2012-11-30

Bothering verbal behaviors in interpersonal communication that are common among many sabras

Six weeks have passed since I started my Talmud study at the yeshiva. This is the first time that I officially study in English so intensively. All the teachers and the other students are from Anglophone countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, etc. I spend about three hours with them every day. This also turns out to be a precious opportunity to reexamine the mentality of the sabras and the Japanese more objectively and in a wider perspective.

It is true that certain students behave in a way that is totally beyond my understanding (e.g., many of them are always late for the class, and some of them even continue to come to the class empty-handed without the pages of the Talmud we are studying), I am spared a few bothering verbal behaviors in interpersonal communication that are common among many sabras (native Israelis) but seem uncommon or nonexistent among those from Anglophone countries, whether they are Jewish or not, and Japanese as well as Russians and probably many other nations.

Of course, not all the sabras behave this way, but I would say that at least every tenth sabra whom I met for the first time at the dinner table, parties and other social events and with whom I struck a conversation did display these insensitive behaviors.

The most bothering verbal behavior in interpersonal communication that is common among many sabras is their verbal intrusion into privacy even, or to be more precise, mainly, when they are speaking to strangers they meet for the first time. The fact that few of them have any malice does not make this behavior of theirs less bothering. On the contrary, this makes it even more bothering as they are not aware that they are disturbing others. This is fundamentally different from sincere desire to know more the person they are speaking to personally but nothing but peeping.

Another bothering behavior is what I consider "slips of tongue" (but they are just normal ways of speech for these people). I think that what distinguishes naive children from cultured adults is that the former say whatever comes to their mind about someone they are speaking to without thinking even for a moment what effect it will have upon him or her. Again, this is totally different from expressing their sincere opinion. I believe that there are certain things that you should never tell your interlocutors face-to-face unless you are naive children. When I encounter their "slips of tongue" that offend me, I am more sorry for the fact that they have not learned to speak like cultured adults than for the offense they cause to me.

2012-11-23

What it means to write a book

The main research project during my sabbatical this academic year is to start to plan to write a book. I wish it were to write a book, but I am two fundamental steps before this. I am not even planning to write a book , but am just starting to do so.

I think I have found a good topic for a book in many respects. First of all, it combines many areas of linguistics I have studied. Second, it suits my characters, including perseverance, order and attention to details. Third, the (first and) last time someone wrote a book on it is more than four decades ago; a serious update is required. I have submitted to the university a rather detailed plan about what I would like to do in order to start to plan to write a book on this topic, and I really hope that I will be able to prepare a detailed table of contents by the end of my sabbatical. At the same time I am wondering what it means to write a book in general and on this specific topic in particular.

Since I started thinking about writing a book, I also started reading books by other researchers, especially those by my colleagues, from a new point of view, too. What interests me now is not only the content of the book in question but also the whole process of writing it. I like the process of selecting and reading relevant research literature and collecting and processing primary sources, but I am very bad at and slow in writing. In my simple (or simplistic) calculation it will take me at least five years to finish writing a book. I have several colleagues who publish a new book every few years. What and how they do so is simply beyond my imagination. Writing a book seems to me a daunting task, all the more so repeating this process every few years.

Although I think I have found a topic which both interests me and is a niche in (Modern Hebrew) linguistics, the topic seems to require a fundamentally different method of research from topics like grammatical description of a language that has never been described before. The topic I have in mind does not involve linguistic data collection in its conventional sense of the word; rather it involves metalinguistic analysis and review of end products, both of which are rather new to me.

In the meanwhile I am just trying to read as many relevant books and articles as possible. In retrospect I was and am always interested in this area of linguistic research, but it was only about a year ago that I realized that it is possible to investigate it, so everything I read now is so fresh and stimulating, which is very important as I thought I would never encounter such an area. But on the other hand, since I am quite new to it, I have so many things to catch up with the research outputs of at least the past five decades.

2012-11-02

Farewell to an Android tablet computer

In spite of my initial enthusiasm with an Android tablet computer I bought in July 2011, I found myself using it less and less, until I decided recently to give it away to someone else who showed an interest in it. My disillusionment and dissatisfaction with it concern both its software and hardware.

As a satisfied user of Windows since Windows 2000, which met my needs in multilingual computing for the first time, I find Android far inferior to Windows as an operating system in many ways. My biggest frustration with it is that though it does support input in multiple languages, you have to choose only one and cannot switch between several languages. I am also bothered by the fact that Android is integrated too much with Google Account. And many applications working on this platform are not so sophisticated as those for Windows, though there are exceptions. In short, Android is not for serious computing.

I also find it very inconvenient to have to have two separate devices, that is, a tablet computer and a laptop computer, especially if they run on two different operating systems. In my opinion Windows 8 offers a much more convenient ecosystem than what is offered by Android (only for tablet computers) and Apple (two separate operating systems for tablet and laptop computers). Windows 8 can be installed both in a tablet computer and in a laptop computer. This is a big advantage, which in turn opens the way to devices that can be both.

What I find the most appealing way to do so in hardware is the so-called hybrid computer; it is essentially a laptop computer, but it can also become a tablet computer if its keyboard is detached. Many computer manufacturers have announced their plans for such hybrid computers running on Windows 8, but as of now, only a few weeks after its official release, many of them have not been sold yet. I am most curious about Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro among all the hybrid computers that have been announced so far.