Thank you for your front-page article, "Taking a Deep Breath" (April 9, 2010) addressing the troubling issue of stress levels in high school students.
Let's acknowledge Menlo-Atherton High School for its positive approach. Scheduling final exams before winter break and converting to a modified block schedule were two steps, even before involvement in Stanford's Challenge Success program, taken toward alleviating stress.
For the past four years, M-A has also been involved in educating students, parents and faculty about teen sleep problems, which also relate directly to the stress issue. In fact, the Sequoia Union High School District's new directive mandating later school start times for the majority of its students seeks to address the relationship between lack of sleep and many emotional stressors.
I hope those who worry about the problems of making start-time changes recognize that many school districts across the country have, over the past decade, successfully made the transition without great difficulty. On balance, when you compared the stress reduction generated by more sleep for our teens to the logistical problems of start time changes, I feel the scale tips easily to the side of more sleep. Let me also mention the demonstrated positive effects of more sleep on our students' academic and athletic performances.
Finally, a bravo to the Sequoia Union High School District for its leadership in instituting later school start times for the majority of students this year. Let's look forward to better, less stressful school years for our students.
1160 Hermosa Way
Kudos to Victor Frost, as he takes his seat in contentious posture with society.
He insists, and is successful, on living his life his own way while testing the limits of public acceptance. He is far more a legitimate, trustworthy citizen than many politically correct inhabitants of our culture.
I recall his platform in the race for a City Council seat decades back. One item he promoted was "citizens personal votes" on all significant issues brought before the council for enactment. Witnessing the power of technology, where we can each represent ourselves, he promoted the ultimate form of representative government. He displayed an intellect and a position surpassing that of many contenders, including one who showed utter contempt to the concept.
Long live Frost and his positions, physical and intellectual.
Farmers market threat
I am one of the founders of the Menlo Park farmers market and a member of the Lions Club, which sponsors the Sunday market.
I would like to voice my concerns for the changes proposed in the Downtown Specific Plan. This plan proposes to close off Chestnut Street to vehicular traffic between Santa Cruz Avenue and the south driveway of the parking plaza, where our market is located. The plan calls for a pavilion structure of 4,000 square feet to create a covered plaza for permanent stalls for vendors.
I believe this will negatively impact our present Sunday farmers market. Menlo Park is not San Francisco or Vancouver, where these types of structures may work for the influx of many tourists and residents.
I do agree the parking areas could benefit from a facelift and creative landscaping. However, building imposing multi-storey parking structures will ruin the village-like atmosphere of our downtown. I hope that residents will take the time to look over the proposed changes to Menlo Park and voice their concerns to the City Council.
Margaret H. Carney
Stopped-up kitchen sink. Call a local plumber, right? Somehow the ones I knew over the past 40 years have all disappeared with a changing Palo Alto. Well, heck, call the one the city use to send and that you have used in the past, RotoRooter. Question asked of the phone answerer,
"What is your basic price for coming to the house?" "We don't give out that information".
OK, send the plumber and I will ask him. Plumber after clearing the pipe from the outside valve next to the kitchen with a snake line. Total time 20 minutes.
"I don't set the price. It is set by the home office. Your charge for the service is $271. That is now the standard minimum service charge for that particular problem."
I paid the outrageous bill.
A call to the home office in San Jose after paying the bill indicated that they now have only standard minimum and fixed charges for each type of service call and that they are set and adjusted upward depending on the length and difficulty of service by the office in — ready for this? — Chicago.
The charge I was asked to pay was their minimum service charge for that service. Welcome to the new Palo Alto!
The position of firefighter is really somewhat archaistic.
How many fires do they actually fight these days? Cities facing budgeting realities need to reinvent these positions as public-safety positions that include fire fighting, emergency medical aide, emergency preparedness and other roles deemed necessary for the good of the community.
These new employees, replacing the old firefighters, should come to work, just like the police and other city employees, do their assigned jobs and go home when their shift is finished. It is no longer reasonable to pay firefighters to sleep, grocery shop, prepare meals and hang around the firehouse.
We now live in a 24/7 world and there is no reason that the newly invented "public-safety job" cannot find essential tasks to be preformed at all hours of the day and night.
When they are on the job they should be working. The fire engines do not have to sit in the firehouse if nothing is going on. Just like going to the store, essential personnel can be assigned to tasks as a group and go out to the worksite with a fire truck. They can jump on the truck there as quickly as they can from the fire station.
There are probably hundreds of ways that "public safety" personnel can be deployed.
With looming budget cuts to school police teams, they can take over the role of ensuring safety around school zones. They can watch train tracks. They can train neighborhood leaders in emergency preparedness. At night they can be extra eyes on the street. They can do building inspections. They can help out on short-term projects — building, moving, cleaning.
The possibilities are endless once we dump the old system and require these city employees to work full time.
Palo Alto Avenue
More people are aware of the urgent need to reduce their CO2 emissions in order to slow the rate of climate change and protect the environment. The scale of the problems we face can make many of us feel helpless, and yet each and every one of us has the power to make a real difference.
In the words of Albert Einstein, "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet".
The single highest-impact thing we can do to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions is adopt a vegetarian diet. By helping people understand this, we are taking steps towards a real and lasting global solution.
Our world is now facing increased food and water shortages, but consider that one pound of beef requires approximately 16 pounds of grain and 5,214 gallons of water, compared to only 98 gallons of water for an entire vegan meal. Research shows we would be saving more water by not eating four hamburgers than we would by not showering for six months.
Growing all the crops to feed farmed animals requires massive amounts of water and land; in fact it uses one third of the world's cereal and more than 90 percent of the soybeans while 40,000 people starve to death every day. Scientists have calculated that even if we stopped eating meat for just one day a week, it would be enough to save 60 million people a year from starvation.
Many of the world's 17 billion chickens spend their entire lives in the space of a sheet of paper and cattle live standing knee deep in their own waste. Worldwide, 56 billion land animals (not including fish) are slaughtered every year. That's more than 153 million animals every day. This uses enormous amounts of resources and energy, clears most of our forests and is an all-round environmental disaster.
It is important that the general public is made aware of such important facts, allowing people to make informed choices about the food they are eating. Man was able to conquer the moon, explore Mars and many other incredible feats; our appetite is also something we will be able to conquer.
Palo Alto is known worldwide for its outstanding academic and business achievements as well as its foresight and green thinking. A resolution making Monday's meat free will further strengthen Palo Alto's position as a leading city. It will also have far-reaching repercussions in the United States and throughout the world by reinforcing the precedent set in San Francisco.
I pray that the citizens of Palo Alto will approach this issue with a sense of optimism, joy and satisfaction that they are helping to lead the world into a golden era, one of compassion, nobility and peace for all to enjoy.