Thanksgiving Weekend

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I assume some of you are still recovering from being overstuffed.

Thanks to Carolynn for planning out this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. It was a lot of fun helping prepare the food. Of course it was also fun eating it. There was a pretty good show up this year: Carolynn, Joe, Perry, Sathana, Felix, Tom, Jim, Saran, and Pita (sorry if I misspelled your name). Valerie also showed up later to join in the festivities. We had turkey, stuffing, green beans with onions and bacon bits, mashed potato, yam and marshmallows, pumpkin pie. The stuff was delicious. Now I’m hungry just thinking of it.

After eating, we played some Xbox 360: PES 2009, Rock Band 2, Lips, Gears of Wars 2, and even some 8 person Halo 3.

I took some photos which you can view in the photo album:
Thanksgiving 2008
Thanksgiving 2008

I even recorded a few Rock Band Sessions (posted with permission):
Perry and Pita - The Offspring - Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)Joe - Duran Duran - Hungry Like The Wolf

Unfortunately I ran out of disk space during Perry’s and Pita’s performance.

I picked up Lips earlier in the week at the company store, here’s my semi-review. Since I’ve been an semi-avid Rock Band player, I’ll probably be making many comparisons to it.

The game comes with a good selection of songs. All 40 songs are unlocked at the beginning, so you don’t have to go through some tour mode to unlock them. Given that, we’ve found that even though there were 40 songs, not every song was something people wanted to sing. Unlike Rock Band where singing is optional (where you can choose to play guitar or drums), Lips requires someone to actually sing, and people always have a fear of singing songs they’re not too familiar with, especially when you only know the chorus.

You can’t actually fail in this game, but since you’re the center of attention, people become self conscious. It helps if 2 people are actually singing or if the whole crowd joins in like at a real karaoke.

Additional songs can be purchased at 160 points (about $2) each, but the selection is pretty weak right now, but more are supposed to be coming.

It comes with 2 wireless microphones, which is really neat. However, it’s sad that the microphones do NOT work with Rock Band, which apparently requires a patch from Harmonix. It’d be sweet if I were able to use the wireless mics with Rock Band sometime in the near future. The wireless microphone includes motion sensors similar to the Wiimote and you can use it to swing and make noises and so on. It also required to enable star power or overdrive or whatever Lips calls it.

The singing part uses the the center area for lyrics in big text and jumpy balls like at karaoke, and on the top and bottom are the pitch lines for 1st and 2nd player, which includes another set of lyrics, similar to Rock Band. However, different than Rock Band is that the lyrics move along with the pitch lines vertically, making it hard to read ahead. I can look at the lyrics in the center screen, but then my eyes have to jump back and forth between the lyrics in the center and the pitch lines above. Another pet peeve I have is pitch marker. In Rock Band, there’s this triangle that tells you exactly where your current pitch is. In Lips, they have a ball which is very hard to see, making it difficult to judge if I should increase or decrease my pitch in an instant.

There’s also a mode where you can connect a music player (i.e. iPod or Zune) where you can play your music and sing along to it. I haven’t tried this mode yet, but apparently it also does the pitch lines, but without the lyrics, it becomes hard since most people don’t really know the words outside of the chorus for most songs.

Issues with Lips
I’ve hit into a lot of issues with Lips and I haven’t been able to find anyway to troubleshoot the issue. If anyone’s experience the following issues, I would like to know if you have a way to get around it. I’m pretty sure it’s an issue with the game itself, since I haven’t hit into any of these issues with the other games I play, but it could be that my Xbox 360 is finally dying.

  • When playing 2 players, one of the mic’s lights do not blink according to the music. I’ve tried changing the batteries, resyncing the mics, but the lights will not come on. If I hold the power button, the lights will blink, but supposedly they’re suppose to blink according to the music’s rhythm during game play.
  • Once in awhile, the music becomes out of sync with the game. Other times, there’s a lot of static in the music. And both of these are precursors to the game freezing, which I would then have to reboot. I verified it’s not actually the song or using custom videos as replaying the same song in the same mode has no problems after a reboot.
  • There’s probably a way to get around this, but I haven’t figured a way yet. Once in awhile, I add a song in Sing mode and decide not to sing it, and I can’t seem to get rid of it. Every time I finish singing a song, instead of returning to the main list, it shows this song. Does anyone know how to remove that song so after singing, it returns me to the main list?

On Saturday, I caught dinner with Andrew and watched Milk. The movie was decent. Interesting information about gay history which I never knew about, but it was quite clear who their targeted audience were. I do have to say Josh Brolin once again outdid himself and gave an amazing performance. I didn’t realize it was him until halfway through the movie. After seeing him in No Country for Old Men and W. and now Milk, not only can he act like the person he’s portraying well, but he can LOOK like the person he’s portraying well. Andrew also mentioned, it would’ve been interesting to hear Dan White’s side of the story on this whole affair. Apparently Dan White was the first one to use the Twinkie Defense.

Last Name Hon

2 weekends ago, Jason and his wife Emily came up to Seattle and the general area for residency interviews. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Jason (probably since high school), so it was cool to get to catch up with him.

Perry was giving them a tour of Seattle on Saturday morning and since I was going to meet up with them in Seattle to watch Quantum of Solace, I decided to join them early. Anyway, while Perry was giving his tour, Jason mentioned that both Emily’s and my last name were the same: Hon. It’s not everyday you meet another Hon, given the fact that most people I know that have similar last names uses the Han variation. I mean even my grandpa uses Han. The reason why Hon is a different variation of the last name is because Hon is the Cantonese pronunciation, while Han uses the traditional Mandarin pinyin system.

Even though both our last name was Hon, there are a few Chinese last names that fit that sound pattern, though 韓 is the most common one of the lot. We discussed this a bit further and it turns out her last name is also the same character as the one in Korea (韓國). I’ve actually never met another Hon that isn’t somehow connected to the family, but I guess there’s always a first.

We discussed a bit more to see which parts of China our respective families were from and didn’t really get much further than that. Her family is currently living in Alabama and I have no recollection of any relatives living there.

According to Wikipedia:

Han (韩) is currently ranked 25th in China in terms of the number of bearers at around 8 million persons

I’m surprised there’s actually that many. Haha…

Apparently my dad’s stories about how we’re descendants of the nobles from the Han Kingdom during the Warring States Period wasn’t too far fetched. However, there are 3 other origins of our last name.

Note: 韓 and 韩 are the same character, but one is traditional and the other is simplified, respectively.

New Music Update

Here’s a compilation of the new music I enjoy:

Another new song I enjoy is Framing Hanley’s cover of Lil Wayne – Lollipop. You can listen to it here: Framing Hanley – Lollipop. It’s basically a Rock/Alternative version of the original song, which I prefer. Then again, I’ve always enjoyed Rock/Alternative music more.

Have you guys heard of the new T.I. / Rihanna song: T.I. feat Rihanna – Live Your Life. I first heard it on the radio and thought, “Hey, it’s that Dragostea Tin Dei song by O-Zone!” Then they started to sing and rap in English and I was confused. Song’s decent, but I’m not really much of a rap fan, even if you add numa numa and ma-ya-hi, ma-ya-hu, ma-ya-ho, ma-ya-ha ha into the song.

Anyway, this topic came up again when I was in Oren’s car when the radio started playing Dragostea Tin Dei, but completely in English and in a female voice. Oren knew of an English version of the song, but it was sang by same group, which is comprised of men. The English version was pretty much a flop.

But the song we heard was apparently another remake: Alina – When You Leave (Numa Numa) (Basshunter Remix). Not bad, especially considering that Alina is a Super Hot Romanian model.

XviD Playback Keeps Flickering

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been experiencing a lot of flickering with video playback. The funny thing was it only happened with MPC (Media Player Classic) and not VLC media player. However, I know VLC uses it’s own codecs for decoding and would often times skip what’s registered.

Anyway, I decided to try debugging. I installed the latest release of ffdshow, but that didn’t help. It doesn’t flicker all the time, but usually flickers the most often in dark or mostly black scene. I also notice the flickering only happens with .avi files (particularly Xvid). When I was playing some .mkv (H.264 encoded) files, they played fine. That’s when I realized that when I play .avi files in MPC, the little ffdshow system tray icon no longer shows up.

In MPC, I opened the context menu –> Filters and looked for the video decoder. Apparently it was using something called: FunBox Video Codec Filter. I don’t recall ever installing a FunBox codec and started to think maybe I had accidentally installed some malware.

Anyway, I did a bit of research and found the file that’s associated to this codec: FunVideoCodecFilter.ax. I started a system-wide search for this file while I continue searching for clues to how I got it.

I then landed on this page: AVI playback issues – weren’t even there days ago. It appears that the FunBox codecs came with a recent update of Samsung PC Studio 3, which I did update a few weeks back. I just never associated the two because I didn’t expect my cell phone software to be installing video codecs (overwriting the ones that were already installed), but I guess they do do some multimedia stuff. I just use it for my bluetooth synchronization.

Anyway, all the FunBox codec files are located under:
C:\Program Files\Samsung\Samsung PC Studio 3\

And I simply unregistered all of them:

regsvr32 /u FunAudioCodecFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunAviSplitter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunConvFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunDecFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunEncFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunEQFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunImgFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunMp3DecFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunMpgDecFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunMpgGrabFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunOggDecFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunSampleGrabberFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunSubFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunVideoAdjustFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunVideoCodecFilter.ax
regsvr32 /u FunVideoResizeFilter.ax

Things are back to normal now, and the little ffdshow icon shows up in my systray again. I still don’t understand why reinstalling ffdshow didn’t fix my codec settings. I even made sure the Xvid box was checked. Hopefully this post will help someone out there that’s experiencing a similar problem.

Heroes and 2012

I know it’s been awhile, but here’s some food for thought. I first saw the 2012 trailer during the previews of Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond 007 film. The HD trailer was released and I started reading up on it. If you didn’t know, 2012 is the Gregorian year where the Mayan calendar ends. Many have predicted that it’ll be the end of the world.

Anyway while reading it up on Wikipedia, I came upon the following passage:

2012 is claimed by some with New age beliefs to be a great year of spiritual transformation (or alternatively an apocalypse). There is disagreement among believers as to whether 2012 will see an end of civilization, or humanity will be elevated to a higher level.

Many esoteric sources interpret the completion of the thirteenth B’ak’tun cycle in the Long Count of the Maya calendar (which occurs on December 21 by the most widely held correlation) to mean there will be a major change in world order.

Astrologer John Jenkins has determined that on this date, there will be “an extremely close conjunction of the northern hemisphere winter solstice sun with the crossing point of the Galactic equator and the ecliptic“, an event that will not be repeated for thousands of years.

According to Wikipedia, an ecliptic is the apparent path that the Sun traces out in the sky during the year. … The name ecliptic is derived from being the place where eclipses occur.

I don’t think the passage above predicts an eclipse is going to occur, but I’m not exactly sure what it means to have the Galactic equator crossing the ecliptic, but for some reason it reminds me of Heroes. If you’ve been following the recent Heroeos, you’d know that some eclipse happened a long time back which gave them their super powers, and another eclipse is going to come and take their powers away and somehow the earth ends up being blown to smithereens.

Update: During dinner, Xyon and I were discussing Monday’s episode of Heroes and the topic of solar eclipses came up. It seems that the closest 2012 total solar eclipse to this “dooms day” is on November 13. So maybe my theory is a bit off, or maybe the solar eclipse happens on 11/13 and the earth blows up on 12/21.