Sound Effect | KNKX

Sound Effect

Saturdays at 10 AM

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KNKX's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme.

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Unintended Consequences: Sound Effect, Episode 138

2 hours ago
George Creal / Flickr


Wikimedia Commons

Bisphenol-A, a chemical in plastics, thermal-paper receipts and the lining of tin cans, has been fingered as the culprit for a bunch of health problems.


In our bodies, BPA acts like a hormone -- and in animals, at least, it seems to disrupt all sorts of important functions.


Courtesy of Chad Goller-Sojourner

Good intentions often have unexpected outcomes, something Chad Goller-Sojourner knows from personal experience.


He’s a Seattle based playwright , and also a counselor to white parents who’ve adopted children of color. Chad is black, and when he was 13 months old he himself was adopted by white parents, along with two other kids of color.  This was back in the 1970s, when there was a lot less awareness of mixed families.

At the turn of the 20th century, when West Seattle was a city all its own, the community had a problem: They wanted to attract development, but they also wanted to keep out big-city vice, such as alcohol and gambling.

Their solution? An amusement park on a boardwalk, with roller coasters, side shows, and other kinds of wholesome family fun. As's Alan Stein tells Gabriel Spitzer, the decision had some unintended consequences.

loulrc / Flickr

Back in the 1970s in Oregon, a man named Richard Chambers was so dismayed by the litter he saw dotting the trails in the wilderness he dearly loved, that he decided to write legislation that would clean things up: Oregon’s Bottle Bill. 

The bill became a law before curbside recycling was the norm. It mandated that cans and bottles that hold juice and soda be sold with a deposit. You pay 10¢ extra when you buy them, and then if you want that money back, you have to return the empties. Today, with curbside pick up on trash day, a lot of people don’t bother.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Often, laws are created in the wake of a tragedy. In Washington state, the legislature passed what’s called the Becca laws in 1995 in the wake of the murder of a 13-year-old girl named Rebecca Hedman.

The laws are aimed at creating systems to track and get help for kids who are engaged in risky behavior, including chronic absence from school.

By Chris Vlachos (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This week on Sound Effect, we share stories some of areas that can be unclear from time to time. We start by talking to a former Seattle resident who moved to a sister city in Ireland where the weather is also gray. Next, we talk to a reporter and a retired judge about an article that was written about the judge’s ruling that let a sex offender go.

Jennifer Wing


Sometimes, our legal system can be a confusing mash up of laws and paperwork. The people whose job it is to sort through all of this to find some clarity are judges. Sometimes, they make decisions that aren’t very popular. One of these cases happened in Seattle, back in March, 2013.


King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler made the decision to not detain a man in jail for failing to register as a sex offender. Not too long after the sex offender left the courthouse, he was accused of raping a woman.

UW Center for Philosophy for Children

There are times in life when the answers aren't black and white. 

Your friend is getting married, and asks you to be best man--but you don't approve of his fiancee. Should you speak up about your reservations? Should you be quiet and agree to be best man? 

You suspect that wearing makeup might help your advancement at work, but you also suspect that sexism is at play. Should you put on that lipstick?

Some employers reject job applicants because they smoke. Is that right?

Courtesy of Elliot Cossum


Elliot Cossum struggles, like many of us, with work-life balance. The difference is he works in an unusual profession.


It started for Cossum in Iraq, in one of Saddam Hussein’s captured palaces, where Cossum was serving in the U.S. Army. His job was to man the phone lines there (including the line that reached directly to the Oval Office). He would frequently hear explosions and artillery blasts outside, and once in a while the palace itself would come under attack.


Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

Gray hair is one of the inevitable timestamps of life, and Ashley Gross has noticed a few springing up on her head lately. Or rather, her kids have noticed, and enjoy pointing them out. This didn't seem like such a big deal, until she noticed that there tend to be relatively few prominent women who let their gray show.

Hair colorants are a multi-billion dollar industry that seems to target women's insecurities about aging. They also reinforce a strain in our culture that diminishes older women.

Xiao Zhou

Queen Mae Butters has worked side by side with death for about 30 years. She’s a hospice nurse, meaning she cares for people at the end of their lives and helps them transition from life to death. That may sound like sad work -- and it is, says Butters. But it’s so much more than that.


“At the beginning of my career I really felt like death was the thing we were against, and we were all trying to keep death from happening. And now … I don’t see death as the enemy at all. I see it as one of our longest friends,” she says.


Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This story originally aired May 6, 2017. 

Solomon Dubie is the 29-year-old founder of Cafe Avole, a cozy little coffee shop in Rainier Valley. It’s one of the only places in Seattle you can get Ethiopian coffee brewed the traditional way — in a jebena. It's basically a clay pot with a long neck and short spout.

Solomon was born and raised in Seattle, but his family is from Ethiopia — where the coffee plant was first discovered.

They take coffee seriously. But it’s not just about the taste; it’s a whole event with three unique rounds of brewing.

Courtesy of Laurie Cullen

 This story originally aired May 6, 2017

One of the hardest things a person might have to find peace with is the diagnosis of a life changing disease like Alzheimer’s. For sisters Tamara Cullen Evans and Laurie Cullen, their diagnoses for Alzheimer’s came much earlier than it does for most people.

Brandon Patoc / Seattle Symphony

This story originally aired on May 6, 2017

Finding peace of mind can be a challenge for many of us. But it can be especially difficult for inmates in prison. You’re locked away. Surrounded by hundreds of others; some of whom landed behind bars for doing some pretty bad things. There are few moments of relief.

Courtesy of History Link

 This story originally aired on May 6, 2017

The United States entered the First World War 100 years ago in 1917. At the time, many leftist activists and labor supporters were skeptical of the country's intentions and reasons for going to war. One Seattle woman felt it was time to give the world a piece of her mind about the war effort. 

Her name was Louise Olivereau. She was outspoken, highly educated, and raised by a minister with a strong moral compass. Historian Michael Schein researched Louise’s forgotten place in Seattle’s history of radical activism.

Peter Haley, Pacific Lutheran University / Courtesy of Peter Altman

 This story originally aired on May 6, 2017

Have you ever lost something that’s really important to you? Have you ever had something taken from you? Maybe it was a house that was always one payment behind and you just could not keep up and back to the bank it went.

Credit Parker Miles Blohm

 This story originally aired on May 6, 2017

Ben Union basically grew up in a church, and for him there was little question as to what he wanted to be when he grew up. He was going to be a preacher.

But in religion, just like in politics, or relationships, challenging or even traumatic experiences can make you change your feelings about a path you were once entirely certain about.

This was the case for Ben Union. He didn’t become a preacher, but instead, a professional musician in Tacoma.

Peace of Mind: Sound Effect Episode 105

Mar 3, 2018
Meditation By Tarcio Saralva is licensed under CC 2.0



For many people, there is at least one movie that hit them like a bolt of lightning. Some might even have paid to see that movie in the theater--again and again and again.


That's what happened to Seattle actor and writer Barbi Beckett when she was 16 years old, growing up in El Paso, Texas. The movie that rocked her suburban world was Amadeus.


Zemekiss Photography / Courtesy of the Geekenders


The performance artform of burlesque has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years. Ranging from the basic “parade and peel” to elaborately themed shows, burlesque is a big tent with plenty of room for creative subgenres.


Credit Phillip Robertson/Flickr

This week on Sound Effect, we share stories some of the biggest fans in the region. We start by learning some meeting a huge fan of 70’s and 80’s arena rock, who was called on stage recently to perform in place of the lead singer of Loverboy. Next, we meet a woman who found a personal connection with the movie Amadeus. Also, we learn how the worlds of being a nerd and burlesque are paring up.

This past September, Steve Fournier expected to go out with his friends to see one of his favorite Rock bands, Loverboy, in concert. What he didn’t expect is for lead singer, Mike Reno, to get the flu and only be able to perform a couple songs. Reno’s wife started talking to the crowd to find someone in the audience to take his place.

Fournier’s friends started pointing at him telling her to pull him up on stage.

Credit Kevin Kniestedt

Lauren “Big Lo” Sandretzky has rarely missed a professional sports game in Seattle in 30 years, and has been called Seattle’s biggest sports fan. He even has his own super fan action figure. But his passion for sports and the players goes beyond just wins and loses. It’s gotten him through some pretty difficult times in his life.

He lost his grandfather and mother, two very special people to him, when he was very young.


Will James / KNKX

If you've ever stayed home sick from school or played hooky from work, you've probably found yourself watching "The Price is Right." 

It takes one look at the TV game show's screaming, jumping live studio audience to realize: This show has some pretty intense fans.

One Northwest family may rule them all.

No fewer than three members of the Goss family have been told to "Come on down!" and compete on the show over the past 22 years. All three walked away with prizes, with two members of the family winning "showcase" hauls worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Credit Parker Miles Blohm

Often times when a friend, family member or co-worker tells you that they are a fan of a particular musician, it makes sense. The musician or their music seems to line up with that person's personality. But when Sound Effect producer Kevin Kniestedt shared his feelings for a particular folk singer who has captured his heart for almost a couple of decades now it was a bit of a surprise. He shares this audio fan letter.

Pet Projects: Sound Effect, Episode 135

Feb 17, 2018
trpnblies7 / Flickr

This week on Sound Effect, stories about animals. We learn how one vet treats dogs who eat marijuana, and meet a pet bird who enjoys an unusual amount of freedom. Then we travel with a park ranger who is on a mission to make Tacoma's raccoons wild again, and hear dispatches from a 20th century war that pitted monkey against monkey. Finally, we hear why a Seattle scientist has spent three decades studying a colony of arctic birds, and we meet a very stubborn dead cat.

Gabriel Spitzer

Have you seen Peaches? This free-flying Goffin's Cockatoo can be spotted in parks all over Seattle, usually within flying distance of his human companion, Taryn Smethers. Sound Effect Host Gabriel Spitzer speaks with Smethers about why she chose to let her pet bird fly free - and about how his social life has changed hers for the better.

If you'd like to be certain of a Peaches sighting, just head to Peaches McFly's Instagram page.

Joe McNally

George Divoky is a scientist in Seattle, at least most of the year. But don’t expect to find him around here during the summertime.

He’ll be on a small, flat little island in the Arctic Ocean, off the Alaska coast, called Cooper Island. Back in 1975, Divoky was doing survey work there, when he came across a colony of arctic birds called Mandt’s Black Guillemots. They’re little pigeon-sized birds with bright red legs, and they’re one of the few seabird species that depend year-round on sea ice.

Jennifer Wing / KNKX

  If you own a dog, it is terrifying to find your beloved pet unresponsive to the point where they won’t even open their eyes when their name is spoken. About four of these cases come into the Blue Pearl Veterinary Clinic in South Tacoma each week.