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...**