All About cdw01
This entry could work as a stand-alone, but it was originally part of my previous entry, before I had to split it due to character limit, so I would appreciate it if you could read that one first. Click on this link to go to part 1.
Now to recap what's been going on since last October, which was my last journal update. As a forewarning, this is very long, since my last entry was ages ago. I ended up beating Advance Wars 2's hard campaign within the next week, along with the entire War Room. In the middle of November, our school's team came in second at the Academic Bowl, which is held at a nearby high school. My best friend and I carried the team to three victories and no losses, but we had 4 less points than the winning team, which we could've gotten very easily, as the main questions were worth 10 points, and the bonuses were generally worth 5. We destroyed two of the teams, but one game came down to the end. We ended up winning 141-139 and that team ended up getting 3rd place overall. In a side note, I was on the team that got 2nd last year, but we were behind by 20 points, a much larger margin.
If you remember my very first journal entry, I stated that I would play Metroid Prime 2 on hard shortly. Well, that didn't happen, but I did finally get around to it last November. Alpha Blogg caused me quite a bit of trouble, as well as Chykka, and the Emperor Ing's final form, but I did manage to beat it, and with a much faster time than normal even. Alpha Blogg was probably the biggest pain because there was no nearby save point, so I had to go through the same 20-minute section every time I died, which was five times. I finished in around 10 hours on hard, but normal had taken me around 16. Overall, Metroid Prime 2 was easier for me than the original and took me less time, even though in a direct comparison, Metroid Prime 2 would probably be longer and harder. I also finally saw the Matrix trilogy at a friend's house around this time. The sequels couldn't really match the first one, but I found the final one to be much more enjoyable than the second, simply because not much really happened in Matrix Reloaded, except for the car chase scene, and I thought it did provide a substantial amount of closure to the series.
My grandma had a time-share in Branson, Missouri so I went there for a couple days in late November. On the car rides, I finally got everyone to level 99 in the original Golden Sun and got every menu item golded in Advance Wars 2. We also saw a couple shows there, but since I don't like country, it's not really my type of place. I had my high school placement testing in December and almost aced all of the tests, to my knowledge. I got a composite of 25/25 and got 99th percentile in every category, except for English rhetoric, which I got 97th. Naturally, I got all honors classes for the coming year.
For Christmas, I got an Xbox with Halo Triple Pack, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Burnout 3, and Forza Motorsport, as well as Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, and Rogue Squadron II. Beating Halo on legendary was quite gratifying and playing through it on that difficulty actually made me appreciate the game more. Truth and Reconciliation was near impossible for me at the point right before you go up into it and then the part right when you get into it, but after that, I didn't have any trouble beating the later levels at all. Halo 2's single player was quite a bit weaker than the original's, especially in the later levels where it dragged, but the early levels were fun. As with the original, playing on heroic made my impression of the game a little better, but it still just wasn't very satisfying at the end. I tried legendary, but got stuck where the Covenant board in waves and haven't bothered trying since. I played through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic twice in two weeks, first time light side, then dark. That has become my favorite RPG behind Chrono Trigger. A couple months later, I played through once again on light side just so that my character would have better stats and powers at the end. I played as a male soldier>Jedi guardian every single time, so I have been thinking about going through once more as a female soldier>Jedi consular or sentinel, but I'm not going to do that for a long time. Burnout 3 turned out to be arguably my favorite racing game, right up there with F-Zero GX, which I finally finished my review of in February. I went through most of the race mode in a week, but got stuck on the US Circuit Racer grand prix, and I'm still stuck there to this day, even though I've tried to complete it on several other occasions. I got gold medals on all of crash mode in a day, but it was fun. Forza was the game that came bundled with the system, but I ended up really liking it. I've probably played it over 100 hours now, and I'm at 100% completion of arcade mode and around 90% completion in career mode. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was an epic game for sure. The graphics took me a little time to get adjusted, as well as the N64 controller itself, but after that initial adjustment, it was very enjoyable. I thought the ending especially was amazing and done nearly perfectly. The Wind Waker was also a long and epic game. The cel-shaded graphics allowed for very impressive graphical feats and really fit with the feel of the game. The sailing portions could take a bit overly long, but they did give a pretty good sense of scope to the world. I fully completed the Nintendo Gallery, except Knuckle which you need to use the Tingle Tuner to get, for taking pictures of just about everything that moved, which extended the game's life out for me quite well. Rogue Squadron II is just not my type of game. I was playing it off and on for months and just recently beat the final main mission on my birthday, June 30. I did have fun with it, but it didn't live up to the expectations I had of it from reading the review at all. That may just be because I suck at it, though.
I also got Eragon and Eldest for Christmas, and those are two of the finest tales I've ever read, in my opinion. I especially liked Eldest's plot twist, which is reminiscent of Empire Strikes Back. In February, I finally got my braces off, so my teeth are nice and straight now. I still have to put in a retainer at night, but I much prefer that to braces. I found the original Dune to be much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It was a fairly short adventure game, but it kept things interesting, until near the end. At that point, it got slow and tedious because I had to keep sending my troops all over to get equipment and more powerful weapons. Because of the game, I'm actually interested in reading the book, which is regarded as one of the best science fiction books ever written. Secret of Monkey Island was also a very enjoyable adventure game. It's probably the funniest game I've ever played and is just filled with charm. It's too bad more games like this aren't made anymore. System Shock 2 is also an amazing game, even now. I've been playing it occasionally for the past few months and just got up to deck 4, so I think I'm about 1/3 of the way through the game, maybe a little more. The atmosphere and sound are incredible, making the game the most frightening and shock-inducing I've ever played by far. I also got around to playing Max Payne, which was a short, but very sweet shooter. For me, it really picked up near the end, when I got more powerful weapons and started to fight the enemies that look like terrorists. Max's dream world was very interesting, but the maze portions did get annoying, especially the blood trail ones, which were much too easy to accidentally fall off of. The game also had a very good story that really got me into it. Jedi Knight II and Jedi Academy were also very enjoyable experiences. Jedi Knight II didn't allow any character customization, like with Jedi Academy, but I still preferred it, since it actually provided a challenge, where Academy was a relative cakewalk, on normal anyway. As an example, I believe it took me over a dozen attempts and 45 minutes to defeat the final boss of Jedi Knight II, while the final boss of Jedi Academy, light or dark side, only took me about 5 minutes to take down on my first try. Some of the puzzles and jumping got a little insane in Jedi Knight II, though, which slightly marred the experience. I did get more replay value out of Academy, despite liking Jedi Knight II better, because you can choose your force powers and follow the light or dark side. In addition, Academy had a much better beginning, I believe, because you had force powers, a lightsaber, and you weren't simply stuck with a blaster pistol to begin with, but Jedi Outcast had a more enjoyable ending.
GameSpot's April Fool's Day jokes were okay, but I thought that last year's were a lot more enjoyable and seemed less forced. I thought GameFAQs had a great one, though. If you didn't see it or don't remember it, I took a screenshot of it, which is here. April was not the time for joking around, though, because track was starting up. My great-grandfather also died at the age of 96. This also eliminated my first potential perfect attendance, as I had to miss a day for the funeral. The first track meet for 8th graders wasn't really so much of a meet. It was just 4 x 100-meter relays in the middle of a high school meet. I was the anchor for the group, but we didn't have our best sprinters there besides me, so we got a time of 57.7, which was good enough for state qualifying, but not very impressive. The next meet was an annual one that I had always done well in, and I continued that trend. I won the triple jump with 36' 1.5" and got second in long jump with 17' 7.25". Staying in the air for that long is an amazing feeling of freedom and accomplishment. Unfortunately, I have never been able to reproduce a jump like that, and the 17' 3" ones simply aren't as gratifying. Our 4 x 100-meter relay team actually included good sprinters at this meet, and we came in third with a much better time of 54.32. This was unfortunately our only real meet before state. At state, I did not perform as I would've liked to, but I still did okay. I won the triple jump with 35' 11", but winning wasn't as satisfying as it could have been because I had no competition whatsoever. Most years, the winner gets at least in the mid-36' range, and I dominated without even hitting 36'. My closest competitor only jumped 34' 8.25". In long jump, I actually did worse than last year by 1/4" with 17' 3", but I still got 5th place, which was up from 9th. I actually got 5th before in 6th grade with only 16' 1/2", which may have been partly due to the cold weather, but there was also significantly less competition. Our 4 x 100 meter relay got our best time yet of 53.56, but we still only fell right in the middle of the competition and weren't able to qualify for the finals. The girls, on the other hand, did and finished in 7th place with 57.88. We also had one girl that placed 3rd in the shot put and 100-meter dash. The 400-meter isn't really worth mentioning because my legs were tired from all the jumping, and I hadn't really run it since the year prior. I ended up with 1:04.01, which was almost a second worse than last year and not good at all. I was hoping for a 1:02 at the very least.
This brings us to May, which was a very hectic and busy month. In addition to track, I had confirmation, our class trip, and graduation. I was confirmed at the 8 A.M. service, which was a little early, but worked out fine. The head pastor normally confirms everyone, but since my dad is a pastor, he got to do it, which was nice and gave it more of a connection. Our class trip ended up being to Cincinnati, Ohio, which was still fun, but my friends and I had all wanted to go to Cleveland, in large part due to Cedar Point, which is the amusement park with the most rides and houses what was the tallest and fastest roller coaster until 2005, Top Thrill Dragster. I got to room with my three best friends, so that part was really sweet, at least. We went to a Reds game against the Brewers, who we had seen play the Mets in Milwaukee on the music tour, and they defeated the Reds with the help of a Carlos Lee grand slam. Some of my classmates had developed a retarded trend from the music tour and would just chant "Carlos" for no apparent reason. He might not even be on the field, and they would still chant. This led to one Reds fan telling them to beware of going to the bathroom, which was a bit harsh, but they were getting really annoying. After the grand slam, he did actually give a little wave to them, though. The main attraction of the tour was Kings Island, which was actually the first real amusement park I had ever visited, except for Six Flags when I was 3, but considering I couldn't go on any of the rides then, I don't count that. My personal favorite ride was the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, Son of Beast, despite it being a very rough ride. It's also the only wooden coaster in the world to feature a loop. I went on it five times over the course of the day. There was a very recent incident on July 9 that caused 27 injuries, due to a structural failure, but hopefully they can fix that up. The Beast was another good coaster, being the longest wooden one in the world, but it wasn't nearly as thrilling. I also went in a gyrosphere spring with one of my friends that rocketed upward and then bounced up and down while flipping before it was hauled back down to the ground. Another interesting thing was the bungee swing, which hoisted my best friend and me over 160 feet in the air. I was the one "lucky" enough to be tasked with pulling the ripcord, and in the process, we hurtled downward, outward, and then backward at high speeds. It created what I think would be a very accurate sensation of flying Superman-style. There were quite a few other rides, but none of them were really noteworthy. We also went to Patterson Air Force Base, which was filled with historic and modern planes, so that was interesting. Fighter Pilot was a very peculiar movie in that it was more action-oriented, and yet it had the capability of making us all very tired, some to the point of falling asleep. The bus rides were also a very entertaining part of the trip, but there's not really anything specific that I can list about them.
With the end of the year came finals, but I found them surprisingly easy, except for Algebra and history. Reflecting that, I was the only person in the grade to get A's on the Algebra final, as well as the history final. I aced the English and science finals and only missed three on the reading final, which was still pretty good. My classmates have always figured I would become the valedictorian, and they were correct. I ended up with a 99.84% average, but it would've been over 100% had there not been a group theme day project, which counted towards every single core subject and dropped my grade about 1-2% in all of them. Since I was valedictorian, I had to write a speech for graduation, and that went very well. I received a boatload of compliments for it afterwards. With graduation came graduation parties, which provided ample opportunities to see everyone together at once again probably for the last time. Some got quite dull after a while, but one featured an ingenious idea that involved having a scavenger hunt for things that were located all over town. Our group ended up getting second, but we came so close to the leaders that we got the same prize anyway.
I also had baseball until the end of June. I had a pretty good year overall, but my team didn't, unfortunately. I missed quite a few games for track, and many were cancelled due to weather, so the season was probably one of my shortest ever. I only got 22 at-bats in the regular season, but I got 14 hits for a batting average of .636, which is great. My team started to get a good winning streak going right before I left for Minnesota, but when I left for Minnesota, they apparently got into a slump, which continued into the playoffs. We ended up losing every single game in the playoffs, even against teams that we had defeated handily every other time we had faced them. In Minnesota, I saw my stepbrother for the first time in a year-and-a-half and my mom's side of the family. My stepbrother is in the Army, so he had just gotten back from Iraq a couple months prior to this visit. June also contained our village parade, which most likely marked the last time I'll ever play my clarinet publicly, as I've really lost interest in playing over the past year and don't plan on continuing in high school, despite the benefits that could possibly bring. I don't feel like taking the time for it, and I would also rather pursue other electives, as I only get to take two each semester, and with German and band, I would not be able to take any others.
Another thing that occurred in June, the 30th to be exact, was my 15th birthday. With it came a lot of awesome games, but the only ones that I've really played so far are Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II, Advance Wars, and Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. I hadn't gotten a new portable game since my birthday last year, so I was sorely lacking fresh ones to play on trips. The ones I recently received were welcome additions that proved very useful during the car rides on the recent trip that I chronicled in part one of this entry. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II is by far the game that I have played the most of recently, about 120 hours in the past several weeks. As with the original, it includes a very strong prospect for replayability, due to including so many different options. So far, I've completed two runs through the game, one as a male Jedi Weapon Master, the other as a male Sith Marauder. I'm currently playing as a female Sith Lord, and I plan on completing yet another run, as a female Jedi Master, before moving on to something else, most likely either Burnout Revenge, Resident Evil 4, or Ninja Gaiden Black. I'm leaning heavily towards getting an Xbox 360 and possibly the Nintendo Wii, but I'm planning on getting a PlayStation 2 before that, due to many games on the original PlayStation and current system that I would love to try out, God of War, Guitar Hero, Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and X, Katamari Damacy, Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, Xenogears, and Chrono Cross, to name a few. I also wouldn't mind getting a DS Lite some time, but the thing I could use the most, by far, is a new computer, so hopefully my grandma can successfully sell her house soon, as I'll get her desktop then, which is far better than the laptop I'm currently using.
I've had a great year so far, and hopefully, that will continue into the school year. Cross-country camp has been going on since mid-June Monday-Thursday mornings, beginning at 7 A.M. and usually entails running 5 or 6 miles. I'm not much of a long-distance runner, but I manage most of the time, so I hope I can at least get into better shape, if nothing else. This may be the last entry I make for a while again, but we'll see. I know this got quite lengthy, but I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Well, it's certainly been a long time since I last made a journal entry, so I'll do my best to recap what I've been doing since October of last year and also recently. I’ve meant to make more periodic updates, but I never seem to get around to it. Last week, I went on vacation to Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City, and Washington D.C., so I’ll start off with that. I'll hopefully be able to get pictures from that up soon.
We took a flight into Philadelphia at 6 A.M., bright and early, and, upon arrival into the city, checked on tours of the historic part of town. We took a tour of Independence Hall, saw the Liberty Bell, and also took a trip around the city in one of the Ducks. They're vehicles that can traverse both land and sea that were actually used in World War II, but now have been converted to touring vessels. After that, we went to Benjamin Franklin's burial site and took a little tour around the cemetery, before leaving for my mom's old home, Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton seemed to be a very quiet and peaceful town, with the university really being the only important thing there. From the outside, the buildings seemed very grand and meticulously constructed. Of course, its grandeur is also evidenced by its tuition and acceptance of only the best and brightest.
The next day involved touring New York City. My dad wasn't particularly fond of driving around there, to say the least, and he's used to Chicago. He continually got trapped on one-way streets with no right or left turns en-route to the parking garage, but we eventually got there. I would've loved to see more of the city, but we only spent half a day there, so we were limited time-wise. We passed through Times Square, went past Madison Square Garden, went into St. Patrick's Cathedral, got to the southern border of Central Park, ventured into NBC Studios, and took a 3-hour boat tour around the whole island. Times Square and the surrounding area was simply amazing, especially at night. Towering skyscrapers were filled with so many lights and gigantic ads, and crowds of people were going all over. The boat tour was very nice, but unfortunately, the weather was not for half the time. After passing by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, a big thunderstorm came up, pouring sheets of rain down, along with booming thunder. Strangely, one older African-American women with umbrella and poncho just sat through most of it at the back of the boat, while everyone else went inside. After making a round of the island, we went up to the Empire State Building. The employees stated that it was 0 visibility, but that was nonsense. When we got up there, we could see fine for miles. The city's skyline was quite impressive from up there. After that, we got back to the car, and another storm came up as we made our way back to New Jersey.
As we entered New Bergen, we found that the route to the hotel that we had accidentally made reservations for was blocked off, due to downed power lines. A police officer let us through, but then we got stuck at another blocked off area, before being let through that by someone. This led into an even more interesting situation, as the hotel's power was out and had no working phones. Despite our attempts to just leave without bothering to check it out, my mom went inside. There, she found several Indian men working by candle light. When she said that we didn't want to stay here, they demanded $108 cash on the spot, since none of the machines were working, and said that we'd be marked as no-shows. Now I can see paying since we didn't cancel the reservation in time, which was also dumb because we had to call an 800-number and couldn't do it by simply telling them at the front desk, but paying more than normal for a room with no lights, electricity, air conditioning, or phone service. That's just ridiculous. Since she didn't have the money, my mom was directed to an ATM at the top of the hill. Ironically, it was out of money, according to someone she talked to on the way. After that debacle, we just left, and my dad drove down to Delaware till 2 A.M., where we found a cheap little motor inn.
The next day, we continued our trip down to Washington D.C., stopping in Baltimore for a little while, specifically Fort McHenry. We opted to just walk around the area and not actually go in it because there was a fee for that. Once at D.C. and situated at the Holiday Inn Capitol in the middle of the city, we went on an evening bus tour of the area, which was very nice. The driver and guide had been working at it for 16 years, so the commentary was often entertaining and humorous. He also showed us places that weren't on the normal route, as well as avoiding most crowds. During our 3-hour tour, we stopped nearby the Capitol, passed through Georgetown, and made stops at many of the memorials including Lincoln, Jefferson, Vietnam, Iwo Jima, Korean, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's. We also saw several of the President's helicopters flying around the area. Looking across the Lincoln Memorial in the direction of the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool from the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech was quite a spectacle. The other memorials were also very nicely done.
The next morning, we got up early, so that we could get tickets to go inside the Capitol. We got a nice tour of it, but due to all the new security measures since 9/11, didn't really get to see that much. The gallery tour was a completely separate thing, so we didn't get to see where the legislative bodies currently meet. Later on, we went to Arlington Cemetery and saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was interesting. My dad also left his folder full of travel information there, so who knows where that ended up. Luckily, there wasn't any personal info included, and we didn't really need any of it anymore. We also stopped by the Kennedy family gravesite.
Then came our very brief tour of some of the museums. The National Archives were still closed because of the flooding two weeks prior, but we did get to see the National Art Gallery, the American History Museum, and the White House visitor's center. We were planning on going into the Natural History Museum, but that was closed early that day for some reason. We only got to spend about half an hour in each museum, so we didn't get to see very much at all. Most museums are open from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. around there, which didn't give us much time to see them,since we were usually doing other things around that time. About the only thing I remember seeing in the American History Museum was the Deep Blue chess computer and a car that could drive itself. Much of the other stuff was being closed down for renovations, which will take place in the next two years. By stopping in the White House visitor's center, we found out about a self-guided tour of the White House's front lawn and gardens, which occurs only five times a year, that would be taking place the next morning, so that was an interesting discovery. After stopping there, we called it a day because we were all tired from early mornings and late nights.
Our final day started out with getting tickets for the White House lawn tour, and then we had plenty of time to go and get tickets for the Washington Monument, so we also did that. Then we went over and saw the World War II Memorial, which was very well-crafted and a great tribute. By then, it was time to go over to the White House, so we walked around the path in front of it and got quite a few great pictures of it and the fountain on the front lawn. It's a very nice place, but that goes without saying. Later on, it was time for our tour of the Washington Monument. There was a great view of the surrounding area from the top, but the windows weren't very clear, which is understandable with so many people going up there every day. It was a nice day, though, so there was great visibility. Afterwards, we went to the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum before having to leave. We saw the Hope Diamond and some of the dinosaur exhibit at the Natural History Museum and then some of the showings at the Air and Space Museum.
Following that, we drove back to Philadelphia. There was an accident on the highway, which brought us to a near standstill for 45 minutes, but we still made it there in plenty of time. This vacation was my first time out to the Northeast, and it was very enjoyable, despite its rushed nature. I would love to go out there again sometime. Maine is the only state my dad hasn't been to, so I will likely get that chance.
I had my final cross-country meet of the year last Saturday. It was the first state meet that there had ever been as well. Unfortunately, we left to go down to it late, so I wasn't able to get much sleep the night before. I ended up getting 39th out of around 90 with an okay 2 mile time, but not even close to the best that I could have done. My friend was happy because he finally managed to beat me for once, though, getting 26th.
I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince pretty much the whole way down and back and finished what was left after getting back. It was a great book that sets up the 7th and final one very well. Overall, I didn't quite like it as much the previous 2 books, but the final 100 pages or so was one of the high points in the series so far for me. So much happened so quickly, but unfortunately it ended right after that, leaving you wanting much more, but we'll have to wait until the next book comes out for that to happen.
I'm in the middle of the Blue Moon mission on Hard Campaign in Advance Wars 2, and quite a few missions have been significantly more difficult so far, but I'm managing. I've also beaten about 1/4 of the War Room maps now.
I've also gone back and played the original Civilization a little. I had only played 2 and 3, along with its expansions, mainly, only playing the original for a few minutes and not getting deep into the game. Now I've delved deeper into the game and have found it quite enjoyable. It's much simpler than 2 and 3 in a lot of areas, but that doesn't make it any less fun. I do prefer its sequels, though.
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