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My Response To Today’s Washington Post Letter To The Editor By Ann Wass
|| 11/24/2009 || 4:09 pm || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Last night I found that there was a Letter To The Editor about the D.C. Colonist that was going to be published in today’s Washington Post. Below is the text of her letter in italics and my response in bold:


Nikolas Schiller seems to lack a clear understanding of the history of the District of Columbia [“Hats off to D.C. statehood,” the Reliable Source, Nov. 19].

Actually, I think I have a pretty decent understanding of the history of disenfranchisement in the District of Columbia.

He wears “Colonial” garb to make the point that, in his words, “the status of D.C. residents has not changed since Colonial times.” But there was, of course, no District of Columbia in colonial times.

You are correct. There was no District of Columbia in colonial times. However, the Seat of Government, now known as the District of Columbia, was the only territory explicitly defined in the United States Constitution. This important document happens to have been written in “Colonial times,” and needs to be updated, again.

Through the passage of “An Act for establishing the Temporary and Permanent seat of the Government of the United States” on July 16th, 1790, the “district of territory” became the permanent Seat of Government on December 1st, 1800, and Congressional representation was lost shortly thereafter.

Unlike the Maryland license plate, the license plate of the District of Columbia has a phrase that dates back to Colonial times, “Taxation Without Representation.” I don’t know if you’ve sat through a Congressional hearing, but signs are not allowed in hearing rooms. Fortunately, an elaborate costume is allowed. (Except hats, I guess?)

If you were to read my quote differently, “the [present day] status of D.C. residents has not changed since [the Americans in] Colonial times,” you might understand that the residents of the District of Columbia are present-day colonists who have the displeasure of “Taxation Without Representation” through the denial of federal representation, and I’m only dressing up as one to make the point you obviously missed.

There was a city of Georgetown, in Maryland.

In 1800, the year the Seat of government moved to the District of Columbia, this city was called George Town, Maryland. Two Words. You can look it up. The concatenation took place soon after and today those residents lack representation in Congress.

There was another city & county located in the Seat of Government that you left out: Alexandria, Virginia. In 1846 the residents voted to cede back into the Commonwealth of Virginia, but unlike the Georgetown residents of today, the citizens of Alexandria & present-day Alexandria County (Arlington County) have Congressional representation.

Mr. Schiller also needs a new costume consultant. His coat is cut incorrectly, and I hope he doesn’t really wear German lederhosen, as he said, but rather correctly cut knee breeches when he isn’t wearing blue jeans.

This ad hominem argument misses the entire point of my ongoing protest. While you might have “Taxation With Representation” in Riverdale, Maryland, I, a colonist of the District of Columbia, do not. No costume consultant is going to give me Congressional representation, are they? I don’t think so. I’d rather have Congressional representation so I can retire this colonial outfit for good.

But in the meantime, you could always attend the next hearing on the status of this federally administered city-state known as the District of Columbia. Maybe you could come dressed in period clothing as well? There have been suffragists since 1800 working to change this faux-pas of the Founding Fathers. Do you think a Senator or U.S. Representative would ask you to take off a bonnet or headscarf? You won’t know unless you try.

Colonially Yours,
Nikolas Schiller

ps.
The colonial attire was purchased from Backstage in the Barracks Row neighborhood on Capitol Hill. Feel free to contact their costume consultants for further inquiry.





A Response to Doug Feaver’s “Listening to the Dot-Commenters”
|| 4/10/2009 || 8:01 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

In yesterday’s Opinions section in the Washington Post I came across Doug Feaver’s article called “Listening to the Dot-Commenters” and felt compelled to write this missive concerning his incomplete analysis of anonymous commenters on the Washington Post website.

He writes:

But the bigger problem with The Post’s comment policy, many in the newsroom have told me, is that the comments are anonymous. Anonymity is what gives cover to racists, sexists and others to say inappropriate things without having to say who they are.

He goes on to defend the commenters because they add dynamic content to an article, can be entertaining, act as a non-scientific survey on the topic de jour, and oftentimes show that the readers do not necessarily agree with the journalist who wrote the article. While these are all factual points, Feaver misses the larger issue. Comments are not completely anonymous.

Of the 330 comments that were generated by the article at the time of this posting, only one commenter addresses the larger point that I am attempting to make.

dlpetersdc wrote: Posts here are only anonymous to readers of these posts, not the WaPo’s staff. When you post, likely your IP address is recorded with the entry…[snip]… But anyone who thinks that you can remain anonymous on the Internet is fooling themselves.

Lets take this commenter’s summarized point one step further. Since all traffic on all websites leave a digital footprint that can be tracked back, in real time, to a unique IP address or Internet Service Provider, why does the Washington Post continue to shield it’s readers from one of the most important & least invasive aspects of this harvested data: the commenter’s geographic location??

Unlike the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or USA Today, as a newspaper of record that does not have nationwide circulation, the Washington Post’s existence and continued success is contingent upon a large local subscriber base and those living outside of the current distribution area reading articles on-line. Each month I pay to have the paper delivered to my house, but am essentially given no extra privileges when reading or commenting on an on-line article. Alternatively, each on-line article that non-subscribers read also helps the Washington Post’s bottom line through on-line advertising. Yet all commenters, paying subscribers and non-paying readers, are given the exact same treatment in the comments section of the Washington Post website. I feel this is unfair, unwise, and only perpetuates ignorant, racist, and bigoted remarks.

The incorporation of the geographic location of commenters might not seem significant, but the implications are quite important to the general discourse. When I read an article about the unconstitutional D.C. voting rights bill (aka the 1/3 Compromise), I sometimes like to see what comments are being left on-line or if someone expresses a legal opinion that I have not read yet. However after I have read what the different commenters have written, I am generally saddened that local opinions are sometimes lost in the clutter of non-local opinions. While the Washington Post knows the approximate location of each “anonymous” commenter, this information is not disclosed to other commenters, and it creates & perpetuates a vacuum of ignorance.

Moreover, sometimes the Washington Post will have a poll about an issue and many times I’ve found that the results are unbelievably skewed by those who do not live in the region. Why not add some basic geoscience to the poll by disclosing the difference between how readers from the Washington metropolitan region voted versus those who live in the rest of the world? This geographic data is already there waiting to be used, but sadly it is not.

But its not just an issue of liking or disliking comments; I can always choose not to read them. The root of the issue is that the Washington Post is perpetuating this type of ignorance by shielding their on-line readers from where a comment is originating. This data is collected the moment a user begins loading content from the website and it does not personally identify any readers. While an IP address can be spoofed, most people are not going to take the time to put forth the extra effort just so they can prevent their approximate location from being revealed.

Commenters can still be anonymous and have a geographic location attached to them. For example, my current IP address only shows that I am a Comcast subscriber based in Washington, DC. With thousands of other Comcast subscribers, I still retain a level of anonymity by creating an “anonymous” account using a different e-mail address and creating a screen name that only I know of.

Imagine for a moment that immediately after the commenters screen name there was the text “from [LOCATION]” or as it would read on the screen: ANONYMOUS COMMENTER from Memphis, Tennessee or Nik Schiller from Washington, DC. Who would you be more likely to read if the article was about something in Washington, DC? Or Memphis, Tennessee? Esssentially, what comments have more credibility? Those comments originating from the geographic location of the subject of the article? Or those that do not?

Well, of course, it depends on the context of their comments. If they were bashing the residents of Washington, DC and do not live here, I would most likely ignore them. But as it is now, even though the Washington Post knows where the commenter is from, all other commenters are denied this basic level of geographic understanding and it alienates readers who actually pay for the newspaper.

In conclusion, I believe a more civilized level of discourse can be established if the level of anonymity is slightly altered by providing the geographic location of all commenters. Its not so much about WHO the commenter is, but WHERE the commenter is from that is at the core my logic. Locals commenting about local affairs will be treated with more respect, while people who don’t pay for the paper, leave absurd, racist, or sexist comments, can & will be ignored more easily. As a paying subscriber, I feel it’s the least the Washington Post can do to encourage my on-line participation. The current model is a free for all that can be more civil, if, and only if, the Washington Post chooses to bring more sunshine to their paying & non-paying readers through the visible disclosure of the geographic information that each on-line reader already provides.



Oh busy day…
|| 7/25/2008 || 5:56 pm || Comments Off on Oh busy day… || ||

A photograph of the Schiller-Stevens wedding party

Thanks to this, this, this, and even this, I’ve had over 2000 visitors to this website in the last 24 hours. When I contacted Sommer at DCist about the entry, I wasn’t expecting this kind of feedback, but I guess it it’s all relative.

Since my comment on the City Paper blog has not gone through, after unsuccessfully trying twice, I’m going to post my slightly modified comment below.

Angela Valdez of the Washington City Paper wrote:

Via DCist, blogger Nikolas Schiller says he stood up for himself and fought back when some kids pretending to have a gun told him to empty his pockets on his doorstep. They beat him up but he kept his stuff. So … Nikolas, what exactly was in your pockets to make you take such a stupid risk?

Angela, I had a pocket full of memories that could never have been replaced (see photograph above). And to clarify, it wasn’t a bunch of kids who assaulted me, rather they were young adults old enough to drive a car and old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. Frankly, I always thought I get assaulted by a group of 8th graders first, but I digress.

But truly, it was my mother’s wedding photographs that meant the most to me. Having my extended family (only my immediate family is featured above) who live in 7 different states across the country (California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, and DC) in one location is something that will never happen again. I waited 13 years for my mom to finally marry my step-father and to let 30 seconds of altercation ruin those memories would have hurt more than the punches to my face.

I think the point of your question was why do something foolish like fight back? Well, a scooter can be replaced and even the camera could be replaced, but the memory card would have been gone forever. Maybe you don’t value your memories as much as I, but that is merely a difference of opinion.

Maybe this extra bit of info would make the story hit closer to the City Paper office: one of my roommates used to work with you. It could have been him instead of me….

But it begs the sincere question of whether people should fight back or give up their personal belongings. I made a choice that could have ended my life, but I lived. Had they been armed, you might have read about it in the obituary instead of my blog. But they weren’t armed and I was lucky to only end up with only a bloody fat lip.

Having been atop the summit of a 13,000 foot mountain on the continental divide and being nearly blown off by gust of wind and falling 1,500 feet to my death teaches one about being fearless in life. Being stopped in your tracks when a thousand pound grizzly bear walks by can make you realize that life can be very precarious as well as dangerous. Being assaulted on your doorstep is downright scary and while I’ve ran through the scenario numerous times in my head, I don’t think I would have changed my decision to fight for what was mine.

I only hope it doesn’t happen again.

Related:
• 24 hours in Rocky Mountain National Park
• Assaulted on my doorstep [2 hours after returning to DC]



Assaulted on my doorstep [2 hours after returning to DC]
|| 7/18/2008 || 9:30 am || 11 Comments Rendered || ||

Instead of rewriting the entire account, I am posting the e-mail I wrote to the listserv of my neighborhood association:

Neighbors,

I’m sorry to be writing my ‘return to DC’ e-mail in this context but I feel compelled to share this since it just happened.

For the last 7 days I’ve been in Colorado; first for my mother’s wedding, then for a night in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park, and finally to spend some time with friends in Boulder & Denver. I arrived back on Westminster Street at 12:30am after being delayed for 2 hours in Denver. Since I was not tired yet, I decided to go to my favorite nearby watering hole on 14th & T. After one hour and one drink, I decided to ride my bike back to my house.

Upon arriving on Westminster Street, at approximately 1:36am I dismounted my bicycle behind Mr. Lewis’ white pickup truck parked in front of Mr. Brown’s house. As I passed behind my the truck and was turning toward my front door, I noticed 3 African Americans in their mid-20’s had stopped their car in the middle of the street and started to approach me. The tallest of the three wearing a white tank top and khaki jeans pretended to have a pistol in his back pocket and demanded what I had in my pockets. I backed up to my doorstep refusing their request, using my bicycle as a wall (which did not help much). They came up the steps continuing to demand what I had in my pockets. After refusing again, telling them to go away and that I was at my home, I was punched in the face & body multiple times by the three and was able to fend them off by fighting back and because I was not being knocked out cold by the punches to the face. They did not steal anything from me because I refused and fought back.

Before they drove off, I was able to run into the street and catch much of their license plate: A102108 / A101208 / A108021 (one of the variations [all turned out to be incorrect]), which was a Maryland plate with the orange, yellow, and black hues known as the “agricultural plate.” If my memory serves me, it was a mid/late-90’s gold Ford Thunderbird that they were driving (the car has a uniquely shaped trunk). I called the police who arrived within 5 minutes. Since I was bleeding from the lip the officer had the fire & ambulance come, but I signed the document refusing service ($$!!). There was one woman down the block who witnessed it all and ran inside for her safety. I have her contact information but I don’t think it will matter much because she was so far away and was scared enough to run inside– “I knew something was up when I saw them approach you, so I ran inside” (which I would have done too in her position– by herself at night).

In conclusion, this was the type of freak assault that is really really really hard to prevent. If you have people willing to commit that type of crime, there is very little we can do as a community to prevent it. I ride my bicycle at night for this very reason. Its one thing to be jumped because you are walking down the street alone at night, its a completely different issue when you are literally assaulted on your front doorstep. I moved to the neighborhood in May of 2004 and this is the first time something like this has happened to me. Its just very frustrating because I had just arrived back in the city and was refreshed after being in a place I cherish. Tomorrow I expect to receive a call from the MPD’s detective and I hope to hear some good news, but I’m not keeping my hopes up. If there is any type of follow-up, I will share it.

Your neighbor with cut lips & very sore jaw,
Nikolas Schiller

ps
Keep an eye out for this car:
https://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/bm/94-97tbird.htm
I don’t think that’s the exact car, but its as close as my memory recalls.


I ultimately received dozens of kind e-mails from my neighbors, multiple e-mails from my city councilmember, e-mails from the DC Police, and even a hand written note from a police sergeant explaining why they parked a cop car in front of my house.

This type of response was downright flattering and it made me realize that while I might live a somewhat dangerous city, I live in a community that cares about the wellbeing of its residents.


Why the caption: “sometimes memories are worth fighting for” ?

Well in my pockets were not only my wallet and cellphone, but my brand new digital camera that I had purchased to document my mother’s wedding & excursions in Colorado. Had the thugs pulled out a gun or a knife I would have surrendered everything, but they didn’t, and I knew that if I would have voluntarily handed them the contents I would have lost all the photographs & video clips forever. I’ve heard of stories where thugs have allowed their victims the opportunity to remove the camera’s memory card before stealing the camera, but I was not about to take that chance. I held my ground, got a least one solid punch off (my ring left a scare on my hand indicating that I punched the guy hard enough for the ring dig into my skin), and was able to fight to retain my memories. Memories which I hope to share on this blog in the next few days.


Related Crime Entries:



Blue Balls [Hexcode T-Shirt Humor]
|| 5/20/2008 || 11:14 am || Comments Off on Blue Balls [Hexcode T-Shirt Humor] || ||

Blue Balls Hexcode T-Shirt Concept

Following up my use of Hexadecimal Color Codes on the #006900 Party t-shirt, which was based off of the #000000 Power t-shirt, I made another t-shirt design: #0000FF (balls)

For the last week or so I’ve been thinking about a way to use a non-color word visually and this morning I came up with balls. They are easy to draw and are easily identifiable. Embedded in the t-shirt is a phallic image that is supposed to further add to the humor of what constitutes blue balls.



#006900 Party [that’s Green Party in Hexadecimal Color Code]
|| 5/11/2008 || 10:07 pm || Comments Off on #006900 Party [that’s Green Party in Hexadecimal Color Code] || ||

Green Party in Hexadecimal Color Code

At the Artomatic opening night I spoke with someone close to Mark Jenkins about his #000000 POWER t-shirt concept that uses Hexadecimal Color Codes to reference the word’s color (aka BLACK POWER). In this geeky context I thought it would be funny to follow-up this meme by making my own HTML-based t-shirt.

After thinking through a bunch of different permutations, I came up with #006900 Party to represent the Green Party of the United States. I could have chosen from quite a few different combinations for the color Green, but I thought that the number 69 was the most widely understood numerical reference out of the possible permutations, with the exception of the number 42, a favorite number of mine that I found to be too dark.

I will be donating this design to the Green Party of the United States if they want to use it for their official merchandise.





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  • thank you,
    come again!