Tue01272015

Schools

MVLA revisits prospect of ninth-grade PE exemptions

MVLA revisits prospect of ninth-grade PE exemptions


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on a proposal to exempt ninth-grade student-athletes from taking PE. Students take part in a physical education class at Mount...

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Community

Midnight Express offers late-night rides from SF

Midnight Express offers late-night rides from SF


From Midnight Express Instagram
A group of millennial-aged Santas celebrating a night on the town prepare for a safe ride from San Francisco to their South Bay homes, courtesy of Cory Althoff’s new Midnight Express shuttle.

It’s no understatemen...

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Comment

More open than ever: Editorial

One of the Los Altos City Council’s objectives for 2015 is implementing an open-government policy. The title of the policy may be somewhat misleading, because it’s not as if the city has had a closed-government policy. But the new proposal goes beyon...

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Business

Cassidy Turley, DTZ plan to combine

Cassidy Turley, DTZ plan to combine


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Cassidy Turley, which has offices at 339 S. San Antonio Road, is combining with DTZ following its recent acquisition.

Commercial real estate services companies DTZ and Cassidy Turley have joined forces to operate as a sin...

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Books

Gawande's

Gawande's "Being Mortal" proves an important book on aging


Books about death and dying are usually not on my list of “must reads.”

I couldn’t resist, however, the best-selling “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (Metropolitan Books, 2014) by Atul Gawande.

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People

JUDY HOFFMANN

JUDY HOFFMANN

Judy Hoffmann passed away unexpectedly October 17, 2014 in New York City. It was only fitting Judy would be traveling and enjoying special adventures in so many different places until the very end.

Judy has lived since 1969 in Los Altos with her h...

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Travel

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill


Courtesy of Raúl Cañibano
Cuban photographer Raúl Cañibano is set to appear at Foothill College tonight. His work – including the image “Series: Guajira’s Land, Viñales, 2007,” right – is on display at the KCI Gallery t...

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Stepping Out

TheatreWorks launches '2 Pianos' in Mtn. View

TheatreWorks launches '2 Pianos' in Mtn. View


Suellen Fitzsimmons/Special to the Town Crier
Christopher Tocco stars in TheatreWorks’ “2 Pianos 4 Hands,” which opened last week.

TheatreWorks’ production of “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is scheduled to run through Feb. 15 at the Mountain View Center fo...

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Spiritual Life

Start something great by ringing in the new year with prayer

There is a tradition, which I’m told originates in the Midwest, that calls for people to pray in the new year. A few years ago, I was invited to a friend’s house and a number of people stayed up until midnight (approximately two hours pa...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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Tip-top Toyotas


courtesy of Toyota
The Toyota RAV4, completely redesigned for 2013, offers good handling for a crossover.

In terms of global automobile production, Toyota is the largest manufacturer in the world, challenged only by Volkswagen and GM.

This volume comprises cars at all price points – from Scion to Lexus. Within these products, Toyota produces a wide range of fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered engines, including the first mass-marketed gas-electric hybrid, the Prius.

Late in the summer we drove three Toyota products – the Camry, the RAV4 and the Scion tC – which collectively explain the company’s position in the marketplace. None of them is rated as the top model in its category, but each is an excellent value at its price point.

Camry

This is the most basic car in the Toyota lineup – the medium-priced, four-door family sedan.

No one would ever call the Toyota Camry an “aspirational” automobile. Does a junior-higher put posters of a Camry on his bedroom wall or doodle pictures of it in the back of a school notebook? Of course not, but nevertheless, this model has been America’s best-selling automobile 13 times since 1989.

How? Simple. The Camry does exactly what its customers expect it to do: get them to and from work, shopping and recreational destinations reliably and at a reasonable cost in terms of purchase price and operating expenses. For most automobile purchasers, that’s all they expect and all they need from a vehicle.

It had been a while since we last drove a Camry, but it reminded us what automotive transportation is all about for many buyers in the marketplace. There’s nothing much to catch the eye on the outside of this automobile, but it screams functional. The trunk opening is large relative to the trunk space, allowing sizable items to be stowed quickly and without a struggle. Similarly, the front and rear doors and the roofline don’t sacrifice anything to design – the doors allow easy entry and exit, and rear seating is not at all claustrophobic.

Similarly, it’s clear that the designers and engineers were more concerned with ergonomics than style when they designed the controls. There aren’t any fancy touch screens or multifunction knobs to control the audio system or the heating and ventilation – just switches and rotating knobs allowing a driver to use them while keeping eyes on the road.

Underway, the Camry is smooth and quiet, an equal to automobiles of higher prices. We drove the more powerful V6, with 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to get the car up to highway speeds easily and maneuver through traffic confidently, though no one will cast a Camry in the next “Fast and Furious” film.

The only fault we would lay at Toyota’s feet with this car is that the combined fuel efficiency of 25 mpg might not keep buyers trading their old Camry for a new one.

Bottom line: The Camry is a solid, reliable car for the family more interested in comfort, convenience and reliability than style and excitement. It’s a reasonably priced vehicle that they can drive and depend on for many years to come.

RAV4

The four-door sedan, for all of its high-volume market popularity, may not be the vehicle that some parents want to drive.

Perhaps dad wants a car for weekend family camping adventures or mom wants a car that gives her a commanding position in traffic or in the school pickup line.

As with the Camry, families choosing the RAV4 are perfectly happy to trade a little trendiness for reliability and a reasonable price.

Completely redesigned for 2013 (the model year we drove), the RAV4 has never deviated from the concepts that inspired its original design as one of the first compact SUVs. These vehicles are now termed “crossovers” because they represent a crossover between the comfortable ride and handling of standard automobiles and the height, clearance and access offered by sport-utility vehicles.

Like the Camry, the RAV4 isn’t trying to be anything it’s not – nor is it building in and pricing for equipment and trim that the sensible family doesn’t really need or want. The RAV4’s styling is a bit edgier than in previous years, though not enough to be controversial, and interior equipment is more functional than fashionable.

The RAV4 has good handling for a crossover with average speed and acceleration, and is competent to handle snow and mud conditions and moderately challenging off-road conditions.

Like the Camry, its fuel efficiency is in the middle of the pack. Similarly, the interior is easy to access through the doors and hatchback, and it boasts excellent capacity for its size.

Perhaps most important to the potential customer for this car, the top-of-the-line XLE model we drove is affordable, with full equipment including a nice audio system, navigation and a backup camera, but still selling for well under $30,000.

Bottom line: Toyota is delivering everything the buyer really needs in a multifunction vehicle, and charging no more than the buyer should have to pay.

Scion tC

A car company doesn’t reach the sales volume of Toyota by marketing only to customers who value function over fun.

For that younger driver who doesn’t yet have the responsibilities that come with a family, there is the Scion brand, and for sportiness, there is the Scion tC – a two-door coupe with a hatchback for weekend practicality. It’s the all-purpose vehicle for the person who has the budget and space for just one car.

At just under $21,000, the tC is within the reach of many first-car buyers who want the confidence and reliability of a new car backed by a Toyota warranty, with the excellent dealer service for which the brand is known.

But just like the other two Toyotas in this batch, the company isn’t building in, or pricing for, anything the buyer doesn’t really need.

While speed and acceleration are fine for city traffic and occasional highway trips, this isn’t a car that is going to tempt the driver to jackrabbit away from stoplights or pretend to be a race-car driver in city traffic.

With the recent redesign, the car does have a more aggressive front-end styling, and there are some nice sporting touches on the interior – such as a steering wheel that is flat on the bottom like racing steering wheels.

Fuel efficiency is probably the only drawback – a little below average for this market segment at 26 mpg combined. But that isn’t so low, given the stylish functionality of the car, to be a deal-breaker for the younger, sportier buyer.

Bottom line: The Scion tC offers trendy sportiness and reasonable performance at a reasonable price point.

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