Sly and the maple

Several years ago we planted a Japanese maple in front of the house under the kitchen window. The ground is at basement level there, so we have to look down to see it.

This is what I saw on Wednesday.


The maple is the fullest and healthiest it has been since we planted it. I admired it for a while and then noticed a black blob in the shade at the base of the tree. There was Sylvester looking up at me. You can just make out his eyes in the original, but I’m not sure you can see them in this version.

Here he is in closeup.


For the last couple of weeks we have had nearly perfect weather. It has been mildly warm during the day, and the air has been dry enough that it cools off at night. But in the last two days, it has been more like summer — hot and humid. It was about 83 F when I took Sylvester’s picture; the forecast is for 90 F on Friday.

Before long we’ll all be looking for a cool place to wait out the heat.

Drywall in the bedroom

The drywall contractor started work on Tuesday. I went up Tuesday morning to point out a few places they needed to leave wiring exposed (bathroom floor heat thermostat wires, garage door opener wires, and wiring for under-cabinet lights in the kitchen). I thought they might start in the garage, but they were working in our bedroom.


As you can see, they put the drywall in right over the top of the windows. They come back later with little router-type tools to cut the excess away. They have hidden the top part of the window where we have equal-leg arches. Framing around those was one of the things I wanted to do before they started, but now I think I’m going to have to frame and trim them out later. I have some ideas about how to do it. It will be interesting to see how well the ideas translate into reality.

Here’s Leah standing in the door to the bathroom.


She said the bedroom looked smaller with drywall up. I think that’s to be expected. I have noticed that the appearance of a house bounces back and forth between small and large, depending on the state of construction (or which pill you have taken).

We finally picked out hardwood. It’s going to be a fairly dark, reddish, cherry-stained oak. We worried about getting the floors too dark. Neighbor John and his wife used very dark flooring for their new house down Wildlife Trail from us. We didn’t want it quite that dark. I think it will work out. We also found some wood-look tile that matches the flooring very well. We’ll use that in the kitchen and the bathrooms. I’ll probably buy the the tile in the next few days, since I can store it in our current garage. I’ll have to wait on the hardwood until we have a working heating/air conditioning system in the new house, since hardwood needs to acclimate to its future environment.

The drywall contractor estimated it will take a week or so to finish. I’ll call the tile installer in the next few days to let him know when the drywall should be finished, and then we’ll have to hurry to paint before he starts. He’s a pretty busy guy, so we may not have to hurry that much. I hope he knows a good hardwood floor installer. I also have to contact the electrician. Once the drywall is all in, the electrician can hook up some outlets to the breaker panel. Then the power company can install our meter and hook us up to power. Then the HVAC contractor can finish up his work, and we’ll have a cool house.

Then all we need to do is work on our own coolness.

Stony pillow

Dusty lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there.


And he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.



We saw some nice clouds when we took the dogs out for an evening walk Wednesday.


There were some waves and a couple of interesting features associated with the passage of high-altitude airliners. Just to the left of center there are two dark, linear features that are probably, but not certainly, contrails. If that’s what they are, they are probably old (where old means more than a few minutes). They look dark because we’re looking at the under, shaded side. They may not be contrails at all, just linear cloud features.

Just above them, however, is what appears to be a negative contrail, a linear feature of apparently clear air within a cloudy region of the sky. This is more likely to be an artifact of the passage of an airliner. A negative contrail is also called a distrail, or dissipation trail. Here’s a little closer look.


In searching around for an explanation for distrails, I found at least two. One is that the warm exhaust of a jet engine warms the air in the cloud, causing existing cloud droplets or ice crystals to evaporate. A second is that the small particulates in a jet exhaust become condensation nuclei which cause large enough droplets or ice crystals to form that they precipitate out of the cloud, leaving behind a clear region. The website with this particular explanation alternatively attributes the effect to the turbulence created by the aircraft’s passage causing greater condensation and precipitation. Other explanations don’t mention turbulence; I think it’s possible that under the right conditions, turbulence might cause a wake of sorts to appear in a cloud that looks like a negative contrail. I think that’s a different phenomenon from the particulate-condensation nuclei-precipitation explanation.

I think the second explanation (particulates-condensation nuclei-precipitation) is probably closer to right, and the warm air-evaporation explanation is wrong. My reasoning is that the same conditions that cause a condensation trail to form are being blamed for an evaporation trail. The warm (or hot, if you will) exhaust of a jet engine very quickly cools as the gases expand, which causes the water vapor it contains to condense, thus forming a contrail. I can’t think of a way that adding water vapor to air will cause evaporation.

The accuracy of the second explanation is bolstered by accounts of seeing virga or falling ice crystals from the region of the distrail.

third explanation includes some atmospheric optics along with the particulates-condensation nuclei-precipitation process that may or may not be necessary to the explanation of distrails. It relies on optical properties of ice versus water as well as on precipitation. If anyone is interested they can check out the site, which some readers are already familiar with.

On other days in other skies, I have seen what looks like a negative contrail, but these are usually a visual effect. What looks like a negative contrail in those cases is actually the shadow of a higher contrail falling onto a lower cloud deck. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference because the lower cloud deck can hide the higher contrail, so all you see is a dark trail through the clouds that looks a lot like a view through the cloud to clearer sky.

In this case, I think what Leah and I saw was actually a distrail.

Drywall delivery

The drywall installer called on Monday and asked if he could have drywall delivered Tuesday. Of course I said of course, even though the house was too messy for them to deliver. They distribute drywall throughout the house so the installer doesn’t have to move it so far, so the floors need to be clear of construction material and debris. That meant I spent the rest of the day Monday and the morning on Tuesday clearing lumber from the garage and various insulation-related stuff from the house.

Here’s the first load going into the garage.

unloading in the garagr

The truck has a long boom that picks up a stack of drywall and swings it around right to the door.

Neither the delivery guys nor the installers like to lug drywall up stairs, so they try to unload directly into each level of a house. Our floor is three steps up from the garage, so they used a bedroom window.

swinging drywall

Our windows are double-hung, and made so that each sash comes completely out.

We (or the drywall people) are lucky I wanted deep windows in our bedroom. If you look at the closer window below, you can probably tell that it isn’t tall enough to unload drywall through. Our bedroom window is just tall enough.

into the window

The drywall just fits. Here is one of the delivery guys taking a few sheets into the bedroom.

unloading in the bedroom

At the extreme right of the photo you can see a little of the flexible silver duct the heating and AC contractor installed Monday. It will be used to blow warm air from the wood-burning stove in the living room to our bedroom.

I spent the rest of the day Tuesday building a small chase to hide that duct. In addition to that, I need to insulate a few more stud bays and put up my attic insulation measuring sticks. I cut about 80 20-inch long pieces of 2×4 to nail to the ceiling joists as depth indicators. I ripped them on my table saw at home right after lunch. During that process I did not cut off any body parts, but I did stick my left index finger into the spinning blade. It bled (not as much as I expected, being on a daily aspirin). I hurried inside, a little afraid to wash it and see how much damage I did. It chewed out a small bit of flesh and a little of the tip of the nail. It doesn’t hurt to speak of, which suggests to me that it got just enough of the tip of the finger to destroy the nerve endings. I think I’ll end up with a little scar there. And, of course, I’m finding out just how many times you use the letters f, g, t, r, c, and v when you type.

The delivery guys distributed the drywall to various places in the house, ready for the installer to start work. I expected to be ready for him by the weekend, but now I think it will probably be Thursday before I call him.