Casual Connect SF 2015

Casual Connect is in town – SF that is – at the Hilton Union Square for three days, August 11-13. If you are not playing a console or PC game you are very likely playing a game that has been made, marketed or monetized by someone at this convention. Casual games is the category for the games we play on our phones, tablets, pads and watches. The industry is immense, encompassing indie games, kid and casino games, apps creation, monetization techniques, including big and small players. Michael Eisner, giving the keynote, will be only one of the over 300 speakers to the estimated 3000 attendees.

The convention provides lectures and an open floor format, so you can walk around and talk to people involved in the industry. Developers showcase their games, the interaction is open and easy – giving rise to their name, Casual Connect. Plenty of parties to connect in over food and drink, and the signature event is the party at City Hall celebrating the awards for the top indie games. If you want to do mobile games this is where you want to be; if you are already in the business you already know about Casual Connect.

Follow-up on Home Advisor

I was trying out Home Advisor on a staircase with a single step that needed the stringer repaired.
I got four names containing references and phone numbers to call plus estimates. The estimates ran from $225 – $650. I didn’t care for the references for one of the names and one said that the company no longer took on small jobs. I sent an email photo to the remaining two. One called back an gave me a price of $175. I did not hear from the other. When we finally connected and he saw that the repair would require replacing boards he upped the priced to $200 – fair. Work was done in about 3 hours, and was good. Would consider having him do the whole staircase.
The problem I see is that it is impossible to be given an estimate simply on the client’s verbal description, even photos are not enough. A real estimate requires a site visit and that is time consuming for the service person – less so if they are local. I don’t know how to get around that. Email addresses should be included with the phone numbers and perhaps a suggestion that the client send in a photo. Home Advisor, however,  is a good starting point
The follow-up by Home Advisor was intense, I got emails every other day. It took me about two weeks before I had made contact and had any idea how things were going. Everything went along well and so I didn’t need assistance. Will try them again. Getting a lead on a good and trustworthy service person is  great beginning.

Pepcom MobileFocus

Pepcom MobileFocus came to SanFrancisco May 13th with an exuberant Mexican theme. Known for their clever themes, bountiful food and drinks and an interesting collection of booths presenting not only classic standbys like Logitech but some unusual off the grid offerings. Some that caught my eye:

Home Advisor:

Once you have passed the Rite of Passage from renter to homeowner – you are now the landlord – responsible for maintenance and upkeep. This is not something that most of us were born to do – and there seems to be an infinite number and an unbelievable variety of jobs needing to be done. For this kind of information I go to my neighborhood list serve for recommendations – it only works sporadically.

Into the breach comes Home Advisor – a middleman that will put you in touch with these services – plumbers, contractors, electricians – when you need them – could be almost immediately – get three estimates and provide you with a price range for your neighborhood. The careful vetting of the service people seems to be a very important acomponent.

Thinking about it – I probably spend more on my house than I do on cars. This has beginning to catch the attention of clever entrepreneurs and Internet giants such as Google and Amazon. The market for online home services, as reported by the NYTimes, is to be in the range of 400-800 billion dollars.

Home Advisor sounds almost too good to be true – but I’m willing to try it out on a small job and will report back.


As the name sort of implies, it is an ecological ATM. It looks like a cross between a very happy and clean Waste-Management bin and an ATM. It accepts your phones, tablets and MP3 players and gives back cash. Cameras and live operators monitor and verify the customer’s identity and evaluate the value of the item. Here in Oakland, there are concerns about the safety of patrons using the ATM. ecoATM says that the kiosks are installed in malls, and with lighting and the cameras there is security. It may help you to clean out your desk drawer of miscellaneous small electronic devices and buy you a fancy dinner for two.

Perfect 365 by arcsoft:

A digital makeover uses Face Detection technology to capture your face and apply digital makeup and arcsoft is offering it for free. This is fun thing to do with some friends. The technique has been used in computer make-up games and by some salons. I know of an instance where a pet dog was digitized and then made up for a Christmas card. I suggest you stick with your face. Contact Don’t mention the dog.


New Work by the In Step Dance Theatre

The In Step Dance Theatre had a performance of their latest work on May 3, 2015.

Joy Newhart, the artistic director with a MFA from Mills has choreographed a piece on two dancers – Laura Alvarellos, trained in Spain and Sierra Kellog, schooled in California.

When asked to describe how they felt about the dance and what it meant to them, they came up with “Run, Search, Try, Live, Balance, Shift.” – it pretty much tells it all.

Their dance-running, so different from racing, generated internal energy that exploded out of their bodies lifting them skyward or crumpling them onto the floor. Feet stamp – claiming location, hands reach out – searching. When the bodies connect – the movement is tender and sensuous, both bodies – one blond, one raven haired become like two sides of a coin. Music selections were from Yann Tiersen.

It is a privilege to be at a performance where the collaboration between choreographer and the dancers is so fresh and immediate.

ISD is founded as a collaborative of performing and visual artists exploring ways to integrate various artistic disciplines to create unique forms of performance. This is just the latest one. For more information, check out In Step Dance Theatre.

Burmese Grocery Cafe in Oakland


Write down the address: 2248 10th Avenue (at the corner of 23rd Street, not far from Park Street in Oakland) – because searching for Grocery Cafe on the internet gets you thousands of grocery stores first. Tucked into this totally residential neighborhood is a brigt, pleasant cafe. I usually associate Burmese cuisine as not-quite Chinese – but this place is diferent.

We had and enjoyed the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad – pickled tea leaves on a bed of cabbage with nuts and seeds and a light dressing; the coconut chicken noodle soup and the mango chutney pork. All the dishes were very carefully prepared and quite ample; the prices are reasonable – all dishes are $9. Well worth the adventure of finding this place.

Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM and 5-7PM. 510-328-1548

Weird ‘Hit Piece’ for Oakland Mayoral Election

HitPieceToday I got a mailer from Citizens for Oakland, a group I had never heard of. I thought it might explain ranked choice voting, but it didn’t. It contained the most unflattering photos possible of candidates Quan and Kaplan, and very slick photos of candidates Schaaf, Parker and Tuman. Since Schaaf has been promoting transparency, it struck me as curious that she was part of this essentially anonymous mailing. I could find no information at all about Citizens for Oakland, and have seen a report that this organization is not listed in the directory for the address given on the mailing. Hmmmm.