Monday, October 25, 2010

Normal Apathy

The fine folks in the local government of Boulder, Colorado, have come up with the idea of handing out raffle tickets to residents who attend a series of public meetings about local issues and to those who attend certain Council meetings. Raffle prizes may include items donated by local businesses as well as items purchased by the city.  These meetings cost time and money and the city wants to involve as many residents as possible to make the meetings worthwhile.   If the meetings are going to be held anyway and the prizes are donated, why not bribe more people to attend and (hopefully) become involved in local issues? What's interesting (and, unfortunately, not surprising) is that many comments in response to this idea are negative.

I think more Normal residents would attend public meetings and Town Council meetings if they had a chance to win a prize. Maybe they would discover that they have a vested interest in the issues and would become involved in local efforts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Normal NIMBY

Ever want to protest a development project in your neighborhood?  Here's an idea for a NIMBY robot that knows just what to say at Planning Commission and Town Council meetings!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Normal's Chance for Academic Fame?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has offered college towns across the U.S. the chance to get some (positive) publicity.  If you want the reporter, Lawrence Biemiller, to come to Normal, you need to send him an email with a list of people to interview -- people around here who make the colleges "unique, engaging, smart, fun."  Also, you can suggest places to visit and places to eat (that should be easy).

How about it? Should he come to Normal? Who would you put on the list of people to be interviewed?  He starts his travels November 1, so send in those emails! That address is:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Normal Leaf Peeping

The Farmers' Almanac Blog says that the best time for leaf peeping in northern Illinois is Oct. 12-22 and the best time for leaf peeping in southern Illinois is Oct. 19-29.  I guess that means that the best time to see Normal's trees decked out in the amazing colors of fall is between Oct. 16-23. I think they look beautiful already! Let's go peeping!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Normal Hydrant Flushing

Here's to the Town of Normal employees who patiently wait while fire hydrants are "flushing." The hydrants have to be flushed regularly to keep them in good working order and the town staff always alert residents as to when they can expect this in their neighborhood.  It is done overnight and, from what I've seen, takes quite some time because each hydrant is left flushing for a surprisingly long amount of time (not sure exactly how long, but it seems like at least 30-45 minutes).  I wish the water could be diverted onto grassy areas instead of letting it run along the curb. Maybe someone can develop a diverter device to do this.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Normal Form-Based Code Reinterpretation

Just wanted to share this article that suggests a new type of "form-based code" based on blending religion and zoning. What a unique way of looking at it!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Normal Night Lights

An interview with a light artist and designer raises the issue of lighting in town at night and how it contributes to our experience of that space.  I'm more of a morning person so I'm not familiar with how Uptown Normal looks at night -- how much street light illuminates sidewalks, how light from inside store fronts spills out onto the sidewalks, how harsh the lighting is from a pedestrian's view, how colorful the lights are, and other properties of lighting that should be considered.  I know that the Normal Theater sign is quite colorful and eye-catching at night. Other than that, I'm in the dark about the lights.

Most of us don't notice lighting until the holiday lights go up. Then, we notice how much those lights perk up a place (when tastefully displayed). The right outdoor lighting in a town can make it more enjoyable to visit, so I think it's worth considering. Hopefully, some lighting expert will take a critical look at Normal's lights and make suggestions about possible improvements.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Normal: Head-Strong or Heart-Strong?

A study by Park and Peterson (2010), "Does it Matter Where We Live?: The Urban Psychology of Character Strengths," suggests that some cities have residents with higher levels of what they call "head strengths" while other cities have residents with higher levels of what they call "heart strengths." Head strengths are intellectual and self-oriented while heart strengths are emotional and interpersonal.

Using a questionnaire posted on their website, the authors of the study rank the 50 largest cities in the U.S. based on these two strengths. San Francisco, CA, had the highest head strength and El Paso, TX, had the highest heart strength.

Variables correlated with head strength included voting for Obama in 2008, a larger number of colleges and universities, a higher cost of living, and greater population density. Variables correlated with heart strength included voting for McCain in 2008, smaller population, less population density, a higher average yearly temperature, lower cost of living, and more families with children.

Normal probably meets more of the qualifications of a heart-strong town than a head-strong town, with the exception of having colleges and a university. Looking at the study's list of heart strengths, the people in Normal should be fair, forgiving, grateful, honest, hopeful, playful, kind, leaders, loving, modest, persistent, religious, team-players, and enthusiastic. But if lacking in head strength, Normal residents probably don't appreciate beauty, aren't creative, curious or open-minded, and don't love learning.  I can think of all sorts of exceptions to those conclusions! Of course, it's always good to use your head and your heart, so it would be best if Normal residents have a mix of both strengths.