Wed07302014

News

"Brown is the new green," says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spending nearl...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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Business

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

DR. ALFRED HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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Pratchett’s ‘Snuff’ not his best, still better than others in genre

Like millions of other people, I would happily crawl across a large field of broken glass to read a new Terry Pratchett book.

But in the case of “Snuff” (Harper, 2011), it would have to be a medium-size field of glass. Although the book is still a very enjoyable read, it does not reach the high standard of his former works.

Pratchett, an Englishmen who specializes in comic fantasy novels, has an astonishing number of books to his credit, some for adults, some for young children and others in the young-adult genre. Apparently, “Snuff” is intended for the young-adult crowd, hence the many references to “poo.”

“Snuff,” part of Pratchett’s beloved Discworld series, presents mostly familiar characters, including Commander Sam Vimes, the hero; Lady Sybil, his wife; Willikins, Vimes’ trusty butler and strongman; and most of the cast of the Ankh-Morpork city police force. Thus, it seems fair to compare “Snuff” with the other “Disc- world” novels and not with his pleasant but less provocative youth series and books such as “The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy” (SFBC Science Fiction, 1996) or “The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents” (Perfection Learning, 2003).

Pratchett’s Discworld novels are remarkable creations. Somehow, he manages in each book to do several things at once: introduce dozens of new, highly developed characters while resurrecting many familiar and beloved faces; craft two or three amazing plots that meld together by the end; satirize our current social mores and conventions; create the highly authentic city of Ankh-Morpork; and play with the English language and its idioms with hilarious results. Not bad in a day’s work.

So how does “Snuff” stack up against Pratchett’s earlier works? It’s a complicated question.

The premise of the book is simple. Lady Sybil demands that Commander Vimes take a vacation with her and their young son to her vast ancestral home in the countryside. Vimes is uncomfortable at first, given his deep roots in the city, but soon happily finds himself enmeshed in a sinister plot that involves the systematic bullying and subjugation of an entire species – the goblins – and even the murder of a young goblin girl. Meanwhile, back in the city, one of Vimes’ policemen has fallen under the spell of a mysterious tiny clay pot.

It sounds like the beginnings of a classic Pratchett tale, but “Snuff” is curiously heavy-handed. He details the crimes against the goblin people in such repetitive, brutal detail that at times I wanted to shout, “I get it, I get it – discrimination is really bad!”

And where are the legions of colorful new characters? One of the few worth mentioning is a novice policeman, Feeney Upshot, whom Vimes takes under his wing during the ultimate chase. The chase itself is bold and exciting, but it feels somewhat overplayed and at times plain unbelievable.

Despite the minor shortcomings of “Snuff,” a fairly good Pratchett novel is still better than most other best-selling works of fiction, so I can recommend it to book clubs that enjoy fantasy and satire. If you’re not familiar with Pratchett, start with my favorites: “Reaper Man” (Nal, 1991) and “Thief of Time” (Harper, 2001). All of the Discworld books are brilliant, so you won’t go wrong diving into any of them.

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

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