Sun-Specifics: Tanning Beds and Dangers of the Booth

More and more young girls in there 20’s are coming in to our studio complaining that they have skin cancer. They explain to me that they have been going to tanning beds for years and never thought that it would be so damaging to their skin. I just had a 24 year old girl come in to our beauty boutique needing to purchase a strong concealer to camouflage the cancer she had taken off on the top of her nose. Cancer is not only seen on the skin but in the eyes as well. People are tanning in the tanning booth without using the protective goggles and are getting cancer in their eyes. In extreme cases, girls and boys are losing their eyesight from not wearing the goggles. This is an outrage and parents need to step in and talk to their children about the dangers of sun tanning and tanning beds.
The Melanoma Research Foundation reports as of March, 2010, individuals who are exposed to tanning beds before the age of 30 are 3 times more likely to develop the skin cancer known as Melanoma than their peers who don’t use tanning beds. Classified as the most serious of skin cancer, Melanoma refers to the formation of malignancies in the skin’s melanin cells. Despite the fact that research has yet to definitively pinpoint all of the precise causes of Melanoma, the exposure to sunlight, ultraviolet radiation and/or tanning beds has been identified as a potentially serious risk factor for this life-threatening skin cancer.
Sun Protection and Anti-Aging
Sun Protection sunscreens with organic Aloe Extract, Almond oil and B-Carotene “Botanicals of Life” contain the richest known source of anti-oxidant beta-carotene, and helps protect skin against free radical and premature aging. These benefits are enhanced by a new generation of micronized and micro-dispersed Titanium-Dioxide (ultra-fine mineral pigment of natural origin) that acts as a protective barrier against harmful UV rays that cause wrinkles. Titanium-Dioxide forms an invisible protective shield on the surface of the skin that physically deflects the sun. It’s like wearing a tee-shirt on your face, whereas chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays into the skin. Chemical sunscreens are irritating to the skin and researchers have noticed the use of chemical sunscreens has decreased water retention in the skin giving the appearance of an orange peel texture to the skins surface.
You can find natural Titanium-Dioxide in many foundations and Powders on the market today. They are one of the best sources of sun protection in latest discoveries. Dermatologist are recommending foundations to their patients instead of chemical sunscreens because it guarantees a natural and efficient, broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection that helps to deflect the suns harmful rays.
Sunless Tanning
Self-tanners are by far the best way to achieve a nice natural looking suntan without damaging the delicate skin. We recommend the clear cream formula self-tanners. Clear cream sunless tanners work with your own melanin in your skin producing a natural three shade darker tanned appearance. It looks so natural no one would ever know you used a sunless-tanner. Bronze self- tanners have a tan pigment and will tan you immediately but will rub off on clothing.
The Rouge has the highest researched technology products available in sun care and anti-aging. Please visit us and our qualified trained professionals will help you select the right skin care and sun protection products that will work for you.




School of Rock

School of RockIf you closed your eyes and just listened you would think, “Wow, Jimi Hendrix is still alive and well.” The blazing guitar licks sounded dead on. However, the reality is that those guitar licks are coming from a gifted 13 year-old shredder from Southern California. This isn’t 1967 in Golden Gate Park, it’s just another day at Soundwall, the summer rock n’ roll music camp founded 17 years ago in San Ramon, California.

In 1992, Jana Pantazelos, a Danville resident and former music teacher, was looking for a summer music program for her 13 year-old bass-playing son, Nick. She found lots of music camps, but not a single one that was rock-oriented. Private lessons were available, but lacked the well-rounded practicality of what musicians can expect in the real world of rock music.
The next summer Jana launched the first-of-a-kind Rock N’ Roll summer music camp. With the help of music director, Mike Williams, they developed a program that stressed music fundamentals with an emphasis on rock music. Soundwall Music, the first-ever Rock N’ Roll Summer Music Camp, was established in 1993 with 25 students enrolled for a 5-day summer session taking place at Cal High in San Ramon, CA. For the next four summers Soundwall continued to expand and evolve.

In 1996, thanks to continuous media coverage from the likes of CNN, Teen People magazine, local T.V. and newspapers, and due to a growing demand, Soundwall moved to the University of Santa Clara and started its residential (week long) camps. The camp offered two one-week sessions where the students stayed in the college dorms and worked on developing their musical skills in the university music building from 9am – 9pm. Soundwall attracted students from all corners of the globe including France, Spain, Chile, England, Mexico City and Japan as well as just about every state in the US.

In 2000 Soundwall suffered a great loss when its founder, Jana Pantazelos, lost her battle with cancer. Mike Williams took over as camp director and John Xepoleas, SF Bay Area drummer, educator and author, took over as music director. By 2001 Soundwall had outgrown the Santa Clara facility and moved to Santa Cruz. With its breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean, rustic dorms and a state-of-the-art music center, the University of California at Santa Cruz became Soundwall Music’s new home.

The Soundwall Summer Music Camps offer a unique music education program for young rock musicians in an environment not found in private lessons or school music programs. The program offers students a variety of courses to help them hone their craft including: instruction on their instrument of choice; vocal, song-writing and performance workshops; rock music history classes and music theory workshops.

In addition, the students have the opportunity to play a ton of music with other young musicians. On the first day of camp the students are assigned to bands based on their age, skill level and musical taste. The bands spend the week preparing for a Friday night concert for their friends and family in the University concert hall with a full-blown professional sound and light system. Each day the students rehearse with their band under the direction of pro staff members who guide them and offer tips on how to present the best possible performance. Each day the students also learn songs by AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Green Day, Nirvana, Everclear, Sublime, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Metallica and many other of their favorite rock artists. And, if that isn’t enough, the famous Soundwall “Jam Room” is available to students throughout the day to jam with other campers, work on songs they’ve written or put in a little extra rehearsal time with their camp bands.

To facilitate the Soundwall curriculum a talented staff of experienced pro-musicians has been assembled. The majority of the staff members have been with the camp for 10 or more years. They include many of the San Francisco Bay Area’s top musicians, some have which have performed and/or recorded with artists such as: Mars Volta; the Counting Crows; Joe Satriani band; 50 Cent’s band; Pink’s band; Montrose; Britney Spears’ band and many others.

The Soundwall Rock N’ Roll Summer Music Camps have often been copied, but never duplicated. Soundwall Music is a non-profit organization that has spent the last 16 years putting education before profit.

This summer Soundwall Music will hold its 17th session of rock n’ roll summer music camps. They will be held at the University of California in Santa Cruz from July 18 – 23 and July 25 – 30. Enrollment is open to guitarists, bass-players, drummers, keyboard players and vocalists ages 12 – 17. If you are a young rock musician and want to have an experience of a lifetime, go to and sign up.

“I just want to tell you what a wonderful experience this was for Peter. He has had lots of band experience with his own band and his school jazz band, but this camp added a whole new dimension for Peter. He is planning to play with a couple of the kids he met at camp and has a much better attitude about playing with other bands – formally and informally. Between the skills and technique workshops and the band experiences and the exposure to working musicians, etc, etc, he has come away with a much broader scope and a really inspired attitude towards music in his life. We plan to send him again next year. Thank you very much!!”

“I just want to let you know what a fabulous time my son, had at Soundwall. He came home feeling inspired and had nothing but praises for the instruction that he received while there. Friday’s concert was amazing! It far exceeded my expectations. Nate is already talking about returning next year. Again, thanks for giving our son an excellent week of music!”

“We just wanted to say thank you again for Ryan’s WONDERFUL experience at Soundwall. He got so much out of it, met so many nice people (students AND staff), and definitely wants to come back next year. You and the multi-talented staff did an incredible job of working with the kids so that they could perform as a team, and also provided some valuable life lessons. It was truly amazing to see so much talent last Friday, and it was a great experience that we’ll be reliving for a long time to come!”

I Wish I Was a Dog

Our family recently got a puppy. She’s a very cute little Cocker Spaniel/Chihuahua mix. Her name is Ivy. She has a white fur base with maple colored spots. At 16 weeks, she weighs 3.5 lbs and is about the size of a Guinea Pig. Truth be told, she may very well be a Guinea Pig, but for the sake of my kids and this article let’s assume she is a dog: A carnivorous domesticated mammal, also known as a canine, a pooch, a hound, or mutt.

Ivy’s charming disposition has blended well with our other dog (Trudy) and our two cats (Annie and Smokey). My daughters love her and even my wife and I have grown attached to the adorable little fur ball. Ivy spends her days barking at dust, wind, undetectable sounds or the subtle shift of the earth’s axis. She eats everything she encounters (i.e.; dried animal poop, dead birds and discarded bathroom tissues, in addition to the gross stuff).

The little Pit Bull wannabe loves chasing and tormenting the aforementioned household animal inhabitants, in addition to pooping/peeing wherever she pleases and sleeping approximately 20 hours a day. That is the life. The closest resemblance to a dog’s life that we humans can relate to is probably that of a rock star. I bet John Meyer, Beyonce, Bono, Eminem and Lady Gaga spend their days much like Ivy, when they’re not in the studio or on the road touring. Next time someone bumps into Blackhawk resident and Motley Crue front man, Vince Neil, ask him how he spends his down time. I bet it’s similar to that of a dog and if it is, I wish I was a dog (or a rock star).

After months and months of tenacious/relentless/crazed persistence, my two daughters finally wore us down (we caved in). Technically, when we made the promise to them that at some point in their young lives we would get them a puppy, we were secretly hoping that their other interests and activities, such as sports, school, friends, fashion, music, theater, scouting, boys, money, television and the lifelong study and practice of origami would keep them distracted until we were ready to ship them off to college.

Alas, the desire to have a furry barking machine proved to be stronger than we anticipated and we finally acquiesced to their non-stop begging, pleading and cries of lonely desperation. When I live my next life, as a dog, I’m hopeful that my highly developed hearing will completely block out the excruciating whine of a “tween” girl begging for an iPhone, Facebook account, boy friend, extended text time or worst of all, a puppy.

Searching the local area animal shelters in hopes of finding a dog is actually quite enjoyable. We found our first dog, a terrier mix, at the SPCA in Dublin. The SPCA has a beautiful facility, qualified staff, educational classes and a very nice collection of mature adult dogs. Our area also supports other organizations such as ARF and East Bay Animal Shelter. Adopted dogs are wonderful in large part due to their appreciative attitude being given a second chance at life. I suppose knowing that if you aren’t adopted you may be chasing Frisbees in Heaven makes rescue dogs inherently grateful.

As terrific as above-referenced local agencies are, when searching for a puppy, we elected to work with the folks at the Tri-Valley Animal Rescue. Our friend, Nikki Steffens, whose family fosters dogs for the TVAR, was very helpful throughout the process. She worked with us to define what type of puppy would be best for our family, given the petting zoo atmosphere we are nurturing in our suburban home. Did I mention we’ve also had hamsters, rats and fish? I’m currently looking for an anaconda, a giraffe and a Ligor (a lion bred with a tiger) to qualify as Dr. Doolittle of Danville.

Once we finally identified the most appropriate dog for our family, that being a curious, rambunctious, bright, loving dwarf dog with attitude, Ivy seemed to find us. Pleasanton’s weekly Farmer’s Market often hosts animal adoption days so that’s where we headed and that’s where we found Ivy.

If I was a dog, I would like to be a German Shepherd. Not because I’m of German decent. If human heritage was the determining factor in breed, I would be an Irish Setter/English Bulldog half-blood. German Shepherd’s are, by nature, protective, strong, brave and intelligent. All of those qualities are admirable if you’re describing a dog or human.

Growing up, my family had a pure white German Shepherd named Snowy. I have so many good memories of times spent with that dog. Summer sleep outs in the back yard, 5K runs, getting ready for the start of football season and long talks about politics, religion and girls. Snowy was deep. Snowy assessed everything he came into contact with as Friend, Foe or Food. It’s simplistic, but not a bad way to go about making impressions and assessments.

In Doggyland, I could scratch myself, lick myself, pee and poop wherever I wanted, drink from the gutter, pool or toilet, sniff human crotches, sniff my friend’s behinds (it’s like shaking hands), bark, howl or growl until my throat hurt and sleep, sleep, sleep. Did I also mention that dogs don’t get married? That’s right, they “hook-up.” I don’t judge them. In fact, I appreciate their animalistic approach to relationships. They take care of their primal instinct/physical urges and yet don’t feel the need to comply with the institution of marriage.

That’s not to say that if I were a dog I would forgo my fatherly duties. I would undoubtedly want to be there for the delivery of my litter and would stick around to help raise my pups, but that whole marriage thing just isn’t part of dog life. In this fantasy world, I would have a neighborhood full of female “dog friends with privileges.” That is until my owners took the responsible action of having me neutered. Oh, the shame. Come to think of it, once that happened, I might settle down with a nice Collie.

History is filled with famous dogs in every form of art, athletics and literature. The painting of dogs playing poker is a masterpiece. While dog fighting makes me sick, dog racing has been around since early Egyptian times. Racing the incredibly fast and agile Greyhounds is immensely popular while watching dachshunds (aka wiener dogs) is just delightfully amusing.
Dog actors, such as Lassie, Old Yeller, Rin Tin Tin, Toto, Benji, Air Bud and the Shaggy D.A. haven’t won any Academy Award (yet), but they have made significant contributions to some wonderful movies. There have been dogs on television going back 50 years, starting with Pete, Spanky’s Pit Bull on the Little Rascals, Tiger, a sheep dog who lived with the Brady Bunch, Buck, also a sheep dog who housed with the Bundy’s on Married with Children and finally Eddie, the cute little Jack Russell terrier on Frasier.

Many of us can all recall commercial pitch dogs like Loren Green’s dog, Duke, chasing sticks for Alpo as well as The Taco Bell Chihuahua and Budweiser’s Spuds Mackenzie. There are also the always entertaining comic strip and cartoon dogs including Marmaduke, Scooby Doo, Under Dog, Lady and the Tramp, Clifford – The big red dog, Bolt and, of course, Snoopy.

Finally, in literature, who could forget Shiloh, White Fang or Cujo? However, to truly understand dogs, take the time to read the beautifully crafted book, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The story is told in the words/thoughts of Enzo, a Golden Retriever. If you ever wondered what a dog was thinking, this book provides you with an enlightening notion.

I’m not saying everything about a dog’s life is ideal. Dogs can’t get a job, pay bills, drive carpool, follow politics, look for a job, invest in a 401K, Tweet on Twitter, shop, mow the lawn or dance. Who am I kidding? I don’t even like to do any of those things. Dogs don’t need materialistic possessions or stressful responsibilities. A dog’s life is awfully darn appealing right now, especially given today’s economy.

As I do believe there is a possibility of reincarnation, maybe I will be a dog in my next life. Fifty or seventy-five years from now I might be a German Shepherd guide dog, who greets people at the library or grocery store with my sight impaired human partner. My name will be Thor or Rock and I’ll shake my tail and extend my paw because life is good.

What Triggers Emotional Eating?

Emotional EatingEmotional eating is a yearning for something that reaches far beyond nutritional fuel. Stress often triggers us to indulge in emotional eating. When we are emotionally hungry we may be starving for love and understanding; we may be yearning for respect, acceptance, or a sense of belonging. Transitions during the day are common stressful times when many of us become vulnerable to emotional eating.
Repeatedly, I hear from my weight loss clients that the in-between times throughout their days—the times when they’re shifting from one activity to another—are challenging and often lead to emotional eating and compulsive snacking.
For example, the transition time of:

  • Driving from one destination to another
  • Shifting from one project to another (at work or at home)
  • Coming home from work (shifting from work activities to home activities)
  • Getting ready for bedtime (shifting from evening activities to sleep)

Emotional eating is “using” food in an attempt to mood-alter or push down painful and uncomfortable feelings. In this mode, feelings may be viewed as enemies that need to be avoided. While indulging in emotional eating, we may succeed in avoiding some feelings, but after overeating, we often have a new set of feelings to deal with…guilt, shame, and in some cases, self-loathing.

Unfortunately, attempting to push down our uncomfortable feelings by consuming large amounts of food is routine behavior in America today. Unhealthy emotional eating habits—in combination with cravings for the wrong foods and a lack of exercise—has become the national recipe for staying stuck and adding inches and pounds each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 60% of American adults are overweight. We are bombarded by messages from various health care experts today—messages that repeatedly warn us that being overweight can be hazardous to our health and well-being.

My weight-loss work with clients who emotionally overeat includes exploring what feelings lie below the surface of the unwanted behavior. Once the hidden underlying layers are identified, then unconscious emotional eating can be addressed. Subsequently, people learn how to use tools that encourage them to deal directly with their emotions and the stresses in their lives.

In my private practice, before I teach clients tools and strategies for breaking unwanted overeating habits, we often investigate under the topsoil. For instance, if a client is deriving a benefit or a secondary gain from indulging in emotional eating or from being overweight—then there may be a protective part in the client that will unconsciously rebel against changing. For this reason, one of my early questions to anyone wanting to break an unhealthy habit is offered to investigate whether there is any hidden benefit resulting from the habit. If there is a benefit or a secondary gain, then that’s where we focus our initial attention.

For example, a few years ago a middle-aged woman named Katie came to see me in my private practice. Katie’s doctor referred her to me. For health purposes, her doctor encouraged her to lose weight. During our first session, Katie explained to me that she’d been struggling with unhealthy habits of emotional eating, and subsequent weight gain ever since her divorce fifteen years ago. I learned that Katie had experienced a major (and stressful) “life transition.”

Katie explained, with tears streaming, that her husband asked for a divorce after he began an affair with a woman twenty years his junior. Katie felt devastated that her 27-year marriage was over. And, Katie’s ex-husband was never willing to seek couples counseling with her. In fact, he was already engaged to marry the younger woman when he told Katie that he wanted a divorce.

Katie identified her secondary gain for being overweight within her first couple of sessions. Katie hesitantly admitted that she used her weight as an excuse for the fact that she hadn’t had a date since her husband left. She shared that she isolated herself a lot after work and that food was a comfort to her. As we explored this further, it became clear that since the disintegration of her marriage, Katie lost her ability to trust a man with her heart. She turned to food for comfort and pleasure. She also realized that she “used food” to push down her anger, her sadness, and her overwhelming loneliness.

So, before we worked on weight loss, Katie and I focused on the unresolved grief that she harbored stemming from her marriage ending. After Katie moved through various stages of her unfinished grieving process, we addressed her negative core beliefs about feeling unattractive, “too old,” and unlovable. Through several empowering tools that I offered her, Katie compassionately addressed her negative core beliefs. To her surprise, she discovered that her negative core beliefs originally developed in childhood. This discovery led her to stop blaming her ex-husband for being “the creator” of her poor self-image…and she stopped feeling like a victim. Through her courageous explorations, Katie gained a much greater understanding of herself.

Next, we focused our work on uncovering the positive core beliefs that were buried under Katie’s negative core beliefs. Together, Katie and I went on a treasure hunt and “mined for gold.” And, I’m happy to say—she struck gold! Her inner gold, that is. Katie was thrilled with her new tools, insights, and personal growth. As a result of all her hard work, Katie felt strengthened at the core of her being.

When Katie began accepting invitations to parties and social activities, she was no longer focused on her feelings of being unattractive, “too old,” or unlovable. Katie was delighted to find that she now had enough internal peace, self-acceptance, and confidence—to focus on the people around her. Meanwhile, her self-conscious inward focus shifted outwardly allowing her to be interested and curious about others.

After her life became more balanced, food was no longer Katie’s only comfort or pleasure. Consequently, Katie’s weight began to drop, and her zest for life (including exercising) picked up dramatically. Within five months she was no longer emotionally eating in an attempt to push down her unmanageable feelings. Katie not only reached her weight loss goals, she moved forward into a life…that included dating again!

Finally, I’m happy to report that I have numerous clients, in addition to Katie, who no longer live to eat, but are now eating to live…healthier and happier lives. That’s why it is vital to explore under the topsoil of emotional eating, to discover what is triggering the unhealthy habit…and create a nourishing transformation.

Stamps In My Passport: Namibia


Sossusvlei is a clay pan in the central Namib Desert, lying within the Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia. Fed by the Tsauchab River, it is known for the high, red sand dunes which surround it forming a major sand sea.

There are certain unique and distinct spots on this great planet of ours which are not duplicated anywhere. Locations where specific flora and fauna survive while becoming extinct elsewhere. Locations where wind, water, and topography come together to create an environment which is specific to just this single area. Usually indigenous peoples weave mysterious legends around these areas, and they are either avoided, or they become gathering places for worship and celebrations.

Some of these places, like Stonehenge are man-made. Others like our own Death Valley or Yosemite are works of nature. Two of my favorite such spots are low on most people’s radar, but they certainly fit the category. They are the so-called Skeleton Coast and the Namib Desert on the western edge of Namibia, near the southern part of Africa.

Our flight wasn’t exactly one of my favorites. To get to Namibia requires a certain amount of stamina. The concept of a direct flight from San Francisco to Windhoek, Namibia brings gales of laughter from most airlines. We eventually found the best, but believe me it wasn’t easy. We flew from San Francisco to London to Frankfurt and foolishly felt we had the stamina to go on. After a few hours of rest on the less-than-comfortable benches in the Frankfurt airport, we boarded a 747 headed for Windhoek. The flight added another eight hours to the twelve it took to get to Frankfurt – but hey, we were going to a new and exciting place.


Vegetation, such as the camelthorn tree, is watered by infrequent floods of the Tsauchab River, which slowly soak into the underlying clay.

The ride from the airport to our hotel almost made it worthwhile. It was October and the jacaranda trees were in full bloom. I wonder why these beautiful purple trees haven’t caught on more. They were spectacular.

Now just a quick history lesson. Way back in the seventeenth century the Germans moved into this area – probably to maintain some control of Africa as the British and other European countries were establishing footholds all over. During World War II the British in South Africa move in and kept the territory after the war. But the German influence remains – with German names and history spotted all over. A little side humor. There is a huge but totally useless steam engine located out in front of the no-longer-in-existence railroad station. It is named the “Martin Luther Engine.” The reason goes back to the days of the Reformation when Martin said

“I stand here firm, I can do nothing else.”

Soon after World War II the nation began to strive for independence and was granted that status in 1990.

The question remains – why would anyone want it? It is the second-least populated country in Africa and has an average per capita income of nearly $1.25 US per day. Still, it does all right with tourism and mining. But a couple of nicknames, such as “the land of contrasts” and “the land God made when she was mad” give you an idea of life in this part of the world. But let’s get on with this “contrast” thing.

Along the west coast, bordering the Atlantic Ocean sits a huge multi-kilometer long sand dune. For some reason, unexplained to me on my visit, it almost never rains here. Apparently it has something to do with the ocean tidal flow. These sand dunes range in color from red to yellow to black. We took a flight over them at dusk, and the contrasts were unbelievable. The dunes are several hundred meters high and march unchecked directly toward the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t know how fast they are moving, but they advance steadily, insistent on taking a bath.

Flying along the coast we could see why it is called the Skeleton Coast. The rotting hulls of several ships are visible. The sand has moved out to where these vessels were originally grounded, and one can’t help but wonder how they got so far inland to begin with.

Apparently the cross currents here are not only hazardous for ships but deposit skeletons of larger fish such as whales and sharks on these sandy beaches. Thus the name Skeleton Coast.
The next day we took a land safari out to the same area. Here we were exposed to unbelievable contrasts. With no rain the desert remains absolutely dry (How obvious can a statement be?) but being this close to the ocean fog rolls in off the water. So, surprisingly, a few things thrive on the moisture in the air. The most startling of these anomalies is the Welwitschia plant. (Don’t ask me to pronounce it.) Our guide claimed they are three to four thousand years old, and they sure look it. They resemble some succulents we had at one time that I forgot to water. My first observation was that they were about to die, but my guide insisted they have looked like this for several thousand years. I told him I’d come back in a few hundred years to check out their progress. He wasn’t amused.

There were other desert plants and creatures to behold too. We ran across, figuratively not literally, a sidewinder snake. They actually move sideways, leaving a strange pattern in the sand.

The visit despite the distance was a happy one. We were overcome with new and different sights which often come to mind as we spend our lives in the comforts of consistency. We need a break like this from the daily routine and grind which we face each morning. Somehow this everyday schedule seems easier when you have just returned from a grand adventure.

Harry Hubinger is a retired engineer who operated his own company for twenty years. He first began traveling outside the United States on business, but these visits escalated upon his retirement. He has now traveled to 115 countries and continues to add several new ones each year.

In 1998 he began writing his humorous and insightful articles for a supplement to a local newspaper. These stories, based on experiences most travelers could identify with, soon earned him a wide local following.

In 2005 he published his first book, Stamps in My Passport—a collection of travel vignettes. Harry has lived in Danville for almost forty years and has volunteered with the Danville Police Department for the past seven. His wife, Barbara, is the detail chronicler of their trips. Her journals provide the background for Harry’s broader view. You can get his book at:

2010 Suzuki Kizashi: Suzuki enters a new era!

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

What can you say when everyone wants to play in the popular mid-size arena but to do so you have to have a stylish, well crafted, performance driven vehicle?.With competition like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, you better come to the table with a strong entry. Suzuki has done just that with the All-New 2010 Kizashi sedan. In fact, the name Kizashi means “something great is coming!”

Suzuki has wanted to be a player in the high-volume mid-size arena for a while; they haven’t had a worthy entry until now. The 2010 Kizashi is the result of a four + year effort to create a vehicle that is probably Suzuki’s most important launch in the United States. So far so good; the Kizashi was nominated for North American Car of the Year by a panel of top American automotive journalists.

Having a smaller presence in the United States, Suzuki has teamed with GM and rebadged a few of the vehicles in their lineup. This is not the case with the Kizashi; it is a completely home grown car out of Japan. It runs on a front-wheel drive architecture that is 183.1 inches in length and rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase. The Kizashi is also available with all-wheel drive. Because it will be sold in markets throughout the world, it has been designed a little smaller than the typical U.S. mid-size sedans. With this in mind, Suzuki plans to undercut the prices of its potential rivals.

The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi comes in four models: S ($18,999), SE ($21,499), GTS ($22,499), and SLS ($24,399). Each model comes standard as front-wheel drive and is available in all-wheel drive as a $1,300 option. A navigation system with rearview camera is available on the GTS and SLS for $1,299.

All models of the Kizashi get their power from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The S, GTS, and SLS models are mated to a six-speed manual transmission or an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). The SE model comes standard with the CVT. You can switch the CVT to manual shift mode. Horsepower is a 185 with the manual transmission and 180 with the CVT. Miles-per-gallon range from 20 to 23 City and 29 to 31 Highway depending on the model and engine/trans/drive combination. The 2.4-liter doesn’t give you rocket performance, but it is perfectly adequate for everyday driving.

Exterior styling is where the Kizashi has it all together. It isn’t over the top or tiredly conservative. The lines are sculptured and filled with Suzuki DNA. Its profile is one of balance and that of a small sports sedan. The 18-inch alloy wheels are carved with 22-spokes. Large chrome dual exhaust tips add to the sports dynamic.

The interior is sharp, clean, and upscale for a car under $20,000. The center console flows out to each side like the wings of an eagle. All four doors have cup holders and power window switches. The center armrest area has two compartments and two more cup holders. The Smartpass keyless entry is mated to a start button on the dash and touch buttons on the front driver’s door to unlock the car.
Room for improvement:

  • Interior space is tight, yet workable, for a mid-size vehicle

Cool Features:

  • Push button start
  • MP3 and USB ports
  • Multi-function trip computer

The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi has a long list of safety features including electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure monitor system, and eight airbags: two frontal, two side impact and two side curtain.

The chief engineer of the Kizashi made handling his first priority and tested the suspension on the Swiss Alps. To provide tight steering and handling, he incorporated KYB rear shocks and a multi-link rear suspension. You will find the Kizashi loves to travel on curvy back roads.

In Summary:
The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi is a fun-to-drive and well crafted sports sedan. Its smaller size is perhaps it’s only short-fall, but not enough to hamper its success. It handles like a sports sedan and offers more standard equipment than its competitors and at a lower price point. The fit-and-finish is top-notch, the seats are comfortable, and hold you in place. Paddle shifters add just the right technology. If you are living on a beer budget with Champagne taste, or just like a sporty sedan, take the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi out for a test drive.

2010 Suzuki Kizashi
2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi SE
Base price: $21,499  –  as driven: $21,754 (including destination)
Engine: 2.4-Liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 180 @ 6000
Torque: 170 pound-feet @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission with paddle shifters
Drive: Front Wheel-Drive
Seating: 5-passenger
Turning circle: 36 feet
Cargo space: 13.3 cubic feet
Curb weight: 3329 pounds
Fuel capacity: 16.6 gallons
EPA mileage: 30 highway, 23 city
Wheel Base: 106.3 inches
Warranty: 7 years/100,000 miles Powertrain Limited
Also consider: Chevrolet Malibu, Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry
Future changes: New for 2010



Sasa’s Interior: lighted water feature, abstract lighting, a full contemporary bar space, and agate tables in the front lounge area.

Buzzing with energy, authenticity, and an attentive wait staff, Sasa in Downtown Walnut Creek is the new Izakaya—style eatery to hit the downtown scene. Traditionally serving small plates, “Izakaya” is a compound word consisting of “I” (to sit) and “sakaya” (sake shop). Sasa has embraced this concept beautifully and offers patrons a beautiful space to dine with friends and enjoy a vast array of sake.

Situated at 1432 North Main Street Walnut Creek in the historic 100 year-old building that for many years housed the Walnut Creek Meat Market, Sasa delights guests not only with great food but with a spectacular ambiance. While the building is old, the look and feel of Sasa’s dining room is anything but. Modern touches include a lighted water feature, abstract lighting, a full contemporary bar space, and agate tables in the front lounge area. Sasa’s owner Phillip Yang worked closely with interior designer Jackson Santos for two years, ensuring that the look and feel of Sasa matched Phillips creative direction for the restaurant overall. Their collaboration truly paid off as Sasa is a delight for all senses.

Aji Horse Mackerel

On our most recent visit Trendy Eats got a surplus of small bites that left our mouth watering. Our recommendation is to enjoy Sasa omakase style—meaning, allowing the chef to make fresh fish selections for you. Sasa uses only the highest quality fish most of which comes from local markets, but there are even a few varieties that are flown in daily from Tokyo. Other delights include the Ahi Parfait, a light treat that is made of avocado, crème fraiche, crispy mochi rice, black tobiko and lemon oil—it’s the chilled perfect treat on a warm summer evening. We also really enjoyed many treats from the hot side of the menu which were all designed and tested by chef Sam Castro; the slow cooked Crispy Duck Leg, and our favorite the River Stone Grilled Steak—All of Sasa’s menu offerings are delicious and beautifully presented. We would like to call out the presentation of the grilled steak served sizzling hot atop a heated stone—delicious and beautiful.

Sasa does offer a complete list of sushi rolls as well. According to General Manager Suzan Rizer the most frequently ordered roll is the Sasa, which is spicy tuna, tempura prawns, and avocado—one bite and it’s not hard to see why it’s the most popular.

We can’t write about Sasa without extensively going though the cocktail and sake list. With the help of award-winning mixologist Manny Hinjosa, bar manager Eric Matsui has put together a killer cocktail menu. If you like a little spice you have got to try the Ring of Fire Martini made with El Jimador 100% agave tequila, pineapple and lime juice, agave nectar and giving it the Asian attitude and supplying the spice is the last ingredient, Sriracha sauce.

River Stone Grilled Steak

Moving on; the Twisted Pear is a sticky sweet super scrumptious martini consisting of Absolute pear vodka, ginger syrup, lime juice, pear puree and soda water, great for happy hour or at the beginning of your meal. We could talk about this menu all day but probably don’t have the time or the paper, so to wrap up, among other fun drinks are the L’Orange Pomegranate Martini, pretty self explanatory, and of course, the sake. Sasa has a very comprehensive offering—there are twenty filtered premium sake all of which are of the highest quality and served cold. There are several Murai Family offerings but my favorite is the nigori, which is unfiltered, creamy, and has a sweet finish. Very delicious and refreshing! Another popular sake is the Happy Rice which is filtered and is a little drier—an excellent choice. And we would also like to mention that Sasa has really cool non-alcoholic drink as well, but to see those you just have to go down and check out the place for yourself.

Now we at Trendy Eats love sushi, we eat it at least once a week, but have never been the type of dinners to order dessert at a Japanese Restaurant. But you would be doing yourself a disservice if you left Sasa without trying the Matcha Green Tea Crème Brulee; absolutely delicious! Also on the “gotta have it” list is the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with strawberry-basil soup, the flavors in this dessert are marvelous and it really makes a great summer treat as it’s light and served chilled.

Ahi Parfait

To take a step back and evaluate our experience at Sasa, we can truly tell you its one-of-a-kind, from the modern original décor to the incredibly knowledgeable staff, we would like to wrap up saying come with an open mind, trust your waiter, and let them really help you maneuver the menu, as Americans perhaps we don’t know that much about Japanese cuisine, but let us tell you that the staff at Sasa does! Manager Susan Rizer took a month’s tasting, traveling, and immersing herself in the culture, getting to know the ins and outs of this fare as if it was her own restaurant.

Chef/Owner, Philip Yang (proprietor & owner of Blue Gingko, Lafayette) is lucky to have such a dedicated manager and staff. As the weather heats up be sure to check out Sasa’s patio. We believe it’s quite possibly the most perfect spot to gather with friends, enjoy fresh exciting food and relax with a specialty drink or refreshing chilled Sake.
PHOTOS, Opposite; Sasa’s Interior:

Hold or Sell

Q. Tom, I don’t know whether to sell my home now or hold onto it for a couple years. When will we see measurable appreciation across the board in home values here in the Diablo Valley?

A. Good question. Many ‘industry experts’ these days predict a housing recovery around 2013 or 2014 but a generalization of that nature may be inaccurate; past prognostications are an indicator that nobody can really predict with certainty (remember David Lereah, the chief economist of the California Association of Realtors, assuredly titling his 2006 book, Why The Real Estate Boom Will Not Bust). The reality is that a housing rebound is dependent on a growing economy and a robust job market which currently are tentative at best. Having said that, buyer demand for homes is also directly related to the availability of affordable mortgage money. Keep in mind that most homebuyers make a purchasing decision based on the amount of their monthly payment and not on the overall mortgage balance. So, when will the demand for homes exceed the supply? I’m not sure but it does appear that we are at or near the bottom of the market now regarding values but it will take quite some time to kick back into a higher gear. In answer to your question – if you have to sell, do it now because significant price appreciation remains on a distant horizon; if you don’t have to sell, consider waiting. If you want to buy or trade-up, again consider doing it now because the combination of drastically lower prices and attractive interest rates work tremendously in your favor. BUT do your homework and hire a trained professional to negotiate every detail of the transaction.

Q. Tom, what is the difference between a ‘short sale’, a REO and a bank-owned home?

A. REO (real estate owned) and bank-owned homes is the same thing – both are owned by the banking institution and are eventually sold at auction. The previous owners were foreclosed and are out of the home. A short sale is when the owner lives in the home and maintains control but is typically in default on the monthly payments. In the short sale, the mortgage amount on the home exceeds the homes current market value. The job of persuading a lender to approve a home sale by accepting less money than the outstanding mortgage mortgage balance is a daunting task in any market. In today’s market, short sale homes dominate the available inventory; it is not unusual for short sales to make up over 50% of the pending sales – all of which require a long negotiating process with the bank(s) holding the mortgages. My experience is that banks are not all that forgiving or even approachable; in fact, 60+% of all short sales never close escrow and eventually the bank forecloses on the current owner. The sheer time frame alone waiting for the bank to respond to a qualified offer is frustrating; on one of my last transactions, it took the bank nearly 6 months on a $1.3M offer to come back with a request for a measly $200 more. So, whether you’re a short sale seller or buyer, be prepared for a wild ride that may or may not meet your expectations. And always seek the best advice possible in the marketplace.

Tom Hart

Tom Hart

Tom Hart is a practicing Real Estate Broker and a partner at Empire Realty Associates in Danville. He is a Certified Master Negotiator by the University of San Francisco and a Certified Master Strategist by HSM Harvard Program on Negotiation. He is past president of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors (2005) and past president of the Realtors’ Marketing Association of the San Ramon Valley. Tom is in high demand as a speaker & trainer inside & outside the real estate industry.

How to Choose a Musical Instrument

Choose wisely now and your child can be in a school band or orchestra next fall.

Parents, especially those unfamiliar with musical instruments, commonly ask, “How do I and my child choose a musical instrument?” The answer is not a simple one. It involves many factors.

Some homes have instruments that mom or dad played in high school or college. This does not automatically mean your child should play those instruments. He or she may not like them and may not have the physical characteristics to do well on them. Physical characteristics of your child play a very important role in how they progress and their eventual success in mastering an instrument.

Common physical characteristics to consider are size of the child; thick or thin lips; length of arms; size of fingers; digital dexterity; breathing and lung capacity and dental malocclusion i.e. faulty alignment of teeth when biting. Young people with dental appliances such as braces may want to consider woodwind instruments over brass. Playing a brass mouthpiece with braces can, in some cases, be quite painful and disturb the alignment of the teeth being straightened. If a child has a severe condition such as asthma, an allergy or a respiratory aliment they should probably be encouraged to play percussion or string instruments.

All band wind instruments require a proper embouchure—a French word meaning the proper position of lips, teeth, jaw, chin, etc. I call this the “facial mask.” The player needs to be carefully taught the proper embouchure from the very beginning of their instrumental study. It is absolutely vital to have proper embouchure when playing any wind instrument.


Flute, clarinet and saxophone are the most popular and can be reasonable to purchase. Oboe and bassoon are very expensive but are especially sought after in bands and orchestras. Students with thinner lips are better suited to instruments such as the clarinet. Those with an overbite may be better suited to clarinet, saxophone or flute. A student with small fingers may have difficulty playing the bassoon because the tone holes are farther apart than on other woodwind instruments.

Brass: The cornet and trumpet are considered “high brass” and students with thin lips should be able to do well on these instruments. These instruments are reasonable to buy. Large, fuller lips are probably better suited to the larger mouthpiece instruments like the trombone, euphonium and tuba. Trombones are not too expensive but euphonium and tubas are quite pricy. To play the trombone a child’s arms must be of sufficient length to reach the last or seventh position on the instrument. Very small children should not be encouraged to play the tuba which is quite large and heavy. A caution regarding the French horn – it is quite difficult to play and requires a very good ear to produce the proper pitch and tone. Thin lips may be an advantage to play this instrument. The French horn is very expensive and requires dedication and patience while learning to play. Many students switch to the French horn after starting on cornet or trumpet. Horn players are always sought after for band and orchestras.

Percussion: Drums, timpani, mallet instruments, cymbals and a myriad of accessories make up the percussion family. Students with physical limitations regarding the facial mask such as buck teeth, braces etc. can be encouraged to study percussion. Those with piano skills are desirable for percussionists as people with these skills often advance faster than those who do not play piano.

Strings: Some string instruments—violin, viola, cello and string bass—come in various sizes making them unique among all instruments. This size variance helps accommodate growing children thereby allowing them to start at a very early age.

Keep in mind the large string bass is difficult to transport. The harp, often used in orchestras and sometimes bands, is also difficult to transport, quite expensive and takes real discipline to master. String players are always in demand for orchestras. Guitar, banjo or ukulele may be other string instruments that may interest your child.

Factors to consider in choosing an instrument include cost, size, storage area, transportation and portability of the instrument. One of the most important considerations in choosing an instrument is the child’s own choice. Personal satisfaction, interest, motivation and happiness are indispensible factors in the successful learning of a musical instrument.

It may be a good idea to rent an instrument before buying to make sure the child will like playing it. Check your local music store for rental instruments and private instruction. Most school music programs will lend instruments to students playing in their ensembles. The school music director is an excellent source for recommending instruments to students.

Please submit your questions and comments to
Visit our website at for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

Watch the Donut, Not the Hole

All of the bad news out of Europe regarding their debt crisis got me thinking about how best we can all cope through these tumultuous times. It seems every time we turn around there is another crisis that results in some harrowing ups and downs in the market. I think we could all benefit from listening to lyrics from an old tune from Burl Ives, The Donut Song:

“When you walk the streets you’ll have no cares
If you walk the lines and not the squares
As you go through life make this your goal
Watch the donut, not the hole.”

Most investors spend far too much time watching the “hole” and forgetting all about the “donut.” There is always going to be a reason not to invest, always going to be something to worry about. In a lot of ways, the information age we live in makes matters worse. The constant bombardment of news, analysis and information on all that is wrong with the world weighs on our collective psyche. So let’s forget about the hole and turn our attention to the donut, the yummy part!

There has been quite a bit of positive data on the economy. The recovery is for real. It may not seem that way all the time but consider these facts: Corporate earnings are up. Companies in the S&P 500 are on track to earn $76 to $80 this year; up from $57 last year. The S&P 500 Index is up dramatically since the lows in March 2009, despite several pull backs along the way. We have seen five corrections of at least 5% since last March and this is to be expected. Stocks rarely go up in a straight line. The prior bull market runs that started at market lows in 1974, 1982, 1987, 1990 and 2002 all had multiple setbacks of 5% or more.1 April’s employment report was unexpectedly strong and signals that the economic expansion is still underway and that we may see the unemployment rate gradually start to come down. Consumer spending has steadily improved.

Patience is paramount to successful investing. When you focus on the positive it is much easier to be patient. “Watch the donut, not the hole.”

1. Barron’s, Bear Scare, May 10, 2010

Damien helps individuals invest and manage risk. He is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and an Investment Adviser Representative of, and offers securities and investment advisory services through, Financial Network Investment Corporation, Member SIPC 1850 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite 170 Walnut Creek, CA 94596. These are the views of Damien Couture, CFP® and should not be construed as investment advice. The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in an index. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. 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