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Moore, OK – Update

20 May

As many of you know;

An F5 tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma today leaving death and devastation in its path.

Moore OK3

Many people were injured and from what we know so far, at least 51 are confirmed killed, including MANY elementary school aged  children. The first responders are desperately digging through the rubble trying to find survivors as well as those who have unfortunately perished.

Moore OK2

The Corten Cavalry is already enroute with emergency supplies, ISBU based canteens and ISBU bath/shower/laundry facilities.

Severe Weather

PLEASE remember the families of Moore, OK in your prayers and do what you can to assist if you are able. There are many, many long days and nights ahead of us and the grief to those families effected will be lifelong.

Stay tuned…

RR Avatar


He said WHAT?

15 Jul


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

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

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

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

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

You know “Our Alex”…

Check this out;

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the quote;

Native Montanan • 3 days ago

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

Alex replied in kind;

Wow. Character Assassination.

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

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

… perhaps YOU should be the one to move.

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

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

The morale of this story is simple;

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

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

It’s still US and THEM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tornado Relief Project!

4 May

Attention: To all residents of Harrison or Jackson Counties, Gulfport, Biloxi, Ocean Springs and outlying residents.

There is a Tornado Relief Aid truck stationed in the Winn-Dixie parking lot on Pass Rd, directly across from the across from the Wal-mart.

2384 Pass Road, Biloxi, MS.

The hope is to fill it up with food, water, clothing, furniture, tools, blankets and bedding, camping equipment (tents, sleeping bags, stoves, etc…) you name it… to take to the Tornado Victims in Smithville, MS.

Smithville was just hit by an EF-5 Tornado. You can clearly see from aerial photos the damage done by these horrific winds. This is the first EF-5 Tornado to hit Mississippi since 1966. I hope it’s the last!

Don’t forget things like childrens clothing, diapers, formula and toys! Children are the hardest hit by disaster.

If you have anything you would like to donate,  it will be manned by volunteers from 4-7 every evening this week.

You can see by the carnage that they literally need EVERYTHING!

I’ll add that cash donations are also needed, to assist in ways that can’t reach out of the back of the truck!

Please. They were there for us after Hurricane Katrina. Let’s be there for them, now.

Image Credits: WKGR, AP – via Google.

A SMALL Act can accomplish BIG Goals… ;)

7 Mar

Hi Campers!

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

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

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

Case in point;

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

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


Hi William,

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

First, thank you. I hope you enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Best Wishes,

Alex Klein


Shortly thereafter, William replied:


Hello Alex

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Hi Bill,

Thanks for the response and your kind words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need more teachers like you.

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

Best Wishes,

Alex Klein


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

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

So, another email followed;



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

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

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

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

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

Here you go.

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


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


Hello again Alex

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

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

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

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

Again thank you for your help and great information.


Bill S****


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

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

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

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

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

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

This might just be a great project to nurture…

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

Bill, you have my thanks and my admiration.

Stay tuned.

Calling the Corten Cavalry!

16 Dec

Hi Boys and Girls…

No ISBU post today. Instead, I offer this;

A good friend of this blog, Steve Spence (the guy who wrote the Solar Electricity Primer that many of you have expressed thanks for) has suffered a family  disaster.

His homestead burned to the ground recently. It just happened. We all know what that means.

His son and daughter and their child ( an adorable little girl) were living there at “Spence Central” while Steve was out teaching the world to break free of the grid.

They are essentially camping out at relatives houses now.

They have … like.. nothing. No household goods, no computer to link back into the world, no stuff for their little wonder of a daughter to play with while Mom and Dad try to sort out this mess.

Setting up any kind of “safety net” takes time. Paypal wants doc’s  to accept donations, etc…

Santa won’t wait for doc files, folks. HE’S far too busy.

So, here’s what I’m suggesting:

If you’d like to help out the Spence Family,  go to and order stuff for them and have it shipped “site to store” to the Potsdam NY store. There’s only one Walmart in Potsdam NY.

Then list Steven Spence as the contact (to pick it up) and have the email alert – telling them that it arrived sent to this email address:

They’ll get notified that stuff arrived and they can pick it up to help Santa deliver it.

I just sent the first salvo via Walmart personally. The idea of a little girl in NY not getting Christmas Presents just breaks my heart.

Ronin no like Scrooge. Scrooge make Ronin Maaaaad! ;(

If you want to help the Spences in their time of need, please do likewise.

They need everything. The little girl is 13 months old. But don’t forget Mom and Dad. They’re starting from scratch. Pots, pans, towels, Dishes, flatware, you name it. They’re literally starting over with the clothes on their backs.

And if you’ve recently replaced a computer with a newer one, I know a couple that could sure use one…

G_d Bless you all… Happy Holidays!


aka: Ronin

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.

Family Built ISBU (Shipping Container) Homes and Property Taxes

31 Jan

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

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

Children are dying. It’s breaking my heart.

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

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

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

Here comes “The Container Cavalry”… pilgrim.

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

Anyway… where was I? Oh yeah…

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

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

Let’s just jump in, shall we?

Dear Ronin,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have no intention of ever selling it.

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

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

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

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


Bob and Tina

Dear Padiwan Learner,

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

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

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

I think that you answered your own question.

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

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

I think that you SHOULD appeal the assessment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, send Tina.

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

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

At least when she’s not arguing with ME.

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

Semper Fi, you [expletive deleted]!! 🙂

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

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

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

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


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

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

You can do it too!

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

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

Converting a Shipping Container to a Clinic

29 Jan

Greetings, Campers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter the ISBU;

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

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

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

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

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

Your only limitations are your own skillsets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

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

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

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.