Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Size of the USA's economy

I read with interest The Sun's article, which appeard on Malaysia Today, where Tun Mahathir called the USA a "bankrupt country" because of its double trade and budget deficit . That resulted in a lively discussion among the readers of Malaysia Today.

The size of the US's economy is hard to comprehend because it is in the trillion of dollars. I came across this interesting tidbit of information on National Review's July 3rd, 2006 edition. Look at the chart and maybe we can begin to understand a little what the size of the USA's economy is.

~ ~ ~

The American Colossus, in Perspective

One of the problems with economics is that the numbers involved are just too big. A trillion here, a billion there, who can keep track of it all? U.S. nominal GDP was about $13 trillion in the first quarter of this year. Corporate profits were about $1.6 trillion. The mind freezes just trying to think about such numbers.

Because of that, news reports tend to focus on the changes. Real GDP grew 5.3 percent in the first quarter. That’s the kind of number that one can easily digest. But the levels contain enormously important meaning. If one wants to put the U.S. place in history and geopolitics in perspective, then one must start by understanding the significance of our economic scale. If the global economic competition were a basketball game, then the U.S. would be Shaquille O’Neal, and all of the other players would be dwarves.

The accompanying chart illustrates the point. The United States is a giant. Its GDP is roughly comparable to that of Japan, Germany, the U.K., and France combined. But the really striking thing is that the U.S. is so prosperous and productive that many of its cities have larger economies than whole countries.

In 2005, for instance, the New York metropolitan area alone out-produced all but eight countries. Russia, on an economic roll because of its massive oil wealth, has a much smaller economy than New York.

Los Angeles topped both Belgium and the Netherlands. The annual production of our nation’s capital was almost identical to that of Poland. The Iranians are certainly causing political problems for the West. Their nuclear development has tied our diplomats in knots. Their threats move oil prices. In terms of purchasing power, however, they are Lilliputians. Even with all of their oil wealth, the Iranians have about the same size economy as Detroit. And Iran is relatively wealthy in its part of the world. Pakistan has about the same economic heft as Cleveland. If you could convince someone to give you the economy of Milwaukee in exchange for that of Kuwait, you would come out ahead (and have a beer to toast your good fortune).

Given these numbers, it’s odd that Americans would be, as sentiment indicators imply they are, so down in the dumps. Economic growth has been good, but the economic levels are stunning.

And why are they so good? Compounding is, as Einstein mused, the most powerful force in the universe. The U.S. is so wealthy because we saw the benefits of free markets long before most others. The result has been two centuries of almost uninterrupted growth. Inching ever upward while others stagnated, we are the earth’s colossus.


Yahoo Answers

When I first started participating in forums, I was really into it, but now ... heheh, the enthusiasm is waning off. It has been a while since I looked into Comeherelah, RumahDayak, and MyBuddies.

Have you checked out Yahoo Answers? I think there are some really interesting topics out there but at the same time there are some weird people there asking their provocative questions.

I got into Yahoo Answers when I asked about posting something in French in Blogger. The French language accents did not come out right once my post was published. I got one reply, and the guy happened to be a French language teacher at a school in Illinois. He posted something in French in his blog and told me that it came out alright. Later I discovered the problem I had was related to the template I was using. That was how Pemerindang Ati ended up with a new template! :-)

Anyway, back to Yahoo Answers. I looked at the topics under Religion and Spirituality, and you can just imagine the sort of questions and answers you get under this section. Discussing religion always provokes all kinds of reactions. The non-religious bashing the religious, the Christians bashing the Muslims, the athiests bashing the Christians etc ... definitely not for the easily offended!

I don't know about the others on Yahoo Answers, but this thing can be quite addicting! Somehow or other, you just feel like you have to answer some of the questions that are posed! I have answered questions relating to NBA players, World Cup, and miscellaneous questions on religion. Haha.

Another thing, there is the points system that Yahoo has for participants, and the highlighting of particular participants in the Yahoo Answers Team blog. I guess that is some sort of an incentive for the participants. Not that the points collected mean anything but for some who are competitive, who knows what it does to the ego! But to those who really know the answers to the questions that are brought up, it is just wonderful to know that there are people out there sharing their experiences.

I don't know, I just feel that Yahoo Answers has a lot more going for them than some of the forums .. no offence to forummers! Heheh.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

TuneBase™ FM for iPod

I was at Costco last weekend with Doug and the kids The primary objective was to look at the swing set available there and compare the product with the ones available at Toy'S'rus.

While there I saw the TuneBase™ FM for iPod. Wow, that would be neat to have, and imagine being able to listen to your iPod via your car radio. I don't like to have the ear buds speakers in my ears while I am with other people .. it is so anti-social! :-)

Anyway, I tested the TuneBase FM on my car radio and it sounded fine .. a little staticky but the problem was resolved when I turned on the mono feature ... for listening to stuff that is not music, setting the sound to mono is preferable.

As for the swing set, we didn't get the one at Costco because the alternative at Toy'S'rus was $300 cheaper. We picked up the one at Toy'S'rus that evening. The swing set is still the box .. we still need to get the area where we want to put it ready. Right now the weeds in the backyard are dry and there are stickers there. More work needs to be done!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The stuff on my iPod

I'm really enjoying my iPod especially with my Beginner French lessons. :-) Comment ça va? Heheh, how are you?

When I am doing the dishes, and there is nothing worth listening to on Talk Radio, I listen to my French lessons. I can't seem to get beyond Lesson Five though. :-( Not only do I have to remember how the words are pronounced, I have to remember how the words are spelled as well. The French language is not an easy language to learn. The singular and plural forms of verbs or nouns sound the same and as such one of the first things a beginner needs to learn is to learn to listen in context.

The beauty of a lesson on podcast is that it can be replayed over and over again without having to rewind anything as one would with a cassette! Cassettes are becoming obsolete. My car does not even have a cassette player, only a CD player and of course a radio.

I appreciate folks who put out things on the internet for free like the folks on The French Ecole. I'm sure it is quite time consuming to draw up the lessons and produce the podcasts, and yet they are doing it for free. All they ask is that those who use their podcasts vote for their podcast on Podcast Alley. I haven't done that, but I will because I am benefitting so much from their work.

I also listen to Christian programs on my iPod. I especially like teachings by Dr Erwin Lutzer of The Moody Church in Chicago. He is a very dynamic teacher. I also enjoy Focus on the Family a ministry of Dr James Dobson. So many practical insights on marriage, parenting, and culture can be learnt on this program.

I have subscribed to more than one audio Bible podcasts. I have decided on the one that I find most pleasant to listen to, and later I will unsubscribed the others.

There are so many interesting stuff on podcasts ... and so little time. :-)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Da Vinci Code Delusion

The Da Vinci Delusion documentary is designed to answer questions introduced by the “Da Vinci Code” book. This 48 minute documentary focuses on the fundamental flaws found in Dan Brown's book with respect to the following: - Jesus as a historical figure - Are the canonical gospels accurate historical documents - What about the “Gnostic Gospels” - What about historical claims made by The Da Vinci Code?

Now, discover the truth! Unlock the secrets behind the DaVinci Code that others want left in the dark. Come face-to-face with the cultural implications of Dan Brown's best selling novel and decide for yourself. Who is Jesus? Is the Christian Bible reliable as an accurate historical account? The DaVinci Delusion is a thoughtful, hard-hitting documentary that is guaranteed to help you answer all the questions that you've been left wondering about.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Climate Change Scare

Time Magazine had an issue called Be Worried. Be Very Worried. Al Gore has a movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Former President Bill Clinton even claims that the Republican Party's environmental policies are going to lead to more hurricanes.

We read and hear so much of the hysteria over global warming/climate change. What we hardly ever hear is that when it comes to earth's climate there is not much that man can do to alter it. Man may affect it a little but change? Earth has gone through cold and hot cycles throughout its life without man having to lift a finger.

The following column on CanadaFreePress, expresses the sentiments of a lot of people who don't buy into the climate change hysteria.


"The Inconvenient Truth" is indeed inconvenient to alarmists
By Tom Harris
Monday, June 12, 2006

"Scientists have an independent obligation to respect and present the truth as they see it," Al Gore sensibly asserts in his film "An Inconvenient Truth", showing at Cumberland 4 Cinemas in Toronto since Jun 2. With that outlook in mind, what do world climate experts actually think about the science of his movie?

Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, in Australia gives what, for many Canadians, is a surprising assessment: "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention."

But surely Carter is merely part of what most people regard as a tiny cadre of "climate change skeptics" who disagree with the "vast majority of scientists" Gore cites?

No; Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing significant global climate change. "Climate experts" is the operative term here. Why? Because what Gore's "majority of scientists" think is immaterial when only a very small fraction of them actually work in the climate field.

Even among that fraction, many focus their studies on the impacts of climate change; biologists, for example, who study everything from insects to polar bears to poison ivy. "While many are highly skilled researchers, they generally do not have special knowledge about the causes of global climate change," explains former University of Winnipeg climatology professor Dr. Tim Ball. "They usually can tell us only about the effects of changes in the local environment where they conduct their studies."

This is highly valuable knowledge, but doesn't make them climate change cause experts, only climate impact experts.

So we have a smaller fraction.

But it becomes smaller still. Among experts who actually examine the causes of change on a global scale, many concentrate their research on designing and enhancing computer models of hypothetical futures. "These models have been consistently wrong in all their scenarios," asserts Ball. "Since modelers concede computer outputs are not "predictions" but are in fact merely scenarios, they are negligent in letting policy-makers and the public think they are actually making forecasts."

We should listen most to scientists who use real data to try to understand what nature is actually telling us about the causes and extent of global climate change. In this relatively small community, there is no consensus, despite what Gore and others would suggest.

Here is a small sample of the side of the debate we almost never hear:

Appearing before the Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last year, Carleton University paleoclimatologist Professor Tim Patterson testified, "There is no meaningful correlation between CO2 levels and Earth's temperature over this [geologic] time frame. In fact, when CO2 levels were over ten times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half billion years." Patterson asked the committee, "On the basis of this evidence, how could anyone still believe that the recent relatively small increase in CO2 levels would be the major cause of the past century's modest warming?"

Patterson concluded his testimony by explaining what his research and "hundreds of other studies" reveal: on all time scales, there is very good correlation between Earth's temperature and natural celestial phenomena such changes in the brightness of the Sun.

Dr. Boris Winterhalter, former marine researcher at the Geological Survey of Finland and professor in marine geology, University of Helsinki, takes apart Gore's dramatic display of Antarctic glaciers collapsing into the sea. "The breaking glacier wall is a normally occurring phenomenon which is due to the normal advance of a glacier," says Winterhalter. "In Antarctica the temperature is low enough to prohibit melting of the ice front, so if the ice is grounded, it has to break off in beautiful ice cascades. If the water is deep enough icebergs will form."

Dr. Wibjörn Karlén, emeritus professor, Dept. of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Sweden, admits, "Some small areas in the Antarctic Peninsula have broken up recently, just like it has done back in time. The temperature in this part of Antarctica has increased recently, probably because of a small change in the position of the low pressure systems."

But Karlén clarifies that the 'mass balance' of Antarctica is positive - more snow is accumulating than melting off. As a result, Ball explains, there is an increase in the 'calving' of icebergs as the ice dome of Antarctica is growing and flowing to the oceans. When Greenland and Antarctica are assessed together, "their mass balance is considered to possibly increase the sea level by 0.03 mm/year - not much of an effect," Karlén concludes.

The Antarctica has survived warm and cold events over millions of years. A meltdown is simply not a realistic scenario in the foreseeable future.

Gore tells us in the film, "Starting in 1970, there was a precipitous drop-off in the amount and extent and thickness of the Arctic ice cap." This is misleading, according to Ball: "The survey that Gore cites was a single transect across one part of the Arctic basin in the month of October during the 1960s when we were in the middle of the cooling period. The 1990 runs were done in the warmer month of September, using a wholly different technology."

Karlén explains that a paper published in 2003 by University of Alaska professor Igor Polyakov shows that, the region of the Arctic where rising temperature is supposedly endangering polar bears showed fluctuations since 1940 but no overall temperature rise. "For several published records it is a decrease for the last 50 years," says Karlén

Dr. Dick Morgan, former advisor to the World Meteorological Organization and climatology researcher at University of Exeter, U.K. gives the details, "There has been some decrease in ice thickness in the Canadian Arctic over the past 30 years but no melt down. The Canadian Ice Service records show that from 1971-1981 there was average, to above average, ice thickness. From 1981-1982 there was a sharp decrease of 15% but there was a quick recovery to average, to slightly above average, values from 1983-1995. A sharp drop of 30% occurred again 1996-1998 and since then there has been a steady increase to reach near normal conditions since 2001."

Concerning Gore's beliefs about worldwide warming, Morgan points out that, in addition to the cooling in the NW Atlantic, massive areas of cooling are found in the North and South Pacific Ocean; the whole of the Amazon Valley; the north coast of South America and the Caribbean; the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea, Caucasus and Red Sea; New Zealand and even the Ganges Valley in India. Morgan explains, "Had the IPCC used the standard parameter for climate change (the 30 year average) and used an equal area projection, instead of the Mercator (which doubled the area of warming in Alaska, Siberia and the Antarctic Ocean) warming and cooling would have been almost in balance."

Gore's point that 200 cities and towns in the American West set all time high temperature records is also misleading according to Dr. Roy Spencer, Principal Research Scientist at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. "It is not unusual for some locations, out of the thousands of cities and towns in the U.S., to set all-time records," he says. "The actual data shows that overall, recent temperatures in the U.S. were not unusual."

Carter does not pull his punches about Gore's activism, "The man is an embarrassment to US science and its many fine practitioners, a lot of whom know (but feel unable to state publicly) that his propaganda crusade is mostly based on junk science."

In April sixty of the world's leading experts in the field asked Prime Minister Harper to order a thorough public review of the science of climate change, something that has never happened in Canada. Considering what's at stake - either the end of civilization, if you believe Gore, or a waste of billions of dollars, if you believe his opponents - it seems like a reasonable request.

Tom Harris is mechanical engineer and Ottawa Director of High Park Group, a public affairs and public policy company. He can be reached at

Monday, June 12, 2006


I just got myself a new toy, a 30 gb iPod with video playback. :-) I have been thinking about getting myself an mp3 player for quite a while now, and Doug even told me he already had in mind what he would get for me.

After doing some research and reading reviews on the various mp3 players out there I settled for the iPod with video playback, instead of the one Doug had intended to get for me.

I use my iPod mainly for listening to sermons, and other christian related podcasts to which I have subscribed. And some of them are video podcasts, so the iPod with video playback was the best choice for me.

My favorite christian site for mp3 downloads is Oneplace. There are other sites too but the ones I am interested in are found on this site.

I am also looking at audio books, and still looking for the cheapest audio bible. :-) There are some sites that offer free audio bible, but in the King James Version? No, thank you! Heheh.

There's only one thing though, when it comes to the iPod. It doesn't seem to last very long, from all accounts. I'd hate to think that my iPod will only be good for a few years (if it lasts that long!), and then, I'd have to find a replacement. :-( That would be a bummer.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Piece of Home

A few days ago, I was talking to my mother on the phone. She talked about the places they (my parents and two brothers' families) had visited while they were in Saratok over the Gawai holidays. One of the places was Lubok Antu, and while there my brothers bought themselves a parabolic dish each.

That got me to thinking. How wonderful it would be if I was able to have such a parabolic dish and that dish would be able to intercept tv programs from Malaysia. Well of course Malaysia and the US are on different hemispheres, and unless it is a subscription based tv package watching Malaysian tv would be quite impossible.

It suddenly struck me. I have not been to visit RTM's website in something close to two years now. I had totally forgotten about RTM's website and how there were tv and radio livestreams available on the internet. The last time I looked at the site I was not able to access the tv and radio livestream. It had something to do with RTM using Real Player, and it was always congested.

So yesterday I decided to check out RTM's website again, re-registered with them (I forgot what my username was from my previous registration), and lo and behold, I was watching RTM1! RTM livestreams now use Windows Media Player, and with a high speed connection, the live-streams are not too bad .. not great but good enough.

That really made my day! I got to watch the 1 pm news on RTM1, and also heard the news on Nasional FM. I should have checked back RTM's website a long time ago, but anyway, I am happy that now I can follow the news in Malaysia via tv and radio.

The availability of WaiFM over the internet has been a source of great joy to me, and home is so much closer when one is able to listen to Iban radio .. listening to the jako pesan and all the things that come with it ... like the chirping sounds of chicks in the background! Heheh, that really tickled me when I heard that sound over the radio.

And oh, after re-discovering RTM's live streams on the internet I started looking around for other tv stations that might have live streams. Wow, there are lots out there! Through this site, I found Cyberjaya.TV, which claims to be Malaysia's first web tv ... don't know about this one, doesn't look very up to date.

Cheers to tv and radio live streams! :-)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Gospel Armor Podcast

I've been looking around for some good christian podcasts and came across this one, Gospel Armor Podcast. I have yet to listen to the teachings but since the topics covered included a study on Revelations, I thought I'd subscribe to this site. I have always enjoyed any study on the book of Revelations.

There are several christian podcasts available through sites like, and Christian Podcasts and Digital Podcasts. Of course you'll have sieve through what is available out there and subscribe to those that you think will be of benefit to you.

Now that I have an iPod, my time can be further maximized as I work in front of my quilting machine or as I lie and relax on my sofa. :-)

What a wonderful invention a portable mp3 player is!

Friday, June 09, 2006

God's Wings

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 63:7

I have been watching my two geese and their 3-week old goslings. I never knew that geese were monogamous and that both the male and female were involved in the care of their offsprings.

When the eggs were hatched the goslings stayed under the protective wings of their mother, and it wasn't till the next day that the goslings were allowed to take their first steps into the world. The parents honked every time in encouragement when they got left behind among the tall weeds.

I watched how protective the parents were when I or any member of my family was any where near them. They hissed and flapped their wings. The father goose is the most aggressive. Every time I turned my back on them, he would come after me with his neck lowered as if ready to bite me.

It reminds me of the verses in the bible that talk about finding refuge under the shadow of God's wings. God is pictured as a hen, drawing and giving shelter to any who would go to Him. ( Psalm 17:8; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 63:7; Matthew 23:37)

It is always a comfort to think that God is always there, a shelter in times of distress, and we are promised His love and protection.

Our world can be topsy turvy, beyond our human ability to deal with, but God is near, calling and drawing us under the shadow of His protective wings.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


"A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity." ("General Introduction to Psychoanalysis," S. Freud)

All national service (NS) trainees will be trained to use the M16 assault rifle starting with the next training session from June 25 to Sept 16.
Read more.

Despite positive feedback from participants and parents when the pilot projects on the firearms module at six NS camps ran last year, some people have voiced their concerns over the compulsory firearms training. Here is one response and here's another as found on The Star's Citizen's Blog.

I am not surprised by the near hysterical responses of some on the issue considering the draconian laws that Malaysia has over illegal weapons. For the most part, firearms ownership in Malaysia is almost non-existent. Even those who participate in shooting sports have difficulty keeping their firearms.

My father owns a shotgun and I have never fired that shotgun. I used to be afraid of guns too, because guns were associated with death, violence and criminals. But since I met and married my dear hubby, I have learnt to accept guns as a part of our life, and have learnt to cherish the citizen's 2nd Amendment Rights.

According to one of the bloggers I referenced above, guns are not for peace loving people. We have guns in our house, does it mean we are not peace-loving? I do not think that it is a valid argument to say that guns are not for peace-loving people. I am peace-loving, but that does not mean that anyone intent on harming me and my family is going to get away with it. Peace-loving does not mean pacifism. I can understand the convictions of a pacifist, but in the hands of a peaceful, law abiding person, guns are not going to be a threat to anyone.

Guns on their own do not kill people. But guns in the hands of criminals, and crazy people, now those we have to watch out for. And just because there are people who misuse and abuse their gun ownership rights, is it right to prevent others from owning their guns?

There are states in the US, like Florida, that allow its citizens to carry a concealed weapon. There are things that one must do first before one is given the permit to carry a concealed weapon, of course. A criminal would think twice before assaulting another person because that person could very well be armed!

We only hear and read about gun crimes but hardly ever do we hear and read about guns being used in self-protection. In the US -
Research by award-winning criminologist Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz reveals that guns are used for self-defense as often as 2.5 million times a year -- three to five times more often than they are misused by criminals.
Read more.

Who do you think is going to protect your family once law and order breaks down? Can we rely on our law enforcement officers to protect us? Of course not. I'd rather be armed and able to defend myself and my family.

A beretta, one of many hand guns in our collection.

My first camping at Mojave Desert with gun-loving folks.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Summer's Here

Skimpy shorts, bermuda shorts, bicycle shorts, capris. Skinny thighs, fat thighs, ugly thighs, beautiful thighs. I guess summer's here!

I love to wear shorts during the summer. When I was much younger, I was too self-conscious to wear shorts in public, because I had very skinny legs.

But here in the US, who cares if your legs are skinny, lumpy, fat, full of cellulite, or have varicose veins! Nobody is going to stop you from wearing your shorts!

And precisely because of that, it can be quite painful to see some overweight persons, with lumpy and orange peel skin, wear their shorts. They have thighs so fat that their shorts ride up between their thighs. Boy, what an ugly sight!!

Does your grandmother wear shorts? Some elderly women wear shorts here. Some are more classy looking than others - they wear their panty hose with their shorts thereby sparing us the sight of their wrinkled legs and varicose veins.

I told myself I am not going to wait till I am too fat or too old to stop wearing my shorts! Aiyah, I got mirror at home lah. And one other thing, I will not wear any low rise shorts and expose my tummy! Forget it! It is not as flat and as firm as it used to be! Heheh.

Here's to shorts on hot summer days!