Archive for June, 2009

Michelle Rodgers is America's Junior Miss!

Michelle Rogers performing "Taylor the Latte Boy." Photo by James Mann of The Winchester Sun

Michelle Rogers performing "Taylor the Latte Boy." Photo by James Mann of The Winchester Sun

Just moments ago, I was at the Clark County Public Library when a woman came running up to me exclaiming: She won! Michelle won!

It’s true: Winchester’s own Michelle Rodgers is the new America’s Junior Miss. The 2009 George Rogers Clark High School graduate won the competition in Mobile, Ala., Saturday.

Sun reporter Rachel Parsons is already working on a story for tomorrow.

I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Michelle yet, but based on what I’ve read about her and heard from her friends, she seems to be an amazing young woman.

Congratulations to Michelle and all those who helped her attain this achievement.

She has made Winchester proud.

Watch this video to see an interview with Michelle: http://www.nbc15online.com/news/custom/breaking news/story/Kentuckys-Junior-Miss

Sleepless in Winchester: Helping the homeless

Homelessness image from Sleepless in Winchester's Facebook page.

Homelessness image from Sleepless in Winchester's Facebook page.

Did you know that last winter a survey showed there were 531 homeless people in Clark County? And that’s just the number volunteers were able to find and count.

The government’s definition of homeless includes people who are “precariously housed” or overcrowded (two or more families living in a space intended for one). But there are actually believed to be about 20 people living “unsheltered.” They’re sleeping out in the open, under bridges or wherever they can find a place to lay their heads.

Several people in Clark County who want to experience what it’s like to have to live outdoors like the homeless — and to help the homeless at the same time — will be at Lykins Park tonight for Sleepless in Winchester, an event to raise money to help Clark County Community Services match a challenge grant of $50,000 to provide temporary housing and other assistance for the homeless, including some families with young children in our community.

I’ll be there with them, and will be reporting on the event here at Newer World, in the pages of The Winchester Sun and on our Web site, www.winchestersun.com. I intend to take pictures and shoot video as well as write about my first-hand experiences.

There will be Christian rock bands performing during the evening, and those who want to attend, even for a few hours, can pay $5 at the gate to get in. I hope to see you there.

If you want more information, the Rev. James Williams’ Facebook page, Sleepless in Winchester, has a good description of the event, and one of our reporters at the Sun, Fred Petke, wrote a good preview story for our Web site.

I hope to see you there.

Republican Leader: The McConnell you didn't know

John David Dyche's biography of McConnell was released this month.

John David Dyche's biography of McConnell was released this month.

I  interviewed Louisville attorney John David Dyche about his book, “Republican Leader: A Political Biography of Senator Mitch McConnell, last week. The story was published on the Sun’s Web site Monday, and an excerpt was included in the print edition along with a story about the interview. The full Q&A is also at www.winchestersun.com.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Q. The things that surprised me the most in reading about McConnell’s early career were  that he was once an advocate for campaign finance reform, he was strong on civil rights, he named his cat Rocky after (liberal Republican Nelson) Rockefeller.

A. Right!

Q. How did that transition from Rockefeller Republican to Reagan Republican happen? You mentioned also that his pendulum may be swinging back more toward the center.

A. I really think it happened to McConnell the same way it happened to the Republican Party generally. That was with the success of Ronald Reagan. McConnell will say that when he worked in Washington in the Nixon and Ford administrations, he began to see the big bureaucratic government and how unresponsive it was. But even in, say, 1976, he backed Gerald Ford over Reagan, and Reagan was not his first choice in 1980. Then once Reagan was elected and started having success with his conservative policies, I think McConnell gravitated in that direction, just like the party as a whole.

Q. What surprised you most about Mitch McConnell as you were doing this book? What did you learn about him ….

A. Well, he’s a voracious reader of history and politics. Always has a book going on. He’s really knowledgeable and passionate about his U of L football, which is a place where he and I part company.  He’s been focused on being a United States senator from an extremely young age and has really been disciplined and tactical in achieving that objective. And he’s got a sense of humor. He keeps it pretty well concealed, but he’s got the ability to laugh at himself every now and then. Those are some of the things I didn’t know when I started.

Q. How do you think he will be remembered in history …?

A. I think he’ll be remembered as the critical man in transforming Kentucky into a bona fide two-party state. I think he’ll be remembered as the foremost advocate for the First Amendment from among the politicians of his day. And I think he’ll be remembered as the most significant Kentucky Republican, period.

Q. Would you say that becoming majority leader of the Senate is his ultimate political ambition? Is that really what he wants?

A. Yes. Although I think if he had the chance to be secretary of state, he would do it. But I think majority leader would be something that’s more within his control to obtain.

Congresswoman wants to honor journalist

Ichthus at 40

This youth group came from St. Albans First Baptist Church in West Virginia.

This youth group came from St. Albans First Baptist Church in West Virginia.

I will sing a new song … — Psalm 40

WILMORE — In the Bible and the church, the number 40 is significant. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days. Lent lasts 40 days. The Great Flood was 40 days and 40 nights. And the Israelites wandered for 40 years before they came to the land of Canaan. So it was fitting that the world’s first Christian music festival made a big deal out of turning 40.

Ichthus, which was started in 1969 by some Asbury Seminary students as a response to the Woodstock festival in upstate New York that same year, celebrated its 40th anniversary over the weekend as “The Summer of Peace, Love and Loud Music.” The festival, which attracts about 20,000 each year to Ichthus Farm in southern Jessamine County, featured 111 rock, pop and hip hop bands, and a variety of speakers.

Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne

The speakers included noted author and new monastic leader Shane Claiborne of the Simple Way in Philadelphia and Christian environmental activist and author Dr. Matthew Sleeth of Wilmore.

This year’s festival was the last Kentucky appearance for the British pop band Delirious, who headlined Friday night. Other recording artists included Skillet, Kutless, Sara Groves, and Israel Houghton and the New Breed.

Teens from across the United States and Canada attended the festival.

Ben Kasica and Skillet were among the 111 bands that performed at Ichthus this year. (Photo by Tyler Young of The Jessamine Journal)

Ben Kasica and Skillet were among the 111 bands that performed at Ichthus this year. (Photo by Tyler Young of The Jessamine Journal)

Note: An article by Tyler Young of The Jessamine Journal will be published in The Winchester Sun and on our Web site today (www.winchestersun.com). It tells some of the history of the festival. Tyler also has other Ichthus stories at www.jessaminejournal.com. New videos of the 2009 Ichthus festival are now posted on Ichthus Ministries’ official Web site, www.ichthus.org.

GM dealer's good news is good for us

chevy-logoThere was loud cheering at a Tuesday morning gathering of Winchester Sun employees when an ad rep announced that Mike Wilson Chevrolet had survived the latest round of GM dealership closures.
According to Sun reporter Fred Petke’s front page article published that day, this story almost didn’t have a happy ending. Wilson’s Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and GMC dealership, which he’s owned for 11 years, was one of those that was going to get the ax — a victim of GM’s bankruptcy — effective May 15.
But a community appeal saved his business. After taking another look, GM decided to spare 11 dealerships around the country, including Wilson’s.
“They took it away from us,” then they gave it back, along with “my life,” he said, after “real people got involved.”
Good for him — and them.
It used to be said that what was good for General Motors was good for America. It’s true that our automotive companies are important to our nation’s economy, which is why the U.S. government is trying to save GM by temporarily taking majority ownership.
But it’s also good that our car dealerships, including Cole Ford and Hatfield Chrysler, as well as Wilson Chevrolet, are good for our community. That is why it’s important that we support our hometown merchants.

'Forever Strong' (in rugby and life)

Members of the Highland Rugby team in Salt Lake City practice the haka, a Maori war dance.

Members of the Highland Rugby team in Salt Lake City practice the haka, a Maori war dance.

Life lessons from
a winning coach

In the film “Forever Strong,” based on the legacy of high school rugby coach Larry Gelwix, there’s a scene in which Gelwix tells his players that if they aren’t tough enough for rugby, they should do something “easy — like play lacrosse or football or join the Marines.”
That’s a bit of hyperbole, but maybe it isn’t too far from the mark.
I never played the game because I was asthmatic and not athletic, but I lived with the captain of my university’s rugby team, was friends with the players and watched enough games to know it’s a rough sport.
I like the description of rugby as “an elegant violence.”
There are no pads or helmets, and being tackled is like being run over by a Hummer or picked up and body slammed.
Of course, it takes discipline. But to play for Gelwix’s Highland Rugby team takes more; it takes integrity and honor — both on and off the field. If a player cheats or fails to tell the truth, even once, he’s done for the season. And he must give his personal best every time. Anything less is unacceptable.

Coach Larry Gelwix

Coach Larry Gelwix

In the movie, Gelwix, played by actor Gary Cole, mentors a boy who is in juvenile detention for injuring his girlfriend in a drunk driving wreck. The kid is arrogant, selfish, belligerent and reckless, but Gelwix sees something else in him and shapes him into a good player and a good young man.
The movie is inspiring, but so are the interviews with the real-life Gelwix, in which he shares his coaching philosophy that has led his national championship team to an amazing record of 361 wins and 9 losses.
His first goal, Gelwix says, isn’t building championship teams, but building boys who will be strong in the game and in life.
“I tell these boys, ‘You lose your integrity, you lose your honor, you lose everything. You’re the poorest man I know.”
Having integrity doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes, but you learn from them and try not to repeat them, he says.
Gelwix explains to his players that if they give everything they have, if they leave it all on the field and still come up short because the other team is bigger, stronger, faster or better, they can walk away with their heads held high. But there is shame in losing due to lack of effort.
Unlike “Facing the Giants” and other films of that genre, “Forever Strong” is not overtly evangelistic. But for those who read the signs, it’s obvious that Gelwix’s character is rooted in his faith.
That also comes across in his advice for coaches and other leaders about how they treat those in their charge.
I want to include a rather lengthy excerpt here because I’ve seen so many people in leadership who need to hear this message.
It does no good, Gelwix says, to berate someone.
“Make no mistake, we don’t baby our players. We’re pretty intense, but our coaching style is so different,” he says. “We don’t swear at our players. We don’t yell and scream at our players.”
“I hear some coaches say, ‘… I’m just trying to motivate them.’ Well, motivation is important, and you can be intense. You can be focused. You want to help your men correct their mistakes … But there’s no such thing as negative motivation. … You can’t do the Lord’s work in the Devil’s way. You can’t.”
There are countless examples of men and women who showed incredible courage and made great sacrifices “because they believed in something bigger than themselves,” Gelwix says. But those who are abused won’t make those sacrifices for their team or their leader. “They won’t throw themselves on a grenade for you,” he said.
“Now you can terrorize a player, and you can get a short-term behavior change out of him, but you will never capture his heart,” Gelwix says. “And when the chips are down, he won’t do it for you. There’s no commitment there.”
If you want the right players on your team, Gelwix says, you identify and exemplify the right themes, the core values.
“That’s the critical question: Who do you want to be?” he said.

Quote of the day: RFK on courage

rfk_portrait_480_01“Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.”

— Robert F. Kennedy, 1966 speech.

Note: Kennedy died on this date 41 years ago

Quiet, please!

My kind of lawnmower

My kind of lawnmower

Just a few minutes of peace and quiet was all I wanted.
When I left the office for a short lunch break Friday morning, the weather was perfect: dry and cool with bright blue skies and a mild wind.
I walked from the office to my apartment on South Main Street looking forward to having a quick lunch so I could spend the rest of the time outside. After wolfing down a Stouffer’s entree and gulping a Coke, I walked out onto my balcony with a humorous book about Scotland, settled into a chair, turned the first page and smiled …
And grimaced.
Instead of the sweet sounds of bird song, distant trains, and the hum of quiet traffic, I was surrounded by a cacophany. From where I sat I could hear several gas-powered lawnmowers, the roar of a leaf blower and the angry noise of a weed whacker. I tried to ignore it . It didn’t work. The noise was deafening.
Suddenly I was about as angry as the weed trimmer.
I closed the book, got into my car and headed for the country. I traveled down Two Mile Road looking for a farm gate where I could sit in the sunlight and read, but each gravel drive had a house at the end of it.
Finally, I found one, but when I started to pull in, I noticed standing there a woman with a weed trimmer.
So I went to the next one, which was near a house and yard but hidden by a thick stand of trees. As soon as I turned off the engine, I heard the mower.
It was getting late, but I thought I would give it one more try. Then I found it: the perfect spot in a lush creek hollow. I stopped, settled back in my seat and listened to the birds and insects. Ah, the sounds of serenity!
That lasted less than three seconds before a big pick-up truck with a loud muffler roared past, and whoever lived at the end of the gravel driveway came clamoring toward me in their SUV, eyeing me suspiciously.
I’m sure they wondered: Why would that guy just be sitting there in his car?
Because, even in a mostly rural county with a small town at its center, it’s hard to find even a moment of peace and quiet.
If I live to see the demise of the internal combustion engine, I’ll thank the God of creation.
In this modern, green age, there is really no reason for most people to be using tools that are powered by a series of fuel explosions. Battery-operated mowers can run for an hour and cost about 10 cents to recharge. They aren’t noisy, they don’t belch harmful smoke and they don’t smell bad. There are also muscle-powered push mowers, and in a country where six out of 10 of us are fat and slothful, we could use the exercise.
Weed trimmers and blowers can also be made to run on electricity, but really, what can a blower do that a rake and broom can’t do better? And aren’t raking and sweeping more pleasant tasks for a beautiful spring day than operating a machine that sounds like a score of stock cars at the Brickyard 400?
What good does it do to have a nicely manicured lawn if it’s impossible to enjoy it for the constant din?
I’m thinking of going somewhere this summer where I can find a few moments of peace. Maybe the Abbey of Gethsemani or the Amish country in northeastern Ohio, where visitors are welcome, but loud machines are not.
If only there were some place like that here.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Write to him at rpatrick@winchestersun.com, or comment on this column and others at http://kyvoice.com/winchestersun/newerworld/

Dying of loneliness

"Loneliness" by R.W. Jenkins

"Loneliness" by R.W. Jenkins

Isolation hastens aging

Have you ever noticed how some people seem forever young while others appear to have aged far beyond their years?
According to a new book by scientists John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick, loneliness is often what makes the difference.
All of us are lonely at times. Being the new kid in school, going through a divorce or experiencing the death of a loved one can be painful. So can brief feelings of rejection, such as not being invited to a party. While these things hurt, time and change can lessen the pain.
But what is far more debilitating, research has shown, is persistent loneliness, which has as great an impact on physical health as smoking, obesity or lack of exercise.
“Chronic feelings of loneliness can drive a cascade of physiological events that actually accelerates the aging process,” Cacioppo and Patrick write in “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection” (W.W. Norton,  2008). “Loneliness not only alters behavior but shows up in measurements of stress hormones, immune function and cardiovascular functions. Over time these changes in physiology are compounded in ways that may be hastening millions of people to an early grave.”
Loneliness has been show to predict the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. And middle-aged people who are lonely tend to be less motivated to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. They have lower self-esteem, which results in self-destructive behavior like excessive drinking.
Once loneliness becomes chronic, getting better can’t be achieved just by “coming out of one’s shell,” the authors say. What is required is a holistic approach.
Human beings are inherently social creatures. We care what others think of us. Social interaction and affirmation are basic necessities.
That’s why in history, banishment has been the most severe punishment short of torture and death. It’s also why teenagers use ostracism, the deliberate infliction of emotional pain for selfish ends — often with tragic consequences.
Although loneliness may put one at greater risk of depression, the authors say, “loneliness and depression are in many ways opposites.” Unlike depression, loneliness “is not a mental disorder.”
“Loneliness, like hunger, is a warning to do something to alter an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous condition. Depression makes us apathetic. Whereas loneliness moves us forward, depression holds us back,” they explain.
A persistent sense of rejection, however, can impair one’s cognition and lead to the kind of self-defeating behaviors (being critical or defensive, or aloof, for example) that result in rejection, thus perpetuating the cycle.
Although loneliness is not an illness and therefore cannot be treated with drugs, Cacioppo and Patrick say, cognitive behavioral therapy can help by changing how we choose to see things.
“By reframing our cognitive perceptions, we can begin to change our lives,” they write.
Part of their program goes by the acronym, EASE.
E is for “Extend yourself.” Take small steps toward interacting with others.
A is for having an “Action plan.” Join a club or volunteer at something, for example.
S is for “Selection.” Pursue those friendships that seem most promising.
E is for “Expect the best.” Be positive.
For these two biologists, their book isn’t just a way of explaining their research, but is intended to help people.
“It is my belief that, with a little encouragement, most anyone can emerge from the prison of distorted social cognition and learn to modify self-defeating interactions,” Cacioppo writes. “What feels like solitary confinement, in other words, need not be a life sentence.”

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