Thursday, June 28, 2018

Northern California's first Hello Kitty cafe opens in San Jose

The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck has periodically been roaming the Bay Area, but now there is a permanent home for fans of Hello Kitty-shaped treats. The first Hello Kitty Mini-cafe in Northern California opened last week at Santana Row. Food items include cookies, pastries, lemonades, and teas. The store also sells merchandise such as shirts and mugs.

Who could resist a cat-shaped macaroon?

Source: Alt 105.3, hat tip to Arnold Kwok for sending this in!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

New interactive AI exhibit at The Tech

Animaker is the first exhibit in the world that teaches kids about AI while actually teaching machines how to recognize objects in the real world. Visitors are invited to form animals out of lego blocks, which are then analyzed by a 3D scanner in conjunction with AI software and virtually placed in a jungle temple that is projected onto a wall. There is a two minute video below that shows how it works and it is quite an impressive concept.

Animaker is now open and will be at The Tech for at least a year. For more info, head over here.

New exhibit explores the future of creative play in an Artificial Intelligence driven world
Animaker invites visitors to collaborate with AI-powered robots and bring their creations to life

May 31, 2018, San Jose, CA-- The Tech Museum of Innovation is opening a new immersive exhibit which invites visitors to collaborate with AI-powered robots to bring their creations to life. In Animaker, visitors step into a large-scale projection of a jungle temple where robots invite them to form animals out of LEGO/Duplo bricks. Their creations are analyzed by the robots, incorporating cutting edge 3D-scanning technology and an AI powered search engine that understands 3D content. The animals then come to life in a virtual ancient temple, and can be personalized by changing their look and behavior. This is the first experience in the world where children play and learn about AI by training machines to recognize different interpretations of real world objects.

Bringing together primitive and futuristic creative expression practices from cave art, graffiti, video games, LEGO and digital art, the installation breaks down barriers between the physical and the virtual world and enables completely new play experiences. Animaker incorporates cutting-edge cross reality (XR) developments while avoiding the genre-typical technological barriers such as headsets or AR-enabled mobile devices.

Animaker is developed by a global team of educators, engineers, and artists from The Tech Museum of Innovation (San Jose, Ca), AI technology startup Resonai (Tel Aviv/Palo Alto), digital art studio OMAi (Vienna, Austria) and 3D scanning startup Occipital (San Francisco, Ca).

“Animaker allows visitors to experiment with new forms of human machine interaction that are enabled by artificial intelligence, and extend one of the most beloved play experiences, LEGO building, into the virtual space,” says Galia Rosen Schwarz, VP business development at Resonai. “Our visual search engine, that understands 3D geometry and structure, analyzes each build and recognizes the animal that it represents. One of the key challenges here was teaching a computer to recognize builds that even the human eye may misinterpret.”

“It is thrilling to watch children so creatively engaged in a learning activity that so seamlessly combines the physical and virtual world. When educators, artists and tech makers come together, the possibilities for inspiring the next generation of innovative leaders are endless. We see the power of this creative confidence and knowledge of how to use new tech to solve problems last far beyond our exhibition walls,” says Nadav Hochman, experience developer and program manager, Art & Technology, at The Tech. Animaker is a collaboration The Tech is facilitating as part of a new Art + Tech initiative. The goal is to build a bridge between the global creative community and the high-tech sector of the greater Silicon Valley to create new experiences with emerging technology.

About the Animaker collaborators:

Resonai powers machines to understand the world through super-human visual perception, allowing them to recognize objects, complex scenes and context. Resonai’s search engine, that analyzes the precise geometry and structure of 3D content, powers real time visual search and recognition. For more information visit

Vienna based art studio OMAi create visual experiences around the world. Their iPad app Tagtool, a live instrument for spontaneous digital creation, has sparked a global community of artists and educators and was featured in Apple’s WWDC keynote videos twice. For more information visit

Occipital makes the Structure Sensor & SDK, Skanect, Canvas, TapMeasure, 360 Panorama and the PX-80 by Paracosm. Occipital focuses on making advanced computer vision technologies simple enough for everyday use. Occipital is based in Boulder, CO, San Francisco, CA and Gainesville, FL. For more information, visit Occipital on the Web at and

The Tech Museum of Innovation is a hands-on technology and science museum for people of all ages and backgrounds. The museum — located in the Capital of Silicon Valley — is a non-profit experiential learning resource established to engage people in exploring and experiencing applied technologies affecting their lives. The Tech’s mission is to inspire the innovator in everyone.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sacred Art presents Illuminate

At the SubZERO Festival last weekend, I stopped by a booth promoting this year's Sacred Art event. This is an annual immersive art and music show that is free to attend, but requires registration. This year's event will be at Forager, and the theme for Illuminate will focus on technology, spirituality, and the South African food crisis. Eat, drink, and enjoy the designs and installations!

Here's a video from the previous event to give you an idea of what to expect:

The event will be on Saturday, June 30 at 7pm, and will go until 1am the next day. The location is Forager. You can register for tickets here and learn more about the event here.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The San Jose Blog ranked #1 for San Jose blogs

Well this is pretty neat. The San Jose Blog was ranked as the top San Jose blog by Feedspot. Blogs were ranked based on Google reputation, Google search rankings, influence and popularity on social media, quality and consistency of posts, and Feedspot's editorial team. Lots of other great blogs such as San Jose Inside, SJEconomy, and Grateful Hubby also made the cut. Check out the full list over here!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Okta doubling San Jose workforce

As a sign that smaller tech companies can also thrive in San Jose, Okta is doubling their footprint and workforce Downtown. Last year SF-based Okta decided to build a second headquarters in Downtown San Jose at River Park Tower I. The original idea was to attract talent regardless of where they live in the Bay Area (Splunk had as similar approach when they opened a Santana Row office). The results have been strong enough that they are adding another 125 jobs across a whole second floor in River Park Tower I--and may expand more in the future.

With abundant housing and transit options, Downtown is quickly becoming the hottest market for tech companies wanting to get into the South Bay.

Source: SVBJ

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

June 2018 Downtown Dimension Highlights

Here are my notes from the latest edition of Downtown Dimension:
  • The SJDA 2018 summer even schedule includes:
    • Four Music in the Park performances (Jun 22, Jul 12, Aug 3, and Aug 24)
    • A weekly Downtown Farmer's Market each Friday on San Pedro Street from 10am-2pm
    • Starlight Cinemas on Jun 16, July 21, Aug 18, and Sep 15
    • Dine Downtown restaurant week from Jul 13-22
    • City Dance on eight Thursdays from August to October
  • Groundworks has achieved a 92% approval rating for 2018. 
  • Strategic SJDA objectives for 2018-2020 are to make people feel safe Downtown, minimize the impact of the homeless population, improve the Downtown brand, create a Downtown vision focused on strengthening districts and connectivity between them, and to support the BART extension to Downtown while minimizing impact to local businesses.
  • The Theatre on San Pedro Square has been renamed the Tabard Theatre.
  • A 87-unit, eight-story affordable housing building is being proposed for Almaden Boulevard and Balbach.
  • KT Urban is proposing a 220-room, 19-story hotel next to Axis on Santa Clara Street.
To read the newsletter, click here!

Monday, June 18, 2018

37th Annual San Jose Fountain Blues & Brews Festival 2018

Love to hear live blues music? Can't get enough from the winter and summer Jazz Festivals? Then you may want to check out the upcoming Fountain Blues & Brews Festival at Plaza de Cesar Chavez on June 23rd. Five artists headline the main stage this year:
  • The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Featuring Kim Wilson
  • Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings
  • Wee Willie Walker; Terrie Odabi & The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra
  • Nikki Hill Band with Laura Chavez
  • The Sons of the Soul Revivers
There will also be a SJZ mobile boombox stage before and between the performances. 


In addition to the music, you will also enjoy over forty beers on tap from the below breweries:

Abita • Allagash • Anchor • Anderson • Ballast Point Coronado • Deschutes • Devils Canyon • Drakes • Elysian  • Golden Gate • Golden Road • Gordon Biersch • Hermitage • Hop Valley • Karl Strauss • Knee Deep • Lagunitas  • Lost Coast • North Coast • Oskar Blues  • Santa Clara Valley Brewery • Shipyard • Sierra Nevada • Stone • Tilt Brewery • Uinta

The event goes from 11am to 8:30pm. General admission is $25 (children under 12 get in free with a paid adult). There's also a $75 VIP ticket with access to a shaded area, full bathroom, private bar, and two drink vouchers.

For additional information, visit the festival website.

Friday, June 15, 2018

San Jose teacher writes a novel to improve grade-school literacy

Chris Knoblaugh--a Castillero Middle School teacher--recently published a thriller/horror novel called Tribute to fight falling literary levels in California. The book is set in San Jose and was written at a 3rd grade level with a subject matter designed to hook 6th graders and up. This was done to captivate students that might not have the same literary skills as their grade-level peers, but the book can be enjoyed by anyone.

Check out the full press release below or head over to Amazon for a preview of Tribute Part 1: The Cleaners Series.

Can Demons and Doppelgangers Help Turn Around California’s Low Literacy Rating? One San Jose Middle School Teacher is Determined to Find Out

SAN JOSE, CA (June 18, 2018) - In December 2017, a group of lawyers sued the state of California for the literary crisis in schools, claiming the state was not satisfying its constitutional responsibility to educate all children. According to the California Department of Education, a whopping 51.4% of students tested did not meet or exceed state English standards. Come November, voters will be faced with electing a Superintendent of Public Schools to turn around California's low literacy rating. Many are asking: what are schools doing about the problem?

“That’s not the right question,” said Castillero Middle School teacher Chris Knoblaugh, author of Tribute: The Cleaners Series: Book 1. “The right question is, how are schools going to fund the one-on-one attention required to teach kids to read?”

Knoblaugh knows first-hand the challenges teachers are facing, having taught English in elementary and middle schools in San Jose for 16 years.

“If an educator is teaching a full class of 32 kids, the chances to work one-on-one with a student are slim to none,” she said. “When I was working on my Master of Arts in Teaching, I gave up my break periods to tutor a student to bring him from pre-kindergarten to a fourth-grade reading level. It took one year of intensive work, starting with letter sound association, then word recognition, building reading visualization connections, and understanding the meaning of words.”

Knoblaugh became a teacher through the back door. The first in the family, along with her sister, to graduate from college, she earned a B.A. in English Literature and B.S. in Biological Sciences, graduating cum laude. She began working for a chemical company conducting research, and eventually became a product manager for Sun Microsystems, where she was laid off.  With all the downsizing in the high-tech industry, she knew it was time to change gears.

Through a program offered by NOVA to recruit teachers for Science, Special Education, and Math, Knoblaugh applied to be a Science teacher at Hoover Middle School in downtown San Jose. The school convinced her to use her writing skills to teach English instead, and put her in charge of a class where 70% of the students spoke something other than English as a primary language.

Knoblaugh quickly discovered what she was up against. “With a lack of resources at home like reading books, it’s not uncommon for a student to enter the seventh grade with a second- or third-grade reading level,” she said. “You learn vocabulary by reading. So, to teach in such an environment, you have to read aloud, stopping to discuss each section with the students. They can’t parse the information themselves; they often lack the tools to do so.”

From Hoover, she moved to Almaden, where again many students also spoke English as a second language. The difference, however, was that these students’ parents tended to be high tech workers learning to speak English themselves. The combination of a rich text and vocabulary environment, and the fact that the parents bought books for their kids and took their kids to the library, enabled these fifth-graders to often read at a college level. “They might not grasp the innuendo, but they understand the words,” she said.

For the past two years, she’s taught English at Castillero, a performing arts middle school, where 30% of the students lack the financial resources to invest in home libraries. Frustrated by what she saw as an ongoing problem—a lack of resources, and the kind of one-on-one tutoring she champions—Knoblaugh knew something needed to be done.

Her solution was to provide gripping stories that are accessible to kids, so a teacher can work on sentence structure and vocabulary development without the students knowing it. ”There aren’t a lot of high-interest/low-readability books for tweens out there,” she said. Which is the reason she wrote her debut novel, Tribute.

“I needed something to grab the attention of 12- and 13-year-old kids who don’t have an expanded vocabulary,” she said. “The reading level is third grade, but the interest level is sixth and above. I’ve written enough short stories, and read them in class, to know what grabs the attention of a child. It needs to be something on the edge of believability.”

Tribute, based in San Jose, California, is the story of twelve-year-old Miguel, whose family loses a soul every time his gang member Papa makes promises to Santa Muerte. Miguel’s brother, Juan, is the next target. The resulting paranormal possession attracts demons, doppelgangers, and an ancient soul slayer from the depths of Hell—all of whom must be vanquished if Miguel is to save his family and himself. Her Amazon reviews show many adults are also enjoying Tribute.

“Miguel is based on a combination of student characteristics I've seen in my classroom over the years,” Knoblaugh says. “He’s a realistic tween character operating in a harsh urban environment, struggling with the astounding level of poverty facing blue-collar families in San Jose. The addition of cryptids and demons to the story adds to the psychological stress of loss and poverty.”

Knoblaugh usually spends summers tutoring students for her Dancing with Words Tutoring business, but this summer she plans to write the second book in her anthology series. “It’s not a Harry Potter series,” she said. “More like Goosebumps, an anthology series where each book stands on its own with common themes and motifs.”

Released in April on Friday the 13th—for luck, she said—Tribute is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon. Readers can find the author online at these locations:

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

RailBlazer is the new coaster at Great America for 2018

Today Great America's new Railblazer roller coaster is officially open to the public. The unique ride will be the first of its kind on the West Coast. There is a single track and riders sit single-file straddling the rail. This enables tighter turns than most coaster. The ride is 106 feet tall and reaches 52 MPH.

I was able to experience it firsthand a couple hours ago. To make sure I fully understood the experience, I went on the ride three times--once in the very front row which was well worth the extra wait time! Even though the ATV-themed ride is only about 30 seconds long, it is one of the most intense roller-coasters I have ever been on. The initial drop is completely vertical and is quickly followed by three very tight inversions. The whole ride is silky smooth unlike some of the older coasters that toss you around (e.g. Demon and Patriot, formerly Vortex). Flight Deck is still my favorite ride at Great America, but Railblazer is a close second.

In addition to the new coaster, California's Great Amercia has also expanded food options. The park now has a full-service Starbucks, an expanded menu and outdoor dining at Maggie's Smokehouse & Fried Chicken, and a new family-friendly restaurant called Sierra Creek Lodge. Even the restrooms have been fully renovated and are the nicest I have seen in a theme park. I'm thrilled to see that Cedar Fair is living up to their promise to invest and improve the park. If you haven't been to Great America in a while, now is a great time to see what's new.

For more info on RailBlazer and Great America, click here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Park View Towers design refresh

One of the oldest San Jose high-rise projects in the develop queue is getting a slight makeover and redesign. Park View Towers consists of three buildings that wrap around a historic church adjacent to St. James Park. Originally the church was going to be moved, which could have severely damaged the once dilapidated building. The latest plans keep the old church building where it is and feature more traditional looking buildings that better blend in with the area. The original design featured mostly glass like Axis. The lowrise building with townhomes has also gained a floor with the design revision.

The area around St. James Park could certainly use more residents to help revitalize the area. Hopefully the changes will help the project move along faster.

Source: SVBJ

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Content 10.3 (Perform) Pick-up Party

San Jose's top cultural publication is hosting a release party on June 21st to celebrate issue 10.3 (Perform). As usual, subscribers get a free drink ticket if they pick up their issue at the party. In addition to networking with some of the folks featured in the magazine, there will be several musical performances and local artwork on display. Please see below for more information.

Content Magazine Pick-Up Party 10.3

Thursday, June 21st
6pm–7:30pm SVLaureate Awards Presentation
7:30pm–10pm Content Magazine Pick-Up Party
Mexican Heritage Plaza
1700 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose
We are excited for this issue's Pick-Up Party to be part of SVCreates' SVArts event held annually to present the SVLaureate awards that honor exceptional achievements in the arts and contributions to the cultural life of Silicon Valley.

A formal SVLaureate awards program, emceed by KQED's Michael Isip, will be followed by the Content Magazine Pick-Up Party, which celebrates the release of Issue 10.3 "Perform" and honors the SVLaureate recipients along with other featured creatives.

Issue 10.3 featured artists displaying their work at this event will include Pancho Jimenez, Joel Slayton, and Jeremiah Kille, and there will be musical performances by Ziggy, San Jose Jazz High School All Stars, and Ashlee Vivo. The entire evening is an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate the cultural vibrancy of Silicon Valley.

Free entry for all Content subscribers, 10.3 features, and 10.3 contributors, and former SVLaureate recipients includes 1 guest, plus 1 complimentary drink ticket. Use the code Content2018 to reserve your tickets.

Thank you event partners: School of Arts & CultureWylder SpaceClandestine BrewingMutari Chocolateand San Jose Jazz.

Monday, June 11, 2018

New 20-story office tower proposed Downtown

Development proposals are continuing to roll in! The latest one comes from developer JP DiNapolis Cos. who spent $11.5 million for two vacant office buildings at 200 Park Avenue last week. Their plan is to build a 20-story office tower with a grand total of 740,000 SQFT of office space. The project would also include 1,200 parking spaces that would be shared with the Hyatt Place next door.

The general area could be completely transformed within a few years. This tower would rise on the same block where Insight Realty is planning Museum Place, an epic mixed-use development with residential, hotel, office space, retail, and an expansion of the Tech Museum. Across the street a 24-story residential tower is also proposed at City View Plaza and a block away Adobe is planning a fourth office tower that would double its employee count.

If everything goes according to plan, the new office tower will be under construction by the end of 2019.

Source: SVBJ

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

More info on the new San Jose Light Tower

The campaign to build a new iconic Light Tower in San Jose is still going strong. This would be a re-imagining of the innovative 237 foot-tall Light Tower that was built Downtown in 1881 and some believe inspired the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The team behind the tower is now raising $1.25 million to fund site selection and host a design competition later this year.

The location was original targeted for Plaza de Cesar Chavez, but there are now several other possible locations including:

  • St. James Park
  • Guadalupe River Park - Discovery Meadow
  • Guadalupe River Park - Arena Green
  • Diridon Station

Plaza de Cesar Chavez actually offers the least amount of space for the tower, which could include all sorts of tourist amenities ranging from cafes and gift shops to an observation deck. If everything goes according to plan, it could open as soon as 2022.

The best part is that the tower will not burden San Jose tax payers--it would be the single largest gift the city of San Jose has ever received.

Source: SVBJ

Monday, June 4, 2018

Downtown San Jose BART Station renders

Now that the construction methodology has been finalized for the BART subway in San Jose (single bore), let's have a quick look at the stunning station that is being planned for Downtown San Jose. To call the current design "open" would be a serious understatement. From the lowest point you can look up to the ceiling 145 feet or so above. The layout is modern and welcoming with high tech flourishes throughout. Check out the renders below of what will become one of the most iconic stations in the BART network.

Source: Robertee from the San Jose Development Forum

Friday, June 1, 2018

SubZERO 2018

The 11th annual SubZERO festival kicks off tonight! Several blocks in San Jose's SoFA District will be shut down for live music, art, food trucks, and culture. The event is runs from 6pm to midnight both today and tomorrow and you can see the full list of participants over here.