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News

Council seeks more options for community center

Council seeks more options for community center


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos City Council approved an appropriation to examine options for a new community center to replace the aging Hillview facility.

The Los Altos City Council last week voted narrowly in favor of examining further opti...

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Schools

Local schools participate in  national Hour of Code activities

Local schools participate in national Hour of Code activities


Ellie Van HOutte/Town Crier
Himan Shu Raj, a volunteer from Microsoft, advises Los Altos High ninth-graders, from left, Serhat Suzer, Jamie Bennett and Chris Yang as they participate in the school’s Hour of Code Showcase.

Local schools participa...

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Community

Take a dive into the holiday archive

Take a dive into the holiday archive

Town Crier staff made a quick cruise back through the newspaper's archives to find some late-December reading as inspiration for eating, drinking, decorating and more:

Beloved holiday books build the spirit of the season and staff at Los Altos’ Li...

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Sports

Pinewood poised for another title run

Pinewood poised for another title run


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Pinewood’s girls basketball team is receiving contributions from several new players, including freshman Stella Kailahi, above.

Complacency shouldn’t be a problem for the defending Division V state champion Pinewood S...

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Comment

Letters to the Editor

Ticket motorists for U-turns on Main Street

As I was walking downtown on Main Street recently, something came to me out of the blue. The town of Los Altos is missing out on a huge revenue stream. I realized that if all the cars – there were th...

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Special Sections

Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead


s in line to be mayor of Mountain View in 2015.

Mountain View anticipates the following changes in 2015:

• Beginning Jan. 1, Mountain View City Councilmembers will receive a raise to $1,000 per month as a result of the passage of Measure A in...

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Business

Your 2015 stock market game plan

It’s been a maddening month because of oil and gas, especially in stocks and bonds. Then, consumer spending pushed stocks higher Thursday, easing investors’ jitters about the global economy and prompting them to consider how to invest in ...

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Books

Gawande's

Gawande's "Being Mortal" proves an important book on aging


Books about death and dying are usually not on my list of “must reads.”

I couldn’t resist, however, the best-selling “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (Metropolitan Books, 2014) by Atul Gawande.

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People

SANGEETA SACHDEVA

SANGEETA SACHDEVA

Sangeeta Sachdeva, 55, wife of Subhash Sachdeva and mother to Natasha and Tanya, died at 8:54pm, Sunday, December 7, 2014 from respiratory failure.

Sangeeta was born on October 18, 1959 in Delhi, India. She was born to Moti Sagar and Raj Kapoor an...

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Travel

South Tahoe renovations enhance off-mountain seasonal fun

As any enthusiast knows well, there is more to the enjoyment of winter sports than skiing or snowboarding.

While many winter resorts make minor upgrades each season, the off-mountain attractions and amenities can be as enticing as the activities on ...

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Stepping Out

Aurora Singers to emit 'Musical Glow' Friday

Aurora Singers to emit 'Musical Glow' Friday


courtesy of Aurora Singers
The Aurora Singers are scheduled to perform a seasonal concert Friday night in Palo Alto.

The Aurora Singers’ “Winter’s Musical Glow” holiday concert is set for 7 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Pal...

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Spiritual Life

Enter the superhero: Finding the God who loves you

In my life-coaching practice, I see a lot of pain. Much of it stems from fear and guilt, often expressed as low self-esteem, anxiety, a lack of forgiveness both for oneself and others, anger – and so on.

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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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It's all in the cards: Mountain View startup revives building games


Niuniu teo/Special to the Town Crier
Evan Murphy, above left in green, and Michael Woods co-founded E&M Labs, with the goal of inspiring the next generation of engineers.

With the advent of video games, iPhone apps and social media, the golden days of toys and their makers may be in the past.

But Michael Woods and Evan Murphy, co-founders of E&M Labs of Mountain View, beg to differ.

The startup’s most popular product is named Skallops. A starter kit comprises two decks of standard playing cards, one red and one blue, and 104 Skallops, wooden half-circle, laser-cut clips that hold the cards. The cards can be bent, folded or torn, then assembled with the Skallops to form a variety of shapes, from a 20-foot playing card Eiffel Tower to life-sized penguins and small, ingeniously crafted card-figurines.

“It got to the point when we saw that we could make whatever we thought of,” Woods said. “Every time we give it to somebody to play with, they come up with something new.”

E&M products are built on the belief that the current educational system overlooks the learning-by-doing philosophy. The founders strive to provide that experience through their products.

“I have a philosophy,” Woods said. “In school, you learn all this theory, but you don’t actually get to get your fingers dirty until after college, maybe. Learning by doing often teaches you a lot you’d never get from school, just by showing you how things work.”

For example, by playing with Skallops, children as young as 5 or 6 years old realized that triangles and cross-hatching were the most effective ways to build strong structures.

Competing with video games

Despite the proven benefits of playing with building toys like Skallops, the dominance of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment is hard to overcome. Even to these two toymakers, it’s apparent that video games are here to stay.

For Murphy, the main goal now is to “create a product that complements video games – not one that tries to push them out of the market.”

“I think there’s a lot of interest among parents in non-Internet toys,” he said. “Initially there was a lot of backlash against video games, when a lot of the handheld gaming devices became popular.”

Woods and Murphy continue to believe that there is a need and a purpose that only building games can fulfill.

“The most basic thing you learn (from our product) is physical intuition, and how to work with your hands and with things,” Murphy said. “And I think that’s really important.”

According to Murphy and Woods, their product has gained a significant following among Google, Facebook and Palantir employees.

“Skallops is, I think, a lot more freeform than most video games,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot more room for creativity.”

E&M Labs is housed in a big warehouse on Whisman Road. The founders share quarters with two other startups – one designs dollhouses; the other, wireless locks.

Before they started E&M Labs, Woods worked on a research and development team at a high-tech company in Los Angeles and Murphy for a financial software company in New York. They both worked on a software startup three years ago.

“We were applying for real jobs, and we realized that if we don’t try something now, we’re never going to,” Woods said.

Woods added that opposed to other places he has worked, he prefers collaborating with a small group, where you see the entire mission.

“Whatever you’re doing, you’ve chosen to do it,” he said.

E&M has a new product scheduled to launch in a few months.

“We’re going to continue focusing on physical, freeform products that are fun and create storytelling opportunities,” Woods said.

E&M Labs is located at 170 S. Whisman Road, Building D, Suite A, Mountain View. For more information, visit www.em-labs.com.

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