Category Archives: Feature Stories

Palo Alto City Library subscribes to novel music idea

By Benjamin Custer
Palo Alto Weekly (Published August 2014)

For card-carrying members of the Palo Alto City Library, book and movie checkouts last for weeks but music downloads last forever.

The library is one of around 3,000 in the United States and 5,000 worldwide that subscribe to Freegal Music, a downloadable music service from Virginia-based Library Ideas, LLC. Though use of the service in Palo Alto has increased over the past year, only a small percentage of cardholders use the service. The library staff hopes to see more participation.

Freegal, a blend of “free” and “legal,” boasts millions of songs, thousands of music videos and dozens of genres from about 28,000 record labels, including Sony Music Entertainment. Featuring artists from Miles Davis to Elvis, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Dixie Chicks, Outkast, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus, as well as classical music, Freegal’s collection is designed to appeal to the young, old and everyone in between.

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Fruits of Her Labor: Resident trades front lawn for vegetable garden

By Benjamin Custer
Palo Alto Weekly (Published July 2014)

A few years ago, when rebuilding her inherited Palo Alto home from the ground up, Kerry van den Haak decided that a vegetable garden should supplant the front lawn.

Flanked by one-story houses, she turned to tiered, raised garden beds to help mitigate the tall appearance of her two-story home. She packed the garden beds with fertile soil, installed a drip irrigation system and planted a variety of vegetables including corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, pumpkins, melons and peppers.

“Some of these beds give me three crops a year, one every four months,” van den Haak said. “I grow summer crops, winter crops and in-between crops.”

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New cellphone policy lets teachers make the call on in-class use

By Benjamin Custer
Palo Alto Weekly (Published June 2014)

The Palo Alto Unified School District’s new cellphone policy, adopted in early June, requires students to turn off their cellphones in class unless teachers allow them for instructional purposes.

The policy’s language provides a clearer expectation compared to the last version, which permitted students to use their devices as long as they were not disruptive or engaging in unethical activities such as cheating.

As with the previous policy, students who misuse their cellphones face possible confiscation and “may be subject to further discipline” under board policy and administrative regulation, including counseling and even expulsion.

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Paly prepares for hard hats, rubble to pave way for athletic center

By Benjamin Custer
Peninsula Press (Published December 2013)

Palo Alto High School’s main gym, built in the 1920s, features a basketball court with six backboards, four of which cling to the railing of the upper-level stands.

The school’s smaller gym dates to the 1960s and more closely resembles a community room that happens to have a hardwood floor and some backboards that protrude from its walls.

“You simply don’t see gyms … that are that old and functioning at today’s level,” said Bob Golton, facilities and bond program manager for the Palo Alto Unified School District.

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