Dr. Frances Arnold won the Millennium Technology Prize for directed evolution.

With her engineering background, Prof Arnold wanted to make new, useful, problem-solving proteins. So she took her cue from the way nature does the same thing.

“I looked at it and said, well, nature didn’t actually design enzymes… How does this happen? You make mutations randomly, you look through a large number of things for the ones that have the properties you’re interested in, then you repeat the process.

Pretty nifty, but is there a practical application?  I’m so glad you asked!

It is now used in laboratories worldwide and has produced many valuable enzymes, including one used in manufacturing Januvia, a popular drug for type 2 diabetes, which would otherwise be produced using heavy metals.

“They replaced a chemical process with an enzymatic process, thereby completely eliminating toxic metals that were needed… and getting solvent waste reduction of 60%,” said Prof Arnold.

“We’re talking tonnes of material.”

Directed evolution has also produced catalysts that allow industrial chemicals and fuels to be made from renewable sources.

Damn, that’s pretty nifty!



Category: Elsewhere
In Birmingham they love the gov’nor. Boo, boo, boo.
Now we all did what we could do.

Sayeth Aaron David:

Donald Trump, on stage at the first Republican convention for the ‘16 election, was considered a joke, something to make fun of regarding how bad the choices were for the conservative branch of American politics. Against all predictions, he ended up sweeping aside the other nominees while rushing headlong into the nomination. As he got closer and closer, more and more pundits predicted that groups such as #NeverTrump would prevail, saving all of us from the monstrous idea that is Trump.

But Republicans didn’t seem to want to be saved from Trump, and indeed to have been relishing his rise in the fight against Clinton that seems to be coming this fall. They pulled a collective Jack Move, and it seems to be working for them. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of conservatives who want nothing to do with Trumpism, including a few of OT’s writers and commenters.

But the Republican Party doesn’t seem to want those voters anymore; it may be happier without them. For they are the voters who brought out McCain and Romney, two candidates that the Democratic party and its friends in the media were in many ways designed to defeat. The candidates that the establishment wing was trotting out this year, Bush and Cruz, would have been destroyed in a similar vein. And when presented with a possible choice that obviously set off the nation’s elite, with cries of “How Could They!” and “He’s Vulgar!” – the right jumped at the chance, swarming en masse toward the billionaire with the funny/cheesy hat. Why? Why did they feel that they needed to do this? Well, let’s take a look.

trumpsucksNow, first, define Republicans. Are we including the 60% that voted against him? Are we including the 35% or so that support him only “with reservations”, the 15% who are only supporting him because he’s the nominee? The additional 15% that so far say they won’t support him? Or are we excluding them? Are we also excluding the last two Republican presidents as well? Are we excluding the last nominee? We can define deciding to vote for him only because he is the nominee as “relishing his rise” if we want, and can say that conservatives and Republicans love him by excluding the large chunk that doesn’t, but none of that removes the fact that he is the weakest nominee in terms of party support that we’ve ever seen. While those that still oppose him in the general election are the distinct minority, issues persist. He won, but mostly by wearing down the opposition. Now a win is a win, and he evidently has the support of the establishment and most of the party going into November, but past that we’ll have to see where things stand.

As things stand, Trump has not yet demonstrated any greater capacity to win than Romney or McCain to win yet. But we can set that aside, because electability isn’t entirely the point anyway. There are two dimensions at work here: Electoral prospects and national good.

Electorally, it remains my belief that Trump is not going to win. I fear what would happen if he did, but I’m not especially worried yet that it’s likely to happen. That will change if Trump can start regularly polling above 47% (depending on how close we are to election day). I just don’t think he’s going to be able to get the women votes he’s going to need. But I am and have been pretty firm in my belief that the greater threat of Trumpism isn’t that it’ll lose, but that it will eventually win. I’m not under any illusions that the party needs to appeal to me and mine in order to win. I’m worried about a party that takes the Republican coalition and doubles down on the white identity and wins.

illuminationofhellThe Republican voters are within their rights to embrace all sorts of ugliness. I am not obliged to be respectful of their decision to do so, however. Nor of muting my opposition to it. Right now this is about my party, but the closer they come to the presidency the more it becomes about the country. This isn’t really about trade policy. Nor is it even about the anti-immigration view. It’s about an embrace of European right-wing sensibilities, combined with ugly movements in our country’s history, more or less untethered by restraint and indifferent to bad acts, lead at the moment by someone whose entire worldview consists of himself and his own self-interest.

It might seem tempting to treat this as something that’s a respectable political choice like supporting Hillary, or Bernie, or Cruz… but it’s not. Saying “This is what they want!” does not make it better, it makes them worse. Are there some legitimate grievances in there? I suspect so – far worse revolutions and even bloody revolutions usually do – and I think the party and the country is going to need to look at all of that. But first, the fire needs to put out, and the poor electrical work that started the fire needs to be repaired.

At the moment, it seems that roughly 40% of the party is in the tank for him, another 35% or so have reservations about him and are willing to go alone, and another 15% or so will support the Republican Party nominee no matter what. Depending on how you parse it, this is an enthusiastic plurality or a placid majority. It’s hard to say where, precisely, Trump’s support is coming from. How much of it is the worldview he represents? How much of it is just liking the man? How much of it is hating the other team? How much of it is thoughtless support for their own team? Most people think they know, with their opinions corresponding with whatever they happened to think of the GOP 15 months ago, but it’s going to be pretty important to find out.

The worst possible answer: “They’re really – and intractibly – on board with this. All of it.”

Category: Statehouse

verizonscabMy friend is going to be in town pretty soon on a business trip. He lives out on the west coast, but will be coming east to destroy the working man fill in some gaps caused by a regional strike by employees of his company. He’ll only be around here for a couple of weeks, but will be on the east coast for a few months. This, of course, has me very proud of him, for a variety of reasons:

  1. He is crossing the country, spending time away from his lovely wife, for the sake of work. Such things are often tough, and sacrificing pleasure for work is one of capitalism’s highest honors.
  2. He is doing it largely for money so that he can pay back some debts. We haven’t discussed which debts, but paying back debts is not as gratifying as doing something just to get stuff.
  3. He is doing his part to destroy the striking and the strikers by providing alternative labor, thereby strengthening the hand of big business against the ungrateful peons.

But seriously, the strike must be having some significant effect if they’re flying him all the way across the country to do it. Not only that, but they’re paying him really well. Something like overtime pay for the first forty hours and then double-pay after that. He’ll be working something like seventy hours a week. If they’re doing this, they must be really hurting for people.

Category: Office

getoffmylawnThis surprises me not even a little bit: Things are different when you’re beautiful. (The linked episode of 30 Rock was really, really good.)

Why? Because freedom and you’re not the boss of me dad.

Some are becoming concerned that residency hour caps have gone too far.

This strikes me as about right. The clients of Electronic Medical Records aren’t the doctors who use them, really, but the government.

Within ten years, Chicago could be overtaken by Houston.

Whatever we say about San Francisco, at least it’s not Stockholm. (Yet.)

Lyman Stone says it’s time to let Atlantic City die.

The Washington Post made a splash with its new poll suggesting 90% of Native Americans don’t oppose the Redskins name. But “>here’s the pushback, and it’s not entirely unconvincing. A lot of this is going to come down to defining Native American, and possibly the extent to which some Native American opinions might matter more than others.

Bre Payton explains how a gay-friendly gun club helped secure our Second Amendment.

It’s interesting to me how in Nature vs Nurture it tends to be the right that endorses the former and the left the latter, when I actually think the policy implications kind of run the other way.

This piece, by an interest group on the cost of regulation in homebuilding, has me wondering what empirical data there might be on the actual long-term effects of such regulation. Especially safety regulations, which are the most justified.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown reports that academic freedom isn’t what it used to be.

Though growth has slowed down, the oil and gas apocalypse that was supposed to consume Texas still hasn’t happened.

Shane Parrish looks at Albert Einstein, the non-essential, and the essential.

It’s apparently long been known that if you put a joey in a kangaroo’s pouch, the kangaroo might adopt it. Apparently, they adopt on their own volition, too.

And because this post title is Guanajuato, I have to include this Robert Earl Keen song, which is pretty awesome:

Category: Newsroom

Earlier this week, Clancy and I got a wedding gift from her grandfather. We were married more than ten years ago, and he’s been dead for ten years. Right around the same time, not coincidentally.

Her grandfather was not able to attend the wedding, due to his declining health. I never met the man. His relationship with his kids was troubled, but he tried not to let that interfere with his relationship with his grandkids. So we got a wedding gift, and he let it be known that he wanted the airfare of his grandkids’ trip to his funeral covered. Clancy couldn’t go because she was a medical resident and didn’t have the time off, but the other two went.

In any event, a week after the wedding, he died. Immediately afterwards, Clancy’s uncle put a stop payment on all checks. What followed was ten year lawsuit the likes of which I have never seen. There were basically two wills, and my father-in-law sought to invalidate the latter one on account of undue influence. Uncle Rick is something of a strange bird, possessing both a law degree and a medical degree and being flat-out broke teaching business classes (did I mention he has an MBA?) at a community college in Colosse. It takes a very strange bird to manage to do so little with so much.

To say that the lawsuit was contentious would be an understatement. There was a point at which it was being discussed that I would fly down there to deliver a subpoena to him. The sheriff’s department didn’t do subpoena work for civil cases. There were private servers, but it was apparently standard practice to try a couple of times and if no success then simply give it back and move on to the next one. While being a process server in Deltona is not difficult, the laws for service are pretty rigid (no misrepresentation, no trespass, etc), so it wasn’t worth their time to try too hard. Since her uncle didn’t know what I looked like, and I could be persistent, maybe I could go down there and deliver it to him. It turned out to be unnecessary, but that was where things were about four years ago.

The whole thing ended up costing all parties involved more than the estate was worth. I didn’t realize how much it was costing until it was settled and suddenly the Himmelreich’s were spending money like drunk sailers. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it was definitely a change. Which made sense when I thought about it. He had a generous state pension, but the court costs were both creating a drag and created a degree of financial uncertainty.

Late last year, the case was settled in my father-in-law’s favor. It became apparent about five years ago that he would win, but Rick continued to foot-drag. Since then, my father-in-law has been executing the will. Undoubtedly, the most enjoyable part of which has been things like making sure that we get our wedding gift and her sisters get reimbursed for flying down for the funeral.

Category: Home


Here’s another cool profile of Estonia’s president. I still, uhhh, disagree with him about the pseudonym thing.

Reportedly, Iron Man would have had a female villain but for concerns over toy sales.

As someone I know put it, why are people so good at doing nothing when they should do something and doing something when they should do nothing? I understand the park’s position on the matter, but any chance we could set up an adoption agency? We might need one for baby seals, too.

The Trump presidency is going to be great, y’all. Just hard on the UK.”>great.

It makes sense that The New Republic would want to destroy the only grassroots political movement in Westeros.

Stop trying to get me to like Hillary Clinton it’s not going to work.

The origin of the small statue penises. NSFW

Google is working with developers to improve chatbots. Excellent! I mean, it would be better if they cited Hitler elegantly, right?

Sweden is looking at legalizing male abortions, wherein men can sign away their rights and responsibilities early in the pregnancy. I’m pretty reflexively against it, though the dynamics do probably change when you’re dealing with a cradle-to-grave welfare state. How much, though?

This Lyman Stone post on suburbia, exurbia, and affordability is pretty long, but I love everything about it. {More} {Even More}

I’ve been waiting for this for quite some time. This, more than anything, is what is likely to make regular paperbacks obselete. {via Abel}

Wait, isn’t this how the Book of Mormon came to be?!

Jeffrey Tucker says that writing a book is easy, and publishing it is easier. These things aren’t false, though writing a publishable book (as in one you would want others to read) is more difficult.

Clancy loves coffee, and loves naps, so this is right up her alley and she reported that it actually kind of works.

Clarrissa Sebag-Montefiore explains how China gives short people the short shrift.

Category: Newsroom

I’ve seen a few people pass around this link, on the efficacy (or lack thereof) of abstinence pledges:

The results were even more striking for out-of-wedlock pregnancy: About 18 percent of the girls who had never taken virginity pledges became pregnant within six years after they began having sex. Meanwhile, 30 percent of those who had taken a pledge—and broken it—got pregnant while not married.

Paik explains this in part through the phenomenon of “cultural lag” —the idea that people might reject certain values faster than they update the actions supporting those values. In this case, the pledge breakers abandoned the idea that they should be virgins until marriage, but unlike people who never made the pledges, they didn’t use birth control and condoms, Paik theorized. (Many sex-ed programs and cultures that promote abstinence only until marriage also teach that contraceptives are ineffective.)

“Our research indicates that abstinence pledging can have unintended negative consequences by increasing the likelihood of HPV and non-marital pregnancies, the majority of which are unintended,” Paik said in a statement. “Abstinence-only sex education policy is widespread at the state and local levels and may return at the federal level, and this policy approach may be contributing to the decreased sexual and reproductive health of girls and young women.”

Boom! Science! Proof! Abstinence pledges are reckless!!!!!!

Okay, that’s not quite a fair interpretation of the responses. Because it’s said more in sorrow than excitement, as often as not. And The Atlantic article actually says later that all pledges are not bad. But still. Science! Data!

Except that this is not especially useful data in the broader debate. If you’re looking at the efficacy of abstinence pledgers, you can look at it all number of ways and control for all number of things. You could, for instance, control based on race and socio-economic status. You could try to control for religiosity. Or you could control for nothing at all and let the data chips fall where they may. This study didn’t control for any of those things, and to the extent that they did let the chips fall where they may, the only result mentioned in the article was that the pledges made no difference in HPV rates.

What they controlled for was the number of sexual partners. Which is to say “Assuming that the the pledge had no effect on the number of sexual partners a girl has, then what are the results?” Except that affecting the sexual activity of pledgers is the point of the pledge. This is literally a case of counting the misses and ignoring the hits. Maybe it’s effective on that score, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s effective enough to overcome poor condom usage and such, or maybe it’s not. But looking at the data this particular way is almost designed to result in this particular outcome. Even most boosters of abstinence-only education are likely to concede the point. Even if we assume it’s just apolitical “Just the science, ma’am” this is asking to be misinterpreted by journalists, but judging from the press release they knew full well what they were doing.

Now, hidden behind the paywall, there may well be data to support the conclusion that abstinence-only education is bad. According to The Atlantic there isn’t any difference in HPV rates, but maybe there is for pregnancy. The press release hammers home the statistics that only include the pledge-breakers and control for number of partners. This is where it is helpful to have some ideological diversity in the area of social sciences. If, that is, they are interested in getting down to the guts of the issue.

And even granting all that, I still believe that the lead scientists got his conclusion somewhat wrong. Unsurprisingly, he focused on the political by making it mostly about sex-ed and a little bit about culture:

Using data drawn from more than 3,000 teenage girls originally interviewed in 1994-95 who are now adults and part of the ongoing National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the researchers found that because virginity “pledgers” are more likely to receive cultural messages downplaying the effectiveness of condoms and contraceptives and be exposed to the framing of premarital sexual activity as a form of failure, girls and young women who take abstinence pledges but later break them may be less prepared to manage the risks associated with sexual activity by obtaining condoms and contraceptives themselves, or less apt to initiate conversations about precautions with their partners.

I come from Pledgeville, where such pledges were common. I have known a number of young women (and men) who have struggled with this issue. There is some doubt about the efficacy of condoms and the like, but that’s not really the issue. It’s not a matter of policy nearly as much as it is a matter of religious psychology. Again, something where it might be helpful to have someone on the team for whom this is less alien.

The psychology, as I’ve seen it, basically works like this: Sex before marriage is wrong. It is a sin. Now, lots of things are a sin and we all sin. Most Christians do keep this in perspective. Everyone makes mistakes. However, there is a difference between spontaneous sin and premeditated sin. It’s one thing to have a moment of weakness where you give in to the flesh. it’s spontaneous. You were weak. Maybe you are weak whenever you are around a particular guy or gal. Not good. Beg for forgiveness. Onward and upward. However, if you are on the pill or are taking a condom with you, that’s a different ballgame. That’s premeditation. If this sounds weird to you, imagine it from a parent’s perspective. Imagine a child that broke the rules on a lark, and one that had planned meticulously to break the rules. Would your response be the same? Mine wouldn’t.

It’s really something that people struggle with. I mean, sure, some are just pious hypocrites, but for better or worse some struggle. So when I look at the statistics of 6-10 partners, and I look at the pledgers who break the pledge that many times with that many people, and I suspect that there is a lot going on in their minds. You may be dealing with some serious self-loathing problems. You may be dealing with someone who is in open (and reckless) rebellion. You are far less likely to be dealing with someone calmly and meticulously doing a risk assessment on how to avoid getting pregnant or an HPV.

Now, you can look at these individuals and say “Wow, pledges suck” and further this study demonstrates how much pledges suck for these people. I am inclined to agree. And so in that sense, I do agree with the conclusions of the studies. Pledges can cause problems. Heck, I even agree with them about abstinence-only education! Lain will have comprehensive education at home. We’re not sure how comprehensive, but I am an advocate for more comprehensiveness than even my wife is. Which makes me wonder why I am nitpicking here. But academically this study kind of sucks, at least as presented. The distinctions it elides seem more important than the (intuitive to the point of being obvious, to me anyway) results of the study. What is happening and why it’s happening seem important.

A Sea of Pins & Feathers

A Sea of Pins & Feathers II

Category: Bedroom

The Washington Post examines the effort to find and field a third major candidate:

An obvious possible contestant is Kasich, who portrayed himself in the GOP primaries as a pragmatist with crossover appeal. Since he dropped out, Romney and other Republicans have tried to persuade him to forge an independent run.

But Kasich’s advisers dismissed the idea. “The governor is not entertaining nor will he run as an independent,” spokesman Chris Schrimpf said.

John Weaver, Kasich’s chief strategist, said of the governor’s courters: “They had plenty of time and opportunity to influence the [GOP] nomination battle in a constructive way, and they didn’t for whatever reason. The idea of running someone as a third party, particularly the way they’re going about it, is not going to be effective and is not practical.”

Has anyone explained to him there is potentially a lot of free food involved?

Alas, it appears that Kasich is not interested. It’s a fine time for him to be completely uninterested in a pointless and futile campaign. While I don’t think his presence in the race was ultimately responsible for the outcome, it conceivably could have been. His strong showing in New Hampshire came at the expense of others, and I can imagine some chain reactions that would have changed things considerably (though most would not have, given the givens).

Next to Bob Gates, his was the strongest name I had considered for the a third-party run. He’s conservative enough that he could have picked up a fair number of extant Republicans who simply can’t stand Trump. Though a lot of conservatives were rubbed raw by his acceptance of the Medicaid Expansion, most of the #NeverTrump people I know were willing to bite the bullet for him in the primary, if necessary, and I suspect they would in the general as well. But he’s also done the whole Apostate Republican thing to have credibility with some free agents who really dislike Hillary Clinton, too. And he occupies an ideological lane not entirely different from Trump’s, to whatever extent ideology matters.

The point here would not be to win, because that would be impossible. It wouldn’t even be to throw the election to the House of Representatives, because that’s likely impossible as well. The goals would be to either (a) take enough of the vote, disproportionately from Trump, to have a tangible effect in the outcome, (b) give extant Republicans a place to park their vote and wait for things to gear up in 2020, and (c) give Republicans in vulnerable districts an “out” where they can endorse someone other than Trump without endorsing Hillary. Even some of those that have supporter “the nominee” would have an excuse to back away, though state parties are scrambling to close the door on that. Kasich would be in a good position to do all of these things in a way that few others are.

The most important number is 15%. Not as a total vote-share, but in polling. If you can get 15%*, then you get in the debates and you remain a potent force. You may not get 15% or 10% on election day, but in this election you should be able to beat John Anderson’s 6.6% and throw a few states. Possibly win one or two, for the right candidate. Kasich would not likely win any states, but would have an easier time getting to the 15%. Mitt Romney would be able to win at least one state and some have suggested as many as five or six, but would have a hard time getting to 15%.

Besides Kasich, most of the other names that come up are either too big or too small. By “too small” I mean that they lack a profile or much of any name recognition. Ben Sasse falls into this category, as do most of the other Republicans that have been more vocally anti-Trump. By “too big” I mean that they have too little to gain and too much to lose. Think Paul Ryan. And some, like Nikki Haley, have a fair amount to gain but a lot of potential to lose. Bob Gates is the only other name I’ve heard that makes sense and occupies largely the same place, but he has no history as a candidate.

Kasich, on the other hand, is just the right combination of things. He has no real future in elective politics. If he had a motivation for running for president, it was to enter the history books. This would help! But mysterious are the ways of John Kasich, and he says “no.”

Category: Statehouse


Decriminalization of marijuana has been good for white tokers, but not so good for minority ones or drivers.

Though it sounds like he were other things going on, the diaper conviction is pretty unsettling and I’m glad it was reversed.

Adam Ozimek links for four studies that he says should have higher minimum wage advocates nervous.

Gotta give these youngsters credit for ingenuity. The commercial at the bottom is kind of goofy, though. (And aren’t such jammers supposed to be illegal?)

The LDS Church and BYU is working to address the tech gender gap.


In an “advice for the privileged” sort of way, this actually seems to largely be good advice.

In Slovenia, they expressly want to prevent smokers from switching to ecigarettes, while over here the Democrats are doing a good job reminding me why I’m not beating down their door right now.

Alyssa Rosenberg’s piece about free speech and smoking in movies is quite good. I do agree that it would be better if we could show less smoking, like I think it would be better if there were other things we showed less of, but the lawsuit needs to be strangled in its crib. {Yes, I’m aware the lawsuit is about movie ratings and not content per se. Even so.}

There may be a whole lot of nudity at the RNC this time around.

An anonymous congressman dishes the dirt, possibly stripping us of whatever earnestness we have on the state of congress. Yes, I will be buying this book. I hope that he uses fictitious states to preserve his anonymity!

I used to take pride in being a psychopath, apparently. On the other hand, if a particular friend hadn’t stayed friends with a particular ex, I never would have met my wife.

Idaho’s decision to drop down from FBS to FCS football was not surprising. The report that lead them to that conclusion is fascinating. I especially find interesting that a variation of my idea for the WAC was sort of taken seriously (sans NDSU/SDSU, plus NAU).

Maybe it’s just me, but I sort of imagine these Russians commenting with a smirk. Also, Trump and Putin sittin’ in a tree

Benjamin Morris looks at the internationalization of Sumo Wrestling. Uncle Steve comments.

Category: Newsroom

This reminds me of the sweat equity arrangement my friend got in on. Basically he and a bunch of other people all worked together to build their houses. Then they got to move in without a down payment and with a reasonable mortgage.

Source: Tradition and teamwork are awe-inspiring in this Amish barn raising time-lapse | Aeon Videos

Category: Theater

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Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.

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