Dylan Poon

"Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you"

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Independent Novel Study Speech: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

On July 20th, 1969, the first astronauts touched down on the moon, changing the distant, unknowable orb in the sky into one of humanity’s greatest achievements. The historic moon landing inspired many people, including a young Canadian boy from a small town, who then set their sights on the stars. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is an autobiography by Chris Hadfield about the path to becoming an astronaut, outlining the struggles and successes of his journey. By reading Hadfield’s story, we come to realize that a core value that defines Canadian Identity is to face the adversities that block us from our goals.

Chris Hadfield was born on August 29th, 1959 in Sarnia where he grew up on a corn farm with his siblings. After watching the moon landing, he became determined to become an astronaut, aware that if Canada had a space agency, his odds would still be impossibly small. Chris returned to school from his summer break, reinvigorated with his aspirations, realizing that even the small decisions he made now mattered in the future. As he grew, he was thrown into enrichment programs, learning to think “more critically and analytically, to question rather than to simply get the right answers” (4). His high education, partnered with his values in hard work, carried him past the challenges he faced and straight into Air Cadets, a pre-requisite for becoming an astronaut.

At the time, the Canadian Government had not started up a new space agency, but Chris still pursued his goal. Now 19, Hadfield learned how to fly planes and enrolled in a military college, since the “route to NASA was via the military” (6). A few years later after graduating from the college, Chris got married, still persisting towards his goal. He moved with his family from Ontario to Saskatchewan, beginning jet training with the Canadian Army. However, moving was hard; a recession hung the threat of bankruptcy over their heads. Although flying planes was a step along the path to Chris’ final goal, he saw it as a learning opportunity and persisted through the toughest of times. However, knowing that his chances were still improbable, he made sure to avoid hanging all his self worth on his dream, but still pursued it for the ‘just in case’ scenario.

The year was 1983, and luckily for Chris, his chances for fulfilling his life-long dream went from nothing, to a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel; Canada had opened the Canadian Space Agency and selected it’s first six astronauts. Chris kept flying fighter jets for the military but began to worry about his road taken. The first astronauts chosen by the CSA were all scientists, not pilots. He had already committed to the traditional American path to becoming an astronaut, and there was no going back. Thinking into the future, Chris decided to complete a master’s degree in aviation systems at the University of Tennessee, just in case the CSA began to hire again.

The CSA posted an ad in the newspaper: Astronauts Wanted. Chris scrambled to assemble a resume; his chance at a life-long dream had dropped from unlikely to a 1 in 5329 chance. Five months after submitting, 1 in 500. Then 1 in 100. 1 in 50. 20. 10. After an intense selection process and months of radio silence, Chris received a call from the CSA, asking if he wanted to be an astronaut.

By reading Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, we learn about the life of a boy with a dream who tells us that as Canadians, we can persist and face our challenges to achieve our goals. With hard-work and perseverance, Chris Hadfield showed the world that the 9-year-old boy who stared into the sky on that fateful night was not just a dreamer, but a dreamer with an iron will.

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Socials Blog Post: John A. Macdonald

Dylan Poon

Mr. Morris

May 7, 2019

John A. Macdonald: A Shameful Disgrace

Statues of historical figures should commemorate eminent people and represent our role models, exemplifying the positive aspects of our collective history. Recently, in a time of indigenous reconciliation, people began to reconsider the need for outdated historical figures represented in the public sphere. Over the past two years, a debate started regarding the inclusion of John A. Macdonald’s memorialization in statues, schools, and other public institutions. While some claim that Macdonald’s actions against minorities in Canada merit an erasure, others believe that “it’s important that we recognize our history – the good and bad” (McKenna). Despite the many great accomplishments Macdonald has done for our country, John A. Macdonald’s name and likeness should be removed from the public sphere, due to his racial insensitivity towards Canada’s First Nations people, and the presence of insensitive values that no longer reflect our own.

John A. Macdonald’s wrongdoings against indigenous minorities in Canada is inexcusable. His insensitivity towards the indigenous people show a perfect example of who he truly is. Before Macdonald ever set foot into Canada, European settlers who traveled to North America in the 1600’s created a treaty with the First Nations people called the Two Row Wampum; a peace treaty that signaled “hope for peaceful coexistence and [spoke] of a river journey where settlers and Indigenous peoples [traveled] side by side, accepting each other’s history and laws” (Farber). However, Macdonald completely ignored the existence of this treaty, engaging in “crimes against humanity, if not outright genocide” (Farber). Macdonald and his government used starvation to drive the First Nation’s people of the prairies into reserves and brought upon thousands of disease-related deaths, calling his policies and actions “ethnic cleansing” (Daschuk). In addition to this, Macdonald implemented residential schools in Canada. Residential schools were schools that forcibly removed First Nations children from their families and culture, and imposed western ideals onto them, attempting to erase their culture by forbidding them from acknowledging their heritage. Many children who were forced into residential schools were also abused and sometimes sexually assaulted. This caused disruptions in the traditions of the First Nations people, as not only were oral traditions silenced, but children were being taken from their culture, making it difficult to pass down traditions. Due to the lack of respect Macdonald showed towards indigenous people, we should be apologizing for the horrible acts committed against the First Nations peoples by removing Macdonald from the public sphere.

Contrary to this, those who agree with keeping Macdonald in the public sphere might argue that even though Macdonald’s views are not acceptable in our times, many people shared the same views at the time. Though this is true, Macdonald’s views stand out against those of the same time period. He was the only politician to ever refer to Canadians as an ‘Aryan Race’, and additionally referred to Chinese people as mongrels and First Nations as savages. In the 1870s Macdonald placed a rule that stated that “No Chinaman or Indian” people could vote, despite British Columbia’s population being made up of mostly Chinese immigrants and First Nations people (Macdonald). In addition, the racism considered normal in the 1800’s is not acceptable in our time, no matter how extreme the view, since our society has changed to become more sensitive. Keeping John A. Macdonald’s statues up means that we still somehow agree with the values that Macdonald held, even though they are severely outdated. By taking down the statues and names that honor Macdonald, we are acknowledging that we have moved forwards from a time where racism and white supremacism was common, and that we do not support John A. Macdonald’s perspective on races.

With the debate continuing as strongly as ever, people are split about whether our first Prime Minister should be honored or taken out of the public sphere. Due to Macdonald’s irreversible actions against the First Nations people, and his extreme lack of respect for non-white populations, John A. Macdonald deserves to have his statues and names removed out of respect for the indigenous peoples. Since we should not erase him from history due to educational purposes, it is still reasonable to be “honest and [tell] the truth” in textbooks and museums (Bellegarde). Therefore, we should remove the statues from the public, but display them in an unbiased, educational light. John A. Macdonald may have been a nation-builder and our first Prime Minister but his record of racism and genocide makes him unfit for memorialization.

 

Citations:

The Residential School System. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_residential_school_system/

Dangerfield, K. (2018, September 06). Majority of Canadians say statues of John A. Macdonald should stay put: Survey. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://globalnews.ca/news/4430598/sir-john-a-macdonald-statue-removal-survey/

In debate over first PM’s legacy, vast majority say John A. Macdonald’s name, image should stay in public view. (2018, October 12). Retrieved May 9, 2019, from http://angusreid.org/macdonald-reconciliation/

Rabson, M. (2018, August 17). ‘You can’t erase history’: McKenna weighs in on removal of statues like Sir John A. Macdonald. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://globalnews.ca/news/4389453/catherine-mckenna-sir-john-a-macdonald-statue-removal/

Farber, B. M., MacDonald, D. B., & Dan, M. (2018, August 21). Should statues of Sir John A. Macdonald be removed? Yes. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/thebigdebate/2018/08/21/should-statues-of-sir-john-a-macdonald-be-removed-yes.html

Ballingall, A. (2017, August 24). Sir John A. Macdonald: Architect of genocide or Canada’s founding father? Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/08/24/john-a-macdonald-schools-should-be-renamed-elementary-teachers-union.html

 

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In-Depth Blog Post #6: The Final Post

The end of the In-Depth Project is beginning to draw near, and as I begin to look back on my progress, I can confidently say that I have come a long way since the start of the project. Over the last few weeks, I have been working on one project that combines just about everything I have learned so far into one big amalgamation of code, otherwise known as a much more complex game. In total, it took me about 48 hours of coding, and 3 mentor meetings to ask for help and hints.


Status Update:


Tappy Defender:

The final project I have worked on is Tappy Defender. Using assets given to me by my mentor, I had to piece together a game based on the sample end product my mentor had given me. Since this project was so much harder, requiring me to utilize every tool in my skill set, my mentor also had to step in here and there to guide me towards the final product.

Here is a list of everything I had to use from my previous projects:

My First App: Putting stuff on the screen

Movement Testing: Making stuff move

Animated Movement Testing: Animations and landscape screen orientation

Snake Game: Reaction to player inputs and dividing the screen into buttons

Parallax Scrolling: Layering and parallax

Heading and Rotation: Displaying variables on screen

Scrolling Space Shooter: Setting boundaries

Space Invaders: Making collision checks

Breakout: Edit code and debug programs

The hardest and final project has been finished, after a ton of effort. Until In-Depth night, I will be working on furthering my understanding, and looking into some of the roadblocks I have faced while making this project.


How to Have a Beautiful Mind:


Concepts In My Mentor Meetings:

During all of my mentor meetings, the main concept that I had been trying to learn was coding, through the use of practical projects, which taught me the concept. Additionally, the way that coding is structured requires there to be a collection on concepts that come together to make the concept of coding, such as placing objects on the screen, moving objects, interacting with objects through the screen and many others.

Alternatives:

In the past few meetings specifically, I have been offered many more alternatives, since I have moved into a slightly more autonomous style of completing my final project. My mentor has told me that as long as the code works and completes it’s role, there is not one set way to do it, meaning that I am free to an almost endless amount of alternatives. For example, when I was trying to implement the background into the app, I used a different way than what my mentor had expected. However, since it worked, he was fine with this. Another alternative I was given was the way I would learn the coding. My mentor asked me if I wanted to go through each project slowly together, or have him introduce each project and then let me go and puzzle through the project and ask for help when I needed it. Since I chose to go through on my own, I feel that I have gained a whole lot more than if I had slowly gone through each project with my mentor. Another mentor might have offered me something more structured and formal, introducing everything I needed to know before even starting, such as how to set variables, how to create inputs, how to make objects move, and how to debug. Though it would have given me an early payoff in having an immediate understanding, I would not have gained as much from learning strict rules and applications.


Learning Center:


My goal with my learning center is to be able to explain how I learned to code, as well as explain how the code works in a basic format. With my learning center, I plan to explain what I have done and how the code works up front and center, using my phone with all the apps I have made as a centerpiece. I will also have my computer readily available with all the code that I want to showcase. Using a tri-fold, I will also showcase the process that each app goes through to become more refined. To make an engaging and interactive experience, I will mark off areas of my code that can have variables changed, and in real time, show the differences in the apps once the changes are made. The people visiting my learning center will have the chance to firstly learn how the code is all put together, then see the differences made when variables are changed and finally, be able to try out the apps I have made.


That’s all for my In-Depth Posts. I am looking forward to In-Depth Night!

 

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Socials Blog Post: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Reading through Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth has sparked some interest in the concepts being discussed in the novel. Here are five passages that I have enjoyed the most so far.

Quote #1:

“I also knew, as did every kid in Canada, that it was impossible. Astronauts were American. NASA only accepted applications from U.S. citizens, and Canada didn’t even have a space agency. But … just the day before, it had been impossible to walk on the Moon.” (3)

At some point when everyone was young, they probably had the dream of becoming an astronaut. The thing that is interesting about this quote however, is that Chris Hadfield’s dream did come true, despite everything working against his favor. As someone who has had an intense interest in space exploration as well as becoming an astronaut, I find it inspiring how Chris managed to overcome not only the odds, such as NASA only hiring Canadians, but additionally, pursuing the dream that most people drop due to the seemingly impossible odds. Furthermore, seeing how much astronaut hiring has evolved over the years from an exclusive job for the lucky to a more widespread job requiring training, hard work and determination is inspiring, and has likely caused more youth nowadays to understand the value of persistence.

This quote shows us that around the time of the moon landing up until recently, Canada has simply been seen as a lesser version of America. The fact that Canada and America were seen as almost the same thing, except that Americans had more opportunity, is seen evidently, when Chris Hadfield as a child knows that he cannot reach his dream of becoming an astronaut since he is a Canadian. This reveals that Canadians valued being ‘American’, wanting the same things, but knowing that they could never have them. Recently, Canada has been trying to come out from America’s shadow, and the values have shifted towards being ‘not American’, meaning that Canada is trying to establish themselves as an independent nation.

Quote #2:

“An astronaut is someone who’s able to make good decisions quickly, with incomplete information, when the consequences really matter. I didn’t miraculously become one either, after eight days in space.” (28)

As mentioned earlier, I had the dream to become an astronaut as a child, so reading this quote reveals to me a lot about the kind of skills needed to become an astronaut. I personally identify with this quote as well, since I am trying to learn how to make good decisions through experiential learning. On the recent kayaking trip, I believe I improved my decision making skills, as well as had the determination to keep going in the face of a problem when the wind and weather prevented us from going to our camping spot safely. In addition, I found that I have a strong point in determination, and seeing how far Chris Hadfield was able to go with a willingness to learn and some perseverance is extremely motivating to me.

To me, a core value that defines Canadians has been determination to meet goals and show growth. Chris Hadfield had that determination to follow his goals no matter what, even though the odds seemed impossible. By doing everything that Chris thought an astronaut would do, he was able to prepare himself to step up and become the person he is today. This showed growth, just as Canada has shown throughout it’s history. When Canada was a collection of separated colonies, they all had the same goal; to survive against the newly independent American colonists. To move towards that goal, the colonies decided to confederate and grow to rise up to the challenge, similarly to Hadfield and his challenge.

Quote #3:

“Helping to install Canadarm2 and playing a part in building this permanent human habitat off our planet – which is all the more remarkable because it has required the participation and cooperation of 15 nations – made me feel like a contributing, competent astronaut.” (33)

I found this quote relevant and interesting, since it gave some more insight into how it feels to be an astronaut. As a kid, I had always wondered what being in space physically felt like, but never considered the emotions that would come with being an astronaut, especially one that would have to stay in a space station for months on end. Reading this book, I have gained much more insight into what emotions and thoughts would be floating around inside the head of an astronaut. In addition,  chapter the quote is in is about how astronauts think differently than everyone else, and seeing how I could change my own thinking to become more constructive is inspiring.

This quote reveals that even back when this space mission was taking place, Canada wanted to be known as a collaborative and helpful nation. This is proven by the existence of the Canadarm and Canadarm2, which are physical evidence of the hard work and dedication to international space missions that Canada has. It also shows how Canadians, though multicultural, still have a shared patriotic value, shown when Chris is picked to install the Canadarm2 as a Canadian astronaut. In recent events, Canada has been trying to prove itself even more in international projects such as the Lunar Gateway Program, which is a NASA led project to send a station to orbit the moon.

Quote #4:

“No one wants to go to space with a jerk. But at some point, you just have to accept the people in your crew […]” (102)

Personally, this quote reminded me of entering the TALONS program, but more so entering MACC for my first ever ‘gifted class’. When going into MACC, I knew few people, and tried to stick to the people that I knew from my elementary. However, I realized after a while that it would be better for me to get to know more people, and come out of my shell a bit more. When entering TALONS, I knew that I had to consider this again, but foolishly, still stuck with the people I knew from MACC. Reading this quote, I realize that I could have had more of the positive interactions I have with my peers now earlier in the two years I have spent in TALONS.

This quote also reflects a main part of Canadian identity. Canada is known to be a multicultural nation, and embraces the fact that it is a welcoming place. Drawing parallels between going to space and living in Canada is quite easy. In Canada, we have all learned to accept one another, and share a common value in having a lot of diverse ethnic groups. As an immigrant country, we have no choice in the people that live here with us, but understand and accept that our diversity makes us unique. Similarly, going to space requires that the astronauts understand and accept one another, and be open to working cooperatively with people that they do not know.

Quote #5:

“The life of an astronaut is one of simulating, practicing and anticipating, trying to build the necessary skills and create the correct mind-set. But ultimately, it’s all pretend.” (172)

I found this quote very insightful into the lifestyle of astronauts, as before reading this, I thought that while they were not in space, they were down on the ground relaxing. In reality, they constantly need to keep training, and only now have I realized how hard it must be. With this in mind, I now see where many people might give up while trying to become an astronaut. In addition, I now understand why the testing process to become an astronaut is so difficult and refined; space agencies need people who will not slack off, are physically and mentally fit, and are good problem solvers.

As a child, Chris Hadfield had to make smart decisions to start to guide himself on the path to becoming an astronaut, even though there was almost no way he could at the time. Now, Canada has their own space agency (CSA), and have shown that they are wanting to be more active in space exploration. Even though Canada could not give chances to go to space, the value instilled in the youth still caused them to want to try, thus leading to being serious about training and practice. This shows us that the people of Canada have wanted Canada to be it’s own nation, rather than ‘a lesser America’, and would be determined to try and act upon their goals.

Theme:

Early success can often lead to failure in tough situations.

As stated again and again in this book, Chris Hadfield had to work to get to where he is. In his youth, he did not experience much success, but rather learned how to learn. When he crashed a tractor into a metal bar, his father made him learn how to weld it back together to make it known that “things are never as bad or as good as they seem at the time” (10). By teaching Chris that he needed to learn from his failures, Chris was ready to face challenges in astronaut training, where “even the most gifted person in the world will, at some point during astronaut training, cross a threshold where it’s no longer possible to wing it” (100). In conclusion, early success is “essentially being rewarded for a lack of preparation” (100).

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