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There’s work overhead on the ISS

Thursday evening the waxing gibbous moon stands above the constellation Orion, appearing as if it were the hunter’s head in profile. The next night it is above and to the left of Betelgeuese, Orion’s shoulder, and the two form a nice line with Rigel, the hunter’s foot. Saturday Luna is below the twins of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, and above Procyon, the lead star in the constellation Canis Minor, the Little Dog. Off to the east is brilliant Jupiter. Sunday the moon rests in the middle of a triangle formed by Pollux, Procyon and Jupiter. Come Monday, Luna is just five degrees south of Jupiter. Tuesday the moon is to the upper right of Regulus, with Jupiter well above them both. Then on Wednesday, the moon, Jupiter and Regulus form a loose triangle.
    While the moon is our only natural satellite, countless manmade satellites orbit the earth. You’ve likely seen some and presumed they were airliners passing overhead in the night. The International Space Station, however, stands out from the pack, shining brighter than except the sun and moon and zipping across the sky like a shooting star.
    This past week, on February 21 and 25, astronauts aboard the ISS completed two of three scheduled space walks to prepare it for future commercial dockings. The third is planned for Sunday, March 1.
    The ISS was originally designed to receive docking space shuttles, which were secured alongside a berthing port using the station’s robotic arm. Unmanned cargo vessels and Russian Soyuz rockets (the only means of sending and retrieving astronauts to and from the station now that the shuttles have been retired) continue to use this system.
    However, manned commercial vessels, set to begin arrival to the ISS in 2017, will maneuver into a docking port within the station itself — something akin to what we’ve seen in movies and television for decades.
    The current system is a daunting and time-consuming process, both arriving and departing. The new system will allow a quick evacuation of crewmembers from the station in the event of an emergency.
    While we won’t be able to see the ISS during the space walk, it routinely flies overhead. For dates and times, go to http://spotthestation.nasa.gov.

Can our Free Will Astrologer break the late-winter blues?

Now is the winter of our discontent.    
    Cold February lingers like a crust of dirty snow. Pipes freeze and people shiver. Spring may be only weeks away, but getting there is a slog.
    You’ve got to be real creative to talk yourself out of such a state.
    Enter Rob Breszny, our Free Will Astrologer.
    His get-out-of February advice for you Scorpios is so good that I’ve made an editorial decision to give it to each of us, whatever our sign. I promise you’ll find it provocative, even transformative. Since taking it to heart yesterday evening, I’ve felt new spring in my step. My bad attitude is improving. I’m cheerier. I bet you’ll feel better, too. Here’s Breszny:
    Be in nature every day. Move your body a lot. Remember and work with your dreams. Be playful. Have good sex. Infuse any little thing you do with a creative twist. Hang out with animals. Eat with your fingers. Sing regularly.
    Now, here’s my plan and progress.
    Be in nature every day. That’s a hard one. Walking isn’t so appealing in gusty winds and blood-freezing cold. That crusty snow has buried the garden. Snow shoveling doesn’t much improve my mood. Guess I’ll have to make an inspirational visit to the National Botanical Garden (100 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, D.C.) where warmth is ever-green.
    Move your body a lot. Just what I need to hear. I’ve been clinging to the fireplace like a limpet to a rock and citing cold blood as an excuse to avoid the gym. Time to load James Brown into my iPod and get up off of that thing.
    Remember and work with your dreams. What does Breszny mean? Your life dream? Or, as I suspect, the stories of sleep that fade on your wakening into the dark cave of the unconscious? If I’m right, husband Bill ­Lambrecht has his work cut out for him. Last night he dreamed he was the only guest in a bed and breakfast. Imagine his surprise when on opening the bathroom door he found a person in the tub. A living person, I’m glad to report. But who? And how to work with that?
    Be playful. Does driving a fantasy car count? Our office neighbor Linda Sefick at The Learning Edge turned up in a Mazda MX-5 Miata while her much duller Honda is repaired. Hmmmmm, I said, and picked up my husband last night in a Mercedes Benz GLK 350. Alas, I couldn’t keep it. But an extravagant test drive is one good way of playing make believe.
    Eat with your fingers. Okay, I’ll put down my fork. Especially for my husband’s homemade pizza. In celebration of its goodness, we’ve evolved a little playful ritual: I sing for my supper. My verses are tortured and I can’t hold a tune, but we laugh a lot and the pizza keeps coming.
    Sing regularly. See Eat with your fingers.
    Have good sex. Sorry. In this family-oriented newspaper, only Breszny gets to talk about sex. We’re substituting Have stimulating crushes. With Robert Redford-reminiscent James Norton playing Sidney Chambers in The Grantchester Mysteries on Public Television, crushing has been easy. The six parts of the premier series took us through February.
    Hang out with animals. Our dog Moe died on November 29, leaving us with serious animal deficiency. The birds are helping us out, gathering in flocks at our feeders, where squirrels add to the entertaining spectacle. Of course we can’t pet these birds, but I have, as you’ll read in this week’s feature story, petted an owl. In fact, it may be animal deficiency that got me into this story.
    Infuse any little thing you do with a creative twist. That’s our mission at Bay Weekly. I tell myself that your reading means we’re living up to it. That’s why you’re reading this editorial instead of the dull one I couldn’t bring myself to write.
    All together, today I’m feeling notably less discontent. But more snow is forecast. Time to pretend you’re a Scorpio and take Free Will Astrologer Rob Breszny’s advice.

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

Oh, the creatures we’ve seen

You find them sitting atop shelves at libraries, inside toy chests and in the hands of parents turning well-worn pages in a nighttime ritual of reading the rhymes, words and wisdom of Dr. Seuss and his unforgettable characters.
    From 1928 until his death in 1990, Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote and illustrated 60-plus books for children and adults as Dr. Seuss.
    The Seuss menagerie includes Horton the elephant who preaches that all people are important; the mischievous brat Cat in the Hat; the Lorax, who speaks for the trees from his thorax; the Grinch, who rescues Whoville in a pinch; and Sam I Am, who pesters an unnamed character in a text of 50 words to try Green Eggs and Ham.
    If Seuss were alive, he’d be celebrating his 111th birthday on March 2, a day that’s been adopted as National Read Across America Day.
    On July 28, more creatures will join the menagerie.
    The literary equivalent of buried treasure, Dr. Seuss’ What Pet Should I Get? is set for release. Probably written between 1958 and 1962, the manuscript was found in his office by his widow and secretary in 2013. Two characters are the brother and sister who listen to Seuss’ telling of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

Some bloom only in short days; ­others, only in long days

Did you know that in many plants, flowering — and bulbing — is based on the number of hours of exposure to light?
    This fact of plant biology explains many mysteries. Understand it, and you’ll be a smarter and more successful gardener.
    If you expose a chrysanthemum or poinsettia to more than 11 hours of light each day, it will never flower. The triggering mechanism that forces these species into flowering is exposure to no more than 10 hours of light. Those conditions of light are called short days and long nights. Interrupting their 14-hour night with even a flash of light can prevent flowering.
    During long daylight hours, greenhouse growers cover these species with shade cloths to force them to flower out of season. That’s why chrysanthemums are available throughout the year.
    Nature’s cycle of short days and long nights begins in late summer. This natural cycle enables us to enjoy fall mums and greenhouse growers to grow poinsettias without having to shade them.
    In the fall, some chrysanthemums flower earlier than others. This range is possible because breeders have developed cultivars with different maturing periods. Chrysanthemums’ short-day classification further divides into six-week, eight-week, 10-week and 12-week cultivars. These numbers refer to the number of weeks from the time a plant is exposed to 10 or fewer hours of light until the flower buds show color. By selecting different varieties, you can have chrysanthemums flowering in your garden for many weeks.
    Short-day woody plants include azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwoods, lilacs, spring-flowering roses and viburnums, to name a few. The flower buds on these plants are produced late summer and early fall for flowering in the spring.
    Long-day plants flower all summer long.  This includes bedding plants and woody ornamentals such as fuchsia, crape myrtle, hybrid-T and floribunda roses, some hydrangea and hibiscus, among others. When daylight hours fall under 10, the plants remain in a vegetative state of growth.
    Many varieties of onions are also classified as long- or short-day varieties. For long-day onions to form bulbs, they must be planted in the spring and form bulbs when the days are long. Short-day onions — as well as garlic — are planted in the fall and form bulbs when daylight hours are short. Plant short-day onions in the spring, and you’ll only get green onions.


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

These spies could use some sensitivity training

There aren’t many gentlemen in Eggsy’s world (Taron Egerton: The Smoke). His stepfather is an abusive criminal, his friends are petty thieves and his mother refuses to let him leave home. When a stolen car and a high-speed chase through London land Eggsy behind bars, the outlook is bleak, until Harry Hart (Colin Firth: Before I Go to Sleep) shows up.
    Hart has the pull to get Eggsy sprung and charges his dropped. Hart, it seems, has always felt the need to repay Eggsy’s father for saving his life. He also offers Eggsy the chance of a lifetime: training to join the secret Kingsman gentlemen spies.
    Kingsman enjoy the freedom of independence. The only mission is to do good throughout the world. Named for one of King Arthur’s knights, each spy is a highly trained killing machine with impeccable outfits and outlandish gadgets.
    Eggsy joins a group of elite teens hoping to earn spots at the Kingsman’s table. While he trains, a media mogul known as Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson: Kite) is planning a nefarious new world order with the help of his henchwoman Gazelle (Sofia Boutella: Monsters: Dark Continent).
    A throwback to the James Bond-era of drinks, sexism, ridiculous violence and punn-ish jokes, Kingsman: The Secret Service could have been a fabulous over-the-top action romp along the lines of John Wick. It has all the elements: silly accents (from Jackson and Mark Hamill), thrillingly gory fight scenes and a charming cast. Director Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) is a deft hand at action, crafting fast-paced battles that are bloody, brutal yet beautiful. A musical sequence featuring exploding heads manages to be a hilarious tribute to ­Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point.
    As the bespoke spy whose impeccable manners make James Bond look like a back room brawler, Colin Firth exudes unflappable charm. He also convincingly sheds his posh exterior for a couple of fight sequences that highlight his physicality. As the successor to Hart, Eggerton is a talented new discovery with plenty of charm. His crooked smile and bravado help ease awkward dialog and scenes.
    With a talented cast, great action and a fun concept, what could go wrong? As it turns out, not much. Kingsman was well on its way to earning a place in the pantheon of action greats. Until its final 10 minutes.
    A running gag in the final moments is so vile and sexist that it nearly spoils the movie. Too crude to repeat in a family-friendly paper, the joke would have been at home in a Seth MacFarlane movie. It’s made worse by Vaughn’s dedication of the film to his mother.
    Too bad this fun and fast-paced thriller about gentlemen spies ends on a decidedly ungentlemanly note.

Great Action/Gross Humor • R • 129 mins.

After 9 years, Coast Guard mascot Rosie gets First Class promotion

At a Coast Guard station, where the crew is often separated from friends and family, the extra boost provided by a dog goes a long way. About half of all Coast Guard stations has a mascot dog.
    “It’s about morale” says fireman Justin Singleton, who’s been at Coast Guard Station Annapolis for a year. “She keeps us in good spirits.”
    Rosie, a black Lab, had served as station mascot for nine years without a promotion. All Coast Guard promotions — even First Class Dog — must be earned. So with dedication and a generous supply of training kibble, Rosie’s crewmates helped her master the skills and commands to rise to First Class.
    With three gold stripes to signify her new rank, Rosie continues her primary duty at the station.
    “She’s usually the first to greet visitors,” say Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Andrew Vardakis.

Read more about Rosie at: http://tinyurl.com/n57v2xz

It’s the most important link between you and your fish

Working at sports stores has given me a long-term look at a critical and often overlooked item of tackle: monofilament fishing line. Taking your line for granted can lead to very unfortunate results.
    Monofilament fishing line was developed more than 75 years ago by DuPont Chemical Company as a spin-off of nylon, the first synthetic plastic. Those early efforts produced stiff, springy lines that had too much memory, tangled easily and were brittle.
    Braided lines made of linen (from the flax plant) or cotton were the overwhelming choice of anglers. These braids were strong for their diameter, supple and relatively easy to handle with the revolving spool reels used by most fishers of that period.
    Braided natural fiber fishing lines continued to hold sway over anglers for the next 20 years. Those lines did, however, have two distinct drawbacks: They tended to deteriorate if not dried properly, and they were visible to the fish.
    Eventually chemists solved all the technical problems with monofilament. In 1959, DuPont introduced Stren, a soft, pliable fishing line with excellent strength and very low visibility in the water. Over the same period, spinning reels advanced in popularity. The new monofilament line was embraced by spin anglers as the perfect application for their tackle.
    DuPont’s product was so successful that it was copied by many other manufacturers. Monofilament has been continually improved. It is superb fishing line: inexpensive, with great strength to diameter and with low visibility in the water.
    Its one drawback: It does not last forever.
    The ultraviolet rays from sunshine, fluorescent lighting and more will eventually break down the structure of monofilament, causing it to fail under stress. Knot strength is the first thing to suffer, while the line itself appears unchanged.
    If monofilament is unused and stored in a cool, dark environment it will last a few years. Outside in sunlight or inside exposed to the light of fluorescent bulbs and tubes, its life expectancy is limited. Manufacturers recommend replacing line every season.
    The life of line gets still more complicated. Because manufacturers do not date their products’ creation, consumers have no way of knowing the age of a newly purchased spool of monofilament. Nor do we know under what conditions that line was stored.
    Most tackle shops routinely rotate the inventory, so monofilament lines are constantly refreshed by newly manufactured supplies. But the buyer has to beware. A spool of line that has remained in a store’s inventory for long periods, especially if exposed to UV light, will likely fail under stress. The longer it has been retained, the more likely it is to break down.
    Purchase your line from reputable sporting goods retailers that frequently turn over their inventory. Higher quality lines are going to resist UV deterioration far longer than less expensive lines.
    One simple test of monofilament’s integrity is to tie an overhand knot in the line and give it a good strong tug. The overhand knot is not recommended for fishing because it cuts into itself. Fresh lines with this knot in them will still be difficult to break. However, monofilament compromised by age or UV exposure will fail at a mere fraction of its rated strength.
    Your monofilament fishing line is probably the least expensive component of all of your tackle. But it is the single most important link between you and your fish. Respect and replace it frequently.
    When not in use, store your tackle with reel covers that shield the line from UV rays. Or keep your tackle in a cool, dark room. Remember also that today’s energy-efficient compact-fluorescent bulbs produce UV rays.

Mars and Venus together at dusk

An ever-so-thin sliver of moon appears low in the west at evening twilight Thursday briefly before sinking beneath the horizon. The Evening Star Venus blazes above and to the moon’s left, with much fainter Mars just above Venus.
    Sunset Friday finds the two-day-old crescent moon within two degrees of Venus and Mars, all so close they easily fit within the eyepiece of binoculars and modest backyard telescopes.
    Come Saturday evening, the moon is roughly 10 degrees above Venus and Mars. But now the two planets are less than one-half degree of one another, with Mars just to Venus’s upper right. Venus shines more than 100 times as bright as Mars, so much so that its light could obscure the red planet, in which case you’ll need those binoculars to discern it. After that, Venus climbs higher into the west and away from Mars.
    While Venus and Mars appear together this week, the planets are actually millions of miles apart. Closer to the sun, Venus completes one orbit in roughly 225 days, while Mars makes the loop in 687 days. From our fixed vantage point here on earth — which isn’t really fixed, as we, too, are always in motion around the sun — these planets cross paths several times each year. But with roughly 75 million miles separating the orbital line of one planet from the other, there’s a lot of variance, so a close conjunction like this is pretty rare. Venus and Mars haven’t appeared so close in our sky since 2008, and they won’t again for another two years.
    Jupiter is a fixture of the night sky. It appears in the east as twilight fades, and by 11pm it is almost directly overhead. By 5am it is low in the west-northwest and sets just before sunrise.
    If you’re up before dawn, look for golden Saturn to the south. It is traveling with the constellation Scorpius, whose return to the skies each year heralds the coming of spring. The red heart of the scorpion, Antares, shines almost as bright as Saturn and less than 10 degrees below and to the left.
    The last of the naked-eye planets is just eeking away from the glare of the sun. Look for Mercury just above the east-southeast horizon in early dawn. Binoculars will help you pinpoint it against the glare of the coming sun.
    Wednesday’s first-quarter moon shines amid the constellation Taurus the bull and is less than one-half degree from its glaring red eye Aldebaran. Above the moon a little farther are the stars of the Hyades cluster, and higher still those of the Pleiades cluster.
    Some of the brightest stars appear during these cold, dark nights. Orion the hunter stands above the southern horizon in the evening, the three stars of his belt pointing up to Taurus and down toward Canis Major and the brightest star, Sirius. Orion’s foot is marked by Rigel, while his shoulder is the red giant Betelgeuse, with Canis Minor and its bright star Procyon to the left. Above these stand the Gemini Twins, Castor the higher and brighter star and Pollux a little below it. Above and to the right of Gemini is Capella, the bright star of Auriga the charioteer, shining directly overhead at 8pm. To the east is Leo the lion and its bright star Regulus.
    Just east of Orion is the winter Milky Way, stretching from the southeast to almost directly overhead and then down to the northwest in the early evening.

Harriet Tubman now conducting tours

History is a bigger hall nowadays, with room at the table for more people than the old white guys who used to rule there. So a good story for any week of the year is the new prominence coming to Harriet Tubman as a hero of Maryland, New York and our nation.
    Harriet Tubman, a contemporary of Abe Lincoln, escaped slavery only to return home, to Dorchester County, to conduct many more enslaved people along the Underground Railroad she had followed to freedom.
    In “Harriet’s Homecoming: The road was long and never smooth for Harriet Tubman,” Emily Myron tells you more, including the Congressional honor making Tubman the first individual woman to have a National Historical Park named for her.
    As the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park comes together, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park is under construction on Tubman’s Eastern Shore homeland
    Blackwater Wildlife Refuge marks the spot in a landscape that’s mostly open space, farm or preserve. Listening to a new audio tour that’s part of the package will inform your drive along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. You can bike the flatland too, with bike and kayak rentals near the Refuge.
    But that’s down the road …
    In the here and now, we’re telling this story in Black History Month.
    Why bother with Black History Month now that Black History is all our history? Or, for that matter, Women’s History Month in March?
    Memorial times still matter because we know so little of what we know.
    Our own personal history slides into forgetfulness as we march away from back then into the advancing years.
    How much — or little — do you know about the other people in your own life? Your friends? Your brothers and sisters? Your parents? Even your partner?
    Unless you’re a genealogist or writing a family history, I bet we share the same kind of amnesia. Test yourself: Do you know when and where your mother was born? If you can answer those questions, can you go a step further? How did she enter this world: by midwife or doctor or quite spontaneously in a car en route to the hospital?
    (Send me your answers and I’ll send you mine.)
    Even the people drilled into our collective consciousness in school — Lincoln, Washington and all those other presidents we honor February 22 — live on in our memories as a few semi-bright images in a fog of oblivion.
    If we know a little more of black history, it’s because such a big deal has been made of it over the last half century. Memorials, museums, monuments and, yes, Black History Month, make our pictures of the past into bright murals — maybe even movies.
    This week’s feature puts Tubman into focus and opens the way for us to see more. A landscape looks empty until you’ve learned about the people who lived in it before you. Now, 102 years after her death, Harriet Tubman can conduct you through the Shore as she knew it.

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

A cacophony of noise and colors for youngsters

The secret to the harmonious life of the ocean town of Bikini Bottom isn’t friendship, love or understanding. It’s the Krabby Patty. The fast food treat is so addictive that the residents of Bikini Bottom can’t live without it. So when Mr. Krab’s (Clancy Brown: The Flash) secret formula for the Krabby Patty goes missing, the town falls into chaos. To prevent a Krab-induced apocalypse, fry cook SpongeBob SquarePants (Tom Kenny: Adventure Time) teams up with his nemesis Plankton (Mr. Lawrence: SpongeBob SquarePants) to find the secret formula. The search leads to the surface world, where the nefarious pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas: The Expendables 3) may know the fate of the formula. Can SpongeBob save Bikini Bottom from a Krabby Patty crisis? Will the evil Plankton finally learn how to work with his neighbors instead of against them? Can your reviewer make it through this film without a flask? In the interest of full disclosure: I don’t have a child. I was unfamiliar with the travails of SpongeBob, Patrick and the rest of the Bikini Bottom crew, airing for nearly two decades on Nickelodeon. I imagine that most people buying a ticket to see this mass of loud noise and color will have been conditioned by the television show. Alas, my folly was attempting to watch a feature length film without inoculating myself with a few 30-minute episodes first. SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water is best enjoyed by smaller viewers. There are cute moments, but this is a film written and animated for the youngsters. As on television: there is no growth of characters and no real danger. All is back to normal before the credits role. Adults without knowledge of SpongeBob’s antics will find themselves lost in a sea of poorly written puns, silly noises and posterior-based humor. I was not the target demographic, but the film did very well with its intended audience. Children laughed, shouted and clapped their way through my screening. If you are taking a group of children, don’t waste your money on the 3D upcharge. Because of the flat animation style, 3D effects do little besides lightening your wallet. My bright spot was Banderas’ grizzled pirate. As the only human in the film, Banderas must adjust his performance accordingly. He shouts, snarls and high steps around his animated co-stars, clearly having the time of his life. His performance is so full of fun that you can almost forget how inane the plot is. Almost. Good Animation for Kids/Bad for Your Reviewer • PG • 93 mins.