Ballparks & Time
(First published on 4/10/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter — more)
Off to the home opener for the San Francisco Giants today. Not sure how many of you have been to AT&T Park, but it’s an absolutely beautiful place to watch a game. And what’s sort of crazy to me is that it’s 17 years old (tomorrow is the anniversary of its first game in 2000, in fact), but it still feels brand new. This is not the case at most ballparks/stadiums.
The new norm these days seems to be to build new ballparks and/or stadiums every 25 years or so. Which is crazy when you think about how long it actually takes to build them and how much money they cost (and most of the time with taxpayers paying, no less). And yet all the best ballparks, beyond AT&T and a few others, are insanely old — Fenway, Wrigley, etc. Sure, they’ve been updated over the years, but Fenway is 105 years old!
Can you imagine any ballpark built in the past 25 years being around in another 75? Maybe AT&T Park, but I highly doubt it. Camden Yards in Baltimore is now 25 years old (and kicked off a new ballpark renaissance) and seemingly going strong. But nothing seems to last anymore…
Aside: we’re now into the era where ballparks that were sponsored from day one are becoming the elder statesmen. AT&T Park started as Pacific Bell (PacBell) Park, then was briefly SBC Park, then became AT&T thanks to the magic of telecom M&A. This sucks. It just sounds icky to talk about the majesty of AT&T Park. Plus, sponsoring companies tend to fade perhaps even faster than the ballparks themselves do. All ballparks should have original names they fall back upon if/when sponsors change.
As our own government rushes to prop up coal — coal! — power, Nick Miroff looks at how far Chile is going to embrace solar:
It wasn’t because of a government subsidy for alternative energy. In Chile and a growing list of nations, the price of solar energy has fallen so much that it is increasingly beating out conventional sources of power. Industry experts and government regulators hail this moment as a turning point in the history of human electricity-making.
“This is the beginning of a trend that will only accelerate,” said Chilean Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo. “We’re talking about an infinite fuel source.”
The country derives about 6 percent of its energy from solar, but the potential of the Atacama is so great that Chile could generate all of its electricity with about 4 percent of the desert’s surface area, if there were a way to efficiently store and distribute that energy.
“We’ve been thinking for so long that we’re poor in energy resources, but we’re really rich,” said Rodrigo Mancilla, who leads a commission on solar power at Chile’s Ministry of Energy.
There’s talk of the country becoming a “solar Saudi Arabia” which is fascinating to think about. Just as oil transformed that country and others (like Norway), what if the sun is the next catalyst for such change?
Also, this is awesome:
A company looking to bridge this gap in Chile is building Latin America’s first solar thermal plant. You can see its solitary tower rising from the desert for miles around, like some sort of alien religious shrine. At nearly 700 feet, it is the second-tallest building in Chile.
Instead of PV panels, the solar thermal plant will have 10,000 giant, rotating mirrors set in concentric circles around the tower. They will concentrate the sun’s rays on a huge boiler at the top, filled with molten salts, that reaches more than 1,000 degrees and glows like the Eye of Sauron in “The Lord of the Rings.”
The treaty — setting the price at $7.2 million, or about $125 million today — was negotiated and signed by Eduard de Stoeckl, Russia’s minister to the United States, and William H. Seward, the American secretary of state. It was mostly considered beneficial to both countries, but some critics derided it as “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox” — and even now, scholars debate whether it was a bargain.
Crazy to think there is a debate about this. The strategic implications alone. From the mouth of Crimean prime minister Sergey Aksyonov:
“If Russia was in possession of Alaska today, the geopolitical situation in the world would have been different.”
Nicholas St. Fleur spoke to Bezos about his goals here:
“If we can make access to space low-cost, then entrepreneurs will be unleashed,” he said. “You will see creativity, you will see dynamism, you will see the same thing in space that I’ve witnessed on the internet in the last 20 years.”
Money has officially met mouth. Awesome.
Much of the modern global economy depends on sand. Most of it pours into the construction industry, where it is used to make concrete and asphalt. A smaller quantity of fine-grade sand is used to produce glass and electronics, and, particularly in America, to extract oil from shale in the fracking industry. No wonder, then, that sand and gravel are the most extracted materials in the world. A 2014 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates they account for up to 85% by weight of everything mined globally each year.
Sand often makes up the very ground that is built on, too. By virtue of dumping vast quantities of sand into the sea, Singapore is now over 20% larger than it was when it became independent in 1965. China and Japan have reclaimed even greater swathes of land, and China has outraged global opinion by building artificial islands on disputed rocks in the South China Sea. Elsewhere, reclamation has been an unhappy necessity: the Maldives and Kiribati have had to counter rising sea levels by taking sand from smaller islands or the seabed to shore up larger ones. As sea levels rise further, and urban populations swell — the UN predicts a rise of almost 1bn by 2030 — sand will be even more sought after.
The Singapore stat is absolutely insane. 20%?!
WSJ on Bugatti’s new Chiron — the $3 million car:
It’s hard to put words to the sensation of a 2-ton luxury automobile’s accelerating from repose to 186 mph (300 km/h) in 13.6 seconds — about as long it takes most people to read this sentence aloud. It’s like getting hit by a freight train, if Hermès made freight trains. This is the adult entertainment that Bugatti panders to the jaded .1%: scarcely believable, barely endurable blasts of acceleration, clutching spasms of delta-v that are both pleasure and pain, traumatic and orgasmic.
And at the moment when the jeweled clock-face speedometer passes 300 km/h — a moment of tunnel vision, mild vertigo and panicky laughter — the car is still traveling two-thirds of its maximum speed.
I’m not much of a car guy myself, but wow.
Sports is one of the big draws of traditional television, and YouTube TV has placed a special emphasis on organizing this content. You can select your favorite teams or leagues and the service will bundle these into folders so you can easily hop in and find recent matches. Once you let YouTube TV know your favorite league or team, it will also save all games to your DVR, no matter what channel it appears on. Since a lot of the experience is personalized around what you save and search for, YouTube TV offers six individually personalized accounts and three concurrent streams with your monthly subscription. That’s about the middle of the pack: Sony Vue offers five concurrent streams, DirecTV Now offers two, and Sling offers between one and four streams depending on the package you purchase.
I’ve played with basically all of these cable-replacement bundles. YouTube TV is by far the most well made — including, notably, the iOS app, which is excellent. The auto-DVR stuff is just fantastic. It knows I like the San Francisco Giants, so it auto-records all the games it finds. But no pressure to watch, they’re all just stored in the cloud to pull down later if I choose to. This is how this should work.
Thom Holwerda on the recent vaporware Mac Pro weirdness:
What made Apple do a 180? Well, after the announcement of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, orders for refurbished “old” MacBook Pros supposedly went through the roof, and after the initial batch of reviews came out, they shot up even higher. This response to the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar took Apple completely by surprise. Combined with the problems surrounding the LG UltraFine 5K display and the constant negativity from professional Apple users, the company decided to double down on professional users.
As Apple announced, we’ll be getting a new Mac Pro and an iMac Pro as a result. In addition, Apple is said to be exploring additional Retina MacBook Pro models without the Touch Bar, and other pro-oriented features, such as hooking an iPad Pro up to a Mac to use it as a Cintiq-like device.
Right now, the Touch Bar is a misstep. It’s not bad, but it’s worse than not great: it’s fairly useless. The company obviously has other tricks up its sleeve to try to make it useful, but it’s hard to imagine what those will be…
At last, competition is doing what competition is supposed to do: drive down prices inflated over the years for bullshit reasons. Because you have to pay.
Fascinating look into the notion that cars may be altering evolution — because birds with small brains keep getting killed by them….
Jim Koch, of Sam Adams, argues that the big beer monopolies are destroying the market. It is crazy how big the two largest players are, and growing…
Thoughts on social networks in our age of app inundation…
(First published on 4/10/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)