Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tomorrow's Wealth Manager?


Amazon's Alexa is the voice that empowers our voices. We can summon news or music, order shampoo or groceries, turn on the lights….

The next step seems inevitable:

Alexa, what's my equities to fixed income ratio today? 

Today your ETF portfolio is 87 percent equities and 13 percent fixed income.

Alexa, rebalance to 80 percent equities, 20 percent fixed.

Rebalancing done. I've sent the trade details to your phone. 

Can Alexa take over the personal investing business without the ability to offer investment advice?  Sure. Millennial passive investors may see that disability as a plus.

Our Founder in 1942

The Merrill Anderson Company was founded in 1934 in New York City. Merrill was a successful copywriter who decided to start his own company. The company specialized in working with bank trust departments. 

Eight years after launching the Merrill Anderson Company, our founder was on a roll: he was elected president of the New York Financial Advertisers.
Good looking, wasn't he?

That wasn't Merrill's first appearance in The New York Times. Using Times Machine we found this item in an April 29, 1923 report on an AAU gymnastic meet.


Indian club swinging, popular in Victorian times, was losing favor in the 1920's, but it endured long enough to be a gymnastics event at the 1932 Olympics.

Our founder may not have been a gold medal club swinger, but he was a champion high jumper. And he captained the track team at Amherst.

Simple ways to save on your pet's medical costs



(BPT) - Pet parents know that there's nothing like the love of furry family members. Keeping your pets healthy is a priority because you want them to live as long as possible. However, health care costs for pets are expensive, and if you are dealing with additional expenses such as prescriptions for chronic conditions, it can become a burden to your budget.

Fortunately, there are several things pet owners can do proactively to keep pets healthy and save money on health care costs.

Invest in preventative care

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is just as applicable to pets as it is to their human caregivers. One of the most important things a pet parent can do to ensure the ongoing health of any animal is to bring them in for annual checkups whether they are experiencing health issues or not.

During wellness checkups, veterinarians can screen for a variety of health conditions. They provide insight on diseases, age-related concerns, dental health, nutritional considerations and so much more. Plus you're able to provide your pet with important vaccinations. Regular checkups help vets identify problems sooner rather than later, and this can translate to more affordable health care costs to pet parents in the long run.

Get an Inside Rx Pets prescription card

Costs for managing your pet's health can be a bear with pet owners spending more than $8 billion on prescription and over-the-counter medications annually. The Inside Rx Pets program offers savings on commonly prescribed medications such as insulin and antibiotics, as well as seizure, glaucoma and anti-inflammatory drugs. The Inside Rx Pets savings card is not insurance; it is a savings card you can use for certain human medications that may be prescribed for your pet. A complete list of the medications with which you can use the Inside Rx Pet card, as well as pricing information and other details, can be found at https://InsideRx.com/Pets.

Benefiting from these discounts is easy for pet parents: If your pet's veterinarian writes a prescription for an applicable medication, simply download the free discount card from the Inside Rx Pets website and present it with the prescription at one of the 40,000 participating pharmacies located across the U.S. that fill prescriptions for animals. These include national chains such as Kroger Family of Pharmacies, CVS and Walgreens (yes, the same pharmacies you go to for your own medications).

Exercise and focus on nutrition

Obesity is a growing concern for many pets. Poor nutrition paired with limited exercise causes pets to put on additional weight. This weight can put them at higher risk for health concerns like diabetes, osteoarthritis and ligament injuries. These health concerns not only risk the quality of life for Fluffy or Fido, but also can deeply impact your pocketbook.

Pets, just like humans, require exercise and proper nutrition to stay healthy and feel their best. Whether that's letting your rabbit out of the cage to run or going on a walk with your dog, be sure to make regular exercise a part of your fur family's routine. If you're unsure what is appropriate for your pet, call your veterinarian or bring it up at a wellness visit. They'll be delighted you reached out for more information to keep your pet healthy.

Start an emergency fund

Choosing between a pet and an unexpected health expense is something no one wants to experience. Being prepared can make a big difference when facing difficult decisions, so it's wise to have savings set aside in case of a rainy day.

Some people are starting pet health savings accounts (HSAs) that are similar to the accounts that people hold for themselves to pay for medical expenses. Whether you choose that path or a traditional savings account, when you have an emergency fund you won't have to worry about any unexpected expenses, so you can simply focus on getting your pet well again.

Being proactive is important for keeping your pets healthy for many years. From scheduling annual wellness visits to taking advantage of the Inside Rx Pets discount card, there are many easy actions pet parents can take today to reduce costs so furry family members stay well.



June is National Pet Adoption Month, a great time to consider providing a home to a pet from a local shelter.

Movie Review—Game Night


Game Night (film).png
Theatrical release poster

by Peter J. O'Connell

Game Night. Released: Feb. 2018. Runtime: 100 mins. MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual references, and some violence.

Game Night, co-directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein and written by Mark Perez, is about a night intended for fun and games that becomes a night of fright instead. But this clever movie makes that fright for the characters into fun for the audience.

Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are competitive gamers who meet during a trivia night at a bar, fall in love, and soon are married. The couple want to have a child, but that isn't happening, perhaps because Max feels stressed compared with his brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who claims to be a very attractive and successful Wall Street hotshot.

Max and Annie also are at pains to try to keep a somewhat creepy neighbor, Gary (Jesse Plemons), away from their game nights with friends. Gary is an awkward and humorless police officer, always in uniform, even at home, who stopped being regularly invited to game nights when his wife, a friend of Max and Annie's, divorced him. 

Brooks has rented a really nice house while visiting and invites Max and Annie to come there for a game night with their friends, a married couple, Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), and a dating couple, Ryan (Kelly Magnusson) and Sarah (Sharon Horgan). Max and Annie are determined to beat Brooks at whatever games are played. A preliminary game involving admission of having had sex with a celebrity causes tension between Kevin and Michelle when Michelle is the only one to admit to such a situation, which Kevin never had been told about. But then Brooks announces that he has set up an interactive role-playing mystery game, with the winner to receive Brooks' Corvette Stingray.

At this point an actor—Jeffrey Wright is the actor playing the actor—playing an FBI agent arrives with “dossiers” that provide clues for solving a kidnapping. But suddenly two thugs enter, actually knock out the actor, and take Brooks away despite his fierce resistance. The three couples, believing that this is all just part of a realistic game, set out to try and retrieve Brooks.

Numerous mishaps and misadventures follow, including Max's getting a gunshot wound, and eventually the couples learn that the kidnapping was really for real. Brooks makes a startling admission about his involvement with a gangster called The Bulgarian (Michael C. Hall) and a rich man (Danny Huston), who runs a fight club in his mansion and owns a very special Faberge egg. The couples need to take control of the egg. Their efforts result in a brilliantly choreographed and edited sequence in which the couples toss the fragile egg back and forth while running through corridors and up and down stairs in an attempt to evade pursuing thugs. Eventually, Gary has to be brought into the action, and the mix of game with actuality becomes even more tricky.

Game Night's action is realistic, up to a point, but then its scary and suspenseful nature is transformed into dark comedy by deliciously droll dialogue and deliciously deadpan acting. McAdams is enormously appealing, as she usually is, and Jesse Plemons is a marvel in the way that he turns utter humorlessness into humor. By the way, you should stay completely through the ending credits of the film for two delightful surprises. One is in the middle of the run of credits. The even more delightful one is at the very end of the credits, all the credits, right to the screen's turning blank. Then comes the surprise!  

  




Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Movie Review—Black Panther

Black Panther
Black Panther film poster.jpg

by Peter J. O'Connell

Black Panther. 134 mins. Released: Feb. 16, 2018. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence and a brief rude gesture.

Black Panther, directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, is a blockbuster featuring a comic-book hero, but it is also more than that. In some respects it can be seen as a kind of parable about the historical and current situation of the world's black people.

The movie begins aeons ago when a meteorite containing an extraordinary mineral, vibranium, crashes into Earth. After a warrior in Africa ingests a heart-shaped herb affected by the metal, he gains superhuman abilities and becomes the first Black Panther, a superhero. He unites various tribes to form the kingdom of Wakanda.

The movie then develops the interesting concept that Wakandans use vibranium to create a highly advanced technological society but hide that society behind a perceptual veil, as it were, that allows them to appear to the outside world as an isolated, primitive, pastoral society, not a prime target for colonialist exploitation. The underlying idea here, of course, is that Africa—and people of African descent—have an enormous unrealized potential. 

The movie then moves to Oakland, California, in 1992. If black potential is to be realized, questions of leadership and legitimacy have to be settled. T'Chaka (John Kani), king of Wakanda and potential Black Panther, has placed undercover operatives in various parts of the world to report on what is going on there. T'Chaka's brother, N'Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) is in Oakland and has become convinced that Wakanda's isolationist policies have done more harm than good. 

Thus N'Jobu has decided to work with black-market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) to remove vibranium from Wakanda and share it with people of African descent around the world in order to help them overcome their oppressors. T'Chaka confronts N'Jobu over this plan and kills him in a struggle. The clash of the brothers is perhaps a distant echo of the divergent perspectives on strategies for black advancement advocated by Booker T. Washington vis-a-vis W.E.B. DuBois  in the early 20th century and Martin Luther King vis-a-vis Malcolm X in the mid-20th century. 

The movie then moves back to Wakanda and forward to the present. T'Chaka has died, and his son, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), returns to Wakanda to take up the kingship and the potential Black Panther-ship. After M'Baku (Winston Duke), a warrior from a dissident tribe, is defeated by T'Challa in ritual combat (not using special powers), the new king looks forward to a peaceful and prosperous reign, surrounded by: Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), his former girlfriend; Okoye (Danai Gurira), head of the all-female special forces of Wakanda; Shuri (Letitia Wright), T'Challa's technologically brilliant young sister (who can function as a good role model for young black women); Ramonda (Angela Bassett), T'Challa's mother and one of his main advisers; and Zuri (Forest Whittaker), Black Panther's version of Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi. 

But a peaceful and prosperous reign by T'Challa is not yet possible. Klaue reappears and links up with Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), born N'Jadaka but nicknamed “Killmonger.” Killmonger is actually the son of N'Jobu, T'Challa's uncle. The killing of N'Jobu by T'Chaka, T'Challa's father, was kept secret, and the young N'Jadaka was left behind in Oakland. Eventually, he served as a U.S. “black ops” soldier. Now aware of his heritage, he has his own ideas about how Wakanda should be run—and they are not the same as T'Challa's. They are more like N'Jobu's.

In pursuit of his plan, Killmonger carries out a museum theft, clashes with CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), who becomes a T'Challa ally, and eventually arrives in Wakanda, where he challenges T'Challa to ritual combat and then leads a fierce rebellion. After much spectacular fighting and the emergence of the Black Panther, a future course for Wakanda is determined—and a direction for the world's black people initiated.

Black Panther has fine acting throughout by its African, African-American, Afro-British, and white American (Serkis and Freeman) cast, with Michael B.Jordan particularly notable. His Killmonger is screen-scorchingly intense. The film's costuming and makeup are outstanding, mixing traditional African elements with modernist ones. One cavil might be that the settings sometimes have the feel of Cecil B. DeMille-era ones rather than products of the latest computer-generated imagery. This situation somewhat takes away from the notion that Wakanda is very technologically advanced,. But overall, Coogler's Black Panther is a both an exciting and a thoughtful film. One might say that it has both emotional and intellectual bite!


“Footnote” to the film: The first “Black Panther” comic book came out in 1962. The militant Black Panther Party was organized in Oakland, California, in 1966.  






Artichoke Mashed Potatoes for Easter Dinner



Whether you do ham or lamb for Easter dinner, mashed potatoes make a terrific accompaniment. Actually, mashed potatoes are good almost any time, so maybe you’d rather have scalloped potatoes for Easter and save this artichoke-enhanced version of mashed for another time. Of course, plain old butter, milk, salt and pepper mashed potatoes are wonderful all by themselves. But should your soul hanker for a variation, artichokes are just the ticket.
I am the proud owner of a very large jar (thirty-three ounces, to be exact) of marinated artichokes in oil with a few seasonings added. I toss them into salads, or mix them into pasta dishes both hot and cold, or add them to tuna salad sandwiches, or tuck a quarter of an artichoke into an omelet. So handy. Somewhere along the line, I bumped into a pot luck dish of mashed potatoes with artichokes in them, and decided I would give that a try myself.
If you have artichokes canned in water, use those. I like the marinated ones because the oil, most of which I drain off, is fine mixed into the potatoes. If you have the water-canned ones add butter to your potatoes. Actually, you can add butter anyway, to taste. And while I am gilding the lily, I add garlic to the potatoes, too. That is certainly optional.
I suspect there are strong feelings about what potatoes to use. I know some are downright dogmatic about using russets. I’d agree with almost anyone who said waxy reds are not the best choice. I favor an all-purpose potato that I grow called Carola. Click here to continue reading.
So warm up some milk just as you normally would, keep your salt and pepper handy by, mash the potatoes with the artichokes tossed in, stop and taste, decide if it needs butter, or more salt and pepper. If you have some raw spinach, consider chopping it finely and adding that, too. It will make it pretty.

Simple ways to save on your pet's medical costs



(BPT) - Pet parents know that there's nothing like the love of furry family members. Keeping your pets healthy is a priority because you want them to live as long as possible. However, health care costs for pets are expensive, and if you are dealing with additional expenses such as prescriptions for chronic conditions, it can become a burden to your budget.

Fortunately, there are several things pet owners can do proactively to keep pets healthy and save money on health care costs.

Invest in preventative care

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is just as applicable to pets as it is to their human caregivers. One of the most important things a pet parent can do to ensure the ongoing health of any animal is to bring them in for annual checkups whether they are experiencing health issues or not.

During wellness checkups, veterinarians can screen for a variety of health conditions. They provide insight on diseases, age-related concerns, dental health, nutritional considerations and so much more. Plus you're able to provide your pet with important vaccinations. Regular checkups help vets identify problems sooner rather than later, and this can translate to more affordable health care costs to pet parents in the long run.

Get an Inside Rx Pets prescription card

Costs for managing your pet's health can be a bear with pet owners spending more than $8 billion on prescription and over-the-counter medications annually. The Inside Rx Pets program offers savings on commonly prescribed medications such as insulin and antibiotics, as well as seizure, glaucoma and anti-inflammatory drugs. The Inside Rx Pets savings card is not insurance; it is a savings card you can use for certain human medications that may be prescribed for your pet. A complete list of the medications with which you can use the Inside Rx Pet card, as well as pricing information and other details, can be found at https://InsideRx.com/Pets.

Benefiting from these discounts is easy for pet parents: If your pet's veterinarian writes a prescription for an applicable medication, simply download the free discount card from the Inside Rx Pets website and present it with the prescription at one of the 40,000 participating pharmacies located across the U.S. that fill prescriptions for animals. These include national chains such as Kroger Family of Pharmacies, CVS and Walgreens (yes, the same pharmacies you go to for your own medications).

Exercise and focus on nutrition

Obesity is a growing concern for many pets. Poor nutrition paired with limited exercise causes pets to put on additional weight. This weight can put them at higher risk for health concerns like diabetes, osteoarthritis and ligament injuries. These health concerns not only risk the quality of life for Fluffy or Fido, but also can deeply impact your pocketbook.

Pets, just like humans, require exercise and proper nutrition to stay healthy and feel their best. Whether that's letting your rabbit out of the cage to run or going on a walk with your dog, be sure to make regular exercise a part of your fur family's routine. If you're unsure what is appropriate for your pet, call your veterinarian or bring it up at a wellness visit. They'll be delighted you reached out for more information to keep your pet healthy.

Start an emergency fund

Choosing between a pet and an unexpected health expense is something no one wants to experience. Being prepared can make a big difference when facing difficult decisions, so it's wise to have savings set aside in case of a rainy day.

Some people are starting pet health savings accounts (HSAs) that are similar to the accounts that people hold for themselves to pay for medical expenses. Whether you choose that path or a traditional savings account, when you have an emergency fund you won't have to worry about any unexpected expenses, so you can simply focus on getting your pet well again.

Being proactive is important for keeping your pets healthy for many years. From scheduling annual wellness visits to taking advantage of the Inside Rx Pets discount card, there are many easy actions pet parents can take today to reduce costs so furry family members stay well.