Nate’s Notes- Learning Is Fun…You Didn’t Hear It From Me!

Yes, I know I’ve talked about the amazingness of trains before.  What? Like you’ve never talked about something you love over and over and over???  Where do you think I learned it??  Yea, I’m here to tell you that big people definitely tell the same stories over and over and over.   So, yea…trains.

This weekend Momma, Daddy, me and, oh yea, Lyla went to Sacramento.  Sacramento is….is…the Captain, no…yea, Captain City of California….or something like that.  We even got to stay in a different house that had soooo many bedrooms, and up and down closet ride, and a swimming pool.   On the car ride there, Momma started in on her “Nate- we get to learn new things” speech.   She’s always talking about how learning is so much fun.  Remember how I said big people repeat themselves?  Well, I’ve only heard this speech, like, a hundred-eleventy-five times in my short life of 23 months.  So, she was about 3 sentences in before I decided to shut that down.  I took a nap.

Old Sacramento State Historic Park_0010 DSC_0955When I woke up we were in Sacramento, and Daddy even looked excited.  Momma gathered us, did a weird clap/jump maneuver, and said, “Okay- let’s go learn! Yay! So much fun!”.   How can so much dorkiness live in one person?   I often ask myself that as I stare at Momma.  Then I looked past her to…trains.  A whole building full of them, and even more behind the building.  Well, no one told me trains were involved!!  Pshaw.   It’s possible I missed that part of the speech while I napped.

Old Sacramento State Historic Park_0070It got better.  We RODE a train!  Some nice people talked to us on the train about…you guessed it: trains!   As we rode along the river, I heard so much stuff, letting it sink into my growing brain.  Did you know that trains are used to move people and things from town to town?   Did you know that a train runs every single minute of the year? Did you know that the average train weighs more than ten elephants? Elephants are HUGE!!! Did you know that, if the weather is snowy outside, you may not hear a train’s whistle?  What’s snow??

I was sad when we got back to the station, and it’s possible I freaked out a little.  Can you blame me?  I loved it.  I didn’t want it to end.  I wanted to learn more!   Wait…Momma was right!  Learning is fun. Oh man…learning IS fun!!  Shhh.  Don’t tell her or Daddy I said that.   But you should look at the train pictures!

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RSWL: Knowledge

To some of you, this may seem like an odd choice for this blog entry – but, I believe that the life-long (and yes – it should be a life long journey) pursuit of knowledge is as much about exploration (a common theme of ours) as is exploration of the physical world around us.

Knowledge, and the accumulation of it in books, in computers or even in our own memory, can be (huge understatement warning!) the key to many, many things.  Knowledge is powerful.  When we share our knowledge with others and they share as well, there are very few limits to what we can accomplish together.  Our collective knowledge is built on the knowledge of those that came before us just as ours will be passed on for future generations to use.

I taught at the university level for almost twenty years and one of the things I tried the hardest to install in my students was the desire to learn.  The specific information and skills that came with taking the class were important of course, but to me, that was secondary. The real priority was to instill in them a strong, never-ending desire to learn and an eagerness to continue that process long after they were out of school and out into the “real world”.

One of the best compliments I ever got from a student was when they told me that the best thing they appreciated about taking my classes was that I taught them how to learn.  I still have a 1″x6″ by three foot long piece of wood above my office door that was painted for me by a student of mine during scenic painting class.  It is a speckled gray color with pink lettering that reads “What do you think? – Tim”.  She made it and gave it to me because that was what I was known for saying often, in response to their questions.  I know that it bugged most (if not all) of them for a while because they wanted me to solve the problem for them so they could move on.  I felt it was more important that they knew how to solve problems like that than to use my knowledge and experience as an immediate fix.  Which is why I would answer their question with the question “What do you think?”  I wanted them to reason through the problem and a majority of the time, they were eventually able to answer their own question.

If you look at our Imagery site you will see that one of the things that sets us apart from all of the other sites that provide stock images, is that we have included information that we believe, provides context to the image.  Each of our images has some information about the image that will tell you things like:  where it is, when it was created, a short story behind its creation, interesting facts about the subject, etc.

For instance, if you looked at images on our site you would learn things like:

  • The San Francisco Zoo has a bald eagle that they named after comedian Stephen Colbert.
  • The man who is credited with having the patent for the modern fire hydrant, cannot prove it as the patent office in Washington DC burned down and his records were destroyed.
  •  The 55 gallon drum was credited with helping to win the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific during World War II.
  • The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 was the beginning of the idea of the traveling carnival.

There are many, many more bits of information like these that we have taken the time to include with our images.  We believe that this information helps to give you more of a connection to what you are looking at.

Take a look randomly at images on the site and read some of the information.  Do not be surprised when you find yourself saying, “Huh – I didn’t realize that!”  At that point you will have learned something…

…You’re welcome…


TMG Philosophy: The Amazing Power of RESPECT

Respect is something I have written about before.  It is a subject that is personally very important to me and I firmly believe that if the rest of the world felt the same way – it would be a far, far better world.

The incredible, life-altering power of respect was made crystal clear, last week, on Tuesday, August 20th in an elementary school in Georgia, just outside Atlanta.  If you have not heard this story, then you really, really need to go look up the details.  It is an amazing story and that is NOT an exaggeration!

I want to focus on one aspect of the story that has not been directly mentioned in the news much if at all, and that is the respect element to the story and how, when it was used with honesty and love, it was more powerful than any gun.

On that Tuesday morning, a 20 year old gunman came into the front office of the school with an AK-47 (he may have had other guns as well) and at least 500 rounds of ammunition.  He was clearly there to commit mass murder.  In the front office that day (even though she originally was not supposed to be there but ended up being there as a result of a scheduling change at the last minute) was a woman by the name of Antoinette Tuff.  We have since learned that she was one of a few school administrators that had received some training on how to deal with a crisis situation, but let’s be honest – what she does goes well beyond any training any school administrator would ever take part in.

Standing in front of her is a troubled young man who is heavily armed and clearly intent on killing as many people as possible.  We know the whole story because she was on the phone with a 911 operator and the time and her entire conversation with the gunman was recorded of course.  At first, when in a moment of frustration he goes outside and fires his weapon into the ground, she asks the 911 operator if she should take this opportunity to run.  The vast majority of us would have seized the opportunity to run and save ourselves.  But she stays as he walks back into the office!

She then proceeds to talk to him and try and calm him down.  Listen to the entire conversation and you will see something truly amazing.  She treats him with love and respect!  She sees him for what he really is, a troubled fellow human being and tells him about the struggles she has dealt with in her life, making it clear that she wants to help HIM.  Seriously…?!  Again – a vast, vast majority of us would be thinking about ways to either flee from him or hurt or kill the gunman, but she, through the strength of her character – reaches out to him and treats him with the respect that he deserves as a fellow human being!  In later interviews she credits her faith and the strength she received from God in that situation.  While I believe that was true, I also believe that she was still acting in a way that was true to her character.  God may have given her the strength to do what she did- but who she truly was as a person was what He strengthened.

Here is verbatim what she says to him towards the end after he has agreed to give up and lie down on the floor so the police can come in and arrest him:  “It’s going to be all right, sweetie.  I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing that you’re just giving up and don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life.”

Read that again.  She actually tells him she loves him…!  I would be willing to bet that virtually none of us when faced with a mentally unbalanced, heavily armed gunman, intent to kill us, would tell him that we love him and go on to say that we are proud of him for now doing the right thing and not harming anyone.  The cynical (and I would add – heartless) among us would have you believe that she (having been trained) was simply acting a part, and was therefore telling him things to calm him down so that he wouldn’t hurt her.  I say that is complete 100%, Grade A, directly off the stable floor – bullshit!

The NRA has said time and time again that the only way to stop a badman with a gun – is a good person with a gun.  While it is hard to argue the cold, simplistic and narrow-minded logic of that – I think on August 20th we were given a powerful reminder that there are things that, when we recognize the humanity in another person, can do that are far more powerful and with greater positive results than reacting to anger and aggression with more of the same.

A lone woman, fearing for her life, used RESPECT to disarm a heavily-armed gunman with the intent to kill, and saved many lives (including his) in the process.

Think about that…

Nate’s Notes: Full Hearts

Momma usually takes her camera everywhere so she can take pictures for work.  I just learned that, by the way:  Daddy works away from home and Momma works at home or when we go on field adventures.  I’m not sure which is cooler.  Anyway, a couple of days ago, we went to what felt like a big party.  There were tents, balloons, music, food and lots of people.  Seemed like the perfect place for Momma to embarrass us with her crazy picture taking shenanigans.  I’ll let you sit down before I tell you this next part.  Sitting yet? Okay-  she didn’t bring her camera…on purpose…like, for reals.

I’ll let that sink in.  Yea…my super-camera-freak Momma did NOT bring her camera to this party thing.  Missed opportunity if you ask me.  But no one asked me.  I, however, did ask in increasing volume as we were leaving the house, “Momma, Momma, Mom, Mommy… camma? Camma?”  But they just rushed me and Baby Lyla into the car and away we went.  Okay.  I tried.

DSC_0308When we got there it was pretty fun to see all the tents and balloons and hear the music. Look at the cool pictures Momma could get with those balloons! There were banners everywhere, but I couldn’t read the words.  People kept saying “Relay for Life” though, whatever that means. We started walking…around and around and around the track.   We walked with me in the stroller, with me pushing the stroller, with me running away from Momma and Daddy, with me running with Momma, with me on Daddy’s back, we walked.  We just went around and around.  I didn’t mind because I’m really fast.   I just kept going and saying, “Nate weely fast.  Nate weely fast!” 

While I was showing off my super-hero-in-the-making super fast skills, Momma and Daddy started talking.   They were super serious.  How can anyone be serious with balloons and music around???  I heard them say they were both glad we had left the cameras home so we could just focus on this moment.  They said they felt peace to be here today and just remember people they loved that aren’t here anymore because they got sick.  Momma said she was honored to walk, happy to help fight this sickness, and excited to see friends who were sick be hopeful.  They got quiet and both started crying a little.  That made me get quiet.  They were holding hands, so I grabbed their hands.  That made Momma cry more.  She told me her heart was very full.  Ummm…like my tummy?  Does that mean we weren’t eating lunch?

Momma said she wished we could walk the whole 24 hours, to walk until it hurt and walk some more because it was like nothing the sick people had gone through.  I could tell this meant a lot to both Momma and Daddy so I gave them hugs.   They said they were so happy because 2 years ago, when they walked the whole 24 hours at Relay, when it was all over, I was born and their lives became better, their hearts fuller.  And that, they said, helped heal the sadness of lost loved ones.

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RSWL: Virtual Travel

This week’s Random Stuff We Like entry is about traveling around the country and world without ever leaving home!   Our Transmogrifier team loves to travel.  We all have that spirit of adventure, that need to discover and learn.   My thirst to travel and explore has been fostered since before I can remember!    My grandpa traveled the world in his later years, always bringing us postcards, books, coins (eh-hem…Tim), and many many stories from each country.  My parents showed us the states on numerous summer road trips.

Our team at The Transmogrifier doesn’t travel to the same places or at the same time.  So when one journey ends that isn’t mine, I eagerly await the pictures on the website, ready to “visit” places I’ve never been to before.   When silence finally comes in my house, I have been known to grab a beer and some popcorn and begin perusing the images, immersing myself in the adventures I see and imagine.

This is most easily done in the Cities Gallery on the Imagery website.   Here I can dream of being on the Amalfi coast in Italy, wander among the castles of Scotland, walk in history from Jacksonville, Oregon to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Georgetown, Washington DC; I can explore the beauty of Hanoi, Vietnam and the rising power of Dubai, UAE; I can discover Albania; I can walk through Pisa, Florence and Rome;  Get the picture?  (Ha ha).

I encourage you- no, I challenge you to visit one of the places in our Cities Gallery.  See what there is to discover.  Learn about the destination.   And do it all from your home.  Virtual travel: explore the world.  We love it and you will too!

*Note:  Check back often because we are constantly adding new images, cities and countries to this gallery!

TMG Philosophy: “Exploring Your Neighbor”

Now, before some of you start thinking, “Ahhhh, poor Tim.  He must be getting a head start on senility.  He must have meant to say ‘Explore Your NeighborHOOD’ and not neighbor…” I will tell you that I, in fact, meant to say just that.

By now, I am sure any of you loyal readers will have noticed a number of themes that appear regularly in each of the sections of our blog.  One that we clearly believe strongly in is the idea of exploration.  Quite simply – the world is a great big playground and since we are curious people, we here at the Transmogrifier believe there is no doubt that we are meant to explore every bit of our world.  That desire to explore and the world to be explored is one of the very best things about our jobs here.

Obviously, exploration can be a scary thing.  The thing that makes it scary is the (insert dramatic music sound effect here)  the unknown…  We are both intrigued by what is on the other side of that mountain in front of us and scared of what may be lurking there.  This is not a new idea at all.  If you doubt me, take a look at old maps.  It was a widely held fear before Magellan circumnavigated the globe, that if you sailed too far you would fall off the edge of the world.  And to make it extra scary, map makers of the time put ravenous sea monsters at the edges of the maps to reinforce the fear of the unknown.

From the 500 year old map known as Carta Marina. It is in the public domain.

From the 500 year old map known as Carta Marina. Presumably the sailors are hoping the sea monsters will eat the cargo and not them.  My guess is the cargo is really just an appetizer.

While we all understand that exploration has both risk and reward and it is that combination of the two in unique proportions that taunts us to do things like climb Mount Everest, why is it that we rarely see the challenge in getting to know people as a worthy exploration?

Yes- people (especially those we do not know) can be even more scary than sea monsters, but I will bet that all of us can think of a great story of when we took a risk and spoke to someone.  That may have started out scary or hard, but then turned out to be a wonderful experience, and may have even led to a life-long relationship in some cases.  A blind date leads to a marriage.  A suicide leads to a strong friendship among those that dealt with it.  Offering a homeless guy a chance to stay somewhere on a cold winter night leads to a friendship and a life saved.

I am not naive, clearly good things do not happen every time or even a lot of the time when we risk reaching out to people.  Just like the risk that comes with exploring the world, there is real risk in getting to know people.  But the rewards can be so much greater than a cargo hold full of spices (that was what Magellan’s crew saw as their dream goal and why they were willing to take the risk of falling of the Earth.)

I am not suggesting that we spend every waking hour walking up to complete strangers and offering to be their BFF, but certainly we can agree that if we at least change our perspective of people we do not know from a virtual map with sea monsters, to the chance to discover and explore, that will be a step in the right direction.  This applies to those who look different, talk different, and even have different views, customs and beliefs.  If we see those people as a chance to explore and get to know them, rather than scary and unknown, there is no telling where you might go next.

So that nice, cute waitress who smiles at you – talking to her is like stepping up onto a pitcher’s mound compared to the Everest that is talking to the homeless guy who smells of urine and stale beer.  Both deserve our time and both deserve to be treated with respect.

Go ahead – talk to someone you don’t know and see what is at the edges of that map…

Nate’s Notes: Lions, Tigers, and…Tea?

So I got to pull an adventure paper out of our tin, you know, that whole Drawing Game thing where you never actually get to draw.  Anyway…I pulled the paper and ran. Who doesn’t like a game of chase?   After Momma caught me and gave me that look…she took the paper and smiled really big.  I smiled back and waited…and waited…and….waited.  Tell me! Tell me!  Tell me!  I started jumping up and down and running in circles in the kitchen.  The waiting was driving me crazy…or at least that seemed like a good reason to act crazy.

Then she told me:  The San Francisco Zoo and Japanese Tea Gardens!!  Lions and tigers and bears oh my!!!  And the zoo train!  “Twain! Twain! Twain!” I shouted.    I’m not ashamed to admit I may have spit a little bit…and drooled too when I shouted train.  Come on, like you’ve never gotten that excited!?!  Don’t judge me people.

Yea, so after 2 more nights sleeping in my big boy bed, we get to go to the zoo and ride the train and see the elephants and pet the goats and and and…  Whew.  I’m so excited I just peed my pants!!!  Again…you are going to judge me??? A toddler in potty training???  C’mon!!!

Oh yea, and we have to take pictures.  Lots of pictures.  Always lots of pictures.  Pictures of this…pictures of that.   But we’ll be at the zoo so I don’t care how Momma acts!  She’ll just blend in with the animals and stuff.

Wait, what’s a “Tea Garden”?  Do we just go drink tea?  But I’m not allowed to drink tea. Oh goodness.  Hmmm…oh well, I get to go to the zoo!

TMG Philosophy: Words

Words.  They are everywhere. Spoken and unspoken.  Words mean something different to different people.   When I say “no” to my toddler son I am very clear about what I mean.  On the other hand, to him, “no” means “yes, do whatever it is you are doing even more! Actually, add another inappropriate action as well!”.    When someone says “rusty” to me, I get excited and think it must be beautiful. Show me the rust!   To someone else, “rusty” might have a negative connotation, meaning dilapidated, junky, unworthy of notice or even dangerous.  When someone hears that part of my work is photography, they assume that the websites are just a bunch of pretty pictures.  Well, they are kind of right!   But our websites are more than just pretty pictures.

Our team at The Transmogrifier loves words.  All of our images have keywords and descriptions attached to them.   We get to look at an image and come up with as many descriptive and informative words as possible.  We pride ourselves on these words being accurate.  Our team wants users to count on these words being accurate.  Our goal is to not only provide inspiration to other creative people with our images, but also to inform others with our images, giving background and interesting information on each photo.   With over 50,000 combined images on our Textures website and Imagery website…each with keywords and descriptions attached to them…well, that’s a lot of words.

Without words I wouldn’t be writing this, and you wouldn’t be reading this.  You might even be wondering how many more words I’ll use to get to the end!   Words can give us strength.  Words can undermine our strength.  Words can change our days.  Words can change our lives.  Words inform, educate, and entertain.  Words incite emotions and encourage action.

I’ll use just a few more words to ask for your action.  We are proud of the work we’ve built and the culture of quality and variety we are creating in our network of websites.   We are humbled by the support and encouragement of our families.   Now we need you to use your words and tell anyone and everyone you know about our work, the websites and this blog.  Words are powerful.  Word-of-mouth is influential.  Please share yours.  (377 words not including this word count!)

*Perhaps this was a borderline non-philosophical entry.

RSWL: Cats! (and Squirrels, Bunnies, etc…)

I was getting ready to write my entry for the blog for this week when I found this on my desk:

Note from two large and apparently hungry Akitas

Note from two large and apparently hungry Akitas

It would appear that Taicho and Suki (my two Akitas) have decided it is time for them to make their opinions known.  While I certainly do not endorse their tactics, I have to agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment, and appreciate their desire to help!

You can help us in many ways.  Pass our name on to everyone you can think of – you never know who might be able to use our sites.  If you enjoy reading our blog – share it with your friends on Facebook.  Please – if there is anyway that you can think of to help us out with this effort, we would greatly appreciate it.


Now I better go see what those two are up to now…

SketchUp IMHO: “SketchUp…No Really…”

In one of my earliest posts in this blog, I mentioned that my first impression of SketchUp was that it looked too simple to be a really effective design tool.  In all honesty – I think a big part of that impression was the fact that I knew it was a pretty inexpensive program compared to other CADD programs I was used to using.  That is commonly known as “perception of value”.  Unfortunately, as consumers, we are generally conditioned to believe that the more expensive something is the better quality it is.  In this case – that perception could not be more wrong!

I have been using SketchUp as my main CADD program for over eight years now and whenever people see my designs and renderings, they often ask what program I used to create them.  I find myself convincing people that it was SketchUp that I used to get those results.  “No, really” is what I often say to other designers in the business (again- because they are used to using more expensive programs).

So, to illustrate my point – I will tell you a quick story.  A former student of mine in undergrad, went on to grad school, and during the four months between grad and undergrad, she worked for me at my company.  During that time, with me, she designed the sets for four commercials, some Christmas decor for two different malls, and a couple of other projects.  I insisted she learn SketchUp for the most efficient collaboration process with me, for the designs.

During the three years she was in grad school, they made her use Vectorworks and Autocad on her designs and sort of “poo-pooed” SketchUp when she would bring it up.  After she graduated, she came back to work for me for another year, where she dove back into using SketchUp as her primary design tool (at my insistence of course).  After a year, she was hired to work on a major television show in the art department.  After a short while there, she started to show them what she could do with SketchUp (they didn’t use the program) and soon she was creating all sorts of models and renderings for the show.  Her work on the show (all in SketchUp) was even featured in the United Scenic Artists union magazine.

Because of her work there, less than a year later, she went on to work as an art director with the same production designer for two seasons of a major cable TV drama series.

I have worked with several very well known film art directors who have requested me to assist with the design work on projects, specifically because I am fast and very good at creating designs in SketchUp.

So, the moral of the story is to not judge anything solely on first impressions and certainly not on cost.  Once I started using the program, SketchUp quickly became my favorite and eventually only real design tool.

Take my word for it.  If you are at all hesitant – give it a try.

If you want to see some of my work – follow this link.