Fiscal responsibility

Let’s see how the recent run of U.S. presidents have done in the matter of balancing the national budget:


Reaganomics didn’t work. “Trickle-down” didn’t work. Cutting taxes for the rich didn’t work. The 1995 decision to de-regulate the banks was foolish and was denounced at the time as the making of another boom and crash. As a friend of mine said, “They’re just re-touching the X-ray.” (re and old joke: “We can’t cure you but…”) Did you know that more money is taxed from the poor and given to the well off and rich in subsidies such as tax-deductible mortgage interest than is given to the poor?

Unnecessary invasions of middle-eastern countries are very expensive. George Bush Jr. added five trillion dollars to the U.S. national debt. The decision, late in Bush Jr.’s presidency, to let a major bank go under kicked the supports from under the economy and caused values to slip drastically in  very short time, with consequences up and down the line.

President Obama was handed a Great Depression in the making. The normal ways of dealing with it are not going to work. The course of action he is following, recommended by the best economic advice he can find, is what got us through the Great Depression in the end and laid the foundation for the prosperity of the 50’s and 60’s.

Polio vaccine: why we could—and should—build a better one

ERV science blogger

ERV on Scienceblogs (short for Endogenous Retrovirus) revisits the argument for building a better polio vaccine.

Briefly, polio is an RNA virus, thus has an error-prone RNA-RNA polymerase, thus acts like a quasispecies like HIV-1. Now, a live attenuated polio vaccine is the ‘best’ because you activate lots of branches of your immune system, which ‘remember’ the polio virus for a really long time. But because of polio’s potential genetic diversity, the attenuated vaccine variant can revert back to the wild-type variant, which is ‘more fit’.

This doesn’t matter to you, because you’ve been vaccinated. But if you shed wild-type virus…

Well, you could make someone else sick. ERV then describes the new polio viruses that have been created and that would make safer and more reliable vaccines:

Vignuzzi et al found they could generate polio viruses that:

  • Had a higher-fidelity RNA-RNA polymerase, cutting mutation rates by half or more
  • Were almost equally ‘fit’ to wild-type virus, reducing selective pressure to revert
  • Did not infect the brain/central nervous system
  • Were still susceptible to anti-polio antivirals
  • Provided better protective immunity to wild-type polio than even the current ‘live’ polio vaccine

All of these are important, especially in countries where vaccination is spotty and supplies of clean water are less reliable. People die while we sit by and say, “I’m all right, Jack.”

The paper she refers to, Vignuzzi et al., is described here: “Building a better polio vaccine.”

The current post goes on to discuss that concept in relation to a larger parasite: disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Toronto tech writers offer seminars for managers


The Toronto Society for Technical Communication is offering a day of seminars on Wednesday, April 22nd, for those who manage technical communication issues.

As writers and managers, we often hear what should be done, but how to do it and do it correctly, can be tough. This one–day workshop has four excellent topics teaching you how to improve your team, how to identify the right translation vendor to work with, how to promote yourself and your team internally, and how to manage during transitions of key staff. Leave with clear action items to get results from your team, and get work done on time and within budget.

The day includes a hot, catered lunch, morning and afternoon snacks, and speaker handouts
With the tough economic times we are facing it is more important than ever to ensure you have the right team, the right partners, the right image, and the right management.seneca-college-allstate-parkway

LOCATION:  Seneca College, Markham Campus, 10 Allstate Parkway near Highways 404 and 7  (Google Map)

SCHEDULE: 08:00 –16:15 plus as long as people want to ask questions.

8:00 Breakfast, networking, & check in (please arrive by 8:30 a.m.)
8:45 Promotion from Within:  During tough times it can be difficult to find the resources to hire new members for your team. One solution is to promote from within. However, finding the right team members, and identifying the key habits that make a technical communicator great, can make all the difference in team building. Visnja discusses these traits and teaches you how to identify them and promote the right people from within your current ranks.

vijsna-begVisnja Beg is the Project Manager overseeing all deliverables for the IBM Rational Software family of User Assistance products. She has worked in technical communications for 20 years and is a past president of STC Ottawa and has presented at several STC conferences.

10:15 Coffee, tea, snacks, & social networking
10:30 Choosing the Right Translation Vendor: When content must be translated, it is crucial to choose the right vendor. To find the right vendor, you need to ask the right questions. You also need to evaluate bids beyond the cost per word. What are best practices for making this important decision? Learn how to select a vendor based on lessons learned by those who have gone through the process. Save yourself both money and time.

vivian-aschwanden2Vivian Aschwanden has over 11 years of experience in information development in both writing and leadership roles. She has been a lone writer for a startup, led a doc team in a broadcast engineering firm, and now fills a part-time project management role at Platform Computing in conjunction with her full-time writing.

12:00 Networking lunch
13:00 Internal Consulting: Selling Tech Comm Inside Your Organization: Learn how to expand your network inside your organization, increase the services you offer, and boost the value of you and your team in the eyes of your employer. Told as a true  story about the growth of a tech writing team, this session teaches techniques and tools for developing relationships in your company and turning those relationships into lines of business.

mark-pepperMark Pepper is a communicator with 14 years of experience. He has been the lead technical writing consultant at Deloitte & Touche, an elearning writer and project manager, worked in journalism, business analysis, and at the help desk. He presently runs his own company, Crimson Sage Softworks Inc.

14:30 Coffee, tea, snacks, & social networking
14:45 Managing Management Change: how do you manage the abrupt departure of management? Learn how an interim manager steered a department through change and brought in a new ID manager (promoted from within the team) with minimal damage to productivity or morale. Effective change management strategies eased the transition. Learn key things you need to do to ensure change “sticks”, and strategies to help a team grow through the change.

jim-smithJim Smith is Manager of Information Development and User Experience at Platform Computing. Jim has been an information developer for over 20 years, including 7 years at IBM’s Toronto Lab. He has enjoyed 10 years at Platform, where he now manages a dynamic team of information developers and usability experts.

16:15 Wrap-up & Questions for the panel


REGISTER: Email or phone 416-460-5845.

We must receive your payment to confirm your registration. If you cancel, you must let us know 5 business days before the event. However, you can send someone else at any time.

See you there!

Biggest X-ray ever!

Not Totally Rad talks about the X-ray art of Nick Veasey, who has taken what are probably the biggest X-ray images ever.

…work by photographer Nick Veasey, who has X-rayed backhoes and entire buses full of people. Check out this shot of a Boeing 777 and hangar, which may be the largest radiograph ever taken.


Besides these enormous objects, his online portfolio also includes a lot of other cool stuff, such as bats, spiders and….

I think that they must be manipulated or composed in some way, because how would you get an image of people inside (or in front of) the solid metal walls of an airplane? And wouldn’t more distant objects be fuzzy, not dim? And if you did take an image through a hangar, would it not fry the innards of the people in the scene?

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