Attractive Opportunities in Emerging Market Bonds

We are all too familiar with the economic headwinds facing the U.S. and Europe. The larger, more mature economies of the U.S. and Europe are being held back by low growth, high unemployment, housing downturns and massive deficits.  Most economists don’t see this changing much in the coming quarters. The consensus seems to be that the possibility of a recession has risen. Barring a recession, most pundits predict slow growth as their best case scenario.  So how do we invest in this environment? I would suggest investors take a look at emerging market bonds.

The economic outlook for many of the smaller, less developed economies – the so called emerging markets – is much different.  hese regions have much better growth rates, trade surpluses, favorable demographics and lower deficits.  This economic outperformance is expected to continue. One byproduct of this better economic backdrop is a favorable bond market environment. In countries like Brazil, Chile, Mexico, South Korea and Australia, to name a few, interest rates are higher and real yields (average bond yields minus inflation) are positive. The currencies of these more dynamic economies are also expected to appreciate against the U.S. dollar, the euro and the British sterling.1

Contrast that with the bond market here in the U.S. and Europe. We have record low interest rates on our government bonds and real yields have turned negative in 2011.1 These low yields point to an environment of very low returns on government bonds going forward. In addition, our massive deficits most likely will necessitate a decline in currency valuations over time  In short, not a lot on the upside going forward. 

In summary, the economic conditions here in the U.S. and Europe are expected to languish. But this is not true everywhere. Yet, many investors do not have any international bond exposure. I would take a look at the composition of your bond allocations.  Consider overweighting the bond markets and currencies of the faster growing emerging markets and reducing exposure to bonds in U.S. and European markets. Be sure to look for bonds that are un-hedged to the U.S. dollar. In this environment you want the currency exposure for additional appreciation potential.

1.Wells Fargo Funds Management, Investment Perspectives, International Fixed Income, 10-2011 
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

Turning Eighteen

In California, the age of majority is 18. Once a young man or woman reaches 18 years of age, he or she is considered an adult for all purposes other than drinking alcohol. How does this impact the young person and the parents?

One of things that often surprises parents is that the young person’s right to privacy outweighs all rights that the parents have with regard to the child. This means that legally, the parent has no rights to see college grades or medical information. This, despite the fact that the parent is paying for the service. One of the most important things that a parent may consider is to have the young person sign an Advance Health Care Directive. This allows the parent (should the young person designate him or her) to make medical decisions in case of emergency.

Despite the fact that the young person is an adult, the parent may still be held legally responsible for the acts of the young person. For example, driving the family car and having an accident can expose the parent to liability, if the parent is still the owner of the car and carries the insurance. Putting the car into the child’s name and getting a separate insurance policy mitigates this risk, however the insurance will be at a significantly higher price.

The California State Bar has two publications that can be very helpful to teenagers and their parents in terms of understanding these legal issues. The first is called “Kids and the Law: An A-Z Guide for Parents.” The brochure explains what rights and responsibilities that a parent has with regard to a child, and what protections and rights that the child has. The second is called “When You Become 18: A Survival Guide for Teenagers.” These helpful publications can be ordered by looking online at under public services.

The “Humint” Touch

My partner and I were having a business discussion. We share the same philosophy when it comes to obtaining good information.

“You don’t know something is true until you see it with your own eyes,” I said.

Elrod replied, “You mean humint.” 

“What?” I asked. 

“Humint,” Elrod repeated. “It’s a military term for human intelligence.”

The technology for society, business, private investigations, and certainly more so for the military, changes rapidly. How do you keep up with it and know which source provides good information? It was this question that the former Army ranger and I were kicking around.

We agree that: Technology is a tool and very good one. Tech can do some amazing things to shrink time and space and to save on manpower. But the best investigative results come from a marriage of technology and human intelligence, using one’s senses to assess a situation and to weigh the various factors or results.

Two tools many private investigators use are databases and GPS. Databases provide address histories and assemble public records information.  he pitfall with databases is that they often rely on information the subject provides and may be “stale.”  To determine where someone resides, you need to verify it a couple different ways and see them at the residence more than just once. Technology, such as social media or the internet, can also be used to manipulate a situation with false information.

Business, government and private parties use GPS to track movements of goods and personnel. It’s useful in that it can tell you where something is located at any given moment. However, GPS offers no context. You might own a business and have GPS on all the vehicles but you have no idea what those drivers or personnel are actually doing in the field. They might be selling trade secrets or not representing the company in the best light.

One example of technology run amok was the phone hacking scandal perpetrated by News of The World and other tabloids. The papers had relationships with unscrupulous private investigators who were hacking into voicemails of the royal family, business leaders and crime victims.

And yet, in the history of media, where have the biggest scoops come from? Not from short-cuts like phone hacking. Big stories come from industrious reporters who take the time to find documents, see patterns of information and cultivate sources who can confirm information or point them in the right direction.

Elrod brought up a battle in Afghanistan, Roberts Ridge, where technology used in advance failed to detect an enemy. U.S. forces had used unmanned drone planes to perform aerial surveillance but did not detect hostile forces. The enemy understood aerial photography and had dug in to the terrain. Fifteen service members were later killed as U.S. forces kept trying to land helicopters in the area.

“It comes down to human intelligence,” Elrod said. “A computer can’t see and hear things or tell you the nature of an interaction.”

Bring the Holiday Beauty “Magic “- Beauty Styles that Sparkle!

The holidays are filled with parties, family get-togethers, and special events. This holiday season try something fun to make you feel extra special like; blush shimmers, sparkle eyeliners, or jewel tone lip-glosses. These are just some beauty pick-me-ups to feel pretty and to look sensational this holiday season!

Blush shimmers are in big demand this season. They look so fabulous and radiant on the skin it’s like a supermodel in a bottle! They make the skin glow and your complexion look oh-so-smooth. There are so many colors to choose from. We have available pink shimmers, bronzy shimmers, champagne liquids, porcelain powders, bronzers and beautiful rosy golden stick highlighters. Depending on your skin tone try a few before purchasing your favorite one. This can be tricky so ask our trained professional to help you with placement and color. You do not want to apply a blush shimmer all over the face. It belongs only on the highest part of the cheekbone and on top of the apple of the cheek.

Holiday Lips
It’s funny the way a new shade of lipstick or new lip gloss can put a spring in your step! It’s the little simple things that make us smile this holiday season. With new jewel tone lip-gloss colors glowing everywhere this season, now’s the time to load up on shine. The shinier the better and with some fun runway-worthy sparkle! Glam it up with lips looking like juicy-jewels! If you want to slip into something a little more silky, you can try lipsticks that have peptides in them for a true moisture surge and a more fuller looking lip. Anything you decide make sure it’s glossy and lips look nice and hydrated. There is nothing worse than having dry chapped lips before applying your favorite gloss or lip color. Use a good Vitamin E with Vitamin C lip treatment. This will help heal and super hydrate the lips and protect the lips from harsh weather conditions.

One Hot Minute
Eyes are enchanting this holiday season. There is so much texture, dimension, and intense colors in shadows you can look fabulous in minutes. Nude Mattes are a big hit this season with your favorite browns and navy blue accents. Midnight Blue eye- liner hits center stage with their intense pop of color. Use this amazing color as an accent to achieve a glam-dramatic look and make heads turn when you walk in the room.

Eye Bright
Who needs sleep when you’ve got the latest tools and techniques to give your eyes that well rested look? With the help of Ongrien’s Ultra Firming Eye Cream and Fleur Visage Concealing Cover Stick you’ll be transformed in a blink. Simply apply the Ultra Firming Eye Cream under the eyes to help de-puff eyes and make them brighter. Add our cover stick with super concealing benefits to hide even the darkest circles.

Let The Rouge take you on a glamour journey with beautifully applied make-up to make your parties extra special. We are available to Glamorize you Tuesday through Saturday for all your special events.

Gray Gray Go Away

Each day I find several new ones. They’re long, coarse and wiry in places I can’t even seem to reach anymore with the tweezers. As I enter into a new stage of life, the stage of gray (or is it grey?), I’m left with no other resolve but to write about it. Like that will make it disappear.

It started out at the temples. Oh look, one little one here (how cute, call it a milestone), another, slightly longer one there (hunt and pluck is fun), until finally the cuteness began to wear off faster than a 25-cent watercolor tattoo. I soon found myself meticulously hunting for the white-on-brown almost daily.

Not quite ready to sing Clairol’s “I’m gonna wash that gray right outta my hair” (or is it “man”), I decided to do some research on this amazing phenomenon, so I went straight to the net (as opposed to hair net).

Out of the 10,200,000 sites on gray hair, I combed through hundreds of sites (okay, more like five) on hiding the new and unwanted shades of gray (or in my case white) with dyes. I found ‘Born Again Hair Color,’ ‘The Gray Hair Net,’ and my personal favorite ‘Grey Sterling’s Self-Service Mortuary’ (a guide to links carrying goth-friendly items such as clothing, make-up and hair dye, in case you were wondering).

For those of you not ready to add chemicals to your tresses, there were sites with advice on how to slow the colorful aging metamorphosis down to a pathetic crawl, Slowskys-style (you know those Comcast turtles who just had a baby).

It’s easy. You simply include more curry leaves in cooking, eat more dates and honey and the best tip of all was, “washing the hair with a paste of cooked black gram dhal and fenugreek lengthens the hair, keeps them black and cures dandruff.” Even if I don’t have black hair, I’m thinking this might be the best remedy yet.

I wonder why I am so adamant about obliterating the signs of aging. Has pop culture and the media falsified reality and distorted the truth by convincing me that aging is something to be “weeded” out at all costs? Now we’re deep, almost to the root of the matter here.

They say for every gray hair you pluck off your head, two new gray ones grow in its place. I Googled that too and out of 882,000 sites, I found a resounding – it ain’t biologically possible. If it were true, men would be lining up for days outside of Walgreen’s for a set of tweezers – do those come in Craftsman or Snap-on?

I tend to pluck in the truck at stoplights, because quite frankly, it offers the best light possible to rip out those freaky follicles at the root. And if anyone is watching me, too bad. It’s way better than “picking a winner” in the nose region.

And so what if I look like Cruella de Vil right now. She was hot. I tell myself it’s all about how you carry yourself, not how evil you look. And if you say one word about my graying hair, make sure you know where your puppy is at all times, especially the dark brown ones.

Charleen Earley is a comedienne, freelance writer, high school journalism teacher, mom and humor columnist. Visit her at

Giving Thanks

The holiday season kicks into full force this month, commencing with a very special meal on Thursday, November 24. Since Thanksgiving dinner is designed to showcase nature’s bounty, shopping at the farmers’ market makes more sense than ever. It is also a very important way to give thanks to the people who grow the food we eat throughout the year.

Free from the glare of fluorescent lights, and harried hosts pushing cumbersome shopping carts through crowded supermarket aisles, the farmers’ market offers a plentiful selection of pumpkins and other winter squash for soup; a gamut of greens for salads; sweet potatoes to bake; russet potatoes to mash; artisan breads for homemade stuffing; Brussels sprouts, green beans, onions, and plenty of other seasonal veggies for side dishes; apples for pie; and flowers for the table. It’s all right there — in the crisp November air.

A trio of pies traditionally ends the Thanksgiving meal at my house: there’s always pumpkin, apple, and something nutty. Last year I decided to forgo the cloying sweetness of pecan pie and instead spotlight the new crop of locally grown walnuts. How did it go? As the last crumb was devoured, we unanimously agreed there is no reason to ever turn back. The pleasant bite of toasted California walnuts, paired with an optional glug of all-American bourbon, offsets the richness of the filling. (If you prefer to omit the bourbon for any reason, just increase the vanilla to 2 teaspoons.)  This pie is just one more reason to be thankful we ended up living in California.

California Walnut Pie

  • Prepared dough for a single-crust pie, chilled
  • 2 heaping cups shelled California walnut halves and pieces (about 9 ounces)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Make-Ahead Whipped Cream (recipe follows)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into circle about 13-inches in diameter. Ease the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and form a decorative border as desired. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until firm.
  2. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, until fragrant and lightly toasted, 7 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Carefully position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and place a heavy baking sheet on the rack. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended. Press the brown sugar through a sieve into the bowl (to ensure there will be no lumps). Whisk in the corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon, vanilla, and salt until combined.
  5. Here is where you make a choice: If you just want a delicious pie and don’t care if it looks a tiny bit homely, coarsely chop all the toasted walnuts now and be done with it. Scatter the nuts over the bottom of the chilled pie shell and skip to Step 7. But if it’s important for you to create a photo-worthy Martha-kind-of-pie, proceed to Step 6.
  6. To determine how many walnut halves are needed to decorate the top of the pie, draw a 9-inch circle on a piece of paper; then arrange enough toasted walnut halves in concentric circles to fill it. Gather up these nuts and set aside. Coarsely chop all the remaining walnut halves and pieces and scatter them over the bottom of the chilled pie shell. Arrange the reserved walnut halves over the top decoratively in concentric circles.
  7. Carefully pour the filling into the pie shell. If needed, re-position any walnut halves that have floated out of place. Place the pie pan directly on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until the filling is puffed around the edges and a knife inserted 1-inch from the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Cool completely on a wire rack. If made in advance, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature, cut into wedges, with whipped cream. Makes one 9-inch pie, to serve 8 to 12.

On a day like Thanksgiving, any recipe that doesn’t require last-minute fussing in the kitchen always catches my eye—especially when it’s for the end of the meal. By the time I’m ready to serve dessert, I’d rather be holding a wine glass than a hand mixer.

I’ve never been a fan of those artificially flavored whipped toppings that come in a tub or an aerosol can; and I think using them at Thanksgiving should be a crime. But making freshly whipped cream was just one more last-minute thing to add to my “to do” list. For years I’ve tried quick-fixes to stabilize cream so it can be whipped in advance; tricks like adding a bit of nonfat dry milk powder or a touch of unflavored gelatin. I was never overly impressed with the results—until I found this technique in The Food of Campanile: Recipes from the Famed Los Angeles Restaurant. Leave it to renowned chef Nancy Silverton to finally crack the whipped cream code by adding crème fraîche. Brilliant. It’s creamy, rich, and silky—and adds a pleasant yet almost imperceptible tang.

Here are 3 more of my own tips for making perfect whipped cream:

  1. Always start with pasteurized heavy cream—not the ultra-pasteurized stuff a lot of supermarkets try to pass off as the real thing. The latter may have a much longer shelf-life (which is why grocers love it), but it takes forever to whip, and ends up tasting vaguely of plastic. Go figure.
  2. If you have room in the refrigerator or freezer, by all means chill the mixing bowl and the beater(s) for at least 10 minutes before you begin. When everything is cold, the whipping process is significantly easier.
  3. Always use pure vanilla extract. Anything less is a travesty.


Make-Ahead Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, well chilled
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream

In a large bowl, beat together the cream, sugar, and vanilla with a hand-held electric mixer on Low speed until slightly thickened. Increase the speed to Medium-High and beat until fluffy, stopping just before the cream is firm enough to hold soft peaks. Finish whipping the cream by hand, gently whisking in the crème fraîche. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Just before serving, whisk again briefly to aerate the mixture.


The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad and Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM or visit their web site at


Stamps in My Passport- San Marino & Italy

San MarinoSummer is considered the “in” time to visit Europe. One can be on a beach, either nude or covered, pay top dollar for two and three star hovels, and elbow one’s way down a variety of boardwalks and main streets. You are exposed to professional pickpockets, persistent vendors, and long waits for expensive restaurants. Why do we pay premium airfares for this privilege? Maybe it’s just vacation time, I don’t know. But let me tell you about visiting Italy in November – definitely not the “high season.”

We arrived in Milan in the midst of a torrential rainstorm. As a northern California resident, I’m used to a few drops of drizzle. But this was RAIN. Driven by force IV winds, each bucket threatened to drench every bit of exposed fabric.

We rented a small white Opal and aimed south – looking for the proverbial Italian sun. We chose Rimini on the Adriatic, about one third of the way down the eastern side of the Italian boot. This summer resort has miles of sandy beaches, fully populated by hotel after hotel. Three and four story edifices with large comfortable balconies overlook the sea. Sandwiched in between was the usual group of fast-food pizza palaces, gelato vendors, and an odd collection of activity areas such as miniature golf and beach volleyball. Mix in a few palm trees, a park, some benches, and you’ve described every beach town in the world.

But in November everything was boarded up. Magnificent structures of old-world pastels fast asleep, waiting for next summer to live again.

If you have found Rimini on the map you will notice it is only about sixty kilometers from that independent little Republic of San Marino. I’ll let you investigate the how and the why this mountain country in the middle of Italy retains its uniqueness. The story reeks of incest, rape, murder, and the usual political intrigues.

Visitors to San Marino in summer tell stories of hours of waiting on the narrow road leading in. One friend left the autostrade (i.e., toll road) fifty kilometers away and arrived six hours later at the gondola which can take you the last few kilometers. Not in November. We drove to within one hundred meters of the main entrance, not even a tour bus to contend with. We parked and drifted along. The winding streets were devoid of people. We were waited on immediately in each store, and every restaurant had available tables. Even the public restrooms were lacking lines. Hey – it was ten degrees Celsius…

The down-side to this fantastic piece of parking luck was a pink slip of paper tucked under my windshield wipers. Unable to read the language which described my supposed transgression, I snuck off into the gathering evening mist. I can hardly imagine the carabinieri chasing me to Danville for a teeny, tiny parking discrepancy. Can you?

The other side of the Italian boot was a little more tourist friendly. We found only about half of the hotels were closed in the Santa Margarita area, and on Sundays the streets were full but not crowded.

But on this western side we were exposed to a different kind of November treat.

We got up early one morning in Genova with the hopes of driving along the Ligurian Sea toward Monaco. The wind was again a force IV and driving on the toll road was menacing. The trucks were out in force, and each time we passed or were passed, our little Opal shook to the core. Every kilometer or so we disappeared into a tunnel only to come out and have to immediately cross a suspension bridge, hundreds of feet high. Our courage could only stand so much of this, so after a couple of hours we decided to go back to our safe little hovel in Genova and wait out this blast. But the best was still in store.

Rather than retrace our path on the toll road at one hundred and ten kilometers per hour amidst the trucks and the wind, we retreated to the local highway which ran directly along the coast. Here the locals moved at twenty to thirty kilometers – a much less stressful environment.

But the sea itself was having none of this more peaceful condition. In November, under heavy winds, it reminded us landlubbers that it was not to be reckoned with. Waves from our vantage point looked higher than the road and proved to be so. At a number of points they crashed over the road and our car, leaving behind several feet of sea water to drain back into the proper place.

I have a little secret to share here. After the initial fright of being totally engulfed in the water of the Ligurian Sea disappeared and we realized there was no danger, we made a U-turn or three and drove back through those areas. It was fun! The car was completely covered with salt water, and we could taste the salt on our lips. But the thrill of those breakers howling up over our car will cause us to laugh out loud when we remember “those days in the low season.”

Is Sciatica getting on your nerves? Exploring Class IV Laser Pain Relief for Low Back and Hip Pain

The condition known as Sciatica is one of the most common conditions that we treat at Align Healing Center. Some of the common symptoms of Sciatica are sharp pain in the low-back and/or buttocks accompanied by numbness, tingling, and aching or burning in the back of the legs. In severe circumstances, weakness in the legs may also be seen.

The Sciatic Nerve is large and travels down the back of the leg to the foot. The nerve is buried deep within the muscles of the buttock and leg making it difficult to treat with common physical therapy methods. The Sciatic Nerve is composed of several smaller nerves and originates from the low back. It passes under the piriformis muscle (underneath the main buttock muscles) on its way down the leg. Irritation of the Sciatic Nerve at any point along its path is commonly known as “Sciatica”.

Understanding Sciatica
Let’s talk about nerves for a moment. Nerves are the electrical wiring of the human body. They carry the signals that allow us to move, feel, digest, detoxify, respond to our environment, and so much more. Plain and simple, if the nerves do not work the body will not work. That being said, it is important to understand that unlike other tissues, the primary blood supply to nerve tissue is actually located WITHIN the nerve itself. So, if a nerve becomes impinged or compromised, so does the blood supply to the nerve. Without proper blood supply, the nerve does not receive the energy and nutrition that are needed for the nerve to heal itself. Over time neural impingement leads to a painful chronic condition called Neuropathy. The definition of neuropathy is a disease or injury affecting nerve cells. The common symptoms of Neuropathy include sharp pain, burning, muscular weakness, numbness or tingling either at the site of the nerve injury or wherever the nerve travels. The condition known as Sciatica is a form of Neuropathy that specifically affects the Sciatic Nerve.

How can Class IV laser help my Sciatica?

For the past eleven years Align Healing Center has been offering many different modalities to reverse Sciatic Neuropathy. In 2009 we began using Class IV Laser Therapy and the results have been outstanding! Class IV Laser Therapy allows the practitioner to stimulate healing within the nerve tissue by delivering the necessary energy directly to the injured area. During each painless treatment laser energy increases circulation, drawing water, oxygen, and nutrients to the damaged area. Laser therapy is a photochemical process that is able to bypass the arterial “highway” that was damaged as a result of the initial injury. During Laser Therapy the infrared laser light interacts with tissues at the cellular level and metabolic activity increases within the cell, improving the transport of nutrients across the cell membrane. This initiates the production of cellular energy (ATP) that leads to a cascade of beneficial effects, increasing cellular function and health. This creates an optimal healing environment that reduces inflammation, swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness and pain.

Dr. Niele Maimone, DC of Align Healing Center in Danville, CA has been active in natural health & wellness since 1999. For more information or to set up a consult call 925.362.8283 or visit

Trivial Matters

Great column last month on old time radio. We really do hint at our age when we profess to listening to radio every night in the 40’s and 50’s. TV changed all that, but we have great memories.

  1. Jack Benny would continually enter a train station. The train announcer would announce a train leaving on track 5 for which Southern California cities, which never seemed to get any passengers?
  2.  Fred Allen would take a weekly trip up Allen’s Alley to chat with the occupants. The first stop was always at the home of a bombastic southern politician, who was the inspiration for the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. What was his name?
  3. The most unusual star was Charlie McCarthy, a comic puppet. Can you imagine being amused by a ventriloquist that you could not see. Who was the ventriloquist?
  4.  Jack Armstrong was the most famous daytime adventure show. What high school did Jack attend?
  5. What famous movie director hosted “Lux Radio Theater,” which dramatized movies with many of the original stars?
  6. The most popular radio show of the 30’s was “Amos and Andy>” What was the name of their lodge?

October Answers

  1.  Eliot Asinof
  2.  Charkie Sheen
  3. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson
  4. Charles Comiskey
  5.  Kenesaw Mountain Landis
  6. One (2006)

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 November 20, 2011. In the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn at random. Please email your answers to, or mail to ALIVE East Bay, 3200A Danville Blvd., Suite 204, Alamo, CA 94507. Employees and family members of employees of ALIVE East Bay are not eligible.
Restaurant may be changed without notice.

2012 Jaguar XJL Massaging Luxury!

2012 Jaguar XJL
Has your time come to ignite an eight-cylinder supercharged super luxury sedan? Have you had enough of the beautiful yet abundant Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus models that are in every other driveway? Are you looking to stand out in a crowd and show your neighbors, co-workers and the rest of the world that you have class and intrigue like no other? If so, then your next trip should be to a Jaguar dealership to test drive the all-new 2012 Jaguar XJL sedan.

After 41 years of having the same basic body design, Jaguar takes a bold step to transform its flagship XJ into a restructured work of art. After sales of the XJ began to decline, the team at Jaguar decided to juice up their iconic sedan with revolutionary changes to the XJ’s exterior and interior design.

The all-new XJL is a long-wheelbase version of the XJ with a new “Executive Pack” that transforms the rear of the XJL into a mobile office with fold-down business trays, an electric rear sunblind and reclining rear seat.

The 2012 XJ and XJL body panels are forged from aluminum which delivers a light curb weight starting around 4,000 lbs. for the base model. The sides come straight down and the roofline extends back far over the trunk. The hood, front driving lights, grille and spoiler pose a sculptured elegance. The overall design is as animalistic and muscular as the wild Jaguar as its name sake.

The organic lines and sloping roofline establish the agile and grace expected from the luxury brand. The standard glass top has two fully functioning sunroofs that generate an environment of openness and light. The XJL may just be the new standard of luxurious prominence.

The full model lineup for the XJ is as follows: XJ ($73,700), XJL Portfolio ($80,700), XJ Supercharged ($88,600), XJL Supercharged ($91,600, XJ Supersport ($111,200) and the XJL Supersport ($117,700). I had the extreme pleasure of having the XJL Supersport trim as my test vehicle. I was living large and receiving the nods of approval and envy during my week long test drive. What a car!

The incredible performance of the XJ comes from three engine choices. The XJL Supersport manifests its power from a 5.0-liter V8 supercharged engine that produces 510 horsepower and 461 lbs-ft of torque. The other two supercharged models pound out 470-hp and 424 ft-lbs of torque. The non-supercharged versions of the XJ come standard with a 5.0-liter V8 with 385-hp and 380 lbs-ft of torque.

The interior of my XJL Supersport test model had more leather than my living room. The opulent cabin design flows with the elegance expected from a super-luxury car priced twice as much as the XJL. This includes every detail of the interior, from the two-tone butter-soft hides to the walnut and piano black trim.

The front seats were incredibly comfortable and include a massage feature. Replacing your standard gauges is a 12.3-inch high-definition virtual instrument cluster graphically displaying the speedometer, fuel, temperature and more. A thin band of walnut curl veneer trim encircled the dash merging graciously into a prominent 5-inch strip on the doors. The steering wheel is composed of wood trim and leather with a multitude of controls. An innovated 8-inch touch-screen is used to assist with the radio and environmental controls as well as navigation and backup camera.

The rear compartment of the XJL Supersport was as cozy as the front complete with lighted vanity mirrors and drop down tables on each side. An electric rear window shade for additional privacy with heated and reclining rear seats are superior features. As you would expect since the “L” in XJL stands for length, the rear legroom was plentiful. To increase your comfort even more, rear passengers have individual heating and cooling controls, seat temperature controls, and a removable foot rest.

Premium surround-sound options include the top-of-the-range 1200W Bowers & Wilkins® system that is comparable in audio quality to the best in-home entertainment. Advanced infotainment features also include hard-drive based audio and navigation systems and comprehensive connectivity for portable audio and video devices via the powerful Media Hub.

Room for improvement:

  • Poor fuel economy at 12 City and 17 Highway

Cool Features:

  • Massaging Seats
  • Panoramic Glass Roof
  • SmartKey Keyless Entry and Start

The standard safety equipments for all the 2012 Jaguar XJ includes Xenon front and LED rear lights, traction and stability control, antilock brakes, alarm and engine immobilizer, side curtain airbags, front side airbags, tire pressure monitor system, blind spot warning system and active head restraints. The optional adaptive cruise control provides boosted emergency brake assist and a forward collision alert system.

In Summary – My conclusion is that the 2012 Jaguar XJL would make Jaguar’s founder, Sir William Lyons, incredibly proud and wish he was around for a behind-the-wheel experience. Despite the radical design change, sale numbers are proving that timing was everything when they brought the XJ into the 21st Century in both appearance and electronic proficiency. In terms of luxury, technology, and build quality, I wouldn’t hesitate to compare the XJL against the Bentley Flying Spur, BMW 7-Series or the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. In my humble opinion, the 2012 XJL Supersport tops the list.

2012 Jaguar XJL Supersport

Base price: $117,700 as driven: $118,575 (including destination)
Engine: 5.0-liter V8-cylinder Supercharged
Horsepower: 510 @ 6500
Torque: 461 foot pounds @ 5500
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic with Overdrive and Paddle Shift
Drive: Rear Wheel-Drive
Seating: 5-passenger
Turning circle: 41.7 feet
Cargo space: 18.4 cubic feet
Curb weight: 4223 pounds
Fuel capacity: 21.7 gallons
EPA mileage: City 15 / Highway 21
Wheel Base: 124.3 inches
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper
Also consider: Bentley Flying Spur, BMW 750Li, BMW Alpine B7, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class