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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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Insects play crucial role in the garden


Tanya Kucak/Town Crier
Native Buckwheat attracts numerous pollinators and other beneficial insects, including honeybees.

Lions and tigers and bears are the charismatic megafauna of the larger world. In the garden, the charismatic megafauna of the insect world are butterflies and dragonflies.

Spotting butterflies and dragonflies feels like a gift, but the more time I spend in the garden, the more I appreciate all insects.

Insects are the engines that make a garden ecosystem work. Their crucial roles include pollination, waste disposal and seed dispersal. I’ve observed that plant-eating insects often prey on the weakest plants, and beneficial insects keep the plant-eating insects in check. Birds are attracted to the insect buffet of a healthy garden.

If you’re interested in creating or improving a garden that welcomes wildlife, find a copy of Nancy Bauer’s new book, “The California Wildlife Habitat Garden: How to Attract Bees, Butterflies, Birds, and Other Animals” (UC Press, 2012).

Abundantly illustrated with color photos, the book has five chapters that focus on the basics of wildlife gardens, bird habitats, butterfly gardens, pond gardens and front-yard habitat gardens. Up to half of each chapter consists of one or more garden profiles that bring the art of habitat design down to earth, with details such as using sand-filled burlap bags to create steps in a pond.

Bauer relates the gardeners’ stories of why they started their gardens, how they have changed over time, what successful elements they contain and what wildlife the gardeners have observed. An annotated plant list for each garden notes which ones are native and describes who visits them or how they’re used.

If you’ve participated in native garden tours or seminars in the Bay Area, you may recognize some of the featured gardens and gardeners.

Sidebars sprinkled through the book cover special topics such as a screened treeway for house cats to observe birds, what makes a useful nest box for birds, sheet mulching to convert a lawn to a habitat garden and plant combinations for pots.

Although Pacific Chorus frogs are featured in the chapter on wildlife ponds, other amphibians and reptiles are mentioned only briefly. Notably, ticks that bite the Western Fence lizard “are purged of any Lyme disease bacteria hiding in their gut,” Bauer writes, which may be why Lyme disease is less prevalent in the West.

This is a book about how to attract the wildlife you want, not about how to exclude the wildlife you don’t want. Although Bauer mentions deer-resistant plants, she does not cover the topic in depth. Nor does she discuss gophers, squirrels, raccoons or roof rats, except to suggest container plantings to foil gophers. That’s partly because of the mindset of some of the wildlife gardeners she interviews. For example, Kathy Biggs “bestows ownership of the pond to her wildlife,” including fox families and raccoons, whom she calls “the great re-arrangers.”

The final quarter of the book is devoted to 10 appendices with summaries of practical information, including natural gardening guidelines and resource lists (books and nurseries). The plant lists are annotated and recommend seasonal plants for hummingbirds, common California butterflies and their host plants, what to plant in hedgerows and under oaks, and top nectar and pollen plant families.

The book could be even more useful if its index covered more than plant names, but that won’t stop me from recommending it.

Tanya Kucak gardens organically. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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