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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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‘The Boys in the Boat’ navigates historical, political waters


It’s a total mystery to me how an author can take a historical event, one where the outcome is already known, and yet chronicle that event in such a way that readers breathlessly follow every twist and turn toward the inevitable finish.

Such is the case with Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” (Viking Adult, 2013), his nonfiction account of how nine young men from the University of Washington’s rowing team competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and took home the gold medal, angering German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cronies in the process.

In the 1930s, competitive rowing was an immensely popular sport – on par with football today. Teams at prestigious colleges on the East Coast largely dominated the sport, and, as today, the major competition on the West Coast was between powerhouses UC Berkeley and the University of Washington.

While Brown details the rowing rivalries, he also documents the stories of many of the men – both rowers and coaches – who made the remarkable Olympic win possible.

There are so many heroes in “The Boys in the Boat” that it’s difficult to prioritize their importance. Brown begins with one of the young men, Joe Rantz, whom the author met in the early 2000s, when Rantz was dying, and interviewed extensively for the book.

One of the book’s strengths lies in Rantz’s recounting of the emotions evoked by the momentous victory. After the team’s underdog upset, for example, the other young men celebrated wildly all night in Berlin. Rantz, however, stayed in his bunk contemplating his experience: “He had known in that instant that there could be no hesitation, no shred of indecision. He had had no choice but to throw himself into each stroke as if he were throwing himself off of a cliff into a void, with unquestioned faith that the others would be there to save him. …Now he felt whole. He was ready to go home.”

Rantz’s life story unfolds in some detail, and it is heartbreaking. His family moved out of their house twice and refused to take young Joe with them, apparently because his stepmother thought the family couldn’t afford his care during the Depression. Consequently, Rantz, like several of his crewmates, grew up performing all sorts of hard, physical labor.

The men turned what could have broken their spirits – and their bones, for that matter – into an advantage during racing. They knew pain, an inevitable byproduct of the grueling sport of eight-oar crews. The physically rugged Washingtonians were simply in better shape than their competition.

Readers meet another remarkable man in “The Boys in the Boat” – George Pocock, a boat-builder from England who not only built all of the handmade cedar boats the team used in its races, but also dispensed invaluable advice to the crew and coach. Quotes of his philosophy on competitive rowing open each chapter.

In addition to the personal portraits, Brown provides fascinating context to the story through his descriptions of the political backdrop of 1930s Germany, including Hitler’s rise to power, his desire to use the Olympics as a showcase for the Third Reich and movie producer Leni Riefenstahl’s innovations in filming the competition for her 1938 movie “Olympia.”

Book clubs that enjoyed Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” (Random House, 2010) and devour other true-life tales of courage should sail through “The Boys in the Boat,” a fast, educational, well-written and absorbing read.

Leslie Ashmore is a Mountain View resident who belongs to two book clubs.

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