Book Review – The Templars and the Shroud of Christ

The Templars and the Shroud of Christ: A Priceless Relic in the Dawn of the Christian Era and the Men Who Swore to Protect It, is the second book written by Barbara Frale that I’ve read. The first being The Templars: The Secret History Revealed. One of the leading scholars and expert in Templar history, the author does an excellent job writing about Templar and crusader history from a purely neutral academic standpoint.

This book can be divided into three sections. First is a general history of The Knights Templar, the second is history and importance of relics in Christianity, and lastly the history of the Shroud of Christ or Shroud of Turin as it’s widely known.

I already have a good firm knowledge on Templar history, so the first section of this book was a mere refresher. I did however, learned a lot starting from the second section of this book. For example, I’ve seen the Madylion of Edessa image a lot throughout eastern Christianity, but I never knew its history, or what was its name. This was something that I learned by reading this book. In addition to this important relic, we read about other important relics, and most importantly the significance of the relics and iconography in Christianity. The third and final section of this book, deals with obscure history of the Shroud of Christ, and how it landed in the Western Europe.

Geralt of Rivia 1/3 – Prime 1 Studio Statue

Geralt of Rivia 1/3

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Geralt of Rivia 1/3

I’m subscribed to quite a few statue collection YouTube channels, and one thing they all have in common is they all agree that 1/3 is the best scale for a premium high-end statue. I can now see why people love this scale above others. Geralt of Rivia by Prime 1 Studio is my second 1/3 scale statue, and just like the 1/3 Statue of Guts the Black Swordsman’s, the level of detail that we get with this larger scale really makes statue stand.

Unlike the original Geralt of Rivia and Geralt of Rivia Skillege armor 1/4 statues, where the statue concept was entirely created by Prime 1 Studio. For this statue, the museum type pose comes from a promotional artwork by CD Project Red.
Geralt holding three headless harpies, perfectly showcases Geralt as the great badass monster slayer.

The base of this statue is of a harpy nest, filled with feathers belonging to the dead harpies, some old swords, and dead human skeletons. All of which add to the story concept of the statue display is portray. Given how similar the bases are, this statue pairs beautifully with the Gut’s Black Swordsman’s. I honestly can’t decide which of those two are my favorite statue!

I decided to purchase the Deluxe version of this statue, which comes with three extra heads. All of which are different enough for me that’s its worth the additional $150. The only negative thing about this statue is just how massive and heavy the base is. Massive bases seem to be a common trait among all Prime 1 Studio statues, regardless of the scale, but the base on this statue is absolutely massive. Which in my opinion, they couldn’t easily made it smaller without affecting the overall theme and concept of the statue.

Book Review – Leyendas de la Reconquista

Leyendas de la Reconquista is a collection of short stories regarding the most important myths and legends of the Reconquista. Starting from the legendary events of Covadonga, to the ones that took place in the final events in the conquest of Granada. The stories are presented from the perspective as they occurred, as such all the stories have that epic and fictional high fantasy element to them. All of which make the legends and stories to be more spectacular in my opinion. The stories are beautifully crafted, where anyone that is not familiar with the Reconquista, can easily understand the stories without delving to deep into the rich and complex history of the events surrounding it.

Thanks to this book, I learned about new obscure myths and legends from the Reconquista that I wasn’t aware of, even though I consider myself to be extremely knowledgeable on this subject! Perhaps the only glaring missing legend that wasn’t included on this book, was the legends about the famous knight Bernardo del Carpio.

Book Review – A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

A Knight of the Seven KingdomsA Knight of the Seven Kingdoms was my return to the wonderful world of A Song of Ice and Fire. I read this book out of wimp, this mainly because I decided stopped reading A Dance with Dragons about half-way through because I felt it was more of the same as of A Feast for Crows, where the story was going at such a dire pace; it was becoming somewhat painful to endure. Like the rest of the world, I’m hopeful of George RR Martin’s assertion of working full time on the next novel The Winds of Winter, and finally finish the novel, would eventually motivate me to restart A Dance with Dragons once The Windows of Winter is published. So for now, I have the prequels.

This book is awesome, it was such a pleasant and enjoyable read, it truly reminded me why I loved the first three novels of A Song of Ice and Fire. In this book, we get to read the adventures of a “hedge knight” ie knight errant Ser Duncan “The Tall” and his squire, Egg. In a way, this book felt like the Don Quixote of ASoIaF. Thus said, the setting is very much Westeros, so the brutally of this fictional world is the same that we already know and love.

The book is divided into three short stories ie novellas. The standalone stories are not necessarily connected (as far as I know) to the main story line in A Song of Ice and Fire. However one thing that I really liked about this collection of short stories, was reading more about the history of the world and the current state of it. This book includes illustrations that certainly help bring the stories to life. Reading this book actually motivated me to go back to my book shelf and checkout The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones which has been sitting there anxiously waiting to be read.

Book Review – Hernán Cortés: Encuentro y conquista

Hernán Cortés: Encuentro y conquista Hernán Cortés: Encuentro y conquista is the third book that I’ve read from the Mexican author Juan Miguel Zunzunegui, and I must say this book has been my favorite thus far. For starters, this book has the best opening line of any book that I have ever read. ¿Quién nos enseñó a odiarnos a nosotros mismos? (Who taught us to hate ourselves?) With this simple question, all discussion to attempt to answer it, is absolutely endless.

Only behind Christopher Columbus, Hernán Cortés is arguably the second most vilified person in the Hispanic Latin world. This book goes into the different complex social and political reasons why Cortés is seen as villain, rather than a hero. Whose deeds are among the most spectacular in all of human history, changing it forever. Theirs no question that the author of this book is an admirer of Hernán Cortés. (As all Hispanics should be! But I digress) However the author does not hide any of the flaws that Cortés had.

It seems like in this modern era, all logic common sense is quality rather than the norm. In a world were logic and common sense prevailed, Hernán Cortés would be seen as a hero, and the “Black Legend” would be seen a complete propaganda bullshit. This book goes in depth on the different factors on why history has been distorted in such an absurd manner, that simple facts are seen as untrue, and why lies repeated thousands of times would somehow become truths in societies.

By the time you finish reading this book, you’ll learn why Hernán Cortés can be compared to Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, as one of histories’ greatest military commanders whose heroic deeds will be known until the end of time.

Book Review – Imperiofobia y leyenda negra

Imperiofobia y leyenda negra: Roma, Rusia, Estados Unidos y el Imperio español is a tremendous eye-opening book. I originally read this book during the Covid lockdowns two years ago, and now having re-read it again, I must say it’s a must read book to understand current world politics, by understand our history.

This book goes into deep detail regarding the common characteristics of empires but more importantly, on the difference between them. Like differences of imperialism vs imperial and of the different types of empires, ie what makes them good and bad.

The book covers many empires, from the Roman, Ottoman, French, British, Spanish, Russian, and USA empires. The most fascinating thing about this book is related to the rivalries between empires, hence the need to create a “black legend” against it. The most glaring being about the Spanish Empire. Which was the main reason why I decided to read this book, as it’s one of the books that I constantly see being mentioned among other fellow hispanists as a must read because it does a brilliant job debugging the “black legend” of the Spanish Empire. A “black legend”, being a series of arguments created by the Anglo Protestant world, whose main objective was (and still is) to demonstrate inferiority of the Hispanic and Catholic world. The author of this book, María Elvira Roca Barea does not hold any punches, she does a brilliant job calling out the complete bullshit created by Anglo Protestant world against the Hispanic and general Latin world in order to justify their existence as new reformed religious entities. It’s so blatant and obvious that it reminded me of a talk I saw of Dr. Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach regarding the blatant falsehoods she has to deal when working with US Universities regarding Hispanic history, of which she believes comes from the disdain that stems from the Spanish “black legend”.

To conclude this book also mentions the USA and Russian empires and the “black legend” among them, which is quite important to understand the current state of world politics, ie War in Ukraine. It’s absolutely fascinating to see the parallels between these two empires and how they’re both similar to the British and Spanish Empire respectively. Where for greater part of a century the British set the goal to fully balkanized the Spanish Empire in the Americas, is identical to the United States’ goal of balkanizing The Russian Federation into many distinctive petty states. Will history repeat itself? We only have to look back at history to understand.

Ironically, this is one of those books that I really hope one day gets an English translation. So people can learn about the “black legends” and histories of the worlds different empires, from a well researched academic scholar.

Book Review – A History of Medieval Spain

Joseph F. O’Callaghan is arguably my favorite non-hispanic reconquista scholar, as his works on this subject are second to none. In this book, A History of Medieval Spain, Joseph F. O’Callaghan goes into incredibly detail on the history of Spain from both the Christian and Muslim sides, in a comprehensive way. This is a scholarly research book, so some people may find it a bit boring and dry when it comes to subjects like civil society, economy, and government, and the ongoing cultural shifting happening throughout medieval Spain.

I would first recommend people to read his book Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain. Since its a much easier and shorter read (and highly entertaining), also that book is only just an overview, this book goes into way more detail. Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain just scratches an itch, while A History of Medieval Spain, goes full guns blazing.

This is a fairly large book. With its timeline starting with Roman Hispania, albeit brief, to the Visigoth Kingdom. In fact, I was surprised to see how much content was included about the Visigoths!

Of the many books I’ve read about medieval Spain, I have to say this is the absolute definitive book for anyone wanting about the incredible history of the reconquista.

Book Review – The Latin Chronicle of the Kings of Castile

The Latin Chronicle of the Kings of Castile, is one of favorite books about medieval Spain (I’ve already gone back and re-read this book multiple times). In a weird comparison, this book felt very much like reading The Silmarillion (history told by the perspective of the Elves). I find these types of books to be extremely immersive, I feel almost as I’m in the world where these history annals are being described to us. Little have I imaged a few years back, that primary sources are now turning out to be my favorite pieces of literature to read!

From it’s original Latin source, this book would be called the “Latin Chronicle of the Kingdom of Castile”, the book starts from the reign of the first autonomous count of Castile, Count Fernán González, all the way to the reign of the king Fernando III of Leon-Castile. Although the bulk of this book is focused mainly focused around the events during reigns of Alfonso IX of León (1187-1230), Alfonso VIII of Castile (1158-1214), and Fernando III of Castile and Leon (1217-1252). This era is undoubtedly the turning point during the reconquest of Moorish Spain. Personally this is favorite era during the request 1157-1248 (After the death of Alfonso VII of Leon-Castile, all the way to conquest of Seville by Fernando II of Leon-Castile).

Although this book is just under 200 pages, it covers a lot of ground. With the different and complex layers of the political landscape in Medieval Spain, between Christian and Muslim states, the translator of this chronicle does an excellent job annotating the additional information needed to fully understand the concept that the medieval chronicler is portraying. Another interesting thing about this book is that it also describes the state of the world from the Castilian point of view. In it we read the state of the Albigensian Crusade, The Third and Fourth Crusades, to the capture the Holy Land, as well as the Crusade of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.

It’s kind of interesting about author of this Chronicle (Bishop Juan of Osma or Bishop Domingo of Plasencia), did not included the entire history of Castile from its inception. Although they’re plague with biases and negative view towards the enemies of Castile, I love reading these type of primary sources because it gives us an astonishing insight toward the mindset of the person who wrote the chronicle. Written by cleric, the chronicle has lots of beautifully written phrases and quotes.

Book Review – Stop Wasting Time

Stop Wasting Time

Stop Wasting Time: End Procrastination in 5 Weeks with Proven Productivity Techniques is the type of book that I should’ve years ago. While indeed I read the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (book review pending), this book takes a more practical approach rather than a motivational one. Not to say that I wasn’t motivated from this book, far from it. Instead this book is well structured into a five week program with useful techniques to get over the incredibly tough hurdle of procrastination.

This book starts by identifying what causes procrastination, and what type of procrastinator are you, and the different reasons why we procrastinate. I think we’ve all heard the phrase “I don’t have enough time to do this..”, practically as an excuse to not do such thing. Well, theirs a reason for such behavior and this book outlines the causes, and its solutions.

To get the most of of this book, you’ll have to follow along the exercises covered in it. The requirements are simple, just a notebook and the willingness to have a drastic lifestyle change. In my case since I’m a digital junkie, I used a slightly different approach to follow along, ie using a private Doku Wiki site and GitLab’s Project management features (awesome free tool that makes it really easy to create Kaban-style boards!)

At just under 200 pages, this book is one where you can easily re-read again, to keep your mind refreshed and in tracked. It’s not the silver bullet to end procrastination, but definitely a good resource to break that terrible habit!

Yet another HR friendly document

As I start to delve into the world of Microsoft’s Azure cloud, and being what it seems to be an IT certification hoarder, I’ve decided to take the beginner level AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals Exam to start my Azure certification journey. The exam is equivalent to the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and the cloud neutral certification CompTIA Cloud Essentials+, both of which I have. Since I’m completely new Azure, this served as a perfect starting point to start learning this awesome public cloud. I’ve recently started a new job that requires me to have extensive Azure skills, so I’ve been using the platform professionally for just under a month. The exam preparation was literally my introduction to Azure.

For the study material, Microsoft offers some really good self-paced training for the exam, free of charge. In addition, I also used the Udemy AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals Exam Prep course. Given that the exam objectives are regarding the core Azure services at a high-level, I think these two training materials are more than sufficient for anyone who already knows another cloud platform like AWS, and wants to have the core foundational knowledge to be successful in Azure and pass the AZ-900 exam.

The exam itself was recently updated a few days ago, so I studied using the old exam objects. I did, however reviewed the changes and made sure I was completely familiar with the changes. Thus said, this has to be the most easiest IT certification exam that I’ve taking so far, it was also the shortest. I finished the exam in about 35 minutes!

This is just the beginning, my goal is to obtain the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate and Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate by the end of this year. Both of which will be much more difficult to obtain.