Tag Archives: homework

Leonardo Di Vinci

Last night, I wasn’t looking for personal inspiration. It was more a case of getting my son to do his history assignment on a medieval/Renaissance leader.If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ll know all about this. If you’re not, you’ll remember your own parents railroading you unless you were some kind of glowing Marcia Brady.

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ll know I’m crazy about history and won’t be surprised that I had more than a passing interest in my son’s assignment and might have some useful resources.

No doubt, that’s why he chose to research Kublai Khan. I had  fantastic, illustrated books on Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. So, they were too easy. We’ve even been to a superlatively inspirational exhibition in Sydney where they’d built interactive models of Da Vinci’s inventions and you could operate them yourself. Yet, Da Vinci was off his radar and I couldn’t help feeling like he’d plucked Kublai Khan out of a hat!

So, I made a brief but futile attempt to change his mind and retrieved my beautifully illustrated and well-researched book on Leonardo down from the shelf…Ritchie Calder’s: Leonardo & The Age of the Eye. A book, which despite my best intentions, I still haven’t read!

Of course, I know I should’ve read it myself and that it’s been sitting on my shelf for about 3 years making me look smart without actually taking it in…pretty stupid. Yet, aren’t most bookshelves also packed with good intentions????

Anyway, in a serendipitous moment, I opened the book at this paragraph, which really resonated with me:

“Leonardo was the observer with the naked eye and the naked ear. He also had, and never lost, his childlike curiosity which, however much we may specialize in the more-and-more-about-less-and-less, is the essential nature of science. His was not the structured life of the child who having revealed an aptitude for what is scholastically called “science” at some immature age is told that he should be a physicist, chemist or a biologist, and from then on  is academically escorted through the science stream, the science faculty, and the post-graduate course into the learned societies. He learned where he went and where the interests took him.” (pg 261).

While I’m not going to re-write the entire book (especially when I haven’t read it!!), I found this a few paragraphs down, which gives an insight into the breadth of Da Vinci’s “education” and training:

“His science began as a painter. He was lucky to be apprenticed to Verrocchio at a time when perspective had become a preoccupation with artists…among the master’s cronies the subject of perspective was not just a matter of working practice; it was a matter of winebibbing  debate, as well as quasi-mystical dissertations on spatiality. In a way it was putting them, the artists, on speaking terms with the intellectuals around the Medici Garden…

Probably the most powerful, formative influence on Leonardo was Toscanelli, physician, astronomer and natural philosopher. The tracker of the comet, the cartographer and mentor of Columbus kept open house for the likes of Leonardo, whom he encouraged in the systematic study of mathematics, and introduced to astronomy.” pg 261.

Thus, Da Vinci was nurtured in a very rich, yet broad and multi-disciplinary environment, and not simply pushed down one path to become the “performing genius” if you get my drift. While the benefits of a broad educational base bare obvious to some, there’s so much pressure to become that expert. That person who knows that topic in painstakingly intimate detail, even if that means losing site of the bigger picture entirely. Even if it means being unable to tie up your own shoe laces or bake a cake. Indeed, too many experts have travelled so far down their own drainpipe without networking with even slightly-divergent colleagues, and there has to be a price for that. Few of us would even dream of having Da Vinci’s genius. Yet, it was built on curiosity and a broad brush stroke, NOT knowing everything within a very narrow sphere too well.

By diversifying ourselves, we too could reap the benefits…especially as creatives.

I practice what I preach. While writing, photography and research are my mainstays, I also learn the violin and have been doing contemporary/ballet classes for the last six months, which have really intensified my vision.

Not that I’ve become Da Vinci, but at least I’m working on it!

xx Rowena

 

Coffee To Go!

Ideally, we’d all be sitting around in some sort of magical flying cafe zooming all around the world spreading around our caffeinated bliss. Instead, I’m throwing this coffee back like John Wayne in some dusty old Western.

I’m on the run.

No! Not from the cops but from my life-long nemesis…the wretched clock.

It’s Sunday night and at the stroke of midnight, the fun ends and another week begins…Tick! Tock! Tick! Tock!

You see, living in Sydney by the time you’re having your weekend coffee in America, it’s at best Sunday morning here and if I’ve had a busy day, it’s Sunday night. This means I’m far from relaxed. However, the benefit is that I sort of get the equivalent of extended shopping hours because I can still post to the linky on Monday. It’s still open for business.

At the moment, my head is still buzzing from practicing my violin and helping my daughter get through her violin practice after she’d already practiced her Baritone Horn. She also had handwriting homework after spending much of the weekend working on a fascinating project on the effects and management of a range of natural disasters. Not content to just get the kids to look at things like flood, fire, drought, the teacher set a specific location for each disaster. This made it much more interesting but also more complex. We were looking at how the monsoons in India are vital for the Indian economy on one hand but can also flood villages, leaving people homeless and prone to disease. Our bush fires in Australia not only destroy the bush but paradoxically fire is also required for some native seeds to germinated. Yes, bush fire is actually part of their life cycle. It’s also interesting to think of people living in the middle of the bush in bush fire areas, on the edge of volcanoes or on the San Andreas Fault. Why do we humans like living in these extremes?

Make that some humans.

Not me!

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Our previous Border Collie, Zorro, checking out a local Bush fire in 2003. Our house is well away from the bush but we do get some nasty local bush fires.

Speaking of my children’s education stretching my rapidly declining brain cells, my son had to write a poem for school this week. It was quite an interesting topic, which might also stimulate your creative juices: “Through My Window”. It had so much scope!

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Not quite the view out his window but a beautiful gum tree photographed at Pittwater, Sydney.

Of course, I couldn’t help myself. A poem just flowed through my pen about when he was younger: Night Music about all those spooky sounds of branches scratching against his window pane at night. This was followed by: Somewhere In Between. This addressed the topic from quite a different perspective of what it’s like to be a tween.  He’s about to turn 12.

I wasn’t sure how my son would go with writing his poem. It seemed like an ambitious project for any kid his age, especially as you couldn’t get away with stuff like: “roses are red, violets are blue”. I wasn’t sure about showing him my versions before he’d done his as I didn’t want to discourage him. Yet, at the same time, I thought a few examples might be helpful. After all, through the centuries the apprentice has observed the master at work and then had a go. Student artists would copy the Master’s work as an exercise in how to learn techniques. It wasn’t a crime.

Anyway, I opted for showing him because I figured he knows I’m a writer/poet and that’s my strength just like he is good at Maths (especially where no English is in involved). He’s also quite quick to point out my weaknesses.

Much to my excitement, he emerged from his room with his poem: Through My Window. I was really impressed and incredibly proud and not just because I’m his Mum either! He needed some help with layout and punctuation and meeting the teacher’s check list but he wrote it.

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Happy Birthday Miss!

 

I know I’ve probably got this all back to front but this week we celebrated our daughter’s 10th Birthday. Yes, she’s finally reached double figures. She is among the youngest in her year at school and so she feels like she’s forever playing catch up. Unfortunately, celebrations were fairly low key so far. She was sick the day before and had the day off school but did manage to feel better for a birthday dinner at McDonald’s. She doesn’t like cake and so she had a Chocolate Bavarian as her birthday cake which I decorated with strawberries. I felt so slack but I’d also had a touch of her stomach bug and was feeling green half the day myself.

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Miss and BB8.

The big excitement on her birthday was receiving BB8, the droid from the latest Star Wars Movie. I wrote about him here: BB8: Welcome to Our World He operates from the iPad, which works like a touch screen remote control. Although I’m a serious technophobe, BB8 even whirled straight into my heart with his chirpy electronic bleeps and his eloquent command of the English language:

“Aggressive life forms detected”…This was the dogs.

“Debris detected”. This was the waste paper bin.

“Unidentified humanoid life forms detected”…us.

“Distress signal detected”…BB8’s head had fallen off.

I am still in the process of putting together a slide show of her first 10 years but while gathering photos, strayed across this letter I wrote to Big Brother about the impending arrival of his Little Sister in three days time. I was stoked to find it.

So, it’s been a big week.

Somehow, I also managed to head over to  Carrot Ranch. for their weekly flash fiction challenge. You have to write 99 words on the set topic…no more, no less. This week’s topic was: Diversity.

I am quite intrigued with cultural diversity in ourselves. After all, so many of us is a mix of different ethnic groups. In Mirror! Mirror!  I wrote about an Australian Indigenous woman who’d been told she had Indian heritage as a child to conceal her heritage. She was also told to stay out of the sun to, in effect, “stay white”. This wasn’t so much fiction but what friends have told me. However, I did come up with the idea of her tracing her features in the mirror…something we all do. I sometimes look in the mirror and see my Great Grandmother staring back at me as I get older.

Well, for so much for having Coffee to Go tonight. I’ve certainly been chatting for quite awhile. However, if you speak to my kids, they’ll tell you that’s no surprise. You could say that I’m a bit of a talker. Indeed, that I can talk underwater.

So, what have you been up to?

So, thank you for joining me for coffee and I hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to catching up.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster Part-Time Monster.Here’s the linky

xx Rowena

Beyond the Call of Duty: Australia’s War Time Prime Minister.

Last week, I shared about helping my son out with his project about Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin. I also mentioned that I’d become so interested in that period in our history, that I just had to do a project of my own, resulting in a couple of posts for the blog. Otherwise, I knew I’d do his assignment for him and both he and his teacher would be after me. .

Here’s my previous post: WWII What I Learned From My Son’s Homework  https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/australia-during-wwii-what-i-learned-from-my-sons-homework/

Thank you blog. You provided me with that much needed blank canvas to paint my own word portrait of Prime Minister John Curtin, whose selfless and passionate commitment to our country and our freedom, ultimately claimed his own life when he died in office.

This isn’t going to be some stuffy history essay but more of an informal portrait of the man I discovered.

John Curtin Becomes Prime Minister-  7th October, 1941.

On 7th October, 1941, John Curtin became our 14th Australian Prime Minister. Being new to the job, I’m sure he would have appreciated a few weeks to settle in before the proverbial @#$% hit the fan at full blast. After all, we all know what it’s like to start a new job. You’ve got to find the bathroom, the lunchroom and get to know a bunch of strangers. Naturally, you’d like to have enough time to get on top of all of that before you faced a major challenge.

John Curtin at his desk in The Lodge

John Curtin at his desk in The Lodge

However, when John Curtin came into office, Australia was already at war.  Then, on the 7th December 1941 only 6 weeks into the job, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. A day later, the Pacific War was declared. His headaches didn’t get any better as the  Japanese forces swept across the South Pacific and country after fell like tumbling dominoes . Australia was obviously facing a severe security threat and being “The Boss” he was at the helm. It was ultimately his job to save the country.

Yikes! What a job! I certainly wouldn’t want to be in his shoes! They were such big shoes that  quite frankly, my feet would have been swimming laps.

Australian War Time Poster.

Australian War Time Poster.

The War in the Pacific

Although I studied Australian History at university, there are always gaps. You can’t know everything. Despite studying the Causes of the Russian Revolution twice and the same with the Causes of World War I, I never studied the actual course of either World War. Of course, I knew the big events and had heard family stories. However, the magnitude of what was going on only hit home once I drew up a time line of events for my son, which suddenly connected a disparate group of dots and formed a much more cohesive picture.

A damn scary picture if you, like my grandmother, were living in Brisbane in 1942!

I was also reminded over and over again that while it’s all very well looking at history through the benefit of hindsight, the person on the street had no crystal ball. They had no idea how the war would end or who would win and everything was pretty much hanging in the balance.

Defending Australia.

Defending Australia is still challenging with it’s vast coastline and comparatively low population. John Curtin was looking at defending a mainland coastline of  35,876 km with a population of only 7,180,736 and most of our troops were off fighting Hitler. The situation as dire.

Put simply, our entire defensive strategy rested on the British and their base in Singapore and while our focus was naturally on the Pacific War, Britain was wanting to beat Hitler first.

In a famous article in The Melbourne Herald on December 27, 1941, Mr Curtin insisted that Australia “refused to accept the dictum that the Pacific struggle was a subordinate segment of the general conflict”. HV Evatt later reflected: “Certainly, Mr Curtin’s words, if read fairly, were in no sense critical of Britain; on the contrary, they merely stressed the principle that as Mr Churchill was resolved that Britain should never fall to the enemy, Mr Curtin was equally resolved that ~Australia shall not go”….The Courier Mail, 14th November, 1950 pg 2.

Before the Fall of Singapore, Australia looked to Britain for our national security. Like some desperate gambler placing all their chips on one number, Australia’s defense rested on Singapore and the bulk of our troops were over in the Middle East under Churchill. However, John Curtin realising this enormous risk, took Churchill on and brought the bulk of our troops home.

The Fall of Singapore.

The Fall of Singapore.

The fighting in Singapore lasted from 8 to 15 February 1942. It resulted in the capture of Singapore by the Japanese and the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history.About 85,000 British, Indian and Australian troops became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken by the Japanese in the earlier Malayan Campaign. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the ignominious fall of Singapore to the Japanese the “worst disaster” and “largest capitulation” in British military history.

Bombing of Darwin

Bombing of Darwin

Four days later, on 19 February, 1942 the Japanese substantially bombed Darwin. The Bombing of Darwin, also known as the Battle of Darwin,  was both the first and the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. On this day, 242 Japanese aircraft attacked ships in Darwin’s harbour and the town’s two airfields in an attempt to prevent the Allies from using them as bases to contest the invasions of Timor and Java. The town was only lightly defended and the Japanese inflicted heavy losses upon the Allied forces at little cost to themselves. The urban areas of Darwin also suffered some damage from the raids and there were a number of civilian casualties. The two raids killed at least 243 people and between 300 and 400 were wounded. Twenty military aircraft were destroyed, eight ships at anchor in the harbour were sunk, and most civil and military facilities in Darwin were destroyed.

The raids were the first and largest of almost 100 air raids against Australia during 1942–43.

While Britain’s approach to the two-pronged war was to beat Hitler first, in March 1942, Australia’s salvation came when President Franklin Roosevelt  ordered General Douglas MacArthur, commander of US forces in the Philippines, to organise Pacific defense with Australia. Curtin agreed to Australian forces coming under the overall command of MacArthur and passed the responsibility for strategic decision-making onto MacArthur who was titled Supreme Commander of the South West Pacific. From MacArthur’s point of view this was a workable alliance – he told Curtin to ‘take care of the rear and I will handle the front’.

This was a dramatic shift in our defence strategy and a very gutsy and heroic move.

Yet, Curtin’s headaches continued.

Japanese midget submarine retrieved after attack on Sydney Harbour.

Japanese midget submarine retrieved after attack on Sydney Harbour.

On the night of 31 May – 1 June, three Japanese midget submarines, each with a two-member crew, entered Sydney Harbour, avoided the partially constructed Sydney Harbour anti-submarine boom net, and attempted to sink Allied warships. Two of the midget submarines were detected and attacked before they could successfully engage any Allied vessels, and the crews scuttled their boats and committed suicide. These submarines were later recovered by the Allies. The third submarine attempted to torpedo the heavy cruiser USS Chicago, but instead sank the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 sailors.

As history records, however, eventually the tide began to turn and the dominoes started to fall in our favour.

Yet, the stress of the war had taken a major toll on Prime Minister John Curtin. On 3 November 1944, after one of his rare breaks at his home in Perth, he suffered a major heart attack in Melbourne on the long train journey back to Canberra. When he was strong enough he was driven back to Canberra to complete his recovery. On 8 January 1945, he celebrated his 60th birthday at The Lodge. Although he returned to parliament in February, Curtin was by no means back to normal.

On 18 April 1945, he moved the parliament’s motion of condolence on the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. Soon after, severe lung congestion forced him back into hospital. Deputy Prime Minister Frank Forde was in San Francisco and Ben Chifley was acting Prime Minister. It fell to Chifley to announce the end of the war in Europe on 9 May 1945.

Curtin was released from hospital on 22 May. That day he was driven back to The Lodge, and he and Elsie Curtin strolled in the garden together for photographers. They then walked back into The Lodge together for the last time.

On 5 July, 1945 John Curtin died at The Lodge, just six weeks before the end of the war in the Pacific. That he didn’t live to see the end of the war in which he fought so hard, maybe not out in the trenches with “our boys” and the women who supported them as nurses etc but he gave his heart, his mind and this battle ultimately consumed him. Naturally, there were a multitude of tributes when he passed away and I’ve chosen to quote the one that best represents my thoughts:

“The Prime Minister saw his country through deadly invasion peril and sacrificed his health in his intense devotion to the national defence. He saw to it that literally everyone had a war job and the nation entered it’s national defence with the fervour and energy which characterise its activities in national causes.”

– The New York Herald Tribune.

What an incredible man and I’m so glad I took the time to get to know him better.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share: 25th October, 2015

If we were having coffee or indeed decaf something because it’s getting late, I’d be offering you one of my home-made Choc Chip & Macadamia Nut Cookies. They’re not long out of the oven and they’re absolutely scrumptious…much better than the Vegemite toast I offered you last week and was almost universally rejected.

My husband isn’t much of a Vegemite lover either and disapprovingly calls it “axle grease”. However, he’s become a bit of a convert this week as that infamous Aussie Vegemite sandwich makes a great decoy for the dog’s tablets.

In case you haven’t met our dogs, we have two dogs, Bilbo and Lady. Bilbo is a 9 year old Border Collie who is completely and utterly ball obsessed and I must say a little on the anxious side. The crazy mutt with go and stand outside in the rain until he’s completely and utterly soaked but traditionally wouldn’t get his paws wet at the beach let alone go for a swim. With increased exposure and watching more than a couple of his cherished balls float away, he’ll now go about paw deep but that’s it. He certainly wouldn’t make a good Lifesaver.

Lady being quite the "dog hog" taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before I intervened. I'm sure many blokes who've lost the doona mid-winter would say: "typical woman". I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the "Tramp".

Lady being quite the “dog hog” taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before I intervened. I’m sure many blokes who’ve lost the doona mid-winter would say: “typical woman”. I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the “Tramp”.

Lady is a 3 year old Border Collie x Cavalier. She’s basically black with patches of white on her chest and paws. We’ve only had her for a year and she comes from a farm up around Tenterfield. Her paperwork says that she’s a “working dog” but to be perfectly honest, that dog hasn’t done a day’s work in her life…unless it involves hunting rabbits. At the time we found Lady, Bilbo was slowing down and really wasn’t looking great. We’d lost our last Border Collie when he was 8 and so we decided to get a cross-over dog. However, it seemed that Bilbo perked up with Lady around and has lost about 15 kilos and while he’s not moving around like a pup, he really has had a new lease of life.

However, the downside of Lady’s arrival was that she introduced the most indestructible fleas on the planet to poor Bilbo, who’s never had a flea allergy before in his life and suddenly his skin went ultra berserk. Thursday night, he seemed to have a temperature and his eyes were a bit bloodshot and he was clearly unwell.

Friday, he was off to the vet and I was really becoming concerned. I was thinking back to when I’d taken our last Border Collie to the vet simply because he wasn’t eating and it turned out that he had a tumour. I asked how long he had left and I was thinking 6 months but then she said a few days and even suggested putting him to sleep. I just couldn’t grasp that he was that sick and took him home. Emotionally, I felt like I’d been shot in the heart but as I said, the news really hadn’t sunk in.

Fortunately, the news for Bilbo was nowhere near as grim and he’s been given cortisone and antibiotics…and the Vegemite sandwiches.

Bilbo appropriating another dog's ball.

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

I can’t help wondering what he thinks about all of this. Cortizone is a powerful drug and he’s on 40mg per day. I was told that he’d feel hungry and thirsty but I’m also wondering whether he’s getting any of the side-effects I’ve had on prednisone and whether he’s euphoric, angry and even though I didn’t think his ball obsession could get any worse, an addict on steriods is a very scary prospect indeed.

He’s a smart dog and I can just imagine him thinking: “Hey they don’t make those Vegemite sandwiches quite like they used to!

He’s starting to look a bit better but it’s going to take awhile for his crowning glory to get back into shape. He currently looks dreadful.

Aside from looking after the dog this week, I’ve been coughing badly again and it’s been driving me nuts. Seems that I don’t have an infection and it’s viral and so no point with the antibiotics but I’ve gone back on the nebuliser which helped…along with the fruit smoothies. I am feeling a bit better.

Prime Minister John Curtin

Prime Minister John Curtin

In between falling apart, we’ve been working on my son’s assignment on Australian Prime Minister John Curtin. John Curtin was in office 1941-1945 but died roughly six months before the end of the Pacific War after the stress undermined his health. I am a Curtin and all my life people have asked me whether I’m related to that John Curtin. Well, it now turns out that I’m not but we do have a few other John Curtin’s in our family so all wasn’t lost.

I became quite engrossed in his assignment so rather than completely taking over and undermining what he was doing, I wrote a post about how much a parent should be helping their child with their homework and am working on a post going into a brief overview of his time in office.

Here’s the first post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/australia-during-wwii-what-i-learned-from-my-sons-homework/

If we were having coffee, I would ask you if you have been reading any good books lately.

This week I made a decent start of Stephen King’s writing memoir: On Writing (Scribner, 2000). I’ve never read any of his fiction but I am really enjoying his writing style in this book and it has some great tips including:

“If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far.”

Anyway, I have to head off now as I have an early start.

I hope you’ve had a great week and I ;look forward to catching up on your news tomorrow when I drop in for coffee at your place.

Here’s the linky: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=575563

xx Rowena

PS: Have you ever considered the irony that people who love animals want to be vets and yet aside from the posty, who do animals fear most? The Vet is like the canine equivalent of us going to the dentist!