May 1, 2021 • 1HR 5M

ATLsherpa: May 2021

May 2021 Podcast + Newsletter from ATLsherpa

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Long-form articles & podcasts about Atlanta's history, culture and more. Premium content is denoted with a "lock" icon under the title.
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ATLsherpa is an educational podcast & newsletter for people who would like to know Atlanta on a deeper, more meaningful level. My mission is to help you connect with ATL’s past, present, and future. Steve Saenz, ATLsherpa


MUSIC CREDIT: The song you just heard was Peace Train (now also a children’s book) by Cat Stevens. It was the tenth and final track on his Teaser and the Firecat album, which was released in 1971, the same year that Amtrak started service.

In This Issue

Listener Tip: The audio [start times] for each section are provided in brackets below. That makes it easier for you to jump around and zero in on the stories and topics that interest you most…
  1. The Story of May Day: It’s “Complicated” [5:45]

  2. Happy 50th Anniversary, Amtrak! [12:30]

  3. Meet Me this Sunday at the Sherpa Café [27:00]

  4. Big Ideas 2021 [28:30]

  5. Road Trip! Humboldt @ Smithsonian [43:10]

  6. Transformative Development News [47:20]

  7. Explore More: Links + online resources you should know about… [1:03:10]

The Story of May Day: It’s “Complicated” [5:45]

Did you know that May Day has its roots in astronomy? It’s the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice! In ancient times, this was one of the Celtic ‘cross-quarter’ days, which mark the midway points between the four solstices and equinoxes of the year.

In early days, May Day was also important in agriculture. Springtime celebrations filled with dance and song hailed the sown fields, which were starting to sprout. Cattle were driven to pasture and special bonfires were lit. Both doors of houses and livestock were decorated with yellow May flowers.

“May Day” has many connotations and is associated with a number of traditions. My personal favorite is the May Day Basket. People would leave a paper basket or cone with spring flowers (usually anonymously) to brighten up someone’s day. This tradition was popular through the 19th and 20th centuries, especially with children or sweethearts. The custom was to knock on the door, yell, “May basket!,” and then run. If the recipient caught the giver, he or she was entitled to a kiss.

Later, celebrations evolved to speak more to the “bringing in the May” with the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, the weaving of floral garlands, the crowning of a May king and queen, and the setting up of a decorated May tree, or Maypole, around which people danced. Such rites originally may have been intended to ensure fertility for crops and, by extension, for livestock and humans, but in most cases this significance was gradually lost, so that the practices survived largely as popular festivities. Source: Farmer’s Almanac

International Workers' Day

On a more somber note, the first of May is also known as, International Workers’ Day. In the late 19th Century, May Day became associated with workers’ rights during the Industrial Revolution, when thousands of working men, women and even children died annually due to harsh conditions. Laborers commonly worked 10-16 hours per work days in unsafe environments, according to the Industrial Workers of the World.

During a Chicago convention in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, which become known as the American Federation of Labor (AFL), proclaimed that a legal work day would be eight hours starting on May 1, 1886. On that day, 40,000 workers in Chicago and more than 300,000 laborers from 13,000 businesses across the U.S. staged walkouts, with the proclamation backed by the country's biggest labor organization at the time, the Knights of Labor. Source: Newsweek

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

Last, but not least, the word “Mayday” is used internationally as a distress signal in voice-procedure radio communications. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by aviators and mariners, but in some countries local organizations such as firefighters, police forces, and transportation organizations also use the term. Convention requires that the word be repeated three times in a row during the initial emergency declaration — "Mayday Mayday Mayday" — to prevent it being mistaken for some similar-sounding phrase under noisy conditions, and to distinguish an actual mayday call from a message about a mayday call.

Mayday Celebrations in Atlanta

Happy 50th, Amtrak! [12:30 ]

The history of Atlanta dates back to 1836, when Georgia decided to build a railroad to the U.S. Midwest and a location was chosen to be the line's terminus. The stake marking the founding of "Terminus" was driven into the ground in 1837, which was called the Zero Mile Post. For this reason, I thought you might enjoy this train story…

Amtrak service was launched May 1, 1971 — 50 years ago today — when its first train rolled out of New York City bound for Philadelphia. The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak’s original corporate name ) consolidated 20 different private passenger railroads into a single national network.

Today, Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations across 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces: Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. Amtrak trains ride on more than 21,400 miles of rail.
The 2-minute video below talks about Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary…

Traveling By Rail

The romance of railroading has directly influenced the history of America since 1830 when the steam engine "Tom Thumb" pulled the first passenger car 13 miles from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mill, Maryland.

Today's railroad cars have come a long way since the first one in 1830. The initial "stage coach" type of passenger car quickly gave way to the double-track car that was the four runner of those we know today. Soon many of the larger cities along the Atlantic seaboard were visited by the travelers who arrived on the "exotic cars," as they were called.

The first passenger sleeping car was introduced on what was then known as the Cumberland Valley Railroad. It provided three tiers of bunks on one side of the car for weary passengers desiring a few hours' sleep while traveling between Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and points in the Cumberland Valley region of Pennsylvania and Maryland.

In 1856 George Mortimer Pullman gave his name to a new type upper and lower berth sleeping car. In 1859 he introduced an all-steel version that was a major contributor to railway passenger safety.

By 1850, railroads linked the Atlantic Coast with the Great Lakes; Chicago came in the line in 1853, and the rails stretched all the way from New York to the western side of the Mississippi River by 1856.

By Acts of Congress in 1862 and 1864, the construction of the first transcontinental railroad was undertaken. It was completed on May 10, 1869 when the Union Pacific running westward from Nebraska, and the Central Pacific coming eastward from California met at Promontory Point, Utah for the famous Golden Spike ceremony.

Photos, going clockwise and starting in the upper left: The new Acela Train from Amtrak + interior of a Pullman car + Civil War photo + Tom Thumb steam engine + Cumberland Valley Railroad + passengers boarding Amtrak train

On long trips, passengers were required to change trains at several junction points, because of different track widths (gauge) which made through car service impossible. This inconvenience was eliminated in the 1880's when "standard gauge" of 4'-8 1/2" between the rails was adopted. Air brakes were patented by George Westinghouse in 1872, and were incorporated as standard equipment on passenger cars a few years later.

Starting with the American Civil War, which military historians sometimes call "the first railroad war," the nation's rail network became a major factor in military logistics. During the Spanish American and both World Wars, tremendous amounts of material and millions of troops were moved efficiently by train. During World War I the Federal Government assumed control of the nation's railroads, and directed their operation through the United States Railroad Administration. The railroads were returned to their owners in 1920.

A new chapter in railroad history began when the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK) — a quasi-public corporation, dedicated to providing modern, efficient, attractive service, began operating the nation's passenger railroads on May 1, 1971.

As the nation moves toward tomorrow, new high speed ground transportation will supplement today's trains. The Department of Transportation is currently testing new modes of propulsion such as the linear induction motor, and a tracked air cushioned vehicle capable of speeds up to 300 miles per hour. Passenger car interiors and exteriors are being redesigned to permit easier boarding and exit as well as great comfort, safety, and convenience of passengers.

Sometimes regarded as an outmoded, vestigial form of transportation, doomed to extinction, the nation's passenger railroads, like the fabled Phoenix, have started to rise again from the ashes of the past to become a key element in the nation's balanced transportation system of tomorrow. Source: Amtrak Historical Society

Connecting this story to Atlanta’s past, present & future…

Much of the expansion [proposed in the 2021 Infrastructure Bill] would come in areas of the South and West, with new rail lines connecting cities like Nashville and Atlanta, Houston and Dallas, and bringing back service between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Source: Forbes

Meet me this Sunday at the Sherpa Café [27:00]

  • Weekly “mini-podcast” for premium subscribers and Sherpa Club members

  • Sunday morning musings delivered by email

  • Episode #4: The African-American Experience, Part I — LISTEN NOW

Episode #4 of the Sherpa Café talks about the African-American Experience that has shaped and continues to shape Atlanta. Click in the image to listen to the podcast.

“Your Sunday morning essays are just wonderful! I’m enjoying all of them. Thank you so much for your exhausting research and the sharing of Atlanta’s history.” — Holly

Listen to the Sherpa Café

Big Ideas: Window to the Future [28:30]

What is this important and what does it have to do with ATL?

Please make time to get acquainted with Cathie Wood and the work (research) she and her team are doing at ARK Invest. This has huge implications for businesses, careers, cities, investing — pretty much everything. Regardless of who you are or where you are in life — business owner, corporate leader, elected official, individual investor, parent, grandparent — you need to understand this. The key takeaway is that the rate and scale (magnitude) of technological change are far greater than most people realize. The future will arrive much sooner than people think and it will catch most people by surprise. Most people, businesses and cities are not ready for this. This will result in massive disruption and the elimination of millions of jobs. This will put even more pressure on the most vulnerable (anyone who is unprepared) and make it virtually impossible for them to survive, much less thrive, in the Digital Age. Please make time to get your brain around this. Share it with your friends, families, colleagues, etc.

The ARK Invest “Big Ideas 2021” Report is a must-read! Click on image to download the entire slide presentation.

Key Points…

  • Rate and scale of change is far greater than most people realize

  • This includes individuals, business leaders, elected public officials — everyone

  • “You want to be on the right side of change!” — Cathie Wood

  • Disruptive technology will eliminate millions of jobs

  • Many of those will be jobs held by the most vulnerable (“frontline workers”)

  • Make sure you understand the distinction she makes between “good deflation” vs. “bad deflation” (this is huge)

  • The convergence of various technology platforms is making it difficult for “traditional” research teams to understand the implications — they are multi-dimensional and wide-ranging

  • ATLANTA is a tech & innovation hub (Apple, Google, Microsoft). As such, it will be one of the epicenters of this disruption and change.

  • In many ways it will drive this change. At the same time, those who do not have the technical skills to complete in the Digital Age (the most vulnerable already) will be hurt, making the income / wealth gap even greater.

  • Advancements in AI, AV and EV will have major implications for transit systems. Those responsible making multi billion, multi-decade capital expenditure (CapEx) decisions need to understand these new technologies! The price of “being wrong” will be huge.

In this 38-minute video, Cathie Wood and Brett Winton break down our latest Big Ideas Report and discuss which companies are likely to thrive in the coming years (and why). They highlight some of the areas where ARK believes jobs are going to be lost and where jobs are going to be created in the future. We all should be prepared for this technologically enabled change—Brett and Cathie aim to provide some guidance, so tune in!

Download 2021 Big Ideas Report

Road Trip! Humboldt @ Smithsonian [43:10]

If you’re up for a little “road trip” I have an idea you might like... In June, I’ll be heading up to Washington D.C. to see an exhibition called, Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture. It opens on May 14 and runs through July 11, 2021 and will be held at at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Who the heck was Humboldt, you ask?

Alexander von Humboldt was arguably the most important naturalist of the 19th century. Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture places American art squarely in the center of a conversation on Humboldt’s lasting influence on the way we think about our relationship to our environment. Humboldt’s quest to understand the universe—his concern for climate change, his taxonomic curiosity centered on New World species of flora and fauna, and his belief that the arts were as important as the sciences for conveying the resultant sense of wonder in the interlocking aspects of our planet—make this a project evocative of how art illuminates some of the issues central to our relationship with nature and our stewardship of this planet. The 35-minute video below explains…

Explorer Tip: If you’re REALLY in for an adventure, you can take the Amtrak Crescent Train from ATL to DC. The northbound train departs at 8:04PM and arrives at 9:53 the next morning. The southbound train departs DC at 6:30PM and arrives in ATL at 8:13 the next morning.

Transformative Development News [47:20]

  1. Microsoft pays $3m to add 1.4 acres to its Atlanta campus (Data Centre Dynamics)

  2. Microsoft buys 125-acre site in Fulton County, Georgia (Data Centre Dynamics)

  3. New City Buys 19-Acre Site Near Future Microsoft Campus (BisNow)

  4. Fresh renderings, timeline emerge for Krog Street Market expansion (Urbanize Atlanta)

  5. New renderings, groundbreaking detail downtown's $5B Centennial Yards (Urbanize Atlanta)

  6. Wild Leap Set to Open New Downtown Atlanta Taproom (Wild Leap)

  7. Underground Atlanta sales price suggests its value only took small hit (AJC)

  8. Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. Publishes Request for Proposals for the Purchase and Redevelopment of Murphy Crossing (Atlanta Beltline)

  9. Atlanta BeltLine Design and Construction Updates: March 2021 (Atlanta Beltline)

  10. Atlanta BeltLine and PATH Foundation to Collaborate on Northwest Trail (Atlanta Beltline)

  11. Redevelopment of SW Atlanta factory complex to launch next week (Urbanize Atlanta)

  12. Los Angeles Group Buys Massive Atlanta Blackhall Studio Complex For $120M (BisNow)

Microsoft currently operates more than 200 data centers across 34 countries. The company this week said it will be building 50 to 100 new data centers each year for the foreseeable future, and is expecting to add facilities in at least 10 more countries in calendar 2021. Source: Data Centre Dynamics

Explore More: Links + online resources resources you should know about… [1:03:10]

  1. What is May Day? (Farmer’s Almanac)

  2. The Brief Origins of May Day (IWW)

  3. Amtrak’s History

  4. Amtrak: 50 Years of Leading the Way

  5. Homage To The Fallen Railroad Stations Of Atlanta

  6. Before private jets, there were luxurious private train cars, (Curbed, 2018)

  7. A Look Inside Amtrak’s Next-Gen Acela Express (Railway Age, 2020)

  8. VIDEO: Watch: Testing Amtrak’s Next-Gen Acela Trainset (Railway Age, 2020)

  9. Here Are The Major Amtrak Upgrades Proposed In Biden’s $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan (Forbes)

  10. VIDEO: Big Ideas 2021 (ARK Invest)

  11. PODCAST: What are Disruptive Innovation Platforms? (ARK Invest)

  12. Urbanize Atlanta: Commercial Real Estate Development News

That’s going to do it for this month. I hope you enjoyed this installment of ATLsherpa. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments area below and please use the share button below to let your friends know about this podcast and newsletter. Thanks, again, and have a great weekend!


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