Five Tenets for Investing

As Yogi Berra taught us; “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” We are living through some tumultuous times. The world gorged on debt and times were good. Now we are paying the price for this excess and are in the midst of a painful worldwide de-leveraging process. Nobody knows how long this economic malaise will last. Should we be pessimistic or optimistic? Time will tell. Nonetheless, I feel strongly that betting against the progress of human history and innovation has always proven to be a losing proposition over the long run. Yes, in the short run, there are times to be cautious. The last five years confirm that. But circumstances change. Markets and economies are cyclical. Economic growth and positive investment returns follow contraction and investment losses just as day follows night.

So how do we invest in this crazy world and keep our sanity? There is really no secret or magic formula. Below are some fundamental guidelines for investing that I believe can guide you through any type of market. The information age we live in has made investing more complicated and confusing than ever. Individual investors are bombarded with an information overload on a daily basis. My advice is to turn down this “white noise” by doing the following:

Know and keep your objectives in place, only altering them when circumstances force a change. Consider adhering to my Five Tenets for Investing:

  1. Invest with a plan. Sounds basic enough but have a specific plan and time frame for your money.
  2. Diversify. Invest globally and maintain exposure to a variety of asset classes.
  3. Invest with a professional. Get some help. A professional can help you put a plan together to reach your goals and manage risk. More importantly, a professional cam help take the emotion out of investing by injecting some rational thinking and perspective. This is crucial during downturns.
  4. Invest continually.  Up or down markets, keep reinvesting and adding to those accounts.
  5. Have patience. Probably the most important tenant of all. The biggest pitfall I see for investors of all ages is not sticking to their plan. Too often, investors change the direction of long-term plans by making short-term decisions based on emotion. Decide if you are an “investor” or a “trader.” Investing should only be undertaken with a long-term time horizon.

Damien helps individuals invest and manage risk. He is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and a principal of Walnut Creek Wealth Management. These are the views of Damien Couture, CFP® and should not be construed as investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Additional risks are associated with international investing, such as currency fluctuations, political and economic stability and differences in accounting standards. Not all recommendations are suitable for all investors. Each investor must consider their own goals, time horizon and risk tolerance.  Your comments are welcome.  Damien can be reached at 925-280-1800 x101 or



Take the Style Makeover Test

Now is the perfect time for a style makeover! January is resolution crazed—organizing, eating well, and exercising — if you’ve kept your promises, then you deserve a treat. Not chocolate, but the opportunity to take your style to the next level. How do you know if you’re in need of a style makeover? Answer these questions:

  1. Are your clothes 10+ years old and no longer relevant to your current lifestyle?
  2. Do you own only basics and solids? (Yawn)
  3. Is there a “disconnect” between your personality and how you dress?
  4. Is your closet full of clothes, yet you have “nothing to wear”?
  5. Are you experiencing a life transition—job change/promotion, a special birthday, or a weight-loss goal accomplishment?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then … Congratulations, you are worthy of a new you!

Start at the top: Hair. Seek hairstyles that are interesting to you. If you see a gal with a great cut, ask her where she got it. If she agrees to a photo, take a picture with your cell phone. Your hairstylist will advise you if that cut will work for your hair texture and face shape. Sometimes, a new hairstylist can make the change you want, but give your current stylist a chance first. Odds are he/she has been dying to update you for a while.

Next: Make-up. Meet with a professional make-up artist, either an independent consultant or a representative of your favorite cosmetics line. Defining your brows is a quick fix—tweezing or waxing can give your face a “lift,” helping you look and feel more youthful. With make-up, highlighting your favorite feature is key, so if you love your eyes, “play them up,” and go neutral elsewhere. A fresh, new lipstick is the most cost-efficient change a gal can make—just be sure you’ve chosen a shade that compliments your skin tone. If you don’t know, just ask!

Pencil Skirt


White Jeans



And finally:Your Wardrobe. Purging worn out, out-of-date and frumpy old clothes from your closet can be intimidating—but it doesn’t have to be, and it’s a big first step. Enlisting the help of a fashionable friend or hiring a seasoned professional style consultant will provide you with an invaluable objective eye.

Once you’ve eliminated the “unworthy” items, there are essential items that should either remain in the mix or may be added. My favorites include dress slacks, a cardigan sweater, a pencil skirt (photo 1), white jeans (photo 2), a nude shoe, a neutral blazer (photo 3), a daytime (funeral-appropriate) dress (photo 4) and a little (not necessarily black) cocktail dress (photo 5).


Makeover TV shows demonstrate that even the most fashion-challenged can discover their personal style. It’s definitely the most exciting part of my job, and the makeovers shown on my website are dramatic examples. Don’t be embarrassed…everyone needs a bit of help now and then. Best of all, it can be affordable, fun and a positive step towards your best YOU!


Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Jen, who was treated to a style update after she lost seventy pounds!! Check out her story and testimonial on my website at She describes her transformation as “life-changing.” I agree. It’s quite possibly the best gift you can give yourself or to someone you love.

So, take a close look at your hairstyle, make-up and wardrobe. If it’s time for a change, don’t hesitate. Make it happen … you deserve it!

Can I Get a Witness?

My old newspaper buddy Doug and I talk a few times a year. We used to work for the same paper in Sarasota,Fla; I covered crime and he still works there as a sports columnist.

In traditional male mode, I am not super chatty. But I find myself in these calls talking for 10 or 15 minutes straight to my old friend. It’s no coincidence that Doug has had a great career as a journalist and columnist. How does he rope-in me and his other interview subjects? He listens. I try to remind myself of Doug’s patient and active listening strategy when I am in the field interviewing witnesses.

There are several different schools and methods in private investigations and police work that focus on interviewing or interrogations. Some of these techniques perhaps go overboard on the interviewer controlling the subject, content of the interview or even the seating. The truth in the private sector, as compared to law enforcement, is that as investigators we have no authority what-so-ever to force people to cooperate or to talk. You lose all credibility if you make a threat you can’t enforce. Whereas as there potentially are charges for not cooperating with or lying to a law enforcement officer, there are no consequences for telling a private investigator to get…lost.

I don’t make a living if I don’t get witnesses to cooperate. In a high stakes legal case, whether criminal defense or civil, witnesses make or break it. Private investigators in the field are the eyes and ears for attorneys. We also act as buffers in communications between witnesses and lawyers.

As a newspaper reporter and private investigator I have been interviewing people professionally for about 25 years. I approach interviewing as a dialog and opportunity to get important information, sometimes which will result in a statement or declaration for court. If I try to steamroll, arm-twist or bulldoze, I will get shut down faster than a drug deal in a police station.

I want to build trust and get the interview off the street or door step and into a restaurant or home or some other place where we can have a more detailed conversation. (I once had a former P.I. boss tell me “to ask questions until they throw you out.”) Every witness is different, some will hate you at first but come back to you like a lost love, some are “dream witnesses” who have saved important documents, some get involved because they like inserting themselves into a situation and some are deathly afraid to talk.

Some witnesses or interview subjects are just angry, guilty liars. I have had a few interviews where I know I am going down in flames. When confronted, I will sometimes fire back with blunt verbal force that may or may not elicit information. Every situation is different.

My advice for anyone trying to obtain information from someone else is:

  •  Be prepared. Know something about the subject and or person and be willing to trade some information or facts.
  • Keep an open mind. Too many preconceived notions will poison the ability to listen.
  • Try the “power of silence.” Just be quiet and see how they respond.
  • Determine a “baseline” for your subject. See how they answer and talk about non-sensitive subjects before you escalate to more pointed questions.
  • Be aware of non-verbal cues and “micro-expressions.” These little shoulder shrugs or nose wrinkles may not indicate deception but might suggest anxiety, anger, contempt.
  • Take your time.

For more information or help regarding this topic, or any other security or investigative issue, please visit our website by clicking on our ad…

Spencer Elrod Services

Spencer Elrod Services


Trivial Matters

Last month, I contacted our editor, Eric, from a KMart in Scotts Valley, California. Eric accused me of characterizing this drivel as a “Blue Light Special.” I’ll show him!

  1. In the 40’s, there was a song that advertised “Fryers, broilers and Detroit Barbecued Grits. What was the name of that eating establishment?
  2. Westinghouse sponsored the TV show “Studio One” in the 50’s. They refused to air a Kipling classic due to the possible reflection on their product. What was the name of that Kiplng work?
  3.  What was Johnny Odom’s nickname as an Oakland A’s pitcher?
  4.  It was the weirdest movie of the late 70’s, directed by David Lynch and featuring Dennis Hopper as a hopped up Gangster. What was it?
  5. What were the laws that existed in several states that did not allow alcohol to be dispensed on Sundays?
  6. Speaking of Scotts Valley, who was the famous movie director who owned a house there that overlooked Monterey Bay?

January Answers:

  1. Will Ferrell in “Elf”
  2.  Hank Bauer
  3.  Bob Dylan
  4.  The tattooed man
  5.  Orson Welles
  6.  Arnold Johnson

The first person to email or mail, no calls please, the correct answers to all of the above questions will win a $25 gift certificate at The Uptown Cafe in downtown Danville, compliments of Ben Fernandez!

Entries must be received by Feb. 15, 2012. In the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn at random. Please email your answers to, or mail to ALIVE East Bay, 3200 A Danville Blvd., Ste. 204, Alamo, CA 94507. Employees and family members of employees of ALIVE East Bay are not eligible. Restaurant may be changed without notice.

New Year Probate Changes

As of the first of this year, there was a big change in Probate law for the State of California. There are two standard types of Probate in California: a court probate, which typically last nine months to a year, or what is known as “summary probate.” Summary probate, also known as “small estates probate,” can happen as soon as 40 days after someone’s death. It is as simple as the preparation of a form and attachment of a death certificate. The form must comply with State law, and must be accepted by financial institutions. If real property (which is land) is involved, there is a process that just involves filing with the Court, having it approved, and recording the Court’s order with the County Recorder.

The big change this year is the change in amount that qualifies for this shorter process. As of January 1, 2012, as long as the estate does not exceed $150,000, this process can be utilized to collect assets. Prior to January first, the amount was $100,000. This means that heirs can collect assets in a way that is much faster and less costly. To determine whether this method is applicable, one must determine the fair market value of the asset. For example, if the asset is stock, it is based on the current stock price. If the asset is real property, there is a process to have a court approved appraiser value the property to determine if it qualifies.

This change in law will be a great benefit to the many heirs who are trying to collect assets upon the loss of a loved one. It will save time and money, and a great deal of stress. Often, I find that clients are asked for probate papers, otherwise known as a Letter Testamentary, by a financial institution, when this summary probate procedure can be utilized. If you are not sure, it can be well worth the effort to consult with an attorney to find out if you are dealing with an estate that is subject to these new rules.

Stamps In My Passport – Romanian Toilets

A mild warning – this is a sensitive subject which may offend some of my more gentle readers. Nevertheless, it is a topic that needs to be addressed by all faithful travelers. I bravely march ahead into this uncharted territory, hoping you will forgive me.

 There are certain physiological activities we all have in common – traits shared by every living creature. Periodically we parade to the nearest comfort station, water closet, loo, or commode. (The names may vary around the world.) But they all describe the same common need – we are responding to nature’s urgent message. What greets us varies a great deal, depending on where in the world we happen to be when this necessity finds us. While a large number of these so-called rest stops are similar to the ones we have become used to in our homes, others greet us with an entirely new, and often confusing set of plumbing devices. It is these unusual visits that I’ve encountered which are the basis for the descriptions that follow.

It was very early in my travels when I was introduced to what the Romanians call the “Turkish Toilet,” and the Turkish people call the “Romanian Toilet.” These less-than-descriptive terms could easily have any other countries’ names substituted in their title. Basically they consist of a hole in the floor which may be ten to 12 inches in diameter. Although the first time one encounters one of these it appears to be about half that size. On either side of this bottomless chasm are two footprints. The latter items are placed here to improve the aim of those less accustomed to this method. For many westerners the unfamiliar squat that is required needs all the assistance it can get for a miss is a disaster, and heaven help us if we tip over. Invariably there seems to be an unusual amount of moisture about the target. Keeping your pants or skirt off the surface requires a certain degree of dexterity. Needless to say, this rest stop is not one of my favorites. A number of years ago I rode a train in Russia which used this method. The jostling motion and the view of the track through the opening remains one of my most feared nightmares.

Another unsettling scene is the one I refer to as the “lack-of-modesty” comfort station. I have run into this category in Africa, Central America, and Nepal – and even on the streets of Paris. Regardless of this wide geographical expanse, they can still be grouped into a single category. In some of these locations they can quickly be dismissed by merely saying “go behind that tree.” In other areas you find yourself precariously balanced on a narrow board or tree branch, protected by a leafy screen with your head higher than the top, therefore able to see all the people watching you. Admittedly you are screened from the shoulders to the knees, but not only is the head open for full viewing, but so is anything that drops to your ankles. Regardless of the constant personal reminder that this activity is universal, it still remains an immodest act for me. Before I leave this category completely, I need to mention those practically-private public stalls sprinkled in some downtown areas of Europe. I wish they extended some two feet higher and went all the way to the ground. I just don’t know where to look when I use one of these places. If you look about and catch someone’s eye looking at you – well, it’s awkward. Looking down doesn’t seem right either. I just don’t know. In Central America I came upon one of these stalls over a river. No secrets were hidden here.

Even when the plumbing is close to matching the ones in my house, I am often confronted with a dilemma. For example, where is the flusher? Some older models have large water collectors mounted on the wall five or six feet above the porcelain receptacle. This system is usually activated by a pull chain with a nice wooden handle. It is often best to stand well back when activating this device because the water comes down in a huge rush, often splashing the surroundings with moisture. Even when the water tank is located in a position you are used to, it can cause a problem. Occasionally the valve refuses to close, and a persistent trickle continues on and on. This forces you to remove the cover and make an adjustment before the flush can be repeated – not a pleasant task. I also dislike those that imply an automatic flush – i.e., no handle. They mostly don’t work.

Probably the one I had the most difficulty mastering was the one I found in several South American countries. I will use the Galapagos Islands as the example. To begin with, the “throne” in most cases is very traditional looking. It is the sign above it and the container next to it which elevate it to be part of this article. To paraphrase this sign, usually in Spanish first, but English is close behind, it reads “Do not put paper in the toilet. Use the waste basket.” I have several possible comments here, but prudence suggests I move on and let your imaginations fill in the details.

I assume by this time you’ve lost interest so I will close – saving some of the more bizarre experiences for later stories.

2012 Kia Soul – Funky Attitude!

Gas prices are on the rise leading us to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. That said, we still need our space to transport, as the late, great George Carlin described as, “our stuff.” The auto manufacturers from Asia have introduced us to a few of their small boxy cars; however, in my opinion, the winner with the greatest attitude is the 2012 Kia Soul.

Kia launched the Soul in 2009 as a 2010 model. It was the first product from their new design leader, Peter Schreyer. His task was to morph the Kia lineup from dull to a dazzling style. With the Kia Soul he managed to make boxy look so cool and stylish. Kia’s new design theme is now reflected in their entire lineup.

The 2012 Kia Soul has arrived with a mid-cycle refresh with an updated look along with a more powerful and fuel-efficient powertrain. New for 2012: a new six-speed transmission, gasoline direct injection, a new Infinity premium audio system, new projector headlamps with LED daytime running lights that are slightly bulged, a redesigned hood and new front and rear bumpers. Add to that lineup, new and modern LED rear light clusters, and two new exotic exterior paint colors – Canyon and Moss.

New on the 2012 Soul and Soul Sport models is UVO powered by Microsoft®3 in-car hands-free communication and infotainment system. The available premium package includes heated front seats, leather seat trim, automatic climate control, navigation system (in lieu of UVO system), and push-button start for added upscale comforts..

The 2012 Kia Soul is available in three trim levels, base ($13,900), “+” ($16,300) and “!” ($19,600). The Base model comes standard with a 1.6L GDI 4-cylinder engine with a 6-speed manual transmission. The “+” and “!” are equipped with a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. An optional six-speed automatic transmission is available on the Base and “+” and standard on the “!”.

The new exterior styling may not be dramatically different from the original; however, has been enhanced to project a stronger stance, with a bit more bling. The roof line angles down, while the belt line angles upward delivering an in-motion feel even when the car sits still. The large rear hatch makes it easy to load and unload into the small cargo area. The major form of the Soul may be square, but this little model has lots of angles and curves. Flat, raised, and rounded wheel wells project out creating a side profile theme that is hip and fun.

The interior is populated with curved angles of décor trim bringing those hip elements inside the Soul. It is simple and functional with an ergonomic layout. The seats were comfortable and had SOUL stitched across each of the backrests. The interior improvements showed of increased attention to detail; fit and finish. One of the trick options that young drivers love is the rotating color front door speaker rims that bounce to the beat of the music or can be adjusted to stay one color. The lights can also be turned completely out when you want to remain anonymous. The rear seats can fold flat with a 60/40 split to increase your overall cargo room.

The most improved feature comes from the engine compartment. There are two choices – 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter four cylinder engines. The 1.6L now has 138 horsepower (a 13% increase over last year), and the 2.0L jumps to 164hp (a 16% increase). Even with the increased horsepower, both engines deliver better fuel economy. Transmissions come in the form of a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic. For 2012, Soul and Soul+ models offer an Eco package on the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter engines with automatic transmissions, which includes ISG technology for improved fuel economy and low-rolling-resistance tires. (ISG is an idle stop-and-go in which the car automatically turns the engine off at stops, and restarts when lifting your foot off the brake preparing to move again).

Room for improvement:

  • Plenty of road noise in the cabin

Cool Features:

  • Music thumping, lighted speaker rings
  • Hip styling

The standard safety equipment for every 2012 Kia Soul models includes: six airbags, active front headrests, LATCH seating system, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and a tire pressure monitor.

In Summary – When it comes to the boxy little vehicles of transportation, the 2012 Kia Soul has a hand up in the styling cool factor. It sits at a price point attracting buyers from an array of age groups. The Soul is an entertaining vehicle to get around in. With its improved power and fuel economy I am sure it will continue to be a hit for Kia. The Kia Soul is a funky urban commuter with personality and spunk.


2012 Kia Soul+

Base price: $17,300 as driven: $19,845 (including destination)
Engine: 2.0 Liter 4 cylinder
Horsepower: 164 @ 6500
Torque: 148 foot pounds @ 4800
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Drive: Front Wheel-Drive
Seating: 5-passenger
Turning circle: 34.4 feet
Cargo space: 19.3 cubic feet
Curb weight: 2778 pounds
Fuel capacity: 12.7 gallons
EPA mileage: City 26 / Highway 34
Wheel Base: 100.4 inches
Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles bumper to bumper
Also consider: Dodge Caliber, Honda Element, Nissan Cube, Scion xB, and Suzuki SX4

Change Agents – Spring into a Bright New Style

We all crave change, we love the thought of starting something new, but it is so hard to take those first few steps. I realize that when it comes to makeovers and suggestions on how to improve one or another of our troublesome tendencies or habits, reading reams of wonderful, uplifting advice can seem like just one more rock to push up the hill—which is why we try to keep the make “over” or update part to a minimum while pushing the make “better” with the hope that you’ll take it in the spirit that it’s intended. So this being the beginning of spring and time to reinvent ourselves, think about how the change is good, it is positive and it’s time to refresh our psyche. That said, get ready for our “Change Agents,” to transform you into a modern, updated and more beautiful you.

Spring Looks 2012

Spring Eyes

Think color because that’s what you will be seeing this season and a lot of it. Put aside the natural you and indulge in some eye-popping greens. Or try a burgundy crease color rather than brown. Possess authority and liberation by using a peachy eye shadow on the eyelid rather than a cream colored one. Invite a new color in your wardrobe till you get used to the idea you’ve changed. That rarefied hip-ness just might tickle your shift in attitude.

Spring Cheek Colors
Now we’re talking super bright colors for cheeks and in a big way. Beeline to your nearest cosmetic boutique to try on this newest trend and then broadcast your urban coolness with a bright pink shimmer blusher. Without uttering a word and spiking up your fashionista, per se, you will add some spice to your trend-watching swagger. It’s nice to be in the know, and to wear it well you need to add just a hint of this enduring color to the cheeks to pull off this elite fashion re-shift with confidence.

Spring Lips
With all these bright colors swirling around this season, lips take on a whole new natural wave with baby palette essentials. Think cuddly light pink nudes, soft peach nectars and flawless angelic plums. Dabble in a world of beautifully crafted change without sacrificing all the home-grown principles you still identify with. Instead of using just a clear gloss, use a lip shine with a hint of peach. Or liberate yourself by using a nude pink lipstick rather than a gloss. The possibilities are endless and so much fun.

Spring Forward this season and let yourself in on something fun, you never know you may be delighted you tried something new!!

Courageous – ALIVE at the Movies

Courageous Movie PosterMy son and son-in-law are both incredible dads. I am blessed. My grandchildren are blessed. Dad-ship variables are many. How many hours they work? Do their wives work? Are they single dads? What are their socio-economic factors? Heritage? Role models? The influences are many and varied.

Courageous is about four men with one calling: to protect and to serve. As law enforcement officers Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick), Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel), Shane Fuller (Kevin Downes) and David Thomson (Ben Davies) are confident and focused yet when they go home at the end of their shifts they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle – fatherhood.

Life keeps happening, day after day until one day … tragedy happens. Veteran police officer, Adam Mitchell’s family begins to unravel and he understands he has to do something. He goes to his source of strength, God and begins the journey. He puts his plan into action. His police force brothers gather around him and together they take up the challenge of being the best they can be in a totally different arena.

The latest installment of life according to Sherwood Baptist church in Albany, Georgia, shouldn’t be dismissed lightly. The picture-making church keeps stepping up to the plate and hitting it out of the park. I have to admit that I’ve seen all four films. They went from a sweet little film called Flywheel to their next film, Facing the Giants. Then with the help of Kirk Cameron, the only actor with any name recognition to be in any of their films, they made Fireproof. They had finally pulled out of the totally low-budget movie ranks and made a film of substance. With Courageous, Sherwood has once again stepped up their game.

As their fourth film, this action packed police drama will make you laugh, cry and cheer as you are challenged and inspired by everyday heroes who long to be the kind of dads that make a lifelong impact on their children.

Hokey? Probably, but none the less, I loved it. I loved that there are still real men in this world that put their families first;  men who are passionate, yes, passionate about being good old-fashioned family men. Not the best CEO, not the best truck driver, not even the best doctor … the best dad. Men who take pride in being the best they can be and understanding in the depths of their souls that HONOR BEGINS AT HOME.

I’m sure most would agree that Courageous doesn’t have the best acting, the best directing or the best anything when it comes to film making. This film will never win an Oscar, but somehow I don’t think that is what it was meant to do. I suspect it was meant to do just what it’s doing, making us think about how we live our lives on a day to day basis. Courageous does a wonderful job of making you listen a little more, throw the ball a little more and savor every moment.

So, if you’re interested in a life of significance the message of Courageous is Fathers, Man-Up. Once again, I’m open to your insight at

Does A’s Rebuilding Plan Render Team Unwatchable?

For baseball fans invested in the won-loss record of the Oakland A’s, the 2011-2012 offseason was depressing.

The team traded three former All Stars (pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey), acquired mostly prospects unfamiliar to the casual baseball fan, and basically said that winning was secondary to the franchise’s quest for a new ballpark in San Jose. Their home field in Oakland is considered to be a relic from a bygone era of multipurpose stadiums with poor sightlines and a far-too-large foul territory that keeps fans further away from the action than any other big league ballpark.

On top of the A’s purposeful decline into a team less likely to play winning baseball, they face division rivals in Anaheim and Texas completely dedicated to winning games. The Angels signed certain Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and ace pitcher C.J. Wilson in early December, while the Rangers are fresh off consecutive trips to the World Series and will take the field in 2012 with their roster largely intact.

Moneyball GM Billy Beane essentially threw in the towel on Christmas Eve when he said, “There wasn’t going to be a move we could make to compete with Texas and Anaheim. Just to come up to Seattle, we’d have to spend an extra $40-50 million.”

Instead, the A’s are trying to follow the roadmap of small market teams like the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros who successfully timed the building of winning teams to the openings of Jacobs Field and Enron Field, respectively. This led to fantastic attendance spikes and World Series appearances for both franchises. The Indians even sold out more than 400 consecutive games starting with their first season in Jacobs Field.

The difference is that the Indians and the Astros knew their new ballparks would be built. By contrast, the A’s are held up by a territorial rights dispute with the Giants. Former A’s owner Walter Haas ceded any right to Santa Clara County in the early 1990s in order to help the Giants build a new stadium in the South Bay. The Giants lost that election in San Jose but retained the area’s territorial rights and claim to have used them to secure investors when they gained approval and financing for Pacific Bell Park in the late 1990s. The Giants are adamant that they will not harm their ownership group by surrendering the team’s rights to Santa Clara County.

And, of course, the Giants benefit greatly in terms of sponsorship dollars, TV/radio ratings and local interest if the A’s are weak.

While the baseball Commissioner’s Office sorts out that dispute, the A’s languish. Attempts since the team’s last playoff appearance in 2006 to capture lightening in a bottle by signing older free agents have not paid dividends on the field and have increased costs. The A’s reported a loss of between $1-2 million in 2011, even after receiving $30 million in revenue sharing checks from some of the wealthier big league teams. The current strategy is to trade away their most marketable players for other teams’ prospects and sacrifice any chance of a respectable record now for the hope of having those prospects mature into a competitive team for the potential 2015 opening of a so-far mythical new ballpark in San Jose.

So what is in it for the A’s current fans as they watch their team head towards 100 losses? Second baseman Jemile Weeks had an outstanding rookie year and as long as he has fewer than three years service will have to play for close to the major league minimum salary. He embodies the A’s ideal player. Starting pitcher Dallas Braden, who has a perfect game on his resume, is recovering from an arm injury, which makes him nearly impossible to trade. Catcher Kurt Suzuki has come close to making the American League All Star team a couple of times and as of the end of 2011 remains in the green and gold. Otherwise, fans can get behind the development of imported prospects and hope the San Jose stadium is approved before those players’ salaries rise to the point where they too become trade bait.

What the A’s do have going for them is a very attractive schedule with several glamour franchises visiting the Coliseum in 2012. The aging stadium will play host to the Yankees for two series, including Memorial Day weekend and has the Red Sox coming in for the Fourth of July. The Angels and Rangers will play three series in Oakland as division rivals, and interleague play will bring the Dodgers and Giants to the East Bay in June. For all its other flaws, the Coliseum is very convenient to BART, and it’s doubtful fans will have to fight large crowds for most contests as Oakland figures to finish near the bottom again in American League attendance.

So A’s fans can enjoy top quality opponents before intimate crowds with no pressure to buy tickets in advance except for maybe the Yankees, Red Sox and Giants games. If that formula is appealing, you are just the kind of fan that the A’s will draw in 2012.