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News

West Nile fogging commences Sept. 2

West Nile fogging commences Sept. 2


Courtesy of the Santa Clara County Vector Control District
Fogging commences Wednesday within the highlighted area.

The detection of West Nile Virus-infected mosquitos means that Santa Clara County officials will begin mosquito fogging operations...

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Schools

LASD trustees reopen negotiations with Los Altos Teachers Association

The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees last week directed staff to reopen negotiations with the Los Altos Teachers Association, a move intended to shore up the district’s financial picture.

According to the district’s current co...

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Community

LA teenager crowned Miss Golden State, advances to national pageant in Florida

LA teenager crowned Miss Golden State, advances to national pageant in Florida


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Alexandra McCarthy, crowned Miss Golden State Teen in July, earned “Ms. Personality” honors from her peers.

Alexandra McCarthy has a ways to go before reaching her coveted role as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Bu...

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Sports

After rough year, Eagles aim to soar once more

After rough year, Eagles aim to soar once more


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High senior running back Patrick Vargas snares a pass in practice last week.

Don’t dismiss the Eagles. Coach Trevor Pruitt is adamant that his Los Altos High football team will be better than expected.

&#...

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Comment

Car spotting 2015: A Piece of My Mind

When I was a kid, September was exciting, almost like Christmas, because that was when the Big Three automakers would reveal the new models for the upcoming year.

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Special Sections

Loving on the Edge

Loving on the Edge


Courtesy of Ford
The Ford Edge has been redesigned for 2015. Ford lengthened the wheel base and added cargo space, among other things. The Titanium model sells for approximately $42,000.

Once in a while, a vehicle we test-drive is just right for our...

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Business

Wine bar aims for October opening

Wine bar aims for October opening


Rendering courtesy of Honcho
Honcho, the wine and beer lounge on First Street, expects an October launch. A rendering of the space reveals the interior layout, which includes bar and lounge-style seating.

A downtown libations lounge that anticip...

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People

LOIS CAROLINE WALLES

LOIS CAROLINE WALLES

November, 1928

Lois lost a long and courageous battle with a prolonged illness on July 14th, 2015. She passed away knowing how well she was loved. She was always the life of the party and loved bringing everyone to her home for dinner or an event,...

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Travel

Carmel Valley Ranch unveils upgrades

Carmel Valley Ranch unveils upgrades


Courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch
Carmel Valley Ranch recently upgraded its Vineyard Oak suites, which feature sweeping views, rocking chairs and private outdoor tubs for soaking under the stars.

Things are heating up at Carmel Valley Ranch, with 30 n...

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Stepping Out

'Dead Man' comes alive at Bus Barn

'Dead Man' comes alive at Bus Barn


Richard Mayer/Special to the Town Crier
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” includes, from left, Marjorie Hazeltine (as Hermia), Kristin Walter (Jean) and Adrienne Walters (Carlotta).

Los Altos Stage Company opens its ...

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Spiritual Life

Inside Mountain View

MV actress/playwright Garvin wins NY festival award for

MV actress/playwright Garvin wins NY festival award for "Corners Grove"


Courtesy of Undiscovered Countries
Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin received a New York arts festival award for a featured role in “Corners Grove,” a play she wrote.

New York recognized that one of Mountain View’s own can “make it there” when the Planet C...

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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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