Other News

Interesting news stories from around the Pacific Northwest.

A few days ago, we offered up some tips for playing it cool at the office holiday party. And we asked for your stories.

We got about 8,400 responses to our informal survey. It turns out, about 1 in 4 of you revelers acknowledged getting too tipsy at an office soiree — and later regretting your behavior. Perhaps not surprisingly, 80 percent of you said you've seen co-workers embarrass themselves after overimbibing.

Ah, the holiday season: Glad tidings. Comfort. Joy. Pranks.

Say what?

For some earlier Americans, Christmas was the yearly open season for playing practical jokes on other people — filching wagon wheels, turning road signs the wrong way, lighting firecrackers to scare animals. A sort of cold weather April Fools' Day, perhaps to make the midwinter less bleak.

Some of the gags were benign; others brutal. In any case, the tradition of holiday high jinks goes back, way back before the founding of the country. Here are the 12 Pranks of Christmas:


Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme and this week we are Unplugged… kind of.

Wikimedia Commons

For many, even the mention of the word unplugged conjures up memories of the the MTV series that began in 1989. So when the Sound Effect team decided to explore the theme of 'Unplugged' we knew we had to reach out to music journalist and writer, Charles R. Cross to discuss the Grammy award winning 'Unplugged' performance of Nirvana.

Cross lays out the unseen drama happening within the band and highlights some of his favorite moments of what he calls the best performance of Kurt Cobain's career.   

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

If you’ve ever come to, as if from a blackout, realizing you’ve just spent 90 minutes in some Internet rabbit hole or other; perhaps you’ve considered just unplugging – going cold turkey from technology for a little while and just sitting in the quiet. It sounds comforting, even Zen.

Genjo Marinello is an actual Zen priest, the abbot at Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Temple in Seattle. And you might expect him to be one of those finger-waggers who advocate throwing away your cell phone and just being in the moment.

Bruce Hudson


This week on Sound Effect, Gabriel Spitzer and his team scour the archives for the show's most memorable musical segments.

We kick off with a short lesson on a tiny instrument, as Gabriel Spitzer literally tries his hands at the ukulele at the house of a renowned uke expert in Wallingford. Then, off to Vito's on First Hill with Ed Ronco to hear from the restaurant's beloved piano player, Ruby Bishop.

The Rejections' Facebook page

Who are The Rejections?

"You know the Rockbottom Remainders? Yeah. Like that," says the Seattle-based band on its Facebook page

The band consists of published authors and their "trailing spouses" who, well, know a lot about rejection. They stopped by the KPLU studios last year. Listen to their performance of the song "Men of Luggage (Travel Light)": 

Ed Ronco / KPLU

Ruby Bishop has played piano around the world. She's befriended some of the jazz world's greatest names -- including Louis Armstrong.

At 95, she's still playing Sunday nights at Vito's, on Seattle's First Hill.

In this story from the "Comfort Zone" episode of KPLU's Sound Effect, she talks about the piano, her life, her career, and feeling comfortable behind 88 keys.

And here's a video of her playing at Vito's, from The Seattle Times:

Courtesy of David Montgomery

  David Montgomery may have won a MacArthur Genius Award for his work as a geomorphologist but his love of rock(s) also bleeds into his work as a musician in the local band, Big Dirt. Montgomery sits down with Sound Effect host, Gabriel Spitzer to discuss how his day job plays into his music. 

Jaymi Britten

It's usually right about this time every year that Pacific Northwest residents have seen enough of the rain and start daydreaming about trips to the tropics. But Amanda Frazier, who was born and raised in Hawaii and still lives there, wrote a song expressing her envy of the wet climate here.

Parker Miles Blohm

Anton Schwartz abandoned his doctoral thesis on artificial intelligence in order to pursue a career in music.

Schwartz made the decision to leave academia after suffering from chronic fatigue.

This might seem like a drastic career change to most of us, but Schwartz doesn't look at it that way. The way he looks at it, he just consistently followed his passions. 

Friendship is unlike any other relationship in a person’s life. It can be difficult to define and may carry different meanings for different people. Two friends may describe the degree of their relationship in totally different ways.

While family bonds are typically considered unconditional, friendships are voluntary and thus subject to being set aside when people enter adulthood and “more important” events arise.

Wikimedia Commons

What would you do if a stranger tried to throw a party at your house and invited all 700 of their Facebook friends? Sound Effect Senior Producer Arwen Nicks lays out local artist and prankster Derek Erdman’s scheme to watch "Singles", a classic grunge film from the 1990s, in the courtyard of the apartment building where it was filmed.


Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme and this week we bring you notes from “Underground.” 

sharkhats / Flickr

Sound Effect's Gabriel Spitzer spoke with phonographer and sound artist Chris DeLaurenti about his journey into the tunnels beneath Washington's mothballed nuclear power plant.


Justin Steyer / KPLU

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer.

As you may have heard, KPLU is now in a transition period and there is much uncertainty around the future of Sound Effect. So what do we do when we’re feeling frightened or anxious? We watch videos of cute animals.

Stevens Pass Mountain Resort

Workers at Stevens Pass Mountain Resort made snow angels and played in the white stuff as Mother Nature added nearly 5 inches to the ski area Tuesday night. With more on the way this week, they’re hoping to be open before Thanksgiving this year.

Star Power: Sound Effect, Episode 44

Nov 7, 2015

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme and this week we reach for Star Power.

A Symphonic Interpretation of Space

Nov 7, 2015
Hubble Space Telescope / NASA.gov

Composer Nan Avant has been in love with classical music since she was a teenager. While her sister and her friends were listening to pop records, Avant was becoming entranced by the music of Antonio Vivaldi and Erik Satie.

It wasn't long after she began her study of classical piano that Avant was composing original pieces, hoping then that she would one day become a conductor. 

Courtesy of L'Oréal

Dr. Sarah Ballard was one of the very first guests we ever had on Sound Effect. In Newness, Sound Effect's very first episode, Ballard told us about what it feels like to discover a new planet.

Ballard has not only discovered four new planets, she also discovered a new way to discover planets.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The Hubble Space Telescope is incredible. The space-based observatory has captured images that have stunned scientists and the public alike. Some of those have been used to shed light on new planets and parts of space never before seen.

But Julianne Dalcanton is pushing for what she calls "the grandchild of Hubble", a new and improved version that could capture more of space than we could have ever imagined.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

The e. coli outbreak tied to Chipotle restaurants in the Pacific Northwest continues to expand. Twenty-five people in Washington and 12 in Oregon have confirmed infections, with dozens more suspected.

All 43 Chipotle restaurants in Washington State and the Portland area are closed while public health officials investigate the outbreak.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

It was going to be an adventure.

Even before they came aboard the Holland America cruise ship Prinsendam, John Graham and his 13-year-old daughter, Malory, knew that much.

This month, we asked our audience to offer advice on how to make the best of a student program in the developing world. From dozens of tips, shared on Twitter using #NPRTravelHacks, we chose 13 of our favorites.

1. Get those Zzzs

2. Bring a Polaroid camera

Halloween: Sound Effect, Episode 43

Oct 31, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme, and this week the team tears a page from the calendar and embraces Halloween.

A Life Dedicated To Searching For UFOs

Oct 31, 2015
Art-pop via Wikimedia Commons

Bill Puckett will investigate your UFO sighting. In fact, it’s part of what he does as the head of the group UFOs Northwest.

The former Washington resident now lives in Helena, Montana; but his belief that the truth is out there started when the first waves of UFO sightings began, right here in Washington state.

Gabriel Spitzer talks to Puckett about the flying saucer phenomenon and one specific incident that took place in Washington over the Cascade Mountains.

Wikimedia Commons

It seems like every big city has its own tale of underground tunnels. And the stories of what they were used for are often very similar to each other. For many west coast port cities, the stories often involve drinking establishments with secret traps doors. Bar owners would get a patron good and intoxicated, drop that patron through a trap door and into a basement, which led to a secret tunnel to the port. By the time the poor soul came to, he found himself shanghaied on a boat in the middle of the ocean.

The Scientific Search for Sasquatch

Oct 31, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

When you think of Sasquatch you may think of grainy footage of a large mass moving through the woods or perhaps the movie and then television show, Harry and the Hendersons and that is because the iconic and centuries long hunt for Bigfoot has permeated pop culture. You probably do not think of unmaned drones swooping through the sky to hunt for signs of the mysterious bipedal humanoid, but that is exactly what Professor Jeffrey Meldrum is thinking about. 

tibbygirl via Creative Commons

At one of Seattle's most historic hotels, one of the city’s most historic ghosts stories remains very persistent.

As the story goes, Hotel Sorrento is the place where the late socialite (and pot brownie creator) Alice B. Toklas has chosen to walk the halls for eternity.

But why the Hotel Sorrento? Toklas spent the bulk of her adult life with Gertrude Stein in Paris, and never actually stepped a living foot in the hotel.

Northwest Women Filmmakers Aren't Running From Horror

Oct 31, 2015
Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Courtney Sheehan, Northwest Film Forum's Artistic Director, shares two upcoming cinematic events brought to you by local women filmmakers.