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Digging out of Haiyan

11 Nov

Many of our readers know that we are actively involved in emergency and rescue operations globally.

Typhoon Haiyan in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is once again testing us as we try to help as many as we can reach.

Thousands are dead.
Hundreds of thousands are injured.
Millions are displaced.

We’re working around the clock right now. We’re tired, hungry and frankly, dragging, knowing that whatever we do, it won’t be nearly enough.  And despite all that we’re doing at this end, it’s easy to feel like we’re not doing enough as others do the heavy lifting – on the ground (in the debris and carnage) looking, digging, searching for victims of this terrible disaster.

If you want to help, please think about WHERE and to WHOM your donations and volunteer efforts actually go. Please think about how much of your donation will actually get to the people who need it. There are already reports  about well-known aid organizations in the Philippines filming  the carnage (to raise money), but not actually doing ANYTHING to aid those in need.

Haiyan - early estimates

A good friend of ours that is heavily invested in the financial sector recently reminded us of this:

Another example worth considering…

Consider a small charity ($1,000.000) with an operating efficiency of 80%. It has $200k expenses, primarily fixed. $1 million donated, and $800k actually goes to the stated purpose of the charity.

Compare that to Goodwill. $1 million donated, and only $175k goes to the stated purpose. The first $725k is used to pay the CEOs compensation. The only reason these large charities can state such an “attractive” efficiency ratio is because their extreme size actually allows them to pilfer the charity, i.e. their large inflow dwarfs their absurd fixed costs (compensation).

Also – these large charities will serve as feeder-funds to some of the smaller charities. This feeding comes with rather draconian strings attached. Most smaller charities will decline the money, because it corrupts their mission. When they feed the money to the other charities it counts 100 cents on the dollar as efficiency, regardless of the fed charities operating efficiency. Guess what a lot of these subordinate charities are? That’s right – 100% affiliated subordinates of the feeder, with abysmal efficiency. They pay excessive consulting fees the management of the feeder (superior) charity. This allows the larger charity to mask their compensation, and protect their own efficiency rating…

Be careful of charities. They are very, very, very often set up as a tool for financial or political advancement.

I have a good amount of experience in analyzing and suggesting charities. Personally, I recommend the small, grass root charities. Often, they may not have the best operating expenses on paper, maybe somewhere in the 70% range, but those numbers are deceptive. Especially when the CEO and founder has a NEGATIVE income from the charity, because they are putting so much of their own money into it.

Please consider supporting First Responders, those brave men and women on the ground in the carnage, risking all to help others. They need supplies, food, shelter. This costs huge amounts of money in lands torn apart by disaster. Remember that know that these families, these people in the streets fighting over scraps… could just as easily be US. It’s time to get our hands dirty, folks. If you’d like to help, please contact us.

God Bless Us, every one.

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Mother’s Day is coming… It made us think…

8 May

This is one of those week’s where you find yourself  thinking about “Mom”.  I mean… Sunday IS quickly approaching.

But for us, this week, It took an “odd turn”. We started thinking about a lot of other people’s MOMS.

Here at RR we support a lot of causes. One of them that is near  and  dear to our hearts is “Breast Cancer”.

We’ve personally lost family members to this terrible disease. Moms, wives, daughters. It’s a river of sadness that never stops flowing. We’ve shed tears over this and that is an understatement.

One of my best friends has a double mastectomy she received because of breast cancer. She has always been an incredibly beautiful woman. She was the textbook “California Beach Girl”. She had “curves for miles” and she was a pleasure to behold.

(Okay, I admit it. Men are more visual than women. We know it, YOU know it, so get over it.) 🙂

Despite her hardships, she is STILL the most beautiful girl in the room, everywhere she goes.  She may not have “the big  t-shirt” anymore, but she’s still a knock-out. She’s paid her price to stay alive and she’s an inspiration to us all. We adore her.  She reminds us that “beauty” isn’t just based on media hype for “this or that” figure. It’s not just “skin-deep”.  She’s a lioness who wears her scars well and she  keeps moving forward with confidence, helping others by deed and “by example”.

As a result of her impact on our lives, we’ve been involved with groups that focus on helping those afflicted with this disease as much as we possibly can. Many of these organizations are struggling as the economy tightens the purse strings of those with charities in mind.

Working for a “Cure for Breast Cancer” is noble. We’re all for those who push to aid those in need, especially in this cause. When you think of breast cancer, most of us think “pink”. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is a front-runner in making breast cancer visible to the masses.

With walk-a-thons, public events and fund-raisers, The Susan G. Komen Foundation makes a lot of positive noise.

But, like many other charitable organizations, they see their coffers dwindling.

So, like many other families that start thinking about what they have and where they can send it to do the most good… we took a look at what the Komen folks do. We wished that we hadn’t. Truly. We’re sorry that we looked. If you look at the numbers, now we feel like we (and more importantly Breast Cancer victims) are being duped.

2012 may have been a very bad year for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but you’d never know it by looking at the tax returns for it’s leader. 2012 was a very good year for its CEO, Nancy Brinker. I’m talking about “over the top” good.

Nancy Brinker

Last year, Brinker said, “We are doing everything in our power to ensure that women have access to quality cancer care and the support that they need.” It’s a worthy, necessary goal. In our opinion, Brinker (at the very least) misspoke.

After so much disaster and hardship, it seems the woman who’s benefited most from Komen’s Breast Cancer charity is… um…  Nancy Brinker.

Many of us have read that in 2012, the breast cancer organization ignited a firestorm by announcing it was pulling its funding for breast cancer screenings and services for Planned Parenthood.

As you can imagine, this raised some eyebrows and some ire. Those screenings and services are one of the front-lines of Breast Cancer defense for American women. Komen hastily and ineptly apologized, then backpedaled.

We witnessed Karen Handel, Komen’s “Vice President for Public Policy” resign in the wake of the scandal. The people responded by quietly “defunding” Komen.  They saw registrations for its events decline in places like Maryland and Texas and just about everywhere else.

Komen got put in the “hot seat”.  People found it ironic that an organization that features the words “the cure” so heavily in its promotion and mission, an organization that boasts how its “research investment has changed the breast cancer landscape,” devotes such a minuscule and declining portion of its dollars to actually finding one.

Turns out that in 2011, Komen spent 15 percent of its donations on “finding the cure” – research — not even half of what it did just a few years prior. That’s 15 cents out of every dollar that you donated to them, folks.

And what about Komen’s founder, Nancy Brinker? You remember her, that woman whose vow to the sister she lost to cancer has served as the organization’s poignant, relatable narrative… Well, she stepped down as Komen’s CEO.

Did she “quit” or “give up”? No. She just invented a new role for herself in the organization. While she’s still listed on the records as the CEO of Komen, last August she took on a new role as “chairwoman of the executive committee”.

In short, the whole series of trainwrecks perpetrated by Komen was so offensive and appalling that Deanna Zandt, author of “Share This! How You Will Change the World With Social Networking,” called the Komen fiasco a teachable “example of what not to do.”

Leadership. It’s about leadership. You captain your ship and chart your course, steering clear of obstacles or you end up on the rocks… or do you?

It’s 2013. After more than a year of bad publicity and declining participation in Komen activities and events, Brinker herself seems to be doing just fine.

As Cheryl Hall pointed out this weekend in the Dallas Morning News, Brinker made “$684,717 in fiscal 2012, a 64 percent jump from her $417,000 salary from April 2010 to March 2011.

”That’s a whole lot of green for all that pink.”

Hall notes that’s about twice what the organization’s chief financial officer, Mark Nadolny, or former president Liz Thompson were making.

And as Peggy Orenstein points out on her blog Monday, it’s considerably more than the average nonprofit CEO salary of $132,739. We’re talking about five times the average, folks, for a CEO who has placed her ship firmly on the beach. And, the tide is going out, further grounding her vessel.

Of course, rewarding CEOs even as they’re bombing out is a way of life in America.

Appearently, where Nancy Brinker is concerned, they’re using an entire wing of “Stealth Bombers” to deliver her (in our view) unearned cash.

We ask those at The Susan G. Komen Foundation to think long and hard about how they operate. In our opinion, they’re giving themselves a black eye and doing a huge disservice to the “Breast Cancer” community.

Until they do this, we’re going to focus on “local” missions, helping those close to us, DIRECTLY, instead of giving aid to those who pocket most of the funds for themselves. We’d humbly ask you to do the same…

We may just be “small voices” that get lost in the crowd, but if enough of us do this, we can create a chorus that will drown out these “charitable failures”.

Please listen to your hearts and act accordingly.

I want to thank “our special Breast Cancer Survior who gives us so much, every day” and Mary Elizabeth Williams over at for compelling us to run this.

Stay tuned…

He said WHAT?

15 Jul


This is a GUEST POST from a member of “The Corten Cavalry”.

NO! “TLATOARR” has NOT switched allegiances and moved over to Straw Bale Construction! LOL!

Alex is tied up right now… almost literally. He’s running a “Haylift” into Colorado, to help fire victims feed their livestock.

Recently, wildfires have devastated an already drought stricken state and hay prices (when you can find it) have doubled (or more) making it almost impossible for afflicted families to feed the livestock that survived.

When Alex heard about it (from a loved one) he shut off his welder and took action… like he always does.

You know “Our Alex”…

Check this out;

Anyway, the topic of this post isn’t to sing Alex’s praises – in fact he offered to run the film crew over with a semi or a tractor. 

It’s to address a comment that was made about him in the press on that very same day from another TV Station, due to Romney being in town to do a sit-down dinner.

When the guy stuck a camera in Alex’s face to ask him how he felt about Romney’s staff charging $25k a plate for the dinner, Alex laughed and told the guy that he was talking to the wrong guy, as Alex’s family “eats a lot of Macaroni and Cheese”. Then he asked Alex WHY he was in Montana.

(Note: To clarify – Alex was NOT at the fundraiser. He was in his fields loading giant bales of hay onto tractor trailers so they could deliver the hay to families in need in Colorado.)

Alex answered the question the way he addresses life, by promoting HEALING and recovery.

Then, after it aired… some jerk tried to “tar and feather” him.

Here’s the quote;

Native Montanan • 3 days ago

It’s so sad that far right radicals like Alex Klein feel they can move to Montana to find like-minded people. I am a native of this state, raised by Republican parents. But my parents compained about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Native Montanans are not like Mr. Klein anymore than we’re like Ted Kazinsky. These people move here, give us a bad name, a bad reputation and embarrass our great state.

Alex replied in kind;

Wow. Character Assassination.

“Far Right Radicals”? That’s a wide brush you’re trying to tar and feather me with. Here’s what I’m doing to represent what Montana residents are like;

If my actions lead you to believe that I’m an “embarrassment” to “you and yours”…

… perhaps YOU should be the one to move.

If you really believe so strongly (based on your accusations), I suggest that you put YOUR sweat, YOUR money, YOUR conviction and YOUR COURAGE where your mouth is, and take steps to rebuild this country, even if just one family at a time.

Or… you could just stay on the porch and speak softly.

The morale of this story is simple;

We cannot wait for Congress or “election promises” to heal this Nation.

We MUST begin reaching across fence lines to help our neighbors. We can do more by helping each other, one family at a time than those empty suits in Congress will ever be able to. Democrat or Republican, they’re two sides of the same coin.

It’s still US and THEM.

At the local level, we have to start strengthening, healing this country.

Several Semi trucks filled with hay have already started arriving in Colorado.

It HAS to start at the community level, carefully nurtured family by family. That’s HOW cities, counties and even States got built in the first place…

Is your neighbor out working in his/her garden alone? GO HELP.

Is there something that you can do to make a neighbor’s life a bit easier? DO IT.

That relief you bring by your benevolence will allow THAT family to extend a hand to someone else. And THAT is what will heal America and make her strong again.

Shaken, Not Stirred…

13 Mar

As Japan reels with the punches;

(It should be noted that this post was actually “ghostwritten by ‘an unaware’  (as in “I didn’t tell him first”) Tony A, one of the guys out there in the ether that I really, really pay attention to. All I did was cannibalize it to give it that “Man, that Ronin is a jerk…” flair I’m so famous for… Tony, I apologize in advance…) 🙂

Mother Nature continues to pummel Japan with wave after wave of aftershocks. Some of these, in fact most of them of recent, have been 6.0 or better.

The earthquake was so powerful that it actually moved the main island of Japan 8 feet. 8 feet.

The March 11 2011 Japan quake made the Top Five for earthquakes in recorded history… for the PLANET.

Scientists say that it caused the earth to shift on it’s axis. Several inches. 10, in fact.

This shift will affect the earth’s rotation, directly affecting day/night cycles.

I don’t want to stir up additional controversy and fear, but…

Holy Moley…

The Japanese people are fleeing the areas around the  Nuclear Power Stations like they were being chased by Godzilla.

Japan’s Primary power sources (not giant warehouses filled with sushi-fueled Energizer Bunnies as some may claim) are getting the bejezzus beaten out of them as the coolant systems for the radioactive cores begin to fail catastrophically.


Let’s examine this for a moment.  The motors that actuate and run the cooling pumps are powered by the power grid.

And in times of power failure, like when the entire grid is down.. um… like after an earthquake…  what happens?

Well, the pumps are run from backup diesel generators. “Easy peasy”, as the mechs on Bob The Builder would say…

(I know, I know… but I have a three year old whose DVDs are slowly brainwashing me. I use terms now that are just frankly bizarre!)

But the diesel engines to run the backup generators were taken out by the tsunami.

Ah crap! Now what? Is there a “Plan B from Outer Space?”

Of course there is.

There are backup battery banks put into place that can run the cooling pumps.

But here’s the hitch. They only supply enough power to run those pumps for 8 hours. And, that 8 hours was up a long time ago, when you take things like nuclear fuel rods into perspective. Now what? More batteries?

I’m thinking that those Japanese leaders need to get the Wii and Nintendo people into gear working on suspending the laws of physics until somebody can ride into the rescue… or… they could contact those “Ceramic Coatings” guys… they suspend the laws of physics regularly… 😉

Tony asks:

“Was the Army Corp of Engineers involved in the design and development of the Japanese Nuclear Power backup systems?

I mean…  because it has evidence of their expertise written all over it.”

(Editor’s note: I was asking myself the exact same thing…) 😉

As another guy I listen to regularly (Bob K – NOT to be confused with Bob The Builder) pointed out:

“The weak point of the system as described, which may not be complete or correct, is that if the pumps or the piping fail then the whole system fails, regardless of mains power, diesel power, or batteries. The drawing on the page shows an emergency water supply system, but of course the water mains need to have pressure for that system to work, and they may not right now, and it would at some point not be a closed system because the water would need to be re-circulated away from the plant and back into the environment, quite possibly contaminated.

Bob adds – “Speculation on my part, I am not in that business.

Bob goes on to say:

“Murphy never sleeps, never rests, merely waits for opportunity. Man complicates, overdesigns, underbuilds, and continually tests limits. Murphy, eventually and always, will have his day.”

I want this embroidered on a pillow. Seriously. Hell, I’ll hang it on the wall. Truer words were never spoken.

And, as Murphy chooses his time and place, we all hold our breath and collectively pray for the Japanese people held hostage by this grim situation.

If you can help… do it. Please.


My apologies to both Tony A and Bob K  on “that other list” – for “swiping their pearls” to hang on the neck of humanity. I know you guys and gals hang on my every word… but sometimes it just pays to listen to “the smart guys”. 🙂

Image credit: NRC – Nuclear Regulatory Commission Archives

The Schoolbell is ringing… Yay! RUN!

20 Oct

Most of you know that “The Corten Cavalry” sent several ISBU based medical aide stations to Haiti, after the devastating earthquakes.

Those Corten Steel boxes have seen hundreds, if not thousands of patients, and are helping the nation heal.

For that, we are grateful to those men and women who have volunteered their own skills, time, and money to help those in need.

Recently, a friend of the blog John Umland contacted me to remind me about a new school that is being built for children in Haiti, using… you guessed it… ISBUs.

Taken directly from the website, located [here]:

“This school was built entirely by shipping containers and it is a beautiful campus. The classrooms are well ventilated and surprisingly comfortable. We just so happen to be getting two shipping containers in the future, so we might as well put them to great use and make a guest house or workshop out of them. The crew that converted these over will be building our roof on the second school building.”

Look gang, you know how I feel about this. If you’re inclined or able to help these guys in ANY way… even if it’s just sending good wishes and “atta-boys”… please, PLEASE do it.

Each one of those kids represents Haiti’s future.

And but for the Grace of G-d, they could be OUR children.

Thanks, John!

‘Nuff said.

Stay Tuned!

About Shipping Containers, Housing, Haitians, and Health

4 Feb


As we toil away, tearing floors out of 20′ ISBU “test boxes”, to start devising the final plan to build small, transportable, extremely mobile, medical clinics to the Haitians in Port Au Prince, I’m literally getting flooded with email from people who are talking about providing housing to Haitians.

First, to clarify what WE are doing:

The reason that we chose 20′ Containers is that they are light enough to be loaded on flatbed trailers and literally pulled all over Haiti by pick-up truck or even UN SUV’s. And, if there aren’t any roads, you can move them around using helicopters quite easily. You can literally drop these anywhere to provide immediate Emergency Medical Care.

It doesn’t make sense to build 40′ ISBU Medical Centers that can’t be moved, or even gotten out of the Port Authorities, until “hell freezes over.”

Since I was contacted by the “Clinton  Cluster mumble grumble snort…” I’ve been contacted several times a day, by people, groups and corporations looking for some “fast-quick band-aid that can be “sold” into the Aid Funding Programs” that are headed for Haiti.

Some of the “solutions” are just laughable.

And some seem to have merit, until you really look at them. One of my favorites right now is the scheme that is being promoted by a hotel Bigwig in Orlando, FL, named Harris Rosen, where he wants to basically partner with other entrepreneurs and companies, to send $5,000 “Little Houses” to Haiti, that would be sold to Haitians, at 1% interest, to provide housing.

A hard look at the housing model will demonstrate that;

  • The structure in question won’t last the length of the “mortgage note.”
  • The structure isn’t appropriate to the task,
  • and worst of all, isn’t an “affordable solution.”

While much can be said about people (who actually mean well) who step up and try to provide solutions, their solutions have to  fit what I call “the scenario of task”.

Even IF you could ship a container ship to Haiti filled with these “housing alternatives”, it wouldn’t work.

$5,000 at 1% over say… 10 years is $45 a month.

$5,000 at 1% at 20 years, is still $23 a month.

The average Haitian worker makes $2 a DAY. And, only one person in eight was actually working, BEFORE the earthquake. And…

They still have to eat. They still need fuel to cook with (and even generate heat), and water.

Let’s not bring into play that these structures won’t LAST 10-20 years… Oh wait, I already did.

And, that’s IF they ever get out of the port storage yards that they’ll be shipped to.

Beyond that, IF you did this, you’d just be creating another “shanty town” waiting for the next disaster.

What we’re seeing now in Haiti is that people are starving to death, while supplies sit locked in Port Complexes under the control of a corrupt government.

Haitians need medical attention NOW.  They need food and water. What they don’t need is a “solution” that is anything but.

I’m a big believer in that old cliche: “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime…” or something like that.

We have to help the Haitians help themselves. Being self-determined and self-responsible is a huge part of maintaining a state of wellness, after a crisis.

There are over a million Haitians homeless right now. This is Hurricane Katrina on a humongous scale. What Haitians will need is a high density housing solution…  one that is modular, easily producible, and robust enough to be built by HAITIANS IN HAITI, using materials they already have on hand.

They won’t have tons and tons of building supplies to work with. Folks, the reality is that those “highbrow, high-tech supplies” will get shipped in, stacked up in containers, and then stockpiled,  while the people in control figure out how to divert those goods into currency that they can put in their own pockets.

If you don’t believe me, then all you have to do is consult your history books, or even Cable TV.

Haitians need EMPOWERMENT. That means that we have to give them tools… not hand-outs.

Getting them well, getting them strong enough to start rebuilding is the first task.

That’s why “The Container Cavalry” is working to build these “Medical Outreach Clinics”.

We’ve been doing this less than two weeks, and we already have a long list of doctors and nurses who have offered to go to Haiti and staff them. Staffed by teams of doctors and nurses, just like the “Doctors Without Borders”  teams we are all so fond of, these  small Clinics will help the country heal, by actually healing them.

Then, and only then, can we help them to rebuild their city, and their nation.

Here’s something to think about (and for the life of me, I don’t know why nobody is talking about this):

The Haitians in Port Au Prince have tons and tons of rubble and shattered concrete buildings that can be crushed and then used as materials to build stout, strong structures that will help defy Mother Nature.

Crushers could be brought in to be used as rubble was cleared away, sector by sector. And hey, those crushers are large enough that nobody could just “steal them.”

In that regard, all we’d need to do is send them steel rebar to reinforce those concrete buildings with…

The Haitians don’t have time to wait for politicians, bureaucrats, or corrupt government officials. They need our help NOW.

Even though we are just “little guys” we can use “our broad backs and our hands” to make a difference.

If you want to help us build these boxes, or if you just want to aid our struggle by chipping in a few bucks, you know where the Paypal button is, and you know my email address… Both are up there on the right side of your monitor, right now.


And, if you pray, I ask you to remember Haiti, especially the Haitian kids, who literally have no one to aid them, right now. At last the adults have a chance at fending for themselves.

(RED HUBER, at the ORLANDO SENTINEL  took that photo, on February 2, 2010)

Family Built ISBU (Shipping Container) Homes and Property Taxes

31 Jan

As we begin fulfilling the “Feasibility Study” that will define the Haitian Medical Clinic Containers that we’re going to start building in the next few weeks…

While the Fat CAT’s fight over funding, WE “little guys” (just “Average Joe’s” in full possession of a conscience instead of a freakin’ spreadsheet)  are gonna actually DO something.

Children are dying. It’s breaking my heart.

Yes, I have one, Yeah, it’s little, and calcified, and probably black, but it’s still beating. And every time I see the Haiti footage on the News, I see MY young son lying there.

If you’d like to contribute or help, you know where the Paypal button is, and you know my email address. (For those of you who don’t they’re both located over on the right side of this blog post.)

We AREN’T gonna talk about helping people in committee’s and conference calls… We’re going to DO something.

Here comes “The Container Cavalry”… pilgrim.

As John Wayne said: “Come Hell or High Water”…

Anyway… where was I? Oh yeah…

… As we start laying the foundation for the aid to Haiti,  I thought I’d take a moment to answer a question that was emailed to me a few days ago.

This is a question that I suspect every ISBU Home Building family faces, so it’s a good idea to just answer it here.

Let’s just jump in, shall we?

Dear Ronin,

First, we appreciate you and your family more than you know. Here in the Sierra’s, our ISBU home is finally complete.

After months of hard work (where you told us what we COULDN’T build as often as you showed us what we COULD build),  piles of paperwork, shop drawings, scans, and napkin scratchings, and lot’s of “last minute hand-holding” (from you), we’re finally in our new home and starting to adjust to a a different lifestyle, one filled with a strange new world of awareness.

Now we actually KNOW how much power we use during the course of the day. And we’ve begun adjusting our lives, as we become self-reliant and responsible. We actually time our showers now, to conserve hot water and electricity.

(BTW: Our teen-aged daughter ‘hates’ us now. Her hair dryer is now basically history. Do you have any idea how much energy a hair dryer uses?)

Wait until she figures out that the extra money we’re saving is going to help buy her first car next year. I bet she changes her tune then…

Speaking of “adjustments,” I need an opinion. Now, I know that asking your opinion on the blog may subject us to your wry wit (and even a few pointed sticks), but we’re willing to risk it.

You’ve been right (and even the voice of reason), at every turn, thus far.

YOU, of all people…  “The voice of reason.” How ironic. 🙂

(So, we thought: here’s your one chance to be “spectacularly wrong”, and skew all the data!) 🙂

“Obie-Wan, please, use the “Force” and tell us what do to…

Now that our home is complete, one of the first thing that happens is that the Tax Assessor races up the driveway, to slap a value on all of our hard work, thus lining their pockets with our hard-saved cash.

We built this house out of our savings, just like you taught us. We crawled thru junk piles for materials, we recycled, we ‘repurposed’, and we even ‘invented’ some things… We didn’t borrow, and we didn’t overextend ourselves.

I still say that  you’re the Jewish version of MacGiver. Of course Tina (Editor’s note: Tina is Bob’s wife, and FAR better half)  says that you’re a “psychotic Drill Instructor”.  I think that it probably just depends on the day…

(Editor’s note: Okay, maybe not THAT much better a half.)

So, now we have no note, no mortgage, no greedy relatives to pay off, no rent, nada.

We’ve gotten our Assessment, and frankly, I nearly had a Heart Attack when I saw it.  It’s actually over double what we spent on the house, even if you add in our estimated costs of labor.  (Editors Note: They did much of  the work themselves.) We didn’t spend anywhere near this “taxable amount” and with the Real Estate market hemorrhaging, we can’t see how we could ever get this amount, in resale.

(Like we’d sell it, after all the crap we went thru to build it. Now we understand what you were talking about when you said that this process can actually lead to divorce, or “gunplay.”)

We have no intention of ever selling it.

We’re surrounded by foreclosures, and empty vacation homes.

As a result of this, we’re thinking that our house is actually worth much less than the value slapped on it by that “good ole boy”  Tax Cowboy down at City Hall.

We have no desire to use the created equity to borrow against. What we sought from the beginning was a home, free and clear, that no one could ever take. And now, the tax man is trying to leverage that take-over, after all our hard work.

What do we do? Should we appeal the assessment?”


Bob and Tina

Dear Padiwan Learner,

First, I look more like Yoda, than Obie-wan, according to the “Intergalactic Oracle of all Arcane Knowledge”… my wife…  🙂

Second, I’m not “psychotic.” I’m “special”. I know it’s true because my Mom told me so. And she NEVER lied. 😉

Third, after consulting the “Power of the Force“, a OUIJI Board, a Magic 8-Ball…  and even some people who are paid to  act like they actually know (but probably don’t) – you know… Lawyers and Realtors, and such ilk… 😉

I think that you answered your own question.

You have no intention to sell the property in the near future, if ever. So, you’re not trying to protect the actual perceived or “estimated” resale value.

In your case, it’s just a generated number, one that unfortunately helps to calculate your Property Tax exposure.

I think that you SHOULD appeal the assessment.

And, you should do it quick. You only have 90 days to file it.

Your concern isn’t the resale price of your property, it’s the amount of tax that you’ll pay now, to live in/on it.

And like I told you all thru this process, ISBU Homes frequently appraise higher than the construction costs. Sometimes significantly. I was, in my way, trying to gently get you ready for just this scenario.

(Imagine ME acting “gently.” Now THAT’S Irony…)

Okay… It should be noted that tax assessments aren’t really even a good indication of what your property is really worth. That dollar value is almost completely market-driven.

Now, you’re going to have to prove a few things to make this appeal work;

You’re going to have to demonstrate that the guy “pencil-whipping” you made a mistake. You know… like in adding too many bathrooms, or bedrooms and such to the equation.

In your case, he probably didn’t… as from our previous conversations you said that he was quite thorough, as your construction method peaked his interest.

So, you’re going to have to prove that other houses similar to yours, in your general location, are worth less money. The fact that you are surrounded by foreclosures should help this along.

These foreclosures drive down values in entire neighborhoods, like housing cancer.

If there’s one thing I know about, it’s cancer.

Be forceful, choose your points well, and then, argue your tail off.

In fact, send Tina.

Note: Tina is the wife of this clan, who evidently says “I’m psychotic”. I always liked her, up until about…  um… a few days ago. 😉

Anyway, I repeat. Send Tina. No one on earth can win an argument against your wife or even “get a word in edgewise”. She’s the ‘Henry Kissinger’ of arguments. I love that girl! 🙂

At least when she’s not arguing with ME.

And… I know for a fact that you’re a Military Veteran.

Semper Fi, you [expletive deleted]!! 🙂

You may just qualify for an exemption that will affect your property tax. You don’t get them automatically, you have to file for them. According to my sources, you have until March 15th to do it, if you want it to affect this years taxes.

I’ve already requested the paperwork, and as soon as it arrives, I’ll publish the information on the blog.

Enjoy your new home. I am so proud of you guys!

And I seem to recall that you owe me a big steak dinner… I’m still waiting…


Another Success Story, straight from the bowels of the Deep South!

If Tina and her tribe can do it… especially hampered by having to work with HER husband…

You can do it too!

(Sorry guys, I couldn’t help myself…) 🙂

Actually, all kidding aside… Tina’s husband is a ROCK. He’d have to be. He’s a U.S. Marine.

Converting a Shipping Container to a Clinic

29 Jan

Greetings, Campers!

As you know, I’ve interrupted my “posting plan” to shift gears and help the Haitians.

After almost a week of listening to “plots, plans, schemes, and brain farts… mostly from Armani clad guys who’ve never seen a plasma cutter, or even the ugly end of an ISBU… ” gears are shifting…

While we here at RR  prepare to build Cathy’s House, we’re going to pound out a few Medical Clinics, nestled safely inside 20′ ISBUs (Shipping Containers.) Now, we’re not the first people to think about doing this. And we’re certainly not the most famous.

In fact, according to the locals, the only thing I’m famous for is “being a jerk”…

Those guys at STACK Design Build up in Rhode Island have made a pretty good go of it, however… and I’m going to talk about them today.

(No! not being “jerks”. But… um… I don’t really know them. If they’re as passionate about this as I am… Hmmmm. Just kidding!)

Note the number of guys working on the box at any given time.

And, note the TYPE of insulation they used. Does that ring any bells? Hmmm?

In the after math of the earthquake and aftershocks, Haiti needs medical doctors, and an efficient level of triage and treatment. But, what it doesn’t have, is medical facilities in abundance. The facilities that are operational, are more flooded than The South was, during Hurricane Katrina.

What’s needed right now, beyond food and water, is mobile or movable medical clinics to provide basic and essential health services to both localized and remote communities and what are rapidly becoming “refugee camps”.

These clinics will need to be able to deal with everything from treating diseases to the ravaged population, to providing pre-natal and post natal care for mothers and children. The ability to provide wellness education and enhance lives on a daily basis mandates that these clinics be robust, sturdy, and sustainable.

Enter the ISBU;

If you’ve been reading this blog more than one single day, you know that I preach the “Corten Covenant”…

“Thou shalt not kick a Shipping Container’s butt.”

I’ve told you over and over again that shipping containers are Tonka Tough steel boxes, designed to take a licking and keep on ticking. They ply the high seas, thumbing their noses at torrential rain and conditions that would make Rambo faint from fright.

The exteriors are already weather resistant at a level that by far surpasses the needs we’ll have in the conversion process.

The interiors are capable of being converted in any of a hundred ways, limited only by imagination and manpower. Be it sleeping quarters, or a birthing room, laboratory or field office, these boxes are more than ready to take on the task. And, they’re a blank slate.

Your only limitations are your own skillsets.

As we see it, these Container Clinics will be deployed initially, just to combat the health problems facing Haitians at Ground Zero and the outskirts. Later, they could be integrated into “Empowerment Centers” to become something more, permanent localized medical treatment facilities incorporated into schools, distribution centers for food water and medicines, orphanages, you name it.

Like those noble guys at STACKDB, I believe that you have to “respect the container” for what it is, and then make sure that you don’t try to make it do something it’s not designed for.  (How many time shave you heard me say that?)

Shipping Containers are designed to be integrated,  designed to be locked to other containers, stacked together in strong  “Steel Honeycombs”, to safely secure contents against anything that gets thrown at them.

Shipping Containers AREN’T designed to be stacked “willy nilly”, at angles on top of each other, or cantilevered out to create giant point loading burdens on unsupported side rails.

We’re going to design energy efficient, sustainable, affordable clinics that measure up to the job they are being asked to perform.

They’re going to save lives. And they’re going to do it every day, in any weather, facing any storm (be it Mother Nature or man-made)  in a secure and safe fashion.

While we’re doing this, as individuals, the corporations will ramp up, to commit to their funded and vetted programs.

We’ll just accomplish our mission several months before they pick up a “paid for” pencil.

If we save ONE life, it will be worth it.

Stay tuned.

As we sit on the couch watching television, people are being put into body bags. It’s time for it to stop. No matter how hard my life is, it’s just not THAT hard. If you want to help, if you can spare a few bucks or a few hours… you know where the Paypal button is, and you know my email address.

WE can make a difference. The hell with waiting for corporations to profit. Kids are dying. It could have been MINE. It could have been YOURS, too.

Sometimes the Cavalry never comes…

27 Oct

Welcome back!

Now, before you start thinking; “Oh Man… that Ronin is on a tear again…” I’m going to ask you for a few minutes of your time, to read this post. I know how valuable your time is. I’m asking, because this is important.

Look, I know it sounds like I’m trying to become a “Political Activist…”

But that’s really not the case at all. Truly.

We’re living in a time… in an economy… that has changed the way “We the People” must do things, in order to insure that our families survive.

Congress isn’t going to save us. They talk… and they spend… but somehow, they manage to miss the mark on almost every target they supposedly focus their attention on. In fact, some would say that they are only making things worse.

That’s why I’ve brought forward some of my views on what’s happening in America, as I discuss the creation of alternatives to traditional housing…

Good, bad, or indifferent, I don’t have time to wait for the outcome… to determine who was “right or wrong.” My family needs help NOW.

Congress is completely insulated from the conditions that most of us are suffering from on a daily basis.

From their “Hallowed Sanctuary on the Hill” they make decisions with impunity, that affect each and every one of us, without EVER being subject to the circumstances they create. Remember, they’re wealthy, protected, and isolated for the most part, from the constituents who elected them.

It can’t be “just me.” I’ve already proven, for almost 200 articles/posts on this blog alone… that I’m not “all by myself” in this thought process.

If you’re reading this blog, I have to think that you are looking for answers, too. I don’t WANT you to feel like you’re alone in this.

In part, it’s why I have that Counter up there. It’s not “vanity.”

If it was vanity, I would have admitted defeat and quit, long ago. I know of many, many blogs that get that many views in a single day.

I want you to see that there are thousands of us, thinking in the same mind. This blog gets hundreds of views daily, from people just like you and I, from all over America and beyond… who are looking for a way to provide both ourselves and our families with safe, affordable homes, at a time in America’s history where they just don’t exist for most of us…

In the meantime, winter is coming, and we MUST house our families safely. My family cannot survive without a roof over it’s head. And neither can yours.

I’m bringing forward some of my “politics” so that you can see that it’s going to require a different way of thinking, a different course of action, to achieve our goals.

Because, Virginia… Sometime the Cavalry never comes.

I’m recycling, reclaiming, and even BEGGING for material (sometimes “on my knees”) because my family’s SURVIVAL is at stake.

I’m asking you to get involved.

If I’ve helped you, informed you, educated you, or just entertained you… consider donating a few bucks to the blog, to help us survive and build. Our family needs a home. Our situation is dire. And yes, I’m begging…

I’m not going to waste bandwidth plastering pictures up of my wife in her sickbed… or my little 2 year old son. I’ve written about the circumstances here, already. And… if  you’ve been reading the blog, you already know how cute he is. He’s our source of JOY.

The reason I try to keep this blog “humorous and light” is because if I can’t find something to laugh about, I’ll start crying. It’s my requirement for the ability to actually stop crying, that scares me…

If you’re building something, and you have scrap lumber or materials left over, find someone who needs them, and help THEM.

I talk about how we are helping other families build their homes. It’s not because I’m rich, or even because I can afford to… because frankly, I just can’t. It’s because I HAVE to, because I know what it feels like to live in fear. I cannot, will not let another family fail, because I stood idly by.

We don’t live in a housing tract, or even in a house. We live in a two room hovel, in a place where Landlord/Tenant law is devised to protect the property owners (because THEY pay taxes). We don’t drive an SUV or a big sedan… in fact, we don’t drive at all. The cars were sold long ago, to insure that my wife got the medical care she needed to survive. We don’t have a satellite dish, a widescreen TV, or even an iPod. We live – day to day.

My dreams aren’t about far off destinations or the next holiday. They are about whether or not we’ll be safe, the next day. I don’t have control over anything else. All I can do is try as hard as I can to influence the next 24 hours.

In fact, they aren’t even dreams, they’re nightmares.

“We’re” everywhere.

You probably know someone in your neighborhood, in your inner circle… who is going through what we’re going through.

If you’re talking to someone who needs help, even if it’s just understanding something, help THEM.

Even if it’s just to offer some kindness, do it. Strife and crisis isolates people, and they start feeling alone. That leads to feeling “lost…” a feeling I’m intimately acquainted with. FEAR is a wicked mistress…

Every single small step you take will lead toward helping a family.

And that will make all of us stronger.

And if you pray at night, please pray for us. We’re in “trouble deep,” and the water isn’t getting any shallower…


The Renaissance Ronin

The 2 liter lightbulb!

23 Apr

Every once in a while, you hear about something and wonder why nobody had thought of it before! This… is one of those times!

Think simplistic, powerful, cheap, easy to “manufacture,” and capable of affecting lives all over the entire planet.

Step right up folks, See the future! And if you slap down those $20s right now, we’ll double your order, absolutely free!  You’ll never pay for light again! It’s the “Ronco 2 liter lightbulb!”

Actually, Ron Popiel had absolutely nothing to do with this. But I bet he wished he did!

Alfredo Moser is an Brazilian inventor. And like all inventors (that we all hope to be) hes invented somethingthat will aid mankind. Not just “rich” mankind, but ALL mankind! Alfredo’s newest invention is spreading like wildfire through his neighborhood in Brazil.

“Like all really great ideas, it was born out of necessity. During a 2002 energy blackout in Brazil,  Alfredo’s workshop was plunged into darkness. And so, using a simple 2-liter bottle of water,  a cap full of bleach or two of household bleach and an old 35 mm film canister, he created this lightbulb.”

He figured out that all he had to do was cut some holes in his workshop roof, so the new water-bottle lightbulbs could shine the sun’s rays directly into his dark workplace, bathing it in light! Voila, instant illumination, and he could go back to work!  And he shared this invention with others, too! Now they have been using his invention to light their homes without having to pay for electricity.

Now, unless you’re a moron, you’re not gonna go hack holes in your house roof, so that you can use these lil beauties to light up your life. That would border on “idiotic.”:)

But…  it could easily work in that shipping container shed or workshop in your backyard! I’d be willing to bet you money that there are a gaggle of geeks looking at this environmentally friendly light source, as we speak!

Of course it has flaws. It works using the sun. No sun, no light. However, It’ s not a solution to all our lighting needs. It’s a solution to light up a dark place during the day, without spending one single penny on electricity.

Have you ever watched National Geographic specials on Brazil? I didn’t see a lot of cash floating around those barrios and shanty towns.  And this works wherever there is sun, you know, even in the poorer third-world countries… places like Laos, India, and the African nations…

This invention is going to change lives.

Now all I have to do is go down to my favorite deli restaurant, and see if I can get a sandwich named after him…

“Excuse me, I’d like a Moser on Rye, extra oil and vinegar! NO BLEACH!”  🙂