Category Archives: EuroTrip ’08

My interviews with Radio Belgrade

Last year in May, when I visited Belgrade, I gave interviews with Radio Belgrade, talking about science publishing, Open Access, science communication and science blogging. The podcasts of these interviews – yes, they are in Serbian! – are now up:
Part 1
Part 2
I know that this blog has some ex-Yugoslavs in its regular audience, people who can understand the language. I hope you enjoy the interviews and spread the word if you like them.

More pictures of Professor Steve Steve…

…in Trieste. Hi to everyone there!

Open Access in Italy

Recordings from the Open Access panel in Trieste are now available online. The order was a little different – I went last.


My daughter collects snowglobes. Or, to be precise, we collect snowglobes for her when we travel. She has a few from New York City, one from San Francisco, one from Murtle Beach, one from Milwaukee. I badly messed up when I went to Boston last year and did not get one. Last year, the TSA made a rule that snowglobes cannot be in the carry-on luggage (and I prefer to travel light and not check in any bags), but the lax security at Milwaukee airport let me smuggle one in.
Now, traveling around Europe provided me with the opportunity to greatly add to her collection: snowglobes from London, Cambridge, Cromer, Trieste, Belgrade and Berlin. Carrying them on European airlines was easy, but I checked in the suitcase on the last flight back to the USA:

EuroTrip ’08 – Berlin, part VIII, Platform 17

Grunewald station in Berlin is a small, unasuming train station that looks like thousands of such stations around the world. But it is at this spot that thousands of Jews were loaded onto trains to Auschwitz and other places, initially in precise batches of 100 people per day, later increasing to more than a thousand per day, some days skipped, some days seeing two trains off, most well documented, but some trains going off into unknown directions….

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EuroTrip ’08 – Berlin, part VII, Holocaust Memorial

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe where, by design, concrete slabs that are initially perfectly aligned, due to sinking of the soil, adopt all sorts of different angles. Looking down the “aisles”, one sees people, children playing hide-and-seek, and suddenly disappearing. People vanish, while the entire structure slowly turns from perfect order to disorder:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Berlin, part VI, Natural History Muesum 2

More pictures from the Museum:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Berlin, part V, Natural History Muesum

Catriona and I, obviously, had fun here:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Berlin, part IV, sightseeing

Time to put up some of the pictures. Catriona took me around Berlin, for whatever one can see in just a day and a half – the Brandenburg gate, a slab of the Berlin wall, etc….

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EuroTrip ’08 – Berlin, part III, Wednesday dinner

For dinner, we went up high, really high – 230 meters, to a rotating restaurant, perhaps the highest blogger meetup to date?! There I met Cornelius Puschmann, Martin Fenner and his lovely wife, Catriona McCallum, Randolf Nesse, Bjoern Brembs and his girlfriend, and Mark who had to run early to watch, religiously, his team Chelsey in the semi-finals of the British soccer cup. We had beer and good food (some on dangerously looking skewers), quickly forgot about the vertigo, and discussed the future of scientific publishing:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Berlin, part II

After lunch, Catriona McCallum and Randolf Nesse (who, yes, writes a blog) met and discussed evolution and medicine and blogging and Facebook and Open Access and PLoS, etc.:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Berlin, lunch at the Institute

After a lovely flight, Catriona met me at the airport. We went to the Institute where I checked in my room, set up my wifi, then went down to meet the people and have lunch: various cold cuts, true Coca Cola, and a cream puff:

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Fried Smelt

This morning I had to get up early to go and give my interview for Radio Belgrade 1, at the same time when my Radio Belgrade 2 interview was on. This one will be broadcast in ten days or so. All the radio interviews will be recorded and placed on the web so I can link to it later. Afterwards, my Mom and I went to visit the graves of my Father and grandparents, did some shopping, and ended up in “Polet”, an ancient and excellent seafood restaurant in the middle of Belgrade, where we had, traditionally, fried smelt (or pilchard):

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, Monday afternoon

After watching the show jumping classes and chatting with my horsey friends, I went back to the city center, explored the place and saw that unlike most other types of stores, the bookstores are still there where I remembered them, not replaced by new boutiques and cafes, surviving the decades of hyperinflation, sanctions, wars and bombing. The Republic Square (“at the Horse”), the site of so many demonstrations in the 90s, is now a nice place for people-watching. I met a couple of friends from school there and we had cakes and reminisced about the good old times. They updated me about all of our old friends, who is alive, who is doing what, who is living where, etc,…

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, the Horses

Yesterday I went to the Belgrade Racecourse and the barns and was happy to meet many of my old friends, including my old trainer (with Professor Steve Steve below) as well as some good new kids, including two sisters who used to own and ride my old horse. There were two small show jumping classes yesterday (3’6″ and 4′), both with simple, nicely flowing courses appropriate for the very beginning of the show season. The horses are all better than what we used to ride, the rides went smoothly, and both sisters placed in the bigger class that included a jump-off:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, Easter lunch

Today is Orthodox Easter. Most everyone here will have lamb for lunch today. We did something different….
First, for breakfast I had snenokle (here is a recipe from a delightful Balkans food blog Palachinka) and I ground some chocolate on top of them:
Then, we had eggs. Not just painted on the outside, but simmered for many hours in onion husks, olive oil and a bunch of spices until the eggs were brown to the core:

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The best advertisment ever!

My ‘kum’ Miroslav (see the previous post) is working in Nigeria right now. A few weeks ago he went to Lagos on business and took this picture from the car:

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, kumovi

‘Kum’, in Serbo-Croatian language, denotes two things – godfather to a child, or the Best Man at the wedding. Well, I was a Best Man at a wedding some 20+ years ago. So, yesterday morning I went to visit them.
I saw the kids (20, 13 and 10: boy-girl-boy) – I have only seen the eldest one when he was seven.
I saw the cats: the black one is Professor Snape, the white one is Lucius, and Harry is suspected to be in Azkhaban.
Then we kicked the kids out to play, got on Skype, and had a marvelous 3-way, 2-hour chat. Ah, the wonders of technology. Velda (my ‘kuma’) is the LINUX administrator for the Ministry of finance. Her husband Miroslav is an engineer doing some construction in Nigeria so he joined us via intertubes. Lucius curled up on the sofa with us, but he promptly fell asleep and missed out on all the fun:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, the pretty

I walked around town a little bit these days. My feet know the way, even if all the names of streets were changed from WWII National Heroes to saints and medieval princes. It has changed a lot – there are nice new stores, cafes, restaurants and apartment buildings everywhere, the parks are well kept and beautiful, and the people are beautiful and well-dressed. The old, gray, socialist city of my youth is gone and replaced with a modern European city:
This is the Serbian Parliament (formerly Yugoslav Parliament):

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, the ugly

After the 1999 Clinton/Clark bombing of Belgrade, almost all of the ruined buildings were quickly torn down and replaced with modern buildings, perhaps out of spite (which is the national character trait). After all these years, the city is unrecognizable – it is cleaner, livelier, prettier, more modern and more optimistic than ever. Replacing the bombed buildings was also good for everyone’s sanity here – to forget quickly, move on, build new…
But, if you arrive in Belgrade by bus, by train, or by plane (and then take the bus into town), one of the first things you will see are these two buildings – enormous old buildings that used to house some of the governmental and military headquarters (my Mom used to work in one of them). They stay there as a reminder, almost a monument, and also as a ‘Welcome’ sign to the tourists from abroad:

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Belgrade Is The World

There were quite a lot of events and actions in Belgrade for the Earth Day last week. I came in on that day so I did not have time to see anything. But I loved the balloon they placed in the center of the Slavija square: it was a globe with recognizable outlines of the continents. But the parts of the world were labeled with the names of main streets, parts and neighborhoods of Belgrade (with some effort to match “characters” of the places):
The balloon was supposed to be set free on Earth Day, but, just as I was speaking at the Pediatric Center, a huge storm started outside and broke the balloon lose:
[Pictures stolen from Ana]

EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, Srdjan

I already mentioned my friend Srdjan Milovanovic before. Like his father, he is a psychiatrist now, but we go waaaaay back. We have been friends since we were really small – he was two and I was three years old. We grew up in this house – Srdjan on the 8th floor, I on 7th floor:
We were in the same classroom in the elementary school (grades 1-4), in the same middle school (5-8), and kept in touch even when we went to different high schools and later when I went to vet school and Srdjan to med school, and once I left for the USA.
Growing up, we spent a lot of time visiting each other. His mother and I had a special connection – we always had something to talk about and I loved her food. So, although I saw Srdjan earlier in the week, I just had to go and visit his Mom again:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, The St.Sava Cathedral

It took a century to build the St.Sava Cathedral. I remember playing on its foundations as a kid – a great fortress to play in. But the enterior has just begun to be worked on – I am not sure if the pictures can show the immensity of the space in there:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, beef soup

Beef soup with cream, eggs and lemon – today’s lunch:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, palacinke

Last night’s dinner – crepes filled with a mix of cheese, eggs and sugar, baked in the oven with some sweet cream:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, fish soup

I was kicking myself all day yesterday because I forgot to take my camera with me for most of the day. First, my mother and I went to the bank to do some business which, of course, made us hungry so we stopped by a bakery and got fresh djevrek (no, although it looks like a sesame bagel, it is not – it is much lighter and crispier). Mmmmmm….
Then we went to the main building of the Natural History Museum and made some contacts there. The Director was at a meeting, but the secretary is smart, hip and on-the-ball and will be a great contact for the future as they try to design a new website and attempt to make their collection visible to the rest of the world.
Then we went to the Farmers’ Market, where I really wished I had my camera with me. Among else, we bought some carp from the Skadarsko lake in Montenegro (Danube is full of mercury after the bombing, so it is not a good idea to eat its fish any more).
Then, we got hungry again and stopped by a cake & sweets shop and got a bunch of cakes. By the time we got home and I got my camera out, 3.5 out of 4 cakes were already eaten (krempite i indijaneri) so all I can show you is a very sweet and creamy ‘sampita’ in the process of getting devoured:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, Open Access

OK, I posted a lot of pictures of Belgrade and my Mom’s food so far, but the real business was on Tuesday, when I gave two talks about Open Access, PLoS, Science 2.0, the future of the scientific paper, Open Notebook Science and science blogging.
In the morning, I gave a talk in the gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art in front of about 20 people, mostly specialist librarians. That session was recorded and, as soon as the podcast is available, I will link to it. There were many good questions asked at the end and the excitement was palpable.
Afterwards I gave an interview for Radio Beograd 202 which ran that same afternoon at 5pm as well as again next morning. I will get a CD of the recording and once I get home will turn it into a podcast and post it.
The next day I gave an interview for a popular show about Digital Culture on Radio Belgrade 2 which will run on Monday morning (I think) and will be available online as a podcast at some point in the future). On Tuesday I have to go to the Radio Belgrade 1 station to be on a very hip (they say “cult”) show in the morning – it is a call-in show, I understand, and will be interesting to do. At least by now, my ability to talk about all this in Serbian language has somewhat improved 😉
In the afternoon, I went to the Pediatric Center of the Medical School at the University of Belgrade, where I gave the presentation again, with perhaps less talk about blogs and more emphasis on Open Access publishing, especially in the medical area. There were about 30 people in the amphitheater, including my Mom, her student Vuk, three of my childhood friends (from elementary school and even before) – one of whom is a professor of Psychiatry – and two high school friends: one is a biomedical researcher and the other, Dr.Vera Zdravkovic who organized the event, is a pediatric endocrinologist and also a professor in the med school.
Again, the interest and enthusiasm were huge, with many excellent questions afterwards – we kept talking in the hall for quite a while afterwards. Perhaps the most important immediate result is that local people who can and should help each other – the researchers/physicians and the medical librarians – got to meet each other and understand how they can help each other find, produce, organize and share information. I think that in Serbia librarians will be the key to the move towards modern use of online technology in scientific and medical research and publishing.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, both groups (librarians and researchers) got to meet Vedran, the guru of everything Open in Serbia who will be able to help them immensely with all aspects of opening their science to the world and managing the scientific and medical information.
The librarian of the Oncology Center, Ana Ivkovic, was at the afternoon talk. She runs a fantastic blog and she took some pictures from the event and posted them on Flickr.
The Director of the Pediatric Center is an amazing woman. I am not at all surprised that, under her leadership, her center is at the cutting edge of the use of technology in comparison to the rest of the Medical School. We had great discussion after the talk in her office and, afterwards, at lunch in the restaurant Frans. Frans is right next to the vet school and I spent many hours there during my vet-school years back in the 80s. It used to be a hole in the wall with a few tables inside and a few outside. Now it is an elite restaurant – and we joked that they made their first million off of me and my friends and all the beer we had there over the years.

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, Museum of Natural History

Museum of Natural History in Belgrade is 113 years old. Tomorrow, I will go to the main building to talk to people and perhaps check the library and some specimens – there is no real exhibit there. But today I went to the ancient and tiny exhibit building, all the way out on Kalemegdan (the old fortress). Since the space is so small, they can only showcase a small portion of the collection at any given time. These few months, the exhibits is about Skeletons. Very nicely done. I particularly liked a whole series of skeletons of a fox and another series of a rat, both showing the various phases of the movement, i.e., a single big jump. Several of the pieces showed the disarticulated bones, the internal structure of the bones and joints, etc. Extra points for figuring out the identity of a series of small bones attached to a board…

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, more food….

Food is probably the most nostalgia-inducing facet of life….

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade

Cathedral of Saint Sava:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Belgrade, Mom’s cooking is the best in the world

Nothing better than coming back home after a long time (13 years since my last visit), seeing my family and eating Mom’s food:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, Sunday dinner

In the end, late at night, I had dinner (goulash – excellent) with the Director of FEST and a bunch of young science journalists, all graduates (Masters) of the Trieste program in Science Communication (SISSA) and most of them involved in some way in the organization of FEST:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, Lawrence Krauss talk

FEST ended with a (excellent) keynote lecture by Lawrence Krauss:

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Open Access in Italian

The podcast of the radio interview with Derek Law and me about Open Access is now available online. Most of the show is in Italian, but if you cannot understand it, our interview is in English and it starts at the 22:07 minute point.

EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, the last day

Some more pictures….

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, Professor Steve Steve makes a splash

Professor Steve Steve went to FEST with me yesterday and made many friends (I told his story 50 times at least). Here he is with Lawrence Krauss:
And I hope Mrs.Coturnix does not click on the “Read on….” button, as Professor Steve Steve is a well-known and certified babe magnet:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, the Scienceblogging session, part II

Here are some even better pictures from the panel:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, the Scienceblogging session

The science blogging session yesterday was really fun. I am wearing headphones as everyone else was speaking Italian, so I listened to the simultaneous translation. The locals also listened to me via the interpreter:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, James Joyce

Not many people know that James Joyce spent 11 years in Trieste as a lecturer at the University. Now, his bronze statue still walks the bridge across the canal on Ponte Rossa:

EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, dogs at FEST

I love how many dogs I saw roaming FEST and learning about science….

EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, the Friday dinner

Yes, that is Lawrence Krauss on the left….

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, Radio3

Last night, Derek Law and I were taped for about 15 minutes for Radio3, about Open Access and the world of publishing:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, Open Access for Dummies

Yesterday afternoon, Sely Costa and Derek Law did a fun session, where she pretended to be an unconcerned citizen and he tried to persuade her that OA is a good thing. It was a fun way to demonstrate how OA benefits everyone, not just researchers.

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, Franc Nekrep

One of the highlights of the visit to Trieste was the opportunity to finally meet an old blog-friend of mine. Franc Nekrep is a professor of Mikrobiology in Ljubljana, Slovenia and we have been reading each others blogs for a couple of years now. It was so much fun to finally meet in person. He came to the Open Access session and then we went out for lunch and had a great time. Check his blogs (as much as you can understand Slovenian): MIKROB(io)LOG and LiLoLe:
Oh, and for my foodblogging friends who would chastise me if I missed posting pictures of the food we had, here they are – buffalo mozzarella, chicken with mushrooms, and steak with (embedded) parmesan:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, the Open Access panel

Here are, quickly for now, some pictures from the yesterday’s panel “Open Access; let’s do it: top down, bottom up or both?” Stevan Harnad did his presentation first via Skype (from Montreal) which was, unfortunately, not recorded. The rest of the session was recorded and at some time in the future will become available online – I will let you know when this happens.
Since most of the panel discussed institutional library repositories, I felt I needed to focus entirely on the “other Open Access”, i.e., the OA journals, especially PLoS. More later….(also it seems that the wifi at the hotel is working better today).
The first picture is of the empty room – I forgot to take the “after” picture of the full room, but believe me it was:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, the Open Access dinner

It’s nice to get to know your fellow panelists REALLY well over a dinner and wine the night before the event. So we got together and had great fun: Sely Costa from Brasil, A.R.D. Prasad from India, Derek Law and his wife from Scotland, Stefania from Italy and myself.
Warning – marine biology bloggers should not look under the fold.
Warning 2 – those offended by the idea that a Kinder-egg contains a winged Barbie look-alike as a toy should not look under the fold. Also, do not try to imagine the double- and triple-entendres and innuendo as I was trying to put her together and find the appropriate holes…
You were warned.

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, part V

Trieste at night. Smell of the Adriatic sea, in which I learned to swim some decades ago, just two towns (and two border crossings) away from here. Ponte Rossa, where I got my first jeans, back in 1970 or so. Nostalgia.

EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, part IV, the Professor Steve Steve edition

Professor Steve Steve went to FEST with me today and saw some impostors that came all the way from China, some nice FEST employees (good – I realized I did not do enough teasing of Mrs.Coturnix by posting pictures of beautiful people of the XY karyotype lately), cool Italian science journalists and bloggers like Elisabetta Tola and Marco Boscollo, and had a real Italian pizza for lunch:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, part III

The entire thing is happening in a large building on a pier (Molo IV). I was impressed by the crowds on the first day. I also got vouchers for four nice restaurants in town for meals. Last night I went to a nice pizza place and had spaghetti with tomato&eggplant sauce and veal in wine sauce – delicious: real Italian food! Tonight, I will also be interviewed for the radio – there will be a podcast online so I will link to it later. Pictures under the fold:

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EuroTrip ’08 – Trieste, part II

Here are some more pictures from the Science FEST:

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