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What's Behind the Numbers?: A Guide to Exposing Financial Chicanery and Avoiding Huge Losses in Your Portfolio
What's Behind the Numbers?: A Guide to Exposing Financial Chicanery and Avoiding Huge Losses in Your Portfolio
by John Del Vecchio
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.47
54 used & new from $3.76

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Grossly misleading presentation, August 8, 2013
Well, what to say about this...

The book is based on assuming the EMH is false. Nothing really wrong with that, it is a very debatable topic. And it is predicated on the small value premium existing. Again, nothing wrong with that. It provides a number of tools for evaluating stocks to include in a value portfolio and explains the role of eliminating stocks with signs of questionable accounting from your portfolio and potentially shorting said stocks as well. Probably OK so far all things considered.

So why the one star? Well, as a whole the presentation is somewhere between grossly misleading and downright fraudulent. This became less surprising when I read the jacket cover and saw both authors are associated with Motley Fool - the same group of people that brought you the back-test tuned "Foolish Four" portfolio that lost individual investors millions and was shown to under perform random portfolios.

As just one example consider the section on the "death cross" which is a technical market timing indicator based on crossing moving averages. This indicator has been evaluated over the historic data many times and the result is that it isn't an indicator at all. It doesn't work, no flavor or variation of it is predictive. Nevertheless the authors not only advocate it but first only run it back to about 2000 and then fine tune the averaging intervals to show it returned a huge positive return compared to buy-and-hold. This is back test tuning at its worst and only the most intellectually dishonest and reprehensible authors would do such a thing.

A careful reader will also note some of their other portfolio examples are run only over four years! They are already selecting for value stocks that have huge variation (SD's of like 25% or more). A four year analysis is completely meaningless, all you are looking at is noise and by tuning the portfolio parameters you can reach any conclusion you want. Even if you don't tune any random portfolio selection will show as much difference as they demonstrate through random variation alone over such a short period. As they have already demonstrated complete intellectual dishonesty in the back test tuning of the "death cross" one can only assume they've done even worse in these examples.

Yes, the book might include some interesting and even valid fundamental analysis techniques. Unfortunately the authors are clearly charlatans based on their writing and back testing - no reader would be well served by trusting what they write. It just isn't clear to me who this book is for. A savvy investor who can see through the authors' misleading statements already knows the fundamental analysis techniques outlined rather thinly in the book. A new investor will be mislead without the experience to be able to recognize and dismiss them.

A sad effort, and amazing it is reaping five star reviews. Proof again I guess that you can fool most of the people some of the time.

Look elsewhere. New investors - this book is packed with misleading data and you don't have the experience to tell right from wrong. Experienced investors - there are better texts on fundamental analysis than this not saddled with dishonest back testing. Experienced investors might find some humor in just how ridiculously bad the portfolio analysis examples are but I'm not sure that's worth your time or money. There are plenty of free examples just as bad on the internet, no need to buy the book to peruse their particularly egregious examples.

I'd like to give this more stars since it does include some nice presentations, but when a book has got "numbers" in its title and then the authors go out of their way to be insultingly dishonest with the numbers in their back testing I can only say I wish there was a negative star rating.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 24, 2013 9:40 AM PDT

The Only Guide You'll Ever Need for the Right Financial Plan: Managing Your Wealth, Risk, and Investments
The Only Guide You'll Ever Need for the Right Financial Plan: Managing Your Wealth, Risk, and Investments
by Larry E. Swedroe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.60
55 used & new from $9.09

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three or five stars?, July 18, 2013
The rating probably depends a lot on the audience.

First criticism - the title. Apparently publishers can't contain themselves from hyperbole and hucksterism! Anyway, ignore the silly title as the content within from the author is excellent, balanced and thoughtful.

The book is a high level overview of financial planning incorporating most aspects of an entire a financial lifetime. It assumes quite a bit of financial knowledge already and he will make little effort to convince you of things well established elsewhere (e.g. portfolio theory is assumed knowledge). Either come to the table with this knowledge or be ready to do some Googling and other reading. He brushes on these topics enough to remind you of the parts relevant to task at hand - forming an all inclusive financial plan. You will need to get the details elsewhere.

The book is actually rather short - less than 200 pages. And I consider that a positive attribute in this particular case. When trying to pull in the big picture being concise is best. However, and this is the key to this book, it is concise rather than just brief. The approach is very inclusive and rather sophisticated while avoiding getting bogged down in explaining details already explained elsewhere.

So, on the one level the book is likely too advanced for someone new to investing and financial planning. This is not a beginners book. On the other hand it doesn't really cover new ground in any one particular topic. For an advanced reader it might seem like ground retrodden with a lighter foot. But I find it much more than that, it is a book that unifies many different areas of investing and financial planning in a format concise enough for the reader to understand the whole. In that context I find it a five start book for sure. However, if one was to deconstruct it into just its individual chapters it would be easy for one to conclude it is of much lower value. In this case I find the sum is much greater than its parts.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2013 5:48 PM PDT

Tilley LTM2 Broadest Brim Lightweight Airflo Hat - Natural (8+)
Tilley LTM2 Broadest Brim Lightweight Airflo Hat - Natural (8+)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS is a SUN hat..., March 22, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Well it is a Tilley Hat. With all the standard Tilley excellence (and price to match). I won't go on about Tilley, you can find out more about them and their hats in many, many other reviews.

As to the LTM2 - this is a hat meant for actual sun. Yes other hats keep the sun off some parts of you but they make many compromises for style. Other hats typically have relatively narrow brims on the side which result in compromised ear and neck sun protection - especially at lower sun angles. Also most hats go for darker tones which means that hat gets warmer (simple physics).

The LTM2 on the other hand goes no holds barred for sun protection. The brim is giant. The dimensions don't make it seem so, but especially the extended side brims make it look huge and also provide much more shade for ears and the side of the neck. The "natural" color is also very light, not quite white but not even as dark as a beige. A cream color. This is excellent as more reflected sun light means less heating of your head.

I'll come straight out and say it - you will look like a dork wearing this hat. It is a combination of one of those giant floppy beach hats you expect a hotel heiress to be wearing on the Riviera and something a safari guide would wear. It is most definitely function over form.

That said if you need a hat for actual walking in the sun, I mean walking many miles in a desert with no shade in sight, there is no better hat. If on the other hand you need day to day protection while you drink coffee at a cafe table you can get a smaller more stylish hat.

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 (Silver) for Olympus and Panasonic Micro 4/3 Cameras
Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 (Silver) for Olympus and Panasonic Micro 4/3 Cameras
Price: $399.00
17 used & new from $300.00

29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid but not perfect performer, March 22, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The micro-four-thirds format has been blessed with some really excellent primes. The 75/1.8 and 12/2 are expensive but excellent. The 25/1.4 at its current price is superb. The 45/1.8 it an amazing value for the quality it delivers.

Where does the 17/1.8 fit? Well, at the moment a bit pricey for what it delivers I think. In the absence of the previously mentioned lenses it might rank five stars, but given the stiff competition I have trouble rating it above four stars. HOWEVER, for certain applications it is a five star lens.

There are already some excellent reviews, so I'll cut to the chase.

The lens has excellent center sharpness wide open, it has a nice bokeh, doesn't flare at all and color fringing in out of focus areas is so well controlled as to be a non-issue. AF is fast and build is excellent.

The corners are a bit soft wide open but not unusually so for such a lens. What is a bit disappointing is that they don't sharpen up as quickly as one would hope give the performance of other primes in the system. What this means is that when stopped down to F/4 or F/5.6 the image is acceptably sharp in the corners but it really isn't doing better than the better zooms.

What is the take-away from that kind of performance? For things like environmental portraiture or closer in "street shooting" where you want a wide aperture but the corners will be out of focus anyway this lens is great. There really isn't a better choice near this focal length for that - the 20/1.7 is the only thing close and its AF performance is quite a bit slower. I can attest it is great for babies/kids playing where a wider perspective still with shallow DoF makes very nice portraits.

On the other hand, if you are a landscape shooter who is looking for a prime to outperform a zoom in corner to corner sharpness at infinity focus and stopped down this lens is not particularly compelling (unlike say the 12/2 or 20/1.7).

So, wide open close to mid range portrait probably a five star lens. Landscape probably not quite four stars, maybe 3.5 simply because it offers little for the price compared to a zoom when shot stopped down at infinity focus.

One final disclosure. I have returned my copy of this lens. It appears to have a decentered element so one corner was much softer than the other three. I have tried to form my conclusions with the knowledge that my lens was not entirely up to snuff and supplement my experience with what I've learned from other reviews and sample images to fill in the gap. I have purchased lots of camera gear over the years and it is an unfortunate fact of life that on occasion you will get defective items - not every lens off the line gets a full optical test after all. It was my turn to get a bad one this time. Fortunately Amazon handles returns very easily for defective items and I was glad I had purchased from Amazon this time. If the lens had still been in stock I would have done an exchange - I like the lens for my uses. I'll probably be purchasing it again when the stock situation is improved.

UPDATE (4/24/13) - I now have a second copy of this lens that appears to have no issues and I've been able to do some more specific testing. Much of what is written above is still accurate. I would add, however, that in direct comparisons to the 20/1.7 I'm actually seeing not that big a difference. I think the claim that the 20/1.7 is sharper is perhaps a bit exaggerated by MTF50 numbers (fraught with problems) from various test sites rather than examining images visually. It appears the 20/1.7 is very marginally sharper with a tiny bit more contrast at the center of the frame viewed at 200% when shot at F/1.8. However, I'm also seeing that the extreme corners of the 17 are marginally sharper in the same case. Stopped down to F/4 and I see the same, slightly better center on the 20 and slightly better corners on the 17. Add in that the 17 has more pleasing bokeh than the 20 and I find it hard to claim the 20 is optically better than the 17 - perhaps different, but I don't think necessarily better.

I also shot a comparison against the 14-45 at with both lenses at 17mm and F/4. At the center they are nearly identical, viewed at 200% the 14-45 might be very slightly sharper but it suffers from a bit of purple fringing around highlights that the 17 does not. It the corners the 17 is a bit sharper, as one would hope. Again, I'm not sure the 17 is a huge improvement over a zoom for a landscape shooter (i.e. small aperture, edge to edge sharpness) but it does appear to be better than one of the nicest m43 zooms in this focal length.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 29, 2014 8:45 AM PDT

Lowepro LP36414 Event Messenger 100 Small Shoulder Camera Bag
Lowepro LP36414 Event Messenger 100 Small Shoulder Camera Bag
Price: $29.30
40 used & new from $27.00

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just right for micro-four-thirds, September 14, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Excellent bag for micro-four-thirds cameras. As small as the bag is it will hold an entire micro-four-thirds system. Three vertical dividers, the body fits on top with the attached lens in the center section. Side sections can then hold additional lenses. Can use as a three zoom set-up or a huge collection of primes. For primes it works best to remove the horizontal dividers and put the primes in small pouches. Holds a lot more this way. There are many possible configurations. For example I can fit my E-M5, Rokinon 7.5, Olympus 12/2, Panasonic 25/1.4, Olympus 45/1.8 and Olympus 75/1.8 with ease.

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm f1.8 (Silver) Lens for Olympus and Panasonic Micro 4/3 Cameras
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm f1.8 (Silver) Lens for Olympus and Panasonic Micro 4/3 Cameras
Price: $699.00
24 used & new from $565.92

163 of 172 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insanely good lens, September 14, 2012
I actually don't have too much to add that hasn't been said in the first few reviews.

This lens is insanely sharp, corner to corner, wide open. That is a pretty amazing thing to accomplish.

The bokeh is excellent. Color fringing in out of focus areas is well controlled (controlled, not absent).

Wide open, as one would expect, contrast is slightly lower, but image is still extremely sharp. Loss of contrast is minimal compared to most lenses in this class.

It does cost a fair bit. In my book well worth it.

Finally, to answer some of the typical criticisms:

"Why isn't it half the price like the 45/1.8" - The 45/1.8 is a very nice lens and a great value. The 75/1.8 is definitely higher quality. I've shot them side by side wide open. The 45/1.8 is going soft in the corners, the 75/1.8 is still sharp in the corners. They are two different lenses with different levels of optical quality and thus different prices.

"It is only F/1.8, expensive glass should be 1.4 or 1.2" - Well, this is meant for m43. It should be compact and lightweight. To me Olympus did this perfectly. It is an F/1.8 lens that is wickedly sharp all the way to F/1.8. If you compare to similar F/1.4 and F/1.2 lenses in other formats there the optical quality degrades wide open and yet the lens is much larger to allow for the wider maximum aperture. I prefer the Olympus approach - only go to F/1.8 to keep the size down but make the lens perfect all the way to F/1.8.

"I can adapt cheaper 85/1.8 lenses, this is too expensive" - I can say with confidence, there is absolutely no legacy 85mm lens in existence that sells for less than this lens that is as sharp at 1.8. You can get a lens that is cheaper and it will be noticeably softer at 1.8. Or you can get a lens that might be as sharp but it will cost as much or more even in the used market.

"It is really a F/3.6 lens in 35mm terms of depth of field" - Indeed. Who cares. If you find vanishingly shallow DoF portraits with one eyelash in focus to be your thing don't get a micro-four-thirds camera. Better still, skip 35mm and go straight to MF. While your at it get a nice pair of hipster glasses and some black clothes to go with your tired photographic trope ;)
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2015 2:47 PM PDT

Dura-Grip® Heavy Duty 2" Round, 3/8" Thick Non-Slip Rubber (No glue or nails) Furniture Floor Pads, Protectors-Set of 8
Dura-Grip® Heavy Duty 2" Round, 3/8" Thick Non-Slip Rubber (No glue or nails) Furniture Floor Pads, Protectors-Set of 8
Offered by DURA-GRIP Pads
Price: $14.99
2 used & new from $14.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really work, awesome product, May 13, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Wow, nothing moves anymore on our hardwood. These things are excellent. I was a bit hesitant as they seem pricey, but since less expensive options proved ineffective and the reviews were good I gave them a try. Wow do they work. Heck, I can jump into the smallest parts of our sectional and it doesn't budge.

As other reviewers pointed out they are thick pads and not that attractively colored. Trimming and coloring might be in order in a visible setting if you are fussy about what the feet on the furniture looks like. In my case I'm just happy I found something that actually works and works really well.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers
Price: $25.73

127 of 134 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle Edition is AWFUL!!!, May 13, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I am really pained as to how to review this.

The content, like all of Evening's books is excellent. Five stars for sure.

The Kindle edition would require negative stars to properly rate. It is absolutely horrid. This is a book on photography and the sample images are hyper compressed to the point they are just a sea of artifacts. All of the samples in the sharpening chapter are therefore worthless. Everything looks like trash.

Next, this is about a graphical application and as such includes many screen shots, both small and large. The captions often include useful annotations that are complementary to the text. In a proper page layout this results in an easy to read flow as you can hop from the text, to the figure and back again easily. In flows of related figures both the text and figures can have a natural spatial flow. In Kindle's draconian linear arrangement this is not possible and the result is a broken and barely intelligible quagmire of text and figures in a willy nilly arrangement.

Most amateurish and ridiculous are key sequences. Being a book on a computer text there are lots of these, including option and alt keys a plenty. Here they are rendered as over pixelated blobs that worse still are not integrated in the text but instead occur by themselves preceded and followed by line breaks! This is insane! It is as if someone attacked the text with scissors and pasted together a ransom note.

Keep in mind this was viewed both on a Kindle device and on the iPad Kindle app and it looks like trash on both and is essentially unreadable.

What pains me the most is that the new iPad is just delicious for reading graphics heavy PDFs and this book would be wonderful to own in such a format - PDF of the paper version with its proper page layouts. I guess I'll grudgingly have to kill a bunch of trees and burn oil to get the overweight paper edition delivered. The Kindle edition is unusable.

Is one star fair? Again, I'm pained as Amazon lumps the print and Kindle ratings and reviews together. Furthermore, I know they pressure authors to do Kindle editions and typically the royalties are higher to the author for the Kindle edition. In this case Martin Evening is serving neither his readers nor himself by offering the Kindle edition. Which is a shame, I like the author and his work and I would rather give the content the five stars it deserves. Unfortunately Amazon has decided to force me to drag down both editions ratings.

In conclusion - Amazon stop pretending these editions are the same. They are not, one is a beautifully crafted text and the other is unusable garbage. Mr. Evening, I'd recommend you pull the Kindle edition - it does you no credit and is a disservice to your readers. Insist Amazon provide a useful and modern format that preserves the careful page layout of your text before attempting an ebook edition again.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2012 5:33 AM PST

Olympus OM-D E-M5 16MP Live MOS Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch Tilting OLED Touchscreen and 14-42mm Lens (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Olympus OM-D E-M5 16MP Live MOS Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch Tilting OLED Touchscreen and 14-42mm Lens (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Price: Click here to see our price
7 used & new from $519.77

55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets most everything right..., April 24, 2012
Well as of the time of writing this review it is rather hard to get one of these cameras, and as a highly anticipated camera I'm sure there will be many reviews better than mine soon. Here though is the quick early adopters guide:

- As an Olympus camera this thing is ridiculously configurable. You can swap dial functions, directions, many programmable buttons and so forth. This means from an ergonomic perspective you can get it to do nearly anything you want.

- It is most definitely a small camera. Some early adopters are finding that troublesome and prefer to add the optional grip. Personally I don't mind small cameras and so far have been very happy using it.

- The IBIS system does make a whispering noise. It is audible to the photographer in a quiet room. Still audible held at arms length in a very quiet room.

- The shutter is very quiet for a focal plane shutter. Certainly the quietest micro-four-thirds shutter so far.

- The IBIS system is very good, at least at the moderate focal lengths I've tested it at (45mm) it performs exceptionally with an easy 3 stop advantage. A quick test at around 150mm was less satisfactory, maybe two stops at best though is seems to be what the Panasonic OIS systems are doing at such focal lengths as well. More testing needed.

- Image quality is excellent. I'm still waiting for RAW support from Adobe, but interim tests by myself and others show it at least on par with the GH2 and G3 - perhaps a bit better in both high ISO noise and low ISO dynamic range.

- AF is very fast. Early adopters have discovered a rather interesting "feature" - you can make many AF functions perform even better by selecting higher contrast and saturation settings in the camera. It appears the CDAF system uses the JPEG engine output. Counter intuitive to be sure, but users are posting clear improvements in continuous AF mode especially if using high contrast vivid settings.

- One apparent gotcha so far - IBIS does not function in video mode with adapted MF lenses. They work just fine in stills mode, and IBIS works in video mode with native micro-four-thirds lenses just fine, but no luck with adapted lenses in video mode for IBIS. Multiple users confirm and I've tested this as well. So if you've got a bunch of adapted cine lenses you were hoping to use hold off until it is determined that this is a correctable firmware bug or a true limitation of the IBIS system.

- The OLED display on the back (LCD I suppose you could call it) has a fairly pronounced color shift when viewed even slightly off angle. This appears to be a limitation of this type of OLED display. Things go a bit green when viewed even 10 or 15 degrees off axis. A slightly annoying aesthetic issue.

Overall a wonderful camera. Excellent sensor plus great IBIS opens up lots of possibilities for low light shooting with primes that hasn't existed in this system so far. Either you got IBIS and a so-so sensor from Olympus or a good sensor and no IBIS from Panasonic. Best of both worlds with this camera.

Warnings would be that some folks find it "too small" to be comfortable and that it is not an inexpensive camera so consider the value proposition. For instance, the Panasonic G3 is significantly less expensive and has comparable image quality and many comparable features.

That's it for now, but definitely a five star product in my book.


Some further thoughts, some comparing to the GH2.

- There isn't a particularly quick way to change between bracketing and standard shooting on the OM-D (the GH2 has a nice dedicated switch). In theory you could use a "Myset" on the OM-D (the Olympus implementation of custom modes) but I really find the "Myset" implementation to be difficult to use and suspect I'll never use it. The OM-D does support a vast array of bracketing options.

- The GH2 has a "record" button right on the top of the camera that switches you to video mode and is easy to bump, a definite annoyance. On the OM-D you can program its similar button to do something actually useful which is much better.

- There is an excellent live view mode called "highlights and shadows" which displays highlight and shadow clipping areas in real time on the live view (highlights turn orange, shadows blue). You can even set the thresholds for the clipping indicators. This is an excellent feature, and more useful than a live histogram if you are attempting "expose to the right" kinds of techniques. Many cameras (GH2 included) can display clipping in playback, but of course it is most useful in live view. Of course the clipping indicators are based on the JPEG engine so if you would need to tweak the JPEG settings to better match RAW levels if you are a RAW shooter.

One more thought on the camera being small and the grip a bit "crimpy". It seems like from reading user reviews those that typically shoot with two hands (left cradling the body and lens, right controlling the camera) are likely to be happy. Those that often shoot with one hand are probably going to notice the tight grip and controls placement more.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2012 3:19 AM PDT

EzFoto Bayonet Mount Lens Hood Shade for Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 lens, 100% replaces LH-40B
EzFoto Bayonet Mount Lens Hood Shade for Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 lens, 100% replaces LH-40B
Price: $11.00
3 used & new from $6.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Good inexpensive hood..., February 20, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This lens hood is far less expensive than the rapacious offering from Olympus. It is reversible, which is nice for compact storage. The plastic is not as thick or rigid as some hoods I own but it is perfectly functional. The fit is a little bit loose as well.

In my opinion the lightweight and reversibility makes it a superior option to threaded hoods despite the slightly cheap feel.

All and all I'm happy with the product and performance for the price.

One star to Olympus for once again not including the hood with multi-hundred dollar lenses.

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