Frostside Gathering

Mango the Yorkshire Terrier went on an adventure yesterday to the Tempo Storm Hearthstone Frostside Gathering, a rebranded Fireside Gathering in San Diego, CA in celebration of the new, upcoming Hearthstone expansion involving the Lich King.

Because I am part of Tempo Storm, we got there a little earlier than everyone else so we could get settled and help set up when needed. reynad, the founder and CEO of Tempo Storm, and his girlfriend Michaela were there as well; Michaela wanted to put sunglasses on Mango.

Tempo Storm Hearthstone Frostside Gathering

Frodan, one of the co-founders of Tempo Storm and currently a Hearthstone caster and broadcast personality, dressed up as Gul’dan. Here he is calmly petting Mango as he gazes off into the distance, plotting his next world takeover and domination.

Tempo Storm Hearthstone Frostside Gathering

Jessica Nigri, world-famous cosplayer and personality, was also at the event. She absolutely adored Mango and held him for about half an hour or so.

Jessica Nigri and Mango the Yorkshire Terrier

FakeNerdBoy, Jessica Nigri’s boyfriend and a broadcaster, also held Mango for a little while.

FakeNerdBoy and Mango the Yorkshire Terrier

The event itself wasn’t really that great for me, seeing as I don’t really like parties, but Ed is still over in California visiting from Illinois, and he seemed to enjoy it. I don’t drink alcohol, but Ed does, so he got some free drinks and roamed around enjoying the event. We stayed for around six hours; this photo of Ed is from shortly before we were about to leave:

Tempo Storm Hearthstone Frostside Gathering

I was the one who ended up driving from Riverside County to San Diego. It’s right around a hundred miles in each direction, and I thought the drive there would be awful (because I hate driving), but it actually wasn’t that bad. What was bad, however, was trying to find parking in San Diego.

After proceeding to fail at finding an open spot for a good 20 minutes or so, we finally made our way into a parking garage and found a spot. On our way out, I discovered that parking cost … US$60.00. I guess owning a multi-floor parking structure in San Diego is good business.

 

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Review of the Massdrop x NuForce EDC In-Ear Monitors

FTC Disclosure: This review is brought to you by a partnership between Tempo Storm and Massdrop.

An unfortunate side effect of the convenience of online shopping is the fact that it’s tough to see exactly what you’re getting until it arrives at your front door. However, due to Tempo Storm’s partnership with Massdrop, they sent me some free earbuds – the Massdrop x NuForce EDC In-Ear Monitors – so I can analyze the product for you and help you see exactly what you’re buying.

I have a bad history with headsets. I wear glasses, and when I try to use a headset, the large ear pads push the legs of my glasses into my temples and make me dizzy. So, ever since I was a child, I’ve always used either earbuds or speakers.

The earbuds that Massdrop sent me are the most advanced earbuds I’ve ever owned. They’re priced at $99.99, but as of the date of this writing, they’re discounted 40%, and you can get your own for only $59.99. Act quick – the drop ends in only 5 days.

Massdrop x NuForce EDC In-Ear Monitors

There are two things I particularly like about this set of earbuds, the first being the massive number of options you have in terms of the actual buds. A lot of upper-end earbuds come with multiple-sized buds, but this is the first set I’ve seen that comes with an “earplug” style of attachment. They work just like regular earplugs – pinch the foam to reduce their size, stick them in your ears, and wait for them to expand and fill your external auditory meatus (yes, that’s actually what it’s called).

These earplug attachments are great for blocking out background noise. Whenever my housemate is streaming, I pop these in my ears to block out the sound of her voice and let me focus on my work. This would be effective on airplanes as well – I used to travel a lot before I moved to Southern California, and I wish I had these to block out the sound of the aircraft engine (even though I’m really good at falling asleep through the noise regardless).

Massdrop x NuForce EDC In-Ear Monitors

The second thing I like is the fact that you can swap out the cables. I personally like the double-twisted cable – they seem to get tangled less often, and if they ever do, they seem to be easier to unravel. I also like the texture of them, and will gently massage them up and down while I’m listening to music or watching videos as a secondary stimulant (sort of serving the purpose of a fidget spinner).

To switch out the cables, all you have to do is yank apart the cable from the listening device. They will separate and the cable will have two golden prongs as connectors. The ease with which this can be done, and how clean the connecting area looks, makes me appreciate the attention to detail with which these earbuds were manufactured.

Massdrop x NuForce EDC In-Ear Monitors

Because these earbuds come with so many accessories, it also comes with a convenient, sturdy carrying case – you can use this to store away all your spare accessories, or keep your accessories at home and use it as a travel case.

Massdrop x NuForce EDC In-Ear Monitors

I’ve used these earbuds myself on and off for about three weeks now, and I’m overall very satisfied.

The first thing I noticed about them is that they have very heavy bass, so much so that I went into my iTunes Equalizer and changed the setting away from Bass Booster. But, it’s not so extreme that it drowns out the rest of the sound – other sound, especially in the mid-range, still goes through crisp and clean.

On the Massdrop page for this product, it showed photos of people wearing the earbuds with the cable looped up, around, and behind the ear. I don’t wear these earbuds during physical activity (but rather, when I’m just sitting at my desk), so I don’t need the extra secure hold in my ear. I let the cable just fall straight down, and it still provides a very comfortable fit.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with these earbuds. I obviously have only had them for less than a month, so I can’t say much about their longevity, but based on what I see in terms of attention to detail and clean construction, I can’t imagine them going bad any time soon.

 

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Unboxing the Massdrop Jessica GMK Plum Custom Keycap Set & GMK Carbon Add-On Keycap Kit

I haven’t posted a video on my YouTube channel in an extraordinarily long time – over three years, to be exact. Back in early 2015, I actually made my final “annual Buffalo Wild Wings winter trip” vlog, but for whatever reason forgot to upload it, and still haven’t since then (I sort of feel like it’s not really that relevant of a video anymore).

One of my promotional obligations at my workplace involved me unboxing and reviewing a product from one of our sponsors, so I decided to take this opportunity to “revive” my channel by turning this into a video for my channel.

… No, my channel is not actually “revived,” because I won’t be doing this on a regular basis. But here’s the video.

As I mention in the video, the story behind this product is that I wanted Massdrop to send me one keycap with their logo on it, so if my keyboard were to ever appear in a video or a stream, it would essentially act as next-level product placement. But, instead of one keycap, Massdrop decided to send me 186 keycaps.

In the video, I unpackage the keycaps and show what they look like, investigate the double-shot plastic and explain how that ensures quality and longevity, then proceed to install the Massdrop logo keycap onto my Escape key (after filing down the sharp edges off-camera, because that matters on a bezelless keyboard).

 

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HCT Americas Spring Playoffs

Today, I went to this thing: https://us.battle.net/hearthstone/en/fireside-gatherings/33412

HCT Americas 2017 Spring Playoffs at Buffalo Wild Wings

A whole lot of people were complaining on social media about how this Hearthstone event was taking place at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, and how distracting it would be … but it actually ended up just fine. I got to meet up with some of my buddies from Tempo Storm, and even got to enjoy a nice … wait, what even is this?

HCT Americas 2017 Spring Playoffs at Buffalo Wild Wings

If you guessed “mold,” you would be correct. This was my first time trying blue cheese, and I was a little bit confused when I received my burger and it smelled distinctly moldy. The only reason I ordered it is because I had never had it before, and I like trying new items on the menu … but I didn’t exactly look it up first to see what I would be getting.

In other news, one of my co-workers with whom I met up at the event has nearly THIRTY THREE THOUSAND unread emails. It was so mind-boggling to me, as I always use my inbox as a to-do list and archive emails after I’m done addressing them, that I snapped a photo of her Mail app.

HCT Americas 2017 Spring Playoffs at Buffalo Wild Wings

And finally, remember how, back during our Fireside Festival, I saw Hyped, a professional Overwatch player for Immortals, and proceeded to take a photograph together with him so I could tweet at Baemax (his girlfriend) and say “hey look who I found”?

Well, I got to do it again today, except in reverse.

HCT Americas 2017 Spring Playoffs at Buffalo Wild Wings

 

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KBBQ trip during our Overwatch boot camp

My guide on how to get the most out of a self-cook, all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue trip is still a work in progress. And by work in progress, I mean that I haven’t started yet. But, until I get started, I’m building up some good experience by continuing to go to KBBQ.

Tempo Storm’s Overwatch team is currently in one of our southern California team houses for a boot camp, and I accompanied them to a KBBQ trip.

KBBQ during Overwatch bootcamp

Coincidentally, our League of Legends team, which also has a team house in southern California, also stopped by the same KBBQ place, so I snapped a photo of them too. (I had to blur out a few faces because they’re new members of the team who we haven’t officially announced yet.

KBBQ during Overwatch bootcamp

 

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Tempo Storm Fireside Festival

Tempo Storm hosted a Fireside Festival in Rancho Cucamonga, CA earlier today.

The Fireside Festival was essentially a regular Hearthstone Fireside Gathering, but a lot larger than usual with way more events and notable attendees. Because we were the organization hosting the event, I set myself up in the corner to ensure that there were no problems and the event would run smoothly. I was in the back with Rentaro and RagingCherry, who was running the tournament part of the Festival.

Tempo Storm Fireside Festival

Usually, I post photos of the stuff around me, but I decided to actually post photos of myself today for a change.

First up is a photo with Hyped. He’s a professional Overwatch player for Immortals now, but he used to be a professional Hearthstone player for Tempo Storm, and was one of the people who ran the classic Tempo Storm Hearthstone Meta Snapshot. I’m friends with his girlfriend, so I tweeted this photo at her and said “hey look who I found.”

Tempo Storm Fireside Festival

Part of the activities that were offered were designing your own card and putting your face in the space where the card art would be. I made myself an 8/8 for 8 mana that has a Battlecry of bringing your opponent down to 1 HP, then losing the game anyway. I thought it would fit me well because I tend to play aggro decks a lot, and my opponents tend to be really good at making a comeback after they’re down to single-digit health.

Tempo Storm Fireside Festival

There were also dry-erase boards in the shape of emotes, so I made one that said “Lost board control on turn 2? I concede to you.” I tend to get really frustrated at cards like Knife Juggler and other RNG-based cards that just completely destroy your early board (so much so that they basically just win the entire early game if their Knife Juggler hits, or they get smashed the entire game if their Knife Juggler misses). So, this is actually pretty accurate.

Tempo Storm Fireside Festival

And finally, one of my friends convinced me to write “♥ I love reynad ♥” and hold the sign up while standing next to him. He was in a meeting with someone in this photo, but the person with whom he was talking actually noticed me and alerted reynad to my presence, thinking I was an actual fan who wanted his attention, rather than an employee at Tempo Storm just joking around … lol

Tempo Storm Fireside Festival

 

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Welcome to Anaheim

“What’s with California and their obsession with palm trees?”

Welcome to Anaheim

"What's with California and their obsession with palm trees?"

That’s what one of our professional Overwatch players asked me. With a quick search on Google, I found out that, apparently, palm trees were first introduced into the Los Angeles area during the 18th century by Spanish missionaries, and their popularity rose dramatically during the Victorian era. Palm trees are supposedly associated with desert weather, but it seems like they actually need a lot of water to grow, and the recent drought in this area has stunted their spread.

BlizzCon was at the Anaheim Convention Center, and we got here a few days early to get accustomed with the area. On the day of our arrival, a few of our pro players and I walked around Anaheim. We stopped by a restaurant that boasted meats with “no skin, no dairy, no trans fats, no fried stuff.” Then one of our players wanted to stop by a medical marijuana facility (which is legal in California) to see if he would qualify – unfortunately for him, a California identification was required (and an Australian passport was not accepted).

BlizzCon itself was pretty busy for me. I was there for work, but the press area was extremely crowded and loud, so there wasn’t really a nice place for me to work. I managed to find an out-of-the-way area where I was allowed to be because of my media badge, but even then, there were still hundreds of people flooding by right next to me to get to a different floor of the convention center.

I also realized that it probably isn’t the best idea to dispatch writers to BlizzCon to be on-site if I actually ever want content to be done. Conventions are pretty compelling, and I don’t really want to take away from writers who want to actually enjoy the convention … but seeing as there are non-stop shows and events and parties, it’s difficult for them to actually find the time to write.

Because of how busy I was, I wasn’t really too alert in terms of photographing things. Regardless, a lot of interesting stuff at BlizzCon I wasn’t able to photograph anyway, because they were in the restricted area where we were not allowed to photograph or share anything we were being told. But, I did still manage to get these two photos:

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20161104_141833

The first photo was the meal I had when I met up with our Merchandising Director. The second photo was from my spot next to reynad as we were setting up when he was doing a meet-and-greet in the Hearthstone tavern area of BlizzCon.

My plan was to leave California and head back to Illinois shortly after BlizzCon’s conclusion, but there has been a change of plans … I’ll be sticking around for a little bit longer while I do some setup of our new team house here in southern California.

 

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BlizzCon 2016 Opening Week, and how I got kicked out of the studio

Surprise, I’m going to BlizzCon Opening Week.

Surprise, I'm going to BlizzCon Opening Week

At O'Hare International Airport

Arriving at Los Angeles International Airport

Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport

Okay, well obviously that’s no longer a surprise, because I arrived in Los Angeles on October 23 and I’ve been regularly sharing photos and other posts on social media. The first photo is my ride to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois; the second photo is when I was at O’Hare waiting to board flight with American Airlines; the third photo is after I landed at Los Angeles International Airport and inhaled the familiar smell of cigarette smoke saturating the air; and the fourth and final photo is at Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport, the hotel at which I stayed during BlizzCon Opening Week.

If you’ve been following me for the past year or so, you probably already know that “Surprise, I’m going to ________” is my signature phrase for traveling. I have a tendency to not really share what I’m doing unless I’m already in the process of doing something, or it already happened – this allows me to avoid situations where people say “wait, but I thought you were going to ________” and I have to explain what happened. A consequence of this is that the stuff that I end up sharing is sometimes unexpected, and it’s particularly surprising when I announce out of nowhere that I’m traveling.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately, mostly for our Heroes of the Storm team. If you only know me for Heroes of the Storm, you may be wondering, “why are you going to BlizzCon Opening Week when your new Korean Heroes of the Storm team didn’t even qualify for BlizzCon?”

With Tempo Storm being a very player-oriented organization, and the fact that I would be traveling to BlizzCon anyway for production work, I decided to book my flight early and be present for Opening Week as well. Although our HotS team might not have seen success this time, our Australian Overwatch team did – we had four people qualify for the Overwatch World Cup. I roomed with one of our players who got his hotel room covered by Blizzard, and stayed around to provide administrative support for our team.

Unfortunately, I personally am not much of an Overwatch player, so it was a bit difficult for me to actually be interested in what was going on. So, I generally only went to the studio to check up on the players and stopped by when I was needed. I spent the rest of my time in the hotel room working, as well as doing genius things, such as eating food from restaurants with two hotel coffee stirrers because they forgot to put chopsticks in my takeout bag.

Chop Coffee Stirrer Sticks

So what was this whole thing about getting kicked out of the studio?

Well you see, esports “managers” haven’t exactly demonstrated themselves to me as the most bright and alert people. They generally just do their minimum duties without actually genuinely caring for the players.

I’ve had experiences with league operations staff members who faced tech problems and just gave up. At ESL, a tech was addressing a “power outage” problem … when all he had to do was flip the power switch on the power supply of the computer tower. He couldn’t figure it out, when I identified the problem within seconds after he left the room to get more help. At DreamHack, our CS:GO coach and in-game leader had some audio problems on his laptop, and the tech couldn’t figure out how to fix it and basically said our team had to play the game with the coach’s volume at 1/5th of everything else. That one took me a little bit longer to fix, but I still managed to work through it myself.

Because I didn’t want stuff like this happening to our players at the hands of underqualified individuals, I decided to take care of stuff myself.

Unfortunately, there was no “official” way to have me be the team’s manager, as a manager was assigned for the Overwatch World Cup teams. The Australian team just happened to have four members of Tempo Storm on it, because we have the best Overwatch team in Australia, but for most other teams, random people came together to form the country’s representing team, so it was reasonable for them to not have a specific esports administrator be their manager from a specific organization.

With that being said, confidence gets you far. Even though I wasn’t exactly allowed inside the studio and practice area (because I was not a player or a registered manager), I just walked into the studio as if I belonged there, and was never questioned. I spoke with Blizzard staff members who were on duty inside the studio, and nobody doubted that I belonged there.

Except one person – Nelson – the person who was assigned to be Team Australia’s manager.

The reason he knew I wasn’t authorized on paper to be there is because I was essentially taking his job and making up for his shortcomings. Apparently he had a problem with that – I guess he put his pride before the actual needs of the players.

On one of the Opening Week game days, the team asked me for Starbucks, so I went over to the studio with coffee in hand. The thing about this day is that I announced in our Twitter group DM that I was on my way in the next shuttle (rather than just showing up and walking in), and that I would be arriving in about half an hour.

Nelson was also in this Twitter group.

Right as I got off the shuttle, there were security guards waiting for me at the entrance letting me know that I was not allowed to enter. To be fair, they weren’t wrong – I wasn’t officially on the list of people who could enter – but I had never had a problem with it before then, seeing as most people realized I was a positive addition to the team’s environment.

I have no proof of it, but surely, the only way this could have happened is that Nelson had reported to security that a “trespasser” would be arriving.

This is usually what happens with stories like this – they’re a lot less exciting than what people expect. No, I did not break someone’s bones to get kicked out. No, I did not hack the broadcast. I simply got told on by our own team’s manager.

 

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