Goodbye SoCal

My two weeks in Southern California are coming to an end—tonight will be my final night here, and tomorrow I’ll be headed to Lake Las Vegas.

When I first arrived here, I stayed in a spare bedroom at the company headquarters in Long Beach, but once we had two game designers fly in for work, I relocated to off-site lodging so our two staff members could stay at the house.

I originally relocated to TownPlace Suites Anaheim Maingate Near Angel Stadium, but that was an absolute disaster. The room I got felt old and un­main­tained, it smelled horrible, housekeeping did an awful job, and the fitness center was closed. I’ve become a Marriott fanboy at this point (and am also a shareholder), and I’ve come to expect a very high standard of quality from Marriott; this Towneplace was nowhere near that standard. Luckily, e­ven though the property was terrible, the staff was great and understanding, and the front desk manager let me shorten my stay to one night without incurring a penalty (e­ven though it was pre-booked at a discounted rate for one week with no cancelations permitted).

I was able to rebook myself to a newly-constructed hotel nearby, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Anaheim Los Alamitos. While checking in, the front desk rep­re­sentative asked me what brought me to Los Alamitos; I told him a brief version of my story of being a nomad for the next half year, and he was amused and impressed. He voluntarily upgraded me to a larger suite so I would have more space to set up my workstation. The quality of the room was an astronomical difference from Towneplace. This Fairfield had everything I needed and nothing I didn’t need (i.e., it had all the essentials that I wanted with­out having any needlessly fancy things that end up being an inconvenience).

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Anaheim Los Alamitos

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Anaheim Los Alamitos

My past week has, in its majority, consisted of working and spending time with Tempo staff members while I still have a chance to do so prior to setting off on my journey. When I wasn’t using my desktop computer setup in my hotel room to get work done as efficiently as possible, I tried to spend a lot of time at the team house. One of the days, one of our managers invited me on a walk through Naples Island, which was good for sightseeing.

Naples Island in Long Beach, CA

While on our walk, I noticed a black crab on the ground. I pointed at it and asked for confirmation that it was indeed a crab.

My employee confirmed, then swooped down to try and pick it up. After trying for literally a minute and a half, he finally managed to grasp it, then told me he was going to transfer it to my palm. I immediately declared that this was an absolutely terrible idea, and that I was probably going to drop the crab. He handed it off to me anyway, so, in concern for the crab’s life, I moved my hand over the grass so that, if the crab were to fall, it would at least land on the grass.

Unsurprisingly, the crab sprinted off my palm and flew straight off my hand. … It missed the grass and landed on the concrete sidewalk.

It died.

Okay, it didn’t actually die. It walked away just fine. But for a fraction of a second, as the crab was plummeting towards the earth, I thought that I had ac­tu­ally committed reckless crabslaughter.

Naples Island in Long Beach, CA

Naples Island in Long Beach, CA

Holding up an anime shirt at tsun scoopsAnother one of our adventures was going to an ice cream shop called tsun scoops. The thing is, this wasn’t just any ice cream shop… it was an anime-themed ice cream shop.

Being a fan of anime and Japanese culture is quite commonplace within the esports industry, so I’m used to being exposed to this subculture often, but I never realized that it would actually manifest into an entire ice cream shop.

The exterior of the restaurant seemed fairly unsuspecting, but once you step inside, you are immersed in an anime world. The flavors are named after references to popular anime series (such as “I-it’s not like I like you or anything, Baklava”; “Notice Me Apple Sen-Pie”; and “The Meloncholy of Honeyhi Dewzumiya”), there is anime art throughout the whole shop, and there is even a little section with anime merch.

They split up the ice cream flavors into “tsun,” which was more sorbet and fruity, and “dere,” which was more dairy and traditional ice cream. I tried a sample spoon of Ramune and yuzu; neither of them were bad, but I didn’t think I could down an actual portion of each one of them. So, in the end, I went with a trusty scoop of honeydew and a scoop of lemon with poppy seeds, topped with mochi.

And no, I did not purchase the shirt.

tsun scoops

For one of my final adventures, I accompanied our CEO reynad to Scott Robinson Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, a car dealership, to help him purchase a new Jeep.

Even though they were branded as a generic Fiat Chrysler Automobile dealership, they didn’t really have too many Ram pickup trucks. They had a spe­cial 75th Anniversary edition of the Ram 2500 Power Wagon inside the showroom, which I immediately went up to and hugged (if you’re not yet aware, the Ram off-road trucks are my favorite vehicles, and if I didn’t live in a city, I would have either a Ram Rebel or Ram Power Wagon instead of my GMC Canyon).

I also found a Ram 1500 EcoDiesel out in the lot, which I also hugged.

Hugging pickup trucks

reynad ended up following through with the vehicle purchase, so he is now the proud new owner of a Jeep Wrangler Sahara.

reynad's new Jeep Wrangler Sahara

I’m generally never this active and social, and this trip was far more draining to me than usual because I’m on the extreme end of introversion, but it was definitely also more fun than usual. I’ll have plenty of time to recharge over the next month while I’m traveling alone, and once I make it to my parents’ in the Chicagoland suburbs, I’ll find a week in August to make a routine trip back to Tempo headquarters.




Hello, Saint & Second in Long Beach, CA

Things have been a bit busy since I arrived at Long Beach a few days ago, but earlier today, we finally had an opportunity to get most of our staff together and enjoy a team dinner. Unfortunately, California is lagging noticeably behind nationwide CDC guidance on COVID-19 response, so we still had to split our group up into two smaller parties in order to comply with state and local ordinances, but it was still a good meal.

We went to Saint & Second, an American restaurant on 2nd Street in Long Beach.

Saint & Second

Saint & Second

To start, we got a dozen West Coast oysters with a side of white balsamic mignonette, cocktail sauce, and lime. My table had four people including my­self, so we each got three oysters.

West Coast oyster

For our main courses, our Producer opted for Skuna Bay salmon with basil brown butter, hazelnuts, green beans, and crème fraîche mash.

Skuna Bay salmon

Our Director of Post-Production went with natural filet mignon with fennel purée, kamut, and rainbow carrots, accompanied with some port wine sauce.

Natural filet mignon

Our Creative Director ordered oxtail gnocchi with prosciutto and brown butter, roasted mushrooms, arugula, and burrata.

Oxtail gnocchi

And finally, for my dish, I got bison short rib with carrot mash, spring onion, peas, and bison jus.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of my selection. I’m not sure if this is because I just had some of the best melt-in-your-mouth barbecue ribs in Oklahoma not even a month ago and now everything else tastes lacking, but the bison ribs seemed fairly underwhelming. The outside of the cut was overcharred, and the bit­terness of the burnt meat overwhelmed the flavor of the actual bison.

For my beverage, I had a glass of house blueberry lemonade. It was a lot more sour than I expected, but I guess that’s technically a good thing, because that means there was less sugar and more fruit. That also ended up being helpful later on, because the sourness of my drink pierced through some of the bit­terness of the burnt bison. The lemonade came with free refills, but I only managed to down two glasses because of its tartness.

I also ordered a side of truffled thin fries with blue cheese sauce and truffle oil. The fries were sauced unevenly, but apart from that, they were fair­ly straight­forward and satisfying.

Bison short rib

My co-workers at my table ordered alcohol, and there was also an entire second table, so I’m not going to do a full cost breakdown like usual, but here are the pricepoints of the aforementioned items:

West Coast oysters ×12 $  39.00
Skuna Bay salmon $  28.00
Natural filet mignon $  42.00
Oxtail gnocchi $  23.00
Bison short rib $  33.00
Truffled thin fries $   9.00
House blueberry lemonade $   5.00

Our Director of Post-Production seemed to be of the opinion that this restaurant had high-end food, and online reviews for Saint & Second are generally positive, so I think I might have just gotten a little bit unlucky with my choice of dish (or rather, just the way it was prepared).

I selected bison because it seemed like a good balance between “interesting” and “something I’ll probably like,” but I suspect I probably would have en­joyed my meal better if I had just gotten a regular signature burger. Also potentially relevant is the fact that I didn’t get much sleep last night and had been micro-napping throughout the day, so my senses might have been a bit dull.

Overall, this isn’t a place where I would be dying to come back to for a second meal, but the experience wasn’t bad either. If you’re in Long Beach and want to check out some different restaurants, I’d say this place is definitely worth adding to your list of considerations.




Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza was the most interesting pizza experience I’ve ever had

I’m usually fairly indifferent about food—I’m someone who just eats to survive—but there is one particular aspect about food that I believe in strongly. This aspect is when someone asks you, “if you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Yes, I understand that this question is generally asked to gauge what your favorite food is. However, if you take the question literally, I think the closest you can get to an objectively correct answer is “pizza.”

Pizza is so dynamic and flexible in variety and potential ingredients that it can usually be made and personalized to fit anyone’s preference. It also is one of the very few foods where you could theoretically put anything on it, and it will provide you with all the nutritional value you need to survive. Now, if you put it that way, then yes, I guess “pizza” is a cheat answer, because by saying “pizza” you are functionally including infinite potential toppings, and thus, you’re not actually really picking only one food.

Anyway, when I get pizza, I usually go to a build-your-own pizza place and add on some basic meats and basic vegetables as to not make the pizza taste too crazy. Sometimes I experiment with adding one or two extra toppings, but apart from that, I usually keep my pizza straightforward.

That changed for the first time yesterday when we had a company event and got catering from Urban Pie Pizza.

Urban Pie, which you can find on Instagram at @UrbanPieLA, has a mobile pizza truck named Speak Cheezy, which you can find on Instagram at @Speak_Cheezy. Long story short, they literally built a pizza oven inside a Chevrolet Express van and cook pizza on site when you call them out for a catering session.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

While the oven was heating up and they were preparing the ingredients, we had a Caesar salad to start, with romaine, baby kale, parmesan, anchovy bread­crumbs, black pepper, and lemon. It was a little bitter for my personal taste, but the general consensus among our staff was that it was one of the wildest and best salads they’ve ever had.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

The first pizza was the most basic and straightforward, which they call the Margherita, with tomato, parmesan, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and sea salt. This closest resembled the kind of pizza that I usually have. (One of our employees was very hungry and managed to grab a slice before I could take a photo.)

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Next up was the Black Garlic with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, smoked ricotta, basil, black garlic-infused olive oil, and black pepper.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Our third pizza was the Brooklyn Bee with tomato, shredded mozzarella, Calabrese salami, basil, Grana, and Calabrian chili honey. This was the most interesting-tasting pizza, and the most flavorful in a non-traditional way. They left some of the toppings on the side so we could use our own discretion when it came to deciding how deep we wanted to go with the extra flavors.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Next was the Potato Pie with Yukon gold potatoes, shredded mozzarella, parmesan, Fontina, red onion, and rosemary.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

The second-to-last pizza was another topping-packed and flavorful one, called the Bon Chovy, with tomato, tomato jam, black olive spread, capers, gar­lic, Sicilian oregano, anchovy, Grana, and burrata cheese.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

And finally, my favorite one was last, the Carbonara with guanciale, shredded mozzarella, smoked ricotta, scallion, pecorino, garlic, and egg yolk.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

I thought this was an amazing experience. The three chefs had great personalities and added to the fun and excitement of the environment with their own positive attitudes. I wouldn’t say that all the pizzas were perfectly to my liking, but I’m very glad that I tried one slice of each type, and I did find a few of them exceptionally delicious. That, mixed with the novelty of them bringing a pizza oven on-site in a van, and I’d say this was one of our best com­pany events we’ve had.

If you’re also interested in ordering Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza for catering for your own event, I imagine you want to know how much it would cost; here’s how much we paid for a party of 12:

Pizza ×14 $ 276.00
Salad ×12 $  81.00
Labor $  74.00
Gratuity (22%) $  94.82
Sales tax (10.25%) $  53.90
Total $ 579.72

(Disclaimer: These are the prices that we paid, and might not necessarily reflect the prices quoted to you on a future date. Keep in mind that they reserve the right to adjust their pricing based on changing costs of ingredients, levels of demand, and any other reason at their discretion.)

For the purposes of simplifying the calculation, I consider 3 salads to be equivalent to 1 pizza. This means that we received a total of 18 “dishes” or “items.” Divide the total cost by 18 and we ended up paying $32.21 each.

That does sound like a lot for a single pizza, considering they were fairly thin and resembled the size of a personal pizza around 8-10 inches in diameter. However, this is Southern California with inflated prices, and I’ve seen gourmet pizzas at restaurants go for $25-30 each without even including taxes or dine-in gratuity. So, with that in mind, the price of Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie honestly wasn’t really that bad. We also got an experience unique from any regular restaurant, where we got to see a mobile pizza oven inside a van and enjoyed a company dinner on the patio of our own oceanside office.

So, the final verdict. Would I recommend this? … It depends:

  • If you’re an in-house corporate event organizer looking for a fun team activity for your employees and you have some street space in front of your office for the van, then absolutely yes. You’re saving money by using your own office that you’re paying a lease on anyway, so you don’t have to go pay extra to rent out a party space. Even if people are familiar with food trucks, I imagine not many have seen a literal pizza oven in one, so it’s a good way to do something new and exciting with your employees, as opposed to just going to a traditional dine-in restaurant.

  • If you’re having a special celebration and you have the money to spare, then probably yes. Similarly to the corporate event scenario, your friends and family likely haven’t seen a mobile pizza oven, and if you haven’t noticed yet, the recurring theme here is that this is about the unique and special experience as much as it is about the food.

  • If you’re on a tight budget, then no. I don’t know what the minimum order is because we had enough employees to pass it, but if they’re going to come out on-site to cook pizza for you, I imagine there definitely is a minimum order. If you’re not in a place where you’re willing to pay premium prices for food, especially considering the fact that we’re in the tail end of a global pandemic, then this is something to keep on your list for later. There’s nothing wrong with getting build-your-own large pizzas for $15 at a chain pizza store for now.

Side note: You may have noticed that the chefs are not wearing face coverings in the photographs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is be­cause we invited them to enjoy drinks with our staff while they were cooking, all three chefs were fully vaccinated, and the event took place ex­clu­sively outdoors in our patio area. If you plan on ordering Speak Cheezy while the pandemic is still ongoing, rest assured that they arrived with face coverings, and only removed them after our consent and invitation to do so.




I went on a boat

And it felt like my skull was about to cave in.

I’m not someone who is very compatible with water. I never go swimming, I intentionally moved to the middle of the Mojave Desert, and I even hate when there’s water vapor in the air (i.e., humidity). It’s probably no surprise then that, when I want to engage in some leisurely activities, I never go looking near water.

That changed today. Tempo’s main headquarters is on Naples Island in Long Beach (our address is public now because we consolidated into a single facility and it’s the official registered address of our corporation). We have our own dock that opens up into the Alamitos Bay and connects directly to the Pacific Ocean. Naturally, one of the staff activities we decided to do was to go on a boat ride.

I’ve only had one prior boat-related experience in my life, and it was when I was working with the Cary Police Department in Illinois to do a search of the Fox River to try and find the body of Wendy M. Kimura, a missing woman. Although I cannot provide further details due to confidentiality reasons, the Chicago Tribune ran a story about the search back in 2013. Here is a photograph I took on June 12, 2013 at 10:21 AM when we were preparing the search area; you can see the sonar boat doing a test run.

Back to the present day. We rented a boat, docked it next to our headquarters, loaded it up with food and supplies, climbed in, and set off into the water with our CEO reynad driving.




Usually when I get motion sickness, it hits me hard and I immediately get sick. I feel like I’m about to vomit, I start getting headaches, and I start yawn­ing uncontrollably. But, for some reason, I experienced the onset of seasickness differently. Instead of hitting me all at once, I gradually got more and more sick.

This actually caused me to believe that I wasn’t actually that sick at all. Usually, my level of sickness reaches it peak within minutes, then it plateaus. Apparently, when I get seasick, that’s no longer the case—things just continuously get worse and worse until I feel like my skull is about to collapse.

When I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore, I asked reynad to stop by the team house again to drop me off after we had completed a lap around Naples Island. I got out, immediately laid in bed, and began my very slow process of recovery.


After the guys wrapped up the boat trip, I later found out that we had gotten banned from renting a boat from that facility again.

Apparently, we were not permitted to dock the boat (I imagine due to liability reasons). The boat we rented had a maximum capacity of 8, but if you dock the boat, additional people can enter the boat without the boat rental facility’s knowledge. Boats are fairly strict about capacity limits; anything greater than 12 actually counts as a passenger ship and requires far stricter safety regulations than just an 8- or 12-person boat.

Well, guess what. We docked the boat.

How did the rental facility find out? We sent three employees to pick up the boat, and when they dropped it off, I guess they only went with two. One person was clearly missing. Our employee who returned the boat had to explain the situation. Instead of saying something along the lines of “we had an emergency and had to drop off the third person” (to be clear, that obviously wasn’t the case, but it’s definitely a believable story), he instead thought the best course of action was to say that the third person reached for a jellyfish in the water and fell overboard.

We got banned for docking the boat and lying to staff.

Anyway, here’s a picture of our Director of Post-Production filming our Influencer and Marketing Manager making an announcement video for one of his upcoming events.


Good thing they were far enough away from the water that there was no risk of falling in.




Hello again, Long Beach

McCarran International Airport

It’s been just over a month since my last visit to SoCal, so I made an extended weekend trip over to Long Beach again to visit the Tempo staff. The be­gin­ning of every month is usually straining from a work perspective because of end-of-month finance tasks I have to wrap up from the previous month, so making a visit to SoCal is a nice change in scenery for a bit while I recover from the Tetris effect, except with rows, columns, and cells instead of Tetris pieces.

Long Beach, CA

Long Beach, CA

Our group activity of the trip was a team lunch at The Crab Pot Restaurant & Bar.

The Crab Pot Restaurant & Bar

Because of the pandemic, we were only able to dine in with outdoor seating, and our party of 7 had to split into two separate groups.

The cold in Long Beach is a special kind of cold. I grew up in the Chicagoland suburbs where it just randomly blizzards throughout the winter, but I guess I never got used to the cold. It does also get cold in Las Vegas—it can drop below freezing temperatures overnight during the winter. But, the cold in Long Beach, even though it’s technically numerically 10+ degrees warmer than Las Vegas right now, feels much colder because of the ocean wind.

While we were waiting for some tables to open up, we were seated at a “bar area.” The bar was still a table, but I imagine it’s some technicality that allows them to remain operational during the pandemic if they split up their tables by classification. The “bar” table wasn’t that cold; we got a few ap­pe­tiz­ers, including some oysters.


After our actual meal table was ready, we were relocated closer to the oceanfront, where I proceeded to begin freezing to death. The restaurant had some heat lamps, so I asked for the one near our table to be turned on, and I sat myself down directly under it. I know for a fact that it helped a lot, because the person sitting to my left had a little container of liquified butter, and her butter literally started forming ice on the top because of how cold it was.


After our meal, our friend saw a different party getting some dessert, and she wanted some as well, so she ordered a mud pie for us. We found out that mud pie wasn’t cake, but rather, a massive glob of excessively sweet ice cream covered in chocolate syrup and whipped cream. We got through a decent chunk of it together, but we eventually couldn’t handle the sweetness and passed it on to the other table that had the other half of our party.

Mud pie

This was a fairly quick trip just to visit staff; I’ll be headed back to Long Beach again not too long from now for a more long-term stay. Before my flight back home, I stopped by a French bakery to get some macarons for my roommate. It had a nice, warm aura to it, so I snapped a photo.





Hello Long Beach

Throughout the history of Tempo, I’ve always been involved in the team’s real estate initiatives. Apart from a team house in Arizona that the company got for the Heroes of the Storm team prior to me getting involved in esports, every other house has been toured, contracted, and set up by me. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, due to COVID-19, that changed this year.

The lease on Tempo’s Beverly Hills house was running out, and we didn’t want to stay in that property for another year because it was very expensive, the air conditioning was catastrophically bad during summer months, and the Internet was catastrophically unreliable during … all months. I did the initial scouting on potential new properties, but one of our production directors found a great house candidate in Long Beach with amazing value.

We ended up moving forward with this property and I reached out to the leasing agent to organize a tour. It started out not going too great, because the leasing agent did not want to do business with a corporation and they didn’t even consider the possibility of entertaining the concept that we might actually be a reliable, real company, and not some shell company that was created solely to limit liability.

Eventually, they stopped responding to me altogether, so one of our production directors literally went in-person to the leasing agent’s office to figure out what was going on. Luckily, this director is probably the most charming person we have in the company, and he worked his magic—he put the leasing agent in touch with our CEO, and we managed to successfully submit an application for the property.

This is our new “backyard.”

Long Beach

It was weird being the one being given a tour, rather than the one running the tour. This was my first time seeing the house, as the residents and pro­ducers set this house up without my help.

Long Beach

I don’t want to show any photos of the interior because I don’t want to spoil any house tour videos that our production crew might have in the works, but this… this is absolutely, definitely a mansion. A lot of people called our previous Beverly Hills house a mansion, but this is a real mansion. It has far greater square footage, and my favorite part is that it is astronomically cheaper than our previous property because it’s a lot farther out of the way of Los Angeles (as opposed to being nestled in the Hills surrounded by celebrities).

Long Beach

Anyway, in addition to the show that we did yesterday, another reason I came to visit this time around is because the 27th is reynad’s birthday and the 28th is my birthday. We had a small staff get-together and grill at the house on the 29th in celebration of our birthdays, though it obviously had to be fairly small due to minimizing COVID-19 risks.

One of reynad’s friends made a Russian (or maybe it was a Ukrainian?) cake. Apparently it did not rise and shape properly, and the candle was limp. I found it in the refrigerator and took a photo of it in honor of her effort.

A "birthday cake"

Overall, it was a pretty nice trip. The house was a nice surprise that exceeded my expectations (which only happens fairly rarely). I’m happy with where Tempo is in terms of staffing, and I think the core staff members we have are all pleasant and considerate people. I’m generally not one to enjoy birthday parties or attention, but it’s always nice to have reynad’s birthday so close to mine, so I can deflect some of the attention away from myself and towards him instead.

The house is busy and bustling right now with a lot of live-in staff and a lot of projects going on, so there aren’t any rooms available and I might not be able to make it out there again until another month or so, but I definitely am looking forward to it once the opportunity arises again. The roads are far less cramped, and I don’t need to drive 15+ minutes down a mountain to find commercial civilization, so it’s way more pleasant of an area to visit.

Los Angeles International Airport

Flying out of Los Angeles

Flying into Las Vegas at night

Until then, I’m back at home sweet home.