"If there's a book that you want to read,
but it hasn't been written yet,
then you must write it."
   Toni Morrison

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Glasgow Conference

By | Norm's Author Blog | 2 Comments

Next week world leaders meet in Glasgow to confer once again about the climate change crisis. As architects, we recognize that proper management of the built environment is critical for any final strategies. In our book, Historic Preservation, this perspective is represented:

“The effort known as the ‘green building movement’ remains blind to its most troubling truth: We cannot build our way to sustainability. Even if, with the wave of a green wand, every building constructed from this day hence had a vegetative roof, was powered only with renewable energy sources, and was built entirely of environmentally appropriate materials, sustainability would still be far from fully realized. Seeking salvation by building new green buildings fails to account for the overwhelming vastness of the existing building stock. The accumulated building stock is the elephant in the room. Ignoring it, we risk being trampled by it. We cannot build our way to sustainability; we must conserve our way to it.”

Our colleague, architect Carl Elefante, popularized this approach through the phrase, “The greenest building is the one already built.”

Audacious Women

By | Norm's Author Blog | 6 Comments

For the past year I have been writing the manuscript for an intriguing new book. I hope to soon find a publisher or agent interested in it.

Audacious Women: The Compelling Stories of Six Travel Trailblazers, tells the stories of six incredibly bold women who traveled the world on their own and shook up the status quo against all odds. From the late 19th to the mid-10th centuries, each had a unique story that enriches our narrative as a nation on the move. Coming from differing circumstances, they shared an adventurous spirit that broke the confines of what was then considered a “man’s world.” Their personalities were intriguing and complicated; certain words provide apt descriptions–fervent, impassioned, formidable. Their motivations, described by one writer, were “scared to death of being unconventional but seething underneath.”

Written largely in their own words, the narrative explores what emboldened them for the lifestyle they chose, the challenges they took on, and the discrimination they faced. Their stories also illustrate how this new-found ability to travel on their own paralleled the evolution of the women’s movement during this period. 

The six chapters are bookended with two distinctive individuals–Nellie Bly, who in 1889 traveled around the globe in 72 days taking only one dress and one coat, and Sally Ride, who gave up a career as a tennis professional to circumnavigate the globe in only ninety minutes. Other stories include Annie (Londonderry) Kopchovsky, a housewife who in 1894 decided to trek around the world by bicycle, ostensibly to capture a $10,000 prize but more significantly to gain celebrity. Next is Alice Ramsey, an early race-car driver who in 1909 decided to be driver and mechanic on a hazardous coast-to-coast trek from New York to San Francisco in a Maxwell automobile. As the age of flight began, Harriet Quimby was the first female licensed pilot and became an international celebrity for her achievements, earning an unbelievable $100,000 to fly in the Boston Air Show in 1912. In the 1920s, Amelia Earhart impassioned the day she saw her first aircraft in flight and flew throughout the world until the day of her tragic disappearance.

The book gives a unique perspective in that each of the six women is paired with an individual whose story provides a striking contrast. This counterpoint brings attention to relevant issues–the changing role of women during this pivotal period, travel as a means for women to become more independent, the fleeting nature of celebrity, and the sometimes tragic endings when trying to push the envelope too far. 

How did I become interested in writing about this topic? For twenty years I taught a university course in Transportation History and Planning. During this time I authored a book, Crossing the Continent: Pioneers of Transcontinental Travel, that included biographies of individuals significant in the historical development of transcontinental transportation, from George Washington to William Boeing. After reviewing the manuscript Ilene candidly asked, “Why are there no women in your book?” Her comment was eye-opening and spurred me to look more deeply at my historical resources. This resulted in the marvelous stories of the six “audacious women” described in the following chapters. During their intriguing and colorful lives, they each took on great challenges and overcame incredible obstacles; it became obvious they deserved a book of their own.

Thoughts On Teaching and Learning

By | Norm's Author Blog

   Here are two thoughts on how teaching and learning is changing in the digital world.

   My first thought stemmed from when I was teaching at Eastern Michigan University. One day I announced the date for a Midterm in a graduate course. One of the students challenged me: “Dr. Tyler, why do you give tests? They may test our memory, but don’t evaluate our ability to solve problems.” I immediately recognized he was right; that was the last test I administered. With the universal use of Google, I realized students no longer needed to “know” information since virtually everything is immediately accessible on the smartphone in their hand. I revised my courses to be less a teacher of information and more a facilitator of problem solving.

   My second rumination resulted from reading about a professor who was surprised his current students did not use “folders” to organize information on their computers. Their computer desktop screens were often overloaded with randomly-placed icons. A comparison of one of their screens with my own illustrates the generational difference.

Typical(?) computer screen of a student
My computer screen

   The professor surveyed his class and found most students had no knowledge of the concept of folders, so he began offering a class on the use of folders. Why was this necessary, he wondered? He concluded this generation of students had grown up relying primarily on their “Search” function. Their smartphones and iPads were great at doing a sophisticated Search that could find what they needed in a variety of ways–by name, date, size, subject, format, or even using facial recognition for photos. In their minds it was not necessary to have their files organized in any systematic way.

   Fortunately, in my retirement these generational changes in how we use our personal devices has not really impacted me that much. First, I no longer teach, so I no longer need to evaluate the “learning” of my students. Second, I will continue my old-school practice of placing computer files in folders so I know where to find them. My computer is quite comfortable with its tried-and-true MS Word software used for my writing; my iPhone and iPad are primarily used for distractions. In short, I may not be keeping up with Generation X, Y, or Z, but it is good enough for now.

Tyler Original Editions

By | Norm's Author Blog

The two volumes of The Tyler Genealogy first published in 1912 include names of 7,724 of Norm’s distant relatives dating from 1619. Family genealogist Willard I. Tyler Brigham made it his life’s labor to collect this wealth of information on descendants of immigrant Job Tyler. Although original editions of Volumes I and II are now pretty rare, I was able to purchase them online in very good condition. It was like a birthday party when they were delivered to our front porch. Now, instead of the poor-quality Xerox copies I have used for research for many years I can peruse dates and details in these original volumes without needing to refocus my eyes.

Although these volumes are a keepsake, our current efforts involve loading our genealogy information online, making it far more accessible to the public. Names are being added gradually to the genealogy software site, WikiTree.com. I prefer WikiTree because it is world-wide, easily accessible, and free (with no ads). Feel free to look up my family there; we encourage you add your own family members as well.

Oliver’s Tales: introducing Ilene’s newest writing project

By | Ilene and Oliver's Tales | 6 Comments

Hello! My name is Oliver! I like the sound of my name. It gives me an identity as a unique individual, even if it was the most popular name for cats in 2020, the year I was born. I don’t know where I was born or where I lived for the first nine weeks of my life. I think I had a littermate, but even he or she is but a distant memory. I came into this world with my eyes open when I was brought to the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV). Those are my first memories. Before that is a blur of being cared for but without a feeling of permanence. My eyes were facing forward, watching, waiting, hoping to be adopted into a forever home.

After my surgery and vaccinations and arbitrary naming at the Humane Society, I did not have long to wait. My cage was placed right next to the information counter, as the first cage visitors see when entering the area of pets up for adoption. Being first, was not such an advantage, however, as it was too easy for visitors to walk right by to reach the middle of all those other cages and pet rooms and then the dog area at the back. I would need to do something about that. An older couple arrived just as the Humane Society opened, having decided to consider adopting, but wanting to stay as far away from other people as possible. I understood that we were in the midst of a pandemic, and everyone was skittish about meeting with others. They thought they would adopt an older cat, perhaps one with special needs, but had neglected to consider their own personal gut feelings about bonding with a cat destined to be theirs. I raised up my head to watch them walk by my cage, completely unaware that I was their soulmate tucked inside.

Just then a little girl and her mother showed up. The little girl asked to meet me, and one of the kindly volunteers wrapped me up in a towel, removed me from my cage, and placed me in her arms. She was sweet and careful with me, but we didn’t bond. No chemistry there, and eventually she gave me back to the volunteer who put me back in my cage. She and her mother moved on to look at other kittens.

That was my chance! I meowed just a tiny meow, as I was still pretty tiny myself. The older couple, who were at the counter filling out papers and trying to decide on adoption of a troubled long-haired ginger one-year-old with “litter issues.” I could see they were hesitant and concerned about something related to the house they lived in, but I could not understand. What I did notice, however, is that they were fixated on having a ginger tabby but were hesitant about the long hair. I looked at my paws and my chest below my chin and saw that I was lightly gingered, more tawny, and definitely short-haired.

Whoa! Those are my people! Stop the presses! Look at me, look at me! I’m here, and I choose you to adopt me!

After sitting patiently on a bench near the entrance, within eyesight of my cage, they watched the little girl return me to the volunteer who put me back in my cage. Peeking through the bars, I could just see them at the information counter where all the adoption business is carried out. My future people walked back to the counter, cancelled the other fluffy cat, and asked to meet me. Me!!! Yes!

Agonizingly slowly, the volunteer first went to find the little girl to ask her if it was okay if I could be introduced to other people, and thankfully she agreed. She said she only wanted me to have a good home with people who loved me. Smart girl and very generous.

Woohoo! I am now pacing back and forth in my cage. Will they like me? Will they accept me? Will they take me home with them? So, again, I went through the ritual of the towel and the hug – ugh! I do not like hugs, though I tolerate them when necessary! – and the decision to adopt by the right people was consummated. The rest is history, my history, shared with you, my friends and fans, in the following pages of this book.

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