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OMVNA Newsletter

June 2008
Volume 20, Number 4

The OMVNA Newsletter is distributed to 1900 households and 175 downtown businesses by dedicated volunteers.  The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the OMVNA Steering Committee. Let us know what you think!

Editor: Velva Rowell

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Stevens Creek Trail Extended
From the Chair
Local Girl Wins Soap Box Derby
Renting? You Can Still Go Green!
Adventures With Foodies: Nami Nami
Steering Committee Update
From the Editor: How Does Your Garden Grow?
Block Party Guide Published
Steering Committee Dates
New and Upcoming Restaurants Downtown: Have You Heard About These Places?
Our Newsletter Sponsors

Stevens Creek Trail Extended
by Aaron Grossman

Stevens Creek Trail opened a key new extension on April 12. It continues the trail from the former terminus on Yuba Drive on to the south side of El Camino Real, avoiding a very busy and dangerous street crossing by Grant Road and Highway 237. The entire trail now runs a bit over four miles from its start near the bay at Shoreline Park and alongside the edge of Old Mountain View.
The new underpass is very attractive and user friendly, with a gentle slope going under El Camino. The bright and architecturally inviting construction has glass ceiling blocks to let in daylight from above, and light colored tile with gray stone accents. The new landscaping will consist of many different kinds of plants native to the Stevens Creek watershed.

The project cost was about $3.5 million total, with around $2 million covered by outside grants. Although not very long, this extension plays a crucial role in continuing the trail towards MV High School. The next stretch of trail to Sleeper Avenue is fairly flat and will be much easier and less expensive. It should be completed by spring of 2009. After that it gets tougher. Two ambitious pedestrian-bicycle bridges over highway 280 will be needed to get it out to the high school. Initial design work has begun, but funding is yet to be secured. 

The purpose of Stevens Creek Trail is to serve as a healthy and safe way for kids to get to
school, adults to get to work and shopping, and for everyone to get outside and get some fun and great exercise while enjoying and appreciating our local environment. This work and related projects in Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and Cupertino is the focus of the Friends of Stevens Creek Trail. Their mission is to continue the trail all the way through to the hills above Cupertino. See for maps, photos, and more information.

Aaron Grossman is the Executive Director of the Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail

From the Chair
by Noam Livnat

As a long-time fixture of Old Mountain View, you probably saw Don riding his bicycle around town: a single hand on the handlebar, his cap hiding a balding head, and a half-smoked cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. He would often carry something on the bike – a used hose, some discarded pieces of wood, or something he thought could be useful at some point.

Don showed up on my neighbor’s Ralph doorstep in ’95, when Don’s beloved mother died and his father left the state, cutting off his support line. They had met on a dark and rainy night in ’71 when he hitched a ride with Ralph from Mountain View to San Mateo, and they had stayed in loose touch ever since, with Don even renting a room at Ralphs house for a while in the late ‘70s. So when Don  resurfaced, lonely and unable to sustain himself (he attributed his inability to focus and his forgetfulness on a particularly nasty car accident), Ralph took him in and gave him a place to stay.

Ever the survivalist and a skilled craftsman, Don managed to scrape by. He wasn’t able to hold a steady position, so he did odd jobs around our block and neighborhood. He painted houses, tended gardens, and landscaped. He took care of our dog when we were out of town. And even though he would drive all of us to distraction with his obsessive attention to detail, his inability to complete a day’s job in under two weeks, and his unrelenting arguments about the proper way to do the project (you’d have to convince him that the color you chose for your house was the proper one), we kept coming back.

Because Don, for all his faults, had a heart of gold.  And he needed the money. He wasn’t socially adept, but he was honest and he loved animals and kids, treating them with unusual attention and kindness. He would perform headstands to the delight my son, and felt rewarded, I’m sure, to be treated by him just like any other adult. In quiet moments he would share with me stories about growing up in the area, about his childhood dog, and about the other projects he was working on.

Like all human beings, Don was a complicated person. He couldn’t let go of anything: his childhood, past injustices, knickknacks that he found, his distaste with everything related to president Reagan, or the projects that he would drag on forever. Nevertheless, when a cockatiel that he had rescued from a hawk escaped after Don nursed it back to health, instead of mourning the loss Don reacted to the news by saying “ah, off to his next adventure.”

Last August Ralph found Don dead in his room, felled by a heart attack. He hadn’t been feeling well for the previous six months but, true to his stubborn self, he had refused to see a doctor.
With Don’s passing Old Mountain View lost a bit of its color, and we lost a connection with a kind of humanity with which we don’t often engage, ensconced as we are in our comfortable mainstream lives and jobs. But Don left his mark in many small ways in our lives –the planters he built for our garden, the metal wire decorations he created, and in memories that vividly recall this special person.


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Local Girl Wins Soap Box Derby
by Hugh Donagher

Soap Box Derby WinnerAlison Parman, daughter of Russ and Jennifer Parman, won the stock division of the Silicon Valley Soap Box Derby on June 1st. She will travel to Akron to represent the region at the Nationals at fabled Derby Downs on July 26.

Thirty-two racers competed in the stock and super stock divisions in the race, which ran on Dana Street between Calderon and Pioneer. Elliott Martinez of San José won the super stock division and will also compete in Akron. Six special needs kids, including two who are blind, participated in the SuperKids division. SuperKid Pauline Ugalde of Sunnyvale will join Alison and Elliott in Akron.

Soap Box Derby WinnerMayor Tom Means challenged area mayors to participate in the first annual Mayor's Cup Challenge. Rising to the challenge were the mayors of Cupertino (Dolly Sandoval), Santa Clara (Patricia Mahan) and Sunnyvale (Tony Spitaleri). Representing Campbell was a member of that city's Council, Evan Low. Mountain View Vice-Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, and representatives of the major sponsors rounded out the competition. Cupertino will host the trophy for the next year, as Dolly Sandoval edged out the competition to place first in the challenge.

Lots of local residents came out to check out the races all throughout the day. Vendors set up in Landels parking lot fed the crowds and displayed soap box derby memorabilia from up to 50 years ago.

The Palo Alto Elks and Air Systems, Inc. were the major sponsors of the race. Mountain View Kiwanis sponsored the construction of the cars raced by the SuperKids and the Mayors. Other sponsors and supporting organizations included local Lions Clubs, the Iron Warriors, Orchard Supply Hardware, Interior Door Replacement Company, CorpWest, Mountain View Towing, and Advanced Welding.

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Renting? You Can Still Go Green!
by Shelly King

There's a new word I've been hearing a lot -- Eco-anxiety. It's the fear that you aren't doing enough to save the planet or at least those cute polar bears. The other day, instead of using a fresh post-it, I folded over the sticky part of used the back of used post-it. But then I needed a piece of tape for the "post" part and I had this whole big internal debate over if it was better to just use another post-it or risk the polar bears over a piece of tape. The point quickly became moot when, collapsed into a fetal position under my desk, I sniffed dry erase markers until my head exploded.
For most of use, it's not about doing everything perfectly (thus the anxiety), but about being mindful and doing something. We don't have to solve the problem, just chip away at it. But you can only chip away at what you control. There's a huge movement in OMVNA for home-owners to go green. But what about those of us who rent? We don't own the appliances or put in the insulation or any number of things homeowners do to make their live more efficient. But we can chip away and here are some ideas:

  • Use fluorescent light bulbs. This is a "duh" but there's no place like the obvious to start.
  • Change your showerhead to a lowflow model. You can save thousand of gallons of water a year.
  • Think you can't compost in an apartment with no yard? Think again! The Envirocycle Composter is perfect for a deck or patio.
  • Work with your landlord to be sure the seals on your doors and windows are in good shape and air filter in your heater is changed regularly.
  • Sign up for FreeCycle and give your stuff away instead of throwing it out. It’s also a great way to find stuff on the cheap.

You can also talk to your landlord about replacing your appliances for more energy-efficient ones. Do your research and respectfully make your case about dollars and cents and not a moral cause. Your rental is your home, but it's a business for your landlord.
These are just a few idea, and these websites have many more:

Yes, it's true that, as a renter, you only control so much of your environment. But if make changes in what you can control, maybe we'll all be a little less anxious.

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Adventures With Foodies: Nami Nami
by Brian Rountree

Specializing in Kyoto-style small plates, also called kappo, Nami Nami (240 Castro) is the third venture of chef-owner Keisuke Suga. The kappo style of cuisine emphasizes seasonal ingredients, so the menu is always changing. One of my favorite things about this restaurant is the chance to try something new every time I go there.

The omakase dinner ("omakase" means chef's choice) is an excellent way to go if you have an adventurous palate like mine. The chef will select and prepare for you a progression of about 6 dishes. Typically the meal will include a salad course, then sushi or sashimi, followed by a grilled course, a fried course, a stewed course and then finishing off with a rice or noodle dish. (About $65 per person when I've been there.)

True to kappo tradition, every dish is visually striking, uniquely executed and impeccably fresh. In Japanese, "nami" means wave. Fittingly, the menu also features a small selection of very fresh sushi with fish choices that can't typically be found at other sushi places aside from Sushi Tomi.

Some highlights of past meals have included chawan-mushi (egg custard with seafood and vegetables, topped with crab eggs), shirako-age (fried fish stuffed with creamed corn), daikon-wrapped sushi maki, miso-glazed cod, crab porridge, creamy and tender grilled miso eggplant with baby shrimp and mushrooms, and

melt-in-your-mouth kakuni (stewed pork belly).
One unique dish that I particularly enjoyed was ishiyaki octopus – thin slices of raw octopus that you cook on a hot stone at the table and dip into a soy sauce broth.
The sake selection is extensive and, like the food, some sake offerings are seasonal. Sake bottle prices are reasonable, with Kurosawa around $27, Otokoyama at $33, and Kikusui-Daiginjo about $65. The bar offerings also include a full selection of Japanese beers and sh? ch? (a distilled liquor almost like vodka, but made with rice, sweet potatoes or barley). While the wine list also offers California wines, when dining Kyoto-style, why not stick with the traditional libations?

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Steering Committee Update
At the last Steering Committee meeting on May 12, we learned that At-Large member Ayelet Har is returning to Israel. Kim Copher volunteered and was selected to rejoin the Steering Committee as our new at-large member. We wish Ayelet all the best in her next adventure.

Also, our Secretary, Becky Reyna, has resigned due to personal issues and Hugh Donagher has stepped up to take on the Secretary role. Many thanks to Kim and Hugh for taking on these roles.

Also at the meeting on May 12, the Steering Committee decided to endorse Measure C and donate $500 to their campaign.
Finally, Aaron Grossman has moved. Anyone wishing to send ad payments or donations to OMVNA can send them to him at 817 Montgomery Way, Mountain View, Ca 94041.

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From the Editor: How Does Your Garden Grow?
by Velva Rowell
Mine grows amazingly well despite my complete lack of gardening skills. I have several varieties of lettuce, herbs, broccoli, and strawberries. My upside-down tomato planter is flourishing and I anticipate many salads from tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers that are growing well, but haven’t set fruit yet.

I have to say though, that I am happiest about the peas. Those lovely English peas that you have to shell before you can cook and eat them are one of my favorite vegetables. Not entirely because I really like peas, but also because I go into a time warp every time I pick and shell them for dinner. As I stand over the sink, diligently shelling peas as the hounds look on hoping that a shell or two will hit the floor, I travel to my grandmother’s house in Oregon.

My grandmother (also named Velva) was a farmer’s daughter from North Dakota who had a beautiful large garden when I was in elementary school. I and my brother would travel to her house either together or separately for a week or so every month of the summer. Her house was on a hill just outside of the town of Coos Bay, and she had an acre there that had a clearing that was just the right size for the house, yard and driveway with an uphill slope on one side and a downhill slope on the other. The garden was on the downhill slope near the blueberry bushes, and one of my favorite challenges was to pick vegetables and weed the garden without sliding downhill.

One of my chores at grandma’s house was to pick the vegetables for supper every day. Sometimes I would pick salad; tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. Sometimes my harvest would include carrots or corn. But, for a very brief time each year, the harvest would be peas. I would pick enough for dinner and try to fight the impulse to sneak a pod or two of the candy-like vegetables as I picked. It was harder to keep from sneaking peas than it was to keep from sneaking blackberries, blueberries and raspberries when my chore was to pick berries for jam or cobbler.
Here in the present, I’m enjoying the pleasures of eating seasonal vegetables. With our long growing season, I anticipate the opportunity to serve salads from our garden for a few more months, and I’ve been looking online to learn more about winter vegetables so that I can continue this good habit I’m trying to develop.

My grandmother passed away in December of 2005, and I’m doing my best to keep her memory green in my heart. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been devoting energy to eating from our garden as often as possible. Peas are in season now, and I planted several so I can enjoy a trip down memory lane whenever I like. I still feel a little guilty when I sneak a pod or two while I’m shelling, but the end result is always worth the effort.

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Block Party Guide Published

Want to meet your neighbors, or just get to know them better? Organize a block party this summer! Don't know how? Think it's a hassle? Not so . . . and your neighborhood association will help foot the bill!All the details can be found in our newly published Block Party Guide, which can be downloaded from

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Steering Committee Dates

Future meeting:  Monday May 12  at 7:30 p.m. at 580 Castro in the Chamber of Commerce Board Room.  Everyone is welcome to attend!  Agendas are sent to the OMVNAtalk e-mail list a few days before each meeting. To suggest a topic, send e-mail to:

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New and Upcoming Restaurants Downtown:
Have You Heard About These Places?

  • Xanh, 110 Castro (new location, full bar, live entertainment)
  • Z Pizza, 146 Castro
  • Hong Kong Bistro, 147 Castro (same ownership as Fu Lam Mum)
  • Fu Lam Mum, 155 Castro (new location, now offering dim sum)
  • Minh's Vietnamese, 246 Castro
  • Diyar Restaurant & Wine Bar, 300 Castro (corner of Dana)
  • Ginseng, 457 Castro (Korean BBQ & Tofu)
  • Mediterranean Grill House, 650 Castro (formerly Castro Cigar)
  • Gelayo Gusto 856 W El Camino Real (formerly Annie's Coffee)

Coming soon:

  • YogurBerry, 260 Castro
  • uWink, 401 Castro (formerly California Roadhouse)
  • Savory, 873 Castro (currently Spice Asian Bistro)

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Critter Column: Two Bees
by Jack Perkins

In early spring the predominant bee in my garden is the bumble bee queen, newly emerged from her winter sleep. Mostly black with a fuzzy abdomen and two yellow circles, she is pretty to watch.  Starting a new nest (a hole in the ground or under a flat board or stone) and gathering pollen is her main objective.

Her rear legs are heavy with amber globs of pollen which she takes to her nest to add to a bigger glob in which the first eggs she lays are worker eggs. The worker larvae gorge themselves on the pollen and can’t quite eat their way out because the queen keeps adding more pollen to the glob.  Eventually workers emerge from their sticky nursery and they take over all tasks except egg lying. By late summer the queen is laying queen eggs and male eggs.  When they emerge, the new queens mate and fly off to find a safe place to hibernate through the winter. When spring returns they start the process all over again.

Only fertilized females survive through winter. 

Bumble bees can sting but for the most part they ignore everything except their task at hand. To sit quiet and watch them go about their business is soothing and you can get quite close without disturbing them.  However if you mess with their nest, they’ll get you and can sting you more than once (whereas the honey bee stings once and dies).  Bumble bee nests can contain 20-100 bees. By summer my garden is really buzzing.

Carpenter bees are mostly black (males have some yellow behind their heads) and have shiny abdomens. They are scarier than bumble bees because they stand their ground. They’ll buzz you at eye level, hover and dart at you to intimidate and steer you away from their nest. The male lacks the capacity to sting but the female is fully equipped (but rarely attacks). Just the same, a large buzzing insect in front of my face will win every time.

The female carpenter bee (not called “Queen”) bores deep tunnels into soft wood to lay her eggs (they are considered pests). Their tunnel entrance holes are perfectly round and about the diameter of your finger. Their nests contain fewer numbers than bumble bees.  They bore into dead wood on trees, fence posts, decks and any unpainted soft wood will do.
Male and female carpenter bees get through winter by hunkering down in their wood tunnels and living on pollen they’ve stored. 

Bumble bees and carpenter bees play an important role in the pollination of wild flowers and agricultural crops. They are interesting to watch and I welcome them in my back yard. I’ve never been stung, though they are often in very close proximity as I toil in my yard.

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