Merpel on air

Today I got to talk a bit about my project on Noorderlicht, a weekly show on radio 1 about scientific research in the Netherlands. It was quite fun to go to Hilversum to see the offices of the Dutch broadcasting company and to experience how a radio show is made. I think I did pretty OK, considering I’d never been interviewed before (in fact, I had never expected to have to answer the question why computational linguistics is interesting, I’ve always kind of considered it as a given) and I’m also not really used to talking about my work in Dutch. Thankfully the other interviewee, Prof. Jan Scholtes of Maastricht University, was better prepared for these kind of things and came up with some nice examples. When I grow up I want to be able to talk about my work as clearly as he does!

The only thing I find weird is that my voice sounds so high when I heard it back on the mp3…somehow it seems lower to me normally…

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Sunday Jazz

The past week Leiden celebrated its annual Jazz festival. Unfortunately I’d been travelling around too much to catch any of the concerts, except the one on Sunday by Kim Hoorweg. In fact, I didn’t only go to the concert, but also to the accompanying workshop in which she taught about 14 jazz enthusiasts about jazz improvisations and we also studied some background choirs to ‘Lady be good’. It was a bit scary since I’d never really done improvisations, and I also don’t really sing with other people usually but everyone was very cool and relaxed. Even though some other people were also not that experienced at improvising you could already notice that everyone had their own style, probably influenced by what they listen to?

Anyway, the concert itself was supercool. Steve and Alex were also there, and even though we’d bought tickets separately we could still sit together. What’s so great about jazz is that they take the time to give everyone a solo, not just the lead singer and the musicians really seem to enjoy listening to their partners delivering some superb solo. At some point Kim got the audience to stand up and sing along, which I think is pretty wicked in a 300 year old theatre, it’s usually more of a festival or standing concert venue thing :). Besides some of the great jazz standards there was also some fresh and humorous work written by Ms. Hoorweg herself as well as some rock/pop songs in a jazzy coat (marvellous cover of ‘Message in a Bottle’). Nearly at the end of the concert the workshop people were invited onto the stage to show the audience what they had learned during the workshop. Needless to say it was dead scary, but I did it, and even fairly graciously (I think, I hope) survived my 15 second solo and actually enjoyed it 🙂

After the concert Steve, Alex and I went to the Asian restaurant on the Beestenmarkt for a ‘quick bite’. Little did we know that the Japanese part of the restaurant is actually a hibachi grill and thus offering 3 hours of entertainment by a skillful chef with knives accompanying a delicious meal. We didn’t mind that it didn’t turn out to be a quick bite, as it was just amazingly good. When I got home at 22:00 I nearly immediately passed out after a hell of a good day.

The past month in bullet points

  • I’m 40 pages into my thesis
  • As you saw from the photo in my previous post another chocolate fondue took place at the Zouterwoudsesingel, this time with Judith and Steve. Naturally there was chocolate and fruit, but also whiskey and music 🙂
  • The TiCC PhD Day that I helped organise went smoothly with lots of interesting presentations and discussions
  • my presentation went well too 🙂
  • Christmas! Good food, good company.
  • My brother Hans visited me in Leiden, and beat me at the Catan cardgame (3 out of 3 times already!)
  • Wiskey with Judith
  • Paul was here! Which means lots of coffee, tea and hot chocolate at nice cafes in Leiden, good conversation and hugs
  • With Paul I travelled to Groningen to visit the Waterhouse exhibition at the Groninger Museum, absolute must-see!
  • Travelled on to Heerenveen to spend some hotel vouchers there. I think I would have preferred my own bed and the Leiden scenery…
  • Spent 2.5 hours at a copyshop to get a poster for a conference printed
  • Put together conference programme booklets and conference bags
  • Manned the IWC-8 registration desk
  • Spent 2 hours phoning back and forth with a print shop to get another poster printed, this time for a conference participant (thanks Ryanair for losing the original poster!) I know suspect there’s a bug in Powerpoint which messes up pdf exports…
  • Had the IWCS-8 excursion and dinner, thank god it went well (Breda was a bit slippery and cold, but prettier than ever!)
  • Presented my poster (had some good discussions)
  • Whiskey with Steve, Judith and Bas.Interesting discussions 🙂
  • Went to Groningen again, this time for CLIN 19
  • Since no-one else showed up at tennis on Friday I basically had a 2-hour private lesson 🙂 Exhausted afterwards though.