Monday, June 29, 2009

Normal Attraction

The "Preliminary Report of the McLean County Regional Comprehensive Plan" (subtitled “A Guide to Sensible Growth Through Regional Cooperation”) (November, 1999) has an interesting observation about the lack of a regional landmark: “Although McLean County is fortunate to have many historic features and civic resources . . . major cultural landmarks that add to the Region’s identity are rare” (page 32). The Sears Tower in Chicago and the arch in St. Louis are mentioned as examples of such landmarks. “While the McLean County Museum of History and other area landmarks provide local identities, a more prominent feature could enhance the regional identity of the County and the Twin Cities area. This could be of particular benefit since the area also lacks a prominent natural landmark” (page 33).

This is just the kind of challenge that should get locals brainstorming! Let’s see, there are different kinds of landmarks: impressive practical structures (Sears Tower), impressive structures designed for the sole purpose of attracting tourists (the arch), giant statues designed to get people to leave the highway and at least stop to take a picture (I don’t remember the names of the towns, but I’ve seen a giant bear in a southern Wisconsin town and a giant cow in some town in northeastern Illinois), and places that are just so wonderful that they become destinations for travelers (zoos, water parks, all those venues in Branson). Ok, which type of landmark do we want in Normal?

Impressive practical structure: a very high bridge (with lanes for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists) that spans Normal and Bloomington from north to south with NO STOPS . . .

Impressive tourist-attracting structure: a huge fan that spins in the wind . . .

Giant statue: a giant insurance claim form; a giant drive-through speaker; a giant mortarboard with tassel; a HUGE Asian beetle . . .

Wonderful place: a real, working dairy farm surrounded by shops, restaurants, and residences ("Get Moo for Your Money! Visit the Divine Bovine Sanctuary! Just off Veteran's Parkway!")

Anyone have other ideas? Better hurry because the cost will have to be added to the next budget!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Normal Construction Census

I like construction web cams. I enjoy watching what is currently happening at the site and seeing what progress has been made over time. But in addition to web cams of construction sites, I think it would be interesting to take a count (a census, if you will) of construction-related items that are out there: traffic cones or barrels, barricades, dump trucks, cranes, cement mixers, (portable bathrooms?) etc. That would be a unique way of determining the amount of construction taking place and would allow for comparisons, such as: “Bloomington currently has 25 traffic cones and 11 dump trucks at construction sites, compared to 1527 traffic cones and 605 dump trucks at Normal construction sites.” Of course, the movable objects are more difficult to count, so perhaps cones, barrels, and barricades are the best measure.

I realize that Normal has a list of building permits, which is one way to count construction activity. But it’s not as fun as a chart with little cones or trucks on it, depicting actual numbers of items. What can I say? I spend too much time looking at tables and numbers on the Census Bureau web site.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Normal Well, Well, Well . . .

The "2009 Town of Normal Water Department Water Quality Report" shows that no drinking water violations were recorded during 2008. That’s good news. However, if you look at the last paragraph on page 3 of the report, you will read something that is perhaps not such good news:
“…the Illinois EPA has determined that the Normal Community Water Supply’s source water for wells #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #13 and #14 is susceptible to contamination.”

This does not mean that the water for these wells is contaminated, just that it is susceptible to contamination.

We take clean drinking water for granted and it would be nice to be able to continue to take it for granted. Most people probably don’t read the Water Quality Report but it is a good source of information about an important part of the quality of life in Normal.

Clean wells = living well? Well, in a way.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Normal 3rd Sunday Market

Another June, another trek to the 3rd Sunday Market at the Interstate Center. I decided to go in spite of the rainy weather. Either it’s rainy or it’s extremely hot – take your pick. The rain certainly didn’t reduce the size of the crowd. I threaded my way through the booths inside the main building and then headed outside to one of the “sheds” to see what was out there. I didn’t look at the rest of the outdoor booths because I found what I was looking for within 10 minutes (a new record for fast shopping!) and didn’t have much money left to spend. I’m always drawn to the wooden furniture and the small, unique items. And I enjoy seeing items that my family had when I was a kid, as well as items that I still use (which always makes me wonder whether I’m desecrating some valuable antique or I’m hopelessly stuck in the past). I think one reason that many people go to this market is because some of the stuff brings back memories.

I haven’t tried the food, though. The smell of fried everything kind of puts me off. But lots of people were eating, so I think the food vendors do quite well.

If you’ve never been to 3rd Sunday Market, I encourage you to go. Wear sunscreen and take money. Go early for more selection or go later and hope to get a better price. Just go and soak up the nostalgia (and the grease).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Normal Age-Restricted Housing

There was an item on the Normal Town Council agenda for the May 18, 2009 meeting that addressed including in the development of low-income age-restricted housing a number of units for “grandfamilies.” Specifically, an area designated as an S-2 Public Lands and Institutions zoning district would include multiple-family housing for residents 55+ and up to 20% of the units would be designated for grandfamilies. A “grandfamily” is defined as: “A family unit headed by a person aged 55 or older who is providing primary care and support for a relative aged 18 or younger or up to 22 years old if the individual is a full‐time student.” The East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging supports the development of units for grandfamilies.

What is the purpose of having “age-restricted” housing? Isn’t it to provide residents with the assurance that they will be living among others in their age-range? I imagine that people choose to live in age-restricted housing because they want to live around others with a similar lifestyle. They don’t want the hustle and bustle (a nice way of saying noise) of families with young children and/or teens. If someone 55+ is raising children, why would they choose to live in an age-restricted area? Don’t they want to live somewhere with the ubiquitous jungle-gyms and basketball hoops on every property, with children outside screaming at the top of their lungs and riding plastic tricycles in the streets? Wouldn’t an age-restricted housing development be kind of boring for children?

I hope that Normal supports development of housing that is truly age-restricted.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Normal Slogan?

Should Normal have a slogan? If so, it could refer to Normal being a “twin city”:
“The Smarter Twin”

Or it could refer to the name of the town:
“Surprisingly Superior”
“Above Average, Plays Well With Others” (also a reference to education)

Or it could refer to the building and expansion of the town:
“Never the Same Place Twice”
“Not Your Parents’ Normal”
“Purposefully Progressive”

Or it could refer to Normal’s central location:
“The Middle of Everywhere” (my favorite)

If you like alliteration: “Graduating, Green, Growing”

Do people remember these slogans? Cities pay a lot to have someone create a slogan and put it into a design. There must be some benefit.

[Note: The Normal web site has the phrase "Committed to Service Excellence" but I see this as more of a mission statement than a PR-type slogan.]

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Normal Recycling Reduction

The Normal Town Council Report (June 15, 2009) includes information about the local recycling program and mentions that the reduction in the size of the local newspaper, “The Pantagraph,” caused a reduction of 8% in recycled paper. It’s hard to say if the change in the newspaper was the only factor contributing to the reduction of recycled paper because there might have been other factors (also related to the economy): less junk mail, fewer magazine subscriptions as people cut back on expenses, increasing use of electronic documents instead of printed documents, etc. Even so, what other effects might have resulted from the reduced newspaper size? Perhaps people would need more issues of the newspaper to use as packaging in boxes, for lining bird cages (do people still use it for that?), for protecting surfaces during plant repotting/arts and crafts projects/painting, and for puppy paper training. So, in a way, people are recycling newspaper even if they don’t take it to the recycling collection containers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Normal Flower Power

There are small patches of decorative plantings around Normal. Today, I noticed the one on the southeast corner of Raab Rd. and Main St. It’s a wonderful collection of dark purple and pink flowering plants (at least, that’s what I saw from a distance). If I weren’t photographically challenged, I would go around town taking pictures of these plantings. I just wanted to mention them because I do appreciate their beauty and the fact that Normal has people planting and maintaining them. When you are driving around Normal, take time to notice and appreciate these colorful oases (even if you can’t literally stop and smell the flowers).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Normal: Those Wild 60s!

Back in 1963-1964, when ISU was still ISNU (Illinois State Normal University), the female students (especially the younger ones) were evidently regarded as so wild and dangerous that they had to be kept locked in at night. The ISNU “Code of Student Life” handbook from that time describes how this was carried out:

4. Regulations for Women
A. Closing hours for all women’s residences are as follows:
Sunday-Thursday: 10:30 p.m. (Residence hall freshman women 10 p.m.)
Friday-Saturday: 12:30 a.m. (Residence hall freshman women 12 M.)
Exceptions to the above:
For junior and senior students, Wednesday and Sunday, 11:30 p.m.
For nights preceding and closing a vacation, 11:00 p.m.
For functions on the University Calendar requiring later hours: time will be announced on the weekly printed calendar.

B. Undergraduate women are eligible for late leaves each semester on the following basis. Late leaves are not cumulative from semester to semester:
Freshmen: 1 per semester
Sophomores: 2 per semester
Juniors: 3 per semester
Seniors: 4 per semester

C. Termination times for personal late leaves describe above, are as follows:
Sunday-Thursday: 12 midnight
Friday-Saturday: 1 a.m.

Thank goodness the male students and the rest of the community were protected from these women!

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Normal Illinois" Anagrams

Why look for anagrams of "Normal Illinois"? Why not? At, this request resulted in 11,329 anagrams, but only 1,000 were shown. Among them:

Similar Ill Noon

Similar Nil Loon

Liaison Ill Norm

Insomnia Rill Lo

Simian Lion Roll

Simian Loin Roll

Raisin Mill Loon

Raisin Loin Moll

Lanolin Limo Sir

Lanolin Oils Rims

Mail Rill Onions

Monorail Ill Sin

Monorail Ill Ins

Marlin Lion Silo

Snails Million Or

Slain Million Or

Rail Millions No (reference to trains?)

Lair Mill Onions

Rails Million No

Mall Sirloin Ion (reference to restaurants?)

Saloon Mini Rill

A Sirloin in Moll

A Mini Loins Roll (no comment...)

Similar Ill No No (must be referring to state government)

Ail Ill In Morons

Nominal I Rill So

Lain I Limos Lorn (sounds poetic, doesn't it?)

Snail Rill In Moo

Lots of onions, lions or loins, some morons, lanolin, liars, and a saloon. Not sure what that says about Normal, Illinois. Make of it what you will.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Normal Historic Homes

At the Friends of the Bloomington Library sale, I purchased a calendar prepared by the McLean County Bicentennial Arts Festival Committee in 1976. Each page features a picture of an area location with historical significance. Among the homes pictured, there are four from Normal: the Simon B. Malone Home (built 1865), the Taylor-Dillon Home (built 1870), the Jesse Fell Home (built 1855), and the Orson Leroy Manchester Home (built 1916). I admit that I’m only familiar with the names Fell and Dillon, so I am not sure of the significance of the other two homes. But it is clear that a home gets elevated to the status of having historical significance due to the status of the person who lived there and/or the importance of the architectural style.

Is there any possibility that a home built recently in one of the many area subdivisions would ever be considered historically significant? If so, it would undoubtedly be based on the resident, not on the architectural style. It seems kind of funny to think of future residents of Normal placing great significance on a putty-colored, vinyl-sided, single-story ranch house built in the 1990s. The person who lived there would need to have been really important for that to happen!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Normal Web Site Superior to Others

I’ve been looking at web sites for cities and towns in the U.S. and have found that there is a lot of variation in the quality of these sites. Some sites are charming (“Welcome to our state’s hidden treasure!") but do not provide much useful information. Other sites provide some basic information (“We have a police department”) but do not give the visitor to the site any details.

So far, I haven’t seen any web site that is as comprehensive and useful as the Normal web site. I think there should be a ratings guide for city and town web sites, like ratings guides for restaurants and hotels. Instead of forks or stars, this guide could use postcards to indicate the rating based on criteria such as attractive layout and pictures, links to specific departments, the amount of detailed information, links to community resources (attractions, media, churches, etc.), and ease of use. I’d say that Normal has a four-postcard web site!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Normal Not-Quite-So-Amazing Adventure

On the show “Amazing Race,” teams don’t know what to expect on each leg of the race. Will they have to deal with great heights or scary animals? Will they have to be brave or clever? Will they have to eat something disgusting or learn a difficult dance?

Going to the Normal Post Office is also an adventure, although not quite as extreme as AR experiences. Will there be huge construction vehicles blocking the street? Will the parking spaces still exist? Will I get there ahead of other racers -- I mean, customers going to the Post Office? And when I want to leave, will I be able to back out of the space or will they have started removing pavement while I was inside?

I hate to sound lazy, but wouldn’t it be nice if the Post Office had a drive-up window?