2012-09-21

Results of an annual physical checkup and consumption of alcohol

This week I received results of my annual physical checkup from my family doctor. In general terms I am in a good physical condition, but there are two negative results that have started to worry me and have made me reexamine my daily habits. One of them was rather expected - blood pressure - but this time it passed the stage of prehypertension and reached the level of hypertension. The other was totally unexpected; I was told that I have a high level of triglycerides for the first time. I have been aware of blood pressure but have neither thought nor even heard about triglycerides and their possible effects on our body.

My family doctor gave me two separate lists of recommendations I can implement in my daily life to lower the level of blood pressure and triglycerides. I have found that actually I have already been following all of them except for one - consumption of alcohol. Also considering the fact that my level of uric acid is rather high, I have come to a conclusion that my heavy consumption of alcohol is the main cause for my and high level of triglycerides. And in the past year I drank much more both in quantity and in frequency.

Since I received these two rather worrying results, I have been asking myself what made me drink more alcohol than before. I can think of two factors: at least two kinds of work-related stress, and frustration and dissatisfaction with the society where I live now. I am ashamed to admit that I drank alcohol partly in order to escape from these negative emotions at least temporarily, though I also drink simply because I like the taste of wine and beer and they can enhance meals, especially festive ones.

But this time I have no choice but to stop drinking alcohol at least on weekdays. On Sabbaths and Jewish holidays I will allow myself to continue drinking but I will reduce the quantity of wine I consume. This new year can be a good opportunity to carry out this resolution as being on sabbatical means that I will be free from work-related stress. But I also have to find healthier ways to cope with this stress and other negative emotions than drinking alcohol and in addition to daily running and swimming.

2012-09-07

Writing a book as the next self-imposed academic goal

One of the main differences between scholars in Japan and Israel, at least in the humanities, is their respective research output in the forms of articles and books. Average scholars in Israel publish far more articles and in far more respected places than their Japanese counterparts, partly because of the more rigid criteria for promotion in Israeli universities. Having books, especially those in English by internationally recognized publishers, in your list of publications, is what distinguishes scholars in Israel, while in Japan this criterion is almost meaningless as not many have such books or any book even by the time they retire as full-time professors. In the Israeli academia there also seems to be a correlation between promising scholars and the fact that they have published their first book on the basis of their respective PhD dissertation.

Unfortunately, I am not one of them, though I may have published many articles in Japanese terms, at least in comparison with those in my age in Japanese universities. As I am approaching the age of 50, I feel both a pressure and a desire to write (and hopefully) publish my first book as the next self-imposed academic goal. One of the three things I am planning to do during my first sabbatical in the next academic year, which is about to start in a month, is to start planning to write such a book. According to my rough calculation it will take at least as many as five years from now to finish it, considering the fact that I am a very slow writer and I will have many other obligations again after the sabbatical.

This has naturally lead me to wonder how some people succeed in publishing their second book (after the first one which is based on their dissertation) before they read the age of 50 or sometimes even 40, in spite of the fact that they all have more or less the same obligations as I do and many of them, unlike me, have even a family. The more I think about this question, the more convinced I am that the answer to it must be their talent. This also reminds me of the following well-known generalization about academic output: those who publish more often write in higher quality, that is, there is a correlation between quantity and quality. In this respect I can immediately think of several scholars I know personally as good examples of this generalization.

Of course, to envy them is the last thing I would do. I compete only with myself. Nevertheless I cannot deny the fact that I also feel peer pressure to publish a book. I only hope that I can use this peer pressure for the better so that even a "tortoise" like me may be able to reach my self-imposed goal of writing (and publishing) a book (probably in English), though with a long delay compared to many other prolific scholars.