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Feast your eyes on the heavens above

Of the naked-eye planets, Mercury is the most overlooked. That isn’t for lack of brightness, as it outshines both Mars and Saturn. Nor is it a result of distance, given that it’s closer to us than is Mars. But so near the sun, Mercury never strays far from its blinding glare.     Early Friday morning, however, the innermost planet reaches its farthest point from the sun, called elongation. This is also Mercury’s longest stretch of visibility: It rises in the...

An entertaining investigation heavier on brawn than brains

The master of deduction Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.: Due Date) has been dealing with a lot of loss of late. His romance with Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams: Midnight in Paris) is untenable. He’s at a stalemate trying to foil the plans of arch nemesis Dr. Moriarty (Jared Harris: Mad Men). Worst of all, his best mate and sleuthing sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law: Hugo) is getting married.     Holmes isn’t taking it well.     In response to his...

With cold weather here to stay, warm up with these Chesapeake authors

The sights are great, world travelers report. But, they insist, you only really get to know a place through its people.     All around us are people who are the keepers of untold treasure.     Untold until you scratch the surface. Then you find yourself in the company of people who’ve recorded history being made, and people who’ve delved into the past to recover history made long ago. People who know more than anybody else in the world about this or...
I made an observation from home today that I thought I’d share. I live in Deale, and looking toward Holland Point in Herring Bay, I saw a towboat near what appeared to be a long rectangular object that I thought was partially sunken or sinking. It looked like one of those freighter shipping containers. Through binoculars, I saw a few people on board. The object had antennas up and it looked like a bilge pump was working, for a small stream of water was coming out the side.   ...

I bet you find your next book here

Are books following the horse and carriage down the road to obsolescence?     Obsolescence is short of extinction. But it’s also short of popular use, which books have been in since not long after Gutenberg invited moveable type, which soon brought printed books to the Western world. Obsolete puts you in museums, where you’re let out for special nostalgic occasions like horse-and-carriage rides around West Annapolis at this weekend’s It’s a Wonderful Life...

Arsenic additive accumulates in poultry, soil and us

It’s not just chicken feed; it’s arsenic as well that fattens chickens in their short seven-week lifespan from egg to market. The chicken we love to eat fried, sautéed, roasted and broiled contains traces of the poisonous element. That’s one finding of a new study commissioned by the Maryland General Assembly and done by the University of Maryland’s Harry R. Hughes Center for Argo-Ecology in Queenstown.     Arsenic in any of several formulas is added to...

Stop them now and save yourself extra work come spring

Have you looked at your garden lately? When you do, don’t be surprised if you see chickweed, henbit, annual bluegrass, cranesbill, etc. starting to create a green carpet. Those weeds are pretty small now, but if you don’t get out there and control them, they will be much larger next spring.     Winter annual weeds tend to sneak up on you. It takes more than hoeing to bring them under control. If you simply hoe them out of the ground and leave them there, they will...

The season ended December 15. No more keepers until April.

Tic, tic, tic: I could feel my two-ounce bucktail jig bouncing lightly across the remnants of the centuries-old oyster bed some 70 feet below. On this windy, mid-December day, even with gloves my hands were aching cold and my fingers growing numb. Then, finally, something below felt different, and I slammed my rod back hard. The tip arced over, hesitated, and my whole rod was pulled down, almost to the gunnel. The drag started to hiss. Fish on!    Fishfinder   ...

Five planets brighten these long nights

All the naked-eye planets decorate our night skies the next couple weeks, with the two brightest coming into view at sunset but all staggered throughout the dark hours.     The sun sets around 4:45 this week. By that time you’re likely to see Jupiter presiding over the eastern skies. Look to the opposite horizon where Venus blazes even brighter in the wake of the setting sun. Venus sets within two hours of the sun. Jupiter, on the other hand, shines through much of the...

Stay home with the kids instead of seeing this waste of celluloid

The Sitter is the kind of movie reviewers hate: It’s so tedious, lazy and humorless that it’s nearly impossible to mock.     Nearly.     In the last of his pre-weight-loss movies, Jonah Hill (Moneyball) plays Noah, a college dropout content to live off his barely-getting-by mother. He’s in a fake relationship with Marisa (Ari Graynor: Ten Year), who’s so obsessed with her ex that she uses Noah like a pudgy sex toy. Noah volunteers to...