Archive for October, 2013

Erie Canal

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

The Erie Canal opened on October 26, 1825, 188 years ago.

Around this same date in 1960, I learned to sing a song about the Erie Canal. My family was spending a year in Gainesville, Florida, and my teacher that year, Mrs. Hunter, encouraged her students in many ways. She pointed out that I could sing, and already had the beginnings of a bass voice, in between squeaks. She often led her class in singing, and she taught us the Erie Canal song.

The song was written by Thomas Allen, a Tin Pan Alley composer, in 1905, presumably to commemorate the use of mules to pull barges, as steam and diesel engines were beginning to take over the mules’ jobs.

The Erie Canal tune is musically interesting because the verses are mostly in a minor key, with a couple of lines in the major feel, finally switching to the relative major for the entire chorus. That means there is a little transition required to get back to the minor verse key.

Like many folk songs, its lyrics, and even its title, have changed over the years. Although it has four verses, I only learned the first. The verse rhyme scheme is AAAABBCC, but the version I remember reverses the next-to-last line of the first verse to make its rhyme scheme AAAABBBC, which I still like better. I presume that change is due to a failure of my memory. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Hunter would not have taught us wrong.

The 363-mile canal itself was quite an engineering and a construction feat. According to the Wikipedia article linked above, there were no civilian civil engineers in America at that time (citation needed, and near-redundancy noted). The canal designers were judges, whose surveying experience came from settling boundary disputes. The thousands of workers were mostly Scots Irish, with German masons brought in to lay the stonework.

Like many publicly-funded projects, it met with opposition, according to the Writer’s Almanac excerpt. One eloquent critic said, “In the big ditch will be buried the treasury of the state to be watered by the tears of posterity.” But the canal provided a critically-needed capability; its estimated traffic load of 1.5 million tons annually was exceeded almost immediately, and another project was begun to widen the canal.

And like many (most!) large-scale construction projects (see also, the transcontinental railroad), it ran into unexpected difficulties. One year malaria killed 1000 workers, and construction was temporarily halted. Leaks developed, and hydraulic cement was used to patch them. Aqueducts were built to manage water flow.

As construction progressed, it opened in sections, because even a small section of open water was faster and could carry more than horse-drawn wagons. When the canal was finally opened, there was a huge celebration.

Similarly, but with less fanfare, my fifth grade year eventually came to a close, and the family moved back to Georgia. I brought back Mrs. Hunter’s encouragement, my new-found enjoyment of singing, and the Erie Canal song. It was a good year.

Was she right? Can I sing? I guess you’ll have to listen for yourself.


I recommend you check out the Writer’s Almanac excerpt, and then the Wikipedia article if you want more details.


Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

It has been almost six months since my last posting. It’s not so much a case of writer’s block, but more like thinker’s block. I really enjoy writing, but have clearly failed to maintain even a indecent blog schedule (dot tumblr dot com.) Without further ado, here’s a list of recent changes.

Jasper visit’s the Foundry’s Digital Dog House

1. The dog is bigger. Jasper is up to 50 pounds, and still frisky. His favorite activity is Dog Frisbee (as distinguished from the plastic kind hippies throw.) Second favorite is being scratched and hugged by his humes. Last on his list is maintaining his twitter feed. He’s learned where to pee (see previous post) and can roam the yard within the confines of the electric fence. (I had no idea how much training is required to do that right. Even some for the dog.)

2. Jayne has retired. Or more accurately, stopped going to work. Between Jasper, Ma T, trips to Virginia and Athens and Richland and Lawrenceville, plus making breakfasts and lunches for me, and finally getting to really dig, and dig into, her new lake house, she is busy dawn to dusk and beyond.

Kayaking on a full lake

3. The lake is up. The rain has kept the lake up to near-record highs, making for an easy dock management season for me, and a beautiful shoreline. We’ve enjoyed it from a variety of boats (pontoon, deck, canoe, kayak) and even the stand-up paddle board (‘SUP, y’all?) Ma T has pedaled her away up and down the cove in a kayak, and even learned how to cope with a boarder’s wake.

4. My boss has changed. After more than 15 years of reporting to the same person, a rather surprising organizational change has recently separated us, leaving me learning new tricks.

5. The Atlanta Foundry has opened. AT&T opened its fourth innovation center in Atlanta, and I got to help. I worked on some of the design aspects, especially in the audio-visual systems, and helped stage and execute the Grand Opening. Good times. Here’s a Corporate Blog link.

6. I’m riding the bus,and walking more. Thanks to number 2, above, I’m saving money, fuel, wear, and tear by only driving 40 miles a day instead of 110. I enjoy the bus ride (I wrote the first draft of this post while we cruised by lanes of stopped traffic), and I also enjoy the 15-minute walk to the office.

7. OTH is playing again. After some time off, the One Tree Hill core “power trio” of Patrick, Brian, and me, are rehearsing and playing again. It’s a nice break from the old 6 to 6. (Yeah, I know, it’s supposed to be 9-to-5, but reality is reality!)


8. The grandkids are even cuter! Hard to believe, but it’s true. Thankfully, they look more like their gorgeous parents and JayneeB than they do Grand Dude.

9. (Not a change.) I still work the NYT crossword faithfully on myPad, and often think of my Dad as I navigate obscure clues and bad cruciverbalistic punnage.

Lastly, the leaves are turning, and Fall is clearly on its way, signaling the approach of the holiday season. Is that a Festivus Carol I hear playing at the nearby mall?