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Greg Hill’s Weekly Column

It takes big dreams

rcl2861 : 08/22/2014 9:58 am : Greg's Weekly Column

It takes big dreams to make big things happen. Take space elevators, for example. “Space Elevators Are Totally Possible,” an online article last February by Meghan Neal describes a “long, strong tether is anchored at the equator and extends into geosynchronous orbit some 62,000 miles above the Earth. At the other end is a counterweight far enough away to keep the center of the mass in orbit with the Earth so the cable stays over the same point above the equator as the planet rotates. The rotation keeps the cable taut, to counter the gravitational pull as robotic, electric ‘climbers’ ride the line up into space carrying the payload.”

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The Power of Word

admin : 08/14/2014 8:43 am : Greg's Weekly Column

We’re lucky that our school district pays attention to its libraries, since that’s where students get grounded in navigating the immense world of information that they’ll deal with all their lives. Sadly, it’s not like that in many American cities, despite repeated studies showing that reading scores improve markedly when school libraries are enhanced in any way: more librarians, more books, even repainting the walls. The district’s Library Media Services Department (LMS) coordinates the purchasing of digital resources, training the school library staffs, and otherwise boosts the libraries’ performance.

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Smells like Money

admin : 08/11/2014 2:04 pm : Greg's Weekly Column

“Preference” is defined in Ambrose Pierce’s “The Devil’s Dictionary” as “a sentiment, or frame of mind, induced by the erroneous belief that one thing is better than another.” Bierce’s take on preferences sums up the situation described recently in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience of a Dutch man who was consumed by his obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Wild West Shootouts

admin : 08/04/2014 12:15 pm : Greg's Weekly Column

The first wild west shootout occurred 99 years ago last week when the gambler Bill Hickok and cowboy David Tutt squared off over women, money, and a pocket watch. It seems that Bill, a former scout for the Union army, might have impregnated Confederate veteran Tutt’s sister, while Tutt was flirting with Hickok’s main squeeze. Things came to a head when Hickok refused to play cards with Tutt, who in turn bankrolled some friends to play in his stead. They lost $200 of Tutt’s money, and he snatched Hickok’s pocket watch, claiming Hickok owed him money. Surrounded by Tutt’s buddies, Hickok didn’t argue but warned him not to wear it in public. They met in the town square the next day, walked 75 paces apart, and simultaneously pulled their handguns and fired. Tutt fired first but missed, while the more deliberate Hickok plugged his adversary through the heart.

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Animal-oriented Names

admin : 07/29/2014 2:44 pm : Greg's Weekly Column

Last week brought a new appreciation for animal-oriented names, especially daddy long-leg spiders, carpenter ants, and the expression “monkeyshines.” But first, let’s consider the hyphen. Though not a “hyphenite,” which, according to UrbanDictionary.com is a newly-minted word for “a type of racist” who employs terms such as “Mexican-American” instead of saying “American.” I do admire grammatical hyphens, as defined by the Macmillan Dictionary: “the short line (-) used for joining two written words or parts of words, or for dividing a word at the end of a line of writing.” Since these columns are limited to 700 words, humble hyphens have occasionally helped me reach that demarcation.

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