Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Secret Adult Common Core Test Questions, Revealed!


Walter's Hot Dogs
©twmcdermott2014

Introduction of a national Common Core Math and ELA curriculum in grades 3-8, accompanied by standardized testing to gauge proficiency in it, has met strong resistance from many parents, students, teachers, and politicians. Some criticize the “nationalization” of curriculum, while others claim the states and feds did a poor job of planning, funding, and training which resulted in low test scores. Consequently, New York State decided that it might help parents of students and other adults to better understand the Common Core experience if they were able to take their very own comprehensive standardized test.

Below, is an exclusive look at some of the questions on that test.

1. The foundation of U.S. law and democracy is a document called:

             a) The Bourne Memorandum
             b)  Elvis’ Greatest Hits
             c) The Constitution
             d) Title IX

2. “Hamlet” could best be described as a reference to:

       a)  a village along the north fork of eastern Long Island
             b) a meal made with eggs in a pan, especially popular in France
             c) one of William Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays
             d)  a slice of bacon

3. Property taxes on Family Y’s new home in Village X will be $73,000 and 68% of that total is for school taxes, while the pre-transportation cost per student in Village X’s schools is $19,000. How many bedrooms could the Ys have before their taxes needed to be raised?

       a) 1.7
       b) 17
 c)   3, as long as they didn’t have bunk beds
 d)   Infinity

4. Two parallel lines form in the middle school lunchroom. One line, the organic veggie station is very short; the other line, named  “Pizza,” is very, very long. What is the formula for making those lines equal to one another?

             a) Make chef Thomas Keller the new Principal
             b) Serve only kale, broccoli, cauliflower and tofu mozzarella on pizza
             c)  Have the School Board institute a special “pizza tax”
             d) Move the school closer to “Walter’s Hot Dogs”*

5. Rising senior Dramatics star, Melinda, has already been recruited to Harvard, where she will play varsity Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, and Brecht. Since Harvard offers no Dramatics – or even athletic – scholarships, how much can Melinda earn while acting before she is disqualified from playing varsity?

a)    Zippitty Doo – Dah
b)   000000000…klahoma!
c)   Enough to buy 6 monthly Red Line passes
d)  “A Streetcar Named Nada”


6) The name of the first man on the moon was:

             a) Andy Kaufman
             b)  Louis Armstrong
             c) Michael Stipe
             d) The Man on the Moon
             e)  None of the above


7) Why is Albany the capital of New York?

             a) That’s where the money is
             b) That’s where the money was
             c)  The governor said so
             d)  Furs are making a huge comeback in China
             e)   “A” is the first letter of the alphabet

8) A synonym for or meaning of the word “testy: is:

            a) a feeling one gets after scoring lower on a test than their children did
            b) a African fly whose bite causes sleeping disease
            c)  Something to do with cricket or crickets
            d) Mood after finding that what you don’t know fills a bigger bucket than what you do know  


9) Why does February usually have only 28 days?

        a) so there’s one less snow day
        b) something to do with the Man on the Moon
        c) Because the Romans couldn’t count and had to use letters like V, I, and X. So dumb.
        d) How else could it get to 29 days in leap year?
        e) Too hard, we need much more preparation


10) Name Russia’s most important export in world markets:

        a)   Polish vodka
        b) Bank hacking services
        c)   Borscht belts
        d) Maria Sharapova
        e) Educational testing services

*Walter's is strategically located across the street from a public high school in Mamaroneck, NY. It is widely considered to serve the finest hot dogs in the universe.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Golden Days of October

©text and photos/2014twmcdermott

GreyTops VII Invitational/Oct 4
These are the golden days of October when even our biggest mistakes are ringed with sunlight. 

Elsewhere, people suffer from disease, and others rampage in the mistaken belief that the path to heaven is strewn with bodies of the vanquished ones who are not as worthy.

These things must be acknowledged, but they cannot diminish the golden days of October, when a feast shared from the back of an old station wagon, on picnic tables folded on the shining lawns of our alma maters, make Thomas Keller weep with envy.

These are the golden days of October, when grey-topped men compete in the racquet game they love, celebrating, as one more season nears its end and combining to ensure that young players in need receive a chance to play.

On a crisp September day in 1956, my father took me by the hand and we walked up the steep stairway of Forest Hills tennis stadium to take our seats. Hoad and Rosewall, and Seixas and Althea and a former Wimbledon Champion named Dick Savitt danced about the lawn that day; I was instantly and forever smitten, driven to try and recreate the moment over and over again. And so I do.

Miraculously, I partnered with Rosewall nearly 50 years later at the same place. and recently, we received last minute US Open tickets for a box directly behind the stadium court at Flushing, in the second row. The owner of the box? Dick Savitt. There are no coincidences in life. 
Weep Not

Did someone say “Too bad there are no New York teams in the postseason?”
Or “What a shame that Jeter did not get his October ending.”

I protest. Exhibit A, The baseball Giants of San Francisco; née, the New York Giants, who somehow managed to enter into the golden days – called nights in MLB and on Fox – while the Dodgers faltered, and beat the Cards 3-0 last night.

Apologies to my friends who love “dem Bums;” I too admit a certain affection due to their 1955 World Series win over the Yanks in seven, which earned me a day off from my Brooklyn Diocese school.

One more thing: a month ago tomorrow, my daughter married a Bay Area Giants fan – with access to tickets! Thank you, baseball gods.

Another summer day in 1956 my father took me by the hand and we rode the subway to the Polo Grounds station where we alighted, then walked past the orange and black tiles on the station walls, still there today, and into the ancient Polo Grounds. I can close my eyes and see the team in the same cream-colored jerseys still worn at home, and see Johnny Antonelli’s autograph clear as an October day on the team ball my father bought for me.

These are the golden days of October when the usual fog or gloom surrounding thoughts of family lift and scatter into warm golden sunlight.

And, about Jeter? Once, in 2001, when the September ashes were still floating above Manhattan, like a Greek god, he stretched October into a 32nd day. In a Series game that began on All Hallows, tied by Tino in the ninth, past midnight, Jeter took a patented inside-out poke at a ball, sending it into the right field stands to end the game, and tie the Series at 2-2.

After last at bat/still soaring
That homer proved to be only a temporary balm to the local fans, as the gods of November turned triumph into tragedy in the Arizona desert.

But,  that ball that Jeter shot with his ash bow had the glow of October, despite what the calendar said, as it soared into the night. Don’t cry for Jeter; he is still swinging and that ball is still soaring, at least in my eyes. I was there to see it in person, with the DG by my side.

These are the golden days of October in which our good deeds look even better and even our worst mistakes are ringed with sunlight.


Carpe Diem Octobribus.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Take My Password, Please

J.P. Morgan
Does the Secret Service run internet security for the banks? I ask the question since learning about hackers being able to penetrate JP Morgan Chase’s internal systems to get a glimpse at customer contact information. But, not to worry, according to the bank, the cyber-hackers only got information from 76 million households; in other words, they got over the fence and in the back door, but didn’t even make it to the Green Room.

Another big reason not to worry according to the cyber-geniuses at JPM Chase is that only names, email addresses, phone numbers, and street addresses were stolen. What a relief to know that the fine people at this 2B2F bank, the ones who have been paying billions in fines to the government for a variety of nasty goofs, if not outright fraud, didn’t give up my account numbers, password, Social Security number, or date of birth. In a statement to at least some customers on October 2, the bank said their money was “safe.” Phew!

As a customer of this august financial institution, named for one of capitalism’s grand poobahs, and once pretty tight with the Rockefeller gang, I can sleep soundly at night knowing that as of 5:16 a.m this morning my $322.23 was secure, waiting for me to buy half an iPhone 6.

I’m thinking that there must be a $350 minimum in order to have received such an alert, since I did not get one. I got zipski.

This thievery comes on the heels of an arrest by Rye NY Police in the Webster Bank robbery – we’re talking real, analog, Willie Sutton-type human robbery, folks – . It took RPD, the FBI, Westchester County and a few Connecticut police departments less than a week to arrest the perp, who confessed in a recorded interview. Maybe JPMC should give the team who caught that guy a call. Can’t hurt.

Some readers might think that I’d be more than a little upset to read about this breach of my privacy in the newspapers before hearing it from my bank; rest assured that nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, the whole affair has given me an idea.

Hack-ers
After reading about this info-heist, I decided to check my account online. And you know what? I couldn’t remember my password. Has that ever happened to you? Hah! In order to change the password, I needed to give the online genie the street name where I grew up, which I knew, but the genie obviously didn’t agree. So, I named my first school, first pet, gave my mother’s you know what. Finally, down to my last “security question,” which is probably no big deal for hackers, I struck out on the name of the city where I was born. Duh.

This happens all too frequently to me, especially when I haven’t used a particular site in a while, or even when I’ve just changed my password and can only remember the old one. In which case, of course, you have to know your password or user I.D. in order to change your password again. And, the more you change passwords, the less familiar they are and therefore even harder to recall.

Sure, there are apps available to combat this kind of thing, but who’s got the time, we’re too busy trying to access our own accounts to check our balances, foreclosure statuses, and report stolen identities.

W.S.
So, I think that the hackers may be on to a new business. I’d be happy to pay them a small fee, so I can contact them directly to get my passwords. Also, having instant access to my complete Social Security number would be a help as well, since like most people, I only know the last four digits, since that’s what I’m always asked to give when calling a bank (nobody ever seems to worry about security during phone call with somebody you’ve never met before who was vetted by the same bank!).

After all, by now these cyber-pirates, hacking away in Russia or Iran, probably know more of our passwords than we could possibly remember. And, does anyone believe that the ones trying to protect our information are smarter and craftier than these guys, or that they will tell us right away about a more serious breach?


I can only hope that, if the hackers ever do get that $322.23, that they also wipe out my $3,412 credit card balance as well. Spaseeba, boys.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

En Route, 66

Thankfully, some summer things do not change. A warm bun, a hot dog, a cold beer, for example. A morning swim in the ocean. A rainy day with no outdoor obligations and a stack of books and magazines to read. A ferry taking you to an island. The miracle of seersucker. New sneakers waiting in the morning on the floor by the bed.

The first cup still contains a teaspoon of hope, even as the newspaper of choice  in our hand is far less than a shell of its former self; in fact, it has become a very stale pain quotidien. Media-ocrity is a sin. Still, it's there and we cling.

Somewhere a lobster fisherman lifts a trap off Mount Desert for another's supper, teenagers load the farm stand table on Siasconset Road with sweet corn, and the first real tomatoes begin to grace the Montauk Highway stands .

Meanwhile, the home team hits a homer, Van Morrison wants "to be born again," and in the evening Erroll plays soft, Oscar plays impossibly fast, and Nat rides Route 66 one more time in a voice and style that Chuck Berry couldn't catch in a Speedster running at 4,500 rpm.

There are plenty of top down days with the wind messing the hair, the radio off, and the sound of the five-speed engine humming on the steep climb on to I-95. Big rigs respectfully make room in a way that, sadly, Mercedes never will.

Is there anything that says summer more than blue hydrangeas? Nasturtium leaves, the aroma of privet, and a Bob White's call come to mind.

And then, there is always an outdoor shower late in the afternoon with the breeze coming up, and the "no service" on the phone.


If you have any lingering doubts about this summer, one word for you: Jeter.

It turns out that a sixty-seventh summer is a pretty good one, a graduation behind us, a wedding ahead.

An aspirin in the morning, a Lipitor at night; Van crooning, "everything gonna be alright."

Or, as Marley wrote in one of his psalms, "Who the cap fit, let them wear it."





Monday, July 21, 2014

The Dan's Papers Story: Love and Loss in "The Hamptons"

©2014twmcdermott

Rogers Beach Club, Westhampton
When I first heard someone talk about a "Hampton," I was still too young to know how adults could use the secret language of summer places to register people socially. Each “Hampton” signified something or other about a friend or their family. For those headed to Southhampton, it was definitely a money and gin & tonics on the porch kind of thing. Westhampton evoked something simpler, people who liked the beach and disliked longer drives. Quogue? What’s a Quogue?

Back in the 50s and early 60s, when I was growing up in Forest Hills, the locals who spent their summers on eastern Long Island never referred to a place called “The Hamptons.” Instead, they told friends they were going to particular places, East Hampton, Westhampton Beach. And, those friends didn’t go weak at the knees believing the lucky few might be hobnobbing with Hollywood or Wall Street.

My earliest encounter with the area still connects me to feelings of loneliness and loss. My best friend, Kurt, spent the summer in a house close-by Rogers Beach Club in Westhampton. At home, he lived in an apartment at one end of a long first floor hallway, and I at the other. He was my older almost-brother by a mere 17 June days. Within a week after school closed, he was gone for the summer.

                    _________________________________________

When I was six or seven, my own family spent summers at the farm where my maternal grandfather had lived as a boy, in Matawan, New Jersey. You want to get a universe away from Hampton life? Try an old farmhouse with two small barns on Texas Road; up the hill from the railroad and the proverbial roosters who woke me early, circa 1955. And the saltwater pool where my mother drove us to go swimming bore little relation to Kurt’s Dune Road.

There were no other kids around our “farm,” except my sisters, and they did not play ball or understand comic books; they had not mastered the art of hopping about while making galloping noises with your tongue and holding the reins of a broomstick horse between your legs. They had no clue about Hopalong, Wild Bill, or the Lone Ranger.

While Kurt was lazily walking 100 yards or so for an after-cereal ocean dip, I spent my Texas Road days with a gallop, lying in my pup tent upon pine needles, reading comics. Or, sometimes I played with my land turtles captured in the blackberry field where my sister and I squatted to you know what when the old house’s plumbing quit, a not infrequent occurrence.

Matawan Station
At summer’s end, when Kurt returned, I listened to his summer tales told in his raspy voice. Mostly we talked about Little League games he played. He convinced me that one boy had been born with three eyes and you could still see the scar in the middle of his forehead where it was removed. I still  remember the boy’s name – Jay Beaton – Jay, if you’re reading this, true story or not, apologies for bringing it up.

_____________________________________________________


At long last, we discontinued our farm trips after much lobbying by me and my older sister. We began spending the summer at the beach clubs of Atlantic Beach, at the extreme opposite end of Long Island from Westhampton. One year, Kurt and his family returned home at mid-summer – his mother, Meg, had TB or maybe cancer.

The year we turned 13, Kurt’s mother died, and I think he stopped going to Westhampton shortly after that. Maybe his heartbroken dad, a big man who wore small bow ties with his suit, simply couldn’t bare it. Nobody explained that kind of thing to kids then.

But, a couple of years later when we were in high school, his aunt invited a few of his friends, including me, to stay at her rented house on Cox’s Curve Road in Westhampton.

Driving on Montauk Highway with my own family these days, I cannot resist calling out some of the stations the way that conductor did on our teenage  journey out east. I did it again with only my wife in the car recently. “Speeeooonk!” “Ronnnnkooonnkkaamaaaa!” Walt Whitman, eat your heart out.

                    ____________________________________

There was a little croquet club on Cox’s Curve Road when we were teens. But, we weren’t much interested in croquet after discovering that club members living there had teenage daughters; we became very interested in them.

One day, we rented a small boat in Hampton Bays, a rowboat really with a small engine, and took it through the Shinnecock Canal. Quite an adventure, for city boys who knew nothing about boats or the difference between bay and ocean currents.

I knew even less about the currents flowing through me whenever I saw a certain one of those girls, an Upper East Side private school heartthrob if there ever was one.

I immediately fell overboard in love, and upon my return home would call her nearly every night from a pay phone, since I was too embarrassed to use our family phone. Her father conveyed a long sigh over the phone line to my corrugated booth, from where I could hear him call her in from the croquet lawn to speak with me.

The highlight of that first Hamptons’ trip, besides the girl, was seeing “Dr. No” at the cinema in town. After that, life pretty much became Before and After Ursula.

I managed exactly two “dates” with my summer love, one during that same summer when she had “things to do in town,” and I give thanks to her for introducing me to the Met and for a memorable, for me, modest kiss. The other took place in the fall, a birthday celebration for her friend whose parents took me and another boy for dinner at the tony Embers restaurant in the East 50s. Before, during, and after dinner she spoke not a word to me, sitting there in my best DePinna madras jacket and knit tie. I could tell that her friend was kicking her under the table. Some summers do end. With a thud.

____________________________________________________

My other summer love had been tennis, discovered when I was eight with my first taste of the “Nationals,” the Open’s forerunner, which took place at West Side Tennis Club, whose entrance was 50 yards from my bedroom.

After Wimbledon, a number of men’s and women’s satellite grass tournaments took place, including ones at Maidsone in East Hampton or Meadow Club in Southhampton.

I especially remember reading about and imagining events at Meadow Club, a place that seemed geographically and socially beyond reach to me. I could imagine the girls of August, and the Triumphs and Morgans parked beside the tall privet hedges. The girls, of course, wore cotton summer dresses, perhaps with a bright cardigan or a Shetland tied around their tan shoulders. I imagined them having club sandwiches or consommé Madrilène for lunch on the porch, drinking Gin & Tonics by the bar in the evening with their parents or boyfriends after play had ended for the day.

In September, after returning home to the city or Greenwich or Far Hills, they would come to the Nationals, and I would see them sitting on the West Side’s slate terrace, wandering the field courts, and sitting in the boxes.

______________________________________________________

In 1990, a year after beginning a new job, my boss invited my family to her house in Bridgehampton, on Pointe Mecox.

Sadly, the year before, Kurt was tragically killed in an accident outside Candlestick Park near San Francisco. He and I had renewed our friendship shortly before the accident and, returning to the Hamptons still reminded me of him and his stories.

Meadow Club

Ro, my boss, and her husband, Charles, had just bought their second home in the area. The new one was truly spectacular, with open views across the inlet and out to the ocean. The kitchen had a long marbled counter and was huge by my family’s standards; Ro had every inch of the refrigerator packed, and then some. My kids were immediately smitten with Ro and Charles, their house, and pool. This, at last, was the real Hamptons.

Charles had a shop in town called Country Gear, which we loved to visit, and I also loved riding a bicycle over to the Sag Store. I am incapable now of visiting the East End without thinking about Kurt and those wonderful days with Ro, who died a few years ago, and Charles.
      ________________________________________________


In late June this year, my wife and I attended a wedding in Quogue. Once again, it was summer love at first sight: the seaside church, the little Q44 shop run by a friend, the Field Club on a clear, warm, dry summer day, an iced tea at the Country Market.

I immediately decided to live there, although it wasn’t exactly clear how I would do that.

Quogue seems like a kind of un-Hampton. Hard to imagine Hillary, Spielberg, or The Donald venturing west of the canal. Quogue seems like the perfect summer solution.

I’ve never heard anyone from Quogue say they were going to “The Hamptons.”