MdK – The Heart of Rock and Roll is Still Beating

Mdk  Band Members
The Bay Area has been home to many top rock and roll bands. From Jefferson Starship/Airplane, Santana and Journey, to Metallica, Green Day and Train, this area has been a hotbed of rock talent. With such a rich and treasured past, could MdK, a band consisting of four teenagers from the I-680 corridor, be the next big thing?

MdK originally consisted of Matt Salavitch (bass), Keller O’Rourke (drums), Nick Hays (lead guitar) and Tyler Stimspon (lead vocals and rhythm guitar). The boys met while participating in the Grizzlies Jazz Band at California High School and formed MdK roughly fourteen months ago. Since then, it has been a whirlwind adventure with this young band accumulating accolades and notoriety along the way. Recently, the band replaced Tyler with Kyle Paquin of Pleasant Hill. Kyle (19) graduated from College Park High School in June and will be heading to Diablo Valley College this fall.

MdK is a fresh mix of alterative, pop and classic rock along the lines of Good Charlotte, All American Rejects and Yellowcard. Their debut CD, Its Never Over, released in January of this year by R-Tist Records, is a powerful collection of high energy songs with great hooks, catchy lyrics and solid musicianship. When I sat down with Keller (18), Matt (16) and Nick (18), the boys had been in the midst of a two hour, mostly instrumental, rehearsal where they played a new song for me entitled, Left Side. “We’re working on an edgier, more mature sound,” says Keller, who the guys admit is the strongest musician in the band. Keller and Nick write a majority of the band’s songs. Nick explained, “As we get older, our lyrics take on a deeper content.”

Like most successful bands, each member of the group brings something unique to the table. Keller, also a freshman at DVC this fall, is very much into the sound and technical side of the music—not a big surprise since his dad is the band’s sound technician. Matt, a high school junior, is the charismatic outgoing one in the group. He is the best athlete and student within the MdK ranks and understandably gets most of the female attention with his muscular frame and charismatic smile. Nick, a senior, is much more serious and intense. He has “old soul” rock roots (Brad Gillis of Night Ranger is a close family friend) having been raised around musicians his entire life. Kyle, is the new kid on the block. He brings a dynamic change of pace to the MdK lead singer role. His strong vocal chops and vivacious stage presence should appeal to the band’s existing fan base and industry insiders evaluating the group’s potential.

While the guys admit there are the typical minor band disagreements, they all count on each other to make the group stronger as a whole. “We are always trying to perfect our playing and expand the sound,” says Matt. At the photo shoot, Kyle joined the band for two numbers, The Concert Song and Montana. Having just seen the band at the San Ramon Art and Wind Festival, I can already tell the band’s sound is maturing.

When asked what their goals are and how they would define success, Nick explains, “Making it” is what it’s all about. “We want the big fan base, big gigs, a big CD release with national airplay and video rotation.” “We want to play great music,” Matt states. “We want to be EPIC and get our music heard”, Keller adds. A definable goal is to play the main stage of the WARPED tour. This is another reason for the harder edge sound that the WARPED tour is known for having showcased bands such as Fall Out Boy, 30 Seconds to Mars, Simple Plan and Paramore, to name just a few who have headlined the festival over the years.

The boys of MdK plan to accomplish this feat with the help of their team which consists primarily of their parents. In additional to Keller’s dad, Cameron, handling sound and the website, Matt’s parents handle logistics and the band’s nutritional regimen, and Nick’s mom, Danielle, is the group’s Manager. “The parents have handled the business end of the band to allow the boys to focus on the creative process. We have goal setting sessions, planning meetings and the guys are learning more and more about the music industry a little at a time,” Danielle says. For their part, the boys appear to be sincerely grateful. The band has also added seasoned Road Manager Jesse Battle. Jesse has a long and storied history working with bands such as Journey, Eddie Money and Y&T.

While the band has already appeared on Television twice, it was a gig at a Youth to Youth Conference that they all agree has been the best experience so far. “There were over 600 people at the show and it was crazy,” Nick tells. “The boys hung out for close to 90 minutes after their set signing autographs,” added Danielle.

Keller says for now there is no Plan B. “We are going to give it everything we have and hope this all comes together.” The guys seem more than willing to make the sacrifices needed to crack the big time. The devote two hours daily to rehearsal. “It’s no worse than playing high school sports,” Nick says. Matt adds, “We don’t feel like we’re giving anything up. Our lives are very balanced.” Keller adds that playing every day with the band and getting to play live shows is worth all the practice. However, “Nobody likes lugging gear,” Keller states, although Danielle is quick to point out that the parents are usually performing roadie work while the guys usually interact with fans after a show.

Having followed the Northern California rock music scene for most of my life, MdK impresses me as a band with all the potential in the world. Matt, Nick, Keller and Kyle exhibit the type of heart and dedication needed to make it in the music industry today. The boys are poised to make their mark soon, having verbally committed to play at the NAMM show, taking place in Anaheim next January. NAMM is one the largest music product trade shows in the world, drawing over 90,000 attendees annually. It’s a good bet that with the team they’ve assembled and the contacts they are accumulating, the big time may not be far away. Given the chance, you may want to say, “I saw MdK live when they were first starting out.” In 1984, Huey Lewis and the News (another band hailing from the Bay Area) released the song The Heart of Rock and Roll is Still Beating. MdK is living proof that the heart beat of Bay Area rock music is alive and well.

MdK will be headlining Crow Canyon Rocks, a concert benefiting the Discovery Counseling Center of San Ramon Valley, on September 23rd at the Crow Canyon Country Club. For show details and ticket information visit the Discovery Center website at

Do You Have a “Love/Hate” Relationship With Food?

If so…you’re not alone. Many of us habitually eat unhealthy foods in order to offer our taste buds immediate gratification and pleasure—while attempting to “push down” uncomfortable emotions (such as anger, sadness, or fear). Although our unhealthy eating behaviors may take the “edge off” momentarily—continually eating in this way often adds an additional source of emotional pain in our lives…as well as physical pain in our bodies.

Experts in health care repeatedly warn us that obesity is reaching epidemic proportions—and is a known cause of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. A recent CNN Health article states that more than 100,000 cases of cancer each year are caused by excess body fat. Do you ever wonder why a nation such as ours—filled with so many intelligent people—is continually giving in to extremely unhealthy food choices?

Maybe our confusing “love/hate” relationship with food has a physical component in addition to an emotional component. For example, according to the former U.S. Food and Drug Administrator, David Kessler, M.D., foods high in sugar, fat, and salt alter the brain’s chemistry by creating a release of powerful chemicals, such as dopamine and natural pain-killing substances called opioids. Surprisingly, these are the very same chemicals that are released when people are addicted to alcohol, cigarette smoking, drugs, and gambling.

Addictive cycles can result due to “cue-urge-reward” patterns. And let’s face it; in our lives today there are no shortages of extremely seductive food “cues” that result in “urges” (aka: cravings). Most of us are bombarded with unhealthy food cues and temptations every day and evening—via the media or a well-intentioned family member or our work environments.

If we continue on the “cue-urge-reward” path and we succumb to the “urge,” then the so-called “reward” phase follows when the dopamine and opioids are released…offering us a mood alter. For this reason, when our behavioral patterns become conditioned responses to cues (or stimuli)—such as foods high in sugar, fat, and salt—then the biological circuits of our brains are altered. This pattern of eating unhealthy foods can lead to a frustrating and confusing…love/hate relationship with food.

Unfortunately, countless prepared foods sold today are loaded with this “tantalizing trio” of sugar, fat, and salt. Sadly, many of us are ingesting these foods at the expense of our health…and our children’s health.
While small amounts of sugar, fat, and salt in our diets are necessary, high doses can trigger chronic compulsive and emotional eating. Since we now know that our brain circuitry is physically affected and altered by eating foods high in sugar, fat, and salt—it’s no wonder that many of us feel powerless when a food craving hits…and hopeless when it comes to losing weight.

Can you relate? If so, just know that your relationship with food is NOT a lost cause. When I work with weight loss clients, I offer various mind-body tools that include educational, cognitive-behavioral exercises, and self-hypnosis. Cognitive behavioral exercises teach my clients how to observe, measure, and modify their unhealthy behaviors, whereas, self-hypnosis offers a relaxed, focused state where unhealthy conditioned responses can be addressed at a deep, unconscious level—below the surface.

And, here’s some GREAT NEWS: According to clinical studies1, when self-hypnosis was added to a weight loss program that utilized cognitive behavioral exercises—the resulting weight loss more than doubled. These clinical studies also showed that the positive effects of self-hypnosis increased over time—which indicates that long-term maintenance of weight loss is strengthened by the use of self-hypnosis.

So, if you’re ready to interrupt your own “cue-urge-reward” patterns—that relate to foods high in sugar, fat, and salt—then take the first step onto a solid weight loss path…and contact me. I will teach you cutting-edge tools that will help to propel you away from a love/hate relationship with food. Then you can begin moving toward your goals and transform hope-LESSness…into hope-FULLness.
1 Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 64, No. 3

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Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author of the 2-CD Set, Weight Loss: Powerful & Easy-to-Use Tools for Releasing Excess Weight. Her artwork and personal profile are included in Outstanding American Illustrators Today 2. She is the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. Trina has a private practice in downtown Danville. She soulfully shares her creative approach to personal growth and passionately supports her clients in reaching their goals. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or

Accidental Genius – Just Do It!

A big breakthrough in my life occurred when I realized something huge: that most of the innovations, processes and discoveries of men come in the form of accidental discovery.

On countless occasions I have witnessed groups of men involved in problem solving on the fly during a work project. I’ve seen first-hand that there is often a lot of what seem like stupid ideas tried out first, when all of a sudden, usually by accident,– the smart way finally becomes apparent or is stumbled upon. This is not meant as a diss on men; on the contrary, from them I learned you have to solve problems by just starting somewhere and trying something and it ends up being a process of trial and error. But that this was the process behind men’s accomplishments was my eye-opening breakthrough.

It’s not just a “guy thing” to be smart and mechanically capable and able to figure stuff out and problem-solve on the fly. It’s a “doing it” thing. You just do it, using any means and ideas you do have, many of which turn out to be inefficient or even stupid in retrospect, but everyone has to start somewhere. It usually takes a few different attempts to figure things out.

My breakthrough was triggered by watching what I perceived as “sheer stupidity” in some of the actions I’ve seen men attempt in problem solving. But it is not as easy as you might think to be the lone woman with a different vision trying to communicate with a bunch of guys focused on another idea. So I would just watch how it all played out, time and again. What I saw on multiple occasions was that genius happens after a lot of trial and error – sometimes very ignorant, comical or insurmountably stupid trial and error. And that’s not just a “girl thing” I discovered. Eureka! My self-esteem had found new ground.

This breakthrough gave me the freedom to pursue a lifetime of learning how to do things for myself, without fear or shame over things I don’t yet have full understanding of, and with resolve to plow forward and find out. It’s all trial and error; you just have to jump in. I have taken on the task of teaching myself stuff, because that’s pretty much what the guys are doing. It’s the best way to learn, though I’ve found it can be time consuming and inefficient, going that route of self-learning everything. Men have the advantage of working in groups with other men to collectively solve problems. Women could really benefit if they would start doing more of that, which I think they are starting to do, more and more.

Most of my own genius thoughts and ideas have also occurred either by mistake or somewhat randomly, but usually after I have been working on a thought or a problem for some time already. Context of knowledge is everything. Timing is everything. And so is trial and error. You have to just do it.

Autumn Spring

The Lamorinda Film & Entertainment Foundation Presents
An Exclusive East Bay Premier Film Screening

Autumn Spring Movie PosterOn the surface, the storyline of Autumn Spring seems simple enough—two older men, having some fun, being a bit naughty. A couple of pranksters with no intent to malign, they’re not quite careful enough as their high jinks sometime backfire, creating problems they hadn’t planned on. I couldn’t help but thinking this would turn out to be a toned-down, lighthearted, European-flavored mix of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and the “Bucket List,” but this movie impressed me far more than either one—and I liked both of those movies.

The film opens with Fanda (Vlastimil Brodsky) and his close friend Eda (Stanislav Zindulka), touring a palatial estate with a realtor. On this day, Fanda is a wealthy “Maestro,” the retired conductor of the Metropolitan Opera. With a dismissive air he notes a few “shabby” characteristics of the mansion, informing the realtor that he might purchase the property—if the owner considers lowering its multi-million dollar price.
As we discover, it’s all an act of course. These guys are having just some fun—harmless fun, but expensive fun—as in; the realtor has shelled out money for a limo, lunch, wine and a suite at the Hilton for this esteemed, potential buyer.

Fanda trips up, accidentally revealing his true identity as nothing more than a retired pensioner. The realtor is not amused and demands repayment for his expenses. It is a considerable amount of money, so Fanda and Eda begin anew their shenanigans in an attempt to raise the cash. Of course, they are unsuccessful.

Enter Fanda’s wife of 44 years, Emilie (Stella Zazvorkova). Disciplined, pragmatic and realistic to a fault, Emilie is Fanda’s antithesis. They are well along in years after all, so Emilie is taking great pains to plan for the couple’s eventual and certainly approaching demise. You could say she is obsessed with death, as she daily counts and divides their pennies, the major portion going into their “funeral account jar.”

You can see where this is going, as Fanda “borrows” some of the funeral money to pay his debt. Ultimately however, Fanda is just too kind hearted to carry his deceptions to complete success and his “innocent” lies eventually catch up to him. The breaking point is reached and hell hath no fury like a “by the book” wife of 44 years. Emilie’s had enough of Fanda’s irresponsible ways and with the blessing of their conniving son, Jara (Ondrej Vetchy) who would like to send papa to the old folks home so that he can have their apartment, Emilie files for divorce. Fanda vows to change his ways, is forgiven, and this time keeps his word. Finally satisfied, Emilie’s life is in order, just as she wanted it. She is happy, as they can now look forward to death together.

The story turns gently and subtly, eventually blossoming into a rich and poignant look at what it means to live and to love. Was Fanda’s behavior due to an immature, irresponsible attitude, or perhaps merely a case of longing for some long-lost, youthful exuberance? We learn the truth as Emilie’s eyes eventually open to see the man she has loved for so many years, as she understands that Fanda has had it right it right all along. He’s been on a mission—to live life in the moment, quietly enjoying the experience, all the time wearing an “inner smile.”

Autumn Spring’s screenplay, by Jiri Hubac, is clever and engaging and the acting is superb throughout. This is a touching and meaningful film, well worth seeing.

Autumn Spring plays in an exclusive East Bay premier engagement at the Orinda Theatre, for one week only, beginning September 16th. The film was selected for this screening by the Lamorinda Film and Entertainment Foundation, whose mission, in part, is to bring “dynamic programming of popular and diverse films” to our region. For tickets, go to, or You can view a trailer of Autumn Spring on our website at

Have a Ball

GolferLooking at Bob Hammer’s garage in Danville, you would never think something so small could do so much. Since 2005 though, the 20′ by 20′ foot space though, has changed many cancer foundations across the country.

Hammer, 42, with his wife Kim, have created and operated one of the largest non-celebrity privately held golf tournaments in the nation, raising $1,000,000.00 for cancer research and treatment, since 2005. In fact, they will reach that monumental $1,000,000.00 raised this year…in their home town of Danville.

The “Have a Ball” Golf Tournament has been held in Sunnyvale each year since 2005. In a word, the event is “stunning.” It is two full golf tournaments in one very long day for the Hammer’s. They “cut it off” at 308 participants. Hammer says he has 56 corporate sponsors this year, with 202 corporations in all, involved. The event is so popular, that they just announced a 2nd “Have a Ball” Golf Tournament added to their schedule, to be held this September 19th at the Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville.

Hammer, a two-time cancer survivor, started his “Have a Ball” Foundation after his bout with testicular cancer in 1999. Hammer raised $10,000.00 and went to Austin, Texas to support Lance Armstrong’s Foundation in 2000. There he had a chance meeting with Armstrong’s Oncologist. Hammer was scheduled for a surgery at Stanford the following week which would have left him unable to have any more children. He decided to listen to Dr. Craig Nichols, Armstrong’s Oncologist, and one of the best testicular cancer Oncologists in the world, instead of five different Stanford Oncologists. The result; he and his wife, Kim, conceived Josh Hammer naturally, a little over one year later.

In an effort to give back, Hammer organized a golf tournament hoping to raise $2,500.00 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and “have a few beers with some friends.” What he created instead was a $1,000,000.00 foundation that now benefits 20 different cancer organizations each year and has sent over 60 children with cancer to a camp for kids with cancer called, Camp Okizu in Novato. “Have a Ball” has created and awarded six scholarships to oncology nursing students and much, much more.

Hammer now helps other non-profits get things rolling because of his experience. “It’s crazy really, to get a phone call from Ohio or Canada, asking me how I have done what I have done,” says Hammer. “I call it the “obligation of the cured,” to try to help as many folks as we can.

In his spare time, Hammer coaches San Ramon Valley Softball, Danville Little League and Mustang Soccer in Danville. He also serves on three cancer organizations panels across the U.S.

Now, that is one busy garage!

Private Investigator

The term evokes many images, such as Jack Nicholson in Chinatown or a Raymond Chandler novel. What about that wretched and bogus show Cheaters where the host confronts his targets? Perhaps you hear “private eye” and think of the local scandal involving private investigator Chris Butler, who faces federal indictment in a notorious corruption case.

Our profession has its image problems. I can’t deny it. However, most licensed private investigators such as me and my partner are more ethical, trustworthy, educated and mainstream than you might realize. A good private investigator operates under the radar, getting answers, solving problems and running a business. We might be more insurance adjuster than James Bond.

In California you need 6,000 hours, or three years full-time experience, on the job and then must pass an exam to earn your license. Private investigators come from backgrounds as diverse as former journalists, such as me, to former elite armed forces members, such as my partner. I also know former therapists, teachers and paralegals in the profession. It’s a job that takes more brain than brawn but you have to possess guts, heart and tenacity to succeed.

What a good investigator does is separate fiction from fact. We are professionals at verification and gathering evidence. A good investigator is more fact gatherer than advocate, which is the job of an attorney. A qualified private investigator is resourceful but knows exactly where that ethical line in the sand is drawn. ( I like to sleep well. If I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling my mother or a jury how I obtained evidence, then I don’t use such methods.)

Private investigators are used from Fortune 500 companies to solo practitioner law firms. We do everything from background checks, to asset searches to competitive intelligence in the corporate setting.

When I earned my license in 1996 I read at least a few slanted articles predicting the internet would put private detectives out of business because databases and other information that took days to accumulate would now be available at the touch of the button. The problem in the thesis is that there is so much information that it takes a trained eye to sift through and separate the gold from the dreck. Plus, even though it’s 2011 not all can be learned from just sitting at a computer. Good private investigators do more than just sit behind a desk at a computer or curl up with a laptop.

(Spencer Elrod Services, Inc., serves business, attorneys and select private clients.)

Stamps in My Passport – Norway

Many of you are aware of the fact that I try to collect a hat from each country that I visit. It has produced a huge collection of country-specific hats that I use quite a bit in my travel talks to various groups. It always surprises me, when I get these hats out, how unique each head covering is to an exact area.

Now, head covering is one thing, but certainly language is another. Each country, or at least each locale of the world, focuses on one specific manner of expression. There may be a slight difference between adjoining areas because sometimes one dialect will cause a bit of confusion between tribes.

But what about animals? Is their “language” as distinctive as that of humans, depending on which country they are from? Do German goats make a sound which is different from New Zealand goats? Does a horse speak a different language in Africa than in China?

Well, let me share a little story with you about this most complex question.

Our tale begins in late May in Norway. We were traveling with a small tour and had spent an enjoyable few days in Stalheim, and we were on our way to Lillehammer, the city where the 1994 Winter Olympics were held. The ski run, the skating stadium, and various support structures were still there, but that has to be another story.

The bus we were traveling in had its heat on full blast, and believe me, we needed it. At this latitude in the month of May it is still cold, and there were even snowflakes a flying. To add to our entertainment, a herd of wild reindeer crossed the road ahead – forcing us to pause a bit. And, this is what started the conversation about animal sounds.

Our faithful leader turned to our young female Norwegian guide and asked her what sounds a reindeer makes. The response was a “hrummm” which brought forth a chuckle from most of us. Her response was

“It is the same sound a horse makes.”

A horse? We said,

“No, a horse goes neigh, neigh”

She gave us an uncomprehending stare. And, so it moved on from there.

She said a cow goes “mua.”

We said “moo, moo.” Close, but a bit off.

We gave a pig sound “oink, oink.”

She responded with a “nof, nof.” Must be an entirely different breed, we thought.

When a bird “talks” it sounds to us like “tweet, tweet.”

She said we were way off – that birds go “pip, pip” to one another.

Think cats sound alike? Try “meow” to “miav.” English dogs seem to say “woof, woof,” but Norwegian canines go “vov, vov.”

The most perplexing sound was a rooster who woke them up with a “kylykin” instead of a “cock-a-doodle-doo.”

But my personal favorite was the frog. In Norway frogs make a sound something like “kvaek.” But in our country, most frogs say “ribbit.” Definitely a different species – wonder if an American frog can actually talk to a Norwegian one?

Man, I wish I could give you all a CD with the sounds actually on it. These phonetic letters I’m writing just don’t tell the true tale of how different the sounds really are. This silly interchange lasted over an hour and entertained the twenty-some passengers through the Arctic tundra.

Next time you get a chance, on one of your trips to a far-off, exotic land, ask some locals to tell you what sounds their animals make. I can’t believe that animals “talk” differently in the various countries of the world. But it certainly seems as if we make their sounds “country-specific.”

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet – A Convertible Crossover!

Nissan Murano

Life is more interesting when we can blend the better of two worlds. The automotive industry strives to create niche vehicles that take the characteristics of one segment and morph it with another. So, with a show of hands, who would love a vehicle that explores the off-road, showers you with the freedom of an open breeze blowing through your hair while the sun paints you with a new shade of tan? And did I mention, along with all of this attention, you are treated to the soft comforts of a car verses the rough making of an SUV?

Keep your hands up, I’m still counting. Well, for all of us who have passionately replied “yes,” under the direction of Nissan’s President, Carlos Ghosn, they have created a multi-climate combination with the all-new 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet convertible crossover. All-wheel drive is standard on the Murano CrossCabriolet.

The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet AWD is packaged as a fully-loaded one model trim with the only option being camel-colored leather. Standard equipment includes leather seating, dual-zone climate control, navigation system with XM traffic, 9.3 GB MusicBox hard drive, Bose 8-speaker audio system, rearview camera, heated seats and steering wheel, remote entry, bi-xenon projector beam headlamps, heated seats and mirrors, and 20-inch alloy wheels.

With every trip I took in the Murano CrossCabriolet, the vehicle attracted on-lookers and inquiries. My son, Chase, and I, while cruising garage sales with the top down and wearing cool shades, at every stop we entertained questions about the car and accepted compliments. Chase, three years old, asked me “Dad, why does everyone want to talk to us about this car?” My reply was, “Because they have never seen such a unique-looking vehicle!” My little unscientific survey produced big thumbs-up accolades and smiles from both sexes. It seems Nissan got it right.

The designers at Nissan took the existing four-door all-wheel-drive Murano crossover and carved out a convertible version. They eliminated the two rear doors, extended the front doors by nearly 8-inches to allow easier access to the rear seat, and incorporated a power convertible cloth top that neatly folds into the trunk and hides under a hard shell cover. The CrossCabriolet is a four-seater compared to the Murano’s five-person capacity.

The convertible top is a quality cloth with a fabric liner and is available in either beige or black. The CrossCabriolet converts from coupe to convertible in about 25 seconds. A thin skylight sits slightly above the rear window. The overall package generates a sporty profile with the top up or down.

The leather seats are extremely comfortable. The loss of the third rear passenger provides for two large seats. Rear legroom is snugger on the CrossCabriolet verses the four-door hardtop Murano, due to the space needed to store the convertible top. Your trunk space is also impacted when the top is stored away.

The dash is full of contours and dressed in all black or tan with many soft touch points. The center dash adds character. It functions as the main control area starting with a seven-inch screen for viewing the navigation system, radio, climate settings and backup camera. Below the monitor sits all of the knobs and buttons to operate all of those items as well as an additional storage area. The center console is trimmed in wood and includes two cup holders. The center arm-rest doubles as a dual layer storage area. The lockable glove box is quite roomy; being able to fit a laptop.

The power behind the Murano is Nissan’s 3.5-liter DOHV V6-engine generating 265 horsepower. Teamed with a second generation CVT transmission, it has good logic control and a low gear. The V6 had plenty of power and effortlessly got me into the flow of freeway traffic, while the handling around tight corners was only fair. There’s no manual shift mode with the CVT, which was fine with me. The second gen CVT uses what Nissan calls Adaptive Shift Control to deliver a sporty experience, which worked out great.

Room for improvement:

  • A slight rattle emerged from somewhere in the cloth top, but was easily drowned out by the Bose audio system.

Cool Features:

  • Power Convertible Top
  • Unique styling
  •  Start Ignition Button

The Murano CrossCabriolet safety equipment includes dual-stage frontal airbags, side-impact airbags in front, door-mounted airbag curtains with rollover sensor, pop-up roll bars for rear passengers, active headrests in front, anti-lock brakes, Vehicle Dynamic Control with traction control, tire pressure monitor, and all-wheel drive.

In Summary – The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is priced at $46,390. What that price gives you is a vehicle that scores high for originality and provides the versatility to handle your driving SUV needs truly in a different fashion than anything else on the market. With a comfortable interior, good power, stylish exterior and all-wheel drive; the 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet is ready to handle your every driving need. So jump in, put the top down, sport the shades, toss the hair spray out the window, and watch your “cool- meter” climb!

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet AWD

Base price: $46,390 as driven: $47,335 (including destination)
Engine: 3.5-liter V6-cylinder
Horsepower: 265 @ 6000
Torque: 248 foot pounds @ 4400
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Drive: All Wheel-Drive
Seating: 4-passenger
Turning circle: 39.3 feet
Cargo space: 12.3 cubic feet
Curb weight: 4,438 pounds
Fuel capacity: 21.7 gallons
EPA mileage: City 17 / Highway 22
Wheel Base: 111.2 inches
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper

Financial Planning Week™ 2011

What to do now? Does the challenging economy and volatile markets have you searching for answers? Now more than ever, consumers should take the time to improve their financial knowledge in order to make better financial decisions. That is what Financial Planning Week™ is all about. The Financial Planning Association (FPA®) is excited to be celebrating the tenth annual Financial Planning Week™, October 3-9. During this week, the FPA® strives to build public awareness of the financial planning process, enabling individuals to make prudent financial decisions to achieve their life goals and dreams.

The FPA® is a non-profit member organization that believes that everyone is entitled to objective advice from a competent, ethical financial planner to make smart financial decisions. We have one of the strongest chapters in the nation right here in our own backyard. Our local chapter, The FPA® of the East Bay, has a membership of over 400 local financial professionals representing some of top financial planning minds in the Bay Area. Our members demonstrate a professional commitment to education and a client-centered financial planning process.

The FPA® offers some excellent resources to consumers. Please visit and explore some of the free resources available that include: Find a Planner – The FPA offers consumers an easy way to search for a CFP® professional in their area. Ask a Planner – Use the Ask a CFP® professional hotline to ask a general personal finance question by email. Free Literature – The FPA offers a number of free brochures on a variety of personal finance topics. Career Center – The FPA provides a wealth of information for those interested in a career in financial planning.

20 Ways to Celebrate Financial Planning Week

  •  Balance your checkbook
  •   Make a monetary contribution to your favorite charity
  •   Start a savings account for a child, vacation or a gift for yourself
  •   Help teach your children how to save and spend wisely
  •   Get your estate in order: Create or revise your will and other estate-planning documents
  •   Call your financial planner and share your appreciation for their service
  •  Pay off a credit card
  • Get a head start on college — investigate college planning options
  • Establish an emergency fund
  • Evaluate your employee benefits and begin planning for open enrollment
  • Develop your holiday spending budget
  •  Plan for year-end tax strategies
  • Purchase a session with a financial planner for a relative, friend or colleague
  • Give a relative, friend or colleague a subscription to a personal finance magazine
  • Invite a financial planner to speak at your workplace
  • Review your insurance coverage
  • Write down your financial goals and revisit them periodically
  • Start using personal finance software to help you better understand your money
  • Look up three financial terms that have baffled you and resolve to understand them
  • Talk to a relative about their plans for long-term care

Financial Planning Week™ is an excellent time to asses your own personal finances and to discover the value of financial planning. I strongly urge you to do one of the things on the list above and visit the site to take advantage of the free, objective content made available by the Financial Planning Association™. Happy Financial Planning Week™!

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. 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

The Dirt Gardener – Pruning Apricot Trees

Apricot Tree
Q. Can I prune a six-inch diameter branch off my apricot tree? I’m making room for a garden shed, but I could wait if it would harm the tree.

A. It’s perfectly okay at this time to remove a limb(s) and or branches off an apricot tree. Actually, you could do your dormant season pruning now. Traditionally, January and February have been the customary months to prune deciduous fruit trees; however, this is changing particularly with apricots. There is a lot of discussion supporting the summer and fall pruning of fruit trees. This also includes cherries, plums, peaches and nectarines. The exception would be those varieties with a crop still maturing such as apples, pears and persimmons.

September and October are excellent months to prune as the trees are in the beginning stages of dormancy, even though the leaves haven’t turn color and started to fall. Leaf drop is still four to six weeks off. By definition, plants, including evergreens, are dormant when they have stopped actively growing. This is certainly the case with fruit trees as we haven’t seen any new growth on deciduous varieties for sometime nor do we expect to see any until next spring. One of the biggest disadvantages of pruning now is that the foliage gets in the way. It’s more difficult to identify what needs to be prune and or kept. The trade off is that during the winter months, conditions can be cold, damp, muddy or all of the above. Hence pruning in the fall is gaining in popularity.

Pruning apricot trees during the winter months can be problematical during wet damp periods. Apricots are susceptible to an air-borne disease called Eutypa that enters through the fresh pruning wound(s). The disease causes a sudden die back of the limbs and branches in the canopy during late spring or summer. Unfortunately, this disease has no chemical treatments. Once the wound(s) have callus over, it’s no longer a threat. The callusing takes a couple of days to occur. You’ll need a five-day period of dry weather to prune and mother nature doesn’t always co-operate. You avoid the problem altogether by pruning in the late summer or fall. Eutypa is often confused with root rot, as the symptoms are very similar, dieback in the canopy. Fortunately, the two diseases occur at different times of the year. With root rot, twigs, stems, and branches in varying sizes fail to break dormancy or leaf out. The problem could be spread out throughout the canopy or in one section. In addition, it isn’t uncommon the entire tree to leaf out and then have an area(s) where the foliage collapses, wilts and then dies with the first warm spell. These are all indicators of root rot. A major contributor to root rot is over watering during the summer and fall. A mature apricot should be watered once every fourteen to twenty-one days after the rainy season end and discontinue watering altogether after Labor Day. And finally, planting under the canopy of apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums and cherries is discouraged.