My iPad Review

Yes, I am one of the fanatics that stood in line on day one of the iPad release to get one. The line was short and it only took about thirty minutes. Here are my disjointed thoughts on ten days with the iPad:
* Heat dissipation. I don’t know where heat from the iPad goes, but there is none to the touch on the unit. You know how when you use a laptop on your lap for any length of time, how the heat is billowing out and you start sweating? The iPad seems to emit no heat and is much easier to cradle when you are reading, surfing, etc.
* The keyboard. It’s still not ideal. Obviously it is far superior to the iPhone, and when you just want to fire off a quick email or something, it works fine. But when it comes to writing stuff like this, or working on documents, it is less than ideal. I bought the keyboard docking station [which I’m typing on right now] and it make life much easier. Personally, I’d be happy with a tablet that assumes the size of a small keyboard [such as this] as a starting point and built the form-factor of the tablet based on that size, but maybe that’s just me.
* Apps. There are some great apps already, and I can only imagine what is to come. I have been drawn into the ABC app in particular, watching Flash Forward and Lost episodes in really nice resolution. I’m a little baffled as to why Safari still doesn’t tab browse on iPad, but I bet that will change. The main thing I want to see is a better reading experience for Google Books. I have lots of old books on Google Books that I plan on reading, and I don’t want to have to reload them every time I come back to the Safari session. Come on Google, [or someone]. The ESV Bible App is slick and it is the first electronic Bible that I can actually enjoy reading due to the portability of the device.
* iBooks. Yes, it is a great reader. Reading anything on the iPad is nice. Web pages are easy to read, zoom in on, and read like a book. They scroll very fast. Mail is clean and nice to read. Books on iBooks are nice as we’ve all seen. The downside for me to date is that the books *I* want are all somewhat esoteric and are not available on iBooks, or Kindle for that matter. The religious section of the bookstore isn’t too impressive right now, but I expect that to get way better too. I like reading plain old PDFs on the iPad, and that may be the primary route I go as time goes on.
The reading experience is better than any other computer platform. You can carry it anywhere and read in any position. On the floor, upside down, in a chair, the usual convoluted ways that I sit when reading a book I can duplicate whilst reading on the iPad. Not being captive to a monitor, not having to worry about heat, and having an immense battery life all make this possible. The battery goes on and on compared to a laptop – it is as good as advertised.

That’s the brief rundown. I look forward to future versions of the device, and for Google to enter the market in the future. I think we’ll see all kinds of innovation in this market, and the need for laptops and even desktops may fade away for many home users. The world is shifting around us again.

Subsidies for the World’s Most Expensive Healthcare

Writing a market analysis for Citigroup’s weekly Portfolio Strategist newsletter, Steven Wieting outlines a dire future for America’s government debt. Note that this is far from a partisan magazine, it is a real-world analysis of possible scenarios for investors. An extensive excerpt follows:

§ Markets may still be overestimating the short-term vulnerability of the U.S. economy amid a strengthening and self-sustaining cyclical recovery. At the same time, the risks to U.S. economic performance in the long term have actually never seemed more dire.

§ Far from hoarding labor (unlike others), the U.S. has just endured the deepest two year decline in employment of the post war period. Signs abound that production, employment and investment declines have been unnecessarily severe, an overshoot. Friday’s data surprised with three consecutive months of private employment gains, with some confirmation in the separate survey of households.

§ But few had ever contemplated entering a well-advertised period of demographic weakening and higher dependency levels with a U.S. budget deficit so large as a starting condition.

§ The structural budget deficit looks potentially unmanageable even five years from now, when employment is assumed to be “full” and the financial supports of the recent crisis are paid back as fully as they ever will be.

§ Higher taxes have always seemed necessary to cover elder-care entitlements in the period ahead. But as a start, taxes are being raised instead to cover expanding entitlements further and can’t be used again for initial deficit reduction or offsets to future large increases in spending programs in place.

§ With the presumed passage of expanded subsidized healthcare coverage for nearly all in need, U.S. consumers, taxpayers and employers will have to buy more of the same healthcare goods and services sourced at the highest observable cost per unit in the world.

Unusual Digression in Short and Long View

On visits to clients across different parts of the world in recent weeks, we have continued to sense at least a worrying complacency with the long-term outlook for the U.S., against residual fears that the economy is incapable of cyclical recovery. In essence, many investors seem to overestimate cyclical vulnerability, while underestimating structural economic risks for the U.S. over the long run, in our view.

Far from hoarding labor (unlike others), the U.S. has just endured the deepest two year decline in employment of the post war period. Signs abound that production, employment and investment declines have been unnecessarily severe, an overshoot.

[…]

At the same time, the risks to U.S. economic performance in the long-term have actually never seemed more dire.

A demographic bulge in the dependency ratio has always loomed beginning in the early- to mid 2010s. That “bulge” worsens gradually for the following 25 years.

Few had ever contemplated entering this period with a U.S. budget deficit so large as a starting condition. This structural budget deficit looks potentially unmanageable even five years from now, when employment is assumed to be “full” and the financial supports of the recent crisis are paid back as fully as they ever will be.

Higher taxes have always seemed necessary to cover elder-care entitlements in the period ahead. But as a start, taxes are now being raised instead to cover expanding entitlements further and can’t be used again for initial deficit reduction or offsets to future large increases in spending programs already in place.

Following the recent political debate, many Americans might have come away with the notion that health insurance companies “charge too much” for healthcare. Perhaps the insurers need to hire their own cheaper doctors and build their own cheaper hospitals to compete with the existing supply of them. Assuming otherwise, they will still need to pay the same amounts for hospital stays, procedures and medicines as before, at the highest observable cost per unit in the world. But now, with the presumed passage of expanded subsidized coverage for nearly all in need, U.S. consumers, taxpayers and employers will have to buy more of those same goods and services, sourced from the same supply base.

Aside from small experimental steps to develop competitive exchanges for individual insurance coverage, never before have we seen a U.S. policy solution seem so detached from the underlying problem it purports to address. Americans want more healthcare, and will need more as the population ages. But the existing system fails in almost every way to match economic benefits with costs, obscuring them instead.

And while the latest reform effort purports deficit reduction over ten years, it does so on roughly six years of expenditures and 10 years of tax increases. More importantly, medical entitlements have never been “overpriced” into budget outlooks allowing for positive cost surprises (see Figure 11). The healthcare overhaul achieves the bulk of its purported spending cuts through limiting Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, cuts that Congress has failed to pass through repeatedly since 2003, instead opting for more spending. Private insurers, meanwhile, would see some ostensible limits to their pricing, but generally would need to expand coverage, and purchases of healthcare services and goods.

In two places in the developing and developed world, laypeople mentioned to us that healthcare in the U.S. would now properly come for “free” for those unable to pay for it. If only that was true. Instead, future tax payers will have to come to grips with the costs of a system that for now is neither disciplined by competitive market forces nor rationed like other public welfare programs.

But if not in healthcare, rationing will take place in other places. Public education outlays for the future taxpayers have reportedly been a target of near-term budget constraints. While never free from waste, these are human resource investments that contribute to the future economic output. There are investments in the individuals who will carry the larger future tax burdens of the dependency bulge of coming decades.

We have been concerned for some time that a greater, unsustainable share of future entitlement outlays will end up deficit financed, with costs simply put off further into the future. At least that may be attempted. But among other concerns, lenders to the U.S. may feel less than certain about that stream of future income and output if incentives are so skewed against those who will need to provide it.

R.I.P. Michael Spencer

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord Jesus.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.
He comes up like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.
In the midst of life we are in death;
Whom may we seek as our helper, but you, Lord,
Who for our sins are justly displeased.
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and merciful Savior,
Deliver us not to bitter pains of eternal death.
You know, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; do not close
your merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, most holy
Lord, most mighty God, holy and merciful Savior, most
worthy eternal Judge; do not allow us, at our last hour,
for any pains of eternal death, to fall from you.
Godspeed to this man whom I feel that I know, though we never met.