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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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Angles and views: Los Altos Hills home offers challenge to mind and eye


Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Caye and Richard Johnson’s Los Altos Hills home boasts an angular backyard deck that juts from their large windows. The Johnsons constructed their home to mimic a treehouse, with no perfectly perpendicular lines.

Caye and Richard Johnson live in a treehouse – sort of.

Their multilevel home, built on a steeply sloped lot in Los Altos Hills, is a product of the Loma Prieta earthquake and their love of architecture. The view inside from the dramatic entry is of trees.

The Johnsons have lived on the property for 44 years. They loved the first house they built, which was Eichlerlike with a glass wall. But the 1989 quake caused it to separate nearly in half, leaving it habitable but in dire condition.

Rather than rebuild and retrofit it, they decided to start over.

“We looked for a young architect wanting to do interesting things,” said Richard, a fan of Richard Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright.

“I didn’t want a square, boxy house,” said Caye, who had seen too many rentals that were advertised as light-filled but were depressingly dark.

Tobin Dougherty of Palo Alto filled the bill and, together with the Johnsons, designed a contemporary house that is all about angles and views. There are no square rooms.

An artistic space

Intersecting triangles form the motif, the most dramatic of which is the “prow” extending over the front entry. The front door continues the triangular motif in three different woods infilled with stonelike epoxy.

Ceiling beams extending from the interior to the exterior emphasize the lines. And five sets of vertical beams, which move as a unit, stabilize the house and add architectural interest.

Caye’s favorite view is from the backyard looking toward the soaring living room windows.

A plethora of glass capitalizes on the views from the 3,850-square-foot, four-bedroom house, which boasts a formal dining room, great room and study. The bar and a portion of the kitchen are cantilevered – “a tricky way to gain space,” Richard said.

A wine cellar and a barrel room with winemaking equipment are on the garage level.

Richard describes the house as “creative modern” based on angles that take advantage of the hillside and the sun.

“It is a continual challenge to the mind and eye,” he said.

In Dougherty’s words, “Juxtaposed angles, pathways, sun and site intertwine in a 45-degree dance of dramatic – yet domestic and intimate – artistic space.”

“Artistic” is the operative word, considering the eye-catching art pieces created by Richard. Noteworthy is one titled “Heavy Metal,” which measures 5-feet-by-10-feet and is made of Styrofoam shipping containers sprayed black. It hangs in the living room near a post-World War II handmade Rippen piano from Holland.

On another wall is a similar piece made from ink-cartridge shipping containers. Richard likes making things from found junk.

“This is interesting,” he says to himself. “What can I do with it?”

His muse could be Louise Nevelson.

The light-filled interiors provide a gallerylike setting for favorite things collected on their travels around the country and abroad.

Both worked in life sciences at Ames Research Center and spent a couple of months at the Johnson Space Center in 1969 analyzing the Apollo moon rocks. In addition, Richard worked on the Viking Mission to Mars and Caye worked on the space station.

After retiring from Ames, Richard worked at SRI before becoming a consultant and then turning his full attention to building the house.

A modern masterpiece

The Johnsons laid the slate floors themselves. Danish wood floors complement the slate.

The kitchen, on the first level, features a black and brown color scheme. The SieMatic cabinets from Germany are stained cherry, and the countertops are granite. The island is a 7-foot-by-6-foot trapezoidal slab of nearly black granite with red accents. The Johnsons used cardboard and plywood to mock up the island and create the perfect shape.

The kitchen includes a breakfast nook and flows into the great room, which features a Swedish corner fireplace.

Also on this level are the dining room, bar and powder room.

The powder room’s heavily textured black walls have traces of red, gold and silver – the perfect foil for a vibrant, masklike “face” that’s a clever composite of the face of Michelangelo’s David overpainted with a scene from the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The couple purchased it

in Florence.

A few steps down is the living room. From there, staircases with custom wrought-iron railings lead up to Richard’s study and down to the bedrooms.

The master suite features an earth-toned marble bathroom. The open walk-in shower is like a greenhouse.

“It’s like showering with nature,” Caye said.

No wonder. The house sits on a 1.5-acre lot that is parklike.

The Johnsons have four grown children and are in the process of downsizing – no easy task.

When they built their modern masterpiece two decades ago, their youngest child asked, “Mom and Dad, why can’t you build a regular house?”


Richard and Caye Johnson's "treehouse" - Photos by Los Altos Town Crier

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