It's been a while since the last time I talked about myself in this column. I think that a blog must contain personal information to be interesting - otherwise why sticking around, when there's tons of good (yes, also bad) information in the web ? But here you can get some particle physics information mixed in with things that, although you need not know or care about, it's fun to share and comment on. Or at least I hope it's so, for the few of you who read this.

So, where to take it from - I could tell you about the first six months of AMVA4NewPhysics, the European "Initial Training Network" I have set up and am coordinating. We got funded with 2.4 million euros to provide advanced training to PhD students in particle physics and multivariate analysis methods, cooperating with statistics centers, industries, and software developers... But telling you about that looks a bit too much like work today. It's a Sunday after all...

Or I could tell you something about chess - maybe a nice chess game I played recently. Unfortunately, I haven't been playing lots of tournament chess lately, as work obligations have really taken their toll. As much as I try to defend my free time, I have increasingly been feeling like a juggler lately, with several things to keep in the air at the same time. The EU network, the coordination of HEP activities at INFN-Padova, the editorial work I do for "Reviews in Physics", the supervision of a PhD student, the lecturing in Statistics for HEP, the leading of a analysis group... No space for that extra week spent 100% on chess, sorry.

One thing I will tell you about, on another occasion, is the book I have written, "Anomaly". World Scientific is in the process of proofreading it and the review will take a while, but I expect that it will be published by the end of the Summer. So that's something to look forward to, and about which you'll certainly hear more in the coming months here.
So how do I invest my free time after all ? Well: the one thing I have been able to keep on doing, after hours, is playing the piano. The piano is not my original instrument - I have a Master degree in Antique Instruments, obtained as far back as 1982 at the Venice Conservatory. That meant reaching a pretty good level with the recorder (aka "straight flute"). But since then, all my efforts - discontinuous as they have been - went in the improving of my technique as a classical piano player.

As a piano player I am basically self-taught: I never took piano lessons until last year. I could get to a decent level by myself, but last year I felt I needed the help of a professional, so I have started taking monthly lessons with a young and brilliant pianist and director, Pietro Semenzato. His understanding of music is very evolved for his young age (he's in the early twenties), and I have definitely improved with his tutoring.

Last year I started studying with his help the third movement of Beethoven's "Pathetique" sonata. When I got to a decent level with it we moved to the second movement, and then the first. I cannot say I play the whole sonata well, but I play it at a level which gives me sufficient pleasure, which is all I want. After all, the whole point is the personal challenge of mastering a difficult piece: there is no rehearsal at the end of the process.

Since a few months I have taken on an even harder piece - Chopin's "Ballade 1". Even if you're not familiar with classical music I bet you've heard that piece; it's also featured toward the end of the movie "The pianist", a 2002 work by R.Polanski, when the protagonist, a Jew who had found a shelter in a abandoned house in Berlin in the winter of 1945, is forced to play for a German officer who has found him. That scene is full of drama: the pianist plays as if it would be the last thing he does in his life, in the certainty he is going to die after he's finished.

Well, the Ballade 1 is not only a tough nut to crack: it's also a wonderful piece, probably one of the most loved compositions by the piano magician, one of the greatest composers of all time, Frederick Chopin. So I have had a lot of fun playing it. But although I have been studying it for several months, I am far from being able to say I can play it at a decent level. Perhaps I lack the technique, or perhaps I lack the hours of study I would need to invest in it (I can hardly play 30' per day). 

Anyway, let me leave you with a small clip, where you can hear a small bit of my efforts, in a passage of great intensity. I still have a lot to work on here, but I'm getting better... Please forgive the lousy instrument I am playing (keys are in plastic and some of them are even broken, making nasty sounds when hit) and the mistakes.