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News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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Spiritual Life

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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