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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Where should the next mural go?

The new mural on the side of eMbers has impressed a lot of people. Maybe it will inspire some additional street art. Here are several sides of buildings that I think would be improved with a nice mural. First, the side of Gutwein Seeds. They already host some art in their front window. Why not go big?

The lot is for sale and it is possible that another building may be built here, and that may discourage any decoration. Facing the same lot is the wall of the Rensselaer Republican building.
The pink walls of the Schantz building would look nice with a mural.
The wall of Doggers has a metal siding that has ridges but it faces a parking lot so it is unlikely that a building will be place in front of it.
Leaving the highway, the walls of Ayda's look ready for some decoration, perhaps something with a Mexican theme to advertise the restaurant.

Across the street the bland walls of Walter's Electric could be improved with decoration.

I have no problems with well-done signage that advertises the business in the building. At one time this wall did that. Now you can barely make out that it once had a Stunt Dog sign with a large dog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Following old route 66

Early in June I went west, paralleling old Route 66, once an important way of getting from Chicago to Los Angeles. Now Interstates 55, 44, and 40 make the trip much faster, but the towns along the route have found that hyping old Route 66 is good for the tourist business. One of the rest stops in Missouri features the theme.
On the floor inside is a map of US 66. We went as far as Flagstaff. One day more and we would have been in LA.
The route goes through the panhandle of Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois.
 A number of the rest areas along the route were closed, perhaps budget cuts. There was only one in the Texas panhandle and I was totally unimpressed with those in Oklahoma. I also did not care for the stretch Oklahoma made into a toll road. It was confusing. On some entrances and exits you paid and on some exits you got a refund. I am not sure what you did if you did not have exact change.

When we crossed the border into Arizona I wanted to stop and get a map at the Welcome Center. The sign in the door told me I would have to find it elsewhere. However, they did keep the restrooms open.
Flagstaff is at 7000 feet above sea level. I was unpleasantly surprised to find that I was short of breath after a little walk. I did not expect the altitude to affect me so much.

A railroad parallels the route in Arizona and New Mexico. The line has double tracks and is very busy with trains full of containers. Flagstaff has only two Amtrak trains a day, the same as Rensselaer, but they have enough passengers getting on the train that they man the old ticket counter in the depot.
In Flagstaff I visited a Goodwill outlet store. In it you bought things by weight and there were little scales built into the floor by the check out so it was easy to weigh your purchases. The clothing was in bins.
Some of the towns in Arizona and New Mexico advertise their murals. I did not get many pictures of murals, but did find an impressive one in Flagstaff.
Once we left Illinois, we rarely saw corn being grown. There was some wheat in the Texas panhandle and a lot of wind farms. Missouri had a lot trees along the route and little visible agriculture. The speed limit in the western part was 75 mph.

Coming back we stopped in Bloomington, IL and were guests at the State Farm Insurance Company swimming pool. State Farm is headquartered in Bloomington and has about 15,000 employees there. I was blown away with the employee pool. It was a small waterpark with a large splash park, a small lazy river, a large swimming pool, and a very nice locker building.

From Rensselaer to Flagstaff is about 1600 miles.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Church renovation

St. Augustine Church is undergoing renovation. The old floor tiles were in rough shape and the pews had not been refinished in many years, perhaps never.
 The tiles had lots of holes and patches.
 The decision was made to refinish the pews and to install new tiles. Here the pews are have been removed.
 During the project services are being held in the basement, which itself was refinished just a few years ago with a new floor and better lighting.
 Below is the church will all the old tiles removed.
 DeMotte Carpet installed new tiles.
 The view of the tiles that will be under the pews.
 A view with the aisles completed.
The pews are being refinished offsite. The school is also having new tiles installed. For some more pictures, visit the parish's website

Friday, June 24, 2016

A farewell party

On Thursday afternoon the airport held a farewell party for Brad Cozza, who has been airport manager for the last three years. In those years he has had a significant impact on the community.
I arrived too late to get a picture of the uncut cake but it is pretty clear what it said.

One of his accomplishments during his stay as airport manager is highly visible, the new fuel farm.
At the County Council meeting on Tuesday, he was asked about the capacity of the new tanks compared to the old ones. The old tanks held 3500 gallons of aviation gas and 2000 of jet fuel. The new tanks hold 12,000 gallons of each.

The Airport Authority Board has interviewed candidates for the position but at this time do not have a new manager. Their next meeting is July 6, but there may be a special meeting before that.

In other news, the strong storm that raced through Wednesday night knocked down some branches and trees but apparently did not do any serious damage. We had the power go off and then a few seconds later go back on, always annoying but just annoying. In Weston Cemetery workers were cleaning up after part of a large maple tree fell.
Even though we got about an inch and a half of rain on Wednesday, the Iroquois river is lower than it normally is at this time of the year.

The agendas for the BZA and the Jasper County Planning Board were posted outside of the Commissioners Room on Tuesday night. The Rose Acre variance is back on the agenda for the BZA and also request for a special exception for the construction of a meteorological tower in Gillam township. It is a tower that measures wind speeds and is a first step when a wind farm is built. So there remains interest in placing a wind farm in Jasper County. The two boards meet on Monday night at 7:00 pm in the Court House.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

County Council, 06-21-2016

The County Council meeting on Tuesday rearranged its agenda so that Brad Cozza could present an appropriation request for the airport and then leave to get to the Rensselaer Central School Board meeting. The airport wants to build a new T-hangar building and has the funds to do it, but needed the Council to authorize the spending, which it did. (Mr Cozza is leaving the airport at the end of the month and the Airport Authority Board is hosting a going-away party this afternoon (Thursday) from 4:00 to 7:00.)

In other appropriations, the Council approved some bookkeeping that will allow the prosecutor's office to use forfeiture funds for trial expenses and an extra $5000 for extradition expenses for the superior court. There are companies that return people who have skipped bail and they send a bus around the country collecting and delivering those being extradited. The Council also approved an extra $2000 for warning siren repairs and a pay raise of about $700 for the head of Animal Control. There was a dissenting vote on the last item because of concerns that it might set an undesirable precedent.

Minutes from the last meeting were then approved with the note that the next Council meeting would be July 12.

Then the more interesting part of the meeting began, the review and re-approval of tax abatements. These were all granted in the past, with the companies agreeing to certain conditions in return for the tax break, and they then come before the Council each year to explain how they are doing with what they promised would happen. First up was Advance Auto. They currently employ 369 people plus another 158 temps who come to them through agencies. Those temps can become full-time employees if they work out. The average pay for employees is $16.05 plus benefits. The starting pay is $13.75 and every six months there is a $.50 bump with a final bump of $1.00. After three years the employee will earn $17.00 and any future increase depends on performance.

When Advance Auto first started, they were making 500 shipments per week and are now doing 1320. Their turnover has been reduced by 58% from last year. They said that increases in wage and also little things to make the work-place more friendly have helped. They would like to see more housing in the Remington-Wolcott area; the housing market is tight and some of their employees who might otherwise move there are living in Lafayette because they cannot find suitable housing. They are on year eight of ten of the abatement.

IBEC said it was running at 100% capacity and was producing 150,000 gallons of ethanol each day. They have 38 employees. Most of their abatement is expired but they still have some on a recent addition.

Wilson Industrial Sales said its head count was flat. Total employees including the Ulyat Trucking Company is 56. The two businesses are mostly autonomous because Wilson uses tanker trucks and Ulyat dump trucks. Wilson Fertilizer is a separate company owned by the family and remains in the Brook area.

DeKalb-Monsanto is back to full capacity after a down year caused by overproduction in previous years. They have added five people in the past year. They are doing some expansion. Finally, there was no representative from Remington Seeds but based on the written report, continuation of their abatement was approved.

The Council had two names to consider for the Jasper County Library Board and approved Kevin Kaluf. They finished the meeting with a discussion of a meeting about changes in the LOIT that several members had attended. The conclusion was that the whole area remains confused.

No pictures today--I used them all in yesterday's post.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

More odds and ends, 05-22-2016

The summer solstice has come and gone, so now days are getting shorter and winter is on the way.

US 231 is partially paved through town. The center two lanes have asphalt, but the shoulders are still unfinished. On Tuesday afternoon the paving crew had passed the main SJC entrance and was working southward.
Traffic was reduced to one lane.
The SJC football team is on campus and practicing. Boy Scouts have a day camp at Lake Banet.
Maintenance work continues year round at SJC. The steam pipes need lots of attention. The link between Halleck and Bennett Hall is being replaced.

The old pipe was thick steel but the heat and humidity were too much for it.

Family Dollar has closed. In its last days it had 90% off but virtually nothing left to sell. The contractors have arrived to remodel it to a Dollar Tree.
Speaking of trees, the large elm across from the post office is getting its own bump-out to protect it from traffic and snow plows.

Mount Hood Pizza is applying for a alcohol beverage permit. The notice is on their door. The Alcohol Beverage Board usually meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 10:00 in the Rensselaer City County room. Rarely does anyone from the public show up.

BJ's World of Products and Crafts will be closing in mid July. It contains about ten vendors selling products as booth sellers.
The LaRue pool opened today despite the rain. It had two early swimmers and then was empty.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Camer1's bird

On Monday afternoon eMbers hosted a mural completion celebration. As the event was about to begin, a storm with heavy rain hit Rensselaer, and because I waited for it to stop before I left home, I arrived when the speeches were in progress. Cameron Moberg, the artist, thanked the community for its hospitality and said that as a kid he wanted to be a bird when he grew up. Birds for him represent freedom.

The rain stopped and everyone went outside for the ribbon cutting. I noticed that more feathers had been added to the back of the mural.
The event attracted several people from out of town, including a representative from the Indiana Arts Commission, the Tippecanoe Arts Federation, and the Lafayette Journal and Courier.  Then the line up for the ribbon cutting was organized. You can see the storm clouds on the right of the picture.
If you look closely at the feathers, you can see one decorated with corn and one very short one above it decorated with wind turbines (with four blades, not three). Some of the other motifs had meaning to Cameron. I asked our local bird expert what kind of bird it was and she said it most closely resembles an osprey but it could be whatever you wanted it to be. I said I wanted it to be a hummingbird but she said it could not be that.

Cameron signed the work with his url.
I was amazed at how sharp his lines were and I asked him how he did that. He said it was all in the technique. A graffiti artist must learn to control angle, distance, and pressure and it takes practice to do that consistently. It may also help to use spray paint especially manufactured for artists.

On the way home I rode past the construction site of the high water treatment plant and saw that the heavy rain had filled one of the pits. It seems that some storm sewer line already empties there.
The storm dumped almost an inch of water on us.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A few quick notes 6-20-2016

I was wrong when I wrote that the hammering limestone at the high water treatment plant construction site was finished. It continues. The hole is now so deep that it must be a challenge to get the material out of it.

On Friday Comfort Suites was getting another layer of asphalt put on their parking lots. It looks finished but I have not seen any announcement for an opening. The new building significantly improves the appearance of the intersection.
 On the way out I saw grain almost ready to harvest. Sometimes our local farmers plant something other than corn or soybeans.

On Saturday I stopped by the farmers market to see how it was doing. There are more vendors than when I stopped by a month ago and more locally grown vegetables and fruits for sale. It may have been the last Saturday for strawberries.
There were turnips, new potatoes, various greens, broccoli, and still a bit of rhubarb. I did not see cherries or peas, though both are in season. I think the Tuesday night markets begin the last Tuesday of June.

I recall that when the resurfacing of US 231 was discussed last year, a change in the intersection at Mt Calvary Road was mentioned. On Sunday I rode out to see if anything was being done there and found there were no changes and that the milling of the road stopped about 150 yards short of the intersection. The surface of the unmilled road is almost as rough as the milled surface. That road was in horrible shape.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Welcome to Silicon Valley, Rensselaer

When I returned to Rensselaer this past week, I found an invitation to a soft open-house event on my answering machine. Returning the call, I discovered that the event had taken place while I was out of town but that I was still welcome to stop by and see what was happening in the back end of the Jordan Floral Building.

The space that was most recently Curves is being remodeled and it is in a very unfinished state. In the window is a row of vases. I wondered why they were there.
What immediately caught my attention was a machine with three arms controlling a print head. I have heard about 3-D printing and how it has the potential to change our lives, but I have never before seen a 3-D printer.
Yes, those vases in the window were printed by a 3-D printer. The printer shown above cost about $1000 but had taken an engineer familiar with building electronic devices 40 hours to assemble. The machine also required frequent calibration, something that also requires some expertise.

The company is run by two Kasparian brothers. Ron, the older, also runs a trucking company about six miles north of Rensselaer with the name "How About That". He has chosen a similarly confusing name for this venture, "You'll Never Guess". The name has led to some "Who's on First" types of conversations over the phone.

Saleman: What is the name of your company?
Erik: You'll Never Guess.
Salesman: I do not want to guess. Tell me the name.
Erik: You'll Never Guess.
Saleman: Either tell me the name or I will hang up.
Erik: You'll Never Guess.
Click, as the salesman hangs up.

At this point I was still trying to figure out what the focus of the company was. Then they showed me a second printer, one that was much larger. This printer was designed by Erik Kasperian, who has an engineering degree from Purdue and who studied 3-D printing as a student. The printer had just started a job that will be a plastic urn for the ashes of a pet dog. Not only will it be cheaper than a generic urn, but it will be personalized.

The unique feature of this printer, which is their third prototype, is that the heat plate, needed in all 3-D printers, is not one plate but sixteen separate plates. For small jobs only one plate needs to be turned on, but if the job is larger, more plates can be turned on. (Current technology for 3-D printing requires a hot base.) The company has a patent pending for this design. The plastic pieces for this printer were made by a 3-D printer; all the other components are readily available from various sources.
In a back room I saw the fourth prototype, which is very similar in appearance to the third. Their goal is to sell printers, though they are not quite there and are not yet taking orders. When they begin selling, they will have to hire a few more people to assemble them. Currently a 3-D printer the size of the one above costs about $45,000. They plan to sell at a fraction of that price--their design innovations allow that.

What is the market? 3-D printers are currently used to prototype objects. If you are designing any new machine that has plastic parts, you need to manufacture those parts to test the machine. 3-D printing is far faster and cheaper than any other way of producing these parts. 3-D printers may open opportunities for small businesses making niche products. A bigger use may be for replacement parts. When a part wears out, making another may be cheaper and faster than ordering it. Stores with a 3-D printer and a library of part designs would be able to reduce their inventories.

Looking at this, I think of how printing on demand has changed the publishing industry. Years ago Dover published two maze books I designed. The second did not sell well so Dover lost interest in me. I wanted to try the idea again when I retired and was searching for a way to minimize my cost when I discovered print on demand. With print on demand there are no fixed costs and no inventory. You upload your print files as pdfs to the manufacturer, in my case createspace, and if no one buys the book, there is no cost at all. That cost structure was fortunate in my case because all the maze books I designed have sold poorly, though they were a lot of fun to create. Today anyone with an idea and the ability to lay out the manuscript can publish a book at virtually no cost.

The object that the first printer was making were battery adapters, a way of using an AA battery in place of a C battery. If you need a C battery for a device that you rarely use, you will use only part of the potential of the battery before it goes bad and corrodes. Using an AA battery instead will be cheaper and result in less toxic waste going to the landfill.

For more information about the company, visit their website at

3-D printing will change our world. It will be exciting if this local company plays a significant role in that change.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Lots of changes

I left town for a few days and came back to a large bird welcoming visitors to the downtown. (More pictures here and here.)
The lift that the painter used had been in front of the old Odd Fellows building, so there has been little progress on that project.

On Monday, June 20 there will be a mural completion celebration that is open to the public at 4:00 pm.

US 231 is being torn up and the highway is a mess going south. I am not sure how far south this work goes. The highway will be resurfaced from SR 16 to the Washington Street Bridge. I may have captured the last bit of the removal of the old surface.
I came back into town on SR 114. The parking lots for the new Comfort Suites were being paved but I did not stop for a picture. It should be open soon.

The Verizon store is getting a face lift.

Blockbuster has finally completed its going-out-of-business sale and the building is available for leasing.
Fastenal has left the College Mall and moved to Drexel Drive. Also in the College Mall, Family Dollar has almost no inventory left to sell, but the little that is there is 75% off. It will soon close and is scheduled to reopen on July 7 as Dollar Tree.
I noticed that Rensselaer lost a mural, though it may have lost it quite a while ago. There used to be a funny bowling ball on this wall.
At SJC the trusses for a new, pitched roof are in place on Gallagher Hall.
The roof has not been put over the new deck for Mount Hood Pizza, but there are chairs and tables already on the deck.
The jackhammering into the limestone has ceased at the construction site of the high water treatment plant. There is a large amount of rebar on the site. Whatever they are going to build will have a lot of concrete.
What I think will be the control building has a sand floor and lots of pipes or conduits poking up from it.
I may have something in a few days about a new business moving into the back of the Jordan Floral building.