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Dog day exercises

Here are some worthwhile things to do in the doggy days of summer when the heat index is 110 degrees in the shade of an airplane headed north: read and think.

I don't understand what they're trying to do with a heat index. Scare us more probably. Weather predicting is all about frightening us into watching that show. The more dangerous it is out there, the more we're apt to stay tuned. They say the heat index is what it feels like outside. To my way of thinking, the temperature has always done a good job of telling us what it feels like out there. If it's 100 degrees, it feels very hot. But if it's 100 degrees and the heat index is 110, we had better watch the weather show so they can tell us how dangerously hot it is. Usually I know how hot it is by the time the weather report comes on a screen.

Few know how to read or think anymore.

That's because it involves being alone with your thoughts.

Given the times, thoughts are prone to run toward the dangerous. The local news on TV in most places is a nightly body count. More people massacred in a shoot-out, sweet dreams, kids. Noise or busyness feed action to those addicted to it: Listen to something. Text somebody. See what's trending.

Here's what's trending: A starlet in a bikini.

When I'm asked what should be read by somebody interested in horse racing, I mention two writers, Steven Crist and Andrew Beyer. Books about picking winners are usually for the birds because the races that were allegedly picked have little to do with tomorrow's card. Who wants to read about somebody else's good luck unless they can write really well? Most races are different. Some trends carry over, like stalkers usually winning the Derby, and like late runners usually losing the Belmont. You don't have to pay $25 for that information in hardback, do you? Picking winners has more to do with philosophy and experience than gimmicks. Writers who do books about picking winners usually couldn't write themselves out of community college. It's like reading a pamphlet. Horse racing people are blessed to have good writers like Crist and Beyer in their midst. Decent writers have always populated the field of horse racing because to pick winners, you have to coexist well while alone with your thoughts. Horse race picking is like writing. Most times it's easier to teach than execute. One of Crist's books is about exotic betting and it carries forward very well. It was published in 2006 and shows anybody with a brain where the money should be bet at the horse races. Another of his books, "Betting on Myself," was written in 2003 and is about running the Racing Form and running around tracks. Beyer's best book is "My $50,000 Year at the Races." This book was published in 1980, when $50k meant something. Then for a while, a single pick six ticket could pay many times that. Now $50,000 seems to mean something again. Included in Beyer's book are stories about horse race shenanigans from tracks in the sticks. Oddly enough, in the classic horse race books, intelligent strategy does not seem dated.

What I'm thinking about now, as it pertains to horse racing and the fall meets soon to arrive, is what usually loses. Set aside highly bet losers and you have a good chance. Horses picked by lousy handicappers usually lose. I implore bad TV pickers to pick early and pick often so we can get to the screens or windows and make or rearrange our bets; because sometimes we're guilty of falling prey to the diabolically obvious. Bad pickers can serve as bridges over troubled obviousness. If the really bad TV pickers don't know who you are, this is it: You throw out high quality horses because they "haven't beaten anybody." Winners don't always know who is back there. Who's to say they couldn't have run faster if challenged. You can't blame a horse for winning. Recent examples of horses that were thought to have beaten nobody were California Chrome and American Pharoah. Bad pickers overrate trouble that occurs in all the wrong places. They don't discount short-field winners. They love trendy stuff. They don't believe all winners have value and would rather lose on a 7-1 shot than follow a 2-1 champion to the bank.

Reading and thinking are lost arts. It's why we're in a deep and dark global creative crisis. It's why the entertainment world is full of remakes and rehashes, prequels and sequels, and why, after ants, we're about out of super heroes.

The average person has the attention span of a puppy. Reading and thinking have become next to impossible. But here's how it's done. Everything has to be turned off for as long as thirty minutes! TV, smart phone, dumb phone, radio, the works. Breathe deeply. Place your mind in the middle of a calm sea. Open the book. Odds are, you'll find the first paragraph boring, or you won't get it.

So text somebody already.