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Making GREEN with “Green.”

25 Jun


So you probably know that my family is building a house out of shipping containers, and other assorted cast-offs, because a hurricane ate our old one.

And… as you probably know, the local Planning and Zoning Nazis are giving us hell, because “we jist ain’t right…” 🙂

You probably also know by now that “Old Ronin” can be a “Sumbitch” at times… so here’s what I plan to spring on ’em at the next planning and zoning hearing…

First, we all know how important “green” is.

And, if you’ve been following along, for lo these many months, you’ve probably figured out that Ronin is a drinker. And, you gotta do something with all those bottles that you have to haul out to the curb every Tuesday and Friday.

Now, it’s not like I really need “the sauce,” it’s just that coming from California, and seeing how the State is almost bankrupt, I wanted to insure that the guys and gals in Napa Valley don’t go broke, and have to sell their wineries. So… after paying the alcohol tax on them (to keep Arnold from having a seizure! Pay Attention! Sheesh! Okay, I’ll type s-l-o-w-l-y so you can keep up!), and emptying them the good old fashioned way (a wine goblet in each hand)…:)

I decided that I’d use them to build walls in my house, the one that I’m building out of  ISBU shipping containers. It seems only fitting, as they probably got here in a container, in the first place. Plus, I was getting a hernia carrying them to the curb. And, boy, does it make my wife mad!

“Ronin, get those bottles outta the house! NOW!”

“Sorry hon… Can’t do it. Construction material, don’t ya know…” 😉


Pretty cool, huh?

Glasscape2And free…. except for the “emptying them” part…

Glasscape3Only 1,472 more to go, and I’ll have a den! (And a liver the size of Montana…) 🙂

Actually, Ronin don’t drink “that” much… It don’t mix well with my med’s. I’m loopy enough, without “mixing poisons” and then running amok in the neighborhood!

Speaking of pills…

Between “Daddy’s Crazy Pills,” and Momma’s “Boy, is I sick” meds, we have a ton of those little tiny pill bottles scattered all over the house. Now as soon as we empty them, we rinse them out real good, because frankly, I don’t want my kid addicted to “Demerol Dust” any time soon. 🙂

But, I was watching my kid stack them up like building blocks, and then suddenly it hit me. Right in the head!

“OUCH! Dammit boy, no throwin your toys at the Daddy!! Yer gonna put an eye out!”

Actually, it got me to thinking, and we all know that can’t be good.

So, I collected up all them bottles, and started gluing them all together into long rods. And then, I put some little tiny Christmas LED lights in ’em. And then, I put the long rods into groups, and glue ’em to a piece of plywood.

Voila, instant “Squib Stalactites” (or is it “stalagmites?” I forget which!) that glow in the dark!! Now, hang a few from the ceiling, and you’ve got instant illumination!

chemical-balance3Wha? It’s not like YOU don’t take medicine, too! You DO, right?;)

chemical-balance1See? “Objects Da Art.” 🙂

ChemicalBalanceIII_SAAMOoooooh! Purty! 😉

And frankly, between all the med’s and the booze, old Ronin is staying in shape. Round.


So, I decided to try and lose some weight. And what better way to lose weight, than to blog off a few pounds. It’s really quite easy. You just disassemble your keyboard and rebuild it, reassembling all the keys into one long string, mounted on the wall in your office. Then, you just dash back and forth hitting the keys, like “a crazed lab rat on the meth,” until you either;

(a) lose the desired amount of weight; or

(b) collapse and wake up hooked up to tubes, in the ICU.

office_weightloss_made_easyEither way, you lose a few pounds! Who need’s Jenny Craig?:)

And, while I’m talking about keys…

if you really wanna piss your wife off, you can do the same thing to your security keypad. You know the one you have to turn off in a certain number of seconds, or the rent-a-cops bust down the door and taze you until you pee all over yourself?

The key (I know…bad pun) is to reassemble the pad randomly. And don’t be afraid to leave out some of the keys. You can always use the “extra” parts on something else later on. 🙂

security_keypad_from_hell“Lemme see… what was that code again? Hey!!! Wha the hell? Roooooooooooonin!”

Incidentally, while I was testing the new “security features,” I got… you guessed it… tazed. After drinkin all that wine (I needed to, to empty the bottles for the room addition. Aren’t you paying attention? Gawwwwwwwd!) and then getting some 50,000 volts of “security sting,” the resulting stain wouldn’t come outta the carpet.

And it got me to thinking…

(I know what you’re thinking… Oh gawwwwd, here we go again!)

…about all the take-out food we order.

Why? Because if the heat in Mississippi don’t kill you, my wife’s cooking will. I’m not kidding! We’re not allowed to bring food to the potlucks at church anymore! After that last batch of “Banana Pudding”  they started praying for us like crazy… I mean, we thought that they loved it!  They were jumping all around and “speaking in tongues” and everything!

The paramedics said; “That wasn’t a religious experience, you idiots!  They were having convulsions!”

Oooooops?!?  That pudding took out half the congregation…

(Okay, so they was prayin that we’d move outta their district… But, a prayer is a prayer, right? Well? Isn’t it?)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah…

After my wife saw “the stain…” she gave me until she got back from running her errands, to have it either fixed, or else.  She said something about “large caliber handguns, packing up my stuff, and something about shooting my sorry butt off…” but I’m really not sure because when she talks to me, all I usually hear is:

“Blah, blah, blah…”

But, just to be safe, here I sit, trying to fix the floor. And who doesn’t like wood floors? Hmmm?

Wooden-Floor-1The “traditional parquet look”

Wooden-Floor-2See? And all it took was some patience, enough chopsticks to feed most of Bejing, and about 35 tubes of Elmer’s Best…

Wooden-Floor-3Perhaps you’re in the mood for “Herringbone?”

Wooden-Floor-4Relax. It’ll grow on you… like a fungus! 🙂

See, now, when those guys at the Chinese Restaurant start giving you the “evil eye” for taking extra chopsticks, you’ll have a good reason!


Okay… Last choice. I’m going blind, here!

So, I’m takin a poll. Which pattern do you like best? And vote quick, because she’ll be back any minute!

Ah crap! She’s home and I ain’t done yet! Anybody got the number handy for “911”?

Okay… I’m lyin! Everything you see here was the work of an Artist named Jean Shin.

I just wanted to remind you how cool “Green” can be. To some people, all this stuff started “with garbage.” But, Jean is making a fortune, a statement, and saving the planet at the same time! And, so can we. But we’ll get paid in “comfort, security, and affordable housing!”

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninRemember… Green is Cool. Especially when you share it with a friend. If you like what you see here, and you want it to continue, I urge you to consider hitting that Paypal button up there, and donating a few bucks to the cause. We need a house, so my wife can get well, and my little boy can be safe. And frankly, we’re running out of options. We appreciate anything that you can contribute.

Photovoltaics 4 Morons – Or; “How I got free power from the sun…”

21 Dec

Lately, I’ve been sitting here in the fog and drizzle, pondering my fate…

As many of you know, my family is building a home in South Mississippi. That’s hardly newsworthy. A hurricane ate the old house, and after months that turned into years battling the insurance company (that claims it’s “too poor to pay the claim”), we’ve been forced to figure out another way to find shelter.

So, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re going to build a house out of industrial shipping containers (ISBU’s) and old aircraft hangar components. I’ve been writing about this for months now, so you’re probably pretty familiar with the “who, what, and why” part of this program. If not, well… we’ll wait right here, while you lose yourself in the archives, finding out how we came to this decision, and how we solved our problem.

We’ll wait right here…

We’re still waiting… right here.

Still waiting…

Waiting… waiting… er… um… right here.

You know what? I’m sick and tired of waiting.

If I wait any longer, I’m gonna forget what I was writing about today, and it will be lost forever. You’ll just have to catch up, later. Got it?

Senility is a terrible disease… LOL!

One of the things we’re striving for is the elimination of every bill possible, so that the actual overhead of the house is reduced. Now, I could start a big ole’ pyramid scam (like that Madoff guy who just got caught bilking $50 Billion dollars out of widows and orphans), but… my wife would kill me.

APTOPIX Madoff Scandall

I could find a rich girlfriend… but again… my wife would kill me.

[I’d put a picture here, but my wife would kill HER! LOL!]

I could sell my son Joshua, to the highest bidder, on Ebay… but frankly folks, you haven’t got enough money… and my wife would kill me.


So, it looks like I’ll have to do it the old fashioned way. I’ll build a barbed wire obstacle course, and install gun turrets, and shoot any bill collectors that step foot on the property. And then, the State of Mississippi will kill me…


Man, this is getting pretty frustrating…

I suppose, in order to avoid a path that leads to certain death, I’ll just put up solar panels. At least that way, only the sun will kill me, and skin cancer isn’t something that will kill me in a minute, so I’ll have a chance to see my son grow up… and probably kill me… LOL!


Okay, maybe this is a few too many, but; “they were on sale…”

I’ve written before about photovoltaic systems. And, after I did, I realized that it’s harder to explain, than how to build a nuclear reactor out of old grapefruit husks.

“Photo voltaic cells convert solar light photons into electricity. Photovoltaic solar cells fulfill two functions: photogeneration of charge carriers (electrons and holes) in a light-absorbing material, and separation of the charge carriers to a conductive contact that will transmit the electricity.

We are conversant with the fact that solar cells absorb the visible light of the sun, though half of the sun’s output is made up of infrared light that too strikes the earth and it remains completely un-utilized. That is why only about 30% of the total sunlight can be converted to electricity thus lowering photovoltaic cells’ efficiency.

Solar cells are commonly used in remote locations where cost-effective access to local power grids are not possible… Blah-blah-blah…”


Confused yet? Me too.

So, like anybody (who is lazy and illiterate) who really wants you to understand my pain… um… er… dilemma, I’ve gone to that universal resting place of all knowledge everywhere (I bet you’re gonna say “Google,” right?) YouTube.

Here, people who actually know what they are talking about, explain photovoltaics in a clear, simple, easy to understand manner, that allows even a simpleton like me to figure out how to duplicate their efforts, and get power from the sun, for just a few bucks.

So, without further adieu, I give you; “Photovoltaics One.”

I personally call this one; “I’m a big ole’ geek, but I’m a GREEN geek, dammit!”

Happy viewing!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Ronin’s Top Ten Ways to Survive the Failing Economy!

16 Nov

Most of you who have been following along…

Already know that my family is building a new home, to replace the one we lost during Hurricane Katrina. It’s taken time, effort, and a lot of heartache and tears to get to this point. We gambled on an insurance company that put stockholders ahead of clients, and we’re paying the price, still. The lawyers tell us that someday, some way, we’ll get our pound of flesh. But until that day, we’re on our own.

We aren’t rich, by any definition of the word, sans one.

We still have each other, and the sun rises and sets with our new son, Joshua. Beyond that, our world is a pretty scary place. I’ve talked about the challenges we face (and my wife’s illness) in previous posts, so I’m not going to repeat them here, again. Suffice to say, I feel like Atlas struggling up that damn mountain, pretty much every day.

So, we had to figure out another way to start over again. And we needed to be able to do it, in some pretty difficult circumstances. That means that each day, you get up and take a deep breath, and wait to see what the day brings.

As I make my plans to build our “Container Casa,” I have to figure out how to pay for it. I’m sure that many of you contemplating a new home are thinking the same things that we are, here in Southern Mississippi.

(And I’m not talking about deciding if you want some cheese grits with your scrambled eggs. Don’t get me started! Ew!)

It’s hard not to get discouraged after watching TV or reading the newspaper. Now, I’m not one to “sugar coat” anything, so I’m just gonna say it; “The economy sucks!” I can’t watch the news without getting barraged by the foreclosure rates, the economic despairity, and the gloom that face American families.

That “whooshing sound” that you’re hearing is the air being sucked out of the “economic bubble” we’ve all been living in. And with it, we’re watching our expectations evaporate like rain on a hot metal roof! What a huge impact the financial collapse has made!

I’m tired of hearing about “the bailout.” I don’t understand how we can reward a greedy, self-serving industry that only cared about lining their own pockets, by handing them $700 BILLION dollars, as a band-aid. And, it enrages me to hear that some of the released money is already being used for extravagant (multimillion dollar) parties and huge bonuses paid out to “captains” who ran their ships aground, out of greed…

What part of this smacks of “right?” How can creating a debt for my son’s sons, possibly be a good thing? Am I just too stupid to see the logic in giving an un-supervised and un-policed industry that has already sold us into slavery, more capital to continue doing it with?

Is it just me? Oy Vay… I feel like I just left the Proctologists office…


For the last five or six years, it feels like we’ve all been fooling ourselves into believing that we are infallible, and living in the reverie of a false sense of security.

However, I think that reality has finally set in. It’s fallout time, and the sky is falling like lava from Mt St Helens. I’m a firm believer in the entrepreneurial nature of man, and our resiliency. But folks, it’s trial time…

We have weathered many economic downturns, and we’re looking at the end of the “boom.” So, it’s time to prepare for the times to come, because no matter how good things are for you in this moment, it can all change in a heartbeat.

So how do we get prepared, to brace for the oncoming storm? Well, here’s a few suggestions;

Number One: Do Not Panic!

In any emergency, the last thing you need to do, is lose your bearings.  A calm response to crisis can help any bad situation substantially. Start by using your analytical abilities to measure the damage. Figure out what you do best (in my case, it’s screaming like a little girl…LOL!) and then do it.

Wait, lemme’ rephrase that. IF what you do best will help your situation, then do it. IF what you do best will only make your ship take on more water, either do it (and blame someone else for the mess you make – that’s what I always do! LOL!) or… don’t hesitate to ask for help, if you need it. Search for people who have weathered similar storms, and ask them how they steered past all the obstacles.

Second: Focus on your strengths.

After analysing your situation, make a plan based on the current circumstances. Remember the rule of thumb:”Action-Reaction!” Consider doing some surgery to cut your losses. What’s going to define you here, is your reaction to the situation you face.

Third: Examine your credit, and then manage your cashflow carefully.

Since the financial economy is failing, credit is going to be hard to come by. Look for banks that understand you, and what you’re trying to achieve.

If you have a relationship with your local bank, by all means, exploit it. Nurture that relationship like it was a child! It will give you a much better chance of getting any assistance you need. If you have outstanding debts (who doesn’t?) find creative ways (besides counterfeiting!) to pay them down.

Fourth: Forget about big ticket expenditures!

That new furniture or that cool car you’ve been lusting after, may end up being a boat anchor around your neck, if you aren’t careful!  Now is NOT the time! Nobody knows how this is gonna work out, and the last thing you need is more debt, right now. It’s like carrying a bucket filled with gas to a bonfire!

Fifth: In troubled times, corporations ALWAYS protect the top floors.

And that means that companies are going to start downsizing like crazy, and jobs are gonna get really, really scarce! Good pay, and steady work are an illusion in this day and age. Working for a large company, having a powerful union, or having years of tenure over everyone else doesn’t guarantee you job security!

So, pursue your work with ferocity! Try hard to set yourself off from your co-workers! Think about going to your boss with a request for feedback about your job performance. One of the cardinal rules of business is to use “downtime and downturns” to strategically prepare for the return of good times. Make sure that you’ll be a part of it!

(Sure, your co-corkers may give you some grief… But they don’t feed your family, you do! G_d gave you a middle finger for a reason. Don’t be afraid to use it. LOL!)

Sixth: It’s all about how you sell yourself.

It’s “Go Time,” folks. Now is the time to start marketing yourself like you were the next best thing since sliced bread. People who make sure to invest in their potential survive where others fail. Now is the time to make new relationships, with people who can help you through the troubled times to come!

(And as a quick insight into “The World According to Ronin,” I’ve carefully scrutinized my family’s checkbooks, and I’ve proudly proclaimed myself “too huge to fail!” But, due to “unforeseen  liabilities tied to stagnation and a weakened dollar, I need a “bailout,” too! I expect the funds from the US Treasury to be wired into my checking account, any day now… about a million dollars should do it! Okay?)

Now, I know that I promised you ten ways to get thru all this madness, but frankly, I lied. If I was that smart, I wouldn’t be sitting in a lousy “falling down around my ears” apartment in “Lower Mississippi” trying to figure out how to save my own family, right?

(Plus, I can only count to six.)

So, take it from here, and write yourself some rules to round out this list.

And, if you come up with any good ones, that don’t involve “anatomical impossibilities,” drop me a note. I’ll pass them on!

Stay tuned!
The Renaissance Ronin

Americans brace for an “Expanding War!”

15 Nov

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, Americans all across this nation of ours begin to prepare for war…

The enemy is crafty, calculating and cunning. It disguises itself so that it can hide among us, without fear of being discovered, until… it’s too late!

But fear not! I, Ronin, Master of All I Survey (unless my wife is looking), will save you!

It’s not enough that I have to toil and sweat, building my house out of Shipping Containers and recycled Aircraft Hangar parts, huh? It’s not enough that I have to teach you how to save energy! It’s not enough that I have to school you on how to save the environment, and put some hard earned cash back into my.. um..er.. your pockets! Now, I have to keep you from stuffing your faces so full, that you all start to look like the family portrait of the Pillsbury Doughboy! Sheesh!

Why? because…

During the Holidays, Americans will consume everything they can stuff into their mouths! It’s true! How else can you explain those atrocities of nature… Fruit Cake?

I know that you’ve all gone “Green,” and you’re all practicing “recycling,” by re-gifting this toxic brick of an alleged desert from family ancestor, to family ancestor… but stop it, okay? Nobody wants it. LOL!

In order to save the world, we have to “think out of the box!” And because I’m a savvy opponent, and because I’m well trained… (I was once even a Boy Scout for about 35 minutes) I have come prepared!

I have single-handedly, all by myself, and without assistance (I might add), developed a new “Handy Dandy Ronco Sledge-O-Matic 3 Step Diet” concept which is so amazingly simple, that I think it just might work.

(And, I had to keep it simple, because I know my reader base. You rubes are lucky to get past looking at all the pictures!) LOL!

Okay, maybe I had a “little assistance…”

  1. Chop everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) into little tiny bite sized pieces. This will assuredly burn several calories as you chop and dice your ass off.
  2. Use toothpicks or BBQ skewers to pick up the pieces and then stuff them in your mouth. Why? Because the stabbing motion of the toothpick burns more calories, you dolt! You should only need to use 1 toothpick per sitting. Do not use one toothpick in each hand. That’s cheating! If your toothpick frays or falls apart, then it is time to quit eating. Pay Attention! Don’t eat the toothpick, or you’ll starve! Well, okay… I don’t want you to have to learn too much all at once, so don’t eat the toothpick until last, okay?
  3. If you can’t pick up the piece of food with the toothpick, then don’t eat it.

And my way could work, because you don’t have to count calories, or even your fingers, unless you’re missing one after you’re through eating!

Hell, because I’m a good sport… I’ve even condensed this so you can print it onto a post card, and hang it on your refrigerator!

If you try this (I haven’t, simply because I like the extra girth in the cold weather… and I’m deathly afraid of those wooden Popsicle sticks and even wooden spoons… Thanks Mom… ), drop me a line and let me know how it works out, okay?

I’m curious to see how it works, and you rubes are all just my “cyber guinea pigs” anyway…

After all… its not what you know, its who you know… and now you know me. And I obviously can’t be trusted… LOL!

Got ya!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

FYI: This diet is based on one that I shamelessly lifted from another blog. I’ve modified it extensively, and therefore, it’s mine, I tell you… It’s mine! LOL!

Actually, the original creator of this diet scam is “putaruffleonit.” However, she seems like a kind, thoughtful, religious lady who only wants what is best for you, and thus, she would never tell you fat bastards to stop eating and start getting healthier.

I, on the other hand,  have no such problem. After all, if you die of cholesterol crimes, I won’t have anyone to pick on, now will I? Hmmm?

And I was just teasing about you all being illiterate, incompetent, knuckleheads… I was just having a bad day. My son Joshua peed on me again… the lil #%$@!!

16 Year Old Conquers World!

6 Nov

When you feel like the world has you by the b*lls, and your life really sucks…

My family is building a new home out of shipping containers and aircraft hangar parts that we’ve “reclaimed.” And frankly, with everything that’s going on, it’s easy to lose perspective sometimes, and feel like the deck is stacked against us. I rant, and I rave, and I even (okay I admit it) throw things, sometimes…

And, just like everyone else going through hard times, I feel sorry for myself (it doesn’t last long) sometimes…

But, I don’t  really have the right to complain, if you think about it…

Take a look at this…

Aaron Fotheringham was born with Spina Bifida. He’s a 16 year old kid, from Las Vegas, Nevada.  Aaron’s birth defect usually kills kids early in their lives. (I lost both a foster-sister, and a foster-brother to it.)

Spina bifida is a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings. The term spina bifida comes from Latin and literally means “split” or “open” spine.

Spina bifida occurs at the end of the first month of pregnancy when the two sides of the embryo’s spine fail to join together, leaving an open area. In some cases, the spinal cord or other membranes may push through this opening in the embryo’s back. The condition can typically be detected before a baby is born and treated right away. The complications from it, however, are brutal, and life-threatening.

Aaron evidently doesn’t know that he’s dying. If he does, I suspect he doesn’t even care. Aaron just likes to show off his skills! Aaron is evidently one very gutsy kid, with the heart of a lion!

And I thought we had it bad…  Ronin likes (and admires) Aaron! Go get ’em, kid! You just made my day…

Here’s another look at one tough (and very talented) kid… Hell, his “style” is even “GREEN.” It’s “people powered,” with only occasional emissions (after a burrito or two, to fuel those awesome backflips!) Talk about “outgassing!” LOL!

Stay Tuned…

The Renaissance Ronin

Drumroll please! Welcome the $8,000 Shipping Container Home!!!

1 Nov

While out scouring the web for porn… um… er… news, I came across this little gem…

It seems that the idea of using Shipping Containers as housing is picking up steam!

Rather than recap an already good journalistic piece, I’ll just butt in from time to time, okay? Hot off the AP Wire:

CORRALES, New Mexico (AP) — It was a side trip through a destitute, ramshackle neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, that detoured Brian McCarthy from building houses in Albuquerque to an idea to offer the very poor a chance to own a home.

His answer lies in a humble steel shipping container 40 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8½ feet tall.

See, it ain’t just moi!

McCarthy, 30, and three partners, Pablo Nava, 22; Kyle Annen, 23; and Mackenzie Bishop, 22, have made a prototype out of a standard shipping container that hauls goods worldwide — a 320-square-foot home with a kitchen, bath with toilet, sleeping areas, windows and a bright blue door. The exterior is painted with a white epoxy coating that has light-reflecting properties to prevent the sun’s heat from penetrating.

Jeez… They’re just kids! How come you have to be a kid to follow thru on such a great idea? Huh?

Each small house includes hookups for air conditioning, ventilation, electrical and water systems, and the units ideally could be set up in small communities to make accessing utilities more efficient.

The idea began to take shape several years ago, when McCarthy went to the Mexican border city on a field trip as part of an executive MBA program. He found himself impressed by the sophistication and rapid growth of industry in Juarez but shocked when the bus cut through a poor neighborhood on the way out of the city.

“We saw hundreds of homes that are made out of wood pallets and cardboard and scrap metal and scrap building material,” McCarthy said. When he questioned the bus driver, he said, ‘Well, all the people who live here work in the places you just visited.’

“It was amazing to me that in an area where there was such growth and economic prosperity, that these employees of Fortune 1000 companies were living in such poor conditions.”

With Juarez growing by 50,000 to 60,000 people a year and wages low, it was evident traditional homebuilding couldn’t respond, said McCarthy, who’d worked in various facets of building homes in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

An idea began taking shape about a year and a half later, when he saw an article about a shipping container converted into guest quarters.

“They talked about the merits of the construction, how strong they are, how affordable they are and how plentiful they are,” McCarthy said.

He called Nava, his cousin, with the low-cost home idea. A year later, Nava, then a junior at Notre Dame University, suggested entering the university’s business plan competition.

Their initial three-quarter page concept expanded as they advanced in the contest. Along the way, Nava invited his roommate, Annen, to join. As the group’s acknowledged computer graphics wiz, Annen added drawings to give the presentation more life.

Eventually, they won the contest with a 55-page document, illustrated by renderings and floor plans.

In July 2007, the partners formed PFNC Global Communities; PFNC stands for “Por Fin, Nuestra Casa,” which roughly translates as “Finally, our own home.”

They operate out of a back room in a Corrales realty firm but expect offices in Juarez or adjacent El Paso, Texas, and a Juarez plant to manufacture shipping container homes.

The house faces two constraints: designing in only 320 square feet and keeping the price to about $8,000 to be affordable for the average worker at maquiladoras, manufacturing plants in Mexico along the U.S. border, McCarthy said.

The partners looked at clever designs for small condos and lofts, travel trailers and even private jet planes, adapting ideas they felt would work.

“We started with a kitchen and bathroom because they’re the most necessary and most basic ingredients of a home,” McCarthy said.

They designed a galley-style kitchen with a stove, sink, refrigerator and dinette, and a 48-square-foot bathroom with a pedestal sink, shower and commode. Adjacent to the kitchen is a bunk area for children; separate sleeping quarters for the owners lie behind the bathroom wall.

The house may be sparse by U.S. standards, but Nava said it’s a huge improvement in safety, security and health over where many now live.

When drawings and color pictures of the prototype were shown around a poor Juarez neighborhood, people said, “You know, it’d be like a dream to live in one of these,” Nava said. “You know, just the thought of having nice fresh air ventilating through the house, a large bed … a normal kitchen and a safe home that locks and closes each night was more than appealing.”

Annen cites modern architectural design, with bare metal and piping. “This would fit right in any major city,” he said.

The company has received a commitment for equity investment and is in the process of finishing details and closing its first round of funding. The partners anticipate starting production early next year, with the capacity to produce 3,000 homes in the first year and later ramping up.

They figure a half million people could benefit from such homes in Juarez alone.

PFNC doesn’t intend just to build shelter. It wants to build communities, and McCarthy said the group expects to have the first pilot community on the ground late next year.

“That was our goal, more than just four walls and a roof but to kind of raise the standard of living in Juarez and other places,” Nava said.

The shipping containers, which can be hauled by truck, rail or ship, are designed to stack. PFNC envisions a cluster arrangement, eight side by side and four high, with apartment-type balconies and staircases in the corners.

Clusters could be arranged into squares, creating “a safe little plaza in the middle where we hope to build a soccer field or a playground, some safe area for families to be,” Nava said.

PFNC wants to set up programs with maquiladoras to offer housing as an employee benefit, helping cut the high rate of worker turnover, now between 7 percent and 10 percent a month, McCarthy said. The company is working with a Mexican law firm that has handled work-to-own housing programs.

This is not a rental-type situation or free housing while you work here,” McCarthy said. “Rather, the employer takes on some of the burden in setting up the financing program to transfer ownership to the employee.”

That’s important because PFNC needs large orders to keep costs down so low-wage workers can afford the home. The incentive for employers: Studies show housing for employees dramatically increases retention, and having more workers in a given area will reduce the number of buses maquiladoras run to take people to and from their jobs.

PFNC doesn’t view its homes as the last stop.

“With our design and with our price point, we think we’ll at least be able to take the first step of getting more families into more homes and formal property ownership,” McCarthy said.

“We fully anticipate that people will move into our homes, build up some equity, sell this home,” he said. “We see this is a stepping stone to get into a bigger or more comfortable home.”


Okay, so what have we learned? You have to go to Mexico, to see a container that has actually been converted affordably, in a manner that allows a family to begin a new life!

I remember heading down to Tijuana Mexico, as a kid, to buy fireworks and other garbage, and driving trough areas that made American Slums look like upscale subdivisions. People lived in houses built of cardboard, shipping pallets, scrap metal, and whatever else they could find! Using a container as the shell would have been a HUGE improvement! And, I’m still haunted by nightmares of the aftermath of the hurricanes, as they wreaked havoc on our neighborhoods here in Mississippi, and Louisiana. Can you imagine how much better these units would have been, than those horrid FEMA trailers they tried to pass off as “safe housing?”

And remember, if you live by a coast, you live by shipping containers. With a little bit of ingenuity, and a little planning, these guys and gals have made it clear that you can build an affordable home, for just pennies on the dollar.

Folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the economy is crashing down around our ears right now. The next four years (regardless of who “wins”) is gonna be pretty bumpy. In most major housing markets, foreclosures and being “upside down” in a mortgage (the act of owing more for a home than it is actually worth) are getting more and more commonplace. Can you imagine taking this concept as a starting point, nad then just expanding it a little bit, to make the home less “spartan?”

You could find yourself living well, and rivaling homes in your neighborhood that cost $100,000 or more (even “manufactured homes” cost that much), for less than a third of that cost!

If you think about it, you could build a home for the price of a good compact car! Imagine that!

Now, before you start yelling and screaming, I admit that this probably isn’t the “home of the future.” But, it does have some appeal for those looking toward the “tiny home” market, to replace their high-maintenance McMansions, huh?

Obviously, I do think this idea has potential.  The applications are virtually endless, and a look around will reveal to you that there are countries all over the planet that have “slum problems.”  We could start with “Planet Mississippi!”

So, what do you think?  These could really fill a niche in the fabric of our cities! Could you live in one? Would you buy one?

In the next few days, I’m going to hit the drawing board, and see just what you could actually build for under $50,000.00, using these containers as the shell. Let’s figure on a small starter home, for a new family. So, let’s figure on 2 bedrooms, at least 2 bathrooms, and a 1 car garage… for starters…

I’ll post my results…

Stay tuned…

PS. I was only kidding about the “porn…” LOL!

High Speed Homes!

27 Oct

Welcome back, Campers…

Forgive the gap between blog posts lately. My Internet connection seemingly vanished into “ether,” due to circumstances beyond my control, and it took forever (and one very industrious cable tech) to get it all worked out again. Hopefully, it’s repaired, and my bandwidth won’t go on vacation again, for a while, at least! LOL!

As October draws to a close, where I live (on the coast of Mississippi), things are still trying to get back to normal, after two hurricanes recently ravaged the landscape. You would think that with all the “practice” we get, it’d be fairly straightforward to get things back on the right track, right?

Well, you’d be wrong. It all comes down to making decisions, and frankly, it reminds me of that description of a Committee I recently was reminded of:

“Committee–a group of men who individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done.”

I’ve got a lot on my mind lately, because of the flood and debris damage to my own neighborhood. As my neighbors continue to haul trash and debris to the curb for eventual pick-up, they wonder if insurance companies are going to step up to the plate and actually cover the damage. I’m sure that they also wonder how long these repairs will take, as the construction industry shrivels up with the doomed building economy.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how exactly FEMA will provide emergency shelter for the families affected by Hurricane Ike.

As we all know, last time around (Hurricane Katrina) FEMA passed out travel trailers that were laced with formaldehyde…

And then, after the toxic trailers were exposed to the public, rapidly started deploying little “Katrina Cottages,” that no city or county wanted to let remain as “permanent structures.”

But, a cost effective, weather resistant, and even GREEN alternative to this housing dilemma was (and still is) staring officials right in the face!

The most affected area in “hurricane events” is usually the coastal area where the storm comes in, right?

And these areas are usually close in proximity to a shipping port, or a large rail yard. And, those yards and ports are filled with boxes, called “shipping containers,” (or ISBU’s) that are easily converted into housing and shelter.

Now, people get all “uppity” when you start talking about putting people in these “metal coffins,” but I’m here to tell you, that with a little design foresight and a little common sense, these steel boxes make comfortable, durable, and even affordable shelters from any storm that old Mother Nature can throw at you.

This could be the ultimate do-it-yourself project, and although you can’t “build one in your garage,” you can build one yourself. I know, because I’ve done it myself. And, I’m doing it again, on a larger scale, to house my entire tribe of dysfunctional miscreants, after Katrina ate our last home.

And lemme tell you… if I can do it, a tribe of trained monkeys can do it, too!!

Just like in any project, the hardest part seems to be finding the starting point. But, there are plans available in books, plans can be found on the Internet, and you can even find plans in the “blogging nation,” if you look around for a while. Because basically, you’re not doing anything really “different,” the house still looks and works like a regular house you’d find on any street in America.

So, I thought I’d start showing you real plans, and real builds, done by real people, to illustrate the potential of these homes…

Bob Villa featured a project building a container house by Tampa Armature Works (TAW) on his TV show recently. TAW is a Florida based company that (like many others that are seemingly popping up in droves) has been developing methods to adapt ISBU containers for use as housing.

But TAW is different.

Instead of posting “possibilities” on the Internet, and showing really cool renderings of “what might be…” TAW is actually doing it. They customize the shipping containers at their “factory” so that the containers become living, breathing structures ready to dot the landscape as new housing.

How do they do it?

Well, this is accomplished by removing all but the outer side panels, leaving the vertical steel support beams for structural integrity and cutting openings for windows and doors in the remaining walls. The company also uses a spray-on ceramic coating on both sides of the remaining walls. The claim is that this spray has an R value of R-19 and bonds nicely to the steel surface. Basically, the ceramic coating works by reflecting heat away (outside), and trapping cooling (inside), by forming a protective “envelope.” The insulation coating can be covered with drywall on the inside, if the buyer chooses. On the outside of the house, the part your neighbors will see, the house can be clad like any other house on the street, with stucco, or siding, or even a veneer (like brick).

At the site – which you MUST have accessible by a heavy trucking and a crane – the builder simply assembles a concrete block foundation with an appropriately sized stem-wall foundation reinforced with steel rebar. This is what your containers will sit on, when they begins their new life as a home. This foundation will also provide the “crawlspace” required, so you can get underneath your house, to connect all the necessary utilities.

The cells in the concrete block are filled with concrete and half-inch thick steel plates with a J-hook are embedded into the concrete at the corners. The J-hook connects the ISBU to the wall and ties everything together all the way down to the footings. You’re gonna do this for every container you set into place, as you begin configuring your home. The ISBU’s are lifted onto the foundation by crane, fastened down with those J-hooks, then welded to the steel embedded in the foundation and at the corners.

According to Bob Villa (and we all know that Bob Vila hardly ever lies…), these shipping containers are so strong (each one is designed to carry over 26 tons of cargo) that they only need to be fastened at the corners,  but attaching them to the embedded rebar in your stem walls and welding them in place “ensures they will be immovable.”

Once your containers are set in place, the containers are welded together at the top and bottom, and along the “seams” of the “roof” surface. Trusses are then added, with steel straps that are welded to the steel roof of the container. Interior finish work is done with metal studding (where required) and then drywall is applied to your partition walls, just like any other house.

When it’s all finished, the container looks like a real house. Nobody will be able to tell what it started it’s life out as. But you will, because you’ll still have cash in the bank, and a house that is weather resistant, and ready to face whatever comes.

So what are the advantages?

These containers are exceptionally strong and may be a high-speed solution to re-construction in hurricane prone areas. Plus, they nearly eliminate the use of trees to build a home. And, they are energy efficient! These homes are preconfigured in a “factory” like a modular home is, so specifications guesswork and fitting problems are almost completely eliminated. This is good, because when those tractor trailers start to arrive to put your home in place, you won’t need a tribe of construction workers sitting around waiting to earn their hourly pay, until your construction budget cries “uncle!” This “modular” style of construction actually reduces construction time for building crews and vastly reduces wasted materials.

Now, all this comes at a price, and the more people start doing this, the cheaper it will get.  Everybody knows that as more and more homes are built with this “new” technology, there will be significant savings passed on to homeowners.

And remember that one of the big advantages is in eliminating what promises to be a progressive environmental impact on areas around container storage yards and the ability to reuse containers rather than having to recycle them into land fills, or process them into new resources.

So how do you find a shipping container and how much do they cost?

Containers ARE readily available. It’s been my experience that you can just call a container depot, and they usually have somebody tasked with eliminating these old boxes. But, you can even find them on eBay.The toughest part of this is that you have to live close to where you’re getting your container, or the shipping costs will kill you. Fuel costs as much as gold lately, and it’s imperative that you shorten that containers trip to your lot. Trust me.

I’ve seen 40′ containers go for $1,000. And, I’ve seen the same containers get sold for $3,200. So, you have to shop carefully, and remember to bring your bartering hat along with you. Like anything else, a little haggling can make a huge difference.

Remember that although there are standard specifications for these boxes, they still come in all shapes and sizes. I regularly see containers for sale that are 10, 20, 40, 45, 48, and even 53 feet long and as much at 9.5 feet high. I know what you’re thinking…

These “rogue” containers aren’t really ISBU’s, but just manufactured boxes. Well, the same rules and standards apply, so using these can give you some additional possibilities, when it comes time to design your new house.

Shipping the containers to your site adds to the cost, but if you get a little creative, you really can cut this cost down, too! It’ll take a little work on your part, but you can arrange to deliver a load of Potatoes from Idaho or even cleaning chemicals from Houston to your new doorstep and cover part of the cost!

(Okay, maybe carrying chemicals in something you’re gonna live in, ain’t such a good idea. Look for a shipment that’s less “user-unfriendly…”)

But this should give you something to think about…

Stay Tuned…

I ain’t the Energizer Bunny…

16 Oct

As we build our new “Shipping Container Casa” we’re taking a hard look at ways to cut our power consumption.

You see, we’re planning on using photovoltaic systems to make power the house will run on. And since  we’re gonna be responsible for that power, we need to start looking at ways to manage it.

This is NOT our house, but it’s a nice one, huh?

Now, a while back, I wrote a post about ways you can actually save energy. But, now that we’re starting to get serious about this house, it’s time to get serious about our power consumption. And we’re not the only ones, I’m sure. With heating and electricity costs soaring, and the economy teetering on the edge of disaster, it makes sense to muster a few troops, and start looking at ways to make energy-saving efforts around the house.

Ever since the beginnings of this house, I’ve carefully investigated a range of big-ticket investments to help cut my home’s energy costs — from photovoltaic systems (solar panels), geothermal HVAC, all the way to “tankless” hot water heaters. After careful consideration, it looks like I’ll definitely invest in some of these “wonders of modern science.” But in the meantime,  I’ve begun trimming bills by taking smaller baby… er… um… eco-steps.

If you watch Cable TV, you’ve seen energy experts have preached these tactics for years — from dumping our old upright freezer for a newer chest model, and unplugging printers, the TV and all of our cellphone and rechargeable battery chargers when they aren’t in use.

In recent months, I’ve been experimenting, and enlisting friends help me figure out “what costs what” in the world of energy consumption.

(I bet you thought Ronin didn’t have any friends, didn’t you… Well, even “fence-straddling” naysayers can be enlisted, if you dangle energy savings over their heads…)

And here’s what we’ve figured out: If you really think about what you’re doing, you can save some cash on your energy bills. Even in my hopelessly inadequate household, we’ve cut over 500 kwh from the same period last year. And in August and September of this year, our bills dropped over $30, compared to last year.

We did all the usual things, we turned back the thermostat on the hot water heater (and having a new baby didn’t hurt, either. The last thing we wanted to do was par-boil the little monkey!) to save some quick cash.

We’d have cut back on water temperature in the washer too, except Joshua is really good at getting his clothes messy, and frankly, cold water just doesn’t cut it! Some of his clothes are so bad you almost have to boil them! But, we did do more of the “adult” laundry, in cold water.

When it comes time to buy appliances, you can bet that we’re gonna buy energy-efficient “ENERGY-STAR” appliances, too. Combining these appliances with energy conservation techniques will definitely pay off in the long run. After all, what’s the point of buying really efficient appliances, if you lose energy like a sieve, everywhere else in your household?

(And close that damned door! You weren’t born in a barn, were you? Sheesh!)

According to the experts, here are some steps you can take, to start saving money right away!:

Trash your old stand-up freezer, and buy a new Chest Freezer. Right off the bat, chest freezers work better by design. Remember that cold air is heavier than warm air. So Chest Freezers consume up to 25% less energy than comparable uprights because the cold air doesn’t spill out all over the place when the door is opened.

That’s what the Department of Energy says, and if they say it… well… it’s okay to be suspicious, (after all, it’s the “government”) but it makes sense! I remember my physics teacher using the same illustration once, when I was actually awake in class… LOL!

Keep in mind that a “manually defrosted” model will use up to 40% less energy than a comparable automatic-defrost models, which may also dehydrate your food, causing it to “freezer burn.”

Nothing pisses off Ronin faster than a “freezer burned” piece of Elk carcass, or my favorite “Bambi-Burgers!”

And, it won’t hurt too much, you can buy a 10-cubic-foot Energy Star Whirlpool chest freezer at most home improvement stores, for under $300.

Your new freezer will actually pay for itself over it’s lifetime. The energy savings of about $40 a year average) adds up. If you’re wondering what your current refrigerator and freezer cost to run, you can check here:


(And, buying a new appliance for the kitchen is bound to make your “significant other” happy! And anything that makes her happy, makes parts of me um… er… happy…) LOL!

Consider using a “solar dryer” and doing more wash in cold water!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. After all, I’m a psychic…er… um… psycho… Clothes lines aren’t very “high-tech.” In fact, I’m told that in some neighborhoods, they’re actually against the law! A “Laundry Nazi” will show up at your house, and give you a ticket, and you have to pay a fine! No kidding!

(Now, Ronin hates Nazi’s in any guise, so if you’re even thinking about showing up at my house, you’re gonna need something more substantial than a stupid ticket book. I suggest automatic weapons, superior numbers, and a sizable amount of skill and cunning…) LOL!

But, If you’re living in one of “these” neighborhoods, you have more money than brains anyway. Why are you even reading this?

“Solar clotheslines” may seem rather “old school,” but using Mother Nature to dry your clothes is pretty much “free.” Have you paid attention to the financial markets lately? The stock market is plunging into the tank faster than Greg Louganis at the Olympics! Any penny I can save, is gonna get saved. It’s getting scary out there!

According to several energy institutes, the average electric dryer is a real hog, consuming about 970 kwh a year! And even though newer models are more way more efficient (they actually shut off when the clothes are dry), letting Mother Nature do it can save you more. And, if you’re shy about showing your undies to the neighbors, use an indoor drying rack for that part of your wash.

If you do this to the tune of reducing as little as half of your drying needs, you can save about $50 a year. That’s “beer money,” folks! It’s nothing to sneeze at! LOL!

And switching from hot water to warm or cold water can cut laundry energy usage in half, according to those rascals at the DOE.

Now, what’s next, hmmm?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Everything is better “Unplugged!” Your DVD player, your cellphone chargers, Paul McCartney, you name it, if you unplug ’em when you ain’t using them, they save you money!

All these devices (Except Sir Paul) leak power, in the form of clocks, remote control circuits, and stand-by modes. And, that can cost you about $100 a year, easy.

And, if you unplug your computer, your TV, and even your computer printer, you can save a similar amount. These components are notorious for being energy guzzlers, even when you’re not fixated by them!

Hook them to a good quality Power Surge Protector, and then flip the switch when you’re not using them. You’ll see an immediate change in your power bill that could average up to about 10%!

Okay, now what?

Take a small step into the future of lighting! Don’t worry, it won’t hurt much!

Get rid of your incandescent light bulbs! An incandescent light bulb is just a heater that glows when it gets really hot! Did you know that 90% of the energy used by a light bulb is transformed into heat and only 10% of it is turned into “light.”

Want proof? I bet if you have a daughter, you’ve had an “EasyBake Oven” in your house at one time or  another! These *&$^#!! will burn the crap outta you, your kid, and even the dog, if you aren’t careful.

The power source for this “miracle of baking science?” You guessed it. An Incandescent Light Bulb.

Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and even certain halogens!

Most Energy Star CFLs use 75% less energy (although they do require special disposal because they contain mercury) than incandescents and now come in three-way and dimmable models, while LEDs use up to 90% less electricity.

I’m switching to lamps and dimmable track lighting using CFLs or low-voltage halogens; and my kitchen under-cabinet lighting is going to be LEDs.

(You get extra points if your backsplash is reflective! That cool glow will help you find the snacks in the middle of the night, without waking up the “Cookie Nazi” by turning on all the kitchen lights!)

Using CFLs wont hurt too bad, because CFL prices range from $2 to $15 at most lighting retailers. You  can even find them at dollar stores, if you look carefully! LEDs are a different matter, though. LED technology is still pricey, a 20′ track of LEDs can set you back about $300!

If you consider that your lighting costs $50 to $150 a year in energy bills for the average U.S. household, using these newer technologies can cut your lighting energy usage by up to 75%.

A little caulk can save the day!

(Oh, just stop it, you dirty minded poltroons! I said “caulk.”)

It’s a common fact that many of our homes are really poorly insulated and extremely poorly sealed against air leaks. While you can make huge gains by sealing your old ductwork and adding new (more efficient) insulation, you’ll be happy to know that your leaky windows and drafty door frames are a problem that’s cheaper to improve.

Often it’s just a matter of sealing the space between the window and its rough opening! Head down to  Home Depot or Lowe’s, and buy several tubes (it’s cheap!) of paintable, siliconized acrylic caulk to seal off the areas where your window trim meets the wall and frame. Applying new weather stripping, caulking your leaks, and adding “sweeps” to the bottom of your exterior doors will conquer any draft problems in your  entryways.

Spend a week-end doing this, and you can save up to 20% on your heating and cooling costs!

Invest in new, more efficient windows. If your windows are older than the local “bag lady” that scares your kids, think about replacing them with double-paned ones with “Low-E” (“low emissivity”) coatings and gas filling, such as argon and krypton, between the panes.

(I mean no offense to real “bag-people.” We just have one in our neighborhood that is a real terror, and she gives our children nightmares!)

Replacing your windows can improve your window’s thermal performance and I guarantee that it reduce UV ray penetration, which fades your furniture and even your rugs.

The DOE has a set standard for windows to be classified Energy Star, and you can find it here;


The “U-factor” refers to how well a window insulates. The “SHGC” (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) tells how much the window blocks heat.

These windows aren’t cheap, but they will save you money in the long-run. The average window is about $20 to $50 more (per window for Low-e and gas fills) assuming you use the same frame and sash size. And why wouldn’t you? You’re just gonna pull the old ones out, and slide the new ones in.

Whatever you do, don’t let you wife talk you into bigger windows! This will only lead to other home improvements, and the end of your week-ends watching football. Let me tell you… LOL!

Choosing new Energy Star windows are a boon to your power consumption. Changing out your windows can save you $450 a year, when replacing single-pane windows; And even changing out old double-pane windows can save you cash. The difference could be as much as $100 a year over double-pane, clear glass replacement windows.

If you’re gonna be in your current home for more than ten years, you’ll appreciate the savings.

(And it won’t hurt your resale, either!)

Now that we’re cooking, what’s for dessert? Hmmm?

Buy some Energy Star appliances!

Not only does this improve your standing in the household (Momma will love you!), you’ll note that appliances account for about 20% of your household’s energy consumption with refrigerators, clothes washers and clothes dryers blazing the trail.

“Energy Star” rated appliances are designed to use up to 50% less energy and water than standard models.

And since the desire for “energy star” appliances is becoming so competitive (after all, they are consumer driven), the increased costs are negligible over less efficient makes and models. Sometimes you can pick up great appliances with no increase in price for these money-saving features!

The “renovation” to Energy Star appliances can save the average household $75 a year. I looked up my current refrigerator, and I found out that it takes $150 a year to power it. Changing to a similar sized “energy star” rated appliance would cost me $50 a year. There’s a hundred buck a a year, right there.

After a few years, I’ve almost paid for the fridge!

Consider going to a wood stove, if you live in an area where it’s possible!

Household spending on heating fuels is expected to climb up to 25% this winter in some places. And that means that some homeowners are going to be seeking alternative heat sources like wood and pellet stoves, which use renewable resources.

Now, this is gonna hurt right off the bat, but typically a good stove and hearth will set you back $3,000 to $4,200 (installed), according to the AWSHA (American Wood Stove and Hearth Association).

After you’re through gasping and clutching your heart, consider that even though you’re out-of-pocket in the beginning, a heating hearth appliance can save up to 40% on your heating bills.

Go to:  http://pelletheat.org for a comparison of heating costs.

If you can’t find what you need there, try: http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/experts/heatcalc.xls

Okay, now you’re ready to go tackle the Energy Monster that lives in your house. I suggest that before you do, you sit down, and drink a nice cold beverage, while you ponder who you do battle with, first.

After all, show me a man losing a battle, and I’ll show you a man who didn’t have a good enough plan!

Stay tuned!

Thanks, but “No Thanks!”

18 Sep

This post is a little bit off-topic, but I’m sharing it with you, so that you are aware of the idiotic things people do, to try and bilk the Internet minions.

Lately, people have responded to our families need for a home, by sending us their best wishes, their hope that we find good fortune, and words of encouragement. And we’re grateful for that!

Unfortunately, some readers have decided that we’re “gullible rubes,” too stupid to figure out that they are playing on our hardship, by dangling enough carrots to make Bugs Bunny go crazy!

Our email accounts (and even our comment areas) are graced with these “offers,” as we are repeatedly informed that we have won an unsolicited lottery, been found the only surviving benefactor of countless millions of dollars, or “trusted” to assist in the removal of millions of dollars from a hostile regime bent on mayhem…

I find it odd that I didn’t know any of these people I’m supposedly related to, and even odder that I don’t remember entering any of these lotteries. I mean, I’m getting older, but I’m still capable of remembering a few facts, from time to time.

So, here’s a few words of warning to those out there curious about how these scams work;

If you have received a letter informing you of a large sum of money that could come your way: a business opportunity, a request for assistance in a financial transaction, or perhaps even an inheritance…

Is it a scam?

Did the offer come out of the blue from a total stranger?

Don’t take offense at this, but ‘Why you?’ No-one with a big financial deal in the offing is going to contact a stranger on the internet. I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t. They wouldn’t. If the offer is for lots, possibly millions, of dollars and you don’t know the person making the offer…

…then it is a scam.

What if the offer is for an inheritance?

Ask a few questions:

  • Do you even know the person who supposedly left you all this loot?
  • Do you know them very well?
  • Do other people in your family know them?
  • Does anybody in your family know them?
  • Can you verify their death?
  • Do you know of a reason for them to leave you this money?
  • Can you contact another source to confirm death & will?
  • Was the original approach addressed to you by name, or just “Dear Sir”?
  • How did they find you?

If the offer is for an inheritance from someone you have never heard of and your mommy never told you about…

…then it is a scam.

Did the offer come by email or fax?

More importantly, did it come addressed to the ‘contractor’, ‘beneficiary’, ‘director’ etc? Any legitimate offer would come to your street mail address, it would come from a legitimate (and verifiable) company, and it would be addressed to you by your legal name. If the offerer didn’t know your name and postal address…

…then it is a scam.

Did the offer come with a contact email address that is from a public email provider?

I don’t care what the excuse is, the Director of the Reserve Bank of Nigeria will not be using a Hotmail account.

Mind you, the scammers are getting more clever and you are likely to get email addresses from @accountant.com or @lawyer.com. But, if the contact email is from a public email provider…

…then it is a scam.

Did the offer ask you to ‘reconfirm’ your details, so they could protect your bank account or send you an ATM card?

Pay Attention! If they are “phishing” for information…

…then it is a scam.

Is it going to cost you money up front?

Hey, if I’m getting a few million, I can afford to make a phone call or two, but anybody who went to high school knows that normal business procedure is to adjust any financial settlement for costs incurred in the transaction. If it is going to cost you a sizable chunk of money and it cannot be offset against the money involved in the offer…

…then it is a scam.

Is it legal? Are you being asked to assist in a crime?

Here’s one of my personal favorites; It’s the “Shhhssssh! I’ve got a secret, and you can help” scam. Think carefully about the offer presented to you. Are you being asked to help a serviceman smuggle Sadaam’s lost treasure out of Iraq? Are you supposed to pretend to be someone you are not, to collect an inheritance or an unclaimed bank balance? Are you supposed to bill someone for something that you did not do in order to claim money that you never earned? Does it involve someone being over-invoiced to create a ‘fund’? If it seems to be based on an illegal operation…

…then it is a scam.

But, here’s the “Numero Uno,” the “Big Enchilada,” the “King of the Crap!,” number one favorite in my house, right now; It’s the “Personal Secret Shopper” scam. We got a check in the mail for several thousand dollars, made payable to us. It was “compensation” for services rendered, as we shopped Home Depot, Sears, and Old Navy, and then we were supposed to send the remaining balance (minus our $600 compensation fee) to another “Corporate” account.

The letter came from Canada, directed us to contact a woman in Delaware, but the actual check was written on an Insurance Company account in Texas.

We were instructed to deposit the check into our personal bank account, wait for it to clear, and then “secret shop” a few locations, buying specific items. Hell, we were even instructed to go to a couple of fancy restaurants, to “rate” the service, with the money! And then, after we’d jumped through all the hoops… we were to send the remaining balance away to the “Corporate Office,” to “test” Western Union” procedures. Uh-huh!

It’s a SCAM… Duh!

We contacted the Insurance Company in Texas, right? After all, it was their funds. Guess what? The check was forged. They advised us that even looking cross-eyed at the check would commit a few choice felonies, and several federal crimes. We’re waiting for an investigator to contact us, now.  Maybe we’ll get a reward. Nah, it’s an insurance company, so probably not…

Hey, I’m sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, of squashing your dreams of spending the rest of your days checking your stock portfolio on your WiFi Laptop, while cruising on your yacht through the Whitsundays with a bevy of buxom and scantily clad babes, but there seems to be no exception to that old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Just so you know, to date I’ve been the winner of 93 lotteries, totalling $1,076,754,000.00 dollars, and I have 37 bank accounts I wasn’t even aware of. Plus, 19 of my relatives have “passed through the veil” to leave me with $315,400,000.00 give or take a penny or two…

And if you believe that one, I have some swamp land in Texas to sell you, cheap. But you’ll have to act fast, because I’m trying to keep it a secret from the other beneficiaries in the inheritance deal…

I need the money to pay the fees involved in smuggling Sadaam’s recovered (and secretly stashed) gold out of Iraq for a kindly and generous Airman who was touched by our circumstances and wants to help us rebuild our home… LOL!

Stay tuned!

One Last “Hurricane Gustav” Observation…

3 Sep

As Hurricane Gustav rolled toward the Gulf Coast, I watched a characterization recently which I suspect was actually intended to allay the fears of the national (and even international) viewing audience about a very specific and often feared sub genus of American culture:

I speak of course, about “the poor, misunderstood Southern Redneck.”

Now, in spite of the weather, the rain, the wind, and even the cops, the broadcasts were extremely well done, and it was obvious to all that the news commentators truly cared for and even perhaps loved their charges. Hell, the press, bent on sensationalizing the impending disaster, treated them almost like real people.

And the staging was brilliant! It was almost like looking at a life-sized diorama. It was authentic down to the swaying masts in the harbor, the vibrato of the rigging as the winds ripped through it, and the large snarling dogs barking and growling in the background.

The commentator illustrated the steely nerves of the “future” victims, and painted “pictures of personal bravery” that would make mortal men weep. He talked about the exodus of mankind from the oil platforms perched precariously in the Gulf of Mexico.

And the “real kicker” for me was the revealing display of the lower back tattoos on the womenfolk depicted, almost as if an anthropological commentary on “tramp stamps” as “redneck art.”

You’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, aren’t you?

As Hurricane Gustav prepared to meet Louisiana, a weather guy from the Weather Channel set up shop in front of a harbor filled with shrimp trawlers and oil tenders. Now, this wasn’t just any old harbor, it was pretty much “ground zero” for the coming storm, and all eyes were cast to the heavens and to one sorry vessel, packed to the forward bilge pumps with people. In fact, the weather guy (whose voice was literally reeking of distress) related that 10 adults and 8 children were on board because the guy who owned the boat didn’t want to risk losing it in the storm, and he couldn’t afford to flee to a hotel room, anyway.

Let’s put this in perspective, okay folks? A Category 3 hurricane is headed for your harbor, and where do you drag your wife, kids, and in-laws? To the boat anchored there at ground zero, of course! Because all those “extra hands” can help bail water, right?

I only have one question. Where in the hell were the cops? Why didn’t they taze this idiot, drag his sorry ass off to “safety,” and insure that his brood was sheltered from the storm? Most jail cells are “hurricane resistant,” right? I’m sure they could have found space for him.

Okay, that’s three questions. So sue me…

Now, I’m gonna admit that as a soon as I saw that, I started praying like a horrified Hebrew in the Gaza… and I wasn’t praying for him, I was praying for his poor family. In Hebrew, with feeling… If I had any hair left, I’d have torn it out!

I’ve done some time on Shrimp Trawlers. Admittedly, it was long ago, and I was a better (fit) man, but I’m telling you now, the last place I wanna be in the middle of a hurricane, is on a shrimp boat. And there’s no way in hell my kids would be within miles, maybe even scores of miles.

Now that the carnage is over, and things are settling down, I hope some social worker somewhere in that moron’s parish is looking hard at that tape, trying to figure out a name, to put with that dumb-ass face. And then, he needs to be given the chance to explain himself, while somebody tears him a new one…

If I had my way, they’d find the sorry bastard, tranquilize him with a few teaspoons full of Robitussin, and then extract his teeth one by one with a ball peen hammer and some old rusty fishing pliers.

And if he passed out along the way, well… I’d just wave a cold Budweiser in front of his face long enough to stimulate his salivary glands, and then start over…

This moron gives legitimate “Sons of the South” a bad name. I mean, this guy has got to be somebody’s “idiot stepchild.” He’s probably even got a laminated Confederate Dollar Bill in his wallet.

Don’t get me wrong, my entire family is rooted in the South. And, I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again, but sure, our family tree grows straight up, without a single branch! However, it is planted in “Southern Soil,” baby!

But this guy just really pissed me off. My only wish is that he lived near enough to me, so that I could offer to teach him a lesson or two in “parenting…”

And this concludes “Ronin’s look at foul weather and high winds,” at least for now. The next hot air you read about, will in fact, be my own…

That is all…

Stay tuned…