Category Archives: A Levels

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.

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.

Speeding towards summer

Yesterday afternoon I walked out of the exam hall for the last time this year. I felt good; OCR had saved my favourite unit (organic chemistry) until last, and all the revision I had done for this exam in the months before left me feeling like there was no question I couldn’t answer. That’s always an exciting place to be, and a feeling that maths and biology exams happily robbed me of. I can’t really complain though because my second biology exam opened my eyes to the existence of water bears. Did you know they can survive for over 100 years without water? Puts our 3-4 days to shame quite nicely. They belong to the kingdom Animalia as well. Yep, that’s one mark I’m not getting…

For the next three weeks at college we’re in what has been termed progression month, which technically makes me an A2 student now. A scary thought after looking at the A2 units in biology yesterday. This fun ride started today with my first A2 maths lesson, and continues tomorrow with biology and chemistry. We’ll also be registering with UCAS, and will be making a start on our personal statements. Once I start writing that I think it will really hit me how close I am to getting where I want to be. Whatever else happens over the summer break I’m not letting my maths capabilities slip away from me, so I’m planning on doing quite a bit of that over the summer. I’m quite looking forward to the taster session of decision maths at the end of this month. I’m hoping it will be as enjoyable as I found statistics to be (I was the only one who held the opinion that statistics was enjoyable in my class).

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My favourite colour too.

My favourite colour too.

We’re now just under a month away from Camp NaNoWriMo, and what will be my second attempt at getting to that fabled 50,000 word goal. I fell quite a bit short of this target last November, but I set my sights on this July attempt shortly after the November attempt Preparations this time around will feature more than 20 minutes sitting on the sofa scribbling ideas down in a fit of desperation. No ideas for a setting or story yet, but I might drift away from Medieval times gone by and try something new. Now that my exams are finished I can really start to put some time into creating a plot and some characters, thereby giving myself a slightly more optimistic chance of reaching the goal I set last November. If you’re planning on taking part be sure to leave a comment and let me know. We can cross that finish line together. 🙂

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After a few days of toying with the idea, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and sign up for the Coombe Abbey half marathon taking place on the 30th June. This will be my first attempt taking part in a running event of this length, and is a neat 12.1 miles longer than the previous running event I took part in, namely the Sport Relief Mile. The plan is to go out for some early morning jogs during the week before heading off to college. Then at the weekends I should be able to do the same, but for longer periods without the time constraints of getting the bus to college. Focusing on early morning jogs means I’ll avoid the majority of the hot weather we seem to have been promised over the next few weeks. This is definitely a good thing, because my tolerance for hot weather is nothing close to what it used to be in my childhood.

I look forward to focusing my efforts on preparing for this now my exams are finished, and an added bonus to participating is I’ll get to see Coombe Abbey for the first time. If this goes well and I can make it to the finish line under my own power, I’d quite like to take part in the Warwick Castle half marathon next March too. All going well I’ll be able make it for a day out to Warwick Castle over the summer too. It’s by far the tourist destination I most want to visit in the UK,  and is helped to this title in some way by their possession of a working trebuchet, my all-time favourite Medieval plaything.

Let’s catch up and make a trophy list

Today marks the beginning of the final holiday of the academic year. A welcome opportunity to take a breather from the piles of revision and call half-time on the exam season. What better time to flick on the lights here on the Formula Magician and bring my blog back to life once more. I hope no spiders have moved in since I last posted.

May has been a pretty good month for me so far. I was picked as the monthly interviewee for the monthly Subscriber/Staff Spotlight on X360A. I didn’t need to be asked twice, and quickly took the opportunity to pour my heart out, laying claim to the title of longest interview so far by quite some margin. May 14th was also my birthday (note to self: update about me page). My Dad bought me a Google Nexus 7, which I was delighted by. It’s already proved invaluable in my exam preparations, allowing me to access resources no matter where I am without needing the computer (a tech revolution for me, as I’ve never owned a laptop). I’ve also been quick to take the opportunity to add Broken Sword 1 and 2 Director’s Cuts to my gaming collection. I know; my gaming backlog is already a tear inducing length, but what harm will two more games do?

There is no doubt that the last few weeks have been full of all the fun that comes with exam season for all of my fellow A Level students. I hope everyone has done as well as they’d hoped they would. I am tempted to say the worst of it is behind me now, seeing as I’ve sat five of the seven exams I’ve had to look forward to. I hesitate to announce this though, because next Monday will see me entering the exam hall with a heart filled with dread, ready (maybe) to face the F212 biology exam. The sheer volume of information that you need to understood for this exam outweighs any of the other exams I’ve taken so far, and with the added spice that comes from how biology exam questions are worded, I know it’s going to be a very enjoyable 1 hour 45 minutes for everyone who has the privilege of taking it. Wish us all luck.

The half-term in my world usually brings with it a terribly high risk of procrastination setting in. It starts with my heart and mind full of tasks and activities I’d like to do, and ends with everything exactly how it started with me stood wondering where the time went. In an attempt to address this I’ve borrowed 95% of the PS3’s trophy system idea and have forged my very own half-term trophy list from the finest Valyrian steel. For some choices, it’s crucial that I complete them, such as my fundamental biology and chemistry revision, whilst others are less important, but undoubtedly more fun and quirky activities I’ve wanted to try (or get back to) for some time. I’m also proud to say that at least 20 minutes of creative thinking went into giving them vaguely interesting names. I will be happy to consider it a week well spent if I can complete the majority of the targets I’ve set myself.

That’s about all for now. I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend. I am planning on posting here quite a bit over the next week (at least I will if I want the trophy :)), but for now I’ll leave you with a piece of videogame music that I wish played in Rugby’s marketplace.

The Sky+ box has also been sent into overdrive, recording the five hours of The Middle that Sky have been kind enough to air this afternoon.

[Video credit: JaneDutohlav]

Road to University I – a new series begins

Today a new (and hopefully fairly regular) series of posts begins here on the Formula Magician. I’ll be writing more about my personal life, and all going to plan, these will be posted alongside my returning game ramblings to add a touch of variety to what I post here. The goal of these posts will be, as the title suggests,  to chart my journey through my A Level studies and on to university.

These posts begin where I hope they will end – on the subject of university. I booked a place on my first university open day last week, so in June I will be heading eastwards for my first ever visit to the town of Norwich to look around what is currently the university I’d most like to attend – the University of East Anglia. I first looked at this university when it was the first result on a Google search for ‘Chemistry degrees’ or something similar. I loved the look of the website, and soon after I ordered a prospectus, and everything it contained helped me to set my heart on studying there. Needless to say the 22nd of June can’t come fast enough.

Chemistry and biology are both very practical-heavy at the moment. So far I’ve done three assessed practicals in chemistry – two ‘real’ quantitative and one practice qualitative. My best score for the quantitative assessment was 14/15, which I was very happy with. I hope to receive my marks for the practice one I did in chemistry tomorrow, alongside my mark for the qualitative and evaluative assessments I have done in biology. I’m looking forward to getting all these practicals out of the way so I can pretend I’ve never met those two horrible-to-type words ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’ until next year.

I’ve been thinking back to how much I used to love playing The Settlers as a child over the weekend. That game ate a chunk of my childhood. I was never particularly brilliant at it, but it’s still to this day one of the few games I’ve spent a whole day playing almost non-stop. I started looking for games that are similar to Settlers I and II, the two games that focused more on the strategic building and resource gathering aspects rather than the more combat-heavy sequels. This search brought me to a free game called Widelands. I’ve watched a few gameplay videos today and it seems to be exactly what I was looking for. I can’t wait to play this game myself and feel the nostalgia of all those happy memories flooding back.

My PS3 and Xbox gaming has pretty much ground to a halt since my January exams. The only game I’ve really been playing is Persona 4 on the PS2. It’s been great to get back into playing this. I’m pleased to say I still love listening to the soundtrack as much as I did back when I featured it on Musical Monday. I’ve made it one of my gaming targets to finish the story this year. The extended hiatus it’s been on really didn’t do it justice.

Hope everyone has had a good weekend. I’m off to get my hands on Widelands now. Have any of you played Widelands or Settlers? If so, please comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on those games or any similar games you enjoy.