Wednesday, April 30, 2008

USA GDP Grows 14% by Balancing Trade Deficit

My blog-article title today is a forward looking best-case scenario outcome of what is possible if the United States would simply balance its current trade deficit. Stick with me for a minute as I run the (very basic) math that extrapolates a result from today's headline on GDP growth for the first quarter of 2008.

I was just reading on how, even though it feels much like the United States is in a recession here in early 2008, that the U.S. Economy Expanded at 0.6% Pace in First Quarter of 2008 (according to the government). From this article, I extracted the following statistic:

Benefit From Trade: "An improvement in trade continued to contribute to economic growth. The trade deficit narrowed to an annual pace of $495.9 billion last quarter from $503.2 billion. The smaller gap added 0.2 percent to growth, after a 1 percent boost the prior quarter."

So, let's do some quick math. If a "small" $7.3Billion narrowing of the trade balance (between exports and imports) in the USA's favor can move the GDP positive by 0.2%, then that implies that every $36.5Billion lower the trade deficit moves, we would realize a 1% boost to the United States GDP (at least, using current 2008 numbers).

Continuing with this train of thought: we currently have a trade deficit of nearly 1/2 a TRILLION dollars per year! So, divide the $36.5 Billion into that Half-Trillion number, and you get 13.6% (which I rounded to 14%). So, the United States can gain 14% GDP growth just by balancing its trade with the rest of the world, all other things being equal. That's astounding! Heck, even China's insanely fast growing economy barely approaches a 14% growth rate.

Now, another way to look at this is that our trade deficit is costing us an incredible sum of money and a fantastic amount of growth! We really need to reign in this imbalance if we are to ever have hopes that the American Dream of long-term opportunity for prosperity (for the average American) is always available. Sure, a FEW people are making out rather well during the current mass-export of cash to foreigners, but wouldn't it be nice if there were a few more opportunities for every US citizen to partake in this global economy in a more positive and constructive way (vs. just being a consumer of foreign products)?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Beware of Cannibals!

Ted Turner (of CNN-founding fame, and mega-millionaire status), recently made some rather interesting comments on PBS about how extreme the global situation could become if global warming continues unchecked. One of the dire warnings he put forth for consideration was the prospect of how people, when pushed to the limits with lack of available food, may resort to cannibalism. Here's some of the what was discussed with regards to the global climate change issue:

If steps aren't taken to stem global warming, "We'll be eight degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow," Turner said during a wide-ranging, hour-long interview with PBS's Charlie Rose that aired Tuesday.

"Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals," said Turner, 69. "Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state — like Somalia or Sudan — and living conditions will be intolerable."

One way to combat global warming, Turner said, is to stabilize the population.

"We're too many people; that's why we have global warming," he said. "Too many people are using too much stuff."

OK, so this all sounds a bit extreme, or does it?
Fact is, Ted Turner may well be right!

I for one, at least while in my right mind (during this pre-catastrophic-earth period), tell myself I would rather just die of starvation than eat another human being, but who knows... if pushed to the brink, maybe I'd essentially become a zombie where only my deep animal instincts drove me to seek out any and all available "food", be it human or not.

Perhaps Ted Turner had just watched the movie Sweeney Todd (the Demon Barber of Fleet Street), and noticed how Johnny Depp's character (and his fellow house / business tenant) took to killing many a human and turning them into meat pies (which, they served to unsuspecting London consumers during what they characterized as "desperate times" or "hard times"). If 19th Century London is bad enough meat is so scarce, then I guess Ted Turner's 21st post-global-warming-catastrophic-earth conditions would make that look like nothing, and (human) meat-pies may be the menu-item of choice.

Now, instead of becoming a cannibal this year, I have just begun work on my new garden. A nice chunk of the yard (formerly just grass) is becoming what I hope will be a productive vegetable garden. I am doing this for a few reasons: 1) food prices have skyrocketed! and 2) I don't want to rely completely on others for my food. I want variation in my diet, and with this insane push for Ethanol, it seems the only 100% sure way to get the vegetables / crops I want (without paying a fortune) will be to grow my own. So, here's hoping this experiment pays off. And, with luck, I'll raise enough home-grown food I won't have to resort to cannibalism! :)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Less Pain, More Gain? Weightlifting rules changed.

I just couldn't help posting about this study that goes completely against the old "no pain, no gain" rule of weightlifting and muscle building.

Check this out:
Taking daily recommended dosages of ibuprofen and acetaminophen caused a substantially greater increase over placebo in the amount of quadriceps muscle mass and muscle strength gained during three months of regular weight lifting, in a study by physiologists at the Human Performance Laboratory, Ball State University
Isn't that just interesting? So, should we change the saying in the weight room to "less pain, more gain?" An interesting question may also be: will taking a daily Tylenol when lifting, or an Ibuprofin, produce gains equal to that of Anabolic Steroids or Human Growth Hormone (HGH) or protein powders, whey protein, amino acid supplements, etc? :)

Regardless, it was an interesting study.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Software: Inkscape .46 Final Released

Inkscape is, in my opinion, one of the shining stars in the open-source free software universe. Inkscape is an an SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) Open Source cross-platform (Linux, Mac, and Windows) vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, and other commercial products, but FREE. And, it is quite powerful and capable, just like its commercial non-free counterparts.

This software should take care of most "average user" needs, and with the latest .46 release, it has become even better and more powerful. One thing I don't care for with this open-source programs is the stupid numbering schemes for releases - in this case ".46" - which makes the program sound incomplete or not ready for prime time, which is anything but the case. In a commercial world, this program could easily be a 3.0 release or such. It is definitely ready for prime-time use, and the advanced feature set has been many years in the making and proving out.

Some of the latest features in Inkscape .46 (which I find very exciting!) include:
  • Native PDF import - I need to play with this more yet, but it offers some rather interesting potential for manipulating the content of PDF files. PDF Export abilities are also available - which I consider a "must" these days.
  • Angled guidelines - I find these very cool indeed! I have wanted such ability in other commercial software programs before, and now Inkscape implement angled guidelines. Guidelines are so typically limited to simple horizontal and vertical ones - now you have the freedom to create guides at various angles, which really help with more complex and creative layouts.
  • Paintbucket tool
  • Tweak tool - a neat hybridization of vector / bitmap type functionality
  • 3D Box tool - allowing you to more easily give 2D images a 3D feel, by getting the perspective visually correct (via vanishing-point that is mathematically "right")
  • Live path effects - where paths are manipulated separate from styles, and in real-time (paths are just that - the path / shape over which the object drawn)
  • Open Clip Art Library integration (import/export) and Stock patterns
  • Bitmap editing extension effects, full on-canvas gradient editing
  • Engraver's Toolbox in the Calligraphic tool - this can produce some rather interesting effects
  • Other User-Interface improvements, speed and performance enhancements, and much more.
Check out Inkscape Software at the website.