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News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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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

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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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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Local mediators write book on 'Unexpected Gift' of conflict

Conflict is never pretty, but most people could learn a thing or two about resolving it from the new book “Conflict – The Unexpected Gift: Making the Most of Disputes in Life and Work” (iUniverse, 2013).

Written by two experienced local mediators, Jack Hamilton and Elisabeth Seaman, the book compiles useful tips that have proven effective over two decades of trial and error.

“We’re giving them the tools they can use in their own lives,” said Hamilton, who teaches at Stanford University and co-authored the book with fellow mediator and business partner Seaman.

Sharlene Gee and Hillary Freeman also contributed to the book.

As a volunteer mediator with the Palo Alto Mediation Program, Seaman facilitated one of the breakout groups in a December 2012 meeting to gather input on five facilities-sharing scenarios for Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District.

Hamilton regularly gives talks for local groups, including a book discussion earlier this year at BridgePoint at Los Altos. He also headed a training session for volunteer mediators with the Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto mediation programs.

Both Hamilton and Seaman have served as volunteer and professional mediators for 20 years.

Conflict is “a result of unfounded assumptions about each other. It’s the assumptions that trigger the emotions,” Hamilton said.

The book introduces a “Ladder of Assumptions”: Step 1, Assumptions of the Facts; Step 2, Interpretations; Step 3, Motives; and Step 4, Generalizations.

“It’s a metaphor for how the human mind works,” Hamilton said.

Built into the book are methods for helping people identify and write their own ladders, he added.

“Some people see things as black or white,” Seaman said. “Things are more generally complicated than that.”

The first step to resolving conflict, Seaman said, is to “become aware of how our thinking processes work.”

Next comes something that people in general don’t do well – listen. The authors underline the importance of becoming an attentive listener. They offer a four-step process to improve communication: encourage dialogue by drawing the speaker out, clarify statements to understand more fully, restate to let the speaker know you’re listening and summarize to review what’s been said.

Good listening, they said, breaks down stereotypes and preconceived notions about the opposing party.

“When people come to mediation, they’re breathing fire,” Hamilton said. “(Mediation) enables disputants to get a sense over time of who that other person is.”

For instance, Hamilton said that because his educational background and experience was greater than Seaman’s, he figured her ideas would not be as good and thus more easily discounted.

“As long as I held her in that box, I would never have heard her good ideas,” he said.

Seaman pointed to a case between two brothers who had a conflict over property, and, more importantly, did not get along with one another. Repairing the brothers’ broken relationship took precedence before any agreement over property could be reached.

“What kind of relationship are you going to have when this (agreement) is over?” she asked the brothers.

Another four-word mantra the mediators espouse: Stop, Listen, Accept, Collaborate.

Hamilton said the book is “pretty much for anyone 15 or older. It’s full of case studies.”

Other helpful advice includes learning how to apologize effectively, finding humility and becoming more self-aware.

And the “Unexpected Gift” referenced in the title? That, according to the authors, is emerging from conflict a better person.

“There’s a tinge of idealism here,” Hamilton said, a bit tongue in cheek, of his reasons for compiling the book. “We’re trying to build world peace one person at a time.”

Hamilton is scheduled to teach a conflict resolution class Jan. 10 to March 7 at Avenidas in Palo Alto. For more information, call 289-5400.

“Conflict – The Unexpected Gift” is available for checkout at the Los Altos main library, 13 S. San Antonio Road. Los Altos Voices for Peace purchased and donated the book to the library.

To order the book and for more information, visit iuniverse.com.

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