Tuesday, May 31, 2005

DIY and the pool

Memorial weekend was all about DIY'ing, we spend a lot of time at the old house, taking stuff down, weeding, painting and closing of a drain. Lots of work left, but also lots of work done. Yesterday evening we finally took Max to the swimming pool; he was so excited he kept running and jumping around. The pool is in the "Mountain Park Home Owners Recreation Centre" which also includes steam baths, saunas, fitness facilities, a basketball court and other fun stuff. And the best part of it all is that it's freely accessible for residents. Well, of course it's not free, but it comes with the house and you can not choose not to pay for it, so you might as well take advantage of it. I intend to pick up swimming again and go down to the pool on a weekly base to work out. Of course it's always questionable whether I will actually do this but since it's there and it's only a 10 minutes walk from the house, why shouldn't I? Max already asked us if we could go 'every day' but we managed to convince him that's a bit too much. This morning at breakfast however he already said "Wednesday is a good day for swimming, I know it" Well at least he likes it and yesterday after he was convinced there was no way he could sink with that life jacket on, he even swam 4 laps, unsupported! Considering it's an Olympic sized pool, that's 50m per lap and at the deepest point I guess it's about 3.40m deep, and Max is only 4 (well, almost 5), that's quite an achievement! Okay, he is still scared to put his head under water and he was swimming with 'diver's feet' as he called it, but it's a start and a pretty nice one.

Although Ian has worked hard on the car thing, it didn't work out yet. It's the wrong time of the year and the wrong price range to find a car. All the graduating high school kids are getting the cheap cars as a present and it remains a guess whether a car under 3000$ will not cause any major problems really fast. Since I don't have the money to spend more and I don't want to get into any complex financing arrangement we found another solution. I can use Martin's VW Jetta for now, as long as I can be flexible in using it (picking him up from work every now and then). Martin can use his bike to go to work and they still have the van for everything else. Martin and Angee were already planning on buying a 'new-used-second-car' after selling the other house, which will hopefully be in a week or two. If they do so I can just use the Jetta till I go back to the Netherlands and they will sell it then, instead of right away. I am lucky to have these people here; they are really nice for me and very helpful. And it's fun to stay with them as well.

Bleg, I just made my worst cup of coffee ever.. It tastes like water with a tiny little coffee flavour, it's awful. And I gave Vadim a cup too... I'll better apologize and make a better batch because this is just not worth it to be even called coffee. I guess Neal will be back from Italy later today or tomorrow and we can finally discuss what my project is going to be like and get to work. Right now I'm off trying to get myself a real cup of coffee.....

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Summer's setting in for sure now...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

And then there was sun...

And then there was sun! Yes my dear readers, it stopped raining and with the sun around it's even more beautiful around here. Yesterday, I went by the lab and got introduced to everybody. There is not a lot can do yet, since technicians have to set up my internet connection. Apparently that's kind of a big deal. The complex of the Neurological Science Institute is heavily secured. I wondered why, maybe to protect it from aggressive animal rights activists? Then I noticed that we're in the same building as the Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute and it started to make some sense. Since everything with even the word 'gene' in it scares the shit out of most people (it was tempting to say 'Americans' but I guess it's more of a worldwide problem) and you don't want any viruses on the loose it seems logical to have security at the complex gate where you drive in and in the building itself. Well I have got my 'visiting researcher' badge so I can get in everywhere now. Unfortunately to get a badge you have to be in the building and to get in the building, strictly speaking, you need a badge. But it all turned out well and now I can go where-ever I want. In a few days my visitors badge will be replaced by an employees badge with my picture on it and I am really 'one of the guys'. I met with Vadim Yakhnitsa today, who is probably going to be the guy I will work with the most, and he showed me the electrophysiology set-up and explained me what they're currently doing with it. He's a really friendly guy, originally from Ukraine, but he worked in Stockholm, Sweden, for a long time and he is in Portland only for five years now, so he knows what I have to deal with being new to the area.

Yesterday evening I helped Angee (my aunt) taking the ceiling out of their old house. They are making some 'cosmetical improvements' before attempting to sell it. Of course taken stuff apart is always fun, men will be boys forever, but pulling out about 1000 staples was less fun. Still, we managed to get the ceiling out in less than two hours which was way faster than we expected.

I got a local cell phone now, so it won't cost me 1,90 euros/minute to make a call anymore. And my attempts to get a car are also in progress. Ian, Angee's brother, will help me out with that, since neither me nor my uncle know a lot about cars or have any experience in buying a used car in the USA. I basically gave him carte blanche within my budget to get me a car that will be mechanically ok. I don't care much for esthetics in this case, it just needs to get me to the lab and take me around Oregon (end maybe some Canada, California or Washington state) and do that for six months without any major problems. I am confident he will manage to get me something nice and I'm very happy he is willing to do this for me.

Maybe I'll have a long weekend this weekend because most labs seem to be closed next Friday. It will probably have something to do with memorial weekend.

Just one more thing, if any of you is interested in what the city and nature looks like around here; check out this site. Some amazingly beautiful pictures!!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Lake Oswego

I dropped my uncle of at the airport this morning because he needs to go to Phoenix for a couple of days for work. This leaves me his car! Unfortunately it was almost out of fuel so I had to take an alternative route home to be at a gass station in time. The gass prices here are awesome. In the netherlands you pay about 1,30 euros for a litre. Here, you get a gallon for 2,39 dollars and a gallon is almost 4 litres. Just when I started to feel proud that I seemed to be getting home quite easy with the alternative route I must have taken a wrong turn and ended up south of Lake Oswego, where I should have been north of it... But I never leave the house without a map here, so I managed to find my way home. With the lake in between my current and desired location I decided to take a look at it. Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera, but I found this picture on the internet that kind of resembles what I saw this morning at 7 am. Well lets have some breakfast and when traffic lies down a bit I will head up to campus to report at the international office and hopefully pick up the keys and security badge for the NSI.

I got an email of the repairshop that has my laptop this morning saying they ordered the new screen but it will probably take 6-8 weeks for it to arrive. Personally I think that's crazy, but hey, what can you do about it... So in total I will have to miss my laptop for about 3 months. There's a lesson in it here; always tape your laptop to the table, it will save you a lot of trouble...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Dutch stuff

My family with some of the stuff I brought from the Netherlands...

Getting settled...

I have mastered the jetlag! At least I can stay up past 10pm so I think I have... I definitely need to get a car here, but it is not as simple as just going downtown and buy one. I still have a student's budget so I can not spend it all on a car.. For now I can use my uncle's car when he's at work, but it would be better if I had my own. Than I could start at the lab as well. After all I came down here for science. I drove down to the Neurological Science Institute yesterday(picture), to see how long it would take and if I could find it. Turns out it's only a 20 minute drive and although I did not find it right away, it's actually quit easy to find.

Here's an impression of the house I am staying. It's a fantastic place and my family is really nice. I made my grandma's famous tomato soup first the time in my life Wednesday and without being arrogant I think I can say it was pretty good :P My cousin (he's four) already showed me his goggles and told me about the swimming pool so I will probably take him there any time soon. I should also go down to Seattle, Vancouver, Montana, Crater Lake and the Pacific Coast and I haven't even seen Portland properly! Yes, I think I am going to have a fantastic time here! Should hurry getting a car.

Good news from the future-front; I am one of the candidates for a PHD-student position at the functional neurobiology department, where I did my first internship. Although I will only graduate in april and there is enough time to worry about jobs, this crossed my path and it would be a great job! At the moment I only know there are several candidates for the position, but I am one of them. The job will involve electrophysiology in primates and psychophysics in man and the main focus will be on the role of willpower/voluntary control in (visual) perception. It's a High Potential project, a collaboration between the departments of physics and biology. At the moment I am studying the C++ programming language to improve my experimental skills and chances. It will be no problem if I wouldn't get the job, but it would be great if I would!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Festival, party and flight....

A lot has happened since my previous post. Thank god it has, if nothing would have happened in over two weeks my life would have gotten pretty boring. Let’s go over the weeks;

After Queensday the first day worth noticing was may 5th, liberation day. A good reason for festivals all over the Netherlands. Luckily for us we live in a city that has one of the larger festivals, so we spend the day at the GriftPark in Utrecht listening to music, having a beer and realizing that it was not as warm as it seemed to be when we left the house in the morning (so maybe the shorts weren'’t such a good idea after all). In the evening we watched AZ win the soccer match against Sporting Club Lissabon but because of a Portuguese goal in the 122nd (!!!) minute they were still kicked out of the European competition. The night before PSV had won from AC Milan (3-1) but because of an Italian goal in extra time they were still out of competition. Enough about soccer and the disappointment of extra time counter goals. We decided to go to bar afterwards and on our way we were treated to a fair amount of liberating rain. The kind for which it doesn’'t matter whether you’'re in it for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, because you won'’t get any wetter after 30 seconds..

Saturday may 7th we had a party at our house. Partly because it was only one week before my departure to Portland, but more importantly because parties are fun and it had been a while. It wasn’'t very crowded (I think there were about 40 people or so), but they all partied hard resulting in a lot of fun and a sudden lack of beer at 3 am. We kind of miscalculated the amount the beer we needed and much to our surprise we were all out of it at 3 am. No one really seemed to care though, they just started drinking the wine and when all alcohol had made a journey down someone’'s throat at about 6 am the party was definitely over. After a good night’'s sleep we spend all Sunday cleaning and reorganizing the house. This is always the disadvantage of throwing a party yourself....

The rest of the two weeks mainly consisted of packing my stuff and cleaning my room. On Saturday we went to club Bibelot to watch my brother's band Powerslib play as a support act for Jaya the Cat. The show wasn’'t exactly perfect due to technical problems but it was still fun to see them again. Sunday my dad celebrated his birthday (that is actually today, HAPPY BIRTHDAY dad; you don’t turn 18 every day :P). I had the opportunity to see a lot of my family and say goodbye to them. Monday morning we got up at 5 am and that’s REALLY EARLY! As a result we were at the airport 3 hours early, talking about a safe margin… It was hard saying goodbye to Sita, but after all, I will see her again in about three months, so start counting girl! The trip was okay, but why do you get more leg space on a 1h flight from Amsterdam to Frankfurt than on a 10h flight from Frankfurt to Portland. After showing my passport and collection of other important documents and standing in line for an extensive period of time I finally arrived in heavily raining Portland. I delivered all the toys, sweets and cheese and got a quick tour around the city. After a 26h day I naturally slept fantastic and after a breakfast of pancakes and coffee, I am now answering my emails and posting my blog. Well, I did actually, cause now I'm done...

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Queensday and movie-time...

The Dutch went crazy for Queensday again! For all non-dutch; on april 30 we celebrate our queens birthday. Well, actually it's the birthday of the queens mom (she passed away last year) This year it was also our queens 25th year on the job. I wonder if our government gave her an engraved watch :P On the night before Queensday the actual party starts. In the larger cities like Utrecht the streets are flooded with happy (and slightly drunk) people, dressed mostly in orange, and there's a huge nightly flea market in the centre of the city. Unfortunately enough for me, I had to work on Queensday and be in at 10 am, so I did not spend the entire night in town. Work sucked by the way, there were hardly any customers so I was boored out of my brain for 7 hours, missing all the festivities and actually get very tired from doing so little... When I came home I decided not to go in town again, cause my feet were killing me, so I stayed in and watch two movies; the Devil's Advocate and Cube. the first one I had already seen before but it was on tv and I like it, so I decided it was worth to watch again. One of my friends had been very enthousiastic about Cube and I must admit it is a fantastic movie! Go see it if you haven't yet!

Sunday morning I woke up at 10 am and decided to watch some more movies and be lazy as hell. Although Ichi the Killer is not really a sunday morning movie I enjoyed it (one more I can get of my list of movies I should definately see some time). One last to go; Cube Zero, usually I don't like sequels (or I believe it's even nr.3, but HyperCube is not that good, or so I am told), but I am curious if it is anything like the original Cube. Well, I'll go get a cup of coffee and get back to doing nothing in particular..