Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, and hosts KPLU's weekend program Sound Effect. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KPLU moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

Ways to Connect

Justin Steyer / KPLU

The community group hoping to preserve 88.5 FM as an independent radio station has hit its $7 million fundraising goal a month ahead of schedule. KPLU General Manager Joey Cohn announced live on the air Thursday afternoon that nearly 18,000 donors have raised enough money to make a bid for the station.

"It's unprecedented, I mean, we've been saying we have made public radio history, and we really have,” said KPLU General Manager Joey Cohn. “To raise $7 million dollars in four and a half months -- that's never been done."

As Katrina Spade, the founder and executive director of Urban Death Project, watched her children grow rapidly, it sank in that she was aging just as quickly — and death was on the same fast track.

(Courtesy Brittany Cox)

Brittany Cox has had a pretty interesting career. She's a watchmaker and expert on antique clockwork and automata (mechanically-coded, self-operating machines). But just after Christmas in 2008, she found her "other thing."

Cox was driving to Sea-Tac airport to pick up a friend. She got there a little early and the cell phone waiting lot was full, so she decided to drive around to kill some time.  

Soon she found herself at a cemetery near the airport.  It was so close, in fact, that she could see the control tower and watch planes take off and land.

Flickr

This week Sound Effect dips into the world of startups to understand what’s so exciting, and so maddening, about working in a DIY enterprise.

Warrior Pose

We begin by meeting Othmane Rahmouni, co-founder and CEO of Yoga Panda. It is, to use a startup cliché, Uber for yoga. Rahmouni explains to Gabriel Spitzer what drives him to take risks as an entrepreneur. They then repair to a hot yoga studio, where Rahmouni makes a heroic show of not laughing while Gabriel attempts the poses.

Job-Title Bingo

Chelon Lone Photography

Being involved in a startup can be exhausting, expensive, stressful and risky. As a result, the people involved in such ventures can often be found taking their work, and themselves, pretty seriously.

Bridget Quigg is a Seattle writer who has worked in the tech world for a decade.  She recently completed the run of her one-woman show "Techlandia," which skewers startup culture — with love. 

(credit Sam McHale)

The concept started in a coffee shop a block away from their school. The first run of 65 shirts sold out in under an hour, next to a table of Girl Scouts selling cookies outside the cafeteria. Less than two weeks later, more than a thousand requests poured in for a t-shirt that began as a high school class assignment.

Greta Zorn, Alex White and Taya Christianson found that, without meaning to, they had a startup on their hands. The three are seniors at Seattle's Northwest School, and they created the punky t-shirt at the center of this story.

Courtesy of Jonathan Sposato

It’s no secret that gender equality is an issue for the tech and startup world. According to the tech data firm, CrunchBase , only about 15 percent of U.S. startups that received investor funding from 2009 to 2015 had at least one female founder.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Growing up in Seattle in the 1930s, it was Bonnie Buckingham’s brothers who played the guitar. But Bonnie coveted it, and would take any opportunity to get her hands on the instrument. Soon, she says, “they couldn’t get it away from me.” So began the musical life of the woman who would become known as Bonnie Guitar.

Bonnie showed herself to be a prodigy and, in spite of having hardly any female role models, she busied herself playing local gigs and slowly getting better and better. 

Courteosy of Tom Rogers

Naval base Kitsap-Bangor, located on the Kitsap Peninsula is one of only two military bases in the United States that houses strategic nuclear weapon facilities. It's home to several Trident submarines, which are armed with nuclear weapons. The nuclear capabilities of these submarines have long made the naval base a focus of controversy and protest.

Courtesy of Vanessa Davids

Vanessa Davids did most of her military service “inside the wire,” as an Arabic translator on a base in Iraq. Her job called on her to translate audio and video recordings, in hopes of gathering intelligence, foiling attacks and probing enemy action. She translated bomb plots, beheadings, even in some cases child pornography. As a result, she got an intimate, and dark, perspective on human nature.

“Doing the work that I did, it really seemed to me at the time that evil was in every single person, and it was just a matter of how well they hid it from you,” Davids said.

(Credit Anders Beer Wilse/Public Domain)

During World War II, in a frozen wilderness in southern Norway, on the edge of an icy cliff sat a hydroelectric plant called Vemork. This winter fortress was the center of some of the most important sabotage efforts of the war.

That’s because besides electricity, the plant manufactured a rare substance Hitler needed for an atomic bomb: heavy water. The allies thought that if Hitler got his hands on this stuff, the Germans could win the war. So they wanted to destroy the plant. And their first plan was an outright air attack.

Courtesy Faried Alani

As an orthopedic surgeon in Iraq, Dr. Faried Alani had a highly successful career working at a hospital and a prosperous, happy life with his wife and two daughters. Many of the people he operated on were victims of bombs and bullets, but he forced himself to keep the violence at a distance emotionally, in order to do his job more effectively. 

But that changed one evening, as Alani was leaving work. 

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

What makes sports rivalries so contentious, so impassioned and so much fun? KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says that it has a lot to do with proximity and stakes. While Seattle sports teams have often been accused of playing out of "Sound Alaska," Pacific Northwest teams still have managed to develop some consistent contention with other teams, especially if there is a lot on the line. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Caros and Ben Fodor didn’t always hate each other’s guts.

“Like, at birth, when he was first adopted, we were close, because he didn’t talk,” Caros said.

The irritation is mutual.

“Caros and I really didn’t get along growing up,” Ben said. “I don’t even know how to describe that guy. He’s kind of an a------, but he’s not like your stereotypical jerk. He’s got his own little way of ruining things.”

When it comes to music, the idea of band rivalries goes back decades. The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones has been a classic matchup that goes back five decades.

In the Pacific Northwest, the most visible example of a band rivalry started 25 years ago, when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were two of the biggest bands in the country.

(Public Domain/NASA)

Soyeon Yi makes her home in Puyallup, Washington. But to get there, she had to leave home — twice. Soyeon is the first, and so far the only astronaut in the Korean space program. On April 8, 2008, she boarded a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and for about nine days, left her home planet behind. 

Spaceflight was a dream come true for her, but it came with some unexpected consequences. And those pushed her eventually to make another break with home - this time, with her country - and nearly everything she knew.

Courtesy of Britt Marie Hermes

The first pivotal moment for Britt Marie Hermes came during a bout of psoriasis. She was a teenager at the time, and she went to the doctor to get it taken care of.

“I remember asking him about other options to treat psoriasis. And he was very cold about it. His response was, ‘This is it, kid. You’re going to have psoriasis for the rest of your life, your best treatment is steroids, and that’s that,’” Hermes said. 

Special Collections and University Archives / University of Oregon Libraries

For nearly a century, the U.S. government had a policy of pushing many Native American families to send their children to boarding schools. Away from their homes and traditions, the students were often forced to abandon their cultures and languages, and adopt English and mainstream white customs.

Six-year-old Sophie says she has always known she's a girl. "I used to be Yoshi," she says. "But I didn't like being called Yoshi." And she didn't like being called a boy.

Sophie lives with her family in Bellingham, Wash. Her mother, Jena Lopez, says she started seeing the signs before Sophie turned 2.

"She'd say things like, 'I'm a she, not a he,' " Lopez says. "She would cry if we misgendered her. She'd become angry."

Six-year-old Sophie says she has always known she's a girl. "I used to be Yoshi," she says. "But I didn't like being called Yoshi." And she didn't like being called a boy.

Sophie lives with her family in Bellingham, Wash. Her mother, Jena Lopez, says she started seeing the signs before Sophie turned 2.

"She'd say things like, 'I'm a she, not a he,' " Lopez says. "She would cry if we misgendered her. She'd become angry."

"uncle sam wants your privacy" by jeffschuler is licensed under CC BY 2.0 bit.ly/1YjnaO9

This week Sound Effect listens in on stories of eavesdropping.

The Scanner

Neighborhood news sites often make their names by being fast, thorough and hyperlocal. One of the ways Justin Carder of Capital Hill Seattle Blog keeps his ear to the ground in his neighborhood is by constantly monitoring the police scanner. Through the emergency channels, he’s often among the first to know about crimes, mayhem and often bizarre occurrences. It also gives him insights into the people who keep us safe, and into the ethics of using scanners to fuel journalism.

Facebook

Sometimes on Facebook you might read what seems like a cry for help from a friend, someone struggling to cope who might need you to intervene.

Or maybe it’s nothing -- just someone quoting song lyrics or something. It’s hard to know, and it’s often easier to just ignore it.

The suicide prevention group Forefront is helping create tools for people who notice red flags in a friend’s post.

These are tools that Stephen Paul Miller didn't have several years ago, when he saw a concerning post on by a friend on Facebook.

Courtesy of David Liston

Private investigative work is dangerous, thrilling, romantic – or at least, that’s the impression you’d get if you just hear about P.I.s from TV and movies. In reality, according to David Liston, it can be so tedious that “there has to be something kind of wrong with you in order to be able to do it.”

Andy Spearing / Flickr

This week Sound Effect brings us stories of people who have gone through trials and tribulations, and maybe have made a few mistakes, but have no regrets.

Stephen Brashear / AP

Last December, St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams punter Johnny Hekker, an Edmonds resident who grew up in Bothell,  did not make many new friends in the Pacific Northwest. He punted the ball to the Seahawks, and after the play was over, he came up behind Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril and drilled him to the ground.

Aran Khanna

Bellevue native Aran Khanna always loved to build things. When he went off to college at Harvard, Khanna thrust himself into computer science; his love of building became a love of coding. For Khanna, the holy grail of college internships was Facebook. He dreamed of a place where it was encouraged to code first and ask questions later.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

It’s a reality of life on the Pacific Coast — occasionally, dead whales wash up on the beach. So when a deceased gray whale appeared in the surf in Long Beach, Wash., the city fathers took steps to bury it in the sand.

About a year later, they were thinking about how to observe the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s arrival at the Pacific Ocean. The explorers had written of seeing a whale skeleton on the Long Beach peninsula back in the 1800s, and so the Long Beach leaders decided to dig up their whale. They weren’t sure what they would find.

Adrien Leavitt

At age 23, Brie Ripley is certain she does not want to have her own biological children. Really, it’s something she has known since she was a teenager. She tried virtually every method of birth control available, but found she experienced side effects and bad reactions to each. So she settled on a more permanent solution: She wanted to have her tubes tied.

Lesley Reed

In 2000, Seattle lawyer Bob Dickerson was diagnosed with cancer. He was given a terminal diagnosis of 1 to 20 years. With that uncertain and gloomy future, Bob quit his job and began a life of advocacy.

Bob worked tirelessly with the charitable organization RESULTS on behalf of impoverished children across the world. He developed strong relationships with Washington state politicians and activists in order to push for global change.

Oliver Spitzer

This week Sound Effect brings you tales of childhood dreams, and people who have actually managed to live them out.

Claire Buss grew up bathed in the glow of daytime TV, and she dreamed of someday having her own game show. Then, in her 20s, Buss figured out that she could have one – she just needed to make one up and start doing it in her living room. She talks with Sound Effect producer Allie Ferguson about how she created “The Future Is Zero,” and why contestants keep coming back.

Pages