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Thanksgiving is coming, with Christmas right behind

Perfect Thanksgiving weather, don’t you think?    
Propelled by the gusty winds of autumn, fallen leaves dance the season. But not all have fallen, and trees glow with color, green and yellow yielding to scarlet, mahogany and umber, further gilded by long rays of the low sun. Cattails and reeds sway, and pine cones drop, all spreading their seed.
    Above us, Vs of honking geese and ducks fly, pulling our eyes skyward to dramatic vistas of cloud and color.
    In the fields, farmers are harvesting the last soybeans and bedding down the land for winter. Green still sprouts brilliantly in cover crops, winter wheat and rye, holding the earth this year and promise for next year’s harvest.
    The harvest is in, the scene set and Thanksgiving stirring in our minds and kitchens. Time to order the turkey, plan the feast, transform Halloween’s pumpkins into bread and pies. Farmers markets will be open this Saturday to bring the last of the year’s local harvests to your table. There are pie sales to shop, if easy as pie is not so easy for you.
    Most important on this national holiday of gratitude is recalling our blessings, in the spirit of George Washington, who on October 3, 1789 said:
    Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—
    for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—
    for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—
    for the great degree of tranquility, union and plenty which we have since enjoyed—
    for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—
    for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
    That’s a fine list of good bestowed upon us, don’t you think? Add them to your own list of personal blessings for which we give thanks once again this year on ­Thursday the 26th day of November.
    
The Christmas Holidays are Another Story
    We’ll still be eating Thanksgiving leftovers when the Christmas season begins in earnest the day after Thanksgiving.
    How shall we get into the spirit of that season?
    Bay Weekly has the answer. Tucked inside this week’s issue you’ll find Seasons Bounty, our annual guide to celebrations of Christmas and all our winter holidays.
    Peruse its pages and the spirit of the season will leap into your heart, as it has into mine. Make a list of your favorites and mark your calendar.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Look to Taurus for Hyades, Pleiades

The stars of winter are gathering in the growing darkness, with Taurus rising in the east around 7pm. Its brightest star, Aldebaran, marks the bull’s eye. From there, look a few degrees higher for the Hyades star cluster, and from there look another 10 degrees up for the more renown Pleiades cluster. Orion trails the bull, rising around 8:30pm, followed by Pegasus. Far to the west, in a barren section of sky, is fall’s brightest star, Fomalhaut.
    By dawn, Orion and crew are high in the west, while to the east Venus blazes in all its glory. Ten or 15 degrees below the morning star is the second-brightest heavenly object, Jupiter; midway between the two is much fainter Mars, no brighter than any old star.
    The darkness between sunset Tuesday and sunrise Wednesday marks the peak of this year’s Leonids meteor shower. The byproduct of comet Tempel-Tuttle, the Leonids top out at around 15 meteors an hour. Traced back, they appear to emanate from the  constellation Leo.

Chilean miners fight for survival in this stirring drama based on a true story

Before descending into the bowels of the earth, workers at the San Jose gold and copper mine pause before a shrine to pray for protection. They need help from a higher power as the mining companies place profit above safety.
    Each time the miners enter the gaping maw, they know there is a chance they’ll never return.
    When the mountain collapses after 100 years of mining, it’s no surprise. Thirty-three miners are trapped. A rock twice the size of the Empire State Building stands between the men and fresh air. In their small refuge, they have a dozen cans of tuna, some stale cookies and milk. It’s barely enough to feed 33 men for a day, let alone the days it will take for help to reach them.
    The company response is to follow protocol: Ignore the collapse, try to contain news of the trapped miners and avoid terrified family members seeking answers. Infuriated that their husbands, brothers and sons are being left to die, the families riot, making the news.
    The president of Chile (Bob Gunton: Daredevil) sends his minister of mining (Rodrigo Santoro: Focus) to deal with the crisis. As the government races to drill to the miners, morale and food run low for the trapped men.
    Frustrating and gripping, The 33 is best underground, excelling at capturing the dynamics of the miners who spent 69 days trapped in a gold-and copper-laden tomb. Director Patricia Riggen (Girl in Progress) masterfully crafts the cave-in scene, escalating the tension as the miners scramble toward safety. Watching the group come together and fracture as starvation, exhaustion and depression infiltrate is riveting.
    As Mario, the leader of the miners, Antonio Banderas (The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water) carries the film well, even managing to sell some of the more heavy-handed dialogue. The other miners are all tertiary, but Riggen gives them all character action so that we care for the men.
    Above ground, Riggen has mixed success. She devotes a good deal of time to the miners’ families, but the characters are underdeveloped and boring compared to the miners. The notable exception is Juliette Binoche (7 Letters), who plays Maria, the fierce sister of a trapped miner. Binoche becomes the leader of the families, forcing the government to take accountability and refusing to give up hope.
    The greatest problem with The 33 is its scope. Riggen brings in so many plot threads and themes that they obscure the main story of survival while buried in the earth. Because the film is overcrowded, no character is fully developed. It’s also slightly uncomfortable to watch white actors, like Gunton who plays the president, pretend to be Chilean with ridiculous accents.
    Though flawed, The 33 is compelling whenever Riggen focuses on the subterranean drama. Buy your ticket to watch Banderas and his band of brothers fight for survival. When the film cuts to topside drama, take a bathroom break or get a popcorn refill.

Fair Drama • PG-13 • 120 mins.

Do your soil and yourself a favor; work easy

Don’t pull out those dead annual flowers; hit them down with the lawnmower.
    Don’t spade or rototill the flower garden, either, because you destroy precious organic matter and risk plow-pan, a compacted layer of soil formed by the plow or rototiller blade.  This compacted layer prevents roots from penetrating deeper into the soil and leads to poor drainage, thus making plants less drought-resistant.
    I have not spaded or rototilled my flower garden for at least 15 years, and it gets better every year. Organic matter accumulates in soil that is not disturbed, which is why more and more farmers are adopting no-till farming practices. No-till uses less energy and increases the organic matter concentration in the soil, reducing the amount of fertilizer needed to produce a crop. No-til also reduces problems associated with plow-pan. 
    Clean up your flower garden by setting your lawnmower to cut at the highest setting and mow the plants, covering the soil with a layer of natural mulch. The stubs of the mowed plants will catch leaves fallen from nearby trees. This natural layer of mulch will smother out winter weeds so that next spring, all you need to do is plant through the mulch. By not spading or rototilling every year, gardening becomes less time consuming, requiring less energy. And you will have fewer weeds to contend with.
    However, if you have a large vegetable garden and follow crop-rotation to minimize disease problems, spading and rototilling the soil is still necessary.
    After removing crop residue, till the soil as deeply as possible and immediately plant a cover crop of winter rye. Winter rye is an excellent scavenger crop that absorbs all available nutrients until the ground freezes. Winter rye also produces an abundance of lignins, organic fibers that resist decomposition, leave your soil friable and help in maintaining a healthy organic matter content.
    Come spring, mow the winter rye as close to the ground as possible before rototilling the soil to a depth no greater than three inches. Shallow tilling is all you need to kill the winter rye for preparing the seedbed. By shallow tilling, you will not only conserve soil moisture but you will also be reducing plow-pan and its problems.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

They’re home to big thinkers, big ideas and new technologies

As an early reader of each issue of Bay Weekly, I’ve been thinking about Then & Now, staff writer Kathy Knotts’ story commemorating Annapolis Public Library’s half century on West Street.
    1410 West Street will be home to our capital city’s library for, perhaps, as many years to come. For that’s the spot where our Anne Arundel County Public Library system will build a new Annapolis library. Starting in 2017, the construction will cause a break in service at the library that’s always been the trunk of the county system, now spread wide to 15 branches. When construction finishes, the 2019 or 2020 Annapolis Library will be 55 percent larger and equipped for a fast-changing future.
    Technology is sure to be one great force driving a future far beyond my imagining.
    In researching her story, Kathy’s kids gave her some help. At the West Street Library anniversary event, seven-year-old Jordan headed for the Library Tech Then & Now exhibit. “Some objects, desktop computers and iPads, he immediately recognized,” Knotts writes.
    Jordan was only two years old when the iPad came into our lives, and his ease with the machine seems intuitive. Revolutionary as it is now, iPad technology is constantly changing; before long, some yet-to-be-named machine even more amazing will surpass it.
    How many cutting-edge-in-their-day computers we’ve used and junked at Bay Weekly, I can’t count. After our first wonderful Apple Macintosh 128K, I quickly took them — and the wonders they enabled — for granted. From 1993, when we bought those little Macs, I’d guess that a new computer — desktop, laptop, iMac or phone — entered my life roughly every three years. Each one in its time gave me so many powers I’d never had that I couldn’t imagine wanting or needing more. Now, when even my smallest computer connects me to the whole world and much of its accumulated knowledge, I load it up with multiple simultaneous commands and begrudge each second their realization takes.
    Older objects in the Tech Then & Now exhibit that “were foreign to” Jordan — like typewriters — had longer lives.
    For their first century in common use — 1860 to 1960 — typewriters’ core technology barely changed. Portables, as opposed to desk models, were a big innovation. And oh boy, when typewriters went electric even an average typist’s fingers could race. In 1961, the self-correcting IBM Selectric revolutionized typewriting. Buying my own was a life milestone. It cost about as much as our first Mac (the Macintosh 128K was originally priced at $2,495).
    All those technological wonders were, each in its day, instruments of my survival. I took each of them as mine, never stopping to think that someone had made them.
    Were it not for the bright ideas of big thinkers, I’d still be living in a cave — if I had the wits and luck to stay alive — telling my stories by firelight and using the embers to draw pictures on the cave walls.
    Libraries have guided me out of the cave — as they do each new generation — by bringing us the big thinkers, the big thoughts and the new technologies on which we all depend for the quality of our lives.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

The script is deader than the zombies

In a deserted strip club, teen Scouts Ben (Tye Sheridan: Dark Places) and Carter (Logan Miller: Take Me to the River) are slow to realize that the pole dancers are dead — make that undead.
    With zombies invading their hamlet, the boys make it their mission to save the hot senior girls. Along the way, they grope naked dead people, fight zombie housecats, stop for a few selfies and never much worry about the likelihood that everyone they know is dead and seeking their brains.
    Has Scout training prepared them to fight zombies? Can you watch this movie without severe mental anguish?
    Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is neither funny nor scary. Distilling every annoying piece of millennial culture, from electric dance music to selfies to painfully self-aware references, it is sure to make all viewers over 30 long for the good old days of Adam Sandler’s lazy yet coherent humor.
    With characters so vapid and unlikeable that we root for the zombies, it makes a good case for the extermination of the human race. Director Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) aims for the lowest common denominator. His jokes are dirty and overdone. Body humor is grotesque and uncomfortable. The one promising part — using Scouts training to fight zombies — is glossed over in 10 minutes.
    Lazy character work makes the leads not only predictable but also unenjoyable. We know Ben is the good guy because he gets shy around pretty girls. Carter is a horn dog, ogling and groping naked zombie women. It’s supposed to be the behavior of an irrepressible scamp, but sexual assault, even with zombies, is never funny.
    Even zombies will skip this movie.

Dismal Horror • R • 93 mins.

Clean up to improve next year’s crop

Tomato blight attacks your tomatoes by way of the leaves. The blight starts at the bottom of the plants and progresses upward. The lower leaves turn yellow-green, and oblong spots with concentric rings in the middle appear mid-leaf. Soon the leaves brown and fall. Plants are weakened and, without shade, fruit sunburned. So you don’t want to give the blight a foothold, for it will spread.
    If you have tomato plants still in the ground, destroy any that are contaminated; avoid composting unless  temperatures in the  pile exceed 140 degrees.
    If you have already placed your tomato cages and stakes in the garden shed, you may want to take them out of storage for treating.  The spores of tomato blight can overwinter on the wire cages or stakes that support plants during the growing season.
    A recent research study demonstrated that tomato plants grown with new cages and new stakes have far fewer incidences of blight than plants grown with previously used cages and stakes. Microbiologists were able to culture spores of the organisms that cause blight in tomatoes from cages and stakes in both fall and spring.
    But treating used cages and stakes with a diluted bleach solution prior to storage and before placing them around the tomato plants in the spring significantly reduced the blight problem, the researchers also reported.
    They recommend spraying the cages with a 10 percent bleach solution (one part by volume of bleach and nine parts by volume water). Spray the wires until they drip, making certain that the joints are thoroughly soaked. If you use stakes, dipping them in the same percent solution brings the bleach into all of the pores of the wood, plastic or steel. Vessels for dipping can be made from a large diameter piece of plastic pipe or a piece of gutter capped at one end. Wear latex gloves to avoid skin contact with the bleach.
    Growing tomatoes in the same soil where potatoes were grown the previous year also resulted in greater occurrence of blight in tomatoes, the researchers reported. The blight appears to be carried over on the unharvested small potatoes left in the ground. If you grow both tomatoes and potatoes in the same garden, let a full year lapse before rotating tomatoes to where you previously grew potatoes.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Moon, Venus, Jupiter and Mars beckon in the west

The moon wanes through morning skies until new moon on the 11th. Before dawn Friday you’ll find Luna barely two degrees north of bright Jupiter. Early Saturday the moon joins brilliant Venus and much dimmer Mars, forming a tight triangle easily within the view of binoculars. Use them to scan the eastern horizon a half-hour before sunrise for fleeting Mercury.
    Those binoculars will come in handy at dusk too, as Saturn appears very low in the southwest before setting from sight.
    In between dusk and dawn, keep a lookout for errant meteors from the Taurid shower. Peaking the nights of the 5th and 6th with five to 10 meteors an hour, the Taurids are active from September into December. What it doesn’t provide in quantity, the Taurids can make up for in quality, often producing extraordinarily bright meteors with long-lasting trails, including the occasional fireball.

The one that got away

Perhaps at birth I got an extra dose of the hunter-gatherer gene. Maybe it was early exposure to a rural life with family and friends who thought fishing a desirable skill. Whatever the reason, I have a strong affection (perhaps compulsion) for the sport.
    As a result, I will be troubled, sometimes relentlessly, if I’ve experienced angling failure.
    Such is the case after a misadventure three long months ago, affected nothing of any significance and involved no witnesses other than myself, but it lingers in my subconscious, haunting me.
    I was fishing off Podickery Point on a sultry summer day under ideal conditions: calm water, still winds and a nicely moving tide. Chumming is not my first choice of angling, though I find it pleasurable and relaxing to cede success to the whims and appetites of the fish.
    The rockfish action had been good at that location. I expected no less that day, despite an occasional plague of marauding cow-nosed rays. If they showed up in any numbers, hooking and releasing these powerful but undesirable creatures would be a nuisance.
    There was no sign of rays, but the rockfish bite turned out slow. After three hours, I had only one fish in the box to show for my efforts. At 26 inches, it was a nice fish but not all that I was seeking. Refreshing the baits every 20 minutes on my four-rod setup, I decided to make a change.
    I replaced one of the baits, cut menhaden, with the biggest of the heads I had removed from the baitfish. The head is not usually good bait, being hard, large and offering little meat. But sometimes big stripers prefer these baits.
    Nothing much happened for almost a quarter of an hour. Then the outfit baited with the head began to sound off with the chatter that announces a slow and determined run. After a fair pause, I slipped the Abu reel in gear and set the hook.
    The result was a solid resistance; no run, no headshake, just firm resistance. Then the fish moved off steadily, as if hardly concerned. I tightened up the drag and leaned into it, bending the medium-heavy powered rod down to the corks and straining the 20-pound mono until it started to hum.
    That only caused the critter to hasten its down-current run. After some 50 yards, it turned and headed back and off to one side. I’d had visions of a real giant on my line; now I experienced a sudden doubt and disappointment, recalling similar encounters before — with big rays.
    Yes, it had to be a ray. Then it made a run like a ray move, virtually cementing my conclusion. Some 100 feet off the starboard side, a wingtip, I thought, broke the surface, followed by a heavy splash and a renewed run against my stiff drag.
    I tried to horse the thing toward the boat, but to no avail. The fight was nearing 20 minutes before I regained any amount of line. Heaving and reeling, I brought it ever closer. Then, as it approached, the devil crossed behind the boat, tangling with two of my three lines remaining in the water.
    Disgusted, I snubbed the run, dropped the rod down beside me on the deck and grabbed the monofilament with my hand, taking a half wrap and pulling the beast and the entangled lines up toward me at the stern. That’s when I finally saw it.
    It wasn’t a ray at all. It was a great rockfish with an eye the size of a half-dollar and shoulders as thick as an old dock piling. My heart stopped as the fish turned and took the accumulated lines directly into the motor’s submerged propeller. I barely felt the tug as they parted and the giant swam free.

Letters home from a new soldier, drafted to fight World War I

November 11 brings us once more to Veterans Day, our nation’s day of remembrance of all our veterans, living and dead. The 96-year-old commemoration began as Armistice Day, celebrating the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when soldiers of the Allied Forces and of Germany, the enemy, laid down their weapons.
    The war to end all wars began in Europe on July 28, 1914. The United States joined the conflict as an Associated Power on April 6, 1917, promptly drafting 2.8 million men. By the summer of 1918, 10,000 American soldiers a day were shipped to France to fight.
    One of those drafted was A.L. Dixon, an Illinois country man who described his experiences in regular letters to a schoolteacher in a tiny Illinois village. The teacher was Miss Cora Smith, my first cousin twice removed, whose papers have descended to me.
    Inspired by the Maryland archivists who I interviewed in anticipation of Saturday’s Family History Festival, I opened and read his long-forgotten letters, transcribing (as exactly as I could) one for you to read here.
    I suspect Dix, a sergeant in the Quartermaster Department, never reached France, for his letters continue from Louisville through April 17, 1919. What became of him I don’t know but shall have to discover.

December 13, 1917
Dear Friend:
    When you want to know how good homemade candy tastes, just join the army for the candy was sure good, a sergt” here stoled some of it and when I bawled him for it he said that I should be satisfied to know a girl that could make good candy.
    I know you have a hard time making out my writing and you know how hard I worked in school, gee — but we never thot them days that all of this war would spring up and get some of us shot.
    When anyone trys to tell you that Ky is a warm state you tell em that its all wrong for we have about one foot of snow here and some cold.
    Miss Cora I am making good here nowdays and I am acting Sergt” seems with good luck I will have my stripe some day but don’t tell this for one is never sure of a thing here and I may get fooled.
    I have had charge of the QMC wagon train for over three weeks am boss of 22 mules, 30 men & 25 wagons and you should see my head swell when I line these men up and yell ‘tention’ squadron right boys march, am such a bear on that & they can hear me all over the camp.
    Who is your best ever now days? and does ‘ma’ let him stay late on Sun night? The girls swarm this camp on Sundays but I stay clear of em some of them are kids and I sure would like to spank the ­little fools.
    We had a fine thanksgiving dinner here and I was invited to a home in Lville but I was on duty & missed out.
    Come down and I will take you to a show at our new theater its some play house and will seat 4,000 of us boys and we have the best of shows here, in this barracks we have lawyers – Drs – artist – school supts – and most any kind of trade but all are soldiers now, and we hear better singing here than at a show.
    Me thinks we will soon see France and I hope so, just to get this over with.
    I have taken out $500 insurance and Mother may find herself rich some day soon, sure was pleased the way old Calhoun [County] helpt us boys she is a good old Co that’s sure.
    Some how I have been afraid of you ever since you called me a 2 face and laughed at me when I took that hard fall at the barn gate remember how you laughed at me?
    Must go to work so please write until you get all the news to Camp T — and many thanks for the candy and good letter.

Friend Dix [A.L. Dixon]
Utilities Branch
QMC Dept.
Camp T, Ky

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com