Book Review – The Art of The Hobbit


Aside from being a philologist, and an amazing author, J.R.R. Tolkien was also an artist. Albeit, not necessarily his forte. Tolkien created vast amounts of sketches and paintings associated with his literary world. This includes the actual cover art of his novels, as well many others that illustrates important events in his stories. Many of them are actually really nice. Even so, and although not directly related to the art of The Hobbit; I’m considering on getting an iconic Tolkien painting tattooed on my body.

This book has all of the sketches and paintings made by J.R.R. Tolkien himself that are associated with The Hobbit. The 75th version of The Hobbit that I read included some of the pictures presented in this book. This book includes those drawings as well as many others, and goes into detail on the history of the sketches/paintings. The art is presented in chronological order as the events happened in The Hobbit.

To me the most amusing part in reading art book was learning that Tolkien visioned the entrance to the Elvenking’s halls to be almost exactly identical to those of Finrod Felagund’s Nargothrond realm in The Silmarillion.

Book Review – The Lays of Beleriand


The Lays of Beleriand is the third volume of the twelve volume set of The History of Middle-Earth that I’m planning on reading in its entirety. This book consists of two fairly long poems, The Lay of the Children of Húrin, and The Lay of Leithian. Which, the latter was abandoned and not finished.

For starters, I’m not a big fan and will ever be a fan of poetry (I prefer more traditional story telling). However, reading these long poems was not terrible. The poems are broken into chunks which Christopher Tolkien then describes his literary analysis. His analysis is extremely detailed, it practically covers the poems line-by-line. Basically, Christopher Tolkien summaries the poems into a very cohesive and understandable manner, and describe its difference and influence between the lays, The Book of Lost Tales, and The Silmarillion. It’s quite remarkable the amount of detailed information that he gives us. A relatively simple example, is how a certain river was first mentioned, and how it ended up becoming part of the world. You will definitely learn a lot of the actual literary history of Tolkien’s work by reading this book.

In a time line, The Book of Lost Tales was first, then afters The Lay of the Children of Húrin, and The Lay of Leithian. Tolkien’s awesome mythology come into existence by these two variations, culminating into the epic masterpiece of The Silmarillion.

Although Tolkien abandoned it, I’ve enjoyed more The Lay of Leithian over The Lay of the Children of Húrin. In The Silmarillion, Sauron plays a major role in the tale of Beren and Lúthien. Between The Book of Lost Tales, and The Lay of Leithian, one of the major difference between them, is that in The Lay of Leithian, we see a certain character that ultimately ends up becoming Sauron in The Silmarillion. It was awesome reading and knowing the difference and relation The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings made the final version of The Silmarillion that I so love.

Also worth mentioning that this book includes some additional literary analysis of C.S. Lewis, since he was fortunate to read some of the very early unfinished writings of The Lay of Leithian.

DreamHost is Fucking Awesome!

DreamHost is relatively tiny company compared to other massive tech giants. Yet, this small company is incredibly helping protect our fourth constitutional amendment. In a nutshell the Department of Justice wanted all user information that visited the site disruptj20.org. This is incredible in many ways. First, let’s start by the fact that it’s completely unconstitutional. To think that many Trumptards turn the other way on this issue is absolutely mind boggling. People (frauds) like Sean Hannity would have fire coming straight from out off his ass if a government under a Clinton presidency would be wanting all user information from breitbart.com, and rightfully so. Yet, the hypocrisy is amazing. Anyone rationale with logic and common sense knows this is an authoritarian move by the Department of Justice, but to me any so called conservative or libertarian who supports this should be ashamed regardless of it’s political affiliation.

The good news that as of the time of this writing, it looks like the Department of Justice has backed off on it’s original (broad) request of getting access to all client user that visited disruptj20.org.

Our government isn’t stupid, we simply need to see the amount of unconstitutional laws that they have passed after 9/11. It’s just a matter of them to claim terrorism, to grant themselves unlimited power. To make things worse, after last week’s Charlottesville’s Virginia event. We now have three different groups in this country that can technically be classified as domestic terrorists. So cases like this will most likely be the beginning.

In a way this DreamHost vs DOJ reminds me of the legal battle Apple had with the FBI regarding encryption on the iPhone. In both cases, our privacy is at stake and terrorism is the excuse. This is why I personally belief, privacy along with free speech; are going to be two of our constitutional rights that well be restricted (ie losing) with terrorism as the excuse, but the underlying cause being our very own stupidity/political correctness.

Regarding DreamHost, they’re an awesome company that truly cares about it’s customers; in this case online privacy. On top of being open source friendly, having worked for them, and knowing their culture; I can certainly vouche for them.

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Book Review – The Book of Lost Tales 2

This book continues with early drafts and finished versions of Tolkien’s epic mythology. In this book you’ll read the early tales of Túrin Turambar, Beren and Lúthien, The Fall of Gondolin, and the story of the Nauglamír. Just like in The Book of Lost Tales Part 1, the overall synopsis of the stories is roughly the same as in the final published version of The Silmarillion. In fact, I’d say the Book of Lost Tales 1 and 2, are far more easier read than The Silmarillion. One of reasons why I love the Silmarillion so much, is because how incredible complex the stories are. For example, some of the alliances and the connections between the characters is non-existing in The Book of Lost Tales. Not to mention, Tolkien’s additional work in elvish languages.

NO SPOILERS:
Not really a spoiler, Númenor is non existing in The Book of Lost Tales (so are the characters associated with it). Sauron doesn’t exist in The Book of Lost Tales either, but rather other characters play the role that Sauron had in The Silmarillion. Also the iconic geographical place of “Middle-Earth” is not referred too using that name.

To conclude, in my opinion The Book of Lost Tales feels more like a novel. Even though both The Book of Lost Tales and The Silmarillion are books of mythology and history. Thanks to The Hobbit and LOTR, The Silmarillion feels more like a historical account of the world. While, in the other hand The Book of Lost Tales does have it’s own unique ending. (Which completed Tolkien’s early mythology at that time)
By the time I finished reading this book, it was very clear to me how much of a drastic change or “extensions” to The Book of Lost Tales in The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings had caused, to what evidently came to be the final version of The Silmarillion, which to me is the greatest book of all time.

The Lord of the Rings himself

In light of my 31st birthday, as I normally do; I opted to grant myself a birthday present. This time around, I bought myself an awesome Sauron statue. Holyshit this thing amazing! The statue itself was release over three years ago, and with only 1,200 units made; the statue can no longer be purchased from the original company. So I had to resort to eBay to buy it. At just under $1,100 and practically brand new; I didn’t had to pay a ridiculous amount of extra money from what was its original price.

The statue itself is absolutely gorgeous. It’s over 3ft tall with a significant weight to it. I constantly found myself relaxing, sitting on my futon and just staring at the statue for minutes end. Truly appreciating its beauty. I’m extremely happy to own the 386 unit of the 1,200 units made, of these amazing work of art.

To give you a visual look on how beautiful the statue is, the following video shows another ecstatic owner giving an overview of the statue.

I love this premium format statue so much that it motivated me to pre-order the Eredin statue so I can display them both side-by-side.

Book Review – The Book of Lost Tales (Part: 1)

The Book of Lost Tales was J.R.R. Tolkien’s first version of The Silmarillion; which he mostly wrote in the trenches during WWI, almost 100 years ago. The fist 2:30 minutes of this interview, Christopher Tolkien tells the history of The Silmarillion and its connection with The Book of Lost Tales.

This is the first book of a two part book publication that make up J.R.R. Tolkien’s very first Silmarillion, which it was originally called The Book of Lost Tales. As with the final published version of The Silmarillion, this book also uses the same type of old English, archaic, poetic style of writing (that I really love). Also it is worth mentioning that this is the very fist book in the twelve set volume of The History of Middle-earth that I’m planning on reading in its entirety. This book follows the same format as Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, where the story is presented followed by Christopher’s notes and analysis regarding the tale.

I think you first have to read The Silmarillion before you start reading The Book of Lost Tales. As Christopher Tolkien’s literary analysis assumes that you are already familiar with it. I can’t stress enough how thankful we have to be for Christopher Tolkien’s work in editing this book. The Book of Lost Tales was basically is long hard work of gathering his father’s early writings that were made in regular pen/pencil paper notebooks. Almost like an anthropology of his father’s work. It’s truly fascinating reading some half (not yet completed) segments of certain stories of his mythology where J.R.R. Tolkien himself ended erasing the text; up to the point were Christopher wasn’t able to decipher that deleted text.

NO SPOILERS:
It’s amazing that practically the overall synopsis of the different stories told in this book are the same as those in the final version of The Silmarillion. They’re are slight differences, for example certain characters have different names, and some of the integrate details of the stories differ to those in the Silmarillion. As Christopher Tolkien mentioned, The Book of Lost Tales mythology was originally meant to stand on it’s own. To me, the most drastic change in the mythology is the different role dwarves had compared to the final version of The Silmarillion.

To conclude, my favorite Valar in The Silmarillion is Tulkas, but holyshit the Tulkas in The Book of Lost Tales is even more bad ass then in The Silmarillion!

Replacing the Battery on my MacBook Air

Its finally come time to replace the original battery on 2012 MacBook Air 11 in. With over a thousand cycle counts, the battery was tagged as a “Replace Soon” condition by MacOS.

The battery would still charge perfectly fine, however with some light usage; it only lasted about an hour before it fully drained completely. I bought the replacement battery from OWC aka MacSales. At just $79 and free shipping, I think it’s an absolute barging. To makes things better, I received the battery two days after I ordered it. OWC is a company whose hardware I trust, and my laptop is using an SSD that I’ve bought from them. Similar to the SSD upgrade I did to my laptop last year, replacing the battery was a really easy process.

During the battery calibration process (though it was mostly idle), the new replacement battery life lasted over six hours. It’s amazing that with about $350 spent on the SSD upgrade and battery replacement, I’ve managed to effectively save myself from having to buy a new Apple laptop.

Book Review – The Children of Húrin

There is no doubt that the Elder Days and First Age are my favorite era and works of J.R.R. Tolkien’s entire legendarium. The tale of The Children of Húrin is one of them. Having first read the original story in The Silmarillion and the additional writings of it in Unfinished Tales, I already knew the story prior to reading this book. This books is essentially a recollection of the both works into a single monolithic book. The writing style of this book follows of that of Unfinished Tales, rather than the complex writing of The Silmarillion.

The tale of The Children of Húrin is sad and tragic, and also dark grim story. The story itself, is fairly short compared to The Lord of the Rings or even The Hobbit. It’s worth mentioning for anyone new wanting to read this fantastic book; they’re NO Hobbits in this tale. In fact, Sauron doesn’t have a role in this story. The chief antagonist of the tale is Morgoth and his dragon Glaurung. The primary protagonist of this tale is Húrin’s son Túrin. The story mainly consists of Túrin’s childhood and life during a very grim time in Middle-earth. A part of Middle-earth that no longer exists by the time the events of the Lord of the Rings occur!

For new readers, while the array of characters in this mentioned in this book is fairly big. The book does have an index at the end of the book that provides more information about them. This would help anyone new to this tale comprehend the story better. For readers that already know the story and have already read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, this book does have some slight difference the original tale. Christopher Tolkien does mention the differences.

I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but if there’s one thing that I learned that I read why reading the original story in The Silmarillion; is that good does not always prevails against evil.

HashiCorp Rocks!

It never really bothered me when companies use open source software and implement an “Open Core” business model around the software that they give for free (both as in freedom and beer). After all, I’m a capitalist as well (I also love my cash). This is the prime reason why I side with the open source folks over the free software purists. But that’s a different story, for another day.

HashiCorp is the company behind Vagrant. Vagrant itself, is completely open source however some additional extensions to it are not. Those being support for VMware Fusion and Workstation virtualization platforms.

About a year ago, I became the maintainer of a Vagrant plugin called vagrant-notify. At that time it only worked with VirtualBox and one of the goals of mine in becoming the maintainer of the plugin, was to have it working with many different virtualization platforms as possible. Also not to mention that many people in the Vagrant community also wanted this.

Given that each license costs $79, I contacted HashiCorp’s customer support to see if they provide me with either a trial, discounted, or free license for both of their VMware Fusion and WMware Workstation Vagrant plugins. After a few days, a HashiCorp customer rep reached back to me and low and behold they were awesome enough to give me licenses for both VMware Fusion and Workstation completely free of charge without any hesitation of them. This is a small, yet an awesome demonstration of a company that totally understands open source and how both commercial proprietary software can co-exist with free open source software. Although it may bug some people the wrong way.

Book Review – Unfinished Tales

Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth is a collection of both new stories and expansion of stories from The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit. That being said, it is absolutely necessary to read those books first prior to reading this one. Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth is not a traditional novel, instead you should approach this book as a literary analysis by Christopher Tolkien on his father’s work and unpublished work. Given how incredibly complex The Silmarillion is, reading this book will make you comprehend it more (in my case love it even more). I know I found myself plenty of times being confused about certain characters, their relationships, and certainly their languages. In my opinion this book does a good job further explaining this. The writing style of this book is more like of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. So unlike The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales is a really easy and straight forward read.

This book consists of different stories. All of which at the end of each story Christopher Tolkien further explains something in particular about that story, including perhaps some inconsistencies or unfinished works regarding that story. In addition he also includes notes/comments made by his father regarding something about that particular story. Reading these portions of the book should make us really appreciate Christopher Tolkien’s work on editing his father’s unpublished work.

To say that Tolkien’s legendarium is complex, is an understatement. It’s absolutely amazing how much work J.R.R. Tolkien did in creating this amazing fantasy universe. Reading this book for example, gave me such appreciation to the different elven languages that he created. Everything from the different languages to the names of the characters, they all have a meaning that fits into the narrative of the story. And I think that is absolutely beautiful.