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Around Town: Rising to the challenge; an abrupt departure

Tidbits about Palo Alto people, places and more

In this week's Around Town column, a recap of how a local resident faced the pressure on a national game show testing each contestant's intelligence and a city working group losing a member who has become known for a heated confrontation that went viral last month.

RISING TO THE CHALLENGE ... Palo Alto resident Chris Yeh is the third person to join the coveted circle of geniuses competing in the season finale of FOX's "Mental Samurai," a game show that tests competitors' intelligence. The Stanford University alumnus, who earned a degree in product design engineering at 19 years old and a creative writing degree a year later, was confident entering the preliminary round that aired on April 30. He told host Rob Lowe his top strength (general knowledge) and revealed his main problem-solving tactic: looking for themes and patterns. During the show, the 43-year-old author was strapped on to a capsule that shifted him like a rollercoaster around the show's set, stopping each time for a question presented on a screen that got tougher as the game progressed. Yeh breezed through the first round, "Towers of Samurai," where he was given five minutes to answer 12 questions, which he passed and received $10,000 in return. Yeh showed off his ability to quickly think on his feet, as shown when he knew which musician originally sang the 1972 hit "Rocket Man" (answer: Elton John) and repeated back sequences that he only learned seconds before. In the second round, "Circles of Samurai," Yeh only had one minute and 57 seconds to answer four questions to raise his total earnings to $100,000. (In that round, he correctly answered that kale is a vegetable, not a fruit, and selected the correct puzzle piece to complete a picture he was presented with.) The audience erupted in applause and cheers as they saw Yeh advance to the tournament finale where he'll compete for $250,000. "Every element of intelligence, you conquered. Every tower, you conquered. Every bit of money we had in the bank, you took it," Lowe said in congratulating the Palo Altan.

AN ABRUPT DEPARTURE ... Rebecca Parker Mankey, a progressive activist who made national headlines last month after she berated a 74-year-old man in a Make America Great Again hat at the Starbucks on California Avenue, has resigned from a planning group that has been helping to develop a vision for her neighborhood. In an April 4 letter to the city, Mankey wrote that she is resigning, effective immediately, from the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan Working Group. The group has been participating in an 18-month planning process to create a new vision for an eclectic neighborhood, which includes the 15-acre campus around Fry's Electronics. "Thank you so much for everything. I have learned a lot from the process," Mankey wrote to the group in her resignation letter. Mankey's outburst at the coffee shop went viral, prompting death threats and causing her to lose her job. She abruptly disappeared on April 18, prompting her family to report her as missing, though she was found safe several days later after she took a trip to Lake County to visit a friend. Mankey will be replaced on the working group by Waldek Kaczmarski, who had been appointed as a board alternate.

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