Review: The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery
The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everyone knows the the name, but how well-known is the story? Above all, The Notorious Benedict Arnold is an excellently crafted and remarkably compelling story of one man’s hubris.

Reading Steve Sheinkin’s historical non-fiction volume uncovers Arnold as an undeniable hero of the American Revolution. His audacity, skill, and considerable luck all converge to make him an extraordinary military force in the early days of America’s revolt. His initial mission to Fort Ticonderoga alone is an adventure story worthy of its own treatment. Yet that is only the beginning of the dramatic wake that cast by Arnold’s meteoric rise and ignominious fall.

While considered a young adult title, this book transcends that label on a number of levels. It reads like a novel, includes first-person accounts, and is well resourced. Perhaps Sheinkin’s greatest feat is his successful portrayal of Arnold as a sympathetic, albeit severely flawed individual. No doubt, Arnold was not always recognized or treated fairly in a highly politically charged climate. What’s more it was his capacity to hold grudges and feel scorned that led to his undoing. Still, Sheinkin certainly makes the case for his being the subject of a great story and an even greater fall.

While Arnold invited a lot of his own trouble, that only serves to make him even more interesting and compelling. To say Arnold lived a full life is understatement. Even the melodrama of his ultimate unraveling, missing his most ardent supporter, George Washington, by mere minutes makes for a fantastic story alone, and Sheinkin relates it with relish. Even the aftermath of Arnold’s betrayal draws a degree of sympathy, making him all the more powerful as a cautionary tale.

Although I typically like historical non-fiction generally, as well as biographies, I enjoyed this book even more than I expected. It was a fascinating view into a historical figure that everyone knows but doesn’t know much about. Ultimately, Sheinkin squeezes out the formalities and dogma of historical writing in favor of action, adventure, and ripping good yarn, a major factor in it being considered a young adult title, but it makes it all the more readable and enjoyable.

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Review: Dutch ‘Total Football:’ How the Dutch Created ‘Total Football’ Their tactics, Drills, and Coaching Methods

Dutch 'Total Football:' How the Dutch Created 'Total Football' Their tactics, Drills, and Coaching Methods
Dutch ‘Total Football:’ How the Dutch Created ‘Total Football’ Their tactics, Drills, and Coaching Methods by Terry Michler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While two thirds of Dutch ‘Total Football’ are filled with valuable Drills and Exercises for anyone interested in coaching with a Dutch sensibility, most of this book is comprised of recycled material reassembled from a handful of sources into an edited introduction to the subject from a coaching perspective. That is not all bad for anyone unfamiliar with the Dutch national team, Ajax, or some of the most famous coaching exports.

However, for anyone who has read Coaching Soccer, the official coaching book of Dutch Soccer Association, by Bert van Lingen There simply is not a lot new here. For anyone deeply interested in the topic or who has read Brilliant Orange or Ajax, Barcelona, Cruyff there is even less new in this slim title.

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CLMOOC Central: My Personal Dashboard

Curation is a tall ask when engaging engaging in any large scale, online community/course like CLMOOC. With so much activity being generated by so many individuals, it is easy to feel both overwhelmed and overwrought with remarkable rapidity. One of the ways I like to bind multiple streams into a manageable means of content control is through the power of RSS and a digital dashboard.

There are still a few digital dashboard services, despite the loss of some heavyweights, like iGoogle and Pageflakes, both of which were really good products actually. I settled on Netvibes some time ago and continue to use it.

The advantage of using a dashboard like Netvibes is that you can easily run a number of data streams onto a single page in the for of widgets, allowing for quick scanning of multiple information sources in a single page view with minimal scrolling. Widget sizes can be altered to fit, as well as page layouts to reduce the need to scroll or accommodate more widgets. While I am making this page public and available to anyone with the address, it is a fairly easy set-up.

  1. Begin by registering for a Netvibes account.
  2. Once logged in click New… in the Dashboards drop-down menu in upper right corner. Enter the keyword(s) that you wish to track (I entered CLMOOC 2014).
  3. A number of pre-defined widgets will appear on the page (alter as desired).
    • Click the arrow-head to the right of the tab title for a drop-down menu that includes the page layout, how the widgets will be displayed.
    • Clicking the Green +Add button in the upper-left corner will reveal a all kinds of widget possibilities, many leveraging RSS.

I added the webpage widget along the top of the tab, partly because it looked cool with the logo, but also because I can scroll within the widget frame and see announcements quickly and easily.

I ran the Twitter and Google+ feeds off to the right, along the top to instantly scan the the most current information. What is really nice is that Netvibes has already done the work for collecting a Google+ stream, despite it not generating an RSS feed. So no extra work required there.

Below the fold, requiring some scrolling, I added the image feeds from Flickr, Picasa, and Instagram to browse the various memes and visuals created as part of the CLMOOC experience. Additionally, I paired the images with a widget gathering all the videos tagged in YouTube and Vimeo.

I can add other RSS feeds later, say like Diigo or Delicious if that proves to be a highly used tool for collecting sites and resources. I can even add a blogroll like widget if I like to track posts from select participants once things get rolling.

The one drawback is that the widgets are stuck streaming in reverse chronological order, so there is no real filter other than the most current content rising to the top. Still, a dashboard like this is great when you want to take the temperature of a highly active effort. A quick scan can help you get up-to-date in a hurry. This example will no doubt evolve as CLMOOC unfolds.

Lastly, I can’t say that I completely came up with this idea on my own. It is actually a bit of a hack based on something I learned from Steve Hargadon in the earliest days of the Classroom 2.0 Ning (way back in the olden times of 2008). Still, this seemed a pretty easy early How to Guide for creating something that can be a useful tool in the sometimes chaotic MOOC experience.