March 17. Tobacco plants have more sensitive receptors than dogs do, making it possible that they might someday be used to sniff for drugs or explosives. Their reaction time, thus far, is too slow, as it takes hours or days for their leaves to wilt or wrinkle or discolor in the face of such a substance. Police dogs have the added advantage of being better company in a patrol car, so they should not fear competition from potted plants just yet.
March 18. Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States. An independent city is a city that is not affiliated with any county. Such is the case for all cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state so organized since 1871. Outside of Virginia, independent cities are rare, but St. Louis, Missouri and Carson City, Nev. are two others.
March 19. Full moon, 11:10 am. Do not trust an oracle selling hats on the corner. The hat he fits to your head is not so easily removed.
March 20. The spring equinox arrives at last, marking the point at which day and night are of equal length. The sun rises at 7:20 a.m. and sets at 7:29 p.m. Today also marks the publication, in 1852, of a bestselling 19th century novel titled Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, Life Among the Lowly, which was originally published as a 40-part series in an abolitionist periodical and, in 1903, was made into one of the first full-length movies, a full-length film being at that time 10 to 15 minutes in length. No known copy of the original manuscript exists, perhaps because the author wrote it for serialization and the typesetter would have thrown the pages away as they were typeset, which was the custom of the day.
March 21. You dream that a chicken has walked into your kitchen and started pecking at the buttons of an old tabletop radio, changing the stations and making it impossible to understand an important news broadcast. Soon she finds herself distracted by a cricket, but by then an interminable pledge break has begun and the subject of the important news broadcast remains a mystery. What does the cricket represent?
March 22. Birthdate of Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States, whose poetry about goldfish, bathrobes, name tags and hard-boiled eggs inspires a sense of wonder at the mundane. You may not have been planning on buying a volume of poetry at all this spring, much less one written by a living poet. We suggest you reverse course immediately and buy anything at all by Billy Collins.
March 23. Just when you think the game done changed, the game's the same. It just got more fierce.