Sound Effect | KNKX

Sound Effect

Parker Blohm / KNKX


Emotional intelligence and good self care are important for a lot of us, but they can be a little illusive as well. And if you’re a teenager, it can be even more of challenge to understand what and why you’re feeling something. That was the case for Christy Abram. Though, her work now is focused on helping her fellow women of color get through the harder parts of life by sharing their stories with others through the written word. 

Jennifer Wing


Seattle writer Paulette Perhach likes to spend her food money at a typical boutique grocery store in Seattle. You know, the kind with hardwood floors, shelves that are curated with an ethical conscience — and really good cheese. Perhach is 36 years old. She’s a freelance writer who fully admits to liking fancier things she can’t afford. One of her favorite things to buy in this store is feelings.


Thomas Kyle-Milward (center) with his Milk and Scotch teammates at the Columbia County Fair in Oregon in 2014. He was "very insulted" when competitors talked trash about his overalls. But they weren't laughing after he beat them to the finish line.
Courtesy of Thomas Kyle-Milward

Thomas Kyle-Milward wears a tie to work, but deep down he’s still a farm boy.

Kyle-Milward grew up on a small family farm outside Portland, Oregon. The farm had its own rhythm: morning and evening chores, planting, harvest. And every year — the Columbia County Fair.

Kyle-Milward is building a life in urban Tacoma now, but he still makes it out for the fair each summer. And, as he’ll proudly share, he brings along bragging rights as the 2014 wild cow milking champion.

Vietnam war and draft protest
Courtesy of Fred Lonidier


In the mid-1960s, there was a number that loomed large for many American men: 26. That was the cutoff age for the draft. If you were antiwar, or just didn’t fancy going off to combat, it could be a race to stall the process long enough to hit that birthday, before being hauled in front of the draft board.

Rainbow Bingo players blot out the numbers as they're called at Ballard Northwest Senior Center.
Posey Gruener / KNKX

This week on Sound Effect, we share stories about how numbers can be the difference between winning and losing, spending and saving, or even life and death. We meet Seattle drag queen Sylvia O’Stayformore, who hosts Rainbow Bingo at the Ballard Northwest Senior Center. A Seattle doctoral student explains how she uses music to help people make sense of complicated climate data. An auctioneer reflects on winning the Chicago Marathon at 15 years old. We tag along with two women and learn the art of eating three meals a day on $75 per month. A champion wild cow milker explains what he reluctantly calls a sport, and how he stays connected to his rural roots. And we hear how one man’s fight against the draft board during Vietnam led all the way up to the office of the president.

Laura Michalek passing the previous winner in the 1979 Chicago Marathon.
Courtesy of Laura Michalek

Laura Michalek is an auctioneer. She lives in Tacoma and does mostly fundraising work, and she’s been at it for a couple of decades.

But this story is about one of the first times Laura was in the spotlight, and it actually comes way before her auctioneer career.

This all starts in the year 1979. Laura’s in high school in Berwyn, Illinois — just outside Chicago. And she’s running on the cross-country team.

Rainbow Bingo players blot out the numbers as they're called.
Posey Gruener / KNKX

For almost five years, Seattle drag queen Sylvia O'Stayformore has been hosting Rainbow Bingo at Ballard Northwest Senior Center. There are colorful decorations, themed prizes, and a bar for beer and wine. And, of course, O'Stayformore performs a number or two.

Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer and climate scientist Judy Twedt, outside the KNKX studios in Belltown.
Jennifer Wing / KNKX


When most of us see scientific data presented on graphs and spreadsheets, the meaning behind the numbers can get lost pretty fast — even when they are explained by an expert.


One woman whose personal mission is to make this kind of information more accessible is Judy Twedt, a doctoral student at the University of Washington. She is so enthusiastic about communicating scientific information in an understandable way that she wears it for everyone to see.



This show originally aired on April 28, 2018. 

Courtesy Ben Weber

This story originally aired on April 28, 2018.

Actor Ben Weber has been in movies like Kissing Jessica Stein and television shows like Sex and the City. Most recently he was in a television mini-series called Manhunt: Unabomber. But he also got some attention a few years ago for a video he did starring Ben Weber as Angry Ben Weber.

Jennifer Wing / KNKX

This story originally aired on April 28, 2018.   

Living in illegal homeless encampments can be dangerous and chaotic. This is what hundreds of people experience every day in Seattle. This minimal type of shelter can also involve a lot of moving.


Sound Effect’s Jennifer Wing recently visited the removal of an encampment under the Viaduct, across the street from the Washington State Ferry Terminal in downtown Seattle. The cleanup was being carried out by the city’s Navigation Team, the entity in charge of removals.

Courtesy of Tim Haywood

This story originally aired on April 28, 2018.   

When Seattle writer, Tim Haywood was growing up in Auburn, he was the fat kid in elementary school. Most of the time, this wasn’t a problem, except for when it came to gym class.

"I got teased a lot, you know all of the names, fatty two-by-four. I managed to compensate a little bit. I developed a sense of humor," Tim recalls.


Apalapala / Flickr

This story originally aired on April 28, 2018.  

Mary, who has asked that her last name not be used to protect her grandchildren, has been married to her husband for over 50 years. He has a habit of collecting what she calls "old junker cars," which sit in her yard, her driveway, the street -- she has no idea how many cars he owns. And they aren't just cars -- they're storage units, piled high with stuff. 

To Mary, this has clearly crossed the line from collecting to hoarding. But her husband doesn't think there is a problem. 

Credit Carl Badgley

This story originally aired on April 28, 2018.   

Former Seattleite Carl Badgley has some experience with emergencies, having been an army medic and a 9-1-1 operator. But, in search of a simpler, slightly less intense lifestyle, he had moved to be near the beautiful tropical waters off of Kona, Hawaii.



This show originally aired on April 21, 2018.

Courtesy Mike Lewis


This story originally aired on April 21, 2018.  

When the print edition of the Seattle Post Intelligencer came to an end in 2009, the reporters who worked for the paper scattered off to other careers. Some picked up other gigs covering news, others went into public relations. Veteran reporter Mike Lewis bought a bar.


Specifically, he bought his bar, a dive called The Streamline Tavern, where he and other reporters used to adjourn to after quitting time at the paper.


Credit Clint Lanier and Derek Hembree

This story originally aired on April 21, 2018.    

One of the realities about bars, like many other businesses, is that at some point, they will probably close their doors for good. This was the case in December of 2015, when a Pioneer Square bar called the Double Header called “last call” for the last time. This is significant, because the Double Header was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, gay bar in America.

Everything I know, I learned at the bar

May 11, 2019
Credit Emma Olsen-Spratt

This story originally aired on April 21, 2018.    

An essay:  

I always joke that dark, divey bars are where I'm most at home because that's where I first learned how to talk to people. I mean, we learn speech at a young age, on the mats at preschool, or at home, mimicking our parents. But forming phonemes is different than talking to people.

Credit Brie Ripley


This story originally aired on April 21, 2018.    

Courtesy of Erica C Barnett

This story originally aired on April 21, 2018.    

All of Erica’s heroes liked to drink. Hunter S. Thompson, Molly Ivins … to be an edgy journalist, it seemed like alcohol was part of the job description.

For Erica C. Barnett, alcohol did soon become a thread weaving through her work for magazines and alternative weeklies.

Courtesy of Mike Lewis

This story originally aired on April 21, 2018.    

Years ago, not long after Mike Lewis lost his father, he made a pilgrimage to his dad's favorite bar--a place called The Ranch in Modesto, CA. When he got there, he found something he didn't expect: a stool that had been roped off. 

Kyle MacKenzie/Flickr

First, two KNKX moms share their experiences in the neonatal intensive care unit after the birth of their children. Then, a trip to a NICU, where we learn how to write lullabies.

Kelli Wimbley-Dinh, right, cuts hair at Andro, a barbershop in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood that aims to create a welcoming alternative to male-dominated barbershops.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Kelli Wimbley-Dinh runs a barbershop in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. It’s a small space, often obscured behind the lunchtime lines for Il Corvo’s pasta.

The people who do stop to look at the metal sign above the door will notice two things: the logo of a woman with long eyelashes and a textured beard, and the slogan “everyone’s barbershop.”

courtesy of Vivek Elangovan



"Vellai Pookal" is a study in both-and. It's a detective thriller and a family drama. It has a bilingual script in both Tamil and English. It was released in both the U.S. and India. And — this is kind of a big one — most of the people who made the film are first-time filmmakers who are also employees of local technology companies.


David Slack, a hospice and palliative care doctor, in Rwanda.
Courtesy of Davide Slack

When David Slack thinks about why he became a hospice and palliative care doctor, he thinks back to his grandmother's death when he was about 12. 

"Rather than it being a terrifying or frightening thing for me, my family, my mother in particular, made it really safe," he said. He remembers his mother taking him by the hand, leading him to his grandmother's bedside, and telling him to say goodbye. 

Slack, a doctor for Kaiser Permanente in Washington, now cares for patients in the final months of their lives, helping them live as comfortably and fully as possible once they've discontinued treatments aimed at curing their conditions. 

Courtesy of UW Medical Center



When a child is being cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, parents experience many emotions. They are grateful for the medical interventions that happen in these nurseries, but these situations are inherently stressful. Everything is in limbo.


virtual reality
Raphael Satter / The Associated Press

We start by meeting a scientist who is trying to create a way for people to have the sensation of touch through their prosthetic limbs. Then, a man considers himself “lucky” after having his legs amputated.

Amir Afrasiabi works in computer vision and artificial intelligence.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX



Amir Afrasiabi had glasses as a kid. No big deal. But he found he had to constantly get new and more powerful ones, and he still seemed to struggle to see.

Amir would later discover that he had a degenerative eye condition called keratoconus. It would eventually reroute the course of his career and his life.

How does a research study get funded? The most common way is to apply for a grant from the government. But what if what you’re studying is so controversial that government funders won't touch it? That’s where people like Cody Swift come in.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX



By the time Stuart Olsen was 7 years old, he had endured more surgeries than most people experience in a lifetime. The focus of all of this medical attention and effort was on his legs.


“I must have had 11 or 12 surgeries to try and fix my legs,” Olsen said.