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The Truth About Skype

Provided by Wikipedia

Someone asked me recently if Earth Class Mail was living up to expectations after using them for a month. Honestly the service has been flawless and I am still as thrilled as when I posted the review. However, not everyone can live up to ECM standards.

Skype, on the other hand, has been nothing but heartache. For some, it’s a god send. It’s free to call computers, cheap to call home and is available in most internet cafes abroad. But if you’re serious about your phone communication, just know not everything about Skype works as advertised.

A quick search for “skype sucks” bring up over 4.6 million results. Apparently I’m not the only one.

Call Quality

This has been a hit or miss. Sometimes I sound like I’m in a wind tunnel, other times it’s perfectly clear. If you’ve ever spent some time in an internet cafe overseas, you’re likely to hear this conversation as someone tries to call home from their computer. “Hello! Hi Dad, I’m in Spain. Spain. I AM IN SPAAAINNN. Yes, ha ha. I miss you too. I SAID I MISS Y-O-U TOO. What?”

Doing Business

If you are using Skype to call a business contact, there are times when you need to be able to call a conference number, especially if you’re like my husband who attends company meetings via dial-in. It doesn’t work. If it’s an 800 number forget about it. If it’s a local number, then MAYBE it will work.

The Headset

We bought a $125 headset and it makes a big improvement in the sound quality, especially for those on the other end. Without it, calls are impossible. I don’t begrudge having to use one, but if you’re thinking Skype will be cheaper than a cell phone, you should factor this cost in. (By the way, my cheapo $20 headset is useless, so there are levels of quality in the headset game).

Lack of Local Numbers

If you want someone to be able to call you from a regular phone, you must buy a phone number. This is a great service and what initially attracted us to Skype. However, once we got to pick our number (after having already paid) there were limits on what countries you use. We live in Spain. Could we get a Spanish number? Nope. It was the UK for us, and while there were numbers in many other European countries, Spain just wasn’t available.

Random Errors

Sometimes my husband can’t dial a number. He presses the keys and they register each number twice. Other times it doesn’t register at all. Imagine having an important call and sweating over trying to get the number in? Why does it do this? No idea. It’s possible this would never happen to you. But when you’re staring down a 2 PM deadline and you can’t call your client, then suddenly the cheap fees just aren’t worth it.

Your best bet

If you’re living somewhere for an extended period of time or traveling around a single continent (like Europe), buying a prepaid cell phone is still cheaper, easier and more practical. Even when I’m traveling to different countries the reception is still better than Skype. If you want to call home on your computer, you can still use the free service, but if you need quality, reliable service, I’m afraid Skype has a long way to go.

What has your experience been like?

How to Travel the World Carefree and Still Get Your Mail

These days, everyone seems to know about getting online while abroad, using skype or MSN IM to chat with people back home and managing your money through online checking accounts. When it came time for us to fly overseas, there was one thing still hanging over our heads. How were we going to get our snail mail as we ran around Europe?

Well, ask and the internet shall provide.

There is a new service called Earth Class Mail. It’s brilliant and perfect for travelers. You forward your mail to them at any one of their locations in multiple US states. They scan it in. You log into your account online and look at your mail. Junk mail? Press the shred button and they take care of it. Important? They will open and scan the pages in so you can read it.

Urgent? They will send your mail to you directly (you pay shipping fees).

Yesterday we received our first piece of mail. I got an email from Earth Class Mail:

In the email they have a scanned imaged of the envelope and a link to my admin account. From there, I can decide what I want to do with the mail: Scan (they open and scan all pages), Ship (they send it to wherever I want), Recycle (they put it in the recycling bin, unopened), Shred (they will shred it), or archive/transfer.

I press a button, and I’m done. How easy is that?

As with all things, there is a cost, but I find the prices well worth not having to worry about missing important mail. There are three plans, but the basic starts at just $9.95/month. That includes 35 pieces of mail, 50 pages scanned and no cost for shredding or recycling. If you go over your mail quota, it’s just 30 cents extra per piece. Those prices will probably go up so check their website.

It’s super easy to set up too, and you can pick from PO Box or Street Address. Right now, I “live” in Seattle, WA according to the US Postal Office. So my first piece of mail went from Texas, to my old Boston address, to Seattle, over the internet to me in Madrid. I heart the internet.

How do you get your mail when you’re overseas?

*Author’s note: This is an independent review of this service. I didn’t receive any compensation for saying such nice stuff about them, although if they’re reading, I do appreciate a good bottle of wine.

Getting Drunk on Dublin

I’m nearing the end of my time in Europe – for now. So it’s not without a bit of sadness, that I find myself saying goodbye to Europe, via my trip to Ireland. Is this the last cafe? The last pint? The last time a cab driver will refuse to give me a ride, because I’m only a mile from my destination? Or has Dublin put me under a spell?

The city reminds me of a mixture of Seattle and Boston. Seattle for the weather, that alternates between sputtering rain and tentative clear skies. Boston because of it’s strong Irish ties, and coming here, I feel like I am seeing people I know at every turn. Is that someone I went to high school with? She looks just like my old coworker… and so on. Until they open their mouths. Instead of Boston accent they have that thick Irish brogue, that when done well is lilting and intoxicating, or otherwise it can be gravelly or mumbley or even worse whiny. If someone has the right accent, I could fall in love – instantly. Other European accents don’t seem to have the same effect. I can attribute all kinds of good qualities to someone based on their brogue, and when my cab driver spoke, I thought he loved me too.

Clearly, you can see reason behind the name of this post. I am punch-drunk and just plain drunk. I went to the James Joyce center and watched all three videos. I read the author’s entire timeline. I bought an annotated copy of Ulysses. Yes, I thought, now, this week, was a good time to start reading what is considered the best but most difficult novel of the 20th century. Just a bit of light reading really. 250,000 words from a vocabulary of 30,000. Cake.

I watched football. Not in an ironic, look at me I’m much better than this kind of way– no I was at the edge of my seat, silently cheering on the Irish. Then I had a little conversation with myself. Christine, why do you care if the Ireland wins? Good question. Maybe it’s the Guinness.

So I’m working out some things with Dublin. I don’t want to leave Europe. I don’t want to stay either. So I’m having a final affair. Dublin is getting all my repressed affections, and I can’t help but wonder if my new attitude is rubbing off on the locals. People are starting conversations with me on the street. I’m sharing a pint with a group celebrating a birthday.

I spend an hour talking to a medical student who has 300K in student loans and smokes like a fiend. My overall impression of Dublin? Weee! But I might not be the most reliable source.

(Note to my husband: any mentions of “love” or “affair” are purely fictional in nature and don’t mean for a second that I seriously thought of leaving you for the cab driver. That would be absurd. No one does that.)

Welcome to Paris: Kiss Me, It’s the Rule

This afternoon I took a nap on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. Such a peaceful place compared to the City of Seattle. I had been walking all morning and finally sun burnt and exhausted (and unwilling to take the 40 minute train to my hotel) I collapsed beneath a tree with kissing 20-year-olds lounging on the grass around me. There is something about this city that makes the men go wild for women. When I awoke, a man carrying a guitar approached me speaking in French. “I speak English, sorry.” He didn’t relent. “French? Italian? Spanish?” At the last one I nodded, “Sí, Español”. He had his in.

He plopped down next to me, and we tried to talk in a combination of French, Spanish and English. I got out “married” in Spanish and he seemed to understand. I pointed to my wedding ring, he nodded. He said he was married too, and pointed to his ring finger, which was bare. I rolled my eyes and said, “no ring”. He shrugged. These are not the things we worry about in Paris.

He wanted to know if my blue eyes were natural. They were. He thought I was beautiful. Thanks. I wondered if I was going to have to actually get up and walk away before he would get the hint. “Béseme” he said, pointing to his lips. He wanted me to kiss him. I laughed and played dumb. “Oh you Americans, don’t you know it is okay in Paris?” I was trying to remember where in the guidebook it said it was a cultural norm to kiss strangers on the lips. I must have missed the chapter on “Why American Girls Will Fall for Whatever a French Guy Says”. No kiss, no luck. Once he realized that I wasn’t going to bite, he slung his guitar over his shoulder and took off– no doubt looking for more slightly groggy Americans to ply with his charms.

This hasn’t been an isolated event in my brief stay in the City of Love. Valentino followed me five blocks until I ditched him at the train station, promising to meet him the next morning for coffee at the same metro stop. (a big lie, oops). He had seen me in the park and had jogged up to catch me, telling me in broken English that I am “so beautiful and wow, it was amazing.”

I am not the kind of woman these things happen to. Trust me when I say, it’s Paris, not me. Although, I do have to cut Paris a little slack. I don’t often travel to foreign countries alone. My husband and I have been together since I was 23 and all of our travels have been in tandem. So perhaps, solo female travelers in any city will be approached more often. They seem more accessible yet mysterious. Plus, they think the accent is cute, when French women just see a guy with a guitar and no job.

Still I have to wonder, for the men to be so persistent, they must be having some luck. So, how many American women do you think are kissing strange men beneath the Eiffel Tower?

Overcoming Internal Objections and Finding a Career You Love

“My question, and this may be incredibly stupid, is how do I find my passion? I know most of the things I like, but I have no idea how that translates into a career I can use to support my wife and I while she’s in school, let alone be some kind of success at it.”

I received this comment in an email recently and it‘s a great question. In my last post, The New Career Shakedown, I talked about all the things I considered doing as an answer to my own question: “If I could do anything, what would I do?” At the time, I explored many different options from starting a small business to going back to school, before I finally realized I was ignoring what I really wanted to do (travel and be a writer/photographer). I didn’t think it was practical, it felt a little scary, and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.

This process for me was over the course of about two years. Now I know there are people who naturally know exactly what they are meant to do. My husband knew since the fifth grade that he was going to be an artist. For the rest of us, figuring this question out can take a little bit more work.

Forget about money

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you live on the street or marry into money. But for the purposes of answering this question, put the concerns about money aside. For years I thought about writing, but the logic loop went something like this: I love writing. I love travel. What about money? Writers don’t make enough. Travel is expensive. Forget it, it’s unrealistic.

I didn’t give myself permission to truly entertain the notion, because I was jumping ahead to the money part. What I should have been thinking was: I love writing. I love travel. What kinds of things would I write? Where would I want to travel to? What can I do now to prepare myself for such career…etc. After you take the time to think through whether this is something you want to do, then you can start figuring out ways to make it work financially.

Assume you will do it

There is a big difference between thinking about it, and planning to do it. If you are just thinking about it, initial obstacles become reasons why you can’t do it. If you are planning to do it, those same obstacles become problems you have to solve. I think we avoid committing to an idea, because we don’t want to waste our time, look stupid or do something wrong.

How to trick your brain out of this self defeating loop? Here’s what you do. Go out your front door, and with all the bravado you can muster shout, “I am a [insert your dream career here].” Feel good? Great! That is all it takes to accomplish something you want to do. The decision to do it. I can’t underline this enough. If you are wavering (like I did on all five of those careers options on the last post) then you‘ll just swim in circles. Do you think Jeff Bezo, founder of said, “I think I’d like to start and online bookstore?” No. He just did it. He rented cheap warehouse space and used old doors as desks–he didn’t have reasons he couldn’t do it (like a lack of desks), he had problems to solve. The only difference between the “thinkers” and the “do-ers” is that little decision they make. The thinkers say, “should I?” and the do-ers say “I am”.

Give yourself a chance

Dear perfectionists, oh how the world owes you a debt of gratitude. You make sure our accounting ledgers balance to the penny and our trains run on time. But please do yourself a favor and give yourself permission to be really terrible at something. I found this piece hard, because I wanted to research, prepare and practice my way into eternity. Leaving the corporate world, where I knew my role, and what would happen day by day to take this leap, where I don’t know anything, has been a strange kind of culture shock.

The problem is the “success myth”. We read stories of successful people and they are full of daring decisions, intelligent innovations and amazing accomplishments. What we don’t hear about is those first day, months and years. You’ve got to start somewhere. I just prefer to roll up my sleeves and jump in. The water is fine.

Get a jump start

I’m assuming you have some ideas about what you like, but here are some quick ways to shake it up and get more ideas:

Free write for 30 minutes about things you like to do.

Look up your look community college and peruse the adult education section for things that interest you

Make a list of every career you can think of that is interesting to you. List reasons why you would like it. (Don’t list negatives, that’s your internal critic throwing obstacles at you before you get started)

Find blogs and websites dedicated to areas you are interested in. Online professional groups can give you an insight to what it is really like.

Go to a bookstore and read (don’t buy) books about your field (you can usually get a lot from skimming, and you’re just in the idea phase right now)

Think of the most outrageous careers out there. Astronaut, crocodile wrangler, pastry chef. Then consider if you could instantly learn how to do it, and had unlimited funds, would you like that as a career?

Take a sick day. Use the time to reflect. (Often we’re to busy to even think about what to change).

What else would you add to this list?

Building Our Bridge – Seattle Housing Authority Residents Crossing the Digital Divide

Housing Authority Seattle

The Seattle Housing Authority’s Rainier Vista community has been hosting dual-language Tea & Technology Talks since April of 2018 to seek resident input on a new computer skills program coming this summer. Building Our Bridge – Seattle Housing Authority Residents Crossing the Digital Divide is an SHA resident-led, City-funded initiative to bring digital literacy skills to the Oromo, Vietnamese and English-speaking tenants of this low-income family community in Seattle’s Rainier Valley.

Septuagenarian Edward Frasier III attended the 4th Tea & Technology Talk on Friday, February 15th, 2019 to discuss the project over cookies and beverages. Surveys of proposed class topics and volunteer pledge sheets were distributed, and Frasier remarked, “You know, when you get old, you forget things. It’s not that I don’t know; I just need a refresher.” 

Ben Wong, Elizabeth Kennedy, Dorene Cornwell – Building Our Bridge Project Team

The beautifully developed curriculum for the program has been generously donated by the Seattle Public Library. Topics over the next two years will be selected from Email, Mouse & Window, Keyboarding, Internet, MS Word and Resume-Writing, Social Media, The Source and Parent Engagement. The Seattle Public Library brought a Vietnamese Basic Computer Series to Rainier Vista in 2016, and a Somali series in 2018. 

There has been a buzz in the Rainier Vista Oromo community about parent engagement and use of the Seattle Public School system’s The Source. The Source opens on-line access to parents and guardians to their children’s attendance, assessment scores and secondary student assignment grades. By allowing parents to track their children’s progress, The Source helps students move more quickly into advanced learning options and get on the college track. In so doing, The Source addresses academic barriers faced by Children of Color in communities experiencing economic hardship. 

Computer skills classes at Rainier Vista in will be conducted in Oromo, Vietnamese and English cohorts, and the project hopes to open the program to Somali instruction in 2020. Representatives from each language community will have the important opportunity to shape the program by meeting to review resumes and conduct interviews for (6) bilingual computer instructors and computer instructor assistants. More than 45 applications have been received so far.

The Building Our Bridge project was created by three Seattle Housing Authority residents (Elizabeth Kennedy, Ben Wong and Dorene Cornwell) who wanted to expand the Full Life Care-Seattle Housing Authority Mobile Lab Project. For two years, the Mobile Lab Project brought a mobile computer lab with devices and instructors to residents of (9) Seattle Housing Authority Low Income Public High-rise and Senior buildings in North Seattle. 

Kennedy and Wong were instructors on the project, and they teamed up with Cornwell to bring the mobile lab to the Seattle Housing Authority’s immigrant and refugee communities in South Seattle. With the loan of (4) Windows laptops, (3) Chromebooks, a mobile hot spot, and (3) plastic tubs on wheels from community partner Full Life Care, it is poised to do just that.

The Seattle Housing Authority has supported the project with use of space for classes, and staff time from Rainier Vista Community Builder, Jen Calleja. One challenge the project is still trying to address is how to meet families’ needs for child care so parents can take classes. 

Like the Mobile Lab Project before it, Building Our Bridge is financed through the City of Seattle Technology Matching Fund grant. The Technology Matching Fund has seeded technology programs in the City for more than 20 years. 

Seattle Neighborhood Group has partnered with the project to act as fiscal agent. Located in Seattle’s Central District, Seattle Neighborhood Group has been building relationships and working to engage people to create safe neighborhoods for 25 years. “Building Our Bridge makes a vital difference in the lives of SHA residents by providing them with opportunities to develop job readiness and technical skills, and build the confidence needed to make a positive difference in their respective lives and communities.  Seattle Neighborhood Group is proud to be a collaborative member in this important project,” Linda Spain, Executive Director, Seattle Neighborhood Group.

This article was submitted by Elizabeth Kennedy, Project Manager for the Building Our Bridge Project.

Samantha Lepidi. Program Assistant; Elizabeth Kennedy, Project Manager Building our Bridge

Mathematician Shares Insights on How to Combat Innumeracy Across Globe

The Role of Language in Teaching Children Math by Bernice Kastner

NEW YORK, NY – The role that mathematics plays in adolescent education has been changing for decades. With access now to resources such as calculators or even the internet, the way that schools teach and utilize mathematic computations is always evolving. To combat this, Dr. Bernice Kastner has published a new book titled, The Role of Language in Teaching Children Math, which serves to identify and resolve the problem associated with the language of traditional mathematics and the obstacle it creates for students.

Having three children go through the traditional schooling system while obtaining her doctorate in Mathematics Education, Kastner felt very close to this matter: “During this time, I again taught at the post-secondary level, including at a community college where I became deeply involved in the remediation efforts needed for students whose math background had not prepared them to succeed at the college level.” Understanding the importance of the critical thinking associated with mathematical computations, Kastner has taken it upon herself to resolve this issue at its source. A captivating and thought-provoking resource for understanding the obstacles students face today with the current language of mathematics,
Bernice Kastner’s new book is sure to raise eyebrows among mathematical as well as educational contemporaries across the globe.

The Role of Language in Teaching Children Math, published by Austin Macauley, will be released on February 28th, 2019. Price: $7.95, ISBN: 9781641825429. It is available in Amazon, Barnes & Noble as well as other bookstores around the country. Advance review copies are available upon request. For more information, please visit:

About Author: Dr. Bernice Kastner received her BS Honors in Mathematics and Physics from McGill University in Montreal. She is a professor emeritus of Towson University, having received her Ph.D. in Math Education from the University of Maryland. Dr. Kastner has developed curriculum for Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Montgomery College, the University of Maryland, and other universities.

Moby Biography

Artist DJ Moby on Stage

You may not recognize the name Richard Melville Hall, but you likely do know his stage name, Moby. Famous for songs such as “Go” and “South Side,” Hall revolutionized techno music. Today, he still brings his deep vocals and musical skill into all the songs he writes and produces. 

Moby’s Early Years

Born in New York City on September 11, 1965 and raised in Darien, CT, Moby developed an interest in music at a young age. He quickly learned to play piano and guitar. The great-great grandnephew of author Herman Melville, he picked up the moniker “Moby” as a child. The nickname would become a fitting stage name as he entered the music industry. His first foray into performance as a teenager was with a hardcore punk band called The Vatican Commandos and a brief stint singing with the band, Flipper. He also formed a post punk group called AWOL around the same time.

In 1983, Moby graduated from Darien High School. Despite his drive to play music, he let his head guide him after graduation. He attended the University of Connecticut to pursue a philosophy degree. Although he enjoyed working at the campus radio station, WHUS, he grew restless at the university and transferred to the State University of New York at Purchase to study philosophy and photography. He soon found himself less interested in his studies and more interested in his music. He left college in 1984 to focus on his love for electronic music.

In 1989, he moved to New York City. While working as a nightclub DJ, he released several EPs and singles for the independent record label, Instinct. It wasn’t long after that the world started to take note of this new talent.

Moby’s Rise to the Top

Moby’s song, “Go,” became a top 10 hit on the British charts in 1991. The fame that accompanied this success garnered the attention of acts such as The Pet Shop Boys, Michael Jackson, The B-52s, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Brian Eno, and Orbital, all of whom commissioned him to remix songs for them.

Moby’s first full-length album, “Moby,” was released in 1992. At this time, he was performing at raves and parties, building a following of music lovers entranced by the driving, hypnotic rave techno pulse of his music.

Moby’s Singles, Records, and Labels

In 1993, Moby signed a record deal with Mute in the U.K. and Elektra in the U.S. Unfortunately, his first label, Instinct, continued releasing music without his cooperation. However, his first EP, “Move,” debuted with both Mute and Elektra finding success on both labels. His first full-length album under his new labels, “Everything Is Wrong,” came out in the spring of 1995. His next album, “Animal Rights,” debuted in 1996, and Moby released “The End of Everything” under the name Voodoo Child on Trophy Records, his sub-label under Mute.

In 1999, his album, “Play,” hit the charts and went double platinum in the U.S. It also hit number one in the U.K. Subsequent albums include “18,” released in 2002, “Hotel” in 2005, “Last Night” in 2008, “Wait For Me” in 2009, “Destroyed” in 2011, and “Destroyed Remixed” in 2012. Overview of Moby’s music.

The Next Step After Success

Moby’s music, already a stable in Hollywood’s soundtracks, found its way into film. The documentary, Almost Home (2014), featured concert footage from three shows at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles from the album, “Innocents,” which he released in October of 2013, but he stayed true to his roots by continually working on his music and transforming himself. 2005’s “Hotel” included a bonus disc called Hotel Ambient. In 2014, Moby also released an expanded edition of this disc.

The next step for Moby was the release of a free download, called “Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.” Later, in 2015, he formed a collaborative with other musicians called Moby and The Void Pacific Choir. In 2016, he wrote a book to accompany a two-disc collection. The book, called Porcelain: A Memoir was about his life in the 1990s. You can read about some sleeping tips here or read more about Moby’s Long Ambients 1 & 2 on his official website.  The Mirror reported the Ambients first.

Despite the success of his memoir, Moby didn’t neglect studio time. He and the Void Pacific Choir released “These Systems Are Failing” in 2016 and “More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse” in 2017. In March of 2018, “Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt,” Moby’s fifteenth studio album, was released. Its intriguing title comes from the Kurt Vonnegut novel, Slaughterhouse Five. His most recent release is “Long Ambients 2,” which debuted in 2019. Moby is one of the few artists that allow non-profit filmmakers to use some of his music for their needs.  

Life Outside of Music

Like most other musicians, Moby lives on both coasts. Moby lived in New York City from 1989 to 2010. That year, he moved to the Hollywood Hills, but he couldn’t leave the Big Apple completely. He keeps an apartment in Little Italy in NYC. His first home in LA was a castle called Wolf’s Lair. After four years there, he sold the home and moved to the Los Feliz neighborhood.

Moby finds an escape from stress in meditation, having practiced the disciplines of Metta, Vipassana, and transcendentalism. As a boy, Moby had a pet cat named Tucker. His love for this animal inspired him to become a vegetarian in 1984. Then, in 1987, he realized he would never want to cause harm to any animal and became vegan. He is involved in animal rights campaigns to this day, working with the Humane Society, Best Friends, and Farm Sanctuary – all organizations committed to the rights and protections of animals.

Moby’s big heart doesn’t just stop with helping animals. Other charities and non-profit organizations that Moby has been involved with include,, Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, Songs for Tibet, and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Outside of music, Moby has always had an affinity for the art of photography. In 2010, he displayed some of his work at the Brooklyn Museum and the Clic Gallery in New York City. Until then, he had kept his work private. Along with his “Destroyed” album in 2010, he released a photography book of pictures taken during his 2010 “Wait for Me” tour. In the fall of 2014, he exhibited “Innocents,” a photographic collection at the Fremin Gallery. This show featured large-scale photographs with a post-apocalyptic theme.

Photography isn’t his only passion. Writing has also been a fulfilling practice for Moby. In 2010, he worked with animal rights activist, Miyun Park, to release Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety (Thinking Twice About the Meat We Eat). It is a collection of essays regarding the consequences of factory farming. In addition to his memoir published in 2016, he published, Then It Fell Apart, in 2019. This book is a follow-up the Porcelain: A Memoir, and covers his life from 1999-2009.

It is clear that Richard Melville Hall, or Moby, as we all know him, has led a life of varied interests and fascinating works of music and art. His love for animals and his determination to make the world a better place both admirable and inspiring. His music is sure to keep us dancing for generations to come, but his words will stay in our minds – and maybe change our hearts.

New Study to Map Flu Virus in Seattle for Current Flu Season

It is the Seattle Flu Season

SEATTLE January 22, 2019Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine (BBI) today announced the launch of the Seattle Flu Study (SFS) to better understand how influenza and other contagious diseases spread and to gather information about how they might be better detected, monitored and controlled. The SFS will recruit 10,000 Seattle residents and visitors who show influenza-like symptoms in the current flu season to create a first-of-its-kind citywide network for early detection and tracking of influenza.

Volunteers who agree to participate at one of the study’s designated kiosks will be asked to provide a simple nasal swab as well as basic personal and health information to facilitate project analysis. Pathogens found in the samples will undergo genetic sequencing and be compared genetically and geographically to better understand how illnesses spread throughout the community.

The following kiosk sites are open:

  • University of Washington Hall Health Center, 4060 East Stevens Way University of Washington Campus
  • University of Washington Magnuson Health Sciences Center, 1959 NE Pacific St.
  • University of Washington Husky Union Building, 4001 E Stevens Way NE
  • UW Medicine Pioneer Square Clinic, 206 Third Ave. S
  • St. Martin’s De Porres Shelter, 1561 Alaskan Way S
  • Hutch Kids Child Care Center, 1210 Valley St.

“A century after the great flu pandemic that sickened one third of the world’s population and killed more than 50 million people, influenza remains a potent threat to global health,” said Dr. Trevor Bedford, Fred Hutch’s research and lead data scientist for the study. “The Seattle Flu Study will provide a more detailed understanding than we have today of how the flu virus spreads, allowing us to develop guidance and tools to curb or even prevent transmission.”

Dr. Helen Chu, lead clinician of the study added, “Our hope is the study will also help inform efforts by public health officials to prepare for potential pandemic threats.”

SFS is made possible by the unique cooperation between the Brotman Baty Institute’s co-founders at UW Medicine, Seattle Children’s and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“BBI was created for projects like these that demand deeper levels of cooperation between Seattle’s major research institutions,” said Dr. Jay Shendure, Scientific Director of the Brotman Baty Institute and professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “Together, we are making real strides in precision medicine research and public health.”

To find out more about the study, visit the Seattle Flu Study website or read frequently asked questions about the study.

A map of Seattle Flu Study kiosk locations is here. The kiosk sites will run through the conclusion of the current flu season, approximately at the end of April.


The Brotman Baty Institute combines the research strengths and capabilities of UW Medicine, Fred Hutch and Seattle Children’s to accelerate both the basic sciences of precision medicine and the delivery of benefits to patients. For more information, visit the Brotman Baty Institute online at

The Story of Two Life Long Friends and their Creative Journey

The team of Berg and Harberts at Comic-Con in San Diego

People who are truly creative are a rare breed.  There are numerous people that try and fail to make it in Hollywood. It is a tough town to make a living in and for most people their dream dies soon after they make an attempt. Scores of screenwriters flock to the epicenter of the entertainment desperately hoping to be successful. For screenwriters, getting a chance to write for a major television show is a dream come true. The odds of two screenwriters making it as a writing team together in Hollywood are almost unheard of. The creative team of Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg, often times just know as Berg and Harberts, is one of those rare success stories in Hollywood. These two have a long history together and one fateful meeting let to one of the most imaginative duos in the industry.

These two individuals could not be more different in their dispositions and upbringings but their creative and imaginative natures brought them together. A chance meeting while both were in college through a creative writing program led the pair to become one of the most sought after writing and producing teams in entertainment. It was not creativity at first site but their relationship grew over a period of time and ultimately led to such iconic episodes in popular shows like 90210, Roswell, Star Trek Discovery, Reign, Off the Map and many more. Their producing credits included some very popular shows on channels like CBS, NBC, and ABC. They have a total of 14 producer credits to their names.

They have worked on numerous shows that have included medical dramas, comedies, science fiction and teen dramas. Their creativity has spanned multiple genres and they have won such awards like the Peabody Award Nomination, the Saturn Award, the GLAAD Award Nomination and the NewNowNext Award from Logo. It’s no surprise that this dynamic duo has racked up the awards and praise for their writing and producing. So what’s the story behind these two?

Gretchen J. Berg is from the east coast of the United States. A native to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she loved growing up during the 70’s and being able to spend so much time outdoors in the woods. You can see from her Instagram page that she is a huge Steelers Fan. She loved to wander through the woods with friends, daydreaming and expanding her imagination. She credits this time spent as a child daydreaming and making up stories as the beginning of her long journey into creative writing. Her imagination would run wild during her childhood and that was the very beginning of her desire to create fantastical stories and characters.

Growing up as a daydreaming child who loved to be creative didn’t make her super popular once she got to High School. She was more of a loner at her high school, North Allegheny High, than anything else. The school had a very intense focus on athletics and being a non-athlete, she did not fit in as well as some of her peers. She soon, however, found her passion for acting when she joined the drama club. The school also had a TV studio that she definitely took advantage of during her time at North Allegheny High. She found her calling and other likeminded individuals who helped her to grow and become the talented individuals she is today. She was able to stretch her creative wings during her time at North Allegheny High and ultimately it led her to Northwestern.

Most people when looking to break into the entertainment industry end up moving to Los Angeles or New York. Colleges like New York University and USC have excellent media programs and are the most popular among future screenwriters.  People flock there with their hopes and dreams to become a famous screenwriter. Gretchen Berg decided to take the path less traveled and decided to attend Northwestern University. It was here that her whole life trajectory would take a fantastic turn.

Aaron Harberts had a very different upbringing than Gretchen. He was also born in the early 70’s just like Berg but was born and raised in Iowa. He spent most of his childhood in the church listening to her father’s sermons since his father is a Presbyterian minister. Like Berg, he writing was greatly influenced by childhood spent in the pews of his father’s church daydreaming about stories and characters. He traveled often between three different states to spend time with his family.

He would create imaginative and inventive stories that he would later write down. His thoughts would run wild during the service and he believes that this is the beginning of his long career in writing. Even from a young age, Harberts was writing stories. He even wrote books that focused on a variety of themes. Harberts would later work on such amazing shows like Roswell, Beverly Hills 90201, and Revenge. Also, as a gay man, he incorporated LGBTQ characters into his shows, which is something he is very proud of. After high school, he then attended Northwestern University which is where his career would get it’s beginning.

Berg had already been at Northwestern for almost four years when she met Harberts. He was just ending his first year at the university when she was directing a student film. He started work on that film as a P.A. and ultimately they worked closely on a variety of projects that didn’t necessarily bring them closer together. They worked together on multiple projects during the two- year program called the Creative Writing for the Media. During this time spent together, they both learned each other’s creative styles. They meshed well together in that way but their friendship did not actually take off until after Berg had graduated from Northwestern.

Berg left the university and moved to the west coast to the hub of the entertainment, Los Angeles. Harberts soon followed after he graduated but his original housing plan fell through so he moved in with Berg. He reached out to her when he realized that he didn’t have a place to live. When he first moved in her she was in the middle of writing a sitcom spec. She was struggling with the rewrites. She then asked Harberts if he could help her write the script as a team. She remembered how much she enjoyed his sense of humor and she felt like his creative humor would be the perfect fit for this script. And this was the defining moment of not only their professional career but also their friendship.  The Team is known today as Berg and Harberts.

Six months later, they finished the script. It was not their favorite but it was the beginning of something amazing. They took as many assistant jobs as they could in Hollywood hoping to try to make the right connections. They wrote constantly during this time and spent hours watching all different genres of films and TV shows to help sharpen their analytic skills and writing. They were broke and did what they could to get by. They sent their scripts to multiple agents and got lucky when one of their scripts got in front of the right agent at the right time. The agent signed the duo in a matter of weeks and soon their career as a writing team took off.

It was not long before they had numerous hit television shows under their belts and became one of the most sought after creative teams in Hollywood. From very humble beginnings, the two worked hard and was ultimately able to come out on top. From the first script together (that they ended up burning) all the way to 90210, these two have come together to create scripts, characters and story lines that are thought provoking, inventive, and progressive.

Hope you enjoyed this story of Hollywood’s two lifelong friends Berg and Harberts.

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