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

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.

Courtesy of Diane Whalen

As a young girl in Catholic school, Diane Whalen always wanted to be close to God. She set her sights on becoming a nun, until puberty hit and her interest in boys forced her to make a course correction.

It wasn't until Whalen was in her 20s that she started hearing people advocate for women’s ordination into priesthood. The Church never did come around to this idea, but an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests began ordaining women outside of the Church institutions. In 2010, Whalen became the first female ordained priest in Washington.

Courtesy of Forrest Fenn

Many children dream of buried treasure and fantastical adventures in search of gold and jewels. Some adventurous adults are following through on those dreams, scouring the western United States for the treasure of Forrest Fenn. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Most of us abandon our childhood dreams, and Kevin Wood was no different. As a boy he’d been enchanted by ships and he wanted desperately to sail the seven seas. Then he did the sensible thing and went to college on a normal career path.

But one summer on a visit to Key West, he encountered a docked tall ship. The next thing he knew he was training to sail, dropping out of college, and beginning a life at sea.

Courtesy of Robert Hood / Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Vice President Joe Biden used his visit to Seattle Monday to call for breaking down barriers that keep scientists from cooperating to fight cancer.

 

used with permission of Jason Padgett / struckbygenius.com

KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer talks with Tacoma resident Jason Padgett about the night he was mugged outside a Tacoma karaoke bar, and how that incident changed the trajectory of his life.

Padgett suffered a concussion in the attack, as well as internal injuries. He also developed post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Courtesy of Autumn Rusch

Autumn Rusch was born with holes in her heart – so many, that her cardiologist described it as looking like it had been shot with a BB gun. As she grew up, her condition worsened. She was hospitalized for weeks on end, and her heart would at times reach an unimaginable 300 beats per minute. At the age of 14, she was given a new heart that would prove a great match. She recently celebrated her 20-year anniversary with it.

Gabriel Spitzer

In 2004, the city of Seattle installed five, high-tech, self-cleaning public toilets at a cost of $5 million. The toilets -- which opened at the push of a button disinfected themselves automatically -- were hailed as public service that would need little in extra staff hours to maintain.

It didn't turn out exactly like that.

Mars Hill Church Seattle / Flickr

When music writer Kathleen Tarrant moved to Seattle, she noticed a divide between two groups in the Northwest. On the one hand, you had secular alternative kids who grew up rebelling against the church and other establishments, all set to grunge and indie music. On the other hand, there were young Christians who grew up drawn to the same alternative music, but also to religious faith. In the 1990s, these two groups began to commingle with artists like Dave Bazan and Damien Jurado, faithful Christians who also played alternative music.

Andrew Becraft / Flickr

The South has its Civil War battlefields. The Northeast has colonial-era sites. But what do history nerds in the Northwest have? We have Lewis and Clark.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out in 1804 to chart their way across a great divide, the unmapped North American continent.

Nate Stevens

What happens when you confront the gulf between life and death and, somewhat to your surprise, you choose life?

That’s what Nate Stevens faced one day on a stretch of road in Indonesia. Stevens was not the world-traveler type, but the Seattleite made the trip in part to get out of his comfort zone. That included summoning the courage to climb aboard what was the main mode of transportation in the area he was visiting: an electric scooter.

Courtesy Logan Hofkamp

Many teens, if not most, have fantasies of ditching their mom and dad and just parenting themselves.

In fact, there is a legal way to do that. At age 16, Logan Hofkamp became an "emancipated youth," which is, as he puts it, like "divorcing your parents and becoming your own legal guardian."

He tells us why he's glad he did it, but he also reflects what he may have missed out on. 

Julie Randolph-Habecker

Julie Randolph-Habecker followed her father's footsteps into the field of science. He was a pathologist, diagnosing patients from behind the microscope. She became a research pathologist, exploring what was behind the disease. However, when her dad fell ill with lung cancer, that meant understanding too much about what was killing him.

Julie remembers looking through a microscope at her father's cancer cells. "Everywhere I looked there were cancer cells. And they all looked bizarre and evil. I knew immediately when I looked at that slide, it was horrible."

pee vee / Flickr

When Jena Lopez’s child started showing signs of having a non-traditional gender identity during the preschool years, she wasn’t sure what to do. Can a 3- or 4-year-old really know that she’s a different gender from her biological sex? And Jena knew the outlook for transgender kids was grim: Research has shown they tend to have high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

Courtesy Nick Morrison

KPLU's Nick Morrison has had many jobs, ranging from disc jockey to adult theater manager to music publication entrepreneur. So it might come as no surprise that he also worked in the family business.

Nick's father was in the potato business in Eastern Washington, and after some time in San Francisco, Nick returned home in need of some work.

He and his father had never really taken the time to get to know each other, and Nick, arriving back home with a pony tail and bell bottoms, was probably not going to improve things.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Children who have been victimized often have to tell their stories to strangers – detectives or advocates working on their behalf, as well as attorneys working for their alleged abuser. And giving testimony in a criminal trial is stressful in the best of cases. But imagine that child could reach down and put her hand on a warm, gentle dog at her feet, to feel comforted and secure and, hopefully, composed enough to provide the facts necessary for getting justice. That’s what a foundation in Bellevue is working to provide.

Alex Wolfe

Homelessness is definitely on the minds of a lot of us in the Northwest right now and its seems like there is some real urgency in trying to find the best ways to help. One group of architecture students from Washington State University are taking it further than most. Their latest class project is to design a transitional house that would sit in somebody's backyard and provide shelter for a homeless person.

Flikr

This segment originally aired on 'Sound Effect' on Feb. 6, 2016 as part of our ‘Going Solo’ episode.

Who do we have to thank for countless wasted hours playing Solitaire on the computer over the last twenty-five or so years? Wes Cherry didn't invent solitaire, but he did invent solitaire for the modern age.

In 1988, he was an intern for Microsoft, and on his own time he wrote code that would become Solitaire for Windows.

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