John McCaslin

Good Samaritan

Washington resident John Lockwood was wandering through Borders bookstore at 18th and L streets NW, where he couldn't help but notice that a prankster had carefully placed a copy of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" on the "Noteworthy Fiction" shelf.

"A bookstore is seldom a place where one meets with temptation, but I underwent just such a trial," Mr. Lockwood admits. "I was mightily tempted to leave it where it was. After all, there was Al on the cover, wearing that look of earnest self-satisfaction ...

"But no, I was a good citizen and put it back in its proper place."

Paint it white

Our "Huff and puff and ... " item about former President Bill Clinton encouraging homeowners to skip the tar and shingles and lay sod roofs on their homes and offices generated considerable reaction -- even from as far away as Guam.

Mr. Clinton recently told a Washington audience that to be more energy-efficient, America must engage in "relentless home improvement," including resorting to sod roofs, which are far cooler than tar roofs in the summer.

"Sounds great doesn't it -- a 'sod roof.' It will be a hoot mowing it," writes a South Carolina building contractor. "Whatever happened to people just dealing with the heat of hot days using fans to circulate the air inside and wearing light, loose clothing during hot months, and [in winter] heavier clothing in and out of the home and heating with wood-burning stoves? (Less polluting than oil.) We've become a nation of spoiled brats."

Meanwhile, an employee of Halliburton Energy Services writes: "Do you have any idea how much dead weight sod would add to your roof joists? At least at on, and then that would at least double in weight after the first rain. At which point you will find your new sod roof sitting on your floor in the kitchen and bedroom.

"There is a simple alternative, which I have done to my own house: Paint your roof shingles white! I live in Houston, which is even hotter in the summer than up north in Washington, D.C. After I painted my asphalt shingles white,the temperature drop was dramatic.

"Years ago, commercial buildings had already traded black tar roofs for white or light-gray coloring. In the last couple of years, yellow school buses(with no air conditioning) are now seen on our streets with white tops. It's simple: white color reflects solar energy better and cheaper than anything else."

Finally, Loretta Werres of Ocean View, Del., wonders: "Did anyone in the audience ask Mr. Clinton how his sod roof was performing?"

Build it strong

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

Be the first to read John McCaslin's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.