At a time when my feedreader is choking on the bones of abandoned blogs that are being voraciously devoured 140 characters at a time, my blog is turning eight years old. That’s a long time for something to exist on the web without a viable business model. I think I know how the dinosaurs felt.
I had to drop to a weekly posting schedule to make room for a book and new baby, but 548,083 unique visitors still managed to drop by here in 2009. Even though that was down from 1.3 million visitors in 2008, I still feel the same awe that I felt in early 2002 when there were twenty-nine people a day reading along: I still wonder who those other twenty-six people are.
So, Thank You (Yes, You)!
The blogsphere is now packed with leaner, funnier, and better marketed blogs than this one, so I want you to know that I appreciate you spending some of your time here sifting through the literary rubble for something amusing to pocket week after week. I really do. So even though I can’t pay you in money, when you die, on your deathbed, you’ll receive total consciousness. So you got that going for you…which is nice.
Whether your one of the site’s 400 subscribers or just someone who checks in once and a while, thanks for helping to make this another great year.
We’re a week into November Beard Month, and I was looking for some music to help coax these whiskers out into the open air. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a decent beard related playlist out there anywhere. So, what do you do when you can’t find something pre-made? You roll up your sleeves and you make it yourself.
Most of the songs lean toward the heavier side of the scale, but if you’re growing a 70’s, peace-loving beard to nest tiny woodland creatures in, I threw a few tracks for you, too. So, let’s get some cold air on your face and music into those ears, and let’s get those whiskers on the outside where they belong.
All the songs included either mention facial hair or are performed by bands with one or more bearded members. Yes, ZZ Top is in there even though they’re included in every musical beard list ever.
If you have track suggestions, be sure to throw them in the comments, and a full track listing (with explanations) is included below.
You suddenly awaken, and as you try to blink away the bright light that is making your head pound, you realize that you’re staring at the sky. You spit the grit from your teeth and pull yourself to a seated position.
You’re not dressed like Ralph Macchio, but you find yourself sitting in the middle of a dusty crossroad. You check your watch like you always do when the world around you lacks stability. It’s November 1st and it’s morning. I guess that’s something.
To your right, the road degrades into a stony path that leads to the abandoned mansion of the November Beard Club. To your left, the road vanishes into fields and sunshine. Something in the air vaguely smells like hope. In front of you, way in the distance, you see a man who seems to be smiling and waiting. You can’t tell if he’s giving you the finger or throwing you the horns.
Which path do you take?
If you go to the right and explore the ancient rights of November Beard Club, turn to page 147.
It’s Halloween, and I thought you might need some music to keep charged up while you’re defending against the Zombie hoards. I included my own playlist from last year’s Finetune Friday, a couple of radio stations, a podcast from Hipster Please, a collection of sound effects (in case you’re looking for a free ringtone or just something to scare the kids), and I even threw in a collection of music from Disney’s Haunted Mansion.
Boxhead The Zombie Wars: The zombies are attacking and you’re well equipped to deal with it. Your goal is to kill all the zombies before they overwhelm you with sheer numbers and eat your sweet, sweet braaaains.
I have always liked the Boxhead series of games, because even though the pace has always been a little slow, the volume of zombies that the game throws at you can make it almost unnerving. In addition to the typical slow moving zombie hoards, this update gives us better graphics, faster moving characters, and some better weapons. The game seems to have done away with the creepy zombie groaning of the original, but the new boards and characters are a welcome addition.
With a score of only 533,000, I’m no Ash Williams, but maybe you can prove yourself worthy. Let me know how you do in the comments.
Need something to watch this Halloween but you don’t have Netflix? I’ve got you covered. Here are 10 public domain classic movies that are available to (legally) download and watch for free. They range from bad to pretty bad, but bad horror movies are part of what Halloween is all about.
Whether you’re pimping out your desktop, preparing party invitations, simply trying to break into the Scandinavian death metal scene, below are 30 graphic resources that should have you digitally pimped out this Halloween season.
It’s Halloween Week, kids! I thought I’d put together a week long series of posts to get you in the spirit. As the week goes on, I’ll give up music, movies, graphic design resources, and maybe even a game, but today, we’re going to focus on DIY resources for creating that perfect Halloween party.
You need three main things for good Halloween party: something to wear, something to eat, and a creepy atmosphere. Below are costume, decoration, and food ideas for people with more time than money, so there won’t be any store bought junk or kiddie crafts in here.
Be sure to stay tuned this week because there are a lot of resources coming out every day that you probably won’t want to miss…
1. Clever Costumes
First, let’s get you a costume. You’re not going out as a hobo again this year, and it’s 20 years past the point where you should’ve retired your Max Headroom costume. Costumes don’t have to be expensive, they just have to be clever, so your first step should be to check out the How To Have The Best Costume At The Party Guide from Mahalo and get your braaain in motion. If after getting through the guide, you still don’t have any ideas, maybe the following do-it-yourself costume instructions will spark some genius.
Body Ladder: The evil zombie clones are attacking and all you have to defend yourself is a bat, some grenades, and of course, your ability to make their heads explode with your mind. You pile up the clone bodies and stand on top of them, but I still have no idea why.
Maybe you can do better than 8582. Let me know how you do in the comments.
Hello, Chief. Let’s talk. Why not? In Yesterday’s post, Cartoonify Your Life Using Ping Pong Balls, I mentioned that I wished I had created a pair of Mr. Sparkle eyes before running out of ping pong balls. After I published, I found that there were still two ping pong balls that hadn’t yet left for the land of wind and ghosts. To the left is my fire alarm, which is busy banishing dirt. Join him or die. Can you do any less?
Because of the way the Sportcraft logo is laid out, the only version of Mr. Sparkle’s eyes that can be done on a Sportcraft ball is the one from the original commercial. I’m not going to admit to talking a screenshot and doing an SVG drawing of the eyeball just to get it correct as I could, but that secret dies with this week’s recycling.
You’d think that sticking googly eyes all over the house would only appeal to 7 year olds, but it has a surprisingly wide appeal. I made up a set of these out of ping pong balls, and #1GF! and I have been hiding them around the house to make each other laugh for a week now. To test my sanity, I brought a set to my parents, and they had the exact same reaction as #1GF! and I did. They kept hiding them in plain site to see if anyone noticed that the faucet was looking at them. It’s a bizarre phenomenon.
These things cost a couple of bucks to make, so there’s no huge loss if you happen to leave them somewhere to make someone laugh. And because they’re only attached to things with a twist-tie, you can stash the ones around your own house so that company doesn’t think that you’re out of your mind. My only regret about this project was that by the time I thought of making a Mr. Sparkle version of the eyes, all my ping pong balls had already been sent to the land of wind and ghosts.
If you want to know how to make your own set, read on. I send you premium answer question, hundred percent.
Yesterday, in How To Choose The Best Free Virus Protection, I talked about a method to evaluate free virus scan products by comparing the commercial versions to the free versions. I know that only the geekiest of you got through the whole thing, and the rest fell asleep at the halfway point because I failed to mention anything about chicken monkey donkey porn. For those who simply want a recommendation for a good, free virus scanner, I applied yesterday’s method to 5 of the free virus scanners to find out if they really are recommendable.
Despite a badly stripped down UI, Clamwin has a cool factor because it’s one of the few (if not the only) open source virus scanners out there. Unfortunately, the detection rates are lower than other available free products, and the product lacks an on-access component. Without an on-access scanner, this program is only able to clean your PC after it has become infected, and really offers no protection against virus threats.
As someone who used to run a virus protection system for a large multinational corporation, every once and a while someone will ask me for advice on choosing the best virus protection for their PCs. Corporations have little resistance to spending the money for reliable virus protection because they need immediate and skilled support for mission-critical operations when something goes wrong. For the home user, the question tends to be more along the lines of “What virus protection program can you recommend, and can I get it for free?”
For the personal user, virus protection has gone from a software purchase to a recurring annual payment, with consumers paying between $40 and $80 per year to have adequate virus protection on their PCs. Once those consumers stop subscribing, they no longer get updates and their virus protection becomes ineffective in a matter of days. Don’t get me wrong. $40 a year is a small amount to ask for all the research and testing goes into keeping PCs protected against the latest threats, but for some, a recurring payment can fall outside of their budgets.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get something that works as well as a commercial product, and get it for free? Well, you can. There are several products on the market that offer virus protection for no cost, but they vary widely in the amount of protection they offer. As a layperson, how do you pick the product that gives you the best protection? You don’t need to be a security expert to find the answer, but you do need to know who to look to for accurate information. Continue reading How To Choose The Best Free Virus Protection→
I think the one of the most fun things about the beard pages is seeing how other people out on the web react to them. While combing through my referrer stats, I found these three clippings that turned up from my recent run on Digg.
If you’re going to retire your old PC, it’s only natural that you’d want to delete all of your personal data from it. Most people will search out what personal files they can, and delete them with a simple push of the delete key. Unfortunately, when you delete a file in Windows, the operating system only removes the reference from the master file table, leaving the actual data on the drive.
If your PC were a book and your files were chapter 9, Windows delete is like removing chapter 9 from the index, but leaving the pages in tact. The data may not look like it’s there to the average user, but until you write over that space, anyone with a free file recovery tool and access to your PC has a chance of recovering your files. That’s why if you’re going to retire a PC, the best thing that you can do is to completely scrub your hard drives by overwriting every last block with multiple passes of random data. Governments, corporations, and paranoid geeks have done this for years, and in this age of identity theft, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t either.
Don’t start sweating now. You don’t have to have a room full of mainframes or know anything about Star Trek to scrub your drives clean. With a free piece of open source software and the short set of instructions below, you can ensure that your private data will be banished to the land of wind and ghosts, which is way beyond the reach of anyone without a clean forensics lab and some incredibly skilled data recovery personnel. Continue reading How To Erase Your Hard Drive Like A Secret Agent→
#1GF! and I are sitting in Chachky’s or Flingers, and there are piles of seemingly random crap tacked up to the walls. Among the junk on the wall opposite me, there is a picture of the cast of Star Trek and a rubber Yoda mask…
Me: Hey, there’s a picture of Star Trek on that wall. #1GF!: [turns] Yes, I agree. Me: And there’s a Yoda head there, too. #1GF!: [turns and turns back] Me: You don’t know who Yoda is. #1GF!: Uh… E.T.? Me: [thumps head on table] Continue reading Phone Home You Will, Starbuck?→
Pel: This is a very simple Pong like game where you’re only objective is to keep the colored balls from getting past you. Considering the game only requires that you use the left and right arrow keys, and the paddle can only be in three positions (left, right or center), I thought I would’ve done a lot better.
Maybe you can do better than 5,242. If you miss three times, the game is over. Let me know how you do in the comments.
If you’ve ever wanted to convert your old cassettes into MP3’s, then this is your lucky day. The process is simple enough for almost anyone to undertake, but it requires a fair amount of time and tends to produce MP3’s that are slightly noisier than those ripped directly from CD. There are, however, a few cases when it might be worth it:
You have more time than money,
You can’t possibly justify spending money to re-buy music that you’ll stop feeling nostalgic about next week,
You don’t want the judgmental eyes of the record store clerks to realize that you secretly still like Winger, or
Sadly, the band on your tape is out of print, never made the jump to CD, or broke up before getting a recording contract.
What You’ll Need
A walkman that plays tapes.
A set of headphones or speakers.
A male to male 3.5mm stereo cable. You can usually pick up a stereo cable for a couple of bucks at an electronics store. You don’t need a fancy, brand name cable for this as long as you make sure that the cable is stereo and not mono. A stereo cable has two black lines on the tip, while a mono cable will only have one.
Deflector: You’re a space station that looks remarkably like the death star, and you’ve been surrounded by some hostile alien ships. You have no weapons of your own, so your only defense is to use your mouse to draw shields to use your enemies’ firepower against them.
I got 12,400 on level 5, so when you do better, be sure to drop your score in the comments.
If you’ve ever wanted a fake Polaroid for your site, but never had an easy way to make one, I may have come up with a simple solution for you. I put together a template that you can import into your favorite art program (like the GIMP) and lay on top of your favorite picture to make it look like it was taken with an old Polaroid camera. The template conforms to the size of an actual Polaroid and will work with pictures that are scaled to 314 pixels tall by 302 pixels wide. No shaking required.
If you’re ready to get started, download the Free Polaroid Template to your PC by right clicking and selecting Save Link As.
For people who need a little bit of guidance, instructions on how to make a Polaroid with this template in GIMP are included below.
Because our friends have a daughter who will be heading off to her first year of college soon, I wondered if I could come up with a list of tips that might make her freshman year easier. As I started thinking of things from my own college experience like “Being on a first name basis with the Dean of Discipline makes it harder to get away with things” and “When people start acting like nudity and needles are normal, it’s probably time to leave,” I started wondering if any advice I could dispense to a college freshman would be applicable in today’s college experience.
When I was in college, there were no laptops, there were no digital cameras, and we had to go to computer labs to use Gopher because there was no World Wide Web available to the general public. Know how much we worried about getting a less than flattering picture of us taken with a camera that wasn’t invented and put on an internet that didn’t exist? About as much as someone stealing our uninvented ipods or 90 pound, $300 dollar a minute cell phones. Shit man, the only phones in my dorm were hall pay phones that the served about 30 guys each, so you were lucky to find out if your girlfriend dumped you two weeks after the fact. Coming from a technological dinosaur age like that, I really started to wonder what the hell kind of advice I could offer the constantly-connected freshman of today.
The more I reminisced, the older I felt, so I put everything aside, had a cup of tea, and watched Matlock until I drifted off to sleep under my afghan. When I woke up after a couple of hours of dreaming about snorting coke off the small of Angela Lansbury’s naked back, I realized that an incoming freshman might get better advice if it came from a number of people in a range of ages, rather than from one guy who is twice the age of most college freshmen and quite possibly deranged.
I recruited help from students and alumni who are a little closer to their college years, and asked them to offer their advice on what can make a freshman year a bit easier. Below are sets of independently written advice that range from me, at the top of the age group, all the way down to a current college sophomore. Surprisingly, there were a few similarities that span across all age groups.
If you’re heading off to college for your freshman year (or know someone who is), I hope you find something in here that makes the year a little easier. If you’ve already completed your freshman year, why not lend a hand and add your year and ten pieces of advice in the comments? Matlock would want you to. Continue reading The Unofficial College Freshman Survival Guide→
I’ve been working on my beard, but the longer hairs tend to go in the wrong direction once they get more than an inch long. Is it natural for longer facial hair to grow at an angle?
I have to admit that I laughed when I first got this e-mail, because even though I get a good portion of my traffic from beard related posts, I don’t consider myself to be an authority on beards. I am, however, someone who has grown a decent number of beards over the years despite a distinct lack of natural beard growing ability. Maybe there are some men out there who were born to grow perfect beards, but for most of us, getting a beard to look halfway normal takes a little bit of effort.
As I typed up a quick response, I realized that although my suggestions were pretty basic, they were the result of years of trial and error, and might be beneficial to other guys whose natural ability is throwing roadblocks onto their roads to beardedness. If you have a problem with an unruly beard (or know someone who does), here are 7 tips that should help to get those renegade patches back under control. And they require only a little more effort to implement than growing the beard itself Continue reading 7 Ways To Conquer A Naturally Unruly Beard→
W.A.T.C.H. is a non-profit organization that seeks to protect children by educating parents on the dangers lurking in many toys. I saw on the news that they had released their “Safe Fun In The Sun” pamphlet to help reduce injuries this summer, and the news made it out to be a pamphlet full of EXTREME! DANGER! I wanted to see just what is considered dangerous these days, so I tracked down the original pamphlet to find out what all the fuss was about.
I’m all for trying to make kids safer, but I have to wonder what the hell is going on in the world that creates a need for a pamphlet like this to be written at all. I grew up in the 70’s, and when I think of how people grew up in the 50’s, I feel like a total pussy. I’m sure that when those people think of people who grew up during the Great Depression, they feel like pussies. When I see a pamphlet like this, I don’t feel bad anymore because I know that as time goes on, each generation will churn out bigger and bigger pussies for old people to feel tougher than. Need proof? Check out some of the main points in the pamphlet and tell me that you don’t agree…
Point 1: Protective Gear Should Be Worn With Inline Skates, Scooters, And Skateboards
In the 70’s, we roller skated, rode around on six inch wide skateboards, and rode friggin’ big wheels downhill standing up, usually with the sole intention of crashing into each other. That was what we called a crash up derby. We had no helmets, we had no pads, and we never rode scooters because scooters were for pussies. Even though we smashed into each other in the middle of the street at the bottom of a hill, the most protective gear we had were Toughskins, and the knowledge that our parents would kill us if we ripped another pair of plaid pants.
Point 2: Kids Riding Bikes Must Wear Helmets
The second a kid gets near a bike these days, someone is ready to call Child Services unless the kid has a helmet on before they lay a single finger on the handlebars. When I was a kid and finally got a Huffy, I used it for two things: to jump off things like Evel Knievel, and get into smash up derbies like one of the The Malachi Brothers. If you messed up your jump off of a poorly constructed cinder block ramp, or were the unsuspecting victim of the Malachi Crunch, the only thing standing between you and a batch of city poured concrete was a ringer t-shirt and a mess of long hair, my friend. We didn’t wear helmets, because when I was a kid, helmets only served to help you tell which kids you weren’t allowed to make fun of. Everyone else learned to tuck and roll. Hell, not even professional hockey players wore helmets in those days, so why would we? Continue reading FACT: Your Kid Will Be A Bigger Pussy Than You Are→
Seriously. Where did this near obsession with learning to remix songs come from? And why am I doing it all manually with free tools like Audacity? And Why do I keep remixing the same song over and over? I wish I had answers, but this is what happens when you leave me home for a year without any deadlines.
There are a few obvious glitches in the mix, but it took me literally a working day’s worth of cutting and shifting little bits of audio in Audacity to get it this far. The vocals were changed from 120 BPM to 164 BPM, the guitar pitch was shifted down a full step, and I had to carve up a lot of both songs to get them to fit together. I still missed in a couple of spots, but I’m chalking this one up to a learning experience. I had to give up with a “good enough” before getting it perfect because there’s only so many times I can listen to the same two second clips over and over before I start losing my mind.
The Hydrogen Advanced Drum Machine is a really great (and really free) drum sequencer that was made for Linux and ported to Windows. It’s easy to get used to and comes pre-loaded with a couple of drum kits (including the Roland TR-808 for all you b-boys and b-girls), but you’ll eventually want to add more kits to support your beat making needs.
And that’s where the fun ends. Nearly every time I tried to add a new drum kit, Hydrogen would crash with the following error:
Microsoft visual C++ Runtime Library