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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wild turkey

I saw a wild turkey today. Unfortunately, it was dead, off the side of the road just north of Sealy Springs. At first I thought it was a pheasant, but then realized it was much too big to be a pheasant.
In all the years I have lived in Rensselaer, I have only seen live wild turkeys once. I know other people see them frequently. This dead bird suggests that there are wild turkeys close by.

In other news, someone told me there were lots of robins the Weston Cemetery, and Smith's True Value is taking orders for baby chickens. Winter will soon be gone.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lenten Adventure

The parishioners of St. Augustine got a shock when they entered the church today. There was something extra in the pews.
It should not have been a complete surprise. The parish has been raising money to have plaster repaired and to have the entire interior repainted. The scaffolding is preparation for repainting.
Below is the view from the choir loft. Not all the scaffolding is up. It should be awesome to see when it is.
The scaffolding has interlocking ends for stability.
Until the painting is done and the scaffolding is removed, the parish will have Mass in the basement. Lent is a good time to do this because the Catholic Church does not do weddings during Lent. I guess they have to hope people do not die, because funerals may be a problem. The entire project should be done before Easter. The parish did have the option of having the scaffolding removed each weekend, but that would have added quite a bit to the costs of the repainting.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Rise of the Schoolhouse Ditch

Southern Indiana has a natural wonder in the Rise of the Lost River, but Rensselaer has a man-made wonder in the Rise of the Schoolhouse Ditch. It pops up from nowhere a bit to the west of the new elementary school. In future years people may think it got its name from that school, not from the high school. (I am guessing that it got the name from the high school. If you know more about the source of its name, please share in the comments.)
From a different angle you can see two metal culverts contributing water to the ditch, and behind them an old concrete structure.
The concrete holds a very small pipe
I think some of the water comes from the small ditch along 400S just to the north of the John Deere dealership. The water enters a culvert when it reaches the highway, US 231, and it does not reappear on the other side. It seems reasonable to assume that it travels underground about half a mile and spills out here.

It was thoughtful for the school board to build the school alongside the ditch. If there is anything kids like, it is running water in small streams. When I was a kid, we lived a block away from a small creek much like Brookside Creek that sometimes flowed and sometimes did not. My friends and I spent many hours there catching minnows.

A tributary to the ditch has an equally sudden appearance. It is located in the wild area by the windmill west of the high school and just to the east of CDC resources. It did not any any appreciable water in it this morning. It may be draining the area around Van Rensselaer.
The high school parking lot also drains into the Schoolhouse Ditch. A few months ago I had a picture of one of the drains presented as a mystery photo. No one could identify it and I never followed up on it. Consider this a follow up.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In my bubble (updated)

I have been happily living in my own bubble lately, not paying much attention to what is happening in the wider world. I missed the Drive-Your-Tractor-to-School Day again this year--it was Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, I missed a performance by my replacement in the economics department at St. Joes. John Kennedy was at the City Office and Pub playing and singing Irish music in what I heard was a well-attended event. About the same time the Jasper County Historical Society had a meeting at the Court House that a member told me was very informative. I do not know if I missed any other Mardi Gras events.

We are now in the liturgical season of Lent, which is a preparation for Easter. We are also less than a month away from the Spring Equinox, the start of spring. Someone I know saw crocuses blooming this week. On Facebook the Friends of the Sands reported that the red-wing blackbirds are back at the Kankakee Sands. I have received the various forms I need to begin the spring ritual of computing last year's taxes. The days are getting longer, and I can see the sunset is moving north.

The Rensselaer Republican reported that the sewer project at the fairgrounds was almost done. I did not even know that there was a sewer project at the fairgrounds. I do know, however, that tentative dates have been set for this year's Fun Floats on the Iroquois: Saturday April 28 and another on October 13. Tentative dates for the Newton County Fun Floats are May 12 and Aug 25.

The Facebook page of Fair Oaks Farms links to a piece saying that there may soon be a Pig Adventure to complement the Dairy Adventure.

The big event at Saint Joseph's College last week was a visit by an accreditation team from North Central, the group that accredits colleges in the Midwest. This is an event that happens every ten years at all colleges and causes stress among the higher-up officials. It is something that requires years of preparation and I ignored it all before I retired because I knew I would not be there.

Copies of my maze books are now available at the Willow Switch. Take a look at them next time you are in the store.

Update: If you use a Macintosh and have access to the Apps Store (you need OS-X 6 or 7), give NotesTab a try. It is  simple application that sits on the right side of your menu bar and lets you store notes. It is free, has been in the top ten of free applications for the past two weeks, and it is written by a former Rensselaer resident who still has family ties here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

On Saturday Saint Joseph's College hosted one of the regional science olympiads for Indiana. I took a quick look at several of the activities. Below are students competing in the robot arm competition.
I do not remember seeing the mouse-trap car event before. The goal is to see how far you can make a wheeled vehicle go powered only by a mousetrap. The challenge is to release the energy stored in the mousetrap gradually rather than all at once.
The results and more (and better) pictures are available here. Rensselaer Central High School is again competing elsewhere this year. The middle school team was there and did well, making it on to the state level.

While I was there I noticed that a display case was featuring dinosaur bones.
Saint Joseph's College once had a very good geology department, and the people in the department amassed quite a collection of rocks and minerals. I had not previously seen any of their dinosaur holdings.
The display also included information about who collected these fossils and when.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Yesterday I noticed the new "sign" at the bicycle shop, Superior Sales and Service, on Vine Street. It almost invites a "caption this" contest.
I did not notice the shadow until I looked at the photo.

A little east and north is a sign that will soon come down. Keeney Ambulance Service has been purchased by Prompt Ambulance Service. Prompt Ambulance Service has headquarters in Highland and provides ambulance service to serveral of communities in Lake and Porter County, and also has a South Bend Division.
And on a totally unrelated note, I saw a flock of chickens roaming a field west of Rensselaer on Friday. It is not something I see very often.
Can we have chickens as pets in Rensselaer?

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Create Space adventures

For the past three months I have been having an adventure in designing and publishing three books, and that adventure has reduced the time I spend on Rensselaer Adventures. (Notice that I did not say writing.) The end result is now visible on 

Easy Alphabet Mazes has trivially easy mazes because it is meant for preschool children and Kindergarten tots. It is 108 pages long (as are the other two books) but has no words for 105 of those pages. My granddaughter helped me a great deal by solving the 105 mazes in the book so I could see the thought processes of a very young child.

Tantalizing Tessellating Mazes is aimed at kids a bit older, perhaps from second to sixth grades. The mazes are fairly easy, but not trivially easy as in Easy Alphabet Mazes. All 70 mazes are built using tessellation patterns. What, you ask, is a tessellation pattern? It is a shape that fits together exactly to fill the plane. Here is an example of one that is purely geometric:

One of the fun things about tessellation shapes is that some of them resemble or suggest people, animals, or other items that we see or use. For example, what does this tessellation pattern suggest?
Here is one more tessellation pattern, one that was not used in Tantalizing Tessellating Mazes. Rather it was used in the third of the books, Amusing Alphabet Mazes.

Amusing Alphabet Mazes has the most difficult puzzles of the three and is aimed at an audience of older children and adults. It has 80 mazes.

Elsewhere I have some web pages to support these three books, and there you can read about how I make mazes, the series of occurrences that led me to making mazes, my recollections of working with Dover Publishing on two maze books over 15 years ago, and why I think what Create Space is doing has the potential to revolutionize book publishing.

In addition to being available for Amazon, these books are also available directly from Create Space, (which is a division of Amazon): Easy Alphabet Mazes, Tantalizing Tessellating Mazes, and Amusing Alphabet Mazes. The cost of each is $6.95 plus shipping at either Amazon or Create Space, but if you order from Create Space and use discount code QW8A7UDR the price will be reduced by $3.00 (on each book, or each book will be only $3.95). This code only works on Create Space, not on Amazon, and to order on Create Space you must create an account just as you must create an account on Amazon. For some people Amazon will be a better choice because the books qualify for their four-for-three program, where if you buy four qualifying items, you get the cheapest free, and also their program that gives you free shipping on orders over $25.00.

(Next week Willow Switch should have some copies for sale.)

If you are not interested at all in any of this, I understand. Although I enjoy creating mazes a great deal, I do not enjoy solving them. (However, whether you are interested in mazes or not, take a look at what I have to say about Create Space. One of the things I used it for was for one copy of a book that has things that are of interest only to me. If you want to print five or ten copies of something book length, Create Space makes it cheap. There are a lot of other things it can be used for once one starts thinking about it.)

PS: The way that items appear on Amazon is odd. The listing does not appear all at once, fully formed. Rather it appears piece by piece. Each day it may add a bit. If these listings ever get the "Look-Inside" feature, I will know that they are complete.

PPS: If any of you get any of the books, I would really like to hear your reactions, good or bad. Leave them in the comments.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Directional drilling the sewer

I meandered out Bunkum Road this morning to see how sewer line construction was going. At the intersection of Bunkum and Airport Road there was a road-closed-except-for-local-traffic sign, and through the light fog I could see equipment working.
The interesting action, though, was a bit further up the road, along the s-curve. The first vehicle you can see below is a directional drilling machine. I first saw one of these doing work installing fiber-optic cable at SJC. I had seen this machine a couple weeks ago but did not know if it was part of the sewer project or not.
 Directional drilling allows you to drill horizontally through the soil, controlling both depth and direction. It is a technology that I still find almost magical.

The next vehicle in the picture has the water that is a necessary lubricant for the process of pulling sewer pipe through the ground. Bore-It is a company located in Cedar Lake, and they do directional drilling for sewer mains, water mains, electric, phone, and cable.
Below is a view of the area from the west looking east.
Near the little white excavator the end of the drill pipe had been attached to some large metal object, which was then attached to the sewer pipe. As they got ready to pull the pipe, they turned on the water, and you can see it streaming out of the equipment. The hole that they had dug was not as wide as the pipe they were going to pull through the hole, so all the lubrication that they could get was needed.
I thought it rather amusing that duct tape played a role in this job.
A few minutes later and the pipe is starting to enter the hole. It was a slow process, and they were worried that they might have problems.
Most of the sewer line is not being installed with this method. Most of it is done with the old-fashioned trenching system, and the first picture shows the machine needed for that. This section got special treatment because they were going below the large culvert that Bunkum Road crosses, as well as the numerous driveways in the area.  Also, the sewer line crosses Bunkum at the east side of the s-curve.

They told me that the pipe would be 20 feet below the surface when it was under the culvert.
On the west side there is green--but not a sign of spring. Just a lot more pipe that must be installed.
Returning to town I heard pounding by the river just east of the Iroquois Valley Church. I could not see what the workers were doing because they were on the south side of the river, but sewer construction is still going on there as well. It is a big project.

Update: Here is the view from the south side of the river. It appears that the limestone bedrock is near the surface here, and that this machine is hammering away trying to make a passageway for the sewer line.
Our surface is flat, with the exception of an occasional sand hill. However, it you could see the bedrock you would find that it is highly irregular. In some places is is only a few feet from the surface, and in other places it is hundreds of feet below. That suggests that our area has a very interesting geologic history. I do not know what it is. If you do, point us to the sources.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2012 Regional High School Art Exhibit

The 2012 Regional High School Art Exhibit is on display in the lobby of the SJC Core Building until March 2. Most of the nearby high schools seem to be represented.
I was struck by this painting done by a Tri-County student. It is painted on a surface made of 42 old floppy disks (the second generation, the ones that actually were not floppy). Is it a picture of the ultimate computer geek? And do high school students today remember even the non-floppy floppy disks?
I liked the whimsey of this picture from a student at South Newton.
These baskets from West Central students were made from old magazines. I am sure our distant ancestors would have used that material for their basketry if it had been available.
I thought this face done in clay would make a wonderful model for a slipper. It looks like a slipper, and if you needed something to tighten it, you could run drawstrings through the nostrils. I bet my grandkids would like slippers that look like this. They could put them under the bed and then there would really be something scary there.
Other people would undoubtedly select a different group of items to highlight. I will have to check back next week to see what the judges selected. There is an awards program and reception for the show this Sunday (Feb 19) from 1:30-3:00 pm Rensselaer time.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Where was I?

This should be easy. Where was I?
Are they looking out for the locomotive?
 The grumpy old man in me wants to say, "Get your hands off, you rotten little kids."

If you said I was in Elkhart...
you were wrong.

A post from Desert Survivor (a blog featured on the sidebar) had more pictures from this location a week or so ago.

(I have a link to a blog about living in Nevada because there is both a Rensselaer and personal connection. Most people reading this probably realize that Desert Survivor is my daughter. And that also helps understand why I post with the name Dessert Survivor. It is not a typo or a misspelling--it is a joke. I started blogging after my daughter began, and I needed a name. I had no good ideas so I just added an S to her name because I thought it was funny--there is no other significance to it. There is a blog called, and both she and I can post to it, but it has been inactive for over two years. She established it so if people misspelled "desert," they could find their way to her blog.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hanging up there

Two years ago it was a lobster (or crayfish) hanging from the wires on the College Avenue bridge. I am not sure what it is this year--it looks like a bit of fencing. Aren't you a little curious about how that got up there?
I never see kids fishing from the bridge, but they must do it fairly often judging from the fishing line, bobbers, and lures that are up there.

Also on the light side, my crown as king of typos got challenged today. If you read this blog with any regularity, you probably notice that I make a lot of typos, though I try to clean them up as I find them later. Today the Rensselaer paper reported in the Arrest Log of someone arrested by the Jasper County Sheriff's Office and charged with "wreckless driving."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dredging and a mystery

This morning dredging Brookside Creek continued north of Jackson Street. The operator of the excavator was quite careful with what he did with the dirt and sand he was pulling up.
Earlier this morning I found this, shown below. Do you know what is happening here? (Hint: it affects everyone who lives in Rensselaer.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The opening of Journey

This afternoon (Tuesday) the store that opened in the back part of the old Horton Building had its grand opening. I think this may have been the first grand opening for the new mayor--at least for this term.
My pictures did not turn out well. Part of the problem was that I was shooting into the light. The sign says "Journey, Been There, Done That," and that is the name of the store given on the the business card.

Journey is a collectors resale shop that sells a variety of things--knickknacks, children's stuff, art work, and who knows what else. The owner lives in Wheatfield and spent 30 years collecting. (She writes, "My husband was a little concerned about my hobby.") She had been selling things from a booth at Jasper Junction. Now she will have a lot more space to display things.
I asked what she would do when she ran out of the stuff she has collected. She was not worried about that--apparently she collected a lot. I got the impression that what was in the store was the tip of the iceberg.

Check it out when you are in the area. The owner and her husband are very friendly and will be happy to tell you about anything that they are selling.

A meeting

On Monday morning I went out the the USDA building for a meeting of the outdoor recreation work group meeting. The fog had not lifted yet, and I could hardly read the Rensselaer on the water tower. Can you see the REN?
You are probably wondering what the outdoor recreation work group is. I am not quite sure, but I got interested last year when this group was planning a canoe outing on the Iroquois River. I wanted to participate, but after a couple of delays, the date that the river finally allowed was  was a day that I had other obligations.

The group spent part of the meeting discussing when to schedule more canoe trips. They would like one in the spring and one in the fall for both Jasper and Newton county. The river in Newton county is considerably larger and deeper, so it is more cooperative. The river in Jasper County rises rapidly after heavy rains and can get too low for canoeing, so scheduling events on it is always subject to the whims of the river. If weather cooperates, there will be river floats in late April and in May, though I do not recall which was for Jasper and which was for Newton. And if things go well, there will be a repeat in late summer, probably in August. Last year some ladies from Texas (who own land in Newton County) enjoyed the event so much that they want to come back again this year.

Any discussion of canoeing or rafting the river brings up the subject of log jams. There are 19 documented log jams in the Jasper County part of the river, and a company from Fort Wayne had the low bid for removing them. No local people bid. The consensus was that the Fort Wayne company probably did not know what it was doing with its bid. Some of the log jams are in areas where the river is running through muck soils, and any heavy equipment that goes onto that soil will sink. If we had had a cold winter so the soil was frozen, it would be easier to remove the log jams, but the soil is not frozen this year. I am looking forward to hearing how the log jam clearing goes.

Newton County also has log jams, and there is one that is a bit west of the Jasper County line that is, according to reports, very large and impressive. The banks of the river in that area are heavily wooded, so it is not easily accessible. The river has responded to the log jam by eroding the banks, so if nothing is done by humans, the river will solve the problem.

There was considerable discussion of trying to get more public access sites on the river so it would be easier to launch and land canoes. The one that was used to start the canoe trip in Newton County last year is near George Ade and is so steep it is hard to get a canoe down into the river.

There was discussion of whether Jasper County could use a park board. Many other counties have park boards, even those that do not have county parks. Newton County's park board does not have a park to tend, but it organizes events. This year their ice-fishing contest had to be canceled because the warm winter. The attempts to use the river for recreation and the attempts to establish a trails system are topics that might be handled by a park board. The County Council is establishing a Tourism Board that will operate in 2013, and a park board might be a natural complement. Or perhaps a Tourism Board could do what a park board would do. Even though we do not have any county parks, we do have a number of areas that are publicly accessible (the Jasper-Pulaski area being the largest) and a park board could organize events that use those areas. What do you think about the usefulness of a county park board? And what do you think about a Tourism Board?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Another foggy morning

We have another foggy morning today, but the fog was not thick enough to postpone classes in the Rensselaer School system.

It did cause delays at most of the other area schools, however.


An interesting banner now decorates the local Sears store in the College Square Mall--a going out of business notice.
After being told that it was against company policy to take pictures inside the store, I asked how long they would be having their closing sale. The answer was that they would probably shut up completely at the end of March. I also learned that the reason for the closing is that the previous owner had sold it back to Sears and Sears could not find anyone who wanted to own the store. For some reason Sears does not want to own the store.

This makes the second store selling durable goods to close in the past year. Shopping for furniture (Hoover House) and appliances (Sears) will be more limited locally. One thing I liked about Sears is that they matched prices. If you saw something you liked at Sears, you could try to find the same item at a lower price elsewhere, and Sears would match it.

As we lose a store, Remington just got one. Dollar General had its grand opening on Saturday, Feb 4. I think I saw another Dollar General under construction in Reynolds.

There is no evidence from the exterior that anything is going on with what was Jamies Cafe, but a sign in the doorway says that it will be opening soon as Schmidy's Pizza Palace, and a peek inside reveals that there have been changes made there.
The Rensselaer Family Dentistry Office on Front Street is getting a small addition. I should find out more later this week. The name on the building permit is Gordon Bausman, who has retired. Anne Sy is now practicing at this location.
(I may update this post as I notice other changes. I spent most of last week in Indianapolis.)

Update: the dentist is adding two rooms to the building. One will be a break room for the staff and the other another room for patients.

The closing of the local Sears store is not, according to the Sears employee I talked to, related to the other Sears/K-Mart closings that are happening nationwide.