Crtd 13-05-12 Lastedit 15-10-27
Academic Life Revisited
My help web for readers of
the Ethica by Spinoza (17th century philosophy) now is good enough to be
seriously tried and commented upon by experts. But I am new and a stranger in
the field. My emails to experts stayed unanswered or got replies of
disinterested standard politeness. I was not surprised. I have seen this before:
this is not the first time I face academic scenes outside the ones where I am
known. These experts would have to spend 10 or 15
minutes clicking around in the web to see this is something new and good, but
when they never heard of you, certainly the Dutch do not even click once and simply rush through their pile of
unopened emails to finish it off and get to work. Nowadays the term is not
"working" but "producing", and "producing" is measured not by checking whether
you have kept up with your literature and thus know what you are talking about,
but by counting your publications. As a result, everybody writes, and there is
no time for reading. Instead of reading, one quickly counts numbers of papers
and published pages to calculate your "ranking" as an academic. One could well ask why
mingle with people who allow themselves to be sidelined like that, but the needles in that
haystack are worth it: those who somehow manage to keep doing scholarly useful
things. Since I tend to "produce" non standard work I often failed to get
through, but there were some exceptions that gave me some relevant skills,
notably when once, as a logician of science I got - with a lot of help of course
- some weird research in the limelight by a paper in the
Journal of Political Philosophy.
This web, I personally think, is very good and helpful, and there exists nothing comparable. So I thought: whether I bring it under attention or not, at least I will have done something that deserves the attempt. Finally I got invited to give a short presentation on a conference in the field, the Scottish Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy IV (SSEMP IV) in Aberdeen. I crossed the North Sea with my micro camper, on a ferry to Hull.
... spring in Holland, my micro camper [more pics] ready for the UK ...
Hull is indeed on an island, and the amazingly friendly islanders spoke of the mainland I just came from as "Europe". I drove off the ferry and fetched an internet SIM card. It required a special help telephone for phone shop staff to know what a foreigner should fill in to register. My non-British address got refused by the system and we decided to fill the shop's address instead. My Maestro card did not work. The shop's system recognized only British Maestro cards. Neither did nearby cash dispensers. There was a bank in the town centre that could possibly help me, a growing friendly British crowd suggested. Town centre parking however, required British pounds (coins) only. The bank could give me money, and - very friendly - police had given me a parking fine, neatly addressed to my Ugandan number plate. Time to buy some of the prescription pills I use for 15 years now. At the drug store counter I handed over my prescription. But they needed a British prescription. So, I had to visit a doctor. But the practitioner's counter told me I was not British. After a deep search on the network, a list of documents appeared on the screen that a non-British patient should hand over at a British clinic. I had none of them of course. But, couldn't I just pay? Another search yielded my tariff: 100 pounds. Well, I need those drugs. "But what if the doctor refuses to prescribe?" I ask. "You get your money back". Somehow it occurred to me that the elaborate British Health Care System could not have been designed for such a type of oral contract between a patient and a clinics administrative staff. Be it as it may, endowed with a precious British prescription I bought a British make of my pills for the British tariff, twice that of The Netherlands, four times that of Spain and ten times of the Indian make sold in Kenya that I have used successfully the past five years (in Spain and Kenya you do not need a prescription).
... up North! the fantastic Scottish spring East Coast was still cold and barren ....
... reading Schama about the Dutch Republic (in 5oC) to get in the mood for the conference ...
... in dark Aberdeen British Post turned out, a rarity in Europe, to refuse mail to be collected at the post office ...
... Dutch post was unaware of this, my mail lost, I gave up on it ...
... the conference venue Aberdeen University's Sir Duncan Rice
... impressive architecture, also inside, recently opened by the Queen ...
... no unauthorized parking or entry, for the indispensible brushing of my nails I can only find my toothbrush ...
... for my 2 x 24 hrs. unauthorized parking and camping at Aberdeen University's Sir Duncan Rice Library I go behind my personal red-white tape next to a building site: no fines no bomb clearing squad ...
The conference was small and cozy, many young 17th century philosophy academics ... O no, that obviously is because I am 12 years older since my last conference, and am now clearly the oldest ... anyway being older helps you to keep your mouth shut until you really have something to say that is not meant, as collateral damage, to prove how good you are. It worked. The first day's lunch I was not invited, so that was in my car. For the second day's lunch I got invited at my own cost. The goodbye dinner was free, a tempestuous career! In the meantime I heard a lot of interesting things, and told some as well, or at least so was said. And not to forget, I got some real experts, of the kind which does not write only, on my list who may be could help me in the future.
... Do not believe those stories! As you see from my picture, those are perfectly normal lakes ...
Time for some golf. My Club's (Royal Nairobi) captain had sent me letters of introduction to some royal clubs in England. On Royal Ascot I was cordially received by a group of senior players, some of them excellent drinkers as well, it turned out. I traded cigars and got presented an ASCOT marker. Royal Ascot Golf Club used to be inside the horse racing track (!) but 7 years ago got some gorgeous adjacent royal land in use. The village Ascot sports a curious but understandable density of party dress-shops.
... Ascot is a hot place with a density of expensive party dress shops totally unusual for a village like this ...
... the Royal Ascot Golf Club has been chased from the interior of the horse race circuit but the Queen put some gorgeous adjacent Royal land at their disposal ...
... Royal Blackheath Golf Club ... better look like nothing short of a baron here ...
.. merging in the Chunnel drive-on procedure ...
Postscript September 2013
One of the organizers of the Scottish conference got me into contact with a University with a (if not THE) leading Spinoza research group, and my web is now very seriously considered for their site. I am excited, I do not know a better place for it.
My Ethica Help Web is still under asb4.com (as http://asb4.com/EthicaWeb), but features prominently on the prestigious site Association des amis de Spinoza under ressources.