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News

LA council votes to delay community center update

LA council votes to delay community center update


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council voted to delay adoption of a community center conceptual design plan last week. The plan includes elements from a design charette held earlier this fall, left.

The Los Altos City Council last...

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Schools

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
During a Science is Learning geology lesson, Theuerkauf Elementary School students learn about igneous rocks by observing how sugar changes form when heated.

Hundreds of local elementary students perform experiments w...

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Community

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
PYT’s “Oklahoma!” features, from left, David Peters of Mountain View, Jenna Levere of Los Altos and Kai Wessel of Mountain View.

Time is running out to catch Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!”...

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Sports

Eagles advance

Eagles advance


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Carmen Annevelink, left, and Kristen Liu put up a block against Mountain View. Annevelink totaled 20 kills.

Mountain View High’s out-of-the-gate energy could last for only so long against rival and he...

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Comment

Coping with addictions: Haugh About That?

Preparing to deal with my lifelong addiction, I stood in front of the mirror ready to confess the shame I’d been hiding. The first step to healing, I reminded myself, is to admit something is wrong.

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Special Sections

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Hangar One, pictured here last January, will be restored under an agreement between Google and NASA.

NASA and Google Inc. forged an agreement last week that allows Google to lease a portion of NASA’s historic Moffett Fede...

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Business

State Street science center closing Nov. 30

State Street science center closing Nov. 30


Ellie Van Houtte/
Helix at 316 State St. is closing after the completion of a one-year grant from Passerelle Investment Co. The science center became a popular destination because of its various exhibits. Town Crier

A popular downtown destination...

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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

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

January 11, 1939 – November 6, 2014
Resident of Mountain View

James Windell Smith, a 40 year resident of Los Altos, passed away from complications after a post-surgery stroke November 6th, 2014 in Los Gatos, California.

Born on January 11, 1939 on...

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Travel

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
While many day-trippers may think that Sonoma is all about the grapes, the region boasts other delights. Try a biplane ride over the patchwork landscape.

Sonoma, a scenic two-hour drive from Los Altos, boa...

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Stepping Out

LA Stage Company opens 'Fairway'

The Los Altos Stage Company production of Ken Ludwig’s new comedy “The Fox on the Fairway” is slated to run Thursday through Dec. 14 at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

A tribute to the English farces of the 1930s and 1940s, “Fox” is a romp that p...

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Spiritual Life

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am


The Beth Am Women have scheduled “A Conversation with Author Maggie Anton” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.

Anton, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, will discu...

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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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