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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

I had not taken pictures of the many Halloween decorations around town until I saw this one, which seemed to be just right for today's post. The house is listed as the David Nowells House in the Jasper County Interim Report: Indiana Historic Sites and Structure Inventory. It was built around 1890 and is in the Queen Anne style.
Another house I noticed last week is on Thompson and is getting a pitched roof. This house was on a open house tour last May and the reaction from those who saw it was that it needed major renovation despite being fairly new. It had a flat roof and had suffered considerable water damage from leakage. Flat roofs have proven to be a bad idea in Rensselear.
It appears that a second house near the power house met its demise last week. This week the dumpster, backhoe, and foundation are all that is left.
The trees are still very colorful. Rensselaer Urban Forestry Council is touting the seven or eight honey locust trees they planted in Milroy Park.
Next year they may drop enough leaves to require the services of the green machine that the city uses to vacuum leaves.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reaching for the Heavens on a Sunday afternoon

I got a tip this afternoon (Thanks, Sheila!) that there was a man at heights on the Court House. I was able to get there before he finished climbing down the flagpole.
You might notice a large ball hanging from the man, who is a professional flag pole climber. It is the ball that was on top of the flagpole. This man was hired to take down the ball, fix it so the flag chain worked properly, and then put it back.

After he got down he disappeared into the Court House. There is a small door on the roof that provides access. I waited a while, than went home for half an hour. When I came back, he was climbing back up. Below he is placing the ball back on the top of the flag pole.
Below you can see what this looked like in perspective. You can hardly tell that there is a man up on the flagpole. By the way, the wind was blowing briskly at ground level, so it must have been quite strong on the flagpole.
You may wonder how a person climbs a flag pole. It looked a lot like the way that people ascend a rope using the sit-stand method. I have never done it, but Desert Survivor is very good at it.
I left before they got the flag up, and on the way home I noticed that the sign on Tucker Realty was being taken down.
I stopped and saw Deanna, the owner of Tucker, and asked what was happening. She has closed Tucker and is now working for Jenkins.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Working on the roof

This past week the building trades class took advantage of the nice weather to work on the roof of the house they are building on Vine Street.

Friday, October 28, 2011


There are a number of paving projects underway in the city. Yesterday a crew was ripping a couple of inches of asphalt from North Front Street. Today they have moved on to other streets and Front is open, though with a bumpy surface.
A new layer of asphalt was being applied to the roads in the old section of Weston Cemetery this morning.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Annual CDC Dinner

On Tuesday night CDC Resources, Inc held it annual dinner at Camp Buffalo near Buffalo, Indiana.
This is the second year in a row that the event has been held at this location. The camp has a new dining hall that nicely accommodated the roughly 200 people who attended. Quite a few were from Rensselaer.
The goal of CDC is to enrich the lives of people with disabilities. It serves 500 people in a five county area. More than 150 of those are in Jasper County. Other counties served are White, Carroll, Newton, and Benton. Its main office is in Monticello.
One of its changes in the past year has been the transfer of its Playscape Childcare facility in Rensselaer to the Tri-County Bible Church, which now operates the service as Treasure Seekers. It still has three faces in Rensselaer: the Jasper Village residential facility on Sparling Ave, Jasper Junction resale shop north of town, and it Day Services and Heartland Employment services on the far east side.
The featured speaker was Michelle Fischer from Lafayette. Cerebral palsy keeps Ms Fischer in a wheel chair most of the time, but she is an articulate speaker and she moved the audience with reflections on her story. She does podcasts or audiocasts for ARC of Indiana that look at how disabled people deal with life.
ARC of Indiana has been trying to get people to blog about disabilities. Here is a link to some blogs they hope will flourish.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gas Department Open House 2011

On Tuesday afternoon the city gas department held another open house. I went early (I was the first to sign in!) and was followed by quite a number of other older people.
One of the messages that the gas department wanted to get across is that if you are doing any digging in your property, you should call 811 and have the area in which you are digging checked for gas, water, electrical, telephone/cable, and sewer lines. They had on display a gas pipe that had been ruptured by someone who did not call. They said that it was raining when this one was ruptured or else it might have been a lot uglier.
There were a number of other exhibits available as well. The Northwest Indiana Solid Waste District, which is headquartered in Monticello and serves Newton, Jasper, Benton, White, Pulaski, and Carroll counties, was there with free recycled toothbrushes. (It is not what you think--the toothbrushes were made of recycled #5 plastic, so when you are done with it, you can recycle it again. At least you could if Rensselaer recycled #5 plastics.)

They also showed the life cycle of a pop bottle. It goes to the bottling plant not as the big bottle on the right, but as the much smaller bottle with the blue cap below. The smaller bottle is then expanded to become the big bottle--it is much easier to ship the smaller bottles if they are empty. When the bottles are recycled, they become pellets, shown at the bottom of the bottle on the left. These bits are then made into other things, such as the stuffed horse at the far left.
The Solid Waste District holds occasional pick-up days on which people can get rid of the things that you are not supposed to put in the trash. They do not have anything to do with the recycling that the city of Rensselaer does except for the electronics recycling, which they subsidize. (There are valuable things in the recycled electronics, but there are also things that are not valuable and cost to dispose of properly. The lady at the booth said that if you get paid to recycle electronics, it probably means that the recycling is not done properly.)

The city electric department had a display showing how much electricity was used by various types of bulbs. The bulb that is on is a LED bulb, which may be the future of lighting. It used only about 12% as much electricity as an incandescent bulb to produce the same light and it has a very long lifetime. You can rush out and buy one at Kirby Risk, but it will cost you $35. You will not save enough electricity to ever make that a cost-effective decision, but given some time the technology should mature and get cheaper.
They also had some of the spiral florescent bulbs which also use less electricity than the incandescent but which are not as energy efficient as the LEDs. However, their lives are shortened by repeated on-off cycles and they are full of toxic chemicals. I predict that eventually they will be banned, but until then you may be forced to buy them. It will soon be illegal to sell the 100-watt incandescents, but there still is time to stock up.

I asked the electrical people what the large pile of poles kiddy corner on Vine and Cullen was for. It has been there for several weeks. I learned that the city electrical department was ready to start putting in a new connection between the city power plant and the substation on north Melville. It will come up Cullen to Elm, and then east to Melville. It will be a 69K (volt?) line--the present connection is only 7.2K.
On another table the city had four books of showing four different construction projects that are in the works. The one that will begin the soonest (next week) is the connecting of side-street storm drains to the Melville Street storm sewer line. This initial stage of connection will only go a block out from Melville.
The second project being planned was a renovation of the water treatment plant next to Iroquois Park. There will not be a lot to see with this project because almost all the work will be inside. The project will replace and upgrade pipes and electrical systems that have suffered corrosion from he humidity and chemicals. As part of the project, the mostly unused softball field in the park will be removed--that may be the most visible change.

A third project is a sewer line from the I-65 area to the sewage plant. The line will run down 850W to Bunkum, then east along Bunkum until it will finally pass under the river. This will not get started until 2012. The final project on display was the Austin Park project, which will be put out for bids in May.

(Speaking of projects, one under way now is a resurfacing of some of the roads in Weston Cemetery. I also heard indirectly that the lift-station renovation was funded with grants and has already begun to save the city money.)

Not only was the open house full of information, but it also had free hotdogs, chips, and cake. For both reasons I hope this will become an annual event.

Update: I was mistaken on the toothbrush. You are supposed to save the package, and when done with the toothbrush you use the package to mail it back to the manufacturer. This seems to me, a person who recycles a lot more than the average guy, to be to be recycling gone insane, the triumph of symbolism over reality.

Update 2: I forgot to mention that they had door prizes. Also, the department wants to make this an annual event. Its major purpose is to promote the idea that you need to check for what is buried underground before you dig. And finally (I hope) workers were moving the poles mentioned above, but a person at the gas department thought they route was down Merritt, not Elm. We should find out very soon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brought to you by the Letter M

Yesterday when I rode out to the construction site of the new elementary school on Melville Street, my first reaction was, "Today's construction is brought to you by the Letter M."
The workers were busy pouring more concrete and there was a parade of concrete trucks coming and going. It is too bad that the Kindergartners or first graders could not see it--they would certainly have appreciated the M.
Construction progress has been rapid, but they still have a long way to go to complete the shell.

On a totally different topic, there were reports of Northern Lights last night. I missed them. Did any of you see them?

Monday, October 24, 2011

A late bloomer

Only a few wildflowers are still blooming. A number of asters still look good, some goldenrod may still be feeding the bees. One of the last flowers to bloom is Sneezeweed (Helenium atuumnale), a small daisy-like flower. Some that I managed to grow in a garden were just beginning to bloom on Sunday.
The name Sneezeweed is not due to its pollen, but rather to a use the plant once had. The leaves were crushed and used as snuff to cause a sneeze, which was supposed to be helpful. The plant is toxic to wildlife, and usually grows in moist conditions.

I noticed it last year at the Fisher Oak Savanna and included a picture of it, but left it unidentified in that post.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Studio 110

I have seen the Studio 110 signs for a week or two now, and yesterday I thought I would stop by Stunt Dawg Studios to see what was happening.
The framing business that had been at Harvey's Copy Center and had moved to Kem's Hardware after Tom Harvey retired was now moving again to Stunt Dawg, where it will go under the title of Studio 110. (Their address is 110 North Front Street if you are wondering where the 110 came from.) The display area in front was undergoing major renovation, but samples of frames were already on the wall. Stunt Dawg/Studio 110 does not keep all those frames in stock--they order what they need when they need it. UPS and FedEx allow small businesses to maintain very small inventories.
When I came to Rensselaer, Wood Brothers Seeds was at this location. They moved a number of years ago to the old Farm Bureau lumber yard on McKinley just north of the railroad tracks. The Parmeles told me that the building was originally a creamery and then later a beer warehouse or distribution center. Anyone know more about that history? The Jasper County Interim Report says the building was built around 1915.

Then they asked if I would like to see what was behind the little display room. After a zig and a zag we entered a large room with a very large machine. It is an eight-station, ten-color tee-shirt silk-screening machine (or something close to that).
However, it is not the machine used for most tee-shirt work. Rather this much smaller and older machine that can only do five colors is used on most jobs.
A tee shirt is placed on the paddle.
The acetone plate is pressed down on it. Notice the black ink on the right.
The operator pulls the ink over the screen and presses it in. (The light was low, so this shot got a lot of blur.)
Then the screen is lifted and the almost finished product is ready.
The final step is to send it through an oven that will result in the ink being bonded to the fabric so it will not wash out. The magic of chemistry is involved in this step.

(The above shows the printing of the back of the tee shirt. Doing the front requires the whole process to be done a second time.)
You are undoubtedly wondering why use the old, little press when a big, new press that can print over 300 shirts an hour is available. Although the big press will print shirts much faster, it requires more time and work to set up. So if someone needs only a dozen or two tee shirts, it is easier and faster to do them on the small, manual press. However, it you want hundreds or thousands of tee shirts with lots of different colors, that job will be done on the big press. I noticed that a plate for the Rensselaer Cross Country Invitational was still on the big press, so that is the type of event that it is used for.

There are also steps required to prepare the plates or screens. The design is done on a computer and printed, then transferred to an acetate plate, and then there are some more steps that were a little more than I could understand. I think you need to have actually done things similar to this for it all to make sense.

There was even more behind this room. In the far back was the space where they will do the actual framing and also where they produce the various types of signs that they make.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Credit union day

The First Trust Credit Union was celebrating Credit Union Day today so I stopped in to have a cookie and see what they were doing.
Credit unions are a lot like banks in the services that they provide to the general public. They make more small loans than banks do, and they are non-profit. You join a credit union, and you are an "owner." Savings and Loan Associations used to be a lot like that, but most of them switched to a for-profit status a couple decades ago.

First Trust was highlighting the fact that you could belong to one credit union and conduct your transactions in the offices of another. So if you belong to PEFCU you could make deposits at First Trust and vice versa. They were not busy when I stopped in and were quite willing to spend time talking to me.

They were planning a big community picnic for Saturday using the SJC lawn adjacent to their parking lot, but that got nixed by SJC. Apparently the proposal to have a pumpkin throwing mechanism was too violent or weapon-like. Maybe next year they will be able to fold their event into some other community event. I hope so--I like the thought of flinging pumpkins. They will still have some food and contests tomorrow morning, but it will be much like what they had today.

You can't take it with you

The play, "You Can't Take It With You" will play again tonight and Saturday at the Theater at SJC. Start time is 7:30 and admission is $5.
The play was written in the 1930s and is a romantic comedy. Alice, shown in blue, is in love with Tony, in the suit, but sees difficulty coming from the clash between her very eccentric family and Tony's prim and proper family. Romantic comedies of problems of class differences were fairly popular during the 30s. I vaguely recall this play being performed at SJC fifteen or twenty years ago.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Building D

Do you ever wonder what is in some of the buildings in Rensselaer? Every time I went past Building D on east Walnut Street, I wondered what was in there. It is part of the Vision Ag complex, most of which is on West Walnut Street.

Last week the big door was open so I could see inside. Naturally I took a picture. I am not sure what was in the piles, but they have interesting colors that contrasts well with the blackness of the background. You can see some holes in the north wall--this building obviously is not heated.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New things at the historical society

After the Yeoman celebration in August, I visited the Jasper County Historical Society Museum because a comment said that they had a DVD of the film that was showing at the Yeoman event. Although they did have a DVD (only $10), it was not the right film. It was a DVD that had been made from a VCR tape that the Society had put together several years ago.

The Museum had added a number of pieces to the quilt display, including a Hmong quilt owned by Jane Lord. Ms Lord will be doing the Riley Read at the Jasper County Library right before Tricks and Treating hours begin.
Your last chance to see the quilt show may be tonight (Tuesday, Oct 18) at 6:30, when the Historical Society has a meeting featuring Brian Capouch talking about old Jasper County families. Professor Capouch has been writing a weekly column for the Pulaski County Journal and you can find links to all of his articles here. (This link is also on the right sidebar in the Rensselaer Links section.) Most of his articles discuss western Pulaski County, but he often includes information about eastern Jasper County, as in his discussion of the the draining of the marshes or the cultivation of mint.

If you visit the museum, you cannot miss the large spinning wheel that dominates the back part of the room. It is a recent acquisition, as is the funny looking thing to its left. Both came from a pioneer family that settled in Carpenter township.
If you visit the museum or drive past it, you may notice construction activity across the street, on the northeast corner of College and Cullen. I checked the building permit to learn that it will be a duplex.

(The draining of the marshes reminds me that I never mentioned the update to the video being produced about the draining of the area marshes and the dredging of the Kankakee. Here is a Facebook page of that project, and here is a youtube video.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hoover House is closing

The most recent Shopper's News had an ad announcing the closing of Hoover House furniture.
Hoover House has been in business on the courthouse square in Rensselaer since the late 1960s, and before Hoover bought it, the location had a furniture store under a different name. It has been owned by Bob Messman since sometime in the 1990s.
I asked why the store was closing, and was told that business has been slow for several years.
The store inventory is smaller than it was several years ago, the last time I was in the store.
Everything is for sale, and they say they will accept reasonable bids. I am not quite sure what a reasonable bid is. There is no definite final day--the final closing depends on how quickly or slowly the merchandise that is there sells.
One wing of the store is already empty. That suggests that the owner knew some time ago that this day was coming and that he was reducing inventory by not replacing what was sold.
Soon the whole place will look like this.

In the past year and a half downtown Rensselaer will have lost both of its furniture businesses.