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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Couple tell a tale of the roughest seas on earth

Los Altos residents Ben and Helen Kuckens set off in January on a 23-day trip through Antarctica on the cruise ship Nordnorge. They recount their adventures on the high seas for the Town Crier.

Forty-one hours after sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina, and crossing Drake Passage, we arrived at Deception Island on the Antarctic Peninsula and made our first landing in Antarctica. Those of us with no sense could go swimming in the Antarctic Ocean - so, of course, Ben did.

During the next few days we made four more landings on the peninsula. One evening the captain called a meeting of the 250 passengers and informed us that our sister ship, the Nordkapp, ran aground on Deception Island. We were to proceed immediately to take on some of the passengers and return them to Ushuaia.

This cut short a day and a half of our Antarctic visit, but, after five landings, we were quite satisfied. So, off we went to the rescue.

We reached the island in inclement weather and boarded all 300 passengers, their luggage, 100 spare mattresses and most of the food from the Nordkapp.

Fully loaded, eight-person zodiac boats shuttled the passengers and supplies from the distressed ship to ours. Due to the inadequate cabin space aboard our ship, about 100 refugees slept in the forward part of deck 4 on mattresses strewn on the floor. We thought this was the end of our excitement, but it was just beginning.

At the beginning of our voyage, it took us 41 hours southbound from Ushuaia to reach Deception Island. On the return, it took 52 hours because we hit the fiercest storm of the season, classified as a Force 10, which meant winds from 55 to 63 mph and swells up to 70 feet. For comparison, a Force 8 defines a gale and a hurricane is a Force 12.

The ship pitched so badly that those trying to sleep on the extra mattresses on the floor experienced negative g-forces. They floated off their mattresses as the ship pitched down, only to be pressed deeply into them on the way up. Helen's seasick patches worked for us, so we tried to find the fun in it and played bridge in the height of the storm - unlike many others.

The next day we were finishing a late dinner in the dining room when the ship lost lights and the propeller stopped. As a former officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine, Ben considered the possible consequences if we lost power during the storm. The ship would eventually turn broadside into a wave, a dangerous position with swells rising higher than the main deck. Fortunately, a half-minute later we regained primary electricity and the screw began turning.

We learned later that the ship had been pitching so badly the propeller came out of the water. A safety mechanism shuts it down in such instances because, with no resistance from the water, it speeds up and could suffer severe damage.

During this leg of the trip, one fellow passenger hit his head when his chair flipped over, resulting in three stitches to his scalp.

That night the captain slowed the vessel to 2 to 4 knots, just keeping her headed into the swells and wind, to prevent the violent pounding. We arrived in Ushuaia about 9 p.m. and off-loaded our temporary passengers.

There was another cruise ship in port, The Prinsendam of the Holland America line. She was larger than us, about 670 feet in length to our 404 feet. While we had headed north back toward Ushuaia, she was sailing south into Drake Passage from Ushuaia. She ran into the same storm. Her captain decided to turn back and wait it out in the Beagle Channel near Ushuaia. The Prinsendam had 46 people injured. On arrival, they were sent to a hospital.

Our service crew talked with friends on The Prinsendam who said they thought the ship would capsize. Our guess is that while they reversed course they were broadside to the swells for several minutes and experienced some extreme rolls. We were told the Prinsendam lost all her dishes and glassware - several tons. We were very grateful for our captain.

Now, Ben has gone around Cape Horn, as his father did five times on a large sailing ship from 1912 to 1914. At that time, ships were dependent completely on the wind. It is difficult to imagine what that must have been like.

The Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica is said to have the roughest ocean in the world. Everyone on our ship or The Prinsendam certainly believes that.

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