2015-08-28

Farewell to daily drinking (on weekdays)

The very first two important steps toward solving any problem are perhaps first to admit it and then to identify its source. I have to admit that I've been suffering from three drinking problems.

The first is that I just drink too much, far more than doctors recommend us - eight bottles of red wine a week, including one each weekday evening and one for each of the three Sabbath meals. This overdrinking has caused me three gout attacks so far as well as a rather heavy economic burden on my limited budget - I used to spend about $250 a month.

The second problem is that if I start drinking at those social gatherings where one can drink as much as one wants, such as weddings, I simply don't know when and how to stop drinking. The transition from conscious drinking to unconscious drinking is deceptively smooth so that by the time I have moved to the second level, I have no control over drinking and just keep drinking until someone stops me by force or I simply fall asleep.

The third problem is the most serious of the three. When I get seriously drunk, I start saying and doing really stupid things according my witnesses. Naturally, I don't remember them at all. I'm sure that this way I've caused irreversible damage to my reputation among some friends and colleagues.

To tell the truth, I didn't like beer, which is still the most common alcoholic beverage in Japan, where I was born and brought up, when I was forced to keep drinking it as a kind of rite of passage as a university freshmen in various parties. It took me at least two years to acquire taste for beer and start liking it and drinking it on a regular basis.

Because of all these problems I've been trying to stop drinking, at least on weekdays, in various methods, but in vain. I'm ashamed to admit this, but my will power was too weak to resist the temptation of alcohol and its effect, especially after I had a stressful day at work.

This week I finally found a solution, and it works! Recently I've realized clearly that my drinking has been tormenting my significant other. So I've told myself that I have no right to keep torturing her. This time my desire to evade the pain of causing her pain has overpowered my weakness to easily succumb to the "sweet whisper" of alcohol.

Now I can easily resist this temptation. Actually, I don't even feel tempted anymore. But on Sabbaths and Jewish holidays I still allow myself to drink red wine for religious reasons, but in a smaller quantity. In the meanwhile I've found a nice way of using the money I can save every month for this angel who has saved me from the dangers of drinking once and for all.

Dir kumt a hartsiker shkoyekh, E.L.!

2015-08-21

New tribulation

Let's suppose you've found some hidden precious gem which you thought was far beyond your reach but you also know that keeping it with yourself requires tribulation on your part. Would you dare to pick it up? You can decide either to evade that tribulation simply by ignoring that precious gem or to pick it up and face the tribulation. I've decided to opt for the latter simply because the gem seemed (and still seems) so precious.

The fact that this newly found hidden gem is so precious to me doesn't make the tribulation I've already started experiencing much easier in particular, to say the least. My tribulation is twofold - physical and temporal.

I'm physically tormented because after I enjoyed my initial touch of the gem, it had to be at a distant place, so I'll be able to touch it only very infrequently. This gem is a "fresh" one that deserves an equally "fresh" owner, and I've started being tormented by the question if I'm "fresh" enough to keep savoring it.

This new tribulation doesn't allow me to sleep. But I've already learned a lesson that He doesn't allow me to pass any important stage of life very easily. I try to take this as a kind of compliment. ;-) I've already experienced more difficult tribulations, so hopefully I'll also get over this one successfully. Wish me good luck. ;-)

2015-08-14

eLex 2015 in England

This week I revisited Herstmonceux Castle, a beautiful medieval English castle in Sussex, in order to participate, though only as a listener, in eLex 2015, the fourth biannual international conference on electronic lexicography that took place there this year. It was also the venue of Lexicom 2014, an annual international workshop electronic lexicography I participated in (and enormously enjoyed).

When the venue of eLex 2015 was officially announced during Lexicom 2014, I immediately decided to revisit the castle. My initial plan was to give a talk at the conference, but since I'm still rather new to lexicography in general and electronic lexicography in particular, I couldn't come up with any clever proposal. So I gave up the very idea of participating in the conference itself and planned to attend the 100th World Congress of Esperanto in Lille, France instead this July. For a couple of professional considerations I reverted my plan two months ago and decided to take part in eLex 2015 even as a mere listener, hoping that my trip will be approved by the university.

This last decision has turned out to be a very clever one. In spite of my initial fear of feeling lonely as I'm still nobody in the field, I gradually got acquainted with other participants, including some of the leading figures in the field. I was especially honored and glad to have met and spoken to Patrick Hanks (England) and Yukio Tono (Japan), two of the most important lexicographers in the world. Meeting one of my two ex-teachers at Lexicom 2014, Michael Rundell, as well as five other participants in the workshop dispelled my initial fear. The presence of Ilan Kernerman, my Israeli colleague and a widely known lexicographer in the international community of lexicographers, including eLex, also helped me feel comfortable.

Not only have I learned a lot of new things about recent advances in electronic lexicography but also have I been inspired by witnessing how advanced and established (electronic) lexicography is in many European countries, especially in comparison with Israel, where practical lexicography still remains by and large in a displorable condition, and theoretical lexicography barely exists. Especially surprising was to see first-hand the flourishing of electronic lexicography in Eastern European countries, including Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Estonia. Israel is light years behind them.

No less eye-opening was the use of English as an academic lingua franca. All the non-Anglophone participants, including those from Easten Europe, spoke English alomost as native speakers not only in their lectures but also in small talks. I've never experienced before how firmly English has already been established as the academic lingua franca not only in writing but also in speech. This new experience has also reminded me of the intellectual frustration I had felt with Esperanto. First of all, many self-purported Esperantists don't know the language well enough for academic purposes. There aren't too many linguists who also know Esperanto at this high level, and such scholars in Jewish studies are few and far between.

I've also realized one important aspect is totally missing in the academic culture in Israel and probably in the Jewish world at large. It's the custom of drinking together in the evening with other conference participants in order to socialize. During this conference I also visited the pub in the castle every evening to enjoy not only my favorite English cider but also to shmooze with other participants who happened to be there. Many European scholars seemed to share this custom. I learded no less there than in the conference itself.

I can summarize eLex 2015 as one of the most fruitful and unforgettable conferences I've ever attended in my entire academic life. I'm already planning to attend eLex 2017, hopefully as an active participant. Though its venue hasn't been decided yet, it's most likely that it'll be in Europe as the majority of the participants this time and in the previous three conferences were Europeans. Before this I'll also hopefully participate in Euralex 2016 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Precisely in the digital age it's becoming more and more important to meet fellow researchers face-to-face in both conference halls and corridors as well as pubs and exchange ideas directly.