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Check It Out!

Author: Sno-Isle Libraries

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A podcast from Sno-Isle Libraries for lifelong learners with inquiring minds. Check It Out! introduces the amazing people who work at, use and collaborate with the library district – and all of the services it offers to residents of Washington State’s Snohomish and Island counties.
61 Episodes
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Part 1: You Don’t Wanna Be a Rock-and-Roll Star  Chris Ballew lived the rock-and-roll life.  As frontman for the late, great Presidents of the United States of America, he wrote infectious, goofy, catchy hits about “Peaches” and a “Dune Buggy” when heavy grunge dominated Seattle’s FM radio waves. He toured all over the world. He played to packed arenas and stadiums. He even won a Grammy award.  But that’s the old Chris Ballew.  Today, Ballew is a genial, funny everyman who now can laugh about his discomfort with his “Presidents” fame. He’s still well-known and beloved in the Seattle music scene. He still makes infectious, goofy, catchy music that his fans love.  And those are fans of Caspar Babypants.  Yes, Chris Ballew has become a children’s musician. He loves it. Little kids love it. And the kids’ parents, who grew up listening to the Presidents of the Unites States of America, they love it, too.  We told a friend about our Check It Out! podcast interview with Ballew.  “Caspar Babypants, you mean the guy from The Presidents of the USA? COOL!!”  Yes, Check It Out! podcast hosts Kurt Batdorf and Paul Pitkin found it very cool to talk about music and creativity with the one and only Caspar Babypants.  When Ballew decided he’d had enough of rock-and-roll and hopped off the “pony that was (making) gold bricks,” it wasn’t a big musical leap for him to change things up. It’s easy to hear similarities between “Peaches” of 25 years ago and the current “Noodles and Butter,” or between “Dune Buggy” and “Butterfly Driving a Truck.”   They’re all goofy and funny and infectious. And as Ballew says, “That’s just the sound I make, and I’ve been making that sound my whole life, really.”  When the Presidents became a thing in Seattle music in the early 1990s, it was a matter of good timing, Ballew said.  “The music scene at the time was ‘heavy,’ and not bad, but it just had a very visceral, kind of heavy, grungy vibe,” he said. “And I think people were really enjoying it, but they also wanted just some candy, you know, something really fun and bouncy.”  The Presidents satisfied that craving at the right time. And now, Caspar Babypants satisfies Ballew’s innate “childlike” nature.  “As Caspar Babypants, people ask me like, ‘How do you make this music for children?’ and I tell them, ‘I really don’t make it for children, I make it for myself, number one,’” Ballew said. “And I am just childlike. I live my life like a child. It happens to resonate with kids, but it’s really pleasing me. So, I think that’s how it kind of works. So, yeah. I was just pleasing myself, and it turned out to please a whole bunch of other people too.”  The Presidents of the United States of America released three studio recordings, but Caspar Babypants has been much more prolific: 18 albums released between 2009 and 2019.  Ballew has “thousands and thousands of little recordings” constantly running through his head as part of his creative process. He’ll play something for a few minutes and sing a little melody.  “You never know what it might grow into,” he said. “So, I record it. In that sense, I’m always kind of allowing myself to just make a little mess, and not try to make sense of it. And then, maybe later, I’ll figure out what it is, after forgetting about the initial, sort of moment of creation. I’m constantly recording tiny little bits.”  It means Ballew has a lot of material to draw from, and a lot of songs ready to go. His laptop is full of songs in various states of the recording process.  “When it’s time to make a record, I listen to all of them, and I just cherry-pick the most developed, the clearest, the most successful 20, and make it into an album," he said. “I’m always working on a giant amount. And then, as a record comes due, I focus on the ones that just need the extra push, to kind of be perfect.”  It also means some of Ballew’s songs don’t see the light of day for a long time.  “I have this new song that I’m very excited about. I don’t think it will come out until 2022,” he said. “I’ve got three records almost ready for the next three years. It’s called ‘Live Like a Baby.’ And it's about how I, as an adult, just want to live like a baby.”  Not with the downsides of being a baby though.  “I mean, the freedom, and the way of experiencing the world as a purely energetic playpen. That's kind of my attitude,” Ballew said.  He usually plays a three-string acoustic guitar as Caspar Babypants, similar to the stripped-down two-string bass he usually played with the Presidents.  “It creates a really interesting sound,” Pitkin said. “It’s unusual, it makes its own sound.”  Ballew said it makes him play guitar more like a bass player.   “It sounds more rhythmic and chunky,” he said. “I kind of think about early Johnny Cash when I’m playing a lot.”  The simpler, rhythmic sound is easier for Ballew to play by himself.  “And kids respond to that,” he said. “They respond to the rhythm. And they want to get up, and dance, and move around.”  That feeds his soul now, and Caspar Babypants has brought Ballew full circle.  “When the President' started out, we were this goofy little band of dorks that were trying to rock. And in trying to rock, I think we endeared ourselves to our audience. They were like, ‘Oh, those poor little guys on stage. Look at them trying to play a Led Zeppelin song,’” Ballew said.  “I love it, because I’m back to being a dorky little guy, trying to rock. Because I’m by myself, I think the empathetic reaction from the crowd is even more intense. If I ask for call and response, I definitely get it. Because I’m this tiny little guy on stage, trying to pull something off. And the crowd’s like, ‘Yes, we want to help.’”  Part 2: Help with grief from the Self-Help Shelf  If you’re dealing with grief, Sarri Gilman recommends “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief” by David Kessler for the Self-Help Shelf.  “David is considered one of the world's leading experts on grief,” Gilman said of Kessler. “He’s written several books on the subject. And this book, ‘Finding Meaning,’ is my favorite of his books.”  In this book, Kessler focuses on the traumatic loss of a loved one. Losing loved ones is a journey through many feelings.   “Traumatic grief has some layers of feelings that can be hard to navigate, because we may not have experienced them before,” Gilman said. “And traumatic grief is particularly hard to do alone. This book is truly a helpful companion. It feels like David is in the room with you, reviewing stories of traumatic grief, and how people have carried those losses.”  Kessler’s words and pacing are careful and thoughtful, which makes it easily readable in the grieving process. He writes about his own traumatic grief sensitively, the same way he writes about other people’s traumatic losses. He talks about the feelings we carry when we’re grieving, and it is coupled with a trauma.   “I think if you have experienced this kind of loss, you’re going to feel understood,” Gilman said. “You’ll realize that you are not alone.”  During the coronavirus pandemic, you may feel even more loss and grief unrelated to a death.   “Although this book was written to support people who experienced a death, I think it applies to many losses,” Gilman said.” Traumatic grief can also come up from other kinds of losses like a divorce where there was abuse, loss of a child to addiction. I think this book is actually going to be very helpful, if you have traumatic grief for other kinds of reasons.”  It doesn't have to be a recent loss. Often with traumatic grief, it could take a few years to process feelings.   “During COVID-19, other losses that you had previously may be brought to the surface,” Gilman said. “And you may be feeling the trauma and grief, all over again, because COVID-19 has brought up a lot of loss and grief.”  If this is your experience, “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief” will be very helpful. It’s available digitally from Sno-Isle Libraries. 
Rodney Clark helps deliver the future.  As the vice president of the Microsoft Azure Worldwide Internet of Things and Mixed Reality Team, Clark and his crew work with more than 8,000 partners and clients to connect billions of everyday devices to the cloud.  Sensors on stop lights, cash registers, automobiles, home appliances, exercise monitors, video doorbells. They all generate information and data that allows organizations to take action on that data and insights.  “It’s a wave, it’s a reality,” Clark said.  It’s no longer “the future.”  “The job that I have and the privilege that I have is working with companies who want to participate in this new reality and new opportunity of building solutions that connect everyday devices and experiences to cloud and data,” Clark said.  Microsoft calls it “edge to cloud,” and Clark said the company believes that cloud computing is “the here and now.” He acknowledges it’s a lot to process.  As a real-world example, consider a Fitbit exercise monitor.  “When I think of Fitbit, I think of personal cloud,” Clark told Check It Out! podcast host Ken Harvey, Director of Communications for Sno-Isle Libraries. “So I always ask the question, ‘How many personal clouds, Ken, do you have, or do you think you have?’ Do you think you have zero, or do you think you have 10?”  Harvey thought he might have as many as 25 personal clouds. Clark said that’s probably right.  He explained how personal clouds work, with Fitbit, SimpliSafe alarms and Ring video doorbells as examples.  Fitbit tracks your steps, heartbeat, pulse and more, and stores that data in the cloud. It’s powerful information for your health provider, Clark said. The SimpliSafe alarm and Ring doorbell camera in his home send notifications directly to his smartphone, so he knows if his son is trying to get in the house because he forgot his key, or if it’s something bigger.   “I can control my home from the other side of the state,” Clark said.  SimpliSafe and Ring devices collect household and neighborhood data and images. The companies can share that data with consumers, potentially to improve neighborhood security.   “All of those are just real practical examples of the Internet of Things at work,” Clark said. “We don’t realize it every single day but it is the reality that I mentioned.”  During the interview, episode co-host Lynne Varner, Associate Vice Chancellor at WSU Everett, said she got a phone notification about her dogwalker’s location in her house.  As a self-described technologist, Clark thinks constantly about the internet of things and the insights its data provides to numerous industries.  “You name it, there’s an industry at play for the internet of things,” he said.  Clark has been fascinated by the possibilities in scientific solutions since he was a student, but he’s no engineer. He worked for IBM for nine years in sales and marketing. He came to Microsoft 21 years ago so he could answer all of his “What if?” questions.   "I saw an opportunity about six years ago for these devices that were embedded and fixed, and at the time we were building our cloud business,” Clark said. “I asked, ‘What if we were actually talking about cloud for those things that are traditionally fixed-purpose devices?’ It wasn’t the birth of our internet of things business. But it was for me the continuation of this fascination of technology.”  “But it all started with you being curious and asking, ‘What if?’” Varner said.  Clark agreed.  Now he tells STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students and young professionals to focus less on what they want to be when they grow up. It’s more important to be flexible.  “You have to allow yourself to experience different things,” Clark said. “If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting here in this podcast and I wouldn’t have the role that I have today.”  Varner says WSU emphasizes that kind of flexibility with the use of interdisciplinary instruction and broad communication skills.  “I tell our students to prepare yourself to be flexible and to be nimble,” Varner said. “What you get your degree in may not necessarily be what you work in.”  That’s good advice for workers today and tomorrow, Harvey said. To remain relevant, they'll need to keep adapting to new jobs as emergent technologies alter the traditional workplace.   In an increasingly digital workplace, Clark said, “you have to have some minimum level of digital competency in order to stay relevant.”  It applies to all positions, all the way up to chief executive officer.  “Because tomorrow’s CEOs are today’s technologists, it’s ever so important that we accelerate STEM programs, that we have our females, our students of color, even that mid-career person thinking about, ‘What impact do I want to make in the business?’” Clark said. “Not every person mid-career or every student has an ambition to be in C-suite, the point is to stay relevant and in the game.”  Varner agreed.   “We think every student needs to have comfort with technology, whether you’re going into retail, whether you plan to be a writer,” she said. “You need to be able to explain ideas that are technical in nature. You need to be able to communicate with software engineers, software designers. So, everyone has to have some capacity in STEM, no matter where you happen to end up in your career. We try to encourage our students that way.   “Not everyone wants to major in engineering, but you do want to understand how engineers think and how to convey possibilities to them so they can actually create it for you.” 
If you’re anxious about the global coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19, you’re not alone.   In this episode of Sno-Isle Libraries Check It Out! podcast, you’ll hear how a globe-trotting disaster-relief doctor loses sleep about the deadly virus that has upended our sense of “normal.”  Dr. Dan Diamond is a clinical assistant professor at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine after spending 33 years at the University of Washington School of Medicine in a similar role. In 1994, he and his wife, Debbie, founded CMRT, the nation’s first state-affiliated medical disaster response team, and it has sent them around the world.  Former TEDxSeattle and TEDxRainier co-curator Phil Klein shared his interview with Diamond with Sno-Isle Libraries.  “We thought it would be something really timely for the audience to listen to,” said Check It Out! podcast host Ken Harvey.   Diamond and his team have been to natural disasters in Haiti, the Philippines and Mexico. They went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Today, Dr. Diamond is using insights he gained there to cope with the uncertainties of coronavirus.  “These are some weird days we're living in for sure,” Diamond said about the aftermath of coronavirus.   "Katrina was crazy,” Diamond said. “The medical triage unit at the convention center was the wildest thing I've ever done, but this one's different. This one's overwhelming. When we deploy to disasters around the world, I know I can always come home and it's all good, but now there's nowhere to hide. This is a global pandemic that's affecting everybody on the planet, and it's important to remember that. We are not going through this alone. We're going through it with everybody.”  And like almost everybody, Diamond said he feels the tension and worries and uncertainties that coronavirus has raised.  “Let me just tell you a personal story,” he said. “Two weeks ago, probably three o'clock in the morning, I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed going, ‘What in the world am I going to do?’ Then I had this interesting conversation like, ‘Am I going to die? This isn't going to be good. This is horrible. This is the worst thing that's ever happened to mankind.’ Then I got into this conversation with myself of, ‘Diamond, jiminy. You're a disaster, doc. You need to buck up, be tougher.’”  Before he could clear his head and get back to sleep, Diamond had to remind himself that he needed to take care of himself with three steps of self-compassion.  “First is to realize that you're suffering or that you're afraid,” he said. “So, I sat there and I thought, ‘Wow, man. You are really struggling with this one, aren't you?’ I thought, ‘Yeah, yeah.’”  The second thing is to show up with kindness.   “So, I’m sitting there saying, ‘Well yeah, this is a tough one. I can understand why you’d be afraid,’” Diamond said.  “Then the third thing is to realize that you're not alone, that we're going through this with lots of people. So, I sat there and I thought, ‘I wonder how many thousands of people are sitting here on the edge of their bed going, “What in the world am I going to do?”’ I thought, ‘We’re in this together. We’re going to get through this. It is scary, but I’m going to be kind to myself and go back to sleep.’”  Taking a break from television news for a few days also helped him sleep better.  “I decided to quit watching the news for three or four days and just focus on taking care of myself and getting my focus back in the right spot and being positive,” Diamond said.  Still, as the uncertainty of coronavirus wears on everyone, Diamond said the anxiety weighs on him, too. He tries to remember the lesson he brought back from New Orleans in 2004, when so many people lost all everything. He noticed that some people coped better than others.  “I came back from Katrina asking myself a question that changed my life and it's a great question for us to ponder,” he said. “That is, why is it that some of these people don't become victims?”  Diamond said he vacillates between optimism that coronavirus can be tamed and pessimism that he could lose people close to him.  “So, you kind of go back and forth, but realizing that we get to choose which direction we face,” he said. “When I came back from Katrina asking this question of why is it that some of these people don't become victims, what I found is that some of these people, even though they lost their homes, they lost their cars, they lost all their clothes … and some of them had lost their family members, and they still did not become victims.”  The experience gave Diamond the idea to compare personal power and purpose in a quadrant. The vertical line contains powerful people and powerless people. The horizontal line for purpose shows takers and givers.  “This is not four different types of people,” he said. “This model is not a tool so you can point at people. This is a model for taking a look inside on where you are.”  Diamond admits he’ll slide into the powerless victim or bystander mode when he feels under pressure, but he knows he can make the most difference when he’s in the upper right quadrant, using his power to give help.  “My goal is I want to live in that upper right quadrant to say, ‘I have the power to make a difference. It’s not about me and I don’t care who gets the credit,’” Diamond said. “That’s a fulfilling mindset. I continually ask myself two questions. Am I going to be powerful or powerless? Am I going to be a giver or a taker? How am I going to show up? Then pay attention to the internal conversation that's going on until I learn to recognize these differences that I use.”  Coronavirus is making many people confront grief, whether they want to or not. Check It Out! contributor Sarri Gilman suggests “It’s OK That You’re Not OK” by Megan Devine for her Self-Help Shelf.  “I've read lots of books on grief, but I highly recommend this book if you're only going to read one book on grief,” Gilman said.   Devine talks about early grief, something that very few authors do.   “Most authors do not write about that because people find it really hard to read a book in early grief, but she starts with early grief because that's where we all start with our grief and there's so much that you may have felt or may be feeling that goes unacknowledged,” Gilman said.  In the midst of COVID-19, all of us have experienced losses, she said.  “Many of you may be experiencing grief,” Gilman said. “This book is a great companion through some of our most difficult challenging feelings that we're all experiencing.” 
Claudia Samano Losado has many talents.  Early-childhood educator. World traveler. Life coach. Recreation-center owner. Dance-movement instructor.  But maybe most importantly, Losado is a fervent Oak Harbor Library supporter.  “I think I’m very passionate about a lot of things, and one of my passions is to share with others and to take and give in the same way,” said Losado, a member of the library’s board. “Since I have had so much from the library I’ve wanted to give back to, and this is a very good way to give back, but not just that, to know more about the library.”  What she gets from the Oak Harbor Library, she returns to the Oak Harbor community.   “It’s a way of connecting the community and the people with the same interests, so I’m connecting businesses, connecting families, connecting families with little kids, connecting families with teenagers,” she said. “So we are all in the same boat and it’s awesome for me to be able to share one thing from another.”  Losado grew up in Mexico City, where her future husband was visiting when they met and started dating. She has lived in the United States since 2002 and her husband’s military career sent them to California, Florida and Oak Harbor. She used the library in every community she lived in.  “I’ve been involved in every single place with libraries. What the libraries offer to the community in each state is amazing. Not everybody everywhere has the opportunity to have a library that offers free books to check out, free programs, help for the parents, so many things,” she said.  “When I moved to Washington state and I discovered this library system, I just fell in love. It’s the best experience I have had with libraries. The community needs to know. Because the community sometimes are not fully aware of everything the library can offer. It has been kind of like my job lately.”  Losado makes it a point to spread the word about all the services and programs the Oak Harbor Library and Sno-Isle Libraries offers to its customers.   “I think it’s important for us, for the leaders in the community, to spread the word of what things are happening, and good things are happening since I took advantage of that,” she said. “I want everybody to know what is happening at the library.”  When Losado says “community,” she sees a big picture. It’s the people who use the Oak Harbor Library. It’s the customers in her In Motion recreation center. It’s the island’s Navy population. It’s the people who live in Oak Harbor and the surrounding North Whidbey Island area. They all connect.  “I see it this way,” Losado said. “We have our own interests and our own little communities in Oak Harbor. We have a military community. We have people who go to the library every single Tuesday, every single Wednesday, and it’s the library community. My people, my families ... it’s a small family that knows In Motion, that advocates movement, advocates physical activities. I see that some stuff connects us, however we need more connection. We need more connection between us, between all these little communities, between military, library, In Motion and all the places that are of course part of this community.”  Losado’s upbringing in Mexico, a year of study in Great Britain followed by time in Spain, plus her 18 years in the U.S. gives her an open mind about immigration issues and diversity.  As a child, she said she always looked for and saw the similarities in people, not differences.   Now she notices how many people focus on differences instead of similarities. She believes it complicates how we live as a society, “and how we express our interest as a community.”  “I think since I moved to the United States, I recognize something that I didn’t know before,” Losado said. “I recognize that some people look at you in different ways, and some people see differences you didn’t even know you had.”  While some have different opinions about diversity, Losado appreciates those who “take it as an amazing way to be in the same society, growing together.”  America is a diverse, multicultural nation, she said, but it’s becoming less cross-cultural. That only magnifies the perceived differences.  “I think diversity is (something) to celebrate,” she said. “If we all have a goal as a country, as a community, as a society, we need to embrace our similarities.”  She tries to instill that message to her movement and art students with the motto, “Our differences will divide us more, our similarities will make us one.”  “I also try to unite,” Losado said. “I try to give the message, it’s OK to be different, it’s OK to speak a second language, it’s OK to be in a multicultural family. It is OK. That will actually make us a better community, a better society, and it will unite us.” 
Chapter 1: Meet the writer who’s not fond of writing  Nancy Leson loves books, she loves libraries, she loves to talk and she loves food.  That makes the Edmonds resident an ideal guest for Sno-Isle Libraries Check It Out! podcast.  Libraries figured large in Leson’s childhood in Philadelphia. Her family had little disposable income, so off to the library they went to borrow books and glean information from encyclopedias. These days, Leson says, the Friends of the Edmonds Library book sale is her favorite book event every year.  Books and learning followed Leson into adulthood.   She’d always wanted to own a set of Encyclopedia Brittanica, so she filled out a postcard to get more information.  It was a particularly cold winter night in Anchorage, Alaska, when Leson heard a fateful knock on her apartment door.    She opened the door and exclaimed, “Are you the encyclopedia salesman?”  The man was flustered. “The guy looks and me and asks, ‘How did you know that?’”  In his many years of sales calls, no one had ever asked if he was the encyclopedia salesman, he explained.  “Damned if that night did I not buy, a poor nursing student in my 20s in Anchorage, Alaska, a set of Encyclopedia Brittanica, a gorgeous leather set, that this man came into my house and did nothing more than sell me a set of encyclopedias. I was a very brave young woman.”  Leson still has those encyclopedias, and she mourned the day when Encyclopedia Brittanica announced it would stop printing them.  “Now ask me when the last time I opened them was,” she said.  Funny thing about Leson. Much as she loves words, she hates writing.   She wanted to be a children’s librarian, then a writer, then tried nursing school, but ended up waiting tables. She finally got into writing courtesy of the University of Washington’s journalism program. But to earn her degree, she had to create “clips” by writing stories for local newspapers, and had to write about state government in Olympia. She resisted.  “I had no interest in that at all,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be a features writer.”  Leson finished her journalism degree, but was broke. She went back to waiting tables at an Italian restaurant (now called Nell’s) on Green Lake.   “I knew every single one of the editors and publishers in town because they all used to eat in there, even Frank Blethen, my eventual boss,” Leson said. “I said, ‘One day, I’m gonna work for you.’ And I wasn’t lying.”  Leson was still waiting tables a year later when she saw an ad in the back of the Seattle Weekly. They sought an unpaid intern in the food department. She applied.  “I lied a little,” she said. “I said, ‘My mother always wanted me to be a doctor. Maybe now at least I can tell her I’m an intern. Hire me, I’m your girl!’ And they did. That was the first and last (writing) job I looked for.”  She wrote a “gossip column-ish" called “As the Tables Turn” about her views of the Seattle restaurant scene, much of it based on her own waitressing experience. She earned $5 an hour.  Sno-Isle Libraries podcast co-host Paul Pitkin wanted to know how Leson managed to write so much when she hates writing.  “Writing is painful. I mean, I loved reporting. I loved going out. I loved interviewing people and finding out things. But I was the person who would sit down and write and could not do what they call – and you’ll excuse me – the ‘vomit draft,’ where you just throw it on out there and then you fix it later,” she said.   “Until I got the lead on any story, I was writing, I couldn’t go on. And I fussed with it and fussed with it until I got it right. So it took me a long time to write. And as a result of that, I like to think that much of my work did not need much editing. And I was told that all along. It was good for my editors, but not so good for me.”  Leson went on to edit the “Best Places” series for Sasquatch Books and was restaurant critic for the Seattle Weekly. That led to an offer from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as a freelance restaurant reviewer for a few months before the Seattle Times gave her a call: “Hey, could you come talk to us?”   It was her dream job, but daily deadlines got in the way of a good time.  “It’s real fun to write something if you have all the time in the world,” Leson said. “I always liken journalism and deadline writing to when you’re in high school or college and you have a paper due and you’re writing the paper, or you have a final and you're studying and studying. And then you write the paper and you get done, or you finish the final, and you're like, ‘Oh, oh, yay, thank god that’s over.’ And then you wake up the next day and – augh! – I’ve gotta do it again.”  Leson made a connection at KPLU-FM, the National Public Radio affiliate that’s now known as KNKX. The station wanted her to write and produce a weekly, 3-minute essay about fun, cool things.   She was at the “worst time” of her mother-work life, so she offered a compromise.  “I could do it once a month for six months,” Leson said. “And they agreed.”  Then the station paired Leson up with one of their on-air hosts, Dick Stein.   “It was initially a show about him interviewing me,” Leson said. “But it became the show it is today, which is the two of us having an absolutely fabulous time talking about the thing we love to do most, which is cooking.”  They call it Food for Thought. Leson and Stein have been chewing the fat since 2006 about food, cooking utensils, cookbooks, secret ingredients, restaurants, likes and dislikes, you name it.  Now Food for Thought generally sticks to cooking and food themes. To get a sense of how Leson and Stein work together, listen to them recollect their earliest food memories from childhood.  You’ll learn why Leson felt compelled to eat a stick of butter. Her revelation inspired Check It Out! podcast co-hosts Paul Pitkin, Justine Easley, Kurt Batdorf and Julie Thompson to share some of their childhood food memories. Some are more horrifying than others, but you’ll have to listen to find out.  Chapter 2: Get acquainted with Sarri Gilman’s Self-Help Shelf  We live in trying times and licensed mental health therapist Sarri Gilman wants to help.  That’s even more important now that coronavirus precautions make face-to-face interactions with family and friends difficult at best.  In this episode of the Check It Out! podcast, Gilman debuts her Self-Help Shelf segment. She is also posting self-help book recommendations on the Sno-Isle Libraries blog, BiblioFiles.  “I want to call out the books that are literally as good as therapy,” Gilman said. “Books that really help. Books that really make a difference. And some of these (titles) you aren’t even going to find in the library in the self-help section, because some of these are for children and they’re going to be in the children’s section.”  All of the titles Gilman recommends are available in digital formats at sno-isle.org.   Gilman recommends titles that she believes will help children navigate through emotions, help adults navigate through feelings and difficult challenges, help couples, and help families and caregivers.  “I think there’s a wide range of books to pick from, but I’d like to call out the best, the things that help the most.”  Adult self-help books are all about learning, Gilman said. For children, she looks for writing that encourages emotional literacy.  “There are books out there that can help us through every stage of life, through every age, through every feeling, every experience. They’re all out there,” Gilman said. “I’ll call out books that make a difference. Which of these books can help you now.”  Gilman's recommended title for adults this week is “Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind“ by Kristin Neff. It will help you soothe yourself when you’re hurting, and bolster your morale when you’re feeling down.  For children ages 9-11, Gilman recommends “The Nest” by Kenneth Oppel. The 12-year-old main character, Steve, worries about his young brother’s health problems. Through Steve, Oppel shows it’s possible to be both brave, afraid and faithful. It’s a great book for parents to read with their children, Gilman said. 
If a picture is worth a thousand words, some of Rich Frishman’s photographs could be novels.  Frishman was a news photographer for The Daily Herald in Everett and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize before he left to pursue freelance work.  He knows how to tell a story with a photograph, and he still sees and tells the stories of America through his camera lens.  Frishman has criss-crossed the country to chronicle its beauty and everyday life in his collections, American Splendor and This Land, and the guarded secrets in Ghosts of Segregation.  The difference between Frishman and the rest of us who think we take good pictures is how Frishman considers his subjects.  He doesn’t just pull over on the side of the road when he sees something interesting, snap a picture and move on. Before Frishman leaves on a trip, he takes a deep dive online into the surrounding area for other photo opportunities.  “I get on Google Maps, ultimately get in the Google car – not the auto-driving one, but the one you take on the internet – and I see what is there now in this location, and is it something that hearkens back,” he said. “And then that’ll lead me to something else.”  Frishman was working on his Ghosts of Segregation photos when a planned trip to Houston led him to research sites in and around Jackson, Miss., about 440 miles northeast of Houston.  “The Negro Motorist Green Book” helped him cross-check his hunches on historically significant sites and showed him many more. In Jackson he found the modest home where a white supremacist assassinated black civil rights activist Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963. Near Philadelphia, Miss., he found the remote site where Ku Klux Klan members killed young civil rights activists James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman on June 21, 1964. Their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam.  “The Negro Motorist Green Book” was essentially a AAA guide for people of color, Frishman said.  “Back In those dark days, it was what you had to use to be safe if you were black," he said. “Often I will use the term ‘colored,’ because in a lot of (white) communities it didn’t matter if you were African-American or Asian or Hispanic or Native American. Now it continues that way with Muslim, LGBTQ, maybe even Democrat. I have been in many places where I have felt like I was the outsider. It’s not a good feeling.”  Frishman’s images in Ghosts of Segregation touched a nerve with Sno-lsle Libraries Communications Director Ken Harvey, who lived in Jackson, Miss., in the 1960s and early 1970s.  “The work that (Frishman) had done on the Ghosts of Segregation and the images that he had selected really spoke to me, because in some way, they reawakened some memories of places and things that I had seen and experienced,” Harvey said.  Harvey was taken by the power of the images and the power of the places in his own memories.  “I often think of myself as an archaeologist, collecting data about our civilization because someday it’ll be past,” Frishman said.  Frishman certainly collects a lot of data when he’s working.  Each one of his pictures is composed of dozens or hundreds of individual images that he shoots over several hours or days, sometimes even longer. The multiple images allow him to capture far more detail and light variations than a single image could ever convey.  Frishman assembles the digital images into one masterpiece.  The results are astonishing. There's no pixelation, no blur, no sign that the picture is stitched together from multiple images. Even when the picture is up to 12 feet wide. The photographs are so good they hang in museums in Texas and Louisiana.  Some of Frishman’s earlier work on American Splendor and This land does look like well­ composed snapshots of roadside attractions, such as funky motels in California and New Mexico on old Route 66, or the curious Big Fish Restaurant on U.S. 2 in Bena, Minn.  “Yeah, I was more sanguine then. Those were fun, but I realized I lost a lot of the love for doing that when, and this is my own outlook, but I’m troubled by our politics,” Frishman said. “I’m troubled by the continuation of segregation, whether it’s the economic issues or the educational issues. So many different groups continue to live with the burden of being considered ‘the other.’  “That’s what I’m trying to eliminate. I want to spark a conversation with people I may never meet directly. These problems didn’t end with the passage of any of the Civil Rights Acts. It certainly didn’t end with the end of the Civil War or Reconstruction or the emptying of internment camps or the rescinding of the Chinese Exclusion Act. I mean, we just continue to lay this on everybody who is ‘the other.’ ”  The motivation for equality comes from Frishman’s upbringing. While the Frishman family lived comfortably in Chicago’s predominantly white suburbs, his parents were “unabashed liberals” who wanted their three children to value social justice.   “I was born in 1951,” Frishman said. “My parents made it a point to familiarize us with people who were struggling … It was the early era of the modern civil rights movement. That ingrained in all three of us kids a sense of responsibility.”  Frishman credits his father for instilling his sense of curiosity and an appreciation of architecture.   “He told us the stories of the people who made these places,” Frishman said.   That continues to frame his photography.  “I’m quite driven by our relationships as human beings,” Frishman said. “My fascination with these places I’m now photographing really gets back to the people who populated these places and experienced so much, and for Ghosts of Segregation, the suffering and courage and struggle that people endured. Those are the aspects that compel me to photograph these places.” 
David George Gordon admits he was a bookworm as a child. Is that why the prolific author loves insects, and loves to eat them? Sno-Isle Libraries Check It Out! podcast hosts Ken Harvey, Jim Hills and Jessica Russell sat down with Gordon and chewed the fat about his reputation as “the bug chef.” And they graciously accepted the guest’s gifts, as polite hosts do. Yes. Harvey, Hills and Russell ate bugs. The Seattle-based author of “The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook” and 19 other titles covering slugs and snails, oyster history and Sasquatch research has appeared on many TV shows and headlined national festivals. When Gordon visited Sno-Isle Libraries and laid out plates of edible bugs, the hosts were understandably skeptical. Gordon is used to tough crowds. “In so many ways, this is the food of the future,” Gordon said about insects as ingredients or cuisine. “It’s really good for you. It’s easy to raise. It doesn’t require the gallons of water that go into raising a steak and so on. But our dislike of insects in our culture is so strong, even at insect festivals it’s hard to get people to eat this stuff.” Harvey, Hills and Russell mostly overcame their cultural instincts. They ate kosher, farm-reared locusts, “the official Bible food of John the Baptist,” Gordon said. They ate seasoned chapulines, wild grasshoppers harvested from cornfields in Oaxaca, Mexico. They ate the caterpillars of a sphynx moth, which lays its eggs on blue agave plants, which is where tequila starts. The caterpillar is “the proverbial worm in the bottom of the tequila bottle,” Gordon explained. And they ate protein-rich energy bars. “If I didn’t tell you there were crickets in there, you would never know. You’d be eating the blueberries,” Gordon said. That’s because the crickets are dried and ground into flour, “so we’re not talking about a bunch of goo.” Some of Gordon’s samples went down easier than others. First, the locusts. The legs are removed but not the wings. Each locust is a couple of inches long, so it’s mostly abdomen and head and it looks dramatic. It looks exactly like a big bug. Russell hedged. “There’s something about the way they’re looking at me,” she said. “Hold them by the wings, they’re great handles,” Gordon explained. “Eat the body.” He said to expect the taste of Shredded Wheat cereal. Hills was just as dubious as Russell. “This is gonna be a one-bite thing,” he said before he audibly crunched one down. While Russell and Hills were busy overcoming their nerves, Harvey had already eaten a locust. “I’m taking the wings home to prove that I ate it,” he said. “I have a reputation as a very picky eater. It has a nice taste.” “It tastes like the smell of freshly harvested hay,” Russell said. Next, the chapulines. The three test subjects gave the crunchy critters enthusiastic thumbs up. “Oh, I like that!” Hills said. “I could actually sit around and eat those.” Russell and Harvey liked the caterpillar. Russell described a crispy, salty first blast on the tongue and a perfumy flavor that lingered pleasantly on her palate. “My family will be shocked when they hear that this picky eater did that,” Harvey said. But for Hills, the caterpillar was a bridge too far. “Yeah, I couldn’t do that,” he said. “They look like the big version of the grubs you find in your yard.” The good-natured Gordon wasn’t offended. He knows food that wiggles is not often on the menu. “I didn’t want to eat the locusts,” Russell said. “I feel like they’re looking at me and I’m not quite OK with that. I grew up in Louisiana where we eat some really interesting, quirky things that are not eaten in other places that have become really normal to me.”  
If you’re old enough to remember when Seattle television was limited to a handful of broadcast channels and you remember J.P. Patches, you’ve seen the work of Sharon Howard and Mike Rosen. Howard got her start in broadcast TV in 1977 with KIRO-TV as a floor director for newscasts and “The J.P. Patches Show.” It was performed and broadcast live, six mornings a week. Without any rehearsal to speak of. “Well, everybody thinks that we had a script and it was planned, but our plans were to meet in the cafeteria 15 minutes before the show,” Howard said. “And we just played it by ear. Somebody would say, ‘Well, let’s do a “Star Wars” thing. I need an R2D2.’ As a floor director, I think, ‘Oh my god, what am I going to do?’ Well, I go and get the shop vac. That’s the kind of thinking it was.” Rosen arrived in Seattle in the late 1970s and joined KIRO’s news unit as a photographer and Howard caught his eye. They worked together on a few promotional commercials before they started dating.  Meanwhile, Howard moved to KOMO-TV to work on “Frontrunners,” the highly rated weekly show that profiled local high achievers.  It was kind of a “golden era” for quality television, when the locally owned Seattle stations didn’t have to answer to remote corporate owners. “My partner (Ken Morrison) and I used to say, ‘You know, this is the best of television that we’re going through right now,’” Howard said. “We were not told what to do, we did any story we wanted, we had complete freedom.” Rosen concurred. “Whatever the general manager would spend his weekend thinking about is usually what my assignment was,” Rosen said. “Once I spent an hour on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which he oddly had not crafted to fit into a 47-minute show with commercials.” In 1980, Mount St. Helens started rumbling and was in the news every day for weeks. After the volcano’s first eruption, Rosen hopped into the KIRO News helicopter, Chopper 7, to report the damage around the mountain. The pilot had just cleared the new crater when Mount St. Helens erupted seconds later with a plume of steam and ash. It was Chopper 7’s first live transmission of an eruption. Rosen knew he was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, but Howard was watching and she was scared.  Howard and Rosen loved the freedom and creativity of working with wildlife and out in nature. And since he no longer worked at competitor KIRO, Howard convinced her boss at KOMO that if she hired Rosen, KOMO would only have to pay for one hotel room on remote assignments.  “We got to go all over the world together,” Howard said. “But we did these documentaries on our own time” because they both still had their full-time jobs. The shared passion for documenting wildlife kept them going, she said.  They worked in very remote locations in Alaska and Africa. They had to pack in all of their supplies and equipment. And this was long before you could shoot a movie with little more than your smartphone and a couple of apps. On a shoot in Rwanda to document silver back gorillas, Howard and Rosen had to hire 30 porters to carry their food, fuel, gear and supplies through brush so dense their feet never touched the ground.  “At one point we looked at each other, because you can see the gorillas, and you can smell the gorillas,” Rosen said. “We decided we’re going to have to call this show ‘Butts of Nature,’ because that’s all we were getting.” During a rest break, a silver-back gorilla broke through the brush. “It walks right up to me, climbs on my lap and puts its head in the lens and sits there for four and a half minutes,” Rosen said. “All the things they tell you (not to do with gorillas) — never make eye contact, don’t get within 15 feet, certainly don’t touch them. And he’s sitting on top of me.” He looked to Howard for guidance. “When you look at your producer who is also your spouse, the first words out of her mouth should be, ‘Are you OK?’ but they weren’t,” Rosen said. “Instead they were, ‘Are you rolling?’” “I’ve never heard the end of that, trust me,” Howard said. Of course Rosen was rolling. He got incredible footage and Howard wrote an incredible story. It’s not easy to write a script for an unscripted nature story, Howard said. She gets her best results “writing to the pictures, and a lot of writers don’t in television. They just write what they want and leave it to the poor editors to have to cover it.” Rosen, more than any of the other photographers Howard worked with, always gave her more than she expected. “Sometimes when you work with a photographer and you think you’ve communicated and he didn’t get what you wanted, then you have to rewrite,” Howard said. “But with Mike, and I’m not saying this just because he’s my spouse … I’ve always gotten more than I set out to get. So I have to rewrite it anyway because I’ve got better stuff than I thought I was going to have.” That could explain how Howard and Rosen’s fruitful collaboration racked up 28 regional Emmy Awards and a national Peabody Award for their features, documentaries and filmmaking.
As the outgoing president and CEO of Washington CleanTech Alliance, Tom Ranken has been close to many of the biggest and some of the smallest businesses in the region. What they all have in common, Ranken says, is a goal to change the world. Ranken had plenty of business expertise -  Immunex, VizX Labs, Axio Research - on his resume before joining the Alliance in 2010 as its first full-time president & CEO. At that time, the clean-tech industry trade association had 35 members. Under Ranken’s leadership, the Alliance now represents more than 400 member organizations spanning 10 states and three Canadian provinces. “You may get into a controversy over climate change but you never get into a controversy over jobs,” Ranken says. “Everybody is interested in finding ways to get people jobs.” The definition of what qualifies as a clean-tech job has changed over the years. “We figure there are about 80,000 (clean-tech) jobs in the state, but the definition is important,” Ranken says. “With some of our members you see their job title or company name and you know it’s clean-tech, like a solar installer." According to Ranken, a lot of the CleanTech Alliance members are bigger companies with a mission of being clean and green. They also find that being green makes good business and environmental sense. Another common thread through Ranken’s career has been the Boy Scouts. Beginning as a Cub Scout in Oak Harbor, Ranken’s Navy family meant he took scouting with him around the world. He eventually became an Eagle Scout in Virginia. “My experience has led me to believe that the two most important lessons learned in Scouting are leadership and persistence,” Ranken says. “Most Scouts have spent more than half their lives in the program when they become Eagles, and each has persevered over personal challenges.” As he steps away from the CleanTech Alliance, Ranken says he hopes to have more time to play music in his band named, what else, The Ranken File. “We have three guitars, bass and drums,” Ranken says. “We are developing our own songs, but mostly we play classic rock.” Episode length: 56:10 Episode Links Tom Ranken LinkedIn profile CleanTech Alliance Soundview Innovation Campus Cascadia CleanTech Accelerator Snohomish County Economic Development Initiative Nuclear fusion/University of Washington Nuclear fusion/Forbes University of Washington MBA program The Ranken File band Tom Ranken on the value of Boy Scouts Boy Scouts of America “Range” by David Epstein
In this final episode of the second season of Check It Out!, hosts Ken Harvey, Jessica Russell, Paul Pitkin and Jim Hills relate their personal holiday dreams and nightmares and dive into library resources that may just help set a tasty dinner table. Hills, not beset by the piled-plate, food-touching phobia, shares that a holiday meal is best perceived as a single entity, the sum of its parts as measured both horizontally and vertically. The description, however, takes Russell back to a time in her life when space between menu items was required and the queasy realization that she may not have moved as far past those days as thought. Russell describes her southern roots by painting the mental picture of deep frying turkey in a Louisiana front yard. “Deep-fried turkey is the best,” Russell proclaims with no dissenters. The pot, she goes on to say, is the same one used for the crawfish boil. “In Mississippi, that (pot) is called a washtub,” Harvey says. Pitkin allows that as a child his family finally rebelled at his mother’s cooking to the point that they chose to have the holiday dinner delivered. From Nordstrom. The Sno-Isle Libraries collection, Russell points out, has thousands of cookbooks and other resources available to help make any holiday celebration memorable. Pitkin, executive director for the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation, points out that there is more to the holiday season than eating. “I encourage everyone to make a year-end donation to the foundation,” Pitkin says, adding that foundation donations support a variety of programs at the Sno-Isle Libraries. “The third-grade reading challenge is coming up,” Pitkin says of the program that includes thousands of students across Snohomish and Island counties. “The reading challenge helps third-graders improve literacy at a time that very important to their development level.” The foundation is also the primary sponsor of TEDxSnoIsleLibraries, which is returning after a hiatus on May 9, 2020 at Edmonds Center for the Arts, Pitkin says. Speaker videos from the 2015, 2016 and 2017 events have been viewed more than 3.5 million times, Harvey says. “The foundation has always been the main sponsor and we could not be more excited that it’s coming back,” Pitkin says. Finally, Harvey offers a peek at what’s coming in Season 3 for the podcast. “We working on getting Everett Community College President Daria J. Willis,” Harvey says. “And, the head of IBM’s Watson project is going to talk to us about artificial intelligence and quantum computing.” And books? What about books? “We are working on a slew of authors, some nationally acclaimed, some just getting started,” Harvey says. Episode length 37:26 Episode links Holiday and winter resourcesTEDxSnoIsleLibraries Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation EvCC President Daria J. Willis IBM Watson Deep-fried turkey recipes Paula Deen Alton Brown John Lovick
Dave Earling has worn the mantles of many different roles. Student. Musician. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Teacher. Business owner. City council member. Volunteer. And perhaps most recently and visibly, Mayor of Edmonds. Earling speaks in this episode of the Check It Out! podcast as he brings that role as city executive to close. “I jokingly say that I have a checkered past,” Earling says. “But, if you are truly interested in what you are doing, you’ll be successful and that’s how I’ve worked.” Earling’s service as mayor ends Dec. 31, 2019, but his eight years at the helm is hardly the extent of his involvement and support for Edmonds. Earling is well-known for his unabashed boosterism phrase, “It is always sunny and 82 in Edmonds.” The actual weather at the moment never matters to Earling’s outlook. As a 23-year-old sporting a freshly minted graduate music degree from Washington State University, Earling says his first job at Shoreline Community College in some ways set the tone for what was to follow. “I taught at Shoreline for 11 years,” Earling says. “I was interested in preparing people for performance. As a conductor, you put out a sheet of music, rehearse and then have a performance. “It’s exhilarating to see people go through the process, to share the pleasure of the performance and realize that accomplishment.” Earling says that when he arrived at Shoreline, there were 32 performance students and by the time he left, there were more than 200. “Always leave it better than you arrived,” Earling says of one of his guiding principles. That experience of bringing disparate individuals together for a commonly identified goal became Earlring’s go-to approach as he moved into business and politics. An intense schedule promoted Earling to take a break from teaching and he went to work at Edmonds Realty. “I worked there for a number of years until I had an opportunity to buy the company,” he says. “We watched it grow, watched the success of the various agents we hired.” During that time, Earling became involved with the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce and eventually serving as president and growing the organization. A desire to become more involved led to a successful run for city council. “I was on (the council) for 12 years through a variety of leadership styles,” Earling says. “When you are in an elected position, you don’t choose friends, they just show up and you have to make it work.” From his time as mayor, Earling cites many accomplishments, but says he is particularly proud of the city’s designation by the state of Washington as a “Creative District,” the first in the state. “We have a great base of things in Edmonds around the arts and we are focused on trying to expand that,” he says. While Earling says he’s not exactly sure what lies ahead for himself beyond a bit of relaxing, he does feel good about where the city is headed. “This will sound corny,” Earling says. “Edmonds is a rare gem. How many cities can you drive to and have a small-town experience? Edmonds is a daytime destination, just 14 miles from downtown Seattle. My philosophy is you go where you find success and we need to continue to build on what we have.” Episode length: 1:05:53 Episode links WSU School of Music  Shoreline Community College Music Department Edmonds Realty Edmonds Chamber of Commerce City of Edmonds Edmonds Creative District Growth Management Hearing Board  
The key to long term success is becoming “robot-proof,” says Amit Singh. Singh, the president at Edmond Community College, says students need two things to compete in today’s economy and into the future. “They need technical skills and they need higher-level mental skills,” Singh says in this episode. “We normally call those mental skills ‘soft skills’ such as problem-solving. “Those skills are making you robot-proof. A robot cannot take those jobs.” Singh says that technical skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas are important, but it takes more. “Sometimes we hear the need for technical skills,” Singh says. “Yes, for the short term, but to survive long term you need more. That comes from a liberal arts education and then n top of that you have the technical skills.” Singh, who grew up in India before coming to the U.S. for college, likens the approach to that of immigrants to a new land “They know everything will be new and different,” Singh says. “They have to adapt. That’s the adaptive mindset we need.” In a time when knowledge is as close as a YouTube video, Singh, who holds a Ph.D. in Economics and three master’s degrees, says Edmonds Community College and higher education, in general, are facing a similar challenge to adapt. “Take the example of Blockbuster (video stores),” he says. “These are middlemen in the content transfer. They didn’t produce the content, the transferred it to (customers). What technology did was bypass the middleman and go direct to the customer.” Singh says colleges are in a similar business of knowledge transfer and to adapt, they must take a page from what they are teaching their students. “We cannot be outsourced if we do things right,” Singh says. “They ways we teach in the classroom and the wraparound services we provide for students are key. We have to be mindful to keep adding value.” Episode length: 56:29 Episode links Edmonds Community College Entrepreneurship program Mariner Community Campus
It may not come as a surprise that Eric Klinenberg gets a warm welcome when he speaks to librarians and supporters of public libraries. Klinenberg is the author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life that was published in 2018. The book makes the case that shared “social infrastructure,” such as libraries, is critical for the future of democracies and the literal survival of their citizens. He spoke to the American Library Association’s meeting in Seattle this past January, then to Sno-Isle Libraries employees this fall. The next day, his conversation with Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Director Lois Langer Thompson at a breakfast meeting for community members was captured for this podcast episode. “Palaces” isn’t the first time Klinenberg has posited the common-good perspective. In 2002, he wrote Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. A sociologist as well as author, Klinenberg examined the data from a 1995 heatwave that killed more than 700 people. Klinenberg found that who died depended in large part on where they lived in the city. Other books by Klinenberg include Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (The Penguin Press, 2012) and Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media (Metropolitan Books, 2007). He is also the editor of Cultural Production in a Digital Age, co-editor of Antidemocracy in America (Columbia University Press, 2019), and co-author, with Aziz Ansari, of the New York Times #1 bestseller Modern Romance (The Penguin Press, 2015). Klinenberg is the Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. His scholarly work has been published in journals including the American Sociological Review, Theory and Society, and Ethnography, and he has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and This American Life. Episode length: 46:19  
Some children dream of being a firefighter or star athlete. After an early civics lesson in school, Toby Nixon knew he was interested in government. That early interest has turned into a life focused on public service and protecting the processes of government. Nixon was re-elected to the city council in Kirkland, Wash., in the fall of 2019, a position he’s held since 2012. Among the many current and former public-service roles Nixon has taken on, he has been a fire commissioner and a member of the Washington State House of Representatives from 2002-2006 where he was ranking member of the committee which has responsibility for overseeing Washington’s open government and election laws. And his day job with Microsoft includes serving as chairman of the board of directors of Bluetooth Special Interest Group, the Kirkland-based international organization that develops standards for Bluetooth technology. But of all his efforts, defending and watch-dogging open government holds a special place in Nixon’s heart. He is the 2012 inductee to “Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame” by the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2006, he received the “Freedom’s Light Award” from Washington Newspaper Publishers Association in recognition of his work to protect and advance First Amendment interests in Washington and he’s a member of the Washington State Historical Records Advisory Board. And, Nixon is president of the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, a group that advocates for the people’s right to access government information. The independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization works through the courts and the Legislature to defend and strengthen Washington’s open government laws. “Washington’s public records act, Initiative 276, came into existence, by public initiative, in 1972,” Nixon says. “It got a 72 percent favorable vote, one of the highest ever for an initiative in the state.” The new law went into effect in 1973 and it was immediately attacked, Nixon says. “The original group that sponsored the initiative was called the Coalition for Open Government,” Nixon says, adding that after a few years, “That organization kind of shut down.” The original law included ten exemptions, but by 2002, there were more than 300 exemptions. “A group of folks got together and decided we needed to defend the law against the courts and the Legislature. So, the Washington Coalition for Open Government was formed,” Nixon says. “I joined the board in 2005, three years in.” Nixon says Initiative 276 came forward during the Watergate era when the public was focused on the need to ensure transparency in government. The mission of the coalition, Nixon says, is a group of people who may not have very much else in common, but they all recognize the importance of government transparency and the preservation of democracy. “People assume we are a conservative organization,” Nixon says. “It’s really just a watchdog group, no matter who is in charge. We are really very much a non-partisan group. We don’t agree on much besides transparency is important.” As busy as he is, Nixon says he’s still looking for ways to learn and grow. “I like to read about how to make government better,” Nixon says. “You have to be passionate about learning new things.” Episode length: 1:09:27 Episode links Initiative 276 voters pamphlet from 1972 Washington Public Records Act (state law) Washington Public Records Act (overview) Washington Public Disclosure Commission Washington Coalition for Open Government Toby Nixon city council campaign website Kirkland City Council Heroes of the Fifty States Award Washington Newspapers Publishers Association  
Even for the folks whose jobs are to know things about the library, Sno-Isle Libraries continues to amaze and surprise. In this episode, co-hosts Ken Harvey, Jim Hills, Jessica Russell and Paul Pitkin, “Go over the highlights of what we don’t know.” Service Center Hills points out the oddity that while the library district’s Service Center in Marysville serves all 23 community libraries, Library on Wheels and online services, it is not itself a library. Jessica Russell, Assistant Director of Technical Services - Collection Services, says that, yes, all the materials that are in community libraries flow through the Service Center, those items aren’t there for very long. “Our job is to get them out into the libraries and the hands of our customers,” Russell says. Pitkin adds the fact that for visitors and employees alike, the Service Center building can be a confusing place. “You see people wandering around looking lost because the building has been added on to three times. People walking around lost, but trying to not look like they’re lost.” Special days With everything from Peanut Butter Fudge Day (a Pitkin favorite) to special days for vegans, clams and craft jerky, November is more than just Thanksgiving. “Craft jerky?” Russell asks. “You mean, like craft beer?” With the “fall back” to standard time in November, Hills takes an informal poll of the co-hosts for their preferences: Harvey – “Daylight Savings Time all the time.” Pitkin – “Never. I like the darkness. In the summer it just gets ridiculous.” Russell (a recent Texas transplant)– “But, it’s such beautiful light here, so soft. If you ever want to know what it’s like to be a bug under a magnifying glass, go to Texas.” Hills – “I’d keep both. I love summer nights when it’s light until 9:30 maybe 10 p.m.” Harvey (again) – “And if our listeners have an opinion, let us know at checkitoutpodcast@sno-isle.org Title talk “One of the most clicked on things on our website is the ‘new items’ link,” Hills says. “And Jessica is responsible for getting the stuff that’s new in the collection.” Russell says it is actually the work of “the amazing, wonderful, collection development staff.” For a person who sees the world of what’s published, Russell says her personal reading list is currently focused on “regency romance” novels. “There are tons and tons of regency romances,” she says. For Russell, that means downloading from Overdrive to her iPad. “I have become an almost exclusively digital reader,” she says. Still, Pitkin wondered about “regency.” “Is that a publisher?” he asks. The phrase, regency romance” refers to a time period of dukes and other royalty, Russell says. “If you’ve ever watched ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ you’ll love regency romances,” she says. Bookmobile As executive director of the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation, Pitkin says he is always looking for great stories of how library services supported by donations to the foundation are helping customers. “The Bookmobile is just an amazing service,” Pitkin says of the mobile service that is part of the larger Library on Wheels department. Russell said a recent ride-along was inspiring to her. “The depth of knowledge our staff members have of their customers and how they know what customers are looking for is amazing,” she says. Episode length: 34:45
What do police officer, adopted son, milkman, cheese cutter, fur trapper and international terrorism have in common? They have all been part of Alan Hardwick’s life. Hardwick is author of “Never Been This Close to Crazy,” the Edmonds Police sergeant’s first novel, which was published in June this year. Hardwick’s 28-year law-enforcement career has touched a number of important areas. Hardwick started in Idaho and founded the Boise Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit. He’s now a member of the FBI’s North Sound Counterterrorism Working Group and was a founding member of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force the Everett Resident agency. Hardwick has served as lead case agent for dozens of international terrorism investigations. “The book a picture of a man, a police officer and his sudden thrust into the life of a single father,” Hardwick says. While the character is raising five children while being a police officer doing counterterrorism, Hardwick says the plot is not autobiographical. “The story bleeds far beyond my own experience,” Hardwick says. “But I do have a lot of raw data to work from.” Despite just publishing a novel, Hardwick says his first passion is music. He studied music theory, composition and education before moving toward his career in law enforcement. Hardwick is one-third of the group One Love Bridge, which includes Ricardo Valenzuela and Mark Pendolino. The group performs original music and rock covers in the Edmonds area, including at Taste Edmonds! “I became a musician, at least partly, when my mother bought me my first instrument for my second birthday which was a cymbal,” Hardwick says of his adoptive mother. As for his father, Hardwick says, “My dad was a milkman for Darigold.” Eventually, the company offered his father a job in Chehalis at the cheese factory. “I got to say my dad cut cheese for living,” he says. “He never really liked that job,” Hardwick says, which prompted a career switch to being a fur trapper in rural Lewis County. “I was the only kid in my school that had to float the river in the morning to check the trap line before going to school.” Episode length: 1:07:54
Chapter 1 – Snohomish County Council member Nate Nehring Nate Nehring may look young for a Snohomish County Council member, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a lot of experience. Born and raised in Marysville, Nehring was appointed to an open seat on the county council in 2017 at age 21. He is also the son of Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring. “I remember going out and doorbelling for him,” Nehring says of his father, who was first elected mayor in 2010. Before that, Jon Nehring served as a Marysville City Council member for eight years so service to the community through local politics has swirled around Nate Nehring for most of his life. Before his appointment, Nate Nehring says, “I was asked if I’d follow in his footsteps. I said, ‘No don’t think so because of divisiveness.’” If not through politics, Nehring says his father’s lesson of service was not lost on him: “I got into education.” A graduate of Western Washington University, Nehring came back home for a job as a middle school teacher with the Marysville School District. But local governance continued to be a draw. Nehring married and he and his wife moved to Stanwood where he was appointed to the city’s planning commission. “I highly encourage anyone with an interest to look at the opportunities in their community,” Nehring says. “They are always looking for people to volunteer.” Nehring says the issues he saw on the Stanwood Planning Commission are similar to the one he’s seeing representing the residents of county council District 1, which includes most of north Snohomish County. “The general issues are around growth,” Nehring says. “We will be looking at those for the foreseeable future.” He says one of the main themes for the north part of the county is jobs. “We’ve been lacking is job opportunities and a lot of people are traveling for jobs,” Nehring says. “We need more jobs in north Snohomish County so people can live and work there.” The other big issues, he says, revolve around the opioid crisis, homelessness and mental health. He points to a collaborative program with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office that pairs a deputy and a social worker as an innovative approach that is making a difference. “We started with a goal of getting 25 people in the program and so far we’ve had 70 people go through treatment,” he says. Chapter links Nate Nehring State of the County message Snohomish County Council  Snohomish County Council District 1 Stanwood Planning Commission Opioid crisis, Snohomish County Sheriff's Office  Ending Homelessness Program Community mental health North Snohomish County employment efforts Chapter length: 46:33 Chapter 2 – Spotlight on Sue Norman If you like libraries and live on Whidbey Island, there’s a decent chance you’ve run into Sue Norman. Or something she has helped make happen. “I’ve lived on the island for 29 years and been active with the Friends of the Oak Harbor Library for 25 years,” Norman says. Norman says her connection to libraries began at an early age. “Mom was a school teacher and my father was a newspaper reporter and then editor,” she says. “I’m proud to say we were the last family on our block to have a TV.” After moving to Oak Harbor to open a business, Norman says she kept thinking she wanted to get involved with the library in some way. “I went to a Friends meeting and got roped in pretty quickly,” she says. Norman hasn’t limited her volunteer time to the Oak Harbor Library friends group. “There’s the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation, the Trudy Sundberg Lecture series and Whidbey Reads,” Norman says. Norman says she’s been asked why the focus on libraries. “I guess because I have such a reading habit, I could never afford to buy them all,” Norman says. Chapter Links Friends of the Oak Harbor Library Oak Harbor Library Trudy Sundberg Lecture Series Whidbey Reads Chapter length: 3:46 Episode length: 57:41
Bernadette Pajer had returned to the University of Washington, intent on completing a degree in engineering. And then the life story of the soon-to-be mystery/crime writer took its own plot twist. Pajer turned her focus toward culture, literature and the arts and completed a Creative Writing Certificate at the UW. From there, Pajer began building on what she knew, which spawned the Profesor Bradshaw Mysteries series. "I don't even remember when I started that (first) book)," Bradshaw says. The series focuses on a UW professor of electrical engineering named Prof. Bradshaw. Through the course of four books to date. Bradshaw is drawn through intrigue, mystery and crimes, all on a foundation of science and engineering. "I just dove in and a funny thing ... when I received the letter from Poisoned Pen Press that they wanted to publish A Spark of Death, I was both elated and terrified," Pajer says. "I'm not an electrical engineer." While Pajer had done extensive research, she contacted William  Beaty, a research engineer at the UW. "He vetted the book," Pajer says. "Fortunately, I'd essentially got it right, although Bill made a few tweaks." The other interesting thing about Pajer's series, she set it in the early 2oth Century. "I've always been fascinated with this time period," Pajer says. "We went from horse and buggy, and within one generation, to astronauts in space." Pajer shares that her interest in science has, perhaps counterintuitively, put the Professor Bradshaw series on hold for the time being. Pajer is a board member of the group Informed Choice of Washington, which is taking up most of her free time. According to their website, the group advocates for "vaccine policy reform based on scientific integrity and individual health needs, to promote education about healthy immunity, and to protect informed consent and medical freedom in Washington State." Episode length: 51:58 Episode links Bernadette Pajer books William Beaty Informed Choice Washington
There is no doubt that newspapers and journalism are undergoing changes. Phillip O'Connor should know, he has worked through many of those changes and continues to chart a course into the future for the Fourth Estate in his new role as executive editor of The Herald newspaper in Everett, Wash. Until arriving at The Herald in the summer of 2019, O'Connor was a committed midwesterner by birth and then choice. O'Connor started as a "15-er" (sports department clerk working for three hours at $5 an hour) , taking scores over the phone for his hometown paper, the venerable Kansas City Star (which also launched the career of Ernest Hemingway). After rising through the reporter ranks and various news beats, he moved a few hundred miles east across Missouri to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was at St. Louis where O'Connor says his mileage reports went from cross-town to round the globe. "After Sept. 11, 2001, it was around Thanksgiving and my parents were in town," O'Connor says. "I got a call from my boss; would you be willing to go to Afghanistan? "And I say, 'Absolutely.' So I walk back to the living room where parents are and I say, 'I guess I'm going to Afghanistan. "And my mom says, 'I raised an idiot.'" After Afghanistan came reporting trips to Iraq, Bosnia, Israel and then Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. The common thread, O'Connor says, is local news. "When I went to Afghanistan the first time, we traveled with a doctor from St. Louis and that was how we got across the border," O'Connor says. "We told her story." After St. Louis, O'Connor went to The Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City and the next phase of his career. "At Oklahoma, I wanted to change my role," O'Connor says, adding that he eventually oversaw breaking news, enterprise reporting and other areas of news coverage. "(And) instilling the digital culture in our newsroom, looking at the strategies and tools and storytelling methods. We were able to do amazing work that I'm very, very proud of." All of that experience has a bearing on O'Connor's view of journalism, newspapers and his role at The Herald. "Local content is what our readers are interested in," he says. "I try to direct as much of our resources as we can toward local content. And, we need to have a digital experience that people are going to enjoy." As for the future, O'Connor shares his own thoughts on the current state of journalism: "I don't think the public understands how dedicated hardworking committed the majority of people in this profession are. Todays' journalists are more skilled than any generation we've ever had. The talent we demand from our reporters is pretty amazing." Episode length: 1:02:45 Episode links The Herald Kansas City Star St. Louis Post Dispatch The Oklahoman Fourth Estate
In this episode, Sno-Isle Libraries free-lance reporter Abe Martinez takes a look at four areas related to how the library district interacts with and supports the notion of student success. First, Martinez speaks with Jen Sullivan, a librarian who works out the central Service Center in Marysville and helps coordinate programs and services for students. Sullivan says those start at preschool-age with storytimes, move on to elementary students with programs such as the thitrd-grade reading challenge, middle-schoolers can look forward to things like the Tween STEAM Club programs and high school get help with classes, but also assistance in applying for college or trade schools and practicing entrance tests. In the second segment, Martinez speaks with Sheena Fisher and her daughter, Scarlet. Scarlet is an eighth-grader at Cedarcrest Middle School in Marysville and using the Help Now online tutoring service available through Sno-Isle Libraries. "They are on the chat with you," Scarlet says. "A real person on the line with you." In the third segment, Martinez speaks with Shannon Horrocks, the children's librarian and the Snohomish Library, and Shaelynn Charvet Bates, the school librarian at Riverview Elementary. Over the summer, Horrocks meets with Bates and school librarians from three other schools in the Snohomish School District. Together, they pick books that will be used in afterschool books clubs at the schools. The clubs meet at their schools, but also gather once a year at the Snohomish Library. Finally, Martinez speaks with Rickey Barnett, teen and adult services librarian at the Edmonds Library, and Leighanne Law, teacher librarian at Scriber Lake High School in the Edmonds School District. Barnett says he spends much of his time in schools making in-class presentations. It's a service that Law says she and her students appreciate.  "We have LEAD, Library Equity and Diversity in the Edmonds School District and Rickey is involved in that," Law says.  
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