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We’re here to help you… by killing your chances of success!

4 Nov

Ready… aim… fire!

Are DOE loan standard requirements actually shooting down good projects?

We’re a country in search of affordable, sustainable, and “environmentally friendly” fuel. Right?

Well, good luck getting it!

You see… once again, Big Government is there to jump in and lend a hand.

How? Well… apparently by making it nearly impossible to get it.

I’ve told you about “government analysts” that are basically “hired guns,” whose job it is… to shoot down viable energy projects. Seriously.

“We have money and you can’t get it… Na-na-na-na-na-nahhhhhh!”

But wait! There’s more…

In Washington, the US Department of Energy is requiring that renewable energy projects meet a debt rating standard higher than 63 percent of all US corporate first-time debt issuers since 2007, in order to qualify for DOE loan guarantees. The loan guarantees were originally designed “to encourage early commercial use in the United States of new or significantly improved technologies in energy projects.”

A ‘BB or higher’ rating requirement chokes bioenergy development, say bankers, attorneys, and project developers.

Okay… here’s the meat of the issue;

Congressional legislation for DOE loan guarantees typically require “a reasonable prospect of repayment of the principal and interest on the obligation by the borrower.”

The Department of Energy is generally left with the responsibility of interpreting “reasonable”.

In this case, the DOE, as advised by investment banks, has developed minimum threshold for loan guarantees of a “BB” or higher rating (prior to the guarantee).

According to Standard & Poor’s, 333 of all US corporate first-time debt issues since 2007 – out of a total of 528, failed to meet that standard.

In many cases, these issuers would not have been attempting to bring transformative technologies to market in support of  national policy – based on what EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said was designed to produce “green jobs, innovation and technology, and action on global climate change.”

Once again, it’s apparent that money has been placed into a non-existent pipe by Congress, so that they can make claims that they’re actually doing their jobs.

Is it any wonder that all the jobs are going to Malaysia?

According to David Jacob, Executive Managing Director and Head of Structures Finance Ratings for Standard & Poor, ratings for renewable energy projects range from BBB- to CCC, with a preponderance of ratings weighted towards CCC, or two ratings below the threshold set by the DOE. Jacob was speaking at a recent meeting on energy finance in New Jersey.

My personal thanks to the fine folks at  BioFuels Digest for bringing this to my attention, and for ruining my day…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

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“I’m sorry – We’re Broke.”

1 Nov

I have been accused of being a “treehugger”around here, recently. Again…

I’m not sure why…  Sure, I write posts about saving energy. Because I have to pay for the energy I use! Well, duh!

I like CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent light bulbs). Why? Well,  because I don’t have to change them as often, and they save me money.

treehugger1

Sure, I write posts about being kind to the trees that give us WOOD, and oxygen, and shade… Why? Wood gives me an excuse to use POWER TOOLS!  Plus, if you water those trees, they give you SHADE! Shade saves energy, and gives me a place to hang the hammock!

I’m not a militant “tree-spiker”, and I don’t agree with a lot of the “treehugger agenda”. Or maybe it’s just the methods I don’t’ agree with. Saving a tree is never worth killing a human being over. And that’s what “tree-spikers” do. I know from first-hand experience.  If you kill a person over a tree, you’re NOT an “environmentalist…” You’re a MURDERER.

Terrorism is terrorism, no matter what “flag” you wrap it up in.

Nothing good can come of it.

But… people see shipping containers being cut up and reassembled into houses, and they immediately think “Eco-Whackjob.”

Look, I love trees. Truly! But my primary goal isn’t to clean up the earth, or save the environment, or even make sure that my kids breathe clean air right now.

WHAT? RONIN SAID WHAT?

As my wife slowly dies, as my two year old son starts venturing out into that great big world… my family is living in a hovel. It’s a horrid little box, that hasn’t had anything resembling “real maintenance” done to it, since about the Kennedy Administration.

It wasn’t always like this. We had a nice home, and it was almost paid for. We had a decent car, and we had money to pay the bills. Until…

A hurricane wiped it all out. Sure, we had insurance. But, you know what? The insurance company is pleading “bankruptcy” if they are forced to pay off all their claims. So, we’re part of 2,000 families in a class action lawsuit against them now, trying to get the “protection that we paid for.”

The facts are that they HAD the money.

But, the stockholders would’ve taken a huge hit (okay, an even bigger hit), and the fat-cats in charge would have seen their bonuses (and possibly even their jobs) diminish. So guess who gets screwed? Guess.

I’ve written extensive posts about all this before, you I’m not going to rehash it now. It just raises my blood pressure.

While all those environmental goals are noteworthy, and even applaudable, I just don’t have the means to change any of  circumstances that contribute to them. I have to leave that to you guys and gals.

What I am out to accomplish is getting my family back into a safe, secure, weather-resistant house, that we can afford to live in. One where we have the same basic needs covered that most of you have. And, we’d like to do it without a huge mortgage, huh? Is that too much to ask?

And if I manage to slay any environmental dragons along the way, well, that’s just a wonderful bonus.

From the feedback I’m getting, you’d certainly think that I might be asking too much…

I’ve groveled,  I’ve crawled, I’ve lobbied politicians, I’ve made speeches before “Capital cronies,” I’ve written “blood-covered” posts, and I’ve even begged, because my family is FAILING, but help is just not happening…

Some of you already know that we just got a shipment of damaged shipping containers, that we’re cannibalizing for fun and “experimentation.” Okay, three. We got three. It’s not like we got a container ship fulla boxes. Don’t I wish. I’d build houses  for families that needed them… until I dropped dead from exhaustion.

While I was out behind a warehouse recently, using a plasma cutter to dissect a Corten Cubicle, I had a guy walk over and get on my case about my “ambition.”

It seems that if you cut up a steel box and then live in it, you’re “putting carpenters out of work” in an already failing economy. Why, what you’re doing is downright “un-American!”

Exact words.

I had to laugh. Right in his face.

That just made him madder. For a minute I thought that he was looking for something to hit me with, but everything laying around was steel, and way too heavy for him to lift. So, he just rattled off a string of obscenities, shook his fists at me repeatedly, and then waddled off.

I guess he forgot that you have to put interiors into these boxes in order to make them livable, and then… you’ll probably put insulation and siding on the outside of them, to confuse the neighbors even further… I think carpenters do that, unless I’m mistaken. I’ve never seen any “Container Gnomes”, or anything like that… 🙂

If wanting a safe, affordable, sustainable house to live in is considered “Un-American”… then sign me up and send me a lifetime membership card.

Having had just about enough of his nonsense (and his threats), I calmly put down the plasma cutter (Remember, campers… always treat your tools with respect. Your neighbors? Well… um… er… it depends on what day it is…), and took off my goggles, and my wristwatch.

This was going to be just the “attitude adjustment “I needed. I hate taking “anti-stress and blood pressure medication.” But, I’m all pent up with frustration. What better outlet, than an idiot cursing my family ancestry? Hmmm?

But he didn’t possess enough “conviction” to actually put his butt behind his mouth. He literally ran away.

Now, I realize that I seem a little bit “up-patriotic” at times. I’m disenchanted with government. I’m tired of give-away programs that only benefit the elite, or fund projects that seem unlikely to succeed, while the rest of us suffer.

Bailing out Wall Street?

I’ve heard all the arguments. And now, I’ve seen everything go right back to the way it was… except the bonuses are even bigger. Why?

Bailing out the Car Companies?

Again, why? Not ALL companies started withering like grapes in a heatwave! Only the ones that refused to change with the times.

Cash for Clunkers?

Okay, some of us got new cars. (I didn’t.)

But, I’ll remind those of you who did that the REST of us are paying for them. Billions of dollars. So, when you go out into the driveway, to start up that new car you bought with your $4500 free bucks, remember that the rest of the taxpaying citizens of America helped put it in your driveway, and now we’re helping you pay for it.

Like it or not. I don’t remember voting for that one. Oy.

The Stimulus Package?

Sure, now hundreds of large US-based corporations can afford to outsource jobs to Malaysia, to build solar panels and other cool environmental stuff. And, it’s exactly what’s happening. I just read a report that several large companies here in the US are on a hiring binge in other countries, to build these products, now that they have government money to do it with. In fact, they may offer to move you to that country, if you want to keep your job. I hear India is nice this time of year. And, the  curry is good…

We just picked our own pockets until there was nothing left but lint. Am I really the only one who sees this?

Recently, I ran a post that talked about grants, and loans, and “money lost.”

I got a list of grants and banks, and “other” organizations helping American families to build homes. And, it wasn’t worth the paper that they printed it on. Should I be surprised? After all, I got it from a Government official.

And, I got pissed off, and wrote a post about it.

People emailed me like mad, telling me that I was crazy. After all, the Government is just giving money away, to anyone who wants it!

Yeah? Bull.

Apparently, they’re only giving it away to people OUTSIDE this country, who supported Presidential Campaigns.

Want yet another an example?

The Wall Street Journal (Yes… Ronin reads… I don’t just look at the pictures…) The Department of Energy just awarded $529 million to Finland…

FINLAND!

… for an $89,000 all-electric sports car, while US projects die, jobs languish, and American companies go bust.

The U.S. Government has offered a $529 million loan to FISKER,  an Al Gore-backed company making $89,000 all-electric sports cars in Finland, while US projects, and the resulting US jobs go unfunded.

Why are US projects unfunded? The Government says they don’t have the money to fund them… Whaaaa?

It might interest you to know that Fisker‘s top investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a veteran Silicon Valley venture-capital firm of which Gore is a “significant” partner.

Employees of KPCB have donated more than $2.2 million recently to political campaigns, mostly for Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign contributions.

A representative from the CRP added; “And that’s just the money that we can actually track.”

You wonder why I hate (okay… I don’t “hate” him, I just dislike him…a lot…) Al Gore?

Here’s yet ANOTHER reason. This backstabbing b@st@rd continues to rake in the cash, by using his “global warming platform” as an ATM.

There is a distinct difference between “Global Warming” and Climate Change. I totally, totally, totally…  believe in Climate Change… but “Global Warming?” Bah-Hooey! 😉

But, back to Al Gore… First, it was “Bad Science“. Hey, if nothing else, Al Gore IS the Paris Hilton of the Scientific Community… He’s stinking rich for no apparent good reason, he’s a “charismatic idiot,” he turns up every time he sees a press camera light go on… and he looks good on camera… sometimes.

Thousands of notable, credentialed scientists (including many who specialize in Climate Change Science) are now going on record to state that Gore pulled a fast one on EVERYBODY…

Then, it was “carbon credits.” Again, Gore‘s “Carbon Credit Trading Company” made millions of dollars.

Now FISKER is using Gore‘s contacts and political prowess as a “Hollywood backed media darling“, to bilk American taxpayers again, and again, and again.

Other car companies have gotten money recently. Hello? You know, GM, Ford, and Chrysler, for example. Even one of my favorites, TESLA,  got some cash, in the form of a loan.

Now, I’m okay with Tesla getting some cash. Tesla builds electric cars. Cool electric cars, I might add. Those idiots in Congress gave Tesla $465 million bucks, in the form of a loan. Okay, so Tesla has to pay it back… I’m okay with that. They actually build their cars here. So Americans get jobs and Americans want, and will get the cars they build.

But Fisker? Wait a minute!

The Silicon Valley-based Fisker said that the bulk of loan proceeds will go towards the development of a $40,000 family sedan.

That they haven’t even designed yet!

And if that’s true, why are they diverting a large portion of the funds to fuel yet another car, an “alleged” $90,000 electric car that nobody can afford except status seeking… um… er… Hollyweirdo’s and fatcats…. Oh… I get it… never mind! 😉

Wait a minute! you say… It’s a Silicon Valley corporation! That’s not  “alien.”

Um… where do Finnish cars get built?

So far… FINLAND.

So, how many American jobs will that money fund?

I’m Betting ZERO!

Fisker‘s Silicon Valley operation is just a glorified design center. It’s a place for the top 1% of their employees to hang their hats. So either Fisker plans on giving them HUGE pay raises, or that money is going overseas.

I read the data. The plant in America (Wilmington) that they’re talking about is hopelessly locked in turmoil. Moses couldn’t bring that plant on-line any time soon. The Union isn’t budging, and there are big troubles ahead…

But… employees of Fisker’s top investor, KPC&B, donated more than $2 million to the Obama presidential campaign, and customers who have pre-ordered the Fisker include… who else… Al Gore.

Wanna bet that his doesn’t come with an invoice?

The DOE denied that politics played a role in the decision.

abductions

Yeah, right. And yesterday I was abducted by aliens…

I’m thinking that if you spend about $4 million dollars on the right politician, you can get a hell of a loan… no matter where you live. But, I bet that the DOE will deny that, too…

But zero is still zero. Unless you count the millions of bucks that Finland (and Al Gore) just raked in.

For 1/10th of 1 percent of that money, I could have built homes for 15 small families. Okay, sure… it’s only 15 families, but it’s a START! It’s 15 families safe, dry, and warm in their 600+ square foot houses made of steel. And one of those kids could grow up to be President. But probably not… because growing up to be energy efficient, self-reliant, and socially  responsible… would probably disqualify them.

Somebody pass the Tylenol…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin Look, if you like this blog, if it helps you plan your ISBU project, or even if you just enjoy watching me make an @$$ out of myself … hit the Paypal button up there (if you can afford to), and donate a few bucks to help us out. Look, if I didn’t REALLY need it, I wouldn’t ask. It’s humiliating, and it’s embarrassing. I just ran out of options. If we don’t help “ourselves,” no one will. Government isn’t going to do it. If something doesn’t happen REAL soon, my family will fail, and we don’t have a safety net. I write this blog, to help as many families as we possibly can, while we try to heal, ourselves. Thanks for reading!

9.5% and climbing…

9 Jul

Most of you know that I’m stuck in Mississippi…

…trying to build a house out of reclaimed and recycled materials, to shelter my family. And, I’d like to do it, before “hurricane season” crashes down on us, once again. But… the politicians are standing between me, and my dream. It’s not like it’s impossible to do… It’s just impossible to “legislate.” OY.

And, while I’m doing this “running around in circles so I don’t just stop, take a deep breath, and go absolutely freakin postal in Jackson” thing… I’m helping some pals build THEIR Shipping Container homes.

Recently, while we were “toiling and planning and conspiring and consulting….” one of my pals got hammered by the evil fist of fate… lay-offs.

Now, this guy… We’ll call him “Pat…” now he’s the stuff America got built of. I’m talking about the REAL America, not that phony “Hollywood America” you see on TV. As a manager, when the lay-offs were announced, he actually went into his bosses office, and offered up his own job, if they’d just use his salary and benefits to keep the other workers employed. After all, they were “youngster’s with families.”

Needless to say, his bosses declined his offer. But, when is the last time you heard of somebody doing that, especially when they were going through the same tough times as everyone else? Hmmm?

So, more good workers hit the streets, looking for something that resembles hope, something that will feed their families, instead of the ridiculous crap that keeps filtering down on us like smog from Washington DC…

And “Pat?” He’s on the phone, on his own time, trying to find his crew new jobs with other companies, so they don’t end up on skid-row.

Meanwhile… all eyes look east, towards DC…

What’s it going to take for Americans to realize that they’ve been duped?

President Obama got himself elected on a pedestal of promises, and frankly, folks… it’s just not happening…

America has more debt now than ever before. Our great grandchildren will be paying the interest on the trillions of dollars that have been haphazardly thrown onto the bonfire.

I still suspect that all that cash got tossed on to make enough smoke to hide the real issues. After all, it’s hard to see clearly, when your eyes are burning.

Whatever happened to all those thousands of jobs that Obama was going to create? Well… they got created in Malaysia and the Far East. The billions and billions of dollars that got spent for “jobs” went to companies who manufacture “offshore,” because hiring Americans costs too much. Whaaaa?

For example;

The ‘stimulus’ promised a jobless peak of 8%; it’s now 9.5%.

And yesterday, we got the bad news… again…

In fact, the best thing that we can say about June jobs report is that “employment is usually a lagging economic indicator.” Yeah? Okay, if that’s true then shouldn’t that accentuate just how bad things are getting? The loss of 467,000 jobs for the month is one more sign that the economy still hasn’t hit the bottom despite months of lies, political aggrandizing, camera-whoring, and epic fiscal and monetary reflation.

Can you say “whirlpool of despair?”

The report was a pig, to be sure. And there’s no way to sweeten it up by adding a prom dress, either. Average hours worked per week dropped to 33, the lowest level in at least 40 years, maybe more.

I’m not exactly sure how much further back than that… Hey, I had pimples and Pink Floyd records, and I was playing with Hot Wheels at the time. Shut up! 🙂

Hey… shortened work weeks! Yippee! More time to play with the kids right? Nope. More time to listen to your significant other moan in despair, as the budget gets turned upside down, just like the mortgage. It’s not like it’s just YOU, right?

This means that millions of full-time workers are being “downgraded” to part-time, as businesses slash labor costs to maintain profit margins.

And, because people are working less, wages have fallen again this year. Factories are operating at only 65% capacity, while the overall jobless rate hit 9.5%, and it’s still climbing…

Throw in disgruntled workers who want their full-time jobs back, and the labor underutilization rate climbs faster than an F-18 hunting bogies! We’re talking double-digits, folks!

So, instead of just firing people, companies downgraded them to part-time, and stripped them of their benefits. It was either that, or; “Hit the bricks, bucko…  and go look for another job.”

Man, what a tough choice… Can you imagine what those numbers would have looked like, if those people had just hit the street? It’d be a tidal wave of unemployment, that would make our grandparents remember the breadlines.

The tragic thing is that existing hourly wages have dropped too. So, the companies are still making profit, but they’re spending less to get it, in some places. Greed has become pretty evident, as CEOs take huge salaries and compensation, as their employees start to hemorrage blood, trying to pay bills as their wages get “adjusted.”

The news is even worse for young people, with nearly one in four teenagers finding themselves unemployed. That’s just what we need, huh? More teenagers standing around idle, trying to figure out how to entertain themselves without any cash… Oy.

And, it get’s better! Remember that minimum wage hike that Congress scheduled? It bumps minimum wage up, from $6.55 to $7.25 on July 24th. You’d think this is GOOD news, right? Nope. It means that labor is going to cost small business more, so they’ll have to CUT BACK the number of employees they keep, to make it through the tough times that the economy is dealing out. Oy again!

Manufacturers aren’t exempt, either! Americans who make things and actually produce those goods we consume lost 223,000 more jobs last month. Almost a quarter of a million jobs LAST MONTH.

Asked about these job losses by the Associated Press, President Obama said Congress should pass his cap-and-tax on carbon energy because “If we’re weatherizing every building and home in America, if we are creating windmills and solar panels and biofuel facilities, that is a huge promising area not only for jobs here in the United States, but also for export growth.”

Bullsh@t! What a bunch of crap.

First, the President has no way on earth to monitor how many jobs “he created.” Only by audit have we discovered that most of the jobs now funded are in offshore factories. How’d they do that? Well, by noting that factories here laid off workers, or even shut down completely, but product still kept hitting the shelves. It had to come from SOMEWHERE, right?

Millions of Americans are unemployed. But, not all of those unemployed workers are capable of building windmill blades and solar panels (especially since most solar panels are built in the Far East, anyway). There aren’t enough plants producing windmill blades or solar panels in the US to bail out America’s unemployed. There would have to be one in every city in America to do that.

And, if there was, the price of goods would have to drop. Competition, remember?

And, that’d mean more cuts, to supply cheaper products. Talk about a “Catch-22!”

With manufacturing on its back, enacting a new energy tax to drive more jobs offshore… is just insanity. And, I’ll point out that I mean no offense to REAL insane people.

If you watch Cable, they keep saying that; “Of course, the economy can’t keep falling forever, and most forecasters still see a recovery starting this year.”

Yeah, what’re they basing that on? More false hope and promises that are starting to smell like lies?  The decline in manufacturing slowed last month and housing sales have picked up — and supposedly these are both positive indicators.

Whaaa? Not around here. In most of middle America, the opposite is true. And, almost all of those tax credits for buying a new home are aimed at the buyers buying “newly constructed” homes, which will only create a glut in the “pre-owned housing market.”

How do you buy a new home when you’re unemployed? Huh? Boy, renting is starting to look better and better all the time!

They keep saying that consumers are spending more. But the cost of living is going up daily.

Sure we’re spending more! You keep jacking up the prices, you @ssh@les!  We still have to eat! Our children’s tummies still grumble. They don’t understand “tightening the belts.” Oy, oy, oy…

The real question should be about “strong and sustained” employment expansion. If the “stimulus” were working as advertised, that would be stronger than “Mr. Clean,” or even the “Incredible Hulk,” huh?? After all, those idiots in DC have thrown trillions of dollars at the recession.

Let’s not forget about that famous $787 billion dollars that was supposed to yield $1.50 in growth for every $1 that was spent.

This almost trillion dollars (don’t forget about interest, as we had to borrow the money from “somewhere.”) followed the $168 billion dollars that George Jr. and “Queen of the Most High Wacko’s” Nancy Pelosi promised in February 2008 would prevent a recession. The jobless rate that month was 4.8%.

Did THAT work? No. So what did Obama do? Exactly the same thing. Throw good money after bad. Hey, it’s not like it was HIS money. After he leaves the White House, he gets a pension for life. It’s not like he’ll be out looking for a job at TGI Friday’s, or Walmart… He’ll just write a book, and make speeches, and get… even more money!

So where has the stimulus money actually gone? Most of this government spending has gone to transfer payments — Medicaid, jobless benefits and the like — that do nothing for jobs or growth.

Let me repeat that for the “reading impaired;”

…THAT DO NOTHING FOR JOBS OR GROWTH.

The spending that might create jobs — on roads, say — is dribbling out with typical government efficiency.

  • Hey, they’re building schools in places where schools are already standing empty.
  • They’re building libraries in places where people don’t live.
  • They’re building airport expansions in places where planes don’t land…
  • They’re building copshop’s multi-million dollar “indoor training facilities ‘ so they can hone their skills… in places where they only have three cops.
  • They’re buying local law enforcement agencies helicopters and airplanes, where they (a) don’t have pilots, and (b) don’t have airports to land them in.
  • And let’s not forget million dollar highspeed powerboats to interdict drug sales, for cops who live in landlocked counties.

They even bought a law enforcement agency with four cops (I’m serious) $287,000 worth of ammunition. Whaaaa? Those idiots never heard of reloading? Maybe they should make friends with those guys who have the “indoor training mecca” and start learning to save some of that ammo…

You think I’m kidding? Nope.

$287,000 worth of ammo… That’s a lot of 9mm… Like, about 2,500 cases (remember, they get a discount for volume)… Lemme see… 1,000 rounds to a case times 2500 cases, divided by 4 cops. That’s like 70 rounds an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, just to use it all up. Yeah, that’s doable… I hope they’ve got donuts and coffee stockpiled too!

Can you imagine a mountain of empty brass that big? Man.. I wish! 🙂

Meanwhile, the money for all of this has to come from somewhere, and Democrats are already saying it will require big (unstimulating) tax increases in 2011, and perhaps sooner. Whhaaa? I’m shocked.

So, while they’re giving away money they don’t even have, they’re going to ask us for money we can barely keep, to keep them in lobbyists and frosty cold beverages, while WE sweat the hard stuff all by our onesies! Oy Freakin Vey!

The Administration argues that the recession would be worse without the stimulus. Yeah, prove it! Oh yeah… you can’t. It’s impossible to prove or even disprove.

However, if you harken back to a time not long ago… Obama’s economist lackeys predicted late last year that the stimulus would keep the jobless rate from exceeding 8%. And now, it’s just climbed past 9.5% and it’s still climbing…

Uh-oh… Time to find a scapegoat to sacrifice on “The Alter of American Ineptness!”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s far more likely that America would have been better off without all that insane spending, and the higher taxes and debt financing that they bring right along with them, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a picnic basket!

I hate to say I told you so, but;

“You bastards in DC are all a bunch of freakin morons! You’ve sold us lock stock and barrel to the Chinese, and anybody else stupid enough to loan us money. We’ll be lucky if our grandchildren still speak English as a first language, before all this madness is through!”

Whew… Glad I got that off my chest.

I can’t wait to see what Congress brainstorms next… Perhaps they’ll just sell our children into slavery, or legislate sweatshops in America, so that the citizens they betrayed can still find a few pennies at the end of the day to eat with.

The best thing Mr. Obama could do to create jobs would be to come clean, admit his cabinet is filled with idiots, and start over. That is, if they’re anything left to rebuild, by the time he’s “done” rebuilding.

Gawd Save us… because Obama won’t. Not if his “progress report” so far is any indication.

Now, where’d I put those MRE’s? I think a storm is coming… and I’m not talking about a “hurricane.”

And “Pat…” I’m proud to know you. You’ve got a backbone of steel, and a heart of gold… You just made “Ronin’s Hero of the Day” list…

Now, if the President would just show that much courage, integrity, and backbone… maybe I’d get some sleep.

Stay tuned…

So you want to build a house…

1 Jun

As you know, my family is building our own house out of shipping containers (ISBU’s), if the idiots in Jackson  will just get the hell out of the way.  But, you probably already know that, right?

It’s a long hard fight, because we’re not building a “traditional house out of straw, or sticks, or even bricks…”

And it seems that the “Big Bad Wolf” (aka: the local authorities and the knuckleheads at the State Capital) are trying to “huff and puff and blow our house down” faster than we can get it built up.

Will that finally stop us? No. We’ll just get a bigger can of “Wolf Repellent” and administer doses liberally, until we accomplish our goals. Now “Wolf repellent” comes in several different varieties, but so far, the one that seems to be the most effective is the “strutting all the facts out in public and then using them as a hammer” brand. Liberal sprinklings of “veiled threats to use the media and your voting record” seem to help as well, as supplements. So, the fight continues.

The sad thing is that the path we’ve chosen (albeit different from most) still puts a family in an affordable, durable house, that is sustainable and efficient. And for the life of me, I can’t get the powers that be, to recognize that fact.

It’s frustrating to the point of “tears and medication” at times, but if we’re going to help other families like ours get back into homes, we have to prove it can be done, in spite of what sometimes seems like overwhelming odds. So, we get up each morning, say our prayers, and look to the new day, to see what develops.

And, that brings me to the topic today.

Once you’ve determined that you’re going to build your own home, how do you actually do it?

Now, I’m not talking about putting “stick (A) into slot (B)” and then repeating that until you have a house. I’m talking about how you actually afford to have people in your employ, to assist you in building your dream home.

As the economy crumbles, and as more and more people end up on the unemployment line, I’m curious as to whether some of the assistance money programmed into the “stimulus package” can actually help you build that house.

Sure, most of the money is aimed at Big Business. But, some of it will manage to trickle down to us “little guys” at the bottom of the feed chain. And it might even do it in the form of Tax Incentives and Tax Credits, if we do it right.

This stream of thought started when I picked up a copy of the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009. It expands tax credits for hiring new workers. You know, guys and gals from groups like the disabled, people on public assistance, and even (gasp!) veterans.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s a pretty narrow stream, huh? But despite what you’ve heard, Jews can swim… We can even walk on water… Well, some of us can. 🙂

Okay, okay… Here’s the gist of my rant today; Those tax credits are only for businesses, right? Well, what if, while acting as your own General Contractor, you actually established a business that employed your help? There’s a really thin line painted here, that looks like it might enable “the common man” to basically start a company that just supplied “independent contractor” labor to be supervised by licensed tradesmen, and in doing so, be entitled to this tax credit.

Now, you want your guys and gals to be independent contractors, for several reasons. First, independent contractors aren’t subject to payroll taxes. Second, you don’t have to include (or even establish for that matter) fringe benefit programs like health insurance or retirement plans.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Here’s the guts of it;

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) will actually benefit “labor employers” that hire people from 9 targeted “groups,” with a tax credit equal to 40% of qualified first-year wages. This includes different amounts for qualified vets or teen summer hires. The only real hitch seems to be that they must work at least 120 hours for the wages to qualify.

I’m curious as to whether or not you can find a way to make this work for  you, as a homebuilder.  I’m going to investigate this further, and see if I can find a way to put some of those “Stimulus Dollars” in your pocket.

And I’m going to take a hard look at other ways to become eligible for those Stimulus dollars, as we build our Corten Castle. After all, if Wall Street and the car companies can benefit from federal handouts, I’m pretty sure that as a taxpayer, I should be entitled too. It’s my kids (and yours) who will be paying off this monumental debt.

Stay tuned.

Isn’t Missouri the “Show Me State”?

4 May

Recently, I ran a post about a lady in Missouri that is building her container house. I’d spoken with her designer and provided him with a copy of the post I intended to publish, out of respect for “a fellow tradesman.”

But, lately, I’m still getting email from people asking me about what’s going on, and why I got so pissed off. And from the look at the comments, it appears that the circus is trying to pitch a tent in MY yard, and THAT is not gonna happen!

The lady in question posted a “response” to my post (on her blog), after somebody emailed my commentary to her. And that just seems to have stirred things up a bit more.

Here’s the deal. I’ve asked my readers NOT to to air their views on her build (if they were negative) because of the “bad press” it lends to the cause. It’s that simple.

The point of all of these ISBU blogs is to promote PROGRESS, and not create CONTROVERSY. There’s already enough of that, housed most squarely in the jugheaded fascists that run most local Planning and Zoning departments. Becoming a sideshow barker at your buildsite just gives them more fuel. Why give them more ammunition to use against us?

Remember that all readers see is what is on the page, in black and white. And that’s where their opinions are drawn from. The public just sees the “antics” and the “media circus” end results. But, it’s the antics that they’ll remember, trust me.

My blog is a “niche” blog. I cover ISBU construction almost exclusively, as an alternative for people who apparently are in the same position as Miss “M” from Missouri. I have considerable experience here. I’ve personally built, or participated in the construction of almost a 100 of these “Corten Castles,” in the last three+ decades, spread out over several continents.

Anybody out there who has an equal number of ISBU projects is welcome to chime in. If not, then shut up and just read, for once. 🙂

I didn’t “go out of my way to single out “M”.” An almost endless stream of email made me address her situation. In fact, I’ve got to tell you that the post I originally intended to publish was much more  strongly worded.

Using ISBU’s is controversial. Because of the topic, I don’t get hundreds of thousands of hits, I get readers looking specifically for a “new” path to home ownership.  And of the 35,000+ readers we “entertain” (hundreds daily) only a handful will actually build.

Not everyone who walks into an architect or designer’s office actually builds a project, but they all still have opinions, made after first impressions.

I can tell you that as a result of my blog, I’ve witnessed over 20 ISBU projects that are either in design phase or development with construction professionals. And, I’m sending leads to architectural firms weekly, on prospective ISBU projects. So, some of the readers are building.

I’m currently consulting into a few of those builds, myself. I know the homes are getting built, because I’m seeing it firsthand.

My goal is simply to make ISBU construction more palatable. Even the idea of using a shipping container to build a structure is a “comedy act waiting to happen” when you approach planning and zoning, in most locales.

Why? Well, it’s because the predominant press about container houses (if you believe cable TV, or the printed press) is that the people that are building them are paying exorbitant rates (hundreds of dollars a square foot), to be “fashionably green.”

The houses showcased are usually framed around a client who expects adoration for his “green environmental stance.” To think less, is naive. The phrase “attention whore” fits.

I’d personally be excited about the current circus of “ISBU coverage” if it came off as being more “credible.” But, that means that the owner of the project has to actually realize their impact on the whole, instead of just basking in the “ME” spotlight. It’s not about ONE ISBU home, it’s about all of them to come.  As builders apparently giving birth to a new construction “baby”, we have a responsibility to see it safely off and standing on it’s own.

I toned down the post a LOT (something that I NEVER do) even though I was pretty pissed off,  to prevent “M” from having her feelings hurt. (I have a mother too…) I’m positive that she means well.

But, I’m known for calling them like I see them. Reread that disclaimer up there on the right. I’m sure the “middle finger” clause is in there… 🙂

I think I can speak for most of you when I say that most of my readership just wants to have a roof at the end of the day to hunker down under. The “celebrity” that has been recently rammed down our throats isn’t why most of my readers are wanting that ISBU in their yard.

I conducted a poll a while back, where I asked readers WHY they wanted to build an ISBU home. Know what the number ONE reason was? They wanted to live away from everyone else, secure in their home, with a defensible buffer. Self-sufficiency was number TWO. Being “Green and Sustainable” was number SIX.

Being “fashionable or “acclaimed” didn’t even make the top ten.

In fact, due to the lack of understanding by P&Z Nazis, you won’t see ISBU homes in your average neighborhood anytime soon.

Anyone who says otherwise is living on a different planet than most of America.

Sure, I’m guessing that the publicity is cool, at first. But, unless you have a huge need to have your ego massaged over and over again, it’s gotta get old after a while. And actually inviting people to come scrutinize your build is just absurd. Not only will it give your insurance agent a heart-attack, it’ll disrupt your workflow, and cause your workers distractions that will translate in elevated construction costs for you.

Entertaining the minions takes time. Dealing with “looky-lo’s” takes even longer. Having your worksite interrupted by people wanting answers, is expensive.  I urge all my people to close their worksites to the public until the job is complete. Cite “insurance matters,” or whatever, but keep them off the site. I don’t want the sanctity of my site violated by mini-vans filled with “Ma and Pa Kettle” getting in the way.

Then do one of two things;

(A) After the C/O, run one or two “press events,” if necessary, and invite the Realtors, et all… in… or;

(B) Point ALL inquiries back to the Architect or the Design/Builder. Let them handle the press, and deal with the minions.  Inspections by appointment only. The people responsible for the build are the best ones to deal with it’s “public face…” on THEIR time.  Otherwise, the client goes off and reinterprets the build, which only creates more confusion later.

(Which I often compare to asking a “sales rep” how something complicated actually “works…”)

Either way… After that, it’s; “Get the [expletive deleted] off my lawn. Period.”

Here’s something else that you might consider;

Most builds of this type finish higher (appraise higher) than they actually cost, if the team in control has any brains.  Making a big roar about your new house will bite you on the butt when it comes time for the tax appraiser to come in and place a value on it.

Whaaaa?

If that “really cool job”  is out there for everybody to talk about, and your worksite is surrounded by camera crews… you’re probably gonna get hit with a high appraisal. And that means you’ll be wasting a lot of time in front of your county commission, trying to talk sense into them, and bring it back down to reasonable levels. After all, you’re still going to pay property taxes, right? And as a the home owner, you’re the one who’ll be facing the town council, all by your onesies…

As to “first impressions…”

Although I encourage people to look to the positive, sometimes the scale appears to be “out of balance.” That’s not jealousy. It’s fear that another’s actions (implied or otherwise) may either prohibit you from doing what you want, or impact the way you wish to accomplish it in.

I was recently told, by “M’s” designer that;

“I think people who do not have experience in building see a budget of $150,000 and think that her “container house” will be extravagant. What people don’t realize is the cost of getting a site ready for a house which includes clearing the land, foundations, drilling a well, installing a septic system, getting electricity to the site. The actual amount of money being used to build and make the home livable is greatly reduced when you add the expense of all these things.”

That may be the experience that he suffers under, but readers of this blog don’t fall into that category at all. I go to great lengths to talk about how much has to be spent, to build a successful project. And, nearly every one of my projects are “off-grid,” or “near off-grid.” We understand what has to happen.

That’s the beauty of a “niche” blog, compared to a blog like “Treehugger.com.” You might SEE a Shipping Container house there, but on MY blog, we talk about how you actually DO it. And then… we put our money where our mouths are, and we produce.

He went on to say;

“I could try defend all the negative things people are saying but it’s not worth it. None of these people will ever get to meet her and that’s a shame. My wish for people is that they would take all the time and energy being used in criticizing and trying to bring others down and put that energy into a project. I think the world would be  a better place for everyone and those people would be much happier.”

My wish is that people see successful projects (without any “circus acts” or drama to act as a distraction, or an inhibitor to the next guy trying to build) and see it as another stone in the foundation of the “ISBU Home” future. But, I stopped trying to “dictate the actions” of others a long time ago. That weapon is firmly resting on the mantle, now. I don’t have enough hair remaining to pull out in frustration!

I want a house for every family, world peace, basic medical care for everyone, and an end to hunger, but I might as well go outside and spit into the wind…  🙂

In conclusion, “M’s” designer told me that;

“There’s only a small percentage of people who are going to buy into living in a container house or working in a container office.  The container should be used as a model to explore the possibilities of using less and more efficient materials and systems to build.”

While it’s possible that used to be true in America, it’s not true globally at all, and it never has been. I’ve been participating in ISBU builds for decades, both here, and offshore. Out there across “the big water” people see them for exactly what they are; “high speed steel frames” that you build housing into.  And, as America goes through growing pains, it’s changing the way we look at housing too, if my email is any indication. I see hundreds of families looking for affordable housing that takes advantage of millions of steel boxes just laying around collecting dust. I hear from twenty families a week (A WEEK) who want me to help them build a home out of these boxes, so that they can be safe and comfortable. That means that the tide is turning.

More and more people are trying to figure out how to find affordable housing, as times get harder and harder. When I was doing this in the 70’s, we were “just those damned hippies.” Now, in the 21st century, all of a sudden, “we’re visionaries.” There are a million dormant containers parked on America’s shores. If we can find a way to soothe the “but Grandpa didn’t do it that way” ills, more people will find a home.

The same could be said for Rammed earth homes, straw-bale construction, “Little Houses,” and even Earthships, I suppose, but my way happens to be the one that I see work the most effectively, in many different environments.

It’s also my hope that the Stimulus Bill may actually have money in it for families to build with. It would put a lot of Americans back to work, and provide homes at the same time. I’m working with Congressman Taylor to figure out whether that potential exists.

I’m not trying to single out “some poor old lady,  because it’s an easy post. I have TONs of material. Hit the archives, folks. I have well over a hundred posts in the last year alone, and all of them have lots of content. “I don’t think that “M” is dancing like a “Trained Circus Bear” to drum up publicity for herself, and I’m not saying that she built this home simply to get the spotlight.

I’m just asking her to consider using that new fame a little bit more responsibly, to help other people trying to do what she’s done. It’s as simple as that.

But in the end, it’s her “pig in a prom dress,” and she can wear it any way she wants. This is, after all…

America!

And “M”…

I wish you all the success in the world, where your ISBU home in concerned. Just make sure it’s a success, huh? Contrary to what you might think, we’re pullin’ for ya!

  • SHOW ME (and everybody else) that your project was more than just the media hype and “cable TV chicanery” that hungry reporters have seemingly turned it into
  • SHOW ME that you’re in your home, happy, secure, safe, and full of resolve about what a great job you did! And then…
  • SHOW ME that you’re gonna live a long happy life in that new home of yours! 🙂

So, that’s my last word on “the divine Miss M…” she’s on her own, in capable hands, and ‘Nuff said…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

They’re Getting Paid to Reproduce!

15 Apr

I keep hearing about “get rich quick” scams…

In fact, at one point, I’d won over $1.2 Billion dollars in lotteries I never bought a single ticket for! Plus, I had hundreds of millions of dollars in Nigerian Bank money left in my control to distribute to poor widows and orphans! Imagine that! I’m sitting in Mississippi, trying to just survive each month, and all this time, I was a billionaire, and I didn’t even know it! LOL!

nigerian_scamI even got checks in the mail for thousands of dollars, so I could become a secret shopper! All I had to do was deposit the check in my bank account, wait for it to clear, and then send the bulk of the cash to some obscure post office box, in Outer Hicksville, USA. Yeah right, like I’d do that!

And I keep having people ask me if there is any truth to the rumor that you can actually make money with your photovoltaic panels.

No, it’s not a Nigerian Lottery scam. I’ve talked about “net-metering” before. In fact, I ‘ve talked about it several times. But we’re not talking about “net-metering” this time. We’re talking about the thousands of dollars that American families make from the subsidies paid to people generating renewable energy.

Here’s a typical example;

I just read that Bill Ball decided to hitch a 9,900-watt solar-panel system to his 4,000-square-foot home three years ago. Now, he had some real hard decisions to make, but he made them.  Even though the Sergeantsville, N.J., couple got a generous 70% subsidy from the state, they had to borrow from their retirement savings to pay the balance, a total of almost $20,000.00.

In retrospect, however, “it was the best decision we ever made,” says the Ball family. The panels lowered the families cost of electricity to be sure. But, the Balls also earn between $6,000 and $7,000 annually from the photovoltaic panels, according to news sources.


Here’s how it works:

Each year, the state of New Jersey provides the Balls with SREC‘s (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates), which represent the cost of offsetting pollution-generating energy. The Balls then sell the certificates for between $5000 to $7000, on the open market to brokers or electricity suppliers who are required to invest in solar energy under New Jersey’s Renewable Portfolio Standards.  They usually get upper market value for them. They have no trouble turning them into cash income, let me tell you! It’s cheaper for the utilities to buy these certificates, than to actually underwrite solar energy programs.

It makes a difference come tax time, too! Having this added income is especially helpful as the Balls’ 7 acre homesite  costs  $13,000 a year in property taxes.

“To me, that $19,000 investment on the roof is the equivalent of having a rental property, except you don’t have a tenant,” Mrs. Ball says.

So forget that “mother-in-law” apartment! Put photovoltaic panels on the roof, and then put some money in your pocket! You’ll never need to evict an unruly boarder  again!

Now that we have THAT figured out, we can address the second most common question I get about “alternative energy…”

How do photovoltaic systems actually work?

Here’s the “Readers Digest Condensed Version” of the answer;

pv-system

PV Panels

On sunny days the photovoltaic panels convert sunlight to direct current (DC) electricity which can be used to charge batteries or to supply loads.

Charge Controller

The charge controller manages the efficient charging of the batteries using the DC energy from the pv panels.

Batteries
DC energy mane by the photovoltaic panels is stored in deep cycle lead-acid batteries. Just like the batteries in your flashlight, this electricity is then released on demand, for instance, when no charging energy is being produced (like night-time).  Like a bank account, energy put into batteries over a period of time can be taken out more quickly when needed. Like a bank account, you cannot take out more than you put in. Moreover, lead-acid batteries need to be quickly 100% re-charged to remain in good condition. They should not be drawn down below 50% , because this harms the lifespan of the battery.

Here’s the “nuts and bolts” of batteries;

Battery life can be estimated by average depth of discharge and by time to full recharge. A battery with an average of 30% depth of discharge will last about 1,200 discharge/charge cycles, or about 62% longer than the 450 cycles at 50% average depth of discharge. A battery with an average of 50% depth of discharge will last twice as long or more than if it uses the maximum 80% average depth of discharge. Got it?

Inverter
The inverter converts the DC energy from the batteries or panels to 120 volts AC for standard house loads.

Generator

A generator can be fueled by bio-fuel (our personal favorite), diesel, propane gas, or gasoline. It is another source of AC power for heavier loads and a backup for charging the batteries when there is insufficient sunlight.

And remember, there’s still wind power, hydroelectric power via tidal generation, geothermal power production…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninAnd please remember that we’re trying desperately to save this blog. As my wife’s illness worsens, the budget gets tighter and tighter. If you like what you read, and it helps you find your path, please consider hitting the Paypal button, and donatining a few bucks to the cause, okay? We really want to keep this blog going!

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!

“Bubba Boxes” for the masses!

4 Apr

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…

Our country imports more than it exports! “Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh My!”

40-shipping-container-being-moved-around-at-port
It’s called a “trade deficit.” But one byproduct of this development is the metal mountains of empty shipping containers piling up at  shipping ports and transport centers. And it’s not just here, either! These containers are becoming a blight on the landscape, blocking out the sun, and ruining the “environment” of the locals!

What to do with them all?

miles-o-piles
Fear not! There are groups of innovative architects, engineers, and alternative housing visionaries who have THE answer!

How about an inexpensive home? Or maybe an Art studio in your backyard? Or how about a self-contained weekend get-away? Do you need a medical clinic in a remote area? And I bet somebody could use some FEMA type relief-housing after a natural disaster that actually makes sense!

Hey, howabouts a cozy “Corten cabin” in the backyard for when the “In-Laws” come to visit? I mean, that way… they’d have their own space and they wouldn’t feel like they were intruding on you… Yeah, right!

And you could slip out in the middle of the night, all “ninja-like…” slap a padlock on those wonderfully sturdy doors, and ship that puppy off to China! I’d tell ya the rest of the “plan,” but my wife is watching me type… 🙂

Lots of people all around the planet are building prefab, ecologically intelligent structures from empty cargo containers. And this may come as a shock to some of you… but they’ve been doing it for decades.

isbur1

A 40 foot container can cost you anywhere from $800 to $2000, plus a shipping fee to your building sight. That’s kind of crazy sounding, huh? You have to pay a shipping fee, to get a shipping container. Well, just like you learned in high school Science class; “There ain’t no free lunch!” 🙂

There are several companies and organizations  in America now, like [ISBU2YOU] that will actually outfit the container with doors, windows, insulation, HVAC, and all the amenities your little heart desires, from utilitarian (like building in composting toilets), to upscale (like installing solar and PV arrays).

Let’s face it, you either like ISBUs, or you hate them. I personally think that they get a bad rap, but that’s just me. Using the containers as housing is a  fascinating concept to some, and an  “industrial waste – eye sore” to others…

12-container-transformjpeg

But whatever your view, you have to admit that our concept of the world is changing fast. “McMansions” are out, and “Microhouses” are “IN!” And, GREEN is all the rage! It’s time to re-utilize the junk we’ve spent decades creating, and reconfigure the way we think, so we can reevaluate “our right to the disposable lifestyles” that we’ve been living, before it’s too late!

Now may be the perfect time. For the first time in “real” history, the Government is actually looking for alternatives to housing. It’s quite possible that there are “Stimulus Bill” dollars available to build a home out of recycled shipping containers. We’re going through the bill line by line, looking for places where we might find some assistance.  The way I see it, if we can bail out AIG, it’s time we bailed out families. American Families. You know, the people who actually built America in the first place!

Look, houses aren’t the only things you can build out of these wonderful boxes. Containers make perfect low cost structures for clinics in remote or impoverished areas. A building such as this might mean the difference in a non-profit having the money to start medical services or letting people suffer and die. Facility expenses can be a huge burden when calculating the money needed to get a project off the ground.

isbu_medicalsite

A pal of mine, Paul Stankey has built a terrific “Holyoke Cabin” in Minnesota. It’s a “small scale beauty,” a masterpiece full of natural light and industrial-urban attitude out in the woods. It just takes creativity to create a sense of intrigue by capitalizing on the aspects of building with metal containers! Plus, it’s cheap, and the materials are readily available!

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Although Paul used “little boxes,” all the structural load in an 8-by-40-by-9 1/2-foot container is carried by the corner castings, steel columns at each of the four corners. This means that doors and windows can occur anywhere else in  the structure. Whole walls can be cut out and replaced with glass, and interior walls can be anywhere or nowhere.

You can build in walls that slide out (just like in an RV) to make your ISBU cabin even bigger! And when it’s time to go home, you just push the sliders in, lock the container doors, and off you trot! And, Your cabin is secure!

Plus, as an added bonus… The boxes can be stacked like giant Lego blocks, cantilevered into space to create intriguing overhangs and practical decks, or cut apart and reassembled into new configurations. Talk about versatile!

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So why aren’t you building one? Hmmm?

container-cabinEven a “modest” box makes a splendid cabin!

Help is available. There’s a new group setting up shop in late April, called “ISBU2YOU” that’s going to start turning out cabins you can truck anywhere, set down, and then, pick up and move to greener pastures, if you decide to! Think of it as an “Armor Plated RV.”

I call ’em “Bubba Boxes.”

They’ve promised me that they’re going to get a detail package ready, so that you can learn how to live in the woods (or anywhere else for that matter) in style, while your friends and neighbors go broke spending a lifetime paying for mortgages, second homes, and hotel bills! ! They’ll give you all the details on how they’ll fab a container cabin for you, and ship it out to your site!

Now I actually know these guys, and I’ve seen the stuff that they’ve built, “far afield” in disaster relief efforts. It’s amazing what you can do, with a little bit of creative energy, and a plasma cutter!

For the price of a new full-sized car, you could be in a nice warm container-cabin, without a huge mortgage! Think of the possibilities! Add a water line, and an electrical cord, and voila!

You’re in heaven!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninAnd please remember that we’re trying desperately to save this blog. As my wife’s illness worsens, the budget gets tighter and tighter. If you like what you read, and it helps you find your path, please consider hitting the Paypal button, and donatining a few bucks to the cause, okay? We really want to keep this blog going!

When Money Falls From the Sky…

1 Apr

Why is is, when we’re always claiming to be “first” at everything…

We  have to be “last” in alternative housing?

America is in the grips of what could be the worst economic times since the Great Depression. And families are going to bear the brunt of it, I assure you. The politicians in DC are so insulated that they won’t even hear our teeth chatter.

I’ve been going on and on about “container houses” for months now. At least, that’s my story on the Internet. It’s actually been a lifelong passion, spawned from the simple, yet abstract, realization that those steel boxes provide the “core” of some really unique and durable homes.

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When we were younger, we did it because we didn’t have any money.

Now, with this infusion of “Stimulus dollars,” it may be possible to build that Corten Castle, and let Uncle Sam help you pay for it.  Everybody I talk to expects “money to be falling from Heaven, like Manna to the Israelites!” I’m not so sure that it’s gonna work that way… but I’ve been wrong before.

You can bet that Ronin is going over the Stimulus Bill, line by stinking line, looking for ways to get money out of “Big Government,” to help the families that actually make up the America they misrepresent, seemingly at every turn.

I know, I know… color me “jaded.”

Look, it’s like this… it costs £20,000 to build and buy a container studio in London. That’s about $28,620.15 in USD, according to the Currency Exchange, today. That’s the cost of a new GM car or a Toyota, folks.

It’s affordable. Living in modified shipping containers (ISBUs) has become an increasingly attractive option, to many Americans.

They’ve been doing it overseas for years, kids. I’VE  been doing it for years, overseas. It’s not that hard! England, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, Central America, you name it… there are “container homes” there.

Containers aren’t just for residences, either. Travel Lodge opened a hotel in Uxbridge (in the UK)  made out of 86 containers.  We talked about this very hotel, earlier  in the blog history of “RR.” And the Travel Lodge powers that be say that most of the rest of their new projects will use Shipping Containers as their core.  Clearly, there must be advantages to using them. Right?

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Aren’t those the “same” advantages that we’ve been talking about all along?

They’re;

  • Durable
  • Structurally Strong
  • Low Cost
  • Versatile, and…
  • Readily Available

There are places like Container City, in London where you can rent a “Container Condo.” They work in the housing marketplace, and the rents are reasonable.  Studios go from about $350 USD, up to about $2000 USD per month, depending on how big they are. The studio’s have everything that “a conventional building does. The only thing that really sets them apart is the exteriors, which have been left rather industrial, and the fact that many of the units sport “portholes” instead of traditional windows.

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Both of those “peculiarities” could nave been easily changed, and you wouldn’t know WHAT was under that siding, and behind those double-hung windows.

Sounds great, right?

Here’s the rub:

If ISBUs are so cheap and are gaining such popularity, (especially now, during the current state of “housing failure” that we’re living with),  why aren’t we all rushing out, finding some land and setting up home in our very own boxes? And why aren’t more of the developers doing this? Talk about an opportunity to provide a low-cost quality product, complete with GREEN recycling benefits?

Even though container houses have been here for decades, it’s a relatively “new” concept to the housing marketplace, and not many “production” people are doing it well. We didn’t exactly scream from the rooftops that we were living in shipping containers, back in the day.

In fact, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret… Shhhhh! sometimes we didn’t even have building permits. We just dropped them onto foundation blocks, hooked up water and power, and lived as quietly as we could. After all, it was the middle of the forest? Who knew?

Now, when people do that, they call them “wilderness cabins.”

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The cool thing about them then, and even now… is they were cheap, they were “Tonka Tough,” and they went up fast. Isn’t that what America needs right now, especially in places like the Hurricane belt, and Tornado Alley?

Another cool thing about these Container developments is that they have the ability to be “self-contained.” You can put them in places where other houses wouldn’t go. Places like brown-field sites without fear of contamination.

What’s a brownfield site? Well, according to Wiki;

“brownfield land (or simply a brownfield) is land previously used for industrial purposes or certain commercial uses. The land may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, and has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up.”

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And America is covered with places exactly like this.

Building “production” homes out of a container is an “off-site” operation, easy. Use warehouses to prefab the containers to suit your floorplan, and truck them to your site. Then you just set them in place with a crane. You could turn that “shoddy, dirty, dangerous” old industrial relic into a thriving community, in months. Months. Talk about turning America around!

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And, up to 80% of the construction materials could come from “recycled” sources.

Of course, you’re still going to heat and insulate, like a “normal” house. So, you’re not increasing the “expected ” carbon footprint. But I suspect the same minds that craft these boxes into place will embrace concepts like passive heating and air handling, and solar and wind power production to assist the local grid.

Those naysayers that argue about the “blight of boxes…” (you know, the “not in my backyard type…” right?) can be soothed by the simple use of siding, and modified roofs, just like any other house in the neighborhood.

Personally, I like the “Mad Max meets Armagedon” kinda look of Shipping Containers. They have character,  they look “modern and manly,” and most of all, they’re both cheap, and GREEN.

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If Travel Lodge can embrace them, it’s only a matter of time before your local Planning and Zoning Nazis are forced to!

I’m looking forward to the day when we can go into a county commission hearing, and spread our plans out on the table, without the local cop reaching for his holster. Aren’t  you?

Hey, I can dream, can’t I? Huh?

I bet my conservative stick-up-the um… er… well… neighbors wish this was an April Fools Joke, huh?

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

And, please remember that we’re trying to figure out how to keep this blog going. If you enjoy the blog, please hit the PayPal button up there and donate a few bucks to keep it up and running! We really, really, need the help! Thanks!

Another Container Home hits the street… well… almost!

27 Mar

I’m evidently not too cranky to entertain visitors!

Today, as I pondered what to post, some friends dropped in from out of town. These were friends that I made, right here on RR.

Now, I wish they hadn’t shown up dripping wet and getting my carpet all muddy, but… 🙂

The Davies family (hailing from Reno, NV) contacted us a while back, and told us about their dream of building a Shipping Container house.

As we traded emails back and forth, it became pretty obvious that (a) they were our kind of people, and (b) I had a set of plans sitting in a filing cabinet, that would serve their purposes without taxing their wallet strength.

We determined that they were “just like us” when we asked them to send us a photograph of themselves, so we could “see” who we were trading emails with. They sent this:

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It seems that “T” is on a “self-improvement” kick, and she’s banished all camera’s until she finds that “perfect place.”

So, when they visited us earlier this year, we gave them the plans, and told them to find an architect to redraw them, to make them applicable to their local Planning and Zoning requirements. They were under the impression that they could just just THESE plans, and build.

(They didn’t get that impression from ME, however! I’ve never, ever seen that scenario work out.)

Today, they dropped by (“T” is a rep/tech working for a big slot machine company, and she travels to little burgs like mine, on occasion) and said hello. We thought they were just dropping by to say “G’day…” but “no-o-o-o-o-o-o!” Actually they got rained out  (there was a big boat race in town, but it was canceled due to the terrible weather) and hatched a sinister plot to take control of my computer, so that she could do “paperwork,” while I talked to the hubby (“R”) about his progress building their home.

As it turns out, between being terrorized by my little boy and trying to look at “revision drawings,” I learned that I was right. They DID have to have the plans redrawn. Lesson? No matter what you download, you’re going to have to find your way into an architect’s or engineers office,  to get plans that your local Building Authorities will accept.

The good news?  The home that they are building (a 2,240 square foot three bedroom) is actually under construction, and headed for completion as we speak! (They added two more containers on top, to form a big master bedroom and bath.)

So far, they’ve spent just under $40,000.00 And it’s the interior that’s goin in, now. They’ve already got the HVAC, the solar panels, the wind turbine, and the plumbing and fixtures in. Not bad! They figure that they’ll be into the house about $65-70,000 by the time it’s actually finished. That’s over a hundred thousand dollars cheaper than any house within several “blocks” of them.

I see this as a victory, of sorts. Yet another ISBU home is going to be out there, for people to see, and learn from. Yet another example of people taking charge of their own lives  and doing what they need to do, without a lot of “meddling” by everyone including the town fire-dog, will be in existence.

I’ll consider it a victory “for sure,” when they start sending me photographs of their family sitting around the fireplace at Christmas, in a snow covered container house, thumbing their noses at all the people around them paying huge mortgages, for way less house… “R”! Ya listening? Huh?

But that’s just me, and that’s the way I roll…

I’ll post photos of their build, as I get them…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninAnd, please remember that we’re trying to figure out how to keep this blog going. If you enjoy the blog, please donate a few bucks to keep it up and running! We really need the help! Thanks!