About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Choosing Not to Play*

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, February 14, 2008
as "Not a player in the power game"

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey

“I love mankind! Its people I can’t stand!” This line from one of the many philosophical discussions from the “Peanuts” comic strip illustrates a common burden felt by just about all of us. It doesn’t really matter what we do with our day, whether spent at a job, at home, or school. At some point, we will encounter another human whose sole purpose in life seems to be spreading frustration and infuriation wherever they go. They might be a boss or co-worker, a teacher or fellow student, a stranger on the street, or that disembodied voice emanating from the fourth dimensional hell known universally as “customer service.” Whoever they are, whatever they do, or whatever they say leaves us shaking and red-faced, reduced to a state of primal rage more common to Neanderthal than human.

I became convinced that these are the people who just enjoy being difficult. They have a sadistic streak in them that creates a dark sort of joy when they’ve reduced one of us to a puddle of twitching protoplasm. Their evil is magnified by our apparent willingness to participate. They are perpetually unhappy, and will do everything they can to make sure everyone else is as unhappy as they are. They love to pick a fight and will raise the roof over the most insignificant of issues just so they can eventually walk away from the argument they created with the comfortable feeling that they are no longer alone in their self-imposed misery.

When we give in to people like this, we empower them. When we allow their misery to become our misery, we give them control. We become emotional slaves.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Standing On the Edge: A Near Death Experience



Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey

Through the latter part of April of 2003, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t feeling well. I was tired all the time and was experiencing some twinges of pain in my chest. Like so many others, I lived in a bubble of self-denial. I kept silent, even from my wife, Cheryl. The chest pains became even more acute, to the point where it was difficult to walk any distance at all.

I was working at Caterpillar, doing a job that regularly involved mixing chemicals. Two days after one such mix, I was struck by a really intense bout of pain, which essentially immobilized me. I finally had to acknowledge that something was very wrong. I was driven to Boone Hospital in Columbia, about 30 miles away.

At the Hospital, they did some tests, which turned up negative for chemical exposure. They gave me some steroids and sent me home. The next day, on my way to the company occupational health doctor, the short walk into his office from the parking lot left me collapsed in the waiting area, gasping that my lungs were on fire. I was taken back to the ER. This time, they contacted my regular Doctor, who ordered a CAT scan. The results revealed the presence of six blood clots in my left lung. I was immediately admitted.

After six very long days in the hospital, the medication broke up the clots and I was released We came home on a picture perfect spring afternoon. I remember sitting in a lawn chair in the back yard, while Cheryl puttered around caring for her flowers. The sky was blue, the sun was warm, the breeze soft and fragrant. I sat in the sun-dappled shadows of familiar trees feeling very lucky and thankful to be alive.

Over the next three weeks, however, the chest pain got worse. I suggested to the doctor that perhaps the pleura, the lining of the lung had become inflamed, but he wasn’t buying it. Growing more concerned, he scheduled me for a cardiac stress test.

A Blessing for a Cherokee Wedding


The flag of the Cherokee Nation from Cherokee.org

Now you will feel no rain
For each of you will be shelter to the other

Now you will feel no cold
For each of you will be warmth to the other

Now there is no loneliness for you
For each of you will be a companion to the other.

You are two persons
But there is only one life before you

Enter now into the day of your togetherness
And may your days be good and long together.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

This Family Named "Couey"

The de Coucy Coat of Arms



Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey
Written content only


Author's Note:
This posting contains all the information I've been able to collect about the Couey family history.  I update this post whenever new data is found.  At the end of the post is a list of the family members in my line going as far back as I have been able to locate.  As you will see, there is a significant gap in the history between roughly 1450 and 1704.  If any reader can help us close this gap, I would appreciate your sharing that information.
Thank you, and enjoy the Family History!

A few years ago, I began to take some interest in my family’s history. It began as idle curiosity, keyed by an argument between my sister and I as to whether we were French or Irish. She preferred France, I preferred Ireland. This idle interest eventually became a fascination. I think it’s perhaps a symptom of upper middle age, since this was about the same time my father began to do research. I guess the fascination lies in discovery, finding mentions of the family name in the oddest places, and reading about individuals interacting with some of the larger events of history.

Another reason lies with the wondrous appearance of grandchildren. While they are very young still, I have come to recognized the responsibility I have to pass along to them some information about their past. For me, discovering the past has help to provide context to my present, and meaning to some of the urges that have driven me through the years.

I realize that there’s nothing more boring than someone else’s family history, but I’ve noticed lately that this blog is getting hits from France and Ireland, where my family has a strong history. So in the interests of providing some information to them…

The earliest mention of my family was out of an obscure French history text written in the early 19th century. The brief item described someone named “de Couey” in northern France around 946 A.D. (or C.E., if you prefer). A few texts describe a fortress of some kind that existed between 900 and 950 A.D., but apparently was destroyed. A castle was built in 1225 on a piece of land overlooking the Ailette River about 17 km north of present-day Soissons. The castle survives today, although it bears the name "Coucy." 




The point at which the name changed is unclear, but different history texts describe men with identical first names and birth/death dates as either "Coucy" or "Couey."  The clan apparently rose to prominence because there are other mentions of various “de Couey’s” and “de Coucy’s” as Knights who led military actions in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries. One of them, a youngster named Raoul de Couey, who also was known as “Chatelain” (perhaps a title of some kind), was a troubadour who also volunteered to fight with Richard the Lion Heart in the Third Crusade. He met a violent end in 1190 at the hands of Saracens during the Siege of Acre (what is now the port of Haifa, Israel). One of those interesting snippets of history comes from, of all places, a book entitled, “What We Hear in Music” A course of study in Music History, by Victor Talking Machine Company, Mrs. Anne Shaw Faulkner Oberndorfer, 1921:

"Among the twelfth century Troubadours was a French knight, Chatelain de Couey, whose tragic fate has been often a theme for poets, the Ballade of Uhland being founded on his history.

"He loved the wife of another, and realizing his duty, departed for the Crusades, where he lost his life. To comply with his dying request, his heart was embalmed and sent to the fair lady, whose husband intercepted the gift, and it is said caused it to be served to his wife for dinner. After she had unsuspectingly eaten of this gruesome dish, her lord informed her she had eaten the heart of her lover. To this, she bravely replied that as she had consumed that which she most dearly loved she would never again eat of any thing inferior, so she declined all food and shortly after died. The words are:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"You're Eyes Can Deceive You; Don't Trust Them"


Cochise Head Peak, on the SW New Mexico border.   Look carefully.  See the face?

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey

Blanket condemnations are rarely useful. They are the root of prejudice and can be the conveyance by which bad feelings are transmitted widely. The ironic thing is that most times such condemnations are based on emotion and very little on objective fact. This is especially true of the public’s view of the motorcycling community.

It is thus with amusement that I read articles claiming how a rider’s legal choice to not wear a helmet limits the rights of the public at large. Journalists will throw a few carefully selected statistical findings into the article to give their conclusions an air of legitimacy and then fire that cannon into the air.

Now, I’m not a journalist. If you were to give a title to what I do for a living, I guess the closest description would be “research geek.” I’ve done this long enough to know that research has a very real and very dangerous trap. You can dig deep enough to substantiate a pre-conceived notion, or you can dig even deeper to find the truth. The trick is knowing which is which.