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News

LA council votes to delay community center update

LA council votes to delay community center update


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council voted to delay adoption of a community center conceptual design plan last week. The plan includes elements from a design charette held earlier this fall, left.

The Los Altos City Council last...

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Schools

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
During a Science is Learning geology lesson, Theuerkauf Elementary School students learn about igneous rocks by observing how sugar changes form when heated.

Hundreds of local elementary students perform experiments w...

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Community

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
PYT’s “Oklahoma!” features, from left, David Peters of Mountain View, Jenna Levere of Los Altos and Kai Wessel of Mountain View.

Time is running out to catch Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!”...

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Sports

Eagles advance

Eagles advance


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Carmen Annevelink, left, and Kristen Liu put up a block against Mountain View. Annevelink totaled 20 kills.

Mountain View High’s out-of-the-gate energy could last for only so long against rival and he...

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Comment

Coping with addictions: Haugh About That?

Preparing to deal with my lifelong addiction, I stood in front of the mirror ready to confess the shame I’d been hiding. The first step to healing, I reminded myself, is to admit something is wrong.

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Special Sections

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Hangar One, pictured here last January, will be restored under an agreement between Google and NASA.

NASA and Google Inc. forged an agreement last week that allows Google to lease a portion of NASA’s historic Moffett Fede...

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Business

State Street science center closing Nov. 30

State Street science center closing Nov. 30


Ellie Van Houtte/
Helix at 316 State St. is closing after the completion of a one-year grant from Passerelle Investment Co. The science center became a popular destination because of its various exhibits. Town Crier

A popular downtown destination...

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Books

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree


Author Tiffany Papageorge is scheduled to sign copies of new her book 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Papageorge’s “My Yellow Balloon” (Minoan Moon, 2014) is a Mom’s Choice “Gold” winner. In the book, the Los Gat...

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People

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

January 11, 1939 – November 6, 2014
Resident of Mountain View

James Windell Smith, a 40 year resident of Los Altos, passed away from complications after a post-surgery stroke November 6th, 2014 in Los Gatos, California.

Born on January 11, 1939 on...

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Travel

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
While many day-trippers may think that Sonoma is all about the grapes, the region boasts other delights. Try a biplane ride over the patchwork landscape.

Sonoma, a scenic two-hour drive from Los Altos, boa...

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Stepping Out

LA Stage Company opens 'Fairway'

The Los Altos Stage Company production of Ken Ludwig’s new comedy “The Fox on the Fairway” is slated to run Thursday through Dec. 14 at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

A tribute to the English farces of the 1930s and 1940s, “Fox” is a romp that p...

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Spiritual Life

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am


The Beth Am Women have scheduled “A Conversation with Author Maggie Anton” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.

Anton, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, will discu...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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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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