Fri11282014

News

VTA plans for  El Camino Real prompt skepticism

VTA plans for El Camino Real prompt skepticism


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Valley Transit Authority proposal to convert general-use right lanes on El Camino Real to bus-only use received a chilly reception last week.

A Valley Transit Authority proposal that prioritizes public transit alo...

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Schools

MVHS students attempt Guinness World Record

MVHS students attempt Guinness World Record


Barry Tonge/Special to the Town Crier
Local residents participate in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for making the most friendship braceletsNov. 9 at Mountain View High.

More than 300 Mountain View High School students gathered around...

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Community

Bigger, better days ahead for Foothill Veterans Resource Center

Bigger, better days ahead for Foothill Veterans Resource Center


Student veterans at Foothill College can seek support, access resources and socialize at the Veterans Resource Center.
Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Carmela Xuereb sees bigger things in store for the Foothill College Veterans Resource Center. One...

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Comment

Serving those who served us: Editorial

“Thank you for your service” often comes across as lip service to our veterans. As always, actions speak louder than words.

The Rotary Club of Los Altos has taken plenty of action, contributing time and money to improve opportunities for veterans th...

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Business

Report: Los Altos homes priciest in U.S.

Report: Los Altos homes priciest in U.S.


ToWn Crier File Photo
The average cost of a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Los Altos is 30 times more than the price of a similar home in Cleveland, according to a Coldwell Banker report.

The average cost of one Silicon Valley home can purchase ...

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Books

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree


Author Tiffany Papageorge is scheduled to sign copies of new her book 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Papageorge’s “My Yellow Balloon” (Minoan Moon, 2014) is a Mom’s Choice “Gold” winner. In the book, the Los Gat...

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People

RICHARD CAMPBELL WAUGH

RICHARD CAMPBELL WAUGH

Richard Campbell Waugh of Los Altos Hills, Ca. died at home October 31, 2014 surrounded by his family and caregivers.

Dick was born 1917, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He earned a BS in chemistry from University of Arkansas and a PhD in organic chemi...

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Travel

Weekday Wanderlust highlights the joys of armchair travel

Weekday Wanderlust highlights the joys of armchair travel


Dan Prothero/Special to the Town Crier
Travel writers at the October gathering of the Weekday Wanderlust group include, from left, James Nestor, Kimberley Lovato, Paul Rauber, Marcia DeSanctis and Lavinia Spalding.

Travel writing should either ̶...

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Stepping Out

Pacific Ballet's 'Nutcracker' opens Friday in downtown Mtn. View

The Pacific Ballet Academy is back with its 24th annual production of “The Nutcracker,” scheduled this weekend in downtown Mountain View.

The story follows young Clara as she falls into a dream where her beloved nutcracker becomes the daring prince ...

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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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Isaacson offers engaging portrait of founding father


Sometimes you read a book because you’re interested in the subject matter, while other times you’re a fan of the author.

I picked up a copy of Walter Isaacson’s best-selling “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” (Simon & Schuster, 2003) not because I’m a huge admirer of Ben Franklin, but because I enjoyed Isaacson’s more recent biography, “Steve Jobs” (Simon & Schuster, 2011).

And I am certainly glad that I did. Despite its length – the paperback version runs 493 pages – “Benjamin Franklin” is an incredibly enjoyable read that provides a wealth of information not just about Franklin, but about American values in the 1700s. Isaacson does a masterful job of researching his subject and presents a balanced picture of a very complex individual.

The chronological structure of the book is of great help to both reader and subject. Isaacson devotes a chapter to each of the main phases of Franklin’s life, for example, “Bon Vivant: Paris, 1778-1785” and “Peacemaker: Paris, 1778-1785.” Readers who are not that interested in Franklin’s Parisian flirtations can skip such sections and jump to the founding father’s varied accomplishments.

Franklin cannot be an easy subject for a biographer, given that he was so influential in so many roles: author, printer, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, activist and diplomat. But Isaacson manages to weave the story of Franklin’s achievements together, connecting threads of a life built on “a sincere belief in leading a virtuous life, serving the country he loved, and hoping to achieve salvation through good works.”

I laughed out loud several times while reading “Benjamin Franklin,” mostly when reading quotes from Franklin himself. Readers will certainly gain a greater appreciation for the man and his wily ways. Although Franklin liked to portray himself as a simple man from the backwoods of America, he could be rather devious and scheming during the lengthy negotiations with the French over the terms of the Treaty of Alliance, and later with the British over the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.

Despite Franklin’s many accomplishments, Isaacson doesn’t flinch at chronicling his failings, which include his rather poor treatment of both his wife, whom he did not see for the last decade of her life, and his son, whom he never forgave for siding with the British during the war.

Isaacson reserves his best insights for the book’s conclusion, where he notes, “During the three centuries since his birth, the changing assessments of Franklin have tended to reveal less about him than about the values of the people judging him.” John Keats, for example, complained that Franklin was “full of mean and thrifty maxims,” and Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson found Franklin too materialistic. English novelist D.H. Lawrence wrote that Franklin “had no concern, really, with the immortal soul. He was too busy with social man. …I do not like him.”

As Isaacson concludes: “(Franklin’s focus tended to be on how ordinary issues affect everyday lives, and on how ordinary people could build a better society. But that did not make him an ordinary man.”

Book clubs that read nonfiction should especially enjoy “Benjamin Franklin,” but give fair warning and plenty of time because of its length.

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

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