College: An investment with many rewards

south caroliniana library

Over the past few years a variety of commentators have questioned the need for a college education.

Skyrocketing tuition costs and an increased demand for jobs that don’t require a college degree are often cited as reasons to consider skipping the university experience.

And while college certainly isn’t for everyone, overall it’s a poor bet financially to skip the higher education route.

According to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, in 2011 the median income of a high school grad who never attended college was $28,659; for those with some college but no degree, it was $32,036.

By comparison, college graduates without advanced degrees had a median income of $49,648. Those with professional degrees had a median income of $87,356, more than three times that for high school grads.

Each year, the individual with a bachelor’s degree earns $20,989 more than the individual who only has a high school diploma. That adds up to a difference of more than $100,000 every five years.

That said, the benefits of a college education go far beyond dollars and cents.

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Antebellum wreck identified off NJ coast


Some four decades after being discovered off the coast of New Jersey, scientists have finally been able to attach a name to a ship that sank more than 150 years ago.

The Robert J. Walker, a US Coast Survey vessel, sank in 1860 after being struck by a 250-ton commercial schooner. Twenty men aboard the Robert J. Walker lost their lives.

The accident was the worst in the history of the US Coast Survey or its successor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The wreck was discovered 10 miles off the coast in 85 feet of water by fishermen in the 1970s.

However, its identity was a mystery until June when a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship conducting surveys for navigation safety in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy made a positive identification, according to Reuters.

“It’s estimated there are 3 million shipwrecks in the waters of the world,” said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office of national marine sanctuaries. “You can’t go out and look for every one, but sometimes the situation arises when you have an opportunity to do that. This was a perfect convergence of opportunity.”

Scientists used the wreck’s location and unique features such as rectangular portholes and engines to make the positive identification.

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And the people want what the people get …

vma awards 2013

Newsflash for the half-dozen of you who happened to stumble across this blog today: Pop culture ain’t my thing, and it ain’t been my thing for a long, long time.

An example of my indifference to pop culture: I don’t think I’ve ever watched an awards show of any stripe. Not the Oscars, nor the Grammys, certainly not the ESPYs, and especially not anything put on by MTV.

I’ve got no problem with those that enjoy that sort of thing, it’s just not for me.

That said, the most recent hullaballoo over a young strumpet making a fool of herself in public, this time at something called the VMAs, is hardly surprising.

If anything, it’s utterly predictable. Given the seemingly endless parade of puffery and self-promotion that is at the core of today’s awards shows, an “artist” has to work harder and harder to generate publicity.

And you know what – it pays off every time.

The more outlandish the artist, the more notoriety they generate.

Miley Cyrus earned herself millions of dollars of free publicity Sunday evening because Western media no longer wishes to differentiate between news and nonsense.

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Southern tobacco-auction rebound continues

tobacco auction

A decade ago, Southern tobacco auctions appeared set to go the way of mule-and-plow farming.

For more than a century, the sign-song chant of auctioneers had wafted through tobacco warehouses from Virginia to the Carolinas and beyond, as buyers and farmers did business in towns big and small across the region, the sweet aroma of cured tobacco ever-present as crop and cash changed hands.

That began to change in the 1990s as tobacco companies increasingly entered into contracts directly with growers to grow the crop.

By the early- to mid-2000s, tobacco auctions were no more. It seemed the late-summer ritual that was as much a part of the area as NASCAR and fish camps was gone for good.

Now, however, the tobacco auction appears to be making a comeback.

Auctions have been held this year everywhere from Danville, Va., to Wilson, N.C., to Lake City, S.C.

The auction provides a broader marketplace for growers to bring their tobacco bales without worrying about big tobacco company regulations, auctioneer Jim Lynch told the Florence (SC) Morning News.

“The main thing is they don’t care about what the moisture is, how much it weighs and those are some of the hoops big tobacco is making them jump through,” said Lynch, of Carolinas Tobacco Auction in Lake City. “Just like we have 32 bales right here that the moisture was I think one tenth of a percentage high and they expected him to haul it all the way back home and go through it and then bring it back.

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Houdon’s Washington: Sublime artistry

Houdon's Washington

The most valuable piece of marble in the United States is said to rest in the rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va.

Jean-Antoine Houdon’s sculpture of George Washington, completed in the early 1790s, is insured for $50 million.

Carved from Carrara marble, it depicts a life-sized Washington. Standing 6-foot-2-1/2 inches, Washington’s right hand is on a cane while his left arm rests on a fasces, on which is slung his cape and sword. At Washington’s back is a plow.

He is shown wearing his military uniform; Washington wished to be depicted in contemporary attire, rather than that of antiquity popular in Neo-classical sculpture.

Chief Justice John Marshall, a contemporary of Washington, said of Houdon’s work, “Nothing in bronze or stone could be a more perfect image than this statue of the living Washington.”

The statue is so realistic that Washington’s uniform is shown missing a button toward the bottom of his waistcoat, just as his real-life uniform appeared at the time.

“Houdon’s statue alludes to the similarities between Washington and the ancient Roman General Cincinnatus who, when Rome no longer needed him, gave up his military power and returned to the simple life of a farmer,” according to the website of Virginia General Assembly. “The artist carefully balanced the military and civilian elements of Washington’s career: his sword is by his side, and he rests his left hand on a fasces (a bundle of rods, which was a Roman symbol of power), but he carries a civilian walking cane and stands next to a plow.

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You’re going to need a bigger boat …

MV ocean breeze

The bulk carrier MV Ocean Breeze, seen above, ran aground earlier this week near the port of San Antonio, Chile.

Chilean Navy helicopters rescued the crew of 24, but the ship was battered by massive waves after it dragged its anchor and came to rest near the beach.

The vessel, flying a Hong Kong flag, carries a cargo of wheat and soy beans.

The above image was submitted to the blog gCaptain by Captain Eric Omar Rodríguez Aracena.

More images and videos can be found of the Ocean Breeze in distress on the gCaptain blog.

(HT: Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid)

The ill-fated SC silkworm experiment of 1866


Prior to the War Between the States South Carolina’s Fairfield County was among the most prosperous areas in the state and the nation.

A good part of this wealth, it should be noted, was in the form of slaves.

According to U.S. Census data, Fairfield County population’s in 1860 included 15,534 slaves. A decade later not only were all those individuals freed, but the county’s population of blacks had decreased by 9 percent, to approximately 14,100.

In addition to the above loss of “property,” Union troops had done severe damage to the county seat of Winnsboro, burning much of the city in the waning days of February 1865, shortly after having laid waste Columbia, S.C., to the west.

So by the following year, with many of the county’s able-bodied white males dead or crippled from the war, a significant percentage of former slaves having moved from the area and general destitution evident throughout the region, residents were desperate.

One plan hatched was to try to create a silk industry in Fairfield County.

Katharine Theus Obear, writing in 1940 at age 88 in Through the Years in Old Winnsboro, recalled that a supply of silkworms were acquired and distributed to individuals in the county.

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Snake in the grass bites snake on foot


Pity the poor Maryland woman who was hit with a $55,000 medical bill after being treated for a venomous snake bite.

Pity her not for being bitten – she was treated at a Bethesda, Md., hospital and is now doing fine – but for her apparent lack of common sense or, more likely, lack of gratitude.

Jules Weiss, according to a story aired on WRC-TV in Washington, DC, had stopped to take a photo at an overlook along the George Washington Parkway. On the way back to her car, she felt something bite her.

Turns out it was a Copperhead, although the story makes it sound as though Weiss wasn’t aware of being bitten by a venomous snake. (How she didn’t happen to see the snake after it bit her isn’t addressed in the story.)

“It felt just like a bee sting,” she told the station. “There were two fang marks with liquid coming out.”

So what did the former emergency medical technician do? Nothing, apparently. It was only an hour later that she noticed her foot had turned “grayish” and started to swell.

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A 270-year-old church with one member

Cedar Creek Methodist Church 006

In the woods 18 miles north of Columbia, SC, sits an aging church, reported to have a congregation of but a single individual. Thieves have stolen the copper tubing from its air conditioning unit, making services throughout a good part of the year quite uncomfortable.

Yet, Cedar Creek Methodist Church, metaphorically speaking, soldiers on.

The church dates back to 1743, when it began as a German Reformed branch of Presbyterianism called the German Protestant Church of Appii Forum, and was one of 15 German churches in interior South Carolina.

The congregation met in a 16-foot-by-20-foot structure constructed of logs with a dirt floor.

The congregation is said to have been converted to Methodism in a single day by famed Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury shortly after the end of the American Revolution.

Asbury was one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the US. A native of England, he was appointed a traveling preacher by none other than John Wesley at age 22.

In 1771 Asbury volunteered to travel to America. When the American Revolution began in 1775, Asbury was the only Methodist minister to remain in America.

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The proselytizing feline: Profane or funny?

hello sir

Questions for the poor souls who, having run through all the blogs that educate, illuminate and/or edify, are left with this site:

  • Is the above caption offensive? If so, why?

It makes light of neither Jesus Christ nor Christianity, but of those individuals who go door to door proselytizing.

Having turned away many a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and Southern Baptist from my front door, I couldn’t help but find the meme funny, even though all the above Christians were without fail exceedingly polite and, I would imagine, well intentioned.

  • If the evangelizing cat is not at least a little offensive, then why is it humorous?

Often, it’s the taboo that gets the biggest guffaw.

If the image of a cat sticking its paws and part of its head through a small door came with the caption: “Hello Sir – Can I interest you in an excellent deal on a Electromaflux 5000 Upright Vacuum?” it wouldn’t be quite the same, even though we’ve all had to deal with door-to-door salesmen peddling everything from appliances to insurance.

  • Finally, what did people do for chuckles in the days before the invention of the camera allowed them to pass around pictures of animals?

This, I concede, is of less philosophical significance than the other questions.

Still, passing around, say, a charcoal image of a cat stuck in a butter churn wouldn’t seem to have the same impact as that of a photo of the same scene.