“He was playing music… while I… did stuff.”

I’d like to take a brief moment to share one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite television shows of all time, Malcolm in the Middle.

Thanks to the idiotic complexity of music licensing, only Season 1 of Malcolm in the Middle ever made it to DVD. If Fox released the rest of the series I’d buy it today, but instead they seem to prefer that their fans pirate the show online. Whatever.

How (and Why) to Dye a Barrel of Monkeys

You are no doubt familiar with the classic children’s game Barrel of Monkeys. Here’s how the directions on the bottom of the can describe the gameplay:

Drop monkeys onto table. Pick up one monkey by an arm. Hook other arm through a second monkey’s arm. Continue making a chain. Your turn is over when a monkey is dropped.

FOR ONE PLAYER: Time yourself for picking up all 12 and try to beat your best time.

FOR TWO OR MORE: Each monkey left on chain is 1 point. First player to get 12 points wins.

Those instructions “for two or more” aren’t the most exciting game for an adult, especially when you know the simple trick (always pick up the monkeys by their right arm, using their left arm to pick up the next monkey). However, recently one of my friends (I forget who—sorry!) had a cool idea to make Barrel of Monkeys into a better multi-player game for grown-ups:

  1. Get multiple Barrels of Monkeys in different colors, one color for each player.
  2. Pour all the monkeys out on a table, mixing together all the colors.
  3. Everyone tries to pick up their own monkeys at the same time.
  4. Whoever successfully picks up all their monkeys first is the winner.

The only catch is that you can only buy Barrel of Monkeys in three colors today: Red, Green, and Blue. This limits the game to only three players… or does it?

I decided to see if I could make a new color of Barrel of Monkeys using Rit fabric dye to darken the color of one of the three existing colors. Here’s the process I used.

Dying a Barrel of Monkeys

Since I knew I was going to have to use a pretty big pot if I wanted to dye the barrel itself, I decided to use two packets of black Rit. I added hot tap water to my pot, then put it on the stove to keep it hot.

Dying a Barrel of Monkeys

Once the water was almost to boiling, I added both packets of Rit, the monkeys, and their barrel.

Dying a Barrel of Monkeys

Most tutorials on the internet that talk about dying plastics with Rit say to leave it in for 20-30 minutes, but the plastic that Barrel of Monkeys is made out of is especially resistant to being colored, so I left it in there for an hour, stirring frequently.

Dying a Barrel of Monkeys

After an hour, I took them out, rinsed them off, and let them dry. You can see the result above. On the left is what the monkeys looked like before dying, and on the right is after.

I didn’t think it was working at all during the 1-hour dying process, since the dye solution was jet black and the pieces still looked pretty blue, but as you can see, the monkeys definitely turned into a much darker shade of blue—sort of a teal color.

I deem this experiment a success. I now have four distinct colors of monkeys, allowing me to play four-player rapid-monkey-grab. I may even give it a shot with green and red as well to see if I can get some pleasantly-darker shades of those colors, too. Then we could have six-player monkey mayhem!

I Got a Keen New Camera

Got a keen new camera yesterday from Woot for $150. It’s a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS6, which is a compact point-n-shoot 12MP camera.

It’s coolest feature is the massive zoom that they crammed into such a small package. Allow me to demonstrate.

Here’s a photo of our church’s lawn zoomed all the way out:

Dandelions at 1x Zoom

Now here’s that same scene zoomed all the way in to that dandelion in the center:

Dandelions at 16x Zoom


I guess I’m a famous videographer now?

So, a few weeks ago I shot this video:

I posted it on Seattle Bubble, it got a few thousand views, and we all had some laughs. I didn’t think much more about it.

…until a week or so later, when the video started to spread.

First it appeared on Fark, then on White Trash Repairs, then on Reddit. Total number of views on YouTube shot up to over 20,000! Wow!

At some point, some jerkface decided to steal it and upload their crappy stolen copy to the popular video site Break.com, where it proceeded to get over 300,000 views!

Then someone else stole it from Break and uploaded it to their own YouTube account, where a few more sites found it, including Jim the Realtor’s blog and Sports Illustrated. Fortunately both YouTube and Break were responsive and helpful. YouTube took down the other copies on their site, and Break transferred the copy on there to my account.

A few days later, someone at Gawker (a very popular blog) found it and posted it on their site, after which it was re-posted on their sister tech blog Gizmodo. Another Reddit user found it and posted it there again, this time making it to the front page.

Meanwhile, the video also made its way on a few other popular sites, including Geekologie and even a German site called Brainblog. Nice!

As of this writing, between YouTube and Break my video has been viewed over 850,000 times! Yesterday at this time it was at about 750,000, so if this pace keeps up, my video will be viewed by over a million viewers by this time next week!

de Blob: Best Video Game Music Ever?

de Blob Album Art

I contend that the Wii game de Blob has the best video game music ever.

The tracks embedded at right were composed by yours truly in-game. I say “composed” because the genius of the music in de Blob is that the music is a fully-integrated part of the experience you get when you play the game.

Each level starts off totally silent. The music begins to kick in as you bring the drab grey city to life with colorful paint. The more colorful the city gets, the more intense the music becomes. Plus, different musical flourishes (vocal ‘dows’, keyboard, guitar, etc.) are added to the music with each building you paint, with the instrument determined by what color you’re painting with at the time.

For more of my thoughts about this under-appreciated gaming masterpiece, check out my full review.

de Blob 2 comes out in a week, we’ll see if they can live up to the high musical standard set by the first game.