Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 12th, 2010

Great decision ends DADT

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John Schwartz reports in the NY Times:

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the United States military to stop enforcing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that prohibits openly gay and bisexual soldiers from serving.

Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court wrote that the 17-year-old policy “infringes the fundamental rights of United States service members and prospective service members” and violates their rights of due process and freedom of speech. She “permanently enjoins” enforcement of the law, she ruled, and ordered the military “immediately to suspend and discontinue” any investigation or proceedings to dismiss members of the services.

While Tuesday’s decision is likely to be appealed by the government, Judge Phillips’s injunction represents a significant new milestone for gay rights in the United States.

Two other recent decisions have overturned restrictions on gay rights at the state and federal level, but Tuesday’s ruling could have a more sweeping impact, as it would apply to all United States service members anywhere in the world.

The case is Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America. Christian Berle, the acting executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, applauded the judge’s action, saying it would make the armed forces stronger.

“Lifting the ban on open service will allow our armed forces to recruit the best and brightest, and will not have their hands tied because of an individual’s sexual orientation.” . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2010 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Military

Genetically modified silkworms now spinning spider silk

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And spider silk is much stronger than regular silk. Lisa Grossman writing for Wired:

Snippets of spider genes let mutant silkworms spin silk stronger than steel. Scientists have coaxed miles of spider-like silk from a colony of transgenic silkworms, opening the door for large-scale production of super-strong, tough and flexible fibers.

“We can make a lot more silk from the silkworm process than you could possibly make from spiders,” said molecular biologist Malcolm Fraser of the University of Notre Dame.

Spider silk has long been hailed as a superfiber, useful for everything from surgical sutures to bulletproof vests to scaffolding for growing cartilage. But spiders tend to be predatory loners who turn to cannibalism when raised in close quarters, making it nearly impossible to mass produce the treasured threads. A tapestry on display at the American Museum of Natural History last year took more than a million spiders to produce.

So scientists have tried to pull spider silk from tobacco plants, bacteria and even goats, with mixed success. Silkworms, on the other hand, are natural silk-spinning factories. A worm’s silk gland takes up about a third of its entire body, Fraser said, and a single cocoon can yield a thread up to a mile long. Silkworms have been domesticated for centuries and are already used for making mass quantities of marketable silk.

By inserting specific spider genes into silkworm chromosomes, Fraser and his colleagues grew a colony of caterpillars that produce threads nearly as strong as spider silk…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2010 at 11:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

I am like an army

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Like an army, I travel on my stomach. (The original observation (about an army, not about me) is due to either Napoleon or Frederick the Great.) So for lunch I went to a new tea place near TYD, the Cuppa and enjoyed a vegetarian sandwich, a cup of carrot soup, and a great cup of tea: strong without bitterness. The proprietor is English, and I remarked upon the high quality of the tea (which turned out to be Barry’s Tea from Ireland, sold in tea bags). She told me that to get such tea she has to import directly from England (or, I suppose, Ireland in this case). Twinings English tea, for example, uses a different formulation for its US product, markedly inferior to what is sold in the UK. I suppose they figure the sweepings they sell here are good enough for the colonials.

So I bought a big box of Barry’s, a small box of Typhoo loose tea, and a big bottle of Robinson’s Lemon Barley Water, which is a concentrate: pour some in a glass (1 part) and water (4-8 parts, to taste) and Bob’s your uncle.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2010 at 9:31 am

Great dinner at Nectar

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Last night TYD and I dined at Nectar. Man, what great food! We had:

TYD: A pumpkin soup not shown on-line

Me: zen martini—nigori sake, fuki sake, grey goose pear, elderflower infused syrup, fresh lemon juice—along with a grilled fresh calamari salad, which included chorizo sausage, parmesan, frisée, arugula, lemon vinaigrette

Then to share:

1. moo shu duck, leeks, shiitake, bean sprouts, sweet peppers, serrano chilies, cucumber salad, pancakes

2. lobster pad thai

I’m pretty sure I put on weight, but thankfully I can’t quite figure out TYD’s scale. Tomorrow I’ll weigh (morning naked weight), so today I’m eating carefully: the horse may be gone, but that barn door is now locked!

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2010 at 8:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Loving trains

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I took Amtrak from New Rochelle to Philly. Large, comfortable seats that really recline—plus a couple of power outlets next to the seat. Good reading lights. Ample luggage space, and people tended to put their luggage above their own seat rather than in the first empty space they came to (presumably because people get on and off at each stop, so you want to keep an eye on your belongings).

By chance, I entered a “quiet car”, which (they emphasize) has a “library” atmosphere: no cellphone conversations allowed at all and cellphones must be set to “vibrate.” So it’s text messaging only, in effect. Any music, games, or the like must be through headphones only. No conversation. It was wonderful.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2010 at 5:35 am

Posted in Daily life

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