Tag Archives: Family

Christmas isn’t all “happy happy fun-time”…

20 Dec

I’m writing this because I’m reminded that for many people, Christmas is the hardest time of year. They feel isolated, alone, lost. They feel like no-one understands what they’re going through.

Someone I knew killed himself a few days ago. He just got tired of hurting, tired of feeling alone, tired of watching the world walk right past him. We didn’t know how bad it was. We never suspected.

I could have written the letter he left behind. He felt like he wasn’t enough, like he’d let his friends and family down. He felt like an outsider. He just never “fit in”. He felt like he’d never get enough done. He felt “overwhelmed”. He felt “lost”.

Suicide rates climb during this time of year as many fall into despair. Many lose both faith and hope.

I want them to know that they aren’t alone. Many of us are getting our butts kicked right now. Many of us don’t know what the New Year will bring. But we can overcome this. We just have to find the strength. We need to let those around us know that we’re struggling. We need to reach out. We all fall down.

To illustrate this, here’s a glimpse into MY personal life;

I’m getting hate mail from people who accuse me of using my “wealth” and position (as a designer/builder of ISBU homes, I suppose) as a platform for “forcing my politics down people’s throats” as we work to help those in need in places like the Philippines, Vietnam, Haiti and other places hard hit by disaster.

They say it’s a “publicity stunt.”

It’s really ironic, actually.

First, even though we’re slowly building a new farm that will become a “teaching center”, we’re actually living in a rented house. We drive ten year old trucks and we live paycheck to paycheck. just like everyone else. At work, management gets paid LAST. There are no “lofty” bank accounts with money collecting dust piled up in them. We “barter” and we use sweat equity and then… we figure out how to cover the rest of our obligations any way that we can, just like every other middle class family in America.

We’ve always maintained the same mission; “Help every family that  we can reach.”

You see, FAMILIES built this nation. They are the SPINE that supports everything else that America shoulders.

We’ve helped families through wildfires, floods and natural disasters every chance we had, because empowering people to overcome hardship empowers them to help others. It’s the only way that we know how to help people. We do it “exponentially”, one family at a time… and then we urge them to help families when they are able.  The idea is to create more “helping hands”.

While this is happening, we’re trying to recover from each event to prepare for the next one.

After we started the operation in the Philippines (both after the Oct earthquake and then after the Typhoon – Haiyan) we knew that we were committing to a huge project. We started figuring out what was needed and then we acted on it. Lot’s of people and groups pledged help but when it came down to it, little of those promises were any good. They talked and insured that they got publicity, but then when it was time to help cover the expenses they ran like deer fleeing hunters.

(The same thing held true when Colorado flooded and people asked us for help and assistance. We did everything that we could and fell far short of our goals.)

We still had to meet shipping schedules to insure that the aid that was needed would arrive on time. This meant that many of us ponied up everything we had to insure that goods were not only secured, but that they then moved where they were supposed to.

In my family’s case, it meant selling household possessions and stuff like old guitars (that frankly were like children to me, they’d been around so long) to insure that we met our obligations and yet we still fell significantly short.

You could park a truck in the hole that is still left.

And so… my family isn’t having “Christmas” this year, nor did we celebrate the gift-giving of Hanukkah because the money for it simply isn’t there. We’re counted among the lucky who can (barely, at this point)  insure that their rent and utility bills are paid right now. Our own savings are flat-lined. I’m just glad that we can make arrangements to extend some of our payment dates out past January 1st. Some families aren’t that lucky.

A few people (I mean like 3) we know offered up a portion of their paychecks to help chip shipping costs down. They knew that we w ere trying  to fill a $19,000 hole. They know who they are and we don’t even have the words to thank them enough for helping us.

We simply know that there are people in need, people who are hungry, sick and in need of warmth and shelter who will not get it, unless someone steps up to the plate.

To those of you who promised help and then reneged, I can only shake my head in sadness. You’ve left a giant burden for others to carry, so that promises made can be fulfilled.

We’ve given up something very precious to us (that’s very difficult this year with a young one in the house) to help insure this and I pray that my young son forgives me for it. I’m just glad that he’s young enough that he won’t remember this “screw-up”.

To those who ridicule or mock us for helping others, I offer only this;

“We put our money and our shoulders where our mouths are when people needed our help. What have YOU done lately to help anyone beside yourself?”

Sometimes doing the right thing comes at great cost. It involves sacrifice. I tell myself that we’re fortunate to have jobs, a strong roof over our heads and food to eat. Yet still… I have to go explain to the rest of my family how I “screwed up and killed Christmas”. It’s actually a struggle to do the Christmas tree thing, knowing there’s not gonna be anything under it.

So, forgive me if I’m not feeling “In the Season” right about now. This one really hurts, and hopefully helps drive home this message;

If you know someone that needs help. HELP them. This is the hardest time of year for some of us. Lift them up. Hold them close. Remind them that they’re important to you. It’s easy to feel “lost”. It’s easy to feel alone. It’s easy to just want to give up.

For years in hard places, they used to tell us to “keep our heads on a swivel”. It meant to stay aware and observant.

If you have friends or co-workers who are struggling, reach out to them. Please. Even if it’s just a kind word, or the offer of a cold celebratory beer, it may just save their lives.

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I’m in the hole… and it’s wet in here…

20 Nov

NOTE: Apparently there are those among us that mistook this abbreviated response to a question for a COMPLETE BLUEPRINT on how to build a swimming pool out of a shipping container.

This is a Brief OVERVIEW to demonstrate that it can indeed be accomplished. There are several steps that are inferred or not described here that must be taken in order to make this work.

Anyone expecting a “one page do-it-yourself to completion” novel is naive and shouldn’t be around tools with an edge. Capish?

Now… back to our regularly scheduled program;

Daddy, I WANNA POOL! I want it NOW! Daddy? Are you listening, Daddy? Daaaaaaady!

Yes, young Jedi… It’s easy to build a lap pool from a 40′ High Cube ISBU shipping container… IF you start planning now.

Recently, I was lurking a friend’s blog, where there is a rampant discussion going on about using ISBUs (Shipping Containers) as housing.

And, one of the readers asked about whether or not you could actually use one of these big steel boxes, as a Swimming Pool.

The answer is: YES.

Note: Don’t do this if it’s already snowing outside. Playing in the snow is for kids and idiots. Remember, H1N1 is not your friend. Just tell your kids;

“Hey you should’a spoke up sooner. Maybe next year!” 😉

Where was I? Oh yeah…

We’ve used ISBU’s as the “mold” for lap pools a few times. I personally plan to do it again. It “mystifies” the neighbors.

Hurricane Katrina knocked the heck out of my photo collection, so you’re going to have to visualize this. You can do it… I’ll type slow. 😉

Now, before you think I’m completely nuts, here’s a guy who’s doing the same thing… albeit above ground, with trash dumpsters.

Yeah, I know “New Yorker’s” are crazy!  Have you seen what they pay for apartments in the city? Oy freakin’ Vey! I’d have a heart attack once a month, when the rent came due!  But… this guy… he gets paparazzi and media hype, and everything! 🙂

So… First thing you do, is grab a shovel.

Not that namby-pamby “use your hands and get some blisters” kinda shovel… THIS kind of shovel;

Once you get that… find a sunny spot, dig your hole, and then shore up the insides, to prevent a cave-in, later.

Dig your hole several feet longer than the container, on the “door” end. You’ll see why later.

Remember, the skin on a container is just that. SKIN. It’s not designed to take a load – soil OR water. If you don’t believe me, read THIS.

Now, to build a retaining wall to PROTECT the ISBU that will be the pool…

You can use cinder blocks, a thin steel-reinforced (rebar) concrete wall, even railroad ties… But use SOMETHING, or you’ll be either sorry, or a guest star on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

(BTW: If you win the $10 grand, remember your ‘friends,’ huh?) 😉

First, lay the ISBU on it’s SIDE.

Now, cut out the NEW top. Grind the “cut” lip smooth. Guess what? Wider pool.

And that pool’s gonna hold about 11,000 – 12,000 gallons of water.

Added for clarification: (Dec 2010)

NOTE: OBVIOUSLY that means reinforcing the ISBU.

Hint: 2″x2″ steel tubing. LOTS of it.

Cut out your drains in the bottom. Install your water returns in the sides. Do your plumbing.

Remember, don’t sniff the glue, and rightie tightie… LOL!

Now, install your drain lines in your hole, and then build a one course outline of your container bottom so that the container will sit above your plumbing. Now fill in ‘that’ inside hole until it’s level… with gravel.

Now, drag the ISBU into your hole.

Okay… don’t drag it, drop it in there carefully, after lining everything up. Be careful of the returns if you’ve placed them outside the container, in the gap between the retaining wall system.

Some people actually prefer the “outside plumbing” method. I’m not one of them.

But if YOU are… Now, you can backfill into the gap between the container and the retaining wall, if you want. Some people use gravel, some use dirt.

Hey, use old socks if you want to, but just make sure that you fill up the gaps. You don’t want the container to “bow out” after you’ve filled it with water.

I prefer gravel. It’s easy to place, strong, and easy to get back out if I have to… Click heels three times… I hope I don’t. I hope I don’t…

On the inside, most people line the container to get smooth sides. It’s easier to clean. Plus, it gives you a place to run your water return lines INSIDE the container.

Just some inspiration!

This is the best way. It’s the “Ronin Way.” Several sheets of plywood. Sand it smooth, or get the good stuff.

If your kid keeps missing his curfew, it’s a weekend of “Wax on, Wax off” with an orbital sander…

Who says you have to beat them? 😉

Now, here’s where it gets tricky…

You need a place to put the pump and filters, right? Well, that container has doors on it.

Remember?

At the door end… (remember the container is on it’s side now, so the doors will be hinged at the top and bottom) build a wall out of concrete, masonry, or whatever you can handle about 4 feet or so into the box. Make it “strong and thick” and insure that it’s firmly attached to the container because it’s going to have water pressing against it. Use tapcons or something similar to attach your new wall to the container sides.

This is going to form the ROOM for your pool apparatus, and supply storage.

Now, it’s below grade, so you’ll have to build steps down to it. But that will be cool, literally. Use cinder blocks to build retaining walls on either side, to keep the dirt from falling in Again with the cinder clocks… I know, I know… But, you’ll look like you did in high school, when you’re finished!

Think of this as Corten Calisthenics.

Build some cool steps down into the hole. Don’t bump your head on the “door/cover.”

Now, go get some sand. A LOT of sand… A truckload of sand. Builders sand.

Don’t steal it from the beach! The Green-Peacer’s will beat you to death with a biodegradable bucket and shovel!

Relax, I know what you’re thinking… All that sand… Oy Vey! Use a backhoe or a Bobcat, or a bunch of unruly kids that you are currently punishing for setting the house on fire or wrecking the car.

Even MORE inspiration!

Dump it into the big empty end of the container, and then sculpt it to form your slope for the bottom. Nobody wants a pool without a shallow end. Not all of us are Michael Phelps!

Build some steps down into the shallow end. You can use lumber, if you’re careful. Otherwise, consider forming and using concrete.

Okay, if you did it right, you now have a pool that’s about 34+’ long, and over 7 feet deep now, at the deepest point. You also have a built in pool room that is almost 8′ high, about 4 ‘ deep, and almost 9’ wide.

Now… Open that top door UP, and put a post under each end. Now, you have a covered porch on your pool room.  Open the bottom one, and either remove it, or even use it as a deck.

You can easily enclose this space using a small insulated wall and a door, to cut down on pump noise.

That done, get some liner track from the pool supply store, and install it around the top edge of the container. Once you’ve finished doing that, install the plastic pool liner that you can buy from any pool supply company or store. It will fit into the liner track.

WHAT? A Vinyl pool? Ronin… Are you freakin’ nuts?

Nope. You wanna do this “yourself” or not?

The idea here is to take an ISBU container and turn it into an affordable pool, for less than half the cost of going to a turnkey pool company.

You can go fiberglass… But not in a ISBU shell. It’s a shame too, because frankly, fiberglass is the way to go. Easy maintenance, lower chemical usage, and long life that is relatively hassle-free.

But you had to go and use an ISBU… 😉

I’ve never seen a fiberglass shell that would drop into an ISBU cavity.

You can go “Gunite,” but you better have an extra $10,000 – $15,000 laying around, because you’re going to need it. Oh yeah, you’ll need a couple of contractors too. And laborers. Lot’s of laborers…

And Gunite (or concrete) pools require more chemicals, have a rougher surface (thus they are harder to clean) and they usually need replastering at about year 8-10.

Now… IF you go VINYL, you’ll be able to install most everything all by your “onesies.” As in, you and the family. And they’re easy to maintain, and fairly easy on chemicals.

There are drawbacks. People will tell you that the liner will wear out in 3-5 years. Bull. Liners last 10 years, easy. Some last longer. And, the current crop are starting to approach that 25 year “degrade and decay” mark, IF the pool is properly maintained and taken care of.

Realtors will tell you that a homebuyer won’t like your “plastic pool.” So what? You’ll have gotten years of pleasure out of it.

And you didn’t have to drive all the way to the beach, lake, or river…   waste relaxation time stuck in traffic, fight for a parking space, fight for some sand to stake out, buy “overpriced and under-quality” concession stuff that they try to pass of as “food and drinks,” or dirty up your car with sand and debris on the way back.  You’ll have saved enough to pay for this pool, and then some.

Just look at the Realtor and laugh. Screw them. They don’t like it, THEY can haul it out to the curb!

Yes, you’ll probably have to buy the pool liner material (which isn’t exactly cheap), and you might even have to make your own, depending on the length you go with. Or you might find a custom house that will do all the work for you. If you do this in the off-season (when work is slow), you’ll get a terrific bargain. You’ll figure this out with a few phone calls.  And, if you’re really worried about that alleged pool liner “imminent failure”… this is a perfect opportunity to DOUBLE the thickness of that lining, to help prevent any tears or leaks. This isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. Ask your local pool guy.

We did. Our last lap pool liner was a  “thick” vinyl custom, and it cost $2800, straight from the liner company. (It cost more than a normal “custom” liner because we used a much heavier vinyl that was harder to work with. If we’d used regular pool liner, it would’ve come in about $1500 or so.) We sent them detailed dimensions, they did all the work, and we got a really high quality product. If we’d “done it ourselves,” or waited until Spring…  it would’ve cost about $4000.00 or more. Your mileage may vary.

Put it in the hole. Make sure the shallow end of the liner is in the shallow end of the pool. You’d be surprised how many people make this mistake and waste time and effort. Install your drains.

Here’s a good “blow by blow” of installing a pool liner.

It includes how you attach the liner to each pool step. It’s not as colorful as it would have been if I’d written it, but hey… that just guarantees that you’ll understand it! 🙂

Now you have a plastic lined rectangular custom pool in a steel reinforced shell.

After you’ve installed your pool liner you can secure it using decking, tiles, or whatever suits your fancy, No one is going to know that you used a shipping container.

Now, install your pool water returns, traps, etc… and the pool pump/filtration system.

Now’s also a perfect time to add that solar pool water heating panel into the loop…

And maybe a few photovoltaic panels to run the pump and filter…

Can’t you just picture yourself lounging out here?

Now… about the top of that “pool room…”

Frame in a wood deck the same size as your “pool room” roof. Make sure that there are spaces between the wood decking slats. Now your pool room is basically weathered in, and it can breathe. If you’re a pool pump or filtration system, you need to breathe, trust me.

Add water, jello, or even chocolate milk. I don’t care.

Well… I do care. Chocolate milk is gonna get pretty stinky in about six hours… If you plan on doing this, make sure that you’re downwind of me, huh?

Here’s a tip for you;

SALT Chlorination.  It’s much cheaper, and a lot safer.

Did you know that seawater is used to make laundry bleach? Yep. That’s right. And if it works in the laundry, it’ll work in the pool.

All you have to do is use a Salt Chlorine Generator. But why would you do this?

Ever get out of a pool with red, burning eyes? Well, it was a chemical burn from the chlorine.

Using SALT is WAY better than using chlorine chemicals. Initially, a certain amount of salt is added to the water. As water passes over the chlorinator’s specially coated plates, an electric current breaks down the salt and water into their basic elements to form sodium hypochlorite, which is the active sanitizer in all forms of chlorine. The chlorine kills algae and bacteria in the water and oxidizes the waste. Thereafter, the chlorine regenerates itself back to salt and begins the process over again in a virtually unending cycle. Since salt does not evaporate, an occasional addition of salt is needed only to replace what is lost due to the splash out, pumping out, draining or backwashing.

The obvious advantage is the cost effectiveness of the salt-water chlorination system. Imagine you spend $15 per day currently on chlorine, over a period of five years you will spend in excess of $25000. An equivalent salt water chlorination system will cost around 1/10th of that amount, with running costs being equal to 1/5th. The system would pay for itself in less than one year.

Plus, SALT IS ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

(Sorry, didn’t mean to yell…)

Stay tuned…

And send me a picture. All I have left now are these “inspirations.”

Stinkin’ Hurricanes, anyway… mumble, grumble, snort!

And since you’re still here;

If this blog has helped you, educated you, amused you, or even just made you shake your head and wonder why I’m not locked up in some room clad with rubber tiles…

Please know that this site has required a great deal of money, time and effort to develop & maintain. If it’s been useful to you at all, and you can afford to… You can help my family and support this site by making a small donation by hitting that Paypal button up there on the right.

Paypal is the VERY BEST “secure” way to donate to any cause… like ours.

This will help keep us alive while we try to remedy our own situation, and empower me to carry on writing, maintaining, providing countless hours of hard work, and including any updates or topics that you might suggest.

And… No anatomical impossibilities, huh? I’m not as young as I used to be…

It’s about time for some Heavy Metal In Michigan!

3 Nov

3D Rosa ParksAh… another fine example of “Mi Container es Su Casa!”

“Oh, give me a home,
I can build on my own,
where the bankers can kiss my big butt…

A ‘slight’ mortgage I’ll pay,
while I’m happy all day,
and the neighbors all think I’m a nut!”

(I writ that, I did… all by my onesies… You can tell, huh?) 🙂

Call it “Home on the Range…” or “Home, sweet home…”

I’ve shown you cabins, castles, and even condo’s before, but this is a good one…

Recently, I got involved in conversations over a project that would build a factory in Florida to actually produce ISBU homes. The idea is to take a plant that used to build modular homes and simply “retool and convert” it to process ISBUs, using the same workforce that was laid off, when the plant recently closed. That’s Win-Win.

And, they wanted “my advice…”  The rubes… 🙂

(Well, it’ll be worth exactly what they paid for it…. nada.) 😉

As we talked, they kept talking about this Detroit project. Now, I’ve known about this one for a long time, but frankly, although it has real merit, IMHO there were too many cards stacked against it.

And everybody is still talking about it… even though it’s dragging out longer and longer… without making any real progress.

Until…

On October 6, 2009… Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks was approved by Detroit City Council with a 8-0 “YES” vote to move forward. Now, they “WAIVERED” it, which means they can’t change their minds or rescind the vote.

So, maybe a model home will get built. IF… they can raise a quarter million bucks of front money. So far, all they have is $50 grand.

Detroit architect Steven Flum and company have finally convinced the city of Detroit to let them build the “Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks” project on top of land currently containing vacant lots and burned-out homes.

It’s a 17 condo project that was projected to cost about $1.8 million bucks!

(Man, I could build over 30 ISBU homes with that kind of money!)  🙂

IF built, each unit will range from about 960 to 1,920 square feet, at a cost of between $100 grand, and about $200 grand. This is about 25% less than most of the units around the area, and these puppies are “Green, green green!”

I’ve seen the floorplans, and they’re pretty sweet. It’s not the approach I would have taken, but they know their market far better than I do! And, the project will make a lot of people happy, most importantly, the residents.

Thanks to the use of recycled materials, efficient appliances, and green design, these babies will be about 60% more efficient than the neighbors, too! Talk about your annual energy savings!

They want to have a $1 Million Five hundred thousand dollars of Investor money by Novembers’ end, drawing interest. That may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back…

According to the Detroit Free Press;

(BTW: Why is it the Free Press, if you have to buy it?) Hmmm?

Like I was saying…

The project would stack empty containers four high, cut in windows and doors, install plumbing, stairways and heating, and add amenities such as balconies and landscaped patios…

The developer, Leslie Horn, chief executive of the Detroit-based PGH “Power of Green Housing” organization, said using empty shipping containers is not a new idea.

Well, DUH! And it’s funny… I thought that PGH stood for Professional Golfing Hooligans… I got an invite from John Daly, just the other day… 🙂

Anyway, again with the “back to’s…”

“It’s been done in Europe and, to a limited extent, in this country. But no one has looked at organizing the process on a larger scale incorporating a range of recycled materials and efficiencies that could save a homeowner as much as 60% annually in energy costs,” she said.

What? Careful, lass… You’re overloading your bottom there… Many of us have done exactly that! WAY before this project ever got penciled…

Horn and Flum said they would use special insulating paint inside and out (Supertherm, probably), high-efficiency water heaters and other energy-saving methods. But by far, the most environmentally friendly aspect of the project is the use of discarded shipping containers.

Finally, there will be a “highly public” project that will test the claims of the Supertherm folks…

Think about it. It’d be homes made out of steel. And if you’re living in a drive-by zone, what better material to use?

Anyone out there live in Detroit? Would you live here? It’d be built on the southeast corner of Rosa Parks and Warren. How’s that neighborhood, now? I was there years ago, and it was pretty rough! ? Can you go outside, during daylight hours without getting shot, or stabbed, or maimed??

Anybody else wanna live there?

I mean, I know it’s in DETROIT and all… 🙂

Wait! I just figured it out! This is just a scam! You pay your dough… You go to bed in Detroit, and the next thing you know your ‘house’ is on a slow boat heading for South America.

Argh! 🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninLike I said… although they’ve been talking about this project for months, and although it’s looking better, it’s still not looking too good.  I recently spoke to one of the heads of the Realtor network up there, and between the economy, the alternative approach, and local politics, it’ not looking like “diamonds and pearls.”  I’m betting it’s not going to happen on the publicized timeline, if at all… It’s a shame, too. It’s a really nice project that would set a wonderful example. I really hope they prove me wrong! I’m rooting for them, big time!

We survived it… barely… :)

13 Oct

Greetings!

Well, Josh is 2 years old. He got some goodies, he ate some cake, he experienced his first real “full-on” sugar rush…

Joshua-Oct12-2009-Bday

And we survived it.

On the way to this birthday extravaganza, we:

  • We lost power several times to huge rainstorms that ate everything in sight,
  • blew multiple transformers on our street in a massive electrical storm, one after the other… and…
  • lost the power supply in our computer.

Surge protectors don’t work too well, after getting slammed several times in a row, apparently.

All this before Monday, which, as it turned out, was a holiday. So, everything (of course)  was closed.

Then, Joshua’s B-Day took over everything, and we spent the entire day catering to his every whim, which seemed to orbit around him beating us senseless, and screaming “You bumped!”  Then he’d giggle like a mad man, and hit us again.

A friend of ours, Heather… got Joshua a really cool trike/rocking horse. Thank heavens that it’s too big for him to lift, or he’d be hitting us with THAT! 🙂

Thank you, Heather. We’re grateful. Truly.

It’s Tuesday night, and I’m finally back on-line. Josh is looking for something to hit me with, and Char is fast asleep.

The blog returns to it’s usual “caustic self…” tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You…

30 Sep

Greetings, you “Corten Crazies,” you!

Joshua-23mosSeveral of you have emailed me lately, asking me what my son  Joshua wants for his Birthday.

We’re happy to report that on October the 12th, our son, and “Future Emperor of the Universe”… will turn two years old… and that both of his parents have survived it thus far!

As my family struggles to get Char through Chemotherapy and Radiation treatment, all the while trying to get a shipping container home built so that she and Joshua will be safe…

We’re stretched pretty thin and Joshua’s birthday isn’t going to all it could be.  In fact, we had to scramble to keep the power turned on this month, due to a conflict we’re having with the power company.

Last month, our power bill DOUBLED. (It was outrageous to begin with. I mean, we live in a tiny 2 room apartment.)  The billing period that I’m talking abut was the one where Char headed straight to Intensive Care, “Do Not Pass GO!”, after the Chemotherapy tried to kill her. In fact, she went back and forth a few times. As a result, we were out of house for quite a few days… And, as a result, we were gone for part of that time, while Char was in the hospital. And, everything was turned off, except the refrigerator. So, by using common sense, you’d think that the power bill would be less… and it should have DROPPED.  But, it zoomed up into “nosebleed” amounts.
I did what anyone would do. I had a coronary on the spot… Wait, that’s not it… I called up the power jerks, to try and figure out what the hell went wrong. I mean, it’s not possible for us to have used an extra $150 worth of juice, when we weren’t even home part of that time.
And while they were very polite, they informed me that they’d be happy to come out and run diagnostics on the meter, for $45, plus the service charge. So, they want ME to pay them to check a meter that THEY own, that is probably going nuts due to all the lightning and heavy weather we’ve been having lately. That, and just plain old age. This is by far the most miserly utility company I’ve ever seen…

This doesn’t make any sense to me, at all. It’s not even MY meter. Why should I have to pay to have them check their own property? Especially when the bills seem to confirm the reason that I’m contesting the bill in the first place?

In the meantime, I’m on the hook for the bill, and there’s a late fee if I don’t pay on time. Oh yeah, they finally told me all of this several “go-rounds”, and then after the bill I disputed had become “late and disconnectable.” I know $300 doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re living from paycheck to paycheck and paying for medical treatment and medications out of that… it adds up quick.
Needless to say, the “Birthday Bucks” we were trying so desperately to save (literally saved… $10-20 a month) for Joshua’s birthday is mostly gone now, thanks to those Mississippi Power jerks.
So, Joshua’s not gonna get the birthday that we’d hoped for…

Back to the gist of the post…

While it’s hard to tell sometimes, he DOES like to read.

Rather, he get’s his hands on my “trades magazines” and then he flips through the pages… and then he turns them into confetti. It makes my wife crazy. It’s starting to look like we have a fifty pound hamster living with us! There’s paper shredded all over the house!

And he giggles like a demented mental patient while he does it. It’s really quite disturbing!

But, it does indicate that he likes books. But, we’re being rather selective in choosing his reading materials. For instance, have you ever really paid attention to the “goings on” in that age old classic; “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”?

  • Kids getting baked in ovens by mean old ladies? I mean, all they did was EAT HER HOUSE!
  • Trolls under bridges trying to kill you, just for trying to walk home? I used to walk 20 miles uphill, to school, in the snow… both ways! A troll’s gotta make a living, too!
  • Girls kidnapped and hidden away in tall towers, who get their hair ripped out while trying to escape? Um… er… never mind.
  • Girls in red cloaks getting eaten by wolves? Hey, that red cloak was only supposed to protect her against hunters!

Man, that stuff will give a kid nightmares!

We’re opting for books a little less “trauma inducing”.

But, not these books;

book1Nuh-uh!

book6Not this one either!

book13Definitely not!

book7Um… No.

And last, but not least…

book12

Oh, man…

Wait…. Now that you mention it…

I’m thinking he doesn’t want books at all. Maybe a cool rocking horse, or some blocks, or even some Hot Wheels…

Stay tuned…

The Renaissance Ronin

Google the Grid!

20 Jul

Here’s some news on the Alternative Energy Front!

Google and Microsoft Are Building Smart Power Grids!

Yep, those titans of power (in the form of INFORMATION) have combined to try and gain a stranglehold on your house! OMG! 🙂

Just when you thought it was safe to go back outside…

Two High-Technology giants Google and Microsoft find themselves competing again, and this time it’s not about “cloud computing,” or even “Search Engine Technology!” The “guru’s of geekdom” are developing “bi-directional power grids” that will not only bring electricity to your house, but will also help you optimize usage and consequently, save money. Uh huh… and if you believe that one… 🙂

They might be on to something here, folks. The problem with the current power distribution is that it is like a one-way traffic. While the power is constantly being transmitted to your homes, nothing is transmitted from your homes to the power stations.

What? Those greedy power bastards want my juice? No Way, I tell you! Nuh-uh! Where’s My Gun??… Wait… Take a breath… Count to three…

(Take off your shoes and count your little piggies if you have to… We’ll wait!) Now… exhale.

Do the power moguls want to steal your precious power from your homes?

Do they want to limit your ability to make toast, or boil the oatmeal for the monsters that live in your house? Nope.

What they do want, is to snoop. That’s right, they want to peek through your windows, and see what color skivvies you’re wearin.

(Boy are they gonna be shocked at my house! Cuz’ I ain’t wearin’ any… At least not at the moment…)

Oh stop rollin your eyes! I’m wearin running shorts. You guys are pervs… Sheesh… I gotta start writin to a better class of people… 🙂

The power peeps want to see what you’re doing, so that they use the user trends information and make power available accordingly. It’s practically impossible to make informed choices if you don’t have the right information. And we all know that’s true. Information is at the heart of all good decision making!

“Lemme see… Do I want sugar-free strawberry glaze, with this pretty picture of Catherine Zeta Jones on the label, or do I want that “all in the box” generic stuff? No pretty pictures. No idea of what’s inside… But, it’s cheaper… CZJ is cheap (C’mon, she married that Douglas knucklehead, remember?), but… plain-wrap is cheaper… Guess we’re eatin “Gawd Only Knows Strawberry Pie tonight!”

Google has an application now, called PowerMeter and Microsoft’s bringin up the rear with it’s own version, called “Hohm” achieve exactly that. The goal is to provide you with information that can help you optimize your energy usage. For instance, do you know how much energy you exactly consume when you wash one day’s laundry…

(You’re supposed to do laundry a day at a time? Whaaa? That’s news to me! I’ve been wearin these running shorts for a week now!…)

Or when you’re watching your favorite soap opera? (Heaven forbid you should miss “General Hospital”…),

Or… How much cash could you save by pumping up your insulation, replacing that old refrigerator (the noise level around your house will drop too, if your house is like mine. My wife has been nagging me for two years to throw that piece of junk away!), or by turning off the tube to avoid watching that TV show you hate??

Whaaaa? Hey, somebody better tell those guys that the REASON Cable TV got invented, was to avoid that! Turning off the TV? Those guys are crazy?

But, What amount of energy is burned if you forget to switch off a light bulb or a fan?

Yeah, I know you can get a “Kill-a- somethin or other- watts” meter (I even wrote a post about it!), but you can’t use it to monitor yourself 24/7. So, it’s very hard to figure out which of your bad habits waste energy more… in order for your wife to nag you about… cutting down on them. 🙂

Wait, maybe I better rethink this!

I guess it makes sense. It explains why I have to call the damned power company when MY power goes out! Like they don’t already know…

Sometimes, I think they turn it off and on, just to piss me off!

“Ronin’s just about to turn his computer back on again.. Wait for it… wait for it… okaaaaaaay… Quick! Turn it off! Hee -hee!” Bastards. 🙂

Power rates are usually based on something called a “uniform rate.”

Now, that’s not to describe how the power company won’t send anyone to your house, without having a police escort… or is it? Hell, every time those guys show up here, they eat all of Joshua’s donuts… Bastards!

Whaa? Your power guys don’t show up with bodyguards? Well, here’s how to make that happen… Wait until they get up on the pole by your house, to check the transformer. Then,,, when they’re not lookin… turn the hose on ’em!

Instant COPS. Just like on TV.. “Bad Jew, bad jew, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when the Ronin gets you?”

Hmmmm? Okay, supposedly, there’s a uniform rate that dictates how much you pay for your kilowatt hours of power.

But that doesn’t make any sense to me.

I mean… Sure, jack up my rate when it’s 104 outside, and it’s not even noon yet. But… if it’s 3am, and I wanna blow dry my hair, I’m pretty sure not many other people are pretending they still have hair to blow dry… Or are they? Hmmmmm… again.

Shouldn’t power used when everyone else is asleep, cost less? Hmmm? Just a thought…

So, if I use this software to see what I’m doing on the power grid, I should get smarter about how I use power, I could save a few dollars, AND I’ll be saving the environment, too? Right?

Here’s what the guys in charge say:

Translation;

Some public relations lackey said;

“With the help of Google’s PowerMeter your appliances will be able to decide when to use more power and when to use less. Once the grid is installed, using iGoogle you’ll be able to monitor your power usage minute-by-minute, for individual appliances. On your Google home page you will be able to add the tracker the way you add any other gadget there. The PowerMeter is designed to show a granular, real-time view of electricity-consuming devices.”

According to Google labs: “Google PowerMeter receives information from utility smart meters and energy management devices and provides customers with access to their home electricity consumption right on their personal iGoogle homepage. We are currently testing Google PowerMeter with a number of utilities and plan to expand our roll out later this year.”

And those guys up in Redmond are trying to squeeze their way onto the boat too…

(May they fall off, and right into the water while holding onto power lines… those “Vista-birthing” bastards… Don’t get me started…) 🙂

Microsoft’s done what Microsoft is good at. They threw cash at a license for advanced analytics from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy to provide consumers with personalized energy-saving recommendations.

Of course it’ll happen on-line, so that they can secretly chart your power usage, and further garner a foothold into your life, so that they can go sneaky-sneakin into places where no big business should ever go, like my living room… and then sell that “insight” to someone who is trying to tell me how I should live my life… those rat-bastards… Um… er… where in the hell did that come from? Oy. I gotta go take my medicine.

According to Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft, “Microsoft Hohm demonstrates how a combination of advanced software and Internet-based services can help people track, understand and manage their personal energy usage.”

And we can sell that data to your neighbors! MICROSOFT Strikes Again! Muuuuuawhaaa-haa!

Okay, so he didn’t actually SAY that last part… But, he was thinking it! 🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

Making GREEN with “Green.”

25 Jun

Okay…

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…” 😉

Glasscape

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.

ROUND IS TOO A SHAPE! SHUT UP! 🙂

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!

Wooden-Floor-5

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.

Using ISBUs to build “Instant Homes…”

6 Jun

As many of you know, my family is fighting it’s way through the powers that be, trying to gain enough momentum to get a house erected that will keep us safe  and protected from the elements.

I suppose it would be easier to just give in to pressure, and build a house out of sticks, or even blocks. But, we’ve never been ones to follow everybody else around like “lost sheep,” and we’re not afraid to stick our necks out if we think it’s for the “greater good.”

You see, many people just can’t get “housing loans.” The economy and the housing shortage have made it almost impossible for many families in America to do anything but try to meet the rent each month, knowing that at the end of the year, they’ll have nothing to show for it but the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve paid their rental unit’s mortgage for the owners.

There has to be another road, and frankly, we’re looking for it.

Most of you know that I’m a big advocate of using Shipping Containers  (ISBU’s) as structure, just like a kid uses those plastic  building blocks. These steel boxes are incredibly durable, they’re plentiful, and given careful planning, they can be warm and cozy shelters in even the most severe weather conditions.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the concept of “modular construction” lately. The easiest way to build anything, is to break it down into smaller parts, and build it out of sub-assemblies. So, just think of these boxes as components, and then think about how you can “pre-fabricate” them, before you use a crane (or other muscle) to set them into place on your foundation.

And that foundation doesn’t have to be real complicated, either. Containers can be set on pilings to get them up off the ground. Pouring those support pilings using cardboard tubes,  concrete and rebar can be pretty inexpensive, compared to massive grading efforts, and complicated footings.

(2) 40′ High Cube ISBU’s can be turned into two nice sized bedrooms with a shared bathroom, quite easily. Just lay them side by side, and take the center sections out. You’ve got decent room runs, and a nice 9′ ceiling height, with ease. The containers will get welded together along the center seam (top, sides, and bottom) and you’ll have some bearing walls in the middle, to help support the roof load, so don’t worry about the span, for now.

If you were to take (2) of these bedroom assemblies, and set them a little bit apart on 24″ pilings placed about 10′ on center…

And by spanning the “gap” between them with 16′ floor joists to connect the sides together, you’re essentially creating a house with a crawlspace underneath it. Guess how you’re gonna insulate the underside of that house? You’re gonna crawl under there and spray it with the same close-celled foam that most of the commercial industry has been using for years. At r7 per inch, it isn’t going to take much of it, to insure that your floor stays warm.

Plus, you’re gonna get a nice “stepped” entry deck both front and rear, to access the house and the back yard.

Think about ways you can build these “sub-assemblies,” and then place them together, using a roof to span the gap between them. Think about the angles that they can be “splayed” in, to create “great rooms” with a narrower, more cozy room at the rear.

Or, just take (2) of these sub-assemblies, and lay them parallel to each other, about 16 feet apart. Guess what? You’ve just built a 1,920 square foot four bedroom/ 2 bath  house, for pennies on the dollar. The gap between them can be filled in with conventional floor joists, and the ceiling, built out of SIP’s (Structural Insulated Panels) will give you enough warmth to get you through the coldest of winters.

And here’s the fun part. You can go from a basically vacant lot, to that almost 2,000 square foot house, in a week. (Wanna freak out the neighbors? Wait until they go on vacation to build. When they leave, it’ll be a vacant lot, and when they return… It’ll be a 2,000 square foot Corten Monument, complete with a landscaped front yard!)

Sure, you can  spend about 3 months getting the “pre-fabbed” parts assembled, but once you’ve got them the way you want them, that crane will make short work of them. And because your “pre-fabbed” assemblies are built out of units 8′ wide, they can be easily trucked to your site on a flatbed trailer. I’ve delivered my “doctored boxes” to the jobsite using a big Dodge pickup (a 1 ton diesel duelie) and a flatbed, several times.

So, you can do the “fitting out” part anywhere you like. No tractor trailer required, no muss, no fuss. And best of all, no massive, heart stopping shipping and delivery bills!

That center “bowling alley” you’ve “floorjoisted” into existence will house your living room, kitchen and dining room. Remember that 40′ can go a long way.  Most people would kill for a 20′ x 16′ Living/Family Room.  Put your kitchen in the center, and your dining room right behind it, and you end up with some pretty decent spaces, with all your plumbing in one “corridor” right through the middle of the house.

Or, here’s my favorite configuration; Move your kitchen all the way to the rear of the great room, in a big “L-Shape” with an island. Now, you have a Living Room/Dining Room combination that flows like the Nile, and a bright and airy kitchen to work in, too! Plus, you’re right there by the back doors, and that terrific deck looking out at the neighbor’s brats taunting your dog! 🙂

Another benefit to using shipping containers as components is that you’re already “weathered in.” No matter how wet or windy it gets outside, you’re inside, safe and warm as you build.

Granted, this is just a very brief overview of a small ISBU house project, but I can tell you from experience that you can build it yourself, using basic hand-tools, on weekends, and summer vacations. How do I know this? Because I’ve done it myself (with some help, of course), more than once.

The home that my family is presently planning to build follows this same “concept plan.” Now whether it gets built in Mississippi, or someplace else, it’s a house constructed out of pre-fabbed “ISBU wings,” connected by a small “aircraft hangar” to form a larger version of what I’ve just described. It’s similar to some of the container homes that you’ve seen on the Internet, with a few “Jew-Fu”  tricks thrown in, just to make the Planning and Zoning guys crazy… 🙂

And no… we’re not gonna leave much of the containers exposed to the elements. Our insulation is going on the OUTSIDE of the house, and then it will be covered by wood siding. We’re gonna leave a spot or two visible, so that people will be able to see it’s “origins,” but it’ll be tasteful, and more an “art statement” than an “in your face” jab.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll start laying it out for you, so you can see just how simple this construction process can be, if you use good design and good components.

Stay tuned.

FYI: For some reason beyond my understanding, I’m having trouble with WordPress.  It’s not letting me attach images to my posts, without crashing my computer. So, as soon as I figure out what ‘s wrong, and get the problem remedied I’ll attach drawings, photos and diagrams to this series of posts, so that you can actually “see” how it goes together to form a house.  I’ll post a “fixed” statement as soon as possible.

Make a new plan, Stan!

3 Jun

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

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

I want these things, in no particular order;

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

I can see it now;

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

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

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

You have been paying attention, right?

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

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

Here’s what I want for Father’s Day;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gotta make a new plan.

Stay tuned.

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.