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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Water news

About half an hour ago, this was the scene at the corner of Milroy and Washington, across the highway from Busy Bee. Two pumps were removing the water that was gushing from a broken water main.
If you live in Rensselaer, you may be without water, and there is a boil order for the next two days.

In other water news, we are getting needed rain. It is making a mess of bulk pickup, however.

The weatherman on WLFI said that April was cooler than March, only the second time this has happened since records were kept beginning in the 19th century. And record heat is on the way, which will be quite a change from our very chilly weekend.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Neighbors

I noticed some new neighbors this past week.
The nest is in a bush next to the house, about five feet from the ground, so it is easy to peek inside. The parent birds do not like me to do that, and complain when I do.

Can you tell what kind of birds these are? (I would not know if I did not see the parents.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lights, windows, butterflies (updated)

I swung by the new elementary school today and noticed some changes.
If you noticed that there are now windows in the building and lights in the parking lot, you noticed the same thing I did.

Have you noticed an unusual number of butterflies that are black, orange, and white? They are (I think) Red Admiral Butterflies, and they are having a boom year in the Midwest.

Are you ready for a big weekend of yard sales and lots of other events?

Update: I got a picture of one today (Friday):

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

City Auction

The city held an auction today, and unlike two years ago, I was able to attend. I noticed these electric motors and recognized them immediately. If you are a faithful reader of this blog, you should also recognize them.
They sold for $400 each. I wonder what they will be used for.

There are always many bicycles at the city auction. Most needed some repair work. They went from as low as $2.50 for a couple that were scrap-yard ready to $40 or $50 for the nicer ones.
One person bought all these huge lights for $10 each. I suppose that is a great deal, but how many people need lights like this?
There were a lot of odds and ends that seemed to have limited uses, but of course if you are one of the people who needs the item, it can be a great deal.

There were a lot of old computers for sale. I put in some low-ball bids because I wanted only the hard drive from one, but the lowest they sold for was $7.50. They had a Pentium 4 processor and were Windows XP ready.
The city auction does not seem to be an annual event. I do not remember one from last year, though maybe I missed it. There was one in 2010.

Before and after

A few months ago the walls of the bathhouse at the LaRue Pool looked like the picture below.
 After the repainting, they look now are a lot less colorful.
 The park workers recently wired the shelter at Bicentennial Park. However, they have not yet connected their wiring to the power grid.

The picture below is the first stage of a project at Slice of Pie Pizza.
The end result of the project will be the Slice of Pie Pizza Plaza.
 The Rensselaer Urban Forestry Council wants everyone to know that they planted trees along Cullen Street.
 SJC had another tree planting recently. They are replanting an orchard either where or near where SJC once had an extensive orchard. It is rather ironic given that a year or two ago SJC cut down almost all the mature apple trees that bore edible fruit.
 The water town has ears. When did it get them?
Update: I see on Facebook that the Fair Oaks Farms is planting a 6500 tree orchard. Wow.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The scaffolding is gone

The parishioners of St. Augustine Church spent all of Lent in the basement because of the church was being repainted and was full of scaffolding. Today they finally resumed Sunday Mass in the Church rather than the basement. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the scaffolding is gone, and the church looks very different.
The ceiling is now white with green accents rather than a shade of yellow.
The ceiling above the altar and the walls behind now have a contrast that they did not have before.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Five seconds of terror (Updated)

The annual Earth Day events took place this morning (Saturday) at Brookside Park. Some people had come out to run in a 5K. Like last weekend's race, this course was out Bunkum Road rather than out Mattheson.
 There were activities for kids and informational booths for adults. If you wanted free trees to plant, there were two booths providing them. Some kids enjoyed the free cotton candy.
 Also on the calendar was the 50th Little 500 at Saint Joseph's College. (In its early years, this was not a go-cart race.)
 There were two races, an alumni race and a student race.
New this year to the attractions for those attending was a zip-line. The father of the girl below told me that he would do it if I did. That was enough incentive for me to do it.
I have a fear of heights that I do not think is severe enough to qualify as acrophobia. So I did not really enjoy the ride, but thankfully it was very short. The worst part, though, was standing on the platform trying to summon up the courage to step off. However, now I can cross it off my bucket list and never have to do it again.

I met a former student who recently passed his CPA exam. He is having trouble with the IRS. Someone filed a tax return using his Social Security number, so when he filed his return, the IRS rejected it. I asked if his tax courses did not cover situations like that. He said they did not. He also said that trying to get answers from the IRS was an exercise in frustration. I wished him luck.

Update: Someone wanted results. Here they are:

Results, Student Race
 1 48 Kyle Rayburn 141  Rensselaer  70.500
2 3 Brian Kane 140  Lake Village  70.000
3 8 Jon Christiansen 137  Monticello  68.500
4 88 Luis DeLeon 136   Chicago  68.000
5 25 Morgan Myers 135   Demotte 67.500
6 13 Harrison Beeson 135   Kenosha  67.500
7 92 Dane VanHouten 135   Renssealer  67.500
8 23 Adam Meeker 133   Schererville  66.500
9 22 Matt Schumacher 129   Lemont   64.500
10 43 Ben Geels 129   Fort Wayne   64.500
11 5 Phil Rabenstein 129   Colfax  64.500
12 99 Travis Kepner 129   Fowler  64.500
13 55 John Manning 128   Lockport   64.000
14 7 Stephanie Martin 126   Lafayette  63.000
15 31 Anthony Allen 112   Rensselaer  56.000
16 4 Rose Nowicki 106   Hobart  53.000
17 12 Randee Portteus 41  Monrovia  20.500

Results, Alumni Race
1 92 Andrew Malone 63  Rensselaer   31.500
2 11 Tom Stefaniak 63   Dyer   31.500
3 4 Jon Messman 62     Rensslear, IN   31.000
4 27 Jason Ostrowski 62     Brookfield, IL   31.000
5 5 Ron Kasparian 61   Rensselaer, IN   30.500
6 7 Brian Bugajski 59    Lafayette, IN   29.500
7 17 Mike Stader 57    Plainfield, IN   28.500
8 2 Tom Messman Jr 37   Rensselaer, IN   18.500

(Place, ,Number, Name, Laps, Hometown, Distance)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Light attendance

Lots of events are going on now that the warmer weather has arrived. Maybe too many things, because attendance seems to be light at most of them.

On Saturday there was a 5K at Brookside Park, part of the SAFER (Sexual Assault Forensic Exam/Education Resource) event. If I had entered and been able to finish the run, I would have been in the top ten. I would have not done as well with the walk. (Below you can see the runners starting and the walkers waiting.
 On Sunday I went to another lightly attended event, the jazz vocal and band concert at SJC. I followed that up on Monday evening with the lightly attended harp "cushion concert" at the library. The harpist was from the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra, but lives in Indianapolis. From the way she presented her program, she clearly does a lot of programs for kids.
 I missed the Convocation Day at SJC on Monday morning, but did get to the meeting of the Jasper County Historical Society on Tuesday night and met the newest addition to the museum, Linda. She previously hung out at Grant's Fashion.
 There were a several interesting tidbits that I picked up at the meeting. The attendees posed for a picture with the Indianapolis Speedway flag. Mainstreet Rensselaer has decided to take part in a contest that the Indianapolis 500 sponsors, the Back Home Again in Indiana Community Decoration Program. We are one of 23 communities entered. The winning community will win $20,000.
 One of the advantages that Rensselaer has in the competition is that it is the birthplace of James Hanley, mentioned in post not quite a month ago. Below you can see the storefront of one of our empty downtown stores getting the Hanley makeover.
The Facebook page for this promotion is Back Home Again in Rensselaer.  As I write this they have 159 likes, but want a lot more.

(Speaking of empty stores, I noticed today that the IAMMA (martial arts academy) is no longer in the College Mall. There are now three vacant stores there.)

Back to the historical society meeting.

The short program after the meeting was about one-room schools. Today only four or five of them still stand. The Mcoysburg School had classes from 1890 until 1924, and then was converted to a church. It is now a residence.

The Wasson School, which is out near McCoysburg, had classes from 1880 until 1915. It was remodeled after its school days were over, and is also now a residence.

The Rosebud School was active from 1874 until 1928. In 1977 it was moved to the Jasper County Fair Grounds, where it is open to the public during fair week.

The Moffitt School, between Fair Oaks and Virgie along the old Coalie Railroad, was open from 1894 until 1924 and is also now a house.

Several people in attendance said that the Virgie School was at one time one-room and later two-room. It is now used as a community center by the Virgie Church.

At one time there were 100 schools in Jasper County.

Another thing that caught my interest was something the county genealogist was working on. The historical society has the cards that women filled out during World War I as part of the effort to get people united behind the war effort. No one at the historical society seemed to know when the museum got these records or where they came from, but it is quite remarkable that they have been preserved. It provides a complete or nearly complete listing of all the adult women in the county at the time, so is very interesting from a genealogical point of view. I pulled one out and photographed it to show what was on it. It looks like the name on this was Mrs Elizabeth Ash, who was married, 40 years old, white, born in the U.S., without kids, and willing to volunteer two hours a day. She went to Butler for college, probably for teaching training (Normal). She circle the things she could do, which included cooking, housekeeping, gardening, and teaching. On the other side, people described their health. (I reduced the size of the picture and saved it a low resolution, so it is not as clear as it could be.)
I am not sure what kind of research could use this set of data, but I am sure there is some kind that could. Wikipedia has only a very short entry on it.

One other little tidbit--in discussing the Indianapolis 500, one person recalled that her parents or grandparents used to watch the traffic going to the race on the old Jackson Highway, the auto route to the north before US 231 was built. It went through Virgie, then to Aix, then to Rensselaer.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

SJC spring musical

Tonight at 7:30 is the last showing of the play at SJC, The 1940's Radio Hour.
 The play re-creates what might have been a one-hour radio production from late 1942. The audience plays the role of the studio audience. There is little plot--it is a radio show featuring music from the time and poking fun at some of the old commercials. There is lots of activity in the background, so it is impossible to absorb all that is going on.

The band got to be on stage. The same band will be back on the same stage on Sunday at 4:00 for their final concert of the season. That concert is free.

One of the main parts is played by a RCHS alumna who has two sisters in the high school play, each appearing on different nights. She can catch one of them on the Sunday performance.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Potpourri---April 12, 2012

The last two nights have had frosts, with temperatures into the 20s, and I expected to see considerable plant damage. My grapes had some, but along with leaves that were killed, there were others that looked just fine. I was very surprised to see the many volunteer tomatoes that have come up (they all produced marble sized fruit, which is why they re-seed) doing well. I could not see any damage at all. The trees that looked worst were the ailanthus trees, which looked terrible. But they are weed-like, so I am sure they will recover.

On Wednesday Jordan Floral celebrated its 35th anniversary. They have not been in their present location on the corner of College and Grace for the entire time. At one time they were downtown, across from the court house. When I came to town the building that they were in was the storage part of Wright's Furniture, which was where Fase's is now. The building was originally build for a farm implement store.
I noticed an article by Brian Capouch on a bulletin board at SJC earlier this week that he had published in the Pulaski County Journal in February, but could not find it on-line. He noted a comment I made about the area having an interesting geologic history, and did some research to find out more. He concluded with a discussion of the meteor crater in Newton County.

The student newspaper at SJC reports that the college choir will be going to Italy and the Vatican next fall. They have the invitation and now need to find the money to finance the trip.

There is a new business in town, Gameland, which mostly sells new and used video games. The owner previously had a shop called Sue's Special Occasions, which sold balloons and cards. The new shop still has the balloons and cards, but they seem to be secondary to the video games. I would tell you more, but I was born a bit too soon to really get video games. It is next to The Needle's Point, across the street from R&M, in the space that a beauty shop previously occupied.
Also new is Schmidy's Pizza, which yesterday got a favorable review from Little Indiana. They are applying for a liquor license, and I think the decision was supposed to be made at a meeting tonight.
I check the river level occasionally, and recently I noticed a pattern in the daily flow that I do not understand. In winter a pattern like this can be explained by melting during the day and freezing during the night. What causes it when there is nothing left to melt?
 There is a river float scheduled for the end of the month. We need some rain to get the river level a bit higher.

There are three plays this week. I will get to only one. Have you noticed how many more activities there are than there were in January and February?

Have you finished your taxes? They are due on Monday.

What did I miss?

Update: The mulberry trees were also hard hit by the frost. Some of them have lost all their leaves.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Discovering my floor

A while back we decided it was time to rip up the ancient carpet in most of our downstairs and restore whatever floor was beneath it. Like many of our home-improvement plans, it had no definite date, which meant that it could be done anytime in the next five years. However, a couple months ago one of my sons decided that he and his wife would come to Rensselaer and help us complete this project during his wife's spring break. (She teaches Kindergarten.)

When March arrived, I decided it would be smart to see what was under the carpet that had been in the house since we bought it in the 1970s. I pulled back a corner and found a hardwood floor (probably maple). The carpet was kept down by a tack strip along the wall. Under the carpet was a pad that was stapled along its edges. I found that removing the tack strip and pulling out the staples was not beyond my level of competence.
The plan was for my son to come on a Wednesday, move the furniture, pull up the carpet, sand the floor, stain the floor, put down a polyurethane finish, apply shoe molding where it had been removed to install the carpet, and then move back the furniture. I began to realize that not all of this could be done in the allotted time, so I needed to do as much prep work as I could.

(The electrical outlet that you can see in the above picture is part of another home-improvement project--rewiring. That is also an adventure full of unexpected discoveries, which is the reason it is not in the wall, and may be the subject of some future post. Or maybe not.)

Pulling up the old carpet revealed some surprises. There must have been a rug over part of the floor because it had less finish on it and was lighter in color. (You can see that part of the floor on the left.) Between the two main rooms a section of the old floor seems to have been removed and replaced with boards that are a bit narrower than the old floor.
I got most of the furniture moved and all the carpet out of the house by the time my son arrived on Wednesday. The patched section of floor extended into the dining room, and it did not join smoothly to the old floor but was depressed. There was some folded newspaper (not shown) dated 1967 that smoothed the transition so it would not be noticeable in the carpeted floor. My guess is that is when the carpet was installed. It was a very good carpet and the installation seemed to have been done very well.
After my son and his wife arrived, we finished moving the furniture and finished all the prep work.

The next step was to sand the floor, which we did on Thursday. There are two businesses in Rensselaer that rent floor sanders, Superior and Big Dog. There are also two kinds of sanders, drum and random orbit. The drum sanders take off wood faster, but require more skill. The random orbit sanders take of less wood, but are easier for amateurs to operate. We went with the random orbit sander, and because only Big Dog had one, that is where we got it. The rental is not cheap, but is still a good deal when you look at how much a floor sander costs.
The sander has four rotating disks to which the sanding pads attach. It is very heavy and kind of goes where it wants to go. The normal procedure is to use a coarse paper for the first few passes, and then to finish up with a finer grit. The sawdust is extremely fine--it has the feel of flour.

The next step was to stain the floor. The center of the floor, the part that had been the palest, picked up the stain better than the edges. By the time we got to this step, another son and his wife had joined us, so the staining went very fast. It needed to dry over night.
On Friday we applied three coats of polyurethane. It went on faster with a pad than with brushes. This was a rather slow day because it took a couple hours for the polyurethane to dry enough so we could apply another coat.
The hardest job on Saturday was to apply shoe molding, a rounded board that covers the gap between the base molding and the floor. My son brought some tools that helped a lot (my tool box is quite primitive) and he is very talented working in wood. I let him and his brother do the work, which involved a lot of cuts to make it fit just right.
We got the last of the heavy furniture moved back on Sunday morning shortly before our four helpers had to leave. It will take us another week or two to finish re-arranging all the things that had to be moved.

So if you were wondering why my posts have been short and superficial for the past couple weeks, this project is the primary reason.

By the way, Superior no longer has its bike sign, and Big Dog has its annual open house on April 28 from 10:00 until 2:00.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Planning trails

A third meeting about a Jasper County Trails System plan took place Tuesday afternoon at the Rensselaer branch of the Jasper County Library. (Similar meetings are taking place or will take place in Remington, DeMotte, and Wheatfield). It was lightly attended but the three presenters, from Jasper County Economic Development Organization, the National Park Service, and the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission, had some concrete things to report based on the input from the earlier meetings and their working with that input.

The routes that people wanted the most included connections from KV high school to KV middle school, DeMotte to Wheatfield, Rensselaer to the fairgrounds, and Brookside Park to the Countryside subdivision.

The presenters had preliminary maps showing both short-term and long-term possibilities. Most of the proposed bike trails used county roads. The Greenway planner from Northwest Indiana remarked about the sorry state of Rensselaer sidewalks, but that is not news to any Rensselaer resident who uses (or tries to use) them. Longer term, a trail system using routes of the railroads was suggested. Jasper County does not have readily available routes for trails and negotiating access is one of the major obstacles in getting a trail established. The advantage of following the rails is that it requires negotiations with only one landowner, and trails along active railroads have been successful in other places. Rails routes would provide good ways to connect DeMotte and Wheatfield as well as Remington and Wolcott.

I have always wondered how one would make a viable trail network in Rensselaer--I could not see how it could be done. The long-term plan proposed trails along the railroad and the river, with a connection in the west along Brookside Creek and a connection in the east along the Schoolhouse Ditch. Naturally there would also be an extension out to SJC and Lake Banet.

The people at the meeting made some suggestions for changes. Their input along with suggestions from the other three meetings being held will be incorporated into a draft plan that will be presented at the next series of meetings.

Monday, April 9, 2012


While walking through a building at Saint Joseph's College a few weeks ago, I noticed a flyer on a bulletin board about an observatory near Lowell, Indiana. It was something I had never heard of before, so I checked it out on the Internet.

The Calumet Astronomical Society has been in existence since 1975, but only recently--in 2005--did they build an observatory, the Thomas Conway Observatory, southeast of Lowell, near the Buckley Homestead Park. The society claims to be the most active astronomy organization in the Chicago area.

Their website has pictures of the observatory and a long explanation of how it came to be. The telescope is a 16-inch reflector. Nearby is another telescope, the NIRo or Northwest Indiana Robotic observatory, run by Purdue University Calumet that was dedicated in August, 2010. It is a 20-inch reflector that cost a quarter of a million dollars. It captures the image with a camera and transmits it to Purdue-Calumet.

Did you know that this facility was nearby?

(I need a picture. How about the one that is shown in this article? It is taken with a much bigger telescope than what is available near Lowell.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A few park notes

Yesterday there were lots of kids at Brookside Park. Six busloads of KV students stopped by for lunch and a little play time.
The park employees have been working to get the park facilities ready for the summer season. They have been doing a lot of painting.
The bathhouse at Brookside park not only will have a new color on the exterior, but the interior has been repainted as well. It also has new electrical wiring.

The city electrical department has run an electrical line from the JC Cruiser shelter to the veterans monument on Bunkum road in the newest part of Weston Cemetery. The little area in which Memorial Day ceremonies are performed will soon have some lights.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Finishing up

The exterior brick facing on the new elementary school should be finished this week. This morning workers were putting bricks on the last bit of exposed wall.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stop by Willow Switch

Willow Switch is ready for Easter.
It seems to be such a pleasant place to have a cup of coffee with friends. Alas, I do not like coffee--I never developed a taste for it.

However, I do enjoy some of the signs that they have.
I stopped by this morning to give the owner a few copies of the final maze book that I will do for a while, a book that is very different from the other maze books I have done. It was the result of a suggestion from my daughter, who told me that my grandson would really enjoy a maze book about trains or dinosaurs. Initially I did not think I could do such a book, but by taking a very different approach than I was used to, I found a way to do it. Read more here and here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Band concert

The Spring Band Concert at Saint Joseph's College today had an interesting selection of music. The larger Symphonic Band played selections based on music from Pixar movies, Saving Private Ryan, and the on-line game World of Warcraft. The Wind Ensemble played music that came from the the music collection that Saint Joseph's College owns. Two of the pieces came from the Adam P. Lesinsky Library and one from the Bohumir Kyrl Music Library.

Who were these guys? Lesinsky was director of the Saint Joseph' College Bands from 1957 until 1968. Earlier in his career he played in John Phillip Sousa's Band as a cornetist, and he was active in the high school music scene as head of the National School Orchestra Association. He did some composing and arranging, and if you search his name on Amazon, you can find some that are still in publication (along with some books of his that are no longer in print.) When he retired, he left his music library of over 1000 pieces to the college.

Bohumir Kyrl is easier to find on the Internet--he has a rather lengthy Wikipedia entry. Born in what is now the Czech Republic in 1875, he not only was a talented musician and band director, but was also an artist who worked on the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Indianapolis. His connection to Saint Joseph's College seems to be through Adam Lesinsky, who was his student. He not only donated his music library, but also donated 15 or 16 paintings, one of which was stolen. It was identified as by the important Renaissance artist Bernini, but I recall being told that it was later determined to be "School of Bernini" and not nearly as valuable as originally thought. Saint Joe's does not seem to have kept track of what happened to these 15 paintings--were they sold, how many are still at the college, etc.

The Jazz Band did not play at the concert--they will be the pit band for the Spring Musical in less than two weeks.