Thursday, April 24, 2008

American Idol on WII

Have you ever played "American Idol" on WII? I did, a couple of weeks ago. Hannah, who is now based in Costa Rica, and Mike, based in the US, were both here recently so we decided to have a mini-reunion. We had dinner at Raffa and Joh's house. They prepared barbecue and pansit and provided drinks, I brought dessert, and Pia and Hannah ordered Pritchon. After a heavy dinner (and watching the American Idol elimination night during "Idol Gives Back" week), we headed to Joh and Raffa's entertainment room where we played American Idol.

The American Idol WII game is basically like videoke, but instead of seeing only the lyrics, you can also see the pitch of each note. The highest score possible for a full song is 100,000. And if you select the American Idol style game where you have auditions, semifinals and weekly eliminations, after each performance, the judges give you very accurate critiques! And with the voices of Randy, Paula, and Simon. It's uncanny really.

It was a really fun night! We were supposed to play 4-5 rounds I think. I did well with "How to save a life" by the Fray during the auditions (all of us except Mike passed LOL). Then I decided to sing Phil Collins' "In the air tonight" thinking I knew the song but apparently I didn't know the phrasing of the verses so I got a dismal score LOL. Hannah started teasing me saying I would get eliminated because of my low score, but for some reason she chooses to sing the Guns N' Roses version of "Knockin' on heaven's door" and does even worse on that song than I did on mine so she gets the lowest score LOL.

Then for some reason we ended up resetting the game so we started a shorter version. This time I sang Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" and I couldn't get the phrasing of the verse again and got another bad score. It was interesting though that in both songs that I bungled up, the judges commented that I started shaky and ended strong - which was pretty darn accurate coz I knew the chorus of both songs but not the verses. Their comments were pretty accurate as well for the other folks.

Other memorable moments:
  • Bohemian Rhapsody - Hannah first tried it out, then Raffa and I did it as a duet, and we didn't score well on either occasion LOL. I'm still trying to figure out which voice is being used during the bridge (or well you know that part that goes "I see a silhouetto of a man, Scaramouch...") coz we kept getting scored poorly while singing that part.
  • Joh getting a perfect score! Apparently, "My heart will go on" is the easiest song to get a high or even perfect score with, as everyone who tried singing that song did extremely well with it. That also wasn't Joh's first time to score a clean 100 thousand on it. Way to go Joh!
  • I scored 97,000+ on "Irreplaceable"! The phrasing of this song is tricky, but I've listened to it so many times already that I know how the verses are sung. So I ended up getting my highest score of the night on that song. I also got 96,000+ from Fuel's "Hemorrhage" although my score would have been higher if I didn't end up singing Chris Daughtry's version - he sings at a higher key in the end - and so I missed the pitch completely for a few seconds LOL. I also got 90,000+ on "I don't wanna miss a thing" and it could also have been higher if my throat wasn't tired and dry by then coz I couldn't sing some of the really high notes in the end anymore LOL.
  • There's a battle game option in American Idol where two people sing the same song at the same time. Whoever gets a higher score wins. This was so funny, especially when Pia and Hannah had their show-downs.

All in all it was a great night, and when we left, apparently Joh and Raffa kept on singing LOL. Too bad that both Mike and Hannah aren't here in Manila anymore. It would certainly be great if we could have played that game again. :)

Britain's got talent: Charlie Green

A friend of mine sent me a link. This kid is 10 years old and yet he has the confidence, stage presence, and the vocal control of a seasoned pro.

video uploaded in youtube by BritainsGotTalent08

The way he tackled the really high parts of the song, where he transitions flawlessly from his chest tone to a head tone then back to a chest tone, is impossibly good especially when you consider his age. A lot of singers who have been performing for years can't do these vocal transitions half as well as Charlie can. And his scatting was extremely confident.

(I wonder if his mom is Filipino...)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Saturday with Habitat for Humanity

I recently joined the socio-civic organization we have at work and the first event I got to participate in was a Habitat for Humanity activity, held a couple of Saturdays ago. I had never been able to join a Habitat for Humanity activity before, although I've had a couple of opportunities to do so in the past, so I readily made myself available in this activity and even helped out in the planning.
The activity was going to be held in the SNKI (or Samahang Nagkakaisa sa Kamarin, Inc.) site in Kamarin and we were supposed to be there by 730am. which is terribly early for me. In any case, I managed to get to the assembly point by 630am and was actually one of the first few people there. Lots of people were late and some even backed out at the last minute, so we ended up getting to the site at 845am which was a lot later than expected.

Despite that, the rest of the day went very well. Engineer Noel Zeta who was leading the work in the site shared a brief history of Habitat for Humanity with the participants before discussing the SNKI Phase 2 project – which is comprised of 109 houses and is expected to be complete by July 2008. He then explained what we would be doing to help out. Engr. Zeta said that most of the actual house-building would be done by the skilled workers to make sure that the houses were being built with a certain standard and quality (I mean, you can't really expect corporate folks who have no experience in construction to be able to build houses, can you?) so our goal would be to ensure that the workers would be able to do their jobs well.

This essentially included moving hollow blocks from the large stockpile in the middle of the SNKI site to the center of each of the houses being built. By doing this, the workers could easily reach for the hollow blocks and build the walls. We had to move about 60 hollow blocks for about 8 houses which meant we moved approximately 500 hollow blocks that day. Of course, if you had to pick one up and walk several meters to bring it to where it was needed, it would take a really long time to 20 people to move 60 blocks (you may not think it's that difficult but try carrying an actual hollow block and you'll realize just how heavy it is). So instead of doing that, we decided to create a "human conveyor belt" from the stockpile to each of the target houses. This was still quite tiring, and we sometimes had to take breaks in the middle of the hollow block transfer to rest.

Shortly before lunch, a truck filled with sand actually came and dumped its load in the site. The sand would be mixed with cement, and this cement mix would be used for piling the hollow blocks one on top of the other to build the houses. Now the mixer was somewhere between the load of sand and the actual houses so we had to shovel sand into sacks and transfer the sacks to the mixer.
Finally, once the cement mix had been put together, we had to transfer the cement mix to where the houses so the workers could have the mix right in front of them when they start building the walls.

The activity was done at 5pm, and everyone was exhausted (but, well, not completely wiped out, coz we still had to drive home hehehe) but it was great to see that two of the "houses" which started out as ankle high walls at the start of the day were shoulder height when we were done. Before we left, Engineer Zeta introduced Nanay Ludy Magtalas, a board member of SNKI, who thanked us on behalf of the people whose houses they helped build. Pastor Caridad Sanchez then led the us in a thanksgiving prayer.

I got home a little past 8pm, which was actually supposed to be Earth hour where everyone who wanted to participate would turn everything off from 8 to 9pm. I was really dirty by that time, so I ended up being only, er, partially compliant to Earth Hour. Everything in my house was turned off - lights, aircon, TV - except the lights in the bathroom. I took a shower and waited 'til 9pm before turning on any other light or electrical appliance at home. Needless to say, I fell asleep shortly after that. :)

It was a very tiring day, but it was incredibly amazing. Habitat for Humanity never runs out of projects and are always looking for volunteers so if you are interest to help build a house (and burn a whole lot of calories in the process LOL), you may want to visit their website which contains their contact information as well as information on their program and history.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

On to the Champions League semifinals!

Liverpool slotted four goals past Arsenal while conceding two goals in Anfield last night. This means that Liverpool make to the final four of the UEFA Champions League! What's even better is that in their last three matches against each other in the course of a week, Liverpool didn't lose. They drew their first two matches (both 1-1), both of which were played on Arsenal's home court, the Emirates Stadium, before Liverpool took advantage of their home game and sent Arsenal packing. Way to go, Liverpool!

They next meet Chelsea, a team they have had trouble beating in the English Premiere League, which is quite interesting because they have had pretty good success when playing against Chelsea in Europe. Hopefully they are able to get past Chelsea again. Would be great to have Liverpool play in their third Champions League final in four years (and gun for their 2nd Champions League title this century). Good luck, Liverpool!

Monday, April 07, 2008

An amazing Easter Weekend

Easter weekend was spent with my mom and nephews. My nephews had wanted go swimming for a while already and so on Black Saturday, we decided to go swimming.

Later that evening, we went to see the animated movie, “Horton hears a Who!”. CJ actually saw a billboard that said that “Horton…” was showing on March 22 and he knew it was May 22 that day so he asked if we could watch it that night. So we did.

The next day, we joined two Easter activities, both in Rockwell. Rockwell Club had an Easter in Candyland activity in the morning. They had lots of candy, some games for the kids, a bit of magic, and an Easter egg hunt. CJ and Ciera were at the front of the line initially when CJ needed to use the bathroom so that left them at the end of the line, which initially bummed me out. Then I realized it was a bit of a blessing in disguise because they both ended up in the last set of kids, and instead of having about 6 or 7 kids in the room at the same time, their group had only 4 kids. So that allowed them to find more eggs (which meant more candy). The coolest thing was that in their group, Ciera actually found the most Easter eggs and CJ got the second most eggs. Ciera actually got a special prize. It was just a candy cane, but he said that it was his trophy and that he wanted to keep it. (I think he changed his mind later that day LOL).

In the afternoon, we headed to The Tent in Powerplant where there was an Easter Circus. I was initially not too pleased with this one, mainly coz there were just waaaay too many people!! My mom fell in line in the face painting but it was a very long line. While waiting for our turn, things started to get better. They started having these live performances – clowns, fire-eaters, acrobats, and magic – that kept my nephews engaged. (The fire eaters were actually asked to cut short their show because balloons started popping due to the heat from the fire and security felt that it was a danger to the people there.) By the time we got to the magic show, it was my nephews’ turn at the face painting booth (they actually both just had a beetle painted on their arms). Before we left, my nephews joined one of the final Easter egg hunts for the day. CJ found only one and Ciera found two, but it didn’t really matter anymore because they did have a more successful Easter egg hunting stint earlier that day.

Since I mentioned watching Horton, I thought I’d talk about it in this blog post as well. I enjoy all types of animated films, but the ones I truly enjoy are those that get me emotionally involved, and generally, only the Pixar movies do that for me. So I was pleasantly surprised when I watched “Horton”. I knew I would enjoy it, but I didn’t know I would enjoy it as much as I did.

SPOILER ALERT! (Stop reading here if you don’t want to know more about the movie.) What I loved about the movie was the main theme which was basically about believing in something, even if nobody else, and fighting like hell for those beliefs. No one believed Horton when he said that there was a town on that speck on the clover and he had to go through extreme odds to make sure the speck was safe. And no one believed the mayor of Whoville when he said that their town was built on a tiny speck and he faced ridicule from the entire town. And when the film gets to (what I felt was) its powerful climax, when the creatures in Horton’s jungle all try to destroy the clover and the entire town shouts “We are here! We are here!” as loud as they can to be heard, I was genuinely moved. I actually want to watch it again, and I can’t wait to get it on DVD.

So anyways, it was a very fun-filled, albeit exhausting, weekend with my family.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Three matches in one week

Liverpool never seem to do that well in the English Premiere League ever since they challenged for the title but ended #2 way back in the 2001-2002 season. They still manage to be in the top four for the most part, but they are normally several points behind the champion.

They seem to do much better in Europe, however, getting to the Quarterfinals of the Champions League in three of the last four seasons (including this one). They won in 2005, lost in the final last year against AC Milan (the team they beat in 2005), and have once again gotten to the top 8 this year.

Their opponents in this round are Arsenal, who started the season incredibly strong before Man Utd caught up and took over the lead in the premiership.

The interesting thing here is that Liverpool and Arsenal will actually play three times in the span of a week. They met last Wednesday in the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal. They play their 2nd match in a week tomorrow (still in the Emirates stadium), this time for the EPL. Finally, on April 8, they play the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal, this time in Anfield.

It's been good so far - Liverpool managed to score a crucial away goal against Arsenal last Wednesday, giving them a draw. They have home court advantage this coming Tuesday, but there can be no resting on laurels since Arsenal are a very formidable team and are definitely capable of an away win.

Hopefully Liverpool can match their efforts from 3 years ago when they won. Hopefully they also remain at 4th place in the Premiership to ensure that they qualify for the Champions League again next year.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Blood on the Tennis Court

You have to check this out (video quality gets much better after 10 seconds). It happened during a tennis match between Mikhail Youzhny from Russia and Nicolas Almagro from Spain. It's absolutely crazy! LOL

video uploaded in youtube by user barney1573

Oh and if you want to know how it all turned out, Mikhail actually ended up winning the match 7-6, 3-6, 7-6. :)