Let’s start with new vocabulary: zanco. That’s Spanish for stilt. Guess why I learned that today? Yes, another Hispanic master craftsman did his magic to help return our house to complete housedom.

I understand that a new kind of sheet-rocker-stilts use technology developed for people with missing feet and legs, those springy, curved appendages. Seems to me they’d be much easier on the knees and hips.

Other vocabulary…that piece of equipment that’s lying on the bucket? It’s a violin in English and banjo in Spanish. It has a spool of tape that runs through a bath of the sheet-rock mud (formally: joint or drywall compound), much like a tape dispenser with a pistol grip. I understand there’s a similar instrument with a longer handle so that the business end is farther away from the workman (for really high ceilings, I assume), and that’s called a bazooka (in both Spanish and English).

If you feel like some serious reading, let me point you toward an article by James Fallows in The Atlantic analyzing the performances* of the candidates in the primary debates.

John McCain is not a good debater, not even by comparison with George W. Bush. Having been in Washington for decades, he knows many issues in detail. Having been in Washington for decades, he often overexplains those details, as Bob Dole did against Bill Clinton in 1996. The exception is the whole field of economics, where through most of the Republican debates, he skated by with allusions to the advisers he would consult.

Worse, he will look and sound old and weak next to Obama. …

McCain also runs the risk of being the first Republican since Dole to go into the debates trailing in the national polls. This would allow Obama to do what George W. Bush did four years ago: nurse a lead and simply try to avoid mistakes. He’s had more practice with debates than McCain, and more recently.

In these circumstances, McCain’s tactics against Obama are obvious. He will ask for as many debates as he can, starting with informal town halls before either he or Obama is officially nominated. The informal setting shows him off to his best advantage, with the affable bantering that has long made him a favorite with the press. Whoever is behind wants more debates.

There’s lots more—fascinating—and on many other candidates. In not too long, we shall see if Fallows got it right.

* Give me points for not making any reference to the potential for stilted delivery here.

Fleeting power


The way it was…. Below right: the way it is now….


We lost our ability to walk through walls this morning. That is a good thing!

FYI, our powers were not related to a wireless resonant energy link (now courtesy Intel).

Brace yourself: rant coming….

There’s an Enron II now, in the sense that one firm has held something like 11% of extant oil contracts through the recent price run-up. The firm is called Vitol, and the Wash Post says it’s Swiss-owned—and private (wonder what that means?). Here’s more:

CFTC documents show Vitol was one of the most active traders of oil on NYMEX as prices reached record levels. By June 6, for instance, Vitol had acquired a huge holding in oil contracts, betting prices would rise. The contracts were equal to 57.7 million barrels of oil — about three times the amount the United States consumes daily. That day, the price of oil spiked $11 to settle at $138.54. Oil prices eventually peaked at $147.27 a barrel on July 11 before falling back to settle at $114.98 yesterday.

The documents do not say how much Vitol put down to acquire this position, but under NYMEX rules, the down payment could have been as little as $1 billion, with the company borrowing the rest.

This is how our gov’t regulators—the CFTC or Commodity Futures Trading Commission—oversee things. Your tax dollars at work, and all that.

But wait! There’s more:

In the coming months, swap dealers expect to have yet another venue for oil speculation. The CFTC has stated it would not stand in the way of trading in U.S. oil contracts overseas in Dubai. Goldman Sachs and Vitol are among the major investors in this new exchange.

Watch your pocketbook! This can’t be good for any of us leetle peepull.

Window treatment


This rebuilding project has been an adventure in learning about new building products.

The smeary stuff on the windows is the modern way to cope with the paint/glass interface. They put this stuff on, and it drys into a skin, then, after the paint is dried, make a clean cut along the glass/frame inteface and peel it away like skin two days after a bad sunburn.

If I’d only known about this magic stuff last summer when I was painting all those windows on the cottage! Well, actually, I have to finish them whenever we get back up there, so, voila! A new technique!*

* Reminder to self: ask The Guys what this most excellent Stuff is called!

UPDATE: it’s called Masking Liquid H2O, and costs something like $60/gallon, at least to our contractor, but it doesn’t take much, so maybe they sell half-pints for those of us with small jobs.

(pseudo) Triumph


This is the closest I’ll be getting to the Beijing Olympics—the Olympia Building downtown at Five Points!

Apparently this is a new yet retro Coke sign, installed several years ago to mimic one that had been several blocks away and removed in 1981. Fun facts about the sign: more than a mile of red neon and around 4.75 miles of wiring.

Lucky us


Really. These people had their house BURN. In the middle of the night. [They got out—ya can’t say “okay” because who would be okay having to leave your house-afire in the wee hours of the morning?]

We are so lucky!

Not Photoshop (hah!)


NB: You cannot see the photo above.*

We owe JL via Bobbin-El a big thanks for the opportunity to escape from The Construction Zone last night and hear some live music at an unnamed outdoor venue in the northern ’burbs. Just a treat!

* Due to various (basically indefensible) regulations (in the days of phone-cameras and other teeny cameras), the above picture was never taken.

Shower view


The window action this week means that the shower window is coming back. This is the exterior (fixed) glass (as yet unwashed), and the interior will have a leaded piece by Pat Vloebergs that miraculously survived the tree-fall undamaged.

And this is the view back at a massive shade-tree that remains (thankfully). Very healthy, the arborist reported to our neighbors. It’s a tulip poplar, too, and not an oak, like the house-stalker that harbored hidden butt rot.

Soft rose


I took this picture several days after the tree fell, when I needed some pretty. This has been a long week, and when I look at this picture, the stress is diminished.

Soy Therm 50 Day


We knew we didn’t want to go back to fiberglass (or whatever they use now) batts for insulation, and after much on-line research, and chit-chatting amongst ourselves, we went with Soy Therm 50.

Soy Therm 50 spray-foam insulation is innovative, environmentally friendly and made with Soyol, USSC’s patented, soy-based polyol technology. It is an open-celled, water-blown, rigid polyurethane insulating foam that contains no ozone-depleting chemicals, VOCs, formaldehyde or asbestos. It expands upon application to fill all voids and cracks, and can save significantly on heating and cooling costs. At a density of 1/2 lb. per cu. ft., this is an excellent rigid foam insulation product for commercial and residential use.

…says the United Soybean Board web page….

And this is what it looks like part way through the process. You may be able to tell that the foam is applied against the outside of the house/roof, so everything—at least in new construction—inside of the outside walls would be “interior” relative to the insulation. And, bonus!, this means the house is much better sealed, especially against insects and other critter infestations. Even though we’re just able to have this on part of the upstairs, I think it’ll make a huge difference. Yes, we’re paying more, but I think we’ll be happier with our living situation (yea!, more storage! and more storage that’s insulated!).

Dormers trimmed out…


Really, we now have three fine, matching dormers, with new and better (and matching) windows (not yet sealed, though). We feel like the house is truly coming back (if viewed from the exterior, anyway)*. I do like the new shingle color….

* Is today national parentheses day?