So, here we are, deep in our summer yawn. The days seem positively fluid -- made of a liquid that evaporates just as you start to get the flavor.
Have the boys really played 84 games? The All-Star Game is really next week? Only 171 shopping days until Christmas? Can it be?
Back Up -- I Repeat: Back Up
Nobody thinks it will happen to them, but hard drives crash. Really, they do. You can't predict it. You can't prevent it.
If you have a back-up, it's a gigantic hassle. If you don't have a back-up, it's a catastrophe. Most people probably don't have as much critical data as I have (about 1.2TB at any given time), but I bet there's something on your system that you wouldn't want to live without.
My crash happened very quickly, but there were warning signs that I did not recognize. A couple of weeks before giving up the ghost, I heard a weird rattle. Rattles are not unusual because I used a pretty cheap case when I built the system, and there always seems to be something coming loose. But when I think back on this particular rattle, I should have realized what was about to happen.
Soon every operation started to take a little longer. I thought it must be some sort of malware, or maybe the result of that Windows Update I did. The drive would spin and spin, and the system would be hung for a moment. It had never been this slow. I started trying to root out the likely suspects, but found nothing out of order.
Then one night last week, everything got much slower all of a sudden. I went to bed frustrated, but with a light schedule the next day, which I figured would allow me plenty of time for diagnosis. The next morning, after trying a few things and getting nowhere, I was fed up and decided to undo some recent changes. One of those actions required a reboot. I hate rebooting, and only do it when absolutely necessary. And this one was a killer.
The message was cryptic, white letters on a blue screen, but not like any other BSD I've ever seen. It claimed to not be able to load the registry. I was calm, but almost instantly I knew what had happened.
I'll spare you the description of the final moments of this particular system drive, and the days and days of reloading everything from scratch. After 10 days, I'm only about 70% back to where I need to be. But my system is much zippier now -- a silver lining.
But the only reason I can tell this story without crying is because I had a back-up of almost everything. The pieces I don't have were mostly due to small errors in how I set up the back-up software, and a couple of decisions I made intentionally (and now regret) to control the size.
When a hard drive dies, your first thought isn't about how to fix the problem. It's about just what you may have lost. I nearly panicked when I realized that all of our digital photos were on that drive. But the panic passed quickly.
If you don't have a current back-up, stop reading now and do one!
Brief Update (Updated on July 7 to add some links.)
I took some time tonight and drove down to the construction site. First Avenue was hopping (the street AND the club). In fact, the downtown side of Target Center was just crawling with tank tops and tattoos. It was really possible to imagine this life oozing around Footstool and over Freeway.
Life in the shadows
There was some life to be found on the back side of the arena, albeit not the type you really want to find. The dark alcoves on Target Center's west side held some surprises for the casual pedestrian. I'm sure the quickening of my step was easily perceptible to those who eyed me from the deep shadows. I stuck with the skyway for the return trip.
At the site, it looks like much dirt has been moved, though much of the activity has happened where the parking lot will be. The actual playing field area is still mostly asphalt. Third Avenue is pretty much gone, as is the hill which separated it from the parking lot.
Over on Fifth Street, a new abutment is about to be built which allows the railroad tracks to be relocated. Then work on splitting the rest of the bridge will get underway.
The elevators in the parking ramps have little updates on construction which are pretty succinct in summarizing what's going on. You can also read these online at ABC-Ramps.com.
Looking up Seventh Street (click to see what it looked like from the same spot in 1950)
If you've been following the coverage of the condemnation hearings, you know that there is a very interesting deal in place between Land Partners II and the developer Hines Interests that was struck just after the ink dried on the legislation which created this project.
News reports say that LPII is guaranteed $25 million from Hines, regardless of what amount the county actually pays. In other words, the county really isn't buying the land from LPII at all -- but from Hines. This explains a whole lot.
Just ask yourself a few questions:
1. Why would LPII enter such a deal?
Basically, it looks like they are going to be splitting the proceeds from the land sale with someone else. Why would they do that? Without Hines, all of the proceeds from the sale would go to LPII. With Hines, LPII gets $25 million plus 77.5% (corrected, per the Strib) of anything over that amount. They are sure to get less than the full amount if it comes in over $25 million, but more than the full amount if it comes in less than $25 million.
So, by entering this deal, they've created a safe floor for their investors, reducing their risk while also partially cashing in if the ceiling turns out to be in the stratosphere.
2. Why would Hines enter such a deal?
They have no interest in developing the land. In fact, they will never touch the land at all. But they will make money if the final amount is over that $25 million. And the farther over, the more they make. Ah, the pieces are starting to fall into place.
3. What does Hines have that LPII doesn't have?
Expertise at maximizing land value in condemnation proceedings, and a ton of expensive lawyers.
So, maybe I'm the last one in town to figure this out, but what's essentially going on here is that LPII has hired Hines Interests to shake down the county for as much money as they can get. It explains why the land deal couldn't happen earlier, and why the asking price is so high.
Hines Interests is speculating here, and they may be doing it with Hennepin County taxpayer money (the county is on the hook for Hines's legal fees if the final amount is more than 40% greater than the county's initial offer). LPII, for their part, can pretty much sit back and watch how it turns out -- which is exactly what they've done since signing with Hines.
Despite what LPII's mouth-pieces claim, the revelation of this deal explains -- and is darn near proof -- that LPII did no negotiating with the county and never intended to. They hired Hines for one reason and one reason only: to get the most money possible out of the condemnation proceedings. They may be a bunch of billionaires or little old ladies (or both), but that's pretty sleazy if you ask me.
Oh, I almost forgot, that's how you get to be a billionaire...
I've written here many times that you can't fault LPII for trying to get top dollar for their land -- and I truly believe this. It's the American way. But I'll be frank and tell you that I think this technique stinks. It's the very definition of "negotiating" in bad faith. And it's quite possible that the county had no idea something like this might be in the works -- or just chose not to believe it was a possibility -- because LPII played the part of eager sellers for so long. The county may have seemed hapless, but now I believe they probably were intentionally duped.
Well, you live and learn. Actually, this City Pages article from 2005 seems to indicate that this all could have been predicted. Clearly, government entities are nowhere near as nimble or savvy or cold as Big Money. This much, at least, is not a surprise.
A final question: Why should we care?
Well, it's pretty academic from a ballpark fan's perspective. The park will get built, and it'll probably be spectacular. The infrastructure limit in the law is a complication, and the Twins certainly have placed some sort of limit on how much they'll pay for the overage. But there will have to be sidewalks.
The plaza could be in jeopardy, as could the pedestrian bridge over I-394. Losing either of these would be a shame, but not fatal.
I did a little digging in the project budget, and discovered that the Ballpark Authority currently expects land acquisition to cost $23 million. I would love to see this amount stick -- and thereby stick it to Hines.
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3033 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
The entry from the platform to the ballpark.
A place to sit (does it look like a pitcher's mound to you?)
Two train stations
If you want, you can ask those folks how the game is going -- and even get a little bit of info from the big screen (Grandstand)
From about two blocks away you can finally get an idea of what it looks like. Just to my left (but out of view) was a valet parking stand where a limo was idling.
Artist at work
You can't get there from here.
The back gates at Comerica park, like everything else, a bit overwrought.
Site plan for the new Nationals ballpark, with the size of the Rapid Park site overlaid
Lunch break at the top spot. (Grandstand)
Click to enlarge.
Open house skeptics
Click to enlarge.
Detail on the main gate, with Target Field sign
At the end of the balcony you can see down the promenade.
The outline of an infield has appeared on the asphalt in advance of the ground-breaking on Thursday night.