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

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Day in History

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
 
In checking some history-related websites, it would seem I share my birthday with some interesting events from the past.
 
1430 - Joan of Arc captured by the Burgundians.
1609 – Ratification of the second charter of Virginia
1701 – The famous pirate Captain William Kidd hung for murder
1788 – South Carolina ratifies the U.S. constitution, becoming the 8th state.
1829 – The Accordion was patented.
1846 – Mexico declares war on the U.S.
1873 – The Northwest Mounted Police, which became Canada’s famed RCMP was established.
1911 – New York public library was dedicated.
1934 – Italy’s most prominent anti-mafia judge, Giovanni Falcone, his wife and security detail were killed by a bomb.
1995 – Java is born.
1998 – The Good Friday Accords were accepted by referendum in Northern Ireland, bringing an end to the violence referred to as "The Troubles."
 There were some noteworthy people who also were born on May 23:
1052 – Philip I of France
1848 – Otto Lilienthal, German aviation pioneer.
1883 - Douglas Fairbanks, American actor.
1910 – Scatman Crothers,  famous American singer and dancer.
1910 – Artie Shaw, legendary swing band leader.
1928 – Rosemary Clooney
1933 – Joan Collins
1934 – Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer.
1944 – John Newcombe, Australian tennis player.
1950 – Martin McGuinness, Irish Republican activist and insurgent.
1956 – Buck Showalter, baseball manager.
1958 – Mitch Albom, author.
1958 - Drew Carey
1974 – Ken Jennings, he of "Jeopardy" fame.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another Year Older, Another Year...

Copyright ©2013 by Ralph F. Couey

Today is my birthday.

58 years ago on a muggy Tennessee morning, my parents rushed to the Henry County Hospital in Paris where around 5 a.m., I made my appearance.  My Mom told me I was 7 pounds 6 ounces of barrel-chested noise and would make a career out of ruining her dresses by barfing on her shoulder.

I must have had an unremarkable early childhood, since very few anecdotes ever survived those years.  One, however, was probably typical.

We were in church and I was being restless and noisy -- I think I was about 3 or 4 -- and having pushed Mom and the other church goers to the limits of their patience, she picked me up and took me out.  When I realized that justice was about to be administered, I yelled out -- in the middle of the sermon no less -- "Mommy, don't 'pank me!  I be good!"

She later described it as the single most mortifying moment she ever experienced in church.

58 years.  I never ever thought I could be this old.  When I was in my 20's I knew men who were in their 50's and 60's and they seemed to me to be...well, ancient.  But that's how it is when you're a young man.  You are invincible and will be forever strong and vital.  Bob Seger's song "Like a Rock" is a perfect expression of those halcyon years...

"Stood there bold
Sweatin' in the sun
I felt like a million
Felt like Number One
The height of summer
I'd never felt that strong
Like a rock.

I was eighteen
Didn't have a care
Workin' for peanuts
Not a dime to spare
And I was lean and solid everywhere
Like a rock."

This morning, as I eased into wakefulness, I thought about the past.  Through my mind rolled memories of decisions I should have made and those I shouldn't have; the choices that defined the path of what has become my life.  That's the way it is, though.  When we're young, we always look to the future.  Beyond a certain age, we think more and more about our past.  There are regrets, to be sure.  But from the standpoint of this stormy Northern Virginia morning, I found it hard to imagine, or even desire a different fate.

Wisdom is the combination of bad choices and their consequences.  It's accumulation is rarely without pain.  What have I learned from this life of mine?

Monday, May 13, 2013

The "So What?" of Being Happy

From natcom.org
Copyright ©2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only
Consider these two different conversations:
"Hey, how are you?"
"Great! Couldn't be better!"
"Super! See you later!"

Or...

"Hey, how are you?"
"Not good. My life has really gone south."
"Come on. Let me buy you a cup of coffee."
"Thanks."

Human beings are prey for the roller coaster ride that constitutes our emotions. We can either be joyous, or sad, or living one of those grey days where one floats noncommitally inbetween.

We get brief glimpses of each other's lives during those moments we are thrown together to share a common space for a short time, usually an elevator ride. Occasionally, I take the time to scan the faces I see, trying to gage their mood. I do this surreptitously, and never regularly. Staring at a stranger in in an elevator, after all, is guaranteed to creep that person out. I'm also inclined tro listen to the conversations around me. I'm amazed at just how empty and hollow such exchanges can be. We ask "How are you?" without a shred of any real intent of wanting to know. We answer those vacant inquiries with equally vacant responses. We ask and answer to be polite, not to care.

But there are those other conversations, like the second one I outlined above. Not everyone is going to respond with that kind of compassion. Usually, it's a "sorry about that" tossed back with the inflection that really communicates the message "It sucks to be you."

We like to hear good news. But it is the bad news that really seems to grab our attentions.

Nuts and Bolts and the Future of Medicine

Luke and his trusted physician.
From Redfordfilms.com
 
Copyright ©2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only.
 
 
My mind can at times be a rather strange place. It can be a space where random thoughts seem to sail out of nowhere to bounce off the walls before disappearing into the unknown.  To normal people, this can be a bit distracting.  For a writer, it's an invaluable creative tool.
 
It was a dark and stormy night.  No, really.  A slow-moving low pressure center had brought a week's worth of rain to this part of Virginia.  As a result, the motorcycle stayed indoors while my SUV got a week's worth of driving exercise.  I had finished work and was on the way home around midnight.  The traffic was thankfully light, so my mind began to free-associate.  Thoughts flew by, some fully-formed, others mere unidentifiable pixels.  At one point, a rather robust idea presented itself, one worthy of exploration and contemplation.
 
Star Wars has grown beyond mere entertainment to become a cultural icon.  The impact of George Lucas' cinematic tome has expanded to global proportions.  An interesting measuring stick of that influence lies in the number of people, world-wide, who claim to be adherents to the Jedi religion.  According to British census figures, Jedi-ism is now the leading alternative religion, and the 7th largest religion in the U.K.  Australia boasts as many as 70,000 adherents.  New Zealand reports some 53,000 claimants.
 
I don't know if this was what George had in mind when he penned the trilogy.
 
As I have written previously, I've always held a fascination with space and the possibilities of space travel, so things like Star Wars and Star Trek have long held a warm place in my memory banks.  But on that rainy night in Northern Virginia, a cogent thought brought forth a new realization.