August 27, 2011

Print to PDF provides Instapaper to GoodReader link

Instapaper's clean display
I love Instapaper. It's a simple service that makes reading websites much easier.

You know how junky some websites are -- I'm sorry to say my employer's is among them -- with multiple columns and ads and gadgets blinking for your attention. Add the propensity of web designers to use gray text, and it means a lot of web pages are hard to read.

Instapaper solves this problem, along with that of "this looks like a great article, but I don't have time to read it right now." Install the Instapaper bookmarklet on your browser's toolbar, and you can send those articles to your Instapaper account for reading later. You get just the article, in an easy-to read font with no surrounding distractions. I use the iPad app to read articles on my lunch break.

It's hard to complain about a simple service that does one thing really well. But the feature I long for in Instapaper is the ability to annotate. I like to highlight articles and write marginal notes.

Print to PDF is prepared
to export to other apps;
even its competition.
Figuring I couldn't be the only one who felt this way, I searched for an Instapaper annotation solution. I was 2.5 hours on the hunt before I found this thread, which offered two solutions. Then I had to pick.

Unfortunately, the only way to try most apps is to buy them. So, given the multiple accolades for Save2PDF for iPad, I bought that one. It's got more features, and got a good review from MacWorld.

I was disappointed. The PDFs it rendered were not attractive. For example, an article that appeared in Arial rendered in Courier once Save2PDF was done with it. Its user interface is nonintuitive, with inscrutable icons. And getting the PDFs out of the app and into GoodReader so I could annotate them? I can't figure out how to do that, other than e-mailing them to my desktop Mac and then syncing to GoodReader. Not an elegant solution.

So then I bought the newer, cheaper app that had fewer referrals. It does what I need it to much better. Print to PDF is a simple app that that does one thing really well. And it has a "Share" button that includes an "Open in…" command, and GoodReader appears in that list, along with iBooks, Dropbox, and Evernote. Perfect.

In GoodReader, I can
highlight all I want.
You might well ask why I don't just send the articles from Instapaper to Evernote and mark them up there. Well, sometimes I do. But Evernote, so far, lacks a highlight feature. So I use Evernote when I'm adding a lot of notes, and the PDF method when I'm making a lot of highlights.

The Internet offers a flood of information, and an increasing number of ways to manage the flood. How do you manage your flood?

August 10, 2011

US debt to income ratio is 667%

Freeze Frame Studio, Inc. — iStockphoto
I've seen this quote, supposedly from Dave Ramsey, making the rounds on Facebook:
If the US Government was a family, they would be making $58,000 a year. They spend $75,000 a year, and are $327,000 in credit card debt. They are currently proposing "big" spending cuts to reduce their spending to "only" $72,000 a year. These are the actual proportions of the federal budget & debt, reduced to a level that we can understand. What I want to know is how they are somehow still AA+.
I've been unable to verify whether Ramsey actually said this: I looked on his website and could not find it. All the references I find online are out-of-context quotes. So the claxon on the the File 13-O-Meter sounded, and I started checking the numbers. Here's what I found:

The 2012 budget forecasts federal receipts of $2.174 trillion and outlays of $3.729 trillion. This is the proposed budget: The bipartisan commission formed as a result of last week's debt ceiling deal will presumably figure out how to close the $1.101 trillion deficit.

The national debt, meanwhile, is $14.5 trillion. But there's a number left out of the "Ramsey" equation: the gross domestic product, which is $15.81.

By comparison, in 2009, the most recent year for which I could find complete statistics, the U.S. median household income before taxes was $62,857, and average annual expenditures were $49,067.

An Associated Press analysis of a Federal Reserve report from about the same period shows average household debt of $114,434 and average household net worth of $455,173.

So let's see how this stacks up:

Federal Government "Ramsey" example Average US Household
Income $2.17 trillion $58,000 $62,857
Expenses $3.73 trillion $75,000 $49,067
Expense/ Income ratio 171.5% 129.3% 78.1%
Debt $14.5 trillion $327,000 $114,434
Debt/Income ratio 667% 564% 182%
Net worth $15.81 trillion -- $455,173
Debt/Worth ratio 91.7% -- 25.1%

What surprised me about these numbers is that the average household net worth was as high as that. Remember these numbers are from 2009: Two years into the recession, after the housing market collapse destroyed a lot of value by pushing home prices down.

So yes, American families are doing a better job of managing our money than the federal government is. But remember this is a democracy, and the people in Washington are only there because enough citizens voted for them. The only way to see real change is to contact your senators and representatives and tell them what you expect from them. And then, when they are up for re-election, hold them accountable for the job they have done. Or failed to do.

August 5, 2011

As Silver Refined: Learning to Embrace Life's DisappointmentsAs Silver Refined: Learning to Embrace Life's Disappointments by Kay Arthur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books I filled with Post-It notes and highlight marks. I filled a legal pad with notes. The insightful wisdom in this book helped me through a difficult time by getting my eyes off of me and my petty problems and onto God. Kay Arthur's teaching is firmly based in scripture and has been a major contributor to my maturity as a Christian.

View all my reviews