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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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"The Longest Road" examines unity among Americans


When author Philip Caputo visited a rural schoolhouse in Kaktovik, Alaska, he noted that children in the remote Arctic Circle recited the same Pledge of Allegiance as students all over the United States. What other forces, he pondered, unite and divide Americans?

Caputo subsequently embarked on a road trip across the U.S. from Key West, Fla., to Deadhorse, Alaska, to ask ordinary citizens how they would answer the question.

His three-and-a-half-month excursion in a small Airstream trailer and truck – dubbed “Ethel” and “Fred,” respectively – covered 16,000 miles and resulted in his latest book, “The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean” (Henry Holt, 2013).

  Caputo is an award-winning journalist and author of more than a dozen books and numerous magazine articles and opinion pieces in national newspapers. As a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, he and his team won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of election fraud in Chicago. He is perhaps best known for his memoir, “A Rumor of War” (Henry Holt, 1977), which chronicles his experiences as a soldier during the Vietnam War.

  In “The Longest Road,” Caputo searches for answers to what holds Americans together. Caputo is no Studs Terkel, the author who spent his career interviewing ordinary citizens and writing books about their experiences during the Depression and World War II. But, to his credit, Caputo has crafted both a travelogue and an account of his conversations with the many people he encounters on his journey.

The result is interesting – most of the time.

Caputo’s descriptions of the places he and his wife, Leslie, visit are fun and even occasionally poetic. His wry sense of humor brightens the book’s plethora of anecdotes. “The Longest Road” even boasts a table of humorous road signs, including the billboard outside Tok, Alaska, that reads: “Ignore This Sign.”

“The Longest Road” contains a fair amount of history, highlighting the places and customs Caputo discovers, as well as descriptions of small, simple things he has learned over his lifetime, such as the process of loading and firing a flintlock rifle.

  The best parts of the book, however, document Caputo’s conversations with the people he meets on his cross-country trip. Susan Wiren, owner and proprietor of three businesses in tiny Chicken, Alaska, discusses the pride she takes in her work (she bakes pies for her restaurant) and emphasizes the dignity of all types of jobs. Carol Springer is a farmer who notes that “it’s not a great evolutionary thing to be so distant from where your food comes from.” And Ansel Woodenknife, a Lakota Indian, opened a restaurant in the Badlands of South Dakota that became famous for its fry bread and made an appearance on the Food Channel.

  Ultimately, though, the answers to the question at the heart of “The Longest Road” – What unites and divides Americans? – fail to inspire. Many of the respondents’ answers are underwhelming or obvious: “hope,” “neighbors jumping in and helping” or “the lack of manners and civility.” Even Caputo’s conclusion didn’t strike me as particularly startling – his answer is “conflict.”

Rather than the question Caputo sets out to investigate, readers will likely prefer the stories about people’s lives and dreams, and how they ended up living in the small towns of America.

  Most book clubs would find “The Longest Road” an enjoyable, discussion-provoking selection, particularly those that focus on nonfiction.

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

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