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News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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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

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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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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‘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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