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]

5 years on PSN: The Musical – Year 1

The 14th February marks the day when my PlayStation Network account turns five. The ingredients for the cake are in the cupboard and ready to go, but since Musical Monday has been feeling left out recently, I thought it would be neat to run through some of my favourite games and most memorable pieces of music that my PS3 has allowed me to bring into my home. If everything works out these posts will all be finished by the dawn of February 14th and this month will take the title of most active month of posting for me on here.

Let’s start with the game that began my PS3 gaming experience, Ridge Racer 7. This is a game that takes all the physics of driving and drops them in the trashcan outside the studio. What you’re left with is a brilliantly unrealistic masterclass in the art of drifting. Cars flying around corners sideways is normal for this game, and for this reason both singleplayer and multiplayer were never unable to provide enjoyment. Progress far enough in this game and you were rewarded with a rocket-powered limo and a vehicle that’s closest comparison I can think of is the Shagohod from Metal Gear Solid 3. It lacked the missile launcher of the Shagohod, but it didn’t look much like your average car either. Let’s call it the happy medium for now. The soundtrack was brilliant throughout, and here we have one of my favourites. My ‘lucky music’ as it were.

My second choice for year 1 is still my favourite third-person shooter, and was the first game that I put any significant amount of time into playing multiplayer. Please welcome Warhawk to the spotlight. During my time playing I reached the lofty rank of Command Sergeant and was somehow able to obtain the Master Tank Medal, the game’s mid-level commendation. Warhawk may have been criticised in some camps for being an multiplayer only game, but I had many fantastic evenings playing it with my friends. In my opinion it also has the best capture the flag model on the PS3. Unfortunately, I’ve never gotten around to buying Starhawk, but the happy memories of the shenanigans me and my friends got up to while playing Warhawk will remain forever more.

The music I have chosen comes from the pre-1.3 version of the game. The old main menu music still makes me smile today.

My final choice for year 1 comes from one of my favourite video game developers, Naughty Dog. Having already won me over during the PS1 and PS2 days with the Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series, it went without saying that their PS3 newcomer Nathan Drake would be finding his way into my home. Uncharted didn’t disappoint. It had my favourite video game setting, hidden away in the islands and jungles of lands far sunnier than my home. It had three brilliant protagonists in Nathan, Sully and Elena Fisher. And to top it all Naughty Dog had even included a few trinkets to remind us of their past games. The soundtrack fitted beautifully with the game, and I still don’t think it’s possible to listen to the title music without having an urge for adventure surging through your veins. This was my favourite of all the games I played in year one, and here’s Nate’s theme in all its adventurous glory. Please give us more, Naughty Dog.

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.