Saturday, December 10, 2005

It's the season

Just want to add some seasonal mood to my homepage... What better way than an American commercial!? (Click to start playback)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hu - A conversation at the White House

A number of people asked me to put the interesting conversation between president George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice at the White House on my homepage again... Here it is: Just press the play icon.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Akiyoshi's illusion pages

Visual illusions have fascinated me ever since I can remember. It's probably the reason why I gained interested in neuroscience and psychology. We all know the famous illusions like the Necker-cube, Kaniza's triangles and the impossible staircases of Escher (strictly not visual illusions, but cognitively pleasing anyway). We probably also all know the 3D stereograms for which you have to cross your eyes; these were already amazing. Ingrid Christoffels today sent me the visual below as well as this link to Akiyoshi's illusion pages, which contains many spectacular examples of visually induced illusion of motion. Alieneggs Illusion

Friday, November 11, 2005

Low-cost flying in Europe

When I travel, I like to be done traveling as fast as possible. I don't want to spend a lot of time 'on the road'. So what do you do these days? Indeed you fly. Flying is the quickest way to get somewhere... Well, if your destination has an airport... And if there is an airport at your origin... And if there is a carrier flying from your origin to your destination. I happen to be so lucky to live in a place nearby an airport—a big airport (well, Europe's 5th largest). Big airports tend to serve many different carriers, and different carriers tend to fly to different places. So I am in de fortunate circumstance to be able change my destination according to where there is an airport and a carrier flying from my home town to that airport. So in principle, I can fly all over the world right from my own home town, and I get to see the worlds ... airports! (Fortunately I like cities very much, and airports tend to be near to cities, so I often get to see these cities when I fly there). But... flying is not cheap... and so I don't fly a lot... Actually I am flying more and more frequently these days (another advantage of doing science); I'm not nearly as frequent a flyer as E.J. is, but I'm making progress. And now it is becoming even easier (even if you're not in science!): recently Pier H opened at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which was opened especially for so called low-cost airline's! These low-cost airline's are cheap, cheap to the bones, cheap in every sense of the word... but they suffice, they do exactly what the tell you; they bring you from A to B—nothing more, nothing less. If only I wouldn't keep forgetting the names of those low cost carriers out there... To help remember, I compiled a short list of low-cost airlines flying from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to other interesting places in Europe

Be sure to bring your own food and drink, or have some money in your pocket.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

FW: moeilijk | FW: difficult

I received the link below from Eric-Jan. It says:

"This is realy a tricky one! Are you able to find the three differences? It is said that only 5% is able to find them."

-----Original Message-----
From: Eric-Jan Wagenmakers 
Sent: dinsdag 8 november 2005 13:11
To: Raoul Grasman
Subject: FW: moeilijk

-----Original Message----- From: Sander Nieuwenhuis link Sent: dinsdag 8 november 2005 13:09 To: Eric-Jan Wagenmakers

Subject: moeilijk

Dit is echt een lastige! Lukt het jou om de drie verschillen te vinden? Het schijnt dat maar 5% ze kan vinden.

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sleuths Crack Tracking Code Discovered in Color Printers

A came across the article below. I found it sort of shocking that this is done in secrete.... Sounds like KGB/Stasi practices. The Washington Post was one of a number of articles on the web: Sleuths Crack Tracking Code Discovered in Color Printers Sleuths Crack Tracking Code Discovered in Color Printers

" By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2005; Page D01

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it isn't. The pages coming out of your color printer may contain hidden information that could be used to track you down if you ever cross the U.S. government.

Last year, an article in PC World magazine pointed out that printouts from many color laser printers contained yellow dots scattered across the page, viewable only with a special kind of flashlight. The article quoted a senior researcher at Xerox Corp. as saying the dots contain information useful to law-enforcement authorities, a secret digital "license tag" for tracking down criminals.

The content of the coded information was supposed to be a secret, available only to agencies looking for counterfeiters who use color printers.

Now, the secret is out.

Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco consumer privacy group, said it had cracked the code used in a widely used line of Xerox printers, an invisible bar code of sorts that contains the serial number of the printer as well as the date and time a document was printed.

With the Xerox printers, the information appears as a pattern of yellow dots, each only a millimeter wide and visible only with a magnifying glass and a blue light.

The EFF said it has identified similar coding on pages printed from nearly every major printer manufacturer, including Hewlett-Packard Co., though its team has so far cracked the codes for only one type of Xerox printer.

The U.S. Secret Service acknowledged yesterday that the markings, which are not visible to the human eye, are there, but it played down the use for invading privacy.

"It's strictly a countermeasure to prevent illegal activity specific to counterfeiting," agency spokesman Eric Zahren said. "It's to protect our currency and to protect people's hard-earned money."

It's unclear whether the yellow-dot codes have ever been used to make an arrest. And no one would say how long the codes have been in use. But Seth Schoen, the EFF technologist who led the organization's research, said he had seen the coding on documents produced by printers that were at least 10 years old.

"It seems like someone in the government has managed to have a lot of influence in printing technology," he said.

Xerox spokesman Bill McKee confirmed the existence of the hidden codes, but he said the company was simply assisting an agency that asked for help. McKee said the program was part of a cooperation with government agencies, competing manufacturers and a "consortium of banks," but would not provide further details. HP said in a statement that it is involved in anti-counterfeiting measures and supports the cooperation between the printer industry and those who are working to reduce counterfeiting.

Schoen said that the existence of the encoded information could be a threat to people who live in repressive governments or those who have a legitimate need for privacy. It reminds him, he said, of a program the Soviet Union once had in place to record sample typewriter printouts in hopes of tracking the origins of underground, self-published literature.

"It's disturbing that something on this scale, with so many privacy implications, happened with such a tiny amount of publicity," Schoen said.

And it's not as if the information is encrypted in a highly secure fashion, Schoen said. The EFF spent months collecting samples from printers around the world and then handed them off to an intern, who came back with the results in about a week.

"We were able to break this code very rapidly," Schoen said."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 Maps

Okay, the search engine war is really on. After Google had brought us Google Maps and Google Earth, shortly followed by MSN's copycat virtual earth, now Amazon has setup Maps with some really cool feature (at least as long as you live in the US): Street level photo's! (Or "BlockView Images" as Amazon wants you to call them.) Wouldn't it be time for those people to realize that the earth is slightly larger than the US alone? Or rather: wouldn't it be time for a European company with similar creativity and resources? Anyway, it's realy cool, but unfortunately you can't upload photo's; I would have had some. Unfortunately, a picture of the street where I have been living is not available... well, never mind, I have my own:

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Adobe Premiere

Finally got back to my movie editing interests.... Had some previous experience with Window Movie Maker, but Adobe Premiere came preinstalled with my new laptop. Less intuitive than WMM, but many more capabilities and much more advanced (still happy with WMM though). Explored Adobe Premiere making a short impression of the firework at the last day of Sail. The overlay of the Sail logo on the video is not possible with WMM. Subtitling is more troublesome than in WMM.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Amsterdam Sail '05

I went to see the fireworks at Sail '05. I strolled along the eastside wharf (my 'backyard' so to speak) for a while, to see the coulorfully lit sailing ships that have moored there. It was an enchanting experience; I never think of Amsterdam as centered about its harbour, but walking there realy provokes the feeling of a seafaring city.
The Sedof came only today -- two days after all the other tall ships arrived. It's famous because it is the world's longest sailing ship still in operation (127 meters long, if I'm well informed). It was German build in 1912 (if I remember correctly), but was taken as a war trophy by the Russians after the second world war. Frankly, I didn't find it as exciting as some of the other ships, but this picture was more or less sharp...
Sail '05 Amsterdam
Sail '05 Amsterdam - Replica of the Prins Willem, a 17th century Dutch East Indies Company (V.O.C.) trading ship 

Thursday, August 18, 2005

World population 1950-2050

You probably knew that China has the largest population in the world (1.3 billion), but did you know that India (now 1.1 billion) is prospected to have the largest population by 2034? China is prospected to have a population of   1.461 billion by then, while India is prospected to have a population of 1.466 billion. I was quite surprised to find out that the United States ranks third in largest population (296 million), as I thought Indonesia (242 million) would. Also surprising is that the Netherlands ranks 59th ( 16.4 million), ranked 34th in 1950 (10.1 million), but it will rank 76th by the year 2050 (a prospected 17.3 million inhabitants). I remember vividly, that when I was about five or six years of age, I was convinced that the Netherlands was the smallest country in the world... An 'oncle' (someone we met on a holiday in France) soon explained to me that Luxembourg (469,571 inhabitants) is much smaller, and even Belgium ( 10.4 million) is. The smallest population is fact found in Saint Pierre and Miquelon (7012 inhabitants--- can that be a self sustaining vital democratic "country"??), it ranks 227th. By the year 2050, the world's total population is prospected to count 9.2 billion people. Well, that's based on current growth rates, and of course we don't know how much the world will change in 45 years (just think of the tremendous changes over the last century). All these figures come from a special webpage of the US census bureau, and the latter has more interesting data freely accessible.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Big jobs that pay badly

Now it's official: I make lowsy earnings... According to an article on the CNN website today, academic research scientists work subject to " of the most disproportionate ratios of training to pay..."
Here's an excerpt of the article:

A career with one of the most disproportionate ratios of training to pay is that of academic research scientist.

A Ph.D. program and dissertation are requirements for the job, which can take between six and eight years to complete. (See correction.) Add to that several years in the postdoctoral phase of one's career to qualify for much coveted tenure-track positions.

During the postdoc phase, you are likely to teach, run a lab with experiments that require you to check in at all hours, publish research and write grants – for a salary that may not exceed $43,000.

The length of the postdoc career has doubled in the past 10 years, said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. "It's taking longer and longer to get there. You can't start a family. It's really tough."

And it's made tougher still by the fact that in many disciplines, there aren't nearly as many tenure-track positions as there are candidates.

So, to those who earn their MBAs in two years and snag six-figure jobs soon after graduation, your jobs may be hard, but maybe not quite as hard as you think.

Correction: An earlier version of this story understated the number of years it takes to get a PhD in the sciences. CNN/Money regrets the error.

Mmm... I guess I realy love my job...


Friday, August 12, 2005

Looking for a book?

Another of Google's good ideas... if you're looking for a book, and want to be able to have peek into the text, start looking here!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Chicago blues

During my stay in Chicago I made a lot of photo's and short film clips, with my Minolta D'image X. To inform the people at home about the awesome view I had every morning when walking to work at the University of Chicago at Illinois (UIC), and about the 'look-and-feel' of the neighborhood I lived in, I made the a short compilation of some of them. You can view the compilation with Windows Media Player (or any player that plays .wmv files): Chicago blues.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I made some terribly kitschy photographs of sunsets in Amsterdam. You can view them here. If you click one of the images you will get a larger version.