Hi, I'm Adam.

Adam Parkzer   •   31   •   Las Vegas, USA   •   5'10" (178 cm)   •   152 lbs (69 kg)   •   Korean American

Although I am best known for my various public appearances as a personality, I am a businessman and entrepreneur by trade. Pri­ma­ri­ly, I help run Tem­po, a game development studio, multimedia production company, and esports franchise; I am the Direc­tor of Cor­po­rate Op­er­a­tions, o­ver­see­ing le­gal, fi­nance, and hu­man re­sources ad­min­is­tra­tion. You can find more details on my curriculum vitae.

Having formerly been in law enforcement, my main interests include criminology and forensic psychology. In my free time, I like to write, train martial arts, pursue investment opportunities, and de­vel­op new prac­ti­cal skills. I used to be a competitive gamer, but now I just play casually.

The easiest way to get to know me better is to read about INTJs on the Myers-Briggs Type In­di­ca­tor. I'm split between Investigator (Type 5) and Chal­leng­er (Type 8) on the Enneagram. My CliftonStrengths Top 5 are De­lib­er­a­tive, Learner, An­a­lyt­i­cal, A­chiev­er, and Com­pe­ti­tion. I score highest in Well-Being, Self-Control, and Emotional Stability on the SPI-27. My top per­sonality trait on both the Big Five and HEXACO-PI-R is Con­sci­en­tious­ness.

I don't use social media much anymore, but my profiles are @Parkzer on Twitter, Adam Parkzer on LinkedIn, Parkzer on Last.fm, Parkzer on Twitch, and Adam Parkzer on YouTube. If you want to write me a letter or send me a package, you can ship it to PO Box 2222, Las Vegas, NV 89125-2222, USA.

Below, you can find my blog where I document my adventures, organize my thoughts, and share snippets of my life. You can browse in re­verse chron­o­log­i­cal or­der, or you can sort by these popular categories: Travel | Hiking | Food | Finance | Cats | Best of the Best

 

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One-year update: Investing US$10k in the stock market – Parkzer vs. DougDoug & Twitch chat

Prerequisite reading: The original “Investing US$10,000 in the stock market – Parkzer vs. DougDoug & Twitch chat” blog post

 
Disclaimer: I am not a registered financial or investment advisor, and even if I was, I wouldn’t be your advisor. To you, I am nothing more than someone on the Internet posting anecdotes via a personal blog on his website. This content is intended for comedic and entertainment purposes only. Everyone’s sit­u­ation is uniquely different, so consult a certified professional if you need guidance on your own financial strategy.

 
Last year, my friend Doug Wreden and I decided to do a fun investing competition where we would both put US$10,000.00 into stocks of individual, publicly-listed companies and find out whose portfolio balance was higher after one calendar year.

Doug livestreamed the stock selection process on his Twitch channel on Friday, January 21, 2022, though it happened after markets closed at 4:00 PM EST / 1:00 PM PST, so the orders went through the morning of Monday, January 24, 2022. I had some prior commitments on the 21st so I wasn’t able to join in on the broadcast, which meant I picked my stocks by myself over the weekend, causing my orders to also go through on the 24th.

Yesterday, Monday, January 23, 2023, was the final trading day of the one-year challenge period. The results are now in.

 

The winner

I know many of you just want to see the results and don’t care about the analysis, so here is what you’re looking for. If you suffer from hexa­kosioi­hexe­kon­ta­hexa­phobia, proceed with caution.

(Apologies to those who are visually impaired and/or use screen readers; the content of those tables and charts is just too large and graphically-intensive to be able to reasonably translate into HTML. Hopefully the summary below helps you get a better idea of the information provided. All further tables on this page are hard-coded into the document.)

With my portfolio’s ending balance at $8,837.11 and Doug’s portfolio’s ending balance at $8,170.45, I am the winner of the competition by a margin of $666.66. Yes, this is real. No, I did not smudge or tweak the numbers to get that result. Feel free to validate all the numbers in the spreadsheet above.

As a reminder, my portfolio was designed not to win harder, but to lose slower (as opposed to Doug’s, which, whether or not he intended it, was de­signed to win harder at the cost of also losing harder). This strategy worked, as the overall markets did not have the best year in 2022.

My portfolio’s winners were NextEra Energy, Inc.; Waste Management, Inc.; and Walmart, Inc. My portfolio’s biggest losers were Digital Realty Trust, Inc. and, funny enough, Amazon.com, Inc. Amazon was my effort to “diversify” by adding in a wildcard company outside of my designated sector strategy (more on this later); if I had just committed to my strategy, my portfolio would have done even better.

On the other hand, Doug’s portfolio’s winners were Costco Wholesale Corp., Coca-Cola Co., and to some extent, PepsiCo, Inc. Doug’s portfolio’s biggest los­ers were Aspen Aerogels, Inc.; Intel Corp.; and Hasbro, Inc. Throughout a majority of the year-long challenge period, Netflix, Inc. was performing hor­ri­bly, but it was starting to pick back up recently; it’s unfortunate that the timing of the stock challenge was such that it didn’t have an opportunity to ful­ly recover.

Both of us lost to all of the benchmarks except for cryptocurrency. If I had invested everything into bonds, I would’ve made $37.50 more; if I had invested everything into the total domestic stock market, I would’ve made $277.84 more; and if I had invested everything into the total international stock market, I would’ve made $322.09 more. I was actually ahead of these benchmarks for a large part of the past year, but they passed me up right at the end. I think this serves as a good demonstration that, if you’re investing for the long haul, it is probably a good idea to just put your money into broad market index funds.

If it’s any consolation, we should be happy that we did not put all our money into cryptocurrency. The Grayscale Digital Large Cap Fund, which is com­posed (as of today) of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana, Polygon, and Cardano, fell almost 65% in value.

 

Prophet Adam

It is widely accepted that it is impossible to consistently and intentionally predict the stock market, and those who have managed to do so have just got­ten lucky. However, what isn’t impossible is to take current events into consideration and make broad generalizations about what is more likely to hap­pen in the stock market during that generalization period.

Last year, I made three major assumptions:

  1. The first was a very specific assumption that the COVID-19 pandemic would go through more severe sinusoidal phases that would cause another market crash. This was simply incorrect, as the pandemic seems to have stabilized, the United States has mostly gone back to normal life, and most people have accepted SARS-CoV-2 as being a lingering virus that we will have to deal with long-term, just like how we already deal with the flu.
  2. The second was a broad assumption that the stock market is more likely to fall than it is to rise, due to the fact that the economy is not ac­tu­al­ly as healthy as it might seem. This ended up being correct, inflation is indeed at a decades-long high, and we saw policy changes im­ple­mented by the Fed­er­al Reserve System (such as increased interest rates) to help mitigate.
  3. The third was an assumption that the world will trend towards infrastructural development and the continued transition to push rapidly-evolving tech­nol­o­gy to the general public. As far as I am aware, there is nothing particularly iconic that happened in the past year with regards to this that rev­o­lu­tion­ized the way society works. However, this statement is also so excessively broad that it sounds like, a year ago, I might have worded it in­ten­tion­ally vaguely to make it so it was borderline impossible for my prediction to be wrong.

From there, I decided that, out of the market sectors defined by the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS), I wanted to focus on consumer sta­ples, health care, utilities, and real estate. Were those indeed the best sectors? Here are the results:

Sector (Ticker*) Start Price Shares Value Cost basis Change ($) Change (%)
Energy (VDE) $  87.06 $ 125.43 114.8633 $ 14,407.31 $10,000.00 +$4,407.00 +44.07%
Health Care (VHT) $ 241.11 $ 247.52  41.4748 $ 10,265.85 $10,000.00 +$  265.85 + 2.66%
Utilities (VPU) $ 149.02 $ 151.02  67.1051 $ 10,134.21 $10,000.00 +$  134.21 + 1.34%
Materials (VAW) $ 182.44 $ 182.80  54.8125 $ 10,019.73 $10,000.00 +$   19.73 + 0.20%
Industrials (VIS) $ 192.23 $ 188.87  52.0210 $  9,825.21 $10,000.00 –$  174.79 – 1.75%
Consumer Staples (VDC) $ 195.83 $ 188.65  51.0647 $  9,633.36 $10,000.00 –$  366.64 – 3.67%
Financials (VFH) $  94.19 $  87.05 106.1684 $  9,241.96 $10,000.00 –$  758.04 – 7.58%
Total Market (VTI) $ 222.33 $ 201.28  44.9782 $  9,053.21 $10,000.00 –$  946.79 – 9.47%
Information Technology (VGT) $ 405.03 $ 346.23  24.6895 $  8,548.26 $10,000.00 –$1,451.74 –14.52%
Real Estate (VNQ) $ 105.43 $  88.09  94.8497 $  8,355.31 $10,000.00 –$1,644.69 –16.45%
Consumer Discretionary (VCR) $ 303.61 $ 240.90  32.9370 $  7,934.52 $10,000.00 –$2,065.48 –20.65%
Communication Services (VOX) $ 124.96 $  92.82  80.0256 $  7,427.98 $10,000.00 –$2,572.02 –25.72%

*For the purposes of this table, I used Vanguard sector ETFs to gauge each sector’s performance. I selected Vanguard simply because I personally use it as my primary brokerage and I am most comfortable working with their offerings. There are many other options available, and the results may vary de­pend­ing on which one you pick.

Energy was a wildcard that spiked from the Russo-Ukrainian War and its escalation as a result of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. With that ex­clud­ed, it seemed like my predictions were generally correct—although real estate underperformed, the other three sectors I picked outperformed the to­tal stock market, and if I average out all four, I would be ahead of the total stock market by $543.97.

Remember, though, that my ten individual company picks did not beat the total stock market by that amount, or at all. That further emphasizes how much of a risk it can be to invest in individual companies instead of broad indexes, as well as how basing your investment decisions even on something as seemingly reliable as stock market sectors could still end up leading you astray.

 

The Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi mini-game

Doug’s community is split in half into two teams based on the letter with which each person’s Twitch username begins—”A Crew” for the first half of the alphabet and “Z Crew” for the last half of the alphabet. As a mini-game between the two “crews,” Doug invested $500 into Coca-Cola to represent A Crew and $500 into Pepsi to represent Z Crew, and whichever stock ends with a higher balance would determine which crew wins.

Company Coca-Cola Co. PepsiCo, Inc.
Start  $  59.96    $ 175.49  
Price  $  60.23    $ 169.12  
Shares 8.3389 2.8492
Value  $ 502.25    $ 481.85  
Cost basis  $ 500.00    $ 500.00  
Change ($) +$   2.25   –$  18.15  
Change (%) +0.45%  –3.63% 

Unfortunately, Doug made a common mistake of confusing Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Con­sol­i­dat­ed (COKE) with Coca-Cola Co. (KO), so he ended up investing A Crew’s $500 into the wrong company. I flagged this for Doug so he could fix his mistake, but not before he re­al­ized $26.07 in prof­its from COKE from the first trading day. Before I could make the prop­er cal­cu­la­tions to see how much of that gain should carry over, he put the en­tire $526.07 in­to KO.

Thus, the A Crew vs. Z Crew situation becomes a bit more complicated. Instead of just look­ing at Doug’s portfolio to see who won, we have to do some math to find out what his bal­ance of KO would have been had he invested the $500 properly from the beginning.

After performing that calculation using historical data and running a market simulation ag­ing that portfolio by one year, we have A Crew’s Coca-Cola Co. finishing with $502.25 and Z Crew’s PepsiCo, Inc. fin­ish­ing with $481.85, thus making A Crew the winner of the mini-game by a mar­gin of $20.40.

 

The aftermath

One of the stipulations of this challenge was that we would have to donate any earnings beyond our $10,000 cost basis to charity. Unfortunately, both of our portfolios lost money, so there were no profits this time around.

Another stipulation was that the loser of the challenge (i.e., the person with the lower portfolio balance) would have to do a punishment. If I were to lose to Doug and his Twitch chat, it was suggested that I would have to get a phrase of Twitch chat’s choosing laser engraved onto my Glock 19 pistol. I ac­tu­al­ly don’t recall explicitly agreeing to this, but thankfully, it doesn’t matter, because I won.

Doug’s punishment, on the other hand… was undecided. I imagine it is going to be determined through a voting process with Twitch chat during an up­com­ing live stream. I also trust that whatever is selected as his punishment is of comparable severity as me potentially having some random Twitch meme permanently immortalized on my duty weapon.

 
I had fun with this stock investing challenge, and I’m glad I was able to participate. I think many people just expected all along for me to win, but in reality, there were plenty of opportunities for Doug’s portfolio to come out ahead.

I’d be happy to participate in something like this again in the future. But until then? I’m sure you already know… I’m selling everything tomorrow and putting it in the S&P 500.

 

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Hello, Utzutzu in Alameda, California

For my second omakase experience during this trip to the San Francisco Bay Area, I went to Utzutzu on Park Street in Alameda, California.

After a bit of an underwhelming experience at Delage the night prior, I was hoping that Utzutzu would be different and meet or exceed my expectations.

After doing a bit of research, I noticed some information online that implied Delage and Utzutzu may be related in some way, but that information was a handful of years old. Considering how quickly restaurants can change (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic from the past few years), I think that the two spots may have split and underwent new management—Utzutzu had a completely different feel to it than Delage, and Utzutzu resembled a true, traditional Japanese omakase experience.

The entrance to Utzutzu is inconspicuous, and I wouldn’t have been able to find it if I didn’t keep an eye out for building numbers—it is up the stairs and around the corner above a consignment shop called Mommy’s Trading Post. The restaurant is fairly small, with a little waiting area near the entrance and a seven-seat bar for diners who can watch the chef prepare their meals while they enjoy their food.

 
The first course of the night was a pair of appetizers—kinpira gobo and black goma asparagus. Kinpira gobo is a traditional Japanese dish made from braised burdock root and carrots sprinkled with sesame seeds; the asparagus dish was cooked and seasoned with black sesame paste.

Both appetizers were great—they had the perfect amount of zest to get your taste buds going, but was still subtle enough that it allowed the deep, rich flavors of the vegetables to shine through.

The second dish was nanbanzuke. This one was made with Scottish sea trout that had been sitting for eight hours inside the vinaigrette with a medley of vegetables so it can fully absorb the flavors. The trout had maintained its structure throughout the soaking process and was firm on the outside, but fell a­part in my mouth and was extremely tender when I started chewing.

Similar to the appetizers, this dish also had a nice, sharp flavor to it that gently tingled my tongue, but it wasn’t uncomfortably sour. I noticed that this was a recurring theme throughout this particular omakase experience—this chef did an amazing job properly diluting sauces so that there was no single taste (sourness, salt­i­ness, sweetness, etc.) that overwhelmed the true, underlying flavor of the ingredients.

A big part of omakase is being able to have an interactive experience with your chef and watch your next course being prepared. Utzutzu’s layout made this very easy—each diner was within about two meters of the chef throughout the whole meal, only separated by a thin, clear cough guard at face level. The chef personally hand-delivered each piece of nigiri through an opening at the bottom of the panel.

The first sequence of nigiri had nine pieces, and all of them were great. The size of each cut of fish wasn’t generous, but it was still a very satisfying a­mount. The ratio of rice to fish was excellent, and it also seemed like the chef might have been actively changing the portion size of rice, depending on the intensity of the fish, in order to properly complement the flavor.

Along with our omakase experience from the chef, we also had the convenience of having a comedy show on the side. My friend and I took up two seats, and we had two other parties as our dining companions who had booked the same reservation slot: one group of three elderly friends, and one group of a young couple celebrating their anniversary.

I personally didn’t notice this because I was too focused on capturing photos, enjoying the food, and taking notes, but my friend told me that the elderly diners were subtly making fun of me for how I seemed to be taking everything so seriously. From that, plus their very casual attire, I imagine they weren’t the most familiar with fine dining (which, to be clear, I have no problem with; I think it’s heartwarming when the elderly go out to sophisticated experiences that they might not have been able to enjoy when they were younger). I did have a brief interaction with them near the end of the meal, which I’ll cover later, and they were all very pleasant people.

The actual funny part, though, was the younger couple. The man seemed to love sushi, but the woman notified the chef that she doesn’t eat snapper and mackerel because they taste too fishy (which, to be clear, snapper does not have a strong fishy taste, and in fact, it is often recommended for sushi be­gin­ners due to its milder flavor).

The solution here would have been to not go to omakase, considering that this completely defeats the purpose of omakase (which, translated from Ja­panese, means “I’ll leave it up to you”), but of course, the chef wanted to be respectful of her wishes and tried to accommodate. Not only did we have red snap­per, but we also had two types of mackerel—regular mackerel (Scombridae) and horse mackerel (Carangidae)—so he ended up substituting them with more basic options, like tuna and salmon roe. More on this later.

The final piece of nigiri in this half of the meal was this mysterious orange fish. Based on its taste, I am 99% sure it is salmon, but my friend insists the chef had called it some complicated name that she had never heard of before.

The following course was sumiso-ae with octopus and cucumber. Again, this had the same theme as the previous dishes prior to the chain of nigiri—the sauce was tangy and noticeable, but was still smooth and complementary enough to the rest of the ingredients that it felt like I was eating well-seasoned raw octopus (as opposed to just a sour salad).

Next was chawanmushi, or Japanese steamed egg custard. The inside contained mushrooms and a gingko nut, and the outside was topped with a piece of sea urchin. Contrary to what you’d expect from custard, this Japanese steamed variant was not sweet at all. Instead, this entire dish was a constant flow of different kinds of umami coming from all four main ingredients.

The quality of the uni was also fantastic—it had a strong and prominent uni flavor that wasn’t diluted or faded, and it had the amazing, soft, buttery tex­ture that you expect when rolling it around on your tongue and then pressing it up against the roof of your mouth.

After the brief intermission, we returned to nigiri for a second round. This next batch was a bit more untraditional; the nigiri from the first half covered different kinds fish that you’d probably expect from a sushi restaurant, while the second half allowed the chef to mix in a few more creative pieces.

One of the pieces I particularly liked was the scallop. Usually, I’ve seen scallop sushi served as nigiri in a more circular shape (considering that is the o­rig­i­nal shape of the scallop), or diced and placed on top of rice inside a circular gunkan maki roll wrapped by seaweed. Instead, this chef cut the scallop in half hor­i­zon­tally about 80% of the way through, allowing it to open up and rest on top of the pillow of sushi rice like a little tent.

He seared the top of the scallop with a flame, giving it an ever-so-tiny tinge of charred bitterness. However, it was so subtle that it didn’t actually fully register in my mouth as bitterness, and simply enhanced the cooked taste of the scallop with a new flavor dimension.

This second round of nigiri was the chef’s opportunity to have us try some non-fish options as well. As you can see from above, one of the pieces was o­kra with bonito flakes. He also served us some wagyu beef.

He crafted the pieces of wagyu in front of us directly out of a cut of steak, and we were able to see the stunning marbling, iconic of high-grade wagyu. Af­ter preparing a piece for each person, he lined them up and seared the outside with the same flame he had just used for the scallops a few moments pri­or. This added a perfect sear to the outside and rendered just enough fat that it brought the beef to the melt-in-your-mouth status you expect from wagyu.

Garnished lightly with some subtle sauce and topped with a few circular cuts of scallion, the wagyu nigiri was a pleasant flavorful change-up from the fish and seafood that made up a majority of the line-up.

People say that one of the best ways to determine the skill of a sushi chef is to try their tamago, or Japanese rolled omelet. I believe the rationale behind this is that cooking a basic egg dish like this tests whether the chef has strong fundamentals and a solid foundation upon which they can base the rest of their cooking (as opposed to having to rely solely on gimmicks). I’ve heard similar things said by Western chefs with regards to scrambled eggs.

Without exaggeration, this was the best tamago I have ever had. It ascended to a level where I’m not really even sure how to describe it. It tasted like amazing tamago, but with some extra magic sprinkled in on top of that.

After the chef finished serving us six pieces as part of the second round of nigiri, he asked us whether we had any special requests. By the way that it was communicated to us, I was under the im­pression that this special request would be the final item of the second chain of nigiri. My friend and I both like sea urchin, so we requested for the chef to craft something for us made from sea urchin.

The chef made each of us a special piece of uni gunkan maki loaded with sea urchin and carefully held together with seaweed. The tension of the sea­weed was so perfect that, upon placing the maki in my mouth and biting down, the wrap burst and created a single, big popping sensation that made it feel as if I was eating a humongous piece of roe with uni inside. The uni was somehow even better than the uni in the chawanmushi from earlier, though that is most likely because I just really like uni and that was the singular dominating flavor of the gunkan maki.

After getting the bill later, I discovered that this was not in fact the final piece of the second round of nigiri, but rather, an add-on service for US$18.00 each. That wasn’t that huge of a deal, though; that is pretty pricey for one piece of sushi, but the quantity of sea urchin in each gunkan maki was sat­is­fy­ing, and the market price for sea urchin of that quality can climb pretty high. All things considered, it wasn’t an unreasonable price for the value we re­ceived.

But… remember the couple I mentioned earlier who had the anti-mackerel woman? Well, sometime during her meal, she changed her mind and decided that she wanted to try the mackerel nigiri. When it came up during the regular rotation, she had gotten a slice of standard akami tuna instead as a sub­stitution. Now that she had an opportunity to request something specific, she requested mackerel.

She didn’t spit it out or anything so I guess it was fine, but the hilarity here is that, if you think about it, she technically used a special re­quest for akami tuna, prob­a­bly one of the most simple, basic, and inexpensive sushi options (considering that the mackerel she just ate was the equivalent of the regular nigiri course, so the “extra” piece she got was tuna).

If my receipt said “sea urchin” or “uni,” it would be clear that the special requests are charged specific to what you order, but the receipt simply said “nigiri add-on,” which implies that it is just a flat fee for the add-on service. I almost felt bad for her for paying US$18 for a piece of tuna nigiri, but then I remembered that she came to omakase, the entire point of which is to allow the chef to tell you a story through food, and interfered with him… so in­stead, I took her clown show as a nice form of entertainment while I had my meal.

As the experience came to an end, we were served some akadashi. The waiter let us know that the soup was boiled with the heads and bones of all the fish that we had eaten to extract their flavor, as a way to try and minimize waste and get the most value out of as much of the fish as possible.

For dessert, we were served mango shiso sorbet. The friend who joined me for this dinner had celebrated a birthday the week prior, so we figured it wouldn’t hurt to mark on the reservation that we were there for a birthday, just in case they would do something special for her. We didn’t get any free cake or an occasion discount anything, but they did stick a candle in her sorbet and gave her a little sign that read “Happy Birthday.”

Our reservation companions—namely, one of the elderly men from the group of three—noticed the candle and began singing the Happy Birthday song to her, with everyone else joining in shortly afterwards. She blew out the candle and it made for a nice conclusion to the dinner.

Here is a breakdown of what we paid:

Omakase ×2  $ 290.00
Special request nigiri add-on ×2  $  36.00
Tax (10.75%)  $  35.06
Gratuity  $  50.00
Total  $ 411.06

This obviously is not a small amount of money, especially considering the extra add-on service, and it was more expensive than the omakase at Delage, but I still think this was very worth it, and I’m very glad that I went.

Sometimes, great chefs will begin raising their omakase prices higher and higher, and after a few hundred dollars per person, the price sort of becomes arbitrary. In other words, you aren’t going to notice that huge of a quality difference between a $300-per-person meal and a $400-per-person meal, and at that point, the pricing is generally determined more by how much the restaurant can get away with charging while still keeping their reservation slots full.

With that being said, Utzutzu is not like that, and the pricing here is still within reach and reason for a lot of people. I highly recommend it if you are look­ing for a special experience to celebrate a special event or occasion. I also think it’s a great place to check out if you’re just in the area and are com­fort­a­ble splurging on a nice, high-end meal.

 

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Hello, Delage in Oakland, California

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a nice, high-end restaurant, so I was looking forward to visiting Delage in downtown Oakland, California, a Japanese res­tau­rant with an omakase offering (more commonly referred to in the United States as a “tasting menu” or “chef’s choice”). Tragically, my camera bat­ter­y ran out after the first shot, so I took all the photographs with my phone instead, which is why the quality isn’t quite up to my regular standard.

Upon arrival, we were led in through an unsuspecting door that did not at all look like a restaurant; we were only able to identify it by the building num­ber of the address, as well as from the four other people who had arrived ahead of us and were also in attendance for the omakase. The interior of the restaurant was fairly small; there was enough seating at the bar area for six diners, as well as a table in the corner that could accommodate four ad­di­tion­al people.

As the amouse-bouche (sometimes referred to as “the free hors d’œuvre”), we were given crystal bread and smoked salmon with wasabi cream, edible flowers, microgreens, and a bamboo charcoal tuile, served atop four large pebbles.

The smoked salmon had the distinct, iconic, recognizable flavor that you’d expect of smoked salmon. I thought the wasabi cream would add a nice zest, but there was no spice to it at all, and overall, the flavor profile felt a bit dull—not much different than just getting regular cured salmon, but with the added crispy texture of the crystal bread.

The first course was a sake tataki salad with seared wild king salmon, black garlic caviar, red onion pearls, and organic mixed greens, tossed in shiro goma dressing and topped with a take-sumi cracker. The salad was adorned with pickled red onion, microgreens, edible flowers, and more organic mixed greens.

This salad was pretty disappointing.

The king salmon slices were very thin, the condition of the fish looked almost scrap-like, and the mass of the fish was about the same as what you’d ex­pect from one single slice of salmon sashimi from a regular sushi restaurant. The salmon appeared to have been cut from the flesh and not the belly, so it lacked the deep, rich, fatty flavor that you expect from high-quality salmon.

The caviar was even more under­whelm­ing, as its flavor was nearly unrecognizable through the tang of the dressing. The mixed greens weren’t actually that bad with the dressing, and it served as a pretty good appetizer, but the portion size was so small that, by the time I realized I was enjoying the veg­gies, I had already finished them.

The second course was a two-piece set of sushi wrapped in bamboo leaf.

The one on the right was avocado and edible flower, which I am surprised they even considered to be worthy of being included in a pair of sushi se­lec­tions. The one on the left was unagi (freshwater eel), but it was deskinned and did not have the iconic eel sauce, so it did not actually taste much like eel.

It seemed like the bamboo-wrapped triangles were lightly steamed, but I’m not sure if that had much of an effect; I believe the bamboo was mostly there for presentation.

The third course was when the real sushi began—it was a chef’s selection of four pieces of nigiri sushi.

The first piece was tuna, which was fairly straightforward and tasted as expected. The second piece was white snapper, which had far too much soy sauce in the rice that overwhelmed the flavor of the fish. The third piece was barracuda, which I had never had before; it had a very distinct and strong fishy taste, which I actually liked. The fourth piece was bonito, which was also fairly as expected, but also had too much soy sauce.

I’m not a chef and don’t know much about flavor storytelling, so I might be mistaken here, but I think this set of nigiri might have flowed a bit better if the bonito was the second piece (which would bump the snapper and barracuda to third and fourth, respectively).

As a palate cleanser, we received a fermented beverage (I don’t remember what kind, and couldn’t tell from the taste), topped with foam and edible gold. I didn’t have a particularly strong opinion about this; it definitely wasn’t something I’m used to drinking, but it wasn’t bad. The gold flakes didn’t seem to accomplish much more than just sticking to my upper lip.

For the fourth course, we transitioned into a fried dish—wild Alaskan black cod katsu, topped with microgreen onions and chili strings, bathing in a miso white sauce with accents of shiso oil, chili oil, and katsu sauce.

This was a nice dish, and I understood why they decided to slot in a palette cleanser right before the katsu. It was slightly too fried for my personal pref­er­ence, but it was still within a reasonable range of crispiness on the outside. The cod on the inside was soft and juicy, and the sauce supplemented the flavor of the fish well.

I couldn’t really taste the oils and katsu sauce anointed in the miso, but at least they were nice to look at and added some extra col­or.

Next up was my favorite dish of the night. We got a mini chirashi combination, one that focused on roe and sea grapes, and another that had salmon roe and sea urchin.

The bowl with the smaller roe and sea grapes had a very satisfying texture to them, and it was very fun to bite down and have many small orbs pop in your mouth. The bowl with the sea urchin and its deep, umami flavor was well-complemented by the stronger flavor of the salmon roe.

For the sixth course, we had another plate of four pieces of nigiri—this time it was toro (tuna belly), red snapper, sea bream, and sea bass.

I think this might have been my first time trying sea bream… or, if it wasn’t, it probably wasn’t very memorable, because it did not have a very distinct flavor. Unfortunately, what made it even worse was that the sea bream (as well as just all the nigiri pieces served in general) had too much soy sauce, so it “salted out” a lot of the flavor of the fish.

The seventh course was hiyokomame miso espuma soup, made from chickpea miso and mushrooms, sprinkled with shichimi pepper and topped with rice cracker bits and microgreens.

For heart health reasons, I’ve been avoiding thick and creamy foods lately that are high in saturated fat, so this soup tasted extra thick and creamy to me, simply because I wasn’t used to the texture anymore. However, I still thought it was great—it had a deep, rich flavor, and the rice cracker bits added a re­freshing crunch and pop to each spoonful of soup.

For dessert, as the eighth course, we were served amazake pudding. Amazake is a non-alcoholic fermented Japanese rice drink, rich in enzymes and pro­bi­ot­ics. The pudding was made with dairy-free cream, had assorted fruit glazed with kuromitsu, and was adorned with a pomegranate tuile.

The lack of attention to detail on the tuile was a bit disappointing to me, considering that this was supposed to be a high-end Japanese restaurant. As you can tell from the photograph, there were “stringy” parts of the tuile that were not removed to form a clean butterfly shape. That obviously doesn’t make a difference in taste or functionality, but isn’t the best sign for omakase.

Otherwise, the pudding itself was good. It wasn’t anything crazy or innovative, but the flavor was clean, the fruit was fresh, and the tuile added a nice crunch to the texture.

One different thing about this restaurant is that diners were required to pre-pay for the omakase prior to being served. This was done by scanning a QR code and processing a credit card payment on their website. I imagine this policy was implemented after they had issues with non-payment post-meal.

It’s difficult to determine how much gratuity to give for the service prior to being served at all, but I didn’t bring any cash to be able to tip the servers af­ter the meal was over. Additionally, I didn’t want an absence of gratuity on the pre-payment to negatively affect our quality of food or service. Thus, I just selected the minimum percentage gratuity amount on the payment interface, without having to manually edit and type in a custom amount.

Here is a breakdown of what my friend and I paid:

Omakase ×2  $ 250.00
Taxes and fees (10.68%)  $  26.71
Gratuity (15%)  $  37.50
Street parking  $   1.00
Total  $ 315.21

Bookings were available to begin at 5:30 PM and 8:00 PM and lasted two hours each. We selected the 5:30 PM time slot because neither of us particularly enjoy being out too late. Street parking in Oakland is $2 per hour but free after 6:00 PM, so we only ended up having to pay for half an hour’s worth.

Overall, I thought that this omakase experience was pretty underwhelming. At this price point, you generally expect to have an in­credible time. It def­i­nite­ly wasn’t bad, and I would have been pretty happy if I had paid about half of what I did, but at US$125.00 per person before taxes, fees, and gra­tu­ity, I think it’s a bit too pricey relative to the value you get.

Another big element of the omakase experience is that you are able to see your food being prepared by the chef and get an opportunity to have an in­ter­ac­tive experience. That was only loosely present at this restaurant; the chef was assembling the nigiri at the bar area in front of me, but she gave off the im­pression of being more of a regular cook, as opposed to a prestigious chef.

I have another omakase reservation coming up shortly, and I’m hoping that it’s better than this one. If money is not a problem for you, then you may con­sid­er going to this one anyway, but if you’d like to maximize value per dollar, I’m guessing that there are likely some other options in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area that will offer a better experience.

 

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Investment allocation breakdown for 2022 Q4

Disclaimer: I am not a registered investment advisor, and even if I was, I wouldn’t be your investment advisor. The information found in this blog post is in­tend­ed to be strictly anecdotal and should not be construed as financial advice. Everyone’s situation is uniquely different and requires personalized at­ten­tion, so if you are seeking guidance, be sure to consult a licensed and certified professional.

 
With the final few days of 2022 falling on a weekend and the last trading day of the year having already closed yesterday, I decided to do my quarterly in­vest­ment allocation breakdown a day earlier than I usually do, as my final blog post of 2022.

As prerequisite reading, I highly recommend my investment allocation break­downs for the second and third quarters of 2022 in order to get appropriate con­text for this post.

Cash

It might seem like I can’t decide what I want to do with my cash, considering that I was hoarding it during the market instability, then dumped all of it into the stock market last quarter, before now hoarding cash once again.

There are two reasons why I kept more of my money in cash this quarter:

  1. A new calendar year is approaching, which means contribution limits reset for tax-advantaged accounts like retirement, ed­u­ca­tion, and health savings, so I am preparing a lump of cash for January 1 for that purpose.
  2. Interest rates have been going up, and even though it’s still not enough to beat inflation, it mitigates just enough that I am will­ing to have this chunk of cash out of the stock market just in case it continues to fall. As of today, Discover Bank’s flexible high-yield savings account has an annual percentage yield of 3.30%.
  8.14%

Domestic broad market index funds

Of my holdings in domestic broad market index funds, 45.95% of it is in high-yield dividend funds and the other 54.05% is in a to­tal stock market fund.

I have a feeling that the market still isn’t done doing some unexpected things, so until then, I’ll probably be putting more in dividend funds as a hedge against the volatility, and then hopefully get lucky with the timing and move it over into growth funds before a bulk of the market recovery happens. If not, then at least I was still in the market farming dividends.

 42.87%

International total market index funds

  4.46%

Target date funds

Out of my target date funds, 51.31% is allocated towards a retirement year of 2055 and 40.42% is allocated towards a retirement year of 2060. Keep in mind that this does not mean that I actually plan on retiring on or around those years. This is merely a simplified in­dicator of the degree of risk I’m willing to take with my portfolio, i.e., by 2055-2060ish, I want 100% of this money in bonds, money mar­ket funds, or cash-equivalents to ensure I do not suddenly lose a lot of value to a volatile market.

The remaining 8.27% is targeted towards other dates of stability and are not necessarily retirement-related.

 17.15%

Real estate investment trusts (REITs)

 13.96%

Bonds

  5.55%

Cryptocurrency

Still holding…

  1.32%

Individual stocks and private companies

As a reminder, the $10,000 investing challenge with Doug Wreden (about which I will give an update at the end of this blog post) is not included in this section, as I didn’t want to risk giving out any clues that would allow people to potentially reverse engineer my net worth based on these percentages.

  3.97%

Precious metals

  1.03%

Fine art, and other collectibles

  1.55%

 
A little over 11 months ago, my friend Doug Wreden and I did a stock market investing challenge where we both put US$10k into individual companies to see whose portfolio would be ahead after one year. Doug relied heavily on his Twitch chat to make the decisions, while I made all my decisions on my own.

Here is a table showing the current state of our holdings, as well as a few benchmarks at the bottom:

Here is a graph of the total value of Doug’s and my portfolios, alongside what our portfolio value would have been had we invested the full amount in the S&P 500 or the total bond market instead:

My portfolio was built specifically to weather a stock market decline, and it is clearly serving its purpose, as I’ve had a solid lead over Doug since early April. With that being said, anything can still happen, and if there is a huge rally at the beginning of 2023 that causes tech stocks to spike in price again like it did during the pandemic, it is not impossible for Doug to just barely squeeze out a win right at the finish.

 

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I visited the University of Southern California

After spending a lot of time with my friend Doug Wreden in the Seattle Metropolitan Area this past summer, I headed out for the next leg of my road trip journey in September. Two months later (i.e., earlier this month), we were reunited in Los Angeles, California after I had arrived in town to set up my temporary base camp for the winter at the Tempo headquarters in Long Beach, and Doug flew in for a few days for an unrelated matter to attend an in-person event at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.

We met up in Hollywood to get lunch together at a ramen restaurant with two of our mutual friends, then headed over to the University of Southern California campus so we would be nearby and he wouldn’t be late for his event. Event parking was US$40.00 in the main lot, but we managed to get the best luck possible by finding a side street with free weekend street parking.

We headed into the USC campus and wandered into the California Science Center, a museum with free admission.

This was one of the strangest museums I’ve ever been to, and I probably would not have been too happy if I had to pay to get in.

After we went up the escalator, one of the first things we saw was an exhibit dedicated to COVID-19. It already wasn’t exactly the most exciting thing to see in a museum, especially considering that we had just finished surviving a pandemic and most people probably want to take their minds off of it and want to resume normal life, but the mood and tone of the exhibit was a bit apocalyptic. It had the number of deaths prominently displayed on a digital screen, and the messaging still strongly pushed masking and social distancing. Confused, Doug and I chuckled a bit and went to the next section of the museum.

Next up was a section that was designed as if you were walking into a woman’s reproductive organs. Deep into the “uterus,” there was a video playing de­picting a woman giving birth in graphic detail with great clarity. There were a few small children eagerly watching. Further confused, Doug and I de­cided that was enough learning about reproduction for one day, and we walked through a tunnel (which I imagine represented a fallopian tube) to exit that sec­tion.

On the way to the next section, we took an intermission to watch a short film. The longer we watched, the more confused we got (as if we weren’t in­com­pre­hen­si­bly confused at this museum already). We realized that the film wasn’t actually a film, but rather, just a bunch of stock footage stitched to­geth­er with random words (like “water,” “desert,” “mountains,” “life,” etc.) overlayed on top of the footage. This is one of those “you had to be there to get it” moments, but if you have any experience editing video and you caught onto this, you probably would’ve also found it ridiculous.

If you thought it ended there, you would be sorely mistaken. The next exhibit was about avian life, and there was an interactive game I tried out where you would feed a ball into a tube and use a lever to shoot it out, and it was supposed to reflect something related to birds and how they evolved to sur­vive. I never found out what that was, though… because the ball just got stuck in the tube and I couldn’t get it out.

By this point, I had solidly awarded this the worst museum I have ever been to, and during my year-and-a-half road trip, I have been to a tremendous num­ber of museums.

It seemed like the main attraction of this museum was the area about space, and even this wasn’t that incredible.

The weirdness also didn’t end. There were a set of worn-down tires on display and a sign that said “Touch the tires!” but it was safely behind a barricade. The most prominent display of this entire area, directly in the middle of the space, was a movie and explanation of how astronauts defecated in space, as well as a physical model where you could climb up some steps and see what it would feel like to use a space toilet.

In a neighboring building, the Endeavour was on display. It was interesting to me that, as a space shuttle adorned with United States flags that was part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an agency associated with United States federal government, they decided to spell Endeavor with a “u.” My best guess is that it was named in honor of or named after something British, but I never found out for sure.

After we decided we had enough of this museum, we decided to go for a walk around the campus some more, first taking a stroll through some rose gar­dens that were not in bloom because it is December, and then walking through a field with a ton of chipmunks. It seemed like the university students treated them well and fed them a lot, because when I stooped down and extended my fingers, the chipmunks walked right up to me, presumably because they thought I had food.

Here is a fountain. (I like fountains and waterfalls.)

Something I found intriguing about the USC campus was how there were random single palm trees planted in random places, at an average density of one palm tree per few blocks. Usually, you’ll see a row of palm trees lined up along pathways or organized in a cluster in open areas, but USC seems to have decided to put single palm trees right in the middle of other trees and buildings.

With my adoration of dogs, I of course had to take a picture with George Tirebiter. This is a bronze statue of the dog located at the intersection of Bloom Walk and Trousdale Parkway, just off West Exposition Boulevard, in between the Marshall School of Business and Zumberge Hall of Science. It was erected in 2006 by Michael Davis and is titled “Mascot/Fan.”

By coincidence, I had great synergy with the dog because I was wearing a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 hoodie.

Oh, and here is Doug who, after I passed my phone to him and asked him to take a photo of me with George, instead used the wrong-facing camera and ended up taking a selfie of himself (though, knowing Doug, I am guessing it wasn’t entirely a mistake).

After our adventure, we walked towards the Galen Center together so I could bid Doug farewell and head back to my truck. Of course, with my fantastic luck, the route we took led us onto West 34th Street, and we did not realize that its intersection with Figueroa Street right in front of the Galen Center was blocked with a closed vehicular gate and a locked pedestrian gate. … We solved this problem by just climbing over the fence.

I wasn’t really a fan of my undergraduate university years, and I feel like my exposure to the University of Southern California was probably the worst it could’ve possibly been considering the circumstances, but I still enjoyed spending time with Doug and exploring the campus, and it still brought back a bit of the nostalgia of being a younger college student.

 

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The final stretch

After wrapping up my trek through Utah, I cut through the northwestern corner of Arizona on my way to Southern California for the winter.

This stretch of I-15 from Mesquite, Nevada to St. George, Utah, known as the Virgin River Gorge, was the first time I had ever driven through a moun­tainous area back in June 2021 when I first started my long road trip journey. The views were stunning, the road was hugged by cliffs on both sides, and it literally felt like the intro to the wild movie my life was about to be for the next year and a half.

Because of the route I took, I returned to Las Vegas last winter from the southeast via U.S. Route 93. However, this year, because I came back from Utah, I got to drive the Virgin River Gorge in the opposite direction, as if concluding my “movie” and wrapping it up full circle.

Because of the time zone difference be­tween Utah’s Mountain Standard Time and Nevada’s Pacific Standard Time, I had an additional hour to spare in between check-out time in St. George and check-in time at Lake Las Vegas. I decided to use this time to make a stop at the Virgin River Canyon Camp­ground to go for a quick walk and take in the views.

I parked in an open spot on the western camping area and headed southwest down Sullivan’s Canyon Trail.

I went down to the base of the hill before deciding to cut my walk short after realizing that the Sullivan’s Canyon Trail intersects the Virgin River. I was wearing long pants and regular boots, and I didn’t want to get wet, so I snapped a photo of the river and turned around.

Before continuing the rest of the way to Nevada, I snapped a photo of my truck with the mountains serving as a nice backdrop.

My hotel in the Las Vegas Valley was The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa in Henderson, Nevada. They were kind enough to upgrade me to one of the suites facing east towards the lake. The suite itself wasn’t exactly the best maintained, and it had a bit of a mildew smell, but I had gotten the room at a discounted rate to begin with, so I was just appreciative of the fact that I was given a free upgrade anyway.

After attending the final class for my Continuing Education management certification at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, checking my PO box, ex­changing some belongings in my storage unit, getting a haircut, stopping by the dentist for a routine cleaning, and taking care of all my other errands, an­other successful Las Vegas trip came to a close, and I continued southbound on Interstate 15 for Southern California.

Of course, it wouldn’t be California without a clown fiesta of traffic. I found myself in a construction zone in the middle of the desert where about two lanes’ worth of road was barricaded off due to construction. This area of the highway also had no right shoulder.

There was a collision.

Traffic was backed up for literally several miles. Emergency medical services couldn’t get through because there was bumper-to-bumper traffic and there were no shoulders on either side of the interstate. The travel lanes were so narrow that, even if the drivers were coordinated enough (which, in the U­nit­ed States, they’re not), they wouldn’t even be able to hug one side of their lane to make enough space in the middle for an ambulance.

First responders ended up having to off-road in order to bypass the traffic, which looked terrifying, because they were basically driving at almost a 45° an­gle and looked like they were about to tip over and roll into the ditch. Because the number of lanes were already reduced due to construction, eve­ry­one had to funnel into the single right-most lane in order to drive past the site of the accident. This segment alone added almost an hour to my drive.

With that, I’ve completed my third big loop of my road trip (or second, depending on how you look at it)—the first being the horizontal one taking me as far east as South Carolina, the second being the vertical one across the Mountain States and up to the Seattle Metropolitan Area, and the third being a small one through western Canada that was appended onto the second loop.

As it stands now, I have step foot in (or, in the case of a very few, just driven through) 41 of the 50 states in the United States of America. The only ones I have left now to visit are Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware.

I’m in Southern California now, at Tempo‘s hybrid office and residential facility in Long Beach. I’ll be staying here on-and-off for the next few months while I rest up and recover.

I’m looking forward to potentially doing a trip on the southern edge of Arizona and New Mexico so I can make a stop in El Paso, Texas and then cross the border to visit Mexico. I’m also thinking about making a drive up to Monterey, California to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the non-profit for which my friend Doug Wreden raised over US$100k and had me dress up in a bunny suit with him to eat a whole salmon as a stretch goal. (Of course, I would make multiple stops along the way, and also visit more than just the aquarium in Monterey.)

However, until then, I plan on relaxing and staying in one spot semi-long-term to take a break from constant travel.

 

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