Just When You Think You’ve Figured Everything Out…

First off, I want to say “Congratulations!” to my cousin Jason, who got married a few days ago in BC. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the Wedding due to the aformentioned job I finally managed to find, so this is the best I can do and I hope that they’ll forgive me.

Today was a really beautiful day. Just my temperature too. Low 20s, nice cool breeze, low mosquito count (I’ve been bitten five times on my right pinky finger; the damn thing was as thick as my thumb for the past week or so and itchy as hell) that all I wanted to do all day was walk around and enjoy the nice day.

Since it was really nice, I began to feel a little nostalgic. As I was walking, I decided to reflect on my life and of the past. Of choices made and where life is leading me. One of these thoughts were of all the people I’ve met over the years, especially of friends whom I’ve never really kept in contact with but grew up with all the same.

So as I got home, on a whim, I decided to visit good old Classmates.com. I remember shortly after I graduated high school back in 1999 (Father Lacombe, if you must know), I created an account and filled out a profile because that was the hip thing to do those days. I haven’t visited it since and figured I check to see what’s gone on the last five years or so.

Now, my graduating class (Class of ’99, how cool is that?) consisted of around 300 members. Of which, only 21 or so of those went directly on to University (my friend Brian actually did a head count during first year when most of us were sitting around in the food court; he’s really organized that way). Now on Classmates.com, about 183 of those people actually registered, which is not a bad turn out. A good hunk of them filled out profiles, so I amused myself for a couple of hours by reading some of them. Now, I know that some of those profiles are outdated (I hadn’t updated mine for about five years) but man, did my view of the world change.

You see, the plan I had for the rest of my life (relationship wise) went something like this.

  • Get married sometime after 30 (maybe earlier, if it’s for love)
  • Have kids no later than 35 (if I’d have them at all)

To me, this sounds like a nice plan. It would hopefully give me enough time to enjoy my youth, to earn my fortune so that I’d be able to provide for my family and those that I care about, and I’d still be young enough to be able to raise children and see them through to adulthood.

So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that a good hunk of the people that I graduated with are now married or have children of their own.

You see, I’m only 23 (going on 24 in September) and I just can’t picture myself with a kid (or two) much less married at this age. I’m just not ready! And yet, some of my friends are one or both, right now. I can only imagine what it must be like having to worry about mouths to feed, paying off loans, mortgages, rent and possibly having to worry about relationship problems that go beyond anything I’ve ever had to deal with. It boggles my mind that they have to deal with that kind of stuff at this age.

It makes me wonder if I’d ever be ready to do such a thing. I wonder if they were ever ready too, or if they were thrust into their situations by force. I’m not sure if I’d ever be ready.

I’ve been told that I need to grow up a little more. Now I’m beginning to think that that may be true, to a certain point. You see, I used to believe that growing up is something that shouldn’t be rushed. It’s not like you wake up one day and decide that you’re all grown up. And I didn’t think that you could force it either because if you did, then you’d spend the rest of your life looking back to the past trying to relive it or wishing things were different in order to make up for all of the things that you missed because you forced yourself to “grow-up”. But now I see that sometimes circumstances can force a person to have to change, regardless of whether or not they want to. And I fear that there is a great cost to that. And now I worry about my friends.

I guess what I’m trying to say (it’s the wee hours of the morning; hard to conjugate) is that I really admire them. To have to deal with issues like that right now, my heart goes out to them. I can only imagine how difficult it must be sometimes, and I know that they must have made a lot of sacrifices along the way, perhaps more than anyone in their early 20s should have to make. And I wonder if I’d be able to do that too.

As for growing up myself, all I can do is live life one day at a time and let things fall where they may. I don’t ever want to be in the position where all I ever do is look back on the past and spend all of my time trying to re-live it or wishing things went differently because I tried to force myself to grow up by making stupid choices that I know are bad but do anyways because people keep telling me “it’s all part of growing up”. Or worse, consciously make those mistakes because I want to and use the “it’s all part of growing up” reason as an excuse to do those things. To me, people who think that way are just plain stupid, possibly the stupidest people on Earth, next to people who do things because of peer-pressure.

Anyways, all this me having to grow up stuff is funny though, because I’ve been told numerous times by my friends on many different occasions in my life that “I shouldn’t change”. So is there any possible way for me to grow up without having to change? I know that I’m still a little naive, but, I have to admit, I like the way I am. I don’t like the state of the world though (which is one of the reasons why I don’t really want kids; I don’t want them to grow up in a world like this one is right now). I doubt there’s an easy answer. I do know that when I look back on my life, I don’t do it often and I rarely do it with regret. So I hope I’m at least doing something right.

Better, Faster, Stronger… we have the technology

Just upgraded to WordPress 1.5.1.3. I think it’s helped me achieve an extra 20 MHz on my overclock! Wheee!

(FYI, if you didn’t know, this message is a discreet attempt to see if I can actually post after performing the upgrade. If you’re reading this, I guess everything’s fine. Whew!)

Happy Canada Day!

In Grade 11, I had the chance to participate in the Forum for Young Canadians. It’s an annual event where youths from across the country come to Ottawa for a week to tour parliment, learn about government, our history and about each other. It was there that I learned to appreciate this country that I live in, learned that not all Senators and MPs are as cynical and corrupt as some may think (although these days, it’s hard to think otherwise) and that some of them truly love this country, that not all Quebecers hate this country (and that some of them think that the rest of the country hates them) and that we, as citizens of this country, have a lot to be proud of.

For example, did you know that the reason that the British forces didn’t fall in the beginning when they were basically fighting World War II by themselves was because of Canadian support? We gave them supplies and troops to hold the line for years, even though countries like the United States refused to help. On a similar note, did you know that even though many of the Allied countries never quite completed their mission objectives, it was the Canadian Forces that came the closest? As a part of that mission, we helped liberate The Netherlands.

Did you know that it was a Canadian (Lester B. Pearson, to be exact) that was responsible for the creation of the UN Peacekeeping forces? That our nation’s love for peace is why there has been Canadian involvement in every single UN Peacekeeping mission since its inception? That Canadian soldiers have faced bombardment and bloodshed for over 30 years, all in the name of peace?

There are many things that us as Canadians should be proud of but I honestly don’t think that we’re aware of either. As we struggle to find ways to escape the shadow of our neighbors to the south, it’d be nice if we could realize that we’ve done plenty in the past that we should recognize and be proud of and instead of trying to escape the shadow of the US, we should let our past deeds stand as testiment to the pride we have in our nation.

Happy Birthday, Canada!

I Wanna be [email protected]$$ Like Batman!

Yesterday, I decided to finally go and see Batman Begins. If you still haven’t seen it yet, I would run, not walk, and go see it right NOW (seriously, why read this when you can go see a really cool movie?). Ebert said that this movie was “Batman done right” and I have to agree with the big guy. It wasn’t over the top like the abysmal George Klooney movie. It was quite realistic, believable, and plausible, at least to me. It was dark, but not overly so (and by dark, I don’t mean that you couldn’t see), with just enough humor to diffuse some potentially depressing subject matter. There was one line in the movie that I really emphathized with, about how his anger outweighed his grief over the death of his parents and such. There were a few lines after that which I can’t really remember, but it was those lines which had me thinking “I feel *exactly* the same way.” Warrants a second viewing just for that scene alone, in my book.

After the movie, I had planned on calling it a night but on the way out of the theater, I noticed a poster for Howl’s Moving Castle, the latest anime masterpiece from director Hayao Miyazaki. Of course, I’ve been so out of touch with the world lately that a) I didn’t even know this was out and playing and b) I never even knew that this movie was even made. So upon seeing that poster, I marched right back up the escalator (after going to the bathroom near the food court, of course, since I *really* had to go) and bought myself a ticket.

My first impression is that logically, it didn’t make much sense. The gist of it is about a girl named Sophie who’s cursed by a witch to live in an old woman’s body and is about her trying to break the curse. There’s also a wizard named Howl (voiced in this English dub by none other than Batman himself, Christian Bale) who’s fallen in love with Sophie, but has problems of his own. There were times when Sophie would be an old woman, then her younger self, then an old woman, etc. I’m sure that there was a lot of symbolism hidden in her age shifts, but it still left me confused.

Of course, once I threw all that out the window and suspended my disbelief, I quite thoroughly enjoyed the film (as I usually do with Miyazaki’s films). I even liked Billy Crystal’s take on the fire demon Calcifer and I’m interested in seeing how the original voice actor, Tatsuya Gashuin, performed the part. Turnip Head was cool too. I found Howl to be funny, sad and uplifting. Very enchanting with a charm all its own. Like with Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away and Porco Rosso, I left with a smile on my face (something I defintely need these days). Still, out of the last few I mentioned, Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service are still my favorites. Regardless, I’d defintely recommend this film to any Miyazaki fan as you won’t be dissapointed (despite the fact that this is a dub) and pretty much anyone who has an open mind. In fact, it’s motivated me to get the novel (and the sequel) that the movie was based on, which were written by an old British lady named Diana Wynne Jones.

Both books are in the mail, and I can hardly wait!

Roller Coasters

On the whole, I like roller coasters, although they used to terrify me when I was young. You see, I was always short and skinny growing up, and the restraining harnesses were never enough to secure me since I was so tiny. So whenever there was a drop, my butt would literally lift off of the seat. Quite unnerving in the beginning, but once I realized for myself that the safety restraints were good enough to keep me from flying off, I began to quite enjoy the ride.

Metaphorically speaking, these last two months have been one hell of a roller coaster ride. I feel like I’ve just been through one of those loop-de-loops where your whole world gets turned upside down and you emerge on the other side feeling not quite as good as you did going in.

So where to begin? Well, for starters, that MythTV project didn’t quite work out. I was using two TV cards, a Hauppauge PVR-250 and a Hauppauge WinTV-GO sporting a Linux friendly bt878 chipset. The problem was in getting the two of them to work together (the same problem occurs under Windows, which is easily rectified by using third-party drivers for the bt878 card). Under Linux, they both rely on the same driver module. The problem is that the PVR-250 needs a custom version of that module to function correctly. So if I used the custom module, the bt878 card wouldn’t work correctly, and vice versa. It wasn’t possible to have two seperate versions of the module at the same time either. So I gave up and returned to a Windows based HTPC.

After that, I added a Hauppauge PVR-500MCE primarily for it’s dual-tuner based architecture (although the FM tuner was a nice bonus). After finally getting it all working right, I knew something would have to go wrong. Before, it was a faulty power supply. Then, it was the hard drive and optical drives dying. So I was wondering what in the system would die next. Since I got one of those old Soltek Golden Flames, I figured the motherboard would be the next to go. But I was wrong.

IT WAS THE FREAKIN’ TV!!!!

Apparently, my 27 inch JVC TV had a fautly power supply (as evidence by the fact that it won’t even power on). Searching on-line, I found two other cases that matched mine. I also learned that the TV I bought was some bastardized model that is really hard to find. Big surprise. Since the picture tube is probably still good, I suppose I can still get it repaired, but I’m afraid that I’ll get charged more like the other people with the same problem, since the Repairman would probably claim that “since he couldn’t find the schematics, it’ll cost more.”

So I used one of my extra monitors as a temporary display. Things seemed to work fine until the damn motherboard finally began to go wonky (was only a matter of time). Bad capacitors. Powered down the system and didn’t turn it on again until I got a replacement.

So I decided to go wild and rebuild from almost scratch. Got a sexy new case (an Antec Sonata), a new motherboard (ABIT NF7-S2) and even got a Hauppauge PVR-150 that was on sale from BestBuy, down from $150 to $99. Even decided to splurge on a MSI 6600GT with VIVO so I could play that damn 1080p version of the Step Into Liquid trailer without skipping. Now everything is hunky-dory; couldn’t be happier.

And that pretty much sums up my HTPC experience for now.

Of course, I still need a new TV.

Now, what else? Oh yeah, I finally found a job after a year of looking. My official title is “Software Developer” although my unofficial title is more like “Jack-of-all-Trades”. I now work for a company called Userful and they’re doing some pretty neat stuff. Expect big things from this company, hopefully. Can’t say much about it myself, though, since I’m not sure if I’m under a NDA or not. Here’s a funky Globe and Mail article that recently appeared. If you’ve got any imagination at all, then you can see the possiblilities.

And I got dumped by my girlfriend. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The gallant thing would have been for me to leave her before she could work up the nerve to do it herself. It was great in the beginning, but for me, at least, it felt like I was giving a lot more that I was getting back. I mean a lot more, in terms of time, money and commitment.

I guess the time thing was understandable since I didn’t have a job at the time, so I could be flexible and adapt to her schedule. The money thing was tough, though, since I didn’t really have any funds. The commitment thing is a little tough to swallow, considering all the time I invested listening to her complain about trivial problems for hours on end despite the fact that there are others out there with even worse problems (for example, when she started her new job, she kept telling me how she hated it, how she wished she didn’t have it when all I could think about was that “I’d kill to be in that position” and “at least you have a job”). Of course, that all led to a pretty hefty cell phone bill which I’ve never really recovered from (and my financial future has definetly suffered from it, if you know what I mean). I got fed up with it and with the fact that I couldn’t provide for her like I should have and wanted to, and I think I took a little of it out on her, even though she probably didn’t deserve it. I got tired of being under appreciated, tired of listening to her complain, tired of offering advice that was never heeded and having to listen to her complain for hours on end as my reward for trying to help. I got frustrated at not being able to provide for her. I got frustrated not being able to buy her the things that she wanted and afford to give her tokens and trinkets that she deserved and I wanted to give, not being able to afford to eat at fancy restaurants, frustrated at not being able to take her to fancy places on the account that I don’t have a car, etc, etc.

I suppose I should have trusted her enough with my fears and problems, but of course, anyone who really knows me knows that it’s always been hard for me to do that sort of thing. In fact, I think with her, I opened up the most (see if I ever do that again 😉 ). But obviously not enough. Anyways, long story short, after a trip back from Europe, she spent more time with someone else than with me (which really makes that commitment thing hard to swallow since I put everything else in my life on hold for her and sacrificed a lot for her (friends, other potential girlfriends, the Calgary Flames’ magnificent run to the 2003-04 playoffs) since I thought she was worth it). And that was the clincher, I guess.

Anyways, I think I’m ok. Definitely doing much better than the last time. I think I know that deep down in my heart, I did all that I could have given the limited amount I had to work with. Part of me regrets not getting a second chance because I know how I could do better the second time around (especially now that I have a job), but I know that I also did the best I could have at the time. She’s a good person, deep down, but she’s also very selfish. I think I’m selfish too, just in different ways. For example, all I want is someone who is faithful, loyal, who’ll watch my back and who’ll stand by me when I need support. Probably too much to ask for, but hey, a guy can dream, can’t he? 🙂

It’s probably better this way. At least this way, she’s free and not held down by someone who isn’t even sure anymore if he could ever provide for her the things that she deserves. She’s got her future ahead of her, and I don’t deserve a place in that.

So that’s pretty much everything major that has happened since the last time I wrote here. Not sure what’s in store for me now and I’m not sure what I have to look forward to. Superficially, there’s Harry Potter 6 to look forward to in about three weeks, and I know that I ain’t sleeping that weekend. After that, who knows.

Although it’s occured to me that I’ve never tried a roller-coaster where you stand instead of sit. I remember in Grade 11 designing a roller-coaster that you rode head first down the track (ala Superman) for a Physics assignment (even worked out the centrifugal and centripetal forces and all that; it was cool). Not sure if such a thing exists (I know that standing roller-coasters exist) but I think it would be cool to be able to try that out, at least once in my life.

Making the Switch to MythTV

HTPCs and PVRs fascinate me. It’s great to be able to record stuff to watch later. It’s even better to be able to archive a copy that will never degrade over time.

I’ve had an HTPC running Windows XP and GB-PVR for a few months now. It works great (if you like Windows), but I’ve been craving something more. I had heard about MythTV when I first started down the road of do-it-yourself PVRs, but from what I read about it, it seemed very complex. Since this would be my first time building anything of the sort, I figured I’d want something that could be easily set up, just to see if it would work. So, I picked myself up a Hauppauge PVR-250 to capture TV (because of it’s wide software support), and went to work.

My quest for an HTPC application that was full featured, that worked out of the box and was (most importantly) *free* was a tough task. There were many free applications out there at the time (of course, now, many of them have gone commercial) and I had narrowed down my choices to three applications: CTPvr, Mediaportal and GB-PVR.

I think I tried Mediaportal first. Mediaportal is open-sourced, so it had (and still has) a lot of appeal to me. At the time, Mediaportal wasn’t that stable and I couldn’t figure out how to get my remote to work with it. Today, Mediaportal is very feature rich, if a tad on the slow side (which is something they are going to address in the next major version along with stability). Setting up the Hauppauge remote to work with it is still a pain. I know how to do it now, but there just aren’t enough buttons to make it work effectively. They really recommend a Media Center Edition remote, and I agree with them.

Anyways, then I tried GB-PVR. GB-PVR was the first one I got to work correctly, and it seemed to work out of the box. After playing with it for a while, I tried CTPvr, which also worked out of the box, but didn’t look as sexy as GB-PVR, so I switched back.

Of course, configuring GB-PVR was a pain as it was obvious that a usability study was not carried out on the Config app. Still, it was very feature rich and worked fast and well once it was set up. Eventually, it added commercial detection and skip which became a must-need feature for me (and prevented me from switching to Mediaportal once it became more stable). Still, GB-PVR has its bugs and since it only has one author working on it (who’s very protective about his work), bugs sometimes don’t get addressed for months.

Which is why I wanted to switch to MythTV. I love the feature set, I love the fact that it is open-sourced and I love the fact that it is so stable. I like the fact that bugs get addressed quickly. I’m a Linux nut so I feel that I’m destined to attempt it. And most importantly, it allows me to do everything I ever could do with GB-PVR. Plus the fact that I just can’t shake the feeling that GB-PVR will also go commercial down the road. It might not, but I just don’t want to be left holding the bag like I know many users of CTPvr and myHTPC (which later became Meedio).

So I decided that the time to switch is now. Today, I will attempt to create a MythTV box.

Lord, help us all.

My First Blog

Well, this is my first attempt at a blog. I’ve never done any of this before and I’m not sure how much of an invasion of privacy this will be, but perhaps it’ll be fun. Who knows.

Welcome to Reggie’s World.

Be afraid.