Friday, December 3, 2010

3 December 2010 Short, shorter, shortist!

It’s December and the days are definitely growing shorter in duration. The last couple of nights it has been very near full dark in my perception. Actually it was somewhere between Civil Twilight and the end of Nautical Twilight but not yet Astronomical Twilight.

For a full-fledged discussion about the various stages of twilight, Wikipedia is a reasonable place to begin.

“From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

.”Twilight is the time between dawn and sunrise, and between sunset and dusk. Sunlight scattered in the upper atmosphere illuminates the lower atmosphere, and the surface of the Earth is neither completely lit nor completely dark. The sun itself is not actually visible because it is below the horizon. Owing to the unusual quality of the ambient light at this time, twilight has long been popular with photographers and painters, who refer to it as the "blue hour", after the French expression l'heure bleue[Twilight is technically defined as the period before sunrise and after sunset during which there is natural light provided by the upper atmosphere, which receives direct sunlight and scatters part of it towards the Earth's surface”

The various stages of twilight present problems in observation of objects on the ground or sea. They also present problems for navigators and for troops intending to move under cover of twilight.

I find that twilight is a difficult time to drive in mountain valleys and on the winding roads that we travel to and from ETSU. Only one more week of classes remains so the problem will vanish over semester break.

My classes next semester will begin at 0945 and end at 1445. Unless something unexpected pops up, I’ll be home by 1600.

Dinner tonight will be Bun – Vietnamese rice noodles served with fresh herbs, carrots, cucumbers, red onion, scallions, bean sprouts, tofu, pork shreds, and a chili-lime nuoc-mam dipping sauce. This recipe is, I believe, Hue or Hanoi style in origin. It will taste wonderful tonight.

I recall all too well how horrible I found my first exposure to nuoc-mam. Of course, I believe it was home-brewed and not under the most sanitary of conditions. Over the years, I’ve really come to enjoy most Vietnamese foods. I still don’t care for the pork liver pate spread on some versions of Banh mi, but I reject dining on liver in all cultures. No cultural favorites are facing discrimination.

Time to finish this and migrate to the kitchen. Lots of prep work to complete before dinner.

Short, shorter, shortist derives from a bit of troop culture from the Vietnam War. The tour of duty was 365 days, 395 for the Marines. As soon as one deplaned in country, the clock began counting down. A favorite means of hazing new troops, FNG’s, was to ask them how many days they had left in their tour. Most of them knew. Some kept elaborate “short-timer’s calendars if their duty assignment allowed. Others scribed marks in pen and ink on their helmet covers. Given a date fix, everyone knew how many days he had left. When the FNG answered some horribly high number, it was de rigueur for others with less time to wait out to scream, “Short!” Someone else might add, “Shorter;” while another with still fewer to wait would bellow “Shortist.” Some enjoyed the ritual, others despised it. But we all did it at least once.

The short timer’s calendars were an indication that one’s particular hell might end if one were only lucky and/or cautious enough to avoid the one marked “to whom it may concern.” Many of them were frankly obscene and little different in nature from latrine graffiti since the days of the Roman Legions.

My semester is now extremely short. I’m ready for the Art-history course to end even though I’ve enjoyed it. I’ll be sorry to see the end of Dr, Baxter’s class. I’ve really enjoyed the class and wish I had been able to study more military history with him as an advisor and friend. No short timer’s calendar applicable there.

Shabbat Shalom!

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