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Aug 24 19

Going down an unexpected path.

by Nicholas Barnard

Shaun, one of the felines with which I share my home, is sick.

This isn’t he’s having just a cold kind of sick. This is a probably life threatening variety of illness.

He’s gone downhill fast. In March, he was just fine.

In April he had a little bit of congestion, but only the vet could hear it.

By July, his congestion had gotten worse, that I brought him into the vet.

He got some medicine and improved a bit.

But he lost weight, I don’t know the exact numbers, but he’s lost around a third of his weight over four months. He’s also been dehydrated.

Its been hard for me to watch him. For quite a while, I wanted to do what I could to control the situation, to make him better. I’d put out multiple choices of food, and flavored waters.

I’ve thought to myself that I would kill someone if I knew somehow it would make him feel better. I can’t say that I would or wouldn’t go through with it, but I do know that I would seriously entertain that any offer that came my way.

I’ve learned over the past month or two that I love Shaun more than I ever knew I did.

I’ve cleaned caked litter off of his paws. I’ve carried him to the food dish. I’ve sat with him and stared at him. I’ve wondered how much pain and discomfort he might be in. I’ve pondered if I’m having the vet treat him for selfish reasons, or if I’m having the vet treat him because its truly best for him. I don’t know. I may never know.

A younger me left some advice in my high school year book: “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesnt mean they’ve gotten lost.” – H. Jackson Browne. I’m not sure where Shaun’s path is taking him. But I will walk with him and do what I can to comfort him on his journey.

Feb 9 19

Best night of driving for Lyft: My car ended up in a ditch

by Nicholas Barnard

People often ask why I drive for Lyft. The short answer is: its how I earn money to live. However, thats incomplete and its almost untruthful.

I believe mobility is important and should be separate from each person having a vehicle to drive.

I believe that one person driving themselves everywhere they need to go is isolating and has an erosive effect on community.

I believe public transit is important to the vibrance and livelihood of our cities, but public transit alone struggles to serve all the mobility needs city dwellers.

I believe people benefit from human connections, however short they are.

I drive for Lyft, because I like meeting people. I like offering a moment to have a conversation on their day, the newest big infrastructure project in Seattle, or just the weather. I also appreciate when both my passengers and I relax our defenses and have a truly human connection. I’ve driven a woman who was on her way to the hospital to give birth the next day. I’ve chosen the scenic route to share a little bit of my city’s beauty with a group of young adults who had buried their grandmother earlier in the day. I once sang along to the soundtrack of Little Shop of Horrors with a car full of passengers who noted in my profile that I listen to musicals. I could go on and on with all the little experiences and connections I’ve shared with my passengers over the past two years.

Lyft’s Mission is “to reconnect people through transportation and bring communities together.”
Lyft’s Vision Statement: “Ride by ride, we’re changing the way our world works. We imagine a world where cities feel small again. Where transportation and tech bring people together, instead of apart. We see the future as community-driven and it starts with you.”

Last night, I discussing the weather and the major snow storm we were having with many of my passengers and how driving in the snow was about patience, as much as anything else. I drove my last passenger of the night to the Broadview neighborhood of Seattle, which is a neighborhood that slopes downward toward Puget Sound. I made my way carefully downhill, dropped off my passenger, then went about making my way uphill toward my next passenger.

In searching for a route up the hill that my trusty Ford C-Max could traverse, I briefly lost control of my car and ended up in a ditch on the side of the road. It was around 11 pm. I called Lyft’s roadside assistance and they let me know that all of the tow companies in the area were only responding to police dispatched emergencies, so the best they could offer was to winch my car out sometime in the morning. I consulted with a few passerbys who offered to try to push my car out of the ditch, but we decided that the risk of someone getting pinched between my car and the other side of the ditch was too high. Luckily my tailpipe was well in the air, so I could keep the car heated by running the engine, without carbon dioxide poisoning being an issue.

So, I settled in for a night of watching Netflix in the car and waiting. I had protein bars, three quarters of a tank of gas, some Starbucks Doubleshots for the morning, and over thirty 16.9 ounce bottles of water. I would’ve been fine staying in my car for the evening.

At midnight, a woman came by and offered to let me stay at her house for the night. She introduced herself as Erika and when I got in the house, she introduced her husband Matt. She let me know that they had two children sleeping upstairs who would be up at 6 am, and she showed me to the guest room and bathroom, and left me for the night.

The next morning, I awoke, and was greeted Erika, Matt, and their two children. They offered me pancakes and coffee, and I shared videos of my handbell quartet. While Erika was getting dressed, I read her daughter a story, then I went and “helped” the daughter shovel the sidewalk while Matt took care of the driveway. (If there were more shovels, I would’ve happily pitched in!)

Later in the morning, a neighbor offered jump my car, then to pull my car out ditch with a tow strap. (My battery had died sometime during the night from the flashers being on.) Finally, Matt and the neighbor pushed my car down the road and helped me turn around. I made my way back to the main and freshly plowed arterial, and drove home.

I am grateful to Erika, Matt, and their neighbors for their hospitality, sense of community, and kindness. In a strange way, my car ending up in a ditch brought us together and made Seattle feel like a small town for the evening.

Jan 24 17

Recognizing & Addressing Womxn’s March Impact on the Atlantic Neighborhood

by Nicholas Barnard

On Saturday, January 21st, I participated with over 100,000 people in the Womxn’s March on Seattle.

At the march, one of the things I noted is in the Atlantic Neighborhood, around Judkins park, we had a we had a massive impact to it and the surrounding communities the Central District, a historically minority, and socioeconomically disadvantaged area of Seattle.

I used to live downtown at Sixth and Yesler and one of the things I know is events like this, whether they be the Seahawks Parade, the Torchlight Parade, the Pride Parade, or that damn Redbull Soapbox Derby were annoyances, if not downright pains in the rear. I supported some of those events, I despised others, but they pale in comparison in to the impact that we at the Womxn’s march had to the Atlantic Neighborhood.

I have immense gratitude for the hospitality and grace shown by the people who live around Judkins Park, and we should thank the neighborhood for their hospitality and recognize the significant impact we had on their neighborhood.

But we would be rude guests to simply say “Thank you” and move on. While I was waiting near the start of the march, I had had the thought that we should throw the Atlantic Neighborhood a cook out when the weathers a little warmer. I still think this is a good idea, but it was immediately supplanted when I passed St. Mary’s, and they were requesting donations to their food bank. I’ve already suggeste to one of the ministers at my church that we host a drive for The Food Bank at St. Mary’s. I’m sure there are more needs that the Atlantic Neighborhood has, and those from other areas of Seattle should use our voices and privilege work for those to be met.

( also recognize the already identified impact that we had on the merchants in the International District that has been identified with suggested actions to address that impact.

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.


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 stories 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.