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Jul 10 16

Confronting Racism: A Letter

by Nicholas Barnard

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice. – Martin Luther King Jr. – “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”


I try to let my advocacy and words stand and speak for themselves. Going in public and saying, “Hey! Look at good this thing I did!” is something that I usually avoid. (This of course places me in the situation of attempting to prove a negative: Yes, I do good things and don’t mention them, but because I don’t mention them, fewer people know I do them. I am fine with this.)


Below there are a few passages I’ve quoted from Facebook. Yesterday, I shared these with a friend. She responded that this is why she doesn’t engage in politics on Facebook. I understand this, to an extent. However, letting racism go unchecked in your community, including your Facebook and Twitter communities, is granting implicit consent to allow it to continue. I also understand that confronting racism takes effort and energy. One of my small goals with this blog entry, is to lower the energy and effort it takes to confront racism by a small bit.


As anyone who knows me knows, I’m a big handbell geek. Among the ways I work at getting better at my art is participating in online discussions, including ones on Facebook. I came across one a few months ago where the poster, who I’ll call Cecilia, used the hashtag #ShortLivesMatter. I replied to the thread:

Cecilia, your tag #ShortLivesMatter seems incredibly insensitive. It’s a crass parody of movements that are working to correct systematic inequities in our society. #ShortLivesMatter seems exceptionally close to #AllLivesMatter, which should be true, but isn’t, thus why #BlackLivesMatter and #TransLivesMatter are important.

Sadly, my comment was predictably minimized by other contributors in the group.

Additionally, I received this message from Cecilia:

In a world where people are striving for equality, I find it counter productive to bring attention to blacks/trans/whatevers since it only perpetuates the inequality. There was no harm done in this post, seeing that you were the only one in nearly 100 likes that was offended. I will apologize for offending you, but I will not apologize for having a sense of humor. Lighten up and stop hijacking threads that were intended to be lighthearted fun. Unlike you, I will keep this between us and not start issues in a public group.

I was a bit caught off guard by this message, but I resolved to write a response to it. I wanted to take time to make the response meaningful and I hoped that it would change Cecila’s mind even the smallest bit. I just had two problems: I wasn’t in the habit of writing and I wanted to make my response perfect. Those two are a perfect combination for lots of procrastination. 124 days of procrastination to be exact. (Thats just over four months.)

I sent this message to Cecila about two weeks ago, and I’ven’t received a response yet.

I’ve decided to post it here. If you’d like to use any piece of it in confronting racism I grant you permission to do so.

Legal fine print regarding the previous sentence: Everyone is granted a free, worldwide, non-transferable license to utilize any portion of this blog entry after this sentence for the purposes of confronting racism in their communities. Uses that do not confront racism are a violation of my copyright and may result in legal action against the user. Finally, the remainder of this blog entry is not covered by any Creative Commons licenses.

Cecilia,

I’ve thought quite a bit about your message. When I first read it I intended to reply promptly, but I delayed wanting to make sure my message was perfect. Eventually this message fell by the wayside of things to do. I wrote much of this message after attending a Maundy Thursday service and being reminded of Jesus’s commandment “to love one another as I have loved you.” However, the shooting at the nightclub in Orlando, Jesse Williams’s speech accepting his award last night, and other things have encouraged me to pick this back up.

My goal is to respond to your insensitivity with love and respect.

If people truly had equity and equality in our society, I would strongly agree that highlighting our differences would be counterproductive. However, this is not the case. I’ll provide two supporting facts among the many that exist:

  1. Black men use illegal drugs at roughly the same rate as white men, however black men have an arrest and conviction rate ten times that of white men.
  2. Forty-one percent of transgender individuals attempt suicide at some point in their lives, compared with only 4.6% of the general public who have attempted suicide.

I apologize for being very heavy handed with my comment, but I stand by its message. Let us pretend that you are woman’s suffragette in 1890, and I was a red headed man in the same era. The slogan used by suffragettes was a simple “Votes for Women” but I making fun of my unique red hair, held up a sign along side yours “Votes for Redheads” I as a red head have some unique difficulties. I’ll get a sunburn more quickly, I’ve been more likely to be bullied, and multiple other small things, none of which have any bearing on my ability to vote.

As a gay man I know how vitally important having spaces grow, discuss, and organize LGBT people is. Most of the world is straight, so spaces that are explicitly set aside for LGBT people are important for the community. #BlackLivesMatter is this online space for African Americans, showing up with a hashtag that makes light of this is as rude as a Jewish proselytizer passing out literature on the sidewalk in front of a Christian church. It is within someone’s rights, but it is disrespectful.

If you would like to have a further discussion, I am open to calmly and politely continuing this discussion, and I’ll make a concerted effort to respond in a timely manner.

Warm Regards,
Nicholas Barnard

Jun 16 16

On my non-reaction on the murders in Orlando

by Nicholas Barnard

“It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.” — Rabbi Tarfon, Pirke Avot 2:21


I’ven’t said much to anyone about the murder of innocent people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, on Sunday.

I’ve actually made some effort to avoid reading the news about it. I first saw a headline about it before I went to bed at the end of Saturday, but I didn’t click on that link at the time. I’ve made a point of removing stories about Orlando when I listen tories on the NPR app.

I’ve read the headlines. I know that the number of people reported dead initially was thirty, then it was fifty, and now it is forty nine. I know that over fifty people were injured. I know it was Latin night at Pulse. I know more than I’d like to know about the man who murdered those innocent people. I know there have been ministers, politicians, and talking heads on TV who have in various ways supported the murder of those innocent people. I know there have been more ministers, politicians, and talking heads who have condemned the murder of those innocent people. I know that I have friends who had friends at Pulse that night. I know that Muslims have been harassed by others because of what happened at Pulse.

I also know that statistically there were more people shot and killed with guns on Sunday who weren’t at Pulse than those who were shot and killed with guns on Sunday who were at Pulse. I know some of those people took their own lives. I know that some of these people were shot by their friends or family members.

I know that this has made some queer people scared and anxious. I know that this has made many queer people angry. I know that this has made many straight people angry. I know that anger in and of itself changes nothing.


I’m reminded of a saying, She who angers you, controls you.* I experienced this most directly when I watched the Sky Press Preview from June 12. I watched Owen Jones, a gay man, argue passionately and respectfully that this was an attack on LGBT people. I watched the presenter, Mark Longhurst, and the other guest on the show, Julia Hartley-Brewer, argue that these murders were only an attack on human beings, directly downplaying the that LGBT people were targeted. I watched myself fly into a rage and scream “FUCK YOU” at Mark Longhurst. I watched Owen Jones continue to make the case that this was an attack on LGBT people long after I would have flown into an diatrabatic rage, that would only have ended when my voice was gone or I had passed out from lack of oxygen. Even now, two days after I watched that video, I still feel the rage creeping in.

(*This month, I’m using female pronouns when the pronoun is referring to an undetermined individual.)


It is that rage that I avoid. I know that for many rage and anger can be helpful, but I know myself and my mental health triggers. I know getting too invested into something so personal can be a pathway into a depressive episode. I know that it may look to others from the outside that I don’t care about justice, equality, and equity in our world.

I deeply care about justice, equality, and equity in our world. At times, I’ll take public action, like organizing events and discussions around economic inequality. But more often, I’ll do little things. In language, I work to break the association that black is a synonym for wrong and bad, and white is a synonym for good and right. When I run into whitelists and blacklists in computing, I’ll advocate that people use more accurate terminology, such as allow lists and deny lists. I also advocate that the word straight is only used to refer to a line that does not bend and sexual orientation. Straight does not mean right or correct. Yes, these are little things, but these things do affect how people think. This is part of my contribution toward the work of perfecting the world.

I admire those people who can do the big, bold, and dramatic social justice work, but not all of us have the ability or resources to take on this work.

It takes many different actions big and small by many people with different capacities to change the world; just because those around you aren’t on the same path, doesn’t mean they’re lost or that they’re not headed in the same direction that you are.

Apr 30 16

I am on the right side of the door.

by Shaun

Purrr. This is Shaun. The other cat that lives in Nick’s apartment.


I just read the blog entry from George, the runt that has plagued my existence since the womb.

I have one thing to say: Finally, I get some peace.


I’ll write again when I feel like it.

Apr 30 16

I am on the wrong side of the door.

by George

Puurrrrr. This is George. One of the cats that lives in Nick’s apartment. I am rendering an important update from the field on day number 4,766 of my captivity.


I usually write with former womb and litter mate, and now feline life partner Shaun. However, at the moment I am separated from him, confined to the room where our servant appears to die and then be reincarnated at least once a day.

Both Shaun and myself have spent several hours sitting on his death bed studying the mechanism of his death and reincarnation. We are quite sure that our servant isn’t taking a cat nap, since he doesn’t appear to wake up at when there is a sound, when we walk over him, or there is other movement in the room. His species’ method of reincarnation deserves more study. We have written several detailed papers to the League of Concerned Feline Scientists recommending further study of this phenomenon. I believe that this will help lead to a technique for multiplying our lives beyond the nine that each feline arrives with. A breakthrough in this field of research would improve the lives of all felines, especially the rascally youngins who have to defend their extra lives from theft from old cats like myself. (I lost count of how many extra lives I’ve procured from kittens after it got over 100.)

But, back to the important bit at hand: I AM ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE DOOR. I’d threaten to go on strike, but our servant has refused to come to the negotiating table since our strike 2,778 days ago. I have attempted emergency calls to management from this side of the door attempting to call him to the negotiating table to address this horrendous grievance, but he has refused to negotiate.

I have attempted telepathic communication with Shaun, although he just appears to be humming one melodious phrase over and over in his head. I was able to locate a copy on Youtube of the melodic phrase. Take a listen, you may recognize it. I do not understand what his obsession with this one phrase is.


I will render further reports from the field as conditions allow.

Dec 31 15

Wow, First post in over a year and a cat song

by Nicholas Barnard

A few weeks ago I peeked over at the blog and said to myself, “Holy shit, its been over a year since there has been an entry!” I also haven’t made any entries in 2015, and since I’ve got about 4 minutes left do to do, now is about as good a time as any. (Ah, why didn’t I move this blog to
Pacific time way back when?)

For various reasons (work) I’ve been overly stressed, and I’m almost decompressed from that mess. I’ve recently decided that I’m not as willing as I used to be to shorten my life for my employer’s benefit. You know
that Stress Kills, right?


But lets have something fun instead of moaning and groaning.. So here’s a song!

Joy to the World, the cat is annoyed!
Let all the household know!
He sits upon his high up perch.
Avoid his annoyed stare! Avoid his annoyed stare!
Avoid, avoid his annoyed stare!

He rules the house, with growls and meows!
And makes the humans prove,
their patience and feeding skills
Serve him very well! Serve him very well!
Serve, oh serve him very well!

Serve the cat human food!
No more kibble, oh no, no!
Only tuna and canned food!
Open up the can! Open up the can!
Open, open up the can!

Follow the cat, for he thinks he’s god!
Just do what he commands!
Open the door! Pet him him right now!
Let him sleep on you! Let him sleep on you!
Let him sleep, sleep on you!

Oct 31 14

Meditation on a “vengeful god”

by Nicholas Barnard

Why and how can people believe in a vengeful god?

When I was a teenager I abandoned religion. How could I not have? When the implicit or explicit message is god hates gays and you’re gay, its illogical and self-destructive to continue to associate with the organization of god. If someone or some organization hates an immutable part of yourself, continuing to associate with them is self harm.


I just did something that I do every month. Although, this time there was a small variation in the details. That variation made it so exceptionally hard for me to do and opened up a mess of emotions.

I Googled seeking a bit of wisdom and Google suggested that I add bible to my search terms, so I did. A site I came across had the thesis: that humans commit wrongs (sin) and because of that god punishes humans. I had to close that page.
Why should you continue to associate with a belief in a being that causes you harm? That is self harm.

When choosing what axiom to rest the world on, I chose the axiom as delivered by Forrest Gump in the Network TV edition of the eponymous movie: “It Happens.” There is no need to ascribe motive to why it happened. Hurricane Katrina happened. Why did it happen? It happened because the environmental conditions were such that a hurricane formed. Why were the environmental conditions that way? Answer. Why was that? Answer. Why was that? You can continue to ask why, eventually there will be a question to which the answer is not known, and to support all your other answers you will have to choose an axiom. Instead of “God is Vengeful” or “God did it” I choose “It Happens.”

I choose to believe that the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part of does its best to support us. Since the web is made of life, systems, and energy that are fallible, the web itself fails at times. The interdependent web isn’t vengeful. It simply could not offer support. It cannot give what it doesn’t have. When the interdependent web is unable to offer us support, we’re forced to grow, to make the part of the web that we hold up stronger.

Aug 13 14

SumOfUs be compassionate, not vindictive.

by Nicholas Barnard

Shepard Smith screwed up and called Robin Williams a coward for committing suicide.

Stop, go watch the video. Its an off the cuff comment, he was wondering, thinking being creative. A big part of being creative is screwing up. It disturbs me that the first response to Shepard Smith’s screw up is to call for his job. I’ve written about this sort of behavior before.

SumOfUs started a petition calling for “Fox news to fire presenter Shep Smith for his insensitive comments, and immediately educate staff about mental illness and suicide.” Calling for an apology is appropriate, asking for someone’s job, someone’s livelihood isn’t, as SumOfUs’s tag line purports to be, “Fighting for people over profits”, its being vindictive.

When I screw up, I want to be given the opportunity to make amends.

I tweeted earlier today:

It is easy to be compassionate toward your friends and those like you, but all the great religions of the world call on us to love those not like us as well.

Jul 15 14

Comment to FCC Commissioners on Open Internet

by Nicholas Barnard

Dear FCC Commissioners,

An Open Internet is necessary for the the continued growth of our economy and more importantly for our democracy.

While the Internet to date has been in practice open, we are currently at a critical inflection point where Internet Service Providers, who themselves may also be content providers, are in a position where they can degrade the bandwidth available between independent content providers and those provider’s consumers.

Some content providers are hesitant to enter into situations where they are purchasing access to ISP’s networks. In the short term, this is a logical and appropriate move for content providers. However, in the long term this places content providers at the mercy of ISP’s rate increases, which may or may not be justified by the ISP’s costs.

I ask that the Commission reclassify Internet Service Providers from being Information Providers to being Telecommunication Service Providers. I also ask that the Commission promulgate rules that require that all ISPs provide:
a) connectivity to all active Autonomous Systems (AS) on the internet, such that, during peak times a website will load without timing out.
b) a tariffed, regulated, service that provides direct access to ISP routers that serve a several thousand customers. This service would would at minimum include a port for transmitting TCP/IP traffic to the ISP router as well as appropriate services provided by the ISP’s Network Operations Center. ISP’s should also be allowed to recoup a reasonable profit.
Item A would ensure that all the internet is accessible. Item Part B would allow content providers to provide improved service. By requiring a tariffed service, this ensures that costs in running an ISP are properly allocated, and as such are passed onto customers appropriately.

An Open Internet is critical for the success in may aspects of life of all Americans. I thank the commission for the opportunity to comment on this important issue.

Best Regards,
Nicholas Barnard

Jun 11 14

Review of Seattle Executive Fitness

by Nicholas Barnard

I’m a bit new to Yelp and I discovered that my review was limited to 5000 characters, although I had 6600 or so characters of stuff to say. So this is the full review.


This gym is consistently sets expectations then breaks them. I’ve been a member since February 2008 and I’m canceling this month.

When I joined it was Epicenter and the location was at 3rd and Pike. That location was nothing fancy, but it was reasonably expansive, had equipment that worked, and locker rooms that were reasonable. (FYI, what is now the T.J. Maxx was the Epicenter gym.)

I walked in one morning to workout, and I was told that location had been closed, and I could now go to the Allstar Fitness on Olive Way in the Medical Dental Building. I was helpfully handed a map that showed me how to get from the old gym to the new gym.

This change was a mixed bag. There were little things and the crazy narrow steep staircase and having to bring a lock. The old location had tanning beds, but the new one didn’t. (Yes I know its bad for you, but one here and there helps with the Seattle winters.) There were also some improvements. The showers and the lockers were nicer, the actual workout rooms also were nicer, plus the location included free towels. In addition, I eventually gained access to the location in the Municipal Tower, which wasn’t as great, but also had some helpful features and great views.

The gym changed names a few times to Epicenter Executive Fitness, then Seattle Executive Fitness. They also stated that everyone who was a member was a “Founding Member” and their dues would be locked in and they’d have free towel service. Contrary to the owner’s responses to Yelp reviews, my membership has never had an annual fee.

The Medical Dental Building location then became the incredible shrinking gym. It started slowly. A small portion of the workout floor was remodeled off to become a Trudy’s Florist. Then the downstairs lobby was closed and it became a Weight Watchers location. These were little things as far as space goes. A nice space to sit was converted to a Spa of some variety. Then the main workout floor was cut roughly in half. The other half stayed empty for several months, but recently its been remodeled as offices. Finally, the desk downstairs was removed and you had to scan your card at the door. No friendly face to greet you. At this point I looked around for other gyms, but nothing was at a price I was willing to pay.

There were also a few instances of the gym shortening their hours without notice. This started at the Epicenter location on Pike, then continued. The Olive Way location used to be open until 11 pm, but then cut back to closing at 9 pm. The weekend hours used to be until 8 pm, but are now cut back to 6 pm. (Although the website still shows that the location is open until 8pm!)

They’ve also been horrible about communicating when they have shortened hours for holidays. Sometimes they’ve failed to communicate them at all. (On their website, on Twitter, on Facebook, and maybe they post a note at the last minute at the location.) I’ve had a few times when I’ve been aware of their posted holiday hours, only to arrive to a sign on the door that they’ve closed earlier than their posted holiday hours. What is the point of posting hours if you’re not going to follow them? (Yes, holidays probably will be slow, but if you’ve made a commitment to be open, you should be open.) I’ve tweeted at them about this, but I’ve never received a response.

The communication about the new Smith Tower location was poor as well. I saw that they were opening the location and emailed the GM of the new location. He responded, but never informed me of any special membership requirements to this location. I was able to access this location just fine, but then I got a call that starting next month, I wouldn’t have access to it any more. Poor communication.

The final straw for me happened over two days. I work out as much for my mental health as for my physical health. I realized that I needed to get to the gym, and made plans to go at about 6:10 pm on a Sunday. I had checked the website earlier in the day and it stated that they were open until 8pm. I put on my workout clothes and headed out. I went by the Municipal Tower location first, and it was closed. I checked their website on my phone and the Medical Dental Building location showed as being open until 8 pm. I then walked to that location, only to find that it too was closed. I was so pissed that I had gotten over my procrastination only to be denied a workout due to SEF’s lack of proper communication.

The next day I went to the Municipal Tower location only to be greeted by signs that the club is closing on June 30th, 2014, and due to increased theft of towels there was no longer any towel service. Now, I had previously been promised towel service for the life of my membership, so I didn’t bring a towel. I understand that they had an increased towel theft problem, an adult way to deal with the problem would’ve been to be empathetic to the fact that their members might not be aware of this policy. (Something like providing each member a “now you know, but here’s a towel for today.” then cross their name off a member list or provide a towel in exchange for them holding an ID or something like that.) No, instead Seattle Executive Fitness treated their members like middle schoolers, and said “NO TOWELS FOR YOU!” They also posted signs all over the gym reminding folks of this.

Now I wasn’t about to skip my workout, so I went and worked out. Then, I took a shower and discovered how many paper towels it takes to dry myself off. I finally had enough with the signs, and started tearing them down as I walked by. Once I got to the elevator the manager confronted me and asked if my middle school antics were necessary. I told him yes. (I’m slow on good comebacks, I should’ve said, “Well, you’re treating your members like middle schoolers so don’t be surprised when they act like them.”) He then offered to cancel my membership, but not refund the pro-rated remainder of the month. A few words were exchanged, and once the elevator came I got on it to leave. He then asked my last name so he could cancel my membership. Funny how when they’re done with you they’ll cancel your membership, but if you want to be done with them they’ll make you jump though all sorts of hoops.

I’m done with putting up with Seattle Executive Fitness’s constantly changing and broken promises. I’ve found a new gym. LA Fitness has purchased the old Vision Quest location at 2nd and Columbia. Its a very similar price. The physical plant isn’t as great, but its under new owners and they’ve stated they’ll be remodeling the place as they go, keeping all the same space.

Apr 7 14

On Brendan Eich, Stephen Colbert, and Dan Cathy

by Nicholas Barnard

I’ve been watching and reading about two issues:

  • Brendan Eich’s appointment as CEO of Mozilla, and subsequent resignation
  • Racist comments by Stephen Colbert’s eponymous character, and the #CancelColbert hashtag on twitter

This also relates back to the melee over the CEO of Chick-Fil-A’s comments about traditional marriage from two years ago. I wrote about that when it happened back then.

It pains me that the first response to all of these situations is some variation of “Let us take away their livelyhood”. This response is a mildly more mature version of a child sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “Na, Na”.

What I would like to see more of is a drive for people to sit down in the same room and talk. Dan Cathy to his credit did exactly this in the middle of the protest against his company.

Senator Tom Harkin, says Congress doesn’t work because in part Senators no longer socialize with each other.

I’m reminded of a minster’s sermon from this past summer where she pondered how would the meeting of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin gone differently if Zimmerman had rolled down the window and asked Martin if he needed any help.

How much more powerful could Suey Park have been if she demanded that Colbert the person, have her or another Asian-American on to respond to his racism? (I only suggest a surrogate as Suey Park is a pseudonymn and I am unsure if the woman behind it would want to make a television appearance.)

I believe it is our responsibility to respect and learn about the inherent worth and dignity of all people, especially those we disagree with.