Wednesday, January 2, 2008

America, America

December was an exciting month for me. Matti and I spent a week visiting Ranga Myneni's group at Boston University (BU) and another week in San Francisco participating in the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). I had been looking forward to the trip for quite a while - it would be nice to meet friends at BU (I was a visiting scholar there three years ago) and to go to a conference to get some new and fresh ideas. And of course, to see the way Americans prepare for Christmas (and all the other wintery holidays)...

Boston greeted us with wind and cold weather. Places looked pretty much the same as three years ago. I guess the biggest change was the new ticket system in the "T" (subway) and a Chinese extension to the campus food court. During our stay there, we had a very interesting discussion about p-theory and multi-angular data with Yuri and Mitch, and learned about the global greening and time trend research Sangram, Arindam and Ranga were working on. Sometimes even short, brief conversations can serve as a basis for starting something new. And hearing somebody else explain the thing you are working on, but with words different from those that you usually yourself use, can really help get a new perspective.

The AGU meeting in San Francisco was huge with about 15 000 participants and dozens of parallel sessions. For me, the most interesting part was a session dedicated to looking 50 years back and 50 years in to the future of Earth Observation missions. The session differed from the usual technical sessions; scientists who had worked some 30 years in the field talked about their experiences and thoughts for the future. My own contribution to the meeting was a poster presentation on estimation of photon recollision probability from multi-angular, hyperspectral data in the session "Remote Sensing of Land Surface Properties, Patterns, and Processes". The poster session was not as busy as I had hoped for, but to look for the positive side, nearly all the hand-outs I had prepared disappeared from my poster stand during the day.

Nights out in San Francisco were spent running around the city. Lots to see... the Sun setting in the Pacific Ocean, old cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, lazy California sea lions at Pier 39, the crooked Lombard street, busy Chinatown, Castro and Haight-Ashbury. Overall, the trip to "America" was a success, and my book shelves now have 10 kg's more books than before the trip! And for some mysterious reason, my jeans have shrunk.

San Francisco streets.

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