Friday, March 7, 2014

Driver's Test

Monday, March 3, 2014
A bitcoin for your thoughts?

A new month, and a new restaurant.  85 Chinese Restaurant, 85 Chrystie Street, obviously gets straight to the point.  It is medium sized, holding 4 round tables and about a dozen two tops pushed together as needed.  The walls and the furniture are mostly blond wood, giving a bright, airy feel to the joint.  I ordered Singapore chow fun ($7.50), one of my favorite dishes.  As with many restaurants, it does not appear on the menu, but, once you see beef chow fun (the wide noodle) and Singapore chow mei fun (the thin noodle), you know that you can get them combined.  The portion was very large.  In fact, my only complaint is how the dish cooled down as I soldiered through the heap of shrimp, pork, egg, scallions, onions, green pepper, bean sprouts and noodles cooked with curry.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Today is Mardi Gras.  However, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, unlike other parts of the U.S. or the world, you are unlikely to see half-naked drunks throwing jewelry to bystanders, in spite of my urging.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
I was reminded of my first car this morning.  It was a 1958 Dodge sedan, purchased used from a Dodge dealer in Queens, during my second year of graduate school.  We were a Dodge family.  The first car in the family that I knew of was a 1937 mouse-gray Dodge.  In 1950, my father traded that in for a pea-soup green Dodge sedan, which we inaugurated by taking a trip more or less around the perimeter of New York state.  I remember stops in Binghamton, Buffalo and Glens Falls where, at a firemen’s carnival, my father and I won consecutive Bingo games on the same card.  My father replaced that car with a blue and white 1957 Dodge, which influenced my purchase about 6 years later.

Dodge, as most other domestic automobile manufacturers, was then in thrall of tail fins, so the chrome trim and the two-tone paint jobs on both the 1957 and 1958 Dodges emphasized the faux aerodynamic lines of the automobile.  I paid $600 for the car, I think, which was painted cream and gold, quite stunning at the time.  It also featured a push-button automatic transmission, another touch of modernity.  My reverie did not last long, however.  On my first trip from Queens to Ithaca, the car blew up or something like that.  Pardon me, but the fine education that I had at Stuyvesant High School and CCNY unfortunately omitted automobile mechanics and repairs.

Time and pain have obscured a lot of the subsequent details, but I managed to get the car fixed at a garage somewhere along Route 17, the major link between New York City and Ithaca.  I paraded about Ithaca for a bit, before heading back to New York.  About halfway, the car blew up again.  I had already reached the area known as the Borscht Belt, because of the density of Jewish summertime visitors, and was able to find my way late at night to the bungalow where the Friedmans, very close friends of my parents, were staying.  I arranged to have the car towed back to the dealer in Queens, and rolled (pushed) it onto his lot, demanding a refund.  Years later, I got $200, although my lawyer, a relative, may have done better than me in the transaction.

All of this comes to mind because of the news that a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider sold at auction for $27.5 million last summer, while, a few days ago, a 1958 Ferrari 335S sold privately for $21.5 million.  Now, if somehow I managed to retain and preserve my father’s 1957 Dodge and my 1958 Dodge, and sold them as a set, which the Ferrari owners were unable to do, I would likely have become a Republican.

Max K., once the Belarus Wonder Boy, now an American real estate investor, came to lunch with me.  We went to Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, which feeds dim sum of the highest quality to enormous crowds  in a wonderfully garish setting.  We ate and ate and ate, and managed to spend just over $20.  The pleasure of Max’s company distracted me from keeping count of the number of dims that we summed, but it seemed to have been about 9 or 10.

Thursday, March 6, 2014
The College Board has announced a major revision of the SAT, the great hurdle to college admissions, because it had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”  The College Board claims that only 20% of classroom teachers see the SAT as a fair measure of the work their students have done.  Or, is it possible, that the work that their students have done is only 20% of what they should have done?

I admit a certain bias in this regard, representing the reverse side of this formula.  Throughout my 20th century school years (law school was mostly a 21st century event), I usually went through an extended period of academic sloth and indolence, only to pull many of my proverbial chestnuts out of the fire by wielding a #2 pencil accurately between those narrow parallel lines.  My test scores, therefore, seemed to demonstrate academic diligence and rigor that had no basis in reality.

I agree with the College Board’s attempt, however, to deflate the SAT prep and tutoring industry, with its distinct flavor of “money talks,” the secular religion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing bloc.  I am all for rewarding practice and concentration, but it seems that test-taking tricks and strategies were often being peddled as keys to SAT success.

The best news concerns the character of the SAT essay section.  Quoth the New York Times: “Students now write about their experiences and opinions, with no penalty for incorrect assertions, even egregiously wrong ones.  In the future, though, students will receive a source document and be asked to analyze it for its use of evidence, reasoning and persuasive or stylistic technique.”  Oh my!  Quite unlike television reporting and commentary, students will be penalized for “incorrect assertions, even egregiously wrong ones.”  Applied to the communications industry, a thrice-married Australian media magnate might have to retire to raising kangaroos.  

Friday, March 7, 2014
Speaking of looking out for your own, the lead article on the front page of today’s New York Law Journal deals with the charges against four big shots of the now-defunct law firm Dewey & LeBouef, all of whom earned more than $1 million annually.  The New York County District Attorney indicted them for “concocting and overseeing a massive effort to cook the books.”  Making it a bit easy for the prosecutors is a trail of e-mails by these perps, which included such gems as “I don’t want to cook the books anymore” and a list of “Accounting Tricks.”  Accompanying the article is a photograph of the four no-goodniks walking down the hall of the Criminal Court building.  The photo caption politely identifies them as “[f]rom left with hands folded: . . .”  Well, their hands are folded out of necessity because they are all wearing handcuffs, a departure from their usual cufflinks.

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