PARTING WITH PANDA ... The word "panda" comes with plenty of baggage. Some think of Chinese food that's not quite Chinese, others envision San Francisco Giants baby-faced slugger Pablo Sandoval, who adopted the animal as his nickname. Still others think of dramatic births at major zoos. But few outside Palo Alto link the image of the black-and-white bamboo-chewing bear to emergency preparedness. To the city's emergency-preparedness leaders, that's a problem. The panda has long served as the emblem for the Palo Alto Neighborhood Disaster Activity (you guessed it, PANDA) — a program that offers residents free courses on disaster-management and preparedness. PANDA has long been following the curriculum of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) — a national program with guidelines for emergency training. This month, Palo Alto officials have finalized their decision to officially drop the name PANDA and rename the program the Palo Alto CERT. Paul Lufkin, the coordinator of the program, said the members like the panda emblems and all the panda-related merchandise they have given away to volunteers and community members over the years. But the name also caused a slight problem. "It's gotten in the way a little of people taking the program seriously, which is kind of an issue," Lufkin said. "We are backing up paid professionals in a disaster when there are too many things for them to take care of — that's how we want to be seen in their eyes and in the people's eyes." He said some members of the organization had initially resisted dropping PANDA but after further discussion they agreed to change the name. "We've gone ahead with it," Lufkin said. "Everyone who had remorse about PANDA has come on board."
A GIANT PRIZE ... Palo Alto's baseball fans will have a chance to get a close look at the sport's grandest prize on Feb. 15, when the World Series Trophy makes its way to downtown Palo Alto. The San Francisco Giants won the coveted trophy in November when the team defeated the Texas Rangers in five games. The trophy will be displayed at Lytton Plaza, at the intersection of University Avenue and Emerson Street, between 4 and 6 p.m. Fans will have a chance to view the World Series trophy and to have their photos taken with it.