This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Obvious or not?

On Easter my daughter-in-law took some pictures along the shore of Weston Pond. I think some people will find her subject matter obvious, and others will look at the pictures and wonder what she was taking pictures of. Was it obvious to you the subject, or did you have to look for a while?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Downtown and around town

There was a ribbon cutting this afternoon at the new office of First Source Asset Advisors. The office manager is Mindy Beier.

In another picture (that did not turn out quite right) I caught the snip.
Ms Beier had been working for National City/PNC Bank before joining 1st Source. Her office is on the left when one enters the building. The Kingman surveyor office is in the back, and there is a room to the right of the entrance that is vacant and for rent. It previously housed the Executor. 1st Source Asset Advisors offers financial advice and products, including stocks and bonds.

Walking down Washington, I stopped in the the Jasper County Microfilm Department, which is in a building that was recently sold. They said that they would be moving but that they did not know where they would be moving to. They might move into the space that the Surveyor's Office previously had in the Court House--that office has moved north of Rensselaer in the old Ceres Solution building. Or they might move somewhere else. They probably need to stay close to the Court House if they are not in it.

Further down the street, there were many signs in the old Murray building--the building that recently had its parapet replaced. It will be open tomorrow as part of the town wide garage sales, but it looks like it will open sometime after that as another flea market. The building itself is still for sale.
In other news, St. Joe's announced an articulation agreement with Ivy Tech. That means that students who complete two years at Ivy Tech will be able to transfer to SJC and graduate in two years rather than three. I recall that five or six years ago various faculty members were telling the powers-that-be that they needed to move on that issue and the powers-that-were sat on their hands while complaining that the faculty were not providing enough leadership for the college. It is good to see that the new administration has acted.

Another event today was a tree planting on Thompson Street sponsored by the Rensselaer Urban Forestry Council, followed by a tree walk. Here the group is examining a ginko tree. Did you know that ginko trees are either male or female, and that most people prefer the males because they are not as messy?
This week saw the greening of Rensselaer--trees are leafing out all over town. The river is up and has flooded part of Weston Cemetery. In the late afternoon the reflections of the trees in the water were very vivid.
There is something unusual about the picture above. Can you figure out what it is?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Strack and Van Til grand opening

I was lucky today--I stumbled on the grand opening of Strack and Van Til. I did not know that this was the big day, and I arrived after the official ribbon cutting, but in plenty of time for cake and other goodies. Since Strack and Van Til bought the old Country Market last fall, this blog has had a number of posts about the extensive remodeling that they have been doing. Maybe it is now over?
In the past seven days, I have been to three parties, and for two of them I found the party by accident. What a great week. The food sure looks good, doesn't it?
The whole store looks very good, and that opinion is shared by several people I know who are vastly more informed about grocery shopping than I am. Below is there deli counter.
They have put in new freezer displays in several aisles.
As part of the grand opening, Strack and Van Til donated $1000 to the Rensselaer Adult Learning Center.
There was another dedication today, over in Newton County. North Newton High School dedicated a new all-weather track. Until this year they did not have a facility that was good enough to allow them to host track meets. I was rather surprised to learn about the dedication from the Rensselaer Republican and not one of the Newton County Facebook pages I follow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

River rising (updated)

The Iroquois River is now above flood stage and may be setting a record for the date. Of course it is nowhere near serious flood conditions.

There is a river float scheduled for May 7. With more rain in the forecast for the next week, I wonder if the river will be suitable for that event. Right now getting under some of the bridges without capsizing would be a challenge.
Weston Lake has reappeared. There are fish spawning in it, and there are lots of frogs along the shore.
Speaking of frogs, either frogs or toads found the vernal pool in the wet lands by the high school attractive.

Update: The river has continued to rise, and this afternoon here is what the flow under the Washngton Street Bridge looked like:

Can you see any difference from the first picture?

Some of the low-lying roads near the river, such as those in Weston Cemetery, are now under water.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April Showers

We sure have been having a lot of rain, but it is April and April is supposed to be a wet month. Playing in the park is sometimes difficult, but there are alternatives.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Batman visits Rensselaer

Ok, it was not the Batman of comic and movie fame. The batman who visited Rensselaer last week was a pest control specialist, and he visited my house because I had bats in the attic.

I knew I had bats because for the past few years I occasionally heard them in the wall near the entrance. I was not really sure what was making that scratching noise, but by a process of elimination figured that bats were the most likely source. Also, for the past few summers we have had several bats flying through the house. We became quite good at shooing them out the door--they needed a lot of encouragement.

I had no idea of what one does when one has bats in the attic until I noticed the truck below at a neighbor's house last year. I watched the guy from the truck walking around the roof and thought it might be about bats, so I later asked the neighbor if he had had a bat problem and got a recommendation. I learned that getting rid of bats was a bit more complicated than I expected because there is one species of bat that is protected. Getting rid of bats has to work around the protected species and the life cycle of the bat.

During the winter bats hibernate--that is one reason they really like warm attics. Then in the spring they wake up and become active, and after a month or two they have babies, which they leave behind when they leave at night to feast on bugs. The bat eradicator does not kill the bats, but gives them a one-way ticket out.
I called Chad last fall after the bats had gone into hibernation. He came out, checked the house and found that the tiny hole that they were using to come and go was up on the roof where a dormer connected to the house. He looked in the attic and from the droppings estimated that we had a colony of about 60 bats and told us that he could not do anything until the spring. The six-week window of getting rid of the bats between the time that they wean the young and hibernate, which my neighbor had used, was gone for the year. I would have to wait for the Spring six-week window between the time they come out of hibernation and give birth.

I was quite excited to get a call from him last week saying that he would be in town--someone had a pressing issue with squirrels and he wanted to get two jobs done for one trip. Chad lives in Clinton county, but no one county gives him enough work to make a living. He does a lot of jobs in the Lafayette area, but also goes as far south as Carmel and as far east as Muncie. Rensselaer is as far north as he goes. Naturally, he is concerned with rising gas prices--it is a big expense. And by the way, it is not cheap to get rid of your bats. I am not sure what it costs to get rid of the squirrels, raccoons, skunks, or any of the other critters he gets to deal with.
Here is what Chad installed. The bats can leave, but because the tube is slippery, they cannot get back in. I hope that the bats are gone already, but the tube will stay there until the end of bat season, and then he will remove it and seal the hole.
I should be bat free this summer, but my former tenants will be looking for new quarters. If you have a hole in your attic, and it can be a very small hole, they may be moving in with you. If they do, you now know that you can call Indiana Wildlife Specialists.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hunting eggs

There were two Easter egg hunts in Rensselaer today, both at 1:00. Because I have written about the Lions/Rensselaer Republican egg hunt for the past two years (here and here), I decided to combine some chores and a quick visit to the Fountain Stone Theater hunt. The crowd lined up to get in was not especially large, and there are actually quite a few kids there. They are small and harder to see.
The kids under 4 went to one theater, and the kids 5-8 went to another. I hope they cleaned well before, or else you might have some little kids telling their mothers, "I found gum." This little boy looks like he has been quite successful, and there is still candy for him to pick up.
I am not sure what this person was portraying, but I do not pay much attention to current movies.
By the time I had done my chores and gotten to Brookside Park, it was deserted except for a few Lions. One told me that the egg hunt for the big kid group had last all of fifty seconds. Easter egg hunts are one event where you better not be late.

Have a happy Easter.
(I think Brook, Morocco, and Goodland all had their Easter egg hunts today, all at 1:00.)

Update: Little Indiana has a bit about the Lions/Rensselaer Republican egg hunt.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A few loose ends

The newspaper has had a couple stories about this house, which had a fire almost a year ago. Last week it re-burned, and this time it is a total loss. It was unoccupied, and arson is being given as the cause of the fire. It should be torn down, but that may be a problem with the owner not available.
I noticed that the old Chrysler dealership, which had been filled with cars from Ed White a few months ago, is totally empty and even the for sale signs are gone. Is something happening there?

South of town I found this impressive display of spring flowers. I doubt that the farmer who plants here is happy with it. I do not know what the plant is, but it seems to spread quite rapidly and probably is hard to eradicate.
Preparations for construction of the new elementary school continue on North Melville Street. There is now a port-a-potty, an essential element on any construction site, and the construction trailer, which arrived last week, is now in place.
Have a nice Holy Week and Easter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No sparks fly

I attended the Republican candidate forum at the Community Services Building on Tuesday night because I realized how little I knew about local politics. All the candidates for the Republican primary were there. The Democrats seem not to have anyone on the ballot at this time, but Democratic Committee can add them later.

The first thing I learned (from my table companion) was that the lunches served at the Community Services Building have became vastly more popular since Devons began catering them in August. The lunches cost $1.50 and are available to those over 60. (Most of the activities at the Community Services Building are intended for old people.)

There were roughly 50 people at the forum, about half candidates and their families. The program began with each candidate given three minutes to talk about whatever he or she wanted. Herb Arihood led off the evening, mentioning that he was finishing up his twelfth year as major. He was proud of the $12 million spent on infrastructure improvements that the city has undertaken. (Over the course of the evening it was revealed that the city has no taxing authority--the tax money it gets is from county taxes. However, the city does control fees for utilities. And if you think about it, the major thing that the city does is run the utilities--water, sewer, gas, and electric.)

Steve Reames, who served a couple terms as county sheriff, was up next, and he was critical of the annexation of the I-65 corridor, implicitly wondering if the cost to residents was too high. However, he said that it was a done deal and that as mayor he would try to mange the annexation to keep costs down. (When the city annexes an area, it is required to make city services available to the annexed area within three years. Hence, by annexing the area around the I-65 interchange, the city obligated itself to run water, sewer, gas, and electric to that area. It may already have the gas there--the city supplies gas far beyond city boundaries.)

With a bit of disagreement expressed early, I expected to see conflicting visions to be displayed during the rest of the evening. It was not to be--no sparks flew, at least none that I could detect. There may have been subtle criticisms that I missed. (You should be aware that I am giving you my impressions, which may be quite different from the impressions that others who were there might have gotten. If anyone who was there has different impressions, they are welcome to give them in the comments.)

Rick Williams was the third mayoral candidate to speak. He has been on the city council for 16 years. He did not seem to have any criticism of the current mayor, but cited his long service on many different committees and his good working relationships with the heads of the various city departments as reasons he would be a good mayor.

Frieda Bretzinger is unopposed for Clerk/Treasurer. Her office pays bills and manages the payroll. I was left wondering why this office is elected rather than appointed.

In Ward 1 Liz Austin is running against Bill Hollerman. Austin said she was running because others told her she should run. She wanted to move the meetings to a later time and to have the cable company broadcast them so the public could be more involved. In the question answer session later, the mayor said that the 4:00 start time was for the convenience of the city superintendents who give reports to the city council. Hollerman has been on the council for 11 years. He said he was running because he has the time to devote to the job, being semi-retired. He also stressed that a councilman is one of five votes, and that councilmen do not normally have an agenda but react to the ideas that are put before them.

In Ward 2 Mark Callaway and Russ Overton are vying for an open seat. Callaway is a minister turned lawyer who has lived in Rensselaer for ten years. He was active in city politics in other towns he lived in and said that that experience would help him. Russ Overton introduced a couple themes that were repeated several times in the evening, that he was running because he wanted to give back to the city and that he wants Rensselaer to be a place where our kids can find good jobs instead of having to leave the city to pursue their careers.

I was struck by how much in agreement the candidates were on their vision of Rensselaer. They want it to grow. No one took the position that we are the right size and that it would be good that we stayed the size we are.

George Cover in Ward 3 and Richard Comingore in Ward 4 are unopposed in the primary. Cover was proud to have worked on the things that the council has done, and Comingore praised the city workers for their role in making the community a good place to live.

The two candidates for the at-large seat are Scott Barton, who seemed to be the youngest candidate, and Rick Odle. Barton was concerned that we keep the kids busy in the summer, so seemed be the one most interested in the Park Department. Odle, whose family came to the area in 1888, was the most explicit in saying that he wants Rensselaer to get bigger. He saw the annexation out to I-65 as an important way that the city could do that.

The meeting then had a break while questions were collected. As I watched the candidates, I was struck by their inactivity during this interval. I noticed only one who going from table to table introducing himself and talking to people he did not know.

There were two things I thought interesting in the question and answer session. In response to a question that asked if current residents would be subsidizing the utilities provided to the I-65 interchange area, the mayor said that it would not affect current residents because the extension would be financed with bonds. Reames replied that that bonds were an obligation to the citizens, so they were a burden. (By the way, the city currently has $18 million in debt--another little fact that popped out during the evening.) In response to a partial question, the mayor said that the reason for the Owens Street-Wood Road annexation is that the city well north of town had adversely affected the water wells of the people in the area, so the city had an obligation to extend city water to them. It was a short jump from extending water and annexing.

Again, I may have misrepresented positions or candidates and anyone thinks that I did so can correct me in the comments.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Platform Dedication

By a strange fluke I heard that today the official dedication of the Amtrak platform was to take place, so I wandered over to see what would happen. The first surprise was that the dedication was moved inside, to the gas department building because of the rain and threat of rain. I was surprised by how many people were there. The start of the proceedings was delayed because the people in charge were waiting for a color guard that had been at a funeral. Finally they started. I do not know if the color guard ever showed up.

This event had the usual assortment of speakers. Below you see the man who the city officials called "Charlie Amtrak," a employee of the government affairs department of Amtrak. In addition to activity that is equivalent to lobbying, they spend time on community relations, which is why he was at this event. He pointed out that Amtrak is trying to fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that the new platform was part of that effort. Mayor Arihood spoke briefly and presented Amtrak with a key to the city. Councilman Richard Comingore spoke, as did Kevin Kelly from the Jasper County Economic Development group. Kelly said that the Amtrak stop was important not just for Rensselaer but for the region, and he thought it would make Rensselaer a more desirable place for people to retire. With the ability to hop on Amtrak and get to either Indianapolis or Chicago in a couple hours, older people could get the amenities of the large city without the hassle of driving in the large city.
A number of people were recognized but did not speak: representatives from Senators Lugar and Coates (but not from Representative Visclosky, which surprised me), Jessica Chapman as a representative of Saint Joseph's College, Steve Clapp from the Chamber of Commerce. and the Lions Club. The Lions had adopted the little station house as one of their projects and had in the past re-roofed it and done other repairs that were needed.

The third, fourth, and fifth grades from St. Augustine's school sang "Back Home in Indiana" at the beginning of the program and "God Bless America" at the end. They were bussed over, and I gave the very tall student who you see on the left below some grief about that. I distinctly recall walking miles and miles to and from school (uphill both ways), usually in the snow or hail. We never got bussed.
Near the end of the indoor ceremony, a representative of Amtrak presented the mayor with a framed poster of the Cardinal, the train that runs from Washington DC to Chicago three or four times a week. (When the Cardinal does not run, the Hoosier State does. You can tell the difference if you see the trains--the Cardinal has more cars.) It is supposed to be hung in city hall, so if you ever see it there, you will now know why it is there.
Then it was time for everyone to go outside for the ribbon cutting. Fortunately, the rain had stopped.
The mayor did the honors.

Speaking of the Lions, they will co-host their Easter Egg Hunt (with the Rensselaer Republican) on Saturday, April 23 at Brookside Park at 1:00. This is the same time that Fountain Stone Theaters will host its Egg hunt. That should cause some agony among people with small children who want them to collect as much candy as possible. There are other egg hunts as well--I think I saw a note in the Rensselaer Republican that the Rensselaer Care Center was going to have one.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Normal April weather

We had normal April weather this past weekend, and it messed up some events. The Earth Day festivities went on as planned on Saturday morning, but it was raining and cold and the attendance seemed to be a little off. I was planning to go back before noon and take a closer look at the exhibits, but never got around to it. I did pick up a plant, a Spotted Joe Pye Weed, and if I do not kill it, I will see what the flower looks like next year. I have been wondering what the plant looks like since last spring.
I left Brookside Park to see what the Walmart Easter egg hunt looked like, but when I got to Walmart, there were no kids. I assume that the event was postponed. The Little 500 race at SJC was also postponed, running on Sunday rather than Saturday.
There were a lot of go-karts in the race, but the crowd was sparse, with few students and even fewer alumni. I saw something I never expected to see--an empty Little 500 beer area. (Was that because it was Sunday?)
It's April--we should not be surprised to have events rained out.

I assume that the high school play was unaffected by the weather, but I never got to it even though it ran for four days. How was it?

I often feel that I know very little about what is going on in Rensselaer, but today I discovered that I am not alone. I noticed a poster a week ago for a Free Hog Roast at the Rensselaer VFW Post on Sunday, May 1 at 1:00 CST. In addition to the hog roast, there will be a Red Cross blood mobile, a D.J., kid's games, a kid's bounce house, and more. Today I saw a sign for the Rensselaer Volunteer Fire Department's Pork Chop Dinner, which will include a pork chop, vegetable, salad, roll, desert (I think they meant dessert) and more. It is also scheduled for May 1, from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 pm at the fire station. I know it is easy for those conflicts to happen because even in a town as small as Rensselaer, there are a lot of groups and one group often does not know what another group is planning.

Addendum: Don't forget to mail your taxes today if you have not done so already.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

They are back...

and this time I cannot take any credit for them.

The Little 500 race at SJC has been postponed until tomorrow, when the weathermen tell us the rain will be gone.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New parapet

A little more than a month ago a bit of the parapet of the old Murray Department store building fell off. On Monday workers showed up and began to repair it.

It was not obvious what they were doing at first, but by the end of the day it was clear that they were not just patching the one spot from whence the bricks had fallen, but they were replacing the entire top of the parapet. By Wednesday morning they had only a little bit of the original brickwork left to remove.
A few hours latter it was all done. The new parapet does not match the old building well, but it was probably the easiest way to deal with what may have been a structural problem. And if you look at the next building, the top of it does not match the bottom well, so it is not the first mismatched building in the downtown. What do you think?
On to other items. There has been slow progress on the planking of the Talbert Bridge during the past week or two, and this morning I saw the workmen on the job. The planking on the approach segment in Weston Cemetery has been completed in the past week, and it appears that they are almost finished with the planking on the south approach. Still to be done is some of the planking on the main span of the bridge, the side rails, and the transition from the ground to the bridge.
In still other news, I got an election flier today with the names of the candidates in the Republican primary on May 3. The three candidates for mayor are Herbert Arihood, Rick Williams, and Steven Reames. Frieda Bretzinger is unopposed for Clerk-Treasurer, as are George Cover for Council Member Ward Three and Richard Comingore for Ward Four. Scott Barton and Rich Odle are running for Council Member at Large, Liz Austin and William Hollerman are facing off in Ward One, and Mark Callaway and Russell Overton are competing for Ward Two.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some more signs

Yesterday after my ten-minute presentation at the SJC Colloquium (I hope the five people who were there did not find it a total waste of time), Brian Capouch told me that I needed to go out east of town and take a picture of a barn that is undergoing renovation. The old paint has been stripped off, revealing old advertising for two local businesses. So this morning, I did.
The sign reads "W.A. Huff The Jeweler" and "LaRue Bros Groceries and Furniture." The barn is set well back from SR 114, and it faces the road, so most people driving on the highway would not notice it. That suggests that when it was painted, people were traveling at a more leisurely pace than they do today. The sign will not be preserved, but will be painted over.

SJC has some new signage, part of their new Exterior Signage/Wayfinding Project sponsored by the Council of Fellows. It is an on-going project. You might not be able to see them, but the magnolia trees are blooming in the background. They were blooming in southern Indiana a couple of weeks ago. Spring is moving north.
The three Republican candidates for mayor all agree that the corner of Grace and College is a great place to put campaign signs. Is the election coming up a primary, or is it the final election? I do not follow local politics too well.
The important sign here is what is missing, and the thing that is missing says that construction is finished for the Amtrak platform.
Here is another picture with the last bit of construction, the yellow post that discourages people from driving their cars onto the platform. Can you see what is still present in this picture but is missing in the one above?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Last week the Columbian Players at SJC presented their version of the play Urinetown, The Musical.

It is a strange play that takes many of the conventions of musicals and turns them on their head. The premise is that there is a severe drought and in order to save water, the privilege of going to the toilet is being rationed. In many or perhaps most plays and movies some suspension of disbelief is necessary, but though I can accept super powers and all kinds of absurdities in sci-fi movies and enjoy them, I never could quite muster up the suspension of disbelief needed for this. If there is a shortage of water, it makes no sense to ration the excrement of fluid; it makes sense to ration the intake of fluid. The people who wrote the play recognized that they had a problem here and in many other places, because one of the characters, the chief police officer, also serves as the narrator. His explanation for the absurdity of rationing the privilege to pee was that the it was the whim of the playwrights.

As the play starts the poor are being oppressed by a greedy capitalist who bribes the government to get laws passed that benefit his corporation, the Urine Good Company (UGC). We meet the hero, Bobby Strong, who falls in love with Hope, the innocent and naive daughter of the greedy capitalist. Inspired by the words of Hope and also the guilt of not standing up for his father, who was arrested for urinating in public and sent to Urinetown (which means he was killed), Bobby starts a rebellion. It all sounds like the typical conflicted love story with good battling evil.
But, as I mentioned, the playwrights delighted in standing convention on its head. The hero, Bobby, is killed well before the end of the play. Hope, who has been held hostage by the rebels, does a Patty Hearst and decides to lead the rebellion against her father. She is successful and has her father executed, all in the name of love, peace, and social justice. Hope and change come to Urinetown.
However, it turns out that Hope and change lead to disaster, not a happy ending with people living in peace and prosperity. The water shortage is real and the unlimited use of water that the rebellion promised quickly leads to an even greater shortage and a return to drastic measures to curtail the use of water. I really liked the anti-utopian ending--it made up for that premise that attacked my ability to suspend disbelief and also the mediocre music of the show.

The main male leads did excellent jobs, especially the student who played the evil capitalist, but they are seniors who will graduate. For many years I thought that SJC did not have the depth of talent to do musicals really well--the lesser roles suffered even when they could get strong performances from the leads. For the past few years that has not been true--they have had unusual depth. However, unless they have some exceptional recruiting years, they will be back to where they were in the past. (That criticism does not hold for the non-musical dramas and comedies, which are far less demanding to cast.)

Today is Colloquium Day at SJC. For some reason someone out there thought that I might have something interesting to say about adventures in blogging even though I told them that they would find the things that I do very boring. If my ten minute presentation is not a complete disaster, maybe I will write something about it. Or maybe I will write something if it is a complete disaster--that might be more interesting.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Electronics Recycling Day

On Saturday I took in some old computer monitors and printers to the recycling center because it was Electronics Recycling Day.
After I unloaded my stuff, I asked how much stuff had been turned in and if I could take some pictures. They were very hospitable, and showed me the boxes of TV monitors and computer stuff that had been collected earlier in the day.
I suspect most of the computer stuff still worked-- the stuff I turned in did. I was a bit sorry to dispose of my twenty-year old ink-jet printer. It was one of the first models that HP made, and you could easily refill the cartridges with fountain-pen ink and a syringe. I bought quite a few bottles of ink back in the 1990s for the printer, until the SJC bookstore stopped carrying the kind of ink that worked. It was shortly after that printer that the manufactures began to give away the printers and charge for the non-refillable cartridges, which made using ink-jet printers expensive. (I have now migrated to a laser printer--it is cheaper and more reliable than the ink-jets and produces better quality printed pages, though it does not do color.) Because I had not used the old printer for at least five years and it was incompatible with any computer made in the past decade, it was time for it to go.
In addition to the pallets in the shed, they had several pallets of wrapped TV sets in the yard.
In case you missed electronic recycling day, there will be another in a year. Or else you can just put out your obsolete and broken electronics with the regular recycling and it will be picked up. (This is what my guide to the building with the pallets--if it is not correct, the people who work for the street department can correct me.)