A future trip…

2794715363_0a65217e29_oSeveral years ago, Deanna and I visited Washington DC. It was an awesome trip. I’d love to take my teenagers there. Obviously, my medical condition, as it now stands, makes it quite a while before I can do it. But you know me, I look far down the road, dream a little, and start planning.

Without my ability to drive, I’ve already been thinking about places to visit, once allowed by my medical team, where I won’t need a car. San Francisco jumps out quick. Public trans rocks, and it’s not far away.

And since y’all know I’ve fallen in love with Amtrak, I may just go that route. It’s more expensive than flying, but I’m sure I’ll be clear for the train before a plane, since I’m already taking the train for clinic visits with approval. So off I go, planning away!

This would be our route, on Amtrak. Why not a straight shot? Well, the northern route, via Chicago, is the “straight” shot. We’d us sleeper cars, the whole back and forth. But, the path back has us stopping for a night in New Orleans, then taking a bus to Shreveport, to spend the weekend with our Texas family, then back on the train, home to Guadalupe, that’s where the Santa Maria station is located.


CCW trends

[To be clear, I am not sponsored or receiving any compensation from these recommended companies.]

There’s finally some creativity coming out with optional ways to carry concealed, aka CCW. 

UnderTech UnderCover Men’s Concealment Shorts Single Pair -$50 a pair  (they have a variety of colors styles and package deals.)

Here’s a newer method that is deep cover, and most likely avoids  printing well. But pressed up against my skin, I foresee there being a big comfort learning curve.

In all honestly, these deep concealment options are perfect for very unique situations, and it would behoove anyone carrying like this to practice drawing from full dressed conditions, before they build up the muscle memory to have it flow safely.

SmartCarry Single pocket concealed carry holster – $58.98

Another deep concealment holster I highly recommend is one I own and have used for many years. Made by SmartCarry. Low profile Velcro attaching belt with a pouch in front. Kinda like a thin fanny pack that goes between you pants and underwear. My model carried my LCP + extra mag. And it still fits my M&P Shield with extra mag. It seems a little high-priced for a cloth holster, but these are handmade in Florida, USA. 

Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 2.0 IWB Holster -$35.88

Then there’s my primary CCW carry holster, an Alien Gear 2.0. Tuckable, completely under pants and shirts. It shines when you IWB carry and tuck in you outer shirt. Virtually no print and one step to draw.

They also carry clean and simple OWB holsters as well.

I love the comfortable neoprene-like material against my skin, and it breathes well.  

El Paso Saddlery “EZ Carry” Holster – $55.00

I want to include a holster that should be a staple with all CCWers. A typical leather IWB with metal clip. This is a great choice for rapid departure from your home, if by chance you actually weren’t carrying inside (foolish).

They all make them. With leather, I tend to be willing to spend more for the longevity. I migrate to El Paso Saddlery for all of these. I have two OWB holsters for my duty carry from them, and they are fantastic!

With CCW it’s all about being ready but unknown. Don’t talk about that you carry. Don’t show people what you’re carrying or where. I’ve done this, but in semi-training environments with compadres who also CCW and or are seriously considering it.
Of course there a plethora of methods for carrying a handgun in a concealed manner. I’m a holster hog, so I expect to acquire many more holsters for alternate methods of dress and carrying locations. But above all, I stick with my fat tire location. Just behind my hip.  With my somewhat pear shape, on the hip at 3 o’clock, my profile shows the gun, aka it “prints”. In front of the hip is called appendix carry and I think it’s very dangerous. A misfire can result in a blown femoral artery. Not a risk I want. Behind the hip, between 3:30 and 4 o’clock positions allows me NOT to print, and it’s not too far back to bother when I’m driving. And I’ve practiced in my professional environment drawing from that position and successfully engaging targets.

At a future date I hope to expand on holsters for CCW and even open carry. I’m no expert, I just have my decade plus of working in an environment where I open carried in uniform, CCW’ed a backup, and CCW’ed off duty. I’ve made some bad purchases, and learned from trying to be too frugal and too fancy.

Please jump into the comments with your questions and comments. Disagree with me on something, go for it and explain to us why. I don’t seek conflict, I seek communication  and healthy discourse.

Now you see me, now you don’t

In light of my recent post about being prepared, I want to take the idea of being prepared for unlikely situations and run with it.

Nearly every person focused on being prepared for emergency situations, has acquired gear that can almost always be described as military-like. We get our camo pants and shirts. We get vests as ammo carriers, or more, armor/plate carriers, in military camo patterns. We Cerakote our firearms in the latest and greatest camo patterns. We set up our Bug-Out-Bags (BOBs) in military equipped, camo patterned backpacks. Others get their standard issue 5.11 pants and khaki shirts. We even sometimes drift our wardrobe to emulate this as well.

Guess what peeps, you’re the target the dirtbags are gonna single out. Why? Because you’ve spent the last few months or years telling your community that you’re the dude who’s prepared and ready. And the dirtbags are gonna want your stuff.

This was introduced to me with one simple concept I cannot remember where I first heard. The Gray Man.

What is the Gray Man? Well, he or she is the kind of person NOT bringing attention to themselves. Not making themselves a target. Blending in. The first article I link to below is probably my favorite explanation. If you read nothing else, read that article! Coming to some of these conclusions were actually a little hard for me. A coworker espouses some of these principles quite well, trying to keep a lower profile than I tend to. I’m not sure if he’s embraced this actual concept, or he’s just wise enough to get it. Either way, I still have much to learn.

Now don’t get me wrong, some of this gear is necessary and should be slowly acquired, preferably from Mil-Surplus stores. They can be some of the most affordable places, if you shop, and don’t just grab a huge supply of stuff you’re not looking for today. Self control folks!

However, much of this gear can be picked up to meet the same need, but not make you as much of a target. I’ve found several very well written articles that cover these ideas much better than I can, and there’s no need for me to since they’ve done such a nice job.

There’s plenty of diverse opinions out there on this issue. Honestly, the best learning can and does come from looking at the various opinions. I’ve learned more picking out the little golden nuggets of consistency and allowing myself to understand the differences of opinion. At the end of this post, I’ll embed a pretty good video that I’d vouch for from much of what I’ve learned.

Featured Image Credit: “Crowds”, by Jeremy Brooks.

Inspiring book, in two ways 

My pastor picked up this inspirational book that he knew would impact me. It’s a photo journal of the journey of a man who used to don the stage with great attention, Dieter Zander. I actually met him at a conference I attended in Chicago many years ago. He stood out from the rest of the crowd. He had insight and spiritual leadership that transcended the programs and simple inspirational preaching offered by the others. He was clearly a part of the Church’s future. I even had a chance to meet him. Years later I heard he left Chicago to plant a church in San Francisco. I kinda wanted to be a part of that. Not long after, Deanna and I helped plant a church in Ventura, CA.

IMG_5494 (1)

Fast forward to today. The short is that he had a stroke, and all the stage work is gone. It appears that he cannot speak, and he has embraced a new kind of life on mission. A friend gave him a camera, and like my journey, he grew as he realized it’s a storytelling device. His artistry surpasses my own, but I am motivated by his art. I’ve been trying alternate projects in recent weeks for this very reason. Storehouse is a site/app that is helping me learn how to tell a story with my images, with minimal captions. It’s much like this book, called A Stroke of Grace. Below are a few shots of the book, the most compelling pages to me.

IMG_5495 (1)

The full paged photo is of Dieter. The story it tells is remarkable. I know this story. It is my story. I’m brought to tears over it. Dieter, I’m inspired and ministered to by you. Thank you for submitting to the Lord and continuing your ministry of discipleship.


I use affiliate links and ads on this site. But this article has zero profit links for me.

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. 🙂

Since she’s homeschooled, and she’s planning on pursuing 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 are irreplaceable  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 the pertinent 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 supportus@niksoftware.com 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 first®

7588 Metropolitan Drive | San Diego, CA 92108
Tel – 619.725.3150 | Fax – 619.725.3151
supportus@niksoftware.com | http://www.niksoftware.com

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 http://www.niksoftware.com/learnmore. 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!? 🙂 And I’m sure your daughter will love it!

You can use this 25% academic discount code at topazlabs.com/store 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!

CLEAN YOUR RIFLE, you maggot!

Last year I picked up an awesome addition to my arsenal; a Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle. Since I live in Kalifornia, owning a more traditional .223 choice is quite difficult. Yeah, I can try to skirt the current law with a few choices, but I just didn’t want to go that route. I had spent a few years looking at my choices, and decided that the Mini-14 would serve my needs wonderfully.

When I picked it up, it leaned against the inner wall of my gun cabinet for months before I had the opportunity to actually shoot it. It was great, and a lot of fun when I finally did take it out. I put 3 boxes of .223 through it, and brought it home. I can’t recall why I didn’t clean it that evening. Generally, I’m quite responsible with cleaning my firearms after use. It ended up sitting and sitting. Then I forgot. Shame.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to get out with my oldest boy, codenamed Sniper. He’s 8 years old now, and ready to push on from just shooting my old 22 bolt action rifle. I had seen a good friend take his son of similar age out hunting for rabbits, with a Mini-14, and decided that my Sniper was probably ready for mine.

We hit the The San Luis Obispo Sportsmen’s Association, just past San Luis Obispo, for some trigger time. This post isn’t about that shooting time, it deserves a post of its own. I may not get to it, very busy this weekend!

My Sniper put 10 rounds of .223 through the Mini-14 with great excitement and success. Every round hit the target, at 25 yards. Not bad for an 8 year old’s first time.

When we got home, I started to put the firearms away, and realized that I needed to leave them out, to clean them later. Late in the evening, after everyone had gone to bed, I broke out all the cleaning gear. I started with my Smith & Wesson M&P. It was in GREAT need of a cleaning. Next I tackled the Mini-14.

As I sat there, I realized that I really didn’t quite know the proper way to field strip this year old rifle. I had owned this beauty for almost a year, and I had no idea how to take it apart. Lame! Much shame!

Sitting there, it hit me I have this sweet mobile phone sitting right next to me, doing nothing. I grabbed my Nexus One, and navigated to the YouTube app. An easy little search, and walla, I found the official Tips videos from Ruger. They produced their very own little videos, showing us ignorant owners just how to care for our beautiful rifles!

I started watching the first video I needed, “Ruger Mini-14 Disassembly”, right there on my mobile. The host guided me through disassembling all the right stuff, including a couple of good tips. I kept gun oil off my left little finger, to hit pause and play with. It worked great! Below are all three videos that helped me the best!

Mini-14 Disassembly

Mini-14 Cleaning

Mini-14 Reassembly

In the court of the King

My PrincessRecently, the wife and I have become a bit frustrated over some behavior manifesting in The Princess, our 9 year old daughter. She’s our oldest child and our only daughter. Her reactions to her brothers’ sinning against her could make Rosanne Barr take notice.

Of course we love her, and we passionately want to raise her to be loving and respectful. We also want to raise her to know God as the forgiving and sovereign Lord we know Him to be. So, often it’s more difficult to simply get her to respond to us with obedience. A long time back I remember Deanna teaching our kids the idea that they are expected to “obey, right away.” Over time, I know this will pay off, teaching our kids to obey us first, and then seek understanding or context.

Anyway, back to the Princess. She will often respond to her brothers, after one of them has sinned against her, with a “freak out episode” that is sometimes more puzzling than angering.

I’ve recently sought some alternative methods for getting her attention. Of course, there are times when some behavior just merits a consequence that sucks. Sometimes we all just need a swat. (If you desire to debate the merits of spanking, I welcome your thoughts. Just not here. Use the Comment page.)

However, there are also times when the consequence merits a lesson that teaches more than the immediate results of pain.

I was listening to Mark Driscoll recently when he described the methods they use in his home for discipline. Without going into all the details, they simply illustrate the Gospel, and highlight sin and our role in it. I took note.

On a recent afternoon, after I woke up, the Princess exploded on the Sniper. I got her attention and immediately I was reminded of the lesson from Pastor Mark. I took the teachable moment and began explaining that she had sinned against her brother. I exhausted the idea, and a light bulb went off! It hit me that in her daily tasks for homeschooling, she sits and copyrights a Psalm each day. The Word of our Lord is already entering her heart, even if it’s slow.

So I told the Princess to get her notebook, loaded with a third of the Psalms, and instructed her to read through and find at least one verse that she could learn from, based on the conflict she had with her brother. Of course, she returned quickly, insisting that Psalm 3 was it. Well, maybe it was, however I insisted she go back and give it a stronger effort.

She returned much later with a clear change in heart. She read me…

“For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” Pslam 5:12

She went on to explain that when we do the right thing, God protects us. His protection isn’t the reward for doing good, it’s the end result of choosing His path, which is righteousness. (Those are my words for her thoughts.)

I was blown away. She had taken the redirected time to spend time in God’s Word, and came back touched by it.

It’s so cool, being a parent.

The little sniper…turned into Thomas the teenage Sniper

The Sniper at work


Update: The Sniper has grown quite a bit. He’s the teenage Sniper now.

In recent months, my interest in firearms and the possibility of hunting has been growing and growing. Earlier this year, my grandfather gave loaned me a wonderful Remington .22 bolt action rifle. He had bought it when he was about 14 years old, and had kept it in great working order since then.

Going back a few months before, I had begun looking for a very inexpensive bolt action .22 rifle, to use in instructing my kids about the safety and importance of firearms. My own experience in the Boy Scouts of America had been a good one, and I wanted to pass that off onto my own kids.

Remembering those sweet old bolt action .22’s we used at summer camp, I started looking around. Unfortunately I couldn’t come up with a low priced option.DSC_5284

Fast-forward to my grandfather’s offer for his own, near perfect rifle. This rifle was exactly what I was looking to use with my kids. Its characteristics include; bolt action, .22, single shot, and iron sights. Just what I was looking for! In fact, those sights aren’t just plain old iron sights. They’re aperture sights, which are really nice, and great for learning.

So the first chance I had, I had that rifle cleaned and examined, just because of its age. Then I got my oldest son and we headed out to the firing range. Near my home there is a great club, the San Luis Obispo Sportsman’s Association. My wife’s step-father also went with us. We were shooting during Thanksgiving week. What a wonderful time we had. I took my own handgun, and my father-in-law took a older .32 Colt semi-auto.

I set up my son, commonly referred to as The Padawan, on the sit down bench. He was excited and ready. With his hands properly placed, he is just large enough to use this rifle safely. We went over the important safety information, and I demonstrated a few example shots.

At 25 yards, The Padawan was immediately capable of hitting a standard 14″ x 24″ target. His understanding of “grouping” is still a work in progress, but he was hitting the target with each round.

DSC_5292I started out standing over The Padawan and assisting him with everything but pulling the trigger. I was opening the bolt, placing the next round, and closing the bolt. Then I would cock the gun, when he was ready. Within minutes he wanted to open the bolt, then he wanted to close the bolt. It didn’t take long for him to be doing everything but cocking the rifle. (That takes a bit more strength than his 6 year old hands have.)

I was really impressed with his willingness to try and learn each of the mechanical steps necessary to fire the rifle. But more than that, his patience and attention to detail was clearly paying off in accuracy, from the beginning!

So, with 25 yards clearly a bit easy, I decided to have him try 50 yards. Since the range was still hot, and we couldn’t go down range to change the target’s distance, I quickly had The Padawan switch to a farther target of a short run of steel gongs. These steel targets are about 10 or 12 inches in diameter, and hang from a stand that has 5 or 6 targets. I instructed The Padawan in where to shoot, and where to aim at the painted white target.

His first shot ended with a ping! Then the next. This continued until he slowly began to show that he was accurate about 50% of the time. I was so proud! So, I’d like to take this opportunity to let you all know that The Padawan has been promoted; he will now be known at The Sniper. Those sweet aperture sights seem to work really well for him.

It was a great day and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to head out and push his limits even further. My hope is to have him grow and learn, without discouraging him with too difficult of a distance.

I’ve been shopping for a deer rifle, for myself, and I don’t think it will be too long before a .22 isn’t enough for The Sniper. I’m looking for a .30-06, but we’ll make a few more stops along the ballistic journey before he gets there.