Friday Two Cents: Inspiration From A Master


On my Ottawa trip I had the opportunity to experience a wonderful exhibit at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.   There they have amazing interactive activities that explain science and technology to children and adults alike.  Yet as wonderful as the museum was there was a special exhibition that was my ultimate goal.  I am referring to the special exhibit Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius. 

This was a wonderful opportunity to explore the genius that is Leonardo da Vinci, a personal inspiration of mine.  The exhibition-featured reproductions of his notebooks, ideas, inventions and of course his wondrous drawings and paintings.  For obvious reasons you cannot collect all of his works in one location.  Many are over 500 years old and many would deteriorateand be lost to humanity if not protected. 

Even though everything within the exhibit is a reproduction that did not diminish the wonder I felt.  To look upon his works and I can only be amazing and humbled.  His inventions were astounding for the time period he created them. His drawings and notes on human anatomy were nothing but wondrous.  Some so actuate that I remember using some of his drawings in my anatomy class in university. However for me, I was mostly drawn to his paintings and drawings.  

His drawing of the Vitruvian Man and the subsequent explanation of it were fascinating. His fresco of the Last Supper was spectacular and his paintings were full of wonder and meaning.  There, I had the opportunity of seeing his two versions of Virgin on the Rocksside by side.  The dark version and experts agree is an earlier version of the painting is located in the Louvre, Paris.   The other is a latter version in the National Gallery, London.  They are quite similar but for the obvious colouring and shading, yet there are other subtle differences and meanings in both. Instead of me telling you I will let you see the painting below for yourselves.  

The section on explaining and understanding the mysteries of the Mona Lisa was spectacular on its own.  They had the opportunity to photograph the Mona Lisa in great detail as well as its many different layers and in ultraviolet and infrared.  They take you through the process and show you the painting in such detail it is like you are looking at the real thing.  Their examination was so detailed that is showed different paintings of women underneath the one we see today.  They also adjusted for 500 years of fading and wear on the colours and reveal how the painting looked when Da Vinci originally painted it.  

This exhibition is a testament to a man who exceled in many different fields. A man who’s interests include invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history and cartography.  A “Jack-of-all-trades”.  In a world where people are increasingly looking to be a specialist in one field Leonardo da Vinci shows that we can excel in whatever we put our minds to. I have been called a “Jack-of-all-trades” with knowledge in technology, mathematics, the sciences as well as the arts. I am handy with tools and have constructed many things just as Da Vinci once did.  

To say I admire and am inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci would be stating the obvious.  He is someone I inspire to be. A “Jack-of-all trades”, a true Renaissance man

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Friday Two Cents: Honour Our Past To Understand Our Present


This year I decided to visit the Ottawa region for a mini vacation.  There I indulged in a few activities that always bring a smile to my face.  This vacation came out of a desire to recharge my batteries so to speak by doing something I truly love, learning more about my beautiful country Canada.  What better place than in our nation’s capital of Ottawa.  

There I visited a number of historical sites and museums but the one place or museum that always touches my heart is the Canadian War Museum.  I have been to the museum many times, both at the old and new locations.  Our country is known for its peace and openness of other cultures but we Canadians have a vast and honourable military history dating back to the First Nations and then later to the first European settlers. 

This year they had an extra exhibition of the Highland Warriors. We as Canadians share a common heritage with the United Kingdom, Scotland being one of them.  If you have read my blog you would know that I recently went on my second trip to Scotland where I enjoyed the people, culture, history and natural beauty Scotland has to offer.  This exhibit was a wonderful reminder of that trip and how close culturally Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Britain are to Canadians.  Many of our military and cultural traditions originated for this region and I have always believed that knowing where we come from helps us to understand who we are.  

As a teacher I find this subject matter a necessity for all students to learn. The museum is a treasure trove of information of our history and sacrifice by many who would see Canada grow and flourish.  However many would argue against teaching students about this part of our history, that we should not be “glorifying” war.  Many I talked to were adamant that we should not talk about the soldiers or the wars to students.  

Yet I say, “To truly understand our present we must first understand our past”; the good, bad and ugly sides.  I cannot tell you how many adults do not know or understand the current Canadian issues that we face today, started many years if not decades ago.  But they keep on complaining and in my opinion whining about these issues without knowing the history of them.  

One such person, in a class I once attended, would not stop arguing about this and kept saying it is a waste of time.  I argued the other side saying how important it was for us to remember and teach this subject.  She finally asked me straight to the point why was I so passionate about this.  Well I looked at her and rather simply said, “Because those men and women gave their life’s blood so that we would have the RIGHT to be free and to have this argument.”  I emphasised Right, we have the right to do what we want because they made the ultimate sacrifice to make sure that our rights were preserved.  

Today people have the right to be who they are, what ever that may be. Those men and women fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure these rights.  The least I can do is remember them and help pass on their goal of a prosperous and free Canada.  

For … 

“To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields”

In Flanders Fields Poem, By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

I for one will always take up the torch and hold it high.  The question is who will join me.  

Friday Two Cents: Canada 150 Ottawa Trip – Ottawa & Gatineau


I had the opportunity to visit the Ottawa area to take in some Canadian 150 celebration. Once there I did a lot of sight seeing in the usual places like the museums, the mint and the ByWard Market. However there was a new attraction in Gatineau that was unique that celebrated the diversity of Canada and its sheer beauty. It was the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017.

Jacques-Cartier Park Gatineau hosted the biggest horticultural event in Canada, the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017. Mosaiculture is a most spectacular horticultural technique that combines the following different art forms:
  • Sculpture for the structure,
  • Paint for the palette of colours, and
  • Horticulture as the means of creating living and changing artworks with plants.
The theme of the exhibit reflected on the 150 years of history, values, culture and arts in Canada, represented by more than 40 different arrangements. Admission to the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017 exhibit in Jacques-Cartier Park is free and it was a spectacular site to see.

After the garden exhibit I enjoyed a unique exhibition at the History Museum that happened to be right across the street from Jacques-Cartier Park. The exhibit is called “Hockey”, what’s more Canadian then that. It was an exploration of Canada’s game for the very beginning, through the creation of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Olympics and other international games all from a distinctly Canadian point of view.

If you are going to Ottawa one place you need to visit is the ByWard Market. It is a great place to get anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to any little nick-knack. They also have a wide variety of restaurants, bakeries and cafés. One was even visited by former President Obama where he bought a beaver tail and some cookies for his daughters.

Yet the day was topped off by a wonderful light presentation at the Parliament buildings. It is a sound and light show that journeys through Canada’s history. It shows Canadian stories of nation building, partnership, discovery, valour, pride and vision for a country. Key figures, events and achievements from Canadian history are brought to life using five distinct artistic styles. All are presented in spectacular detail, with a bilingual narration and an amazing music score that is projected on the Parliament builds, Centre Block and Peace Tower. There where times during the presentation where I felt myself tear up as a swell of national pride came over me. If you go to Ottawa just for this show it is well worth the trip. It truly was an amazing sight to see and I was lucky enough to find a copy of the show on YouTube. It is about 30 minutes but it is time well spent.

Going to Ottawa has always been a treat for me and I have been there on numerous occasions. Yet every time I go I cannot help be filled with pride and love for my birth country. The history, the accomplishments and vision of Canada have always been an inspiration to me. This trip has only deepened my love for Canada and I can proudly shout out for the entire world to hear…

“I AM CANADIAN!!”

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Friday Two Cents: Canada 150 Ottawa Trip – The Royal Canadian Mint


 

This past week I visited a familiar place that I love going to over and over again; our nation’s capital Ottawa.

I have been to Ottawa many times but every time I go there I am filled with patriotism and pride for my birth country Canada. I have been to most, if not all, of the museums the city has to offer like the War Museum and Parliament Hill. One of the places I visited was Royal Canadian Mint.

The Royal Canadian Mint

At the mint I was able to go for a tour, yet you cannot take pictures inside because even though the outside looks like a castle, inside it is a working factory. Once inside they showed us the process of transforming bricks of gold, silver and platinum into investment and collector coins. They have a forge that melts down the metal, presses, cuts, weights, inspects and stamps the coins. It was a very informative tour and an impressive process.
However, I also learned a lot about the mint that I had not known before. I found out that the mint also produces coins for other countries. They estimated that they have produced coins for over 60 countries. Not only coins but the mint also created the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympics and the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Para Pan Am Medals. They had examples of the Olympic medals on display and I learned that each medal has a part of a larger image. If you place all the medals beside each other they create an aboriginal artwork of an orca and the Paralympic medals of a raven. Not only that but the medal are in a wavy shape to represent the mountain range in British Columbia. Inspiring!

The 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games Medals

They also told us about their purity of the gold. Most gold in the world is pure to 99.99 (99.99%) or four 9s. But the Royal Canadian Mint can get a purity of five 9s or 99.999. They showed us the largest, purest gold coin in the world. It has a face value of $1,000,000 CAD. The Australians have a larger gold coin but theirs’ is only 99.99 pure. The Canadian coin is 99.999 pure and they made only 5 coins, which a few individuals and companies bought them. But because they are also collectors’ coins their value has gone up to be worth about $4 million and it keeps going up in value. One was stolen from a Berlin museum in March and its whereabouts are currently unknown. Another one of the owners is a billionaire from Saudi Arabia. They say he uses is as a coffee table. Must be nice to have money eh.

Canadian 1Million dollar Gold Coin

After the tour I was even able to lift a bar of gold. Mind you it was chained to the platform and a security guard was right beside it. If you ever get a chance to lift a bar of gold, try it. The first thing that I noticed was that the gold was soft to the touch like lead or hard clay but metallic. Also it was extremely heavy. One bar of gold weights 28 pounds and with the price of gold I was holding about $725,000 CAD or $575,000 US in my hands. I can now say that I have held over a half a million dollars in my hands, WWWOOO what a rush. Gold rush, that is.

Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 5 – The National War Memorial


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The other memorial I visited is the one most dear to my heart and sense of patriotism. It is the National War Memorial. Unveiled in 1939 to commemorate the Canadians who served in World War I (WWI), it has over the years come to symbolize the tremendous sacrifice of all Canadians who served in times of war for freedom. It has been later rededicated and the dates 1939 – 1945 (World War II (WWII)) and 1950 – 1953 (Korean War) has been placed in bronze on each side of the memorial. In 2000 the Tomb of Canada’s Unknown Soldier was added on the site in front of the memorial. Inside is a Canadian soldier that fought during WWI near the site of the battle of Vimy Ridge. Today it is the site of Canada’s Remembrance Day celebrations and stands as a constant reminder that the cost of freedom is sometimes paid for in blood.

For me this is one of the most important sites in Ottawa and whenever I visit the capital I always visit the memorial to pay my respects to the people who fought, so that I may live in a country that is free. A country where I do not have to fear religious persecution, where I have the freedom to say and do what I want; a country where the government is elected by the people for the people. A country where my little nieces will grow up free to vote and be whatever they want to be.

I use to come once every two years for the Remembrance Day celebrations but I have not been to Ottawa in about 15 years and therefore I have not visited the memorial. This is my first time seeing the Tomb of Canada’s Unknown Soldier and I could not help but be touched by the thought of who and what it represents. We do not know who he is, only that he was a Canadian. He represents all our sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and friends who died in service for all of us. I could not help but stop and say a silent prayer of thanks and gratitude for his sacrifice.

When I arrived and spent time at the memorial I could not help but reflect of what this memorial represents to me.   For me this memorial is a symbol to all Canadians that this country is the way it is because of those who sacrificed so much on the altar of freedom.   Then the words from the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ came to me and their words mean so much even today nearly 100 years after they were written. It speaks of the dead, passing the torch to the next generation and to remember them. And then the words rang true to me …

In Flanders fields the poppies blow


Between the crosses, row on row,


That mark our place; and in the sky


The larks, still bravely singing, fly


Scarce heard amid the guns below.



 

We are the Dead. Short days ago


We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,


Loved and were loved, and now we lie


In Flanders fields.



 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:


To you from failing hands we throw


The torch; be yours to hold it high.


If ye break faith with us who die


We shall not sleep, though poppies grow


In Flanders fields.

In Flanders Fields by Major John McCrea

(A Canadian poet and physician who served in World War I)

It is my turn to take up the torch and hold it high. I will not break faith with those who die. They can sleep though poppies grow, in Flanders Fields.

Rest, be at peace and thank you.

Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 4 – Statues/Memorials


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If you go to Ottawa, you cannot help but notice that there are statues wherever you go, especially around the parliament buildings. Wherever I went, I saw different statues and memorials to different people, groups of people or events that touched Canada in one way or another. I could not visit all of them because Parliament Hill was going through a lot of reconstruction and restoration. Probably for Canada’s 150th birthday celebration in 2017. I am including a list of the ones I saw or visited.

  1. A new one that I saw was the War of 1812 Monument. The monument is entitled Triumph Through Diversity. It has all the key participants that defended Canada and defeated the American invasion.
    1. A Métis fighter firing a cannon
    2. A woman bandaging the arm of a Voltigeur
    3. A Royal Navy sailor pulling a rope
    4. A First Nations warrior pointing into the distance
    5. A Canadian militiaman raising his arm in triumph
    6. A member of the British Army’s Royal Newfoundland Regiment, firing a musket

  1. The Peacekeeping Monument. In 1988 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the UN Peace keepers. This monument is in recognition of the Canadian armed forces contribution to the pursuit of peace as peacekeepers.  The monument shows three peacekeepers, two men and a woman, standing on two sharp knifelike edges of stone. It shows it cutting through the rubble and debris of war. It is to symbolize for the position of the peacekeepers at the end of a conflict, on the razors or swords edge, a very dangerous place to be. The writing on the monument is a quote from Lester B. Pearson: “We need action not only to end the fighting but to make the peace… My own government would be glad to recommend Canadian participation in such a United Nations force, a truly international peace and police force.” (Lester B. Pearson, November 2, 1956)

  1. Terry Fox Statue. If you read my post on the Canadian Museum of History I think very highly of Terry Fox. Just to give some facts, he ran a total of 143 days, through the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario. However, bone cancer that had claimed part of his right leg returned. He was forced to stop his run near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Terry Fox died on June 28, 1981, one month before his 23rd birthday.

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The Terry Fox Statue

  1. The Famous Five. A tribute to Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards is also known as the Famous Five. These women won the “Persons” Case, a 1929 court ruling, which legally declared women as persons under the British North America Act and made them eligible for appointment to the Canadian Senate. This monument is entitled “Women are Persons!”

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The Famous Five

  1. Queen Elizabeth II she is portrayed on her horse Centenial – the former RCMP horse officially presented to Her Majesty in 1977 – Queen Elizabeth II has reigned as Canada’s monarch since 1952.

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Queen Elizabeth II

  1. Sir John A. Macdonald. One of the founding Fathers of Confederation, Sir John A. Macdonald was Canada’s first prime minister. During his terms Canada experienced rapid growth and prosperity. Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and British Columbia joined Confederation; as well the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s transcontinental railway line was driven into the ground.

  1. Sir Wilfred Laurer. He was Canada’s first Francophone Prime Minister from 1896 to 1911. During his office Canada experienced growth and prosperity, with Alberta and Saskatchewan joined Confederation, the last British troops were withdrawn from Canada and the Royal Canadian Navy was founded.

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Sir Wilfred Laurer

  1. William Lyon Mackenzie King. During his administration he introduced unemployment insurance, family allowance, and Canadian citizenship. King led the country from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, holding power as prime minister for almost 22 years. The longest in Canadian history.

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William Lyon Mackenzie King

These statues and memorials remind us of the extraordinary people that helped to shape Canada in the magnificent country it is today. There is one more memorial I visited, but I think it deserves its own post.

Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 3 – The Royal Canadian Mint


 

twoCentsOldNew_George

If this trip to Ottawa had a golden moment I would have to say that my visit to the Royal Canadian Mint would fit the bill. If you are not familiar with the Royal Canadian Mint they produce the coinage for Canada, but that is only one aspect of what they do. There are three locations that the mint maintains, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa. The one in Winnipeg produces the circulation coins for Canada, while the facility in Ottawa is responsible for the mint quality coins and the bullion investment coins, or coins made from silver, gold and platinum.

The Royal Canadian Mint

I was able to go for a tour of the Ottawa site but you cannot take pictures inside because even though the outside looks like a castle, inside it is a working factory. There they showed us the process of transforming bricks of gold, silver and platinum into the investment and collector coins. They have a forge that melts the metal, presses that cut, weight, inspect and stamp the coins. It was a very informative tour and an impressive process.

Yet I also learned a lot about the mint that I had not known before. I found out that the mint also produces coins for other countries. They estimated that they have produced coins for over 60 countries. Not only coins but the mint also created the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympics and the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Para Pan Am Medals. They had examples of the Olympic medals on display and I learned that each medal has a part of a larger image. If you place all the medals beside each other they create an aboriginal artwork of an orca and the Paralympic medals of a raven. Not only that but the medal are in a wavy shape to represent the mountain range in British Columbia. Inspiring!

Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Medals

Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympic Medals

 

Orca (Left) and Raven (Right) Designs

 

They also told us about their purity of the gold. Most gold in the world is pure to 99.99 (99.99%) or four 9s. But the Royal Canadian Mint can get a purity of five 9s or 99.999. They showed us the largest, purest gold coin in the world. It has a face value of $1,000,000 CAD. The Australians have a larger gold coin but theirs’ is only 99.99 pure. The Canadian coin is 99.999 pure. They said they made only 5 coins and people and companies have bought them. But because they are also collectors’ coins their value has gone up to be worth about $2.1 million and it keeps going up in value. One of the owners is a billionaire from Saudi Arabia. They say he uses is as a coffee table. Must be nice to have money eh.

Million Dollar Coin

After the tour I was even able to lift a bar of gold. Mind you it was chained to the platform and a security guard was right beside it. If you ever get a chance to lift a bar of gold, try it. The first thing that I noticed was that the gold was soft to the touch like lead or hard clay but metallic. Also it was extremely heavy. One bar of gold weights 28 pounds and with the price of gold I was holding about $675,000 CAD or $500,000 US in my hands. I can now say that I have held over a half a million dollars in my hands, WWWOOO what a rush. Gold rush, that is. 😉

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Gold I love Gold!!! Over a half a Million dollars in my hands.

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