Musical Monday IX – the unabandoning

Musical Monday

Something really great happened last week. A gamer in the outskirts of the town of Rugby was finally able to rekindle his enjoyment of gaming. With his consoles finally reclaiming the much more significant role they had previously been known to enjoy in his life, and inspired by the helpful placement of Monday, he thought to himself ‘what better time to finally sit down and create the ninth episode of Musical Monday?’

And so it became known. Almost ten months after the previous episode Musical Monday once again washes up on the shores of The Formula Magician. So put that sand castle construction project on hold for just a moment, and let’s have a listen of some of that video game music we all love.

Purple and gold sit proudly in second and third place on my list of favourite colours. They’re colours shared both by my Musical Monday logo and the main character for my first game this week. It was a game that was thoroughly enjoyed by both myself and my sister Kirsty back in those fabled days of the original PlayStation.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon had everything we could have hoped for from one of our favourite series at the time. It had an interesting storyline, all of the characters that helped Spyro on his journey were likable (well, maybe Agent 9 was an exception. I can never seem to find as much love for him as the others). It also had the skateboarding mini-game that me and Kirsty lost hours enjoying as it provided more entertainment than any actual skateboarding video games have ever managed to match.

We found our copy of Spyro 3 last week and wasted no time in returning to the early days of Spyro’s gaming career. The series has never really been able to provide the same touch of excitement since the arrival of the PlayStation 2, and the quite disappointing Enter the Dragonfly. Kirsty also discovered the secret to performing the Raging Ripto skateboard trick. We had only managed to pull this trick off once before, but now Kirsty can do these time and time again, and has since taught me how to do it. Needless to say, poor Hunter no longer stands a chance in those face offs he challenges you to.

Anyways, onto my chosen theme. The music from the level Frozen Glaciers brought the memories of this series flooding back when we arrived in the snow-covered world. This world remains well known for the great yeti boxing match for the grand prize of Bartholomew’s ball, which could easily be one of the game’s most frustrating sections. The frustration would melt away, even on the frozen fields, once you left ringside and allowed this music back into your living room. Such a calming theme that I could happily listen to for hours.

The second game I have chosen for this week’s post is also enjoying a spot on my ‘currently playing’ list. I finally finished the story of Jak II this past weekend. My original plan, as you can imagine, was to move straight onto Jak 3 to continue the story. Unfortunately I realised that I’m currently unable to do this thanks to my decision last year to buy and download each of the Jak and Daxter games individually from the PlayStation Store. This left me without Jak 3 and, with the family holiday and an A2 textbook purchasing spree coming up, limited funds to commit to buying any new games. My attention was there for the taking. Then came a voice.

“Hey, madhatters13! Why have you never played me? Remember when you spent an entire night downloading me in all of my 7GB of glory? Why do that for nothing? You know I’m an excellent game, and don’t even get me started on how many times I’ve heard you listening to my soundtrack. Forget all those other games! Just click my icon, and prepare for a fantastic journey. How about it?”

In my defence, my mind did jump straight to my usual disclaimer that games may be left abandoned for indefinite periods of time. I couldn’t deny it did have a point though, so I took it up on the offer. I clicked Shadow of the Colossus on my PS3′s XMB and have loved every moment of it since. I’m currently on my way to the fifth colossus, Avion, which has been promised to be a pain just to catch. So far things are going pretty well though and I’ve only been reduced to the height of a pancake once. This came curtsey of the third colossi’s sword.

The soundtrack I have chosen has always been one of my favourites ever since I first heard it while listening to the game’s soundtrack. The Opened Way does a fantastic job of building the excitement and tension while you are struggling your way up and attacking the colossi. Hanging on for dear life as each head shake and sudden movement sends Wanda flailing around and leaves you hoping that he doesn’t lose his grip completely. That’s also happened twice to me so far, and it didn’t make for a fun sight seeing Wanda falling from those heights.

[Video upload credits: Spyro: Year of the Dragon -Ronaldowen273 | Shadow of the Colossus - ZEROxxCross]

Second time’s the charm – Camp NaNoWriMo victory

Camp NaNoWriMo memories

The most beautiful sunset.

Camp NaNoWriMo came to a close once more on Wednesday, and I am very pleased to say that I was able to join the celebrations around the Winners’ Campfire this time around. After almost falling victim to crippling procrastination even before I had typed a single word in the first week, I can’t tell you how happy it made me to be able to type the title of this post just now. Looking back on my daily word count totals I can safely say that there was very little consistency in how much I was writing each day, but my entire efforts in winning this month were kept alive thanks to a few big-scoring days, the largest of which was 5,755 words.

My final word count for the month stands at 50,169, which I validated on the Camp NaNoWriMo website after my final late-night writing session at 1:34 AM on July 31st. Celebrations were heard in my cabin once more just two hours later as another of my cabin mates crossed the finish line. Funnily enough their total word count was just 9 words away from mine. Very strong performances were seen elsewhere, as two of my other cabin mates past the 70,000 word milestone and one made it past 60,000. Unfortunately, one of our cabin mates never joined in the fun, but of the seven of us taking part five made it to our 50,000 word goal, typing up a grand total of 322,482 words in the process.

Now we have welcomed August into our lives the mission of continuing my novel presents itself. I know I still have so much more to write, and, if asked, would give a rough estimate that I will finish the story in the region of 100,000-120,000 words. I would love to continue to work on it in the coming months (albeit, probably a little slower than I have been) so I can have it in a near-completed state by the time we get to November. When November arrives I will once again be joining three of my cabin mates on this great adventure we call NaNoWriMo. One less novel idea trapped in my mind should, in theory, make it easier to see what lies beyond the revolver-wielding cavemen and curious alien visitors that remain to pick out my next tale. I’ll let you know if that is true sometime in October.

Once my current novel reaches a stage I’m happy with I’d love to put it on here alongside its November predecessor. Hopefully they will learn to get along despite having almost nothing in common, right down to a complete lack of Medieval siege engines planned in my newest effort. (Seriously, I don’t even know where I could squeeze one in.)

If you took part in Camp NaNoWriMo I hope you had as much fun as I did. The experience of being placed in small chat groups turned out to be much more enjoyable than I initially thought it would be at the start of the month. It’s made me wish that the main NaNoWriMo had a similar structure, but at the same time it’s neat that these events have a unique feel to the main event in November.

Thanks as always for reading, and I hope you have a great weekend. My family bought a new car earlier this week (a Mitsubishi Delica) so I’m looking forward to have a test drive in that later on today when I visit my grandparents.

August approaches – Camp NaNoWriMo and A2 preparation

Yesterday we entered the final week of this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo and the final stretch of my second journey to try to write a 50,000 word novel. This month has proved to be much more productive than last November as I have already overtaken my total word count my first NaNoWriMo attempt. In what seems to be typical fashion for me I instantly took the opportunity to make it more difficult for myself by allowing the first week to completely pass me by. Procrastination is a terrible friend, so while I think back for something that I can convincingly blame this terrible start on I will congratulate two of my cabin mates who, unlike me, wasted no time at all in making a strong start and already find themselves eating those tasty marshmallows and hot dogs under the warm air of the victory bonfire. They are Elyse.Rock and Salathielly. I am hoping they save some of the tasty victory goodies for me, because with the help of a sizable word count today I plan to be almost there myself by early next week. 50,000 words eluded me by some margin last November, but I won’t give it the satisfaction of doing that again. I will be sure to post my ecstatic reaction when I do finally reach my goal. If you’re taking part I wish you all the best in making it to the winners’ bonfire. It’s certainly going to be worth it!

The ability to set your own word goal has had me thinking all month too. I wonder who set themselves the largest word count goal? One word shy of a million, anyone? That’s never going to be my cup of tea.

Yesterday also marked the second birthday of The Formula Magician. My humble little platform for rambling made itself a home on the internet back in July 2011 as ‘Gaming Cove’, but would come to be more affectionately known as The Formula Magician when I was able to ‘borrow’ the name suggestion from Microsoft when it appeared as a suggested gamertag during the creation of my second Xbox Live profile (the things you do to play Rainbow Six: Vegas split-screen). The occasion was marked with a tasty rhubarb crumble, and of course, a chocolate birthday cake. My sister Kirsty also put her far superior artistic abilities into creating a lovely new banner for the top of my blog. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it, so I think it will have pride of place here for a long time to come. Thanks again, little sister.

As July gives way to August I think I will be making a serious return to my studies. Looking through the A2 modules for my subjects tells me this is going to be a complicated year, especially in biology. I have a nice chunk of homework that I’ve been shamefully putting off so far to focus on my novel writing. I’m quite looking forward to my chemistry summer project though. We are creating presentations covering the main points of different topics across both the AS and A2 years to act as a helpful introduction to each of the key points in each topic before we dive right in to the more complicated stuff. My topic is esters, famous for creating those lovely sweet, fruity smells, or in my case when I make them, the smell of Deep Heat. They’re also horrid things to draw until you get the hang of what is removed from each molecule of carboxylic acid and alcohol to join them together.

I guess the next week or so would be a good time to start drafting up my personal statement too. Overall, I am really looking forward to getting back to college and also not having the pressure of having exams straight after Christmas to worry about, but as has been mentioned by some of my fellow AS WordPressers an opportunity to re-sit AS exams sometime before summer next year would be appreciated, I guess we can’t have everything though, and if I regret my standpoint in ten to eleven months time I’ll let you all know. For now though, I am looking forward to an exam-free January.

Thanks for reading as always. I Hope you all have a great weekend. If you’re taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo, good luck once again on reaching your goal. Let me know how you’re doing. If you’d like to follow my progress, feel free to take a look at my camper homepage.  Now, back to my novel I go.

Stephan’s Abbey runny

I feel like I can start this post off best by borrowing a line from one of my all-time favourite video games – The Longest Journey. ‘Prepare to take the first step on the longest journey of your life’. That was the line that filled my mind as I made my way to the starting line for my half marathon last Sunday. Thanks to the magic of cars and trains this wasn’t quite as true for me as it was for Miss Ryan, but we can work together to forget about them for a moment.

Before Sunday I had never took part in a running event of anything near this length (my previous longest being three miles), and the most I had ever walked continuously is about nine miles. Participating in the Coombe Abbey half marathon was about to set new personal records all around, and with that in mind, I had preemptively adopted an approach similar to my favourite character from The Middle – Sue Heck. At no point did I want to resign myself to giving up and, despite the best efforts of the sun on my last two laps, I managed to pull my body across the finish line 3 hours and 20 minutes after I set off. This time will stand proudly forevermore as the day’s longest completion time for the half marathon, but my goal for the day was solely to get to that fabled finish line, and for those last two laps it was this desire that kept me going, long after I knew my time was going to be pretty slow.

finish

After 13 miles, this was the best sight of the day.

After collecting my finishers’ medal I took the opportunity to collapse on the grass in a relieved heap. Shortly after this the presentation of trophies to the 3 fastest male and female marathon runners took place outside the tent to the right of the picture above. These individuals ran twice the distance I had in the same region of time, so I think it’s a safe bet I won’t be troubling anyone for a top 3 position of my own for a while yet. During this presentation my legs had capitalised on the opportunity to seize up, my hamstrings in particular refusing to cooperate. This made the journey back to the car quite amusing. If I had to guess I would say my walk looked similar to one of our zombified friends from Resident Evil.

Overall I had a brilliant day so a big thank you goes out to Go Beyond for hosting the event. A thank you to my fellow participants too, whose words of encouragement and general enthusiasm around the site made everything a little bit easier, especially in those final laps. My body would have probably thanked me for spending more time in preparation, so that’s a painful lesson learnt for next time. I’m now on the hunt for my next half marathon to participate in. I know there’s one in Northampton in September, but I’m unsure if I’d be able to get out there early enough on a Sunday morning.

Now I know most of my body can make it to the end of a half marathon I just need to work on bringing my finishing time down. The Go Beyond team confirmed on Facebook after the race that they can return to Coombe Abbey next year, so I will be looking forward to doing it all again under the sunshine of 2014. Thinking about it, it might be good fun in the rain…

Curious minds that would like to see the full list of finishing times for the 10k, half or full marathons can find those here.

The Go Beyond Challenge Facebook page can be found here.

click to see my picture show

Camp NaNoWriMo and X360A tournaments – a summer multitasking exam

Apologies for using that forbidden word in the title. Now the A Level exams are all finished for the year it’s left a void in my time that used to be comfortably filled with revision. Not to allow complacency to creep in our lecturers have given us a fair pile of exam questions from the exams we’ll be living in fear of eleven months from now to compliment our summer studies. You are all going to be studying over the summer, right? I’m planning on putting quite a bit of time into practicing my maths. I’ve heard some scary stories about Core 4, so I think I’ll need every advantage I can grasp over the next year. The grades I’m aiming for are AAB, which would nicely meet the entry criteria for both of the chemistry degrees I’m interested in studying at the University of East Anglia, which secured its place as my first choice university last weekend. I never got around to writing a post giving my thoughts on how my exams went this month, but if you are interested I’ve written a brief summary alongside my fellow A Level students over on The Student Room. I’m much more confident than last time it has to be said.

The post-exam feeling of emptiness I have been feeling should be very short-lived now. Two upcoming events hope to flood this free time in a manner similar to a bucket full of water cascading into a poor, unsuspecting jug, which consequently flies off the counter causes two of the family cats to vanish upstairs in a blur of black and white fur. I guess that scenario wouldn’t do the kitchen floor much good either. Best not to try that out later. These events happen to be Camp NaNoWriMo and the X360A Genre Tournament.

In a showcase of better preparation than November my novel has been named more than ten minutes in advance of the event starting. Over the weekend I hope to give a bit more structure to the fragments of plot I have floating around my mind, pulling enough of them together to make a strong start in the opening week. My last attempt fell victim to middle-of-the-month syndrome and the words needed each day started to rise dramatically as my writing time fell. They met somewhere in the middle, and my dreams of reaching 50,000 were over from that point. This month has all the advantages over November: there are no two-hour round trips to college; there are no exams looming in the near future to prepare for; more of my friends are participating so there’s more compet… team spirit. My friends will likely finish before me, but I’m confident I can land my arrow on the 50,000 word target this time.

My other activity in the coming weeks will see me once again showing some attention to my Xbox 360 as me and my partner Judge Bergan team up to fight for ‘not last place’ in the Genre Tournament on X360A. I’m not terribly brilliant at even getting close to the podium in these tournaments as they combine two things I’m quite bad at these days: achievement hunting and playing games consistently. They are always great fun though and my 360 enjoys the promise of daily use, so I’ll always keep putting my name down. The first genre will be chosen tomorrow. I hope it’s RPGs (which means Random.org will pick fighting) as I’ve had a desire to go back to playing Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2 and Oblivion recently.

Action will also be a good genre for me. Being a huge Harry Potter fan there’s no real reason for why I haven’t played the two Lego Harry Potter games yet. They’ve been sitting on my infamous ‘to-buy’ list since release and, as they also sit happily in the rather large list of action games, it would be a perfect time to add them to my collection. Twelve teams are entering the competition, and any correct guesses of my and Mr. Bergan’s final position six weeks from now will entitle the guesser official and unquestioned use of the title ‘psychic’ in all future discussions.

My half marathon at Coombe Abbey is now just two days away. Looking ahead to Sunday’s weather has given me a sense of relief. Light cloud and 17°C sounds perfect for running to me. Wish me luck and thanks as always for reading.

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