Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Town Crier drops the other shoe

Coming back to Los Altos this weekend for my grandmother's 90th birthday celebration reminded me again of the many reasons I love home. While Los Altos High hosted the annual Relay for Life and Jamba Juice offered a two-for-one, I spent time with family and friends, watching high school water polo, swimming at Foothills, and playing basketball on Sunday afternoon at Terman. We even had a moonbounce.

You can imagine, then, why I was so disappointed to see the Town Crier go negative.

They warned us this would happen, two months ago, but who possibly could have been prepared for the vitriol of last week's editorial, describing the Civic Center as "badly used" and "as a whole unattractive and sadly out of date."

That kind of talk belongs in Mountain View maybe, not Los Altos.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Letcher syndrome

A local reporter e-mailed me about this affliction earlier today, defining it as:
"when reporters who are new to covering Mountain View quote a certain 'self-described gadfly' as a representative for mountain view residents."
It's nice to see the Mercury is finally starting to rub off on the Daily News.


September 8, 2004 Wednesday PENINSULA/S.F. EDITION


LENGTH: 545 words



But Don Letcher, a retired Sunnyvale public safety officer said police dogs are very well-trained.

"They would never attack without getting the order from an officer," said Letcher, who spent 20 years on the Sunnyvale force but was not a member of a canine unit. "It's like a gun. It's the user that's responsible for the actions of the dog."


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rich people win again

Los Altos School District has succeeded in its effort to redraw its boundaries in a way that least burdens "core" families and keep Bullis white.

Amusingly, the professional journalists at the local papers continually lag behind Amanda Aaronson, who normally dedicates her blog to bragging about her kids (use of graphics, posting source material), the rea.

I don't envy the school board's position, first having to deal with outraged secessionists from the Hills and now needing to reshuffle the neighborhoods that go to each school. They are really part of the same problem. Covington was originally renovated because of similar demographic projections, which turned out to be wrong, leading to the closure of my alma mater.

It's hard to see an easy solution, but catering to "core communities," as Bill Cooper reportedly suggested, is tragicomically misguided. Families who can afford to volunteer more already have plenty of advantages, including their ability to get involved in school board elections. Margot Harrigan was apparently the only board member to point this out.

I sense a "Draft Bruce" campaign in the offing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sad news

Los Altos won't be as bright without Derek Abraham, a young man who never lacked for enthusiasm. Our thoughts are with his family.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Celebrating American Freedom

Although he had been to our wonderful country before, my good friend Alban (who hails from Kosova) perhaps had not gotten to see some of the things that make this country Truly Great. Sure, he'd seen the Statue of Liberty, walked the Freedom Trail in Boston, and attended Microsoft's annual Techfest event outside Seattle, but I think there were some more fundamental things he had yet to experience. That's why when he came to visit we:

1) Went to see the guns at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately for Freedom, the Mountain View edition of our favorite retailer has apparently pulled firearms from its shelves. However, Sam Walton's teaming progeny of backwoods billionaires did not completely disappoint as the Wal-Mart in Mountain View still sells bullets. But not just any bullets. Hollow points. But only for rifles, so that makes me feels safer.

2) Went to Ross ("Dress for Less"). Ross sells clothes for prices unseen anywhere outside of factory outlets in China. And for Alban, who had been living in England the past four years, I thought it a good place to go as the combination of American-sized clothes at rock-bottom prices
would show him what us Americans are all about: being big/fat and getting good deals. He tried on a "medium" shirt - the size he usually wears in England - and the sleeves hung well over his fingertips and the shirt bottom went almost to his knees. We also saw some size 18 shoes, too.

3) Went to public libraries. We visited two libraries during his visit. The Huntington Beach City Library and the Los Altos Library (part of the Santa Clara County system). While the HBC library took top honors for design, Los Altos took the more important prize: the one with the most DVDs and videos. The library's not just for the literate no more! I love this country and I'm pretty sure Alban did, too.

4) Hooters. At NOE's insistence we went to Hooters in Santa Monica. It certainly is a part of Americana, but with beer at $20 a pitcher and no one having a raging 80s fetish we left disappointed.

5) Venice Beach. Another disappointment at the Southern end of our state. Muscle beach was some fat guys and a weirdo in a leopard print speedo (no, it wasn't NOE). The basketball was one of the poorest quality games I've seen and no White Man Can't Jump-esque hustling, either. However the homeless guy holding a sign that said "Fuck You" made it worth the trip.

6) Jamba Juice. Perennial favorite of all Left Coasters. Good stuff.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


One difference between good and bad water polo teams is that the good ones know how to stair-step. Stair-stepping is a tactic used when an offensive player manages to get free near the goal. On good teams, defenders leave offensive players they are guarding to cover the next nearest one, requiring everybody to do a little extra work in exchange for covering the open player much more quickly. Bad teams tend to be unable to figure out this concept, and instead force the defender who had been guarding the now-open offensive player to swim after him or her, regardless of the distance in between or the time it takes to cover it.

The Los Altos School District is a bad water polo team.

Despite having given up its plan to punish the secessionists in Los Altos Hills by sending Mountain View kids to Bullis, the school board is still planning to make kids travel past (in some cases right in front of) schools close to them in order to get to their new school. I haven't looked at the demographic data, but the alternative approach -- shifting kids so that a lot of people have to travel a little bit farther, but nobody has to pass by one or more schools in order to get to their own -- seems to make much more sense.

Coincidentally, this will have the greatest impact on kids from Mountain View.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

An "unfortunate" decision

Updated list of things the Mountain View City Council thinks are and are not worth saving:
  • Worth saving: contaminated hangars; abandoned office buildings
  • Not worth saving: farms
Matt Pear led the parade of horribles with a ridiculous assertion that the inheritors of a $27 million piece of property were losing money. (Pear apparently thinks everybody who was born on third base has hit a triple). Everybody else brought up generally good but rebuttable points.

Jac Siegel said it would be unfair for the council to spend more money on parkland south of El Camino, even though (lawyer Lex Watson's bloviating notwithstanding) the council would not have had to buy the land.

Margaret Abe-Koga said she didn't want to spend $500,000 of the city's money pursuing split-zoning, forgetting (as did the Voice) that changing the zoning to detached single-family houses won't be free.

Nick Galiotto pointed out that the farm was not really a link to the city's past, though I'm not sure how important that is.

Laura Macias correctly pointed out that this decision simply perpetuates a system that unfairly burdens residents north of El Camino, though I suspect her solution involves not building much new housing anywhere.

Tom Means told a joke, which often presages a disappointingly conservative vote.

Kudos to Ronit Bryant, for being the lone vote for my romanticized notion of childhood in Los Altos.

Kudos to the owners, for making a boatload of money.

And, most of all, kudos to the neighbors, who heroically overcame abuses of their civil rights to win a round for NIMBYism.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hack Alert: NYT's John Tierney pulls hatchet job on Rachel Carson

Maybe it's not as important as promoting a false case for war, inventing sources or refusing to understand Value Over Replacement Player, but John Tierney's hatchet job on Rachel Carson, deserves a spot in right alongside Judith Miller, Jayson Blair and Murray Chass in the New York Times Hall of Shame. Tierney's article is so bad, in fact, that it merits attention in a blog dedicated to Los Altos and Mountain View.

John Tierney, for those who don't know him, is a conservative political columnist who tends to start with a conclusion and invent arguments to support it. In short, he has no business writing for the science section, but that's where yesterday's article ran.

Carson, who would have turned 100 this week, wrote the most important book of the second half of the 20th century. Naturally, Tierney's starts with the conclusion that it is a bad book. Sure, it explained to the general public that chemical alteration of the natural environment has consequences, it spurred the modern environmental movement, and it eventually led to the creation of the EPA and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. But, says Tierney, some dead guy it is "not a scientific balancing of costs and benefits."

Actually, Tierney bases the entire article on one 45-year-old critique of Silent Spring. The only thing that he adds of any substance is that some unnamed environmentalists, who presumably read Silent Spring, don't think the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, a.k.a. Superfund) is perfect. Nevermind that Congress passed CERCLA, establishing the principle of "polluter pays," in response to the Love Canal crisis, nearly two decades after Silent Spring.

Tune in next week as John Tierney regurgitates the work of an art critic who thinks Betsy Ross was actually not that good a seamstress.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Another mystery solved

Case closed.

The sad thing about this is that farm foe Thomas Holmes's quote is no longer quite as awesome:

"I'm going to be asking for 24-hour police protection until we defeat these bastards."

Listen up, kids

Say you're driving around Mountain View early in the morning after the prom. Your date wants nothing to do with you. You're angry. Maybe you've headed out to the farm to sneak a few drinks. You want to break something. If you happen to come across a political sign, do everyone a favor and don't pussyfoot around with hiding it in someone's yard.

Really go after it.

And you thought Mountain View couldn't learn anything from Los Altos.

According to an unverified but entirely believable report in the Voice, the police department is looking for the thieves who took several signs that advocate replacing open space with single-family detached homes. I'm surprised they could spare an officer from their investigation into the murder of Alex Fernandez, what with all the attention the media has paid to that over the last several years.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Memorial Day in D.C.

(Please excuse the delay in posting. BigDra and I have been traveling -- although that's only half newsworthy. Rants about trivial local news will be back soon).

I got to D.C. last Sunday, in time to meet my cousins' eight-week-old baby and spend Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, "our nation's most sacred shrine." The President was speaking at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, but I was there to see Ken Ballard.

His mother, Karen Meredith, had been kind enough to invite me to the ceremony to mark the third year since his death. It meant a lot to me to be there, knowing Ken only through the tearful stories his mother relates and the awed tones in which his friends described him to me.

Karen and her family decorated Ken's headstone as a crowd of maybe 15 of us gathered at Ken's gravesite in Section 60, donning buttons with Ken's face in front of an American flag background. Karen talked briefly about her son, in the same touching manner she always does. One of his commanding officers spoke of the strength his soldiers felt for him. She passed around a book about Arlington for us to sign. Then, with nothing more to say, she popped a bottle of champagne, and we celebrated.

It was the first Memorial Day since the death of our neighbor Will Sigua and my college teammate Nate Krissoff. In the many more Memorial Days that will hopefully follow for the rest of us, let us remember all of them fondly and continue to aspire to the examples they set for us.