Tag Archives: Walmart

Christmas In the Container Homeland…

24 Dec

Okay, so it’s Christmas-time in our “Container Homeland…”

In light of the fact that the weather is horrid and I’m afraid to go outside with all the nuts running around trying to buy last minute presents…

And it grows closer to that time when Santa will load his sleigh, and fly from the North Pole to places “hither and yon…”

I look at the melees at Walmart and I’m reminded that people have forgotten that the really cool thing about Christmas (aside from the religious significance), is the attitude of the people trying to fool Santa into thinking that they’d  been good ALL year long…

So, I thought I’d take a moment to post  some of “Ronin’s Observations About the Holidays” to remind some of us what is really going on…

Stuff like this;

When caught up in the Christmas Madness and surrounded by crazed shoppers…

“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.”

Remember Campers, H1N1 is everywhere.

I decided to buy a friend a book for Christmas. So, I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman behind the desk;

“Excuse me… Where’s the self-help section?”

She actually said:

“If I told you it would defeat the purpose.”

My neighbor says that the main reason Santa is so darned jolly is because he knows “where all the bad girls live”.


At that book store, I overheard another customer ask that same saleslady;

“Excuse me, Ma’am… I’m going to buy a Christmas present for my new girlfriend. What do you think she’d like?”

She replied;

“Does she like you?”

He answered:

“Well, yeah, I think so…”

And she said;

“Well, if she really likes you, apparently she’ll like anything.”

And I hope that I don’t make the same mistake I made last year;

In our house, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, so that Joshua doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on something fun.

Josh got a toy, and I bought my wife some expensive perfume… and I gave my brother-in-law a pistol I’d had for years.

And when I was wrapping them, I put a ‘flowery’ note in her present saying:

“Honey, I hope that you love this and that you’ll try it out on yourself sometime really soon…”

When she opened it up and read the note, she got a really weird look on her face, and then just gave me one of her;

“There’s a reason people are afraid of Indians, Paleface… ” look…

I had accidentally given her the pistol.

And last… I had to take a bus to another town to go shopping recently. How do Santa’s reindeer know to cross at that yellow “Deer Crossing” road sign?

More later. I have to fight off an old lady and her seven kids… to make sure that Joshua get’s this “Talking Elmo” Doll he’s been seeing on TV… Thank goodness I know Jew-Fu!  Oy!

And now… Enjoy the Movie… without further interruption;

Put that “FAT” house on a DIET! :)

21 Oct

Welcome back!

Man, you must be a glutton for punishment! 😉

If you’ve been following along, you already know that my family is trying to solve a housing problem, by creating MORE problems…

Seems counter-productive, I know…

But, you see, if we create and then RESOLVE these problems now, the next poor bastard that comes along, trying to do what we’re doing, will have a much easier go of it.

Instead of; “You want to do WHAT?” it’ll be more like: “Ah, crap! It’s another one! Here we go, AGAIN!” 🙂

After a hurricane ate our house, we needed to replace it. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it didn’t to the insurance company, who values shareholder profits much higher than the families that actually contribute to shareholder values.

Can you say “class action lawsuit?” Can you say “When is the check gonna get here?” Can you say…

“Three years after you’re dead?” Oy.

This is complicated by life in general. Sometimes disasters come in three’s… We got a hurricane (Ivan), and then… another hurricane (Katrina), and then… the big “C”. That’s right… Cancer. “The mommy” discovered that she had cancer, the same day that she discovered we were having a child.

Now,  I can blame “the mailman” for the kid… but cancer? Nobody to blame, but fate and genes.

(Actually, I blame the kid on the doctor who told me not to worry about my “reversible vasectomy.” He told me that it’d take a surgeon to undo it. I have only this to say:


So, we started looking for solutions.

First, we found a good ob/gyn. We talked to ’em all. And, we found one who went to the right school. After all, wouldn’t you want your OB/GYN to have graduated from a school named after prophylactics? For those of you who haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about USC. You know… the “trojans.”

Now, even though the doc and I are cross-town rivals (I hung out at UCLA), he’s a smart kid. So, we had that dilemma covered.

I looked up an old pal at MD Andersen, one of the best Cancer Hospitals in the world. So, we had that covered as best we could.

Then, we started looking around for a building process that we could afford, that would allow us to have a safe, sustainable home, that would go up fast, fast, fast…

Can you say “ISBU?” I knew you could.

Needless to say, that’s where the REAL trouble started. Just mention Shipping Containers to a Planning and Zoning Nazi around here, and he’ll do everything but spit!

This is one of those “Not In My Backyard, You Don’t!” kinda towns…

Perhaps settling down in Mississippi was a bad idea, after all…

So, we started the fight. And, it continues to this day. In fact, it’s gotten so heated that I’m having to testify in Jackson, MS, in front of “political committees,” as “an esteemed advocate for affordable housing” (their term, not mine).

It seems that these yokels think I’m an expert. Me? Hey, any field of study that considers me an expert, already has serious flaws… 🙂

Seriously though, I have the right schooling. I have a ton of experience. And, I’ve built many, many homes for families just like mine, who want to live in a house, and not be chained to gigantic mortgages or terribly expensive upkeep costs.  And, I’ve been doing it for over three decades.

So, as we struggle to build our own home, I’m helping other people build theirs.

I’m acting as a technical advisor of sorts, helping people figure out layouts, and “how to put tab A into slot B”. Their donations to the blog for my help, have helped us pay for medications my wife needs and generally helped keep us afloat.

For that, I am eternally grateful. There aren’t words to describe it…

We built an ISBU Beach Cabin, that has a huge sleeping loft. It sits up on pilings to defy any floodwaters, and it’s steel shell will allow it to be there for a long, long time…

We’re building a home for an Indian family on a reservation.

No, it’s not shaped like a tepee, you smart @ss… 🙂

We’re building an elementary school on another reservation, so that Indian kids have a safe place to learn. It’s a project that is near and dear to my black little heart, and I’m looking forward to the day when it’ll be filled with laughing kids running and screaming and shooting spitwads at each other…

We’re building an Arrowhead-shaped home into a hillside in the Carolina’s where the budget is being based on whatever we can scrounge off of Craigslist, and FreeSource.

I know, I know… we shoulda built THIS one on the reservation. Not.

But… guess what? We’ve found some pretty cool stuff. You’re gonna be surprised at how this Carolina house turns out.

We’re gonna build a home in “the barren tundra of Texas.” I call this one “Drought Depot” as Texas hasn’t seen any real rain since Jesus walked on water, apparently. And we’re not talking about a “farm house,” we’re talking about a modern, contemporary steel house that looks like a million bucks, but is built on a “Walmart budget”. 🙂

And very recently, we decided to build a house for a family who lost their Daddy in Iraq. It’s a small house, built out of “leftovers”, but it’ll keep this family of four safe, dry, warm, and toasty, for a long time.

I’ve already told you a little bit about that one.

As you know… recently, we started projects that use “segments” of ISBUs that we’ve reclaimed, from a scrapyard. The boxes were “folded, spindled, and mutilated”, so much so, in fact that they were no longer usable for a life lived thumbing your nose at the high seas.

However, bring a plasma cutter into the mix, and you get “Corten Cubicles” that you can use, to build “off” of. We call it “Ewok Village on Acid“, and it’s being built as we speak.  We’re presently in Design Phase, with the only boundaries thus far being the actual dimensions of the boxes we’ve hacked off.

As that project continues, I’ll bring you more intel, so that you can see just how versatile these steel shelters can be.

This time, however, I’m gonna show you something different…

Ever see a Japanese house?


Yeah, they’re the ones built on impossibly small lots, sandwiched together like those “school cafeteria shingles” you used to get when you were a kid. You remember…

… the sandwiches that had just enough peanut butter and jelly on them to allow the bread to discolor, but they were still tasteless…?

I have a guy who spent many years in Japan, just like Ronin did.

(See, there I go, talking about myself in the third person again… Man, I gotta see a shrink!) 🙂

And like me, he marveled at how they pack the houses together, in such small packages. They use economy, and an incredible sense of scale and space, in order to build homes that entire families can live in, for decades. And, he wondered if WE could duplicate that.

Say, by stacking three or four ISBUs up, in one stack, to make a tall, 8′ wide building?

Okay, sounds crazy at first, but if you went split level, and then floated an 8′ deck off of each level, you’d get a pretty impressive house, with a lot of room, and a ton of light.  Plus, no stair flight would ever exceed about 5 feet.

So, here’s what I’m proposing;

Build a partial basement that measures 24′ x 8′ x 6′ high.

This is gonna be most of your foundation, AND the utility/laundry room, and the “store all your crap” room. I say “partial”, because we’re only gonna dig a 4′ deep hole… The actual depth will depend on whether you decide to build on grade, or set the containers up on pilings.

BTW: Pilings are much cheaper than a foundation.

And yes… the footings will extend a little bit deeper. Stop “nit-picking,” huh? 🙂

I want that ‘partial basement’ to stick up out of the ground, so I can put some strip windows along the top of it, for illumination. I’ve lived in caves before, and I didn’t like it much. I doubt that anyone else would like it either, if they had a choice.

Now, like I said… you could also go with a shallower basement excavation, and then just shoot in a couple of pilings at the front of that “basement”, out at the 40′ mark. Figure that they’ll be about 2 feet higher than grade…

I’m just trying to bring the roof down a few feet…

When you’re thru playing with your cinder blocks… your first container will land here. It’s as good a place as any, huh?

Now, start stacking up containers, one on top of the other. Use a crane, or you’ll get a hernia! 🙂

I figure that you go up three boxes, and then… you add a 24′ long “segment” from our “scrap pile”, to the top of it. I’ll explain why, later.

Shipping Container Skyscraper-r1c

NO! This isn’t to scale. Thanks for asking! 🙂 Note that in the drawing on the right hand side, only the center section is ISBUs. The left and right stack of “rooms” are just wooden decks. When you save more cash – close them in with screens, or even glass! You’ll more than double the size of this house!

The first container will be your entry/living room as you enter the house.

Then, in the middle of the box, a split level staircase with open treads. I want the light to filter thru it, and I want you to be able to see into each level, from the other. It’ll be less claustrophobic that way. The staircase  design isn’t final’d yet, but figure on 4′ -5′ and something simple. It’ll probably be a simple pair of almost 4′ wide staircases, one up, one down.

If you go down, you go into that utility room in the basement.

If you go up, you go into a galley kitchen with a banquette style seating area in the rear. The kitchen has a deck attached. There’s also a built-in outdoor eating area located here.

From the kitchen, you go up to the first bedroom.

Build in (2) bunks across the almost 8′ back wall. Now, build in a 6′ closet off of that, on the right. You get a big “L-Shape.” The closet will face the deck, outside sliding glass doors. Put a firm top on that closet. You’re gonna store stuff up there, too.

Finish the closet off by adding some triangular shelves to the end of it, to give more storage, and enhance the rotation off the staircase. One kids bedroom, made to order.

Or… if this is “too tight”, build a full closet across the back (just a tad deeper than normal), and then put a bunk loft on top of it. It’ll be flush with the closet, okay? Sure, your closet is only gonna be 6′ high, but unless your kid is Wilt Chamberlain, you’ll be okay for many years! And, more importantly, they’ll love it!

A ladder up to the twin bedded loft will give him/her a place to rest or bomb you with their stuff while you’re navigating that staircase…

Taking the stairs up, you’re on the bathroom level, right above the kitchen.

Below the kitchen is the utility room. See? All your utilities and water and stuff are in one place.   You have a huge space to build a bathroom, with some more storage. I’ll let you decide what kind of bathroom you want. But, I’m still putting a deck outside it.

It’ll give you a place to pretend to exercise… 🙂

Okay, up the stairs again…

What? Yep, more stairs. If nothing else, you’ll be fit. That way, you can hide on the bathroom deck, and eat those delicious “Twinkies” without having to share any with the kids…

Back to the staircase. I know.. enough with the damned stairs! Hey, it was your idea to build a “Shipping Container Skyscraper House”, remember? Suck it up, buddy!

Now, you’re in a little library/sitting room.

It’s the place where you hide from your kids. Put in some books, and maybe a computer desk, and you have a little sanctuary away from the noise. Yes, yet another deck looms outside it.

Final staircase… almost! 🙂

Now, you’re in the Master bedroom.

As you enter, you see a full length closet across the back of the room, complete with mirrored doors. Why? Because I like looking at myself!

Actually, it’s to “double the space, visually.” And… because I like looking at myself… “Me so handsome!” As if… 🙂

Add a few comfortable chairs, and a table or two, and you have a nice, quiet place to relax before bedtime. And yes, you get your own deck.

You also see a loft up there.

Yep, ladder time. Climb the ladder and you’ll find a cozy little nest for sleeping, way up in the “nosebleed section” of the house. This is a good place for a cool “suncatcher roof.” Think something like a Clerestory or a snazzy Reverse Shed. Figure on about 200 square feet.

One more flight of stairs… Have you ever seen so many stair treads? What was I thinking? 🙂

Now, you’re on the roof deck.

If it’s me, I’m either gonna put a garden up here, or…

… maybe a cool spa tub, far off and away from those little two legged critters, so you can soak, relax, and remember back to the days when you were young…

For the statisticians among you, you get (7) rooms that measure at least 7’6″ x 16′, all with almost 9′ ceilings.

That’s 840 square feet.

You get a bed loft in two rooms; kids room loft is 7’6″ x 4′ and change. The Master bed loft is 7’6″ x 8′.

That’s another 100 square feet.

You’re up to 940 square feet so far.

And, all your plumbing and most of your major electrical is in the same place. You get a nice roof  surface for your solar and photovoltaic panels. You get lots of separation. You get lots of deck for “outdoor living.”

(Remember, you can screen those decks in, pretty easily.)

And, this house goes up F-A-S-T! And… high. Don’t forget “high.”

You end up with a house built from a core of steel containers. It’s a house designed to inspire you to go outside. But, when the outside isn’t “playing nice,” you can go in, and you’ll be just fine. It’s a house that urges you to look out the windows, because it’s as tall as some of the trees! And, because it’s mostly wood (remember all those decks?) it’ll blend into the woods, too!

Is it buildable?

Yes. The cost of the multiple decks would surpass the cost of house construction, if you figure in the supports, and the screen panels to keep the critters out. However, being scroungers, we’ll used recycled lumber for most of those decks.

Can we build the house, for $50,000.00? We’ll see. That’s the budget.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninOver the next few days, I’ll draw you a diagram, to depict this “Jenny Craig” house. I’m still playing with the idea of “offsetting” each container slightly, to add “feature space” to the “ends.” I can see it in my head, but YOU wouldn’t want to go there… Trust me! 🙂

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;


book6Not this one either!

book13Definitely not!

book7Um… No.

And last, but not least…


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

About Lightweights and Hot Air…

22 Jun

I knew Ace Hardware was cool but maaaaaan…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow Speed Wind Turbines

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

Know why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Speaking of miles per hour…

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

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

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

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

They call it “the Honeywell Wind Turbine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, stop it! Shheeeesh… Tough room!

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

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

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

Why are the Windtronics guys trying to combine these properties?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the marketing blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

And now for something completely different…

11 Jun

It’s summertime, and you know what that means…

It’s recruiting season!

It’s important to have an outdoor kitchen (a “Summer Kitchen”) in the south. It’s a good entertainment area while gathering poolside to cool off in 100+ degree heat. Let’s face it, there are just some neighbors you don’t want in your house, so you have to have a good reason to “exile” them to the backyard!

Plus, a rowdy gathering every now and then will go a long way towards recruiting and maintaining all those lackeys any cult leader worth his BBQ likes to keep hanging around, to throw off those nosy Feds in the Van down the street…

(FYI: Here’s an easy way to identify a surveillance van. You just sneak up on it all ninja-like, and then jump up and down on the bumper to the count of ten. If it’s full of nosy Feds, the hot McDonalds coffee will spill in their laps, and make them scream like little bitches!)

But where was I, hmmm? Oh yeah, BBQs…

It’s a fact impossible to ignore, because we get plenty of junkmail every week touting this BBQ or that one, guaranteed to make us famous with all the neighbors. But, which one do you believe? After all, it’s hard to buy a BBQ from a pimply-faced kid barely old enough to drive, when your standing in the ‘burbs is at stake.

After all, one bad block party, and your kid is forced to go to the prom with the village idiot!

I’ve pondered this a lot lately, because quite frankly, I’m still trying to figure out how to get Bambi, her cousin Honey, and that big-boobed bimbo next door into a wet T-shirt contest in my backyard, so I have something to brag about on YouTube!

So, I did some homework, and here’s what I found out;

The results are in, and using Consumer Reports as a benchmark, it turns out that Infrared cooking isn’t such a great deal. Experts agree that it’s not really worth all the extra money. So, (sigh!) no Infrared.

(Damn! I was really hoping to use some “Star Wars” tech to improve my backyard bamboozeling, er… um… prowess!)

I suppose I can’t dazzle the lemmings with “alien technology,” so I’ll just have to settle for the “ohs and awes” that come from “shiny, shiny, shiny…”

So, I’d better just pay close attention to this years crop of “Meat Incinerators…”  Here’s the best “residential” BBQ units, with the highest scores;

And, the winner is (da-da-da-daaaaaaa!);

The Fiesta Blue Ember FG50069-U401 (it’s $450 at Home Depot): It has a side burner, a built-in smoker box, a rotisserie burner and a lot of shelf space. Now, for $450 it should come with Tony Stewart flipping the burgers and signing autographs, but all in all, it’s “the tip of the top,” this year….

Here’s the rest of the best (in order of ranking);

Brinkmann 810-8410S (okay, that’s better, it’s $200 at Home Depot): This grill has lots of shelf space, and comes with four burners and a 5-year warranty.

Char-Broil Commercial Series 463268008 ($300 from Lowe’s): Don’t let the “Commercial Series” name fool you. This baby was made for your patio pleasure! It’s made of stainless steel and comes with a lifetime burner warranty, which is supposedly a big selling point.

Some of you guys are actually popular enough to cook for a crowd and need a large grill that can handle an enormous amount of BBQ slathered meat, all at once.  Hey, we all remember Fred Flintstone BBQ-ing that huge T-Rex ribcage, right?  Anyway, if your ego is large enough to dilude you into thinking you have that many “friends,” (I know, it’s a shot in the dark) here are a few “best buys” you might want to take a serious look at. Both are made out of stainless steel, so clean-up is as simple as getting the old pressure washer outta the garage, “apre Beer-fest…”

Kenmore 16315 ($500 from Sears): It has a rotisserie, side burners, it’s made out of stainless steel, and it has lots of shelf space. The five main burners come with a 10-year warranty. I know, you were hoping for a “CRAFTSMAN” entry from Sears, but nope… it’s not gonna happen.

Char-Broil Quantum 463248208 ($500 at Lowe’s): I know, it has both infrared and regular burners, but this one is the exception to the rule. Here’s another stainless steel monster with burners in possession of a lifetime warranty. The Quantum has a side-burner-griddle combo, too. After all, you never know when your guests will want flapjacks with their burgers…

And, in case you’re sitting on the fence, Good Housekeeping Research Institute agrees with Consumer Reports that the Char-Broil Quantum is a great grill.  “It cooked the most evenly, the food from the Char-Broil just looked beautiful. We were able to cook chicken that was brown and crispy, had a little bit of charring, but wasn’t burnt before it was cooked through.” Now this is important, because chicken is still fairly cheap (leaving way more money for beer, than say… steak!) and if you do this right you’ll be distracted looking at all the local lovelies in their wet T-shirts!

And, I’m not forgetting about you miscreants in the trailer park, either. I know that spending $400 on a BBQ interrupts the flow of Budweiser, so if you’re on a budget, Good Housekeeping’s Budget Pick is the Uniflame 3 Burner Gas Grill from Blue Rhino ($160, Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart.com). GH says it doesn’t cook quite as evenly as the Char-Broil (what do you expect for about a  hundred bucks or so?), so you may have to rearrange the food a little bit. “But you will still get good results.” And the Uniflame doesn’t win any awards for good looks, but it has some nice features, like a  side burner and a warming rack. Plus it’s got a real sturdy chassis, so you can chain it to the porch awning, to keep those rotten kids next door from stealing it.

“Keep it hot, keep it clean, and keep it lubricated.”

Seriously, it means that you want to start with a clean and freshly oiled, very hot grill grate before you put any food on. Resist the urge to use Mobil One! No matter what you’ve learned watching NASCAR, motor oil don’t mix with meat, so, put down that duct tape and pay attention! Here’s what you do; Turn on the grill and get it as hot as your temper gets when your nosy mother-in-law shows up unannounced, for one of her “week-end that lasts a few weeks” visits. Make your wife clean the grates off with a stiff wire brush (after all, what are wives for, anyway? Hmmm?), and then lube up them puppies (Not your wives! Your grill, you idiots!) with vegetable oil. You can impress your friends by using a tightly-folded paper towel dipped in oil, to prime the grate. Use your handy-dandy grill tongs to do this. The oil helps keep the food from sticking to the grate and it gives your meat those well-defined grill marks. I say again… Use the tongs for this mission, Obie-Wan, or those grill marks will be on your fingers!

And according to experts, the most common mistake rookie BBQers make is confusing the act of grilling with (gasp!) burning.

“Grilling” is turning raw, gooey, roadkill into luscious dark brown morsels of meat!  “Burning” is drinking too much beer while you’re doing it, and turning your meat into charcoal.

“Grilled is goooooooood. Burning is baaaaaaaad.”

The Big Three (and I ain’t talkin about UCLA, Michigan State, and Okla-damned-homa!);

A trip to the garden department at Walmart will reveal that there are literally hundreds of different grilling accessories! They even make jalapeno chili roasters for your BBQ! (Why in the hell would you even WANT a jalapeno chili roaster?) But experts all agree that there are only three really essential tools that you can’t live without: a long-handled stiff wire brush for your wife to clean the grate with, an instant-read thermometer so you can make positively sure that the food is cooked to the “safe” temperature (unless you LIKE poisoning your guests), and a set of long-handled, spring-loaded tongs.

“Turn, grassshopper… Don’t stab.”

It’s not some secret aikido move only taught to ninjas, anymore…

Tongs are important because meat on the grill is “hot-hot-hot!” If you use your fingers, the trip to the local trauma center is gonna drive up the price of your entertaining, and there goes your “budget!” A lot of dumb people stab the steaks with a fork. Gasp! Why in the hell would you do that? The poor steak never did anything to you, but lull you into a stupor after you wolfed it down with a cold beer chaser!  You bastard! That just puts holes in the meat and drains out all the delicious juices. Forks are for eating… Duh! Even I knew that one…

Now, some of us (I’m not gonna name names) aren’t as organized as others where backyard shindigs are concerned, so if you’ve ever started cooking and run out of fuel, you might consider a gas gauge.

Nothing empties out a backyard like a shortage of beer or a good case of salmonella, compounded by food poisoning!

To prevent running outta “cold, frosty, fuel…” hide a case of your favorite brew somewhere outta sight. Nothing sucks like finishing grill duty to find out some bastard drank the last beer, and didn’t save you one!

Alas, there are loads of devices that are supposed to tell you when the propane tank is starting to suck fumes, but I can tell you that most of these don’t work very well at all.

But this year, Good Housekeeping found one it recommends: The Electronic Gas Level Indicator from Gas Watch, which retails for $30. People who are actually paid to know better claim that it is so easy to hook up and use, even a drunk red-neck could do it… Well, they didn’t actually say THAT, but if you read between the lines just right, and squint a little bit… And, it’s accurate. The readout changes color from green to yellow to red, as the gas level drops. And for the colored-blind among us, when the meter turns red, a warning buzzer sounds off, like a “core-breech klaxon” on the Starship Enterprise. Okay, it’s really just a buzzer, but the music will be turned up so loud that nobody’s gonna hear it anyways…

So, even if you use a fuel gauge, it’s a smart idea to have a spare tank, and I ain’t talking about your beer belly. A good fuel gauge allows you to use every bit of propane in the tank and will never disappoint your hungry guests.

(Because, let’s face it, an unruly mob of steak-starved guests full of beer can get downright ugly, in 100+degree heat!)

There you have it! Everything you need to know to make the summer “A Party To Remember…” Now, I’m headed out to the garage to start bleaching out the coolers. They got kinda rank, after fishing season ended. Anybody got a tip for getting six month old bait smell outta “Budweiser Buckets?”

And if you’ve got any photos layin around of big hootered babes minding the BBQ grill, you know where you can send them…



My apologies to the original author… Consider your ‘blurb’ butchered into a blog!