SEX, DRUGS AND COLLEGE ADMISSION ... These are the three subjects parents will travel through rain, snow, sleet and the dead of night to talk about, author Christine VanDeVelde joked to a packed audience of parents and students at Palo Alto High School Monday night. VanDeVelde is co-author with former Stanford admissions dean Robin Mamlet of the 2011 book "College Admissions: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step." What colleges crave — more than grades, test scores or anything else — is authenticity in an applicant, said VanDeVelde, whose book is based on interviews with more than 50 admissions deans. "The perfect candidate may be somebody who's imperfect but authentic," she said. To parents, she advised going on the "college diet." "Stop talking nervously over dinner about college — the subject should not be on the menu more than twice a week."
PICK ME! PICK ME! ... Anyone concerned about declining civic engagement in Palo Alto would find plenty of reasons to smile at this week's meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission. The commission may not be as wonky as the Planning and Transportation Commission or as detail-oriented as the Architectural Review Board, but for sheer gung-ho and enthusiasm, this seven-member group is tough to beat. This quality was on display Tuesday night when the commission was charged with appointing a three-member subcommittee to help staff put together the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, a colossal effort that is still in the embryo phase. Rob de Geus, a manager in the Parks and Recreation Department, called the forthcoming plan a "game changer for the department and the city." In this case, the commission's enthusiasm worked against it as five out of seven members threw their hat into the race. Things even got a bit heated when Commissioner Deirdre Crommie started arguing why she, and not former commission Chair Pat Markevitch, should be one of the three members on the subcommittee. She said Markevitch already had her chance to serve on a highly visible panel — the Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission — and complained that Markevitch didn't update her Parks and Recreation colleagues as often as she should have on that commission's progress. "Pat's gotten to do her piece already and we need someone new," Crommie said. Commissioners Stacey Ashlund, Jennifer Hetterly and Chair Ed Lauing also expressed their desire to serve on the subcommittee (the only two people who didn't volunteer — Paul Losch and Daria Walsh — plan to step down soon, when their terms expire). In the end, the glut of enthusiasm killed the nomination process and the commission voted to table the item and return to the topic later this month.