Book Recollection: What The Dog Saw

It’s time for another book review.  This one has been a long time coming and one I almost didn’t get through.  To this day, the only book I have started but not finished is Tommyknockers by Stephen King which managed to bore the crap out of me by about 50 pages in.  As another worthless tidbit, the only book I ever Cliffed in my academic career was Moby Dick because I had little interest in wasting my time reading about revenge on a sperm whale.  Summary, it takes a lot for me to actually give up on a book but halfway through this particular effort and I was beginning to regret picking it up at night.  This actually reads a little harsher that it really is meant to be, but it is somewhat amplified by the fact I have read many of Malcolm Gladwell’s book and for the most part, they have been good reads.  The last one fell below expectations (see Outliers), so I was hoping for a rebound of such with this latest offering.   What the Dog Saw is really a collection of articles written for the New Yorker over the last 10 years or so.  Collections like this are generally ideal for my nighttime reading since I can consume the topic and not have to carry thoughts or plots over to the next time I get a chance to pick it up.  There is one key point to that concept.. the topic needs to provide some return on time investment be it something that expands my knowledge, provides an interesting perspective on a known topic or at least keeps me entertained – take for example the similarly crafted book from AJ Jacobs (see Experiment).  Unfortunately, many of these articles fell outside this scope.  On the positive side, the discussion on investing significant money to improve the life of the homeless to reduce their drain on society was interesting as well as the discussion on interviewing concepts (a topic that has always interested me), the wolf cries that led up to tragic events and for some strange reason the story on ketchup dominance held my interest until the end.  These highlights were overshadowed, however, by the discussion of Cesar Milan and the completely worthless entry on plagiarism.  I’ve given Malcolm a good deal of my valuable time invested in reading his books.  I think I’ve come to a point where I’ll concentrate on other authors for awhile.

It’s good to get the first book of the year out of the way, but it was a sobering experience to head out to Walgreens on my birthday to purchase some reading glasses.  I am just thankful I went with LASIK to eliminate the need to invest in bifocals (shudder).   Here’s to a new year of reading!

Hit the jump to read my takeaways

  • Malcolm states this book succeeds or fails on whether it engages you or not – an honest statement, but in truth there was “less” than “more” engagement as I traversed through the book
  • Heinz has dominated the ketchup market
  • I had no idea Grey Poupon was made in Hartford Connecticut – cheers to their marketing firm for giving it an air of European elitism.
  • Cortez brought tomatoes to Europe from the new world
  • There are five basic tastes in human palate – salty, sweet, bitter, sour and something he refers to as Umami or a bodied taste like cooked tomato.
  • The huge market share of ketchup that children drive resulted in the child friendly squeeze bottles
  • High amplitude refers to the perfect combination of flavors that prevents you from picking out specific tastes – Coke, Pepsi and Pepperidge Farm shortbread cookies
  • He has an article about an interesting investor who looked at his craft from a different angle – he later wrote the book The Black Swan which I actually have on my reading list for this year
  • Here’s a test – what pops into your head when you hear “Because I’m Worth It” ?  Apparently an astonishing 71% of American women immediately think of L’Oreal – now that is a winning marketing strategy
  • John Rock invented the birth control pill in case you have some extra synapse storage you need to use – now to know he was a Catholic and was quite shocked his church disapproved even though it was based on controlling pregnancy in a natural means, is very intriguing
  • In 1951 Pope Pius XII sanctioned the rhythm method for Catholics and in 1958 he approved the Pill if it was used for other reasons besides just birth control – then jump to 1968 when Pope  Paul VI declared all forms of artificial birth control was against church teachings (dig hole in sand, insert head)
  • There is absolutely no reason for needing the placebo days with the Pill – simply added for the comfort of women and add to the notion of natural – oh, and it apparently has zero effect on breast cancer stats
  • The Dog Whisperer (Cesar) illegally crossed into America from Tijuana when he was 21
  • Enron’s Skilling was given 292 months in prison – 10 months over the amount needed to get a cushier sentencing location – denied!
  • He makes a comment about what it will take to find Bin Laden .. recommendation for second printing.. might want to close that out since he’s now with the fishies
  • His coverage of the Enron issue was pretty informative from my perspective – I’ve never really understood what unrealized revenue is but really it is just speculation .. to the tune of $747 million in 2000 – that and beware the Special Purpose Entities  of which Enron had 3,000 waaaaaaaay overboard yet the signals were missed .. or rather ignored
  • Apparently drunks in Reno sneak through casinos and finish off half empty glasses of liquor – What a novel idea
  • Power Law distribution means the activity is at the ends of a curve as opposed to the well known Bell Curve
  • $62million was spent a year on 25 hard core homeless – that is staggering and gives a whole new perspective to investing in solving that problem and still coming out a head – like getting them apartments which only (relative) cost in the thousands Denver has as serious homeless problem – they are actually investing in efficiency apartments as their answer to homeless drain – on the covers I can see how this is very troubling to individuals who do not have this luxury because they are working within the system – it is a political hand grenade with the right avoiding it due to giving special treatment to those that do not deserve it and distanced by the left because it focused on efficiency over fairness (puke)
  • Apparently the number of scud kills was vastly overstated in Desert Storm due to bad evidence
  • Due to the complexities involved, precision bombing was abandoned by the British in WWI and WWII in favor of area bombing
  • The approach of bombing the ball bearing factory in Schweinfurt Germany was NOT worth the cost (36 B17’s didn’t make it back) since it did not impact their supplies or damage the actual equipment
  • Mammography reduces the risk of dying from Breast Cancer by only 10%
  • I need to verify this myself, but the claim is Teen Spirit by Nirvana is the same riff as Boston’s More than a Feeling (hmm)
  • Taken out of context of frequency, amount. wolf cries etc. of other information, it can look like obvious signs were overlooked that could have prevented tragic events like the 9-11 bombing and Pearl Harbor
  • Interestingly, the CIA was created in 1947 to insure all intelligence would be processed in one place – but in truth, having different viewpoints on the intelligence is considered more constructive to prevent bias etc. – The FBI and the CIA were suppose to be rivals but now they are saying they need to be centralized due to 9-11
  • Panic is about thinking too little (narrows your scope), Choking is about thinking too much
  • The physics of flying causes passengers to feel perfectly level when turning – there may be a steepness of bank here since I have been able to tell
  • Charles Perrow: Given sufficient complexity, it is almost inevitable that a some combination of minor failures will eventually amount to something catastrophic – This has to go up in my work cube!
  • Theory of Risk Homeostasis – under certain circumstances, changes that appear to make a system or an organization safer in fact don’t due to taking greater risks in another – apparently described in Gerald Wilde’s book Target Risk – sounds like something I should check out
  • Wow, Malcolm predicts that another NASA spacecraft will go down in flames due to mundane reasons – this must be a comforting read for astronauts.
  • There are no good indicators to predict who will be a good quarterback or a good teacher – All quarterbacks drafted into the NFL must take the Wonderlic Personnel IQ Test as a possible indicator of success (McNabb was the lowest scorer of his class and yet the only one who has a shot at the Hall of Fame). Similarly, test scores and graduate degrees does not differentiate good teachers.
  • Malcolm seems to implicate following McKinsey Consultant’s advice on talent contributed to Enron’s demise – not a glowing recommendation is it – their belief – divide into A’s, B’s and C’s – challenge and reward the A’s, encourage the B’s and ditch the C’s
  • Gladwell actually makes an interesting observation – everything in school is focused on working by yourself – don’t work with others to solve a problem etc. where when you enter the corporate world it is all about working with others
  • I passed his management material quiz – note, one of the possible answers to solving a management issue was to announce a major reorganization of the department – I literally laughed out loud when I read that (and no, that was not the right answer)
  • Robert Hogan, Robert Raskin and Dan Fazzini wrote an essay called “The Dark Side of Charisma” where they cataloged failed managers into three groups – High Likability Floater – quick riser because he doesn’t make any difficult decision and makes no enemies – Homme de Ressentiment  who seethes below the surface and schemes against his enemies and the Narcissist who is gifted with energy, self confidence and charm drive him up the ladder – the latter being terrible managers
  • Interviewing is impacted by first impressions – cause you to hear what you want to hear
  • Malcolm has a discussion with an interviewing expert (Menkes) who proceeds to state a number of common interviewing questions (that I’ve definitely heard before) and then mocks how the answer is so obvious that it produces the exact same answers
  • Structured Interviewing is the only method proving successful – very rigid, trained interviewer and scripted questions and ratings on predetermined scale
  • 84% of pit bulls tested for temperament passed which puts them as a breed above beagles – is the answer really in their environment? – definitely avoid Chow Chows in Denver!
  • There is actually a list of questions at the end of the book for discussion purposes (thinking book club or school here) which feels very precocious  – Let’s hope the publisher did this and not Malcolm otherwise my respect for the author just dropped a few notches

3 thoughts on “Book Recollection: What The Dog Saw”


    1. I thought “savory” was another taste (like steak), unless that’s what the full-bodied taste refers to.

    2. I read that the inventor of the Pill was quite upset that women who didn’t have a medical need were using it. Teenagers who met him would thank him and he didn’t like it.

    3. Regarding precision bombing in WWII, I’ll send you an article on the amount of effort it took to design and test an elliptical bomb, backspun on calipers in a bomber before it was released, that would skip along the water and over torpedo nets and hit a major dam, then roll underwater along the dam surface due to its backspin and explode a certain distance underwater. A successful mission in which they lost 53 of the 103 crew in the different aircraft involved, which was considered typical for bombing runs at the time.

    4. My prediction: A Russian spacecraft will go down in flames or crash land with Anerican astronauts on board before we ever get another manned spacecraft flying.

    5. Maybe one scud was hit by a Patriot missile in Desert Storm according to newspapers I’ve read (have to make that clear). Many or most of the scuds fell apart because they were so badly constructed.

    6. How many MOVIES have you started and never finished. I can count those on one hand, myself, (“Dusk to Dawn” comes to mind), but there should have been more. Better yet, how many movies in theaters have you walked out of (while they were playing, of course)? One for me, “Frequency”, because they marketed it as a family movie and halfway through it turned into a stalker/killer movie and I had my son there. A book I wish I hadn’t finished is Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone”, which was a huge waste of time and the last King book I’ll read.



  2. Wow, now that was a fast response.

    1) It was difficult to make out exactly what that 5th taste – there was actually a reference to chicken soup so it must be a brothy kind of thing. It may even have something to do with MSG but I can’t remember the details on that other that when given the choice between an MSG enhanced item and a non enhanced MSG item, the kid will always take the MSG one.

    2) That is an interesting tidbit that was not referenced in the book although I could have guessed the thank you bit. He did appear to be a pretty religious person that went out of his way to keep it in the doctrine of the church – personally I think the church is wrong here but I’ll leave it at that – I figured they would simply change it given enough time (like Limbo) but it it hasn’t happened yet

    3) Not those are some tough requirements. I bet they had a decent defense budget

    4) I would bet on the come for that prediction, but didn’t Newt just state something about building a colony on the moon?

    5) Seems like more of a threat to their own people than the enemy – maybe those scuds were really toy replicas of our missiles!?!

    6) Umm, that is a touch one. I tend to be less diligent on the movie front. I tend to start and then stop a lot of movies while I’m running if they become too damn slow but eventually get around to watching them later. When I was a kid I was whisked out of the movie Grizzly by Dan and Joan after the first 10 minutes after they showed a bunch of human body parts hanging from a cabin (I had actually convinced them it would be alright for me to see it – apparently not). Linda has become sick from the motion and left in the middle of Days of Thunder (think I kept watching that though) and then again with the latest Star Trek thanks to crappy excuse for directing Shaky Cam – had to leave that one. Other than that can’t think of any.. many I should have left though. I see we have a common bond with wasted time with Stephen King – Linda with third that motion seeing as how she is constantly complaining about how god awful The Stand was. For the record there are no Stephen King books in my future either.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Oops, it was in fact “The Stand” that I was thinking of, not “The Dead Zone”. Horrible waste of time.

    Here’s a link to the water-skipping (“ricochet”) bomb used in WWII. The plane had to release this spinning elliptical bomb at only 60ft above the water and 425 yards from the dam at 220mph—that’s 108 yards per second. It reminds me of the Death Star trench sequence at the end of the original Star Wars movie. They lost 53 out of 113 airmen on this mission when 8 aircraft were downed. These men were real heroes.



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