Mon09152014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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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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