New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter -Edition 17 - Section 2

June 6, 2004 (June/July Edition)

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos
Riding the
Light Rail from
Alum Rock Station
We're ready to roll The public art is the best
part - there are beautiful
canopies, railings and tiles
Tiles on benches.
Can you see the
Light Rail train?
The canopies
in Milpitas are
very different
At the
Great Mall -
What's this?
Who's in the
nest now?
  Thai White Rock Cafe is open
Everyone says the food is great!
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Pussy Willow

Young poet challenges us to look closely at the world around us

By Spencer Olsson Nitkey

Pussy Willow

A pussy willow is soft as a cloud
It tickles my face as if it was a tail
from a miniature bunny
If you look at it closely
it’s white as a dove
If soft can’t explain it
then maybe this will
It’s soft as the sunset

Spencer Olsson Nitkey 4-6-04

Spencer Nitkey lives in Glen Rock, New Jersey, but has close ties to San Jose. His grandmother is Comfort Olsson of Country Club Heights. Spencer began writing notable poetry last year at age seven. Says Grandmother Comfort, “Perhaps I’m just a doting grandmother, but through my years of friendship with (poet) John Leary, I believe I learned a lot about poetry and I think Spencer is darned good at it.” NNV agrees and will share more of Spencer’s work in future editions.

Click here for a photo of Spencer.

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Alum Rock Park Will “Star” on PBS!

Mother Nature provides scenic background panoramas – and fragrance

Huell Howser and Ranger Jane Lawson, lead actors

Alum Rock Park will be featured on PBS’ “California’s Golden Parks” series – part of Huell Howser’s California Gold programming. One Tuesday, late in May, Huell and his photographer, Cameron Mitchell Tucker flew up to San Jose from Los Angeles to spend the day interviewing Park Ranger Jane Lawson, Park Supervisor Mike McClintock, Youth Science Institute personnel, little kids visiting the park for nature programs, and of course, Mother Nature herself.

Mother Nature did herself proud. She provided a cool (but-not-too-cool) Spring day tempered by sweet breezes fragrant with buckeye blossoms and sagebrush cologne. The bright green spring lawns were dappled by Mother N.’s clear Northern California sunshine. Trees in their shiny new leaves swayed and shimmered for the camera. Alum Rock Park was at her golden best.

Huell Howser’s homey tenor drawl rang through the park as he toured from sight to sight enthusiastically learning park history and lore from Ranger Lawson. Jane, who has been at Alum Rock for only a few years, had her data down pat and held up her end of the repartee perfectly.

They interrupted several YSI classes as they toured the Park. Huell talked to a YSI Teacher with a Great Horned Owl on her arm. YSI Animal Curator Dorothy “D.J.” Johnson had the Nature Center ready for their day on TV.

Huell and Jane visited the rustic old log cabin, the site of the long-gone Natatorium, the Youth Science Institute Nature Center, and the once-upon-a-time mineral water pagoda. Huell slupped from the fountain there expecting an exotic quench. “Nowadays,” said Jane to her disappointed guest, “it’s just city water piped in.”

The bona fide exotic waters of the mineral springs did not disappoint, however. Their pungent reek announced the presence of sulfur well before the little entourage reached the grottoes which mark the various springs. Much to the amusement of a bunch of little kids who were there as part of a geology class, Huell and Jane stepped totally inside one of the smelly grottoes to record that sequence.

Two owlets in a great horned owl’s nest near the mineral springs waggled their heads as Cameraman Cameron tried vainly to film them for TV. Stellar’s Jays made their ack-ack racket to add atmosphere to the background noise. Little kids’ clamor and chatter in the distance lent texture to the tapestry of sound which Huell Howser’s microphone picked up.

NNV trooped around behind the cameraman enjoying the sight of our fine neighborhood park winning the notice of a well-known television show. We left for home as Huell, Cameron, Jane and Mike were preparing to drive up to Eagle Rock where they planned to film the panoramic view of San Francisco Bay and the Santa Clara Valley. It should be a fine program which will show the rest of California just what a treasure we have here in Alum Rock Park. When the program comes to TV, we San Joseans will have an advantage over other California viewers. We’ll be able to imagine the smell of sulfur during the grotto scenes.

When we know the date the program will be shown, we’ll put that information on our Community Bulletin Board.

Click here for photos of Huell in Alum Rock Park and here for the California’s Golden Parks Web site.

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Trains – in Alum Rock?

Enjoy a free ride on June 23rd

Take in exceptional public art

There was no “Clang, clang, clang” on this trolley, but everyone aboard certainly had their heartstrings strummed as they went for a special Preview Tour on the Tasman East/Capitol Light Rail line one Friday afternoon last month. At the invitation of Councilmember Nora Campos, a group of “neighborhood leaders” went for a very special ride on one of those perfect sunny-breezy San Jose Spring afternoons.

There were grandparents, parents and even some little kids in the small band of Eastsiders who stepped aboard the sleek train accompanied by a passel of VTA employees, Ms. Campos and her aide, Christine Silva Burnett. A Mercury News reporter and a photographer interviewed and photographed the riders who, it seemed, each had their own personal camera and were also clicking and snapping at all the wonders along the way. NNV was gratified to be invited along and we too hunkered and stretched to capture the delicious colors in a photo essay for our readers.

The excursion started at the Alum Rock station at Westboro Drive and Capitol Avenue just a little south of Alum Rock Avenue. The charming station building marks the south end of the three and a half mile long extension of the Tasman light rail line which runs in the median of Capitol Avenue from just south of Hostetter Road to just past Alum Rock Avenue.

Like each of the four new stations, Alum Rock sports a combination of a painted glass canopy overhead, bright forged steel railings alongside and colored concrete patterns underfoot. Alum Rock also features hand-made tiles - creations of kids at nearby Lester Shields Elementary School – which embellish the concrete benches. Each station features its own Northern California plant theme. The design overhead at Alum Rock represents Buckeye and Sycamore leaves. The railing motif is Blue Eyed Grass, rendered, of course, in blue.

The train moved smoothly and almost silently from station to station. The riders found themselves at the McKee station in the blink of an eye. Someone enthusiastically commented, “Hey, I think I’ll take Light Rail up here to shop at Target!” The VTA folks aboard promoted more ambitious journeys on the Light Rail – such as a shopping binge at the Great Mall or even a dinner jaunt to Castro Street in Mountain View. Now, that’s an idea to which NNV could relate!

Unlike an ordinary light rail trip which riders will begin taking when the line officially opens late this month, the preview tour allowed the riders to dismount, take photos and explore each station unhurriedly before moving on to the next. Everyone except the littlest tykes marveled at the creativity of the railing and canopy designs by Jean Whitesavage and Nick Lyle and the floral and geometric paving motifs of Victor Zaballa. The consensus of the little band of riders was that the luminescent colors of the bold blossoms and leaves overhead, alone, were worth the trip. This is really fine public art.

Whether or not being a regular Light Rail rider was ever in your travel plans, you’ll be missing quite an artistic experience (and a quiet, easy ride) if you don’t give it a go. You’ll be able to ride free of charge on the grand opening day, June 23rd. And, don’t forget, while you’re in the stations, look up!

And, also don’t forget, when you’re crossing all the new light rail tracks; watch the signals, and look left and right – it will take some time to get used to sharing our streets with the trains.

Click here for lots of photos of our ride - and of stunning public art.

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NNV Newsmakers:

Sculptor Keith Bush, JLHS Teachers Susan Vieira and Mildred Llanos-Richards

Eastside Sculptor Keith Bush

Local artist’s sculpture dedicated in May

The City of South San Francisco dedicated three new sculptures in its Orange Memorial Park Sculpture Garden on Saturday, May 22nd. Among the three was “Ponder,” East San Jose Sculptor Keith Bush’s Yin/Yang pieces which briefly graced the Bushes’ Highland Drive home near the top of Brundage Way.

Ponder is composed of two figures, Yin standing and Yang seated. Yang was cut from Yin. Viewers are invited to sit in Yang’s lap and ponder their origin and/or existence. The pieces are fabricated from welded core-ten steel, Yin is 96” high and Yang is 65” high.

Click here for photos of Yin and Yang on Highland Drive and here for Ponder in South San Francisco.  Click here for Keith’s Web site.

Susan Vieira, JLHS Math Teacher Extraordinaire

Named Santa Clara Valley Mathematics Association 2004 Teacher of the Year

Susan Vieira teaches math to all James Lick freshmen which “deserves an award in itself” according to Math Department Chair, Barbara Schallau. This means she teaches English language learners, special ed, GATE and mainstream kids. “Her classroom is constantly filled with students at break, during lunch and after school.” The room “is full every day, every minute of that time (even on Fridays and on the days before a holiday or vacation!)”

Ms. Vieira has been a mentor teacher and she “has worked tirelessly to improve the curricula, assessment, and pedagogy for the students.” Ms. Vieira has contributed to the development of many Lick math programs which “have become model programs in other schools in the district.”

NNV kudos to Susan Vieira for earning the outstanding honor of Santa Clara Valley Mathematics Association 2004 Teacher of the Year.

Outstanding JLHS Spanish Teacher Recognized by Mercury News

Mildred Llanos-Richards “dances salsa and merengue” and teaches up a storm

Eight-year James Lick Spanish Teacher Mildred Llanos-Richards was selected as the San Jose Mercury News Teacher of the Week on May 13th. Not only has Ms. Llanos-Richards developed a “Spanish for Spanish Speakers” program, but she also counsels and teaches English to James Lick parents.

Click here to read the Mercury News “Guide” article on this Peruvian-born, dedicated educator.

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Recommended Budget Proposes Countywide Service Reductions

Sluggish ongoing revenue growth and accelerating staffing costs

By Santa Clara County Supervisor Pete McHugh, District 3

In early May, the County Executive submitted a Recommended Budget that solves a projected $200.3 million General Fund deficit. The budget reduces current services levels in all departments to address the County’s local deficit of $132 million. It also sets aside a one-time reserve of $50 million to buffer against anticipated State reductions. To maintain safety net services in the Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Departments through Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, the budget establishes an $18.5 million reserve.

Sluggish ongoing revenue growth and accelerating staffing costs have caused our deficit. Staff estimates that total General Fund revenues will increase by $94.5 million to $1.9 billion in FY 2005. The revenue sources that will significantly contribute to the increase include $31 million in one-time funds, $22 million in charges for various departmental services, and $19 million in Federal revenues. In FY 2005, State revenues are likely to increase less than 1%. Since State revenues equal 40% of the total budget, this slow growth has a major impact on funding for vital safety net services.

In response to projected deficits, employee labor groups have extended existing contracts that give up or significantly reduce expected pay increases. Even with this help, the Recommended Budget sets total General Fund spending at $2 billion. This amount represents a 4% increase over last year. When one-time revenues are removed from the revenue total, total revenues only increase by 3%. This 1% gap represents a structural deficit that the County has to solve.

To address the projected deficit, the County Executive’s Recommended Budget calls for $108.7 million in countywide offsets and $91.6 million in departmental reductions. The following four actions make up the countywide solutions:

• Use $56.6 million in reduced costs for liability insurance, employee health insurance and retiree health.

• Use $44.9 million in one-time funding to spread the impact of reductions over more than one year and maintain ongoing services.

• Use $5.5 million in ongoing revenue and/or reimbursements from asset or economic development efforts.

• Use $1.7 million in increased fees from various departments.

The $91.6 million in departmental reductions represent a combination of spending reductions and revenue solutions. The service impact to residents primarily results from the elimination of 436 authorized positions. This reduction represents more than 4% of the County’s 9,800 General Fund positions. At the Board’s direction, the County Executive has made sure that these position reductions do not unfairly protect executive managers, middle managers and supervisors at the expense of line staff.

Over 80% of the position reductions take place in the areas of law and justice, social services and health. Specific health services affected include HIV/AIDS programs, suicide intervention, and mental health counseling for residents on welfare and special education students. The services in the social services area identified for reduction include children’s shelter staffing and senior nutrition programs. Through proposed attrition plans, there will be fewer attorneys to prosecute and defend residents charged with crimes. The Department of Correction will close a women’s facility at Elmwood and Juvenile Probation will eliminate neighborhood accountability boards.

I encourage you to visit my website for more details about the County Executive’s major reductions. The Board will hold formal budget hearings on June 14, 15, 16 and make final decisions on June 18. I urge you to contact me before those dates by phone (408- 299-5030), fax (408-298-6637) or email ( I will benefit from your comments and they will help strengthen my decisions on how I vote on these items in June.

Pete McHugh

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NNV Briefs

bulletA Really Scary #64 Bus Story from An Anonymous NNV Reader
bulletWho Interviewed Whom? How NNV Got in The MN Guide
bulletCrime Alert in the East Highlands
bulletBluebirds Pack Up All Their Cares and Woes, Swallows swoop in
bulletA Parlor Meeting? – What the Heck’s a Parlor Meeting? For the Library?
bulletCounty Historical Heritage Commission Meets Again by Edward Allegretti
bulletNo Dinner in the Dirt on June 23rd, Un-Mark your calendar now!
bulletLinda Arietta Wows Hillcresters With Exquisite Floral Color Combos

A Really Scary #64 Bus Story

From An Anonymous NNV Reader

Here’s what happened to one of our neighbors one day. She was driving her car east on Alum Rock. The bus was ready to pull out of the Alum Rock Village bus stop at Dale Drive (that’s where the road narrows and two lanes merge into the left one). The lady’s car already occupied the through lane when the bus suddenly began pulling out in front of her. She had to brake abruptly and gave a little toot of her horn as she edged her car out of the way, passed the bus and continued east up the hill.

Thinking the issue was over, the lady drove at about the speed limit up the hill, when, suddenly, the bus passed her roaring along at about 50 MPH. She thought to herself “What’s wrong with this guy? – to drive so recklessly!” She pulled over just above the next bus stop (Fleming) so that, as he overtook her, she could note his license number. However, rather than overtake her, the driver pulled his bus alongside her car and yelled at her, “What the hell’s the matter with you, lady?”

She couldn’t believe that he talked this way to her, but she said nothing. She became afraid to look at him. Suddenly, to her extreme surprise, “he threw a huge wadded-up ball of paper towels at my car door, slammed the bus door shut and sped off up the hill.” By this time, she was shaking but, even so, the lady managed to copy the license plate number.

Did she report him? You’d better believe it. However, she’s not sure he isn’t still driving a bus or some other form of public transportation. She says the moral of her story is “DON’T RIDE THE BUS! No telling WHO may be driving it.” Maybe this lady’s out-of-control driver is the same knave who dissed your editor? Click here to read about that encounter.

Any more rude bus driver encounters out there? NNV is listening!

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Who Interviewed Whom? How NNV Got in The MN Guide

NNV interviews lots of folks to fill these pages but, one day in May, we found ourselves the subject of an article in the Mercury News’ weekly The Guide section. Someone, somewhere, suggested that our affiliation with the Santa Clara FireSafe Council would make us appropriate subjects during Wildfire Awareness Week, May 9-15, and suddenly we received calls from Guide writer, Pat Lopes Harris and photographer Eugene Louie.

We met on our patio and the interviewing began. It was odd, indeed, to see how few notes Pat took on her teeny-tiny tablet and how many photos Eugene took with his enormous long-lens cameras. Just out of habit, we took a few notes and photos too. Pat and Eugene squirmed a bit when they realized they were being interviewed by their interviewees. For the record, Pat is married with two little kids, lives in downtown San Jose, and is “the same age as Nora Campos.” She was born in Hawaii. Eugene also lives downtown and claims to be the only Chinese-American who doesn’t have a green thumb. However, he took some cuttings of a plant he admired in hopes that his Caucasian wife could get them to grow. One of his sons attends the Air Force Academy. Eugene injured his leg while covering the Peninsula “Man Barks at Police Dog” story and has a temporary handicapped placard in his windshield.

We took them around the Highland Drive retaining wall explaining why the East Highlands neighborhood needs a better firebreak between it and Alum Rock Park. And we showed them Crothers Road which serves as the firebreak even as it slumbers away while closed to traffic due to its dismemberment during the Winter 1998 landslide. Eugene took our picture while admonishing us not to smile. “Look serious!” he ordered. We did, but our suppressed grins were hovering under those grim expressions.

We took their photos near the closed entrance of Alum Rock Park and they grouched a little at how intimidating it is to be photographed. Then we took their pictures again when they were leaving. NNV guesses that their next subjects, “The Sikh Men of Overfelt Gardens,” were much easier to interview!

Click here to see our photos of Pat and Eugene. And here for Eugene’s Web site.

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Crime Alert in the East Highlands

A reader on who lives on Highland Drive near its intersection with Brundage Way reports that four snow tires with wheels for a Lexus RX300 were stolen from their driveway around May 14-15. Their driveway is rather secluded from the street, but it’s really, really close to their front door so these thieves were very bold indeed. The reader says that the lesson learned is “Don’t leave stuff out where thieves can see it!” NNV reminds us all to watch out for one another and call 911 to report any suspicious goings-on.

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Bluebirds Pack Up All Their Cares and Woes

Bye, bye bluebirds!

Swallows swoop in

Barbara Springer brings us up to date with the latest news on her nest boxes. “After removing the abandoned Blue Bird nest from the nest box, a pair of Tree Swallows has moved in and started building their own nest. I'm hoping for a successful outcome this time around,” says she.

Click here to see the Tree Swallows. NNV awaits the next installment of this avian novella.

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A Parlor Meeting? – What the Heck’s a Parlor Meeting?

Here’s how we rally the neighborhood behind the wonderful new Alum Rock Library!

NNV readers should be hearing about some pretty nice events over the next few months and, hopefully, everyone who wants to support our new library branch, will be able to attend what the San Jose Public Library Foundation calls “Parlor Meetings.” Such events can actually be teas or kaffee klatsches in someone’s parlor, or they can be brunches or cocktail parties or wine fests on someone’s deck. Or, they can be just plain old meetings. It all depends on who will want to host the meetings and what sort of events they like to organize.

NNV doesn’t think there is anyone in our neighborhood who isn’t strongly behind our superb new library (which will be opening next year) so it should be easy to find hosts in each general neighborhood who will invite their friends and neighbors to a meeting at which the Library Foundation spokespeople will explain how we can be advocates and supporters and cheerleaders for the new branch.

May we put your name on the guest list so you’re sure to be included in one of the events? Or, would you be a saint of a patron and host one of these meetings yourself? Please let us know at (408) 272-7008 or Or you can directly call the SJPLF at (408) 808-2174 (Executive Director Marie Bernardi) or (408) 808-2081 (Eleanor Weber Dickman, Director of Development & Communications) and discuss the possibilities.

NNV sees the new Alum Rock Library Branch as a neighborhood uniter - what could be better than a strong coalition of library backers joining to make our library a top-drawer facility?

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County Historical Heritage Commission Meets Again

Less onerous Preservation Ordinance discussion continues

By Edward Allegretti, Member, Historical Heritage Commission of Santa Clara County

The regular monthly meeting of the Historical Heritage Commission was held on May 20th in the County Board of Supervisors' chambers. At the meeting, a member of the county planning department gave us a presentation on the planning (permits, fees, variances, etc.) process. This information was requested so that the commissioners could be better prepared to possibly recommend changes in this process for historically designated properties. This is the part of the ordinance review where we desire to add incentives. The actual discussion of any possible recommended changes will occur at our June meeting on the 17th. Otherwise, the commission handled other business aside from the ordinance review. There will be no meeting in July.

As a side note, it was interesting to learn that the county requires permits for just about everything a person wants to do at his property. Any sheds over 150 square feet, a new heating or A/C system, a new roof, a fence, etc., etc., all require permits and fees and they must be reviewed by many people. Variances are rarely given but sometimes are considered for those with historic properties that don't meet current codes (such as property setbacks). Although I'm not stating they are all bad, I was astounded at the bureaucracy and control. In Jones County, where I have a farm, there are no permits or fees for anything, including demolition. What a vast difference. No doubt there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Click here for the Santa Clara County Planning Office Web site for the proposed ordinance and here for the meeting agendas and archived reports. Click here for our May article on this subject. Comments or questions can be e-mailed to Ed Allegretti at or to the Historical Heritage Coordinator, Dana Peak, at Watch our Community Bulletin Board and Letters to the Editor for the latest on the HHC meetings and comments from readers.

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No Dinner in the Dirt on June 23rd

Un-Mark your calendar now!

The Youth Science Institute’s DINNER IN THE DIRT II has been tabled for this year. The Alum Rock Park event, planned for Wednesday, June 23rd, may be rescheduled for next summer. Watch for another Wonderful Wednesday lawn party coming to Alum Rock Park …… perhaps next June?

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Linda Arietta Wows Hillcresters With Exquisite Floral Color Combos

Unusual compositions tantalize the eye and challenge tradition

Blossoms and feathery greenery were absolutely a blur in the hands of Linda Arietta, a superb “colorist” who just happens to work in the medium of flowers. She brought dozens and dozens of home-grown, exquisitely colored, long-stemmed blooms to the Hillcresters’ Flower Power luncheon at Betty Gassett's home late last month. Linda’s “home-grown” flowers are not like yours or mine; she’s the owner of Country Essence Flower Ranch in Watsonville and she generously demonstrated her vast talent at this fundraising event for the members and guests of the Hillcresters, a San Jose Country Club area women’s group which has been raising funds for East Side educational projects since the 1940’s.

Linda snapped off long stems left and right. “Short stems equal easy hydration,” she explained as she stuffed two or three inch long stems into florist foam–filled urns. Of course, not all arrangements are like the several low, textural ones she created, so she also demonstrated retrimming the ends of whole handfuls of long-stemmed blossoms in one big knife cut. She gave her recipe for vase water – lemon flavored soda (not diet, of course) and water plus a drop of chlorine bleach for really touchy wilt-prone flowers. “Change the water every day,” she said as she tipped a vase to demonstrate that one needn’t take the flowers clear out and rearrange them every day.

It is impossible to describe the color combinations which Ms. Arietta conjured, but it might suffice to say that “the play” among the colors actually caused the ladies in the audience to gasp as each new color was added to an arrangement. Many untraditional shades of russet and mauve joined pink-reds, coral-reds, white, lavenders and blue-purples in breathtaking harmony. Yellow-green, burgundy and silver-green foliage, leather leaf fern and various asparagus ferns, added fluffy softness and contrast in each of the urn-shaped clear glass vases. Linda’s keen eye and deft hands had all the guests mesmerized. Also mesmerizing was Linda’s generous use of flowers. She literally “stuffed them in” until each arrangement could hold no more.

Click here to see Linda and several of the arrangements she created.

You can learn to arrange flowers like Linda does it by signing up for some of the many, many summer courses offered at Country Essence Flower Ranch. You can also purchase flowers from Linda’s ranch at several of the local Farmers’ Markets. You can call Linda at (831) 722-4549 or (408) 605-0778 to learn more about the summer classes – or to learn which markets will have her flowers available. Linda could be persuaded to deliver her marvelous blooms here in our neighborhood, especially if several regular customers could be served in one delivery trip. You won’t be disappointed.

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Funding Your Child's Education

Make your dollar stretch farther

By Jason Papier

We are lucky living in Silicon Valley, surrounded by world-class resources and the opportunity to receive a first rate education. In many areas, the extent of the educational opportunities is a single, local junior college. In the Capital of the Silicon Valley, however, prospective students can choose from no less than 10 junior colleges. (For a list see: and click on “College & University Links.”) We have easy access to the twin Ivory Towers, Stanford and Berkeley, and one of the highest-rated liberal arts universities in the United States, Santa Clara University (SCU). Additionally, we have two excellent State colleges, San Jose State University (SJSU) and Cal State Hayward (CSH).

But the options don’t just end at the traditional colleges. You’ll find institutions available nearby that can teach you to become a chiropractor, electrician, chef, computer programmer, technician, mechanic, truck driver, airplane mechanic, pilot, bartender, graphics artist or interpreter. (For a partial list, visit The variety of options in the Bay Area is as endless as the diverse mixture of cultures we enjoy. Whatever you want to become, you can learn how to do it here!

Importance of an education

Numerous studies have shown that those with a higher level of education make more money than those without. U.S. Census data shows that over a lifetime those with a 4-year college degree will make almost $1,000,000 more than those whose highest level of education is high school. Level of education can be the deciding factor between two candidates seeking the same job or promotion. I also believe that an education gives the psychological edge of knowing that you are among the top 15% of candidates in the country.

But as most parents will tell you, income is not the motivating factor when investing in a child’s education; happiness is. For some, happiness may come from a higher income. For others, rewarding work, travel, making new friends, or gaining new experiences are motivating factors. Whatever the reason, the real benefits of an education can be summed up in one word: opportunity. It’s been said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. If this is the case, children with a higher education are certainly more apt to be “lucky” in life than those without. And as friends or relatives, you have the ability to allow a student to become “lucky” enough to participate in higher education by preparing today.

Higher education: Not just college

As a financial planner, I receive information regularly on the newest state sponsored college savings programs or tax-advantaged solutions. We’ve all read about them in magazines, seen the ads on billboards, and Upromise (discussed later) has recently launched a nationwide major television ad campaign. In fact, just today I received a brochure in the mail from the State of California for the “Golden State ScholarShare College Savings Trust.”

These efforts have gone far in educating the public about opportunities to save for college. But while raising awareness about opportunities to save for college is a very admirable goal, I think we sometimes do a disservice to a major segment of the population: those who don’t plan to attend college. I say disservice because it appears that educational funding programs are designed only for children who will attend college, and that is simply not true. For the many children who won’t attend college, the same opportunities to learn skills, develop confidence and gain entrée into sought after positions are available through one of the myriad trade schools in the South Bay. And while many of the programs I will discuss later market themselves as “college savings” programs, in reality they are “postsecondary education savings” programs.

Postsecondary education includes many credentialed or trade certified programs in addition to college. For instance, in the California ScholarShare program, a qualified withdrawal can be made for any approved “postsecondary vocational institution.” In other words, children who may eventually want to become contractors, mechanics, or landscape architects have the same tax-advantaged opportunities to pay for education as those who will become doctors, lawyers, or financial planners!

I believe that a true craftsman in any profession has greater job satisfaction and personal respect than the average worker. And while becoming a craftsman requires time, dedication, love, and discipline, it starts with education. I encourage any relative of a young child to save, even a very small monthly amount, in one of the programs in this article. Providing the opportunity to become a chef, engineer, mason or accountant is not simply giving a child the ability to make more money, but the ability to realize their dreams.

Have a question about this article or other financial planning topics? E-mail Jason at

Next edition: Planning for the rising costs of your child’s education. How much do you need? When should you start? What’s the best plan? Should you save for your retirement or for your child’s education first?

NNV Note: Jason Papier, his wife Susan and dog Scout live on Holly Drive with a beautiful view of the SJCC and its surrounding communities. Jason's financial planning firm, PW Johnson, is an NNV sponsor and is located just off Highway 101 and Mathilda in Sunnyvale. He provides financial planning services to clients who seek a long-term relationship with an advisor.

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A Tale of Two Birds

More notes from the YSI Nature Center in Alum Rock Park

By Dorothy "D.J." Johnson - Youth Science Institute

NNV Note: This story links to many other Web sites where you can see photos of the birds, insects and trees and, in some cases, listen to the birds' songs. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition. Some photos may take a long time to download unless you have a broadband connection.

Spring has arrived with gusto. The park is just full of life, avian and otherwise. The Black Phoebes are zooming back and forth between their mud nest on the back of the YSI building and their favorite hunting ground near the trash can out front. Robins are noisily defending their cup nest in the Live Oak Tree from all comers, especially from our enduring Great Horned Owls. I can hear a male Bullock’s Oriole working on a territory in the same Live Oak. Within a 60 second walk of the YSI Nature Center (ok… 90 seconds) there are House Wren nests, Black-headed Grosbeak nests, Bushtit nests, an American Dipper nest and a Great Horned Owl nest. Those are just the ones I know about. The American Dippers that usually head “up country” to breed blessed us with a nest right in the middle of the main use area of the park. It’s an extraordinary spring indeed.

As I marvel at each pair of birds busily protecting territories, building nests and feeding young, I wonder if these are the same individuals that bred here last year. Are they seasoned veterans that have survived many winters and migrations or have they made it through that first critical year of life and are breeding for the first time? Seventy percent or more of the birds fledged don’t see their first birthday. Without banding it’s difficult to know for sure.

We can be fairly certain that our nesting Black Phoebes are the same birds as last year. They wintered here in the park and are using the same homestead as last year, a site tucked up under the eave on the back wall of our building. Phoebes will use the same nest over again, especially if the site was successful the previous year.

Black Phoebes are Flycatchers. They hunt bugs on the wing, scooping them up with their wide, flattened beak and large mouth. They are very common in this area and can be found near most bodies of water. Ponds, streams and drainage ditches are favorites. Black Phoebes, as the name suggests, are black with a contrasting white belly. They characteristically perch on snags or fence posts, quietly flicking their tail and darting out to snare insects over the water. A large portion of their diet here seems to be Crane Flies, which are common in the park. Other prey items include crickets, wasps, caterpillars, butterflies, moths and more. Yesterday one of our pair snatched a Checker Spot Butterfly right out of the air.

For weeks now the parent phoebes have been up with the sun, flying back and forth, to and fro, with a beak full of insects and other bugs to feed their insatiable young. Finally, this week we can see the results of their hard work, four little beaks and fluffy butts stuffed into a nest that is no longer large enough to accommodate them. Two days later these four “Jr” Phoebes fledged to join the flocks of other birds, young and old, competing for insects and other bugs in the park. I was present when two of them took their maiden flight, flapping and calling, into the big maple that shades our building. The parents will continue to feed and nurture them for several weeks while they learn the flycatcher trade. After that, the young Phoebes are on their own, taking their chances for survival along with the other newly fledged birds of the year. The little mud nest, once the center of intense activity sits quietly on the wall, until next year. Mission accomplished.

The Great Horned Owl is back at the crevice in the side of the canyon wall. She is so cryptically colored that only the most observant can find her without assistance. Last year a child on a nature walk discovered the hidden lair with two large downy occupants. We watched with great interest through spring and late summer while the babies matured and then disappeared. We quietly monitored the location through the winter and early spring for signs of renewed activity. Then, in early April an adult owl was discovered sitting quietly at the lip of the entrance, biding her time, watching unsuspecting visitors strolling on the path below. Just the other day our rangers informed us that there are indeed babies in residence. A field trip to the nest revealed two sooty colored, downy chicks peering around Mom’s protective body. Unlike the songbird Phoebes, the saga of the Great Horned Owl and her babies will play out through the rest of the summer and probably well into the fall.

Great horned owls are the most powerful of the North American owls. Found in many habitats, they are common in the Bay Area. They’re the proverbial hoot owl - listen for them in late winter as they begin to form territories and begin nesting. Owls do not build their own nests! Great Horns will usurp Red-tailed Hawk, Raven and Heron nests as well as using cracks and crevices in roadside cuts and cliff faces. As the chicks mature, both parents will hunt, catching whatever they can find to feed their ravenous young. Prey commonly includes mice, rats, rabbits and sometimes small opossums, raccoons and yes, skunks, as I can remember from my rehab days long ago! (Owls, like most other birds, don’t have a good sense of smell.) After the young fledge, the parents will supplement their diet as they learn about available prey in the area and perfect their hunting technique. It’s common for young Great Horns to spend some time on the ground at this stage of their development. This is when they start to forage for themselves catching such delicacies as Banana Slugs and other slow moving, ground-oriented prey. It will take months before the young owls can fly and hunt efficiently.

This scenario will be played out hundreds of times over the course of the breeding season. Some birds will accomplish their goal in as little as five weeks from laying of the eggs to fledging young. Some will take most of the summer into fall to raise their brood and send them into the world.

A week after fledging, three of the four young Phoebes were seen sitting on our back fence still accepting food from their parents. The Great Horned Owl female continues to guard the entrance to her nest as her two young look on from the safety of their rocky abode.

Click here for a Webcam show of Great Horned Owls and their young.

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You Dig It?

Area gardeners, both "Master" and casual, share their wisdom and experiences with East side gardening and related topics here.

June and July Hot Topics

By University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede

Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (408) 299-2638 with your gardening questions or check out our website at

June Hot Topics

Fire Blight: Fire blight bacteria symptoms are seen as blackened dead branches and twigs that have a torched look. It hits ornamentals like pyracantha, cotoneaster, flowering pear and crabapple, mountain ash, hawthorn and fruit trees such as apple, pear, loquat and quince. It overwinters in cankers or wounds and resumes bacterial growth in the spring. There may or may not be oozing from the canker. It is spread by insects, rain, or pruning. The infection can extend into the scaffold limbs, trunks or root system and may kill the tree. Prune the infected branch about nine inches below the dead area. Clean pruners between cuts with a mild bleach solution (9 parts water, 1 part bleach). Spraying during bloom is the preventative method of control. See the pest note at

Fruit and Chilling: We will get calls on why fruit trees are producing so little or in some cases no fruit. The combination of lack of cold temperatures and warm days at the right time during winter is the reason. Chilling hours are calculated by adding up the hours of temperatures between 32 and 45F and subtracting the number of hours over 65. Chilling hours influence bud break, fruit set and fruit development. Insufficient chilling is probably the most limiting factor for sweet cherry, peach, apricot, nectarine and apple fruit yield here in the Santa Clara Valley. Chilling hour requirements range from four days (<100 hours) for persimmons to six to eight weeks for sweet cherries. For more information on this topic, visit

What's Eating My Fruit? What does the bite look like? Is there a hole that has teeth marks? Probably roof rats or squirrels. Is there a hole that looks like the fruit has been stabbed? Probably birds. There are several ways to keep the fruit for your family. Summer prune so the tree stays small enough to be covered with bird netting. Erecting a PVC pipe frame first eases net installation. Weigh down the net at ground level. If the tree is large, try pruning the branches so nothing touches any structure or other plant. This reduces rat and squirrel access. Purchase some bird scare tape that is a shiny Mylar tape. Tie an 18" length to a bamboo pole that's long enough to emerge out the top of the tree. Use several on each tree. Put out right before the fruit is ripe and remove it as soon as you are finished harvesting.

Irrigation: Check your irrigation system to be sure it's in full working order. If you have drip lines, open the end and turn on the water to clean out the line. Close the end of the line and check that each emitter or sprayer is working properly and isn't clogged. Check popup sprinklers for full spray and for proper placement of water. Plants grow larger during the winter and spring and may be blocking the water from reaching the expected location. Also unneeded spray watering of shrubs and trees can cause disease problems. Make sure the irrigation timer is set correctly as well.

Mulching: Mulching is an effective technique to keep soil temperatures even, to retain moisture and to prevent weeds from germinating. Mulching with organic matter such as chipped tree trimmings, compost or barks not only reduces water usage but also improves the organic content and texture of soil. Apply at least two to three inches of material (three to six inches of larger bark pieces), keeping it several inches away from the trunks of trees and shrubs to prevent crown rots. Renew every few years as it decomposes and enriches the soil.

July Hot Topics

Certified Arborists: Our hotline gets calls asking how to trim trees or how to identify problems with trees. Sometimes we can help over the phone and send specific tree information such as how to take care of avocado trees or citrus trees, but when the caller is unable to bring in a sample or send photos or adequately describe the problem, we send a list of ISA Certified Arborists. You can find local arborists by using your home zip code at

Spinach Leafminer: Adults are small black to gray flies with yellow markings. Females puncture leaves to feed on plant sap and lay eggs within the leaf tissues. After 2 to 4 days, eggs hatch. Larvae feed between the upper and lower surface of the leaves, making distinctive winding, whitish tunnels or mines that are often the first clue that leafminers are present in spinach or chard. Larvae emerge from the mines and pupate on the leaf surface or, more commonly, in cracks in the soil. Many generations occur each year and the entire life cycle can be completed in less than 3 weeks when the weather is warm. The simplest control is removal of every affected leaf. Check very early leaves and remove at first sign. See for more information.

Tomato Problems

Tomato Russet Mite: The most common and probably least recognized tomato problem is the tomato russet mite that appears as dead leaves starting at the bottom of the plant and moving upwards. The stem takes on a bronzy appearance. It is easy to control with the application of wettable sulfur mixed in a pump sprayer with a spreader-sticker and applied to the entire plant including undersides of leaves and deep into the interior of the plant. The sulfur should not be applied if that day's temperature is expected to be above 90 degrees F. See

Verticillium Wilt: The first symptom is yellowing of the older leaves at the bottom and a slight wilting of the tips of the shoots during the day. The yellowed leaves dry and fall off and eventually the whole plant is affected. The leaves higher up will be dull looking and the new leaves will tend to curl upward. All the branches are uniformly affected. You will still get tomatoes, but they will be stunted. The fruit is exposed to the sun without leaves and most of the crop will be lost to sunscald. This also affects potatoes, peppers, eggplants, strawberries and raspberries. 

Fusarium Wilt: This is the most prevalent and damaging tomato disease. It also starts with the yellowing of lower leaves, but the yellowing may be only on one side (stopping at midrib) of the leaf or just one branch or one side of the plant. The older leaves will droop and curve downward. The yellow leaves wilt and die, gradually killing the whole plant. Sometimes a single shoot is killed before the rest of the plant shows any damage. 

Wilt Control: There is really no point to trying to save plants with wilt problems. Many times there is a combination of the above diseases. Look for seed packets and plant tags that have "VF" on them as these are resistant varieties. Soil diseases can last for years. We recommend that you not plant tomatoes in the same spot every year although this can be difficult in some gardens. Use crop rotation. Soil solarization is a good way to control both wilts. For solarization details, see

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Curtis Horticulture,, (408) 259-9974, CA Lic #826409

Ecological landscaping services: design/consulting, renovation, maintenance

Specializing in native and drought-tolerant landscapes. We live and work in the neighborhood.


A Sunny Threesome:

Mixing colors, textures, and fragrances in a native garden

By Arvind Kumar (

The California wildflower Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia amoena) is aptly named because when it begins to bloom, you know that spring will soon end. The magnificent pink blossoms of this plant (formerly known as Godetia amoena) bring the wildflower season to a glorious climax.

By this time of year, the moisture in the ground is all but gone. The only plants that survive the dry California summer are the deep-rooted perennials, shrubs, and trees.

In this article, I will introduce you to three of my favorite shrubs for this time of year. They are all locally native plants, and you can find them growing on the hillsides as you go up Mount Hamilton Road. Because they have evolved in this soil and climate over thousands of years, they are naturally hardy. And their habitat value – the ability to support other forms of life – is unmatched.

The first of these is Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus), still blooming profusely in my San Jose garden. This is a small bush, about 2’ high and just as wide, with dark green leaves and lovely tubular yellow-orange snapdragon-like blossoms. This little plant is one of the mainstays of my garden because it flowers non-stop from spring to late fall.

Sticky Monkeyflower has two strategies to make it through California’s hot summers. Its leaves are coated with a resin (hence the name) that minimizes water loss through transpiration. As the days get hotter, the plant produces smaller leaves, minimizing the surface area over which transpiration occurs. In the wild, the plant will lose leaves and go dormant during the hottest parts of the year. In the garden, you can give it weekly water to keep it looking its best. This sun-loving plant tolerates filtered shade as well.

The hummingbirds love this plant, as do the native bees. Many selections and hybrids are available in the trade, with varying flower color as well as size. It reseeds, and my garden has been blessed with many volunteers. The plant is also easy to propagate from cuttings.

If you drive past Grant Ranch towards Lick Observatory, you will find Sticky Monkeyflower growing on steep hillsides in large stands. This plant evidently likes good drainage, although it does fine in my clay soil at home.

On those same hillsides, rubbing shoulders with Sticky Monkeyflower is another summer favorite, California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica). I like Sagebrush not for its flowers, which are insignificant, but for its fine blue-gray leaves and its wonderful aroma. Stroke a branch with your fingers, and then bring your hand up to your face and inhale deeply: this is the defining fragrance of California.

The gray color of the shrub and its fine, linear leaves contrast nicely with the green and orange of the monkeyflower. This plant is extremely drought tolerant and will survive the summer without water, but Glenn Keator, author of Native Shrubs of California, recommends periodic deep waterings to keep it looking its best through summer. It is high in habitat value, attracting many kinds of beneficial insects, including ladybugs. I cut it back in late fall to keep it looking new and of manageable size. Pinching the growing tips of branches will promote a bushier habit.

Wherever you find Sticky Monkeyflower and California Sagebrush, chances are there is a Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) nearby. These plants belong to the same plant community, and often grow in close proximity. If you are looking for a hardy shrub that stays bright green throughout the year with little water, this is the shrub for you.

A plant from the chaparral, this plant needs full sun. It prefers well-draining soil, but it can handle clay just fine. In spring, Black Sage is covered with spikes of tiny white flowers. In the 1939 classic, Flowering Shrubs of California, Lester Rowntree wrote, “Individually, the flowers are not much to look at; but a shrub full of blooming stems is a lovely thing when it stands out above rocks, the sky behind it, its brothers and sisters clustered around below.”

Regardless of what humans think, bees find Black Sage irresistible. “Mellifera” is Greek for honey-bearing, and the honey from Black Sage is one of the best. What’s more, the foliage is intensely aromatic. I have one right next to my garden bench where I can enjoy its fragrance and observe its pollinators at close range.

If you’d like to see these plants in the wild, visit Stile Ranch in South San Jose. I was fortunate to go there on a California Native Plant Society-led hike earlier this spring, and observed all three plants on a south-facing rocky slope, lighting it up with their colors, textures, and fragrances.

* * *

Although the best time to plant is during late fall and winter, you can successfully plant at this time provided the young plants are watered several times a week. The most common cause of natives failing in the garden is too little water. All young plants, native or not, require moisture to grow. Native plants do not achieve their full drought tolerant status until their 3rd or 4th year when their root systems are fully developed.

These plants are available at native plant nurseries like Yerba Buena Nursery (Woodside) and Native Revival Nursery (Aptos).

Arvind Kumar has been growing native plants in his Evergreen garden for three years. He is currently volunteering on a project to bring native wildflowers back to Lake Cunningham Park.

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To run your ad in New Neighborhood Voice, E-mail or call (408) 272-7008

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletWhy aren’t there more Letters-to-the-Editor on the NNV letters page?
bulletRegarding NNV’s run-in with the touchy #64 bus driver – any mayhem to report?
bulletWhat’s the word on changes on the #64 bus line? Will our service be affected?
bulletWhat’s the buzz about Thai White Rock Café? Is it good?
bulletHow can I become a writer for NNV? I love to write but ...
bulletIs it true that there will be no NNV in July? Why not?

Q. Why aren’t there more Letters-to-the-Editor on the NNV letters page?

A. Darned if we know! NNV absolutely revels in reader input and used to liken to Christmas the blizzard of e-mails which would fly in after each month’s edition went out. Lately, there have been few messages – supportive or not – and, many of those come from readers asking to remain anonymous.

It’s possible that the NNV “disclaimer” messages in the April NNV made readers think that NNV didn’t welcome negative (or any kind of) comment. Well, we think that your letters and comments make for a much richer publication, so, please share your thoughts!

Q. Regarding NNV’s run-in with the touchy #64 bus driver – any mayhem to report?

A. Not yet. However, some of those anonymous letter senders mentioned in the above FAQ did take time to comment on the topic. One wanted to know what is going to happen when your editor wants to ride up the hill and “guess who the bus driver will be?” (Your editor is considering disguise possibilities and/or the old paper bag over the head technique.)

Another reader suggested that your editor “continue your program of intimidation” (umbrella brandishing) and “if you continue to improve, you might consider becoming one of San Jose’s finest or perhaps join the CA CHP (sic). I can just see you giving some bus driver a ticket and telling him, ‘You got a problem with that?’ when he starts to question your authority.”

And speaking of questioning authority, one reader wrote about her experience with a #64 bus driver and you’ll understand why she wants to remain anonymous! See her story under Briefs.

Q. What’s the word on changes on the #64 bus line? Will our service be affected as badly as we had heard?

A. We’ll be enjoying (not!) “improved bus service” beginning July 5th. The plans which the VTA call “Improved East Valley Bus Service” mean that the bus line will no longer terminate at Miguelito Road or make the turnaround near the Country Club. Instead, buses will come east on Alum Rock Avenue just to McKee Road where they will make a left. Then they will follow the McKee bend down to Toyon where they will take a right and go to Penitencia Creek Road. Once there, they will take a left and eventually end up at the Penitencia Creek Transit Center.

This means, of course, that would-be bus riders to Alum Rock Park will add about another half mile to their walk to the pedestrian-only entrance at Alum Rock Avenue and Crothers Road. And, believe it or not, there actually are regular riders who have planned their travels around bus access near the Country Club. NNV is aware that some riders who have counted on riding as far as Miguelito Road, waged a campaign to save such service - but to no avail. It seems the people living in or near the East Highlands and the Miguelito Road area have been disenfranchised or maybe “de-bussed.” Also, busriders who were used to taking the #64 west on Alum Rock (to The Village or the library for instance) are out of luck. Crummy, huh?

Q. What’s the buzz about Thai White Rock Café? Is it good?

A. Many, many folks have told NNV they are really enjoying the excellent Thai food now that the old White Rock Café has been supplanted by new owners. Not only is the food tasty and abundant, it’s reasonably priced. While the original WRC had its followers (obviously not enough of us to keep it in business, however), its detractors often cited small portions, the limited menu and steep-ish prices as factors for not dining there. TWRC may just be a better fit for lean times.

Jason Papier, an NNV reader/writer and new sponsor, emails that he and his wife are aficionados of Thai food and they find that the cuisine at TWRC “stands up quite well” when measured against other Thai restaurants. Jason says that on a recent Friday, TWRC was “busier than I’ve ever seen the old White Rock Café” and that the owner had to take on extra staff to handle all the customers!

Click here for a photo of the new Thai White Rock Cafe as well as the finished façade improvements across the street at Teezers Salon and Soung Hu.

Q. How can I become a writer for NNV? I love to write but don’t have a topic in mind and, besides, I’m no pro at punctuation and am afraid of submitting something you’ll laugh at.

A. NNV encourages our readers to become our writers. We are too busy to write about all the interesting people and things around here and would love to have more writers. We can assign topics large and small and point you to easy resources. We love to proofread and edit (a holdover from elementary school days when correcting fellow students’ spelling and punctuation tests was the highlight of the day). We do not hand your paper back to you with red marks. We just quietly edit out the boo-boos and no one is the wiser. E-mail or call us at (408) 272-7008 and let us know that you have a yen to pen!

Q. Is it true that there will be no NNV in July? Why not?

A. Yes, it’s true. NNV will take its twice annual month-long siesta skipping July again (we also skip January so we can have a normal December). We do this newsletter for FUN and it’s only fun when we can play hooky occasionally. (Besides, we actually do have a life beyond NNV. Really.)

One-liner: NNV received (and we bet you did, too) an advertising postcard addressed to “Homeower” - we figure that this title was created to reflect the Bay Area’s strapped property buyers.

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You can send comments or letters to the editor (Click Here to see the Letters)

E-mail us at or fax to (408) 272-4040. Please limit letters to a few hundred words (shorter items are more likely to be used in the newsletter and read) and include your name and phone number in case we have questions.  Contributions may be edited for content and space requirements.  Want to take photos, write articles or essays?  Please let us know!

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--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2004 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
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Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.

Copyright© 2004-2005 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 4/17/05.

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