Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring break is over

My wife and I spent the week in Phoenix to watch my son play baseball games with his high school team on their annual spring break trip. Here are some thoughts that occurred to me on the trip, disconnected as they may be:

Phoenix is a town that seems to function reasonably well, despite the fact that it is ground zero for the mortgage/real estate bubble. Our games took us to every corner of the metro region, so I was able to get a good look at the local situation.

There were LOTS of new subdivisions with apparently vacant homes. We played a game in Goodyear, AZ, a town that looks as though it was created from scratch about three weeks ago. A great big school complex, with a baseball field next to a brand new subdivision. It was a night game, and when the sun went down, lots of the houses were dark. A telltale sign.

I was sitting next to a friend, another father on our team, who runs a large Portland based construction company. He said that Goodyear was "ground zero" of the mortgage collapse. He pointed to the subdivision, and said "Look at that - all those houses - sub-prime mortgages. No one could afford those houses but they got the loans anyway."

A strip mall nearby had a big banner flapping in the wind: "Free Rent!"

I like the city of Phoenix, because it represents everything that the Portland planning culture detests. It is car oriented, and they are serious about trying to get people moved where they want to go in the transportation method of choice: the automobile.

The prevailing attitude of the political class seems to be: "Hmmm, people will want to drive here, so let's build the road capacity to make it possible." This as opposed to Metro's attitude, which is: "How do WE, the planners, want people to get around? Let's make it uncomfortable to do it any other way."

Spring break in Phoenix means spring training baseball. We saw the Mariners play the Dodgers in the new Dodgers/White Sox facility, Camelback Ranch Stadium. Great place to watch a game. We saw Manny Ramirez hit a bomb. Spring training games are more fun to watch than regular season games, because the environment is so much more intimate and relaxed. Less hassle getting in and out, and much easier to be close to the ball field.

I also got a chance to play golf. My good buddy former Blazer Terry Porter recently joined the ranks of the "unemployed," and he treated me to a round at his club, the Arizona Country Club. Terrific golf course. Terry's golf game has come a long way since the days I played with him in the mid 1990's when he lived here. Give a world class athlete the time to develop an athletic skill like golf, especially a guy like Terry, who is methodical and serious in his approach - and he's going to get good.

Terry is now about a 6 or 7 handicap. He shot a 78 on this pretty darn tough course. I shot, well, higher. It was my first round of the year, in my defense. I did have more birdies than him, though!

So spring break is over, and that means:
1) the legislative session will be in full bloom. About halfway over, and so things that are going to move will start moving. I'll be fighting the OEA's plans to shut down virtual charter schooling in Oregon, and that battle is just getting heated up. Hearings start on April Fools Day.

2) The high school baseball regular season starts this week. It is my boy's last time through. I can hardly believe he is a senior. So he has already had his "last first game of the year," and now comes his "last first league game of the year," and then his "last first playoff game of the year."

In just a few short weeks he will play his last last baseball game of his high school career. I am in absolutely no hurry to watch that game.

And then he will move on. And move out. Summer baseball this summer, and then off to Duke to play baseball in the ACC, the nation's toughest baseball conference. (Sorry PAC-10, it is true. Look at the data.)

This will be his last summer at home. In Division 1 college baseball, the players are assigned a summer baseball team to play for, in a woodbat league somewhere in the country. It is not going to be easy not getting to see him play every game.

But, that is life. Spring break is over!


David Appell said...

If you really like Phoenix, you should move there. Having lived there (Tempe) and in Portland, I much, much prefer Portland. Portland's downtown is infinitely better, it has far better bars and restaurants and places of interest (Phoenix essentially has no downtown), much better bookstores, much more of a sense of community, people who actually care about where they live instead of appearing one year and moving away the next. Phoenix has essentially no mass transit. Phoenix's sprawl is the antithesis of the notion of community, which is what made this country what it once was from the very beginning and what everyone is trying to recreate, everywhere, because they miss the hell out of it.

DavidAppell's id said...

Yeah. It was communitarians that made our country great. Not conservative carpetbaggers who don't even understand what science is. Can you even name three great events in communitarian history? Quark Soup!

Matt Evans said...

Coincidentally, Rob, I was in Vegas this week for much the same reason and noticed many of the same attributes. I could not believe how easy it was to get around as the main streets are mostly 4 lanes (with a center turn lane) and are typically moving at the speed limit. They also have the weird notion that they should synchronize their traffic lights so traffic moves smoothly! I didn't spend one second stopped due to excess traffic the entire week, despite driving back from games at rush hour every day and can't remember the last time that happened in Portland. Plus Nevada is not wasting money on bike lanes virtually no one uses as Oregon does. And the economy is clearly better, despite I'm sure being down - lots of commercial construction going on of all kinds - and we didn't play a game at a high school that was more than 6 years old. Really eye-opening.

Anonymous said...

If your kid is going to play baseball for Duke, he must be some kind of baseball player. Duke is in the ACC - Carolina, Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Wake Forest. All ranked teams.

What position does he play? How did he end up at Duke? Weren't Oregon and Oregon State interested in him?

I'm no expert, but there aren't that many kids out of Oregon high schools who go on to play division 1 baseball, are there? Especially in divisions like the ACC.

So is your kid that good? Did he actually get recruited to play ball at Duke? Or is he just going to walk on and hope to play?

Anonymous said...

I would love to help fight for the charter schools, but all I know to say is;

Dear _______,
I think schools like connections accademy are important to the develpment of students and public education. The End.

Not terribly convincing. Anybody have any good online resources to beef up my understanding?

Anonymous said...

May as well get the hornets nest tea;;y buzzing.
Palos Verde, near Phoenix, is the last major electric generating facility built in the U.S. It came onstream in the early 80's and seems to be holding up well.

Goodyear AZ started out in WWII as a facility to supply cotton to be made into fabric and cord that was utilized in products Goodyear supplied in the war effort.

Me said...

Hey, you lost pal, so quit trying to pretend otherwise with the birdie count.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Me but I'm quite impressed with who you know;-)

Rob Kremer said...

OK, Mini Me, enough of you pal.

It DID matter if I had more birdies, because we were playing a skins game that had double the carryover if you won a skin with a birdie. So I made $$ on the round ... even though my score was higher than Terry's.

So there. Take that.

Me said...

You're bullying me.

Anonymous said...

Break it up boys before I have to step in. Go to your rooms.

I am Coyote said...

OK Rob I played my first golf game of the season.

Only nine holes but scored a 41 in the nasty cold weather we have been having here in eastern Washington.

I'll be back to Oregon to take you on sometime this year.

anon 11:07,
Rob may not be willing to brag. (well we CAN dream can't we? hehe)

But yes is son is THAT good.

He was recruited and plays catcher.

From what I understand of the Duke program right now they have a new BB coach and he is rebuilding. And as of a few months ago they only had two catchers in the line up and they were both Freshman.

Sooo... If you get a chance to catch some ACC baseball on TV this year there is a very good chance you will see his son play. I am a baseball nerd.

Anonymous said...

A 2006 Article about Connections Academy (Before tests & stats were available for it:)

Because Connections Academy is sourced from an out of state education management company, an OEA representative argues against virtual school saying, "I am concerned about educational decisions being influenced by the profit motive, particularly when students may wind up on the short end of those decisions."

Well, I am concerned about educational decisions being influenced by the OEA's power motive, particularly when students may wind up on the short end of those decisions.

Anonymous said...

The Connections Academy is non profit. They make the educational decisions.

They contract for professional a online curriculum and delivery system.
And it's very good. The best.

The OEA has and will support perpetual failure when it means retaining their strangle hold on public education.
And they are attacking the succesfull ORCA for the same reason.