Wakeful Musings

I tried to get back to sleep, but I failed. So I got up about 3:45 and played Words with Friends with another insomniac. And I noticed the very moment a different insomniac liked a photo I posted on Facebook a few days ago—I considered calling her, but that might have seemed a little creepy at 4:00 a.m., so I did not.

I still haven’t played Wordle this morning. Until a few days ago, I posted my Wordle performance on Facebook every day. I am not completely sure why I stopped; perhaps I just tired of comparing my performance to others’ “scores.” I usually do not find competition particularly gratifying. Maybe that is one of the reasons I never enjoyed team sports much. I liked playing squash when I was in college, but I was not fond of the competitive nature of the game; just knocking the ball around, without keeping score, would have been perfectly fine with me.  What is it about competition that is so attractive to people? And I must admit I find competition attractive sometimes; but not frequently. What is it? Why do we like to favorably compare ourselves with others? It’s a mystery.


The next three chilly days will be preludes to a major drop in temperatures. Mixed precipitation is forecast for Thursday, with the low temperature than night expected to plunge to 1°F. Friday’s high may reach 16°F. The high on Christmas Eve day is forecast to reach 25°F, with the low that night dropping to 16°F. Those low temperatures and Thursday’s mixed precipitation would not be so bad if we were prepared: appropriate winter clothes, proper protections for water lines, adequate insulation, automobiles outfitted with cold-weather gear and equipment. But such weather is not common around here, so we do not plan for it. We stay indoors as much as we can and we hope for the best, after doing what we can to protect our homes and vehicles. And, of course, ourselves. I often think group living arrangements in co-housing environments are preferable to the way most of live today. But I value my privacy and my solitude too much, perhaps, for that to work for me. I don’t know myself well enough to know how I might react to living in close proximity to groups of people. Hmm.

There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.

~ Lord Byron ~


I graduated from high school fifty years ago last May. Following graduation, in June I moved from Corpus Christi, Texas to Austin, Texas to begin my college career in the summer session. Fifty years ago this month, I was completing my first Fall term classes during the period when the U.S. launched what is known as the “Christmas bombings” of North Vietnam. I do not remember that war-time offensive—I suppose I did not follow the news at the time, focusing my attention instead on my school work and the freedom afforded by my first several months of living away from home. My recollection of the large scale bombing events, which I vaguely remember learning about later, was triggered this morning by scanning CNN.com, a news source that, regardless of its bias, is sometimes an interesting read.

My failure to follow the news at the time is an embarrassment. Yet I doubt I was alone. I remember the Paris Peace Accords, though, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops a few months later. It wasn’t until the end of April 1975 that the war officially ended, roughly two years after the end of U.S. combat involvement.

Despite the fact that I did not always follow the war closely, I was opposed to it from as far back as I remember, even when my brother was sent to Da Nang as an Air Force medic. My opposition to the war did not coincide with any ill will toward U.S. troops; I felt like they were thrust into a situation over which they had no control. They did what they were commanded to do by U.S. administrations, beginning with Kennedy, that should never have intervened in the conflict. That having been said, some of the atrocities conducted by U.S. troops were unforgiveable. But because I have no direct experience with the horrors of war, I do not know how I might have behaved in the circumstances surrounding those atrocities.

Claims that U.S. troops in Vietnam “fought to preserve the freedoms we enjoy” are flawed, just as are similar claims made about our troops in Iraq. They fought because they were commanded by misguided leaders to do so.

There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.

~ Sun Tzu, the Art of War ~


Only the dead have seen the end of the war.

~ George Santayana ~


I want more coffee now. I may try to brew it especially strong. There are days I wish I had kept my espresso machine; this is one of them. But my machine never made espresso as good as the monstrously expensive machines in coffee specialty shops; I prefer to buy the really good stuff than to make mine that is adequate but not exceptional. For now, I will be satisfied with plain old French roast coffee, adjusted a bit to be stronger than normal. Three hours from now, I will drink more coffee at church as I wait for the Illumination service to begin. I think the service will be exactly like it was last year and in years past. We shall see.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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