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Tuesday notes

Dec 11, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

Long hours

Speaking literally, these are the darkest days of the year. An old newsroom duty was the necessity of typing up the daily weather forecast, including the next day's sunrise and sunset. That detail is part of a pre-packaged weather download these days, but the memory of the daily duty is strong and permanent, particularly in December. At this time of year, when the sun rises at about 7:40 a.m. and sets at about 4:40 p.m., we have barely eight hours of daylight.

Dawn is particularly stubborn. Even after the winter solstice, when a minute or two of daylight is added every day before sunset, sunrise advances by only a few seconds a day. By February, dusk will arrive more than half an hour later than it does now, while sunrise will be only five minutes earlier.

It's as if a giant pendulum has reached the highest point in its upstroke and is pausing at the top before starting down again. Come summer, the opposite will be true, when sunset is almost static in the long evenings of June through mid-July.

Sayonara, stimulus

The finish line is at hand for the last of the federal money provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, usually shorted to ARRA and often simply called "the stimulus."

Reporter Katie Roenigk's story last week focused on how the evaporation of this temporary source of fund is affecting local schools, local employment and, by extension, the local economy.

Many in Wyoming criticized the stimulus as wasteful spending or claimed there was nothing to show for it. Don't share either of those opinions with the workers who are likely to be laid off once the money is gone, nor to the schools and their students who benefitted from stimulus programs. No doubt there was some waste and lack of accountability in the giant ARRA money pool, but the bona fide jobs and services were good while we had them in Fremont County, and we needn't pretend those people, those services and those positive effects won't be missed once they are gone.

Mountain blanket

The white substance you see in the Wind River Mountains for the first time this season is a natural cold-weather precipitate called "snow." Once commonplace in our part of the country, there is worry that it will be in short supply for the second winter snow season in a row. Nobody much likes snow on the sidewalks or the alleys (although a white Christmas is nice), but it is highly desirable in the mountains in order to fill our streams, canals ditches and reservoirs next summer.

After 2011's near-record snowpack and 2012's dearth, we'd all probably be grateful, and relieved, for an average snowfall this winter.

So far, that's what we're getting; the first snowpack reports of the season show the Wind River drainage at exactly 100 percent of our 30-year statistical average.

Santa letters

Remember, Santa correspondents, we would like to have all your letters in our office no later than Thursday, Dec. 20, so that our newspaper elves will have the necessary time to type them up for our annual Ranger Christmas Greetings edition, which is set to publish on Sunday, Dec. 23.

Bring them to Santa's mailbox in our office at 421 E. Main St., e-mail them to santaletters@wyoming.com, or mail through the Post Office to Santa, North Pole, P.O. Box 993 Riverton, WY 82501.

As of Tuesday morning, the total number of letters processed was 29 -- and counting. We expect more than 20 times that total a week from now.

Heavy lifting

That's one very big crane at the work site where the new Central Wyoming College health/science center is being constructed. We just don't often see a boom that size operating in Riverton. Some very heavy lifting is going on.

This has been an especially fun construction job to observe because the building is large and unusual, the sub-surface construction material is bright yellow, and the work site is conspicuous to motorists driving by on one of Fremont County's busiest stretches of road. Spectators, and lots of them, are getting an eyeful day after day.

Still unbeaten

Just in time for Christmas, the Riverton Wolverines are making spirits bright on the basketball court. Riverton is 6-0 on the year and ranked just behind Gillette in the eyes of statewide poll voters in Class 4-A basketball.

And who do the Wolverines happen to play this Friday at the Flaming Gorge Classic in Green River? Those very same Gillette Camels, that's who.

If you had to pick a bad starting time for fans who live 150 miles away (400 miles in Gillette's case) to see a road game, then 9:40 a.m. on a Friday in December would fit the bill. In case you can't get there, we'll have a reporter with a camera in the gym that morning. It's shaping up as the game of the early season.

Enjoy 12/12/12 on Wednesday, and here's to a good week.

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