Nothing like having four months of rain fall in a single day

washed out tracks

You know you’ve gotten a lot of rain when folks stop measuring the amount in numbers and begin using adjectives to describe how much precipitation has fallen, such as “immense,” “ginormous” and “a whole helluva lot.”

With Hurricane Joaquin staying offshore as it moves up the East Coast, South Carolina was deluged with as much as 20 inches of rain over 24 hours, an amount that left weather forecasters calling the event a “1,000-year storm.”

Area rivers quickly breached their banks, rising, in some cases, 10 feet or more above flood stage.

I got an indication of just how much water had fallen when I visited a local creek about 10 miles north of my home. Normally at this time of year Rocky Creek is about three feet across and six to eight inches deep.

At 10 a.m. Sunday morning it was 700 feet across and 15 feet deep in some places, with water moving briskly as it surged toward the Broad River.

Adding to area woes is the fact that South Carolina has been receiving rain for a couple of days prior to the deluge that began late Saturday, and more rain is anticipated Monday.

As Slate magazine noted, parts of the state received four months of rain in a single day. I don’t care how strong your infrastructure system is, it’s going to have trouble standing up to that kind of a deluge.

(Top: Washed-out railroad tracks in Columbia, SC, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015.)

This color-coded weather map tops out at 18 inches of rain; it wasn't enough to register all the rain parts of South Carolina received this weekend.

This color-coded weather map tops out at 18 inches of rain; it wasn’t enough to register all the rain parts of South Carolina received this weekend.

Feeling blue with Florida Blue: How insurers play God

florida blue 2

Ever wonder who would inhabit the deepest reaches of hell were Dante to return and rewrite his famous Inferno?

The easy choices, if we’re looking at it collectively, are surly DMV employees, self-aggrandizing school board members and self-righteous do-gooders who miss no opportunity to sing their own praises while informing you of your own missteps.

As if the above alone wouldn’t fill up at least a couple of circles of hell, there’s another group which deserves its own special place in perdition: health insurers who make life insufferably difficult for those with serious illnesses.

I have a friend who is battling leukemia. She is in her early 40s and she and her husband have a beautiful 7-year-old daughter. She has traveled to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, many times for treatment but lives in Florida. Beyond the unfairness of a wonderful person with a great husband and sweet young child having to battle of a life-threatening illness, she also has to fight insurers which routinely deny her coverage for needed cancer-treatment medication.

My friend’s medical team has sent documents in triplicate to her insurers – Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida (Florida Blue) and Prime Therapeutics – several times and each time insurance representatives have claimed that “they have no way to attach the documents to each other” or that they “have not received them.”

Screen shot from friend's Facebook feed as she expresses her frustration with insurers who won't pay for approved cancer medication.
Screen shot from friend’s Facebook feed as she expresses her frustration with insurers who won’t pay for approved cancer medication.

The folks at Florida Blue – whose slogan is, ironically, “Here For You, in Your Pursuit of Health” – have decided not to cover my friend’s prescription even though it’s on their list of approved medications.

Because of this, my friend has been without anti-cancer medication for a month, obviously not a good thing for someone with leukemia.

Her doctors, nurses and health care providers have been working diligently to get the correct papers into their hands for several weeks. Yet, a month later she is still without needed medicine and no answers.

I understand insurance is a business, but I don’t understand how paper pushers in any corporation can deny coverage to someone whose life is at stake when the needed medication is on the list of those already approved by the insurer.

At what point does someone within the company say “Enough!” and blow the whistle on this sort of unethical and, most likely, illegal, activity?

How many other examples like this are going on at health insurers across the nation?

Finally, how do the people who knowingly deny insurance coverage, and most certainly understand that they are jeopardizing lives in doing so, live with themselves? Can it be that easy to suspend ethics, compassion and decency?

Dante would have a field day with folks like those at Florida Blue and Prime Therapeutics.

More proof the past isn’t always as tidy as we think it is


Another example of South Carolina’s counterintuitive past revealed itself recently, in a cemetery in the middle of the state.

Buried in the graveyard of Flint Hill Baptist Church, a black church located in northwestern Newberry County, are the remains of Richard “Dick” Roberts.

Roberts, who was born March 15, 1833, and died March 7, 1906, has a rather unusual inscription on his tombstone: “During the troublous years of reconstruction he was true to the people among whom he was born, and with whom he was reared.”

A March 9, 1906, story in the Newberry (SC) Observer provided some insight.

“Dick Roberts, colored, was known in his day as a ‘Hampton democrat.’ In fact he voted with democrats all the time, and wore the ‘red shirt’ in the famous campaign of 1876. He was one of the very few negroes who sided with their white neighbors in politics. Dick dropped dead at his home on the Duncan place in Cromer Township on Wednesday. He was about 65 years old.”

The Red Shirts are relatively little known outside South Carolina, but they were supporters of Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton during his run for governor in 1876. Hampton’s election that year brought an end to eight years of Republican rule in South Carolina and the subsequent withdrawal of Federal occupation troops.

A week after Roberts’ death the Observer followed up:

“Dick Roberts, colored, of Number 4 Township, who was a democrat all the dark days of reconstruction and to the day of his death, voting always with his white neighbors, died recently, as was mentioned in The Observer at the time. Remembering his loyalty and fidelity and appreciating his faithful services and the correctness of his life, and feeling that some recognition should be made of these, his white friends have decided to pay his funeral expense and to erect a simple and suitable monument at his grave. A liberal subscription is being raised for this purpose. Sheriff Buford has a list at his office and Mr. C.H. Shannon also has one.”

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The mystery behind fledglings lighting up on the down low

birds smoking

While there’s no doubt that the US government has been known to squander money that would seem better used elsewhere – see the $856,000 National Science Foundation grant allotted to the University of California at Santa Cruz to, among other things, teach mountain lions how to use a treadmill, for example – there are some pie-in-the-sky projects that I would love to see funded.

Take the above image. If government officials needed money to create a device that could translate bird-speak so that it was intelligible to humans, then required additional cash to develop a way-back machine in order to go to the above point in the past, so that they could interpret what our two feathered juvenile delinquents were saying to one another, that is a project with which I would have absolutely no issue.

Are they discussing where to steal birdseed? What’s the best place to perch their rear ends and “roost?” Where the “easy” chickadees hang out? We just don’t know, and that, at least in my opinion, is one of modern science’s great failings.

Just think, if this pair were a little bigger and had opposable thumbs, they’d probably be ruling the planet by now.

And don’t tell me this image was photoshopped. I for one am prepared to hail our new avian overlords.

(Required disclaimer: I in no way condone underage smoking among fish, fowl or other beasts of the wild, and hope these two fledglings got a sound thrashing when they returned to their nest.)

Facebook: Dumbing down everything since 1355


As anyone involved with Facebook for any amount of time knows, the social media site has become increasingly polarized on topics of politics and religion in recent years.

Early on, Facebook seemed to be particularly proficient at allowing users to portray unrealistically rosy views of their lives – wonderful spouses/significant others, above-average children, superior pets, etc.

But beginning with the 2008 presidential campaign, things seemed to take a rather vitriolic turn. Of course, it’s relatively easy to ignore those who still want to debate whether the current president of the United States was born in a foreign nation or is a non-Christian.

What’s become increasingly prevalent, at least from what I’ve seen, are inane postings related to religion. I’m not referring to all religious posts, because I’m of the belief that the Bible or various other holy books are filled with words that can prove helpful during difficult times, even for those who may not be particularly devout.

One doesn’t have to agree with another’s post to understand that a bit of faith-based prose can be well intended.

No, what I’m referring to are the all-or-nothing chain memes being shared on Facebook, similar to that above, with such wording as “You have a friend request. Jesus (Son of God) wants to be your friend. Confirm?” (There’s a helpful picture of Jesus included, in case the name “Jesus” or the words “Son of God” in parenthesis didn’t make it clear that the individual sending the meme was talking about Jesus of New Testament fame rather than, say, a Latino baseball player.)

Not exactly on par with Augustine's "City of God".

Not exactly on par with Augustine’s “City of God”.

The implication being that if you aren’t willing to “confirm” your “friendship” with Jesus, you’ve turned your back on God and, therefore, your chance at eternal salvation.

What I find particularly distasteful is a meme which shows an image of Jesus with the words, “I will bless anyone who types amen”.

Now I’m no expert in canon law but this would appear to border on the sacrilegious or, at a minimum, the ridiculously superstitious.

I don’t pretend to know the ways of God, but I’ve got a feeling that He’s going to bless those with a good heart who do good in the world, whether or not they type “amen” on a silly social media site.

Who comes up with this foolishness? Can there really be those so devoid of reasoning skills that they believe that it betters their chances at redemption to devise such tripe?

And, just so we’re clear, I’m not interested in a debate on the merits of social media evangelism. I have my faith and you’re welcome to yours, or not, whatever the case may be. But don’t insult my intelligence by telling me that the path to Heaven can be widened by a few “likes” on Facebook.

Butcher, baker, candlestick maker; Out of sync with LinkedIn


Count LinkedIn among those social networking sites that I’ve never fully grasped.

It calls itself “The world’s largest professional network: 300 million strong.” It would appear 299,999,999 others are getting a lot more out of than I am.

According to one Internet definition, LinkedIn’s goal “is to allow registered members to establish and document networks of people they know and trust professionally.”

The network allows users to create profiles and “connections” to each other in an online social network which can potentially represent real-world professional relationships.

These connections can then be used in a number of ways, including:

  • Obtaining introductions to connections of connections;
  • Finding jobs, people and business opportunities; and
  • Allowing employers to list jobs and search for potential candidates.

I joined a few years ago because, well, I don’t know why. I suppose because others I knew had done so.

It’s really served me no other purpose than to occasionally reconnect with a former classmate or colleague.

LinkedIn, apparently feeling I’m always looking to better my position in life, also regularly sends me emails titled “Jobs you may be interested in”.

Whatever algorithm LinkedIn is using to generate this missive would seem to need some tweaking, however.

Over the past month here are some of the jobs LinkedIn believes I might be interested in (and, mind you, I’m a writer who handles marketing and media communications for my employer – all of which is clearly stated on my LinkedIn profile):

  • General surgeon;
  • Certified public accountant;
  • Director of health services;
  • College director;
  • Commercial loan underwriter; and
  • Director of engineering services and transmission planning.

As near as I can tell, LinkedIn figures out who has a college degree and who doesn’t, then it shunts the appropriate open positions to those in each category.

How else does one explain why a networking site would think someone with a Journalism degree might be “interested” in being a general surgeon, a CPA or an engineer?

Of all the emails LinkedIn has sent me over the past few months with “Jobs you may be interested in,” only one position has been even remotely close to what I actually do.

Perhaps I should be flattered that LinkedIn thinks so highly of my abilities that it believes me capable of such a wide array of professions. And to think my high school guidance counselor never believed I’d amount to much.

LinkedIn costs something like $1,200 annually for its premium package. But given the pinpoint precision demonstrated by the social network in ferreting out potential positions for yours truly, I’m quite happy sticking with the free service.

In Vermont, a solution goes in search of a problem

south burlington scoreboard

In a nation of perpetually aggrieved there is diminishing room for reason.

Consider the “controversy” taking place in South Burlington, Vt.

For more than 50 years the South Burlington High School has used the “Rebels” as its nickname, said to be in recognition of the city’s secession from Burlington many years before.

However, now there is a movement to do away with the moniker because “rebel” is said to be associated with the racist policies of the Confederacy, a former teacher at the school told the Burlington Free Press.

“It was unintentional, I’m sure, but it’s still connected to that,” said Bob Walsh, who taught at the school for 18 years. “I think it’s time for us to recognize the fact that this symbol is inappropriate and it’s time to change.”

Walsh’s comments came during an August school board meeting. He was the only member of the public to speak against the school’s nickname.

Elizabeth Fitzgerald, board chairwoman, said when she grew up in the area and participated in events against South Burlington High, she never recalled any reference to the Rebels being affiliated with the Confederacy.

Julie Beatty, another school board member and a South Burlington High alum, said she never associated the “Rebels” nickname with the Confederacy during her time as a student, and said she doesn’t think students today associate it with the Confederate States of America.

The board decided to gather more public opinion before making a decision. Young said the topic will be open for public comment at the next board meeting, which will be held tomorrow.

What Walsh and others who advocate a break with the name “Rebels” seem to overlook is that not only did South Burlington split from Burlington, but Vermont itself was established by many individuals who were considered “rebels.”

Vermont was founded by Ethan Allen, Thomas Chittenden and others who sought independence from New York, seeing themselves “as a distinct region outside the legitimate jurisdiction of New York,” according to historian Christian Fritz.

Although Vermonters fought the British during the American Revolution, they didn’t join the fledgling United States at the outset of war, as both New York and New Hampshire wanted the territory for themselves.

Instead, in 1777, Vermonters declared independence, wrote their own constitution and formed the Republic of Vermont, which lasted until 1791, when the state was admitted to the Union as the 14th state.

And, of course, rebellion was the dominant theme in the founding of the United States of America, with the Founding Fathers undoubtedly being seen as “rebels” by Great Britain.

(Top: Scoreboard at South Burlington (Vt.) High School, with nickname “Rebels” evident.)