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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

It takes good eyes to encompass a world of wonders

Could there be more out there than meets the eye?    
    It may be so, just like it was impossible to predict the forces that led to this week’s wave election.
    On faith or evidence, the world is full of believers in forces unseen, seldom seen and selectively seen.
    Believers in God and gods live in a universe populated by alternative species. Classified with military precision, their supernatural numbers range from the Supreme Being, or Beings, down to flitting sprites and cute little cherubim and putti. As with mortal armies, there are legions of both good guys and bad guys. Devils have their own hierarchy, and names, just as angels do.
    Divine beings above and below are recognized by faith, though lucky — or not so lucky — mortals among us may be selected for encounters. Who knows when the devil might appear with a bargain we had best refuse? Is he or she waiting in the wings for the presidential election two years hence?
    Far better to meet Mary mother of God updating her appearances at Guadalupe and Fatima.
    Other kinds of beings — who knows who or what — animate searchers of the sky to amplify their sight and hearing, even travel into space in hopes of alien encounters.
    Ghost hunters, as we wrote last week, are just as determined if not quite so technologically sophisticated as pollsters.
    Artists and writers give as much attention to these parallel universes — plus worlds of giants, dwarfs and leprechauns — as to our plain old ordinary one. Who knows what such fantasticists really see — and what we don’t see.
    Worlds out of sight are close at hand as well as distant in space and place. Ordinary Earth is layered with life beyond plain sight. Has every bird in the Amazon forest been seen and classified? Every life form in the deep, dark sea? Every bacteria and virus longing to infect us?
    There’s way more to the world of the small than meets the eye. As numerous as angels in the heavens or stars in the sky are life forms that we’d never see without wonder glasses that magnify our eyesight so we can peer into their secret minuscule worlds. Cells are multiplying, atoms spinning all around us.
    Even the leaves on the trees are shaking with surprises. Summer’s green fades, revealing yellow, orange, red and purple that were there, invisibly, all along.
    What else in plain sight are we missing?
    Election Day plus one holds other orders of revelation. Pollsters have devised multi-million-dollar methodologies in the political science of reading human preference. Yet how we vote remains a morning-after surprise.
    (Good thing, for how many would run if pollsters certified the winner on Day One?)
    The news of November 5 is that True Blue Maryland has a Republican governor. Throughout the state and Chesapeake Country, dark horses have won and favorites lost.
    In such a world of wonders, why shouldn’t there be more fish in the sea? In our great Chesapeake Bay, is Chessie impossible? I haven’t seen the creature that goes by that name, but many have. This week, when the impossible comes to be, we offer you four decades of testimony from Chessie sighters, brought up to date by Chris Gardner’s most recent sighting this August.
    In additional homage to what we may not see, our story is told by the ghost of Bill Burton.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

7 million Books for International Goodwill

B.I.G. stands for Books for International Goodwill. Taken at face value, the word tells another truth. Books for International Goodwill is big. This week, the 18-year-old Parole Rotary Club project packs its seven millionth book in its 300th shipping container.
    Those milestone figures tell only part of this big story. Books come in at the rate of 1,500 a day. Local readers make many of the contributions, dropping off loads of books 24/7 at the B.I.G. Annapolis warehouse at 2000 Capital Drive. Overprints from publishers add volume.
    Dealing with 547,500 books a year takes 600 volunteer hours, 95 percent contributed outside Rotary by citizens motivated by the B.I.G. mission.
    That would be supporting schools, libraries and literacy projects in countries where books are a dreamed-of luxury. Most are former British colonies as most B.I.G. books are in English. Uganda was the first. B.I.G. began as an effort to send books to three schools when a bookless principal there asked friend and now-deceased Parole Rotarian and B.I.G. founder Leonard Blackshear for help.
    In 18 years, books have been sent to over 30 countries in tractor-trailer loads of 20,000. Eight hundred box-by-box shipments have gone to Peace Corps volunteers and 1,000 to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seven million books would fill Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to a depth of eight feet.
    The shipments are funded by donations and monthly book sales.
    “B.I.G. is a win-win-win operation,” says Rotary organizer Steve Frantzich. “Those donating books realize they will go to a good home. From an environmental perspective, B.I.G. has saved the county over 6,000 cubic feet of landfill space from once-discarded school and library books alone. Finally, recipients receive the tools they need for empowerment through literacy.”
    Browse 70,000 well-organized books and buy at bargain prices — 50¢ to $1.50 or $30 a bagful — to fund Books for International Goodwill this Saturday, Nov. 1 from 8am to 2pm at 2000 Capital Dr., Annapolis: 410-293-6865; Next sale, Saturday, Dec. 13.

Meet ghosts, Volvo ocean racers and a 1,900-mile runner in this week’s paper

If ghosts do haunt historic places, they may view ghost hunters of Melissa Barba’s ilk with the same distaste long-time celebrities feel for paparazzi. Two or three centuries into the job of haunting, a new generation comes hunting with intrusive paraphernalia: flashlights, cameras, camcorders and voice recorders. So, if you follow Barba’s instructions in this week’s feature, “If There Be Spirits, Now’s the Time to Find Them,” don’t be surprised if the ghosts of Point Lookout, William Paca House and Jefferson Patterson Park are uncooperative if not downright irritable.
    Haunted as historic places may be, you don’t need to go far — in time or place — to find ghosts. They’re rising up from the earth, clinging to trees and shrubbery, blowing in the wind. Visit most any neighborhood in Chesapeake Country or across America, and you find them. Expressive celebrants of the holy day and holiday of Halloween have hung ghosts, skeletons and the popular roll of dead or undead characters in their yards and driveways.
    This year, a neighbor on Fairhaven Road has bedecked a long drive and front yard with gauzy orange bows as well as white plastic bag ghosts à la friendly Casper. Morning and night, it calls to me. I have driven in for a closer look.
    For I appreciate such efforts, in every form. Even huge spiders, giant illuminated pumpkins and inflated Frankensteins are okay by me this time of year.
    ’Tis, afterall, the season.
    As Mother Nature’s children fall and flee our world, human natures long to pierce the mystery. Ghosts seem to be calling to us from the nether world. Or is it we calling them?
    Whoever’s calling who, the meeting of the worlds of the living and dead is a celebrated tradition this time of year. Its timing is rooted in sky as well as earth, balanced on a nice celestial ellipsis midway between the autumnal equinox, Sept. 22, and winter solstice, Dec. 21.
    The celebration goes by many names. Samhain was the sacred festival of Celts and Druids. Hallowe’en, our festival, is the evening, or e’en, of the Nov. 1 Christian feast All Saints Day, honoring the good souls who’ve gone to heaven. November 2, the following day, is All Souls Day, honoring the not-so-good dead earning their way into heaven. In Mexico, the same day is the celebrated Day of the Dead, which has icons scarier than ours, including calaveras, effigies of human skulls often made of sugar.
    The Day of the Dead, I’m told, is ideally feted in cemeteries where your living and dead families get together for a high-spirited reunion.
    My most recent family are buried in Illinois and St. Louis, and earlier generations I don’t know where, so my Day of the Dead celebrating won’t take me to their resting places this year. In plenty of fine Chesapeake County cemeteries, historic St. James Parish in Lothian for one, I could meet up with old friends. Other dear ones lie not so far away in Arlington National Cemetery.
    But if ghosts are real, do I need to travel to find them? Won’t any so motivated find me? Maybe our own ghosts are the spirits that give us goose bumps this time of year.

    Ghosts are not the whole story, even this time of year. In this week’s paper, you’ll encounter superhuman and well as supernatural phenomena.
    The Volvo Ocean Race, now nearly three-quarters of the 6,500 nautical miles from Alicante, Spain, to Cape Town, South Africa, returns to this week’s paper, introduced by Steve Carr, who’s chronicled three earlier races in our pages.
    Here, too, you’ll meet near-superhuman Al DeCesaris, the Annapolitan who biked cross country last year and is now running the whole East Coast to help find a cure for his niece and other kids suffering Sturge-Weber syndrome.
    Read on for these and all your favorite Bay Weekly features.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

What to do when skunks move into the neighborhood

We’re a little worried about our new neighbors. They’re a well-dressed couple, but their reputation precedes them — malodorously.
    Skunks are more often smelled than seen. Now that we’re seeing them, can smelling them be far behind?
    Not necessarily, according to Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It costs a skunk a lot of energy to spray a load of musk at you or your dog. That’s energy they’d rather preserve, especially this time of year when they’re fattening up for lean months ahead.
    Food is the most likely reason skunks are checking out the neighborhood. They’re omnivorous, glad to feast on mice, voles, your trash or the veggies growing in your garden.
    Except for their legendary spray, skunks are defenseless. With a full pouch of musk a week in the making, a cornered skunk wants only to escape. Encountered, it will try to run away. Next, it will try to warn you off by stomping its front paws. If that doesn’t work, it will turn around, lift its tail and spray.
    Though not 100 percent effective, Neutroleum Alpha works way better than smearing yourself with peanut butter or tomato juice:
1 quart fresh three percent hydrogen peroxide
1⁄4 cup baking soda
1 tsp dish soap as a degreasing agent
    Mix in large open container. While the solution bubbles, use it to thoroughly wash skin or fur. Then wash with soap and water.
    Better is to discourage skunks from moving into the neighborhood by securing your trash. Try placing ammonia-soaked rags in places that attract them.
    A final resort is hiring a trapper. You’ll pay for the service, and caught skunks will be euthanized under Maryland’s rabies vector law. Though they are seldom rabid, they rank as one of four main species that can carry the disease.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Nuisance Hotline: 877-463-6497.

Why your vote matters

To a lot of us, Election Day means no more than Push-the-Peanut Day.
    A record low of 21 percent of Marylanders voted in June’s Primary Election. General Elections about double that percent.
    That indifference I don’t quite get, for I love to vote. Election Day is as patriotic a date to me as the Fourth of July. True, punching my ballot, even for the candidates I most believe in, isn’t as much fun as parades and fireworks. But I feel pretty special exercising the right won for me not only by spunky rebels in britches but also by long-skirted Suffragettes. My grandmother marched so I can vote.
    Patriotism is one reason I vote — but not the only one.
    I vote because the people we elect have huge influence over our lives, for better or worse, and I’d prefer it be for the better. From statewide candidates like governor to local ones like North Beach mayor and city council, they’ll be making and enforcing the rules we have to live by.
    For that reason, Election Day amounts to more than peanuts for all of us.
    We give particular power to the people we elect to the General Assembly. They infiltrate our lives in all sorts of ways, even putting their hands in our pockets as they dictate the taxes we pay. In turn, we depend on them to give us value for those taxes.
    Interestingly, for most of us who live in this part of Chesapeake County, delegates are also the people we can hold most accountable to represent us. It’s a simple fact of numbers. Anne Arundel County’s half a million citizens are represented by only seven council people. (Annapolitans and citizens of tiny Highland Beach do better; incorporated as towns, they elect mayors and councils). Delegates, on the other hand, are broadly accountable to only about 40,000 of us. Given the number of citizens who develop the relationship, it can be pretty intimate.
    That same close relationship holds in Calvert, though that county’s form of government also gives its 91,000 citizens five commissioners to represent countywide interests. Citizens of the towns of Chesapeake Beach and North Beach have local representation, as well.
    In this week’s issue, you’ll be meeting many of the people seeking control over and responsibility for your life.
    We reached out to Anne Arundel and Calvert’s applicants for top state jobs — senator and delegate — in the General Assembly. Twenty-eight replied.
    We asked one question: How do you use the Bay, and what will you do to keep this great resource alive and well?
    Our readers, we told them, value the Chesapeake as our environmental, cultural and economic heart — and they vote their values.
    Candidates who answered our question seem to agree. From tax-overboard tea partiers to tax-and-spend liberals, they professed dedication to the Chesapeake and its restoration. Over Bay Weekly’s 21 years, Bay restoration has risen to orthodoxy.
    Over the years, the General Assembly has voted Bay values in hundreds of ways huge and small, by reducing the polluting flow of nutrients, both nitrogen and phosphate, from our sinks and toilets, water purification plants and septic systems, farm fields and yards, roof tops, roads and parking lots. That work takes money, and they’ve often made hard decision on where the money will come from.
    Will the people we elect this time do even more, as Bay restoration demands? They all say so, and they all sound good. So how can you foresee the actions that will follow the words?
    Look for specifics, and be wary of candidates who suggest that Bay problems are somebody else’s fault. Bay restoration is a job for which we each have first-person-singular responsibility.
    This feature gives you grounds to judge the Bay bona fides of job seekers whose prospects depend on you — and more.
    You’ll also meet these candidates as people seeking your trust. It’s harder to tar all politicians as scoundrels — harder to use that I-don’t-vote excuse — when you get closer to them as individuals.
    Read on, and I promise you will.
    I’m looking forward to November 4, when I’ll wear my i voted sticker as proudly as others wear their American flag lapel pins.
    I hope you’ll join me at the polls on Election Day.
    Or, if it’s more convenient, vote early. Early voting runs eight days, from Thursday, October 23 through Thursday, October 30, both weekdays and weekends, from 10am until 8pm. (Find early voting at

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Keep him in the lab and out of my kitchen!

Call him Drosophila melanogaster in the lab, where a century ago the fast-breeding creature helped scientists understand chromosomes and set out mapping genes.
    At home he’s the common fruit fly, aka the vinegar fly.
    Each autumn the tiny winged pests arrive in your kitchen. There they swarm, hovering intrusively over edibles you’d rather they had no part of. From the bowl of fruit to the compost container even to the fridge, they are with us. The tiny pests enter through open doors, windows, even screen mesh. Inside, they multiply.
    They’re here to stay until the frost, unless you take measures against them.
    Though they’re glad to drown in your glass of wine, the better trap is a paper funnel directing them into — but not out of — a bottle or jar baited with an ounce of wine or vinegar. If that doesn’t work, visit your hardware store for disposable fruit fly traps baited with nontoxic lures the flies like even better than your apples.

Temptation awaits at the Boat Show

We Americans love progress. We love to see how technology is surpassing all past inventions to create a new, better and brighter future. Even more than seeing it, we love hands-on exploration. Invite us to put our best foot forward and step right in, and here we come.
    No wonder we’re drawn like magnets by the U.S. Boat Shows — which for two weeks every October transform Annapolis into a world’s fair of marine technology.
    We not only see what’s new but touch it. We not only touch it but step aboard. We not only step aboard but sink into the cushions, inspect the engine, open the cupboards and even measure the comfort of the head. These boat shows are full sensory experiences.
    To the Sailboat Show last week or the Powerboat Show this Thursday through Sunday, we go hungry.
    With everything new under the sun before us, what we’ve already got pales. The millionaire owner of the Hinckley Talaria 43 will be eying the 52-foot upgrade this week.
    Every one of us who exchanges $18 for the wristband that allows passage into this expo will be in the same no-longer-quite-satisfactory boat. We’ll be checking out the next step up. Exhibitors feed our desire, typically offering a range of models in every brand so we can dream bigger.
    The fisherman committed to Parkers will find six models, ranging from 18 feet to 33. Not to be outdone, Grady White offers five fishing boats, from 23 to 33 feet. Prefer Sea Hunts? Six boats are coming to the show, from 19 to 25 feet.
    The stages of temptation are even worse for yachters: Beneteaus from 44 to 51 feet; Jeanneaus from 40 to 58 feet; Princess yachts from 46 to 72.
    Speed lovers will find eight Formulas, from 38 to 48 feet. Tug lovers who want to cruise through life’s waters encounter just as much temptation. From a 33-plus-foot Nordic starter tug, you can upgrade your cruising home to 39 or even 44 feet.
    Is a Nordic still your love boat? With brands strung out on floating docks for easy comparison, you’ll see the Nordic stacks up to American Tug and the Rangers. Maybe you’ll fall in love all over again.
    This show lures us to better as well as bigger. Bayliners are fine; SeaRays finer. Wouldn’t a Back Cove be more commodious than your Albin? Wouldn’t a Saber be better still?
    If you count covetousness a sin, the confessional had better be your next stop after the U.S. Boat Show.
    I’ll be sinning in all these occasions. But what I’m really looking for is the boat that calls me out of my ­pretty-good present into a bigger, better, bright future that’s beyond my imagining.
    A couple of years back, the Eco Trawler 33 nearly reeled me in; husband Bill had to take the checkbook out of my hand and lead me away.
    That boat’s back. Will I feel the same this year? I can’t wait to see.
    A rational decision-maker like Bob Melamud, who previews the Powerboat Show for you in this week’s paper, can enter these gates alone. He knows what he wants — luckily for him it isn’t a boat — and what he’s willing to pay.
    Me? I don’t dare go alone. If you’re impulsive, you had better not either.
    No matter who you are, I bet you leave the show with at least one wonder of technology, one hallmark of progress.
    Maybe you won’t be cruising home when the show ends Sunday in the boat of your dreams. But just maybe this weekend you’ll buy that smart fish finder that’s sure to improve your catch. Or the perfect mop you’ve been seeking all these years. Or the boat wax guaranteed to shine through a whole season.
    If you walk out empty handed, I want to know how you did it. If you don’t, I want to know what you bought. Send me your boat show experiences at

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

It brings us boat shows for one; holds back flooding for another

Over the next two weeks, the U.S. Boat Shows flood the economy of Chesapeake Country with $50 million. In Annapolis, the shows create an autumnal wetland of value, invigorating much of the local economy. From Annapolis, the dollars flow outward in many rivulets to the boating world.
    Chesapeake Bay has brought the shows to Annapolis for four decades.
    The recreational dollars generated by these shows are one small part of the wealth the Bay brings us, which amounts to $107.2 billion annually, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Clean up the Bay, and the value will rise to $130 billion every year. That’s the conclusion of The Economic Benefits of Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, a “first-ever analysis” just released by CBF.
    All six Bay states, plus the District of Columbia, share in the bounty.
    Just how is that figured?
    It’s pretty deep economics. But basically, seven land uses — from forest to open water to agriculture — were first assigned baseline values of ecosystem health and productivity. Baseline figures were calculated and compared according to what we citizens choose — or don’t choose — to do to take care of Chesapeake Country waters and lands.
    The billions in benefits come to us in many forms, including agricultural and seafood production, recreation, property values, air and water filtration and protection from floods and hurricanes.
    Invest the $5 or $6 billion the big cleanup will cost Bay wide, and economic benefits soar to that big $130 billion figure.
    Make excuses for doing little or nothing, and the Bay gives us less in return. Received annual value drops from the 2009 baseline of $107.2 billion down to $101 billion.
    Billions are pretty hard to grasp. What those billions mean for us, our kids and our grandchildren are real economic benefits such as higher housing values and more productive soil and land.
    Drinking water is another real value, especially as water scarcity becomes an issue for the world, from California across the Southwest and on to drying wells in Chesapeake Country. Three-quarters of the 17 million people in the Bay watershed drink surface water, with many straws sucking from the Potomac.
    Short-term thinkers are trying to convince you that Bay restoration is a bottomless pit of spending and regulation.
    It’s true that cleaning up the Bay is a big and expensive job that demands each of us to do and pay our share.
    But it’s a job with big dividends.
    In our neck of the woods, a cleaner Bay translates directly into dollars-and-cents value.
    Take the tourists drawn by the Chesapeake, for example. Tourists — many arriving right now for this month’s boat shows — spent an eye-popping $58 billion in 2009. That money fed the economies of waterfront communities up and down the Bay and is distributed “among diverse industries, individuals and communities” throughout the watershed.
    Take flood control for another. High-tide floods may triple in 15 years and increase ten-fold in 30 years in many coastal towns, according to another report, this one just released by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The study stretched from Texas to Maine. In Atlantic Coast communities, increases in flooding are expected to be “pervasive.”
    In Annapolis, 2030 could bring 180 tidal floods a year. 2045 could bring 360 floods a year, 50 of them extensive. “Without substantial measures to defend against rising seas … parts of Annapolis could never be dry again.”
    The may in the Concerned Scientists’ study depends on what we do — or don’t do.
    That’s one more reason for us to stop complaining and get to work.
    The Bay Foundation study proves for the first time and without a doubt that Chesapeake restoration is far more than a government excuse to take your money and wrap you in red tape. It’s a vital economic issue for all of us in Chesapeake Country.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Scientists succeed in gene sequencing the nasty pests

The first one broke in on August 29. Throughout September, every warm, sunny day brought more. Wiggling though cracks a fraction of their size, smearing windows, crawling up walls, hibernating in curtains, under cushions, behind pictures and among magazines. As humans and dogs basked outdoors on the last Saturday in September, a persistent hailstorm of invasive brown marmorated stink bugs pinged house, windows and doors.
    Nothing stops them but the suction of a vacuum cleaner or Bugzooka. So armed, we’ll catch hundreds. But many more will live among us until they swarm again to leave in spring.
    “Few treatments deter Halyomorpha halys, the damage it causes or its ability to spread,” say investigators at the Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
    “Growers consider the invasive stink bug to be the single most important pest in the mid-Atlantic region, and they have tried desperate measures, including the increasing use of broad-spectrum pesticides to control the problem.”
    They’re so pesky that Dr. Francis Gouin, the Bay Gardener, cut down his peach orchard rather than war with stink bugs over the fruit.
    Those bugs are pretty smart, but humans ought to be smarter.
    So University of Maryland geneticists and entomologists have devised a new strategy to quickly sequence the bugs’ genes. Their findings, they say, “could lead to new ways to control this abundant and costly pest.”
    The Maryland scientists developed a way to skip the time-consuming first step of breeding genetically identical individual animals in the laboratory. Instead, they managed to sequence and analyze all of the genetic variants that arose in their population of stink bugs, and to do so at all points in the insects’ life cycles, from the egg stage through late adulthood.
    “This is the first step in our ongoing work to develop a pest control strategy that employs molecular genetic techniques to manage the stink bug invasion without affecting other, potentially beneficial insects,”
says Prof. Leslie Pick, chair of the University of Maryland Entomology Department, who guided the research.

Here’s the help you need to tackle fall’s long must-do list

There is so much to do!    
    That’s the fact that hits me on stepping out of my car at day’s end.
    I’ve just pecked at the landscape transformation plan I began, with professional advice, last spring — though I’ve been at it ever since.
    The Bay Gardener’s prescription for lawn renovation is tacked on my garden bulletin board from our 2013 Fall Home and Garden Guide — still waiting to be followed.
    In the vegetable beds, tomato plants are a shambles with late fruit still ripening. Soon, it will be time to follow Dr. Gouin’s advice in this year’s Guide and plant a cover crop of rye plus some beds of garlic and short-day onions. Among the fading perennials, pansies need planting and sweet William seeding.
    Out in back, those azaleas need digging up, soil replenishing and on their return sparkleberry holly and blueberries for company. Up the hill, another holly — a big one — needs moving.
    Oh and all that brickwork I’m imagining …
    That entire inventory announces itself before I get to the front door, which wants replacing. Just as my wood siding needs painting … my windows washing … and, worst of all, my basement waterproofing from the inside out.
    Inside, I’ll see more walls in need of fresh paint. My kitchen I must enter in sunglasses, lest I see counters that need replacing, which opens the door of desire to new cupboards …
    As night falls, autumn’s chill reminds me of more serious issues than these cosmetics: Chimney sweeping, weather stripping, insulating, heating-system checking.
    So much to do!
    Fall, like spring, is time for taking stock. Once I’ve taken stock, I’m so overwhelmed that my only thought is to head out to Second Wind Consignments for the fainting couch I’ve been admiring.
    What I need even more is expert help — and lots of muscle.
    I know where to get both. In the early copy of this year’s Fall Home & Garden Guide, I’ve met the experts. Now you will, too.
    This year’s annual Guide, like its spring partner, showcases the products and services of the advertisers who bring you Bay Weekly. Most weeks you get to know them through their ads. This week, they also speak to you directly, explaining how their work meshes with your inventory of must-dos.
    If you’re like me, you need their help. To get it, all you have to do is call. And, please, say you found them in Bay Weekly.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;