New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 24 - Section 2

March 6, 2005

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos

Miguelito Bridge
Barrier Bash


Celebrating the New
Year on McKee Road


Thai White
Rock Cafe


Ray Furuta


Kathy Evans


Yes, it's a
Valentine Tree

Answers to the 1942
Reader's Digest Radio Quiz


Alum Rock
Library Artist


A live wild
Fox at NNV


Arvind Kumar's
Wildflower Top 10


From No. 10 to No.1 -
The Wind Poppy

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Neighbor Dennis Nahat Scores BIG With Chinese New Year Collaboration

World Premier Ballet dazzles San Jose ballet goers

Middle Kingdom - Ancient China, an original full-length ballet made its premier debut just in time for Chinese New Year and made a novel destination event on the weekend before Valentines Day. Mt. Hamilton neighbor, Dennis Nahat, artistic and executive director of Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, co-choreographed this spectacular kaleidoscopic extravaganza with Yong Yao, choreographer of the Chinese Performing Artists of America.

The twenty-seven dancers of the Ballet San Jose corps blended and melded with the ten dancers and martial artists of the CPAA to create an almost Cirque du Soleil effect. Ballet San Jose dancers morphed their classical traditions with Chinese dance technique. Chinese dancers shed their inhibitions about men and women dancers not touching one another to become indistinguishable from their western counterparts. The audience was beguiled with the seamless cooperation of the two companies.

Starting, (where else?) with the beginning of time, the story moves through Chinese history visiting pivotal events and celebrating the invention of paper, the compass, writing and gun powder. The characters of the Chinese zodiac, led by the rooster whose year this happens to be, each took a turn at enchanting the audience with their individual personalities. A Ballet San Jose dancer usually in leading man roles, became the posturing, beaky-faced, Rooster who prissily shook his feathered booty. A slender Chinese dancer upholstered in bright yellow satin cavorted through the Monkey role – even managing to scratch an imaginary itch behind his ear with one of his “hind” legs! The ballerina Snake oozed and undulated her role with seemingly no limits to the pliability of her spine. The skinny Rat was really ratty and her tail had a singular life of its own. The airborne, tumbling Ox was portrayed by a suitably beefy Chinese martial-artist.

An incandescent dragon sweeps through the darkened stage, a goddess creates humanity, warriors battle, blushing maidens sway and swoon, drummers pound, and, at one point, the bad warrior general somersaults off the stage into the orchestra pit to the vast amusement of the audience. The marvelous athleticism of the dancers, the witty humor and the stunning Chinese-made costumes (and sets!) make this five-years-in-production masterpiece a must-see event even for folks who traditionally shy away from dance.

Prediction: Middle Kingdom - Ancient China will become a delightful staple in the ballet repertoire worldwide and, like Blue Suede Shoes (an original Dennis Nahat creation) will bring new admirers to the magic of ballet. It could become as natural a part of Chinese New Year celebrations as The Nutcracker is to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mark your mental calendar for next year!

Click here for photos from Middle Kingdom - Ancient China. Click here for the Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley Web site.

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Newsmaker: Beth Gonzales

Eastside Advocate, Kicks-Off Her Run for City Council’s District 7 Seat

Beth Gonzales has filed to run for the District 7 City Council seat recently vacated by Terry Gregory. As many supporters as possible were encouraged to join Beth for a Campaign Kick-Off at her home on Saturday, March 5th. Former San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer is a major supporter of Beth’s candidacy and was slated to be the guest-speaker at the coffee and breakfast event.

Beth and her husband live in District 7 at 1177 Bellingham Drive, San Jose 95121 - off McLaughlin between Capitol and Tully. Beth has yard signs for distribution and a sign-up sheet for folks who will help her cause by precinct walking. Beth points out that only 30% of elected offices are held by women and she’d like to add her voice and talents to “improve the quality of life in San Jose.”

Beth may live in District 7, but she’s long been a force in our Eastside neighborhood. She has been a major, major PACT (People Acting in Community Together) leader at St. John Vianney Church. She worked tirelessly to help our neighborhood get the ear of local politicians during the Alum Rock Park/Crothers Road Landslide crisis, she helped improve traffic problems on Alum Rock Avenue and she was an early catalyst – and long-term advocate - for the excellent Alum Rock Youth Center facility. She exemplifies dedicated public service and will be an outstanding City Councilmember.

Click here for Beth's campaign Web site.

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Schuster Thompson’s Personal Bird Count

Cats-Eye view of our (tasty) feathered friends

By Schuster “Es” Thompson

I’ve never eaten a cedar waxwing. However, I have counted a lot of them. They’re the drunken little birds which twitter ceaselessly in our pyracantha bushes every February. When they’re not mindlessly stuffing their fat little faces with red and orange berries, they’re raining fertilizer (or at least that’s what Judy calls it) on the slope near our driveway. From time to time, they startle stupidly and go careening into the sky where they swoop and dart wasting all the energy they just took in during their berry plucking orgy. Then, their captain gets a grip and orders all his dopey little charges back to the same dumb tree where they resume their thievery, get loaded and start all over again – 1) stuff berries, 2) poop, 3) do a mob startle into the sky, 4) settle again in the same tree, 5) Repeat endlessly until dusk. This might be the origin of the pejorative “bird-brained.”

I’m not sure that what I do should actually be called bird “counting.” Counting is not really my long suit because I am a cat. I can’t really tell you just how many cedar waxwings there are in a flock, but I can tell you that there are always more than eighteen which is how many I can count up to on my toes. My counting is pretty secure when it comes to one robin, or three doves, two scrub jays or “several” towhees, however. It’s mostly what I do for a living. For instance, I sit in the guest room window and note how many hummingbirds think they own our feeder. The hummers are another perfect example of fuel-wasters. They come and slurp the sugar water only to burn up all its calories, and then some, chasing their fellow-birds. What’s the point? Me, I say live and let live; share the juice! I did eat a few hummers back when I was still moist behind the ears. I can tell you they’re not worth the chase. Would it give you indigestion if I tell you that they taste rather beaky?

There seem to be quite a few spotted thrushes around our neighborhood. They must be good breeders because there are lots of them in spite of the fact that I have personally caught a fair number. But, please don’t get me wrong. I have never intentionally set out to catch a thrush. They are so dumb that if I sit still long enough, one of the mindless featherheads will walk into my mouth. Honest Injun! Judy genuinely appreciates it when I tuck a limp little thrushlet into one of her shoes. You should hear her happy shrieks!

I can’t tell you how many chickadees I’ve counted from the window. They hang around our cedar tree daring the neighborhood hawks to come and get them. I took them up on that dare late in January and actually caught one (chestnut-backed, parus rufescens) which I deposited under our Christmas tree to remind Judy and Allan that it was time to put the tree away for another year. Note that I was a good boy and did not eat the bird. Now, if I could just restrain myself and, well, live and let live. Heh! (remember, I am a cat!)

I’m twelve this year. Dr. Lu, the vet, says that I’m now in my sixties in human terms if you can believe that. I find myself waaay more discriminating than I was as a youth. Never mind the chickadee. That was an aberration. It flew under my paw.

I don’t feel very guilty about my birding hobby, although sometimes Judy does. We have an enormous number of birds hanging around our yard - there doesn’t seem to be any shortage yet. I eat my Friskies and try as I might to rein in my predatory predilections - unlike the sharp-shinned hawk which views our yard as a smorgasbord. It sits on top of the tree next door whining and shrieking like a squeaky-toy in between forays to pick off cute little birds mid-flight. Now, what I’d like to do is catch that shrill hawk and put it in Judy’s shoe.

Would it be just a tad disloyal to say that Judy’s shoe is big enough?

Click here for photos of Schuster on duty.  Click here to read his favorite poem about birds.

NNV Note: Readers have asked whether Schuster “Es” Thompson is related to the late Hunter S. Thompson, the practicing anarchist who took drugs and wrote strange books before his self-inflicted death last month. The short answer is “No,” says Schuster but he assures us he is an anarchist as evidenced by his active resistance and terrorism against any sort of coercive control or authority. Dr. Lu will vouch for this. The “Es” occurring in Schuster’s name is for Espial which connotes his line of work. Schuster is addicted to catnip but he says he doesn’t inhale and can stop at any time. Allan doesn’t approve of any of this and doesn’t think cats can either talk or write.

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NNV Briefs

bulletPeggy Forman/Affie Mahini – Fine Art/Fine Food Fusion - Featuring neighborhood artist
bulletOn the Avenue (Alum Rock Avenue) - Wacko driver whacks Miguelito Bridge guardrail
bulletOn the Road (McKee Road) - New Year mob throngs Buddhist Temple
bulletThai White Rock Cafe - A neighborhood jewel reviewed by Chris Miller
bulletRenaissance Academy - “Small Schools” exemplar in our neighborhood by Nancy Gutierrez
bulletRay Furuta Solos at Alum Rock Recital - Young flutist earns accolades for orchestra trip
bulletLick Up-date - Busy, fun times at JLHS; 4.0 students honored from Kathy Evans
bulletEd Allegretti’s Mississippi Missives - Friendly Southern folks from Ed Allegretti, Ellisville, MS
bullet1942 Reader’s Digest “Radio Quiz of the Month” The answers!
bulletSpecial Thanks Department - The NNV Hummer
bulletBrer Fox Visits NNV - Poses long enough for March edition portrait
bulletSnow on the East Side on Valentine’s Day? Well, not exactly!

Peggy Forman/Affie Mahini – Fine Art/Fine Food Fusion

Café Pomegranate art exhibit features neighborhood artist

Unfortunately for us here in the Alum Rock area, Café Pomegranate is not a neighborhood fixture. The small, exotic bistro is located near the San Jose State campus, but it has a neighborhood connection, after all.

Café Pomegranate owner, proprietor, and chef, Affie Mahini makes the magic happen in the kitchen of her warm, charming place - specializing in a fusion cuisine rooted in her Persian tradition. Lovely Affie, an aficionado of the arts, from time to time hosts the work of local artists on the walls of the café. In January, she featured a show by our own Rock Canyon Circle artist-neighbor, Peggy Forman.

Peggy is a working artist whose major focus is drawing. She works on both paper and clay and currently teaches general art at Noble Elementary School in the Berryessa District. Her background is rich with teaching assignments and has been as varied as working as a self-employed potter in Hawaii and being the Director of Public Relations and Zoo Education at Happy Hollow Zoo for several years! A “displaced” Ohioan (as is your NNV editor), Peggy is married to a man she met in Hawaii and they’ve made San Jose their home since 1979.

Peggy’s January show was an intriguing look at human faces. All were black and white drawings of moving models - on paper. Peggy says that she made no attempt to represent the models realistically. Rather, her goal was to create expressive, interesting drawings via techniques she has honed during her Masters drawing classes at Stanford in which she’s been involved since 1999.

Some unlikely sounding techniques include drawing while closing one’s eyes (“just allowing the drawing to come through me onto the paper – builds a sense of trust in myself and provides nice surprises when I look at what has occurred on the page”). Drawing with one’s opposite hand (“…allows for freer expression with less control” which is “a good thing,” according to Peggy). She draws with erasers and sometimes directly with her hands. The latter “creates a sense of touching the face or hair or shoulder and is therefore more direct and satisfying.”

She knows that music influences the rhythm and flow of her work. “My best drawings come when I do them quickly and when I am feeling strongly about something.” Peggy explains that she draws with a focus on feeling more than seeing and with a strong sense of experimentation as her “process.”

“It is so much easier, more fun, and less pressured to work this way, and it provides far greater satisfaction to me than anything I had ever done before.” NNV readers can experience Peggy’s satisfying creations (drawings on porcelain pieces such as vases, plates, tiles and shallow bowls) at one of her twice annual Open Studio sales. The next sale will be held in April or May. Watch these pages and the NNV Community Bulletin Board for particulars.

Meanwhile, Affie awaits you with reasonably-priced, mouth-watering salads, skewers, platters and sandwiches for lunch and dinner as well as a varied breakfast menu featuring omelets, bagels, waffles and breakfast sandwiches. NNV found Affie’s grilled chicken and rice absolutely outstanding! Espresso drinks are specialties as are coffee and teas. Pomegranate lemonade leads off the cold drink selection. Call ahead at (408) 271-8822 and see if you can plan a dinner around one of Café Pomegranate’s artist’s showings.

Click here for photos from Peggy's show.

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On the Avenue (Alum Rock Avenue)

Wacko driver whacks Miguelito Bridge guardrail

This edition’s not-so-scenic scene shows the devastation wreaked by some really “distracted” driver who managed to lose control of his truck just after crossing the Miguelito Bridge during the first weekend in February. It appears that he cleared the bridge proper as he drove west toward downtown, only to hang himself up on the guardrail at the west exit of the bridge. He (it could have been a she, of course, but…) clobbered the railing so hard that it broke loose from – and shattered – all the enormous (16”?) posts it was anchored to. The driver even crumpled one of the restored (once orange – now brown) “historic” old bridge rail sections which are pinned up against the railing of the pedestrian bridge.

It is hard, indeed, to understand just how anyone could cause such havoc in such a short amount of space, but this poor schlemiel even lost his right side-view mirror and left great chunks of shiny black metal behind. (There is no truth to the rumor that a Coit van was involved but who knows how those “30% Off” guys spend their weekend nights?)

Readers can be glad that NNV snapped these photos in such a timely way because the County Roads people were out almost immediately after they were notified to stick all the guardrail parts back together and now it looks almost as good as new. The concrete patchers had a sense of humor. They cemented a tiny orange plastic toy figure (part of the detritus left at the scene) into the new concrete.

Click here for photos of the devastation.

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On the Road (McKee Road)

New Year mob throngs Buddhist Temple

There was such a hubbub around the Buddhist temple during the Chinese New Year period that drivers passing through the area just had to slow down and take in the throngs on the sidewalk outside what is usually a serene tableau. There were hundreds of people spilling out into the street and even two police cars with lights pulsating importantly. All along the front of the temple walls there were vendors selling all sorts of colorful merchandise – much of it featuring the ubiquitous rooster whose year this is. Buyers could get parasols and lucky pieces, too.

The east and west driving looky-loos made the entire road a sea of automobiles. Temple-goers who’d parked at a distance across the road, wended their way through the morass. It was the place to be!

Who says San Jose ain’t cosmopolitan? Click here to see for yourself.

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Thai White Rock Cafe

A neighborhood jewel reviewed

By Chris Miller

On Alum Rock Avenue near the corner of White Road and Alum Rock Avenue, Thai White Rock Cafe brings a welcome addition to our neighborhood with excellent Thai cuisine at very reasonable prices.

Immediately upon entering the restaurant one is struck by the life size Thai figure. The owners, Xon and Sophana, reflect the warmth and friendly atmosphere of the restaurant. The food is excellent and the prices are a bargain for such quality.

For appetizers, the Spring Rolls are some of the best anywhere. Thin pastry filled with minced pork and vegetables served with tangy sweet chili sauce @ $4.75 are excellent. Xon said the secret is to use ‘creamy oil’ for frying and this results in the lightest most delicate spring roll served. Another classic appetizer is the Kai Satay, succulent chicken grilled on skewers with the traditional Thai peanut sauce @ $5.50; outstanding in flavor.

The main course menu is very large and dishes ranging from ‘very hot’ to ‘very mild’ are available. Meat, fish and vegetarian are all on the menu. We tried the Chicken with garlic & pepper @ $5.95. Stir-fried Chicken w/basil leaf, eggplant and chili pepper was excellent. We ordered it hot and it was not overpowering but spicy enough for our taste. Also the Beef w/Oyster sauce @ $5.95 is a bargain. Stir-fried Beef with mushrooms and oyster sauce proved to be a winner. The beef remained tender after deep frying and the mushrooms were tasty. The third dish of the evening was Fish w/basil. This was probably the best dish of the evening (other than the Spring Rolls) with crispy chunks of bass served with basil leaf in a sauce that preserved the taste of the fish. There were many curries on the menu; Green Curry (fairly hot), Yellow Curry, Matsamun Curry, Panang Curry … all of them available in chicken, beef, pork, prawn and some fish. Vegetarian dishes are served as well.

Desserts are sweet rice with mango @ $5.75, deep fried banana with ice cream @ $4.75 and several others @ $4.75.

Drinks include Singha Thai Beer and domestic beer. One major fault is the lack of a decent wine list. No reds were listed and just one Chardonnay. Overall, an excellent dining experience with warm friendly service by Sophana and superb food.

Click here for photos of Thai White Rock Cafe.  Click here for our Letters to the Editor page to read a letter related to this review.

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Renaissance Academy on George Middle School Campus

“Small Schools” exemplar in our neighborhood

You’re invited to visit their Academic Exhibition

By Nancy Gutierrez, Teacher-Leader, Renaissance Academy of Arts, Science, and Social Justice

The Alum Rock School District is supporting a cutting-edge education movement that gives teachers, parents, and students a voice and an education to be excited about. The Renaissance Academy of Arts, Science, and Social Justice is one of three small schools that opened in August of 2004.

Renaissance is currently educating 112 sixth-grade students and will be accepting 56 more students when the current class has been promoted to the seventh grade. The smallness of the school has allowed for the development of relationships among students, staff and parents, which in turn has generated a unique culture for a middle school.

At Renaissance, students are proud of what they are learning and they take pride in sharing their knowledge with their parents. Students just finished facilitating their second learner-led conference where each student’s parent and advisory teacher listened and observed as the student presented a portfolio of his/her recent work, shared academic and personal goals, and identified recent achievements.

On the horizon lies the school’s second Academic Exhibition. The exhibition gives students a chance to explore in greater detail one topic of study from their classes. The students create an aesthetically pleasing and informative exhibit of the topic and act as docents as their parents and community members gather to observe their work.

At Renaissance, students are learning the importance of taking ownership of one’s learning and recognizing the power of relationships.

Come See for Yourself!
Renaissance Academic Exhibition II
March 24, 2005 from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
277 Mahoney Drive, San Jose, Ca 95127

(Located on the campus of, but not affiliated with, Joseph George Middle School)

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Ray Furuta Solos at Alum Rock Recital

Young flutist earns accolades and funds for orchestra trip to Spain

Sixteen year old Independence High sophomore, Ray Furuta, played a solo flute recital at Alum Rock United Methodist Church on the afternoon of February 19th. His first such performance, Ray played works by Gluck, Hansen, Gaubert and Poulenc accompanied on piano by Laura Green.

Despite foreboding skies and intermittent showers, the ARUMC Fireside Room was full of friends, family and community members who enjoyed the enchanting, melodic classical pieces. Despite his youth, Ray displays mature confidence and talent in his shading and beautiful flute tones. Each musical piece was met with enthusiastic applause. A well-deserved several-minute-long standing ovation greeted his final number.

The recital was dedicated to Rev. Mary Parker-Eves, the much beloved pastor of ARUMC who passed away two weeks earlier. Mary had long been a stalwart supporter and mentor of Ray’s and he says that she will always be a strong force for him.

A reception and white elephant auction were held following the performance. The proceeds will go toward the expenses of Ray’s trip to Spain this summer with the concertizing San Jose Youth Symphony.

Ray has studied flute for six years in the studios of Elena Yarritu and Kassey Lebow. Laura Green is a Bay Area composer and organist as well as an accompanist and piano teacher.

Click here for a photo of Ray.

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Lick Librarian Shares School Up-date

Busy, fun times at JLHS; 4.0 students honored

From Kathy Evans, Librarian, James Lick High School

There's quite a bit going on at James Lick right now. We have just instituted Schoolloop, an innovative program that allows parents to keep up with student homework through the Internet. Teachers post their daily homework assignments and kids, as well as parents, can access the site and see what is required for each class. The URL is but the password must be obtained from Ms. Alverez in the registrar's office. Lick also offers comprehensive after school tutoring on Tues.-Fri. 3:20-4:35 PM and Bilingual tutoring is offered Tues.-Fri. 3:15-5:00 PM. Starting soon, we will also offer evening tutoring from 6:00-8:00 PM through a program aimed at students who can't come after school because of work, family, or sports.

The CaHSEE (California State Exit Exam) will be administered to sophomores Mar.15-16 and we are providing extra tutoring aimed at helping our students raise these important test scores. I'm very impressed that in these difficult financial times, Lick is making the difficult but necessary decision to provide so many valuable support programs for our's a miracle of budgeting but it's bringing results. In fact, on a recent Monday, we had KICU (Ch. 36) doing a feature story on the positive changes at Lick. The program was in a Q and A format and aired on the following Sunday morning.

We were very pleased to honor our kids who had 4.0 averages this week. These twenty-four students all received straight A's for the first semester and ten of these students have a cumulative 4.0 for their entire high school career. I've included their names below in case you want to print their names. (NNV Note: We sure do!) We also received district kudos for our increased attendance which stands at 93.2, an impressive increase of 2%. Needless to say, the District office was very pleased with our progress.

There is an exciting social activity coming up next month. March 4th was Noche Latina 2005 which is a traditional celebration for the school and community which featured food, dancing, performances, a raffle and other entertainments. It was really a lot of fun! On April 14th we will have "International Night" a potluck for students and their families. Parents bring traditional dishes from their native countries and through food we celebrate the diversity of our school and community...I won't miss that one!

Finally, winter sports are coming to an end this Friday but spring sports are gearing up. Wrestling had a great season this year ... James Lick finished in the top division with a 3-3 season and took third place in the BVL. The wrestling team (which includes one girl) also qualified eight wrestlers for the CCS Finals.

So you can see there's never a dull moment around here. We appreciate NNV’s support in helping us inform the community of the programs here at Lick and offering us an opportunity to show the positive side of our great little school. We love telling the community how special our kids are.

JLHS 4.0 Students

Grade 9

Jovita Gutierrez-Lemus
Danny Nguyen
Quoc Nguyen
Thao Nhin
Eduardo Rodriguez
William Silvis

Grade 10

Tien Mai
Kimberly Nguyen
Stephanie Nguyen
Erik Viveros
Annie Wei

Grade 11

Jose Conde
Katherine Galam
Emmajean Johnson
Ena Kaur
Long Nguyen
Hector Vega

Grade 12

Kyle Amaral-Coen
Oscar Ayala
Reyna Bonilla
Danielle Herrera
Meena Kaur
Joanna Rabano
Carina Romo

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Ed Allegretti’s Mississippi Missives

Ed and Connie welcomed by friendly Southern folks

From Ed Allegretti, Ellisville, MS

Interestingly we were asked this week to be part of a video being made by the county Chamber of Commerce and Howard Industries. It is a promotional item on why folks should move to Jones County. Maybe they'll give me a copy?

Thankfully we arrived safely and our furniture the next morning as scheduled. Unfortunately the house was only about 20% remodeled. Slowly the job is becoming completed with some work on my part. Although it was somewhat frustrating it will become resolved. With no doubt, folks in Mississippi move at a much slower pace.

We are pleased that people truly are more friendly than we even expected. We've had many visits with folks bringing food for supper and products from their farms. Some people have just come by for long chats to get to know us better. One night we went dancing at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars hall where there is Western dancing every Saturday. At least a dozen people introduced themselves and we didn't dance the last hour because we were too busy talking. Although nothing of course is perfect, we are pleased with the kindness of people and that they certainly share my political and religious opinions. Almost immediately everybody wishes to know which church we belong to.

Of course we miss some friends and family but overall still believe the move was the correct decision.

NNV Note: Next month Ed shares his reasons for forsaking the Bay Area for a small town in Mississippi – with NNV readers and his new Southern friends.

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1942 Reader’s Digest “Radio Quiz of the Month”

The answers!

Did you take the quiz in the February edition of NNV? Here it is again with answers below. How did you do?

Click here for the quiz and the answers.

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Special Thanks Department

NNV received a donation of a behemoth of an old heavy-duty printer recently from neighbor, Robin Edwards, AKA “Yes, Dear, the Engineer.” Seems he was cleaning out some old stuff and realized that he had a machine taking up space in his house – which NNV could be using to print the paper copies of the newsletter each month.

The Hummer (as we call it) takes up gobs of space (and it weighs more than a hundred pounds – way more!), but it can collate, by golly. If it keeps on truckin’, it could mean that your editor has made her last trip walking around the dining room table plucking up the 15 or so double-sided pages of each paper copy – one by one – collating as she goes along. Yippee!

If you see our lights dim as you go by, it means we’re printing. Thanks, Robin!

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Brer Fox Visits NNV

Poses long enough for March edition portrait

Recently, your NNV “staff” was sitting by the bay window eating lunch when kitty-cat Schuster climbed up the steps from the rock garden onto the deck. But wait, it wasn’t Schuster, it was a ... fox!

“Allan, get your camera,” your editor hissed. Moving with the speed of light (well, fast, anyway) he was quickly back at the window scrambling over the furniture to capture the rare visitor on film (or whatever medium digital cameras capture stuff on).

The fox didn’t exactly trot around our deck, it more or less ambled, poking its extremely pointy nose here and there much as a visiting kitty might do. He sat down on the front stoop and briefly pondered whatever foxes ponder (maybe, foxy lady foxes; we’ll never know). He didn’t sit still there long enough for Allan to snap a decent photo, choosing to walk over to investigate the hot tub instead. He seemed utterly oblivious to human presence behind the glass of the bay window despite the blur of activity which was going on inside as Allan manipulated his camera’s zoom lens for the photo which you see in this edition of NNV.

The fox was absolutely beautiful. His lush fur could have been freshly brushed – it looked so every-hair-in-place tidy. His back and tail were gray, his face and ears were rimmed with foxy red trim. Readers, please tell us whether the visitor was a red fox (which it appeared to be because it has a lot of red fur and was larger than the gray foxes around here) or could it be a hybrid? It disappeared into the garden as quickly as it came; what a treat!

Click here for the photo of the fox.

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Snow on the East Side on Valentine’s Day?

Well, not exactly!

While February was a weird weather month all around – with hail, torrential rains, thunder, lightning, and gloomy days on end, what actually didn’t fall from the sky was snow.

However, on damp, gray Valentines Day, Mother Nature did a little dusting of the white stuff (with a slightly pink tint) under all the blooming almond trees. Each tree stood in its own little snowdrift, with soft petals prettily posing as snowflakes. The effect was quite wonderful and lasted for days.

Mother N. had another treat in store to light up the drab day; she waved her wand and voila, the flowering crabapples awoke and threw open their luminous crimson buds. Each slender branch was chubby with perfect daisy-like blossoms crowded together like orchids in a lei. Along Alum Rock Avenue, the occasional radiant bursts of color were special Valentines kisses – or so it seemed to NNV.

Click here for photos of the "snow" and Mother Nature's valentine.

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Public Art for the New Alum Rock Library Branch Takes a Hit

Committee adopts “modification”

The members of San Jose’s Public Art Committee, those arbiters of fine art and good taste who guide the art installations in our public buildings, found themselves, late in January, in the position of having to accept a major modification to the artwork planned for our new library branch. The artwork which consists of four “implied columns” in the Market area of the library were to have been made-up of an eight foot terrazzo medallion on the floor with a correspondingly-themed circular skylight above. Each “column” would have a different theme representing Eastside-inspired elements such as Lick Observatory and Alum Rock Park’s mineral springs.

Although it is unclear exactly who made the decision to nix the laminated, motif-filled plastic skylights in favor of plain, ordinary ones, some fingers were pointed toward “architectural changes at the site” (doubtful) and others toward the contractor (probable). What seems to have happened is that lowest-common-denominator (read “cheaper”) skylights were chosen to help someone’s bottom line. There must have been some play left in the contract which allowed some unfortunate “discretion” in the choice of skylights. Boo!

So, what will we get instead? Well, the terrazzo on the floor remains the same. Each circle is full of motifs in rich materials and colors. Above them, on the insides of the skylight wells (rather than motifs sandwiched in the decorative skylights at the top of the wells per the original plan) will be small, metal-leafed (such as gold-leaf and silver-leaf) cut-out motifs. For instance, for the Observatory theme, there will be cut-out stars stuck to the inside of the plaster-finished light well. Each motif will be mounted on a short “stem” so as to give it a little shadow-casting depth. Each skylight well will be created of a different colored plaster (rather than painted) – offering a richer color which won’t need future painting which would be difficult to accomplish without damaging the small metal motifs.

The project artists, North Carolina-based Jim Hirshfield and his wife Sonya Ishii were quite accommodating of the need for the changes. Late in January, Jim traveled to San Jose to demonstrate the materials and colors they proposed for the revamped skylight wells and motifs. He was good-naturedly philosophical. “I’m glad to be back in San Jose,” he said, “but surprised to be back talking about design” at such a late date. The members of the Public Art Committee voted unanimously to accept the changes. JenJoy Roybal, the Public Art Project Manager for the S.J. Public Art Program hazarded that sometimes such changes bring about an even better result than the original plans. Hmmmmm.

Well, it is true that the raised motifs in the lightwells will be more visible – and perhaps therefore more appreciated – than the designs way up-top in the columns, but we’ll never have the chance to know how the fine, original plan would have worked out, will we? Disappointing.

Click here for a photo.

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You Dig It?

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

March Hot Topics

By University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede

Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (408) 282-3105 (our new telephone number) with your gardening questions or check out our website at

Citrus Yellowing: This is very common this time of year. Our local clay soils hold onto their nutrients more tightly during winter. An easy solution is to apply a 2-4" layer of rich compost or manure as mulch. Very little pruning needs to be done to remove yellowing. Remove only dead, diseased or broken branches.

Fruit Tree Disease Control: Spray apples, pears and loquats for fire blight. Remove any diseased blackened twigs at least 9 inches below affected area. Use a fixed copper spray such as Microcop or Bordeaux during blossom. For brown rot on stone fruit (plums, peaches, nectarines), do the same. The blossom times vary so watch your tree to determine when to spray. A tree care calendar can be found at (PDF File). 

Snails and Slug Control: Now's the time to scout out your yard for hiding snails and slug trails. First step is to remove the hiding places such as thick plants, boards, stones, and leafy plants touching the ground. Using drip irrigation instead of sprinklers will reduce the moist surfaces that they favor. Hand pick early or late, squash in place, drop into soapy water or toss into the trash. Vertically sided tuna cans of beer regularly filled will work. Copper foil or tape installed to surround planters or trunks will work if the slug/snail is forced to climb completely onto the tape to be zapped. Keep the tape clean. Baits that contain metaldehyde are unsafe for pets and children; use iron phosphate products such as Escar-Go! or Sluggo instead. The UC Pest Note is at

Powdery Mildew on Roses: This fungus forms powdery masses on the leaf, stem and bud, distorting and stunting them. The USDA compared spray materials that target black spot and powdery mildew. Safer Insecticidal Soap, WiltPruf, Volck Oil, Volck Oil plus baking soda, neem oil, and neem wax were applied weekly for twenty-two weeks. Neem wax, neem oil, Safer's, and Volck Oil plus baking soda showed marked disease reduction. To each gallon of water, add three or four teaspoons of horticultural oil (Volck Oil). Grow varieties that are resistant to powdery mildew. The Santa Clara County Rose Society has a list on their website at  

Spittle Bugs: These bugs are more of a nuisance than damaging and look awful on your plants. They are little blobs of wet, foamy, spit-like substance with a little tiny bug in the center of the blob. They seem to appear overnight and then are gone in about a month. Use a strong water spray to wash them off.

Buying Vegetable Seedlings: Bigger is not always better. The smaller plant may be less developed but will root faster in your garden. Quality is what's important. Look for dark green leaves and a thick stem with no yellowing or shriveling. Be sure to check the underside of the leaves for insects or clusters of eggs. Check the bottom of the pot for roots growing through; it's been in the pot too long if you see them. Pop the cell out at the nursery and only buy the ones without matted roots. Water them well when you get home before planting.

Moss and Algae in Lawn Control: Both moss and algae can form a barrier against water and air movement into the soil. It usually occurs in neglected lawns. The cause may be poor drainage, too much water or rain, soil compaction, restriction of air movement, thick thatch layer, acidic soil, low soil fertility (moss), heavy shade (moss), and high soil fertility (algae). For moss control, fertilize the lawn. Change the soil pH to a range of 6 to 7 if acidic by applying a lime product. Test kits for pH are available at your local garden center. Reduce the amount of irrigation. Improve the soil drainage by contouring or installing drain tiles. Remove excess thatch. Selectively prune trees and shrubs to reduce shade. Reduce compaction by aerating the soil. Chemical treatments will only solve the problem temporarily. When you have control, be sure to rake the dead material and remove. Reseed bare spots. The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns can be found at to explain these techniques to control moss and algae.

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The Annual Plant Sale All San Jose Gardeners Wait for Every Spring

Master Gardeners' Plant Sale at Prusch Park – Get your excellent veggie and flower bedding plants!

For the seventh spring, the California Master Gardeners are holding their lollapalooza of a plant sale at Emma Prusch Farm Park right here on the East Side. This is the occasion when all the new hybrids and old favorites are available as bedding plants for your garden – offered just at the right time to set them out in the soil. The plants which include tomatoes (more than ninety varieties!), chiles, peppers, annuals and perennials are the ones which the Master Gardeners recommend for growing here in our microclimates. You’ll also find lots of UC books and publications to help you over the hurdles which your garden presents every year.

Mark your calendar for Saturday, April 2nd from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. You’ll also find new and used garden tools for sale, tool sharpening and lots of good advice available. There will be plenty of food booths with all sorts of offerings - so why not plan a picnic while you visit one of San Jose’s unique resources?

See the NNV Bulletin Board for further details.

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The 2005 Native Wildflower Season is here!

Behold Mother Nature’s movable feast of color

By Bracey Tiede

There is a rainbow at the end of our winter rains. Due to the timing of the heavy showers, the wildflower season promises to be the best in years. Southern California deserts are in full bloom now. This seasonal event slowly moves northward through California so our local wildflowers should peak here over the next several months. Below are links to information on what is blooming in your area and how to find and join a walk with an expert.

Marin Wildflowers
Scheduled wildflower walks with expert docents. Scroll down to mid-page for local sightings.

Almaden Wildflowers
The IBM Almaden site in San Jose is built on land that has a spectacular array of wildflowers.

Friends of Edgewood - Docent Walks
A schedule of spring docent-led walks through Edgewood Park, just off Highway 280 in San Carlos.

Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park - What's in Bloom
A list of which native plants are expected to bloom in which month. This park near UC Berkeley was founded in 1940 and contains many native plants.

Henry Coe State Park - Wildflower Walks
A schedule of docent-led walks in this rugged state park of over 87,000 acres of open space.

California Wildflowers
A wildflower hotsheet with notes and tips on where to view wildflowers in California.

Wildflower Hotline
Opening in March, this page is a listing of wildflower sightings around the state.

Learn about Gardening with Natives

Would you like to learn more about growing natives from people who garden with them? Look at this list of links to native plant sales happening in the Bay Area. Grow your own wildflower meadow in your garden.

Here are three free self-guided native plant garden tours happening this spring in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Going Native Garden Tour on April 17

Bringing Back the Natives on May 1

Bay-Friendly Garden Tour on May 15

On-line registration will provide you with maps on tour day. The gardens range from small simple designs to complex, natural landscapes.

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Ecological landscaping services: design/consulting, renovation, maintenance

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


The Wildflower Top 10 (Again!)

Annuals to evoke delight and astonishment

By Arvind Kumar (

A little over a year ago, in this space, I wrote about my top 10 California wildflowers – annuals to evoke delight and astonishment in even the jaded garden visitor. But that was just a fraction of the botanical riches California has to offer. In this article, allow me to introduce you to 10 more outstanding wildflowers — solid performers to light up every corner of the garden. And if the conditions are right, they will reward you by reseeding and flowering year after year.

10. Elegant Tarweed (Madia elegans):
Yes, I know what you are thinking: with a name like that, how good can it look? All I can say is: see it in bloom and judge for yourself. These bright yellow daisies with maroon centers, 1.5” across, bring a splash of exuberant color to the garden. This sun-loving plant blooms from June through August, a time when most other wildflowers have withered away or disappeared. The flowers are moth-pollinated, opening in the evening, petals curling up tightly in the daytime heat. Touch the leaves to know how it gets its name; tiny glands exude an oily resin that protects the plant from the heat. To me, its fragrance is the smell of California summer. In the garden it grows 4’ tall, and looks good in the back of beds or against the fence. It is a profuse reseeder, growing exceedingly well in clay, more manageable in lean soils.

9. Red Maids (Calandrinia ciliata):
A ground-hugger with bright green leaves and crimson veined flowers, this diminutive plant is found throughout the state. Each flower opens in the sun, and lasts exactly one day. I’ve seen it growing in lean soil, in a sunny location. Plant it from seed directly into the desired beds. Both the leaves and seeds are edible, and were once an important part of the Native Californian diet.

8. Cream Cups (Platystemon californicus):
The pastel colors of this low growing beauty have a charm of their own. Its cream-yellow flowers bob above the blue-gray leaves, and a mass of them commands attention. Although it will grow in clay, to reseed, it wants well-draining soil without organic matter. Last year, I transplanted it from 4” pots into a clay bed, and it grew well there; but this season, there isn’t a single volunteer in that bed. Three feet away, one volunteer has come up nicely in decomposed granite.

7. Sky Lupine (Lupinus nanus):
I have not been successful at growing this, but that has more to do with the taste and appetites of the snails and slugs in my garden rather than any shortcoming on the part of this lovely plant. In bloom, its blue-purple-white heads stand above the foliage, and a mass of these is a sight to see. They are suitable as low bedding plants, and bloom for over a month. They combine well with poppies, tidy tips, and goldfields. Put them in lean soil and a sunny exposure. Lupines do not transplant well, so scatter seed in beds directly.

6. Bird’s Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor):
This sun-loving, sprawling plant explodes with hundreds of tiny violet-white flowers with purple-yellow throats in early spring. Finely divided leaves give it a light, airy appearance. Looks great billowing over the edge of a planter or in mixed borders. Likes lean soils and a sunny exposure. Marjorie Schmidt calls the genus “the most dependable of wildflowers.” Long bloom period. Reseeds freely.

5. Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa):
Common in the lower ridges of the Mount Hamilton range, this wildflower is found up and down the coastal range, from Mendocino south to Baja California. The flowers are yellow 1” daisies with serrated white-tipped petals. You couldn’t find a more cheerful flower. Combines well with the blue of lupines. Plant it in full sun, in lean, well draining soil. This is a great habitat plant; you’ll find tiny insects feeding on every flower.

4. Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia amoena):
Formerly known as Godetia (and still sold by florists under that name), this showy California native from Mendocino and Humboldt counties is celebrated the world over. Large 4-petaled flowers have splotches of pink and white, and a bed of these 1.5’ tall plants in bloom looks ravishing in the sun. It has been grown in Britain since 1870, and has undergone much hybridization and selection. Commercially available seeds produce far showier flowers than what you might see in the wild. Plant it in full sun, and do not water once it starts flowering. It is among the last to bloom in the season, heralding the end of spring. Cut back the dry stalks for a neat look, and discard after dispersing or collecting seed.

3. Five Spot (Nemophila maculata):
This ground-hugging California native is such a charming performer, it has been in cultivation for over 150 years. Its five white petals are finely veined, with a prominent purple splotch on the outer edge of each. Originally from Sierra meadows, it loves sunny, moist, heavy soils. Each plant can grow to cover an area 1’ in diameter, and makes a great bedding plant. In the right conditions, it will reseed readily.

2. Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii):
One of the early bloomers of the season, this low-growing plant has been a garden favorite for many years. Its pale blue bowl-shaped flowers are delicately veined, with white centers, and open in the sun and close at night. It is appealing in the front of beds, either massed, or combined with other low plants like its cousin, five spot. It too likes sunny, moist soils.

1. Wind Poppy (Stylomecon heterophylla):
While visiting the Yerba Buena Nursery demonstration garden in Woodside, I came upon a bed of these, at the base of a small tree, and was instantly smitten. So I planted three 4” pots from Annie’s Annuals in a part shade bed. The plants grew to about 8” before coming into flower. Once they did, you couldn’t miss the brilliant color: a mass of bright orange blossoms with maroon centers, held on slender stems, nodding in the slightest breeze. This season, it has reseeded profusely, and I can’t wait for the show to begin. A star performer in the garden.

* * *

Don’t forget, these are called wildflowers for a reason: they have evolved without help from humans. They don’t need the type of cultivation help we give our agricultural plants, such as turning the soil over, fertilizing, irrigating, and pest protection. Indeed, these plants have mutually beneficial, codependent relationships with their pollinators. They don’t like soil amendments: give them the plain, unmodified California soil of your yard. Once planted in the right spot, resist the urge to spray or feed. (At most, during a dry spell, give the young plants some water.) If your garden has the conditions in which they developed in nature, they will be happy and return again and again. My favorite source of seeds is Larner Seeds in Bolinas; for 4” pots, you can’t go wrong by going to Annie’s Annuals.

* * *

When I consider how many plants of extraordinary beauty have originated in California, I feel particularly blessed to live here, in such close proximity to them, where I can see them in the wild only a short drive from home. Thanks to the efforts of pioneering horticulturists, I can now grow many of them in my garden, reestablishing the beauty of California on the patch of California land that I call home.

I encourage you to try them out: make space for California in your home garden, and begin a life-long love affair with the remarkable plants of our state.

Click here for photos of Arvind's Top 10 wildflowers.

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

“The pony had an honest face”

Larceny in Toyon neighborhood!

From Toyon Tidbits, Mayfair Weekly - March 29, 1962

By Mrs. Max Schultz

NNV Note: Sometimes we bleakly think that crime and corruption were recently invented and that those living twenty, thirty, or forty years ago (during the good old days, of course) had happy-go-lucky, carefree lives. Surely there were no discouraging words and the deer and the antelope played together nicely and street vendors held up their end of the bargain. But, nooooo! Read on:

'Tis sad but true, that there are people in this world who will work harder to make a dishonest dollar than they would to make an honest one. Now take the case of the two men, leading a Shetland pony, who recently visited the Toyon neighborhood. No one paid much attention to the men because it was the pony that drew the eyes of the children and their parents. It can be said, however, that the pony had an honest face. The men were taking pictures of the children (with no obligation to buy them), and then giving short rides on the pony. Everyone was delighted.

A couple days later, proofs were returned for approval and we know of several who placed orders for pictures, paying for them with cash right then. They are still waiting for the pictures. The name and address of the photographer turned out to be phony (a non-existent McKee Rd. address was given). Two people who paid by check found the check was cashed by a person using an alias, along with a phony address and phone. The phone number was called, and the telephone company reported no such person, address, or number.

Lesson: In case two men leading a Shetland pony (with an honest face) should take pictures of your youngster, don’t pay for them until you have the pictures. They might be legitimate---but, on the other hand, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

NNV Further Note: Neighbor Carol Schultz is an informal neighborhood historian who also wrote columns called “Toyon Tidbits” and “Toyon Tales” for the Mayfair Weekly and the East San Jose Sun in the 1960’s.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletAnother story on a male Notable Neighbor! Aren’t there any Eastside women worthy of note?
bulletWell, why don’t you write about them then?
bulletWhat will be the name of the new library at Alum Rock and White Road?
bulletWhat’s happening with the NNV mail theft information “compilation”?
bulletHey, what happened to Alum Rock Florist? The business seems to have evaporated over night.
bulletThe Henningers’ little lamb, Miss Tiny, looked as though she has blue eyes. Could she be blind?
bulletNNV had Bamburg (as in Marvin and Bonnie) spelled two different ways. Which is it, you dunces?

Q. You’ve done it again. Another story on a male Notable Neighbor! Aren’t there any Eastside women worthy of note?

A. But, but, but … there surely must be!

Q. Well, why don’t you write about them then?

A. Who would you suggest? Send me your stories. E-mail or call (408) 272-7008.

Q. What will be the name of the new library at Alum Rock and White Road? Will it take the same name as the small library it replaces – the Alum Rock Library?

A. You can share your opinion on this topic at a meeting set up for just this purpose! There will be a hearing to listen to comments from the public on Wednesday, March 9th at 7:00 PM at the Alum Rock Youth Center. Want to call it the New Alum Rock Library Branch? Want to name it for a community VIP? Dr. B. Roberto Cruz, the founder of National Hispanic University, has been suggested. Whatever you want to name it, y’all come to this meeting and tell the world about it!

Q. What’s happening with the NNV mail theft information “compilation” mentioned in the February edition of NNV?

A. NNV invited readers to report to us their experiences with mail theft in our area. We hoped we could compile the information and perhaps get a better grasp of the scope of the problem – and report it to you. Five or six e-mails floated in – a couple of them from people who had been hard hit by thieves, the rest from readers who weren’t sure yet if they had been victimized. It’s hoped that the low level of response means that there have been very few cases of mail theft carried out. There have been very, very few reports of mail theft to the Sheriff’s Department at our latest check.

We can’t know much, for sure, without more feedback. Meanwhile, we will keep publishing relevant Letters to the Editor on our Letters page. Please encourage victims to get in touch – if not with NNV, then with the Sheriff’s Department. They will take us – and the problem - more seriously if we make sure we’re a steady presence on their radar screen. And, NNV will stay in a fact-finding mode as long as there are mail thefts happening (and people telling us about them) - which maybe means forever!

Q. Hey, what happened to Alum Rock Florist? The business seems to have evaporated over night. Wasn’t it too much of a public fixture to simply melt away?

A. An NNV reader wrote to tell us an unfortunate tale about the little shop having to move away due to an inordinate rent increase which was suddenly imposed. It was such a nice, classy, friendly place, it’s a shame that our community won’t have it here in our midst. Sad, huh? Its new location is at 1040 N. 4th Street.

Q. In last month’s photo of Miss Tiny, the Henningers’ little lamb, Miss Tiny looked as though she has blue eyes. Is that possible – do sheep really have blue eyes? Could she be blind?

A. Nella Henninger says that itty, bitty Tiny really did have blue eyes when she was a newborn. However they are now turning dark brown like her parents’ eyes. She is not blind, fortunately. Nella reports that Tiny and her fellow sheep are not yet getting along like the big happy family they’re supposed to be. The big sheep think Miss Tiny smells like a Henninger and Miss Tiny thinks she is a Henninger. A new little lamblet has been born recently which might help buffer Miss Tiny’s blending in with the little herd.

Click here to look in Miss Tiny's eyes.

Q. In the paper version of NNV last month (and for a while on the NNV web site) you had Bamburg (as in Marvin and Bonnie Bamburg) spelled two different ways. Sometimes you spelled it -burg and sometimes you spelled it –berg. Which is it, you dunces?

A. Well, it’s actually Bamburg with a U and we thought we had that name nailed down in our brains only to find that we had screwed up! Whatever the plural of mea culpa is, it’s us.

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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!  And don't miss our new Letters page on Deer, Fire and/or Drought Resistant Plants if you'd like to share information with our readers.

Community Bulletin Board (Click Here)

E-mail to let us know about your events of interest to our readers.

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2005 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
E-mail subscriptions are free. Your ideas and comments are always welcome. 
To Subscribe: E-mail with "Subscribe" in the Subject line. 
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Privacy Policy: Your contact information will not be sold, distributed or visible to others. 
Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.

Copyright© 2005 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 4/16/05.

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