Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Normal Marriott/Camelot

Normal’s “Marriott” Song:

The site was cleared a distant moon ago here
The building now has grown to fill the lot.
And there’s a fancy sign upon the front here
At Marriott.
The grill is named for founder Jesse Fell, wow!
A name that Normal never has forgot.
Would Jesse drink the beer there, who can tell now?
At Marriott.
Marriott! Marriott!
I know it sounds a bit upscale,
But at Marriott, Marriott
That’s how they tell the tale.
The guests will have their choice of parking spaces.
And swimming makes the stress all disappear.
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-hoteling than here
At Marriott.

Marriott! Marriott!
I know it’s quite a sight to see,
But at Marriott, Marriott
It’s where the best will want to be.
The Presidential suites are on the ninth floor.
The Theatre has never been so near.
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-hoteling than here
At Marriott.

Normalized Quotes

“Illinois. Normal, Illinois.”

"My Mama always said, 'Normal is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get.'"

"I'll be back, Normal."

"Well, it's not the Normal men in your life that count, it's the life in your Normal men."

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into Normal’s."

"It's Normal! It's Normal!"

"I vant to be in Normal."

"I don't know nothin' about Normal."

"As God is my witness, I'll never leave Normal again!"

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Normal anymore."

"...and oh, Auntie Em, there's no place like Normal."

"We'll always have Normal."

"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy Normal night."

"Normal! Nooooorrrrrmaaaaal!"

"...You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Does Normal feel lucky?' Well, does it, punk?"

“It was the best of Normal, it was the worst of Normal.”

“My name is Normal.”

“In the beginning God created the heaven and Normal.”

“It was a dark and stormy Normal night.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Normal Parallel Parking Peril

I drove on North Street this morning. I was curious about the new parallel parking spaces that have replaced the old diagonal spaces. There are two spaces between each of the curb “bump-outs” (not sure what the official term is for those). I was kind of hoping for just one space between them, which would eliminate any worry about clumsy parallel parkers. I’m not a fan of parallel parking. Maybe lots of people are anti-parallel. (Hey, where were you people when the new parking spaces design was being discussed?!)

I searched the internet for information about parallel parking. I couldn’t find any statistics about bumper bumping but there were articles about “dooring,” where someone is exiting or entering a parallel-parked vehicle and a bicyclist hits the door as it is being opened. There were also lots of videos showing how to parallel park, and some articles about new devices to aid in this process. For people who enjoy trying to parallel park without the risks, there are animated games that challenge you to successfully parallel park a cartoon car.

If I have to use one of these PP spaces, I guess I’ll look for one that shares space with an already-parked motorcycle or other small vehicle. Not looking forward to circling and circling and circling the block…

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Normal Marriott Marvel

I just want to say a few things about the new Marriott Hotel in Uptown Normal. I think that it was nice to name the grill in the hotel “Jesse’s,” after Jesse Fell. It seems like hotels always have quirky names for their eateries and it would have been easy for this hotel to follow suit. But they chose a name with local significance and I appreciate that. I also think that the two presidential suites are a nice touch. Perhaps local fundraisers could offer a two-night stay in one of the suites as a prize??

Monday, July 20, 2009

Normal Roadway Mix-Up

Time for another word scramble. See if you can unscramble the following names of roadways that are either completely or partially in Normal:


Friday, July 17, 2009

Normal Halcyon Days

Aaahhh, July, the calm before the storm. And by storm, I refer to the back-to-school season with its hordes of people buying school supplies (for the younger students) and room/apartment amenities (for the college students). Who doesn’t enjoy trying to get down the grocery aisle only to be delayed by parents and their college-age offspring trying to decide which brand of peanut butter is best, or by a knot of twenty-somethings stocking up on munchies? And who can resist the excitement of driving behind a vehicle loaded down with people, possessions, and a precariously balanced mattress on the roof?

Another August, another academic calendar begins. My entire life since the age of 6 has been scheduled according to the school season. I even still watch the early news on snowy winter mornings to see which schools are closed! I never thought I’d be doing that this “late” in life. But I don’t think I can ever get out of the academic cycle and, since I looked forward to going back to school as a student (up through college, at least), I guess I still kind of like the anticipation of a new school year and the promise of learning that it presents. I do miss buying a brand new pink eraser and box of watercolor paints, though.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Normal MTC: A Timely Addition

There was a presentation of the design for the Normal Multimodal Transportation Center at the July 6 meeting of the Normal Town Council. It showed a four-story building with the fourth floor set back enough to create a terrace (which I think they said would be “green” but not accessible). The distinguishing exterior feature of the building is a clock, which appeared to be round and analog. I’m wondering if it will be backlit at night.

What is unique about this transportation center is that the third floor will contain offices for Normal staff and the fourth floor will have meeting space (for Council meetings and other gatherings). What would it be like to have an office above a very busy, public place that is never closed? Would it be noisy? Will there be sound-proofing? The issue of security for the office area is being discussed. That’s a big issue in this case, especially with access to each floor from the attached parking garage. The proposed design of the fourth-floor area for Council meetings is a huge improvement over the current meeting space. Someone should make sure that the new chairs for audience members are comfortable.

I hope that there is funding for this building and I am looking forward to seeing what Normal will look like when all of these new buildings and streetscapes are complete. I was starting to feel at home in the “old” Normal but to be honest, it really did look shabby (but not chic). Before we know it – tempus fugit – the “new” Normal will be here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Normal Sugar Creek Arts/Jewelry Festival

This was the third time that I attended the Sugar Creek Arts Festival. The first time I went was the most enjoyable, probably because it was something new. This time, I was kind of disappointed in the lack of variety of types of art. There was a lot of jewelry. I enjoy looking at jewelry and, in fact, I bought a piece of jewelry (fulfilling my quota for the rest of the year, considering what I spent). But there were so many displays of jewelry and paintings/drawings and not as many displays of pottery and other types of art that it felt somewhat repetitive. The quality of everything was very good, though, and I appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of what the artists have created.

I’m not sure what possesses people to take their dogs to the Festival. Do the dogs like art or do the owners want attention? Even without heat from sunshine, the high level of humidity must have been unpleasant for the dogs (it was for me!). And the brief sprinkles were enough to create a wet-dog smell that even the aromas from the few food vendors couldn’t overpower.

Maybe when the Festival moves back into the Uptown area, where there are shops to visit in between viewing the art displays, it will take on a more festive atmosphere and it will at least seem like there is more variety. I’m looking forward to it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Normal Headlines

Headlines that you will probably never see:

“Normal Town Council Spends Money and Residents are Happy”

“No Road Work in Normal”

“ISU Students Return to Normal and No One Notices”

“Normal Bars Closing Due to Declining Alcohol Sales”

“Normal Town Council Meeting Erupts into Shouts, Punches, and Chair Throwing”

“Gridlock at the Normal Traffic Circle”

“Normal Unit 5 Reduced to Unit 2.5 Due to Population Decline”

“New Commission Addresses the Lack of Geese, Pigeons, and Starlings in Normal”

“Normal Restaurants Empty on Friday Nights”

“Normal Teeming with Single Men Over the Age of 30”

“Spring Arrives in Normal with No Potholes”

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Normal Values

If you ask someone what the values are in Normal, the answer would probably include family, education, safety, and environmental responsibility. But one way to find evidence of what the values really are in Normal is to look at what resources and events the town provides that are above and beyond the basic necessities (such as education and safety). For example, I think it’s very clear that Normal highly values the arts, as evidenced by the Connie Link Amphitheatre and the events that take place there, the Sugar Creek Arts Festival, the Normal Theater, and the Harmon Arts Grants. The Constitution Trail, Ironwood Golf Course, many of the Parks and Recreation programs, and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan show that physical activity is also a Normal value. A third Normal value is environmental responsibility, which underlies the creation of the Green Team, LEED certification for Uptown (and other) buildings, plans for the “green” house next to Underwood Park, and the recycling stations around town.

A close examination of Normal’s budget would probably reveal other values. As to how certain values get translated into dollars spent by the town, it is probably a combination of the influence of people (elected officials, town staff members, citizens), availability of resources, and community support for the resulting projects. And community support probably changes over time, so there may have been projects in Normal’s past that declined in popularity over time so the town stopped funding them.

So, if you are planning to move to a new town and want to know what the real values are in that town, examine the budget and the town-sponsored resources and events.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Normal Bicyclists' Bones

[This topic is indirectly related to Normal since there is an effort to encourage more bicycling in the local area.] A New York Times blog describes studies that find lower bone densities among male competitive bicyclists in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. They aren’t sure if the lack of calories consumed or the amount of sweating contributes to the bone density loss. Even though they say that recreational bicyclists probably don’t have to worry about this issue, it’s still a good idea to be aware of this potential problem. So, if you’re a dedicated bicyclist in Normal or elsewhere, keep tabs on your bone density. And please, eat a burger once in a while!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Postnormal Normal

I just happened upon the label “postnormal science.” It’s used in the article “Postnormal Science, Precautionary Principle, and Worst Cases: The Challenge of Twenty-First Century Catastrophes,” by Brent K. Marshall and J. Steven Picou, in the journal Sociological Inquiry (Vol. 78, No. 2, May 2008, 230-247). The label refers to using science to solve problems following catastrophes when “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent” and when everyone affected by the problems needs to join in the discussion about solving the problems [see footnote]. The article refers to the attacks on 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Indian Ocean tsunami. These events had sudden, major, and in these cases, negative consequences.

So, can we use a similar approach to addressing issues resulting from major (positive?) changes taking place in Normal? Specifically, the consequences of the construction in Uptown Normal, the changing population, and changes in the Unit 5 school system.

Facts are uncertain: We do not yet know if some investors in Uptown will have the finances to complete their projects. We do not know what consequences redistricting will have on schools and students. We do not know what impact demographic changes will have on the community.

Values in dispute: Because of the economic situation, there is increasing debate about how the town’s money should be spent. Some people want most of it spent on basics (road repair, maintaining and upgrading the water system, police and fire services). Other people support spending money on improving Uptown (the central business district) and providing incentives for businesses to come to Normal.

Stakes high: Any major investment of resources by the town means that the stakes are high. If the new hotel is not successful and if the apartments and condos being built in Uptown aren’t rented and sold, the town will end up with empty buildings and not much new money coming in. If, on the other hand, these projects are successful, and people appreciate the new look of the streets and sidewalks, the town will reap some pretty big rewards.

Decisions urgent: The construction decisions are urgent to the extent that investors want a quick decision about their proposed projects. The decisions about the school system are definitely urgent because the students are here and need schools.

Everyone affected needs to join the discussion: I think this has always been the case but there wasn’t an intentional effort made to include everyone in the past because it wasn’t possible to get everyone the information and because social inequality created barriers that kept some people out of the discussion. Now, it is much easier to get the information out to everyone and because more people are aware of what is going on, those in power feel more obligated (or are more pressured) to include as many stakeholders as possible in the discussions.

Even though my application of the idea of postnormal science probably isn’t what the authors of the article intended, I think there are enough parallels to justify using the label “postnormal.” It will be interesting to see what postnormal Normal looks like.

[Footnote: the specific description of postnormal science comes from the article “Three Types of Risk Assessment and Emergence of Post-Normal Science” by Silvio O. Funtowics and Jerome R. Ravetz, in the journal Social Theories of Risk (pp. 251-74, 1992).]