Return of the %$&# Ladybugs

We’ve Come Back

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I cannot allow the Halloween edition of this paper to pass without raising the alarm about something truly terrifying. As a horror movie fan, I am familiar with many of the things that fill us with revulsion, feed our nightmares and quite possibly originate from paid government scientists playing in God’s domain.
I had no idea what that terrible thing was until I arrived home last Monday night.
And there they were, waiting on me like the world’s most unwelcome and uninvited annual house guest, one of the things that truly fills me with irritation and dread every indian summer.

The Return of the Asian Lady Beetles.

There were hundreds on my doorframe, daring me to open the front door and allow them their winter holiday in the nooks and crannies of my home.
As a child, perhaps, I may have loved them. I cannot recall. Was there a moment in my past when I had kind thoughts about them? Referred to them with the adoring nickname of Ladybugs?
I’m sorry. I’ve been through too many years of those reddish vermin with their oh so perky little black spots invading my home every year.
Harbingers of luck, some say?
Insects of the Damned! I say.
Resistance is futile. If you don’t let them in – and I don’t – they will find their way inside. It is in this one fact that these beetles exceed even vampires in their capacity for evil.
Vampires cannot cross the threshold of your home uninvited. But these Asian Lady Beetles — Please, these beetles are no ladies — they ease  their way in as if they own the place.
I see them lounging in the warm sunlight of my windows like wintering retirees in Florida.
I am often skeptical of the accusation of government conspiracy as it is applied to, say, alien abduction or water flouridation. But I have definitive, internet-based proof that this invasion is clearly a government conspiracy.
According to the University of Kentucky’s own Department of Agriculture, “During the 1960s to 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to establish the Asian lady beetle to control agricultural pests, especially of pecans and apples. Large numbers of the beetles were released in several states including Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland.”
Of course, THEY then go straight to denial after that: “No such releases were ever attempted in Kentucky, and their occurrence here is probably due to northward migration from other southern states.”
The bold print and italics is their doing, not mine. Isn’t it obvious? THEY have something to hide.
Not only do we have proof of government conspiracy, but clearly this is tampering in God’s domain.
Seriously. How many times have well-meaning agriculture “experts” caused worse havoc by importing non-native species to control other insect pests. In this matter I am prepared to unleash my inner conservative. This is a project that didn’t need to be funded!
Now we pay the price.
My cats won’t eat them. Birds don’t touch them. They’re impossible to crush and leave a foul yellow stench behind.
I called my pest exterminator and he just shrugs his shoulders.
“There’s nothing you can do but vaccuum up the bodies when they die,” he says.
And I am left to surrender my home to these invaders like unwelcome in-laws and check really closely that that little bump on my steak is only a red peppercorn.

The horror. The horror.

A Brief Eulogy for Lou Reed

I am not yet ready to accept that I am of an age where my pop music idols die of natural causes.
Monday morning, I was grieved to hear the news that Lou Reed died at age 71 from liver complications. I have been a fan of his music since high school. Though he was never a major music star, thank God, he was very influential. To hear of his “natural” death – I know, the liver damage was the price of an overly self-indulgent lifestyle – registers on me like a younger friend of mine once reacted to a high school marching band playing 90s grunge rock.
I am not that dang old, yet!
I’m not committing this entire space to a Lou Reed eulogy. I’m a fan of his work but I don’t harbor illusions that I’ll convert others to his fan base. Lou Reed is an acquired taste at best. For the curious, or those with a taste for the off-beat, here is one of my favorite songs.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Eh, we’ll be alright.

Since 2004, I have had this recurring nightmare.

'Cause every little thing ... is gonna be alright.
Family comforts an elderly man.

I am in my house and, though it is completely furnished with my belongings, it is still under construction. I can see open places in the ceiling. The roof has only half its shingles in place, the rest is thin tar paper.
It never occurs to me to question why all my stuff has been moved to this unfinished house. In fact, it’s furnished with nicer stuff than I really own, but the dream is so vivid that I am not quite aware yet that I am dreaming. I just have this mounting anxiety that everything should have been completed already.
And then it starts raining….
Water appears everywhere. It doesn’t even bother to drip. Water streams down from the ceiling, soaking the carpets. It cascades over my appliances. A gentle waterfall washes down from the attic through windowless dormers and over the stairs.
My home and all my things are gone and I experience a momentary sense of despair until my mind reminds me that I’m dreaming and I awaken in my house, which is still standing, with a peculiar sense of relief and unease.
Throughout the construction of my home, I experienced this nightmare frequently. It persisted even after my wife and I moved in. Finally, after a few years, the dream went away.
That is until last Saturday night when it came back forcefully and left me feeling uneasy at about 3 a.m. Sunday morning.
And I know the reason why.
Because of Halloween, October is easily my favorite month of the year. When I thought about what to write this week, I’d thought about sharing the fun side of the month: the haunted houses across the region, the costumes, the horror movie marathons on Turner Classic Movies. Man, I really do love me a good monster movie.
However, after enjoying the early afternoon at the Barbecue Cook Off downtown and being given a preview of Billy and Troy Roberts’ Haunted Barn, I was returning home on Millersburg Pike and came upon a terrible sight. I had admired the Thompsons’ beautiful country home from decades of driving that road, and here it was — utterly destroyed by fire. Both fire departments were parked in the yard and an ambulance was in the driveway. Thank goodness its services were not needed. WLEX-TV even had its news van on site.
Of course, one of my jobs is to cover these things and I make it a habit to have a camera available.
In the course of covering the situation, I realized that the homeowners, Anita and Terry Thompson, were on the premises. I don’t know them, but as I explained before, I had admired their home for many years.  I know that they were shaken and I wanted to express my sympathy.
I had experienced a similar thing years ago in Carrollton. On a Christmas Day, a neighboring family forgot to unplug the lights on their real Christmas tree when they went to celebrate the holiday with relatives. They returned to find their home gutted.
There were tears but the family was young, their insurance was good and it wasn’t long before they were moving on.
That Saturday afternoon was a little different.
I thought about the accumulation of memories contained in that house: the family pictures and portraits, the trinkets that may have had a special meaning for this couple. All those decades stored on shelves or in a drawer – gone. Irretrievably gone.
This was real world horror. In fact, if you read some of the stories in this week’s paper, it was a whole weekend of real world tragedy and horror. The kind of stuff that makes you sigh heavily and wonder….
So it was with some surprise when after I expressed my sympathies to Mr. Thompson, he, with a shrug of his shoulders and a slight tremble in his voice, said “Things are here today and they’re gone tomorrow. We’ll be alright.”
At the moment, I thought it a particularly brave thing to say. That moment would continue to come back to me the rest of the day and the more I thought about it, the more profoundly was I moved by the sentiment he expressed.
I know there was a certain level at which Mr. Thompson had to resign himself to that thought. After all, there was little hope of recovering much from the house.
But I do believe that the more he and his wife said it, and thought about it, the greater their conviction would grow that what he said was the truth.
As I know many people are doing, I pray for this couple to be able to get through this crisis. But within my prayers is the certainty that they have already moved past it in an important way.
There was a powerful lesson in Mr. Thompson’s determination to move beyond what I hope becomes, to them, little more than a temporary setback.
But it’s a hard lesson to learn and I am a poor student at best.
After all, I still suffered the return of that damn nightmare. And somewhere else, a camel just ambled through the eye of a needle.

Is there no sympathy for the Health Insurance industry?

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By Josh Shepherd

Since beginning my work as a reporter for the Cynthiana Democrat, I come into the office each morning carrying a backpack that contains, among other items, a pair of sneakers, a t-shirt, and shorts. Every morning I tell myself that, after work, I’m going to head right out to Flat Run Veterans Park in downtown and spend at least a half-hour walking. Or maybe I’ll even run a bit … at least to the point where it hurts.
Those articles of clothing may well be the cleanest I own considering how often I actually follow through with my plans. So far, I have not had to pay the consequences for my inaction. At least … not yet.
For a good friend of mine in Michigan, though, the situation is much more serious. He’s not even 35 and, earlier this year, his doctor informed him that his obesity has put him in a pre-diabetic state. His physician has outlined a long-term plan which, if followed, will not only reduce my friend’s chances of adult-onset diabetes, but may prevent serious heart problems as well as a whole host of other avoidable health problems.
There are no guarantees, because life just isn’t like that, BUT IF my friend sticks to his prescribed health plan, he will not only improve his physical well-being, but reduce the costs associated with his personal health care.
For a lot of us, including me, that’s a big “BUT IF.”
The thing that I find most irritating about the debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the persistence on the part of nearly everyone to call this reform effort “Obamacare.”
That term implies that Barak Obama and his administration were the first to come up with these reform ideas, which is, of course, completely untrue and an insult to the people who have dedicated themselves to finding alternatives to our failing health care system.
Our failing health care system. This is not my opinion.
Over the last two years, it has been my privilege to write about the health care industry for The Lane Report. I have interviewed leaders at Humana, CEOs of the major hospital chains, researchers at the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Hospital Association, and private physicians including the current President of the American Medical Association, Ardis Hoven, MD, who also happens to be a practicing physician at the University of Kentucky.
Each of them has said basically the same thing:
1. The ACA is a deeply flawed piece of legislation and elements of that act have got to be changed.
2. Despite its serious flaws, the ACA is an improvement over the current heath care system. That system cannot be sustained.
3. Change has to happen.
I believe them.
However, there is something about the way we approach health insurance in this country that has always confused me.
The ultimate goal of the reform effort has always been to drive down the cost of health care. The general argument, as I have understood it, is that people with insurance, or with Medicaid, are more likely to schedule annual check-ups with their primary care provider (or dentist or eye doctor.)
If more people are scheduling annual physicals, it increases the likelihood that a serious disease can be detected early and, therefore, treated with less costly procedures that also have a greater chance for long-term success.
Obviously, this approach doesn’t work for everyone. There will always be people who suffer serious injuries or contract a disease that resists treatment. That’s just the way life is. But a lot of the health problems we go through later in life are avoidable.
There are incentives worked into the ACA to encourage medical centers and physicians to reduce patient re-admissions to the hospital for the same illness. Most of the time, however, re-admissions occur because the patient failed to follow through with a recovery plan. When  that happens, the system punishes the providers and the hospitals. There is very little, besides our personal health, to hold us, the patient, accountable for taking care of ourselves.
The insurance I have on my car is designed to protect me and my passengers in the event of a catastrophe, such as the time four years ago when an uninsured driver ran a red light on Sixth Street in Lexington and totaled my beloved Camry.
My insurance carrier arranged for a rental and helped replace the car.
But I never consider for one second asking my mechanic to bill my auto insurance for a regular oil change.
I had to get the transmission fixed in my car recently. I can only imagine the look on my Farm Bureau rep’s face if I asked for money to buy a new transmission when I failed to take care of the old one.
But I do exactly that when it comes to my health insurance.
When it comes to the care and maintenance of ourselves, the relationship we have with our health insurance carrier is different from any other organization. I can think of no other service than health insurance where we not only ask the organization to help us in times of catastrophe, but to chip in on our regular maintenance as well.
A couple of weeks ago, both U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and Sen. Mitch McConnell stated that young working people didn’t want health insurance. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have wanted health benefits from every job I held since the moment I graduated college. Maybe I’m different, but I suffered no delusions in my 20s and 30s that I was indestructible or impervious to disease.
Even a person of less than average intelligence understands that there are going to be health consequences if they spend decades smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, gain 75 to 80 to 120 additional pounds, and considered a double burger with cheese, Funyons, and an Ale-8 from the Apple Market as a regular dinner.
But rather than taking steps to avoid those health consequences, we have systems in place that are willing to pay the larger part of the financial consequences of our lousy habits.
And people can’t argue that these are personal decisions because every time a person ignores warning signs, fails to take tests to detect a disease early, and gets diagnosed for an advanced case of a disease that requires a massive investment to treat – those costs get passed down.
Say what you will about the European style of health care, if what my hostdaughters tell me is true, people have their care costs covered ONLY IF they can show they have been getting regular check ups and have complied with their health care provider’s prescribed health plans.
That’s an oversimplification, but I’m running out of space.
I suffer no delusions about the current impasse in Washington. I am cynical enough to believe that the objections of legislators are based less on public concerns for health care reform and more on the concerns of the health insurance industry.
But knowing myself and my health habits, and those of my friends, I actually have a bit of sympathy for the industry.
A bit.

Putting old school boogie into my Methodist ass

In just over a week from now, on Sunday, Sept. 29, the First United Methodist Church in Cynthiana is going to celebrate its 195th anniversary. In five years, of course, the church will be celebrating its bicentennial, a major milestone for any church to celebrate.
Earlier this week, I interviewed Bro. Mike Coppersmith and former Cynthiana Mayor Virgie Wells, who serves as the church historian, about the church’s history and to find out how the congregation planned to celebrate this event. It will be a feature story for next week, so be looking for it.
However, in the boxes of yellowing documents that Ms. Wells brought to Bro. Coppersmith’s office, some of them very fragile, we found several draft copies of George Slade’s “History of the First Methodist Church, Cynthiana, Kentucky.”
There were many details in this document that I found intriguing. But the thing that struck me most was the mention of the Methodist Conference meeting in 1803 which “met at Mount Gerizim in the Harrison County community of East Broadwell, three miles from Cynthiana on the Ruddles Mills Road. This was the scene of many early camp meetings, which were practical affairs since there were few meeting houses.”
By no means do I claim to be a student of church history, but since moving to this area of central Kentucky over 20 years ago, and being reminded frequently of the Cane Ridge Shrine in Bourbon County, I have been fascinated by old-time camp-meeting worship.
A big reason why will take some brief explanation, so bear with me.
When I was growing up in Carroll County, the entire breadth of my church-going experience was as a member of the Carrollton United Methodist Church. Like so many of the other established churches in town, Carrollton UMC was very traditional, very middle class and … very civilized.
For example, I recall times when members would present special music and the congregation did not clap at the end. The service was quite routine, followed a specific trajectory, and frequently ended about 10 minutes before the Baptist church next door, thus ensuring we were first in line at the breakfast buffet at General Butler State Park.
The church has loosened up considerably from when I grew up there, thank goodness, but being raised in this environment from the time I was an infant, I never thought the lack of applause, the lack of much noise at all, really, was strange. Being quietly polite and reserved was how respectable families acted in established town churches.
And I never knew any different until a friend of mine invited me to a revival at the local Pentecostal church. His church occupied space at an old hardware store that had gone bankrupt years ago.
My father, a wise man, said nothing to prepare me for the experience, which was as contrary to my religious upbringing as it was possible to be. Where we had a solemn pipe organ and hymns, they had a stratocaster, bass and a full drum set. The congregation thought nothing of dancing in the aisles, clapping, and giving vent to a full physical expression of their spirituality.
When I returned home, a bit shell-shocked and with a bookload of questions, my father told me about Cane Ridge and how worship at the old camp meetings was as much a part of the heart as it was of the mind.
I still did not come to appreciate that level of spirituality until I began singing with different gospel groups in the local area.
There is a marked contrast between performing for an audience in a town church and going out into the countryside to a small community church where there are fewer notions of “proper” behavior in a church sanctuary.
Having a performer’s mindset as a gospel singer, it is gratifying to sing before a congregation that is unafraid to express itself emotionally when they are moved by the spirit. And it causes me to wonder about the spirit that once moved these camp meetings when our various Christian denominations were young and new.
Reading over the history of the First Methodist Church, one of the first, incidentally, to establish itself in Kentucky, it fires my imagination to think of the enthusiasm that brought people together and organized themselves into a body for the purposes of worship.
Having been raised at a time when many established denominations have undergone the same sort of “civilizing” process that all our towns and cities developed from the 1800s to now, I don’t think it’s possible for me to  ever approach the same sort of joy of discovery that our ancestors in these camp meetings experienced. But for those who profess the Christian faith, I think it is important to appreciate, and celebrate, those roots … maybe by just shaking my booty in the pew a little bit.

Drive-Ins are sooo American

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By Josh Shepherd

Why  must it fall to strangers to remind us that we have cool stuff at home?
As I mentioned in my column two weeks ago, my wife and I have hosted high school exchange students for the last five years. It has been a rewarding experience in many ways.
Aside from the obvious pleasure of extending my familial connections to people across the Atlantic, I suggest that there is an even greater reward that comes from hosting a different student every year: They keep my world from becoming mundane.
Case in point – The Drive-In Movie theater.
When I ask my hostdaughters what they miss most about their year in Kentucky, the three things mentioned most are free drink refills at restaurants, mud runs, and the drive-in. (They refer to the Bourbon Drive-In specifically because that’s the one we use most.)
“It is so American,” said Maria, my hostdaughter from Norway.
Until they started mentioning it, I never really thought that much about the drive-in experience. However, upon reflection, the act of watching a movie on a warm summer night in a giant parking lot where the grill is serving up hamburgers and french fries and kids are slurping up novelty ice cream treats – I swear that experience is more distinctively American than hot dogs at a baseball game.
There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
Those of us living in this area are a bit spoiled. Before I began writing this column, I made a mental count of how many drive-ins are within an hour or so from my home.
In addition to the Bourbon Drive-In, there is the Judy Drive-In near Mt. Sterling, the Sky-Vue Twin Drive-In in Winchester, and the Mountain View Drive-In in Stanton, right in the shadow of Red River Gorge.
To give some perspective, there are no drive-ins around Louisville anymore. At one point in Kentucky’s recent history, there were as many drive-in theaters as there were counties in Kentucky. Of course, tastes and traditions change. These small businesses filled a niche market in the 50s, 60s, and 70s that no longer exist.
The majority of drive-ins have gone dark in this country and chances are, with the advent of new technology in movie projection, there will be even fewer of these family-owned businesses.
That’s because the movie industry is making the transition to digital projection systems.
Digital projection is not new. In fact, most of the major Hollywood studios and the national chains that operate the big cineplexes, like Regal Cinemas and Cinemark, have already invested in the equipment. The technology is not too different from subscribing to streaming movies through Amazon or Netflix. It’s not bad or good, it is just the direction in which the industry is going.
Digital projection equipment, however, is expensive. And considering that most drive-in theaters are seasonal, family-owned businesses, they do not generate the kind of income that would enable them to invest the minimum of $80,000 for the new equipment.
I will refrain from the observation that once again,  technology favors homogenized national chains over private or family-owned businesses — or perhaps I won’t.
However, there is an effort by Honda Motors to try and preserve some of our hometown drive-ins. And Bourbon Drive-In is one that could benefit from the effort.
At Projectdrivein.com, Honda has pledged to buy five digital projection systems and award them to the five family-owned drive-ins that get the most votes on their web page.
Fans can vote once a day for their favorite drive-in.
If fans want to participate, they have to hurry. The deadline to vote is within about two days from the time the Cynthiana Democrat hits the street.
Of course, it helps to have good reasons to support drive-ins. If you don’t find the preservation of an American experience compelling enough reason to offer support, allow me to suggest a few others:
Drive-ins have HUGE screens. There are a lot of good uses for a tablet or a smart phone, but neither AT&T nor Apple will ever convince me that a summer blockbuster with huge explosions looks great on a pathetic 3 inch screen. Please.
Drive-ins serve real food. The cineplex charges $8-9 per ticket, then asks us to accept as our only food choices waterlogged hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and box candy. At the drive-in, I get a meal with hamburgers, tenderloin, and chicken, french fries, fried pickles, and any kind of ice cream novelty.
Drive-ins are a bargain. In addition to reasonably priced food, you get two movies for the price of admission and no one is asking you to leave when you text.

There’s really no contest in the comparison. The vote costs nothing but a click on the web and you have the option of supporting a small business that delivers a quality service.
Projectdrivein.com. Visit the site and offer your support.