The Early Days of a Better Nation

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Window seat observations

My book idea below has already been anticipated. Reader John Abbe points to a BoingBoing post about a book on this very subject.

Further useful suggestions from John Erikson:
The next time you are on a book tour of the United States or Canada, try to find a copy of the 1984 book "Landprints," by Walter Sullivan (ISBN 0-8129-1077-X; Sullivan, by the way, was the New York Times science editor). It is a popular book on North American geology as it can be seen from an airliner, with some culture thrown in (the field shapes, etc.). As well as explanatory chapters and copious illustrations (well done -- and I'm a geologist), it has a long list by itinerary of the items covered -- Chicago-Seattle, Vancouver-Toronto, etc.

Also, in case you haven't discovered it, it is entertaining to look in used book stores for a cheap map of, for example, the United States, if that is where you expect to travel. Usually drawing a straight line between origin and destination comes pretty close to laying out the route your plane will fly, and it helps enormously in figuring out where you are and what you're looking at -- National Geographic maps in particular are quite good at squeezing in a lot of data and place names. A further refinement is possible if you know that the trip will take, say, three hours: divide the line you have drawn into thirds, and you can locate where you are quite closely by your watch, even over cloud cover that allows only occasional glimpses of the ground.

Even the schematic maps that that airlines' inflight magazines usually include can often settle which of the Great Lakes you must be flying over, or if the river visible below is actually the Missouri (and the included coupons can be used a straight-edge; fold one in half several times for measurement units).


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