Thursday, December 01, 2005

Future work

So after arranging and restarting my work at Mediamarkt, I had a meeting with the guys at the Functional Neurobiology department today to discuss my future job as a PhD-student in their research group. My official starting date will be april 1st. That's 26 days before official graduation, but I'll probably have fulfilled all requirements for graduation in february already. So why don't I start earlier, let's say march 1st? Two reasons; First, it gets the pressure of writing my thesis so I have some extra time if I need it. Second, I will be taking care of the practical part of a course in neurobiology in february and march together with one of the senior scientists. I could do this as a PhD-student, but then I wouldn't get paid. If I do it as a student and start as a PhD-dstudent afterwards it has a nice financial advantage for me. Still, if I have the time to do something in february/march I can drop by and use the equipment, talk to people and run some pilot experiments. It offers a broad period of getting started without losing any time of the strict 4 years period that stands for a promotion-project. If I want I can get working place, desk and computer tomorrow, so I can do my thesis work or whatever I think necessary at the department. I will probably use that offer in a couple of weeks when I get really busy with my thesis. In april I will move to a room closer to our actual lab (that is now being build) and we will order my new kick-ass mac!

Something totally different; apparently a computers PSU doesn't like being off for half a year. One of the condensators is probably rotten: it produces a very annoying high pitched noise. It still works but you don't want it on for longer than necessary with that sound. First I thought it would be dust on one of the heatsinks or fans. But after un-coupling everything and extensive testing with spare parts I realized it had to be the PSU. And I only have a 350W spare which is too weak. Buying a new 400-450 PSU will be another 50 euros, that I do not have right now. Well, I still have my laptop...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Back home update..

Well this promises to become a long post. that's what you get from waiting to long... So what happened between the last post and this moment? Let me think. The Saturday after the Blazer's game we went to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). If Max could move to this place i am sure he wouldn't hesitate a second. It's a do-museum in which some basics of predominatly physics (magnetism, pressure, etc) are explained with little experiments and play-things. At night I packed and Sunday morning insanely early I caught the plane to Washington DC.

Upon arrival there was a taxi waiting to drop me off at the hotel. On the way we passed the Pentagon and Arlington national cemetery, I decided I should try to visit those if I had the time. The hotel was nice, although the room was really small for me and my three colleagues. Ah well, after some arguments we finally had four beds so all of us could sleep. There was no way we would be able to find something else anyway with 34,000 neuroscientists occupying all hotels in DC. I was to late to register that day so I met with my colleagues for dinner in downtown DC. The next days were spend both at the conference and at the many memorials and monuments in DC. I saw many research posters, and listened to a fair amount of talks. I also visited the white house, pentagon, capitol, Arlington, the Vietnam war-, Korean war-, Lincoln- and jefferson memorials and the Washington monument. Pictures at my photoblog.

Well, wednesday afternoon I was on a plane back to the Netherlands. Arriving in Amterdam at 7am I was happy to see my mom, brother and girlfriend that all managed to get up early enough to pick me up. My brother still lives with my parents which means that there are three cars in front of that house. I had 6-months-luggage, so they choose to pick the smallest car to pick me up... After some trouble we managed to get everything and everyone in and I was on my way home. The first couple of daysI did not seem affected by a jetlag but later I couldn't sleep at night or get up in the morning. It's almost back to normal now. We moved all my stuff back to my room in Utrecht on Sunday and after the inital "if-it's-in-a-closet-it's-organized" attitude, I am now really organized and everything is where it should be. I freshly installed my computersystem, and a second time over because the first time I was attacked by some worm that wouldn't be removed with any of the 6 programs I tried, but now everything seems to work just fine. I must say the Netherlands are pretty cold and wet. Tuesday in Washington I had dinner with some other dutchies outside and it was warm enough to just wear a T-shirt. Here the power-lines are collapsing as a result of snow and ice.....

Last friday we had a party at our house for a number of unimportant reasons. It was fun to see some people again and hang out with people of more or less the same age and situation of life. I had a great time in the USA, but at the institute there were hardly people my age. Most were much older. Sunday I wrote my first column for my philosophy, art and culture class. It deals with the god-shaped hole between the world that we observe (science) and the world of which we are part (art). I noticed that my way of thinking is pretty much biased towards a scientific approach. I really like art and everything, it's just that on a day to day basis I deal with science way more. I hope this course will learn me how to balance this and broaden my general knowledge about art, culture and philosophy. Today I dropped by my old work to arrange when I am starting work again. I can start tomorrow night and we planned all the way till new year. It was fun seeing my old colleagues again, they were enthusiastic about me returning to the company. I have not told them that it will probably only be for a couple of months, since I already have a fulltime job at uni for when I have graduated from my masters program. I guess they will understand when I tell them, but in the meanwhile I'll have to pay the rent and avoid the risk of having no job.

I also started writing the official application for my masters thesis. I am confident this will offer no problems with the exam committee so I plan to start working on it any day now. If everything goes according to my plans I will have fullfilled all graduation requirement in early february. The official graduation dates are unfortunately enough on january 27th (can't make that) and april 27th . Ah well, I can start my PhD job in february anyway, it's only a nice trick of uni to squeeze some more tuition money out of poor students.

To conclude:
I'm back, I'm busy and I am on schedule to graduate....

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Two days left in Portland. I am busy finishing up and making sure I don't forget anything. Presented my work for the research group today and it went great. My professor even asked if he could use some of the schematic pictures I made. After the talk we had a nice it-has-been-nice-working-with-you moment. They gave me a OHSU "brain awareness" T-shirt and I gave my direct colleagues a copy of the book "Flowers for Argenon". It's about a neuroscience lab that does an experiment that makes a mouse really intelligent and then they try it on a human being.. Si-fi, but supposedly pretty cool. So tomorrow I'll have to pick up myfinal report at kinkos and hand it in, clean up my desks and do more stuff to deal with leaving. As a nice surprise I was told I am going to go the Rose Garden tomorrow night to see the Portland Trailblazers play the Detroit Pistons. Should be cool to witness an NBA game. Then I need to start packing my suitcases. The six months are almost over. I'll be having dinner in G.W. backyard on sunday and next thursday I'll be in Amsterdam. But first I need to get some sleep; working towards deadlines usually gets me on some sort of adrenaline rush, so I need less sleep. Now that the efforts of 9 months are all done, I can relax and enjoy the last moments in the USA for a while. I really like Oregon so I am sure I'll be back sometime. But it won't be any time soon, 'cause living abroad for nine months witout pay or the right to work is fantastic, but expensive. I am looking forward to going home, but I am sure I will miss the Portland area and my family. Ah well, to quote my colleague Vadim: "Such is life..."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

For those who (pretend to) care...

For those two people genuinely interested and others faking interest ; the following section is the general abstract that preceeds the research chapters in the report of my nine month internship. It is as short as I can write it down without leaving out the real important information. I wonder if anyone will actually read it, but....

"The cerebellum is the part of the brain that is crucial in the coordination of reflexive movement. For the maintenance of balance by postural adjustment the cerebellum receives information from the vestibular system, the visual system and proprioceptors in muscles and joints. The cerebellum output signal is used for the necessary compensating movements. This output signal is provided by one singe cell type; the Purkinje cell. This means that understanding how the Purkinje cell’s discharge pattern is modulated is an important step towards understanding the cerebellum and its computational circuitry. Purkinje cells have two distinct types of action potential; climbing fiber responses (CFRs) and simple spikes (SSs). CFRs are multi-peaked action potentials with a low frequency and long duration. SSs are single peak action potentials, with a much higher discharge frequency and shorter duration. There are two major input pathways from the vestibular apparatus to the Purkinje cell. Primary vestibular afferents project as mossy fibers on granule cells in the ipsilateral uvula-nodulus of the cerebellar cortex. Granule cell axons form parallel fibers that synapse on Purkinje cell dendrites. One Purkinje cell receives synapses from up to ~150,000 parallel fibers. Primary vestibular afferents also project to the ipsilateral inferior olive through the parasolitary nucleus. From the inferior olive climbing fibers ascend to the contralateral cerebellar cortex where they synapse on only a few Purkinje cell dendrites. Each Purkinje cell only receives input from one climbing fiber. Purkinje cell discharge patterns can be modulated by vestibular stimulation. Sinusoidal oscillations about the longitudinal axis causes CFR frequencies to increase and SS frequencies to decrease in Purkinje cells ipsilateral to the side that is down during stimulation. In contralateral Purkinje cells this modulation in reversed; CFRs decrease and SSs increase. This antiphasic modulation of CFRs and SSs raises the question if those two types of action potentials are modulated independently or correlated. CFRs are evoked by the climbing fibers and their modulation directly reflects climbing fiber activity. SS modulation is less well understood. A first thought might be to attribute SS modulation to the numerous parallel fiber synapses on the Purkinje cell. But vestibular primary afferents are modulated out of phase with SS discharge and there is no inhibitory synapse in the mossy mossy fiber-granule cell-parallel fiber pathway to the Purkinje cell. Furthermore, experiments in the rabbit and mouse show that after elimination of primary vestibular afferents by a unilateral labyrinthectomy, modulation of CFRs and SSs persists. This means the modulation can not be attributed to the mossy fiber-granule cell-parallel fiber input to the Purkinje cell. Lesions in the inferior olive greatly reduce CFR and SS modulation in the contralateral uvula-nodulus suggesting that climbing fiber activity is the driving force behind both CFR and SS modulation. Modulation of climbing fiber activity is also out of phase with SS modulation, which makes a direct modulation unlikely. Besides Purkinje cells there are also interneurons in the cerebellar cortex that might play a role in SS modulation. Stellate cells are the only interneurons that have the suitable characteristics to inhibit SS discharge. They are modulated in phase with climbing fiber activity and have inhibitory synapses on the Purkinje cell. During increased climbing fiber activity the increased stellate cell inhibition could account for the decrease in SS discharge. How the stellate cells are modulated by climbing fiber activity is unknown since there are no climbing fiber synapses on the stellate cell. Glial astrocytes might have something to do with this. The location of Bergmann glial cells at the climbing fiber-Purkinje cell synapse allows them to sense climbing fiber activity by neurotransmitter transients. They secrete glutamate and diazepam binding inhibitor that could increase the excitability of stellate cells. Attempts to model this hypothesized circuitry in a realistic model of the cerebellar cortex have been abandoned for the time being. Ideas to use a realistic compartmental model of Purkinje cell in the GENESIS modeling software have stranded due to an initial misinterpretation of the Purkinje cell model and a lack of time and resources. Purkinje cell discharge in the uvula-nodulus is modulated by stimulation of the vestibular apparatus. The functional role of the nodulus for the execution of compensatory movements can be investigated with a newly proposed behavioral experiment that measures the displacement of the center of mass and compensatory head movements in the mouse, during vestibular and optokinetic stimulation. Also, new cell-specific RNA interference techniques will be developed to knock down the function of specific interneurons in vivo. With this technique the possible necessity for SS modulation of stellate cells and other interneurons can be tested. This might ultimately lead to an explanation of the modulating circuitry behind the cerebellar output signal."

So you skipped it right? Or did you actually read it? In that case; hats off to you! You have earned the reward. You are invited to a party at my house in Utrecht november 25thor 26th. One of my housemates just returned from a long stay in australia and I will be back next week. Enough reason for a party. Or so I was told today when I heard about the party. Must agree though, it will be a great opportunity to catch up with people I haven't seen for the past six months...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

104 Pages, 42 Figures, 140 References...

My report is approaching the finish line. I think I have all the text I want. I just have to make sure I put my references in the text correctly and that will take some time. I think I can manage to hand my report in before I leave for Washington DC, though. I might give a talk next week. Dunno about what yet. The main topic of my internship is a research topic everyone in the research group co-operates in and we all reviewed the recent manuscripts and grants, so I guess everyone knows exactly what 's the deal. I could talk about the possibilities for a model I explored or my ideas on a new behavioral experiments. Or I don't give a talk, we'll see, I don't care.. Monday we will be able to record again if our mouse made it through the weekend. It looked fine friday night, so it should be okay, but you never know.

By the way, I didn't pay attention for a second and all of a sudden it is very fallish. Cold and wet. Guess the Oregon rain season has started again. Well, one more week..time flies..

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Writing, rewritig and referring...

Towards the end of the internship it is time to work at my final report real hard. I am getting close to the end. I have most stuff written down, but there is still a lot to do. I have to rewrite a couple of sections, put the references to the literature in the right place and hopefully we will be able to gather some more preliminary data from our recordings in the labyrinthectomized mice. After the incident in which our veterinary "friends" of the animal department euthanised our mice after surgery because they "looked like they weren't alright" we had a talk with them. We explained they were supposed to look like that, they are in no pain, only disoriented because we messed with the vestibular apparatus. And besides they adapt in a couple of days and then the only thing visible is a slightly tilted head. They accepted our explanation, but we still changed our surgical methods a little to try to decrease the impact while maintaining functionality. This seems to work. The mice I have operated on recover faster than before.

That a good surgical session is no guarantee for a good experiment was proven today when we recorded for three hours with zero result. No responsive Purkinje cells were found, which made the experiment useless from the physiological point of view. Luckily enough we had a new histological colouring method we needed to test so there was some use to it. I performed a labyrinthectomy right away to prepare a hopefully slightly more succesful experiment for next monday. In the meantime I will keep working on my report.

Punk in Amsterdam

The time to go back to the Netherlands is getting closer and thanks to my brother I have tickets to some nice upcoming concerts. I am going to see Lagwagon on january 9th. I have seen them many times before, but it was never dissappointing. The best thing is Bo (well, actually Tim) managed to get me tickets for Me First and The Gimme Gimmes. Why is this so great? Well first of all it's an awesome band. A sideproject with members of Swingin' Utters, NOFX, Lagwagon and the Foo Fighters, playing only covers. Second; because it's a project band they don't tour very often. Third; their original tour did Portland in april (when I was in the Netherlands) and Amsterdam in september (when I was in Portland) . But the show in Amsterdam got cancelled and later postponed to may 5th. So luckily now I can go. Oh, and both shows are in De Melkweg in Amsterdam, which is my favourite club of all time.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Fall at Washington park

Oregon is a green summer... In fall it's every shade between deep green and intense red. Sunday I decided to go to Washington Park to enjoy the colors of fall. Washington Park is a large park just outside the city centre f Portland featuring the Japanese Garden, International Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Oregon Holocaust Memorial and the Lewis and Clark Memorial. Visited them all and made some nice pictures; see my photoblog. Let me especially mention the Japanese Garden and; it's great! If you ever visit Portland, don't miss it! The Rose Garden was nice, but I think it's way better in summer, when it's in bloom. There were roses blooming now, but not that much.

After my park visit, I parked my car at the easbank of the Willamette and walked to the city centre where I spend some time at Powell's. Had some coffee and checked a million books. I bought this awesome "Annotated Alice" book. I always loved the story of Alice in Wonderland, and this book has both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. But what's even better; it also has many many footnotes to explain references and hidden jokes. Just great!

Monday, October 17, 2005

My first Pumpkin-experience

This picture summarizes my first pumpkin experience. Saturday we went to a pumpkin patch to pick up the pumpkins for halloween. Now a pumpkin patch is not just a store or a market, it's an experience. They really put some work in it; you go to the pumpkin field on a hay wagon where you can pick out your own pumpkin. But that's not all. There are also goats and chickens, corn-mazes, hay-mazes, pumpkin bowling and apparently they used to have pony rides as well (but not this year).

So there you are, in a large field; surrounded by pumpkins.... which one do you pick? For Max this was easy: the largest you can find, of course!!! So we all picked a pumpkin, loaded them in the car and had some delicious farm-made fries. Back home, I had another first timer; carving a pumpkin! 'Cause you can pick a huge pumpkin when you're five, but carving it all by yourself is another story. So I helped Max and carved my first pumpkin ever.

Yesterday I decided my hair was getting too long again. With no Sita around for another four weeks I could either go to a hair salon or do it myself with the clipper. And ...drumroll... I did it myself, but with all the problems the 6$ clipper gave us the first time we used it, I decided to get a better one. This one had combs that allowed cutting anywhere between 0 mm and 25 mm. I decided 22 mm on top and 10 mm on the sides would do and started. When I started I realised that in the worst case scenario I'd mess up and have to use a 10 mm (or shorter) all over. But even that wouldn't be a problem. I must admit it's easier when Sita does my hair, but I'm satisfied with the result. Okay, it's probably not perfect, but it's nice and short and it'll do. Besides, most will grow back before I am home again....

Music plug-in code is slightly improved and features whole mp3's from And I have disabled the autostart, so it's still there, but only if you start it yourself (and only in firefox of course). Today; No Use For A Name...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Master thesis planning

Another little step towards graduation was made this week. I managed to find proper supervision for the subject I intend to write a master thesis about. Because of the PhD-project I am starting after graduation (but also out of general interest) I intend to write a thesis on conscious visual perception; "know what you see, see what you know". I want the history of thinking about "consciousness" and give an overview of the neuroscience behind e.g. the difference between awareness and consciousness, the roles of willpower, context and knowledge on perception and more of those things. I want to start at the end of november and finish it in early february.

I am happy with my choice of supervisors and their willingness to cooperate. I asked Prof. Wim van de Grind to be my primary supervisor. Although this professor in functional neurobiology is officially retired since 2001, he is still active at my university. His lectures early in my study Biology, interested me for neurobiology and we all know what happened after that.... He thought it was a fun idea and agreed to supervise me. Over the years Wim van de Grind has written numerous publications under which the books "Naturlijke Intelligentie (Natural Intelligence)" and "Intelligentie in een Notendop (Intelligence in a Nutshell)"

But as mentioned before this professor has officially retired so I needed an other "official" supervisor. Prof. Frans Verstraten, received his PhD in 1994 with Wim van de Grind as his promotor. Today, he's professor
Experimental Psychology and head of the Psychonomics department of my University. He co-wrote the books "Het Brein te Kijk (Looking at the Brain)" and "The Motion After-effect" and makes regular appearances in the popular-scientific TV-show "Hoe?zo! (How?Like that!)". The two professors have also published together in the past, and know each other very well. Frans Verstraten directly agreed to be the official supervisor so I have a subject and I have my supervisors. All I need to do now is fill out another stack of forms to get permission for it. Another step closer to graduation...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

25 years and counting....

It was my birthday today. For all of you that have send cards, e-cards, e-mails or talked to me on the phone or MSN. Thank you! For everyone that forgot; no hard feelings, I totally suck at remembering b-days myself. It was weird not being around my friends on my birthday but I don't think there has been as much excitement on my birthday in about 15 years. But hey, what can you expect with my 5 and 2 year old cousins?

So when I got out of the shower this morning there were helium balloons in fornt of my room. Max picked a theme for my birthday(cause, hey, you gotta have a theme!) and I had a Spongebob Squarepants party. I actually think the Spongebob cartoons are hilarious so it was a great pick. Bella suggested a ladybird-theme but Max smartly pointed out that ladybirds are girly things so that it was out of the question. So one of the balloons had spongebob on it and at night we had a spongebob cake, on spongebob plates, on a spongebob tablecloth, with spongebob napkins. I can't remember if I ever had a cake with my name on it before...

If this wasn't enough americana I got tricked at dinner. So, at many restaurants, they have this thing when you tell them it's someone's birthday some of the employees come to your table and sing you a birthday song. I think it's fun for children, but totally stupid for anyone older then ten years old, and I mentioned that before. So I should have known they were going to trick me into having people sing for me at the restaurant. We went to Chevy's for mexican food and Max told me he had to go to the restroom. Since I was the only other guy there (Martin's in DC for work) it was only logical I took him. So when we were gone they told the restaurant-people about my birthday and I had to deal with the singing and wear a sombrero; hey for me! just great.....

The rest of the day I didn't really do much. Sita called and it was fun talking to her again. Too bad she called just during the soccer worldcup preliminaries match between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic (while we agreed she could call all day, but not during the match: girls?! No, just kidding, I didn't mind)... But we won 2-0 and have qualified for the worldcup 2006 in germany!!

'Bout my presents; my USA-family gave me a large "Portland" coffe mug and a gift card of Jamba Juice. That's a store selling fresh juices and smoothies and I usually go there at friday afternoon to end my working week with a "Vibrant C" which is (in their words):
"....sunshine-y blend of freshly-squeezed orange juice, pineapple juice, bananas, honey and botanicals is vitamin-packed with over 1400% RDI of vitamin C and bioflavonoids that help strengthen and protect your immune system, skin and internal organs as well as folic acid for a healthy nervous system. C how this juicy blend can give you back what you need and keep you healthy!" But the most important thing is that it tastes great!

Max also handmade me a little pillow with emboidered dinosaurs on it. Awesome (of course)! My parents gave me money which will (most probably) be invested in a new and better bed when I get home again. Sita gave me a cool present too. I got the card below; we're going to Berlin (or another fun city) for a weekend! Very cool!

So that's it, I'm 25 now; it doesn't really hurt, but I AM entering the wrong part of my twenties. Ah well, I have nothing to complain about really....

Thursday, October 06, 2005

New music

I'm in a Toy Dolls mood today, hence the new music... Might go and get myself the new album this afternoon...

And if you still haven't made the transition from internet explorer to firefox, then... ah well...your (bad) choice. Thanks to Edwin for pointing my attention to it, I might try a new Linux distro when I get home. Ubuntu might just do all I want from an OS, there appears to be an open source alternative for practically all software I use so this just might be enough to get rid of windows after all and run a 100% free OS.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I am going....

My flight can be rescheduled. Unfortunately I'll still leave Portland at 7.10 am and I will still arrive in Amsterdam at 6.55 am, so that's EARLY. Too bad. I will arrive in Washinton DC at 15.00, where I can take a shuttle to the downtown hotel. It has been arranged with the hotel, so I can stay with my lab-collegues. We're staying at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, which looks very nice. There is even a rooftop pool with a view over Washington DC!! From the hotel there's a free shuttle service to the conference center where the meeting is. It's also right at a metro station so if neuroscience needs a break it's easy to explore downtown DC. The hotel is also only a coupe of blocks from the white house and the Washington monument, so it's going to be quite a cool trip. My flight leaves wednesday 16th at 5.30 pm, so I have to leave the conference at noon, which is a couple of hours before my collegues are presenting. Yeah, it's too bad I'll miss that but there's no later flight and I already know what they will be talking about. Just a shame they are scheduled in the last hours of a 5 day meeting and I'll be at the airport by then.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Neuroscience meeting 2005

Well, it looks like my plans on returning home migth be slightly altered again. My professor just offered me to go to the Neuroscience meeting in Washington DC. He'll pay for the ticket and/or any possible costs in changing my flight back to the Netherlands, the hotel and the registration fees. It will mean that I'll be home 9 days later though since the meeting is november 12-16 and I originally planned to go home november 7th. But this is a major opportunity. We're talking about the largest (30.000 people) and most influential congress in the field of neuroscience and it's quite expensive to attend. If I would go for three days from the Netherlands it would cost approx. 700€(flight) + 450$(three nights hotel) + 100$(registration) so that's a total of about 1400$. Now I only have to pay for my food and transportation in Washington DC.

So now to the practical stuff. I must try to find out how to change my flight, look into the problems I am going to encounter by this possible extended stay.I think I have a course starting on november 16th. Ah well, then I'll just miss the first day.

**EDIT oct 3** Okay, my flight can be changed for 170€, and I don't need any other tickets since I was bound to fly to Amsterdam with a transfer in Washington DC already. I'll just fly to Washington 6 days later and stay there for a couple of days before I get on a plane to Amsterdam. For a hotel we can probably manage to arrange something with the place the rest of the lab is staying and I actually get money for cabs and food as well. This is most probably not going to cost me anything extra. Very nice...**

Thursday, September 29, 2005

New flight schedule

I got an email today that informed me, my flight home was rescheduled. And it's not getting any better. In stead of the leaving at 11am and arriving at 9am, I'm now leaving at 7am and arriving at 7am and instead of 1h in chicago I have a 2.5h transfer in washington dc. Well it sucks, but what can you do about it? Sure you can make a scene and everything, but hey, I'll try to sleep anyway and I'll just take a long coffee-break in washington. It's a long tiring journey anyway...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

An other shade of green....

We went to see Jimmy Eat World and Greenday in the Memorial Coliseum, Portland, last night. And well, it was not what I hoped for. Before I start complaining, let me point that I think Greenday has written a bunch of very catchy songs with sometimes funny an lately nice and critical lyrics. I liked them in the early and mid-nineties when I was discovering punk-rock bit by bit. It's just that....

Apparently Greenday is HUGE in the USA which in part might explain why we we're watching the Billie Joe Armstrong show, with the only need for the crowd to go crazy was for him to be there.... Unfortunately his crowd participation thing heavily relied on shouting "hey Portland!" or "hey-hooo!" with which he unfortunately was assured of thousands of people responding loud with brilliant responses such as "yeah" and "hey-hoo". Don't get me wrong, that's okay if you do it once or twice but every f*****g 5 minutes??!! The in-between-songs were awful, with BJA taking any pose whatsoever for god knows how long and the crowd going crazy with their annoying high pitched children voices. Maybe I'm getting old but I always think something is wrong when the audience is filled with kids that brought their parents for guardiance. Just like I start to worry if I see too many Blink182 t-shirts, women in high heels, girls dressed like Avril and guys wearing make-up. They were all there....

We just saw a little bit of Jimmy Eat World, which wasn't impressive but not bad either. The music preceeding Greendays show gave me hope. I heard the ramones, the clash, less than jake, bu then something awful happened... Y.M.C.A.... I guess in the USA this song doesn't have the "gay" image it has in the Netherlands or I was surrounded bij thousands of queers. Just to make clear, I don't have a problem with homosexuals, I have a problem with an enormous mass of people doing the arm movements to form the Y.MC.A. letters. Greenday played tight and the lights and firework were great but the crowd and the hey-ho's drove me nuts. And I don't mind it if there are one or two sensitive songs, I can even deal with the occasional ligter in the air but that much and that often? Give me a break! Apparently the lighter has been overtaken by the now hugely popular act of putting your mobile phone in the air, wow, al those lit displays really set a wonderful atmosphere.....NOT!!

Then greenday did this Operation Ivy cover "Knowledge". I love OpIvy, and Greenday covered this song nicely on their 1991 album "smoothed out slappy hours", but they played it not very well now and they thought it necessary to form a band out of people from the audience and let them play. Great for those people, a shame for the song. The first half an hour I thought we were listening to the cd-presentation of "american idiot", since no song older than two years was played. They made up for that later in the show by playing some classics though.

To summarize; Greenday was thight, but predictable, annoying and boring in-between songs. The audience was, well how will put it, "not my kind of audience"... They would have fitted well at a bitney spears concert with their hysterical teenage shouting.

Why was this show such a disappointment, I ask myself. Well I can think of a couple of reasons. Apparently I was wrong thinking Greenday has even a bit of Punkrock spirit left. They obviously have turned into this mega-pop-rock-punky sensation. The stuff MTV feeds the kids like geese in French foie gras farm. And apparently they're okay with it since the interaction between band and crowd wouldn't misfit a backstreet boys concert. Are we talking "american idiot" or "american idols"? An other thing is the location; until about ten years ago the Memorial Coliseum was the home of the Portland Trail Blazers and NBA games were played there. I don't like big venues and I don't seats during a (punk)rock concert. Another minor thing was the fact that the strongest drinks inside the hall where strawberry lemonades. Sure there was beer, but no way you can have a beer and watch the band at the same time. The idea alone; ridiculous!

To conclude; luckily there's no audience or attitude on the albums, so I really think this is the best way to enjoy greenday these days. I'm sorry if I sound like a negative, critical, old asshole. Cause maybe that's just what I am when it comes to music. I don't say everything used to be better, but I sure liked greenday better when the were an other shade of green....

*Maybe it was a cultural thing as well. This might just be totally american, but I don't think (and hope) so.

**something completely different; can any of you dutch people come up with a proper dutch word for ignorance? "onwetendheid" misses something, I'm just wondering if we even have a word like that....

Monday, September 26, 2005

Today's surgery attempt

Another week, another try! Vadim and I both performed a labyrinthectomy. Not entirely succesful but not completely disappointing either. Vadim's mouse survived but needed a second shot of anesthesia during the procedure. It is now having some trouble coming out of it, but it's still alive so it looks hopeful. I was a little less lucky. The procedure went great and fast enough. Unfortunately the animal died during the procedure. That can happen, it's just very annoying that we don't know why it died. It didn't bleed at all and we were supposedly on the safe side with our dose of anesthesia. We'll just try again tomorrow and if Vadim's mouse survives we might do some recording. So work is in progress, we're getting better and succes is close... I'll keep you posted..

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Just a pic....

Dunno, just a pic, no need to explain..


Yesterday after watching Max's soccer match, I made pannenkoeken. These dutch pancakes are rather different from their american counterparts. They're thinner and bigger. I made a lot but today we are already approaching the bottom of the pile so I guess it won't get wasted. I was Bella's first time she had pannekoeken and she especially liked the cheesy ones. That morning we went to the Dutch store to get some stroop (a kind of syrup, you put on the pannenkoek) and many other things you never realise are unique for the Netherlands when you see them in your supermarket every week. A sure treat for the immigrant and the accompanying kid that is allowed to get his own assorting of "dropjes". Other than that there is not a lot to tell. Time flies now that I have some practical work to do besides writing my report and the weekends are gone before you know it.

To top it off for the night I changed the music again. Has any of you ever had the weird experience you always kind of liked a certain band but than one day you listen to it again after you haven't listened to it for a while and you totally love them. And you just can't figure out was has caused this change, since it's the same music it was years ago. Well, I have had that with the Clash and it was starting when I wrote that post about it a while ago. Right now I listen to it practically every day when I go to work and it never gets boring. These guys just made some awesome music and it's just weird I never fully realised that. Also I promised Martin I wouldn't mention his soccer-matches on my blog so I won't ;P


This week I performed my first operation on the mouse inner ear. I'd love to tell you people what it's like but that's hard to do without giving some detailed information about the anatomy of the ear first. This first picture is of a mouse's skull. The hole at which is says external auditory meatus is basically the ear-opening and in the mouse it has a diameter of approximately 1 mm. That's our starting point But to get there we should make a little incision between the mouse's eye and ear and make our way through some muscle and fat tissue. Needless to say that the mouse is at that moment under anesthesia and it won't feel a thing. Once we have our ear-opening free we remove the tympanic membrane (eardrum) and we can see the inner ear. This procedure and everything from that point is done with tiny tools and under a microscope. In the inner ear there are three little bones that are interconnected and are there to transport the oscillation we call sound from the tympanic membrane to the deepest part of the inner ear; the cochlea where the auditory nerve takes the signal to the brain. The three little bones are called malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). The lower picture shows you the orientation of these bones. The picture is of a human ear, but in the mouse it's very similar (only a lot smaller and other angles). We remove the malleus and incus pretty easy, but the stapes offers a problem. As you can see in the picture it has a triangular shape and right through the middle goes a major arterie. Avoiding bloodloss is already very important since a mouse only has about three mililitres, but with such a (relatively) big arterie we have to be extra careful. So we use a microdrill to drill away a pice of bone to create better acces to the arterie and than we coagulate it (burn it shut). Than we can remove the stapes, if it is not burnt during the coagulation already (remember those bones are a couple of micrometres in size) and we will see the oval window which is the entrance to the inner ear. We then inject a little bit of neurotoxin in the inner ear and plug it off with gelfoam. The mouse gets put back together with about three stitches and the Labyrinthectomy is complete. Won't the animal be deaf on one ear then, you might ask. Well, yes it would be, but more importantly the neurotoxin will destroy the receptor haircells of the vestibular system, so no "balance-information" will be provided by that side of the head. This is an important aspect in our research to unravel the neural circuitry behind balance maintenaince. It would go to far to tell you why, and besides I don't think many of you will truly be interested in that. If you are, I'll be more than happy to explain it to you one day....

Last week we haven't actually let a mouse come out of the anesthesia, because we had to practise the technique first. I'm new to the basic idea of operating an live animals and Vadim who has many years experience in neurosurgery had done these operations on rats and rabbits but it was his first time on a mouse as well. Our conclusion is that it is definately doable, but I should get a little faster. Right now it takes me about 1.5h and that for the best result we should do it within the hour to keep the mouse in shape and under anesthesia. We will try that next week, so we can monitor the recovery of the mouse better.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Missing out on a great trip...

Grrr, I am missing out on the annual sailing trip of Sita's family. That's really a shame cause it's always one of the best weekends of the year. Just being at the sea all the time. Wind, sun, coffee, beer and the most insane, meaningless, but highly entertaining conversations.... Well, too bad, there's nothing I can do about it, but I'm missing out on these kind of views:

CS Lewis

I finished "The Chronicles of Narnia" tonight. I read the seven books in chronological order, which is the way the author, CS Lewis, said he preferred it to be read (although there is discussion wether reading it in publishing order wouldn't be better. Frankly I think it doesn't really matter).

It wasn't the first time I read the books. I have read them a long time ago when I was (and this is a guess) about ten years old. I don't know wether I have read them all back then and although a lot of it was a feast of recognition, there was also some stuff I didn't remember. The first book "the magician's nephew" was kind of disappointing. Was this really the series I loved when I was a kid? Narnia didn't seem as exciting as I remembered it to be. But everything turned out well with the "the lion, the witch and the wardrobe" altough I still thought there was a lot more action in the story I remembered than there seemed to be right now. "The horse and his boy" was ok, but not very exciting either. It was when I was reading "Prince Caspian" when it all came together and the world of Narnia as I remembered it started to live again. "The voyage of the dawn treader" and "the silver chair"kept that feeling alive very well, while in "the last battle" mr Lewis kind of went overboard on the symbolism. But he 's forgiven. I loved rereading "the Chronicles of Narnia" which I now consider to be one of the best series of books that are interesting for both children and adults. It doesn't rank as high as Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" but if you like one, you will most probably like the other. Tolkien and CS Lewis were friends and I wonder what kinds of discussions those two will have had that led to the creation of both "middle earth" and "narnia". Maybe I need to find a more historical book on that(or do a nice modern google search), or maybe any of you might know more about that andcares to let me know.

Disney is turning "the lion the witch and the wardrobe" into a major motion picture that will probably hit the cinemas right before christmas. I wonder if it will be any good, the strength of the narnia series lies in the complete chronicles. At least for me it's that way. Nevertheless I will probably try the movie, but I also wanted to see "the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy" which is one of my alltime favorite books. After all the bad reviews the urge kind of faded and I still haven't seen it.

By the way; I changed the site's music to the Foo Fighters - Cold day in the sun. I intend to switch it a lot just to try keep it interesting and reflecting my current interests. And yes, Deborah was right, the last Foo Fighters album is way better than the previous one!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

New feature for Firefox users

I needed a break from science today and started playing around with the html-code for this site again. I added background music; a short clip will automatically start playing when you open the site. That is, if you're not still one of those ignorant people that use Microsofts Internet Explorer as a browser, cause then it won't work. If you use a proper browser like firefox, a mediaplayer control bar will show up in the side-bar and you can turn of the music if you don't like it. But it will only play once and it's just a couple of seconds.

Maybe this will turn out to be a very annoying feature and then I will get rid of again, but for now, I've had some coding-fun, so you'll have to deal with it. The clip playing at the moment is "Angel wings" from the Social Distortion album "Sex, love and Rock'n'Roll". I plan to change the clip regularly, that is, IF I decide to keep the feature.

I don't know wether it will work in Netscape, Opera or others. It probably will, since it's always microsoft that has to do things differently....

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Efficiency and stomach pains...

My stomach hurts, but it's my own fault. Although circumstances are not entirely within my control, I can blame no one but myself. Today was a day in which I did not do a crazy lot but what I did sorted result....yeeeeeeeeh for efficiency! I had a talk with my professor earlier this week about the practical work in progress at the moment. The lab is running out of money, so pisriorities are with finishing grant proposals . This basically means that the only practical work going on at the moment is some molecular work in order to create some nice pictures to accomodate the grant proposal.

The new behavioral experiment I designed with Neal will have to wait longer, because the necessary new device is far from ready. We actually decided we're giving up the hope of it being ready in time. If the device is ready (and that'll probably take another week or two) we still have to finish the electronics for it, which is another couple of weeks. Well, I will only be here for 7,5 more weeks so I don't have that kind of time. All I am doing at the moment is work on my final report, which is a lot of work but predominantly theoretical, and I would like to do some practical work as well. I did not go to the USA just to sit behind my laptop and type! So we decided we will attempt to do some more electrophysilogical experiments. We will perform unilateral laberinthectomies in mice and record from Purkinje cells. This fits into the experimental switch from rabbit to mice since Neal and Vadim did such an experiment on rabbits in 2003 and a similar result in mice is a necessary result to validate the interneuron recordings in mice.

I also decided which PhD project I want to work on. If it's up to me, I will stick with the high potential project on conscious visual perception. So that's decided, another problem of my mind. This lead me to start planning my master's thesis a little further. My master's administration agrees on the rest of my planning so this is the last thing I have to arrange. I want to do the thesis on (un)conscious visual perception, since it's interesting and may serve as a nice introduction for the PhD project. The thing I have to decide on is who I will ask to supervise and assess the thesis. My preference lies with a professor in Amsterdam but then I need to have a second supervisor at my own university again. I have not figured out who to ask for that yet, but there are a couple of professors that would be suitable.

After all that planning stuff (which is more than just make a decision, I read a lot of articles to come up with the choices I think are right) I noticed my thermos of coffee was empty and it was close to 6 pm already. On my way home I realized the house would be filled with the ladies of my aunt's bookclub. Thinking how that wouldn't be the best circumstances to make dinner I decided to pick up some dinner on the way home (hey, it's the USA the streets are flooded with food providing venues). So I dropped by Taco Del Mar and got a burrito platter. And I thought Taco Bell made good mexican food: This was so much better! It was actually so good that when I came home and noticed all the women I slipped downstairs to my room and ate it TOO FAST, for which I am now paying the price :S Well actually since I started writing this post the feeling that I'm about to explode has pretty much faded.

You see, writing about it how you feel does help you to deal with your problems!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Boys will be boys....

Hehe, need I say more?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Work and play....

So another week in the USA has passed and I've been so busy I already typed a sentence saying nothing really happened when I realized that that's not true. Monday was labour day, which means a day off and it was also the last day of summer vacation for Max, so we made it a fun end of summer. We went to a Family Fun Centre, where we played mini-golf (and don't call it midget-golf in the USA, cause Grumpey will sue you right away!), all kinds of fair-like games which got Max the winning mood of a true gambler, and Martin and Max did a bumperboat ride (including watercannons!). Bella was less fortunate; to maintain her falling streak she had set in the week before by running into a door-post, she was walking one way and looking another way on the mini-golf course... And mini-golf courses are full of obstacles that make you trip, fall, bump, your head and cut yourself. Besides this little drama it was a fun day that was concluded with a cinema visit to watch "March of the Penguins". A very cool movie about the extreme conditions penguins on antarctica have to withstand to reproduce succesfully.

For dinner Martin made very nice chicken-sateh. And now my request to all you readers in the Netherlands; for a good american chicken-sateh we use a marinade of dutch/indonesian nasi mix. Which is something they don't sell here. So, I know there are very many better causes to help out, but if you want to make a pseudo-dutch family in the USA very happy send in those envelopes of conimex!! You can ask me for the adress and of course postage will be reimbursed on request...

And the rest of the week I just worked and worked and worked. The new stimulus/recording device still is far from ready and the people in the lab are all working on writing grants (to ensure there is money for research last year) and finifhing the manuscript of the previously executed electrophysiology experiments. So, to put it shortly, the only experiments that are done right now, are done to get preliminary molecular data for the grant proposal. And that is not something for me to work on. So with no electrophysiology in progress and the materials for the newly proposed behavioral experiments far from ready I am working on my report all day every day. Which is something that is kind of booring but also satisfying when it is working out nicely. I intend to write a report with four major chapters, one giving background information on the cerebellum (anatomy, cellular organisation, function), the vestibular and visual systems and the circuitry involved and one for each experimental line (electrophysiology, behavioral neurobiology and computational neurobiology) I have been involved in.

That's where it is getting difficult though. I first spend a couple of months exploring a simulation model of the cerebellar circuitry. This computermodel together with literature was a nice way to get the hang of the circuitry, but I left the model after thinking over how our hypotheses could fit into the model and never went through the trouble of actually programming that, since I didn't think that would make any difference for our research. Well I guess I can still write that.. Then there's the behavioral neurobiology, we came up with a nice idea, I build some rather simple devices to check some assumptions (all just by observing, never actually recording or measuring anything) and then we told the engineers what we wanted them to build. Till today we only have an official drawing of the sketches we made and still no device, and therefore no pilot experiments and no data, let alone results and conclusions. It's good thing the electrophysiology manuscript is almost ready. Although I am not one of the authors of the article I did work in that project to learn about the techniques and that promises to become a nice chapter.

I finally got a reply from my master coordinator today telling she agrees with the way I intend to get all my required study-points. That's a good thing, so as soon as I have decided what project I want to do for my PhD (yep I'm still in doubt) I can make arrangements for my final thesis and graduation is coming closer. Today I realised I have to give a final presentation of this internship, but it would be nonsense to do it in the group I am working in, cause I'll be telling them exactly what they thaught me and what they do theirselves. Maybe I can give a final presentation in the Netherlands where people might actually hear something new. That would be better I guess. Well, I'll figure that out later....

For now I'll take a last cup of coffee and write some more before I start my weekend. This report is gonna be huge. It is already 41 pages and that's that's only a (not quite finished) background chapter, and the first draw of the first electrophysiology experiment. Adding references would account for at least 5 pages and the other two research chapters will problably take some space as well. I guess difficult topics require long explanations, or maybe I just have a tendency to write too much. Judging from the length of this post, that just might be the case....

Friday, September 02, 2005

Popquiz; What band never covered the Clash?

No really I think it's one of the most covered bands ever and then I'm not even mentioning the influence on the sounds of punk and rock as we know it. Wow Chris, that's pretty strong propaganda coming from someone that wasn't even born when the Clash released their most famous abum "London's calling". Where did that come from, you might ask. Well, let me tell you; since the formatted iPod debacle I have been limited in my choice of music and as most of you will probably agree, that's not something one should be limited in. Well, in my attempts to get the new Transplants album "Haunted Cities" I encountered "Streetcore" by Joe Strummer and the Mescalero's. For those that lack a memory or love for useless musical facts; Joe Strummer was the singer of the Clash. He died in 2002 from a heart attack just after he finished this album. And this album is just fabulous! Don't expect to hear the clash or some awesome punk, it's more of a folky rock'n'roll thing (making up genres is not really my cup of tea, maybe Lucas and Joost can help me out here?!) Of course this album led me to relisten the Clash albums that are probably enormously underrated by the largest part of my generation. They absolutely kick ass! I liked 'em before, but I love 'em now. I fought the Clash and the Clash won!!

Whilst on the asskicking, old music-train I relistened Minor Threat, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, the Business and Social Distortion. Complemented with Johnny Cash, Joey Ramone and Billy Bragg it made a fine mix. But I didn't forget to get involved in more recent music; the new MxPx "panic", the last Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards "Viking", the new Dropkick Murphy's "warrior's code", the last Foo Fighters "In your honor" and I found a great Rancid Live album "live in Nottingham" where it al comes together when Lars Frederiksen dedicates the Billy Bragg song "To have and to have not" (previously covered by Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards) to the late Joe Strummer. Who said this wasn't a coherent post?

And the take home message: Go check out the mentioned albums, if there's some sense of music in you there will at least one that you like...

By the way; I think Jimi Hendrix never covered the Clash :P (given the chronology of events) But would he had he lived later or longer? That's the kind of "back to the future"-madness that could change the evolution o rock and punk forever. Wow, this has turned in total and utter nonsense! But still, you're reading it; what does that say about you??

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Choices, choices....

I received an email today from my future boss informing me that another research project proposal got granted. Two months ago when we had our first talk about my future possibilities as a PhD student in his lab, this proposal was only just submitted and he asked me my preference in research projects; the already granted project investigating "conscious visual perception" or the submitted one "spatial abstraction and categorisation" (in simple words "controlling what you see" and "spatial orientation"). Back then I thought both projects sounded like interesting and fun. Both used similar techniques (fMRI, electrophysiology and psychophysics). CVP had a larger international outreach, SAC a more concrete aim. I told him I did not really have a preference and I got the job for the CVP-project. All good.

Well today I got this email telling me the SAC-project got granted as well and if I would be willing to switch to the SAC so someone else could start on CVP right away (since I will only be able to start in february or march). Now I don't know what to do. Since I got really enthusiastic about the CVP over the last months I think I prefer not to switch, but is a first thought the right one? I should read in on the SAC and see if my first thought lingers on. For the type of work it wouldn't matter, same methods (other stimuli though), same lab, same pay.... It's the context that makes the difference; what ultimate goal do I consider more attractive to work on for 4 years, do I want to work in a biology-physics context or a biology-psychology context, do I want to flirt with a scientific approach to an age old philosophic problem or do I want to work more applied, is the collaboration with Harvard/Princeton/Salk/Sydney that important to me?

I realize that this is a luxury problem. I didn't graduate yet, still I'm sure of a nice PhD-student position and I'm nagging on about how hard it is to choose between two projects... But still it decides what I'll be doing for four years and what I'll get a PhD in which might be important for the rest of my scientific career.. Sigh, and I don't even know why I am posting this, it's not like any of you will some up with the solution (although I dare you to!). I have to figure this one out myself...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

She's gone....

She’s gone…. This morning (really, really early) Sita had to go back to the Netherlands. Waking up before 6 am (and that’s a sunday morning) is not really my thing and saying goodbye for another ten weeks after having so much fun for a couple of weeks was not really a motivation to get up either. But hey, that’s life; so we drove to the airport at sunrise which offered an awesome view of Mt. Hood, one of the cascade mountain range’s volcanoes we had left less than twelve hours before.

Saturday we did the “Mt. Hood loop” a scenic route through the Columbia River Gorge, along the river, passing a couple of falls, historic landmarks and circling Mt. Hood with bypasses up the hill. We started off at Crown Point, a viewpoint with a fantastic view of the gorge. From there we visited Latourell falls, Wahkeena falls and Multnomah falls. At Multnomah we walked all the way up to the top of the fall where there was a great view. Of the river that is, because you could hardly see the fall itself. From there we moved on; saw the Bonneville Dam, the Bridge of the Gods and the Hood River village. Then we went up the hill to the Mt. Hood meadows and we arrived at Timberline Lodge at about 9 pm. That’s where we had dinner and when we came back outside we were surprised with the ultimately dark night sky. I don’t think I have ever seen so many stars…

The downside of the dark night was the ride down the hill. Deer along the road and only sight for as far the headlights of the car allowed us to see. We came home at about 11 pm and drank a bottle “goodbye-wine” with Martin and Angee, followed by a very short night, the ride to the airport, a double espresso on an empty stomach and unfortunately saying goodbye for real. Well, it’s only ten weeks, we’ll survive and it’ll give us something to look forward to.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Monday morning (early again!!) Sita and I started of our journey to Seattle by walking to the bus stop. Turned out the trip planner wasn't accurate or we made a mistake but line 38 that was supposed to take us to Portland did not stop there... So we walked to another bus stop and took another bus that eventually brought us to the train station where we boarded our Amtrak train for a 3.5 our ride to Seattle. Great view of the washington lakes on the way and a comfortable way of travelling.

When we got out at King street station in Seattle, we got a great view of the former Kingdome (now known as the qwest field) and Safeco field stadium, homes of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners. We walked down to Seattle's waterfront and got lunch at Red Robin's on the Pier. We actually were served by a waiter with a dutch mom that could speak a fair amount of dutch. What are the chances for that? After lunch we walked p to Pike Place Public Market where we saw the famous flying fish and I bought a couple of cheap used records at the Holy Cow record store (finally bought "the gray race" Bad Religions best album ever, "Remanufacture" by Fear Factory and a SNUFF album). We wlked up Pike hill towards the monorail to Seattle Center where the 1962 world fair was held and where the famous Space Needle is situated. Our hotel (Inn at Queen Anne) was only two blocks away from it and right across the key arena (home of the Seattle Sonics and many great concerts), so we checked in and went back out. We took the monorail back downtown and walked around the city some more and had a great dinner at the waterfront at Fishermans. Seafood with a view on Elliot bay, very nice. After that we went to the Imax theatre at Seattle center to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you should; the Depp-Burton thing worked out fine again! It was midnight when we came back out and we decided to walk up onto Queen Anne Hill to have the famous view on Seattle's skyline from Highland Park; Absolutely fabulous!

The next morning we visited the Experience the Music Project, which is weird building with all kinds of music exhibitions and a really cool piece of art made out of guitars. Really fun! After strolling around for a couple of hours we went downtown and took a cruise on Elliot Bay to get a great view of Seattle from the water. Besides Sita getting hit by a seagull-bomber, this was really fun too. We spend the left hour walking through Pioneer square back to the station. The ride back was shortened by watching "Madagascar", a pretty fun movie too. Back in Portland we took a bus to Portland Community College where Martin picked us up.

After a long night of sleep I spend today recovering, reorganizing and updating this blog; which is done right now....

Lincoln City August 15-21

Monday august 15th we went back to Lincoln City again. This time we stayed a week and it was even more vacation-like. For the first days we didn't do much but hang around the pool and on the beach. And we tried the hotel's cocktail mixing skills which weren't disappointing at all. Wednesday Sita and I went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium where Sita once again displayed her extraordinary love for sea otters (which I must admit are quite fun to look at). Thursday we toured down highway 101, which is a north-south highway along the Oregon coast that has a nice ocean view almost all the time. We went south to Florence where we visited the world's largest sea cave; Sealionscave. And yes that does mean there are a lot of sea lions there, they're just not in the cave, but right outside of it. Well there was one in the cave but compared to the tens of californian sea lions outside that's nothing. After this stop we went further south and stopped at the Oregon Dunes Area. A huge area with high sand dunes where all the real Americans can have fun with their outrageously big four wheel drive cars and small dune buggies. Since we didn't have an outrageously big fourwheeldrive car we walked up the dunes which appeared to be harder than it seemed. But when we arrived at the top puffing like a ... (hm, does anyone know something that puffs really hard; besides an old steam train or a woman in labour?) it was really worth it.

Friday we wanted to do a similar tour north. First take a look at cascade head, a conserved nature area with a great view and then maybe move on to Astoria or Tillamook. Well, we kind of underestimated cascade head where we spend 5 hours hiking from the foot of the mountain to the top and back. After that we were kind of tired so we skipped the rest of the plans. Cascade head is a part of the cascade mountain range that covers the northwest of the USA from california to canada. Cascade head sticks out into the Pacific at the point where the salmon river enters the Pacific, which offers a great view. Unfortunately it was really foggy when we were there so we couldn't see very far but the weird sight of a fog covered Pacific was pretty cool too.

On saturday we visited the Tanger Factory outlet stores in Lincoln city cause Sita needed shoes and wanted to buy a skirt. Being a woman as she is, we came home with a reasonable amount of clothes, but none of them could be called shoes nor skirt. Still it was a pretty succesful trip and even I bought some clothes more exciting than socks (which was the only thing I bought there last time) . When we came back we met up with Martin, Angee and the kids on the beach and we all walked to Mo's for dinner. After that we got same great icecream and walked back to make a fire on the beach and there were s'mores for everyone this time.

Sunday we packed everything up, went for a final swim in the pool and headed home. Sita and I stopped by the Tigard mall and finally got her a set of shoes. Before we went to bed we had some Taco Bell's (which should definately open some locations in the Netherlands) and watched Sleepless in Seattle, which is actually kind of a booring movie, but Sita and I were to go to Seattle the next morning so the views of Seattle were a nice preview.

The best news that evening was that Ian found a car and when all paperwork is done I can drive my '90 Honda Accord....

More great pictures can be found shortly on my photoblog...

Bridge pedal/stride

"Birds sing there's not a cloud in the sky
August 8th is a beautiful day...." (NOFX)

Monday night august 8th I went to the airport to pick up Sita. Yeeeeh! It's just that I was waiting by the wrong gate... Well, the Netherlands to Portland, that's an international flight right? That's what I thought, forgetting the transition in New York which made the flight to Portland domestic and thereby arriving at gate 9 and not 10.... It didn't take me too long to realize my mistake though, so I walked over to gate 9 too meet up with Sita. Really good to see her again.

The rest of the week I was still working and Sita added a nasty cold to the jetlag which tied her to the bed pretty much. But at the end of the week my vacation began and the fun could start! Friday night I went out with Ian (Angee's brother) on the hunt for an acceptable, afforable used car. Unfortunately enough only one person on his list of selected ads answered the phone. We went down to take a look at this Toyota Camry which seemed to be ok. But back home we checked the VIN and the car turned out to have a history of being totalled and stolen, so that deal was off and although it was a fun night it wasn't very succesful. Saturday Sita and I went to downtown Portland, wandered through the city, hang around the waterfront and had dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery, where they serve some nice food and excellent beer. Back home we subscribed for the anual Portland Providene Bridge Pedal on sunday.

During this event all ten bridges that connect the parts of Portland east and west of the Willamette river are closed of for cars and there are biking and walking tours that cross one or more bridges. Because we didn't have bikes and didn't want to go through the trouble of renting them at 7 in the morning we decided to do the bridge stride which is a walking tour of 5 miles crossing 2 of the ten bridges; the steel bridge which is an industrial looking bridge and the Fremont bridge which is a very high bow bridge.
From the Fremont bridge you have a very nice view of the river and the city. We walked from 8 to 10 am and visited the Bite of Oregon Festival afterwards. This festival at the waterfront features typical Oregon cuisine and might be more fun at a later time of day when you are actually feeling like eeting salmon and stuff and tasting a lot of local wine. At about 11 am it's fun to see and we got a great fresh strawberry lemonade but it's not very exciting.

Lincoln City August 5-7

After we dropped off my parents at the airport (Max: You can come back anytime you want!) on friday august 5th, we moved on to the coast for a short weekend at the beach. Angee came later since she had to work. A lot later actually since she was one of the tires of the car ran flat on her way down to the beach. Fortunately she had just renewed her AAA subscription so everything worked out fine but it was past midnight when she arrived and the car needed new tires the next morning. We didn't do anything too exciting that weekend but breath some nice ocean air and enjoy the beach, the pool and the hottub. We walked the beach over to Mo's for diner on saturday, flew some kite and spotted some seals. When we walked back we had to go through the "kietelgras" (which is the dutch term for tickly grass that Max uses to describe the dune grass).

Later that night I got invited to a real guys thing Max and Martin use to do on the beach; Make a fire.. "But, don't tell Bella, cause she can't come...", whispered Max in a conspirative voice. Once the fire was lit I was introduced to some more Americana; "S'mores". S'mores (if that's how you write it) are made of crackers with a little piece of Hershy's chocolate which is melted by a marshmallow straight from the fire and squashed by another piece cracker. Ultrasweet, but in moderate amounts very very good!

On sunday Martin and I went back cause we were expected at work on monday morning and the last time we tried going back early on a monday morning we didn't arrive at work till moday afternoon :)

Sorry, here we go again....

So it took me quite a while to post again. My humble apologies to all of you that thought something terrible had happened to me, but actually something good has happened; Sita is here! Yes and after not seeing my girlfriend for three months, you'll understand I kind of prioritize (is that even a word?) her above updating this blog. But after spending a week at the coast and a couple of days in Seattle I'm back in Lake Oswego and I'm using this day to rest and reorganize before I'll go back to the lab. Might as well report about the past couple of weeks then, right? So here we go, the next couple of posts will tell it all; prepare for a informative ride.....

Friday, August 05, 2005

the Pearl district

Since my parents are flying back to the Netherlands today we went out for dinner in Portland last night. It had been a very hot day with temperatures over 100F (about 35C) and it was still rather hot in the evening. We went to Fratelli, which is an Italian restaurant in Portland with a Dutch chef, named Paul. Martin and Angee now this guy so we got a great table and he came out of the kitchen for a talk. Man, this guy can cook! We were very lucky in our pick of the evening. It was the first thursday of the month and we were in the Pearl district in Portland. This is the most trendy part of Portland with a nice mixture of old warehouses, new appartment buildings, fun shops and a ton of art galleries. Well, the first thursday is the traditional start of new exhibitions and there is some sort of art market on the streets. Since it was such a hot evening the streets were flooded with people. Two types of people really sticked out of the crowd; there were these really arty looking alternative people and the really trendy people (and I quote; "Women come to the Pearl district to show off their new boobs"). As I mentioned before we had a nice table with a clear view on the passing crowd so we enjoyed ourselves watching the diversity pass by.

Afterwards we went for a walk through the Pearl again and hopped into Powell's. Powell's is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world and it's somewhat of a readers mecca. I am proud to say that I left the store again without buying any books. But who am I kidding, let's quote the governator "I'll be back". After this we dropped by Mio Gelato and got ourselves a VERY tasty gelato. I would recommend it to everyone that visits Portland. Enjoying our gelato's we walked back to the car and Martin took us home with a 100-turns detour through downtown Portland to show stuff. Altogether it was a fantastic evening, I was enjoying myself greatly (it would have been even nicer with Sita around, but you can't have everything and I think we'll visit the Pearl when she's here in a couple of days) and I think my parents couldn't have wished for a nicer last evening in Portland.