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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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Stanford podcast addresses religious perspectives on war and peace

Although Hinduism is widely thought of as a peaceful religion, one of its core texts shows God advising his devotee to go to war.

The Bhagavad Gita, part of a larger epic poem, opens on the brink of a terrible war. The hero of the tale, Arjuna, faces a dilemma – whether to withdraw from a bloody war or to fight. Krishna, the Hindu name for the Supreme Being, instructs Arjuna to do his duty and fight.

In a recent lecture, Linda Hess, Stanford University religious studies senior lecturer, said that despite the clear framing narrative of war, some Hindus have interpreted the text as a lesson in spiritual nonviolence, while others have seen it as a justification of large-scale war.

Hess pointed out that every religion seems to start out prohibiting killing, yet religious realists observe that you cannot survive in this world without killing. Everything we do involves some kind of destruction, from clearing forests for agriculture to stepping on insects simply by walking down the street.

“The ways in which religion bears on violence, nonviolence, war and peace, on all levels from the personal to the political, are seen again and again to depend on how people pick up religious texts and traditions and interpret them in particular historical circumstances,” Hess said.

After stating unequivocally that killing is wrong, religious writers often spend more time discussing situations when it is OK.

“Every religious tradition has had to figure out how to deal with the apparent inevitability of killing,” Hess said.

Hess’ lecture was the first in her 10-lecture course, “Religious Perspectives on Violence and Nonviolence, War & Peace.”

Across all religions, the interpretation of texts is done not only by authority figures, but also by the general public. Hess encouraged students to be agents in this process, learning how arguments are produced, evidence is marshaled, authority wielded, persuasive tactics used and sociopolitical factors brought into the picture. With this kind of understanding, she emphasized, everyone can take responsibility for religious interpretations and their consequences in the world.

From Quakerism to the Crusades

Subjects such as war and peace are typically taught in political science or international relations programs. While these approaches emphasizing politics and economics are important, Hess said they are likely to omit other important matters typically examined in the humanities – for example, ethics, rhetoric, literature, the arts and performances that convey the subtleties of human experience and psychology; the relations between inner and outer, personal and political; and religious texts and practices.

From a discussion of the pacifist traditions of Quakerism to a look at religious perspectives on capital punishment, the diverse subjects of the lectures are connected by a number of unifying threads.

Professor Paul Harrison, a scholar of Buddhist literature and history, discussed how Buddhism could promote peace in some instances and exacerbate conflict in others, despite its serene public image.

Harrison compared religion to language: “Language can be used to do all sorts of hateful, injurious and destructive things, but no one would ever say, ‘Let’s do away with language altogether.’”

Similarly, humans have an inherent drive toward religion. The solution to destructive and injurious uses of religion is not to get rid of religion, but to learn to understand and control those uses.

Robert Gregg, professor emeritus of religious studies, took a multireligious approach to the topic, analyzing the story of Cain and Abel across the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions. Despite differences, each tradition has taken this violent story of the first murder to reflect on questions of brotherhood and community.

Hester Gelber, chairwoman of the Department of Religious Studies and religious studies professor, tackled the topic historically through a discussion of the Crusades, demonstrating how violence became sanctified and romanticized during those religiously based wars. The notion of the dashing soldier ennobled by holy purpose “has remained a part of our cultural repertoire ever since,” she said.

Speaking on the American Civil War, religious studies professor Kathryn Gin Lum pointed out that both North and South believed God was on their side and both cited the Bible to support pro- or anti-slavery views.

Hess framed the new courses on violence and nonviolence two years ago when some of her students came to an eye-opening realization. Understanding that horrendous acts of violence were executed not just by psychopaths or evil political leaders but by ordinary people caught in conditions conducive to such acts, her students asked what they would need to prepare themselves to act differently in such circumstances.

Podcasts of the lectures are available on Stanford iTunes U at itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/religious-perspectives-on/id573293423?mt=10.

Kelsey Geiser is an intern with the Humanities Web portal for Stanford University.

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