Indiana Driving Plus & Minus

On my way home from Fort Wayne tonight I ran into an awkward driving situation.
A police car with its lights on
I was on I-69 and near my exit, a police car had pulled someone over. Just as I was passing them, they took off. I ended up being in the left lane with the pullee ahead of me on the right and the puller right behind me in my blind spot. I was exiting the interstate in about a mile, so I needed to switch lanes.

It was very uncomfortable because I didn’t know how trigger-happy the police officer was. So, gulp, I turned on my right turn signal and accelerated above the speed limit so that I wouldn’t cut off the police car while I was changing lanes. Of course, the pullee was accelerating conservatively, making the merge even more awkward. Anyway, nothing bad happened.

So, this is where Indiana driving gets a ‘plus’. About a dozen years ago on the toll road I-80/90 across the north edge of the state, there was an accident where someone got killed by a truck passing too close to a stopped vehicle. (I remember that it was the man who had been principal of my high school.) The legislature passed a law that says that if an emergency vehicle is on the side of the road, you need to either pull over to the other lane or slow down.

In practice, 95% of the time that means that drivers pull into the next lane. The behavior has generalized to other situations where someone is on the side of the road. I think this improves safety by reducing the situations that traffic passes too close to a stopped vehicle.

Indiana gets a ‘minus’ for a law that just started in 2015: If you are in the passing lane and someone comes up behind you, you have to get into the right lane. That sounded good (to someone), but it comes with a $500 fine and just to be perverse, the fact that the person coming behind you was speeding is not a defense.

The effect of this is to create a lot more tailgating on the highway. People get rude when they think the car in front of them isn’t getting out of the way fast enough. Lately, I’ve seen plenty of examples of 7 or 8 cars scrunched together in a space that probably should only have two. In addition, some people take the get out of the way edict too seriously and pull back out of the passing lane less than a car length ahead of the slower car. All in all, lots more tailgating to prevent a situation that is not very common.

I think this law is making things less safe, not more safe because of the increased possibility of chain-reaction accidents.

Original image: Police Car Lights. By Scott Davidson [Image license]

Gas price history

I’ve found copies of my old gas price spreadsheet. Now I have a history of the Indiana gasoline prices from Nov. 2003 to Dec. 2015.

One of the reasons I wanted to find the data is to show the cliff. Between Oct. 8 and Nov. 7, 2008 the price of gas here dropped 40%.

Online sources show that the price of crude oil dropped rapidly in that period, but not as rapidly as the gas price in Indiana.

A graph of the price of gas

A graph of Indiana gas prices between 2003 and 2015

I’m still looking for data from the 20 month gap in 2009 and 2010.

John Martin Smith’s Books

front view of Willennar Genealogy Center

Willennar Genealogy Center (Original photo from Charlie Chat)

Today I volunteered at the Auburn, Indiana Willennar Genealogy library. John Martin Smith was a historian in DeKalb County. According to his obituary from 2011, he was the founder of the DeKalb County Historical Society and had many other accolades. He had built a very large collection of historical documents and artifacts. His family loaned the materials to the genealogy library to be indexed and archived. The phase that I’m participating in now will index all of the books from the collection.

Books that I indexed today include The Cold Spring Tragedy about a murder near Indianapolis in the 1860s. Also, I added a trade catalog from the Atlas Engine Company and a self-promotion piece about Midwest Engine company from 1919. It turns out that the Atlas Engine company evolved into the Midwest Engine company. The Midwest Engine company was very proud of their part in helping win WW I.

It was very interesting glancing through these books. My part is to take the pre-scanned images of each page and add them to a PastPerfect record. I also write a description of the books and select search terms and subject topics.

The archive software has a locally developed list of subject keywords, but with the books, that list is usually inadequate.  I go to Library of Congress Authorities and search for topics.  After taking Cataloging last year and a related class “Organization and Representation of Knowledge and Information” this spring, I feel pretty comfortable using the authority file.

In the classes, we had access to an OCLC service, Connexion, that has a more powerful interface than the Library of Congress, but we are only supposed to use that for class-related work. There’s another useful tool available, Cataloging Calculator, but I don’t have its URL memorized.

After finding The Cold Spring Tragedy on WorldCat, I found that the authority file has records for the murderer and her victim in the database. I was surprised, but I guess I shouldn’t have been. Some of the collection’s conventional books are not rarities. However, today’s books about the engine companies probably are.

This cataloging project is a lot of fun for me.  It’s a mixture of activities and I get to look at very interesting books, usually from the 19th century.

Indiana SB-500: Education Deregulation and Disabled Children (editorial)

Dear Editor,

This week in the Auburn, Indiana newspaper, The Star, Senator Dennis Kruse wrote an editorial about SB-500, which he claims will “remove many of the obsolete regulations on our public schools.” The text of the law summarizes itself as “Education deregulation.” He sugarcoated this bill by reporting on one apparently positive aspect. Unfortunately, this law’s sugarcoated prescription has many poisonous components. The parts that are most shocking to me is the elimination of educational protections for disabled children. A society can be judged on its treatment of its citizens who are weak and without a voice and this law is a full-faced assault on them.

The bill is impossible to fully understand without extensive research and study. Bills often have unintended side effects. This bill has 355 sections, which is a huge opportunity for unintended side effects, but back to the provisions for disabled children.

One section no longer requires schools to make accommodations for deaf and hearing-impaired students. In addition, advice of proper medical care to parents for their hearing-impaired children is no longer guaranteed.

Another provision guts the division of special education. That board will no longer supervise classes and programs for children with disabilities. Its purpose will become to “take action to ensure school corporations, charter schools, and the department remain eligible for federal special education funds.” This is not looking for the needs of disabled students. This is not helping disabled students achieve their greatest potential.

This is an example of a program that could go away: A younger relative of mine was having severe emotional problems in high school and could not regularly attend classes. The school provided tutors through this difficult time. Now, this relative has a college degree and is pursuing an advanced degree. The law limits the responsibility of a school to only disabled students who can come to school. The program that helped my relative would not exist if this bill were enacted. The statement “A school corporation may provide for instruction of any child with a disability who is not able to attend a special class or school for children with disabilities” would be slashed out of the Indiana code.

These callous and calculated assaults on disabled children are not reflective of the society I grew up in. A sugarcoated poison is still poison.

Lest we forget, Senator Kruse was also a co-author of the catastrophic RFRA law. I am confident that he has written another catastrophic law that trades a few dollars for our disabled children’s futures.

Sincerely,

William Smith