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review 2014-08-06 22:48
The Zeva Project -- Part 5
The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter than You Think - Brian Hare,Vanessa Woods

The Zeva Project is my quest to find an activity that Zeva and I can participate in together to relieve her current state of boredom.  I am reading nine books, some of which are on the psychology and training of dogs and some which describe specific dog activities.




This book is all about how dogs are smarter than you think, and refutes the commonly-held beliefs that dogs became stupid when they became domesticated and rank lower on the scale of intelligence than pigs, wolves, dolphins, crows and chimpanzees.


As in most erroneous ideas we have held to be true over the years, the problem has been with the way the subject has been framed, tested and interpreted.  


After two decades of research, trials, experimentation and study,  "what we know for certain is that the cognitive world of every dog is far more complex and interesting than we thought possible. We also have a tantalizing glimpse into the secret of their success. We can now pinpoint the stuff of dog genius . . . During the process of domestication, dogs evolved a basic understanding of human communicative intentions."


This has been supported by the study of other domesticated animals such as bonobos and a spin-off breed of silver foxes in Siberia.  The effect is not duplicated in the study of apes, except for those who have been raised with humans. 


Anthropological evidence tells us that dogs and humans began living together about 50,000 years ago.  One theory, somewhat radical, proposes that dogs may have been responsible for the further evolution of human domestication.  


"Dogs acted as human alarm systems, trackers and hunting aides, garbage disposal facilities, hot water bottles, and children's guardians and playmates.  Humans provided dogs with food and security. . . Humans domesticated dogs, and dogs domesticated humans." 


Since dogs were an aid in hunting and tracking, those humans who were more tolerant of trying new things, and who were less aggressive and therefore capable of cooperation with others, were the ones who were able to acquire more food and were therefore more successful.  It could be argued that dogs helped to civilize man even as men were civilizing dogs.


Since the mid 1990s, due to the study of dogs, and of self-domesticated animals in the wild such as bonobos, "the field of . . . dognition has exploded.  From being thought of as an unremarkable animal made stupid by domestication, all of a sudden dogs have become one of the most popular species for animal researchers to study."


One of the dogs in the study has a vocabulary of 4,000 words.  He has been tested with upward of more than 1,000 objects, each one with an individual name.  When you name a toy, he can successfully retrieve the particular toy.  If you show him a duplicate or model of a toy, he will retrieve its match, even if the model is a different size than the original.  He can retrieve an object after you show him a picture of an object, and he is aware enough that he can categorize objects.  He knows that balls fit in one category and frisbees in another.  


Part of the domestication process includes the ability to successfully interact with humans.  Dogs are very successful at reading humans, they can follow instructions given by means of gestures, they learn by watching, 


"  . . the same animal who is an extraordinary communicator is surprisingly dense when it comes to navigating through space or understanding the rules that govern the physical world."  


For some reason, they are woefully inadequate at solving mazes or barriers.  Most animal intelligence studies in the last century focused on that kind of testing, and that is where the reputation of "less intelligence" originated.  They were always outperformed by rats and pigeons.


now that we are starting to recognize better methods to test for dog intelligence, and changing our expectation of what intelligence is, we are beginning to understand just how amazingly smart they are.


"Genius of dogs has two criteria: 1.  A mental skill that is strong compared with others, either within your own species or in closely related species.  2. The ability to spontaneously make inferences."


"The dog is arguably the most successful mammal on the planet, besides us. Dogs have spread to all corners of the world, including inside our homes, and in some cases onto our beds. . . . In the industrialized world, people are having fewer children than ever but are simultaneously providing an increasingly lavish lifestyle for a growing population of pet dogs. Meanwhile, dogs have more jobs than ever.  Service dogs assist the mentally or physically disabled, military dogs find bombs, police dogs do guard duty, customs dogs detect illegally imported goods, conservation dogs find scat to help estimate population sizes and movements of endangered animals, bedbed dogs detect when hotels have a problem, cancer dogs detect melanomas or even intestinal cancer, therapy dogs visit retirement homes and hospitals to lift spirits and speed recovery."


Even after twenty years of study, there is not a huge amount of completed research, "and not a whole lot of agreement within the research, but that is the fun of a scientific revolution. It is supposed to be a messy, opinionated, data-based conversation.  The more data you collect, the louder you get to holler, and that is how progress happens."


This book details many of the studies which have been completed, including the methodology and results, the criteria, selection of subjects and control groups, comparison with comparable testing of other species.  


It covered genetics and DNA.  There is a minuscule amount of DNA difference from breed to breed.  "When talking about breed differences, it all comes down to this: if you think your dog's breed is the best breed, the bad news is, there is no scientific evidence to back you up. But the good news is, there is no evidence to contradict you, either."


There is still much to be studied.


 There is still "no formalized training that combines what we know about dog behavior in training with the latest research in dognition. Cognitive training would not only identify the different ways the dogs learn but also identify limitations and biases that can prevent learning. Strategies can then be designed to work around these biases and limitations while tapping into the genius of dog.


I read every word of the book.  That is not always the case when I read scientific studies, as I find much of it to be dry and technical, and I skim the parts that look repetitive or uninteresting.  Not with this one. It was all good -- well-researched, well-documented, and scholarly without the dull bits.


Except for this observation, for which I felt compelled to deduct half a star:


"The little research that has been done does not suggest maximum reward or training is the most effective technique to shape a dog's behavior.

In humans, rewarding someone for a behavior actually reduces motivation once the reward is reduced or taken away.  For instance, say a child enjoys reading, and then you start rewarding her with chocolate for reading. Once you stop rewarding her with chocolate, she is unlikely to enjoy reading for its own sake."

I have to believe that there is no one on this site who would think this statement is true.







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review 2014-06-02 11:35
First Aide Medicine
First Aide Medicine - Nicholaus Patnaude

bookshelves: published-2013, boo-scary, librarything-giveaway, summer-2013, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, young-adult, recreational-drugs, ghosties-ghoulies, suicide, noir, poetry, next, mental-health, north-americas, slit-yer-wrists-gloomy, washyourmouthout-language, under-50-ratings, revenge

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Librarything
Read from August 26 to 29, 2013


Hmm, I thought this was going to be straight forward BOO!, yet reading through the premise it looks a little too out there for my usual taste. Nevertheless, I have been happily surprised on many an occasion.
for Johnny & Cabera
“Infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.” William Shakespeare

Opening: I want to burn down his house. I will. He used Karen. I can’t stomach that. He was older than piss and uglier than a worm. He lived just down the street with his lights on until late at night. He had an artic fox that turned blue in the summer. But then he had to gouge his kitty’s eye out when it killed his pretty blue Alopex lagopus one dreary midnight.

National Geographic photo of Artic Fox alopex lagopus

LATER: An extended prose poem featuring Jack, the narrator:'I have a decade on most of the high school kids who work here. They live with their parents too, but for them it’s more natural.'

...who is mourning Karen's suicide, even though she was hardly his girlfriend:'Karen would never understand if I told her all about those dates I’d arranged on the beach only to break and sabotage them ten minutes before they were to begin. I am not in a good enough place to commit.

...because she had an sexual relationship with an older man:'What do you see in her, old man? Why do all these antediluvian douche bags want to rip off her panties with their dentures?'

Interspersed with macabre doodles and vomit-inducing passages this Romeo and Juliet story is not something for me, yet I can see in it a great appeal to mid-teen hipster/ goth types, and that seems to be the niche Patnaude is aiming for. And my distaste is an endorsement to the good for this genre.
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review 2014-04-24 16:31
St. Mary's Chronicles, A Time Travel Series
Just One Damned Thing After Another - Jodi Taylor
A Symphony of Echoes (Chronicles of St Mary's) - Jodi Taylor
When a Child is Born - A Chronicles of St. Mary's short story - Jodi Taylor
A Second Chance (The Chronicles of St Mary's) - Jodi Taylor

Just One Damned Thing After The Other, the first title in the series, must surely rank as one of the most appropriately named books ever; because it's true.  Every time another catastrophe is averted, and you think you can now breathe a sigh of relief . . . Well, think again because it's not happening.  Some other damned thing is just around the bend, and not only do you not have time for a breath, you also don't have time to check that your stun gun is recharged, your pepper spray is handy, or your last enemy is truly down.


The saga begins with Max, Madeleine Maxwell, showing up to interview for a position at St. Mary's Institute of Historical Research, where purportedly they research history.  The actual thing they do is top secret, but Max clues into it before the end of the interview and her attempts to pin down the Director to admit to time travel is a humorous beginning to the tale.  


In the end, she signs all kinds of non-disclosure documentation, and Dr. Bairstow finally reveals that yes, we do do that here,  "although the phrase 'time travel' is so sci-fi. We don't do that. Here at St. Mary's we investigate major historical events in contemporary time."


This series is about so much more than time travel. It's about Life itself, the best of times and the worst of times, the highest highs and the lowest lows; the triumphs and the tragedies.  It's about love and loss and survival and surviving, hate and revenge, all packaged up nicely with humor, snarkiness and sarcasm.


A recurring theme throughout the series is Belonging and how difficult it can be to fit in and find a place for yourself, in your own time and place or any other:


"You see, people think it's easy, living in the past. You turn up with a big bag of gold and enough fore-knowledge to ensure you back the right horse, or the right king, or the right dot com companies and retire to count your money. It's not that simple.

Try it in the last hundred years or so and you'll find the lack of National Insurance Number, ID card or credit rating means you're officially a nonperson . . . or you think you'll go back a little further before all these tiresome records were invented, but that doesn't work either.  

     Society is rigid.  Everyone knows everyone else in their world. Everyone has their place in the scheme of things. If you don't belong to a family, a tribe, a village, a guild, whatever, you don't exist then, either. And you can't just pitch up somewhere without mutual acquaintances, recommendations or letters of introduction. Life on the fringes of society, any society in any time is rough."


Max will have reason to know the truth of these words more than once as we follow her and the rest of the St Mary gang through historical events.


Another ongoing theme is the quandary of 'History as immutable."  As Historians, they are to observe only, offering no participation or taking actions which might affect the trajectory of the future.  Morality is brought into question, how can we stand idly by when people are in danger of dying, when it is so simple to reach over to lift them out of the mud to save them from being trampled.  But always, the paradox is present, if we take this action how will the outcome be affected.  It is not only this time and place that is in peril, but all the future as well.  This question is addressed throughout the books with varying scenarios.


One of the things I really liked is the ability of the historians to poke fun at themselves despite the dire circumstances in which they often land.  


"He said, 'Do you remember our first jump together?'

'I certainly do. You peed on me.'

'You want me to do it again? For old times sake?'

'Save it. If we have to go into hiding, we may have to drink our own urine.'

'That's something I've often thought about. Do you drink your own – or the other persons?'

'When you say often thought about… '

'Well, you know every now and then. Just out of idle curiosity.'

'You're not drinking my urine.'

'That's a little selfish. Surely, in our current crisis we should be working together. I'm rather disappointed in this me first attitude.'"


"Historians do tend to get lost in the moment. On some assignments we really could do with a couple of well-trained sheepdogs and a cattle prod."


"The whole city was waking now. Shouts and clanging metal echoed off the buildings. Every dog in the city was yelling his head off. You could tell St. Mary's was in town. 'Good job this is a stealth operation, Major. Imagine if people knew we were here.'"


"On the other hand, we wouldn't be St. Mary's if something wasn't on fire somewhere."


"Sometimes, the word 'shambles' just doesn't even begin to describe us…"


Despite their predilection to deprecating each other and their institution, they are extremely loyal to both.  They go to the ends of the earth to defend their counterparts, even when there's nothing to work with.  "'We'll think of something,' said Peterson.  'We're St. Mary's.'"


And after every adventure . . . "in the distance I could hear shouting. And screaming. Familiar sounds. St. Mary's thundered past on their way to make a crisis considerably worse. It was nice to be home."


In conclusion:  


"I had no idea what was going on. An hour ago I was talking to a horse and now here I was, back in the Cretaceous period sixty-seven million years ago, and with a man who'd been dead for nine months. You couldn't make it up."


One catastrophe averted. A new catastrophe set to begin.


But WHEN? When when when will we see the next book?  Not a clue to be found, anywhere I could see, including at the end of the most recent book. Sheer frustration setting in.


Many many thanks to Expendable Mudge for the recommendation.


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review 2014-04-08 13:40
Dog Songs, Poems by Mary Oliver
Dog Songs - Mary Oliver

What was I thinking when I rated this book three stars last month?  Shaking head.  I can only say, I must have been tired.  


I pulled it out this morning thinking I would post a poem from it since April is Poetry Month, and I read it again.  It is much greater than I remembered.  A bonus is the artwork -- charming pencil-sketches of dogs, her own or those who just dropped by to say "hey."


This is a collection about Mary Oliver's dogs, both present and past (and passed).  It's a recounting of the joy of finding the new member of your family, a rolypoly ball of fluff in a box full of puppies, and the connection when you know he wants to go home with you.  It's about the day-to-day happiness and world-beauty that is out there, and that your dog won't let you forget about if only you will remember to look for it.


it's about the grief that you are bound to feel, more than once, because for some reason, the lifespans of dogs are so much shorter than they should be.  It's a listing of the names of the, for her, best dogs ever.


she made me want to name my own list.  Here it is:  Cindy, Whitey, Trooper, Dingo, Leroy, Ajax and Bold, Aggie and Molly, Scully, Uma. All were Great and Good dogs and I still miss them and think about them in their happy place over the Rainbow Bridge.


"Oliver's poems begin in the small everyday moments familiar to all dog lovers, but through her extraordinary vision these observations become higher meditations on the world and our place in it.  . . . the many dogs of Oliver's life emerge as fellow travelers and as guides, uniquely able to open our eyes to the lessons of the moment and the joys of nature and connection." 


(Poems follow.  For some reason, the italics button is not cooperating with me right now, so apologies.  They are obviously quoted.)





You may not agree, you may not care, but

if you are holding this book you should know

that of all the sights I love in this world --

and there are plenty -- very near the top of

the list is this one: dogs without leashes.


[excerpt from]



A dog can never tell you what she knows from the

smells of the world, but you know, watching her,

     that you know

almost nothing.





I have a bed, my very own.

It's just my size.

And sometimes I like to sleep alone 

with dreams inside my eyes.


But sometimes dreams are dark and wild and creepy

and I wake and am afraid, though I don't know why.

But I'm no longer sleepy

and too slowly the hours go by.


So I climb on the bed where the light of the moon

is shining on your face

and I know it will be morning soon.


Everybody needs a safe place.



It was hard to limit myself to sharing only a couple of her poems.  I want to share them all.  If you love dogs, I strongly suggest you read this book.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-03-28 14:08
Let the Sky Fall - Shannon Messenger

My Initial Reaction:



Did it seriously need to end that way!?!?!? I can't wait until 2014 to see what happens next!!!! I need to read it NOW!!!!!

My Actual Review:

I read this book for free on Pulseit and it was amazing. I thought that it was great that this book was different. So many young adult paranormal books contain vampires, fairies, and werewolves, but this one was all about sylphs. I haven't read too many books that are about sylphs, so this was amazing.


I felt so bad for Audra. She hates herself because she feels that it's all her fault that her father and Vane's parents are dead. And, to make it worse, her mother blames Audra for it, too. Because of this guilt, she dedicates her entire life, from the time soon after those three died, to protect Vane. She refuses to be happy!!



It was just SO SO SAD!!!! Let's bring this to a happier note, maybe.


So Vane has remembered Audra from the day when their parents died. And when he sees her, he remembers her. He can't figure out why she's so familiar, but she is familiar. Audra eventually realizes that they need to be around each other and she needs to teach him how to control the wind, because the person who killed their families is coming back.


I also must add that while reading this book, I had the Adele song, that has the same name, stuck in my head. I like that song, but it got annoying at times. I just wanted to concentrate more on this amazing book!!


I read this almost a year ago, so I don't remember too much. I hope this is enough...



I loved her and she was amazing. I felt so bad for her and I just wanted her to be happy. He felt so guilty and I hated her mom. Her mom was such a BITCH!! Ugh! I just want Audra to be happy!!!!!



He kinda annoyed me, but I also loved him at the same time. Such conflicting emotions. I just want him and Audra to be together so they can be happy and not lonely! That's all I want in my life!!!!!


Overall, this book was awesome. It's paranormal, yet it's different from so many young adult paranormal books. It's so creative! I can't wait to read the next book!!!!!

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