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August 3, 2006

Is Leo Burns the world's greatest athlete?


After you read the July 30 New York Times story about Burns, at 91 the world's oldest harness racer, who's so far this year driven his horse Winsome Wyoming to four wins in four starts, you might be inclined to think so.

I sure am.

Above, Burns being interviewed after yet another victory, this one at the White County Fair in Carmi, Illinois this past Sunday.

Here's the article.

    91-Year-Old Driver Is Still Setting Record Pace With Unbeaten Filly

    Leo Burns, a 91-year-old harness racer, has repeatedly proved he has not lost a step.

    Having driven his sidekick filly, Winsome Wyoming, to four victories in four starts this year, Burns donned his colors, his black-and-white helmet and goggles Tuesday night before he planted his himself in a sulky for two laps on the dusty fairgrounds track in Albion, Ill., about 40 miles northwest of Evansville, Ind.

    As Burns put the 2-year-old Winsome Wyoming through her prerace paces, the race announcer told the packed grandstand and onlookers in lawn chairs why they should pay heed to the man with the capital B on his silks. Burns is the sport’s elder statesman, with no records showing that anyone older has taken part in such a race in North America, much less won.

    Burns got polite applause. “Go Leo!” some shouted.

    Bigger ovations would follow.

    From the start, Burns and Winsome Wyoming left nothing to chance on their home track, bolting to an early six-length lead in the six-horse field just a quarter of the way through the mile-long run. Seventh lengths became eight, then 15, the announcer said, as Burns crossed the line in 2:05.4, shattering the 1997 track record for a 2-year-old filly by seven-tenths of a second.

    “Here she is, the filly; here he is, the man,” the announcer said as fans in the bleachers gave them a standing ovation. “You’re looking at a record-setting filly. You’re looking at a record-setting man, Leo Burns.”

    Burns, fiercely private, basked in the moment, grinning ear to ear.

    “Just taking it in stride,” Burns, an Iowa native, told a reporter after putting Winsome Wyoming back in her stall. “The rest of the races might not go as well.”

    Given his record, there is little chance of that.

    Burns has amassed more than 450 victories and nearly $400,000 in winnings in a trotting career spanning more than four decades, according to the United States Trotting Association. Before the recent victory in Albion, Burns’s winnings this year totaled $5,009.

    With its files dating only to 1952 in a sport that has been around in the United States since the early 1800’s, the association cannot say specifically that Burns is the oldest person to have raced. But David Carr, the association’s research chief, said it was a safe bet.

    “With all the information we can look at, we have found no one as old as he or older,” Carr said. “He’s not going into the record books, but we’re treating this as a record, acknowledging him as the oldest man to win a harness race.”

    Burns, born when Woodrow Wilson occupied the White House, shrugs at such fuss.

    “I don’t think a big deal about it,” he said before the race from the two-acre, southern Illinois farm near Albion that he shares with Rosie B, the Chihuahua who has been his companion since his wife of 57 years died a few years ago. “As long as I feel good, I’ll keep going. I’ll be O.K.”

    His next race is today in Du Quoin, Ill.

    To Dean Hoffman, Burns is “a remarkable story by any stretch, even more so because he’s so nonchalant about it.”

    “It’s not that he’s going out there to be a novelty,” said Hoffman, the senior editor of Hoof Beats, the national trotting group’s official publication. “He’s going out there driving and winning. What he’s doing just staggers the imagination.”

    While many may see harness racing as fancy — the pastime of yesteryear moguls like Cornelius Vanderbilt and Leland Stanford — it is physically demanding, at times punishing, to its drivers.

    Strapped precariously into sulkies, drivers do not have air bags or seat belts as fallbacks if something goes wrong during races in which speeds reach 30 miles an hour, or more.

    “It’s a young man’s game,” said Leroy Moore, 70, a longtime acquaintance of Burns who insisted that when on-track accidents happen, “young men bounce better than older people.”

    Competitors like Burns who run the fairgrounds circuit also risk having pacer horses spooked by anything from litter on the track to spectators allowed to get too close.

    Through the years, Burns has managed to escape serious injury. Alan Finn, 52, has not been so lucky, breaking his pelvis three years ago in a race tumble that landed him in a hospital for five days and then in bed for six weeks.

    “I honestly wouldn’t ride in a race at that age,” Finn said as he readied for his three races after Burns’s victory. Finn has never raced against Burns but said, “He knows his stuff, that’s for sure.”

    “He’s a pretty alert guy for his age,” Finn said. “Some people are just blessed to be healthy.”

    While older, experienced horses can find their own way around a track, Burns drives a 2-year-old that, like many horses her age, is more apt to “fly off the handle and do something stupid,” Hoffman said.

    “At least with an auto, if you steer left, the car goes left,” Hoffman said. “Horses often don’t do that.”

    Breaking Winsome Wyoming was not easy. After Burns bought her at public auction last year for $2,600 — “I just liked the looks of her,” he said — the horse was skittish, even obstinate. But he worked with her, even changing her bridle to a peek-a-boo version that lets the horse see straight ahead but not much to the side, startling her less.

    Victories followed.

    “Nobody can beat Burns with the filly he’s got,” said Connel Willis, 72, of suburban Chicago, after finishing a distant second to Burns here with Gumcorner Flo. “If I was going to lose, it should be to Leo. I’m glad for him. I just wish his wife was still here to see it.”


More on this remarkable man here.

I can think of a lot of things I'd much rather not be doing at 91 than harness racing — what a way to go!

August 3, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

World's most stylish file carriers


From the website:

    Leather File Tote

    Make organizing and transporting files as easy as carrying a handbag

    These colorful, soft-sided organizers are up for any and everything you want to throw in them.

    And when you have paperwork to move, attach the included frame and you can take files straight from your office into the tote.

    Easily removable frame holds papers and documents in place during the trip home from the office.

    High-quality, richly-dyed, smooth-finished leather with reinforced stitching.

    Strong yet soft leather handles.

    Files not included.


You wouldn't dream of going anywhere without your BlackBerry; now you can keep your files nearby as well.

Perfect for when you're heading directly to the Hamptons after a day of depositions.

You get two totes in a matched-color set: one for legal-size files (17"L x 9.25"W x 10"H), the other for letter-size (13.5"L x 8"W x 10"H).

In Orange, Blue, Brown (top), Black or Beige (below).



August 3, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: Ned Lamont into Cliff Robertson


Whoa, said I when I opened my Washington Post yesterday only to espy, on the front page of the Style section accompanying a story about Ned Lamont, the photo above.

Lamont is currently making Senator Joseph Lieberman sweat a lot as they count down the days until next Tuesday's (August 8) Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut.

I thought for a second I'd gone back in time and Cliff Robertson (below, as JFK in "PT-109")


had been Photoshopped into the picture in what would have been one impressive hack.

But no, it's Lamont.


Never hurts to resemble a handsome movie star — even if for most voters the similarity is only subliminal — rather than a bad bobblehead doll.

An aside: buy or rent the 1968 movie "Charly," starring Robertson and based on Daniel Keyes's Hugo and Nebula Award-winning, heartbreaking and wonderful 1959 short story, "Flowers For Algernon."

Both movie and story are just superb.

August 3, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Beat the heat with the world's best (and cheapest) summer sports headband


Last night it was 96°F at 7 p.m. when I decided to go for a run.

I rummaged around in my box of stuff and looked for a lightweight headband to keep my longish hair from dripping sweat into my eyes and making me even more miserable than I'd be after five minutes in the humidity chamber outside.

I'd given away my lightweight Nike terrycloth ones last summer and all I could come up with were the heavy-duty Patagonia iterations I use in winter to keep my ears from freezing and breaking off.

What to do, what to do....

I put a note on my list of stuff to buy online after I came back from running, to wit: "Lightweight headbands."

Then I thought to myself, "Come on, joe, solve the problem with what's in the room."

Edwin H. Land said that and it's a superb way to jumpstart your brain.

Anyhow, since I was in my laundry room there wasn't an obvious solution at hand but once I generalized "room" to "house" it wasn't five seconds before I'd thought of a possible solution — my big rubber bands, the ones I use to keep files together and all.

To my office, into the bottom desk drawer, out came the bag of brites! File Bands pictured up top, on went an orange one and I was so good to go it wasn't even funny.

Worked perfectly — stayed on, lightweight and so comfortable I didn't even know it was there.

Tonight I'm going pink.

Chromatherapy adepts will adopt these these nifty headbands in an Apartment Therapy minute.

Show your true colors.

50 assorted orange, pink, yellow, green and blue ones, each 7" x 1/8", just like those on the elevated desktop next to me and my treadmill at this very zeptosecond, cost $3.69.

See what it feels like to be me.

August 3, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pandora Internet Radio — Created by the Music Genome Project


What's this?


Better check it out.

[via Al Christensen]

August 3, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

360° Mirror — Cut off your own mullet with confidence


From the website:

    360° Mirror

    Seven panel, 360° mirror makes all angles visible simultaneously for full coverage while you style hair or apply make-up.

    Central mirror illuminates.

    Mounts with suction cups or screws.

    Requires three AAA batteries (not included).

    Folds down (below)


    to 9"H x 6"W x 2-1/2"D.


"Style hair?"

"Apply make-up?"

Think outside the hair/make-up boxes, please — this puppy's got limitless possibilities.


August 3, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Women are better looking than men — Scientific proof, at long last


Just as you don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows, you don't need self-important old men in white lab coats at great universities to tell you what's obvious every time you open your eyes and smell the coffee.

Wait a minute... that's not right.

Sometimes I can even smell the coffee before I open my eyes.

In fact, that's what wakes me up, once in a while.

Oh, heck, fugeddaboutit joe, give us the juice already, willya, we don't have time for this nonsense; we're busy and important people.

My bad.

In yesterday's Washington Post "Unconventional Wisdom" feature, social scientist Richard Morin led off with his take on a forthcoming scientific article about attractiveness and its consequences.

Read it below, then we'll chat.

Assuming you're not long since outa here as you would be if you had one iota of sense.

But I digress.

    Perfect 10s and the Odds of a Pink Nursery

    It's no surprise to evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie recently gave birth to a daughter, or that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes also are proud parents of a beautiful baby girl.

    Good-looking parents are 36 percent more likely to give birth to a girl than less-attractive couples — which also explains why women are, on average, better looking than men, argues Kanazawa, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

    Kanazawa based his conclusion on data collected during in-home interviews with 2,972 randomly selected young adults in 2001 and 2002. All were parents 18 to 28 years old, and they participated in the ongoing National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. As part of the study, the interviewer rated the respondent's physical attractiveness on a five-point scale that ranged from "very unattractive" to "very attractive."

    Kanazawa compared the percentage of boys and girls born to study participants who were very attractive with the sex ratio of babies born to everyone else. He found that 56 percent of babies born to beautiful parents were girls. For parents in each of the other categories, fewer than half of the babies — 48 percent — were girls.

    But why are beautiful people more likely to have girls? Kanazawa says scientists studying humans and other species have found that parents who possess any heritable trait that increases male reproductive success at a greater rate than female reproductive success will have more males than female babies, and vice versa.

    Because men value physical attractiveness more than women do when looking for a mate, good looks increase the reproductive success of daughters much more than that of sons. So attractive people should have more daughters — which is exactly what Kanazawa found.

    His theory also suggests that, over time, women should have become more attractive than men. These data confirmed his hunch. More than half of all women in the sample — 52 percent — were rated as "attractive" or "very attractive," compared with 42 percent of the men.


So — how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?

More here on the study from this past weekend's Sunday Times, (of the U.K. — for those not British who aren't quite sure which Times is referred to by the phrase).

If you've got $30 you can read Kanazawa's original article, entitled "Beautiful Parents Have More Daughters: A Further Implication of the Generalized Trivers-Willard Hypothesis (gTWH)."

Note: the journal offers a link to the abstract of the article but when you go there you get this.

If you'd rather not skip lunch but still would like to know more you can learn all about the generalized Trivers-Willard hypothesis (gTWH) absolutely free right here.

August 3, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

'Catch and Release' Spider Grabber


From the, er, website:

    Spider "Catch and Release"!

    No squashing spiders!

    If you can’t stand spiders and insects in your home but don’t want to kill them, this long-reach tool is the answer!

    Press once to capture.

    Press again to release outside.


Endless humane fun for the whole family.

Official spider catcher of the Franciscans.

Originally $19.95, now reduced over 50% to jump off the website at $9.90.

I wonder who decorated the room pictured above?

Interesting choice of wall color.

August 3, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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