27 May 2008

Some online Orthodox theology

I have been interested in Orthodox theology and spirituality since my days as a PhD student (perhaps not surprising with a strongly Trinitarian supervisor like Colin Gunton), so it was pleasing to come across an online treasure trove of contemporary Orthodox theology the other day. The archive is part of John Burnett’s website, and it contains extensive extracts from, among others, Evdokimov, Florovsky, Lossky and Yannaras. Of course, being one of Colin’s former students, I was a bit disappointed that there was nothing by John Zizioulas on the site.

26 May 2008

The real cost of the Iraq War

Charlie Stross has put some scary reflections on the real cost of the Iraq War on his blog. So far the direct cost to the USA is more than $500 billion (with the indirect cost to the global economy perhaps as high as $3 trillion). Charlie points out for the amount of money the USA has spent they could have had a fully funded manned mission to Mars  Alternatively, the USA could have used the money to more than meet the Kyoto Protocols. He concludes by asking, ‘And what isn't going to happen now, because we pissed it all away on the desert sands?’

One answer to his question: It costs about $5 per person to provide basic water purification facilities. About 1.1 billion people currently have no access to clean drinking water. For about 1% of the money so far spent on the war, the USA could have met their need for clean water (thus saving the lives of about 30,000 people per week).

Update: Cosmic Variance has a short post on the amount of money lost/embezzled in the course of reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Apparently the figure currently stands at about $14.9 billion (or nearly three times the annual budget of NASA).

21 May 2008

Angela Hewitt and the Forty-Eight

‘In order to discover a true understanding of the infinite variations of Bach’s Preludes and Fugues, the performer and listener must open both ears and spirit to infinite possibilities of form, harmony, counterpoint, character and mood, rather than limit this vast spectrum of music to the demands of one’s own circumscribed outlook and experience’ (Rosalyn Tureck).

Angela Hewitt was in Glasgow over the weekend, playing Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues (The Well-Tempered Klavier) at the City Halls. Both concerts were superb examples of a pianist doing just what Rosalyn Tureck recommended. Judging by his reviews in The Herald (here and here), Conrad Wilson would probably agree.

09 May 2008

Going round in circles to reach the end

About three months ago I suggested that I had taken a wrong turning in the novel and had somehow let it reach a climax about 25,000 words short of the projected end. At the time I thought I could tweak what I had already written to shift the climax towards the end. Since then I have struggled to make any progress at all on the final chapters.

My failure to get anywhere makes me think I was wrong to stick with the novel outline in the face of compelling evidence that I had actually reached the natural endpoint of the story. So I have decided simply to discard the final part. I still have some tweaking to do, of course. In particular, the chapters that now end the story were not written as a conclusion, so I need to rewrite them to tie up loose ends properly. I also need to give one of the minor characters, who turns out to play a crucial role in the climax, a voice of his own, which will involve slipping into the story several scenes from his point of view.

This means that I have more or less finished the novel!

06 May 2008

Some articles on science and religion

The Jesuit website Thinking Faith has an interesting series of articles by Guy Consolmagno SJ of the Vatican Observatory. So far they have published ‘Astronomy, God and the Search for Elegance’, ‘God and the Mystery of the Universe’ and ‘Couldn’t God have designed a gentler universe?’ Definitely worth reading.

In addition to being a professional astronomer and a theologian, Brother Guy is something of a science fiction fan. I met him during the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow, where he was appearing on one or two of the panel discussions.

Update (9 May): The fourth and final article in the series (‘Heaven or Heat Death?’) has just been posted on the site.