zondag, december 17, 2006

Happy Birthday . . .

Something only the people who have known me for a long time know is that I used to play the piano. And cello. And the sax. And even the trumpet for a very short while. I started with the piano when I was probably around 4 years old. My paternal grandmother was a music teacher. Her lessons were painful in a way that only those of us who were genetically related could understand. I was the only one in my immediate family who survived them with anything close to a great love for music. I quit playing for a number of years when I was on the boat and didn't have access to a piano, but wherever I was, I always knew where I could find a piano to play.

I took it up again after I moved back to the Midwest in the mid-80s. I played in a couple of bands and toured around a bit. It was all too loud, though, so I eventually quit and went back to college to study.

My Dad was also a musician. He played trombone in college, and later sang in a babershop quartet. I loved going to sleep at night while they were practicing. The music was good - mainly because they loved it so much. And there was always laughter along with it.

After I started serious study, I think I lost a little of my love for playing. I was so critical of my playing that it was difficult to enjoy it much. By the time I graduated, I was a fine player, but what my grandmother didn't kill, the structure of a university education in music did. So I drifted away from playing.

Still, I always had a piano after that, but none of them were very good. Because they weren't good, I played even less.

When I came to live here, I didn't bring a piano with me. And I never missed it too much. As always, I spied some pianos I could have played, but I never played them.

Recently, that started to change. I let Ian know that at some point - maybe after I sold my house in the U.S. - I wanted to get a decent piano.

A week or so ago I had a BIG birthday. And I got one of my presents a little early. Behind my back, Ian lobbied my friends to help out in getting me something really memorable to mark the day. And they responded.

In our garden room, we now have a really wonderful instrument.

The tone and action is really wonderful. I've been playing a couple of hours a day - the first time I've done that since I seriously studied. I'm still a bit rusty, but it's amazing how quickly it returns. And I'm really enjoying it. I explained to Ian that it's like seeing a friend you haven't seen form many, many years. Suddenly, all you want to do is catch up.

I notice I'm playing things differently now. My ear is different. I'm different. Because of that, what I play is different. It's interesting.

Anyway, I hope those of you who contributed will have a chance to visit. If you do, and you have the time, I'll play you to sleep at least once.

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Work and a new bike

So much has happened this last year. Much of it has been taken up with work. I don't think I've written much about it. I've edited a couple of books, but the English Language European Law School in Maastricht is mostly what I've been busy with. I'm teaching some really bright students from all over Europe. That's the best part of the job.
The program is new; the first of its kind, at least here in Europe. It's a grand experiment, one that I think will be successful. The aim is to teach a systemless form of law to students from a variety of backgrounds. It's an alien concept here, but in reality, it's not so different from the way I learned law in the U.S. The US has 50 states, each with their own law. Next to and over all of them, there is another Federal law. We certainly didn't learn the laws of all these systems. Instead, we learned how to research - how to FIND the law.
So that's what I'm teaching the students to do here.
Here's a link to a student's blog I ran across - from there, you can maybe explore more of Maastricht and the university, if you're interested. Oh - and if you're British, have a background in law and are looking to teach - give me a holler.

I'm going to be in the U.S. for awhile soon. Part of it is to attend a conference in D.C. A great perk! Another was the new bike I recently got. The commute to Maastricht is about 3 hours door to door. There is a 20 minute bus ride on my end, one a little shorter in Maastricht. By bike, it's faster. To help with the commute, I got a new fold up bike that I can ride from my house and the university to the train stations, then can carry with me on the train for free. It's all courtesy the Dutch government - a way to promote the greening of the country.

Here's the bike - and I would highly recommend it if you're looking for a good one.

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