Fantasy

I plan on writing about different fantasy authors or books I’m really into from time to time, so I figured I’d outline my history with fantasy novels as a whole.


Lord of the Rings to The Second Apocalypse

Fantasy books have always been near and dear to my heart.  I picked up Lord of the Rings at about age 10 and fell in love with orcs and elves and all the typical fantasy tropes.  I had a rough childhood and Lord of the Rings transported me to a different world full of heroism and adventure.  It served as an escape from the difficult realities I lived in at the time.  As I grew up I moved on to progressively more mature and less tropey fantasy authors.  I read many different authors, but I always found someone specific I was really enamored with for a period of time.  That progression looked something like this:

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Terry Brooks
  3. Stephen King (Dark Tower)
  4. Robert Jordan
  5. George R.R. Martin
  6. Steven Erikson
  7. R. Scott Bakker

J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien ate up my preteen years for sure.  Like I said, it was my introduction to the world of fantasy literature.  I read through The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings twice in a row, I just couldn’t get enough of that world.  I had some rough things going on at the time and there was a huge element of escapism going on.  I know that term ‘escapism’ has a lot of negative connotations in the world of fantasy literature, but that’s exactly what it was for me.  I would read about the fellowship and picture myself as Aragorn, saving myself and my family from ‘the bad guys.’

Terry Brooks

From there I moved on to Terry Brooks.  This was probably age 14 or 15, somewhere in there.  I loved J.R.R. Tolkien, but you can only read the same 4 books so many times.  I started looking for a replacement, and I found it in Terry Brooks.  Terry Brooks, in my opinion, completely ripped off J.R.R. Tolkien with his first book, The Sword of Shannara.  It’s almost beat for beat the same plot progression as the Lord of the Rings, and the characters and locations are almost a perfect stand in as well.  I know that the books found their own voice later on, but even as a teenager I could see how much Terry Brooks lifted.  Despite the copycat nature of the books, I was hungry for more content, no matter how unoriginal.  I read through probably four or five books in his series before I aged out of it.

Stephen King

Next came Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  I read these books around the time I got into Terry Brooks.  It’s one of the most twisted and original works in fantasy literature that I’ve read so far.  It still has it’s share of tropes and archetypes, but the way they’re played against the world Stephen King created is incredibly unique.  Drawing from spaghetti westerns, post apocalyptic wastelands, science fiction, and traditional fantasy inspirations, it still stands as one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read.  Can’t wait for the movies.

Robert Jordan

In my late teens I got into Robert Jordan.  It took me two failed attempts and about 8 years to get through the whole series, but I eventually finished all the books.  This series is really successful and very popular.  My take on it is it’s similar to Terry Brooks books in that it’s another riff on J.R.R. Tolkien, but it diverts into it’s own original ideas fairly quickly.  After about book 6, the pace REALLY drags down (and if I read about one more woman “smoothing her skirts” or “pulling her braids” I’m going to lose my mind).  But it was a fun ride while it lasted.  I can see myself going back to most of these books for nostalgia’s sake somewhere down the road, but I don’t think I’ll be able to pick up the Wheel of Time ever again.

G.R.R. Martin

What is there to say about this guy that hasn’t been said already.  He’s easily the most popular fantasy writer in the world right now.  A Song of Ice and Fire is a great series that pretty much everyone you know has read by now.  I discovered it a few years ago on the recommendation of a coworker.  I finished the first book right before the show came out.  This series showed me that fantasy books could offer more to the reader than a guilty pleasure.  Before I read ASOIAF, my obsession with the fantasy genre was a dirty secret I didn’t like telling people about.  This series is the first I read that felt truly adult, and something that I would be comfortable recommending to people without shame.  I don’t mean to disparage the fantasy genre as a whole, it’s my favorite book genre.  But before these books, it was definitely something I didn’t advertise about myself.

Steven Erikson

This guy.  He’s the man.  He’s my favorite author.  In my opinion, he’s the greatest living author we have in the world today.  No one else comes even close.  His books are hard to get into, especially the very first one.  This makes him a well regarded author by those who’ve taken the time to appreciate him, but not a very popular author because of how steep the initial reading difficulty can be.  Erikson certainly is not writing for the purpose of becoming a famous and popular author.  This makes being an Erikson fan feel like being part of an exclusive club.  The only people who really get how great he is are those few who have dedicated the time to his books.

Gardens of the Moon is his first book, and it almost eluded me.  I started it in my early twenties.  The first time I tried to read it, I petered out about a quarter of the way through.  I had just finished the most recent ASOIAF book and I was looking online for a good series to replace it with. Everything I read pointed back to Steven Erikson and his series the Malazan Book of the Fallen.  Gardens is a very difficult book to get through.  It was initially going to be a screenplay that he adapted into a novel, and it was also his first novel.  There’s a lot of rough edges to the book, but once I finally got through it and finished the second book, I was a true believer.

Moon's Spawn attack on PaleAnomander Rake attacks the Malazan army outside of Pale.

The second book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen is Deadhouse Gates.  It’s my favorite all time book, followed closely by the third book Memories of Ice.  Deadhouse Gates ending left me raw and emotional like no other book has ever done.  I couldn’t believe that an author could make me feel that much emotion for a fictional character as I did for the characters in Deadhouse Gates.  I can still picture my own internal version of Coltaine all these years later.  Kulp is the character I identified with the most, and I still use that name when I have to name my character in a video game.  This blog is for my own edification, but if anyone ever ends up reading this please, do yourself a favor and read Deadhouse Gates.  Even if you have to skip Gardens of the Moon, read Deadhouse Gates.  It changed how I looked at authorial skill.

I plan on writing about Erikson in a separate post(s) in the future.  I can’t get enough of the guy.  He is FOR SURE my man crush Monday.  But I just want to mention a couple things that make him stand out.  He doesn’t underestimate his readers intelligence.  This is a dense series, with many overlapping characters and story arcs.  Characters are introduced and set aside for five books.  There are many intricate, repeated, and reflected themes that usually revolve around empathy and compassion.  This is a series that rewards a reread like no other series I’ve ever read.  I finshed my first reread earlier this year and I plan to start another one soon.  I may include that second read in the blog in some way.   To sum it up, Steven Erikson is my favorite author and he stands head and shoulders above his competition.

R. Scott Bakker

And this guy is Erikson’s competition.  He’s the closest author I’ve found that matches the tone and depth of Erikson’s writing.  I started reading his books probably about a year ago.  His world is original and he’s not afraid to wander into philosophical and introspective musings for pages on end.  I have read that some readers don’t appreciate the philosophical content so much, but I love it.  I’m currently reading the first in Bakker’s second series The Judging Eye, and the quality of his writing has only increased from his first book to now.

 

Get me out of I.T.

This post is about my current job as an I.T. analyst and how I want to shift from tech work to web development so that I can work from home.  I’ll likely create a post in the future detailing the specific web development I’m doing, but this post kind of catches you up to where I’m at professionally today.


Tech Work

I’ve been working as an I.T. tech for the last seven years.  I slowly worked my way up through the ranks and I’m currently classified as a senior analyst in our I.T. shop.  Senior analyst just means I work on bigger and more complicated projects than our regular techs.  I have a lot of great and varied experience doing help desk support, application support, hardware and software troubleshooting, networking, server administration, etc.  We’re a very small shop that supports an autonomous department of 500+ staff, so I get to have my hands in pretty much every piece of the I.T. puzzle.

This may sound like a great position to be in, but there are a couple problems.  The first thing is that I work with my father in law.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy.  He’s been good to me and my wife and I’m glad to have him in my life.  However, there is a line between work and home life that I need to have, and I’m  definitely on the wrong side of that line right now.  For example, the other day I came back from lunch and my wife was hanging out with my coworkers.  She had gone to lunch with her dad and stopped by the office for  a minute.  It was weird because I didn’t know she was going to be there, and if my wife is going to come to my office I would think I’d be the one to bring her in to meet the guys.  It also makes it weird when the guys at the office make jokes about sex or women.  My father in law is pretty old school about his daughters and he always acts really weird when sex comes up.  These are just a couple examples, rest assured working day to day with your father in law quickly becomes complicated.

The second problem I have with this job is my boss.  He started out as a supervisor, but a few years ago he was promoted to be the head of I.T.  I think he’s a great guy on a personal level, but he has a construction background and very little technical skill.  He likes to focus on things like write wiring diagrams when we move into new buildings, or installing new shelving racks for the server room. Those tasks are necessary, but they’re not a job for the director of I.T.  This is complicated by the fact that he kind of fell into this job, he has almost no technical skill to speak of.  He’s a good organizer, but he doesn’t understand a lot of I.T. concepts.  This makes it really hard to make good decisions as a group, as we are often guided by archaic or non technical thinking.

He also has this weird motivational speaker obsession.  He is always reading self help books and he’s obsessed with personal growth and excellence.  Again, this sounds good on paper but in practice it becomes difficult to be around day in and day out.  He’s constantly criticizing us, but he frames it in a motivational way.    For example, today a coworker and I were going to a meeting in the next town over.  We were going to be gone for a few hours.  Our boss was included on the invite and it was on his calendar.  My coworker asked him if he was riding with us, and our boss was upset that we were going to be gone for a few hours without saying something to him.  This is not anything out of the ordinary, we’re both senior staff who go to meetings out of the office all the time.  Our boss was included on the invite and he could easily see that we were also on the invite.  He criticized us for not telling him specifically that we weren’t going to be in the office for a few hours. If we this had happened on another day and he was in a  different mood, he may have said nothing at all.  Who knows, the guy is inconsistent and constantly criticizing us for little things that don’t make sense.

There are other reasons, but these two are the big motivators for me to want to leave.  I’ve been here for seven years and it’s time for me to move on.  My wife and I are trying to have a baby, and I’ve always wanted to work from home.  I’m trying my hand at web development because I think that’s the avenue where my skills would transfer most easily.

Web Development

I wish I had started coding a lot sooner.  Out of all the things I administer and work on in my current job, I enjoy coding way more.  I started by just googling how to make a website and researching the different programming languages.  There are a lot of languages for a web developer, I was kind of blown away at how many different methods there are for building a website.  I figured I should start with the basic building blocks.  I subscribed to Code Academy and ran through the HTML, CSS, and Javascript courses pretty quickly.  I really enjoyed the pace and structure of their content.  I am currently working on building website locally on my computer at home.

I’m not sure how to transfer this limited personal experience into a job making money.  I’ve applied for a couple entry level developer jobs locally but I haven’t heard back from anyone.  My wife just started working as a nurse, so I don’t mind taking a steep pay cut starting a new career doing something I have limited experience in.  I think my resume might be scaring people off, because it’s real weird.  I have 7 years of experience working as a senior analyst doing I.T. work, I have a bachelors and a masters degree in accounting, and I’m applying for entry level positions and internships doing coding.

I’m also having a hard time finding time to work on developing my coding skills.  I work 40 hours a week and it’s hard to motivate myself to work on it after I get home, especially when my wife is off.  It seems like the weekends would be a great time to work on it, but there’s always yard work, or chores, or a date night, or a family event, etc.  I know its easy to come up with these excuses not to work on it when I’m off work and that’s a failing on my part.  But with my wife making good money now, I’d really like to go down to part time at work and give myself an extra 20 hours a week to devote to developing my web development skills.  I doubt my current boss would ever go for that, but I think I might ask him soon.

My ideal job would be working for a company remotely from home so that I could (eventually, whenever the baby comes) be home with the baby when my wife is at work, and do my work in the afternoon/evenings or on her days off.  However, I feel like I’m just screwing around with this dinky website at home and because I’m not working for someone I’m not really making a lot of progress, at least not resume progress.  I’m not sure how to move forward with this goal right now, there’s a lot of risk and vulnerability with this path.  I’m hoping that I can figure it out soon though, I’m really dissatisfied with my current job.

Cyborg Strikes Again

UFC Fight Night 956 was last night.  Cris Cyborg headlined her first UFC event, Renan Barao looked for his first win at featherweight, and Roy Nelson and Bigfoot Silva squared off in a heavyweight battle on the feet.


Cyborg

Cyborg is the best female fighter in the world.  I don’t think that’s deniable anymore.  She walked through Lina Lansberg like she wasn’t even trying.  Lansberg was never in the fight, she looked like she was just riding the bull for as long as she could before she fell off.  Cyborg held her up against the cage for most of the fight in between brutal combinations to Lansberg’s face and body.  Cyborg also dominated the two ground exchanges.  She easily held top position and worked her ground and pound.

One of the highly publicized aspects of last night’s event was Cyborg’s weight cut.  She had over 25 pounds to cut as of Monday on the MMA Hour.  I’m not sure why, but the UFC keeps insisting that she fight at a catchweight of 140.  It’s unneccessary, there are girls willing to fight her at 145.  It seems like the UFC is trying to punish her for not making the Ronda fight happen at 135.

Cyborg’s last loss was 11 years ago.  Aside from testing positive in 2011, she hasn’t lost a fight since then.  Ronda was a dominant champion, but she was completely dismantled by Holly Holm last November.  The UFC needs to give Cyborg a division that she can compete in without completely draining her body.  She’s already a draw, I don’t understand why Dana White is so resistant to the idea.  If he can sell a smaller division like 115, I would think 145 with a guaranteed star would be a slam dunk.

Renan Barao

After going 1-3 in his last 4, Barao needed this win bad.  If nothing else, just to build his confidence back up.  He was considered one of the top 3 pound for pound best fighters for a decade, and the two losses to T.J. Dillashaw seem to have left him a different fighter.  The air of invincibility is gone, and he looked tentative and slow against Jeremy Stephens a few months ago in his debut at 145. Beating a guy like Phillipe Nover is exactly what Barao needed now.

Barao looked faster in almost all of the exchanges on the feet with Nover.  He consistently countered with hard shots and combinations and made Nover look slow in comparison.  Nover landed some shots as well, but Barao was clearer landing more signifcant shots throughout the fight.  If there was any doubt who won the standup exchanges, Barao’s takedowns cinched the fight for him, getting him a much needed first win at featherweight.

Roy Nelson and Bigfoot

Both these guys needed a win last night.  The heavyweight division is full of aging fighters, and Roy and Bigfoot have both been on the losing end of their fights over the last few years.  Both fighters have had a couple wins here and there, but overall they’ve both been losing more than they’ve been winning.  Bigfoot was in a worse position, losing his last three in a row.

The first round saw both guys throwing heavy leather and doing their best to avoid taking damage.  At heavyweight, all it takes is one punch, and both guys have one punch knockout power.  In the end, it was Roy who was able to connect and put down Bigfoot.  Bigfoot’s chin is just gone, he hasn’t been able to take a decent shot for years.  It might be time for him to think about hanging up the gloves.

Roy looked good last night, if I were him I’d angle for a fight with Ben Rothwell to move closer to a title shot.  There are several guys ahead of him right now, but a win over Rothwell next would put him at 3-1 in his last four.  That might be enough to talk his way into an elimination bout for a title shot.

Initial Thoughts

Updated – 10/03/2016: I created a more detailed post giving a little more background on myself here.

About Me

I’m a white male living in a small town in the United States.  I haven’t decided yet how private I want to keep my identity, so I’m not going to divulge much more identifiable information than that yet.

I work as an I.T. Analyst for a local government entity, and I want to shift to web development so that I can work from home.  I have no professional experience with web development, so I’m just trying to learn on my own in my free time.  This blog is partially in pursuit of that goal, I hope to learn some web development skills through familiarizing myself with WordPress.

About this Blog

I need to start a blog to keep myself sane.  I have no hopes or ambitions for this blog, I just need some kind of outlet.  I have a lot going on in my life and I’ve found that writing has a relaxing effect on me.

My whole life I’ve been anxious about the things I’m into, and what the people in my life would think about me if they knew I was into those things.  For example, when I was in high school I was addicted to World of Warcraft.  However, I was terrified of what my friends would think if they found out I played.  My plan for this blog is to blog about the things I’m interested in without fear of judgement.

I really enjoy video games, fantasy books, playing guitar, and spending time with my wife.  I’ll probably focus on those four areas for this blog.  This could take the form of reviews,  news posts, or any random format that pops into my head.  I’m also spending a lot of my time working on developing my web development knowledge, so that might sneak in here from time to time as well.

I think the best blogs take a specific focus in a niche that no one else is focusing on.  Maybe I’ll find my niche, or this blog will just be a random amalgamation of my life, almost like a journal.  Like I said, I’m not really interested in the success of the blog from a readership perspective.  I just want a place to keep my thoughts organized and talk about things I’m into.  If people are interested in what I have to say, then I’m ok with that.