Around TownWITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS ... Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's reputation as a brilliant, if somewhat awkward, visionary snowballed this year, with Vanity Fair naming him the most influential person of the year, the blockbuster film "Social Network" dramatizing his singular genius, and Facebook membership passing the 500 million mark. This week, Zuckerberg joined a pantheon that also includes John F. Kennedy, Joseph Stalin and the Apollo 8 astronauts when Time Magazine declared him its "Person of the Year" for 2010. The award recognizes the individual who, for better or worse, had the most influence on the world. Zuckerberg responded on Facebook by calling Time's announcement "a real honor and recognition of how our little team is building something that hundreds of millions of people want to use to make the world more open and connected. I'm happy to be a part of that."
HOW'S THE WEATHER? ... More than 400 colleagues and friends of the late Stanford University climatologist Stephen Schneider gathered to honor him in a combined symposium/memorial gathering Sunday. Schneider, a biology professor who died in July, was a leading voice in discussions on global warming. Former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth recalled that Schneider was fond of saying Mark Twain had had it backward when he said, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."
WE'RE RICH! ... China's richest man, Zong Qinghou, visited Stanford University last week to participate in discussions on sustainable development and global competitiveness. The founder and chairman of the beverage giant Hangzhou Wahaha Group said it was his first time at Stanford and he hoped to make some useful connections. "We want to build a hospital in China, and Stanford is very famous in this area, so maybe they can give us some expertise," Zong said. "We have the money, you know." The remarks called to mind Jane and Leland Stanford's famous visit with Harvard University President Charles Eliot some time after the Stanfords' son died in 1884. Told by Eliot that it would cost them $5 million to endow a university, the Stanfords reportedly looked at one another and agreed that they could manage that amount.
WHERE THE STREET HAS NO NAME ... Palo Alto has streets named after trees (Birch, Ash, Chestnut), avenues named after Victorian writers (Tennyson, Coleridge, Byron), and a downtown park named after the city's generic but illustrious "Heritage." But when it comes to David Packard, the legendary philanthropist and co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, the city's street map comes up empty. And that's how it'll stay for at least a few more months, after the City Council decided this week not to name a cul-de-sac in a new Barron Park development after Packard, as was recommended by the Palo Alto Historical Association. The council, led by Larry Klein, decided that the street is too small for such a giant name. "I find myself offended that we'd choose David Packard's name to apply to about the smallest street you can have in town," Klein said. "This is, after all, David Packard, founder of the most iconic company in our history." Instead of making the change, the council decided to re-examine the city's policies for renaming streets.
SPLIT VERDICT ... Palo Alto's land-use decisions have never risen to the level of national concern, but that didn't stop Planning and Transportation Commissioner Eduardo Martinez from making some grand allusions to the top federal court. As commissioners deliberated Wednesday over whether they should be allowed to hold private meetings with developers, Martinez, who had to miss the meeting but voiced his opposition in a letter, referenced a comment from Fred Balin, a College Terrace resident who has been consistently calling for more transparency in the development process. Balin compared the commission to judges who hear testimony from both parties in an open forum and then issue an impartial decision. Martinez jokingly compared himself and his colleagues to the U.S. Supreme Court, with each commissioner defined by a certain "persona." The analogy, however, didn't stop there. "We are like the Supreme Court because our deliberations are long and wordy and no one can figure out what we decided," Martinez wrote.