A SMALL Act can accomplish BIG Goals… ;)

7 Mar

Hi Campers!

Okay, don’t get me wrong. I love selling my book!

The proceeds from the book ARE indeed helping families build ISBU homes all over America!

But even more than that, I love that it’s opening doors for discussions, dialogs, projects and promise. It’s not just inspiring families, it’s inspiring kids, too! Follow along and you’ll see what I mean.

Case in point;

Recently, I noticed that I had a “double purchase” by a book buyer. Now, that’s a good thing. But… they were within several breaths of each other.

Now, I have a Vista driven PC that gives me fits constantly. So fearing the worst, I fired off a quick email to the book purchaser, trying to get to the bottom of the suspected problem:


Hi William,

I’m going thru the day’s reports, and I see that you purchased my book; “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings“.

First, thank you. I hope you enjoy it.

However,  I see that you purchased TWO copies on-line through E-Junkie – about 9 minutes apart?

On March 1, you purchased the first copy at 7:44PM

Then, you purchased an additional copy on the same day, at 7:53PM

Was this your intention or did you somehow get billed twice?

I want people to be happy with the book… not overcharged for it, for whatever reason. 😉

Please let me know if this was a mistake, so I can refund your purchase price.

And again, I hope that you enjoy the book. It is my sincere hope that it helps families prepare for any trials we may face.

My Best Wishes,

Alex Klein


Shortly thereafter, William replied:


Hello Alex

Thank you for your attentiveness to your business operations and for your honesty.

Your assumption that the two closely timed purchases of your book may not have been intentional was correct.  It was not my intention to purchase the text twice.

When I placed the initial order, Pay Pal indicated that everything was fine and that the purchase had gone through.  The very next Pay Pal screen stated that the transaction had not been completed and that I should close out and go back and place the order again.  I did that the second time and had the same results.  I was frustrated because I had told my students at school that I would obtain an ebook on container home construction.  I found shortly thereafter that the book was now available to download, which I did.  I was pleased because my students now had materials with which to work in preparing drawings for the design of a container home which we were ultimately hoping to fabricate at our high school (Timken Senior High School in Canton, Ohio) and have this home sent to Haiti.

There are many things which we do not know about, regarding the implementation of such a project.  We don’t know who we would be best to provide with such a structure, how it would interface with the infrastructure in Haiti, if such an infrastructure exists (in all or in part), what steps we would have to take diplomatically, and etc.

If you have any suggestions or leads for us to pursue in attempting to execute this process, we would be pleased to try to follow up on them.

Thank you again for your honesty and attention to this matter.


Bill S****
Project Lead The Way pre-engineering teacher
Timken Senior High School
[personal info deleted by editor]


The book isn’t just helping families begin the path to building a home with ISBUs. It’s actually helping teachers “REACH and TEACH”. Not only that;

This teacher actually has the audacity to urge his students to commit “acts of charity and kindness”.

What? Somebody better put a stop to this!;)

THAT is exactly what I’d hoped for, from this book. I could not be MORE pleased.

So, being a glutton for both punishment and praise (imagine that!) I fired another salvo across Bill’s bow.

Why? Because here’s where it get’s good.


Hi Bill,

Thanks for the response and your kind words.

More importantly, thank you for assisting to instill in our youth that there is a larger picture, that there are those in need who can be helped in times of crisis, if you just dedicate a portion of yourself to it.

If “the few” dedicate a little effort to bringing aid to those in need…  it quickly adds up to a LOT.

It is the underlying message of the blogs and books that I write. At least, I hope that it is, my writing abilities (or lack thereof) taken into consideration… 😉

What’s your timeline for the construction of this project?

How large a home are you thinking of constructing? (1) ISBU? (2) combined to form a larger space?

There are considerations and frankly, some are formidable. For instance, ALL modifications to the exterior Corten Paneling must be done on the ground, in Haiti. No shipper will move your box once you’ve cut holes in it for doors and windows without considerable cost and “due process”.

The insurers of cargo won’t cover a modified container without a lot of hassle. That really makes any off-shore effort fruitless, as by the time you’ve covered all your bases, you could have done something different on the ground in Haiti, more cost-effectively.

Even the large aid organizations and foundations have run headfirst into this wall. I know, as I’m on most of their speed-dials apparently. 😉

There are work-arounds, but they’re diplomatic and time intensive.

That said, I’ll assist you in any way that I can.

Let me ask you… is the Haiti project “tied” to Haiti? Or is it simply an exercise in providing aid in a charitable manner?

The reason that I ask is that there are many impoverished families here in the US (i.e. families living in the Appalachians, Native American Indian reservations, etc…) that are far more easily reachable… and the project stays close enough to provide continued inspiration and reward.

I’m currently working on a project to use ISBUs in combination with earthbags to build a series of homes for Cherokee Indian Families in the “Great Smokies”…

[Editor’s note: This project will parallel an ISBU schoolhouse being constructed on the same property. I’m also involved in a multi-family settlement in Colorado that will be constructed along the same ISBU/Earthbags lines.]

One ISBU runs down the center of the project, containing Kitchen, Bathroom, Laundry room, Mech rm, et all – and then earthbags are used to construct “wings” on either side, tripling the size of the structure. It’s really quite simple and utilizes building practices readily mastered by almost anyone.

More importantly, it’s FAST. You can “assemble” a home in a week, once the ISBU is prepared…

Or you could even build a unit for a Mexican family in a border town. Any of these options would also allow for a trip to the site to set and then “open” the home for the new family.

Trust me when I tell you that seeing the reaction of the family receiving the home is something that you never ever forget. It will change the way you think and the things you do, for years to come.

Anything that I can do to help you foster this is at your disposal.

I’ve refunded your entire purchase price for both books. Consider it a “thank you” for the work you’re doing helping our youth build bridges…

We need more teachers like you.

Thank you for sharing this with me. It’s appreciated.

Best Wishes,

Alex Klein


And then… I realized that killing the transaction probably killed the download link to it as well, so I was forced to reveal myself as being “in error…”

And we all know how I HATE having to do that! 🙂

So, another email followed;



Sometimes I can be a real idiot! Maybe I should do all this paperwork in the daylight…

Bill, I replied…  to your reply (e-i-e-i-o ;))…  and refunded your entire purchase price, but I neglected to ask it you’d actually successfully downloaded the book! Oy.

Having no clue as to whether or not the refund will lock the download path (it’s never come up before), I’m sending you a copy of the book now, to insure that you have it.

Sorry for being disorganized. In my defense… I have no defense…

I could blame it on my three year old, but I’d be fibbing… 🙂

Here you go.

Enjoy. And again, thanks for sharing your project with me.


I figured that’d tie it all up… but no… Bill’s prolific. 😉


Hello again Alex

Thank you for your responses.  You were also more than kind in providing the refunds.

[Editor’s note: “Por Nada…” Look, people who know us and people who read the blog know that we don’t have a lot, but we always have enough to share… especially in instances like this.]

I really appreciate your insight into the difficulties of shipping a modified container to Haiti.  I also was pleased to hear your suggestions to consider some alternative possibilities such as providing a container to an Indian reservation (I know of some missionary work on reservations, etc).  We will look further into some of those possibilities.

In the next week or so, I will try to send some .jpeg files from student work on container home work that they have done.  They will be .jpeg files as I would imagine that sending CAD files to you would be of little good as they were done primarily in AutoDesk Revit software.

Again thank you for your help and great information.


Bill S****


Okay, here’s the deal. This proves that helping others is simply a state of mind and heart.

Anyone can reach out and help their neighbor, if they really want to.

And “crisis and hardship” are everywhere. I mean, if you’re following the blog, you know that beyond helping families and others build, we’re up to our necks helping families in New Zealand after the recent Christchurch Earthquake.

If schoolkids can do it…  if WE can do it, so can you.

I want to publicly thank  Bill for his service to his students. Each step taken to help “even one” paves that road just a little bit more for “others who need help”. Someday, that road will stretch farther than an eye can see…

And, Bill’s promised to keep us informed as to his progress, so I’m sure that posts will follow!

This might just be a great project to nurture…

So, Bill is the Ronin’s Hero of the week…

Bill, you have my thanks and my admiration.

Stay tuned.


3 Responses to “A SMALL Act can accomplish BIG Goals… ;)”

  1. Andy Schubert March 7, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    Nice story. Sounds like a great teacher. Just a thought, Canton’s figure of 27.9 percent living below the poverty line may be worth consideration as well. I went to a High School that had a large VoTech program. One of those classes successfully built conventional homes for low income folks for years. Local Government waved fees and provided lots in some projects. The local business community helped in a variety of ways including $500 scholarships for graduates.


    I’ll being tuning in to see how you all do.

  2. Trey C. March 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Hey Ronin, I finally saw the movie Tron Legacy and noticed that the actor Sam Flynn was living in a container house. I pointed it out to my wife, but that was probably not a good idea. The container house was not in the best of shape and needless to say she was not that impressed. But I still thought it was neat. 🙂

    Here is a link to some pictures of the container:


    • Renaissance Ronin March 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm #


      If you look at the flick “GAMER” starring Gerard Butler, you’ll see the Container City they built in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, as well.

      While the film is basically a “70’s Gore and Violence for violence sake with a Sci-Fi twist”- kinda thing… the use of ISBUs intermingled with the existing building was really neat to see.

      I read an interview where the guy that built it said they built it so they could blow it up… but the buildings wouldn’t submit to their pyrotechnic treachery. Eventually they had to go in with plasma cutters and slice and dice, so that the building would fly apart the way they wanted them to! 🙂

      Just goes to show you that ISBUs can take a licking and keep on ticking… 😉

      But Trey, don’t watch GAMER with your wife. The ISBU buildings were even “uglier and more urban” than the ones on TRON… 😉

      Tell you what… one of these days I’ll run a post of ISBU Glamor Homes… that show just how elegant and cool ISBU construction can be.


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