Condescender

Some useful passive aggressive condescending phrases.  Handy for all occasions.

1. Thank you. We’re all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.

2. The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.

3. I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce.

4. Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.

5. I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don’t care.

6. I like you. You remind me of when I was young and stupid.

7. What am I? Flypaper for freaks?

8. I’m not being rude. You’re just insignificant.

9. I’m already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.

10. I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.

11. It’s a thankless job, but I’ve got a lot of Karma to burn off.

12. Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.

13. No, my powers can only be used for good.

14. How about never? Is never good for you?

15. I’m really easy to get along with once you people learn to worship me.

16. You sound reasonable…Time to up my medication.

17. I’ll try being nicer if you’ll try being smarter.

18. I’m out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message…

19. I don’t work here. I’m a consultant.

20. Who me? I just wander from room to room.

21. My toys! My toys! I can’t do this job without my toys!

22. It might look like I’m doing nothing, but at the cellular level I’m really quite busy.

23. At least I have a positive attitude about my destructive habits.

24. You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.

25. I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.

26. Someday, we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject.

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Turning 40

Important events in the year 1972 which changed the world, and still resonate today.  In celebration of my first son Matthew Thomas Rector’s birthday…today.

political events
President Nixon arrives at Beijing (Peking) February 20 with his national security adviser Henry A. Kissinger to confer with Chairman Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) and Premier Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai), ending the U.S. hostility toward the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that has persisted since 1949.

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover dies at Washington, D.C., May 2 at age 77. He directed the bureau for 48 years, being allowed to remain in office through special presidential dispensation despite rumors that he is a cross-dresser who holds power by keeping files on the indiscretions of leading politicians, including heads of state.

Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D. N.Y.) introduces a resolution May 9 calling for the impeachment of President Nixon following his decision to mine North Vietnamese harbors.

President Nixon arrives at Moscow May 22 and confers with Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in the first visit of a U.S. president to the Soviet Union since 1945…
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THE SUBMISSION (a book review)

Amy Waldman began her book The Submission long before the “Ground Zero Mosque” or the recent controversy about “American Muslim” .  From that perspective, its frustrating to realize that over ten years after 9/11, many American’s litmus test for legitimacy is its (real, imagined, or contrived) connection with Islam.

Set in 2003, the commission charged with selecting the final design of the site memorial settles upon a garden design submitted by a young architect whose name alone sparks vitriol. An American born of Indian parents, his prominence in his field cannot overcome the fact that he has the most Islamic of Islamic names: Mohammad. That factor alone, exacerbated by the media and reactionary factions, turns this somber effort into a vitriolic debate on who should be permitted to suggest an appropriate symbol of America’s darkest and most violent event in recent history.

Politics, religious exceptionalism, history, immigration, and jihadi myth all play out in the story as it careens through toward what will surely be a LOSE-LOSE conclusion. An unexpected event spins the story into an obvious — yet unexpected — conclusion.

The writer further appends an epilogue which takes us twenty years in the future to imagine the longer-term outcome of the decisions made in the heat of the moment. This device, initially striking me as a bit polyannaish in its optimism for the future, upon further reflection seemed a hopeful possibility.

The book overall was a timely and well-written commentary on what is and what can be.

If you are in a book club, recommend this as a future selection. The themes contained will provide for a lively discussion.

Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars

Masha just made these for our Thanksgiving dessert.

Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars
adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich

Crust
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour

Filling
1/2 cup caramel sauce (recipe below) (or use store bought)
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1.75 oz) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Line a 13×9 baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang so you can lift the bars out after they’ve baked.  Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir in the flour until just incorporated – the mixture will be soft, that’s fine.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Let cool completely.  Turn the oven down to 325 F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl in between.  Transfer 2 tablespoons of this batter to the 1/2 cup of caramel sauce and stir to incorporate.  Pour the remaining cheesecake batter over the cooled crust and spread evenly.

Dollop the caramel sauce mixture over the filling (I didn’t end up using all of the caramel).  Use a toothpick to gently marble the caramel – be careful not to scrape the crust while you are doing it.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are puffed and the center is just barely set.

Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let come to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably 24.  Use the foil sling to lift the bars out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into squares with a long sharp knife.  The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Salted Caramel Sauce
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon grey sea salt

Add 1 cup of water to a 2-qt saucepan.  Gently add the sugar to the center of the pot – it will mound, that’s fine.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, uncover the pot and insert a candy thermometer.  Continue cooking until the mixture registers 300 F and is just starting to develop some color, about 15 minutes.  Reduce heat under the pot to medium and cook until the syrup is amber and registers 350 F on the thermometer, about another 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  If it simmers before the syrup is ready, just take it off the heat and set aside.

Remove the caramel from the heat and add about 1/4 of the warm cream to the pot.  It will bubble furiously so be careful.  Once the bubbling subsides, add the remaining cream.  When it stops bubbling, whisk gently to incorporate fully.  Add the butter and the salt and whisk to combine.

Set aside 1/2 cup of the salted caramel sauce for the cheesecake bars.  The remainder can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.

Makes about 2 cups

I’ll let you know how they taste (but they look awesome!)

http://traceysculinaryadventures.blogspot.com/2011/05/salted-caramel-cheesecake-bars.html

The Skin I Live In

I have been a fan of Pedro Almodóvar’s work since I went to see Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at an art theatre near Boston Commons with Marc & Carol in 1988. I have since seen that film at least six times. Its art is exotic, and its comedy is oh so Spanish.

I have seen every one of his films since the 80’s. Among my personal favorites are Talk to Her, Volver, and Broken Embraces.

His newest is The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito). And it will stand out in my mind as his best.  A totally mesmerizing suspense/horror film, with stunning cinematography and art direction, and a totally unique plotline that will keep you riveted to the screen for the entire 123 minutes.
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How much for dat?

So…I stopped into my liquor store to lay in a few supplies for a party we are attending tonight.

On checkout, I noticed a bottle of 25 year-old Macallan scotch on the shelf over his shoulder.

I commented that the mere sight of it made my mouth water, and that $149.00 seemed a very good price.

“Ha!” He exclaimed. “That’s for the 18”

He flipped the tag over on the neck: “The 25 is $599.00!”

Uh…OK.

FEESHY FEESHY FEESHY FISH

It took me a moment to acclimate when my alarm went off at 5am Thursday. WTF? Then I recalled that in a moment of drunken haze at the party last night I had accepted Kelly’s boss’ invitation to join them on an all day deep sea fishing trip. We were in Sandestin FL (on the panhandle dangerously near Alabama) for Kelly’s company incentive, and since spouses had no formal agenda, I had planned to just hit the beach on Thursday. The VP for Kelly’s division cornered me at the reception on Wednesday night and suggested it would be a good idea to join them on their fishing trip the next day. Kelly gave me a look that said I should agree. That’s where it all began.

As I tottered around in the dark getting ready, I quickly realized that my pins were a bit wobbly from the previous evening’s festivities. “This should be real fucking interesting” I said aloud as I slipped into my board shorts and hoodie. Had I ever been seasick? Not that I recalled…and a trauma like that usually will leave an emotional mark. I could already see the whitecaps reflected by the waning moon from our 14th floor balcony. Yeah…real fucking interesting.

I made it down to the parking garage and met Otis and Charlie, just as Jamie pulled in to pick us up. Two others who had confirmed were bailing out, so the my share of the day’s expenses just bumped by $150. This day better turn out to be fucking awesome or I will be cranky, I thought to myself.
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SAAB Story

…a young man’s quest for the perfect beater…

Last month I had an opportunity to sell my 2004 Infiniti G35 coupe for a very attractive price. I purchased it new and really enjoyed the automobile…but the offer was too good to pass up. So I didn’t.

Reflecting on my options, I looked at Mini’s, the new Ford Fiesta, Mazda’s, and browsed Craig’s list for used BMW’s and Audi’s. In doing so, I discovered two things:

(1) used BMW’s and Audi’s were still a lot of money
(2) Would I be paying a lot for someone else’s problems?

Right then I decided just to search out a beater and expect some issues. The magic is to have the right mix of a low price and manageable repairs over time.

Returning to Craig’s List, I searched for “cars under $2500”. Perhaps in California this would return well-used Hondas and Toyotas, but in addition to that in GA, it returns bizarre vehicles with mis-matched wheels, the tops cut off, and luxo Caddies where none of the electrics worked. And also some middle-aged Saabs.

I hadn’t really thought much about a Saab, but have friends (and relatives) who own and love them. A Saab. I liked what that said about me…if if it was a beater. Hmmm. I adjusted my search to Saab’s and found some really nice “sounding” ones (at least in ad-speak). I spoke to nice people by phone who apparently loved their cars, but needed to be rid of it for one reason or another. Hmmm…a Saab.
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Rector 50 Reno

Yes, folks, it *really* happened: Marc and Carol celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on June 19th, 2010. Eric and Brian made sure they did it in style with their favorite people in Sparks. (Sparks is next door to Reno.) Sparks is roughly a three and a half to four and a half hour drive (depending on traffic) from the San Francisco Bay Area, through Sacramento. It is also roughly 40 miles north of Incline Village on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

Thank you to everyone who contributed a memory of where they were on June 19th, 1960. Here’s a link to a PDF version of the booklet I put together and handed out at the party. Marc and Carol had to think *a bit* with some of the entries (Marge was the hardest), but in the end they guessed them all.

The party took place at 5pm at

Vista Pavillion @ Hidden Valley Regional Park, Sparks/Reno, NV

a lovely spot managed by the Washoe Co. Parks and Rec department in the eastern hills above Sparks and Reno with trees for shade, tables, two barbecue stands, and a horseshoe pit. The view is to the west, so sunset is one of the featured events, especially when it back lights the incredible band we hired: Analog Jazz. The kept people dancing and singing through the whole party, part of the time fronted (spontaneously) by Marc’s sister Amy. We *highly* recommend hiring them for your next celebration in the I-80 Bay Area – Sacramento (where they’re based) – Reno corridor.

Google Map Link

Besides terrific jazz music from the 1960s, the party featured a visual display of some of the terrific movies that came out in 1960:

Butterfield 8
La Dolce Vita
Oceans 11 (the original)
Breathless
Psycho

and one movie that came out in the 1970s but is set around 1960 (in the CA central valley): American Grafitti.

The menu was a tribute to Carol Rector cuisine over the past 50 years:

Stuffed Mushrooms
Pimento Cheese on crackers
Eric’s Blue Thistle cheese (a new addition)

Brunswick Stew
Potato Latkes (fried potato pancakes) with cream cheese and chives
Butterflied Grilled Leg of Lamb
Grilled Bison T-Bone Steaks (a new addition)

Crepes Suzette, which flambeéd on the grill just as the sunset flambeéd the western sky.

The Rector family continues to travel this week as we celebrate Matt and Andrea’s wedding the following weekend. As soon as we all arrive back home, more pictures will be posted.

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Carol and Marc (on right) at OSU APX Formal, Spring 1960

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SPREZZATURA

Three seemingly disparate things converged earlier this week. (1) I bought a new MacBook Pro computer, (2) I installed a “word of the day” program that launches when I boot it, (3) The word on Tuesday was Sprezzatura (an archaic Italian word for being able to conduct your craft without a lot of visible effort…more on that later), and (4) Seth Godin’s blog that day was on Sprezzatura.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Seth’s blog was on this word. He very possibly is a Mac guy, and the word resonated with him (as it did with me). However, I don’t think it would have resonated so loudly had I not seen it earlier on my WOTD and had a chance to reflect on it before seeing his blog. And I certainly would not have seen the word had it not been for the WOTD program resident on my new Mac. Coincidence? You be the judge…

Sprezzatura. What an interesting concept. We all strive to demonstrate expertise in our work by accomplishing tasks without a lot of visible effort. Smoothly. Seemingly effortlessly. But at the same time, we cannot appear to cruising through our jobs unconsciously or else our supervisors and clients may not value our work. A fine line. Godin describes it as a combination of elan, grace, and class…sort of the opposite of the loud grunts you hear on the tennis court, or the visible flurry of activity and stress sometimes evidenced when you help out a customer.

Do you have sprezzatura? Do you know people who do? Would you prefer to have an attorney or a CPA with sprezzatura; or one without? I know I would.

So focus on those areas where you can show off your sprezzatura. Reach inside and uncover those skills you have where you can effortlessly pull it off. Bring it to the surface. Your customers will value it. Your peers will envy it. And your confidence will build on it.

Sprezzatura. Don’t leave home without it.

“Be hungrier than anyone else, but never LOOK hungry. That’s the trick.”
— Chris Brogan, blogger extraordinaire

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