March 2018 Favorites

Reading
Reading wise, March was somewhat of a slow month. The only real reading I’ve done this past month was that of AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide: Associate Exam book, for the technical certifications that I’m studying for.

Gaming
For gaming, I played a whole lot of Middle-Earth Shadow of War, and I must say I’m enjoying this game more than I did the original Shadow of Mordor. I’m not a big fan of stealth games, so unlike Shadow of Mordor, Shadow of War is far less punishable. It’s still a somewhat difficult game, but in general I found this new second version to be far more enjoyable than the original. About 40+ hours in, I’m able about 80% through the main story mode. This game definitely has enough content to keep you busy for over 100+ hours!

Also gaming wise, I finally finished Wolfenstein: The New Order. Overall, it’s a fantastic fps game, but I must say I think I enjoyed more Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. Finally, I started playing Nier: Automata. I’m about four hours into this game, and I’m having a hard time getting into it. Role playing games are by favorite genre of video games, however the quest and character skill system is meh. Hopefully this game will get better further more into the storyline.

Wellness / Self-improvement
During March, I did a significant amount of studying for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate.

Geralt of Rivia Prime 1 Statue

When The Witcher III: Wild Hunt Prime 1 statues were first announced, I told myself I was “only” going to buy the Eredin statue; so I immediately pre-ordered it. Main reason being that Eredin would  look awesome next to my Sauron statue, and like Sauron himself, both being the chief antagonists of two book and book series that I love.

Unfortunately for me, the Geralt of Rivia statue was going to be the first statue in The Witcher lineup that was going to be made and shipped out to customers. Little that I knew that Prime 1 has the bad reputation of delaying the manufactured and shipment of their statues. Yet, the small, but prevalent impatient side of me couldn’t wait for another 6 months for my Eredin statue to arrive. This being almost a 9 month delay in total! So I decided to purchase the Geralt of Rivia statue while Eredin arrives.

My Nexus 6’s camera in a low-light setting doesn’t fully portray how incredibly beautiful my statue is. This new statue is beautiful!

Hopefully, my Eredin statue finally arrives sometime in July, however I must say that now thanks to this new Geralt statue, I’ve gone ahead and pre-order the Ciri of Cintra exclusive statue. Which is scheduled to arrive sometime in July-September 2019. So knowing how Prime 1 works, it will be very likely that I’ll be receiving the Ciri of Cintra statue sometime in early or mid 2020. Now, I have a feeling that a year from now I might be seeing myself purchasing both Yennefer of Vengerberg and Triss Merigold statues to complete the entire collection, and because I was impatient to wait for the Ciri statue to arrive. Hopefully I’m mistaken given how incredibly expensive the statues are and also by the fact that I don’t know where the hell I’ll be displaying the Yennefer and Triss statues since I’m limited in space!

Man, have my original plans changed…

February 2018 Favorites

As an effort to keep myself motivated to write more on this blog, and also inspired by different YouTube channels that I’m subscribed too. Starting forward I’m going to be posting a monthly blog post which I will briefly share all the interesting things I did each month. This can includes but not limited too:

  • Books I read
  • Video games I played
  • Any new software or hardware that I worked with
  • New music I listen/discovered
  • Any new sort of self-improvement or wellness habit or activity
  • Just about anything interesting that I did the past month.

For starters, this blog post is really late, it’s March 11th, and me being a king of procrastination; I finally took the time to write up my February 2018 favorites.

Reading
Reading wise, last month I read the first two books (publication order) of The Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia. Both being quite enjoyable reads. My goal is the read the remaining five books this month. Also last month, I read about half of the sixth book The Complete History of Middle-Earth series, The Return of the Shadow.

Gaming
Gaming wise, last month I finally purchased and played the Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds expansion. Horizon Zero Dawn was my favorite game of 2017, and the expansion added a somewhat massive additional map, cool new weapons, and new machines (difficult) to battle. I’m a big fan of the story in Horizon Zero Dawn, so I hope this is the first of many games in this awesome new franchise. Lastly, last month I played, through most of the campaign of Wolfenstein: The New Order. Gameplay is really fun, however I really disliked the useless boring puzzle like missions that really don’t add much to main story.

Wellness / Self-improvement
Finally self-improvement and professionally wise, I started studying for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification. For the resources, I’m using courses from A Cloud Guru and Linux Academy, as well the books AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide: Associate Exam 1st Edition and Amazon Web Services in Action.

Mechanical Keyboard


A few days ago I had to work from home, and this made me realize and appreciate how much I love my mechanical keyboard. At work I use a CM Storm Quick Fire Cherry MX Blue, while at home (desk only, since normally I’m just using a laptop) I use an old A1048 Apple Keyboard.
It wasn’t until now that I’ve realized that if I’m sitting in a desk for a long period of time, I can’t use any other keyboard other than my mechanical keyboard. It’s amazing that I’ve been a mechanical keyboard user for only for just three years and not all my adult working life thus far! What kept me from using a mechanical keyboard, and I think most people also (other than  PC gamers, of course) is the cost of a mechanical keyboards. Yet, in April 2015 I finally had had enough, using the awful A1314 Apple Keyboard and decided to finally buy a mechanical keyboard. Almost three years later, I haven’t looked back. The $120 that I originally paid for my mechanical keyboard has been totally worth it.

If you’re thinking of purchasing a mechanical keyboard, I’d recommend visiting your local electronic/computer store and see if they have sample display mechanical keyboards with the different types of keys that you can test and try out. I’m fortunate to live really close to a Micro Center Computer & Electronics store, where I was able to try out the key switches. From which of the different switches I found the Cherry MX Blue key types to feel the best for me. They’re really loud, but I absolutely love them!

I can’t think of any drawback other than the fact that it’s a wired keyboard (like mostly all mechanical keyboards). This is not a problem for me since at work I have plenty of space and having to manually plug and unplugged the keyboard to MacBook Pro is not a big deal to me.

Using a mechanical keyboard is such an enjoyable experience, I honestly can’t use anything else for my daily keyboard typing needs.

 

Book Review – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I’ve been reading a ton of J.R.R. Tolkien these last few months, so naturally the next step is to start reading some of C.S. Lewis’ works. I’ve started reading arguably his best known work, The Chronicles of Narnia. Like with The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia is a fantasy children’s book (or series), and also just like The Hobbit, it’s unfortunate that I never was exposed to these beautiful stories as a child; neither at home or school.

Theirs a debate regarding the reading order in how one should approach reading The Chronicles of Narnia. That is reading the books in their original publication or chronological order. Though their is no right or wrong answer, from what I can see online, it seems to me the best option is to read the books is in their original publication order. So this is what I did. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia series. The book’s main protagonists are four young children and one main antagonist. Before reading this book, I’d imagine The Chronicles of Narnia to be completely high fantasy without any contemporary elements (similar to Tolkien’s legendarium). I was mistaken, while Narnia is completely fictional secondary world with many mythical creatures, the stories’ main protagonists are Englishmen and women during the WWII era (book was published post WWII).

This is the first book of a seven book series, so it might be an inaccurate assumption to do, but reading just The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it feels to me that The Chronicles of Narnia is a not an epic story (large in scope) with vast array of characters and many subplots.

This was such an enjoyable read, I practically read almost the entire book in one sit-in, completely oblivious from time.

Blocking Facebook and YouTube


Although I didn’t mentioned it as being one of my New Year’s Resolution. This year I’m opting to limit myself wasting time in social media sites, in particular YouTube and Facebook. It’s incredible how much time I waste in these social media sites, instead of using this precious time in something more productive and practical. Like improving my Portuguese, reading, or studying for an AWS certification!

My first step was removing the Facebook mobile and messenger applications from my phone. But then I decided to up the ante, so I’m also blocking all Facebook and YouTube access to my primary laptop.

I’ve been using pfSense for years, and one of the reasons why I love it is because of it’s simplicity. So blocking certain traffic to a specific host in your network is a relatively thing to implement.

1). First I created aliases of both URLs that I was blocking and another another for my laptop.

Firewall → Aliases

2).Then it’s just a matter of adding the new block rule to the firewall.

Firewall → Rules → LAN
(rule)

(target)

For now I’m keeping Twitter, since that’s mainly where I get a hold of my futebol news and Reddit, since that’s the place where I get my technology news from. Also, this block currently only affects my laptop. I’m still able to access Facebook (via web) and YouTube from my phone, but I nethertheless I feel this is a good time management process improvement.

Book Review – In-Flight Portuguese: Learn Before You Land

Anyone who is completely new to Portuguese, this book and it’s companion CD is going to be a complete waste of time. This book is really short and it doesn’t go into detail whatsoever; it’s simply just phrases. Aimed for travelers, this book’s phrases teach (or translate really); phrases that a traveler might need to know; greetings, basic expressions, numbers, flight, hotel, restaurant info, money, shopping. etc.

This book was released in 2001, and almost seventeen years later, I honestly can’t think of pitch on why someone would buy this. I know Google Translate is not good when it comes to translate full sentences and phrases correctly, but with proper training in Portuguese, Google Translate does a good job translating words from were an intermediate Portuguese learner can mold it into a more accurate translation. To me this book was not waste of time, since it was a good refreshner, but that’s it. This is simply just a reference book.

This is the first book of many that I’m planning on reading to improve my Portuguese.

 

Book Review – The Lost Road : And Other Writings


The Lost Road and Other Writings is the fifth book in the History of Middle-Earth twelve set book series. In this book, we finally start reading the early manuscripts that will make up the stories regarding Númenor. The first title portion of this book, The Lost Road follows a very unique short story that connects the modern world, to that of the Númenórean era.

Given that the entire History of Middle-Earth series was published after The Silmarillion. To me what stood out the most reading this book was the acknowledgment of Christopher Tolkien regarding editorial mistakes that he made during his scrupulous work in The Silmarillion; in particular those belonging to the tale of Beren and Lúthien. Additionally, it was also really interesting to read passages that had some events that were inconstant with some of the narrative of the stories, and how even Christopher Tolkien himself had no explanation of it. I can only imagine how rigorous, J.R.R. work might of been when he was writing all of these stories, that he possibly didn’t noticed these mistakes in his original manuscripts.

The last portion of this book starts delving (although not in a linguistic scholarly manner) into J.R.R. Tolkien’s languages. A significant amount of etymology is covered. It’s quite amazing the vast amount of work Tolkien did in creating his languages and incorporating them into his secondary world. Just about almost everything whether being a character or a location in works has a linguistic meaning associated with their names. This actually reminded me of an amusing George R.R. Martin interview I saw a while ago were he explains how he comes up with character names. I don’t minimize Martin, but reading the etymologies of the words Tolkien invented; he is on a different level.

PlayStation 4 Hard Drive Upgrade

I was pleasantly surprise to see how incredibly easy it was to upgrade the hard drive on a PS4. I have an original PS4 model with 500GB storage, and for the longest time I’ve always found myself having to constantly delete games in order to install new ones. I’m not a PlayStation Now subscriber and my digital library of games is fairly small, yet 500GB was not sufficient space for my gaming needs. With the ridiculously amount of disk space modern games take up, quite frankly unless you’re playing less than three games at any given time, just about everyone will run into this problem. Luckily not long ago Sony finally patched the PS4 to support external storage. While I do have an extra external 500GB USB drive laying around, it really bothered me that Sony didn’t placed the USB ports on the back side of the PS4. Usually, I really don’t care about aesthetics, but having the external drive connected in the front of the PS4 and be completely visible felt like eye sore. So I decided to upgrade the internal system drive. Upgrading the internal drive does not void your warranty and Sony has easy to follow instructions on how to perform a new installation of the PS4 software onto a new drive. https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/get-help/ps4-system-software

Given the positive reviews, I opted to upgrade to a 2TB Seagate FireCuda SSHD. The entire hard drive upgrade process including the software installation took me less than 10 minutes to complete! I didn’t restore the data of the old factory 500GB drive, instead I decided to start from a clean slate. 2TB should be sufficient space for my gaming needs, if anything I’m angered I didn’t did the upgrade earlier.

Book Review – The Shaping of Middle-Earth


The Shaping of Middle-Earth is a continuation of the development of early myths of made up The Silmarillion. This book is mainly just a combination of passages, that further develop Tolkien’s amazing mythology. The Shaping of Middle-Earth is divided into seven sections:
1. “Prose Fragments Following the Lost Tales”
1. “The Earliest ‘Silmarillion'”
2. “The Quenta”
3. “The First ‘Silmarillion’ Map”
4. “The Ambarkanta”
5. “The Earliest Annals of Valinor”
6. “The Earliest Annals of Beleriand”

At this point, I estimate about 70% of The Silmarillion is almost at it final form, excluding the Downfall of Númenor and Of The Rings of Power and The Third Age. In this book, you’ll find some of the very first Silmarillion maps, and the history behind them. Just like the first three previous books in The History of Middle-Earth series, Christopher Tolkien does an awesome job analyzing and explaining his father’s writings in an easy to understand manner. To me, the best thing about reading The History of Middle-Earth is learning about the things that were not included the final version of The Silmarillion. For example, in this book you’ll learn more “The Final Battle” and the ending of the world, which this is only mentioned in The Silmarillion, but doesn’t go into detail. In this book, you’ll read the details (and different versions) and holyshit it’s absolutely amazing. J.R.R. Tolkien’s creation story is amazing, but wow, his story of the ending of the world is just as epic!

This is the fourth book in the twelve set volume series of The History of Middle-Earth, and I cannot stress this enough; in order to enjoy these books you really need to understand and like the stories in The Silmarillion. Reading The Shaping of Middle-Earth, felt to me like reading (albeit a differ version) The Silmarillion for the tenth time. This is not a problem for me, since I absolutely love it and it’s personally my favorite book of all time.