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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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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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Entrepreneur melds Silicon Valley, Hollywood and faith

We will soon see what happens when the Silicon Valley startup culture and biblical principles are brought together in the entertainment industry. Ben Chelf, Silicon Valley technologist and entrepreneur, recently co-founded The Story Locker, a company designed to produce high-quality films with entertaining stories.

Personal and faith background

Chelf was born in Terre Haute, Ind. Raised in a Christian home, he read the Bible as a youth but said he “simply adopted the faith of my parents.” In his late teens, his faith waned.

“It didn’t seem relevant at the time,” Chelf said.

But at the age of 20, he re-engaged with church and his faith was reinvigorated. He says he even considered attending seminary but instead chose to pursue a career in computer science.

First startup

Chelf came to the Bay Area to attend Stanford University in 1996, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science. While studying to earn his doctorate, he and some colleagues invented a fundamentally different way to test complex software to speed up the software development process and to create higher-quality software. They left Stanford to start Coverity to commercialize their research. It caught on.

Coverity grew from two to 150 employees during Chelf’s tenure at the company from 2003 to 2009. During that period, Chelf worked first as the company’s chief operating officer, then as chief technology officer.

In the process of working at his first company, Chelf learned an important lesson about himself. He had always believed that his value and strengths were in software development and engineering. But as he also had responsibilities in sales, marketing and leading teams, he came to realize that he possessed skills in business leadership.

“I found that I enjoy and am good at casting vision, inspiring action, building teams and executing a plan to accomplish more than anyone thought possible,” he said.

The Story Locker

Chelf said his new vision is “to bring a Silicon Valley approach to the Hollywood storytelling business.”

As a youth, Chelf loved reading science fiction. He believes that science fiction is “one of our best platforms for philosophical discourse and can have a major impact on culture.” One book he read particularly stands out – “The Rise of Endymion” (Bantam, 1997) by Dan Simmons.

“I soaked in every last minute with these characters, practically feeling like I was living with them as their story came to a close,” Chelf said. “Already having inclinations toward the power in the art of storytelling, this experience made me truly realize the influence that stories can have over our emotions and thoughts. In hindsight, it was one of the experiences that led me to start my current venture, The Story Locker.”

Chelf said he believes that Silicon Valley and Hollywood are on a crash course and he wants to be in the middle of it. He recognizes that streaming technology is changing the way people consume entertainment, which has significant ramifications for the business models that have sustained the entertainment industry for decades. He intends The Story Locker to be at the forefront of content development as the industry changes.

The concept behind The Story Locker is unique. Chelf is working to bring talented writers and artists together in an incubator setting to collectively create high-quality stories. He noted that the highest-quality films all start with a great story and generally attract substantially larger audiences and make more money. Chelf plans to have The Story Locker change the existing paradigm through its story development process, drawing from principles of the top visual storytellers from the past century.

Building on biblical principles

Chelf and his business partner, Ben Patterson, a fellow committed follower of Christ, are building The Story Locker on biblical principles.

“As Christians, we’re supposed to treat people well,” Chelf said. “We are supposed to love everybody. We are supposed to invest in people. And we are supposed to make the lives of people better. We try to do that at The Story Locker.”

In contrast to the traditional model for story development in Hollywood, The Story Locker has full-time creative employees and gives them an equity interest in the content created as well as in the company itself. This practice seems obvious in Silicon Valley but is atypical in the entertainment industry. Chelf believes that is not only the right thing to do, but also good business practice.

The Story Locker creates stories that Chelf describes as “approachable by most families” but not faith-based. Currently, the company’s stories would have ratings from G to PG-13.

The Story Locker has been operating since January 2012, and Chelf plans to launch the company in the press in 2014.

Skip Vaccarello is a longtime Los Altos resident. For more information, visit findinggodinsiliconvalley.com. Vaccarello plans to publish interviews from the site in an upcoming book.

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