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Thursday, June 28, 2007

TOEFL update

My TOEFL scores just came in! And they are almost as expected: excellent in the Reading, Listening and Writing Sections (29-30 out of 30) and mildly disappointing in the Speaking section (24 out of 30), which leads to a total of 112. As I mentioned in my previous post the testing conditions for the speaking part were not ideal and I was got distracted by other test takers... Nevertheless, I'm happy with the good result and am now looking forward to take the other hurdles in my way to a Masters Degree in the US :)

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Monday, June 25, 2007

GRE update

The results of my GRE arrived today! As I already knew the Verbal and Quantitative Scores I was dreading the result of the Analytical writing task... However, I needn't have worried, I got full marks and scored 6.0 on a scale from 0.0 to 6.0 :).

Just one more week and I'll get the results from the TOEFL as well.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Eschenz, Vulpera and Laufenburg

The last week has been marked by a lot of traveling. Last Saturday I visited a small party at the Untersee (part of Lake Constance). It felt like vacation: the weather was very nice, there were great people around and I even had the opportunity to do a dive, however, the 12 to 18 degrees water temperature were markedly colder than I am used to from my usual vacation ;). Another big difference was the visibility, which was only four meters; nevertheless it was a cool experience :) and I'm looking forward to more dives in Switzerland's lakes.

On Sunday I went from Eschenz straight to Vulpera in the Engadin (5 hours 39 minutes with train and bus). Vulpera was the location of the trainings camp of my team at Zühlke. Throughout the week we had time to study new and/or interesting topics such as Java 6, Java Enterprise Edition 5, Requirements Engineering and .Net (it's always good to know the enemy ;) ). Fortunately there we did find some spare time between all the learning and so we could do a golf taster course, some normal biking, some downhill biking, an excursion into the beautiful Clemgia Canyon and a guided tour of the fascinating Castle in Tarasp. We stayed at the Hotel Villa Post, which was a fantastic place. The food was extraordinary, every evening a 4 course meal and they even catered for individual requests. Our dining room was very special as well, the wooden panels all had a unique pattern and with a bit imagination animals and other things could be detected in them (see here and here). All pictures can be found in my gallery.

This Saturday I visited the 800 year celebrations in Laufenburg. One of the highlights this weekend was the medieval market, which was spaced over both the German as well as the Swiss side of Laufenburg. I even found some useful things for my next LARP such as a wooden basket and a traditional belt. A couple of pictures can be found in my gallery as well.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Faluzure Poker Open

At the start of this year we started (more or less) regular poker session. A couple of days ago the first round came to an official close with a very interesting result: Joanna, Björn and I are all tied for first place :)



On Sunday we'll be starting the second round and it will be interesting to see if my lucky streak continues :)

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Monday, June 11, 2007

TOEFL

Last Saturday was the big event, I took the TOEFL ;). It could hardly have been more different to the GRE. First, it was in Zürich, that is to say close to my home. Second, registration started as announced 30 minutes before the test time. Third, there were about 40 people taking the test at the same time...
To the test. The first block was dedicated to Reading Comprehension. We had to read three texts and answer several questions. The texts were quite technical from various fields and even though some of the questions were a bit challenging, compared to the GRE Analytical it was a breeze. Next was Listening Comprehension. We listened to 9 lectures and discussions, answering questions about the main points as well as some details of the texts. For me this wasn't too tough either.
After a ten minute break, the TOEFL continued with the Speaking part. Basically this wouldn't have been too difficult either; we had to talk about general topics, summarize discussions, as well as combine information from texts and spoken dialog. The challenging bit was that there was only 15 seconds to prepare for 30 seconds speech and that several students were speaking at the same time (the answers being recorded by the computer). Several times I got distracted by other students and almost lost the thread of my argument.
Finally we had to write two short essays, first about a general topic and then summarizing a text and a lecture. The hardest part there was writing concise texts and not to get lost in long sentences.
Now it's time for the waiting game ;). The results are due in 15 business days.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Big Re-Read

Summers coming closer and with it two highly anticipated book-releases. First, on July 5th "First Among Sequels" by Jasper Fforde, the fifth book in the Thursday Next series. And then on July 27th "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" the seventh and last Harry Potter book.
To get into the right mood I started rereading all books in those series before starting the newest one. So I now have close to two months time to read 4 Thursday Next and 6 Harry Potter books.
So far I'm on track, I've already finished "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and am one third through "The Eyre Affair".
You can keep an eye on my librarything sidebar to see how fast I progress ;)

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Goodbye GRE, welcome TOEFL

Finally, after two months preparation the GRE is now over. I took the exam last Friday in Geneva. Almost the hardest part was staying calm before the exam started. My appointment was for 1pm sharp and on the confirmation letter there was a note asking me to be there at least 30 minutes ahead of that time. So being a conscientious fellow I was there at 12.20, but no one was in sight. The exam room was closed and the corridor deserted. The closer it got to 1pm, the more disquieted I became. Then came 1pm and still no one was in sight! I was starting to wonder whether they had forgotten me. Having traveled 4 hours to get to the exam I wasn't willed to just turn back and try my luck another day. So I decided to stick around. And then at 1.10pm someone arrived and I could start. So far as I can judge I'm quite happy with the result of the exam. I got almost full score in the quantitative (mathematical) section (790 out of 800) and a respectable result for a non-native English speaker in the verbal part (550 out of 800). The analytical writing essays went quite smooth as well, but it will take about two weeks for the results of those to come in.
So next up is the TOEFL which I'll sit next Saturday in Zurich.

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