2015-09-25

Psychological counseling and its positive effects

Unfortunately, I had to put a formal end to my psychological counseling this week for a couple of practical reasons though both my counselor and I feel that it's still premature. It was simply a pleasure and privilege to meet once a week and work with this truly amazing counselor for about four months. He has helped me embark on a never-ending arduous voyage of self-discovery and self-reconciliation, which I could not have undertaken alone.

The most significant discovery I've made about myself is that I'm a highly emotional person but suppress my emotions with my mind, and they erupt suddenly when they become too strong to control because of unbearable stress or frustration in interpersonal relationships, which in turn leads to some socially unacceptable behavior on my part. So my main task is to bridge my mind and emotions. It's so complicated and demanding that I'd probably have to spend a lot of time, even my whole life, to accomplish it, especially if I'm to work alone. I only hope, however, that my counselor has shown me the right direction I should follow and given me a compass for staying on this winding path.

This precious experience has had a number of positive effects on me. The most significant of all, on which my counselor also agreed, is without doubt that it has enabled me to get rid of deep scars that remained in my heart for the past five years and prepare myself for new significant encounters. And to my great surprise and joy, I did have such a significant encounter totally unexpectedly in the middle of these four-month period! This has shown me again anew that truly significant encounters in life occur when we don't look for them but simply become ready for and attract them, so to speak.

This amazing counselor-cum-rabbi also offers counseling in another, no less important area of life, which still remains terra incognita for me. I hope I'll also be able to receive this counseling of his in this new area in the near future.

2015-09-18

Free online collaborative plain text editors with Markdown support

The start of new joint research with my new collaborate living outside Israel has created sudden urgent need to find appropriate online collaborative tools, preferablly free ones, for our preparing proposals, handouts, slide presentations and papers, and keeping multiple to-do lists for the first time for me (but not for the first time for my collaborator).

Though my collaborator has been using Google Docs for this purpose for a number of years, using it was out of the question for me because of my deep scepticism about a word processor, be it an online or desktop one, as an efficient productivity tool not only for purely academic purposes but also for any computing need!

The minimal requirements I imposed upon myself (or to be more precise, us) in our search for such free online collabrative research production tools were the following three in the descending order of importance for me:

  1. Use of plain text as the format (cf. Plaintext Productivity)
  2. Support for Markdown, if not MultiMarkdown
  3. Reflection of changes in real time

To my surprise I could easily find a number of free online collaborative tools that met all these three minimal requirements. In the meanwhile we've decided to settle on the following four:

  1. Typewrite - text editor
  2. Swipe - slide editor
  3. Checkvist - to-do list editor
  4. Draft - text (as well as to-do list and slide) editor

The one we've already started using, and that quite heavily, is the third one. Two serious limitations of Checkvist if one is to use it as a tool for brainstorming are 1) lack of support to highlight what's being typed now and 2) lack of a sidebar window for possible text chat. In spite of these two limitations I strongly recommend this free tool to any pair or group of people who have to plan their joint research together. I and my collaborator have already classified our common and separate tasks into as many as nice categories, each of which has a separate to-do-list. I've never realized that "collaboration is power" to quote my collaborator.

We haven't tried the second tool seriously yet as our nearest possible joint presentation is planned for the next summer. We did, however, tried the first tool a little bit. I would say that of the first three tools this one is the least collaborative. It's more for authoring the same thing together than for real collaboration in writing, including version control, comments, etc. The fourth tool is the one we've found for this more demandinc purpose of real collaborative writing. Draft also supports many other functions that may be fully appreciated only when we start writing something together. Since we don't have any need to do so now or in the near future, we haven't dug deep yet into it and its mulple functions. But at least I already have a gut feeling that this is going to be one of my (and probably our, too) most heavily used plain text editors. It can be used as a slide editor and to-do list editor, too. If you are wise enough to have started looking for a plain text alternative to Google Docs, I strongly recommend Draft to you. Even my otherwise stubborn collaborator will agree with me at least about this. ;-)

2015-09-11

Newly found intellectual pleasure of joint research

I was never good at working together or even doing things together with other people, especially in a group. So it's no wonder that when I belonged to some sport club in school, I felt suffocated after a while and left it. I belonged to five such clubs from junior high school until the university, and I left all of them after a year or two.

This was also the case with research. I didn't do any joint research with any other researcher, except for editing a Festschrift and a special journal issue with two good old colleagues of mine. I wrote the first sentence of this paragraph in the past tense because this is not the case any more! Recently I've got acquainted with a linguist who has turned out to be an excellent collaborator with whom I share a number of research interests as well as chemistry in other areas of life.

I've never imagined that doing research together can be such a pleasure if my collaborator is an appropriate one. This is like studying the Talmud in partership with someone else who is compatible with you intellectually (and probably emotionally, too). One plus one can be more than two! I and my new collaborator share the combination of at least three research interests shared by few other fellow linguists each of us knows personally: corpus linguistics, computational linguistics, and the study of the Hebrew component in Yiddish. We've already planned three joint research projects for the next three years - each for one year.

What makes this joint research with my collaborator very unique and so pleasurable is the fact that we conduct it orally in Yiddish! This way we defy pessimists about Yiddish as we use it for the highest intellectual purpose, that is, as our common language of science.

Working with such an intellectually compatible collaborator, I'm constantly refilled with new ideas I could never have come up with alone. I'll definitely be able to think up new joint research projects, too. Simply a mekhaye!