The lazy days of October are upon us. The sun gets up late and retires early. The leaves turn and swirl to the ground. Pumpkins take on human characteristics and stand guard (or is it gourd?) in yards across the land.

Of all the fall holidays, Halloween is my favorite. No major meals to make, no relatives to entertain and no gifts. It's just chili and costumes and silliness. This year, I'm going as the government slim-down -- just a thin sheet of tin foil devoid of transparency. Meanwhile ....

Bottoms up: Why whine about the government when you can wine about it instead? Reader Gigi Benson says Pat Paulsen Vineyards has been having fun with four wines they've created to spoof the federal government's budget snafus. Fiscal Cliff Cabernet is my favorite -- aged in expensive oak barrels paid with money "borrowed from our grandchildren's pension funds." Release date -- next century.

In memoriam: Oakland lost a civic leader on Sept. 30 with the unexpected death of attorney Ed Thomas. He had just returned with wife Laura from an anniversary cruise to Alaska when he suffered a heart attack. Thomas will be remembered for his service on boards for the Paramount Theatre and Chabot Space and Science Center, as well as his volunteer time with the East Bay Conservation Corps, local food banks and several youth organizations.

Email bag: Reader Korki Brett says I omitted some critical information in my item on Montclair Elementary School zone congestion -- the school day hours. Here they are: school begins at 8:30 a.m. each day and ends at 2:50 p.m., with the exception of Wednesdays -- when the kids get out early at 1:30 p.m. Mountain Boulevard really backs up during drop-off and pick-up, so plan your trips accordingly.


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Around town: Merritt College breaks ground, today, on a new Science and Allied Health building. The 107,000-plus-square-foot building is funded by Measure A money and will be home to the school's science, genomics, nursing and nutrition departments. It should be done by May 2015.

A long-shuttered gas station in Woodminster is seeing new life. It's been reincarnated as a bookstore run by the nearby Mormon church.

The building's configuration seems a bit odd for a bookstore, but at least there's plenty of parking. The downside is that the lot is no longer available for patrons of Monaghan's -- the popular pub next door.

Meanwhile, the future of print technology has come to Montclair. HoneyBee 3-D has opened at 6127 La Salle -- with a retail store and classes in 3D printing.

Animal tales: How times have changed. No one would dare hunt gophers in Oakland today, but in 1966, kids got good money for rounding up the pests. Reader Mark Stauffer remembers roaming the Hills Swim Club with his makeshift weapon -- a stick with a nail on the end. He and a cadre of kids would get paid a buck a pelt -- back when a candy bar cost a nickel.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-723-2525, by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.