All posts by kateclark7

3 Seattle Podcasts With Unique Voices

By Kate Clark | Special to The Seattle Times

Anyone can talk about anything.

That’s the beauty of podcasting, says Eula Scott Bynoe. She’s one-third of “Hella Black Hella Seattle,” a new podcast creating community for people of color in Seattle.

Bynoe, Jasmine Jackson and Alaina Caldwell started “Hella Black Hella Seattle” in May because, they say, there was nothing like it, and there needed to be. They planned to take a break from the podcast ( in September, but after an overwhelmingly positive response, they decided to keep it up.

“You know this is such a cis-gender, white city,” Bynoe says. “It is that weird thing where you see people of color but you don’t see them, we walk by them but we don’t hear them, we don’t know what’s going on with them. A real big part of the show, too, is to say a lot of people are here and they are doing really amazing things that are being recognized world-round, but not necessarily in our backyard.”

Listening to “Hella Black Hella Seattle” is like dropping in on a conversation, with the trio discussing topics ranging from race to Seattle’s best happy hours, as well as interviewing at least one significant Seattleite per episode.

“We are hella black and hella Seattle, that’s what we are promoting,” Caldwell explains. “If you identify with one of those that’s awesome; if you don’t, that’s not what we are trying to do for you.”

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Battling the bots: Finding a job in the digital era

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KCTS 9’s What’s Good 206
December 6, 2016

This morning, I woke up to another email with another job rejection. It’s a regular occurrence these days, but this one I found particularly defeating. I had only applied to the job 14 hours earlier — at 6:00 p.m. the prior evening.

Did anyone read my application? My cover letter? Did anyone glance at my resume?

Probably not, unless they have staff working nights, sifting through applications. This company, like many others, likely has an electronic filtering system — an algorithm — that sorts the “unqualified” from the rest of the pack, then sends applicants a near-immediate rejection email.

The process of finding and applying for jobs has transformed in the wake of electronic filtering systems. Job-seekers scramble to cater their resumes and cover letters to these systems, carefully selecting keywords and phrases that satisfy the robots. The days of human recruiters spending hours sifting through “resume books” on college campuses to find their top candidates are over.

What Seattle can learn from the Bangalore tech boom

By Kate Clark The Seattle Globalist

Gov Museum and Construction 2.JPG
A view of construction from Bangalore’s Government Museum, South India’s second oldest museum.

If you’ve lived in Seattle over the past couple decades, you’ve watched it turn from a grungy working-class backwater into a worldwide tech capital. You’ve watched Amazon grow until it occupied its 10 million square feet of office space downtown. You’ve read national media reports claiming the company has “colonized,” or “swallowed,” or “eaten” the city. And you’ve undoubtedly witnessed some hostility between tech transplants and “true Seattleites.”

So I was intrigued when I found out I’d be spending three months in Bangalore, India (or Bengaluru as it’s formally known). The south Indian city traded the moniker “The Garden City” for “The Silicon Valley of India” when tech companies set up shop and attracted millions of migrants.

I thought, what similarities there must be; two cities on opposite sides of the globe, at the center of a worldwide tech-boom, for better or worse.

Then I actually showed up in India.

Seattle and Bangalore definitely share some issues like traffic jams, housing shortages, and a perceived loss of cultural heritage. But when it comes down to who bore the brunt of the tech-boom, India takes the cake.

From 2001 to 2011 Seattle’s population grew about eight percent; “healthy” growth for an American city. Even when Seattle was touted as the fastest growing city in the U.S. between 2012 and 2013, it only grew 2.8 percent.

Meanwhile, from 2001 to 2011, Bangalore’s population grew a staggering 47 percent, and the city became nearly twice as dense.

Both cities have experienced a lot of tech-driven growth, just on different scales. It makes sense each city would deal with the problems that come with a tech boom in different ways as well.

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Startups help farmers supply organic veggies to Bengalureans

By Kate Clark Citizen Matters 

“Why do I need to be eating a California apple?,” asks Laxminarayan Srinivasaiah, co-founder of Jivabhumi, a new platform that connects local farmers to “conscious consumers” in Bangalore.

How it works: A customer selects the chemical-free foods online, Jivabhumi works with local farmers and ships the food to local pick-up points.

The three founders of the community-supported agriculture initiative left behind corporate stability earlier this year to fully commit to their growing business, which now feeds 600 Bengalureans. Their goal is twofold: to provide healthier, chemical-free, and locally-sourced food and to support farmers.

For now, Jivabhumi is targeting the conscious consumers, or those already aware of the benefits of organic farming and who can afford such products. Over the next few years they hope to reach and become more accessible to different populations.

“The holy grail is only when food is made affordable to all consumers,” says Sreenivasa Rao, the co-founder of Jivabhumi. “We don’t believe that organic food or naturally grown food should be available only to the elite customer. Unfortunately, that is the case today. Therefore, we are very consciously pricing our products… The idea of Jivabhumi really is how do you make it a win-win situation for both farmers as well as consumers.”

“Nobody wants to be transparent in this business”

Rao explained the supply chain in India is very complex; by eliminating any middlemen, being entirely transparent, and working directly with farmers, Jivabhumi is simplifying the process and hopefully, improving the lives of farmers. Depending on the product, those in Jivabhumi’s 1300 plus farmer network get 50 to 70 percent of the profits, a stark increase to the 25 to 27 percent they say farmers typically get.

According to the National Sample Survey Office, the average income per agricultural household In India from 2012 to 2013 was Rs 6,426.

“Nobody wants to be transparent in this business because unfortunately, the kind of profits that the retailers make is unbelievable, at the expense of beating the farmers down,” Rao says. “So nobody wants to be fair; that’s where we really want to create that difference.”

By eliminating the middlemen Jivabhumi is revealing the “real” price of food.

“The normal reaction for people is ‘why does organic cost so much,’” says Anil Nachig, co-founder of Jivabhumi. “So, if you ask the question, what is the real price of food, you will realise the subsidised food, the cheap food coming in, is coming at a certain cost.” The costs being environmental or social—”squeezing” the farmer. Neither of these, Nachig explains, are sustainable, or beneficial to the local economy or ecosystem.

Supporting farmers

“In the process of making food cheap and affordable to everyone, what are we doing?” Srinivasaiah says. “The farmer is being squeezed, right?”

The negative impacts of climate change, shrinking profits, and land, has led to a sharp decrease in the number of farmers in India over the last 20 years. The Hindu reported in 2013, that about 2,000 farmers were leaving the profession every day, and that there were seven million fewer farmers in the country in 2013, than in 2001.

“No one wants to do farming,” Srinivasaiah says. “Even if he has a farm, he is coming out of the farm and coming to Bangalore. He is fine to become a…security guard, he doesn’t want to do farming because you have to depend on rains and if the rain doesn’t come, how do you feed your family? Here if you become a security guard you have an income that you can look forward to at the end of the month.”

Farmer suicides have also risen. Karnataka alone saw over 1,000 farmer deaths by suicide from April 2015 to January 2016.

While the causes of the uptick in suicides are debated, the founders of Jivabhumi say if farmers are given a fair-trade, their standard of living will improve.

“How do we make lives of the farmer better?” Rao asks. “The reason why a lot of them are moving out of this profession is simply because it is not profitable for them anymore. The reason again for that is that there is no fair-trade in the entire supply chain.”

More startups look at agriculture

Organic Mandya, an organic farmer’s society in Karnataka, caters to farmers in the Mandya district. Bengalureans can buy their organic products online, or at their store in Mandya.

Like Jivabhumi, they cut out the middlemen and started selling farmers’ organic products a year and a half ago. Today, in addition to selling food, they offer organic tourism, in hopes the question “where does your food come from,” can actually be answered by a growing population.

Co-founder Bhaskara Kempaiah says there is definitely a growing demand for organic food. Take millets for example. Once less-popular, healthy alternatives to rice, millets are now in huge demand, according to both Kempaiah and Srinivasaiah of Jivabhumi.

“Health is getting more important as people see their relatives struggling with health,” Kempaiah says. He adds that organic farming can be more economical. Chemical-free farming eliminates the need to purchase the chemicals and pesticides usually used in farming.

“10 to 15,000 rupees of input, if there is a disaster it’s all lost,” he says. “With rain, they may end up losing all that money.”

It can, however, take three to five years for the soil previously doused in pesticides to replenish, according to Srinivasaiah. That means there may be a period where farmers are producing a smaller than normal crop. The hope is the increase in payment farmers get by selling chemical-free food facilitates their ability to produce a smaller crop.

Subeesh S is working on an enterprise that will similarly support farmers. His concept, “The Family Farmer,’” also removes the middlemen, ensures farmers get a better cut of the profits, and that the food is chemical-free.

Subeesh says if farmers have a direct and personal relationship with the consumer, the consumer will get a better product and the farmer a better deal.

“We all have a family doctor, whenever a problem comes he is the first consultant,” Subeesh says. “He…[knows] all the history of the patient, similarly we…[should have] a farmer, a family farmer.”

“Live to eat or eat to live?”

All of these companies exist in part because of their passion to improve the lives of farmers, but they also want to see a healthier population in Bengaluru.

‘Everything boils down to the food on your plate,” Sreenivasa Rao says. The question is…about the food choices you are making. Live to eat or eat to live?”


Teaching techies the local language, one WhatsApp message at a time

In an age when the colloquial phrase “there’s an app for that” is true of almost everything imaginable—dating, determining whether your watermelon is ripe, predicting bad hair days—it makes sense Bengalureans would use apps to teach and learn Kannada.

The official language of Bengaluru and of Karnataka, Kannada has been on the decline for years. Even as early as 2001, before the largest cohort of migrants took up residence, only about 40 percent of Bengaluru’s population was speaking Kannada.

Since then, the number of English-medium schools grew, Hindi became a more common choice of second-language, English became the native tongue for some of the youngest generation, tech-migrants became the majority, and many could be heard uttering the phrase “Kannada gottilla,” or “I don’t know Kannada.”

Tired of that particular utterance, locals are realizing the best way to teach techies might just be through, well, tech.

Enter Kannada Baruthe (I know Kannada) and Kannada Gottilla, two platforms employing technology to promote the teaching of Kannada. The former provides Kannada lessons through its own app; the latter uses WhatsApp, a cross-platform messaging app, to send its students daily lessons. Anyone seeking to learn Kannada can also turn to Twitter, Skype, YouTube, and of course, a school.

“I don’t think people would actually travel to learn Kannada because their schedules are hectic and their weekends are booked,” Founder of Kannada Gottilla Anup Maiya said. “WhatsApp makes their life easier. They can spend just fifteen minutes a day [learning] Kannada. Fifteen minutes is nothing. Anyone can spend fifteen minutes.”

You can review lessons while stuck in Bengaluru traffic, Maiya suggested.

Kannada Gottilla started in 2014 with just a small WhatsApp group of 10 migrants seeking to learn Kannada. Now they have 2,800 students who pay Rs.200 per month for bite-sized lessons delivered straight to their smart phones. They have 13 trained teachers who create the lessons and assist students via WhatsApp when necessary and host one free, in-person lesson the first Sunday of every month on MG Road.

Maiya worked in Pune for years and knows first-hand the difficulties of being a migrant, but he learned the local language of Marathi while living there and now speaks eight languages.

“The idea is not to force any language [on] anyone; the idea is to bring this linguistic equality,” Maiya said. “I don’t think migration is a problem, I think awareness is a problem. We have to create awareness for migrants and non-migrants. Migrants won’t know how things work here, so we have to teach them. We can’t blame them for coming here to work… You go there, you learn, you try to be a Roman in Rome, a Kannadiga in Karnataka.”

Kannada Baruthe is only about a year old, but already has 22,000 users per month, 85 percent of which are from India.

Originally hailing from Mysore, Kannada Baruthe’s Web Developer Vikram Cannanure lived in Bengaluru for 15 years before moving to the U.S. He said the first step toward interacting with and contributing to a community is learning their native tongue. He referenced a time he stayed in Florida and used Google Translate to communicate with a community of Spanish-speakers: “this connection happens because of language.”

“It doesn’t matter if you speak to your boss in English, but if you speak to [a Kannadiga] in Kannada it will make a big difference to [them] that day,” Cannanure said. “If you are speaking to someone who can’t talk back in English it will make a big difference.”

In addition to decreasing the ratio of Kannada speakers to other languages, the 47 percent increase in population density in Bengaluru from 2001 to 2011 led to an increase in the number of “bubbles,” according to Cannanure.

“If you are staying in a community that is only speaking English or Hindi you don’t find the need to speak Kannada,” he said. “So people tend to stay close to their offices and they form a small community with people who speak the same language…in that bubble you don’t find.”

Despite being raised in Bengaluru, Cannanure said he wouldn’t know Kannada had his parents not taught him. His English education, like many, prioritized Hindi as a second-language over Kannada.

Last year, after criticism of the lack of Kannada education opportunities, the language became a mandatory subject in all Karnataka schools following the state’s syllabus. Mandatory curriculum, while frustrating for those unfamiliar with Kannada, is one way to augment the Kannada-speaking population, kids and migrants learning through WhatsApp is another.

“Bangalore is not just rich people who can speak English,” Cannanure said. “It is well-educated, but there are people…who are not lucky enough to go to such schools…They don’t have the capability to learn English as you do to learn Kannada and if you just make a small effort it will make your life better and their life better.”

What is stopping Bengaluru from escaping gridlock?

When Mexico City quadrupled in size from 1940 to 1970, the city experienced unending gridlock—something any Bengalurean can relate to.

Today, Mexicans still battle long commute times, but the government has ameliorated its transit-induced headache after implementing large-scale changes to its public transit. Meanwhile, Bengaluru’s commuters continue to sit in hours of traffic amid a sea of angry honkers. Migrants continue to flow in, and the vehicle population continues to grow.

Although Mexico City has more than 220 km of rail in place, dissimilar to Bengaluru’s still infantile Namma Metro’s 31 km, the key to Mexico City’s progress has been the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and its affiliated segregated bus lanes, according to Adriana Lobo, World Resources Institute (WRI) Mexico Director.

The augmentation of public transit in Mexico City

During the WRI-hosted #UnlockBengaluru conference on July 9, Lobo presented a timeline of Mexico City’s transit growth, which she called a very “happy story.” While the city was growing into the 20 million plus mega-city it is today, it faced a transit emergency. It wasn’t until the 2005 arrival of the BRT, which today has six lines, 177 stations, and carries over 1 million passengers per day, that some of the traffic chaos began to subside.

“Commuting in Mexico City really [hurt],” Lobo said.

She explained Mexico City’s traffic problems weren’t due to a lack of buses, but a lack of quality of buses. Sixty-four percent of riders had said they didn’t think the buses were safe, let alone clean, efficient, or capable of seamless transfers. With the addition of BRT,  6.4 percent of commuters transitioned from private vehicles to public buses, reducing approximately 32 million kilometers of travel every year. Now, bus travelers are saving an average of half an hour a day because of the bus-only lanes.

Prior to the BRT, Mexico City initiated a road space rationing policy. “Hoy No Circula,” or “Today [your car] does not circulate,” began in 1989 in attempt to improve traffic, but more importantly, air quality. The 2016 mid-year World Health Organization pollution index ranked Mexico City 17th, four spots after Delhi. In 1992, the United Nations reported Mexico City was the most polluted city in the world.

The Hoy No Circula program prevents vehicles from being in circulation on a certain day of the week depending on the last digit on their license plate. It also requires vehicles in Mexico City get emission tests every six months.

Drivers are then given a sticker that represents how many times their car needs to skip circulation per week. Older cars, which cause more air pollution, must skip circulation twice per week, newer cars are only required to do so once. When contamination levels peak, as they did earlier this year, the government asks all vehicles to skip circulation twice per week.

A study from the University of Michigan claimed there is no evidence Hoy No Circula has improved air quality. Lucas Davis, who penned the study, said the policy ironically led to an increased number of registered vehicles in the city because citizens were choosing to circumvent the law rather than follow it.

Media have reported Hoy No Circula is not as of effective as public transit at combatting pollution and congestion. Especially because it is widely known that drivers of older cars often bribe emission testers into giving them a sticker that allows them to circulate more often. Again, circumventing the policy.

Despite this, Mexico City has preserved Hoy No Circula.

Road rationing in Delhi

In 2016, after Delhi maintained its spot as one of the world’s most polluted cities, the city of 18 million tried out the even-odd strategy. Also known as the alternate-day travel scheme, vehicles with plates ending in even and odd numbers alternate days on the road. Even numbers are allowed on even dates, odd numbers on odd dates.

It was met with a mix of praise and criticism, with many frustrated that women and two-wheelers were exempted from the restrictions. Delhiites have access to one of the largest metro rail systems in the world, still many claimed the city didn’t have the proper public transportation infrastructure to impose such a policy on the population.

According to The Economic Times, the Delhi Metro Rail carries approximately 2 million people a day, 25 percent of Delhi’s commuters. Forty-two percent of Delhiites use the city’s bus system, 25 percent commute via private vehicles, and the remaining eight percent use autos.

There have been talks of implementing the even-odd policy in Bengaluru, but imitating Mexico City’s Hoy No Circula, or adopting any kind of road space rationing policy here may be more difficult than it sounds. Mexico has three times as many police per every 100,000 people than India and Mexico City’s traffic police force has a fleet of 30,000, while Bengaluru has less than 3,000 traffic police officers. A lack of traffic police presence makes any road-based policy impossible to enforce.

Bengaluru runs on its buses

In Bengaluru today, there is one car for every two people. The Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation’s (BMTC) 6,300 plus bus fleet carries 5 million Bengalureans per day—more than half of the city’s commuters—to 53 stations. The remaining majority rely on private cars and two wheelers.

Statistics show, and many of Saturday’s conference-goers agreed, Bengaluru runs on its buses.

The Urban Bus Toolkit compiled by the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), a World Bank project, says there should be anywhere from 0.5 to 1.2 buses per 1,000 people depending on the presence of other transit options. Because Bengaluru doesn’t yet have a widespread rail system, buses remain the best option for mass public transit. That means there should be at minimum one bus for every 1,000 people.

BMTC’s current fleet of 6,000 buses is at least 4,000 buses short of the number needed to adequately serve the population. Some say that estimate is much too low, suggesting that Bengaluru acquire as many as 15,000 buses right now.

That aside, there remains the issue of existing buses not being able to move.

“Take the busses out of congestion now, or you’ll regret it forever,” Toni Lindau said, WRI Brazil Sustainable Cities Director.

He suggested Bengaluru implement permanent segregated bus lanes: “Don’t waste your time. Don’t wait 40 years for something that will never come… It took [Brazil] 40 years to realise that. I hope you can do that faster here in India.”

Segregated bus lanes, an integral part of the BRT system, require construction and funding, but if implemented, allow for the kind of shortened commute times Mexico City now boasts. BMTC has been planning a pilot bus-only lane on Old Airport Road toward Whitefield road for six months, but they have yet to install it.

As successful as segregated bus lanes can be, if underutilized, i.e. if bus frequency is too low, they can aggravate drivers who will have a lost a lane to make room for the bus lanes.

Should public transit be subsidised?

Unfortunately, BRT and segregated bus lanes, whether implemented or not, may not change the steep prices that have come to characterize BMTC and which have continued to rise over the years. BMTC ticket prices range from Rs. 5 to Rs. 44. In Chennai, for example, bus prices max out at Rs.14 for their non-AC buses.

BMTC’s Managing Director Dr Ekroop Caur said she has no interest in BMTC profiting off commuters, the price hikes are simply the only way for BMTC to sustain itself.

“If you ask me personally, I think BMTC tickets are very overpriced,” Caur said during #UnlockBengaluru. “The city has grown at a rate in which BMTC has not grown, in which their revenues have not grown.”

A common argument for subsidising transit is that it’s the most equitable way to provide transport; it ensures equal access to all citizens. Studies have shown subsidising transit also leads to increased ridership, which in turn leads to increased frequency of the entire system. This can decrease congestion and pollution.

But what seems like an easy solution requires breaking through a lot of bureaucratic red tape, as well as the restructuring of the current public transit infrastructure. Many public transit activists have been campaigning years for subsidised transit, or at least cheaper fares, but have watched prices continue to rise.

Looking forward: 15 million trips by 2025

According to Pawan Mulukutla, WRI India’s Manager of Urban Transport, growth trends suggest there will be as many as 15 million trips a day in Bengaluru by 2025.

“We are talking about a Monster building up,” he said, emphasizing that the city needs a holistic approach to solving these problems.

If half of Bengaluru’s population relies on the city’s bus network, mimicking Mexico City’s BRT system could be the best step toward a mobile Bengaluru. But much like subsidizing transit, building an entirely new system would require a massive upgrade and upwards of 200 crore.

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Skagit Valley satisfies cravings for art, food and beer

As we crossed the border into Skagit County, my friend and day-trip partner laughed and murmured, “We’re in the boondocks now!” Of course, only about an hour north of Seattle, on our way to Edison, we weren’t exactly in the boondocks. But we’d just seen a bald eagle and a hawk; for a couple of college students usually confined to the University District’s cement jungle, it was quite the contrast.

With a strict day’s budget of $99, including food, fun and gasoline, my friend and I explored the Skagit Valley. We spent most of the day around Bow and Edison but stopped in La Conner and Mount Vernon. In Edison, we ate what we decided are Washington state’s best tacos (certainly the best vegan tacos), bought a few one-of-a-kind knickknacks and ended our eight-hour expedition sipping IPAs in Mount Vernon.

First stop: Edison…

‘Me Before You’: sweet, but no heat

The Princess Leia buns and eclectic outfits Jojo Moyes wrote for Louisa “Lou” Clark in her novel “Me Before You” don’t disappoint on screen. Lou (Emilia Clarke) is decked out in her black-and-white furry striped coat, dresses patterned with butterflies and vegetables, and a wild collection of brightly colored tights and shoes that resemble the bouquet of multicolored daisies she holds in one scene.

Twenty-six-year-old Lou, who lives in a picturesque British tourist town, becomes a caretaker for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a wealthy local 30-something who’s paralyzed from the neck down. Will’s cynical sense of humor and outright rudeness doesn’t faze Lou; soon, the two seem to be in love, with Lou determined to convince Will (who is contemplating assisted suicide) to keep on living. Unfortunately, the story makes it seem as if Will, because of his disability, has no reason to keep living aside from maybe Lou’s antics…