Author: leahbakst

What I’m reading

It’s been a minute since I last wrote, but I spent the morning calculating some stats on the books I’ve been reading and I thought it was perfect fodder for an entry. Therefore, I’m starting what I hope will be a yearly tradition! My motivation is pretty simple: I believe it is important to expose myself to different perspectives, and one important (and relatively easy) way to do that is by reading books by diverse people. And critically, the only way to know that I’m actually doing that is by looking at my data. (I am a scientist, after all.) So here’s my data for 2015 and 2016:


POC refers to books by people of color. Women and queer refer to books by female and queer authors, respectively. Fiction and non-fiction are self-explanatory, I believe, and book club refers to books read for the two books clubs in which I participate. 2015 n=29; 2016 n=34.

So here’s what I know:
In general, I’m not reading enough books by non-white-males. Unsurprising, but still disappointing. I read about the same percent of books by POC in 2015 and 2016, which I will hopefully improve upon in 2017. I did increase my percentage of books by female authors, which is exciting, but it’s still not over 50%! More room for improvement. I’m reading barely any queer authors, and that needs to change, though the percent in 2016 is slightly improved compared to my dismal showing in 2015. Interestingly, I flipped my percentages of fiction and non-fiction. I started reading a lot of memoir in 2016 so I think that’s largely what caused the flip. And lastly, given that my first book club picked up steam and I joined a second book club in 2016, it’s not surprising that a higher proportion of books I read recently are attributable to book clubs.

We’ll see what happens in 2017! Can’t wait to update my graph 😉


The Daily Show

Dear Mr. Stewart and The Daily Show team:

I know there are a great many people who love and identify with The Daily Show. I’m sure what I have to say isn’t unique, but I wanted to share it because it is meaningful to me.

My father is a short, Jewish man from Queens who has a deep appreciation for Springsteen and the Mets. He is a doctor by trade (and a much-beloved doctor at that), but is a long-time student of the news in his spare time. Every day for nearly 10 years my father has sent my brother and I an email containing that day’s major local, national, and international news stories. (He also includes Mets/Knicks news, which is nearly always painful. And he gives us the weather report for our respective cities, which is only sometimes painful.)

As you might have gathered, my father has many things in common with you, Mr. Stewart. But it’s more than just those superficial similarities. My father is compassionate, brilliant, funny, and an incredibly hard worker. He is committed to fairness and truth. He is a good man. I think this is why I have felt such a strong connection to the show over the years.

Mr. Stewart, you and your team strive for truth. You believe in equality. You are obviously brilliant and hilarious. Your show can’t get rid of the ills of society, but it makes them easier to bear. Your show feels like family; it feels like home.

Thank you for being a little reprieve from all the crazy out in the world, and for being the brilliant, compassionate, clever, good people you are. We will miss you terribly.

With much admiration and affection,

Best Picture

One of my goals for the 101 in 1001 list is to see all the best picture nominees for the oscars (and then attend an Oscar party!). I kept getting confused about when the nominations list actually comes out, so I was pleasantly surprised this morning to see that they were announced! So for my (and your?) edification, here are the best picture nominees:

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

So far I’ve seen Boyhood, most of The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Imitation Game. I LOVED Boyhood so much. I thought it was so effective and wonderful. Perhaps the best way to describe how great Boyhood was is to relay this little tidbit: I was with my parents and my mother wanted to go see Boyhood. She tried to explain it to my dad, saying that it is a movie filmed over 11 years with the same actors. He said, “Oh, so it’s a documentary?”
“No. It’s fictional.”
“Oh, so the actors change?”
“No. It’s the same actors over 11 years.”
“Oh, so it’s a documentary.”
“No! It’s a fictional movie, and the actors age at the same pace as the characters.”
“That sounds so stupid. Why would anyone do that? I don’t want to see it. It sounds dumb.”
…My mom won out, thankfully. And not only did my dad love it, he cried at the end. (He claims allergies 😉 )

Anyhow. I thought The Imitation Game was engrossing and solid, but I definitely don’t think it warrants a best picture win. Benedict Cumberbatch sure is good at being a brilliant misanthrope (see: Sherlock Holmes also), and I love that Alan Turing’s genius contributions are getting more exposure, but it just wasn’t the amazeballs movie I wanted it to be.

Lastly, I remember enjoying what I saw of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I think I watched it on a plane and fell asleep at the end? It was quirky and enjoyable and weirdly beautiful. I guess it didn’t move me that much so as to deserve winning best picture (well, obviously I fell asleep, so was not super into it). But I didn’t see it in theaters and perhaps it lost a bit of it’s punch on the tiny airplane screen.

As I see the five remaining movies, I’ll update my opinion! (I’m sure you’re all waiting with bated breath…)

Since I last wrote I’ve seen both Selma and Whiplash. Selma was incredible. It was powerful and overwhelming and gave such an interesting and important view of the realities of the civil rights movement. It’s so relevant for today, as there are still so many ongoing problems with racism in our country. One of the things that struck me was just how vital *so many* people were to the movement. I didn’t realize that although Dr. King was indeed the face of a large part of the movement, that he relied so much on many, many other people both to accomplish things, and to keep him going. I thought David Oyelowo’s performance was outstanding. He embodied Dr. King, and not as a caricature or a mimic. He brought so much depth to what often feels like a monolithic characterization of Dr. King. I’m very sad that Oyelowo wasn’t nominated for best actor. Anyway, I would happily give this my vote for best picture.

Whiplash was also quite intense and excellent. I loved the music and have continued to listen to the soundtrack since seeing the movie. The movie put you in this kind of dark, rich, stressful, intense sonic world. It was also quite the mindfuck. You were never quite sure of the real motivation for anything J. K. Simmons’ character was doing. I wouldn’t quite say that I had nightmares afterwards, but I was absolutely in a very intense place throughout the night following the movie. This is definitely an interesting film with great performances, and it very much transports you to a whole other universe. If nothing else, I recommend listening to the soundtrack!

10 Albums

As part of my 101 in 1001, I want to do some deep listening to 10 albums. I decided that a meaningful way to select these albums was to ask people around me which albums are especially meaningful/enjoyable to them. I asked people to go with their gut and select one album. Some people clearly have a better understanding of “one” than others, but I’m glad to get the suggestions. I’m not sure which 10 will be the official 10 for the purposes of my goal, but hopefully I’ll ultimately make my way through all of these albums (and more!). I’m also still soliciting suggestions, so feel free to comment with *your* favorite album! See the list after the jump…

Continue reading

Parks, Part 2

The other night I went with a couple friends to dinner and a lecture. (Yes, that’s right. We’re old fogies and went to a lecture.) Anyway, after a supremely delicious meal at Mamnoon we wandered over to the Seattle Town Hall to hear James McBride speak. We ended up taking this kind of weird route that entailed much confusion and just a little bit of adventure. We wandered down (literally down a hillside) this weird, poorly lit, slippery path between apartment buildings, and then continued to have to go through alleys and possibly off-limit staircases to finally get to our destination. But after some wandering, and midway through our little adventure, I realized we were in Freeway Park!

I had been to the park before during a conference at the convention center (which abuts the park). The conference was ridiculously boring, but it was so glorious outside and I remember loving the confusing and at times Escher-like paths and stairways throughout the park. I didn’t take any pictures this time around (mostly because it was dark, and we were running late), but I have some from the first time I was there.

2013-05-06 15.29.45 2013-05-06 15.34.14 2013-05-06 15.38.13


In all — I fully recommend Freeway Park, but maybe avoid the hilliest portions (at least after dark, and not in the rain!).



Brunch club resurrected


[Little preface: I found this post hiding in my drafts. Why didn’t I publish it? I have no idea. But even though it’s a year old, it remains true. I still love brunch, and Brunch Club will be a thing! Now, enough meta-posting; onto the real thing!]

It seems to be a theme with me, but whenever it gets nice out I feel inspired to update. Lately something happened of note: I was asked by two friends on separate occasions for brunch recommendations. Shocking! (Okay, not at all shocking. Not even particularly remarkable.) So I went about compiling a list of brunch options for said friends and as I probably should have predicted, I went a little overboard what with the details and number of suggestions. Thankfully my friends did not reply with TL;DR. Anyway, the point of this whole non-story is to say that it occurred to me while writing these ridiculous brunch emails that I should absolutely have a brunch post! Likely this will be a series of posts because the number of restaurants I can write about, combined with my verbose enthusiasm would lead to one ungodly long entry. For all of our sakes I will avoid that.

In that vein, here is the inaugural post in a little series I’m going to call Brunch Club. Inspired in part by an actual occasional brunch club with two good friends that has introduced me to several of my favorite brunch spots.

Who’s hungry?

A perfect NY breakfast.

A perfect NY breakfast.


Okay, let’s start with a neighborhood standard.

Hattie’s Hat
Let me tell you something. Hattie’s is a great place to come when you need a hangover brunch. It’s a kind of dark (without feeling dirty or gross), you don’t feel like you need to impress anyone, and they serve the kind of perfect brunch faves that will sop up all of the weird acid-alcohol heinousness going on in your body.

Hattie's entrance


Recommendation 1: Aunt Harriet’s Country Breakfast. Seriously, this is effing delicious. Biscuits and gravy + two eggs + hash browns + sausage/bacon. You absolutely have to get over the heart attack-inducing factor of this breakfast to enjoy, but sometimes you it’s worth it.

Recommendation 2: Chang’s Migas. I am a sucker for all things mexican or tex-mex, and this totally hits the spot. Eggs loaded up with lots of veggies and cheese, served with black beans on the side. This is obviously not a light breakfast, but as the name implies, brunch is meant to do the duty of two meals and this will do just that!

Go to Hattie’s on a Sunday and you can walk off all of this awesomeness by strolling the Ballard Farmer’s Market!

Parks, Part 1

After making my (terrifyingly long) list of Seattle parks the other day, I figured I should get going on actually visiting parks! My boyfriend, T, and I like to take morning walks on the weekends, especially while the weather permits it. So I noticed there was a park within walking distance that I had never heard of or seen. Strange! So we went. It’s called the Ballard Corners Park, and it’s the weirdest little park I’ve ever seen.

Ballard Corners Park

Ballard Corners Park!

Located at the intersection 17th and 62nd NW, the park is meant to commemorate the many corner stores that formed the corner stone (ha. pun totally intended.) of Ballard back in the early 1900s. So we walked over to the park yesterday morning with breakfast sandwiches in hand to find that, lo and behold, there were stools and counters set up like a little soda shop or something.

Perfect for breakfasting

Perfect for breakfasting

There was also this sculpture, I guess I would call it, that looked like a little living room. It was made out of concrete and consisted of a sofa, a chair, and a table with a (non-functioning) lamp.

Just like a living room!

Just like a living room! (I know my couch says SQUAD in giant letters. Doesn’t yours?)

There was also a jungle gym set-up that had the strangest features. A set of monkey bars that twisted so the bars ultimately were vertical (instead of their usual horizontal). Also, a spinny thing that you can climb into and the addition of the body weight allows it to spin seemingly endlessly without effort. I don’t advise the use of this device just after eating, but it’s really cool.

I also managed to stop by the 14th ave NW boat launch. I’m not sure that I’ll really go to more of these boat launch ‘parks,’ but it was kind of lovely (minus the fact that everything was covered in goose dung). I did happen upon a lady playing with her dog there, and walked up just as the dog bounded straight into the water after a ball. Wish I had gotten a little video of that… it was perfectly gleeful.

Photo Oct 05, 12 11 53 PM Photo Oct 05, 12 11 30 PM Photo Oct 05, 12 11 14 PM

Well, that’s it for parks for now! Two down… SO MANY to go!

Teensy Update, No. 70

I made my bed every day for one month! Aside from the instances of putting fresh sheets on the bed, it took only about 10-30 seconds each morning! I found that once I was doing it daily, I stopped my cycle of turning my bed into a whirlpool of blankets. Also, like everyone who started making their bed ever has said: yes, it really does make the room feel cleaner and less cluttered. It’s true. So, hooray for no. 70: make my bed every day for one month! I think this one’s a keeper.