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Journal: Biology Help Desk: Volume Seven 19

Journal by Samantha Wright

Hey, remember these? I do. Vaguely. But vaguely isn't good enough, so here's another one. Since I've discovered that the secret to understanding machine learning problems well enough to implement them is mostly a matter of strategically procrastinating, it seems only fair that I should run one of these. So before cross-entropy actually starts making sense to me, what would you like to know?

User Journal

Journal: Biology Help Desk: Volume 2n+1, n=2 34

Journal by Samantha Wright

I've gotten a couple of requests now for another one of these, so here one is. Please, bring to me your curiosities and questions about the strange and mysterious biological sciences. I can probably answer (or research answers to) most questions. (Also, if you keep missing these, I've decided I'm going to vaguely hint at them in mysterious ways on Twitter (@rhet0rica) from now on. I guess even Twitter has to have some utility.)

User Journal

Journal: Biology Help Desk: Volume 4 22

Journal by Samantha Wright

Bring me your curiosity! As before, if this expires and you want to ask a question, just slip me a comment (or an e-mail) and I'll put up another one of these. No question is too trivial; no thinly-veiled troll too transparent! (I'm going to regret saying that, I'm sure.)

User Journal

Journal: Biology Help Desk Again 25

Journal by Samantha Wright

I'm really not sure how long these last as comment-on-able, so here's another one. I'll try to be a little more vigilant in making sure there's always a journal open for asking questions.

A little more elucidation: I'm in the fourth year of a combined bioinformatics/medical informatics degree. Most of my semester is from the CS curriculum, but I have gotten through biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, physiology, and organic chemistry courses. (Mostly in the presence of pre-med students.) I've also taken genomics-specific courses and worked in a molecular biology lab studying C. elegans, and a medical lab studying Autism.

So ask away!

User Journal

Journal: Biology Help Desk 4

Journal by Samantha Wright

Thanks to the power of my silly sig, I've been getting a lot of biology questions lately. Most of these are fun to answer, but occasionally they pop up in totally inappropriate threads just out of the blue. Since Slashdot supports commenting on journal posts, it seemed like the best thing to do would be to make one and encourage people to ask here instead. So do that!

And I really will phrase things as car and computer analogies when possible. Although computer analogies are way more common.

For clarification, I've taken physiology and genetics courses, and can answer most geeky things about the human body and fundamental biology. I don't know much about pharmacology or ecology (because it is very, very, dry), and I am not a doctor. But I'll try to answer those questions, too.

User Journal

Journal: Attention Freaks and Fans 3

Journal by sm62704

I've managed to get the password to my old "mcgrew" account, so I won't be using this one any more. Its first journal will reference and link this account.

If you are on my "fans" list, I'll be adding you to the "friends" list of the mcgrew account. Please be patient; I'm doing it alphabetically, and by hand, and slashdot only lets me do so many at a time. If you are onn my "freaks" list you'll just have to add "mcgrew" to your "foes" list; I am not going to have "foes" in that account, either.

The mcgrew journals will be more rationally listed under the old mcgrew account. The first one is Under the rainbow.

So, I made a move on Charlie, and, well, let's just say that I'm not very good at seduction. By "not very good" I mean I suck at it badly. I doubt I've ever seduced a woman in my life; every one I had, they had their eye on me first. Maybe that's the way it works, I don't know.

She was gentle in her rejection.

Well almost; there is Eye muss bee knew hear pretty much saying what I'm saying here (-1, redundant). As that account started out with neutral karma, having not been used since January 2000, and this account has excellent karma, nobody can accuse me of being a karma whore! I've never worried about karma before and I don't intend to start now.

I'll see you at the new; er, I mean "old" account!

And again, a big thank you to samzepus!

Education

Journal: College Textbook Affordability Act 11

Journal by sm62704

I ran across an item in the local paper today that I think will interest young slashdotters who haven't yet finished with college. My US Senator, Dick Durbin, has authored the "College Textbook Affordability Act".

The paper says major provisions of the act were "included in the higher education reauthorization signed into law on Aug. 14."

The textbook provision doesn't take effect until July 1, 2010, creating a waiting period he said textbook publishers pushed hard to get. But he urged students, faculty and administrators to work now to minimize costs of needed books.

The law will require publishers to provide in writing to professors the price of books, and also information on other formats in which the material may be available. Publishers also will be required to offer for sale some products that are now bundled -- such as a book, workbook and computer disk -- separately.

"Imagine," Durbin said, "these are professors picking books that they don't have to pay for.
They're picking them for someone else to pay for, and I hope that they'll start putting themselves in the shoes of the students when they start thinking about that cost."

UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen said "I've heard from students who ... have to avoid the courses that they need for their major because they can't afford the books that semester." Ashley Rook, 22, a Chicago native and political science graduate student who is president of the Student Government Association at UIS said "I've heard from students who avoid buying the books altogether because they simply can't afford them, so they try to get by in class" through borrowing and other means.

"It really diminishes the quality of their education," she said.

Chris Barron, spokesman for Dr. Steve Sauerberg of Willowbrook, Durbin's GOP opponent in the Nov. 4 election, belittled Durbin's press event.

"If this is what Senator Durbin, the second-ranking member of the United States Senate, is bragging about -- about getting legislation passed that will improve the situation (concerning) college textbooks in 2010, it speaks volumes about what he's actually been able (to accomplish) during his quarter century in Washington," Barron said.

Durbin is one of the few politicians I actually vote for, as opposed to holding my nose and voting for the lesser of two "weevils". He voted against bankrupcy deform, for instance (as did my other Senator, Barack Obama).

Once when I was in school, I had one class where I had to buy a book my professor authored. Some people really have gall!

Toys

Journal: The Rollercycle

Journal by sm62704

Springfield, home of Ward 2 alderman Gail Simpson, is a wierd town. Its newspaper has some wierd stories, like Man robbed of cold 12-pack of beer.

But there is a very geekworthy item in today's paper: 'Green' invention just needs attention.

A Springfield artist and inventor named Frank Pierce has come up with a contraption that looks like a cross between two bicycles and a pair of roller skates.

If you have spent much time on the north end of Springfield lately, you might have seen Pierce on his Rollercycle. Using the same leg motion as a skater uses, Pierce tools around the streets on wheels at speeds up to 20-25 miles an hour. He does attract attention.

"I almost cause accidents because people are looking," he says. "People want to know about it, where to buy it ...

"During the motorcycle races (at the state fairgrounds), I put them on and went past that tavern, Knuckleheads. The motorcycle riders were all out there watching. They started clapping at me, so I cruised up there. It got a lot of attention from them."

<snip>

Here's how it works: Riders strap a wheel onto each leg. In the current design, people slip into one of their shoes already attached. The next model will let them take their shoes with them when they're done.

The tires are 20-inch, high-performance models. That, Pierce says, gives his invention an advantage over rollerblades. His tires can roll over grass and brick streets.

With the tires strapped onto your legs, you simply skate. When you want to stop, press down on your heel and that engages the brakes. The stability of Pierce's invention is so good that users can stand motionless and not topple over.

There's more at the link, as well as a photo of Pierce wearing his invention.

I want a pair!

In other news, Vulcan illogically caught fire and burned.

User Journal

Journal: Psycho Man Slayers 1

Journal by sm62704

Previously: Amy Again

I was up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning, damn it. One reason I hate that goddamned alarm clock is that it has gotten me up every day, Monday through Friday, for the last twenty years and now I'm up early on the weekends, too, even though the alarm's not set.

I should find a girlfriend named "Dawn". Then getting up at the crack of Dawn wouldn't bother me so much.

I drank my coffee as Charlie slept on the couch. She'd gone to the races the previous night. Amy had disappeared, I heard she was back with her boyfriend. Nothing unusual there; I didn't expect her to stay around long. I moved Charlie's feet out of the way and sat down to read for a while. "Aurthur Phillip Dent? You're a... wait a minute, I've done you before, haven't I?"

I drove to McDonald's for a bag of nearfood, ate it, moved Charlie's feet again and turned on the VCR, and watched Wagon's East, John Candy's last movie. I'm surprised this isn't a geek classic, as it is a cross between Saturday Night Live and Star Trek Voyager -- at least, half the actors in it are from those two shows. And William Sanderson, from Blade Runner, is in it, too.

The phone rang; it was Linda. "Whatcha doin'?"

"Watching a movie, what's up?"

"Want some breakfast?" hell yes I wanted some breakfast! I was a Hobbit this morning; I'd had breakfast at six thirty and was having it again at ten. But Linda's one hell of a cook and I won't turn down a chance to eat anything she cooks. I had the second breakfast with Linda and Tami, who was very ill as she'd had way, way too much to drink the previous night. They regaled me with tales of their (especially Tami's) drunkenness, and I promised to buy Tami some beer. Pitchers at the Blue Grouch are only $3.50 on Saturdays; Linda had other plans.

While we were at the Grouch, Amy called; she was headed home (my home). We finished the pitcher, I took Tami to Ralph's, and went home to meet Amy.

The girls do NOT get along these days. Charlie and Amy are good friends, and Linda and Tami seem to be; but since Charlie got thrown out of Ralph's she is bitter enemies with Tami and Linda, who blames Charlie for getting her boyfriend, who is Charlie's brother, put back in prison. If you're new to these journals, Charlie's brother was imprisoned for Grand Thieft Auto because he's stupid and loves cars, and was on parole when he got put back in for parole violation for being at Ralph's. Linda's on parole, too, she on a non-violent drug posession charge. I'm not really sure what it is between Tami and Amy; somehow I think Amy got jealous of Tami back when Tami was living with me.

Amy missed me and said she was homesick while living at her BF's. Stark raving loonie tunes, I tell ya. "I love you!" she said to me, into her boyfriend's phone, in front of her boyfriend, who is a pretty big guy. Fucking woman had told him I'd had a crush on her! WTF was that all about anyway?

His truck was at my house when I got home, and she got out of it and came in, with him burning rubber as he left. She wanted me to take her to Farley's, the sleaziest bar in this cartoon city, and then to get her stuff from her (allegedly) ex-boyfriend's, who had raised a stink about the ten bucks while I, only a friend, had loaned her a bunch of money that she still owed months later.

She was crying inconsolably.

I got the feeling that if she wasn't on the rag I'd have gotten lucky. The three of us went to Farley's, and I bought a pitcher. We talked for a while, Charlie went outside to smoke, and Amy spied Roger, her old boyfriend from before the guy she's with (was with?) now.

I decided I didn't want to drink by myself in this sleazy dive, told Amy I was leaving, and left. Charlie was by my car smoking, and went with me. She went to the races, and I went to the Blue grouch. Linda and Tami were there, I drank too much, and didn't remember going home.

Sunday I got up about six thirty and discovered the floor was clean. Charlie had obviously gotten the cleaning bug while I slept, or had made a mess and hurredly cleaned it up. I drank my coffee, and trudged to the Blue Grouch to retrieve my car, relieved that I hadn't driven it home.

As I walked, Tami called, worried that I had driven.

Amy called from Roger's wanting a ride. When I picked her up she had a hickey on her neck. Charlie was gone when we got back to my house. We drove to Amy's so-called "ex" BF's to get her things. My car has a huge trunk, I could fit a half-dozen dead hookers in it. Or a dozen skinny little crack whores.

Then we drove to my daughter Leila's trailer for some drugs.

When Evil-X left my daughters and me for another man, the three of us were prescribed antidepressants. We've been off of them for a long time, but my packrat daughter had kept the Zoloft she'd been prescribed. She gave us half a dozen bottles. Amy was so happy she almost gave ME a hickey! She hadn't had her Zoloft in weeks and was suicidal; I guess I saved a woman's life.

Am I dumb or what?

We unpacked her stuff, and I dropped her at her girlfriend's house, who she hadn't seen in a while. Charlie was gone to the races again, and I sat home and drank on my porch swing.

Amy woke me up in the middle of the night, gave me a hug, and told me she was back with her boyfriend. Again.

The next morning Charlie was in a foul mood. It was her turn to start her period. She'd not been able to sleep and had spent the night cleaning house, and spent the morning bitching at me. Somehow it was MY fault she'd been thrown out of Ralph's. I felt like throwing her out myself, but she went to sleep on the couch about ten. Five minutes into an episode of STNG I had on tape, the phone rang.

Damn, it was the MPAA calling to arrest me for copyright violation.

Nope, it was Linda.

I feel like I have four girlfriends, or two girlfriends and two wives, none of whom will put out. Prak would laugh harder at me than at Aurthur, I'm sure.

(If you don't know who Prak is, you really need to get out less often)

I went over visiting again, and they fed me beer and a delicious hamburger and some cole slaw. But before that, as I was ringing the doorbell, my phone rang. Charlie had left her purse in the guy's trunk, and he was at my house with it and she wasn't waking up and he was leaving it on the porch. He didn't seem too happy about it; I think they were supposed to go to the races again.

I drove back and put her purse inside and went back to Ralph's.

When I got back home after visiting Linda and Tami, who had been in bathing suits sunning in the back yard (God but Linda's gained some weight), Charlie wanted to borrow my car. I said Ok, she said she'd be an hour.

Two hours later I started to worry. Two hours after that I was sure I'd be walking to work; either she'd wrapped it around a tree and was in the hospital, or had gotten busted for a traffic ticket and gone to jail like happened last year.

Yeah, she'd spent a week in jail for driving on an expired license; well, actually she'd been broke, sentenced to community service since she hadn't had any money, done half of it, and her mom came down with cancer and she kind of forgot about the community service. She'd asked a cop where she could find a pay phone and he'd arrested her.

She finally got home and I calmly told her I wasn't letting her borrow the car any more, and she went off on me.

Tired of the bitching, I told her to get the fuck out of my house. She refused. I called the cops and asked them to "please get this woman the hell out of my house!"

By the time they came, she'd apologized. But she's on thin ice with me; I'd hate to throw her in the street but I'm not going to take any more of her hormonally fueled abuse. I keep wondering what evolutionary advantage there is to PMS? It seems a cave man would have just broken the bitch's neck and had done with her.

Next: Under the rainbow

(The title of this journal is named after some ladies who used to kick my ass when I played Quake online with them, the Psycho Men Slayer Clan. I guess this journal is dedicated to all the world's misandrists.)

User Journal

Journal: Amy again 5

Journal by sm62704

Previously: A drunken mess

Charlie's boss hasn't been back, so instead of construction work she's been cleaning houses. She paid back the last twenty bucks she owed me this morning.

Yesterday evening we watched movies as we've been boredly doing the last week, and her ride dropped off a joint for me when he picked her up to take her to yet another filthy house in the ghetto to clean. I lit it (the doob, not the filthy ghetto house) and started the movie back up.

"Excuse me, but he explicitly asked for a nigger. To tell a family secret, my grandmother was Dutch!"

----RING----

"Hello?"

It was Amy's boyfriend. "Hey, just a heads up, Amy's going to be showing up at your house."

*Sigh.* More trouble. "Thanks for the heads up, man."

"No problem, bye".

"Bye."

-click-

"...and tell him I said 'OWW!'"

----RING----

"Hello?"

"Hi, It's Amy, I'm over at Alan's and I'm walking to your house."

"What?"

"He beat the hell out of me, Alan saw the whole thing, it freaked Alan out, he didn't know what to do. I'm walking down eighth street."

I told her I'd meet her halfway, and hung up.

I hit "stop" and walked out to meet Amy. I walked her back home, turned Blazing Saddles back on, and sat on the couch with her.

Poor Amy. Her BF was almost broke; he had ten bucks left. She'd asked for whiskey money, and specifically told him that her alcohol addiction was getting the best of her, that she had the shakes and was seeing snakes. So he went ahead and stupidly gave her the ten dollars for food!

Of course she spent it on whiskey. I hugged her and tried unsuccessfully to dry her tears.

He called later and asked if he could drop her things off at my house. I said it was OK.

Damn it.

I let her cry on my shoulder until I had to go to bed, and left her on the couch.

No way in hell would I give an alcoholic my last ten dollars when I knew she wanted a drink! Amy's BF isn't the sharpest knofe in the drawer by any means.

She and Charlie woke me up talking loudly in the dining room. I put on my robe and went in; Charlie had a forty two ounce beer and Amy had a pint of Jim Beam. Charlie poured me a beer and Amy poured me a shot.

It seems I now have two crazy women living with me. Well, at least I got rid of Tami...

And I'm sure Amy will be gone in a day or two. I need to get her drugs; she's been prescribed Zoloft, and she hasn't had any for two weeks.

And she's on her period; PMS has hold of her as well.

*sigh*

Next: Psycho Man Slayers

User Journal

Journal: In the news: Chicago Tribune 3

Journal by sm62704

Democrats
What is wrong with these people? Our next President will be either a doddering old fool or a young idiot.

WGN Radio up in Chicago apparently has a right wing wacko that is trying to swiftboat Obama. Now, if I were Obama I'd ignore the dufus.

But since I'm not Obama, the dufus isn't being ignored. The Chicago Tribune, which owns WGN, reports that the Obama campaign is trying to get the wacko fired.

"Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse," the note said.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves," the note continued. "At the very least, they should offer sane, honest rebuttal to every one of Kurtz's lies."

Zack Christenson, executive producer of "Extension 720 with Milt Rosenburg," said the response was strong.

"I would say this is the biggest response we've ever got from a campaign or a candidate," he said. "This is really unprecedented with the show, the way that people are flooding the calls and our email boxes."

Christenson said the Obama campaign was asked to have someone appear on the show and the headquarters declined the request.

Barack, meet Barbara.

The show's producer said the calls dropped off after the show's first hour. He did not have a count of calls, but said it was "non-stop."

Obama's campaign has launched similar offensives against stations that have run campaign ads that it did not like.

A pox on both their houses! I'm voting for a third party loser, to hell with the Corporate Republicrats.

Republicans
Speaking of corporations, corporations would rather kill babies than lose profits. I'm not talking about fetuses; I'm talking about breathing, shitting, crying infants. If you own stock in Simplicity, you are a baby killer.

Both deaths involved the Simplicity 4-in-1 Winnie the Pooh bassinet. But many other Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 models share the same design. Last year, Simplicity recalled more than 1 million cribs in the wake of a Tribune investigation that showed the commission waited years to warn consumers about the cribs' flaws, despite babies' deaths. The bassinets were not included in that recall.

Simplicity Inc. ran into financial trouble after the crib recall. SFCA Inc., a unit of Blackstreet Capital Partners, acquired the assets of Simplicity Inc. in a foreclosure sale in May. An SFCA executive declined to comment Wednesday.

I'm interested to hear what the anarchist "buyer beware" trolls have to say about this.

Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese said the agency did not recall the bassinet last fall because "the investigation of a baby's death in October 2007 remains open because there are still questions surrounding the circumstances of that baby's death."

But McDonald County Coroner B.J. Goodwin III said there was no doubt the death was an accident. "It was clear-cut," he said. "We all felt it was the crib that caused the passing."

"It wasn't like we felt the parents were negligent," Goodwin added. "The home was clean. The baby was well-cared for."

Goodwin said he ordered an autopsy and, in the end, ruled the death an accident. If anyone thought otherwise, he said, "I would have been notified."

He said he found the bassinet extremely unsafe. "I felt it should never have been allowed on the market. I hate that another child passed because of this problem.," he said.

Jeff Slaton, attorney for the Simon family, which has filed a wrongful-death suit against Simplicity and Wal-Mart, said, "I'm at a loss on why it took so long" for the safety commission to act.

Libertarians
Not a word in the paper about these folks, although I guess the preceeding one about the Republicans qualifies. Their candidate, Bob Barr, was a Republican when he was in the Georgia legislature. And they are against government protecting you from the corporations.
Greenies
Not a word about them.
Constitutioners
Ditto.

United States

Journal: Hoover for President! 4

Journal by sm62704

I saw a sig today that said something to the effect of "Bush is the Republicans' Jimmy Carter". I never thought I'd ever see a worse President than Carter, but Bush proved me wrong. But he's not Carter, he's Coolige.

I fear that whichever of the two candidates I'll be voting against this November wins, our next President will be Herbert Hoover, because those who refuse to study history are indeed destined to repeat it.

Our leaders haven't been paying attention. None of them. Not our political leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, not any of them. We are led by the clueless.

That link is to an online copy of a history book I was assigned in an undergraduate general studies history class. As my late Grandmother, who was a young woman in the roaring twenties said, Hoover didn't cause the depression, Coolige did.

She also said that the roaring twenties didn't roar for anyone she know. The rich were doing fantastic, but the ordinary working class stiff did badly.

The nation at war had formed the habit of summary action, and it was not soon unlearned. The circumstances and available methods had changed, that was all. Employers who had watched with resentment the rising scale of wages paid to labor, under the encouragement of a government that wanted no disaffection in the ranks of the workers, now felt that their chance had come. The Germans were beaten; the next thing to do was to teach labor a lesson. Labor agitators were a ;; bunch of Bolsheviks, anyhow, and it was about time that a man had a chance to make a decent profit in his business.

Chapter III: Teh Terrorists. Oh wait, it's the "red menace", my bad.

Chapter IV talks about the new technologies everyone was going nuts over, which reminds me of today with the internet and P2P:

That winter, however-the winter of 1921-22-it came with a rush. Soon everybody was talking, not about wireless telephony, but about radio. A San Francisco paper described the discovery that millions were making: "There is radio music in the air, every night, everywhere. Anybody can hear it at home on a receiving set, which any boy can put up in an hour." In February President Harding had an outfit installed in his study, and the Dixmoor Golf Club announced that it would install a "telephone" to enable golfers to hear church services. In April, passengers on a Lackawanna train heard a radio concert, and Lieutenant Maynard broke all records for modernizing Christianity by broadcasting an Easter sermon from an airplane. Newspapers brought out radio sections and thousands of hitherto utterly unmechanical people puzzled over articles about regenerative circuits, sodion tubes, Grimes reflex circuits, crystal detectors, and neutrodynes. In the Ziegfeld "Follies of 1922" the popularity of "My Rambler Rose" was rivaled by that of a song about a man who hoped his love might hear him as she was "listening on the radio." And every other man you met on the street buttonholed you to tell you how he had sat up until two o'clock the night before, with earphones clamped to his head, and had actually heard Havana! How could one bother about the Red Menace if one was facing such momentous questions as how to construct a loop aerial?

Then, it seems, as now, nerds (although the term "nerd" was not to be coined for decades) were cool, even though "cool" wasn't to be coined for a long time either.

Then, unlike now, a "geek" was someone who swallowed live animals.

The book doesn't mention it (at least I don't remember the book mentioning it), but the recording labels were as scared of radio then as they are of the internet and P2P today.

Chapter V is "The Revolution in Manners and Morals", but it would paint the picture of any generation.

The dresses that the girls-and for that matter most of the older women-were wearing seemed alarming enough. In July, 1920, a fashion-writer reported in the New York Times that "the American woman . . . has lifted her skirts far beyond any modest limitation," which was another way of saying that the hem was now all of nine inches above the ground. It was freely predicted that skirts would come down again in the winter of 1920-21, but instead they climbed a few scandalous inches farther. The flappers wore thin dresses, short-sleeved and occasionally (in the evening) sleeveless; some of the wilder young things rolled their stockings below their knees, revealing to the shocked eyes of virtue a fleeting glance of shin-bones and knee-cap; and many of them were visibly using cosmetics. "The intoxication of rouge," earnestly explained Dorothy Speare in Dancers in the Dark, "is an insidious vintage known to more girls than mere man can ever believe." Useless for frantic parents to insist that no lady did such things; the answer was that the daughters of ladies were doing it, and even retouching their masterpieces in public. Some of them, furthermore, were abandoning their corsets. "The men won't dance with you if you wear a corset," they were quoted as saying.

My dad, who was born in 1931, informs me that in the twenties, as now, women (including his aunts) wore tattoos; the folks his parents' age all had them.

Not content with example and reproof, legislators in several states introduced bills to reform feminine dress once and for all. The New York American reported in 1921 that a bill was pending in Utah providing fine and imprisonment for those who wore on the streets "skirts higher than three inches above the ankle."

Not unlike now, is it? BTW, when in history have we gotten our sense of style from prisoners?

VI. Harding and the Scandals
VII. Coolidge Prosperity
IX. The revolt of the highbrows: When, however, the middle-class majority turned from persecuting political radicals to regulating personal conduct, they met with bitter opposition not only from the bright young college graduate but from the whole of a newly class-conscious group. The intellectuals of the country -the "civilized minority," as the American Mercury liked to call them-rose in loud and bitter revolt.

X. The Drug Wars -- but then, the banned drug was alcohol, with the same high prices to society as the modern day prohibition.

XI. The Real Estate Boom

Steadily, during that feverish summer and autumn of 1925, the hatching of new plans for vast developments continued. A great many of them, apparently, were intended to be occupied by what the advertisers of Miami Beach called "America's wealthiest sportsmen, devotees of yachting and the other expensive sports," and the advertisers of Boca Raton called "the world of international wealth that dominates finance and industry . . . that sets fashions . . . the world of large affairs, smart society and leisured ease." Few of those in the land-rush seemed to question whether there would be enough devotees of yachting and men and women of leisured ease to go round.

Everywhere vast new hotels, apartment houses, casinos were being projected. At the height of the fury of building a visitor to West Palm Beach noticed a large vacant lot almost completely covered with bath- tubs. The tubs had apparently been there some time; the crates which surrounded them were well weathered. The lot, he was informed, was to be the site of "One of the most magnificent apartment buildings in the South"-but the freight embargo had held up the contractor's building material and only the bathtubs had arrived! Throughout Florida re- sounded the slogans and hyperboles of boundless confidence. The advertising columns shrieked with them, those swollen advertising columns which enabled the Miami Daily News, one day in the summer of 1925, to print an issue of 504 pages, the largest in newspaper history, and enabled the Miami Herald to carry a larger volume of advertising in 1925 than any paper anywhere had ever before carried in a year. Miami was not only "The Wonder City," it was also "The Fair White Goddess of Cities," "The World's Playground," and "The City Invincible." Fort Lauderdale became "The Tropical Wonderland," Orlando "The City Beautiful," and Sanford "The City Substantial."

<snip>

By 1927, according to Homer B. Vanderblue, most of the elaborate real-estate offices on Flagler Street in Miami were either closed or practically empty; the Davis Islands project, "bankrupt and unfinished," had been taken over by a syndicate organized by Stone & Webster; and many Florida cities, including Miami, were having difficulty collecting their taxes. By 1928 Henry S. Villard, writing in The Nation, thus described the approach to Miami by road: "Dead subdivisions line the highway, their pompous names half-obliterated on crumbling stucco gates. Lonely white-way lights stand guard over miles of cement side- walks, where grass and palmetto take the place of homes that were to be .... Whole sections of outlying subdivisions are composed of unoccupied houses, past which one speeds on broad thoroughfares as if traversing a city in the grip of death." In 1928 there were thirty-one bank failures in Florida; in 1929 there were fifty-seven; in both of these years the liabilities of the failed banks reached greater totals than were recorded for any other state in the Union

XII. The Big Bull Market

ONE DAY IN FEBRUARY, 1928, an investor asked an astute banker about the wisdom of buying common stocks. The banker shook his head. "Stocks look dangerously high to me," he said. "This bull market has been going on for a long time, and although prices have slipped a bit recently, they might easily slip a good deal more. Business is none too good. Of course if you buy the right stock you'll probably be all right in the long run and you may even make a profit. But if I were you I'd wait awhile and see what happens."

The book, as I said, is available completely online; just click the link at the beginning of this article, hosted by a university in Virginia. You can buy a dead tree version, too; Google tells me Amazon will sell you a copy. I still have the paperback copy I bought form the school bookstore in 1977.

This nonfiction history book is scarier than Stephen King's fiction.

"Indecision is the basis of flexibility" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

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