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Daryl Anderson (Trumansburg, NY USA)

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1918 War And Peace
1918 War And Peace
by Gregor Dallas
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 5.82

2.0 out of 5 stars Anglophilia run Amuck, May 20 2004
Ce commentaire est de: 1918 War And Peace (Hardcover)
What a year 1918 was on the western front! 1917 had experienced the mutinous near-collapse of the French Armies, the economic near-collapse of the British Empire, and the actual collapse of the Tsar's Russia. The first was only quelled by Marshall Petain's promise to his army to sit-tight until the Americans came, and the second by the gargantuan financial and munitions assistance provided by those same Americans. In the spring of the new year the Germans gathered divisions freed from the war now ended in the East and proceeded to almost win the war in the west with their Kaiserschlacht in the spring of 1918. Its quite a history, and I picked-up this book in hopes of finding more of it fleshed-out.
Instead I found history rewritten and the American contributions not just downplayed but actively mocked.
I eventually stopped reading this absurdly biased book when I got to the part (early on) where the author scorns the AEF, the U.S. forces, for losing 9000 men in their first day of fighting in the Argonne - a rate of loss he claims to be higher than anything else in the war. Have the 60,000 lost by the British on the first day of The Somme been relegated to the memory hole? Can the four years of bungled leadership and slaughter of the French and British armies be ignored: a British army whose courage is certain, but whose history of losses is bitterly encapsulated by a phrase describing their decimation in the first months of the war as "The First 100,000." For almost any day of actual battle that the British generals sent their men forward nine-thousand lost was trumpeted as a smashing victory!
This pathetic attempt to highlight Pershing's flaws leading the AEF over the genocide committed upon British soldiery by Haig and upon the French by Joffre and Foch and Nivelle was enough for me to realize that Mr. Dallas is of that breed of monomaniacally Anglophile WWI historians who occupy a special roost amongst the vultures picking at the corpses of the prior century. Factor in Dallas's apparent amnesia with respect to one of history's most infamous slaughters and one must wonder at what, exactly he might be fleshing out except the long-dead corpse of British martial and imperial glory.
Rather than trust your own background on the war to allow reading this fat book with balance, consider some others instead:
(a) Dallas holds the Germans 110% responsible for the war. Read Niall Ferguson's "The Pity of War" instead for a view that strongly supports the idea the Brits need not have entered the war at all and did so through the sly manipulation of fact and public opinion. Read McCullough's "How the First World War Began" for a detailed look at the manipulations of British and French militarists in the 20 years prior to 1914. For that matter read David Fromkin's "Europe's Last Summer" for a more studied view, albeit one leading to the same conclusion as Dallas.
(b) Dallas considers the Americans to be bumpkins and military incompetents. For alternative views read Mosier's "The Myth of the Great War" (or almost any contemporaneous German military report of their reaction to the arrival of one million fresh American troops on the front). Even Fleming's "The Illusion of Victory" presents a more considered view within its critique of the Wilson government's trampling of liberties at home to feed the hungry maw of the Franco-British war machine.
(c) Dallas considers the leadership of the British war effort to have been an astute bunch. For alternative views consider Laffin's "British Butchers and Bunglers of WWI" or Denis Winter's "Haig's Command." For anglophilia that at least honors not the butchers but those who actually fought and died read any of Lyn MacDonald's books.
I admit I never got to the parts of this book where it, presumably, treats with the armistice and the creation of the peace. It seems certain that you'd do better to read Fromkin's "A Peace to End all Peace", or the aforementioned Fleming book, or Macmillan's "Paris, 1919: Six Months that Changed the World."
Two stars for a good example of how malleable history can be at the hands of apologists for fools.

To the Last Man: Spring 1918
To the Last Man: Spring 1918
by Lyn MacDonald
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 14.92

4.0 out of 5 stars Dead Men Tell no Tales - The Eloquence of Survival, April 28 2004
Lyn MacDonald's growing collection of books about World War I are unique in many respects and all are well worth a read - for both the student of the war and for readers only casually interested in the period.
From the point of view of a military historian, the war in 1918 was itself unique with its return to mobile warfare that had otherwise only existed at the outset of the war, with the arrival of U.S. forces on the fronts, and with the incorporation of new weapons technologies and tactical approaches on the battlefield. It was also unique as the year in which many felt the war might be won by the Germans but in which, ultimately, the conflict ended with German defeat.
MacDonald's view is not that of a military historian, her book captures few of these elements. But it nevertheless casts a powerfully refracted light on the nature of the war in 1918 by the approach she takes. Hers is a "ground-level" view, seen through the many eyes of the soldiers who fought through that chaotic springtime of war.
As in many of her previous titles, MacDonald builds her history upon the actual words of combatants. These are the voices of the soldiers who fought. The book is more than an anthology of narratives, though. MacDonald does an excellent job of weaving the individual views into a well-told story. Although big-picture views are rare, she does a nice job of depicting individual experiences and local battles from many different points of view. It is rare to find the military history "microscope" focused at this particular scale.
Unlike prior books of hers that I have read, "...1918" is not limited to the perspectives of the British combatants. MacDonald has made a clear effort to incorporate the archived words of German soldiers by way of a small collection of such documents which were provided to her in translation. Nevertheless, her anglophile leanings are still quite evident and detract from the sense that the book is a balanced view. U.S., French and German soldiers are only a small part of this story.
Interestingly I found that this book offers much more of one element that you might expect the military historians to excel at - maps! There are more maps-per-page in this book than the best of John Keegan. Local details, right down to the farmhouses and roadways, abound, and add to your appreciation of the battle situations described by the combatants.
In addition to the small critique above that the book is Brit-focused, I have to note one other element of bias that might seem almost tautological in a book like this: most of the stories are those of survivors.
Just as history written by the victors is often skewed history, war as viewed by the survivors seems inevitably tempered by the reality of having "gotten through it." MacDonald does sprinkle her story with contemporaneous writings of soldiers who did survive (and some who did not), but many of the accounts are from a retrospective viewpoint that is clearly colored by time. Just as rich men often only recall their own hard work, and pontificate about generic success deriving from hard work alone, survivors of warfare can, in the process of healing physical and emotional scars, of going on with life, gloss over their own or their buddies' weaker moments.
There is also an inevitable "selection" factor that an approach like MacDonald's can't overcome. Those who came back from the war unwilling or unable to talk about what they experienced cannot contribute their silence to a book like this. In his book "Back to the Front", Stephen O'Shea can only indirectly discover the experience of his own stubbornly silent grandfathers, and his developing sense of the horror of that experience contrasts sharply with the overall tone of MacDonald's work.
If one can adapt to these limitations of approach, "To The Last Man: Spring 1918" is a fine book, excellently written and illustrated, which brings to life the desperate final months of the war that gave birth to the modern era and so many of the geopolitical ills of this new millennium.

The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I; Barbara W. Tuchman's Great War Series
The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I; Barbara W. Tuchman's Great War Series
by Barbara W. Tuchman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
56 used & new from CDN$ 4.84

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The ants go marching..., May 7 2003
Scanning through the lists, I see that I'm clearly the contrarian when it comes to reviews of this book on Amazon - but I know I wouldn't have wasted an evening reading the first 50 pages of it if I had seen a few negative reviews such as this. Maybe I can save one or two of you some time as well.
If you are looking for a perspective on World War I which enacts its "artistic" license by comparing the German invasion of Belgium to a swarm of ants, that demonizes the Kaiser and glorifies the stalwart French and British generals - this is the book for you! I have to wonder, though -- if you think those are central elements of a description of what took place in August of 1914, why bother? You already know the history and are just looking for someone to arrange it in elegantly crafted lines. But if you believe that such lively metaphor and monochrome white-hat/black-hat perspectives could hardly explain the historical world any better than they do our own era, stay clear.
I'm no expert by any means - but I've developed an interest in the war and the era, and a year of reading WWI-related books, has led me to two conclusions: (1) it was a darn complicated chunk of history - the leading-up-to, the four-years-slaughter, and the reverberating after-effects and (2) attempts to "spin" the story have been entwined with the factual record to such a degree that they are themselves an intriguing piece of the history. Tuchman's tale neither explores the complications nor acknowledges the spin. She tells a simple tale in wonderfully dramatic language that´¿s as good as anything Tom Clancy can produce, but its designed more for the heart than the head.
There are many, many books about WWI from the inter-war period and some of them can still stand a look. But there has also been an intriguing resurgence of interest in and publishing on the war during the last decade which, itself, is a phenomenon that hints at something fascinating about who writes history and when (and how)they write it.
If you are looking for books with a perspective that goes beyond the ´¿swarm of ants´¿ approach I´¿d recommend Mosier´¿s ´¿The Myth of the Great War´¿ and Ferguson´¿s ´¿The Pity of War´¿. The former is startlingly pro-German (and pro-American - quite a combination, that) and the latter, although leaking some of the usual pro-Brit tone, constructs a quite-detailed pathway to thinking about the big ´¿what-if´¿ ´¿ if Germany had won the war. Keegan´¿s section about the Somme in ´¿The Face of Battle´¿ goes beyond the usual military history (but avoid his two ´¿Histories´¿ of the war itself) and the recent ´¿14-18, Understanding the Great War´¿ by Audoin-Rouzeau is flawed but demonstrates how even a Francophile perspective can at least explore different realms.

Velocities: New and Selected Poems: 1966-1992
Velocities: New and Selected Poems: 1966-1992
by Stephen Dobyns
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.00
30 used & new from CDN$ 12.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Life's Recidivists, March 11 2003
Stephen Dobyns is one of my favorite living poets - an eclectic bunch including Dunn, Olds, Ai, Kenney and Lux. This book was the one that introduced me to his work and it is absolutely the best place for you to do the same; all the more so since he just has released the dreadfully lightweight "Porcupine Kisses." Once I decided to write a one-star review of that book, I felt it only proper to post this 5-star counterpoint first. This book is a great place to experience the range and power of his work.
Poetry is so darn hard to review. At its best it lodges in and lights up neuronal nooks and crannies that were invisibly personal but become, somehow, unexpectedly universal. Very mysterious.
Dobyns manages to capture that 'universality' in his poetry in a manner that repeatedly surprises. Lots of poetry achieves this by rooting itself in the well-known. Dobyns takes a contrary tack. The poetry in this book often seems to concern people or places that you'd hardly expect to have the slightest interest in - certainly not at the level of seemingly narrow focus that he brings to his view of the world. Would you seek out depictions of street scenes in Santiago? on the work of the artist Balthus? the last breaths of a bull in the ring? The very different-ness of these points of view and odd scenarios accentuates the twang of recognition in your heartstring when it is plucked.
This poetry has a distinctive feel to it - gritty and detailed, but languorous in pace. It is an unusual sort of languor, though. It isn't landscaped pastoral; on the contrary the poetry is vigorously 'peopled.' It isn't sleepy, either, a sense of time and movement pervades; but the sense of motion is often an orbital one. Time seems to win, either through timelessness or a seemingly inevitable cycling - recidivists, returning to serve their life sentences.
I'd encourage you to read the "look inside" pages posted here on Amazon to get a flavor of this (although none of the four poems included are among my favorites). The one is not a poem about a street scene in Santiago - it's 'about' the six garbagemen, the chocolate cake, the two matrons and the black dog- and somehow it's about how we all stagger through our days; how pleasures leak into them through unexpected fissures.
Others have commented that Dobyns poetry has a "masculine" feel to it and I will, guardedly, agree - although I can't quite put my finger on the "how" of that bit. It is visceral poetry, for sure, (sometimes literally so as when the body's organs are given voice in selections from "Body Traffic") and it celebrates lusts as much as loss - even the losses that are sown by the lust. Although dark and broody at times, it also relishes the small triumphs against the relentless press of our inadequacies. If its "men's poetry", its certainly not a youth's voice. But it grazes up against the "why" of facing another day, even the why of being a jerk, a fool, a recidivist, with an oddly under-emotional shrug that might seem essentially masculine.
As a collection of poems from seven or eight prior books, "Velocities" swings through a variety of poetic forms and tones. It is a comprehensive representation of the best work of a major American poet.

Penguin Poets Porcupine Kisses
Penguin Poets Porcupine Kisses
by Stephen Dobyns
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 9.23

1.0 out of 5 stars Sweepings from the fortune-cookie factory floor., March 4 2003
Dobyns is one of my favorite poets but this "collection" is a big disappointment. Read his "Velocities" instead.
"Porcupine Kisses" is composed of three forms of writing plus the illustrations by Michels. None of these four elements is either entertaining enough or meaningful enough to justify buying or reading the book.
Dobyns' extensive poetic work to date suggests a skeptical view of the world and its mores - but having bought this book I feel like I'm the one he's snickering at. It is a physically unsatisfying volume as much as it is an overpriced one. I'm not sure what's up with his publisher situation, but Dobyns' recent (poetic) works have all been slender paperback-only editions printed on a sort of cheesy-cheap newsprint and priced like parchment. In this book the woodcut-style illustrations seem to have been added either to create the illusion of "high art" (ahh... the slender chapbook on linen paper, hand-colored by the artist) or in an attempt to pull together the three disparate textual elements (umm... adding enough stuff to this pot will allow us to call it bouillabaisse). From a poet whom I have always counted on to cork the phony burble of sentimentality, either rationale for the illustrations is cloyingly discordant.
The first half of the book alternates brief, half-page prose pieces with half-page clumps of aphorisms. The prose is interesting enough, I suppose, but it really is just prose. It contrasts sharply with the wide range of poetic forms Dobyns has employed over the years. Many of these have veered close to the prose-poem form, but never have they lost the element of finely-chiseled facet that form imposes on mere prose. The aphorisms, to put it bluntly, hardly rise above the level of fortune cookie pithiness.
The last half of the book is comprised of what another reviewer has generously termed "daffynitions" - odd little definitions of words that are supposed, I guess, to cast a refracted light on their meanings. I found few of them either humorous or meaningful and certainly wasn't willing to plough through pages and pages of an alphabetized listing to uncover the odd gem. I wonder if Dobyns fancies himself the John Ciardi of the new millennium.
In my opinion, Dobyns is a master of language and modern poetic form who has always mixed a wry but clear-eyed incisiveness with somewhat more languorous poetic story-telling. (He must be a good, native story-teller if one can judge from his immense body of fictional work.) But his poetry has also always carried a certain worldly-weariness that seems to have settled too heavily on the shoulders of the writer of this book, and squeezed out these two parts in these equally unsatisfying ways: the one meanderingly prosaic and the other evaporated to dry dust.
The essence of my favorite poem by Dobyns, "Querencia" (collected in his "Velocities" from an earlier book), might well be distilled down to one or two lines when I try to describe it to friends; but in doing so, I know I will fail before I start. In this book Dobyns seems to have exhaustedly decided that all the in-betweens can be skipped and merely the fragmented end result delivered. I can't say I agree. In "Querencia" the bull inevitably, exhaustedly drags itself back to its seemingly arbitrary safe spot - perhaps blankly aware that the safety is only illusory. I sure hope Mr. Dobyns will find a way to drag himself back to poetry.

What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response
What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response
by Bernard Lewis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.87
61 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Will not answer your questions... or earn its title, Feb. 28 2003
This book is academia's version of the exploitation of our post-9/11 fears that the pulp presses have shamefully demonstrated with their hastily-published grim pictorials of Ground Zero. But the academics want you to believe that they capital-U-understand what has happened, and they will flock to elevate one of their own to that end. I doubt if half of the positive reviews steering this book to best-seller lists actually finished the book. I did, and do not recommend it. (Note, even, how the paperback release has a subtly different subtitle - someone is working hard to "position" this book based on appearance rather than substance).
* * *
With so many westerners looking for answers as they look to the Middle East and Islam, its no surprise that this book has been well received by many reviewers. Like you, and me, they have been jolted to step back and actually look at a region of the world long consigned to the backwaters of interest by Western intellectual elites.
It really is a puzzle, isn't it? How could the empires that we credit with much of our intellectual heritage - empires that were pre-eminent on the globe (excepting perhaps China) for 500 years - how could they have disappeared so completely from the main stage of history? Now, in our time, it has become a truly dangerous puzzle as we view the violent efforts of some to restore the primacy of fundamentalist Islam.
What went wrong, indeed; a fascinating and important question upon which Mr. Lewis, the New York Times' "doyen of Middle Eastern studies", ought to have cast some valuable insight. Instead, this book can be added to the shamefully growing stack of publishing industry attempts to cash in on the post-9/11 fears of the West. That the publisher is the esteemed Oxford University Press only demonstrates the more so how difficult the western elites are finding this challenge to be. They have few answers but will smother us with their attempts.
"What Went Wrong" is a poorly stitched-together amalgam of ideas large and small - more often the later. Broad themes such as the relative status of women in Christendom and Islam receive merely a wave or two, roughly equivalent in this "analysis" to the differing role of the theater in the two cultures. One comes away thinking that the lack of timepieces in Islamic societies and the lack of perspective in their art might be as important as the role of slavery or the non-Muslim in their worldview. The book provides very little analysis and no perspective.
Perhaps Lewis has honestly answered the precise question, "what" went wrong by creating this meandering laundry list of "things that are different between" the two cultures or "ways in which the Middle East did not adopt western modes". Perhaps I was expecting too much in assuming the implicit "why" and "how" in that title.
The book ends with an interesting enough chapter entitled "conclusion" - except that it is actually more appropriately an introduction! No pieces of argument are called together to summation. On the contrary, the intriguing questions that might launch our inquiry into the divergence of the two cultures are coherently, if vaguely, stated. Notwithstanding a brief apologia at the beginning noting the book being in "page proof" when the twin towers were felled, it seems obvious that this conclusion was tacked-on after the events of September 11.
Only at the last page do you discover a hint of how such an odd book might have come together. An "Afterword" notes that, "the core of this book was a series of three public lectures given at..."
Aha! That's what went wrong! Someone seeking post-9/11 "material" realized that three interesting, albeit narrowly academic lectures about the Middle East combining with three hundred million people asking "why?" could hit the charts. Toss in academics and reviewers and so-called intellectual elites anxious to show that they can bring their heretofore invisible abilities to solve "the problem of Islam" and you've got the mixings for a shameful mess. One star for lots of interesting little bits and a few big questions - which someone, hopefully, will take a stab at actually answering someday.

Enchanted Looms: Conscious Networks in Brains and Computers
Enchanted Looms: Conscious Networks in Brains and Computers
by Rodney Cotterill
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 54.10
25 used & new from CDN$ 22.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough going at times, but worth it., Feb. 7 2003
If you are, like me, an "amateur" when it comes to the study of the mind, you have probably sought to balance your reading of philosophers like Dennett with something more solid from the science of mind. "Enchanted Looms" is a fine place to do that.
This is not a book to sweep through in a few days. You will want to pause and digest. Although Cotterill is clearly aiming at an educated layperson as a reader, he bows, stylistically, to an academic audience. This interfered with my reading of the book. Dozens of times per chapter, he cites sources parenthetically or within the text. Too many sentences begin in the form "The work of _x_ and _y_ has shown..." For the longest time I kept thinking that noting and remembering those names would help me in following a line of argument. This was rarely the case. But then, at times, a backward reference to "_x_" would stump me. Once I learned to glide over these I found it much easier to read the book.
The tie-in with "neural networks" was an interesting process since I had little sense of their importance in cognitive science. Cotterill does a nice job, initially, of showing how such structures might work in both the abstract and at the level of neural anatomy. But, interestingly, he moves on to make a convincing case that such structures cannot adequately model all the functionality of the human brain. I came away from this book with the sense that neural nets are the "Ptolemaic epicycles" of brain science - a paradigm that with growing complexity and constant tweaking can just barely model what we know about a physical phenomenon, but which are not up to the ultimate task.
Cotterill does a nice job of making the macro-anatomy of the brain a part of a meaningful whole. Too many neuro-anatomy-focused books seem to just carve out the various regions and leave a sense of oddly unconnected "vision centers" and "speech centers." "Enchanted Looms" presents much more of the sense of the interconnectedness of those zones that we have chosen to isolate as anatomical pieces. He goes into some depth about how these connections might themselves function as a layer in the processing that we call thinking or sensation, ... or consciousness.
Which brings me, in the end, to the grail in my own "brain-book" search - "consciousness." Sure its fascinating to realize how interesting the study of, for instance, vision, might be, but its that "me" in there, in HERE, that wants some explaining. Although this is not the focus of Cotterill's book, he does propose a very different model for consciousness from any that I have seen - seemingly centered around neuro-motor systems; an odd twist on the notion of a "muscle-head" ! I say "seemingly" because it was really only upon reading this concluding section of the book that I realized I might not have understood enough of the prior 500 pages. Cotterill's argument for this unusual underpinning of consciousness seemed somewhat unconvincing, to me, only to the degree that it built upon elements of his model for brain that I had only partially grasped.
So I will reread this book... a very unusual thing for me, for this topic. It bespeaks the power of the ideas it presents that I know "Enchanted Looms" will be worth that second effort.

Don Quixote de La Mancha
Don Quixote de La Mancha
by Miguel de Cervantes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.91
38 used & new from CDN$ 8.19

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent edition of this classic., Jan. 21 2003
Ce commentaire est de: Don Quixote de La Mancha (Hardcover)
Note: Amazon.com seems to have a hard time linking reviews to specific editions - it makes a difference. This review is of the Modern Library edition, ISBN-0679602860, translated by Samuel Putnam. I am reposting it, hoping it will link correctly this time).
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When you approach reading (or rereading) a "classic" work you really, mostly, don't have to think about whether to read it -- that decision was either made by someone assigning it to you or, more wonderfully, by you, yourself deciding to swim contra-current against the cultural waters... following Neil Young's advice to "turn off that MTV."
So. You are going to read it. And, if you are paddling the Amazon.com, here, you are going to buy and OWN it. The question really becomes which edition you should own.
This is the one.
Its a fine translation - surprising in its avoidance of archaic language. It has a nice structure - the inevitable notes are available but not obtrusive.
This edition, the Modern Library hardback edition, translated by Putnam, is also a nice book to own. It isn't one of those pretty faux-leather "shelf-candy" copies that'll break your wallet first. This is a hardworking book - the essence of the Modern Library idea. But it is a wonderful packaging of the whole 1000+ pages that is both readable and shelvable. No thousand-page paperback will survive an actual reading as anything you would want excepting as backup next to the latrine.
Did I mention that it is a great book, great story? Well, others over the years have managed that :-). But I will loudly agree. I'm rereading it only now after a 35 year hiatus (yes, indeed, classics can be lost on the young - thats why you want books that last. In 35 more years, when you turn your lance back toward targets you thought you left behind, a copy will cost you [a lot of money]). It is just plain startling in its innovations and story. I always thought Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard were the first to break down that "third wall" and talk to the audience - yet here is Cervantes doing so five centuries back ! Wow.
Even if you've been made to buy it and to read it, buy a nice copy. Read the "Cliff notes" if you must, but someday you'll be a crazy old coot like Don Q. (or me) and want to toss something more meaningful than Palahniuk (or even Rushdie) at the cobwebs that cling.

United We Solve: 116 Math Problems for Groups, Grades 5-10
United We Solve: 116 Math Problems for Groups, Grades 5-10
by Tim Erickson
Edition: Spiral-bound
11 used & new from CDN$ 49.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Math and Great Design for Cooperative Work, Jan. 17 2003
This book is a treasure in my chest. I have a long shelf of project-books, activity-books and all the rest that I bought to add some spice to the day in math class. This is my "go to" book. I use it every year, repeatedly. I use it in my "accelerated" classes and I use it in my "math lab" classes.
The math selections are outstanding in both interest and challenge levels - they also scale up to allow very bright students to be engaged. And if, like me, you've slogged through too many lame "cooperative learning" books and activities to count, you will be pleased with the design of that element of the program.
The book organizes more than 100 problems into 24 categories within 4 groups, "Patterns", "Spatial", "Proportion" and "Open". Each problem provides 4 printed clues which provide pieces necessary to solve an overall problem. Here is an example from the "Product Chain" category of "Proportion", a rather unusual zoo:
* Rodelians feed every night. Each rodelian eats five snoppets.
* Snoppits feed every night. Each snoppit eats three quigs.
* Pipworts feed every night. Each Pipwort eats four dorblatts.
* Quigs feed every night. Each quig eats twelve pipworts.
The problem, in this case, is itself stated in pieces spread over the 4 clues. The group is ultimately asked to propose a method or rule for finding out how many dorblatts will be needed to keep a given number of rodelians alive.
This is an intriguing enough problem, mathematically, for 4 average 6th graders, but the challenge is multiplied by the "cooperative learning" design. Each student receives one clue but they are not allowed to show their clue to the others in their group. They can draw and illustrate their clue to show to others and they can even read it aloud - just not show it. At first this seemed an oddly crafted constraint but, after using the "UWS" problems for 5 years now I see that it is just the right touch. When denied only the visual access to their partners' clues, the kids tend to switch out into first reading them aloud - feeling, sometimes, like they are 'beating the system'. But, inevitably, just hearing it is not enough for their group-mates and they have to hunker down and reread, understand and restate or illustrate their clue in order to get anywhere.
other notes:
The clues are not numbered. For a problem like the one noted above, the group themselves have to discover and organize the sequence of relationships and solution steps.
For most problems two "hint" clues are provided as what we now call "lifelines". These usually provide not extra data but prompts for looking at the overall problem from a different view (e.g., for the above "Hint: One way to test your scheme is to see if it works if there is only one rodelian, or two."
NO ANSWERS ARE PROVIDED to the teacher! I hated this, then I loved it! As a practical necessity I eventually wrote up an answer 'bank' I could refer to - but with my accelerated classes I found it even more worthwhile. They so often rush to an answer then rush to me for 'validation' - something I'm always trying to shake them of. It introduced a real element of meta-learner challenge when I would reply to their "is this right?" by saying "I don't know. Its up to you and your group to decide if you are confident enough of your answer to move on to a harder problem."
The problems are organized one-per-page in the spiral book and are intended to be photocopied and then cut out. I store the 6 clue papers, each about 4" x 3.5", in envelopes and try to keep 7 or 8 copies of each so that 28 or 32 kids can be working on the same problem if necessary.
As mentioned before, the problems within each of the 24 categories are mathematically similar but get harder to solve in the order that they appear in the book. I usually set out a "suite" which allows an open-ended element to keep the brighter kids engaged.
Groups of three are easily accommodated by simply allowing one member to 'work' two clues.
I have used the book with 6th and 7th graders. It is labeled as being for grades 5-10. At either end of that range, my impression is that still roughly half of the problems are appropriate. It is a great match for grades 7 and 8.
Some of the especially interesting categories of problems include "Nim Games", some nice "3D point of view" ones, Calculator based, "Mystery Ops", and my favorite, "Alien Number Systems". There are even two neat problems that demonstrate 'fractal automata' solved using paper grids and colored pencils. Nice, nice, nice !
Once you've seen a few of these problems you might think you could make up your own and, in fact, the book encourages you to do so. That being the case, I have to say I've never done so. The sheer number of problems in this one book is more than adequate unless one wanted to actually build a curriculum around their use. If you ever feel you have "used up" "United We Solve" you can check out their second volume, "Get it Together - math Problems for Groups", which is pegged to grades 4-12.

Don Quixote de La Mancha
Don Quixote de La Mancha
by Miguel de Cervantes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.91
38 used & new from CDN$ 8.19

5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST edition to buy and own, Jan. 16 2003
Ce commentaire est de: Don Quixote de La Mancha (Hardcover)
When you approach reading (or rereading) a "classic" work you really, mostly, don't have to think about whether to read it -- that decision was either made by someone assigning it to you or, more wonderfully, by you, yourself deciding to swim contra-current the cultural waters; following Neil Young to "turn off that MTV."
So. You are going to read it. And, if you are paddling the Amazon, here, you are going to buy and OWN it. The question really becomes which edition you should own.
This is the one.
Its a fine translation - surprising in its avoidance of archaic language. It has a nice structure - the inevitable notes are available but not obtrusive.
It is also, this one, the Modern Library hardback edition, a nice book to own. It isn't one of those pretty faux-leather "shelf-candy" copies that'll break your wallet first. This is a hardworking book - the essence of the Modern Library idea. But it is a wonderful packaging of the whole 1000+ pages that is both readable and shelvable. No thousand-page paperback will survive an actual reading as anything you would want excepting as backup next to the latrine.
Did I mention that it is a great book, great story? Well, others over the years have managed that :-). But I will loudly agree. I'm rereading it only now after a 35 year hiatus (yes, indeed, classics can be lost on the young - thats why you want books that last. In 35 more years, when you turn your lance back toward targets you thought you left behind, a copy will cost you [a lot of money]). It is just plain startling in its innovations and story. I always thought Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard were the first to break down that "third wall" and talk to the audience - yet here is Cervantes doing so five centuries back ! Wow.
Even if you've been made to buy it and to read it, buy a nice copy. Read the "Cliff notes" if you must, but someday you'll be a crazy old coot like Don Q. (or me) and want to toss something more meaningful than Palahniuk (or even Rushdie) at the cobwebs that cling.

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