20+ DIY Resources For Your Halloween Party

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.

$50 DIY Optimus Prime Costume

Sesame Street Yip Yip Costume How To

Continue reading 20+ DIY Resources For Your Halloween Party

Cartoon Eyeballs Part Deux: Mr. Sparkle

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.

To Make Your Own, Read On…

Cartoonify Your Life Using Ping Pong Balls

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.

Continue reading Cartoonify Your Life Using Ping Pong Balls

You Want Free Antivirus? You GOT IT!

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.

5. ClamWin

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.

Rating: Not recommended
Continue reading You Want Free Antivirus? You GOT IT!

How To Choose The Best Free Virus Protection

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

How To Erase Your Hard Drive Like A Secret Agent

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.
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Rejected Endings From Last Week’s CERN Cartoon

While I stand by my original ending for last week’s CERN cartoon, I did have a few alternate endings that didn’t make the cut. Six of them are pictured below.

Agent SmithMr. Peabody and Shermanyamato

vincentKang and KodosGeneral Zod

Now, a lot of these were a little too obvious, but I have to say that General Zod and the Yamato were closing in on the Sleestaks for the final cut.

I know there are better jokes out there though, so I thought I’d provide a template in case any of you can provide a geekier alternative. What do you think? Are you up for a little geekery?

Damnit, I can’t believe I forgot The Herculoids and Dr. Who. Gah. So many options…

Good luck.


Phone Home You Will, Starbuck?

#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?

How To Convert Your Old Casette Tapes Into MP3s

cassette tapeIf 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:

  1. You have more time than money,
  2. You can’t possibly justify spending money to re-buy music that you’ll stop feeling nostalgic about next week,
  3. You don’t want the judgmental eyes of the record store clerks to realize that you secretly still like Winger, or
  4. 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.
  • Audacity, the free, open-source audio editor.
  • A fair amount of time.

Continue reading How To Convert Your Old Casette Tapes Into MP3s

How To Make Any Picture Look Like A Polaroid

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.

fake polaroid

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.

Continue reading How To Make Any Picture Look Like A Polaroid

The Unofficial College Freshman Survival Guide

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

7 Ways To Conquer A Naturally Unruly Beard

Thad asks:


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

FACT: Your Kid Will Be A Bigger Pussy Than You Are

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

Brad Sucks – Making Me Paranoid

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.


Making Me Nervous (The Black Remix)

How To Add New Drum Kits To The Hydrogen Drum Sequencer (Without Tearing Your Hair Out)

hydrogen advanced drum machine screenshotThe 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

Assertion Failed
Program: hydrogen.exe
File: instrument.cpp
Line 122
Expression pDrumkitInfo

Continue reading How To Add New Drum Kits To The Hydrogen Drum Sequencer (Without Tearing Your Hair Out)

Back To The Beach: The Surf Playlist

The Dyers.org fake surf album It’s summertime, and all the surfers and hodads are once again sharing that sandy divide between land and sea. No matter which side of the divide you’re on, there’s nothing like some reverb soaked surf-strumentals to make that grey cubicle feel more like a day at the beach.

You won’t find any Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, or beach blanket nonsense here, because if it isn’t instrumental and filtered through a reverb tank, then it really isn’t surf. I know that there are people out there who like the Beach Boys, but if you’re going to call them surf, then you might as well call Jimmy Buffet surf. And call Winger thrash. And maybe wear a tin foil crown and call yourself “Lord Behemoth Roboto”, because if you’re going to live in a giant delusion, you might as well be the undisputed ruler of all that you survey.

Whether you’re into surf or just a hodad looking for something more than the nightly weenie roast, you can unleash the tidal wave of surf instrumental goodness by clicking on the green button below. Ten points goes to anyone who can name all the surf artists listed on my fake Surf! album cover…


Continue reading Back To The Beach: The Surf Playlist

A Tribute To The 1950’s: The Doo Wop Playlist

doo wop 45 Doo Wop was a specific sub-genre of R&B that was born on the street corners of the 1950’s when city kids went beyond simple harmonies of the 1940’s and began vocalizing sounds that were traditionally created by instruments. They inadvertently created an entirely new style called Doo Wop that would become a major force in popular music for over a decade. The genre had peaked in popularity by the early 1960’s, but its influence extended into the electric style of the early Motown sound through groups like the Four Tops, Temptations, Isley Brothers, and others.

I spent a couple of days researching Doo Wop bands for this list, and even though I eliminated a lot of borderline acts with a fairly strict interpretation of what Doo Wop is, I still ended up with over 130 tracks. There should be a good balance between classics and rarities, but I didn’t grow up in the 50’s, so if you notice any glaring omissions, be sure to drop me a comment.

You won’t find Little Jon & The Teen Tones in the mix (I faked the picture from an old Atlantic 45), but you can listen to the Doo Wop playlist by scrolling all the way to the left in the player below.


Continue reading A Tribute To The 1950’s: The Doo Wop Playlist

Overheard at A Restaurant: The Geishan

Mom: You should’ve seen this cute Chinaman that I saw the other day.

Daughter: Ma, you can’t say Chinaman. No one says that anymore.

Mom: What? Well, what am I supposed to say?

Daughter: I dunno. Asian.

Mom: GEISHAN? Oh, come on now.

Daughter: Aaaaasian.

Mom: Well, what’s wrong with Chinaman?

Daughter: It’s like Negro. No one says that anymore.

Mom: Since when don’t people say Negro?

Daughter: Oh, a long time, Ma.

Mom: Well, what am I supposed to call them, then?

Daughter: Black or African American, I think.

Mom: African American? They get TWO names?

Daughter: Yes, Ma.

Mom: Two names. What Am I then?

Daughter: You’re still white, Ma.

[Indian waiter delivers food and walks off]

Mom: Is he a Geishan? Because he looks black to me.

Daughter: Oh, dear lord.

Classic Country For The Classic Heartbreak

I was a city mouse who was raised on soul. #1GF! was a country mouse, and no matter how much she denies it, she was raised on both kinds of music: Country and Western.

#1GF! might deny her musical roots, but classic country has earned a special place in my CD rack. When I’m slow on the draw and I need somethin’ to chaw, it’s not the tight pants wearin’, goatee sportin’, WWF lovin’ country of today that I’m after. It’s the classics: yesteryear’s harmonies of heartbreak and melodies of melancholy are what I need to get me back in the saddle.

If you’re ten gallon hat is feeling five gallons flat, click the little green button below.


Warning: Before listening to this playlist, check with your doctor if you have a history of alcoholism, depression, or bleeding in the brain from a head injury. If you have any of these conditions, you may not be able to use this playlist, or you may need to adjust your dosage accordingly. If after listening to this playlist you experience tearing of the eyes, consult a physician immediately because you may be suffering from a rare, but serious side effect as a result of very specific type of heart ailment.
Continue reading Classic Country For The Classic Heartbreak

I Pity The Fools

1. Find Fools.
2. Pity Them.
3. If they deserve extra pity, have a certain someone drop by to pity them for you while you’re offline. Ungh.

This is what happens when I’m left alone all day with nothing to do. It’s hard to look away from though, isn’t it?

Joseph Palmer: Perscuted For Wearing The Beard

Joseph Palmer: Persecuted For Wearing The BeardRecently, I made a special trip up to Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster, Massachusetts to see the grave of Joseph Palmer, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a member of the short-lived Utopian community “the Fruitlands”. I’m not much of a history buff, so why would I drive halfway across the state to seek out the grave of a man who died a century before I was born? It was too interesting of a story not to investigate.

The “Crime”

He was described as a kind and tolerant man, but life was not easy for Joseph Palmer after he moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts in 1830. People would openly insult him, throw rocks at him, regularly break the windows of his home, and even cross the street so as not to be near him when he passed by. Even though he was deeply religious man who regularly attended church services, Palmer was publicly denounced during sermons by his pastor, Rev. George Trask, and even refused communion.

What awful thing had this small town butcher done to warrant such persecution? Joseph Palmer’s crime was that he was the only citizen in Fitchburg, Massachusetts who chose to wear a full beard, which (contrary to my vision of the 1800’s being a beard grower’s paradise) had been out of fashion in the United States since the time of the Pilgrims.
Continue reading Joseph Palmer: Perscuted For Wearing The Beard

Got Cowbell Fever? Here’s The 180+ Track Cure

Every once and a while, cowbell fever rears its ugly head here at Dyers.org, and I go on a tear to find new cowbell tracks. Over the last two days, cowbell fever hit hard, doubling the size of my FineTune More Cowbell playlist.

Even though I eliminated any songs that relegated nature’s gift to classic rock to a single [tonk] [tonk], the list still stands at over 180 tracks, spanning genres well beyond classic rock.

If you’ve got the fever, click the little green button below to dispense the cure.


Update (3/11/08): For those of you looking for a solid list of cowbell tracks, I added the full track listing of the playlist below. If you’re [tonk] [tonk]ing your way through it and you notice that one of your favorites is missing, definitely drop me a comment to let me know.

Update (9/15/08): Even more tracks have been added.

Continue reading Got Cowbell Fever? Here’s The 180+ Track Cure