Archive for the ‘Thankfulness’ Category

About two weeks ago, I was looking for a good goat image to use in Etchstar‘s custom image engraving service. (A gift for a friend, if you were wondering.) Thumbing through Google’s image search, I learned an unsettling truth: many goats are ugly, and those unfortunate goats who aren’t, have ugly pictures taken of them.

Shoot, I thought, maybe I’ll have to get her something else. Or I might even have to draw an image myself.

It was just then that I stumbled across an adorable illustration. Perfect! Now, the practical ethics of tracingĀ  over or drawing over a photo I found might be questionable (when does a derivative work become a work unto itself?), but if I was going to use someone else’s drawing, I knew I aught to ask them. No problem, since this is, after all, the Internet, home of copyfighters, open-source heros, and generally lots of people who are just happy to have someone paying attention to them (like me!). I shot off an e-mail as quickly as I found the “contact” page and went to bed, confident I could place my order in the morning.

Or not.

Instead, I had a sternly worded e-mail explaining to me that the artist had worked very hard and generally starved quite a while to get to the point where she could actually demand payment for her work, and now that she had, she wasn’t going to let people trample on her rights (I’m paraphrasing, of course – she was a little nicer then that actually).

Who exactly had I e-mailed? Back on her site, it wasn’t hard to figure out. Turns out she’s a cartoonist for the New Yorker. Well.

It turned out, there was a slight misunderstanding. She had thought I was Etchstar, asking to use her work (for free) to print and sell lots of engraved notebooks to other people. No small wonder why she said no to that. I would have too. When I explained the truth of the situation (I’m just some dude, making only one, and at no profit) she was more understanding. Ultimately, we worked out an arrangement very similar to the one under which I am showing you the goat below (that is to say, a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License).

An adorable goat, no?

An adorable goat, no?

Of course, I’m grateful that she let me use her work without compensation. She would have been entitled to ask for it, regardless of how I was using her image. Instead, though, she let me off with the promise that I would do what I could to let people know it was hers. Which is what I’m doing.

Her name is Carolita Johnson. You can look at more of her stuff here, buy some of it here, or follow her blog here. So go, look at her stuff, and buy something! Tell her Zack sent you. And thanks again, Carolita!

(A quick note to would be, er, “friendly borrowers”: The arrangement Carolita agreed to with me was a personal favor, and I can’t say she would do the same again with that or any other piece of her work. At most I can tell you that anything on her blog falls under the Creative Commons license above, unless she changes her mind in the future. So if you like her stuff, then buy it, and if you can’t buy it, ask. Politely. )

(Another quick note: I find this whole story pretty hilarious, because really, the internet is so packed with amateurs and hobbyist who would do anything to get linked, looked at, or lauded, that it’s bizarre to remember that anyone successful actually uses this inter-tubes thing. Good lesson for the future though: before you e-mail someone to beg off their work, take five seconds to scan their site and figure out who they are.)


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The other day, I was walking back from the art building in a terrible mood. One of my art projects was in the dumps and the other class had been simply tiring. I was acutely feeling a sense of envy about all the couples on campus, and yet my roommate’s sudden break-up had me thinking that love never lasts. I’d been sore for no good reason for a few days so trudging back to the dorm in a cold rain wasn’t exactly ideal either.

That was when it hit me: While it had been pouring all day, the rain had cleared just long enough for me to walk home. I’m not religious by any means, but I smiled and thought to myself, “Thank God for small miracles.” (Which in turn reminded me of the origin of the phrase “this too shall pass” which actually made me laugh, particularly in reference to all those couples.)

It’s a difficult thing to do, especially when everything seems to be going wrong, but it’s important not to forget to be thankful for the good things that come your way. Everyone has a dose of bad in their life, and probably always will. The hard part (I do this plenty) is not to feel like you’re owed something good. You probably are, and in our society, forgetting to demand your debts be paid is a good way to get screwed over. However, when you look life that way, then good things only make you even. Sure, you got a nice bonus, but that just about makes up for that weekend you had to come in to work. You have dealt with so many snotty cashiers that the polite one only pays you what you are due.

“Now that we’re even, world, what will you do to make me happy?”

The problem is, anytime you think that way, odds are something else bad will come your way and mess you up. You’ll be owed something again, and you’ll never really enjoy it.

It’s important to remember that life doesn’t tally pros and cons. Good things happen and bad things happen and quite often you can only do so much about it. One thing you can always do, though, is appreciate good things for what they are: good moments in your life. Not payback, not what you are due, just something good to be happy about.

A great way to practice this is to take a few minutes every day to write down something (or a few things) you’re thankful for. Some days the list will be long, other days it may read “I’m still breathing.” Thats okay. Life is that way sometimes. The important thing is to train yourself to look for good things, without tallying and spreadsheets and calculating what you’re owed. (Besides, breathing is a pretty good thing, right?)

Who knows? You might find you have more small miracles to be thankful for then you think.

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Monday morning, and I think most of us could use a little inspiration to get us going.

Randy Pausch is an amazing person. If he had given this lecture just as a normal Last Lecture Series lecture, it would be impressive. Instead, this is the whole story:

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium.

He has to be one of the most upbeat lecturers I’ve heard, which is awesome. I wish I had a chance to take a class with this guy. Enjoy, and listen carefully.

If you can’t see the link on this page, you can watch it here, or see him reprise the lecture on Oprah.

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