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First bit: Please go read [livejournal.com profile] ladyofastolat's post titled Of the Rings of PowerPoint and the Third Age. Everyone has been to the type of meeting she describes at the beginning.

Second bit and/or bob: As always, I like to commemorate an anniversary on this day. This is the date my father got back from his last tour in Vietnam. He swears he'll get over the jet lag soon. I'm lucky that he's still with us, but after 40 years, I still remember greeting him at the airport with "We just heard that Da Nang fell." His answer was, "Then that's the end." By the end of April, he was right.

Article which prompted everything below is here.

I'll start by saying that I don't have children. However, like most of us, I was a child at one point, and I remember growing up.

When I was 5 I went to kindergarten. The school, Ashlawn, was three or eight blocks away depending upon the route. My mother walked the three block version, which included a short trip through some public greenery on the edge of the playground, for about a week before school was due to begin. The night before the first day of school, she asked me if I wanted her to come with me. I replied that I was a big girl, and I walked to school by myself.

Part of me regrets not having her walk me to school the first day, mostly because she never offered again. But I also remember how proud of myself I was for being "a big girl."

Mom made certain I knew all the smart things: never get in a car with an adult you don't know, never tell anyone where you live (other than a policeman if you're lost), come straight home. I took these to heart. In late October or early November, it began to rain while I was at school. I had my rain coat, boots, and umbrella, so I was prepared, but no one realized how windy it was going to be or how much the temperature would drop. I began to walk home. My umbrella blew inside out as soon as I got out of the trees and the wind felt like it was going right through me. At the first of two street crossings, a woman stopped and asked if I wanted a lift home. She knew my name, but I didn't recognize her -- not for sure -- so I told her that I didn't take rides from strangers. I completed my route home.

The woman, whose name I don't think I ever knew, had called Mom as soon as she got home. Praised her for training me so well, and warned her that I was still over a block away and very cold and wet. Mom says she debated whether to come get me. She didn't. Instead, when I got home, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup were waiting to warm me from the inside out. Mom was never big on praise, but that day I got a lot of it -- especially for turning down the ride.

We moved to London just before first grade. Because the bus stop was on a busy street near a three lane roundabout, Dad walked me to the bus stop every morning and Mom picked me up from it every afternoon. But there were still things I did on my own, ranging from walking two blocks to the pillar box to post letters to deciding what books I wanted to read. (I attribute being able to read at a 10th grade level at age 7 to the fact that neither parent tried to censor my reading.) Third grade, I was in small town America and walked my little sister to kindergarten every morning. We walked to the bus stop in 4th and 1st grades. We walked to and from school -- a mile each way -- from my 5th - 8th grades. We also had a paper route, went to summer camp for 10 weeks every year, and were allowed to go to the movies by ourselves. With my paper route money, I bought theater tickets. I saw the Mormon Tabernacle Choir standing room only when I was 12. I went to see plays, too.

At 15 I went to boarding school. I found out much later that my parents had signed the permission slip for me to smoke. They figured I might try it some time and didn't want me to get in trouble for it. Beyond that, I was shocked when I wasn't allowed to attend an evening movie or go to a restaurant on my own in downtown Richmond. I found a friend who was willing to see the Olivier Wuthering Heights with me, fortunately, and I had to fight to be allowed to attend the Nutcracker on my own at the Richmond Mosque (theater name, not religious establishment).

In Belgium, at 17, I discovered the Musee du Cinema. I saw Il Trovatore standing room only. Hell, I went to Paris for the day by myself (six hours each way by train which left me about seven hours to explore the city). Not one thing I did there was something I'd done before. But I was trusted to figure out public transportation on my own, trusted to call if I had a problem (pre-cellphone: I think we used tin cans and string back in the Dark ages), and trusted to stick to the schedule I'd discussed.

One of my fellow alumni came up to me at the reunion I attended and said, "I didn't appreciate you enough. You were the only one of us to go out and have adventures." He also thanked me for introducing him to Gilbert & Sullivan which became a lifelong love of his.

The thing that I want to emphasize most out of all this: the crime rate was much, much higher back then. Washington DC was the murder capital of the country when I was going to the theater on my own at age 12. If it was an evening performance, my parents would pick me up afterward, but if it was a matinee, I was trusted to find my way home. I was trusted to buy ingredients for the dinner I was cooking from the time I was 10, even though it involved crossing a major street with no cross walk. That's what I remember most, being trusted. And that's what I worry the kids today aren't getting.
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I've liked, but not loved, the Corcoran for a long time. Their collection was eclectic, but not shaped to one person's/family's taste as the Phillips is (the Phillips is becoming less this way, but it still feels coherent to me). It was also part of a legacy endowment with a fantastic building in a wonderful location. A few years ago, before the crash of 2008, they were trying to expand into my neighborhood by moving their College of Art to an old school building near me which would have freed space in the main building for more art works. They sold that school to a private developer (and there's a great deal of debate over whether they were allowed to since they'd gotten a sweetheart deal on city land) in order to boost their coffers once the crash happened. About a decade prior to that, they'd commissioned a Frank Gehry extension to the original building that failed to raise enough money and/or flunked the zoning and Commission of Fine Arts Review -- which is important since the original building is a) listed on the historic register and b) two blocks from the White House.

Other solutions were presented to the Corcoran's problems, including moving the collection to Virginia and turning the historically registered building into condos. Those of us who paid membership fees for the Corcoran protested that mightily for a wide variety of reasons. Then there were rumors, which I've seen both confirmed and denied by the parties involved, that the University of Maryland was going to take over the collection and the building. Instead, in a last minute move, the National Gallery of Art has taken over the building and the collection in collaboration with George Washington University which is taking over the school and will get some of the collection somehow.

Some of the process of integrating the collections was covered in an article in The New York Times today.

One thing that struck me as odd is that there are people who think the National Gallery has a lot of American Art. It has some, but the major collection of American Art is at the Smithsonian.

UPDATED with the proposed ghastlyGehry extension.

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I'm fine. My evening commute was bollixed up, but I am absolutely fine.

One person is dead. Two are in critical condition. Another 81 people were affected badly enough to require a trip to the hospital. No one saw any flames, just smoke.

I feel pretty lucky.

And, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] eanja's generosity, I'll see many of you at Arisia.
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[Error: unknown template qotd]I live in Washington, DC which means there's no way anyone can see everything in 24 hours. The key thing is to ask what they want, or know their personalities well enough, to focus on a particular area.

The one thing I would do is make certain we saw the Mall at night whether on foot, by bus, or in a cab. The buildings are beautiful at night, and it's the one thing I remember my parents doing for guests in my childhood. Of course, in those days you could get closer to the Lincoln Memorial at night in a car.

If they leave the decision up to me, we'll spend most of our day at either several of the museums (with lunch at the Museum of the American Indian -- Mititsam is delicious and has several vegetarian options) or going through the Capitol and the Library of Congress (with possibly the Supreme Court added in).

Whenever possible, I'd include a theatrical performance, either the Shakespeare Theatre, Synetic Theater, or something at the Kennedy Center -- usually dance if it's my choice.
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I voted. I'm still disappointed that "None of the Above" is not an option in some of these races.

I got to meet Dick Gregory! He was handing out literature for one of the At-Large council races.

The only vote of mine which I will reveal is that I voted "Yes" on Marijuana legalization. I'm not entirely certain I think it's a good idea (I've never tried it), but a) I don't want my neighbors who smoke enough that I get a contact high by leaving the windows open to get in trouble and b) It will piss-off certain members of Congress -- possibly to the point where they interfere.

I really think the District won't get other states caring about our lack of representation until congressional interference is seen.
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I last saw Advise and Consent in the mid-1970s when it was already a period piece. It must have been in 1973 or 1974 because it had been awhile when I finally read the book, and I know I did that in 1976.

It was one of the first things I remember seeing about "gay" issues. Although, to be fair, it's much more about the process of governance in DC. Wikipedia tells me that Anita Bryant's big campaign was a year later, but I was already aware of gay people in my neighborhood (one couple was very nice and another hated when kids played in the cul-de-sac near them -- you know, just like real people are different). It was shameful. Forbidden. The jokes at my all-girl boarding school and summer camp about lesbians were uneasy, at best.

I thought the movie would be heavily coded, but Preminger presents a small Greenwich Village bar pretty straightforwardly. There's no doubting what the milieu is which is probably why I remember bits of it so vividly. Of course, the married Senator who had a relationship in Hawaii during the war had to die. It was a plot point. But the film is sensitive to him, if not to closeted men or gay men in general. He's trying to do the right thing, being blackmailed, and, ultimately, commits suicide rather than give in to the blackmail.

In its own way, the most fascinating thing is that the movie was clearly filmed on location here in DC. I not only knew the big buildings, but some of the smaller homes they used as the fronts for the characters' residences. The mall has so many more buildings on it now, of course. The political power structure has changed. There are no more hostesses like the character of Dolly Harrison. But I've been around and reading the newspapers through some of those changes. I'm, mostly, glad that the hostesses power has gone.

And I'm ecstatic that there are now movies where the gay person doesn't have to commit suicide to further the plot.
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Song 1 is a new art work on the exterior of the Hirschhorn Museum. This is an article about the technique which is very visually oriented.

I walked by the museum in the evening last week, and I saw what I thought was the Mockingjay symbol from The Hunger Games projected on the building and thought the publicity for the movie had gone too far. Then I saw the article on Song 1. On Wednesday night, I walked past in the early evening and saw the work -- or at least 10 minutes of it. It's moving. I don't know why. I was fascinated by the areas where the images meet and, in some portions of the film, herringbone into each other. Many of the images, in the portion I saw, concern traffic, and it was interesting as a pedestrian to watch the movement of the cars on highways from a distance.

The various renditions of "I Only Have Eyes for You" are beautiful and add something touching to the work. It was odd to see the projections on the mall side as I was walking. There are windows on that part of the museum, so the images had voids in them. Walking to the Air and Space Museum side of the building gave me a full image with two seams at the edge of my vision for the herringbone.

I may revisit this after I've seen it again, or stayed for the full 45 minutes to view the whole. It's fascinating.
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There was an article in a local blog yesterday by Gary Imhoff which talks about the DC statehood movement and says we should be like Hawaii and Alaska rather than taking our cue from the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

There's a difference.

Hawaii has huge strategic importance, and Pearl Harbor was engrained in the memories of those old enough to vote when it was up for ratification.

Alaska has vast tracts of natural resources, and, during the Cold War, was of even greater strategic importance than Hawaii. After all, you could see Russia from there.

DC had to wait another fourteen years after these two territories became states for Home Rule which allowed us to vote in Presidential elections and gave us a vague and whimsical permission to govern ourselves -- when Congress thought it was acceptable and with Congress controlling even our local purse strings.

The military was allowed to vote before we were. (Hands up everyone who didn't realize the military wasn't allowed to vote for President until after World War II and that military bases weren't allowed to vote for local offices until 1986.) Eighteen year olds were allowed to vote before we were, and I happily exercised my franchise on an absentee ballot as soon as I could.

The fight for Home Rule was part of the Civil Rights movement. The patronizing attitudes of much of Congress and many people in other parts of the country -- on both ends of the social and political spectra -- make this a Civil Rights movement.

My city

Aug. 9th, 2010 05:12 pm
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I am a white woman in a predominantly black city.

I am a city worker in a place where most people work for the federal government.

And I am sick of the racism I read in the comments of The Washington Post.

There was an incident this weekend on the Metro at the stop I use most often. I wasn't there, because I tend to walk or take the bus when I can in order to save money. People were injured. It's been characterized as both a brawl and a riot depending on the article and the people doing the characterizing.

The assumption -- which is probably correct based solely on the city's demographics -- is that the young people who started the incident were black. The invective which has been unleashed is sickening. "Untermensch." "Make a coon-skin cap out of you."

Few people see this as anything but young black people making trouble. No one is questioning why they might be disaffected, though you'd be amazed at how many want to know "where are the parents?" Based on my experience in the neighborhood and through my job, the parents are probably working a second job to try to afford school supplies for their kids.

Even fewer people seem to be willing to do anything like mentor, tutor, or volunteer at a school. They are in favor of "shooting hooligans in the face" and going armed into the city.

I lived here in the 1970s, though in the suburbs. I remember the struggles -- real riots over things like the KKK marching. From the descriptions, this was much smaller than the kinds of troubles I used to experience in the early 80s from the soccer fans in London.

I don't in any way condone this type of behavior. I don't like being hassled and yelled at any more than the next person, and I hate being caught in violence. It's happened to me. But I don't for a moment think that race is a proximate cause for a minor eruption of violence on a hot summer's night.

Oh, dear.

Jun. 24th, 2010 03:54 pm
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Representative Paul Kanjorski said (via The Washington Post's political coverage):

"We're giving relief to people that I deal with in my office every day now unfortunately," Kanjorski said. "But because of the longevity of this recession, these are people -- and they're not minorities and they're not defective and they're not all the things you'd like to insinuate that these programs are about -- these are average, good American people." [emphasis mine]

You'll be happy to know his office is affronted to think anyone could construe these remarks as racist.

From their release:
Anyone trying to politicize this issue clearly doesn't get it. Congressman Kanjorski is fighting for all Americans who are struggling. Any statement saying otherwise is grossly misinformed.

In fairness, Representative Kanjorski is trying to protect a program for homeowner mortgage help that is currently available in Pennsylvania through state funding and creating something similar nationally. He's defending it as not helping the "imprudent, the wasteful."

While I can admire him for thinking of this type of program and trying to help the unemployed, it doesn't change the fact that his remarks are, in fact, racist.
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Once again I volunteered for this discussion at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This doesn't mean I was on any of the panels, just for the record; only that I did things like make certain people had water, directed them places, and generally dogsbodied for anyone who needed me.

At the dinner (it was little bites by 30 different chefs stationed all over the museum) on Friday night, I ran into the son of one of the restauranteuses. H loves the ocean. He's looking forward to turning 8 soon, so that he can finally learn scuba, even if he can only do it in swimming pools until he's 16. He stated that we need to protect the oceans and the environment, even if it were at the cost of our own lives. He asked intelligent questions about the oil leak in the Gulf. When I mentioned Padre Island, H looked stricken and said, "The sea turtles!"

Look again at that number. A seven year old was one of the most intelligent people I spoke with in two days. The adults were knowledgeable about their own aspects of any given issue, and the Gulf leak was mentioned, but not pursued as it wasn't the focus of the conference.

But again, I was struck by the smugness of the people involved. In a predominantly black city, there were no black faces and few of any race other than white. One woman spoke contemptuously (to my ears at least) of the fact that most Americans made their decisions on which fish to buy on price point. The only comment I made was to her pointing out that in the current economic crisis, PRICE POINT was amazingly relevant to people. I used my own unemployment as an example.

One gentleman on the panel came up to me afterward and said he was out of the restaurant business because he was interested in making certain that the fishermen were not being exploited, the end-users got fish they could afford, and the resources were being husbanded.

I also had a dissatisfactory conversation with another volunteer who was shocked, shocked I say, that I suggested putting up fliers for Smithsonian programs in Libraries and Rec Centers in DC. Her point that these symposia need to sell tickets is fine. However, her statement that people who go to these places (i.e. the poorer, darker folks of the District) wouldn't be interested is a flat out lie.

When I came home on Friday night, two of my neighbors were discussing the Gulf leak. They noted the crime to the ecosystems, the problems of employment that may arise, and the way it will effect prices for gas, heating oil, and fish. One of them pointed out that unbalancing the ecosystems may spread diseases or allow insect invasions in other areas which could cause more and different issues. I know these men. One of them isn't a high school graduate. Both are unemployed. That doesn't make either of them stupid or uninvolved with the world and the issues around them.
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Last night, the acacia began to bloom. I could smell it in my living room, six floors up. Today on my walk, there were scents of acacia, magnolia, and, occasionally, rose. God, this city can be sexy. *G*

ETA: And according to this article we're "the second most well endowed city" in the country. Anyone else wondering who's first?
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If the last couple of days are an indication of what summer will bring, it's going to be a tough one. Yesterday was 89F with 68% humidity. Today is a little cooler, but with higher humidity and my apartment building won't be turning on its air-conditioning until May 15 at the earliest.

On the plus side, I live in a city where the plants and trees are often labeled. I've found a new tree that I love: Fringe Tree. That article describes them as "slightly fragrant," but in the high humidity, I can smell them a block away across a wide street.

The chestnuts have come into bloom and I'm reminded of Europe with Avenue Tervuren, Unter den Linden, and several Parisian boulevards all lined with them.

In addition, the roses are blooming early, the Iris are coming up straight and strong (seriously, some of them have been four feet tall with multiple blooms on the stem), the azaleas and peonies are rivalling each other for show, and the wisteria have lasted longer than usual.

After such a harsh Winter, Spring is showy and sassy.
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I'm beginning to think he's stalking me.

Seriously, I make a couple of friends who work at MIT, and the next thing you know, Stata Center. I have to move to LA to be with my family, Disney Hall. The Professor gets a job at Bard; suddenly, Gehry's doing their Arts Center. I visit Las Vegas just once, and now he's built something there, too.

I've had nightmares about being forced to live in Gehry buildings. The first time I went to Disney Hall, I had the unsettling experience of being pulled back from a plate glass window by my mother. Mr. Gehry decided that EXIT signs with backs to them wouldn't look right, so the exit sign reflected directly into a plate glass window. With the reversal of a back, it looked like the exit was through the window.

Anyway, I know this parcel of land. I know the buildings that are currently on it are far from inspired, but it's still a really bad idea. Plus, four acres for Eisenhower? Seriously? I thought that's what Presidential libraries were for.

[/making it all about me]
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The first same-sex couples are applying for their marriage licenses today. With the waiting period, the first weddings may be performed on Tuesday.

We join Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire in permitting same-sex marriage.

eta: I just saw, via the article in The New York Times, that one of my colleagues and her partner were the first in line! *G*


Feb. 11th, 2010 04:42 pm
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This is a five words meme that I got from [livejournal.com profile] severity_softly.

If you want to play, I'll give you five words, but it's not required.

Since [livejournal.com profile] severity_softly and I know each other originally through a fandom, Criminal Minds for those playing along, two of the prompts are related to it.

Read more... )
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Part of my daily walk to work is straight up Capitol Hill on the Senate side of the Capitol grounds.

Usually I see joggers and maintenance people. Occasionally, there are school groups. One morning, there was about twenty senior officers from several branches of the military -- a very colorful group in their Class A uniforms with ribbons on their chests.

This morning, I was wished a Merry Christmas by a gentleman with a hand-lettered sign reading "Trust in Jesus." He shook his head and said, "The healthcare bill just passed." I think he was surprised when I punched the air and grinned.

Just a morning walk through my city.
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On my way to work this morning, they were putting up the Capitol Christmas tree -- the National Tree is down by the White House on the Ellipse. I'll let you know if it's all decorated and lit on my way home tonight.
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The jobless rate among young, black men is 34.5%

Read the article.

I would love to make it a requirement that freshman Representatives and Senators be required to live in the District. Maybe then they could see the city.
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Race Fail 2009 and the current "yellowface" issues surrounding the Avatar: The Last Airbender movie have opened my eyes to assumptions. Living in DC has opened my eyes to assumptions.

My future was never white. I want that clear from the beginning. The first book I read that I identified as sci-fi (A Wrinkle in Time didn't count because I didn't think of it as science fiction. They traveled to another planet by tessering, and it never occured to me I was reading science fiction.) was Podkayne of Mars. Podkayne was clearly non-white. She and her grandfather used a Maori gesture with each other to indicate people they thought were stupid. I read the book now and cringe a bit at the sexism, though I know Heinlein was actually ahead of the game by having a female protagonist, but Podkayne was never white to me.

This is where growing up in greater DC comes in to play. The DC I currently live in is nearly 60% black with a population just under 600,000. The DC I went to when I lived in the suburbs as a kid was 90% black with a population of over 900,000. It was called Chocolate City for a reason. If I went to my mother's office, chances were good that every security person or policeman that I saw would be black. More than half of my mother's co-workers were black. The higher up the government chain of command you went, the more likely it was the person was male and white, but it was already beginning to change. Any time I thought about the future, it was a mixed future. In my head, I used terms like mixed and mulatto. I can define all the shades that my southern ancestors used derogatorily. But until I went to boarding school, it never occurred to me to think in terms of race.

Class was an issue, but my mother, for all her prejudices made it clear that race wasn't. If I married the son of a black officer, it would be a little odd, but fine. If I married the son of a white enlisted man, I would be shunned. (Sadly, sometime after returning to the US in the early 1980s, Mom drifted into an easy racism that truly surprises me. My sister occasionally picks up on it. Sis, I can call on it. Mom I can't. Dad does though. Considering Dad's the one who grew up in the segregated South, it's funny that his example is the one I follow.)

At my very first mixer, I danced with a guy from the Middle East and got teased about it. At my second high school mixer, I danced with a black boy from another boarding school. During study hall the following Monday, a couple of the upper classmen threatened me with bodily harm if I ever did it again. I was enough of a coward that I stopped going to mixers. I didn't stop hanging out with my friends, though, and many of them were black. That probably sounds like the old liberal, "but some of my best friends..." racist excuse. I didn't realize that black students had only been accepted four years before I started there. I just knew that these girls accepted me for who I was without trying to put me in a compartment. That was more than I could say for the majority of girls. The first Jewish girl at the school started the same year I did. For me to be able to hang out with the students I liked was a big thing then.

But the future was going to be better than that. In the future, it wasn't that we were colorblind, it was that color didn't matter. The differences would be celebrated and acknowledged, but they wouldn't kill someone's chance at a career. Uhura's earrings made that point for me. She wore distinctive earrings, and, when we see her cabin in Elaan of Troyius, there are African art works shown. Uhura was cool. I wanted to be like her when I grew up. I just knew I wouldn't have the tan.

Tonight was the eighth grade graduation for the kids in the program I mentor with. The Secretary of Education gave a nice little speech (and is tall enough to confirm my suspicions that Obama wants to change the sport of official Washington from slo-pitch softball to basketball). One statistic he quoted that stayed with me: 66% of the eighth graders in Detroit drop out of high school. It's chilling to me.

There were no white faces among the graduates. These kids feel like they are on a path toward a brighter future. But when I give them a science fiction book, I want them to see the world, not just this one, as a place where anything can happen.

I gave my students (fifth graders) the books that [livejournal.com profile] revenantrose was generous enough to help me purchase. Three of them were science fiction books and one of them deals specifically with the entitlement the British felt to cultures they thought were uncivilized. (Nation by Terry Pratchett which is technically a sci-fi fantasy book even though it's more of a riff on colonialism and Robinson Crusoe types of stories.)

How dare publishers and movie producers think that a protagonist needs to be shown as white to be "universal"?

The one friend I've had since high school works four blocks from where I live. She won't walk to my apartment building because it's not a good part of town. What she means is, by crossing under 395, she goes from Washington to DC, from a place where she sees primarily light faces to an area where she sees mostly dark ones. It saddens me.

I love my city. I want the future that I see when I read science fiction. Hell, I want the past that I see when I watch I,Spy on Hulu. I sure as hell don't want Jesse McCartney playing an Asian lead.

What I want is a future where we go to Mars or Mirabile and everyone who has a skill or an education can find their way into the deeps of space. I want the kids of Detroit to read science fiction and choose to stay in school so they can go into "Space, the final frontier."


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