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News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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Spiritual Life

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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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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