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Monday, August 04, 2008

Ferrofluid Defies Physics

This is WAY cool! I haven't blogged for a while, but I just had to share this! Ferrofluid is a liquid that becomes polarised in the presence of a magnetic field. Here's the technical definition, straight from Wikipedia: "Ferrofluids are composed of nanoscale ferromagnetic particles suspended in a carrier fluid, usually an organic solvent or water. The particles are coated with a surfactant to prevent their agglomeration. Although the name may suggest otherwise, ferrofluids do not display ferromagnetism, since they do not retain magnetization in the absence of an externally applied field. In fact, ferrofluids display (bulk-scale) paramagnetism, and are often referred to as being "superparamagnetic" due to their large magnetic susceptibility."

A bunch of scientific mumbo-jumbo to me, I'm afraid, but the behaviour of the fluid is fascinating to watch. This YouTube clip is wonderfully entertaining and demonstrates the fluid's seemingly impossible properties. There are lots of examples on YouTube, accompanied — not surprisingly — by abundant debate re whether or not it's CGI fakery. There's even a television commercial using the fluid.

Kinda reminds me of those 50's Wooly Willy toys we had as kids, with a goofy-looking guy and iron filings you dragged around with a magnet, to give him hair and a beard.

Ain't the web grand?! Every now and then, one tends to forget the incredible marvels this technology has brought to our desktops.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fractallicious Reborn

Well, I finally did it! I'm out of the stock sites. As some of you know, I have been experimenting with selling my artwork online through half a dozen stock photography and microstock sites for a couple of years. While they were generating income, the experience has never been ideal. Uploading was time-consuming, especially with so many sites. It was frustrating to have certain sites reject an image for utterly arbitrary reasons, while others accepted the very same image. And I certainly didn't enjoy giving away 50% of my income to these companies for the privilege of hosting my art. I felt none did a good job of marketing or promoting my work.

I had already had my own site, Fractallicious, up and running for about a year, functioning primarily as a signpost to direct interested people to the various stock sites and other places, such as CafePress, where they could buy my fractal art. Fractallicious was successful in that regard, but once potential customers landed on one of the stock sites I had sent them to, I became a tiny fish in a huge ocean of competitors. Income trickled in in dribs and drabs.

So I set out to be my own stock site. Turns out, I sadly under-estimated the challenge involved in turning a static web site into a full-blown ecommerce application. It's been a long tough slog, with numerous technical difficulties, but we're finally there! The company we chose, Volusion.com, provides a turnkey ecommerce platform, allowing you to create an online store with a powerful database back-end, shopping cart, and merchant account services. The Volusion technology is robust, complex, and highly configurable. Because of this very complexity, it's also far from intuitive and comes with a steep learning curve. The company scores an A+ for the superb quality of their 24/7 technical support.

So, starting this week, I have eliminated the middleman! (And, no, this is NOT an April Fool's joke.) I'm partnering with my sister on this endeavour, and we're not only selling gorgeous (if I say so myself) high-quality image downloads, but also certain images printed on a variety of merchandise, CafePress-style. My rainbow designs have been very popular with the gay and lesbian community, and we're starting with three of them printed on 1" buttons, and attractively packaged as a three-pack for gift giving.

Drop by Fractallicious.com, and have a look. If you like what you see, please feel free to spread the word!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Striking Screenwriters Having an Impact

OK, time to remind oneself I support the Hollywood writers' strike. (Grumble.) I do, I really do. (Grumble.) I'm not a huge TV watcher, but I'm really starting to miss this season's hot new drama — and my newest fave — Cane. The show is about the trials and tribulations of a rich and powerful Cuban-American family, and I was hooked from the very first episode. New episodes of Cane have been noticeably absent, along with those of most other intelligent, well-written shows, for several weeks now. In their place: reality shows, tired re-runs, third-rate movies, and other drivel. Surely viewers are revolting. I'm surprised there haven't been riots in the streets.

With two fizzled awards shows and pending Oscar disaster, Hollywood screenwriters are demonstrating the strength inherent in being able to collectively withdraw labour. This dispute is about the same issues that continue to concern Canadian writers. Movies and television make billions of dollars for producers and investors, and secondary digital uses such as DVDs and Internet downloads add to the windfall. Writers want the right to share in the profits generated by material they have created — a not unreasonable position. Industry executives aren't budging and negotations broke down in December. The strike's economic costs, both direct and trickle-down, are skyrocketing daily. With the Oscars pending, pressure is surely mounting for all parties to kickstart the stalled bargaining process. They writers will win this thing. They have to.