Bamboo Gardening

I know many of you detest bamboo. I forgive you. I have a special place in my heart for it! It’s smells great, brings the best green colors to a California Central Coast sand garden, and can really make the windy areas more palatable. (And it also makes for a possible alternate resource in a wide variety of situations, oft referred to as SHTF scenarios.)

A lot of the time detesting the bamboo has stemmed from not understanding how to grow and cultivate it. I’m not super interested in reeducating, to be fair. I’d prefer to just give it a gentle try, and let the results speak for themselves. I’d prefer to trial and error, and share all the results. 

Bamboo is just grass. Some of it is invasive, and spreads like weeds. Tends to be less desirable. You have to protect from it, wall off, raised bed, etc.

In spite of the fact that I’m misrepresenting the facts, there are basically two kinds of bamboo; fast growing (you must control and be prepared to deal with), aka spreading.

Second is the slower growing, oft more decorative and uniform to enjoy. I think cultivation is more of this gardening.

Horrible descriptions, I know. 

One thing I love about the series of tubes we call the internets, is how much I can share, be wrong, yet still learn something, and grow nice bamboo! And Pinterest can get all the glory it deserves and doesn’t!

Academic pricing

You all know we homeschool. You all know I love photography. You might also know that our daughter, The Princess, is quite creative and has tagged along on many photo-adventures through the years.

Recently she expressed an increased interest in all things creative. She’s wanting to make real efforts at learning a few mediums for her artistic expression. It was a no-brainer for her to ask for more photography opportunities. When it comes to gear, we’re set. I have acquired a decent arsenal of Nikon gear, that she’s mostly free to use and play with.

On the software side, I’m an Apple Aperture user, which simply works the best for me. As she grows, if she chooses a different route, we’ll help her as best we can. I’m not “that” kind of parent. šŸ™‚

Since she’s homeschooled, and she’s planning onĀ pursuingĀ photography for more than just documenting things, I want her to have all the tools necessary to make a nice photograph. This obviously works out well for her, since she’ll get to use all the same tools I have. In spite of this I set out to see if there were any other tools that would help her out. That’s when I stumbled upon Nik Software’s plugin set. I’ve used them in the past, and already knew that they areĀ irreplaceableĀ  I love their workflow, especially Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro. Great tools!

Like most software developers, they have academic pricing. Awesome! But as I read closer, it became clear that they don’t seem to offer a method for homeschoolers to get access to that great price. So I did what any geek would do, I found theĀ pertinentĀ email address and asked away.

In response, I got copy and pasted text from their website and…

To qualify for academic pricing please provide the qualifying documents listed above prior to your purchase. You can email the documents to or fax it to 619-374-7339. Upon approval you can place your order over the phone.

If you have any further questions, please reply to this email or call our Customer Service Department toll-free at 1-888-284-4085 (+1-619-725-3150 outside of the US). Our office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm PST.

Best Regards,
Zach Petschek

Nik Software, Inc. | Photography firstĀ®

7588 Metropolitan Drive | San Diego, CA 92108
Tel – 619.725.3150 | Fax – 619.725.3151 |

Bummer, was the first response. Clearly, they don’t do much for homeschoolers, nor do they offer any means by which to have a human decide that homeschoolers are worthy of the awesome discount. So I replied, to clarify…

So, Zach, you’re saying that you don’t provide discounts to homeschooling families? These requirements would disqualify nearly every homeschooling family in the US.

Are there no ways for someone with the necessary authority to consider an alternative for homeschoolers?

My final response from Zach at Nik Software…

Dear Trevor,

Our academic discount does not apply to homeschool students or teachers. I can recommend watching one of our Live Training sessions at We offer a couple a day about 5 days a week. I recommend this because at the end of every Live Training session they offer a 15% coupon code that you can apply to your purchase.
If you have any further questions, please reply to this email or call our Customer Service Department toll-free at 1-888-284-4085 (+1-619-725-3150 outside of the US). Our office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm PST.

Best Regards,



Zach Petschek

So, homeschoolers, go home. The 15% coupon code he mentions above would allow me to get the $299.95 Complete Collection, Lightroom and Aperture, for $254.96. Better price, yes. But that’s not nearly as nice as the $149.99 they offer the same product to students and teachers, (some students and teachers).

I guess we’ll shop elsewhere. Anyone have any similar plugin suggestions?


After recommendations from the comments and social media, I took a look at OnOne’s free presets, which lead me to google around for even more Aperture Presets. I found a ton, and am enjoying playing with them.

But the real good news was when I contacted Topaz Plugins for their possible homeschooler discount. Here’s their response:

Hi Trevor,

Yes, absolutely. Eduction is education right!? šŸ™‚ And I’m sure your daughter will love it!

You can use this 25% academic discount code at on any and/or multiple products.

Discount code: XXXXXXXXX (redacted for security purposes)

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Best Wishes,

Stephanie Griffin
Marketing Associate
Topaz Labs LLC
4100 Spring Valley Road, Suite 103
Dallas, TX 75244, U.S.A.

Yeah for companies that get it! Topaz Labs will be getting my business, even if their plugins were 3x the cost. I love to vote with my dollars!

Android ICS Argyle Wallpaper

Hey there Android peeps!

I noticed a pal asking for a cool new wallpaper, for his Galaxy Nexus, today on Google+. He wanted an argyle styled wallpaper, with the ICS color scheme; black and blue (#33b5e5), with white highlights.

I thought, “That’s easy enough.” I booted up Illustrator, and tossed it together. During the interaction I realized that others may want something similar. So, here it is!

I might toss together a fewĀ variants, just to make it interesting.



Here’s Eric’s screenshot of this wallpaper in action:

Here’s some variants:

Happy “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!”

I’m just joyful that I live in the free United States of America, where I can exercise my right to draw whatever cartoon I want. Won’t you join me today, and draw your best interpretation of the false prophet Mohammed/Muhammad!

Here’s my interpretation of “The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries”, by an unknown artist.Ā I used a Wacom Graphire2 tablet in Corel Painter 11. My inspiration came from a 17th Century manuscript.


I actually enjoyed making this little piece of art. I had never really done any digital painting with Corel Painter, nor had I used my Wacom tablet for anything other than photo processing. I’m quite inspired now.

My interpretation breaks with theĀ originalĀ artist’s vision. The original symbolizes Muhammad prohibiting intercalary months during the Farewell Pilgrimage. Mine has Muhammad looking skyward at the moon, offering his worship. I am neither confirming a truth nor professing my belief that the Allah worshiped by the followers of Islam was the pagan moon god of ancient Arabia. However, I use the interesting idea as the inspiration for my interpretation.

In the few minutes after I posted this art onto Facebook, I received the most insane threats and hateful words. It’s interesting that the alleged religion of peace would produce the kind of response I am witnessing. This post will publish just after midnight, and I’ll head to bed. When I wake, I wonder how many wonderfully nice things will haveĀ accumulatedĀ for me. Even as I’m writing this post, I’mĀ interruptedĀ numerous times, to delete comments on Facebook.

DIY framed chalkboard

My oldest son and I are working on a fun little garage project together.

DIY framed chalkboard

As you know, I take my daughter out a lot, to shoot photography. We have that to share. My oldest son and I haven’t been doing something like that. So, I decided that we’d undertake a project together. It has been fun.

This project will be a framed chalkboard. My wife has wanted something like this, to hang on the wall.

DIY framed chalkboardWe took a long piece of red oak and cut it down into four smaller lengths, to eventually become the frame. Next, I got to use my Dremel tool, with a little plunge router attachment, to route down a recessed groove along the back of each oak piece. I then used my chop saw to cut the ends to 45 degree angles.

Once they were ready, I glued and nailed them together, to form the frame. Once the glue was dry, I wiped it down with a nice oil/orange combo.

The chalkboard is made from an extra piece of plywood I had laying around. I had to fill it in with a lot of putty, as plywood isn’t the best for finish work. Since I was eventually going to paint it, I knew that the putty would be fine. The puttying took three applications, interspersed with sanding. This step was perfect for my son to help me. He was able to do some puttying, and I had him do most of the early sanding. I just made him a nice sanding block, by stapling some sanding paper to a small 2×4 block. The final sanding I did with my power sander, and some much finer sandpaper.DIY framed chalkboard

This is where the project is now. We painted the first coat of chalkboard paint on the plywood. This afternoon it is drying. This evening, we may be able to paint another coat. My son will do that one. On Saturday, we’ll possibly sand the two coats, and paint another one or two. My goal is to have at least 4 coats of the chalkboard paint, before the final assembly.

At The Getty, with The Princess

A week back, I really wanted to hit The Getty Center with my daughter, The Princess. We lost our shot, and so I rescheduled for this week.

DSC_9362A View of the Grand Canal: Santa Maria della Salute and the Doana from Camp Santa Maria ZobenigoDSC_9263Architecture at The Getty

Yesterday, we drove down to the parking structure, adjacent to the 405 freeway, just down the hill from The Getty. If you don’t know about The Getty Center, it’s possibly one of the best and largest collections of art in the Southern California region. It opened a few years ago to some huge fanfare and has been busy ever since.

You have to pay $8 for parking, but getting into the museum is free. Yeah, free!

I actually wanted to take public transportation all the way down there. Unfortunately, public trans in LA is a joke. There are several different organizations operating different parts of the system. So, we’d have to get on a borrowed seat on the Amtrak train out of Camarillo. Technically we’d be traveling the Metrolink. However, they don’t have enough trains, or something, and they rent seats on Amtrak. Then we’d connect with LA’s MTA for a bus to the Sepulveda/Getty drop-off. Here’s the catch. It’s $18, per person, one way. So, the two of us would be paying $72! That’s more than two tanks of gas in my little commuter Scion. We opted to drive. If urban communities want to help people contribute to helping the congestion, they need to be cheaper than driving. Even with today’s high gas prices, it’s a joke to think that I’d choose a 2 hour trip down and then 2 hours back, for more money.

OK, back to The Getty.

The Princess and I had a great time. We arrived around 11am and headed straight to the first building. We basically wandered from one to the next, covering every inch of each building. In one of the paintings exhibits, the have this really nice room with several large pieces on the walls and a couple of sculptures. They are all very typical museum pieces. Then, in the middle of the room they have several tables and drawing easels set up. The point is for anyone to wander up and sketch your own interpretation of the art on display. There were many people of varying ages that wandered in and out as we were there.

Will you hold still!Well, The Princess is a very good artist. So we took the time so that she could sketch something of her own. She sat down at the table and looked around for a bit. Then she sorta grunted an “OK, I’m ready.” She leaned down and began to draw. It took me a few minutes to realize what she had chosen as her focus. She was drawing a young woman a few feet from her, who was in turn drawing one of the large paintings. It really was surprising to me. I was even a little emotional as I considered what she was doing. I wondered how many accomplished artists would have considered to draw someone drawing.

I could not pass this chance up, so I shot off a few frames. As you can see, she did a splendid job.

We took a break for a late lunch and then continued into the Photography exhibit. It was there that I discovered that they want to show you photographs, but don’t really like photographers.

Don't take pictures in here!Let me clarify. No one really gives me a hard time. I don’t let them. Also, the average security guard is intellectually scared off when you start using 3 or more syllable words. I engaged him with a short diatribe about copyright, and derivative works. He didn’t follow. I allowed him to leave, and I shot my one and only rule-breaking-shot. “This one’s for Thomas Hawk,” I thought to myself.

It's too bright!When we finished there, we decided to head home. We didn’t have time for the beautiful gardens, nor much more than one quick stop to enjoy the view. I promised her we’d return once more. Possibly for a group photowalk, this summer.

Above all, I had a great time with my daughter, enjoying some beautiful artwork and taking picture together. She’s a lot of fun. Oh yeah, BTW, that was her school day.