Smiley, Facebook Cause Célèbre

UPDATE: Feb. 17, 2009, a sad day for Smiley. “After repeated stays of execution during the past two years, the Grand Forks City Council decided Tuesday to pull the switch on the 77-year-old water tower.” The rest of the story here.

UPDATE: Smiley gets a reprieve…On Feb. 2, “Council members spent more than an hour Monday discussing the old tower before voting 4-3 to seek bids to for saving it.”

Scrap metal or cause célèbre? The Grand Forks citizenry is choosing sides over the Smiley issue with the nostaligic facing off against the practical…..on Facebook!?

A former Grand Forks resident, created the Facebook group “Save Mr. Smiley from Demolition” in 2006 when the City Council started talking seriously about scrapping the smiler for good.

And it was a quick social networking success. Noted in this article from the Grand Forks Herald,

Within the first two weeks, about 400 members had already signed on. After City Council members indicated on Monday that they favored tearing down Smiley, the group now has more than 1,000 members.

Sounds like a good idea, but… since the issue is really about money, it is a shame that the effort did not include an opportunity to donate. That way, the tower’s fanbase could put money where their smiling mouths are.

How the Party Crashed: A Corporate Fable

Illustration: Business Party by Keat Teoh

I was genuinely enthused to be invited, and when I got there the party was in full swing. Leadership met me at the door with a nice welcome; he was an exceptional host, really working the room, shaking hands and chatting with everyone.

Smart and Popular were there with all their terrific friends. Fun and Personable were there too, along with Camaraderie and his brother Supportive. These six were the life of the party and everyone congregated around them like moths to a candle. Arrogant was at there too, but you know he can be really fun at a party. The beer was flowing and everybody was dancing, laughing and having a great time–even Quiet and Humble were on their feet!

Right about then, who walks in but Smug and Knowitall. (Why Leadership invited them is anyone’s guess.) Suddenly Arrogant got pretty aloof and obnoxious when teamed up with those two. They all cornered Leadership and formed their own little group apart from everyone else, whispering little secrets among themselves. So the party started to get noticeably less fun at that point.

Shortly thereafter, the next unwelcome guests to arrive were Frustrated followed by those two twins that everyone hates, Hopeless and Powerless. No one was dancing at this point and someone turned off the music. I didn’t see Smart, Popular, or any of those cool people from earlier. I supposed they’d left.

Finally, who walks in and plops down on a chair but Apathy, and it was obvious to everyone that he was there to stay and had no intention of leaving as long as his buddies Frustrated, Hopeless and Powerless were hanging around. There was no more chatter and laughter; everyone pretty much huddled in small groups barely talking in low, in hushed voices.

Just when I was mentally creating lame excuses to get out of there, Leadership (who had been noticeably absent) re-appeared and yelled out that there was no more food and the keg was empty.

That’s when I snuck out the side door. And never looked back.

I Wooden Drink This

We don’t need to tell you, again, to read labels, do we? Daniel did, and discovered that his water was bottled by an Indian plywood company. (Photo from his Picasa album India May 2008.) Some might like the subtle oak-y aroma!

But it’s certified, right?! JAS-ANZ is the government-appointed accreditation body for Australia and New Zealand. A search at their website produces zero results for this company.

Who’s Smiling Now?

Grand Fork-ers (North Dakota) are ambivalent about the future of their two-sided smiling/winking water tower, despite the fact that it hasn’t held water in years. Now, city leaders are struggling with the rising cost of indecision–about 108% higher in just two years. (Makes that winking seem more like mocking!) Now this is the sort of infrastructure stimulus project that could put a smile on the face of We-The-People. From the Jan. 26, 2009 Grand Forks Herald,

New estimates show it would cost about $396,000 to save the old Grand Forks water tower with a painted smiley face and winking eye.

That would extend its life about 20 years. Demolishing it would cost an estimated $99,000.

The tower’s paint is falling off in large chunks and it has held no water for nearly a decade. It was built nearly 80 years ago.

But for some, it’s a valued symbol. Councilman Doug Christensen has said it’s “like talking about somebody’s cousin.”

Demolition has been discussed for years. In 2006, the cost of demolition was estimated to be $50,000 and the cost of renovation $190,000.

The photo is from this post on the Seven Wonders of Grand Forks at The The Blue Skunk Blog (which also includes the fantastic “Sewage Lift Stations named after newspaper columnists.”

Flip this Tower

Another opportunity to quench your thirst for one-of-a-kind digs. For £100,000 (that’s about US$135,000) plus renovation expenses, you could turn this abandoned concrete tower into a 4-story monument to to your exceptional design instinct. From the Jan. 16, 2009, Northampton (UK) Chronicle & Echo,

The massive concrete tower in Great Doddington comes with planning permission for a four-storey home on a plot measuring almost a quarter of an acre.

Andrew Kilburn, director of residential sales at estate agents King West in Northampton, said the unusual property in Cut Throat Lane could inspire a renovation like those on Channel 4’s Grand Designs show.

He said: “Anything that is unusual, we have to pitch a figure that will generate interest.

“Ultimately, what we are selling here isn’t a terrible-looking building, we’re selling the concept of what it could be. There aren’t too many of them around and I do recall on Grand Designs there was a water tower that was converted and featured.

The plans for the circular structure include two bedrooms on the ground and first floor, kitchen on the third floor and a roof extension for the lounge.

Cut Throat Lane?! I think that adds $20K in value by itself! The photo here is a capture from a wildly entertaining video on the same topic at Watch the BBC Video.

Educating the Public on Water Issues

An oldie but goodie from my collection. The challenge for people in the water business is to clarify “this bit” for the public.  At, this cartoon carries the note,

To those surfing in looking for a water cartoon. I’m sorry, you caught us at a bad time. It isn’t normally like this here. Usually everything is brilliant.

Oh but it is brilliant. And it reminds us to tip our hats to those public works and water communications professionals who understand just how insightful it really is.

Trendy Store, Trashy Decor

It’s one thing to claim “trash to treasure” but it’s another to greet your customers with it and hang it from your ceiling. And have all be in awe of your cleverness.

In Montevideo, Uruguay is a high end shopping destination, the Punta Carretas Shopping Center, which is housed in a striking building that was formerly a prison. The Magma boutique at Punta Carretas ups the ante on the recycling theme with their designers-gone-wild take on architrash chic.

The store’s outer walls are a light-filtered “sandwich” of empty water bottles.

Inside, this ethereal curtain of plastic discy-things looks somehow familiar.

Yes, I do know you! You are Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, RC, and all our other formerly 2-liter friends.

Since I’m unlikely to ever get to Uruguay, thanks, well-traveled Flickr user london2434, for these almost-like-being-there photos.

Bottled Water, Purity Personified

We shudder to imagine it… the leering, aggressive, dirty Earth forcing itself on the pure, untouched virgin raindrop, gently shimmering within its billowing white-clouded gown! We shall not allow it! Instead, we shall catch you, beautiful young raindrop, and safely bottle you, still pure, into a virgin container… for our customer to revel in your purity and gently drink with sensitivity and deep passion. Fear not, raindrop, they sincerely love our brand and pledge their commitment! And we’re pretty sure a lot of them might recycle.

From, “Oregon Rain Water is known as “Virgin Water” because it has never been touched by the earth. It is pure rainwater, harvested from Oregon Skies on sterile sheets and then filtered and pasteurized to ensure uniform quality and purity.”

I suggest everyone check in with the Oregon schoolchildren after their water cycle science unit, and they’ll break the bad news on virgin water. Not only has the lovely raindrop been touched by the earth, but likely earth-mauled several million times by now. In fact, this water is downright tarty.

This photo is by Flickr user jugbo, thanks!