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Another Birthday. How much longer can she live?

22 Apr

Of course, I can’t SEE the “earth” around here because it’s all covered with SNOW. “Spring”, my butt… 😉

Earth Day1Happy, happy. And… I hope for many more…

Holy Shipping Shades of Green… Boxgeeks!

27 Jan

I bet you didn’t know this;

A single large container ship can emit cancer and asthma-causing pollutants equivalent to that of 50 million cars.

The low grade bunker fuel used by the worlds 90,000 cargo ships contains up to 2,000 times the amount of sulfur compared to diesel fuel used in automobiles.

Image Credit: The Guardian - UK

Image Credit: The Guardian – UK

The recent boom in the global trade of manufactured goods has also resulted in a new breed of super sized container ship which consume fuel not in GPH (gallons per hour), but the consumption of fuel is measured in TPH (tons per hour), and containerized shipping now accounts for a whopping 90% of global trade by volume.

I guess the only thing really “green” about Container Shipping… is the color they paint on some of the boxes.


Wow. Now I’m actually GLAD that they don’t retrieve empty shipping containers for a return trip to China.

The Renaissance Ronin

Ronin Blasphemes! Film at 11pm!

7 Jan

As children, most of us were taught;

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Now, God was a smart guy. He knew that He wouldn’t be the only guy hovering over the water and He knew the treacheries of “Wind and Sea”… so he created a manner of conveyance that would insure man’s future.

The reasons for this were legion. We can only presume that He knew, in His infinite wisdom, that man would require safety and shelter and LCD TVs from Walmart, shipped from far off ports in yet undiscovered places like Mainland China and India.

So, He said to Himself;

“Self…  before I task man with the loss of a rib so that he may find respite on the Barkalounger nursing a  sore chest, as the fruit of his now incomplete ribcage reminds him that he needs to take out the garbage… I must provide a manner by which man can survive all perils.”

And thus, earplugs were born…

Nah, not really. It was then that God provided the FIRST ARK…

… built out of…

…. you guessed it…

Shipping Containers.


Okay, really not really, but I had you going, right? 🙂

(Man, I can hear John Umland wailing from here… “What? Ronin, I shalt smite thee like a heathen!”)

It’s hard for me to believe that so much of  my life has been dedicated to these large steel boxes and that from them rise family-borne dreams, happiness and joy that will survive for generations…

2012 was a year of exploration, claim-staking, heart ache (literally)  and dream fulfillment. 

It was a year of challenges as we began to lay the foundations for families yet to come, a year of progress and even obstacles…

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

… as we were forced to cope with Mother Nature, personal issues and health challenges.  Many of you know that at year’s end, I had health challenges of my own. We’re resolving those issues now, as life begins teaching me new ways to solve old problems… like delegation of authority and diversification.

While the blossom of 2013 blooms, we shall see if you really can teach old dogs new tricks.

As we begin a new year…

Many readers know that last year I moved my family to the “Wilds of Montana”…

Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t rush to the boonies because I thought Mayans were “dialed in” and that the world was indeed coming to an end…


I moved here because I wanted peace and solitude, clean air and clear water,  and to be surrounded by nature…

I wanted a new dog… a BIG dog… He don’t bark or bite, but he’ll sure ram the hell out of you… I guarantee… :)


I grew tired of traffic congestion, subdivisions and quite frankly, poverty. Big cities are no longer the melting pots of “commerce and wealth” that we remember from our youths… they are now “deeply divided dominions”, hotbeds of haves and have-nots, jostling and even jousting for control of whatever assets may be within reach.

When most people think of “subdivisions”, they see miles and miles of identical houses, governed by heavy-handed HOA poltroons armed with ruler and  citation lest your grass be “just a smidge too tall”, pigeonholed into every concrete nook and cranny of the city, like sardines packed in mineral oil;

Whew! Try saying all that in one breath!


That’s not a Montana sub-division, I can assure you… THIS is my idea of a “Montana sub-division”…

Forest Subdivision

Folks who read the blog know that we “migrated” to Montana from Mississippi. After Hurricane Katrina, we gave “aid and comfort” to those we could reach. We ran a food bank off our front porch. We helped those who needed help and along the ay, we learned that age old lesson once again;

You can grant aid… or you can help. There is a profound difference between the two.

Our goal was to help those in need to learn to help themselves. In some cases, it worked splendidly and we saw our aid magnified as these individuals and families then were empowered to help others… Alas, they were the minority.

There are some people that you cannot help. In return, these families reminded us that we were there “to aid them so that they didn’t have to help themselves”.

We saw this more and more, until… the fire just burned us out.

My mother always accused me of having a “Messiah Complex”. I admit it, I bring home strays. It drives my family crazy. But, I have one rule;

“If you are in need… I will help you as much as I am able.  But, if you then refuse to help yourself? I will kick you to the curb faster than you can say “ex-girlfriend”. I may suffer heartache (and even heartbreak) from it, but I will do it.”

We considered our plight carefully. We sought the counsel of those we respected and we worked toward our new goal – to find our own personal freedom.

To those who showed us the new road, (you know who you are), we are thankful beyond measure. The “gift that was given” was priceless… they showed us the door… to our 0wn freedom.

So, we hitched our wagon (in the guise of a U-Haul trailer)  to the stars and headed for a place where you could look up in the sky and actually see them.

We did it for a myriad of reasons, most of which revolved around getting to a place where life could be lived sustainably, responsibly and (gasp!) modestly, while providing all the elements required to provide happiness.

Readers of my blog(s) know that I preach the “Three R’s” – Reusing, repurposing and recycling.

sandwichWe teach families to build, by reaching up into the sky… wait… that’s not it… it’s just lunch… but  it probably explains my chest pains…

We repurpose old shipping containers into homes…

We reuse rain gutter, turning it into wall mounted gardens.

We recycle PVC Pipe, transforming it into “edible fencing”.

herb ladder
and we’ll even reuse old ladders… just like this guy did…

Wait… that’s “ladder framing”… never mind. 🙂

As we lead families forward, trying to honor those who invested in us by returning that gift that we were so graciously given to others… we remind them that there are useful things all around you that can be incorporated into elements vital to the fulfillment of your dreams.

Dreams given back to each of us, usually by a handful of people that cared that we succeeded above all else. It gives us hope to know that there are still those who think beyond their own walls… as they reach over their fences to help their neighbors.

It is because of them that we are achieving our goals.

We wish that for you!

May the New Year bring you joy, happiness and… success… beyond measure.

To those of you who have sent emails asking about my condition; I’ll be taking the next several weeks slowly, trying to rebuild and regain my health after recent events. After that, I assure you that we’ll be roaring out into Spring… like a kid tearing gleefully through a “Happy Meal”…

Be nice to yourselves… and your neighbors.

The Renaissance Ronin

It’s time for that annual – Christmas Recycling :)

27 Dec

It’s that time again

Okay, so you didn’t burn your house down as you lit up that tree in the corner of your living room until it resembled a nuclear reactor.

But, now that St. Nick has come and gone (thank the heaven’s… I’m not sure we could have survived one more day of that), it’s time to start thinking about WHO you’re gonna talk into hauling the evidence out and cleaning up the mess…

Now here at RR, we’re all about “recycling, repurposing and reusing”…

While many of us sprung for that “plant it somewhere in the yard later” version of the Yuletide lumber yard…

Statistically, most of us bought “farmed trees”… (enterprising souls among us filled that empty cavity in our celebration by obtaining trees that we bought a “self-harvest permit” for, usually from some secluded spot just out of the sight line in the nosy neighbor next door’s yard)…

Wait! That’s not it… 🙂

We drove way out into the forest, through the snow and mud and potholes…  and then argued, negotiated and listened somewhat attentively as some whined… until just the right tree was selected, inspected and then… hacked free from Mother Earth…

(Okay, around here, we just tuned out the wailing and then murdered the closest tree to the truck…)

This usually involves one person finger-pointing, changing their minds 862 times and then… someone else doing some finger-pointing of their own (usually with their middle finger) and then doing all the heavy lifting and chainsaw juggling…

However it happens, most of you get an organic (REAL) tree stuffed through your front door and then onto a prominent place in your living room, so that you can decorate it and shame the neighbors with your “Christmas Celebration Creation”.

And then. it happens…

Someone decides that they need that corner of the room back and that darned tree has to go…

And guess who gets stuck with that task? Yep. The same sorry SOB that was forced to give up a day in his warm, insulated garage blissfully  organizing tools or playing with a new Harley part or tinkering happily away at the workbench as Joe Walsh tortures a piece of ash in the background… only to find himself spending the entire day listening to his “alleged better half” recant stories of how “the tree we got last year was better…” while you contemplate pulling over and freeing up space in the interior of your truck by tossing a certain someone into a snowbank…

But, I’m not bitter… 😉

So, once you get tired of listening to all the nagging, you’re faced with two tasks.

The first task is stripping the trees of all the flotsam and jetsam the kid carefully threw onto it, WHILE the kid is howling like a scalded cat because you’ve dared touch “His Tree”.

Eventually, you give in, stop threatening him and put him now for a nap, lulled into slumber with tales of little kids waking up stone cold dead in the morning if they don’t stop causing trouble for their parents… 😉

The second task, once the kid is in bed and out from under the tree, doing everything but chaining himself to it so that you can’t remove it… is figuring out what you’re  going to do with the dead, tormented, relic of Mother nature’s beauty and grace that you’ve turned into a quickly browning, needle shedding, “Master of disaster”…

It’s at this point that you need to start thinking about those “next” steps.

I mean, the poor thing gave up it’s life to give you a small (and I’m talking about a 5 year old sized) package of joy. The least you can do is honor it’s sacrifice by doing something with the tree that is “useful”… in the grand scheme of things.

When I was a kid… we gathered up every tree in the neighborhood and then carted them down to the local lake. There, they were twined together and thrown haphazardly onto floating barges, so we could tow them out into the lake and “bury them at sea” complete with fifes and salutes… so that they could become shelter for the fish. This insured that (a) they were “out of sight and out of mind, and (b) that come summer, we’d have plenty of new fish to catch, all the while insuring that our parents got some much needed peace and quiet by “allowing us to go fishing…” some place beyond their hearing. 🙂


The Forestry guys do it now…

When we got a little bit older, we realized that we lived in a land surrounded by golf courses, HOAs and old folks that used their front yards to generate status.


We started collecting those trees so that we could stuff them into a chipper that my Dad “borrowed” from the Marine Base (usually during a period of darkness) and we caught the “output” in “SuperSacks” for resale to the locals who had provided us with the mulching material in the first place.

Okay, we charged them $2 for “tree removal” by hauling the trees off… usually by dragging them down the street behind our Sting-Ray bicycles.

Then, we ground them up into mulch and piled the “organic mulch” into wagons (again dragged down the street via left-over candy cane fueled kid power ala Sting-Ray… to sell the “mulching material back to neighbors, for $2 a wagon load.

For another $2, we’d scatter it willy-nilly into their shrubs, to “beautify and protect their landscaping. We reminded them along the way that mulching was not only good for the plants, it helped conserve water. And since we were in a drought period where watering your lawn was a big “no-no”… the pitch ran rather well…

By the end of the first week of New Years, we had cold hard cash… which we planned to use for Rock’N’Roll music albums (which we would hide from the discerning eyes and ears of our parents) , guitar picks, bicycle upgrades and candy…

It never worked out that way. What happened is that mom reminded us that if we wanted to continue doing things like “eating”… we all had to pitch in.  (sigh!)

So, the realities of being a “military family” ground their jackboots into our entrepreneurial dreams… but we sure ate good for a few weeks after that. 🙂

Okay, fast forward 40 years…


Local landscaping companies now drive up and down the block, collecting “dead trees” in big stakebed trailers, so that they can crush the dreams of enterprising kids… um… er…. grind them into mulch themselves, thus getting “Free” mulch to flagrantly resale to all their clients as “Organic goodness”.

This while kids everywhere line the streets in sadness, saluting those trees as they are carted down the street… like John Kennedy’s riderless horse during that hallowed funeral procession.

A word of warning;

Pine needles are acidic. That means that if you mulch them onto the wrong plants, you’re going to harm your shrubbery. Around here, we use pine needle mulch at the base of blueberries. The neighbor ladies who have been here for generations use them to perk up and protect their gardenias and periwinkles.

This “tree mulch” also works great as “winter cover” for areas where you get snow. Around here (there are several feet of snow on the ground as I type this) a thick coating of “Christmas Tree Mulch” is just the ticket to protect your plants  and shrubs from the cruel bite of winter. And as that mulch breaks down and turns into compost, it’s going to add some tasty soil improvement goodness to that soil!

But, you don’t have to have a chipper to get some benefit from those trees in the “snow zones”.

Here in Montana, we sometimes use those dead Christmas trees (left intact) to create “snow drift hedges”… big berms created to keep snow from blowing into the front yard.

After winter passes, we simply retrieve those tree carcasses and then use them for bonfire firewood.

But wait… there’s more;

Nowadays, there are a minions among us that use these “Christmas Corpses” for “Frankenstein” inspired purposes.

“It’s alive… It’s alive! Wait… not it’s not! We need to harvest it’s organs! Quick, get me my sap extractor!”

Pine sap (that stuff that bled out of the trunk all over the top of your truck and then again all over your carpet) has medicinal properties. In fact, it’s anti-bacterial. You can use the stuff just like honey (the Greeks and Romans had this down to an artform), to close up wounds. You know… wounds like chainsaw “slip-ups” and twine abrasions… or the ones you get above your eye after ignoring the wife’s ranting for a while… ranting usually targeted at chores you were supposed to do before Christmas but never got around to…  Talk about heated encounters…

Speaking of “things incendiary” – pine sap also makes a great firestarter.

But, you don’t need to “harvest sap” to get the benefits of the pine…

You know, I remember the days when we talked lovingly about the “benefits of the pine”…

It used to have a direct connection to baseball and Spring… Now… it’s found it’s evil way into conversations about sap. Can you imagine that next beer fueled discourse at the local Sports Pub?

“What did you do this weekend?”

“Well, I harvested some sap…”

“Whaaaaaa? Is that what they’re calling it nowadays?” 🙂

No. Not going there. Not gonna do it.

Did you know that if you bundle pine tree branches together, they make dandy torches? I mean, if they were good enough for unruly mobs brandishing fire and pitchforks, they ought to be good enough for you!  We bundle them together tightly using baling wire. Then, you  shove the “bitter end” into the ground and set them ablaze… to make some “pine powered tiki lamps” for those backyard parties…

Around here, the locals use those pine needles to make a concoction that they call “Christmas Cider”… using the pine needles to make “tea”. We’ve already established that pine needles are “anti-bacterial”. So, using that logic, thee are those who take that Olympian leap… and then consume it.

Now, chewing pine needles is a task best left to beavers and ground squirrels, if you ask me. But fear not… you can indeed get the benefits by drinking the stuff.

Grab an old cup (one that you won’t mind hurling away in disgust later….) and then grab about a dozen green pine needles. Combine needles in the cup. Add about 1 and a half cups of boiling water and then steep the needles for about 10 minutes.

In my experience (we field test everything around here) if you’re a “smart pig” you’ll add a significant amount of honey to the brew about halfway through. Trust me, this “tea” is an acquired taste.

After about ten minutes, extract the needles and then drink away…

The claims are that this brew rivals good Single Malt Scotch for soothing the ravages of cold air and sore throats…

… but frankly, I’m thinking that anyone who compares “pine needle tea” to good Scotch must be buying their Scotch at a steep discount from non-English speaking liquidators out of the back of a battered old van at the flea market.

The abuse of  pine needles continues.

Some miscreants among us actually grind up the wood and pine cones to use as thickeners for cooking. They liken this to other store-bought thickeners used in flour and corn starch concoctions. They’ll tell you that the inner bark of pine trees is nutritious, tasty and chock full of vitamins, especially Vitamin C. They’ll also tell you that their ancestors, sailing the plains in Conestoga wagons, relied on this as emergency and survival resources.

Us? Well, frankly, we’re not really interested in sorting trees into piles labeled “Pine” Spruce” or “Fir” in order to determine which ones can be mulched, burned (we prefer bonfires to using them in wood stoves or fireplaces), eaten (gasp!) or turned into a toasty warm concoction that tastes like gasoline (grimace!)…

… we have a wood chipper and we ain’t scared of it.

We’ll chop up those trees until they resemble the output of one of those late night infomercial Ronco Chop-O-Matics… and then we’ll let the kids toss them under the trees and shrubs.

And if your kids can beat the landscapers to the neighbors houses…. they can turn those trees into cash… or even forts… many a kid has ‘nearly lost an eye” in pine cone wars while “hunkered down behind all those dead soldiers”…

We used to shoot ’em out of slingshots made from surgical tubing and the bottoms of old bleach containers.

Remember that the ammo contains the cure… you can close the war wounds with the sap…

Now that is some “Christmas Goodness”, there, boy… 🙂

The Renaissance Ronin

Have you heard about “Project SolarStrong”?

3 Dec

U.S. Army Housing to Get Solar Panel Makeover Courtesy Project SolarStrong

By Vince Font, Contributing Editor

Department of Defense Designates Fort Bliss a “Net Zero Installation”

Salt Lake City, UT — Having the stated objective of achieving 25 percent reliance on renewable energy by the year 2025, the Department of Defense is already off and running in pursuit of that goal. Thanks to the combined efforts of SolarCity and Balfour Beatty Communities, plans are currently in motion to install rooftop solar panels on 4,700 military homes at Fort Bliss, Texas and neighboring White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. The solar equipment that is set to generate up to 13.2 megawatts of capacity when completed will be leased to the Department of Defense by SolarCity, which will perform installation as well as maintenance.

Operating under the moniker SolarStrong, the project is the largest phase to date of SolarCity’s five-year plan to build more than $1 billion of solar projects for approximately 120,000 residential homes on military bases throughout the country…

[Editor’s note: I’m guessing that they’ll add an “extraction clause” to the contracts so that if Texas secedes from the Union, they can pull the power off the roofs… ] 🙂

Read the rest of this post, HERE.

LEED away…

29 Nov

We’re working our proverbial butts off.

YES. We are.

Personally, I’m not spending near enough time with my family, especially my little boy, Joshua. Ironically, I started RR to promote “investing in family”.

AND… it’s the holidays. Oy. It’s actually quite depressing. 

I find myself in an odd position. As a result of recent events, we’re getting hammered by families (hundreds of them) that realize that they have to make changes. And as a result, “market and weather driven events” are driving us forward at “warp speed”…

I almost feel like we’re taking advantage of the conditions that America finds itself in. Some would say that we’re just “positioned”… that we’re simply “in the right place, at the right time.”

Whatever the reality is, the fact is that we are just overwhelmed – saddened that we are not able to do more to help so many that require assistance.

That said, we humbly ask your indulgence and your patience as we try to settle  into “new digs” and get ourselves ready to face the challenges of the New Year.

I’m one of the leading authorities on building structures with ISBUs. I didn’t ask for the title. I earned it with over 30 years of experience and hands on – in the field, testing the limits of “cast off”  Corten Steel boxes. I don’t hide in a cubicle behind a CAD station. (In fact, there are days when I long for that “missing cubicle” to hide in…)

My job is to keep people focused on progress and not the repetition of “myth and mistakes” where ISBU Structure design and construction is concerned.

Recently, I gave a speech to Architects, Designers and Builders.

While the message was well received, it deviated from the “normal” building  sermons in that I thumbed my nose  up at some of the lofty “Building Certification Programs” that so many aspire to.

The topic was “Building Affordable Housing in America – Family by Family”.

It was NOT “Pitching high priced, over designed buildings to Investors”, or even about “achieving professional certifications guaranteed to bump up your salary and improve the location of your office in the building you work in”.

The Q&A after the session ran like this;

“Mr. Klein, if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re NOT a big fan of LEED.

Why not? Isn’t LEED part and parcel of the process, accomplishing exactly what you’re teaching Self-building families to do in the first place?

I just watched a piece featuring VP Joe Biden, where he talks about “building green”. Even the White House is leaning towards LEED.

So, what’s up with that?”

Brace yourselves, because here’s my response;

Look, it’s about reality. I love the idea that one day, everyone will be able to live in an affordable, sustainable, weather resistant home.

As you know (it’s plastered all over the blog) that I believe that EVERY family deserves a home…

LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”. It’s a voluntary, MARKET DRIVEN program that “verifies” green building  achievement.

And there in lies the problem. It’s MARKET DRIVEN.  And Designers, Builders and investors KNOW that.

IMHO: LEED isn’t really about “green buildings” in the final perspective.

It’s about this;

(Taken directly from the LEED Website)

“LEED is good for business. LEED certification boosts your bottom line, makes you more competitive, limits risk, and attracts tenants.”

LEED isn’t really my idea of the response to “the way granddad thought it through and then did it”.  

While LEED represents a good way of documenting a building design’s consideration of the environment, it’s also “market and media driven”. You could compare it to “Carbon Offsets”.  I don’t hate the idea of LEED, as it’s raised awareness at all levels for “Green Building Performance”. But, just like “Carbon Offsets”, both of these fall far short in practice.

In my view – LEED is an imperfect system that neglects to focus on some of the most important parts of design and construction. It almost forgets about the long-term impact on the TENANTS of the buildings.

It’s common knowledge in the trades that many architecture offices chase LEED certification for their buildings (or accreditation for their staff) primarily as a marketing tool.

Building Standards should be “performance based” and occupancy quality (the conditions created for tenants and residents) should be held in a much higher regard than “trend-driven construction innovations”. Areas like “Lifetime energy consumption” and the long term relationship the building creates with it’s environment aren’t weighed in heavily enough. 

LEED projects typically result in enormous initial construction costs which must be justified over the life of the building. The truth is that in this economy, that initial cost has become something that most project developers happily shove out of the way, in order to insure a faster ROI (Return On Investment). And on top of that,  all these LEED gyrations and gymnastics to achieve certification are focused in the wrong areas – initial construction and commissioning as opposed to diminished concerns for long term energy savings or increased sustainability over time.

Architect Thom Mayne said it best;

LEED should give performance requirements and let the architect solve the problem. The point system doesn’t scale. A bike rack and air conditioning get you the same point. I’d much rather see BTU and CO2 requirements and let the professional community solve the problem. If you give proscriptive requirements, it stagnates new development and research. It’s like taking a blue book test. You don’t need to know the subject. Because architects deal in creative problem solving, some of that will be curtailed by proscriptive systems. I also think the LEED point system is overladen in the construction phase versus lifetime energy consumption and secondary effects.

It’s not just me. Other professionals in my field  are taking this controversial position here and I’m very aware of that. Architects and builders flame me like crazy for my out-spoken views on LEED.  My projects aren’t  “landmark buildings for Multi-National Corporations”. My projects are small (usually rural) residences  housing projects for families and workers. I’m not worried about “peer reviews” or “how the media treats my projects”. Frankly, I couldn’t care less. I’m primarily concerned with how the project treats the family that it was designed for. Everything else is secondary and superficial.

My projects are anything BUT “High Budget”, promotion driven monoliths or monuments to some “fat cat CEO” or internationally trademarked product line.

IMHO – It doesn’t matter if a building LOOKS Green. What matters is how it relates to the environment and the inhabitants of the building over prolonged (and monitored)  periods of time. And it has to be cost effective. (Otherwise, it will never get off the posterboard in the conference from.)

Because of that, I have to look at LEED much differently. I have to put down the “rose colored glasses”.

Common sense should clearly demonstrate that the more energy efficient our buildings become, the safer our families will be.

But, there’s the reality of “affordability”. In my view, LEED has just become yet another marketing tool in Builder toolboxes.

While buildings and homes should be energy efficient… those very same buildings MUST be cost effective as well or else they become “just another class separator”. And wheretheir design in concerned, it’s about the practice of GOOD Architecture, not adherence to a program that will “win you points and special prizes”. At what cost?

It’s a “HAVES vs Have NOTS” scenario.

Look around you. America is divided enough already… thank you very much.

Heaven help us if some of these LEED gyrations find their way embedded into National Building Codes.

Have you followed some of the buildings that are highlighted by the LEED programs? I have. I’ve read more than a few stories about them that are far from affordable or sustainable.

I’m all for high-performance buildings. In fact, I BEG families to build them. But, you have to be able to afford to build them, or you’ll be sitting on the curb in front of your empty lot for decades.

Want a cost effective, sustainable, AFFORDABLE building or home? Forget “hoidy toidy” certification aimed at impressing investors and the other locals and do your homework.

It really pays off to research the costs, benefits, drawbacks, durability and longevity of various materials and alternatives before developing your building plan.

Concern yourself with GOOD architecture, not gimmicks.

As for Joe Biden “watching your backs”…

You (I certainly didn’t) re-elected this rube;

VP Joe Biden recently visited the victims of Superstorm Sandy and promised that “he will not rest…  until he brings the people responsible for this tragedy to justice.”

What a moron…

Shades of Al Gore…

Picture Ronin shaking his head in sadness and rolling his eyes.

If you’re a family looking to build a high performance, affordable, sustainable home… then I’m certainly your guy.

And, if you’re a large corporation looking to spend millions to build a landmark building, filled with placards and lofty certification to impress stock holders and the local press… I can… happily point you at high quality guys and gals who can do that.

Stay safe and stay tuned.


Do YOU “Thrive” on information – that is totally off topic?

1 Aug

I know, I know…

This is an ISBU blog.

But recently, as I watch over my child as he recovers from yet another tumble…  I’m watching a lot of TV and DVDs. And as result, I recently watched a film sent to me by an RR Reader, who wanted “Ronin’s Reaction” to  it.

So… I’m taking a poll;

I was sent a film called “Thrive”,  a documentary that is designed by it’s creators to cause us to “wake up”…

Have any of you seen it?

Do you find it factual or do you find it full of conspiracies, lies and myths?

Is the truth somewhere in between?

While I found some of it hard to “swallow”, some of it rang true…

I’ll let you decide for yourselves;

(I warn you that this is a long “watch”  – at over two hours…)

The producers say:

If you value what is presented in this movie, please go to where you can support Thrive Movement by making a donation. You will also find more in-depth information on each of the subjects discussed in the movie, learn about Critical Mass initiatives supported by Thrive, and connect with others who are waking up and taking action.

Film Synopsis:
THRIVE is an unconventional documentary that lifts the veil on what’s REALLY going on in our world by following the money upstream — uncovering the global consolidation of power in nearly every aspect of our lives. Weaving together breakthroughs in science, consciousness and activism, THRIVE offers real solutions, empowering us with unprecedented and bold strategies for reclaiming our lives and our future.

Pass the popcorn!

Change image quality to HD and then hit the “fullscreen” button on the lower right of the movie window for easier viewing…


Oh, Shut up. Solar is COMING, for sure…

18 Jun

Recently, I’ve been talking with a smart group of Canadians who are going to build a plant focused right at ISBU Residential Construction. They GET it. They want to build affordable, energy efficient, Tonka Tough homes for their families. 

The way I understand it… one of their primary backers is a Solar Power developer who has giant arrays of  PV’s (Photovoltaic Panels)  positioned in framework up off the ground.

They sit so high that you can actually enclose the area beneath them to BUILD a HOME for that Plant.

The idea behind doing this isn’t much different than building a “shaded parking lot” ala the ones you see all over the Eastern  Seaboard.

They even have these Solar collector arrays in places like (gasp!) California! 🙂

We regularly implement PVs into ISBU Home builds to not only reduce power costs, but to eliminate them completely. It’s not mystery or Sci Fi.

But while all this is going on, those Energy Naysayers continue to bash Solar (Photovoltaic) Power.

So, I offer you this;

From TPM:

Carl Franzen June 15, 2012, 6:02 AM 1916

A new report on the state of the solar industry in America indicates that despite a global oversupply and a potential trade war with China, the U.S. solar industry had its second-best quarter ever in terms of installations, during the first quarter of 2012.

The number of installations, 506 megawatts worth, enough to power just over 350,000 homes, was bested only by the fourth quarter of 2011, which saw a whopping 708 megawatts worth of solar installed.

On top of that, the report, drafted by clean-energy market analysis firm GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association and released Tuesday, a trade group, forecasts that total U.S. installed solar power will increase 75 percent his year alone, with 3.3 gigawatts-worth of solar power installed, compared to the 4.4 gigawatts that are currently installed in the country and were added over years of development.

“This will be by far the largest year we’ve ever had for solar in the U.S.,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM, in a phone interview with TPM. “Relative to expectations, the first quarter was very strong. We saw both the commercial and residential markets grow.”

Indeed, commercial solar installations, those put in place on corporate properties, accounted for the overwhelming majority’s worth of solar power installed in the quarter — 288.8 megawatts, according to the GTM and SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight report.

Furthermore, residential power installations (those installed on homes) accounted for 93.9 megawatts. The final category, utilities power installations, or solar put in place by power companies, accounted for 123.6 megawatts of installations, but that number was actually a steep decline from both the third and fourth quarters of 2011.

However, as the report points out, “direct comparisons between these two quarters [fourth and first] carry little meaning,” because “construction timelines for a relatively few large projects can cause large swings from quarter to quarter more than any underlying market dynamics.”

In essence: The natural construction cycle for solar projects and other power installations, governed by weather and the fiscal year, means that generally, utilities won’t be installing solar panels in larger numbers until later in the year, so long as they have those projects already lined up, “in the pipeline,” as it were.

“The pipeline is still huge,” Kann told TPM.

What do solar homeowners say to the solar naysayers?

I beg to differ. My home in California is solar powered and generates more than I use. The monthly payments on the loan to buy the solar array were exactly the same as my electrical bills (which are now zero), and now I’ve paid off the loan after 3 years. This was before any subsidies. The warranty on the solar hardware is 20 years.

Read more about this HERE.

PS. Thanks, Tony!


2012 – Let’s make it an INSPIRATIONAL Year!

2 Jan

Let’s start the New Year by being inspired, okay?

Okay, first… shameless plug:

I heartily recommend that you pick up a copy of:

Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings“.

If you want the skinny on ISBUs and HOW to use them to build a home, it’s a great start! And, we’re holding the price of the book at $10.95 until January 16th.

After that date, it goes back up to $15.95 and it’s going to stay there, for the foreseeable future…

So, get it NOW and save a few bucks.

Sales of the book still supports the Corten Cavalry, and…  it always will.  Help yourself and help others at the same time!

For those of you waiting anxiously for the release of “The Nuts and Bolts of ISBU Housing” – we’re told that final legal approval and sign-off is just around the corner. While we grow more and more impatient by the day, we’re almost there… finally…

(If we’d known there were so many hoops to jump thru, we’d have done it differently, in retrospect…)

Now… on with the show;

I got a pointer to a post today that really sums up what many of us dream about. We want to change our lives for the better…


Can you change the world in 100 days?

Yes. And, you can do it with a day to spare!  🙂

A Mom and her daughter decided to trek around the world, documenting people following their dreams.

They traveled to 6 continents, filming almost a dozen different people following their passions and dreams, to make the world  a better place.

YOU Can Follow YOUR dreams… It just takes will power and a big heart!

Want more inspiration?

A buddy of mine, Dr. Owen Geiger,  has released a DVD about Earthbag Home Building that is a must have for anyone even thinking about using earthbags in ANY kind of Hybrid or Alternative Home plan.

If a picture is worth a thousand words… this DVD is worth it’s weight in GOLD!

I encourage you to go see Owen at to find out more about this exciting DVD!

My thanks to Owen Geiger, for reminding me about this inspiring media!


Around the world in 1:02

23 Sep

Completely off topic but…

Do you remember how amazed some of us were as kids… reading books about brave adventurers who dared to try and circumnavigate the planet in 80 days?

If you’re not old enough, do you remember your Mom or Dad reading you bedtime stories about the perilous adventures of those same world travelers?

Now, you can fly around the world in a minute and 2 seconds…

And while we reflect on how difficult things are getting, we’re reminded that is a beautiful rock,  indeed…

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…