Fri08012014

News

"Brown is the new green," says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spending nearl...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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Business

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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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

DR. ALFRED HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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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

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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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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Linden Tree talk: From video games to novel


Photo By: Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Photo Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier

Local author Max Doty heads to the Los Altos main library to pound out the prose.

If you check the correct sunny corner of the Los Altos main library on weekdays, you may catch local novelist Max Doty typing away on his newest project. But the script may not be at all what you expect.

Doty, 30, followed a well-known path as a young author, majoring in creative writing at Stanford University and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at Arizona State. But somewhere along the way, he stumbled into an alternate world of code and devices – serialized like Dickens, dramatized like “Dallas,” but delivered … to your phone.

He is scheduled to discuss how serious writing and video games can coexist – and even feed off each other for inspiration – 3 p.m. Saturday at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Doty writes for Electronic Arts, one of the world’s largest gaming companies. From its Redwood City-based office, Doty and a team of writers craft episodic narrative games like Surviving High School under the same masthead as famous video games such as The Sims, Madden NFL and Medal of Honor.

“I’d grown up playing a lot of video games, but it never occurred to me that professional video-game writing was a place you could get a job,” he said.

Yet his track record of writing stories focused on high school scenarios suited him perfectly for his first job out of college – the first writer on a game that addressed high school quandaries.

“It’s sort of like playing a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book on your phone,” he described.

Each episode, one plays as a different member of the cast, reading dialogue and then making choices for the character.

“Storytelling is always the thing we hang our hat on,” Doty said, explaining why Electronic Arts proved receptive to his taking time to create a stand-alone novel, “Surviving High School” (Poppy, 2012), which delves in deeper prose detail into the story of a few characters from the game.

Each Thursday, players can tune back in (on their smartphones) to see what the large cast of high school characters is up to. With a tone akin to “Saved by the Bell” or Disney Channel programming, Surviving High School is suitable for players age 12 and older, although Doty said that because “it’s a pretty innocent take on high school life,” the content would be appropriate for even younger players. And parents and senior citizens number among the series’ fans.

As a prodigal son straying from the hallowed path of literary fiction, Doty is unapologetic about devoting so much of his creative life to work that is downright family-friendly.

In the text, we follow protagonist Emily Kessler as she balances Olympic-level athletic ambition, academics and friendship – and then wonders if it will all fall apart as romance gets thrown into her overscheduled world.

“‘Surviving High School’ is a glossy take on teen life – it’s a universe that feels very welcoming and safe. That’s not necessarily a realistic universe, but I would say there is a value to that. Sometimes it’s nice to go to a safe place,” Doty said. “I think it’s a shared experience in our society. Everyone goes to high school. It’s a time in your life when you’re thrown together with groups entirely unlike you. It’s the time when you’re probably doing the most mixing of your life, and also the time when you’re figuring out who you are.”

Despite his pride in the text, readers will observe that “Max” contracts to “M.” on the book jacket. The pen name derives from a market where male writers are so rare as to stick out as anomalies. Doty figures he can sympathize with the insecurities of high school life as a girl, but he turns to co-workers for advice on gender deal breakers like fashion.

“Going shopping and trying to pick out brands is too far afield for me,” he said. “I had the luxury of getting six different opinions after I wrote the draft.”

Doty credited the writing staff of Surviving High School with making life less lonely.

“One of the hardest parts of being a writer is loneliness, being out in the wilderness,” he said, adding that at Electronic Arts, “you get feedback right away.”

Graphic artists draw portraits of each character and developers create code to build the game and then set everything up so that writers can produce each weekly episode independently, with artistic control. The game’s pricing model depends on authors who can craft a narrative to keep readers coming back.

For more information, visit www.ea.com/surviving-high-school-iphone.

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