Saturday, November 02, 2013

Uni's again; Corruption; Happy expats; Unfair trials; Ugly women; and Isaac Newton.

I mentioned Spanish universities yesterday, citing a couple of ways in which they're held back - the background being that there are no Spanish universities within the world's top 200. Last night I recalled that one of my Spanish friends had cited another factor when I first came here. Appointments, he said, were not made on the basis of merit but of friendship, however this arose. This isn't exactly what he said but it's easier to get across than his assertion that university life was 'endogamous'.

Corruption: Here's another list from the Congress Spy on Who's Who in the Spanish game of Line My Pocket. It includes a few senior politicians from down in Valencia, where once again the investigating judge is having difficulty doing her job because another branch of the Spanish judiciary - this time the Valencian Supreme Court - is trying to stop her. Depressing.

To cheer us up, here's how expats living in Spain are said to see the country. Happily, there are some major positives.

Up here in Galicia, we have the case of a murdered 12 year old girl, whose parents are accused of killing her, allegedly to get their hands on inheritances she'd received. I've mentioned that the Spanish media seems to be completely free to say what on earth it likes about the case, even though the trial may involve a jury. Yesterday, new depths were reached when Voz de Galicia published a report of a handwriting expert, who told us the mother was "disciplined in her thinking, intelligent, cold and authoritarian" among other things. What next? Descent into the 19th century 'science' of phrenology? Or perhaps a seance to communicate with the dead girl through a Red Indian spirit who happens to speak Spanish. Why bother with a trial?

Anyway, there's a certain type of Spanish woman who at least disturbs and possibly ruins the atmosphere of every bar she enters. Not only does she shout at everyone she talks to - babies, kids, friends and staff - but she does so in a voice which is a mixture of fog horn and chain saw. As if that weren't enough, she spits out the word coño every few seconds, regardless of whom she's talking to. The only relief is when she goes outside to smoke. I had to suffer one of these this morning and I was reminded of my brother's dictum that it's amazing what you see when you don't have your rifle with you.

Last night I finally finished a biography of Isaac Newton that my elder daughter bought me for Xmas 2009. Distractions aside, this delay reflects the fact it ain't very interesting. Though it might be if you're well versed in mathematics and physics, which I'm not. But I was intrigued to read this summation of Newton's late-life personality: Impatience with contradiction, which manifested itself in the young man in a readiness to throw caution to the winds in challenging such authorities as Hooke, had become in his old age a tyrannical will to domineer, an unlovely trait which one cannot ignore. . . . Newton's despotic domination of the Royal Society alienated those who would not have hesitated to acknowledge his intellectual primacy. All that said, Newton could still, not long before his death, say something as insightful as:- I don't know what I may seem to the world but, as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore and diverting myself in now and then finding finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. So, not all bad then.

Finally . . . Whether I drive or train to Vigo, I'm always impressed by the beauty of the Straits of Rande, through which the British and Dutch fleets sailed in 1702, before sinking the Spanish bullion fleet and its French escort in the cul-de-sac of San Simón Bay. Now, though, I will always link it in my mind with the fact that Newton, at that time, was in charge of the British Mint. Where The War of the Spanish Succession was causing one or two problems. Jules Verne's Nautilus is also supposed to have passing through these straits before collecting said bullion but I think we can dismiss this claim as fanciful.

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