Mon07282014

News

Downtown green park pops up again in August

Downtown green park pops up again in August


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Third Street Green debuts Aug. 3 on the 300 block of State Street in downtown Los Altos.

Another temporary park is poised to pop up in downtown Los Altos this summer.

According to Brooke Ray Smith, community devel...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand int...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building in L...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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Top-notch top-downs: Kudos for convertibles by VW, Volvo & BMW

With winter behind us, our thoughts turn to sunny Sunday drives in the hills. For these, a convertible is the only proper vehicle.

Unfortunately, even with the enviable weather the Bay Area offers, not every day is sunny, nor is every trip a short one without freeways. Purchasing a convertible, like most cars, is a long-term, for-better-and-for-worse proposition.

Several manufacturers provide an answer that works: the retractable hardtop. We recently drove three of them. The 2007 Volkswagen EOS 3.2L and Volvo C70 both price out at just more than $40,000, with nearly everything you could want in a car that can be a convertible or coupe and actually haul four passengers when necessary.

If you want a little more in the way of performance, BMW has just introduced a retractable hardtop in its 3-series lineup. The Bimmer pop-top costs a little more - about $55,000 for the convertible, $9,275 more than its coupe version - but it offers all the capability for which the 3-series is known plus all the flexibility of a retractable hardtop.

Let's talk first about the common features of these cars.

In operation, all three are marvels of engineering. Push the button - from inside the car or outside using the remote - and the trunk lid pivots up and back, then the top separates into three pieces that stack one on top of the other as they pivot back into the trunk area, then the trunk lid pivots back into place.

After watching this performance, one of our car friends commented, "Boy, there are a lot of moving parts in there." Then next came, "I sure wouldn't want to have to fix it."

The best common feature is that, unlike some of the first generation pop-tops that looked as if they were wearing a bustle in back when the top was retracted, all three cars have the sleek lines of a true convertible. What is surprising is that with the tops up, they are so well engineered that the casual observer won't realize the top can be retracted.

The advantage of these cars is that from the inside they have all the advantages of true coupes. They're completely weatherproof, offer good visibility all the way around and, best of all, are as quiet and tight on the highway as any coupe.

And if this weren't enough, VW has even figured out a way to put an enormous sunroof into that retractable hardtop. So you can have sun on your head even with the top closed, or just slide open the sunroof for a little air when you don't want the wind blowing through your hair.

The only downside, if there is any, is that the space the top occupies in back would otherwise be used for the trunk. The pivots and arms take up a little bit of trunk space, and do restrict rear seating a bit.

As a consequence, with the top up the luggage space is around 12 cubic feet, about a cubic foot less than comparable sedans. With the top retracted, luggage space is reduced to about 7 cubic feet, though Volvo claims its trunk can still hold two sets of golf clubs with the top retracted.

If you're planning a weekend getaway to Napa or Mendocino, plan on packing only two airline roll-aboards, and on the return trip, the cases of wine will have to ride in the back seat.

But top up or down, the Volvo and VW are pleasant cars to drive. Both are front-wheel drive, with six-speed manual transmissions standard. The five-cylinder Volvo engine puts out 218 horsepower, while the VW claims 250 horsepower. Both offer the same torque of 236 pound-feet, which is what really matters.

Either one will get you to 60 mph from the side of the road in about 7.5 seconds, more than adequate for highway merging. Both have excellent handling characteristics that will give any driver confidence in high-speed maneuvers.

The VW offers one additional feature, unmatched by most cars: an optional six-speed direct-selection gearbox. This transmission is the wave of the future, behaving like an automatic when you don't want to pay attention to shifting, but giving you controllable dual-clutch shifting at speeds even professional drivers couldn't match. It's a perfect way to have a little fun on the way up to Skyline Drive.

If you want that extra performance edge for which BMW has become famous, and have a little more money in your budget, the 335i convertible is worth a test drive. Its dual-turbocharged six-cylinder engine, putting power to the rear wheels as always, makes an enviable 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. That's sufficient power to kick it to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and allows it to loaf at half its red-line rev limit while cruising at 75 mph.

If you have any worries about rollovers in a convertible, be assured that all three cars offer electronic stability control to reduce the chances of a rollover and roll bars that extend in milliseconds to protect the occupants in the event of a roll.

If you've ever harbored the urge to go cruising down the boulevard in a convertible - like Dinah Shore in those marvelous commercials from the 1950s - but realized that on rainy days or in highway traffic those ragtops were worse than impractical, perhaps now is the time to revisit your old dreams. BMW, Volvo and Volkswagen are ready to grant your wish.

Gary and Genie Anderson, Los Altos residents for more than 20 years, are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits MC Squared, the MINI magazine, and contributes articles and columns to a variety of other automobile magazines.

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