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Hey, Somebody Put Something in the Eggnog!

11 Dec

And it’s a Hot Wheels car… ewwwwww!

I could’a choked on that!



No Container Home post today! Called on account of:

It’s Hanukkah, and I’m spending some time with my family, and enjoying the season… We could all use some love and laughter right about now, right?

From our family to yours… Happy Holidays!

And For you Container Junkies who can’t survive a day without a fix, here’s a Hanukkah present for you;

I recently wrote a post about a guy in Costa Rica who is turning tractor trailers into “mobile homes.” And you’ll recall that I told you (in no uncertain terms) that it was a really dumb idea.

One of the things he claims is that HIS “boxes” are impervious to weather and wind. Remember that he’s using the “lightweight” aluminum tractor trailers, and calling them “Shipping Containers.”

A buddy sent me this, to show how they struggled to set a trailer carrying an EMPTY ISBU Container back up on it’s wheels after a windstorm. So…

Here’s what happens when a REAL ISBU shipping container on a trailer meets heavy winds. Remember that it weighs THOUSANDS of pounds more than that flimsy box that guy in Costa Rica is selling.

Any questions?

Stay tuned.

Welcome to ‘My Shipping Container’ Farm!

21 Sep

“In the Beginning, Gawd created an idiot… named Alex…”

At least, that’s what my wife says……

Hey, if you’ve been hanging around, you already know the drill…

I’m the guy in Mississippi trying to use recycled and re-purposed stuff to build a home for my family, after a hurricane ate my old one.

And just like thousands of families on the Gulf coast, we’re still not back in a house.

Now my build is a bit complicated, for four reasons.

First – Because the insurance company turned out to be greedy @ssholes who don’t want to pay off claims, “we’re stuck like Chuck”.  So, we’re in a pool of over 2,000 families waiting for the resolution of a class action lawsuit.  The lawyers say it could take years…

Second – The Planning and Zoning Nazis in this neck of the woods see ISBU container homes as a blight on the landscape, and they don’t want them anywhere near their neighborhoods. So it’s a fight, from the very beginning, to the bitter end.

Third – We have to pay as we go, because there isn’t any “formal” build money. Walk into a bank and then tell them you want a loan to turn steel shipping boxes into a house. They’ll treat you like you’re a stand-up comedian… Oy.

Fourth – My wife has a disease that is killing her, and we’re racing against the clock against the cancer.

In the meantime, we’re still without a home of our own.

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that my wife has cancer, and she’s having a rough go of it. And, we now have a healthy almost 2 year old son (October 12th), who was “the chocolate icing on a horrible ‘crap’ cake…


Where did the time go? Where did my hair go? Where? Ah… never mind…

You see, we found out that she was very ill, the same day we found out she was pregnant.

My wife is a trooper. In fact, my wife is the “General Patton” of wives. She elected to risk her life to carry our son.  She knew that the treatment she needed to go after the cancer, would kill him. She knew that waiting for the treatment would probably kill her. But, she waited until after Joshua was born, to start treatment. A life, for a life.

By then, the disease had taken a firm foothold, and now we’re fighting it with everything we have.

I’m not going to kid you… It’s real hard, and we pray it will turn out okay, but we’re doing the best that we can. Facing and fighting cancer without medical insurance is a real bitch. Massive layoffs after the storm, and then again after the economy tried to commit Hara Kiri (Seppuku)…


… put a lot of us in dire straits… it’s a big boat, so grab an oar, huh?

(And for those who are wondering… No, you can’t get Medicaid in Mississippi, if you make more than $500 a month. We tried, until the frustration nearly drove us mad. You CAN get “near death – indigent care” treatment, but the quality of this care is pathetic.)

And, so… as we fight this… we still need a home. She DESERVES a home. I OWE her a home. G_d knows she’s earned it…

Time out… Just amuse yourself while I go take a pill… okay?

Okay, now that my blood pressure is going back down to something that resembles “normal”….

Our home goals aren’t “lofty”. They start the same place as yours probably did;  It all starts with a safe place to sleep and enough room to store all of your crap… 🙂

Many people have asked me how I’m going to fabricate containers for an ISBU home, without having to have two homes at the same time. Many of your know that I’m pretty much home 24/7, as I need to be close enough to help out at home. I’m also the full-time care “nurse and chief cook/bottle washer. So, I need to be “steps away.”

It only complicated things further, because… on top of that, it’s hard enough making ends meet, with chemo and radiation and medications, and all the damned diapers…

Diapers… My kid goes thru a diaper an hour… or so it seems… He’s almost ready for potty-training…

Thank G_d! 🙂

So, like I was saying, we need to find a way to cut costs, so that all of our resources are headed at this build. But how do you do that?

Well… like the old saying goes; ‘The sky’s the limit!’

Remember those aircraft hangars that we took down?

A while back, I told you about a federal program that allowed for the removal of Aircraft Hangars from specific airports around the country, so that “proper” brick and mortar boxes could be rebuilt (according to the FAA and Homeland Security). After miles of paperwork, you “won” the right to find contractors with the right credentials, and you couldn’t resale the buildings, after you took them down.

And… No “Scrapping for cash… buddy!” like it’d be worth it. ‘Cash for Clunkers’ has provided all the scrap steel anybody could need, for a while, at the expense of taxpayers, again… Don’t even get me started!:(


Now, the powers that be thought that some terrorist might try to blow up a bunch of airplanes, or perhaps hijack a small plane to use as a fuel filled missile, or whatever…

I’m not sure I buy it, because you don’t store a “fully fueled” airplane in a hangar. You fuel it on the tarmac, before you take off… usually. And, a typical small aircraft won’t haul enough fuel or payload, to make it a “formidable weapon” in the hands of bad guys.

But, whatever… if they want to give away hangars, I’m taking one… or maybe even three…

And, that’s exactly what I did.

One of the hangars was 80′ x 120′ x 40′. It was actually (2) 80′ x 60′ hangar structures, connected back to back. And it had 30′ walls, and a gabled roof.

Recently, an ISBU experiment I’m participating in made me start re-thinking about HOW you build shelter.

And that started me to thinking…

Rather than just cannibalizing the big ugly boxes for ‘steel and siding’, what if you put one back up to store all your junk in, and then… you found a way to carve out a place inside it, to sleep… huh? A box in a box that rocks!

It could work. But how?

The hardest part about having an aircraft hangar on your property is this;


“It’s the elephant in the yard.”

After all, it’s huge, it looks like it belongs somewhere else, and it sticks out like a ‘sore thumb.’

But, what if you put a wrap-around porch on it? Now… it’s starting to look like something else, eh?

Barns are big, but nobody has a fit when they see them… Especially around here.

So, we just build a “barn”.

No! I ain’t painting it RED. Nuh-uh!

Barns have big doors. Gotta get a tractor in there somehow, right?

Hangars have huge doors in them, too… to let planes in.  And, they frame those doors with big internal trusses.

Now, a “regular” aircraft hangar door wouldn’t bear the additional weight of a porch… but if you added internal framing and bracing to it, and then increased the hydraulic lift capacity, by, say…

… using larger rehabbed cylinders from an industrial scrapyard, it sure would.

Aircraft hangar doors use a small truss inside them, to keep the door rigid. That truss only has to carry the siding, basically. But, I’d need a much bigger “door truss” system in order to carry the weight of a roof, a deck and the porch railing.

But, it’s not THAT much weight… a pair of 4′ trusses would do it, easy.

I’m not the first guy to think about this. In fact, I know of a guy in Florida who did exactly what I’m talking about, he just went “store-bought.”

And you know me… I’m a cheap bastard who would rather “do-it-myself… or do without.”

No “Jew” jokes… I’m watchin you!

And turn your speaker volume down, the soundtrack is terrible! 🙂

And, I just happen to have (8) rehabbed tractor cylinders. Barter is a beautiful thing.

So, I’m thinking to myself;

“Self..” I says… “If I build a box that’s 80′ x 80′ by 40′ tall (30′ at the East/West ends)… I have a fab shop. And, if I build a balcony into that ‘fab shop’, that’s 24 feet deep (3 containers), way in the back… I have a 24′ x 80′ loft, one that’s got a pretty high ceiling if I cut the tops out of the containers.”

And, I would, too. The hangar I’m thinking of rebuilding has a gabled ceiling, that starts at 30′, and goes up another 10′. I’d build my loft up in the air almost 20′.

Why so high?

Well… A High Cube shipping container, sitting on the ground, is 9’6″ tall.

And I’ve gotta get both under it and on top of it. The containers will set on roller frames, that hold it up the same height as a tractor trailer flatbed. That way, I can just winch it off the flatbed onto my fab frame and then… winch it back onto the flatbed, when it’s time to move it to the site.

The roller frames are just really “dummy tractor trailer flatbeds”, basically. That gives you about 50″ underneath to punch holes, weld flanges, and just generally make a mess.

It’s not that complicated, if you think about it. The roller frames are just big steel frames made out of scrap I-Beams, with “casters” on them, to let them get pulled around, if necessary. Along the rails, there are several rollers, that will allow the container to by pulled on and off.  Remember, they don’t have to be monsters, as a 40′ Shipping Container isn’t that heavy, even after you add an interior to it.

Now, we have several hangar doors, so we’ll cut them down to fit our needs… We’d gonna put one “monster” door in “the front”, and we’d mount (2) in the back. The rear ones will measure approximately 25′ across and they’ll be 15′ high.


Jeez, you ask a lot of questions! Well, since you asked…

We need to get those containers back out, once they’re ready to move… “slide in –  slide out…”

Now, a bay 80′ wide by almost 60′ deep gives me the space to work on (4) containers at a time. Easy.

And, after all… I’m the “Corten Commando”, I is! Here’s how we’ll do it;

Recently, we came across a “container graveyard” where “old  and damaged containers go to die”. Upon inspection (actually, we’re still going thru them), we discovered that many of these containers were still usable, if you just cut off the “nasty bits.” In fact, we’re building a “small village” out of several of these segments, as an “experiment.”

So, I earmarked several containers, for cannibalization. We’ll cut them off at 24′. Take (6) of those 24′ segments, and then stack them (2) high, as one “8′ x 24′ x 19′ assembly” on each side of the hangar, all the way in the back.  Now take that last stacked segment, and place it all the way back, dead center.

Now you have a 24′ deep “base” for (2) rows of (3) High Cube containers. And, you have (2) 28′ wide corridors under it, to allow you to move stuff in and out of the hangar.

Are you getting this?

You just built a 24′ x 80′ x 9.5′ “residential space”, 19 feet up off the ground.

Plus, you get to use all that “stacked area” for storage, small offices/bathrooms, and “what not.” All welded together, it’s solid steel. Wind isn’t going to bother it all that much. It’ll shed rain like a Himalayan cat sheds hair. Flood waters? Hello! I’m 19′ up in the air. I spit at flood water! Fire? Last time I checked, you gotta play with a lot of matches, to get a steel building to burn down…

And, it’s shipping containers!

I’m staying within my theme of “Build it fast, build it to last!”

Okay, now I have a “building box” that has room to burn, and a 1,920 square foot loft space, that is easily turned into a small residence.

It’s “the Hangar Home from Hell…” I tell ya!

I have a place to live while I build my boxes out, and I don’t have to worry about the weather, unless it’s a hurricane. And, I suspect that I’m not going to be building in this part of Mississippi. I have a few irons in the fire and the first good one that heats up… well, let’s just say I’m itching to pack. It might even be out-of-state. We’ll see…

Sure, the hangar itself will require a bit of insulation to make it ‘livable.’

The reinforced concrete slab… miles and miles of it… will need to be insulated to at least r11, on the interior. The perimeter slab gets nada…

The Hangar walls and ceiling?

That’s what spray-on closed cell foam is for! An inch of closed cell foam will get you an R value of about 7. Most residential building codes call for r values of 26-30 in the ceiling, and at least 13 in the walls. So, figure on about 5 inches in the ceiling, and at least 2 inches in the walls. And yes, more is better.

And remember, kids… Closed cell foam is a extremely rigid. The foam cells are closed to each other. That’s why they call it “closed cell.” This property makes it a very good vapor and water barrier.  So, no leaks!  And, it doesn’t eat up a lot of your cavity space, either! It doesn’t expand as much as open cell foam so it can be applied a lot flatter and you only need half as much.

Plus, just to keep the Planning and Zoning Nazi’s at bay…

Closed cell foam does indeed meet building code requirements as a vapor barrier. It also does double-duty as a water and air seal.


You know how much I love SIPs, but can you imagine what the materials would cost, to put Structural Insulated Panels on THAT roof? Oy Vey! I’d have to sell my kid…

I could cut back on the insulation in the shop area, but why? I gotta work in there! Besides, there’s a method to my madness…

The residential section needs windows, right? Could you achieve decent window glazing surface areas to meet code? You’re gonna need at least 20-25%. Yep! Easy. That’s why we pushed it all the way back. You have three exterior walls right there to punch thru!

Plus, the internal “container castle?” It’s inside an insulated and roofed box, already!

See? Told ya…  Say it with me; “A method to the madness…”

All I need to do is “isolate the residential bits” to cut down on the shop noise driving the inhabitants crazy. After all, Mom needs her sleep, and if she get’s woke up… well lets just say it ain’t pretty… Using the term “grumpy” ain’t even close!  I’d rather dance with a Grizzly Bear!

Am I worried about interrupting Joshua’s sleep? Nope.

Know why? It’s because he never sleeps. I love him to death, but the damned kid is almost two years old, and he’s never once slept thru the night. Not once! He sleeps for three to four hours, and then, he’s up and going 400 miles an hour. Doctor says he has a “high metabolism.”

So, anyway… I’ll just close off  the ISBU roof section, and insulate the inside wall, floor to ceiling. I will put in a window or two so you can look from the house to the hangar build shop.  I’ll just need to be careful about where they get placed. After all, windows have an r value of about 12, if you’re lucky. Do they slow down “sound”? Maybe. Will they stop the sound of a grinder? Never!

On that inside wall… Again, spray-on closed cell foam is a wonderful thing. We’ll use about 3 more inches. I want to not only keep the space warm, I want to quiet it down.

Plus, now I have an insulated attic space, or even a small “second floor” for the residence…

Underneath the residential section, more closed cell foam. A few inches, please… No need for a “cold butt”, huh?

I’m thinking that we do a pretty simple floor plan, a trio of bedrooms (two on one side, and the Master on the other), two full baths, a kitchen and a great room configuration that incorporates a dining room, and a family room. This is a good sized space, you could even cut it in half. I don’t need any structural walls, so it’s all partitions. We could start out in one huge “loft-like” room, with a couple of bathrooms punched into it. Then, along the way, we could finish it out, by installing wall segments. In the meantime, we’d be high, dry, and safe.

See? It’s easy.

And, after we get the containers below it ready to set, we just walk them across the yard!

It would give us time to build them out at our leisure, and then assemble them next spring. Because each level of the house is container based, we’d always have a roof overhead. So, we could even add one level at a time, until we reach our goal.


Yeah, I know that it would require a few visits by “the crane man…” to do it that way. Oy! Crane’s are expensive!

Or, we could just move them out of the hangar as they get finished (to be stockpiled/stored behind it) until we have all the “assemblies” finished. Sure, we’d have to close up any openings, but hey, that’s what plywood is for!

When we get the main house finished (hell, it could take a few seasons), we just use the “hangar house” as a guest house and the shop becomes a big garage.

Or, better yet… we could even use the set-up to fab more containers for someone else’s house! Split that upper residential section in two, and you could have “worker housing!”

That huge roof would also allow you to mount enough solar and photovoltaic panels to power most of Mississippi. So, I’d have ample power.  I need panels for the radiant in-floor heat system, too! No problem! That roof is so big, you can probably see it from space!

(Okay, not really, but it WOULD be huge!)

And, I do love SSMR (Standing Seam Metal Roofing)! So, the roof would go on, fast, fast, fast!

I could even carve out an “upper deck”, to use some of that roof space above the container housing section. Maybe put in a greenhouse and a small garden!

You could launch a water balloon at the neighbors for miles, up there! 🙂

I’m giving this some serious thought. In fact, I may just go down to the local planning and zoning office and spring it on ’em.


Well, to be honest… it’s because I love to make them turn blue! It’s funny as hell watching their neck veins quiver like that! Sure, it’s evil. But hey… I gotta be true to my nature… huh? 😉

Now, all I need is about $19,000 for concrete…

Stay tuned…

The Renaissance RoninExciting, huh? Wake up! The post is over! Go home! 🙂

Addendum: October 14, 2009: I heard from Joe today… the owner of the “Florida Hangar House” that I showed you in this post. He has more photos of his build, and they are available, HERE.

Take a look!

About Lightweights and Hot Air…

22 Jun

I knew Ace Hardware was cool but maaaaaan…

I mean… first they grabbed John Madden as a spokesperson. That’s cool. Anybody who can mix it up with behemoth linebackers, eat an entire turkey drumstick in one bite, bitchslap Brett Favre,  and do a television commercial … all at the same time…  is “A-Okay” in my book!

But now, they’ve moved up in the world! It used to be that you went to Ace to get nuts and bolts, a can of spray paint, or even a string of miniature LED Christmas bulbs.

Now I’m Jewish, so I used them to “illuminate” my backyard oasis. Hey, I recognize a bargain when I see one! It’ s genetic! …As if!

(Oh stop it! It’s not either. That’s just a stereotype, perpetrated by jealous people who “didn’t save any nuts for the winter…”)

Time’s have changed though! Now, you can soothe your “power bill blues” by asking the “helpful hardware man/girl… lackey/wench…  um… whatever.

(Man, this being P.C. all the time is for the birds…!) 🙂

Slow Speed Wind Turbines

Everybody is talking about “carbon footprints.”  Now, this may come as a shock to you, but I couldn’t give a damn about my carbon footprint.

Know why?

Because I already KNOW that I’m being careful, trying to squeeze every single dime outta my wallet, to support my family, and provide for their comfort and well-being. It’s not about become an “Al Goon… um…er… Gore Disciple.”  Nuh-uh!

I don’t have a mansion, a fleet of SUV’s, or a MegaYacht, or a big ozone killing Gulfstream. Hell, we don’t even had a car anymore. Medical bills ate it. And, they didn’t leave a single nut or a bolt lying on the ground, either. 😦

It’s not about following those nuts in “Hollyweird,” like sheep led to slaughter, or getting on an “I’m the President, and I’m here to save you… from yourselves!” bandwagon either.

It’s about using the earth to sustain the earth and all the creatures on it. And that includes me and mine. It’s just common sense.

I know that most of us are concerned about “carbon.” But, most of the green energy products are simply to expense or even unreachable for all those urban dwellers that help make this a great country to go broke in. Either that cool new “green tech” is too expensive, or the local Homeowner’s Association has but the boots to it, or… the local Planning and Zoning Nazis don’t “understand it yet (probably because the manuals and tech sheets aren’t written in crayon).

But as “Green is keen” starts changing the way marketers look at the world (hey, just what we needed… right?)! Another thing that might possibly SAVE us, to exploit!) products are starting to resemble the average Joe’s perspective, and even needs.

Recently, a company out of Muskegon, Michigan called EarthTronics unveiled it’s newest product. Big deal, right? Well… maybe. They’ve developed a wind turbine that can actually be used by individual homes.

Wasn’t “Earthtronic” a disco/electric funk band in the eighties? Hmmm… I think I remember them opening for Devo.

Yeah, I went to see Devo. Hey the girl was cute, and she had all the right assets… No! Not that! Sheesh you guys are perv’s… She got to drive her Daddy’s GT350 Mustang…


We hot-rodded that poor beast all over Southern California. Until… we got a ticket for driving 125 miles per hour in a 55 mile an hour zone. Oy Vey, did WE get an earful… And I got the boot, for being a “bad influence! Me, of all people! It’s not like I deflowered her or anything… Okay… I admit it… I did TRY… in an awkward, geeky “I’m not fairing too good in this nerdy, ‘puberty conflict’ kinda way…” Sheesh, is there no justice? 🙂

Speaking of miles per hour…

What  did you think I was gonna talk about? Deflowering virgins? Hey, that flower had been plucked YEARS before I met her… I bet her Dad blamed THAT on me, too! I wish…  🙂

Okay, where was I? I just got blinded by “High School Hormones…”

Oh yeah… MPH! Now… EarthTronics –  Windtronics Division claims that it’s new turbine can operate at speeds as low as 2 miles an hour. This means that homeowners will be able to buy a wind turbine at a hardware store that kicks the small wind industry’s worst enemy… “slow wind…” right in the teeth, um.. er.. blades.

Now we all know that creative technology needs a really snappy name, so the genius’s at the plant came up with this beauty…

They call it “the Honeywell Wind Turbine.”

Isn’t that just sheer genius? Doesn’t that paint a picture of mad dashes to your wallet, as you race for the Hummer in your driveway, to go get YOURS? Man, I could have thought of a better name for it in my sleep!

It will be distributed through Ace Hardware stores in the U.S. And… It will be sold for $4,500 smackerroo’s, so start breaking your kid’s piggy banks!

Tell ’em that Santa told you to do it! Tell ’em you’re donating the money to the “Save the Eggs” Easter Bunny fund! Hey, tell them that the money is for the “You kids destroyed Mommie’s figure and now she want new boobs, or she’s leaving” fund…

Um… er… scratch that last one. I tried it on MY kids, and all they did was trash the house. Never mind! Ever tried to scrub crayon off your best suit? Simple Green don’t cut it…

WindTronics developed the turbine and licensed the technology to buildings systems giant Honeywell.

Okay, so it’s a pig. What did you expect? A “Barbie Doll Nuclear Reactor that looks like Ken’s Corvette?” Nope. Barbie got that in the divorce, when she caught Ken fooling around with Skipper…

Ah, stop it! Shheeeesh… Tough room!

It wold appear that the real challenge is going to be designing an attractive case for the beast (because to most Homeowner’s Associations, it’s not “how it works,” it’s “how it looks”). And while they are doing that, the damn thing has to be “affordable.”

Look, new tech is great, but if I have to lease my kid’s out to a movie production company to film the sequel to “slumdog millionaires,” I don’t want it. The world isn’t ready for “Slumdawgies… Bubba’s eat Bacon!”

I’m concerned about the weight of the beast, and what you’re gonna have to go through, to get it up there in the wind, so it will actually work in “light wind.”

Why are the Windtronics guys trying to combine these properties?

Because most of the target consumers are living in urban and suburban settings where trees, buildings, and litigation from nosy neighbors with nothing better to do than stick their big fat noses into YOUR business (those miserable, life-sucking bastards!) could easily block “wind.”

Where did THAT come from? Man, I gotta start taking my meds regularly, again… 🙂

So, if those manufacturers can solve THOSE problems (and maybe tackle world peace, hunger, and homelessness too) the market could quite lucrative for the guys who shove these beasts into shipping crates… And, if they haul them around in shipping containers… well… you all know how I feel about shipping containers! Yippee!

Here’s what they say about the way the thing works:

The low-speed milestone is achieved by removing the gearbox from the center. The wind power turns the magnets located around the frame to generate power. This design is termed as “direct-drive” generator.  EarthTronics has got rid of the heavy and costly gearbox in the middle. The design reduces the number of components and allows the turbine to start generating power with low wind.

Blah, blah, blah… HOW MUCH POWER WILL IT MAKE?

This turbine resembles a fan and will produce 2,000 kilowatt-hours in a year for a home.

“We say if a turbine only works between 8 and 25 miles per hour, you have a very limited range of operation,” said Brian Levine, the vice president of business development at WindTronics, a division of EarthTronics. “Our device is rated to address a wider range at the low and high end.”

Why? “Because a sucker is born every minute, that’s why!”

Wait, that’s not it… It’s because if it works, they’ll sell them to “Ma and Pa Bubba” like hotcakes.

Back to the marketing blurb:

The wind turbine weighs 95-pound and it’s 6 feet in diameter. It can easily be installed on rooftops or attached to chimneys, or even put on a pole, up there next to the one that has your Mother-In_Law’s head on it.

Okay, only at MY house. It’s not like she was the most likable person on earth… Bill collectors actually came to her funeral… and nobody else. We know it’s true because they signed the guest book, with lot’s of  “Call us or elses…” Now, we know that, because we retrieved the book from the funeral home, after we got back from taking our “Ding dong the witch is dead” holiday!

The company hopes to sell the turbines through Ace Hardware stores.

They are not ruling out selling the turbine through contractors,  who will also be needed for the installation and support anyway. It’s not like contractors make enough money NOW… Oy!

(Seriously, this is the scenario that makes the MOST sense to me. I can’t see grandpa up on the roof, yelling at Nana to throw him a wrench, while wrestling with a bladed pod that looks like a mutant Ron Popiel Project…

“Introducing… It shreds, it chops, it makes your fingers disappear… It’s the Ronco ZapYoMama!”

Honeywell’s  target consumers will be both homeowners and small business, probably…

Will it be successful? Probably. I’m still wondering about things like “government regulation,” ease of install by DIY’ers, and finding $4500 in this economy to actually buy the damned thing in the first place. At almost 5 grand, it’ll take a few years to reach the “buy-back payout” for the box.

However, people are becoming aware of alternative forms of energy. Turn on your TV set, for crying out loud! Cable beats us to death with “the green stick” daily! It’s become the 21st century “shileighly.”  So, the market is there.  And, power costs are on the rise.

But remember that this is just a part of a power system for your home… What do you do when the wind stops blowing? Better score a few Photovoltaic panels, too! Hmmm?

Is there a big enough market to make the numbers work? We’ll see…  It’s gonna take more than a few green-minded buyers, to make this little project see black ink.

When you’re thinking about using wind from the sky, and not your husband’s big mouth…

(according to my wife, that harpy from the depths of Hades…)

… the most common observation is that people often chose locations that had insufficient wind or had obstructions that blocked the wind. In most cases, turbine makers rated products assuming a very good wind resource–anywhere from 12 to 25 miles per hour.

But what if you’re not in a wind zone, or your husband isn’t a blowhard? (See honey, I heard you… put the knife down… that’s it… now back away slowly…)  🙂

WindTronics generates turbines that can produce electricity at 2 miles per hour! Whaaaaaa?

Not many people buy “roof-mounted wind turbines.” In fact, it’s less than 0.002 percent of the small wind market in the United States.  And a lot of those people have been disappointed by “light winds” and “way short power production.”

But Windtronics isn’t discouraged. They see the other side of the coin – a vast market that still remains untapped.

“It’ll start to operate much earlier and get to prime production at the level when other technologies are just starting,” Levine said.

And Uncle Sam is getting in the way… um…er… trying to help too! The federal stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year (which I’ve talked about frequently here on RR), has lifted a $4,000 cap for consumers and businesses investing in and owning small wind turbines.

Now they can get an uncapped 30 percent investment tax credit, allowing people to recoup 30 percent of the installation costs.

(Okay, so the country actually has to have enough money to pay the “rebates.” If what’s happening in California right now is any indication, I’m kinda worried. Arnold has issued IOU’s to thousands of people expecting big tax credits for green stuff. It seems “the cupboards are bare…” And my local Walmart won’t take IOU’s. Nuh-uh!)

So, we’ll see. If they’re looking for test sites, I’m available. We don’t get much steady wind here, but it would give me an excuse to go up on the roof and talk to something that would actually “listen…” 🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

Make a new plan, Stan!

3 Jun

Okay, so it’s that time of year again!

I’m sitting at my desk, toiling and sweating over a new set of plans for our “Shipping Container House,” and my wife asks me what I want for “Fathers Day…” So, after about 35 seconds of thought (and a pretty cool “daydream” that I can’t repeat here because it’s “a family show,” albeit “dysfunctional” after all… 🙂 )  I just rattled off the same old list that I’ve been recycling in my brain, seemingly forever… since I didn’t get them last year!

I want these things, in no particular order;

Now, most Dad’s would ask for “world peace” (like that’s EVER gonna happen) a healthy kid (if this kid doesn’t stop eating soon, Mississippi will collapse in on the empty cavity that he creates), a bright sunny day spent with my family (have you MET my family? I’d rather spend the day with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s family in a sandstorm), and a happy home (that doesn’t resemble a penitentiary or an insane asylum).

I can see it now;

Special News Flash! Mississippi, experiencing a cavernous emptying that reminds us of the chaotic mass migration out of the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina, fell in on itself today, only to be reclaimed by the Gulf Of Mexico. The roar of the tidal flow back into the swampland that is… um… was Mississippi was only rivaled by the ear-shattering belch that emanated from somewhere close to the hole’s epicenter, located near Biloxi.”

And I bet they’ll blame ME for that, too! 🙂

But… back to reality… I haven’t got a home. If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that, right? 🙂

You have been paying attention, right?

HELLO? Anybody there? Did I lose you already? 🙂

Okay, that’s it. No more pretty pictures for you to ogle over, until you start reading the words! 🙂

Here’s what I want for Father’s Day;

I want chores. Lot’s of chores. You know, stuff like “will you just wash the [expletive deleted] windows? We haven’t seen the driveway since December!”

I want a yard filled with crabgrass, weeds, and the neighbor’s dogs poop.

I wanna replace broken windows that the rotten kids down the street broke, because they think that being Jewish means I’m some kind of “cult member.”

FYI: Despite rumblings on the Internet, I am NOT a cult member. I’m just “charming and charismatic.” 🙂

I want a pool filter plugged to the top with debris, old socks, and girls bathing suits. (Don’t ask!) 🙂

I want to unplug toilets because my son has learned the phrases; “Bye-bye!” and “All Gone!” And… he’s learned how to use them in the same sentence!:)

I want to mourn my cell phone and my wristwatch, that my son has just “buried at sea,” with a tiny-voiced little chorus of “London bridge is going down, with daddy’s cell phone…” WHOOSH!

I want to toil away in 90 degree heat, risking heat stroke and death, to hang off a ladder unclogging gutters.

I want to “mow the minefield,” being careful to avoid the munitions and obstacles. You know, like my son’s “Hot Wheels,” the neighbor’s dogs contribution to my yard’s fertilization, and the Claymores that we so carefully placed, to slow down the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Amway/Mary Kay Salesmen that beat a path to your door…

And before you start, I have nothing against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Anybody who takes time out of their weekend to deliver newsletters and pamphlets about Jimi Hendrix is okay in my book…

That IS what “The Watchtower” is all about, right? 🙂

But Amway and Mary Kay salesmen… um…er… persons… Now, there oughta be a special place in hell for those nuts! Whenever they show up here, I ask them if they have any special “designer” creams for bedsores and hemorrhoids, that’s edible.

Why? Because we all know that “healing starts from within.” I learned that watching a recent Obama speech.

And… “I’d prefer Berry flavored, thank you very much…” 🙂

I want to work tirelessly on a weekend (or perhaps even several, if I survive it), to use power tools that no idiot should have ever placed within my reach, to build my son a treehouse, so that he can climb up there and scream “Death from ABOVE!!!” while he hurls empty snack containers and empty fruit juice cartons at us.

I’m thinking that you get the gist of this post. I want a HOME. A real live, built outta steel house that will keep us warm/cool and dry, and keep the nuts from getting in and messing up the furniture.

I want a place that my son can play in as he grows up in this country, that will allow him to be healthy and safe and provide for his needs. I want a place where my wife can recover from her illness and look forward to each new day, instead of feeling the stress I radiate while “I fight City Hall,” trying to get us to a safe place.

Hell, right about now, I’d settle for “40 acres and a mule.” At least it’d be a start in the right direction.

I gotta make a new plan.

Stay tuned.

A word about Donations, Charity, and “Hand-outs!”

11 Apr

The world is rapidly changing around us.

This blog’s followers know that I’m building a home out of shipping containers, for my family. I’m doing this very slowly, and out of necessity, because Hurricane Katrina showed us a side of our insurance company that we never wanted to see. The insurance company we dealt with decided that it was easier to string thousands of us along, than settle our claims.  And we’re still in court, to this day.

Fast forward to today. In light of the housing crisis, the mortgage crisis, the Stimulus Bill (and the imposed crisis it presents), rampant unemployment,  and the decaying state of the economy in general, Americans are facing times that may rival the Great Depression, if we aren’t very lucky, and real careful.

People are nervous, and more and more people end up without jobs, homes, and hope…

How can we make a difference, when things are so hard for us too?

Many of my readers know that I’ve frequently emphasized the theme of charity in my blog posts.

Quite recently, ole’ Ronin hit a logjam, and we didn’t have what we needed to satisfy our bills. The utility people don’t care if you have a tax check headed your way, they only care that you pay them on demand, or else. Period.There aren’t polite words to describe our frustration at them.

My wife is hooked up to several machines here at home, to help her get thru the days, and to let her doctors monitor her status “over the internet.” But, if we have no power, we’re dead. And, so is she. But, the power company doesn’t care. They just want their money. Sure, they could enlist us in “some program,” but they aren’t taking “new client” interviews for a few more months, because demand is so high.

Sure, they could list us on a “Medical Alert” program, but that only tells them that in case of a black-out” we  need power fast. It has nothing to do with falling behind on your power bill.

I’ve had to hustle, interview, and almost cry in anguish, to no avail. Except, for the help of friends that look over my shoulder, and help where they can. To them (I’m not going to embarrass them by naming names) I am truly and profoundly grateful.

I have a deadline coming up for the power bill, and I’m praying we make it. If not, well… everything will go as black as this text. We’ll see, in a few days.

So, it’s obvious that my family isn’t rolling in anything but our own stress. But be that as it may, I want to share with you a method that we’ve found, so that we’re still able to help the neighbors. We’ve found a painless way to do it, and it’s a way that makes a big difference.

What we’ve been doing is including several dollars worth of canned goods each time we go to the store. We also frequent the “day old” section of the bakery, and then freeze the loaves of bread. That food, carefully packed away, has fed a lot of families, and we didn’t even feel it leave.

We live in the Hurricane Belt. It’s a wild land, full of monsoon rains, catastrophic flooding, and utter chaos. So, for these times, it’s important to stock up on stuff like extra flour, cornmeal, rice, beans, sugar, powdered milk, and even (gasp!) peanut butter!

Let’s face it… The way that things are going, it’s become vitally important to keep far more food on hand than you expect your family can actually consume. Your first priority is to your immediate family. That’s pretty obvious. But if you’re one of “the faithful,” or you just have a good heart, it’s important to me sure that you’re well stocked, as things start getting tighter. If all that you have on hand is barely enough to supply your own family or “community,” you won’t be in any position to help anybody else.

Like many others, I was raised to believe that charity isn’t an option, it’s a  responsibility. I feel very strongly about this.  Whether you’re a Jew or a Christian, whether you read the Torah or the Bible, G_d made it clear that we are supposed to help others in need. If nothing else, it’s one of the ways that societies stay connected.

I was raised to believe that you should hold 10% of your wealth in reserve, to help others. It’s called “the the tradition of tithing, which has its roots in the Old Testament law. I’m referring to a law called  “Tzedaka.” This “law” says that you should provide for your immediate family first. After that, look to your extended family…  and then if you still have it… reach out to your local community.

Now I’m not going to preach except to say this;

G_d’s gifts to me are “unearned.”

I didn’t do anything exceptional. He cares for me, even though I’m a “screw-up,” who sometimes can’t take care of his own family. I can’t tell you how hard it is to speak that. But sadly, it’s true.

So, I’m going to do anything that I can, to help anybody that I can, because it’s the right thing to do.  We know what it’s like to be homeless, hungry, and without clean clothes. We’ve been there. We know what it’s like to be able to pay the rent, or the pharmacy, but not both.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve hit my knees, in tears, only to have Him help me get past whatever obstacle my family faced, over and over again.

There are people all around us that need help. There are those that are less fortunate and those that currently lack the foresight (or the means) to stock up for bad times.

The best charity is help that comes without strings. It’s one thing to get a “help check” from your “In-Laws.” But the strings are as strong as braided steel cables. The act of charity is supposed to be transparent, anonymous.  You don’t have to draw attention to yourself, or make a big deal out of it.

“It’s the right thing to do. Think nothing of it… Bye-bye!” goes a long way.

If you want to (and you have them), including uplifting spiritual material is  a good idea too. When you’re struggling, the words on those pages can yield great comfort. Take it from me. My Rabbi would be quite pleases with the amount of time I spend in my “soul-searching and studies.”

Think of how many lives you could influence in a positive way,  just by pulling food out of your storage pantry to help a struggling family!

God’s bounty is a gift to be shared. Consider yourself an ambassador of goodwill, and then… help out where you can. You’re not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it because “it’s the right thing to do.”

I’ve heard lots of “food storage” formula’s… but there’s the one that works best for us;

“Look at your food supply as a hearty one year supply for your family. Then reconsider it as a carefully measured out six month supply for three families, or even a ‘cautiously doled out’ three month supply for six families.”

And what if you find yourself in a disaster, with no hope in sight? I can only suggest that you do what I do and pray about it. And then… give until it hurts.

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninIf you like what you’re reading, and you can spare it, we need help keeping this blog afloat. I hate to ask, but between health care and medications, we’re scraping beyond the  bottom of the budget barrel and something has to give soon.  Hitting that Paypal button up there with a fews bucks would go a long way! Thanks!