Midway through Tennessee we passed above some sharply defined cumulus
clouds — they looked like you could grab them and squeeze the rain
out of them. Cumulus clouds are always nice to look at, but from above
they are especially lovely. I have been reading a lot of history-of-science
stuff lately and I couldn't help but think that Leonardo da Vinci would have
given significant portions of his anatomy — or at least his eyebrows
— for a chance to take a gander at this view. To me, it was just
pretty... flying above the clouds is a commonplace. And I couldn't help
but think that someday, maybe 300 years from now, someone like me will
look out the window down at the swirling clouds of Jupiter and think,
hey, now that's a nice view — and nothing more. It might not even
occur to such a traveler that the vista on the other side of that
(nanotech diamond?) window would have made our heads explode here in 2005.
Later we passed over a city. I looked at the sprawl trailing west from
the city center, a couple of little peninsulas of tract housing with strictly
rectilinear divisions separating it from the wilderness, but lazy curves
of residential streets within that grid, and wondered what city it was.
I really wanted to switch on Google Maps Hybrid Mode. But the window
wasn't equipped with it.
I went back and forth between the window and my book. I had a plastic
cup of water. I turned to page 46 and discovered that it had been grayed
out — the text was in halftone, maybe 50% black. I flipped around
and discovered that suddenly all the pages were like that, even those I
had already read. I looked up. Solid colors like the seats were still
solid, but text — everything from the exit sign to the "FASTEN SEAT
BELT WHILE SEATED" message on the tray table latch — had turned
into a cloud of pixels swimming around on its background. I blinked, I
rubbed my eyes, I closed them for long stretches... no effect. I wondered
whether maybe I was having a stroke or something. Over the course of half
an hour or so, the effect wore off. For a while each letter I looked at
would develop a single bubble that would move around it like a large donut
moving through a translucent snake. Now my vision seems more or less back
to normal, which is good because it sure would have been embarrassing if
I had gone blind and typed all this with my fingers shifted one character
over to the left or something.
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