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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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!"

The Chelyabinsk Surprise
From Pravda.ru
Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only.
Earth has been visited lately, not by aliens in flying saucers, but rocks of varying sizes the appearance of which has caused quite a stir.  That earth gets hit is not really news.  Several thousand objects collide with our atmosphere each day, most the size of a grain of sand.  A few are larger, perhaps baseball-sized.  Once a week on average Earth receives a rock about the size of a house.  Most burn up in the atmosphere, the larger ones lighting up the sky.  The American Meteor Society website lists reports of fireballs happening virtually every day.  Damage from these is non-existent to slight.  But lately, it seems that the sky has gotten much busier.
March 22nd, a rock estimated to be 3 feet wide lit up the skies over the eastern U.S., generating sighting reports from 13 states.  On the night of March 16th, another fireball created by a rock of as-yet unknown size was seen over North and South Carolina, and Tennessee.  While all this was going on, Comet Pan-STARRS was painting its tail across our planet’s skies. 
Of course, everyone remembers the bomb over Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15th.  This 45-foot-wide rock exploded before hitting the ground, causing wide-spread damage and inflicting injuries on some 1,500 people.  This was the same day that an expected visitor, a 150-footer called DA14, passed just above our atmosphere, below the altitude of our communication satellites.  Scientists knew this one was coming, but the Chelyabinsk rock surprised everyone.
In the skies over Earth’s southern half, Pan-STARRS was accompanied by another cosmic snowball, Comet Lemmon.  But the real…um…”star” of the show will be Comet ISON, which is expected to become visible in late November, and is predicted to be the brightest comet seen by anyone alive today.  That’s exciting news.  The last visible comet to fly by was Hale-Bopp 15 years ago.  They’re rare events to be sure.  To have three visible to humans in one year is amazing.
There’s also a troubling aspect to be considered.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Words and the Power of a Name


Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey

Written content only. 


The name of a professional sports team is more than words on a jersey.  The name defines the city and the people, providing a valuable source of unity, even in times of deep political division.  Teams move from time to time, usually changing the name in the relocation.  But the longer a team resides in a place, the stronger that identification can be.
 
Such is the strong affection between the people of the Washington DC metro area and “their” team, the Redskins.   
 
But the age of political correctness has come to sports.  The Redskins’ name has come under scrutiny because of the historically racist connotation.  Despite polls which show that the overwhelming numbers of people, even Native Americans, associate the moniker with the team and not the noble peoples that once possessed this land, it should be recognized that the term “Redskin” is by definition just as insulting as the infamous “N-word.” 
 
This dilemma is shared by other teams, such as the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and the Chicago Blackhawks. But the Redskins have become a victim of the success brought by the arrival of Robert Griffin III.  That success, elevating the team back into the national spotlight, has given new life to the controversy.
 
The names, or mascots, of sports teams have always followed a certain paradigm.  Tradition states that it should be a name associated with strength and power, something that would strike fear or awe into the hearts of opponents.  Some names were associated with local history or heritage.  Others found inspiration in the animal kingdom.  A few simply defy explanation.  (What the heck is a Hoya, anyway?)  But animals which once provided a…well…stable of possibilities now risk running afoul of animal rights groups.
 
This issue is rising to a critical level and at some point, the Redskins and the NFL just might be forced into making the change.  
 
So what should the new name be?  There are hundreds of ideas already floating in the ether.  Everyone agrees that it should be something original and unique, something that would inspire players and fans alike.  
 
Naturally, like everyone else, I have an idea.  
 
My suggestion for the new name of the Washington NFL franchise is…

 

Civil War: Events of May 1863


On May 1st, the opening salvos of the Battle of Chancellorsville were sounded.  Union General Joseph Hooker attempted an ambitious double envelopment of Lee’s army.  Unfortunately, such a move was beyond the communications technology of the day and resulted in confusion and delay.  In the face of these movements, Lee divided his vastly out-numbered army, holding Sedgewick at Fredericksburg, and sending Stonewall Jackson’s corps on a wide flanking movement late in the day of May2nd.  Jackson’s troops burst out of the woods, falling on the unprotected and unprepared flank of Oliver Howard’s 11th corps.  The Union troops fled in panic, as they would do again at Gettysburg in July.  Jackson’s corps advanced to within 1.25 miles of the Union headquarters, but the coming of darkness and the thick woods the southerners found themselves in created confusion.  On the verge of completely routing the Army of the Potomac, Jackson’s troops were forced to stop and dig in.  Later that night, Jackson and his staff, trying to ascertain where the lines were, advanced through the woods to within earshot of the Union lines.  Returning, they were mistaken for Union cavalry.  Troops of the 18th North Carolina fired, wounding Jackson.  His right arm had been broken and was eventually amputated. During his recovery, he contracted pneumonia and died on May 10th. Despite what was an amazing victory for the vastly outnumbered Confederates, the loss of General Jackson amounted to a major defeat.  The loss of his aggressive and intelligent leadership very likely led to defeat for Lee at Gettysburg.

Civil War: Events of April 1863


April 2nd saw the Bread Riot in Richmond, VA.  A mob demanded bread from a supply wagon.  The action increased in fury, resulting in the looting of several stores.  The rioters were personally addressed by President Jefferson Davis, who took money from his own pockets and tossed it into the crowd.

On April 5th, President Lincoln sailed to Fredericksburg, VA to meet with General Joe Hooker to discuss strategy in Virginia.

Nine Union ironclads under the command of Samuel Dupont sailed into Charleston Harbor April 7th and attacked Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter.  Damage is done to the forts, but the ships are heavily damaged by Confederate shore batteries and are forced to withdraw.

On April 12th, Confederate General James Longstreet surrounds Suffolk, VA and begins a siege that will last until May 4th. 

On the 13th, Union General Nathaniel Banks carried out an ordered attack towards the Confederate strongpoint of Port Hudson, in coordination with Grant’s move against Vicksburg.  The Confederates at Fort Bisland had excellent intelligence on Banks’ movement through the swamps of Louisiana’s Bayou Teche region.  Banks sent Grover’s division in a flanking movement, but the movement was slowed by General Mouton.  Union troops later arrived and formed a battle line outside of Fort Bisland.  After a night-long artillery duel, Union forces advanced on the Fort on the 13th.  The fighting continued until dusk.  Later that night, Confederate General Richard Taylor learned that more Union troops were in his rear and now in position to cut off his retreat.  During the night, the Confederates successfully evacuated the Fort, which the Union troops found empty and abandoned at sunup.