think that's just been done for them.
Surely someone must have seen this one coming? Someone should have whispered something in his ear? Surely? Please?
Kind, Holy, Clever, Tolerant, Thoughtful. But someone needs to save the Church of England from it's Archbishop.
Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop Sharia Sharia Law
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Should I make it more 'me'?
I dunno. I mean I thought of e-mailing Bitchy Jones for advice her blog says "I like to beat men up" in every way. In fact when she started out I think it was all black and dungeon like which I don't think was really her. She doesn't seem to be much of a goth.
Then again there is a rule of thumb wit anything creative that, in a sense, you don't want it to look too good. Apparently some publishers recon that the better a manuscript looks the worse the contents will be. I heard a comedian voice the opinion that a sit com that looks good on paper will be crap in reality. Which if I can think of two examples is very true.
"Superman comes to live in British surburbia and falls for a nurse who works in a GPs surgery. Her family don't like his Alter Ego" Sounds brilliant but I don't know a single person who likes My hero.
"Three Priests live on an Island." Sounds crap. Yet Father Ted is just genius from start to finish. Try it for yourself. Think of your favourite TV comedy and then some up the show in a sentence. I bet if someone read that sentence that had never seen the show they would think 'Crap'.
I always sort of hoped this blog was a bit like that. I mean that the content was better than the presentation. That is why I chose a very boring off the peg skin. I'm not much of a web designer so I tried to be more of a word smith. Trouble is the Old Chaplaincy web site just screamed "BORING NOTHING FOR YOU TO SEE HERE" so I wondered if I shouldn't try to make this a bit more original.
So yesterday I just experimented a bit with colour
Today's offering (incorporating design elements from Alex Jones) is a little more of an attempt to do something a bit more professional. It wont last long I'm going to try a couple so let me know what you think.
Anyway tonight is Shrove Tuesday. From the old English 'Shrivner' meaning to beat up eggs (I'm talking crap there, you can tell, right??) we're planning to produce enough pancakes to feed half the University, so if your reading this within walking distance of the chaplaincy I should pop down and help yourself to a completely free pancake.
I'll probably pop home after that and pop on the TV. It'll probably be about 10pm so I'll whack on the news. Which is silly really since I have a digital TV. I can watch news any time. Really I should watch something, get off the beaten track. Maybe FTN, or BBC 4. Or More 4. Which is a fantastic channel. All the best bits of Channel 4 without any of the crap. (They scoop all that off and call it E4). You don't believe me do you? Well give it a try. Go home tonight at 10pm put on More 4 and I'll bet you'll find some brilliant tele and if you don't well.....um....then I'm wrong and I'll buy you a pint.
Anyway must go now and plan lent.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Over the next couple of days I'm going to be trying a thing or two. So what you currently see is not the finished product. (Unless of course you're reading this in the future - oh crap I can't go down there again...that was just too surreal)
Anyway I'm working with Alex Jones. There is nothing Alex Jones will not makeover. Lounges, blogs, even the odd the student she finds laying about the place she makes over. She keeps dropping hints about making over chaplains. Well I say dropping hints, I mean barely able to contain herself every time I walk in the door.
So over the next few days we will be trying a few things. Alex felt we should move in a yellowish sort of direction.
I'm open to suggestions.
Feel free to make some.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
It was actually the reaction that some people gave me to a blog I posted last week on the subject of my dealings with mental health. What surprised me was that more than one person asked how I was as a result of it, or expressed concern for me having no one to talk to.
I suppose I was expecting more people to ask me how the student was getting on than how I was getting on. She is, by all accounts, doing OK by the way. The thing is this isn't supposed to be a wingy blog. I don't mean this particular entry I mean the whole thing.
I didn't think of that blog as particularly a cry for help, it was more a hint of mild frustration with the practitioners of mental health and an acknowledgement of my own lack of competence. I don't think having a lack of competence is necessarily a problem after all it's something we all face most of the time. Well those of us who get on planes do, anyway. No I think lack of competence is just something people like me have to acknowledge. I actually thought that was just a realistic blog reflecting the reality of life as a clergyman associated with a large University.
Several people asked me anxiously if I there was anyone I could talk to. In fact that actually comes up a lot. People express the shame that I'm alone and have to bear my workload alone. Perhaps this is how people view the clergy. I suppose their view is coloured by old fashioned view of catholic clergy. Alone in the presbytery hearing everyone's confessions and unable to share that with anyone.
I do have people I can talk to. The Bishop for example, my Area Dean too. If I get too bogged down the clergy even have their own counselling service.
But I am far from alone in this world. Leaving aside family, which obviously are always there if I want a chat there are other people who I like to think of as friends. Some of them get a mention on this blog from time to time.
Just to remind you: There is Bloke and Mrs Bloke for example. Bloke is teacher at a local secondary school. I very much enjoy going round his house and talking rubbish. We get on even though we do have vastly different opinions on some things. Bloke spends much of his time taking all the fun out of fundamentalist while leaving in all the mental. while I'm just...well me. Last time I was round he put on Right wing Christian News from the US.
"This is amazing!" he said approvingly.
"Yes!" I replied, my eyes wide.
Mrs Bloke however is a little more chilled, she's a Nutritionist with a serious addiction to Facebook. Human weakness; I like that in my Christian Friends.
Then there is Matthew we were at College together. Matthew used to be the most outrageous traditionalist Catholic. We used to go to Church together. I went to HTB and he used to nip in next door to the Brompton Oratory. Matthew wanted to be a catholic priest until he discovered something he enjoyed more than mass. Cock. Now he divides his time between Church and various gay clubs in the North. Like Bloke I get on with Matthew, probably because we don't agree on everything. I don't know why but I've always got on with people who don't think the same as me. Maybe it's the discussions or maybe I just like people who think I'm a twat.
Like Bethnal Green Dave. He's an atheist. I don't see BGD very often because he is mega busy but if I can get him down the pub I find we can have conversations which go on for hours. That's a rare thing for me since everyone else I can pretty much out talk. I went to see BGD when I needed advice about my vocation. He gave me advice which was what I needed. Everyone else just told me to pray about it.
Gareth from Scotland. An episcopalian which is what they call Anglicans without the Queen (which is, as I have said, what I'd like to be). Gareth is one of life's special people. If I was going to choose someone to be my vicar I'd choose Gareth. The trouble is he gave up being a vicar to become a web designer.
Judy. My, now pregnant, ex-housemate. Very musical and married to an atheist. Which was bloody annoying since I'd been working on the sermon for about 6 years previously. In fact long before she met him.
These are just the people I've mentioned before. There are obviously others as well. Like most clergy I have people spread all over the place since I move around a lot. I don't always talk about my friends here but when I need to chat actually there are a surprising amount of people I can call on. Plus actually I'm quite good at making friends. Give me a room full of people and I'll probably leave with a couple of e-mail addresses. In fact I always do.
So my life's OK at the moment. I have family, friends and a job I love.
That gives me comfort... in a world without Jeremy Beadle.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Where would we be in the monetary department if it weren’t for decimal points? Spending a quid on a Mars Bar that’s where.
(If you’re reading this blog in the future, the previous sentence is a reference to the fact that Mars Bars used to cost less than a pound. Feel free to use it as evidence in any history essays you are currently writing. When I gave up Maths they only cost 20p. You can quote me on that one too. This blog is a veritable treasure chest of evidence. You’re probably quite grateful for that. I bet you’ve been trawling the internet for hours searching for historical confectionary based quotes. If it’s any consolation I know exactly how you feel. We’ve all been therewith sugary based snack related academic work. Although to be honest we probably haven’t spent as much time on the internet as you because in 2008 we used to quote books in our essays. That’s only because Wikipedia was so new. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting all nostalgic. 2008...simple times. I mean we were happy then, weren’t we? We might not have had neural backup and advertising wasn’t so good that you just had to open your door every day and there was stuff there that they had already worked out you wanted and then had to pay for but we had Lilly Allen. Damn it I miss those days. I miss Eskimo hats. I want to be 35 again. 2008 was just the best year ever. EVER EVER PEOPLE)
Anyone who has ever paid for anything that costs part of a pound has worked with decimals. They sorround everyone. Even mathophobics like me. Although compared to fractions they are a relatively modern invention. Several people did some work on them but it was a Dutch man by the name of Simon Stevin (a man for whom I feel no particular affinity) who produced the standard text on them. So it was someone else who came up with the whole dot thing and another person who came up with a comma thing and no one agreed and so it continues to this day (and probably into the future).
Working with them was easy enough. You just need to be able to remember where to put the dot. 0.2 X 0.3 is not 0.6 but 0.06. 0.3 x 0.7 is 0.21. The last dot there was full stop. So was that one.
It all went swimmingly until converting fractions into decimals. This is not hard just involves dividing the top by the bottom which I did not know. But then this is all about getting new skills. However the last exercise involved taking all the fractions such as one half, one third, one quarter all the way up to one twenty fifth and converting them to decimals to see which terminated and which recurred. Fine except that if your calculator only has 8 decimal places you have a problem because some of them recur in more than 8 so you’re just going to have to work that out yourself.
Did you know that some of them recur after 17 decimal places? 17! I mean what sort of sadistic bastards wrote this book.
Actually it doesn’t matter because I did it. Each and every bloody decimal places. I think you’ll find there, ladies and gentlemen that that makes me officially the winner!!!!
20p for a Mars Bar. Incredible really!