Archive | Donations RSS feed for this section

I may be RUDE, but it’s “Crude”…

8 May

As the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico grows in size…

As it approaches our beaches here in the Gulf Coast region of the United States, all I’m hearing is “boom this, and boom that…”

But, just putting booms in the water around the spill so that they can suck up the oil, isn’t going to do the whole job.

Where I live, you can see the C-130s (air tankers) actually coming and going,  they fly over the oil spill, to dump chemicals on to it, to help “disperse it.”

This “dispersal agent” is EXTREMELY toxic. It HAS to be, it’s job is to break down the oil.

But, don’t be fooled. That “chemical soup” doesn’t get rid of the oil, it just breaks it up into smaller pieces, and then… some of that oil sinks to the bottom of the seabed, to sit there killing anything and everything around it, for a LONG, LONG time.

The “oil control chemicals” that are being used will kill fish, fowl, and anything else near them.

So, it’s like pouring gasoline onto an already raging inferno.

And, since BP’s liability in this is already capped at $75 million dollars, it’s Americans who will bear the brunt of the clean-up (I’m hearing numbers like $10 billion dollars before this is “thru”  at least a decade from now), and the after effects of this horror, both physically and financially.

By the way… do you know how long it takes BP to make $75 million dollars in profits? Less than 1/2 hour. A HALF HOUR.

The Gulf Coast of the United States will change, as we once knew it. We thrive on fisheries, tourism, and the Marine Industries. All of those will be dead for years after this “clean-up” is over.

And, worst, it’s Mother Nature that will have to heal from this, for a long time. “Ole Mom Earth” is going to need some serious antibiotics to cure this ill. Oy.

The Gulf Coastal Current covers 3/4ths of the planet as it makes it’s big loop…

So, if we just skim the surface (as some have proposed), scraping the toxic sludge off the top of the water, will that solve the problem?


Crude oil has two parts;

One part is the marketable crude oil itself.  That crude oil gets refined to make gasoline and other petroleum based products.

The other part is “waste product”. It’s toxic water. Crude oil is made up of 2% crude oil and 98% waste water… and that waste water contains high concentrations of some of the most toxic and lethal carcinogens known to mankind.

That “waste product” is a deadly soup that will MIX with the seawater in the Gulf of Mexico, and  then be circulated by the Gulf Current…  spreading it all over the globe, to harm, maim and kill everything in it’s path…

Petrochemical Engineers call that waste water “Armageddon Ale“. That should tell you something.

Millions of gallons of toxic water, diluted to become billions of gallons of toxic water…

And nobody is talking about the toxic fumes…

Those petrochemical fumes off the oil slick will get blown in off our Gulf Shores (further increased in toxicity by dumping other toxic chemicals onto them) to taint and contaminate everything they encounter.

Like plants. You know… the ones in your garden.


I TEACH people to use plants as a filtration element when creating GREEN water treatment centers that deal with sewage and graywater reclamation.

We all remember High School Biology, right?

If you live in this part of the South… you won’t be able to eat what you grow!

The petrochemicals will end up in the fruit and vegetable PRODUCED by those plants. It will be POISON. How many farms will be turned to dust, over this? Around here, if it’s not tourism based, it FARMING based. Oy.

And, each and every one of us will be breathing the very same air those plants get…  contaminated air… right into our lungs.

I’m betting that in a month or so of the oil’s “arrival”…  we’ll all be emulating Michael Jackson, wearing a paper surgical mask everywhere we go…

Are those surgical masks up to the task? I’m going to have to “Google” it.

We are talking about an environmental disaster the likes of which this planet has never SEEN before.

And the Oil Lawyers for British Petroleum (BTW: this is the same company behind the Exxon Valdez disaster… a company that has a history of drilling and pumping American oil – to sell to “other” nations – while doing everything that it can to save money… by cutting back on safety precautions), and the Politicians (most out glad-handing and shaking hands, taking advantage of the “media moment”), too… spin it down… and tell us not to worry…

“It’s all under control…”

Sorry about the “run-on sentences”. My English Teacher, Miss Hooper, would be SO proud… 😉

Who are the “Oil People” kidding?

They tell us that “it’ll all be okay.”

It’s a lie. It won’t be OKAY. It MAY become “manageable”, but we are a LONG way from OKAY.

As we wait for the oil to arrive (“trace” oil is already here), we work as fast as we can, to get ISBU galleys built, and a Children’s Center stocked (The Levin Love Center – or “the LLC”, for short), so that our kids will be safe while WE try to make the coastlines they live on… “safe… ish”.

If you can help, do it. Don’t make excuses. This will change lives far from Biloxi. Far from New Orleans. If you eat seafood, or farmed produce, you are going to feel the effects.

There’s lots of ways to help.

On this end… We need stuff to keep kids occupied.

Children’s Movie and activity DVD’s, Playstations and games (you know… video games and even the game stations themselves), toys, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, games, books, laptop computers (because they are smaller and more easily managed) to run games, play DVD movies and allow kids to SEE the rest of the world, sheltered from the “doom and gloom”,  that will bombard cable TV broadcasts… you name it.

The age range is from 3 to 12 years old. We need INSIDE Stuff. It may soon be a very bad idea to have kids out running around in the air outside for hours on end, breathing in big gulps of toxic air.  We’re thinking we may have to actually minimalize their exposure.

If you can help, DO IT. We NEED this.

If you don’t have stuff laying around collecting dust that we can recycle, perhaps you can hit that Paypal button and contribute a few bucks. If our kids are safe, it’s one less thing to worry about, as we try desperately to clean up this mess.

If you HAVE kid’s stuff that can be recycled for this worthy and desperately needed cause, then email me here:

We’re working as fast as we can to establish a mechanism to support this project.

I’m also urging you to check out “The Greenest Dollar” for more ways to save the wildlife, deal with the oil and it’s horrid effects, and come to the aid of the families of the South as we battle this oil “in our front yards”.

Heather is doing a great job of keeping everyone moving in the right direction. She should have called her blog “The Greenest Thumb” because if it’s “GREEN” she has her thumbprint on it…

Me? I have to get back to the Plasma Cutter… These ISBU Kitchen boxes aren’t going to build themselves.

Stay tuned.

Haiti and Hamburgers…

18 Feb

Greetings, Campers!

Lately, we’re (the newly formed “Corten Container Cavalry”) building Medical clinics inside of 20′ ISBU Containers. They’re going to be headed to Port Au Prince,  Haiti, to help the people start to recover, staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses who generously agreed to share their time and skills with the needy.

Although work has begun, we’re a long way from finished. And, we could use some help.

If you feel like you’d like to donate a few bucks to help get these boxes fitted out, so that they can be used to help Haitian kids to survive, we’d sure appreciate it.

People, I hate to even ask, but there’s a message here, to be sent to those “cold-hearted bean-counting bastards in Corporate America”:

“… as mere ‘citizens of the world’, as parents of kids, and people with hearts that actually beat, we are determined that we can do more than these “stuffed-shirted demi-gods”, who apparently only value money, and not mankind…”

We need to send a “loud and clear” message  to these schmucks that:

“This isn’t about your ‘bottom line’ or your ‘profit margins.’ It’s about HUMAN LIFE. It’s about children dying, while you debate how much profit you can make off the Aid packages.”

If you already HAVE Metal Fabrication skills, and you’d like to donate a few hours or a weekend of your time, to help out, we could use your hands.

The work required right now is tricky, so we don’t have time to “teach” this time around. There WILL be other ISBU projects in the very near future where you’ll be able to “learn the trade”, so to speak, so fear not.

This time, we’re simply crunching big-time and burning daylight.

The hardest part is getting these outfitted and fabbed as quickly as possible… so that we can finalize the shipping.

Look, we’ve all seen the corruption that is rampant in Haiti right now. I’ve talked about it here before.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of aid is still stockpiled in local shipping ports, secured by Haitian Troops, while the Gov’t tries to figure out where they can sell it, to line their own pockets.

Stuff like HUNDREDS of these:

I personally know the guy who loaded them up for shipment. In that same container were thousands of family sized tents, destined for Haitian families who needed relief from the sun, and the rain……

I’m actually encouraging people who are connected to this HAITIAN AID MISSION to bring UP “the corruption, the graft and the greed” already heavily in play, as loudly as they possibly can.

Look… you’ve read my posts, and you know that I’m really pissed off about it. My yelling about this isn’t much, but it’s at least “intellectual insecticide…

If we can get enough camera’s on-scene, and put enough pressure on the greedy people in the mix, we can make them go into hiding long enough to make a difference.

So… as you can imagine, the actual transport and deployment of these boxes is proving to be the hardest part.

But this isn’t Ronin’s first Rodeo.

I’ve actually been to Haiti MANY times over the last 17 or so years.

In part, it’s WHY the Clinton-Bush people called me. As a result, we’re having to rely on “old friends in high (American) places” to help use some “force” to get them into play.

We’ve worked out a plan that allows the 20′ Medical Units to get to Haiti (under guard – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… “Gawd Bless the US MARINES!“), and then be handed directly to the volunteer Doctors and Nurses (who will arrive there at the same time), so that these boxes don’t get waylaid by “Haitian people who should be minding their own business… or better yet, tending to the business of healing their country.”

Deployed initially at (secured and protected) refugee centers, these boxes will start seeing Haitian  patients within 24 hours of arriving on Haitian soil.

Sometimes you have to use a HAMMER… or the US MARINES. Enough said.

Look, if you can HELP, please do. This is important.

There’s a Paypal button up there on the right. Just earmark your donation “Haiti Fund.”

Okay, now that I’ve brought you up to date on the Haiti project, here’s something for you to talk about over the dinner table… literally.

I keep telling you guys and gals that these Shipping Container boxes are capable of just about anything that you can imagine as long as you use your head, and common sense.

All you have to do is put your backs into it.

I’ve mesmerized you with stories of “Boxes in the Boonies.”

I’ve dazzled you with tales of “Towers in the Twilight…”

I’ve entertained you with chronicles of “Corten in the Country…”

But… I’ve never told you sonnets of “Spuds in the Steel…”

Until now.

It was only a matter of time until somebody actually tried to build a box like Adam Kalkin‘s “folding wonder.”

For those of you who don’t know who Adam Kalkin is, you can find out more about him, HERE.

You remember, the one every one talked about, even though no one mentioned that it had no plumbing, nor the ability to actually WORK… 🙂

I give you “The Quik House.”

(Still it really MADE you think about the box, as a box. It was ART, I tell you!)

These guys I’m gonna tell you about in a minute watched too many “Transformer” movies… I suspect, probably waiting to see if (even for a second) Megan Fox could actually act… 😉

Their result… this “Corten Creation” called “The MuvBox” has come to life in Montreal, of all places.

(I only say that because I wished it’d happen here, in “certain parts of the US”, where idiots at local Planning and Zoning departments would have to deal with it. The aneurysms it’d cause would be worth the price of admission… 🙂

Okay, to the point…

What was the point? Oh yeah.. I remember…

At 9:00am, it’s a “Corten Cube”, sitting on the street.

At 9:02am, it’s a fully functional restaurant.

I repeat:

At 9:02am, it’s a fully functional restaurant.

“Bah and Poo Poo!” you say?

Oh yeah?

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)

Haiti Update:

28 Jan


It’s morning, right? I’m starting to feel like I haven’t slept in weeks…

As you all know, (unless you’ve been living under rocks) that on January 12th, an earthquake rocked Port Au Prince Haiti.

There are hundreds of thousands dead.

There are hundreds of thousands of people injured and ill, as wounds, infection and disease starts to incubate at epidemic proportions.

There are a million homeless.

I usually use a lot of photographs to illustrate my posts. I’m not going to this time. Use your imagination… scattered amongst the rubble are legions of dead bodies, some that even had  the luxury of being covered up by something.

I’ve read reports of people stealing the blankets off the dead, to use to stay warm.  It’s a horror story.

It’s grim, and right now, in spite of all the things we see on cable news programs, in spite of the hard work of the people already on the ground there trying to help, it’s still pretty disorganized and chaotic. The only usable airport is a complete mess.

Last week,  I was contacted by a group (including Ph.D.’s, scientists, engineers, corporate leaders and people who spearheaded Project Africa) working under the Clinton Bush Initiative, to design, develop, and construct “Empowerment Centers” that would provide much needed services to the Haitian people as they begin to rebuild their infrastructure.

These “Empowerment Center” structures are to be built out of Corten Steel ISBUs, one of the few building materials that Haiti has, in abundance right now.

Remember that empty ISBUs are in EVERY shipping port in the world.

These “Empowerment Centers” would provide much needed medical services, serve as triage hospitals, educational centers, and even as  shelters for children who have become orphans. I was recently told that 80% of the Haitian population is under 18 years old. I haven’t seen statistics yet to “prove” that, but if it’s accurate… just imagine how many orphans there are, now. These EC’s would also serve as securable distribution centers for food and water. And, they’d also serve as “communications posts” as well, insuring that a network could be established to accurately define and forecast Humanitarian needs from area to area.

As these “corporations”  try to get vetted (read – so that they can pave a way to the moneys raised by Clinton-Bush and others, and THEN try to build programs to help), people are dying. As they try to navigate funding programs so that they can begin making a difference, people are still suffering.

These programs are using timeframes like “10 months from now, they’ll get the first facility.”

So, here’s what I’m asking;

Does it make sense for US  (I’m talking about ME, and I’m talking about YOU) to actually convert a few easily transported 20′ ISBU’s (that I already have) into small containerized medical clinics and power centers. They’re solid steel, folks. By design they are already  easily secured against Mother Nature… and everything else that accompanies chaos and unrest.

These medical clinics in a box could be quickly positioned by pulling them off small flatbed trailers (or even dropped by military helicopters if the road infrastructure doesn’t exist in a usable form), to allow the healing to start quickly?

In fact, if you left them on trailers, they could literally migrate from area to area as needed.

It wouldn’t be that expensive. I’m POSITIVE that I could get doctors to help source the needed medical supplies to stuff them with, we’d just provide “the envelope”.

They’d run off  auxiliary generators, built right into the boxes. They’d have lockers, and tables, and cabinets. They’d even have tanks for water, and a pressurized water system.A/C? Yep. Easy.

(And yeah, I’d probably try to bolt a few Photovoltaic panels to them… You know me!)

Forgive me in advance for going all “Thomas Jefferson” on yer butts…

We, the people…

…could convert 20′ ISBU boxes for medical and utility service in a few WEEKS, once we got all the parts and the stockpiles required to actually mobilize these boxes. They could be there in a little over a MONTH. This would help  buy those other agencies the time that they need, to start helping, once somebody PAYS for that help.

This isn’t that crazy, it’s already been done by another medical group. In fact, I wrote about it on this very blog, months ago.

I’m positive that if we could build them, I could get them there, by just contacting a few churches to underwrite the actual shipping fees to get them to Haiti for deployment. Getting them into the hands of doctors who need them, is easy. There are hundreds of volunteer doctors waiting to go help as soon as they have some kind a workable situation to help the Haitians heal from.

I’ve spoken to my wife about it. (For those of you who aren’t regulars to the blog, my wife has advanced cervical cancer.)  Here are her exact words on the subject;

“I’m ill and things aren’t good, but the Haitians, especially the children, are dying NOW. Today. If you can, DO it. They don’t have the luxury of time. At least we have that.”

Give me some feedback here, campers. I won’t be able to do it alone, and it’s a chance for “us guys” (just “Average Joe’s” without “incorporation credentials” and board rooms filled with high-priced execs) to do something profound, immediately, while the “companies fight over money” that they’ll get eventually to compensate them for their ‘philanthropy’.

The Haitian people don’t have the time to wait for  all the red tape to get navigated.

Here’s something else I learned;

I’ve heard about a new 2009 Tax Benefit:

Charitable contributions made Jan. 12 – Feb. 28 2010 in response to the Haiti earthquake can be claimed as itemized charitable deductions on your 2009 tax return instead of waiting to claim these on your 2010 tax return. As with any charitable gift, consult your professional tax advisor.

Hey Ronin: Is my cash donation to Haiti earthquake relief efforts applicable to my 2009 tax returns?

Yes. Charitable contributions made before March 1, 2010, in response to the Haiti earthquake can be claimed as itemized charitable deductions on your 2009 tax return instead of waiting to claim these on your 2010 tax return (see The House of Representatives bill H.R. 4462 passed 1/20/10).

And like I said above, as with any tax concern, please consult your own professional advisor to learn how a gift to Haiti relief bill will affect your tax situation.

I’m going to set up a team to figure out how to do this, “SWAT TEAM” style – Hard, Fast, Accurate.

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.

Stay tuned.


We’re Helping Haiti!

26 Jan

Greetings Campers!

Much has happened since we last all gathered around the campfire.

Most of you know that I interrupted a series of blog posts on “Finding Financial Aid via Federal Grants” to talk about a home that we’re building for some kids who lost their father.

Thank you’s go out to all those people who looked beyond “the way the system is supposed to work” and reached out to help this family, in their time of need.

This isn’t a question of “death benefits.”

Frankly, it angers me that it’s become that in many places where we’re talking about this.

It’s a question of providing a family with comfort after they paid the supreme price.

While that was all happening, the earthquake in Port Au Prince, Haiti  has turned the focus of most of the world toward Haiti, as we all try to determine how best to help the survivors of this terrible disaster.

Friday last, I was contacted by representatives of the Clinton-Bush Initiative, to help establish a process by which “Empowerment Centers” (consisting of medical clinics, schools and even orphanages) could be built at high speed, to aid Haitians as they rebuild.

It appears that they think I’m an expert. I’ll do everything in my power not to disappoint them!

(Wait until they find out that I’m basically just a cranky old Jew with a plasma cutter!) 🙂

These steel buildings are to be constructed out of ISBU’s (Shipping Containers), one of the few materials sitting there on the ground, that can be used as a resource.

As one of the appointed “helpers” I’m aiding those organizers to establish knowledgeable teams to help achieve these goals. Basically, I’m just helping them tap into places where there are skilled people that can help. Ronin evidently know everybody… 🙂

The next few days will be as hectic as the last few, days in which I’ve spent endless hours writing reports and fielding telephone calls from points across the ether, as we establish support teams.

I ask you to be patient with me as I get the blog on track, in the gaps between trying to assist these individuals who are doing all they can, to aid Haiti’s people.

Please, PRAY for the people of Haiti, and those who are already on the ground there, trying to do whatever they possibly can,  to provide aid and comfort to the Haitian people as they contribute to  rescue, medical, and vital support operations.

G-d Bless Them!


If you have family in Haiti: Inquiries concerning U.S. Citizens living or traveling in Haiti should be referred to the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens services, at 1-888-407-4747 or 202-647-5225. Unfortunately at this time, inquiries to search for non-U.S. Citizens missing in Haiti are not being accepted.

The Red Cross family linking response in Haiti will focus on allowing people in the earthquake affected areas to contact their relatives abroad.

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts…

23 Nov

Remember that old adage?

Recently (October 17th), I was contacted by an older  gentleman who was “fronting” a deal in Central Florida, for investors looking to convert a modular home factory (that failed) into an ISBU processing facility, to repurpose these shipping containers that we’ve all come to love, into homes that families can afford….

He’s a retired guy, who has a lot of time to sit around and think of ways to make change, and then,  he writes letters to the editor of his local paper about them.  We found out later that in those letters, he  also makes it clear that he’s just a retired guy living on social security, barely. He’s not wealthy, not “old moneyed,” and not connected. In fact, he’s not even employed.

His project goals (as he put them to me) were basically twofold;

(a) Recreate all the lost jobs that the community suffered when the factory closed, and…
(b) Build affordable homes for people who need them.

Pretty easy to get behind, huh? Noble, entrepreneurial, and even honorable.

Now, when he initially approached me, he wanted my assistance as a consultant, to help them navigate the waters and find some success.

He briefed me on his project and his financial backers.

I’ve made my family’s circumstances pretty plain, and even obvious, in the blog. It’s not because I want pity. It’s because I want people to understand that even when the odds are stacked against you, it’s your “sheer determination in the face of failure” that is the yardstick that your success will be measured against.

I also told him that I couldn’t work for free, under any circumstances. He assured me that his backers were able to pay. 

So, naturally, I jumped at the chance to help him. He was dreaming the same dream as I was.

Affordable homes for families.

I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to kill his dream. So, I wrote approach papers, manpower reports, construction process flow documents, I drew sample floorplans and even scripted  presentations for Governor Crist of Florida, Marco Rubio  (Crist’s opponent in the 2010 Senate Race) and some large foundations, so that “the team” could look for additional financial backers and political support.

I drew detailed blueprints of actual housing units to demonstrate the factory construction process.

I stayed up all night several times, writing his required papers and boilerplate. To the tune of about $2,000 of my time, if I billed at less than half the going rate per hour.

This guy told me repeatedly that he’d sent requests for consulting money to his “backers,” to get me paid. But help never came…

As this went on, he later offered me a small percentage of the company, if I’d join the management team. He did this knowing I had no intention of moving to Florida. In fact, I was really considering a move to Virginia to follow a job that might present itself if we could work out all the “technical” details. We’d talked about it extensively.

I even pulled strings with a well-known large “Green” foundation I was friendly with, to get his program on the “merit screening committee” schedule. And then I wrote the “merit application” myself.  This foundation recently funded a like project in Oregon, to the tune of $15 million dollars.

I recruited one of the top “process consultants” in the country to help out, and he came on board in part because he knew it would help my family, indirectly.

(You know who you are, and you have my profound thanks, and I hope you accept my sincere apology for exposing you to this.)

All along this path, I was told that consulting dollars were coming. But… they never showed up.

So, on November 4th, the guy I’m talking about offered me an old minivan (to be delivered after he “got it running”), so I could get Char back and forth the 2 hours (each way) to the hospital for chemo and radiation treatments. He called it a “late birthday present.” He kept saying that it was “for Char.”

He knew we’d sold our vehicles long ago to pay for Char’s medical attention, when the insurance company refused to. And then, we ended up with NO insurance. We’ve done exactly what most of you would do. We liquidated every single thing that we didn’t need, to make sure that Char and Joshua were taken care of. Oy.

Now, it wasn’t a new van or anything, it was a non-running 11 year old Ford Windstar that he’d sourced from some local “sell it on the local radio station for under $350 bucks” kinda thing. It was a “fix or repair special” kinda car. He did this after I repeatedly asked him not to, because he couldn’t possibly afford to help “anyone,” and I couldn’t possibly afford the repairs.

Would an old (and small) fuel efficient van or SUV be nice? Sure. What idiot DOESN’T want a car?

Do we EVER go anywhere as a family? No.

I take the city buses everywhere I have to go. I can’t manage both Char and Joshua (and his stroller, et all…) by myself. The buses run every 45 minutes, so there is no such thing as a short trip. Like everyone else who uses a bus (and I’m sure that many of you in metro areas can identify with this) a trip to the supermarket, is a “pack mule adventure.” This is especially true when the nearest affordable grocery store is another town and 2 buses away.

And… as it stands now, we hire an “ambulance/transport service” to transport Char when she has to go to treatment ( at a flat rate of right at $100 a trip).  But this guy was hardly in a position to give us a van, even a really old one, or do anything this generous, even it if was an old bucket of bolts slowly reclaimed from the dead…

So, he pressed us, and we declined it… over and over again. He persisted, complete with a dedication in the name and honor of his departed sister (who sadly lost her life to Cancer) and we finally relented…  we thought the idea of that old van a “miraculous G-dsend.”

A deal was struck, he got a non-running van (for under $400), and then he started working on it, to get it ready for us. He sent photographs, and emailed us, saying all the repairs were minor, and that it’d be ready in a few days… The photos depicted an old non-running Ford minivan in typical “salvageable” condition, with saltwater corrosion down one side, and the fuel tank, et all…  sitting in the cargo bay.

The Kelly Blue Book value was about $400, if it was running. And, it wasn’t.

Now, while he may have purchased the van out of pocket (according to him), he was using other people’s money to work on it. He started using our name and circumstances to solicit funds. He claimed that this person or that person was sending him checks. But for the most part (to the best of our knowledge), “they never arrived.” He did solicit and receive at least one check for $300 to help out, in our name, according to what he told us.

And as soon as it arrived, he started buying parts and tires, and began tinkering with the van.

He even went so far as to contact our local synagogue (from afar, remember), to berate them from not assisting us themselves. This after I asked him repeatedly, in writing no less, not to.

(They don’t have the ability to assist us, by the way… but all of our wounds got reopened along the way.)

We had tried for several months just to establish some kind of dialog with the “hurricane displaced” synagogue, only to fail.

After several months of trying to establish contact, we gave up.

Note: It’s not like they were avoiding us, or anyone else. The temporary Jewish meeting place at the Beauvoir Methodist church was just “unstaffed,” and the volunteers there during the day (in the meeting/volunteer labor center) were not related to the synagogue at all. We actually walked in and left several messages trying to locate a Rabbi, but we found out later (from the synagogue staffer – Lori Beth) that those messages were never received so that they could be acted upon.

The poor lady working at the synagogue told us that she’d been forced to deal with this guy, and she implied that  he wasn’t pleasant. (My words, not hers, she was very kind, but seemed uncomfortable with his interaction with her.) She (Lori Beth) was very sweet and kind, it was just clear that there was no help to be had. They never offered any help, or assistance of any kind.

This guy did succeed in making such a fuss that it’s actually damaged our relationship with the Jewish community here.

Any attempt at a tie now will be prefaced by “Oh, you’re THOSE guys…” How humiliating. Oy.

And he just wouldn’t stop…

We started wondering why he was hammering our local synagogue to give us a van, when he was supposedly “repairing”  one.

Each day, he’d call or email, saying that “this or that was wrong,” and that he’d have it fixed the next day or so. Only nothing ever got fixed.

Hey, we weren’t trying to push him, as we were actually getting our hopes up (because we’re “idiots”), and thought that we finally had a shot at getting a car again, even if it was an old piece of junk. If it ran, we could actually go outside as a family and Char would feel “safe” while we did it.

And I had worked my butt off for the guy, so it didn’t seem like a “donation” in the usual sense, it was more like “barter.”

But every time we talked there was more and more “wrong” and “this guy or that guy/mechanic that pledged help never showed up…” etc… This went on… to the point where we were heartsick every time we opened our email account or answered the phone.

And the more I pleaded with him to just do what needed to be done (within reason) and get it over with or finally, to just abandon it altogether…  the worse it got and the more detailed the “repair reports” got.

I finally contacted the people he claimed were backing him in his “Plant Project.” They ignored my requests for information, and then I did finally manage to get one “off hand” denial of any participation in the project.

Apparently, he was just an “old ex-employee”  (his own words) trying to arm-twist them into funding HIS project. There was not (nor would there ever be) any money.

Essentially, I became his “only backer” by doing all the work, calling in favors, and trying to line up investors. Unbeknownst to me, I might add.

If you want to get cynical; That revelation might explain the van’s “shadowy appearance.” It served to keep us focused on the plant project.

While all this was spinning out of control, he was asking me to help him get set up with Florida Governor Crist’s opponent (Marco Rubio) in the upcoming 2010 Senate election, to pitch his project to HIM, since Crist’s people had read his rambling and almost neurotic letters, and passed him off to “a dead end…”

And yes… the minivan would be ready “any day now…”

Who knows? All I know is that the van is still not running, it certainly never showed up, the guy took money from people using our name, and then spent it supposedly to repair a van that he’s now telling us “he’s going to sell for his own personal gain.”

So be it. Good luck. In the meantime, I’m still trying to be nice to him at this point, since he’s an elderly man and I have no way of gauging his real mental state. Maybe he actually believes all this nonsense.

Just please make it stop… please…  Ronin said… Oy.

And now… since he’s “hurt us so much” he’s not going to contact us ever again…

He got thousands of dollars of “free work” out of me, because I wasn’t smart enough to call BS when I smelled it. I’m trying to work out of my house, so I can care for my wife and child at the same time. So I took his “program” at face value. I just didn’t look deep enough. Desperation does that to a person sometimes. It did it to me.

It’s quite possible that he was innocent in all of this, that he really thought he had the backing he needed, and that he really thought he could help. But in the end, it’s the end of the day that you measure your progress against. And, in this case, at the end of the day… the progress was non-existent.

All he managed to do was cause us disappointment, heartache, and a lot of emotional pain. And we got exploited. I lost a lot of hours of hard work.

If this was actually planned (and I really, really don’t want to believe that it was) it couldn’t have been planned any better.

It must feel really good to exploit someone who already has nothing at all. Man… the nerve of some people.

It gets better.

As Billy Mays would have said: But wait! There’s MORE!

After it all imploded (and he was never going to contact us again, remember…), he contacted (by email) the local newspaper here in my hometown, to get them to publish a letter on our behalf. It was COMPLETELY and TOTALLY unsolicited.

Why? If he was repairing a van, why was he doing this? Why did he persist in doing things we expressly asked him NOT to do?

Anyway… after the “letters editor” read it, they passed it to the “Feature Desk,” and the paper (through one of their Ace Reporters) approached us wanting to run a “feature” story.

I can only imagine that it was a “Woman stricken with Cancer sacrifices life to bear child” kinda piece…

That’s how this guy actually described his goals for it, as he explained it to me on the phone. “Hold your wife up to the public as a heroine.”

Imagine my wife’s horror at hearing this. She hasn’t been out of the house in almost two years, except to visit doctors or hospitals. She’s changed so much due to the disease and the treatments that she’s afraid to let anyone even see her. She doesn’t even go outside voluntarily unless it’s DARK. She doesn’t put on make-up any more. She doesn’t dress up. She no longer talks to her friends. No one can come in the house.

She’s “beaten down.” She lives… facing her fear on a daily basis. She can just barely walk across the room, if she’s lucky.

She just wants to be left alone in her suffering, so that she can try to cope with the horror that is her life. And this guy KNEW all of that, and STILL did this… After we begged him over and over again not to.

After we had told him time and time again that he was harming our family and causing us pain.

We begged him to stop.

And now, some well meaning reporter is on the phone… and they want to put Char “on the front page.” (They want to write a feature story.) After discussing it with the reporter for a few minutes (who was very understanding and very sweet, not at all like the”pitbulls” you see reporters depicted as on TV) , we both concluded that doing this would only harm my wife and she’d already suffered more than enough.

I suspect that at the end of that conversation both the reporter and I were in tears.

After this happens, this guy sends me an email, “demanding” Char’s personal medical records and other very personal information, after he’s already proven to us that he cannot be trusted at any level, so “he can convince MORE people to help…”

Note that to this point NOTHING he has claimed to do has come true. But, he’s accepted papers, presentations and blueprint screen captures from me for “free…”  to fortify his own project, which I suspect is doomed to failure, because frankly, I’m the only one “in the alleged bunch” who really understood it in the first place.

What’s clear to us now is that none of this had anything to do with US.

It had to do with an old man who wanted to feel “important,” and he pushed himself into places and lives where he didn’t belong, to gain that importance, no matter the cost… despite the knowledge that he KNEW he was hurting people that he claimed he was “trying to help.”

It’s about EGO.

The point of this post?

If ANYONE, I repeat… ANYONE contacts you looking for funds or anything else to help MY family… or anybody else’s for that matter, it’s best you check with that family directly, first.

And you can bet that we’ll/they’ll probably be in the dark about it, and decline that “help.” It’s just too expensive.

Now I’m going to go crawl into a hole until my wife stops crying. It’s bad enough that she’s so sick… she didn’t need to get her heart broken.


Readers… I offer this to you, personally, both as written explanation… and as a formal apology.

I’ve spent the last 18 months trying to earn your respect and your interest, to promote these wonderful boxes. I don’t want anything to damage that. We’ve come too far together.
PS. Again… Please accept my profound apologies for wasting your time with this. I just felt like you were involved in our lives deeply enough that you deserved to know.

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

Put that “FAT” house on a DIET! :)

21 Oct

Welcome back!

Man, you must be a glutton for punishment! 😉

If you’ve been following along, you already know that my family is trying to solve a housing problem, by creating MORE problems…

Seems counter-productive, I know…

But, you see, if we create and then RESOLVE these problems now, the next poor bastard that comes along, trying to do what we’re doing, will have a much easier go of it.

Instead of; “You want to do WHAT?” it’ll be more like: “Ah, crap! It’s another one! Here we go, AGAIN!” 🙂

After a hurricane ate our house, we needed to replace it. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it didn’t to the insurance company, who values shareholder profits much higher than the families that actually contribute to shareholder values.

Can you say “class action lawsuit?” Can you say “When is the check gonna get here?” Can you say…

“Three years after you’re dead?” Oy.

This is complicated by life in general. Sometimes disasters come in three’s… We got a hurricane (Ivan), and then… another hurricane (Katrina), and then… the big “C”. That’s right… Cancer. “The mommy” discovered that she had cancer, the same day that she discovered we were having a child.

Now,  I can blame “the mailman” for the kid… but cancer? Nobody to blame, but fate and genes.

(Actually, I blame the kid on the doctor who told me not to worry about my “reversible vasectomy.” He told me that it’d take a surgeon to undo it. I have only this to say:


So, we started looking for solutions.

First, we found a good ob/gyn. We talked to ’em all. And, we found one who went to the right school. After all, wouldn’t you want your OB/GYN to have graduated from a school named after prophylactics? For those of you who haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about USC. You know… the “trojans.”

Now, even though the doc and I are cross-town rivals (I hung out at UCLA), he’s a smart kid. So, we had that dilemma covered.

I looked up an old pal at MD Andersen, one of the best Cancer Hospitals in the world. So, we had that covered as best we could.

Then, we started looking around for a building process that we could afford, that would allow us to have a safe, sustainable home, that would go up fast, fast, fast…

Can you say “ISBU?” I knew you could.

Needless to say, that’s where the REAL trouble started. Just mention Shipping Containers to a Planning and Zoning Nazi around here, and he’ll do everything but spit!

This is one of those “Not In My Backyard, You Don’t!” kinda towns…

Perhaps settling down in Mississippi was a bad idea, after all…

So, we started the fight. And, it continues to this day. In fact, it’s gotten so heated that I’m having to testify in Jackson, MS, in front of “political committees,” as “an esteemed advocate for affordable housing” (their term, not mine).

It seems that these yokels think I’m an expert. Me? Hey, any field of study that considers me an expert, already has serious flaws… 🙂

Seriously though, I have the right schooling. I have a ton of experience. And, I’ve built many, many homes for families just like mine, who want to live in a house, and not be chained to gigantic mortgages or terribly expensive upkeep costs.  And, I’ve been doing it for over three decades.

So, as we struggle to build our own home, I’m helping other people build theirs.

I’m acting as a technical advisor of sorts, helping people figure out layouts, and “how to put tab A into slot B”. Their donations to the blog for my help, have helped us pay for medications my wife needs and generally helped keep us afloat.

For that, I am eternally grateful. There aren’t words to describe it…

We built an ISBU Beach Cabin, that has a huge sleeping loft. It sits up on pilings to defy any floodwaters, and it’s steel shell will allow it to be there for a long, long time…

We’re building a home for an Indian family on a reservation.

No, it’s not shaped like a tepee, you smart @ss… 🙂

We’re building an elementary school on another reservation, so that Indian kids have a safe place to learn. It’s a project that is near and dear to my black little heart, and I’m looking forward to the day when it’ll be filled with laughing kids running and screaming and shooting spitwads at each other…

We’re building an Arrowhead-shaped home into a hillside in the Carolina’s where the budget is being based on whatever we can scrounge off of Craigslist, and FreeSource.

I know, I know… we shoulda built THIS one on the reservation. Not.

But… guess what? We’ve found some pretty cool stuff. You’re gonna be surprised at how this Carolina house turns out.

We’re gonna build a home in “the barren tundra of Texas.” I call this one “Drought Depot” as Texas hasn’t seen any real rain since Jesus walked on water, apparently. And we’re not talking about a “farm house,” we’re talking about a modern, contemporary steel house that looks like a million bucks, but is built on a “Walmart budget”. 🙂

And very recently, we decided to build a house for a family who lost their Daddy in Iraq. It’s a small house, built out of “leftovers”, but it’ll keep this family of four safe, dry, warm, and toasty, for a long time.

I’ve already told you a little bit about that one.

As you know… recently, we started projects that use “segments” of ISBUs that we’ve reclaimed, from a scrapyard. The boxes were “folded, spindled, and mutilated”, so much so, in fact that they were no longer usable for a life lived thumbing your nose at the high seas.

However, bring a plasma cutter into the mix, and you get “Corten Cubicles” that you can use, to build “off” of. We call it “Ewok Village on Acid“, and it’s being built as we speak.  We’re presently in Design Phase, with the only boundaries thus far being the actual dimensions of the boxes we’ve hacked off.

As that project continues, I’ll bring you more intel, so that you can see just how versatile these steel shelters can be.

This time, however, I’m gonna show you something different…

Ever see a Japanese house?


Yeah, they’re the ones built on impossibly small lots, sandwiched together like those “school cafeteria shingles” you used to get when you were a kid. You remember…

… the sandwiches that had just enough peanut butter and jelly on them to allow the bread to discolor, but they were still tasteless…?

I have a guy who spent many years in Japan, just like Ronin did.

(See, there I go, talking about myself in the third person again… Man, I gotta see a shrink!) 🙂

And like me, he marveled at how they pack the houses together, in such small packages. They use economy, and an incredible sense of scale and space, in order to build homes that entire families can live in, for decades. And, he wondered if WE could duplicate that.

Say, by stacking three or four ISBUs up, in one stack, to make a tall, 8′ wide building?

Okay, sounds crazy at first, but if you went split level, and then floated an 8′ deck off of each level, you’d get a pretty impressive house, with a lot of room, and a ton of light.  Plus, no stair flight would ever exceed about 5 feet.

So, here’s what I’m proposing;

Build a partial basement that measures 24′ x 8′ x 6′ high.

This is gonna be most of your foundation, AND the utility/laundry room, and the “store all your crap” room. I say “partial”, because we’re only gonna dig a 4′ deep hole… The actual depth will depend on whether you decide to build on grade, or set the containers up on pilings.

BTW: Pilings are much cheaper than a foundation.

And yes… the footings will extend a little bit deeper. Stop “nit-picking,” huh? 🙂

I want that ‘partial basement’ to stick up out of the ground, so I can put some strip windows along the top of it, for illumination. I’ve lived in caves before, and I didn’t like it much. I doubt that anyone else would like it either, if they had a choice.

Now, like I said… you could also go with a shallower basement excavation, and then just shoot in a couple of pilings at the front of that “basement”, out at the 40′ mark. Figure that they’ll be about 2 feet higher than grade…

I’m just trying to bring the roof down a few feet…

When you’re thru playing with your cinder blocks… your first container will land here. It’s as good a place as any, huh?

Now, start stacking up containers, one on top of the other. Use a crane, or you’ll get a hernia! 🙂

I figure that you go up three boxes, and then… you add a 24′ long “segment” from our “scrap pile”, to the top of it. I’ll explain why, later.

Shipping Container Skyscraper-r1c

NO! This isn’t to scale. Thanks for asking! 🙂 Note that in the drawing on the right hand side, only the center section is ISBUs. The left and right stack of “rooms” are just wooden decks. When you save more cash – close them in with screens, or even glass! You’ll more than double the size of this house!

The first container will be your entry/living room as you enter the house.

Then, in the middle of the box, a split level staircase with open treads. I want the light to filter thru it, and I want you to be able to see into each level, from the other. It’ll be less claustrophobic that way. The staircase  design isn’t final’d yet, but figure on 4′ -5′ and something simple. It’ll probably be a simple pair of almost 4′ wide staircases, one up, one down.

If you go down, you go into that utility room in the basement.

If you go up, you go into a galley kitchen with a banquette style seating area in the rear. The kitchen has a deck attached. There’s also a built-in outdoor eating area located here.

From the kitchen, you go up to the first bedroom.

Build in (2) bunks across the almost 8′ back wall. Now, build in a 6′ closet off of that, on the right. You get a big “L-Shape.” The closet will face the deck, outside sliding glass doors. Put a firm top on that closet. You’re gonna store stuff up there, too.

Finish the closet off by adding some triangular shelves to the end of it, to give more storage, and enhance the rotation off the staircase. One kids bedroom, made to order.

Or… if this is “too tight”, build a full closet across the back (just a tad deeper than normal), and then put a bunk loft on top of it. It’ll be flush with the closet, okay? Sure, your closet is only gonna be 6′ high, but unless your kid is Wilt Chamberlain, you’ll be okay for many years! And, more importantly, they’ll love it!

A ladder up to the twin bedded loft will give him/her a place to rest or bomb you with their stuff while you’re navigating that staircase…

Taking the stairs up, you’re on the bathroom level, right above the kitchen.

Below the kitchen is the utility room. See? All your utilities and water and stuff are in one place.   You have a huge space to build a bathroom, with some more storage. I’ll let you decide what kind of bathroom you want. But, I’m still putting a deck outside it.

It’ll give you a place to pretend to exercise… 🙂

Okay, up the stairs again…

What? Yep, more stairs. If nothing else, you’ll be fit. That way, you can hide on the bathroom deck, and eat those delicious “Twinkies” without having to share any with the kids…

Back to the staircase. I know.. enough with the damned stairs! Hey, it was your idea to build a “Shipping Container Skyscraper House”, remember? Suck it up, buddy!

Now, you’re in a little library/sitting room.

It’s the place where you hide from your kids. Put in some books, and maybe a computer desk, and you have a little sanctuary away from the noise. Yes, yet another deck looms outside it.

Final staircase… almost! 🙂

Now, you’re in the Master bedroom.

As you enter, you see a full length closet across the back of the room, complete with mirrored doors. Why? Because I like looking at myself!

Actually, it’s to “double the space, visually.” And… because I like looking at myself… “Me so handsome!” As if… 🙂

Add a few comfortable chairs, and a table or two, and you have a nice, quiet place to relax before bedtime. And yes, you get your own deck.

You also see a loft up there.

Yep, ladder time. Climb the ladder and you’ll find a cozy little nest for sleeping, way up in the “nosebleed section” of the house. This is a good place for a cool “suncatcher roof.” Think something like a Clerestory or a snazzy Reverse Shed. Figure on about 200 square feet.

One more flight of stairs… Have you ever seen so many stair treads? What was I thinking? 🙂

Now, you’re on the roof deck.

If it’s me, I’m either gonna put a garden up here, or…

… maybe a cool spa tub, far off and away from those little two legged critters, so you can soak, relax, and remember back to the days when you were young…

For the statisticians among you, you get (7) rooms that measure at least 7’6″ x 16′, all with almost 9′ ceilings.

That’s 840 square feet.

You get a bed loft in two rooms; kids room loft is 7’6″ x 4′ and change. The Master bed loft is 7’6″ x 8′.

That’s another 100 square feet.

You’re up to 940 square feet so far.

And, all your plumbing and most of your major electrical is in the same place. You get a nice roof  surface for your solar and photovoltaic panels. You get lots of separation. You get lots of deck for “outdoor living.”

(Remember, you can screen those decks in, pretty easily.)

And, this house goes up F-A-S-T! And… high. Don’t forget “high.”

You end up with a house built from a core of steel containers. It’s a house designed to inspire you to go outside. But, when the outside isn’t “playing nice,” you can go in, and you’ll be just fine. It’s a house that urges you to look out the windows, because it’s as tall as some of the trees! And, because it’s mostly wood (remember all those decks?) it’ll blend into the woods, too!

Is it buildable?

Yes. The cost of the multiple decks would surpass the cost of house construction, if you figure in the supports, and the screen panels to keep the critters out. However, being scroungers, we’ll used recycled lumber for most of those decks.

Can we build the house, for $50,000.00? We’ll see. That’s the budget.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninOver the next few days, I’ll draw you a diagram, to depict this “Jenny Craig” house. I’m still playing with the idea of “offsetting” each container slightly, to add “feature space” to the “ends.” I can see it in my head, but YOU wouldn’t want to go there… Trust me! 🙂

Relax, Ma! It’s Just Poop!

30 Jun

From the “Now I’ve seen EVERYTHING” files:

I was out looking for cool stuff to dazzle you with.

I mean, here at “RR,” we’re all about living off-grid and being self-sufficient. After all, we’re building homes out of Shipping Containers (ISBUs), recycling garbage to use as building materials, and re-using anything we can find, to keep the costs down. It’s about living comfortably, but responsibly. We heat our water using the sun. We power our homes with photovoltaic panels, and even hot air! 🙂

And, there’s no shortage of hot air around here! Why? Well, because I’m the resident “guru” of… um…er… never mind!

Okay… I know that my “sparkling wit” and my endless parading of my vast intellect keeps you entertained for about um… er… three seconds… but…

And speaking of, um… “Butts;”

Design gets very literal in this toilet made from poop!


Man, you’d think that they would have thought about using a different color. Yuck.

There’s a rule in inventing  stuff that “form should follow function.” And, it seems that Virginia Gardiner is a follower of that rule. She’s devised an energy generating toilet that is actually made from poop.

Now, I know what you’re thinking! Ewwwwww! (I know, I know… I’m thinkin it too!) 🙂

Virgina has developed a pooper that transforms human waste into a highly valued commodity… energy.

(Hey, I coulda called it something else. In fact… Nah, never mind.)

That’s right, this toilet creates energy.

No, I’m not talking about “methane…”  Keep it to yourself, smarty-pants! This is a “family show…” 🙂



Like you don’t poop, too? Ah, stop complaining! I told you not to look! What a bunch of whiners! 🙂

Anyway… Virginia calls it a “LooWatt.” And she says that it’s a low cost, mechanical commode that has a green streak running thru it.

(Note from Editors wife: “Okay, enough talking about “streaks,” this is getting gross…”)

Where was I? Oh yeah… Users of the LooWatt are urged to trade in their um… er… “recyclables” for biofuel. She says that this trade will enhance and sponsor community (urban) infrastructures that will encourage proper waste disposal, minimize water-borne illnesses, and provide a regular source of energy.

(But only if you eat your fiber regularly, huh?) 🙂

pootoilet-diagSee? Made you look TWICE! Ha! Just wanted to prove that I didn’t make it up!

Where did an idea like this come from?

Well, some would claim that Virginia has um… er…(say it with me…)  poop on the brain. But… she’s just looking for a solution to that 40% of the  population that lives without toilets. That’s right, she’s trying to help people in Mississippi.  And Alabama. Oh, and quite possibly the Ozarks! Wait… that’s not it… 🙂

According to Dwell Magazine (a mag I heartily endorse); “Virginia sought to provide a solution for the 40% of the world’s population that lives without toilets.”

It’s a toilet targeted at the third world, folks. In many developing countries the installation of sewage systems is just about impossible, and we all know that improper waste disposal spreads devastating waterborne illnesses that afflict millions. Hell, around were, we can’t go into the Gulf after it rains because all the sewers back up and then outflow into the water.

But, some of the three-eyed fish are really cool lookin! And tasty! 🙂

What in the world was she thinking? Well… It seems that this toilet is designed to solve the global sanitation crisis by creating a new infrastructure.

Finally, I’ll have proof that I’m the “King of Crap!”

The “LooWatt” composting toilet is molded from 90% horse dung.

Yep, horse poop. I’m thinking probably those Budweiser Clydesdales, or their Belgian cousins. Why? Because if this toilet is gonna solve 40% of the world’s poop problem, by making toilets outta horsecrap… you’re gonna need some BIGGGG horses to start with. I’m starting to think that this is one a those “corn ethanol” schemes. 🙂

“Look, I don’t care if you’re starving… If we don’t feed the horses, you can’t crap. Period. Just deal with it!”

“But… if I don’t eat, I can’t crap anyway! Whaaa?”

The toilet has a built-in biodegradable lining that stores excrement in a sealed, odor-free container. Once the toilet is full, the user takes the poo package to an outdoor biodigestor, which in exchange provides a free source of biofuel for cooking.

Whaaaaat? Okay, now that’s just gross. I gotta starve so a horse can eat enough to mold a pooper outta it’s poop. Then… I have to collect MY poop, and then carry it off to the marketplace, so I can barter it off for “predigested” biofuel, to cook with? Nuh-uh! I’d rather poop in a hole! 🙂

According to experts, the LooWatt has been exhibited around the world, was awarded an honorable mention from the AIGA Aspen Design Challenge, and was a finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge.

loowattMe thinks they were pushing this “exhibit” stuff a bit too far. There are just some things I DON’T want to see! 🙂

Okay… so that’s why my “Bubba Box Corten Castle” design didn’t win. It wasn’t worth um… er… “poop.”

If you think this “haul your poop outta the toilet and take it downtown…”  is a good idea, well… you’re probably nuts. But, in a way (okay, you REALLY have to look for it) it makes some sense. Not MY kinda sense, but I’m not exactly the smartest person on the planet. After all, I do live in Mississippi, and I did have another kid, at 50. See? Not too bright! 🙂

The people at LooWatt would like you to know that if you’d like to help push the project along, a small donation will net you your very own “poo gem” – a dodecahedron molded from horse manure (makes a swell paperweight, gift or toy!). Yeah that’s just what I need sitting on the mantle…

“What’s this, Ronin?”

“Well, it’s a… um…er… you really don’t wanna know. But I put it up here because Joshua kept trying to put it in his mouth!”

Hey, pony up a bit more cash, and it’ll net you a lovely deer-head candle holder – just the thing to brighten dungy dingy interior spaces.

Ah man… I’m holding out for one of those  “singing fish,” made outta poo-poo. At least they sound like they’re made outta crap!

But, I’ve gotta draw this post to a close. You go off and think about what we’ve learned here… whatever that was!

Me? I’m gonna go eat some more broccoli. I’ve got some tradin to do…

“What? MY poop is worth way more than YOUR poop. Aren’t you paying attention? I’m the KING OF CRAP! I’m gonna need three bags of biofuel if you wanna trade!” 🙂

And I thought that “Carbon Trading” was crazy…

The Renaissance RoninPS. I was just kidding… about “Alabama.” Kinda. As for the rest of the stuff… You were thinking it too! Admit it! I’m not the only one who thinks like this!
Or am I? Uh-oh…
And remember, we accept donations. But NOT poop! I mean, I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble with the Post Office… 🙂

Pipe Dreams

1 May

Once upon a time…

As you no doubt know by now, my family is building a new home out of shipping containers, and other cast-off stuff. (I suppose the first clue was that blue box up there in the banner, huh?) 🙂

It’s a tale told with turmoil, torment, treachery, and even some triumphs, and we’re not through yet!  Along the way, we’ve picked up a few stragglers, and even managed to help some folks start building their homes, and get their feet planted firmly on the ground again. THAT is what this blog is all about. We want to help all of you, every single one! Why? Because we’re givers!

Actually, it’s probably because misery loves company, and it’s kinda lonely sometimes!  I mean, really… If we’re laughing at you, we’re not crying at “us!” 🙂

And trust me when I tell you that sometimes we’re not laughing “with” you, we are indeed laughing “at” you. You know who you are! 🙂

I received an email from a contractor that saw a little blurb I did, about building a “Roman Crane” out of a 20′ shipping container, a flatbed trailer, a couple of scrap hydraulic cylinders, and some scrap steel beams that we’d gotten from an aircraft hangar demolition.

Well, I dug out the original drawings, and even the detail photographs, and sent them off to him with a hearty “Good Luck… You’re gonna need it.”

Now, this contractor expressed his gratitude, and he swore up and down that he’d make it right by me, somehow. But, I just took it as “lip service” because we all know that contractors can’t be trusted! 🙂

I know this for a fact ‘cuz I used to be one! 🙂

Oh just stop it… I’m kidding. I like contractors just fine… But you have to marinate them a really long time… LOL!

Anyway, last week, I get a call from this guy;

“Remember me? Well, we followed your plans, to the “T!” And, it actually worked great! It worked so good that we got another contract, and we’ve inherited a service yard to work from, out by the Space Center!

Say, I’ve got 17 sections of concrete sewer pipe here, left over from a DOT highway build, I think. They’ve been here for a few years now. And, I bet you could use them for something, if you put your mind to it. After all, you’re a really smart guy!

Ya want ’em? You can store them here until you need them, and we’ll even help you load them. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have a crane now!”

Now, the wheels immediately started spinning.

I recalled that I’d seen them used before in novel ways. In fact, I’ve even showed them to you once before. I was kinda caught in a “Deja Vu” moment there, on the phone… Wait… here’s another one, now!

I give you… The Das Park Hotel

Here’s some hotel rooms built from giant concrete sewage pipe segments!

Although this is a one-of-the-kind hotel, it has been designed from the outset to use worldwide standard concrete drainage or sewage pipe sections – so you could well see more of them in the future.

The idea of Andreas Strauss in 2004, the first rooms were provided in Linz. Now in nearby Ottensheim, rooms are accessed by a digital keypad, whose code is provided by the self service website upon booking acceptance.

The beauty of these pipes is that their concrete utilitarian look needs little alteration to make them habitable – a coat of varnish is all that is necessary.

The tubes have also have received wall paintings by the Austrian artist Thomas Latzel Ochoa to make them seem a little more user friendly.

Each tube weighs more than you can possibly imagine! In fact, they tip the scales at over  20,000 pounds…  So although some might be tempted to rock or vandalize them, they are incredibly robust and need little maintenance, provided you can keep those pesky miscreants with spray cans away from them.  But… that’s what dogs are for, I suppose.

More advanced lock and electronic keypad systems had to be fitted in 2007,  (to keep unauthorized users out) but the original concept is working very well.

Like cave hotels, Das Park Hotel is fairly cool in the summer, and perhaps still warm in winter, although at the moment the hotel is only open from May to October.

Rooms: Three double-room pipes

Once inside the pipes, the facilities are pretty basic, but they do have everything you’ll need to get a good nights sleep –  a double bed,  a lamp, a power strip so you can plug in that alarm clock,  a couple of blankets and even light cotton sleeping bags are provided.

But, if you’re one of those guys who has  to pee in the wee hours, you’re gonna have to hike for it. The toilet and (cold) showers are a couple of minutes walk away, with details provided on booking. Ignore the guy hiding in the bushes with the big knife and the hockey mask, he’s just waiting for his turn in the pipe!

The price is right, and we’re not talking about Drew Carey or Bob Barker here! Rooms are based on a donation basis only. There is no set pricing. Nada! Zip! Bupkiss!

Located in a lovely spot next to the Danube in Ottensheim municipal camping area the tubes have had a several seasons of use but are still clean and functional.

Hello? Concrete! After all, you can just hose them out, or even sandblast them from year to year, to get them ready for the next season!

The travel blurb says: “While there are many restaurants in the town square 15 minutes walk away, we particularly recommend the El Danubio campsite bar and it’s host Sergio, who will prepare excellent rib and fried potato dinners a minutes walk from your room. Details of places for breakfast, drinks and bathroom facilities are provided in the joining instructions.”

“Joining Instructions?” Ah… to stay in the pipe, you give  “a donation,” but to eat or pee, you have to join a “special club.” I see…” Hmmmm… 🙂


The campsite has beach volleyball courts, a kiddie paddling pool and nearby spots for swimming in the Danube.

Who could ask for more?

Well, from what I can see, the only things that they’re missing are a small Photovoltaic panel to power that lamp and the alarm clock, and maybe a nice little solar hot water heater system, to allow a little bathroom to get tucked in there! You know, like the ones they put into boats! They’re more like little closets, but they do the job! If you did that… (FEMA? Are you paying attention?) these could build dandy little emergency camps!  No formaldehyde here, folks!

You could put your relatives in there, and then slam that door shut! Hey it’s not like they’ve starve… You could drop food in, thru that skylight hole in the top!

Okay, maybe not. But it’s a fun thought…

But  you could put them in an RV park, or wilderness park even… The pipes, not the relatives… It gives one pause to think… I wonder if there is any “Stimulus Package money for projects like this? I mean, it’s green, and it’s housing, and it’s recycled… 🙂

Dear President Obama,

Like Martin Luther King… “I have a dream.”

Okay, it’s not as noble as Martin Luther’s but it’s a dream, none the less! Okay, it’s a “Pipe Dream!” Gimme a break, huh? What did you expect? I’m just a regular “Bubba!” I don’t “habla” Political Doublespeak… I don’t “sprechen Senatorial smack!” I don’t even comprehend “Congressional Stupidity.”

I was just thinkin’ since you’re givin all that money away (apparently to anybody with an empty wheelbarrow), that I could sure use some of it to build a place for my “in-laws” to stay when they decide to punish… um…er… visit me.

Now I promise I’ll “build green,” and even recycle. No trees will be harmed, and no fat cats will get one penny of this project “bailout.”  The only boost that they’ll get out of me…  is my bootprint on their behind.

Thank you for considering my request!

Respectfully… for now…


PS. Hillary? Are you kidding? What were you thinking?

CC: Lawyers – so they can start preparing my defense…

BCC: Psychiatrist

I’ve got all kinds of ideas. This could get really interesting! And the bonus is that it’s gonna drive the Planning and Zoning guy absolutely nuts! LOL!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninDo You Enjoy Our Articles and Features? Are you interested in helping a family that is helping others get back on THEIR feet? We could sure use the help, honest! Please Consider Making a Small, Secure Donation! Use our Paypal button!