It’s the yeast they can do

People with pain, of which there are an abundance, swear by hydrocodone, an opioid obtained from poppies. Yes, those poppies. But what if you could make the stuff without having to go to the very same plants that support the heroin trade? It’s actually been done, on a small scale:

Over the past several months, scientists from around the world have published bits and pieces of a fascinating feat: In an effort to create pain medication components like hydrocodone — the main ingredient in the pain killer Vicodin — without the help of poppies, scientists have engineered simple baker’s yeast to synthesize these medicinal compounds from sugar. One by one, labs figured out how to get the yeast to turn A into B, and B into C, Y into Z, and so on and so forth.

Now, for the first time, researchers at Stanford University have done it from start to finish. In a paper published Thursday in Science, they report the successful synthesis of hydrocodone from sugar, thanks to genetically engineered yeast.

The abstract:

Opioids are the primary drugs used in Western medicine for pain management and palliative care. Farming of opium poppies remains the sole source of these essential medicines despite diverse market demands and uncertainty in crop yields due to weather, climate change, and pests. Here, we engineered yeast to produce the selected opioid compounds thebaine and hydrocodone starting from sugar. All work was conducted in a laboratory that is permitted and secured for work with controlled substances. We combined enzyme discovery, enzyme engineering, and pathway and strain optimization to realize full opiate biosynthesis in yeast. The resulting opioid biosynthesis strains required expression of 21 (thebaine) and 23 (hydrocodone) enzyme activities from plants, mammals, bacteria, and yeast itself. This is a proof-of-principle, and major hurdles remain before optimization and scale up could be achieved. Open discussions of options for governing this technology are also needed in order to responsibly realize alternative supplies for these medically relevant compounds.

I interpret that last sentence as “Those who wage the War On [Some] Drugs will have a coronary if this technology becomes widespread.” To them, Schedule II is the Voice of God.

Tangential: Apparently all five members of the research team — four are pictured at the WaPo link — are women.

Comments (5)




All bent out of shape

I have to figure that this product name is, let us say, a trifle optimistic:

Maybe if it had an infinite power source. (Repeat: “maybe.”)

Comments (1)




My kind of research

The judicial system, however, vigorously dissents:

A “doggedly unrepentant” lawyer who billed her wrongful death clients for watching reality crime TV shows has been suspended for a year from law practice.

The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the suspension of Knoxville lawyer Yarboro Sallee, who was accused of billing her clients hourly fees of more than $140,000 for less than three months of work and insisting that they pay a contingency fee as well. The Legal Profession Blog, the Chattanoogan and the Knoxville News Sentinel have stories. The July 23 opinion is here [pdf].

The supreme court said Sallee had engaged in “a prodigious amount of wheel-spinning” during her work on her clients’ case, yet she maintained she had done nothing wrong. “Since when is television not a respectable avenue for research anyway,” she said at one point to a trial judge.

I suppose it’s probably better than Wikipedia, but I suspect that’s not saying much.

The ethics case stems from Sallee’s representation of the parents of a woman who died during a fall down the stairs in October 2009. The death was found to be accidental, but the clients suspected their daughter’s husband caused the death to collect on a $1 million insurance policy. Sallee estimated the entire case would cost $100,000 in legal fees, and the clients orally agreed to pay Sallee $250 an hour, which she held out as her “discounted” rate…

“She had taken no witness statements,” the court said, “prepared no expert statements, taken no depositions, propounded no discovery requests. She had, however, engaged in a prodigious amount of wheel-spinning, spending countless hours, charged at a lawyer rate, in activities such as watching 48 Hours television episodes, waiting in hospitals for medical records, and doing Internet research on strangulation.”

You’d think at the very least she’d have watched Criminal Minds.

(With thanks to Nancy Friedman.)

Comments off




The beef retains the name

McDonald’s Quarter Pounder has always started with a 4-ounce — 0.25 pound — beef patty, before cooking. It was down to 2.8 ounces once done, but hey, everyone understands beef shrinkage, right?

Well, it’s still going to shrink, but now they’re starting out bigger:

Fast food giant McDonald’s has quietly made a change to one its most popular items: the Quarter Pounder.

The sandwich now defies burger math and includes 4.25 ounces of beef, slightly more than its former size of 4 ounces before cooking.

Assuming the same shrinkage rate, it should end up at 2.975 ounces.

Still unknown: (1) whether the price will be raised; (2) whether they’ll change the name in France.

(Via Consumerist.)

Comments (4)




Whoever has the most balls

Los Angeles, in a good year, gets around 15 inches of rain. (The single rainiest month, generally, is February, which clearly demonstrates the divine sense of humor.) Good years have been few and far between of late, which is why the Department of Water and Power has been doing something, well, ballsy:

Here you see 55,000 little polyurethane balls, filled with water, floated on top of the water in the reservoir at Silver Lake last year. It took 96 million of the plastic spheres to cover the entire reservoir, at a cost of around $35 million; however, reducing evaporation is a must in these droughtful days.

Okay, they’re not festive-looking, exactly, but black resists UV rays from that warm California sun, so the balls should last at least ten years. Let’s hope the drought doesn’t persist that long.

Comments (9)




A dime’s worth of difference

And hey, ten cents isn’t worth a nickel anymore:

Think Bush v. Gore in 2000. I was no big fan of Dubya, but oh God, the thought of Al Gore in the White House gave me the shivers. But now?

I maintain that the only thing left for most people is anger. Hillary, Jeb, Sanders, Rubio, whomever — they’re all on the same team. We could take every single non-Trump candidate and make them all president, collectively, and we’d never know the difference. Did Bobby Jindal just sign that deal offshoring more of our jobs, or was that Sanders? Was that Hillary’s massive subsidy to the college racket, or Fiorina’s? Did Jeb just sign that massive amnesty, or was it Hillary? Or Rubio? Or Sanders? Or Biden? Walker? Jindal? Perry? Let one of them sign things on Tuesday, another when the wind’s north-northwest … could anyone consistently tell the difference?

Only three things are certain, no matter who signs: The fucking borders stay open, the banksters get richer, and the rest of us bleed for it.

Sanders, at least, gives the impression that he believes in something other than his own care and feeding, something that has never been said, and never will be said, of Hillary. Still, almost everybody in this race is vanilla, and artificially flavored vanilla at that. Even your putative Ethnic Candidates — Jindal, Carson — are largely inseparable from the rest, indistinguishable from the collective din.

I am, let us say, not hopeful.

Comments (10)




The bigot on the front line

Roger tells of a spectacularly blatant bit of racial and class prejudice:

It was the early 1980s, and I was moving to a new apartment in Albany. In those days, I had to actually GO to New York Telephone and Niagara Mohawk, the power company at the time, to get my services connected. So, I took my lunch hour from FantaCo, the comic store I worked at the time, to arrange these things.

My New York Tel experience was great. These flirty, attractive women were trying to upsell me for services I didn’t want, or need, and didn’t buy. Still, it put me in quite the good mood.

Then I went to NiMo, and talked with this woman at length about getting my gas and electricity. I filled out the form, and she went over it. A previous ZIP Code I lived in was 12309, with included a well-to-do suburb of Schenectady called Niskayuna, though in fact I was living in the part of Schenectady adjacent to it.

“THAT’S a very expensive neighborhood,” she said, sounding as though she didn’t believe me. I replied, “um-hmm.”

“And who are you to live in a very expensive neighborhood?” Even though he didn’t. Stereotype by ZIP code! (Think “90210.”) Which may explain “um-hmm”: he saw it coming.

Inevitably, of course, it did:

We get to the part of the process where we arrange to have the service started. I was moving only three blocks from work, off Lark Street. I suggested that the service person call me at work, and I could run over and be at my apartment in five minutes.

She countered: “Why don’t you leave the door unlocked? You don’t have anything of value anyway.”

Dayum, girl. Could you possibly be any more hateful?

I was angry. No, I was livid. I was enraged. Yet, I found the place in my voice to say, “Actually, I DO have things of value.” Eventually, and unhappily, she capitulated to my request.

A couple of days later, Roger recovered his cool enough to send a letter to the utility, which was properly contrite. But suppose he hadn’t?

Now I COULD have lost my cool at the NiMo office. I would have felt totally justified. The problem is that I would have come across as a crazy black man, who just went OFF for no apparent reason.

She’d never have said that to a white guy, and if she had and he’d gone off, managers would be summoned and collars would be cooled, and the word “crazy” would have never been mentioned.

Now this happened thirty-odd years ago. Are things better today? I wouldn’t bet on it: customer service seems to be at a low ebb these days, and anyone who thinks racism is dead is simply not paying attention.

Comments off




Just back from the Mediterranean

Historical note, per Wikipedia:

The island was attacked in 88 BC by the troops of Mithridates VI of Pontus, a staunch enemy of Rome, who killed some 20,000 of the resident Romans. Another devastating attack was by pirates in 69 BC. Before the end of the 1st century BC, trade routes had changed; Delos was replaced by Puteoli as the chief focus of Italian trade with the East, and as a cult-centre too it entered a sharp decline.

Due to the above history, Delos — unlike other Greek islands — did not have an indigenous, self-supporting community of its own. As a result, in later times it became uninhabited.

I can well imagine — though clearly not as well as pianist Emily Bear, who’s been there:

As of 2001, Delos had a population of 14. By coincidence, Emily will be 14 this month.

Comments (1)




The yellow ruse of “Tax us”

At any rate, that’s the vibe I pick up from this:

Well, let’s see. The state charges a uniform 4.5 percent. The city of McAlester collects 3.5 percent. And … hmmm. Pittsburg County, which was 1.0 percent, drops to 0.5 percent effective the first of October. What are they asking? The McAlester Chamber of Commerce was circulating this flyer:

Sales tax proposals in McAlester and Pittsburg County, Oklahoma

The measure passed yesterday will bump up the combined sales tax in Pittsburg County to 9.5 percent; should the October bill pass, the tax rate inside McAlester city limits will be 10.25 percent, putting it on par with Chicago but ahead of New York City.

Comments (2)




Up one point nine

Marcel has survived the arrival of Windows 10:

The upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 went okay. It took a minute or two to go though “custom” settings and select more sensible options than “express” offers. The only thing so far is the mouse pointer often goes into its “working” blue-circle state, and it’s even more pesky and intrusive than 8.1; just now it was bugging me about logging onto their X-box scheme so I could play solitaire.

Then again, this isn’t his only hardware:

On my other machine I have Lubuntu, which has been trouble-free.

Hmmm. I wonder if that would work on Toshi, my ancient XP laptop.

Comments (6)




Some hosing going on

Pretty much every issue of Car and Driver — and I’ve seen them all since 1978 — contains at least one bit of prose that simply screams “They’re trying to get nasty letters, aren’t they?” In September 2015, it’s this denunciation of a Fiat by Jared Gall:

The 500X will change nobody’s perception of Italian build quality. Many of the plastic interior surfaces feel hard and hollow, and while the gray door-panel pleather feels natural, it’s not the natural leather that it feels like. More like cold, dead skin before it’s turned into leather — and not necessarily cow skin. Maybe dolphin. Or fat Uncle Carl. It puts the lotion squarely in the basket.

I expect several lambs to be speaking up in the December issue.

Comments (2)




No major changes at the Vatican

At least, not to that extent:

I think we can safely say that yes, he is.

That other question has also been resolved.

Comments (4)




And there you are, retouching yourself

As the selfie becomes further and further detached from reality, we’re going to see more stuff like this:

Do you ever feel like you need a little more designer shoe action in your life? If the answer is yes then Christian Louboutin’s new app could be for you.

Louboutinize is a free photo editing app that lets users add a dash of luxury to their pictures via three different filters. “Rouge” will wash images in a layer of deep red, the label’s signature sole hue, while “Crystallize” allows users to see their images as though through a diamond, inspired by the label’s nail lacquer bottle design. Finally, “Legs” gives snappers the chance to upload a fun pair of legs to their pictures, choosing between a can-can girl, a football player and three other limb options.

I wonder if “fun pair of legs” is ultimately as unfun as “fun size candy bars.”

A more serious app might be able to apply that deep red layer just to the pertinent part of your shoes, crystallize your accessories, and give you legs like [insert appropriate name here], but something like that would cost some serious money, whereas this one is being given away for free.

Addendum: Those initial “fun” legs apparently include the stems of Dita Von Teese. Suddenly this looks, um, more serious.

Comments (3)




Shipped plywood

We keep hearing that the music industry is in trouble, but it takes something like this to show you just how much:

The soundtrack for Disney Channel’s Descendants, directed by High School Musical mastermind Kenny Ortega, debuted in the Number One spot thanks to 42,000 total copies. If 42,000 units sounds like a small amount for a Number One album to sell, that’s because it is: Descendants, which only sold 30,000 copies in pure album sales — the additional 12,000 came from a la carte purchases and streams — became the lowest-selling Number One album in charts history, underselling Amos Lee’s LP Mission Bell, which sold 40,000 copies on its way to Number One in 2011.

“How about a song?” Okay:

I picked this one because it was written by the reliable Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, who also concocted the Wonders’ wondrous “That Thing You Do!”

Still, this probably hits the hardest:

Thirty-six years after Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door topped the Billboard 200, the band’s eighth studio album was back in the Top 10 this week as the LP’s new reissue reentered the charts at Number Nine. In Through the Out Door sold an additional 24,000 total units in its return to the Billboard 200, where it spent seven weeks at Number One in 1979, Billboard reports.

Not even Adam Schlesinger is gonna compete with Zeppelin, even second-rank Zeppelin like “Fool in the Rain.”

Comments (3)




Nor is it a dry heat

This apparently was the display for the Sunday-evening forecast. Hindsight being closer to 20/20, I think we can safely say that at least one of those numbers was way the hell off:

Weather screen from KFOR

(Snagged from Facebook, of course.)

Comments (3)




Spamming with faint praise

This badly tossed word salad showed up in the comment receptacle Sunday bearing a highly dubious Berkeley URL:

What i don’t understood is if truth be told how you’re no longer really much more neatly-favored than you may be right now. You are so intelligent. You know thus significantly with regards to this topic, produced me in my view imagine it from so many numerous angles. Its like men and women aren’t interested unless it is one thing to accomplish with Girl gaga! Your own stuffs excellent. All the time maintain it up!

Neatly favored as I am, I wish I could claim to be stuffing excellently, but maintaining it up is harder than it used to be.

Comments (2)