Back From The East

Most of my notes and photos from the World Science Forum are up on the World Academy of Young Scientists website, so if you're looking for those you can find them all on the WAYS site.

I already wrote about my initial second impressions of the World Science Forum, and not much has changed about that, though I did finally meet Hugues Lantuit, President of the Permafrost Young Researchers Network, in person, and we hung out for lots of the conference. Like most of the people at WAYS, he's a total overachiever with a sharp wit and a wicked sense of humor. He also curses like a sailor, as I would soon find out. During the conference, I didn't have time to show the visitors much of the city, but the WSF receptions on Thursday and Friday were pretty great.

Thursday morning, during the incredible breakfast at the hotel – the Hungarians know how to fry a sausage, let me tell you – I met up with Hugues and we walked up Vaci Utca (a beautiful, beautiful pedestrian walking street along the Danube lined with trendy shops) to the Hungarian Academy of Science, just before the Parliament. Security was rather tight with the presidents of four countries there, but we got in without incident, checked our coats, and met up with some other WAYS members in the main hall. With the 'Heads of State' sessions starting, Daniel Mietchen (Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences), his girlfriend Ji Hyun, Mande Holford, Michael Fischer (founder of the World Lecture Project, and of course Gaell Mainguy, President of WAYS, joined us. The heads of state panel was, well, everything I had hoped for, and let's leave it at that. The president of the Hellenic Republic, though, gave a passionate and relevant speech about serious need for change in our attitudes on the environment.

Thursday evening after the panels we went to some museum building whose name I forget on the Pest side of Budapest, at the top of a hill from where you can see most of Buda. It's a really, really pretty city, you know, and the view from the top is nothing short of breathtaking.

The reception started with a neat laser light show by a famous Hungarian artist, then the buffet opened, with all the delicious Hungarian cuisine you could ask for.

One of the highlights of the evening – and indeed of the whole conference – for me was having dinner with Mande, when Arden L. Bement Jr., Director of the National Science Foundation, came to join us. I had seen his talk during the panel "Science and Innovation as a Global Enterprise", and lots of what he had said resonated strongly with me. He stressed the importance of solid, well-thought-out cyberinfrastructure, and the need for social scientists to get more involved in the building of virtual communities.

When he joined Mande and I, we chatted about this, the growing movement in the US to promote community- and municipal- owned broadband networks, the potential of community groups and researchers collaborating to open up dark fibre to local community and municipal networks, the role of open-source technology in building these networks, the importance of social science and other related expertise in studying and learning how these systems are being used (I would add, as opposed to the current trend I'm seeing of web designers and web activists declaring themselves 'usability experts') and the importance of building a cyberinfrastructure and virtual community from the ground up that serves the need of netizens first and foremost, and not top-down, sanitized, artificial “country clubs on the web”.

It was obviously very reassuring to hear something like this from the director of the NSF. Oftentimes I find it difficult to convey why I do what I do, and his talk helped me crystallize how to talk about it in a way that I hadn't thought of before. If you know me well enough you know that I have what some would call slightly radical views about the Internet and its future, but it's rather comforting to know that people like Arden are leading the organizations that can potentially do the most to promote and encourage “very good things” like open source, community-owned and distributed networks, and accessible knowledge transfer. L. Bement

After a small group of us left the party as it was winding down, I found myself exceedingly tired later that night, and nearly fell asleep at the table in this generic 'English' pub we went to near their hotels, “John Bull” Pub or something. I turned in early-ish because the lag had started to hit me.

The next day we had the second part of the panel sessions; you can see notes and photos from these on the WAYS site as well.

Lunch both days was incredibly well-catered - well, maybe with the exception of the lack of certain foods on day 2 – the panel I was in ran about 30 minutes into lunch for some reason, and by the time we got around to the buffet table there was none of the good stuff left.

The reception that evening was a repeat of the same one back in 2005, at the last WSF. It was on a beautiful boat that cruised up and down the Danube, though this time the cruise was considerably shorter and the host of the reception, the President of Hungary, didn't show this time (though he had been at the Forum itself). We got a table just for the WAYSers and I managed to snap some candid photos of most of the group.

After the cruise, a big group of us made our way to a bar recommended by David, who had spent lots of time here already. It was a pretty decent bar, minus the music and the 65-year-old men fondling teenage girls. To be fair, though, that was a recurring theme in the city, as well as other places in Eastern Europe. We did manage to have a great time in between informal WAYS meetings, which themselves were markedly concise and productive, and refreshingly bullshit-free (refreshingly not meant for WAYS, but for the manner in which I've seen these types of meetings elsewhere generally conducted). We got lots done, so to speak.

The final closing panel was to be held the morning of Saturday the 10th at the Hungarian Parliament, but I was far too wasted I had been to it before and while it's a must-see, I didn't real feel the need to be there for the closing ceremony. Instead, we had one more WAYS meeting in lieu of going there, and then Mande, Juan Pablo, Michael and I went to the Hungarian Wine Tasting Museum, after taking the vernicular up to the eloquent plateau at the top of the city.

I'll spare the details, but suffice it to say that we got more than our Forints worth of walking unaccompanied around an awesome old wine cellar and sampling various Hungarian wines at our leisure. I think we were there almost until closing time before we realized we had gone from “sampling” to “swigging” wine. A broken glass, far too much spilled wine, several new friends and a couple of purchases later, David showed up (much more sober than we were). We then embarked on the grand adventure of finding somewhere to eat, going nearly door-to-door in search of fine cuisine, like some sort of misguided, heavily intoxicated, rag-tag band of itinerant food snobs.

Not the most eloquent of men even at my best, we found that my slurred lying to the 'maitre d' about having reservations at several upscale restaurants didn't really cut it here... except the last time.

Yes, sir?
Uh, yes, we're five.
Oh I'm sorry sir, we're completely booked, it's impossible.
Oh no, reservations. Um, we have reservations. Party of Five, for... umm.... Gabor?
Uhh, one moment sir, let me see what I can do.
(He returns 2 minutes later)
Yes sir, it seems we have a table. Right this way.

In all likeliness, however, my sixth sense [or, more likely, a drunken combination of senses one through five] tells me that it was more my attitude of naive tourist insistence than my clever ruse that got us seats.

Live Hungarian folk music – and one terrible interpretation of a greek wedding song – four and half tipsy foreigners, a round of “what jokes do you know?” which I'd rather not think about again, and a unique combination of food choices (note: goose liver on a bed of apple ginger sauce tastes exactly the way it sounds) meant that we all had a swell time before walking back down the embankement and retiring for the night.

Sunday, Mande (again) had the great idea of taking us to one of the famous Hungarian Bathhouses, this one in a hotel – Geldert or something I think? - where we dipped in the thermals baths, I experienced the joys and horrors of a steam room (“Yeah guys, I'm gonna get out. It's not the heat or the humidity, it's just that I can't breathe and the intergenerational couples rubbing up against each other and me are kind of freaking me out”). It was something to experience, and... I've experienced it, voila.

After a light lunch we split up, and Mande and Juan Pablo left to catch their flights. I went off to buy a new suitcase because mine had popped a zipper after all the flights back and forth. Taking the subway to the mall and finding what I was looking for was an adventure, though maybe not quite an ordeal.

If you plan on visiting, know that the language is obviously an issue when asking for directions, but most people try admirably to help you out. Getting down the subway at first was a little disconcerting, since the subway line itself is pretty far underground. The escalator is very steep, and you're on it for a good minute or so at least – not recommended for claustrophobes like myself.

Three stops and several questions later, I was at the mall, which is your generic suburb overpriced multilevel shopping mall. I got my suitcase and made my way back to the hotel, then went to have a bite to eat and some drinks (and great – and wide-ranging – conversation) with Michael, before he had to be on his way.

Sometimes, all you need is a little Buda in your Pest to get you back on track.


Monday, February 20th, 2017
john's picture

Are you suffering financially or do you need an urgent cash to pay your bills? And you want to take the risk of transforming your own life. Try and get your ATM blank card today and be among the lucky one's who are benefiting from this card. This ATM card is set capable of hacking into any ATM machines anywhere in the world. I have to know about this blank ATM card when I was looking for work online about a month ago. It has really changed my life forever and now I can say I'm rich because I am a living testimony. The less money I get in a day with this card is $3,000. Even now and then keep pumping money into my account. Although the card is illegal but there is no risk of being caught. It is programmed in such a way that it cannot be tracked and also has a technique that makes it impossible for the CCTV camera to detect you when using it. For details on how to get yours today contact

Monday, February 20th, 2017
john's picture

Você está sofrendo financeiramente ou você precisa de um dinheiro urgente para pagar suas contas? E você quer correr o risco de transformar sua própria vida. Tente e obtenha seu cartão em branco do ATM hoje e esteja entre o afortunado que está beneficiando deste cartão. Este cartão ATM é definido capaz de hackear em qualquer ATM máquinas em qualquer lugar do mundo. Eu tenho que saber sobre este cartão em branco do ATM quando eu procurava o trabalho em linha aproximadamente um mês há. Realmente mudou minha vida para sempre e agora posso dizer que sou rico porque sou um testemunho vivo. Quanto menos dinheiro eu conseguir em um dia com este cartão é de R $ 3.000. Mesmo agora e, em seguida, manter o bombeamento de dinheiro em minha conta. Embora o cartão é ilegal, mas não há risco de ser pego. Ele é programado de tal forma que não pode ser rastreado e também tem uma técnica que torna impossível para a câmera de CCTV para detectá-lo quando usá-lo. Para obter detalhes sobre como obter o seu hoje, entre em contato com

Eric Gomes
Thursday, June 1st, 2017
Eric Gomes's picture

My name is Eric Gomes i am located in USA,Texas. i will like to publish the hand work of God to the general public. God has been very grateful to me and my family. 5months ago i was seriously searching for a loan worth $90,000.00 to buy a house in the USA. And i was scammed by various lenders online, but 2weeks ago i saw a post about ATM blank cards. I doubted this but decided to give it a try by Contacting them through there emails on( they responded with their guidelines on how the card works. i'was assured that the card can withdraw $5000 instant & was credited with $500,000.00 so i requested for one & paid the purchasing fee to obtain the card. 72 hrs later, i was shock to see the DHL agent in my resident with a parcel{card} i signed and went back inside and confirmed the card works after the agent left. This is no doubts because i have the card & has made used of the card. This hackers are abroed based hackers set out to help people with financial freedom!! Contact them today on( if you wants to get rich with this card.

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017
Santos's picture

Recebi meu cartão ATM já programado e apagado para
Retire o máximo de US $ 50,000 MENSAL por um máximo de 12 MESES. Estou tão feliz com isso porque eu entendi meu na semana passada
E eu usei isso para obter US $ 150.000 já. Georg Bednorz Hackers está dando
O cartão apenas para ajudar os pobres e carentes, embora seja ilegal, mas isso
É algo legal e ele não é como outro golpe fingindo
Para ter os cartões em branco do ATM. E ninguém é pego quando
Usando o cartão. Obter o seu de Georg Bednorz Hackers hoje! Basta enviar um email

Add new comment