Review: Being a Dog – Following the Dog Into a World of Smell by Alexandra Horowitz

Alexandra Horowitz

5 Star NOSE Opener — Will Change How You Relate to Dogs and to Life

Review by Robert David Steele

“To smell is  to live” is the inscription on the inside cover of the book as given to my wife by our mostly Labrador dog Zoey.

The author teaches at Barnard College, where she runs the Dog Cognition Lab and is the author of  Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know and On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation. She teaches at Barnard College, where she runs the Dog Cognition Lab.  This is a SERIOUS book, with a 17-page index and 29 pages of notes.

This is a most extraordinary book packed with both direct observations and researched facts, with insights on every page.

QUOTE (185): The smell of a person is so strong that dogs can follow it over time, underwater, after the person is long gone, and even after the thing the person has touched has blown up.

I regret not  taking notes as I went, because this book is easily the equal of any of the other 2000+ non-fiction books I have reviewed.  Here are just four memorable tid-bits, the first of which changed my sense of why the dog takes me for a walk every day:

01 Pooping is the least important thing that dogs do on their walk. Peeing — and smelling pee — is how they communicate with all the other dogs on  the planet….pee-mail if you will. Once you understand this, you get that the walk is like going to to dog library, or a community center, and the dog is reading with their nose and writing with their pee.

02 When a dog wags its tails that is actually a means of “throwing” its anal gland scents or “calling card” toward the targeted animal or individual.

03 Dogs have an acute sense of time, but in reverse. They know the owner is coming come based on the decay or lessing of the owner’s smell from when they left.

04 Dogs have an entire spectrum of smell operations from down to the earth to up in the air for grabbing long distance orientation smells, and they have a complex mix of nose and brain elements that process smells — to include sneezes that “clear” their channel for  the next grab.

This book is the perfect book for anyone that owns a dog and has not yet read it. I have not gone so far as to become a “smeller” the way the author describes herself in multiple chapters, but this book has at least made me a better companion for our dog — we stress sniffing rather than walking now (but still do our distance in the nature reserve) and both the dog and I are better for having this shared understanding of exactly whey we are out on the trail.

Review: Data Politics – Worlds, Subjects, Rights edited by Didier Bigo, Engin Isin, and Evelyn Ruppert

Didier Bigo, Engin Isin, Evelyn Ruppert (eds._

6 Star — A pioneeering panorama

Take the time to look at the Table of Contents using Amazon’s Look Inside! feature. This is a remarkable book, both comprehensible at the undergraduate or citizen lay level, and a foundation for advanced studies.

I find this book absorbing in every respect. Part I covers the pernicious impact of algorithms and surveillance capitalism, and touches on the reality that “knowledge” is under siege, which is to say, data integrity at the micro and macro levels has vanished, while personal privacy at the micro and macro levels has also vanished.

Part II makes the point that the concepts of control and sovereignty do not apply in  cyberspace. There are huge overlays, penetrations, covert  thefts and more, the bottom line being that no one owns anything, everything is up for grabs, and reality competes with fake news / contrived misinformation at all levels on all topics.

Part III is the heart of the book in grappling with the meat of data politics — data drives politics, politics drive data. We are all data “subjects” (a nuanced term), we are all being herded and colonized by those who own the data tools.

Part IV is both idealistic and philosophical and makes an earnest attempt to discuss citizen rights (none) and possibilities including the “right” to be forgotten, which is right up there with the “right” to not be eaten by a dinosauer that can run faster than you can.

The book has an index which I found helpful in double-checking my preliminary assumptions about the book.

It has two weak spots: it avoids the reality  that we are only processing 1% of what we collect which is 1% of what is published officially which is in turn 1% of what is written (including graduate papers), which is 1% of what is known — roughly speaking; it also avoids true holistic analytics and true cost economics as essential topics toward making the most of our new-found ability to do universal DIGITAL coverage at an individual level of granularity.  It does not address what we are missing when we ignore all the analog and tacit knowledge.

See Also:

Review: Life After Google – The Fall Of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy by George Gilder

Review: Big Data, Little Data, No Data – Scholarship in the Networked World

Review: Digital Humanitarians – How Big Data is Changing the Face of the Humanitarian Response

Review: Beyond Transparency – Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation

Review: Analytics in a Big Data World – The Essential Guide to Data Science and Its Applications

Review: Using Data Sharing to Improve Coordination in Peacebuilding: Report of a Workshop on Technology, Science, and Peacebuilding

Review: Handbook of Data Visualization (Springer Handbooks of Computational Statistics)

Review: Data Model Patterns–A Metadata Map

Review: Database Nation –The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century (Paperback)