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Friday, December 25, 2015

Banish the Winter Blues at These Massachusetts Attractions

Fancy orchids (see above) or camelias ? Then head to the Lyman Estate Greenhouses in Waltham, with greenhouses chock full of blooms. Some are available for sale, as well.

It's not too late to take in the Christmas lights at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens in Boylston MA. Just get there before January 4.  There's more to see than just the lights, like, say the Orangerie.

While you're in that part of the state, take a brief detour to Clinton and the Museum of Russian Icons,  and walk a couple of blocks to have a nosh -- say, coffee and some kattayif or baklava -- at Zaytoon, 72 High Street. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Carols

On Christmas Eve, I can think of no better program of Carols and Lessons than that offered by King's Chapel at Cambridge and its renowned choir. 

Among my favorites are the traditional Adam Lay Ybounden, the Sussex Carol, and Once in Royal David's City (which leads the program).


Once in royal David's city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed;
Mary, loving mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall.
With the poor, the scorned, the lowly
lived on earth our Savior holy.

Jesus is our childhood's pattern;
day by day, like us he grew;
he was little, weak, and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew;
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

Adam Lay Ybounden

Adam lay ybounden,
   Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
   Thought he not too long.
And all was for an apple,
   An apple that he took,
As clerk√ęs finden written
   In their book.
Nor had one apple taken been,
   The apple taken been,
Then had never Our Lady
  A-been heaven's queen.
Blessed be the time
   That apple taken was.
Therefore we may singen
   Deo gratias!

Sussex Carol

1. On Christmas night all Christians sing
 To hear the news the angels bring
 On Christmas night all Christians sing
 To hear the news the angels bring


 News of great joy news of great mirth
 News of our merciful King's birth
 When from our sin he set us free
 All for to gain our liberty?

2. Then why should men on earth be so sad
 Since our Redeemer made us glad
 Then why should men on earth be so sad
 Since our Redeemer made us glad


3. When sin departs before his grace
 Then life and health come in its place
 When in its place, angels and men with joy may sing
 All for to see the new born King


4. All out of darkness we have light
 Which made the angels sing this night
 Glory to God and peace to men
 Now and forever more, Amen.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

NFL/ESPN Aversion Therapy Working !!!

In my May 10 post on the subject of NEVER-TO-BE-SPOKEN-OF-AGAIN-GATE, I recounted how the rank excesses as well as prejudices, hatreds, and calumnies -- look it up, Gen X'ers and milennials -- had weaned me from a routine of watching ESPN, NFL Network, and listening to Sports radio.

I can report that with the exception of VB day -- Victory Brady Day -- my mild addiction has been conquered.  I no longer feel the need to hear opinions proferred by the nattering nabobs in Bristol and elsewhere. I just don't give a damn.  And if, say, I find out that a product I use is the endorsed by ESPN, well, sayonara product.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Here's a thought for the Boston 2024 Olympics...

Forget the bloated Olympic games that serve no useful public purpose, let alone justify the massive dislocations and expenses involved. By all means, ask the Greeks what their legacy from the 2004 games was, beyond crushing debt and crumbling, useless venues.  Then consider what a worthy 2024 Olympics for Boston should be : a comprehensive, ambitious project designed to repair roads and bridges, rescue the schools and public education, work with the Commonwealth to repair and improve mass transit,  address urban over-development and attendant congestion, and reform the city's finances with a view to reducing the oppressive property-tax burden on those who are not in the 1%.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

R.I.P., Louis Johnson

...founder of the Brothers Johnson, pictured above, at left,  To hear the group's hit recording STOMP, click here.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Grim Thoughts on a Grey, Windy, Rainy Day

Are we staggering toward an imminent, ineluctable economic, political, social, cultural, and/or environmental apocalypse, of the sort for which Mad Max, above, is the indisputable poster-boy ?

Damned if I know, but for such a demise, I can conceive of no better soundtrack than the second movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, conducted by Furtwangler.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Deflategate Coverage - Aversion Therapy or Mere Torture ?

Like the cigarettes above, too much of a good thing -- even a known carcinogen -- really can put you off an addiction. Whether in the form of deliberate professionally-applied aversion therapy, or not.

In my case, the nonstop voluminous, pervasive, sanctimonious spewings about Deflategate have cured me of a mild addiction to Sports Talk on TV and the Web. Gone are the days when I'd watch Mike and Mike or Pardon the Interruption , or fire up the laptop and follow the NFL Draft on ESPN or read Peter King's MMQB column at SI. Or have the radio playing WEEI or The Sports Hub in the background for, golly, minutes at a time.

Don't think I'll be tuning in much to the NFL Network, let alone many NFL games next season. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Blogger DJ's Musical Choice Tonight is one of his Jazz faves...

Click to hear.
... Duke Ellington's Band performing Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue -- featuring a legendary 27-chorus sax improv by Paul Gonsalves -- at the Newport Jazz Festival. Enjoy the remix !

What's a 'GICS', and Why Should We ETF -- or any -- Investors Care ?

The GICS Hierarchy
Because we should have some general idea what we're investing in, which is pretty much what the GICS -- Global Industry Classification Standard -- was designed to provide.

According to the Morgan Stanley Capital International [MSCI] website

  • In 1999, MSCI and Standard & Poor’s developed the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS), seeking to offer an efficient investment tool to capture the breadth, depth and evolution of industry sectors.
  • GICS is a four-tiered, hierarchical industry classification system.
  • It consists of 10 sectors, 24 industry groups, 67 industries and 156 sub-industries.
  • Companies are classified quantitatively and qualitatively. Each company is assigned a single GICS classification at the sub-industry level according to its principal business activity. MSCI and Standard & Poor’s use revenues as a key factor in determining a firm’s principal business activity.
  • Earnings and market perception, however, are also recognized as important and relevant information for classification purposes, and are taken into account during the annual review process.

  • The 10 Sectors are :

    • Consumer Discretionary
    • Consumer Staples
    • Energy
    • Financials
    • Health Care
    • Industrials
    • Information Technology
    • Materials
    • Telecommunication Services
    • Utilities

    So... Leaving aside the fact that the nifty icon shows 68 industries, and MSCI cites 67... let's say we want to know what's classified as part of Financials (Sector 40).  Digging into the MSCI spreadsheet, we find, among the Financials Industry Groups, Insurance (4030) and Real Estate (4040), Drilling down we find among Real Estate's subindustries the category REITs, or Real Estate Investment Trusts (404020).

    Okay, so where am I going with this ? 

    Say, for some reason, you read Dave Dierking's SEEKING ALPHA post, "Preferred ETFs: 5-6% Yields, But What Are The Risks?".

    Observing that three such ETF's are heavily concentrated in Financials, some of which have less than Investment-grade credit ratings, the author concludes...
    Preferred stocks' reputation as lower risk investments is generally deserved as any examination of betas, standard deviations and price performance charts will attest to. But it's important to realize that many of these ETFs are riskier than most people realize when examining the credit quality of holdings and the content of the portfolio.
    The ETFs focused on in this article invest mainly in financials, but there are more diversified options out there like the Market Vectors Preferred Securities ex Financials ETF (NYSEARCA:PFXF), which is more diversified amongst utilities, defensive and industrial preferreds.
    Now one would infer from its name that Market Vectors Preferred Securities ex Financials wouldn't contain a single investment in that sector. But as Ron Rowland points out in his SEEKING ALPHA post,PFXF: New Market Vectors Preferred ETF Is 37% Financials"...
    Market Vectors Preferred Securities ex Financials ETF (NYSEARCA:PFXF), which launched on July 17, is designed to track the Wells Fargo Hybrid and Preferred Securities ex Financials Index (PFXF overview). Wells Fargo defines the Financials sector differently from the better-known GICS scheme. GICS considers Insurance and REITs to be part of the Financials sector. Wells Fargo and PFXF classify these two industries elsewhere. This creates the odd discrepancy of an ETF with “excluding Financials” in its name which holds 37% in the sector, based on the more popular GICS definition.
    According to the PFXF fact sheet (pdf), the underlying index consists of 68 securities with an average current yield of 6.8%. Industry breakdown includes REITs at 30.8%, Electric Utilities 26.3%, Auto Manufacturers 12.0%, Telecommunications 7.6%, Insurance 6.1%, and Energy 5.2%.
    Conclusion:  you can't just rely on the name of an ETF, or an investment firm's sticking to the GICS. Drill down into the ETF portfolio to see what it's made of, or you could be in for a rude surprise.

    Wednesday, April 29, 2015

    Where Can You Find a Reasonably Reliable U.S. GDP Forecast ?

    The Atlanta Fed. It's all about money.
    Apparently, all you've got to do is check out the Atlanta Fed GDPNow estimate.

    Why ?  Wolf Richter explains in his article, "Atlanta Fed’s “GDP Now” Model Totally Nailed Ugly Q1, “Blue-Chip” Economists Ludicrously Optimistic".

    Peace out.

    Is Your ETF at Death's Door ?

    Check out Ron Rowland's April 2015 Deathwatch List, for the latest additions and deletions at SEEKING ALPHA.

    To scan the entire Deathwatch list, to find out what criteria Rowland uses to add an Exchange Traded Product to the list, or to read his suggestions on what to do if your ETF succumbs, click on the respective links.