Fri02122016

News

SPLAT targets data, outreach as airplane noise continues

SPLAT targets data, outreach as airplane noise continues


Graphic courtesy of Don Gardner
Activists claim that a new SFO flight path leaves a “sound shadow” that impacts Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Sky Posse Los Altos Team – more simply known as SPLAT – seeks to squelch the noise...

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Schools

Los Altos High student-run charity plans '5 Gallon Gala'

Los Altos High student-run charity plans '5 Gallon Gala'


Courtesy of Lia Evard
Water by Youth members gave Egan students a chance to carry a 40-pound Jerry can, to see how difficult it is to obtain water in developing nations.

Water by Youth, a club at Los Altos High School, is making a splash by pla...

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Community

What would you do with a box of cookies? Local Girls Scouts help Tanzanian orphanage

What would you do with a box of cookies? Local Girls Scouts help Tanzanian orphanage


Courtesy of Alicia Madden
Sales of local Girl Scout cookies support service projects, such as funding an orphanage in the village of Mto wa Mbu in Tanzania.

Girl Scout cookies – whether you think of them as a treat, a tradition or a diet comp...

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Sports

Scoreless spells sink LA boys

Scoreless spells sink LA boys


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High point guard Nolan Brennan attempts a shot in Friday’s game versus Palo Alto. He scored eight points in the loss.

There have been several games this season in which the Los Altos High boys basketball t...

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Comment

New 'York' values

New 'York' values


Hughes

 

As we have witnessed California suffer through one of its worst droughts in history over the past few years, all of us, I’m sure, have been keenly aware of our surroundings and have done a small part in trying to conserve wa...

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Special Sections

Getting a charge  out of the Volt

Getting a charge out of the Volt


Courtesy of Chevrolet
The 2016 Chevrolet Volt can be driven up to 50 miles on the power stored in its batteries.

Just five years ago, we wondered in this column what the power supply would be for the car of the future. Gasoline, diesel, electric ba...

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Business

Nearing V-Day: Shops stock sweets, treats

Nearing V-Day: Shops stock sweets, treats


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos resident Ella Roosakos, 11, with her mother, Gail, puzzles over which Gourmet Works sweets to buy as a valentine for Ella’s friend.

The gift-buying rush isn’t exclusive to Christmas. It may jump over...

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People

ALAN RODNEY MILLS

ALAN RODNEY MILLS

Alan Rodney Mills, PhD, 83, of Los Altos passed away peacefully on Saturday, January 30th, 2016. He was born in Rochdale, England in 1933 and came to California in 1962. He was a proud alumni of Manchester Grammar in England, University of Liverpoo...

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Stepping Out

PYT 'Gets Famous'

PYT 'Gets Famous'


Lyn Flaim Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Renee Vetter of Palo Alto, left, and Megan Foreman of Los Altos star in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Judy Moody Gets Famous.” Performances are scheduled Friday and Saturday.

Peninsula...

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Spiritual Life

A time to prepare: Fasting for Lent isn't limited to food

 

Today is Ash Wednesday, which in the Christian calendar marks the beginning of Lent – the 40 days of preparation for Resurrection Sunday, otherwise known as Easter.

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Inside Mountain View

New right-to-lease ordinance promises relief for renters

New right-to-lease ordinance promises relief for renters


Mountain View Tenants Coalition/Facebook
Residents gather in the fall to protest Mountain View’s rising rents. Rent relief is on the way in the form of a new ordinance.

A controversial Mountain View law requiring landlords to provide lease opt...

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"The Silver Star" illuminates resilience of young heroines


Author Jeannette Wells is no stranger to dysfunction.

Her best-selling memoir, “The Glass Castle” (Scribner, 2006), chronicles her hardscrabble childhood roaming from town to town in the desert before settling into a life of poverty in West Virginia. Her follow-up, “Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel” (Scribner, 2009), explores the adventurous life of her grandmother, an unconventional rodeo rider and bootlegger.

Walls’ latest novel, “The Silver Star” (Scribner, 2013), once again features resilient young girls who overcome trying circumstances. Liz, 15, and Jean (nicknamed “Bean”), 12, travel on their own from California to their mother’s hometown of Byler, Va., to stay with their elderly Uncle Tinsley. Their mother, Charlotte, has run off to Southern California for an indefinite time in a never-ending effort to pursue her dubious singing and acting career.

Life in 1970s Byler holds many advantages for the girls, but they run into a heap of trouble when they accept employment from the local mill boss and town bully, Jerry Maddox.

Two themes ring loud and clear in “The Silver Star”: the depths of Charlotte’s dysfunction and the injustices of the adult world.

It’s obvious from where Walls derives her inspiration: “The Glass Castle” documented her childhood with an alcoholic, delusional father and a free-spirited mother, both of whom proved candidates for the Worst Parent of the Year Award, Lifetime Achievement. But as in “The Glass Castle,” young heroines Bean and Liz deal with a large dose of injustice, and it is impressive to see how the girls handle themselves during the crisis.

Despite the larger, compelling themes, the real charm of “The Silver Star” lies in the descriptions and attitudes of and anecdotes about Byler’s residents. These are beautifully drawn characters: Bean has an aunt who works hard all day at the mill and comes home to cook and care for her physically disabled husband and four children, one of whom is probably mentally disabled. Yet this family has fun times, too, such as when they all go deep into the woods to pick chestnuts from the few remaining trees.

Liz and Bean, too, talk like real children and have a believable assortment of quirks and insecurities. In some respects, the book reads like a coming-of-age story as Liz comes to embrace a more unconventional path in life after adopting a pair of emus that belong to a neighbor: “She felt that she was sort of like an emu. … Both she and emus wanted to fly – they just didn’t have the wings they needed.”

In addition to rich characters, “The Silver Star” illuminates the political context of the day, with racial tensions in particular described in a nicely nuanced way. The book is set in 1970, when federal law forced schools in Byler to integrate. Tensions boil over at the first high school football game, and a huge fight erupts. Students later discuss the violence and other topics in class with surprising sensitivity and an encouraging give-and-take.

Fans of “The Glass Castle” will surely enjoy “The Silver Star.” I would highly recommend it as a selection for a women’s book club.

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

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