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Quoted today’s in DelMarVaNow
|| 12/10/2014 || 10:00 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

“We don’t want members of Congress to overturn our election,” said Nikolas Schiller, a spokesman for the DC Cannabis Campaign.

Today I was quoted in DelMarVaNow concerning Rep. Andy Harris’s attempt to overturn Ballot Initiative 71.

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Washington Post: Odds are increasing that D.C. will vote on legalizing marijuana — despite Congress
|| 6/29/2014 || 12:41 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

“I can’t tell you how many times I heard ‘I’m gonna vote for it, but I will not sign it.’ ‘No, I can’t vote for it, I’m a teacher, I’m a federal worker, I’m a government contractor, ‘I’ll lose my job.’?” Eidinger said.

Nikolas Schiller, another top campaign organizer, said he came to see it as a “Snowden factor.” He said, “People don’t want to be put on some government list.”

Screengrab of the Washington Post story Odds are increasing that D.C. will vote on legalizing marijuana — despite Congress/>

Look closely and you’ll see my hands in the back right

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Overdubbed in Turkish on Voice of America
|| 10/17/2013 || 2:39 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

My August interview with Steve Baragona at Voice of America was published in Turkey today.

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Are We Eating Fishy Food? on Voice of America
|| 8/19/2013 || 2:45 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Today I was on Voice of America talking about the Are We Eating Fishy Food Campaign.

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E&E News: ‘Fishy food’ cars attract stares, promote GMO labeling
|| 8/1/2013 || 2:07 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

‘Fishy food’ cars attract stares, promote GMO labeling

Amanda Peterka, E&E reporterPhoto by Amanda Peterka
Greenwire: Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nikolas Schiller is used to receiving odd looks as he drives through the streets of Washington, D.C.

In fact, he can’t commute to and from work without pedestrians whipping out their smartphones to take pictures, drivers leaning out of their windows at traffic lights to ogle and children’s eyes opening wide.

That’s because a huge, brightly colored sculpture fusing a golden delicious apple and a goldfish with eyes is bolted to the top of his used black Ford Escort — which itself has bright pink stripes down its side.

“It’s been an interesting experience,” said Schiller, a 32-year-old St. Louis native sporting a ponytail, T-shirt and cutoff jeans. “I have a lot of fun driving it around. It brings a lot of joy. I see people’s faces smile, light up, point, kids laugh, giggle, people take photos — it’s not like a normal car.”

Nicknamed “Goldie,” it is one of five “fishy food” cars driving around Washington in recent weeks to promote the labeling of genetically modified food. Others carry sculptures of a corn cob, soybean, sugar beet and tomato.

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Washington Post: Mobile protest art draws gawkers in D.C.
|| 6/12/2013 || 2:36 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post

Mobile protest art draws gawkers in D.C.

By Robert Samuels June 12, 2013

What is that thing?

Parked near the U Street Metro station is a junky Ford Escort with a fiberglass whatchamacallit on top. The red structure is shaped like an apple, except for the fins jutting from its sides. It has googly eyes, a goofy smile and a face more Muppet than man.

For weeks, it has befuddled neighbors. No one knows who owns it. No one knows what it means. And yet, it’s been spotted throughout Northwest. It has been parked at the new Costco. It has made weekend revelers in Adams Morgan question their sobriety.

“I’ve been trying to figure it out for days,’’ said a man walking near the 1800 block of Vermont Avenue. Then he sighted a second structure, this one atop a Volvo. Same googly eyes, but shaped like a green bean — with fins.

A breakthrough came Tuesday morning when 32-year-old Rica Madrid was seen getting into the car with the finned green thing. Its name is “Soyna,” modeled after a soybean, Madrid said. She pointed to the apple atop the Escort: “That is Goldie.’’

Madrid and her co-workers at Mintwood Media Collective (“Communication Strategies for Social Change”) helped create the two structures to convey the message that food sprayed with toxic chemicals is, in a word, “fishy.” Hence, the fins.

The two vehicles will be part of a caravan of activists that will depart in August on a coast-to-coast trip to Seattle, making stops along the way to lobby for legislation to label genetically modified food.

Right now, the connection between the cartoonish cartop produce and the cause is a little confusing. Mock labels will be added to explain it all, Madrid admits.

Meanwhile, 300-pound structures can’t fit inside rowhouses, so Madrid and her colleagues mounted them on the cars early.

These are the toils of creating protest art. It’s hardly an unusual activity in Washington, a magnet for protesters of all sorts. But it’s jarring to see the art without the context, as Madrid and her colleagues use the cars for routine daily errands — going to work, picking people up from the airport and bulk-buying groceries.

Nikolas Schiller, 32, who drives Goldie the Apple, doesn’t mind the baffled stares. No one fully understands what’s going in their food anymore either, he says.

“That [confusion] is kind of what we’re going for,” he said.

The kids smile when they see Goldie the Apple, because Goldie the Apple is smiling at them. It’s not unusual for someone to come up to Schiller or Madrid during lunchtime, asking whether the cars are new food trucks.

As Madrid climbed into the Volvo to head to work from Shaw, a neighbor walking with her 3-year-old approached:

“What is this all about?” Sandrea Ballestero asked. “We never see you!”

“We are protesting GMOs,” she said, using the acronym for genetically modified organisms.

“Do you have a Web site?”

They do, but it’s not ready yet.

Madrid drove past the suit-and-tie set downtown, some of whom, caught up in their smartphones, paid the car no mind. A man in a blue oxford shirt and khakis pulled out his smartphone for a quick pic. A window-washer scaling the low floors of a building saw the large soybean in the reflection of the windows and cheered. A baby in a stroller near Farragut Square looked into those googly eyes and started to bawl.

Occasionally, someone will ask what she’s doing, and she’ll tell them about genetically modified food. Sometimes the person will start sharing what he or she knows about the history of hybridization or genetic engineering or selective breeding — pretty sophisticated stuff that reminds Madrid that driving the vehicle has a serious purpose.

“Some people are really knowledgeable about the subject,’’ Madrid said. “You just have to be ready for people to debate you. I mean, this is Washington.”


This article was published on the front page of the Metro Section on June 13, 2013 and obtained online from Washington Post. The article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to document my advocacy for honest food labeling.



“Official: Medical marijuana in D.C. by May 2012” by Victor Zapana, Washington Post, July 29, 2011
|| 7/29/2011 || 1:35 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Today I was in the Washington Post article about the progress of the District’s medical cannabis program.

‘Glacial’ pace

Still, some possible participants — such as Nikolas Schiller — consider the city’s pace “glacial.” Schiller’s group, D.C. Patients’ Cooperative, identified potential cultivation and dispensary sites in the city after the law passed.

Concerned about the program’s pace, the cooperative did not sign any leases, and many of those sites are no longer available. Schiller, the only paid staff member, was laid off by the group’s investors.

This paragraph in article is slightly incorrect. I wasn’t laid off by the group’s investors. As a board member of the non-profit, hired as an independent contractor by the non-profit, I voted to lay off myself with the majority of board members. It’s not that I was failing to do my job properly, rather, after waiting nearly 18 months and seeing no progress, DCPC decided to stop wasting resources on a program that was moving so slowly.


UPDATE – As of May 2012, there is still no legal medical cannabis in the District of Columbia.


Official: Medical marijuana in D.C. by May 2012

By Victor Zapana, Washington Post, Published: July 29

A year after the District legalized medical marijuana, nobody is legally growing or selling it. Patients once thought that they could be getting the drug by early 2011, but bureaucratic delays and the city’s caution in implementing its drug law have caused some would-be patients and entrepreneurs to fume.

But things appear to be picking up. District regulators are forging ahead despite a recent Justice Department memo that has worried coordinators of medical-marijuana programs nationwide, and city officials said Tuesday that dozens of individuals and businesses will be allowed to apply for licenses to operate five dispensaries and 10 cultivation centers.

City officials expect patients to have access to medicinal marijuana — which advocates say can relieve pain and stimulate the appetite — by May 2012.

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Cameo on the History Channel’s “How the States Got Their Shapes”
|| 6/14/2011 || 11:02 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

How the States Got Their Shapes – Episode 6 – Use It or Lose It
If you thought our borders were set in stone, you’d be wrong. Who stole a corner of Washington, DC? Is Ohio actually a state? And why isn’t St. Louis our nation’s capital? One thing’s for sure — our map could look very different. How did we create order out of so much chaos? With the vote.

Back in November of 2010 I was invited by a producer from Half Yard Productions to be interviewed for the upcoming History Channel show “How the States Got Their Shapes.” Near the Lincoln Memorial, I was interviewed by host Brian Unger for a good 30 minutes, but after watching tonight’s episode about Washington, DC, I found that most of the interview was left on the cutting room floor. Nonetheless, I came across as knowledgeable (albeit briefly) and the episode did a decent job at explaining some of the issues residents of the District of Columbia face (like no Congressional representation). If you have a chance, watch the rerun of Episode 6 “Use It or Lose It” on the History Channel or purchase a digital copy from Amazon.com.


Camera Trick Explained: In order for people to draw on the screen, like I am doing above, the producers mounted a clear piece of plexiglass in front of the camera, and then in the editing room they reversed the footage (left to right) to make it appear that we were drawing correctly. Had my outfit had some lettering they would show up in reverse due to their camera trick. I’m also right-handed…


Also see DCist’s brief review of the show.



Brief Media Recap of the Townhall Meeting on the District’s Medical Cannabis Program
|| 2/11/2011 || 10:06 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Before the town hall forum, I was interviewed by Mike Conneen of TBD/WJLA in Adams Morgan.


When we arrived to setup the town hall, DC Fox 5 was already waiting for us. I was interviewed for the segment:



Overall, I would say the town hall meeting was a success. Hopefully the law gets implemented soon.



A 24-hour Metro? For one rider, the train is always half full – By Kytja Weir, Washington Examiner
|| 1/5/2011 || 10:09 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Logo for Washington Metropolitan Area Residents for a 24 Hour Metro

Earlier this week I got a random Facebook message from a reporter who noticed that I had created the Facebook Group Washington Metropolitan Area Residents for a 24 Hour Metro and was interested in doing an interview. I wrote her back and we ended up speaking for about 30 minutes about this project. A couple days later this article showed up on the Washington Examiner’s Capitol Land blog:


Screen grab from the Washington Examiner website

A 24-hour Metro? For one rider, the train is always half full

By: Kytja Weir 01/05/11 3:34 PM
Examiner Staff Writer

Nikolas Schiller has a dream. But even he calls it “a dream deferred.”

He’d like to see the Metro system operate 24 hours a day. And 689 others agree with him.

The D.C. consultant and artist created a Facebook campaign in February 2009 called “Washington Metropolitan Area Residents for a 24 Hour Metro.” It quickly got a following, even though he acknowledges that many of the fans were already his friends.

“The United States government operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so should Metro,” became the motto.

He traveled around to other systems and realized few agencies but New York City run 24 hours a day. But his thinking was that if riders miss the last train of the night in D.C., they have to shell out big bucks for a taxi to get home.

So why not charge riders more for late-night service, perhaps running just one train per hour? That would allow the trains to move on a single track, freeing up the other side for the track work and maintenance that gets done at night, he said.

He started the campaign to gauge interest. He even bought ads on Facebook to tout the idea.

At one point he tried to organize a meet up of the like-minded, hoping to re-create subway parties that occurred on London’s system.

But alas, Metro has talked of cutting service in recent years, not expanding it. Even the extended weekend service of 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights teetered on the chopping block during the last budget cycle, saved at the last minute by District officials.

Now, the current focus on safety makes Schiller’s idea even less likely. And then there’s the cost.

Metro has charged $27,000 to groups to open the rail system an hour early, say for a marathon or other event. At that rate, it would cost about $135,000 a day to keep trains running. That’s $49 million for an entire year.

To cover the extra costs, the system would need for riders to make about 26,000 more trips each day at $5.24 a pop (twice the current average rail fare) on top of the already 700,000 or so trips that occur on a typical weekday. That’s before taking into account the extra wear and tear on the trains and tracks or other costs that would come from running continuous service.

But Schiller says he would still like to see it happen. And the Facebook campaign lives on, gathering a few hopeful followers at a time. Three more joined this week alone.


Leave comments on the Washington Examiner website: http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/capital-land/2011/01/24-hour-metro-one-rider-train-always-half-full





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