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Annual Las Vegas Trip

This past weekend we had our annual fall gathering in Las Vegas.  There are always a lot of schedules to coorindate.  Bobby, Eddie and I had been trying to schedule a guys golf trip all year.  Bobby happened to be coming to California for work, so we tried to schedule around that.  Fearing that we might not be able to do golf and Vegas, we decided to combine them into one trip.  I told Grace I preferred adults only.

When we were leaving Michigan back in August, I told Jen I'd see her in a few weeks.  Olivia picked up on this and said, "wait, what?"  I said we had an "adults only meeting."  Lucas ironically has been saying he wanted to go to Las Vegas for a while (it had been almost 2 years afterall).  When Grace finally told Olivia our "meeting" was in Las Vegas, she was upset.

Even after booking our flights, I sensed a lot of disappointment from all interested parties that the kids were not coming (including Aunt Jen).  I caved and we changed all of the travel arrangements to accomodate them.

This happened to be a huge fight weekend and room rates reflected this at our usual Encore/Wynn.  We decided to try the SLS, which just opened a few weeks ago.  After the opening, however, Jen found terrible reviews online so we made a game-time call to switch back to the Encore anyway.  It was the right decision.

The team this year included Ray, who was part of our original Vegas crew back in the early 2000s.  He hadn't been with us since 2003 and it was awesome to have him join us.  Next time he'll have to bring the whole family.

On Friday, we just hung out by the pool in the afternoon.  The kids can play in the water forever.  We had dinner at Society, which is casual and in the hotel.  Grace has been raving about some ribeye she had there for years.  I don't know how it could have lived up to the hype, but she was pleased with it again.

On Saturday, Bobby, Eddie and I met at 6am to play golf at Paiute.  It was our first time playing there.  They have three courses and we played Wolf, which is the signature course.  It was very challenging and beautiful.  A member joined us, which was helpful for some local knowledge.

The rest of the gang hung out at an Encore cabana for the day and we joined them in the afternoon.  Saturday night, all nine of us piled into the rental truck to head over to our usual Mon Ami Gabi.  For the first time, we sat virtually outside with a great view of the Bellagio fountain show.  Lucas was very excited.

On Sunday, the boys golfed at our usual Bear's Best.  It was another beautiful (but hot) day.  Grace got a cabana on the Wynn side and everyone unanimously agreed the pool and the cabanas are much better over there.  There's a canal that connects two large pools, which was the perfect depth and width for the kids to play.  Sunday evening we celebrated Eddie's birthday early at Carnevino.

For the first time, everyone flew out on Monday morning, which gave us a full weekend together.  It was a little brutal to get up at 4am, but we were doing our best to get the kids to school and adults to work.  Everyone got a little more rest on our short flight home.

It was another great trip that is all too familiar from the hotel, restaurants, golf courses, dealers and pit bosses.  That said, it never gets old.  In the end, I'm glad the kids joined us because we all had a great time with them and they wore out Uncle Ray and Uncle Bobby.  They better not get too used to the cabana lifestyle.

By Jason Rhee · September 16, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

POPSUGAR SF Office Summer Party #pssummerparty

Today the San Francisco POPSUGAR office temporarily suspended world domination in content and commerce to fete the pursuit of world domination in content and commerce.  Conversations shifted from UX and algorithms to the optimal food and beverage to sustain the consumption of beverage and beverage.  There was even an impromptu pre-party in the office.

Our parties used to be like this and this.  This year we did something different and held the annual summer party at Lucky Strike down near the ball park.  Everyone seemed to have a great time and my only regret was that there wasn't an opportunity for a group photo.

It seemed odd to be heading to an after party when it was still light out.  On the way, those pesky uneven SF sidewalks tripped up even the best of us (McNealy).  I'm not one to shut these sorts of events down, but all I know is I stayed longer than Ted.

Eight years have gone by quickly and we're still having fun.  Now that summer has finally arrived in SF, this was the perfect way to celebrate it.

By Jason Rhee · September 12, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Lucas Starts Kindergarten and Back to School

Back to school actually started on Labor Day.  We attended the ribbon cutting and celebration for the new building, which was just completed over the summer.  The Early Education Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms are beautiful, as are the new multi-purpose room and music room.

Today, we all went to school together.  Although Olivia was 30 minutes late last year, this year she arrived during the pledge of allegiance.  Getting better!

Lucas seemed ready to start Kindergarten.  He already has many friends at school and has been doing drop-off with Olivia so he feels at home there.  He got right into some crafts and also building before the parents were dismissed.  We loved Mrs. Das when Olivia had her and are excited for Lucas, too.

People always bring up one drop off as the big change for us this year.  Really, we're just happy to see Lucas and Olivia in school together for the first time since a month of overlap in pre-school.  I hope their friendship continues to grow.

By Jason Rhee · September 2, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Spending the End of Summer in Lake Tahoe at Camp Crowther

Adrienne and John invited us again to their home in Tahoe Donner this past weekend.  The kids are always so excited to spend time with Sam and Paige.  Despite not having a set agenda, Camp Crowther is always full of adventure.  On Saturday morning, we went to Lake Tahoe to "hike" up Eagle Rock, which is more Lucas's speed.  It was breathtakingly beautiful up there.

We tried to have lunch at Sunnyside, but it was busy, so we went to River Ranch Lodge, which is where we ended our rafting trip last year.  The kids enjoyed spending time near the river's edge, which was markedly lower than last year.  They were trying to catch the largest crawfish I've ever seen.

After a much needed nap (for the adults), we headed down to Donner Lake for a sunset barbeque.  There was more "fishing" among the boulders, followed by dinner and smores.  The kids do not tire of these activities.

On Sunday morning, we drove around the lake to Sand Harbor on the Nevada side.  We picked what we thought was an awesome spot and the kids played in and around the water, which was a "refreshingly" cool temperature.  The adults and Lucas scouted an even better spot in the next cove and we relocated there after lunch.

Between the scenery, terrain and natural beauty, we continue to find new idyllic spots in and around Lake Tahoe.  When it was time to go, we all loaded up, except John, who chose to bike the 30 miles back home.  It took us about 9 miles to catch up with him the first time and then he passed us while we were in traffic in Kings Beach.  We passed him a second time heading up the hill on 267.  By the time we were cleaned, packed and ready to head home, John got back.  These hills are no joke and he is a machine.

We stopped for dinner as usual at Il Fornaio in Sacramento and were home at a decent hour.  Thanks to the Crowther family again for their gracious hospitality.  It was the perfect weekend to end the summer before the kids all go back to school.

By Jason Rhee · September 1, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

The 80s Called - They Want Their Unicorn Back

The 1988 BMW M5 has been on my automotive bucket list since the list existed.  In 1988, I was making $3.35 an hour, so this car was just a bit out of reach for a senior in high school.  At the time, this car was a little too adult for me anyway, and the E30 M3 was more my speed, but equally out of my universe.

I believe the first M car I ever drove was my friend Jeffrey's dad's car, which was an M6.  It had the same drivetrain as the M5, but was even more refined, with a leather dash and headliner and a beautiful Lotus White interior.  The first M5 I ever drove was sometime at the end of college.  It was on the used car lot of a BMW dealership in Flint.  My friend, Christine, and I were on our way to volunteer at a summer day camp when I spotted it and veered off the freeway to take a look.  She posed as my better half and was coached to not allow me to purchase the car, which in reality I couldn't dream of affording.

That test drive ultimately satisfied my interest for a decade or two.  The truth is, I've always been on the hunt for one of these.  Anyone familiar with my automotive history knows I prefer sometimes odd, always rare, German cars.  I've managed to check a few really great ones off the list the list.  The 1988 E28 M5 meets the criteria with only 1,340 cars produced for North America: all of them model year 1988, all of them black, and (almost) all of them with a tan leather interior.

I never really liked the tan interior and most have held up very, very poorly.  I have come to strictly prefer black interiors in all my cars and there happened to be 101 M5s built with a black extended leather interior for North America.  Only 30 of these ended up in the US, with the rest built to Canadian (i.e., metric) specification.

This unicorn is one of those thirty - "1 of 30" as they're often described.  I've been looking seriously for an occasional third car ever since the bike incident last year.  I had a strong lead on another black on black in Portland earlier this year, but the timing just wasn't right and I missed the opportunity.  The trail went very cold and I diverted my attention to late 60s - early 70s Mercedes sedans.

Last month, this car popped up on eBay.  I don't know what kind of deranged people get in a bidding war for a 26 year-old car with 173K miles, but I was one of them.  I was the high bidder with 90 seconds to go and feeling good.  In the last 10 seconds, the bids went crazy, closing at a price I wouldn't have considered.  I was crushed.

A week later, I thought, what if the sale didn'g go through (as is often the case)?  Sure enough, the car was re-listed due to "non-paying winner."  I settled in until the end of the second auction and put in a bid with about 30 seconds to go.  Everyone's cards were on the table and thankfully I won at a price much less than my reserve.  I was elated.

Or, perhaps I was over zealous and impulsive?  This is the 3rd car I've bought sight-unseen on eBay.  This was the most excited and nervous I had been to receive a car, which was shipped from Nashville, TN.  

As the car was backing off the truck, I took a photo and sent it to Jeffrey.  He responded, "A breech birth."  We've been emailing/texting almost daily during the car search.  For years, we've corresponded about cars, most of which we couldn't or shouldn't buy.  Then one of us does something like this and there is consoling.

I will admit that upon initial inspection, I had some buyers remorse.  It's hard to tell the condition of a car in photos, especially one that was photographed so beautifully.  It's easy to be fooled by good lighting and glamour shots.  The interior was also a lot rougher than I had expected.  

"What have I done?" was the thought that kept going through my head as I spent the first couple hours with it.  After a quick shake down drive up the hill and down the 280, I verified the car ran and stopped.  I was very pleased that the A/C worked, which isn't often the case with these cars.  The car was pretty dusty from its cross-country trip, so I got it washed.  It still looked ragged, especially in the unforgiving California sun.  I got it smogged, and thankfully it passed.

I did another loop up the hill, down the beautiful 280, and off on Skyline Blvd and Crystal Springs Blvd.  It felt great cruising with the sunroof and windows open (except for the one that doesn't work).  At a rated 10 MPG and with only a 16.6-gallon tank, it doesn't take long to get to empty.  I pulled into a gas station in an area I've never been.  There was a guy in front of me filling his VW Golf.  A typical gen-Yer would be forgiven for not knowing what this car was, but this young car guy came back to his car looking at the M5, shaking his head, and said, "Looks good, looks real good."  I felt a little better.

Despite the many amenities (especially for its day), there is nothing modern about this car.  The steering wheel is positioned similar to that in a school bus, there's so much play in the gear shift that I had no idea if I was choosing reverse or 3rd, and it smelled a bit much of the tacky leather conditioner that seemed to cover everything.  There was also a tinge of exhaust fumes and I already smelled like I just mowed the lawn.

I had checked the oil and getting back on the 280 I decided to get on it and see what it could do.  Winding it up to its 6,900 RPM redline, the car really came into its own.  At full boil, the 3.5L inline 6-cylinder sounds like a swarm of hornets attacking a wolverine, or a badger, or a buckeye (not an animal, i know - well...).  My M Coupe's S54 engine was perhaps the pinnacle of BMW's normally aspirated straight-6 design and was much more refined.  The S38B35 engine idles like a NASCAR, rumbling and burbling.  But, the experience of winding it out is both visceral and intoxicating.  

With no traction control, it's easy to get the tail out.  Somehow it chirps its tires while either up or downshifting to 2nd.  It also stops like a boss.  While driving it home the way it was meant to be driven, all my remorse and fears washed away.

Grace texted me, "How's car?"  I replied, "It's a project."

I've had a few days to come to grips with bringing this thing home.  This particular car is very original.  However, with its mileage, it will never really be collectable.  But, I'm not a collector.  I'm happy to be its steward, tend to its needs, and perhaps make it even better (though never younger) for the next enthusiast to enjoy.  That person will likely be equally deranged and will most likely have come of age during the 80s.

Long live the 80s!

By Jason Rhee · August 26, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Beach and Dinner in Half Moon Bay

On Sunday, August 17th, after I recovered from the Art Fair ride, Grace said we had to get the kids some soccer gear for camp that was starting on Monday.  She needed the rest of the day to work, so the kids and I went out.  Lucas recalled that I had promised him we'd go to the park, so we went there for a bit.  We also had success at the soccer store.

I suggested we go to the beach, and although it was late in the afternoon, we headed over.  Like any summer day in the Bay Area, the coast can be dodgy, and on this day, it was overcast, gray and a little chilly.  The kids do not care.  We "hiked" down to the beach and they played for a bit until dinner time.  We headed into the hotel to get cleaned up and changed and decided to have dinner there.

Afterwards, I thought we were ready to head out, but the kids remembered a hill out back they played on at Mother's Day brunch.  We went down to the back of the hotel and they rolled down that hill (with the sundown bagpipes playing) until it was close to dark.

By Jason Rhee · August 23, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Burlingame Art Fair

On Sunday, August 17th, we had brunch on the Ave.  The kids wanted to check out the rides again, so we walked over while it was still cool and uncrowded.  They tried them all.

The most aggressive ride was one that swung forward and back and then all the way around.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I tried to encourage the two of them to ride it together.  It turned out Lucas was not tall enough, so Olivia wanted to go with me.  Usually I opt out of anything that spins side to side, so I thought this wouldn't be so bad.

Aside from the fact that these weekend carnival rides are the kind on which people die, the ride was a lot more than I bargained for.  While we were inverted, Olivia asked calmly if we could get off.  I was thinking the exact same thing, but couldn't talk because I was trying not to puke.  It didn't end there as we then started swinging around and around.  Please.  Stop.

It finally did, but by that point, the damage was done.  Grace had to drive home and it took me a couple hours to recover.  Lesson learned.

By Jason Rhee · August 23, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Visit from Steve

Steve was in town last weekend and stopped by for a visit.  The kids and I took him to downtown Burlingame where the annual art fair was being held.  It was great to see him again and we hope he will visit us often when he's in the Bay Area.

By Jason Rhee · August 23, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Reliving Childhood at Doherty Elementary with the Kids

We made a couple trips to Doherty with the kids during our visit home.  Once with my mom and aunt and another time with Grace.  Just about every story I could remember was told, many involving "Uncle so-and-so."

Most of the playground toys are new, but I know exactly where the old jungle gym stood, off of which Chris fell.  I also know just where that pipe was buried beneath the old sand box.  Then there was that time I fell off the wall after AM Kindergarten just outside Jen(ny)'s classroom and she came to the rescue.  And, they have no idea how much time I spent in that creek and crawling through that pipe.

After almost 40 years, it doesn't seem that different.  One of the main things I noticed on this trip was how over-grown all of the trees and foliage seem now compared to when they were new and young.  Even so, going back there I don't feel that far removed from it all.

By Jason Rhee · August 18, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Sae Jong Camp Visitors Day - 2014

This was our third year of visiting Sae Jong Camp on visitors day.  Andrew was back for his second year of camp.  My aunt accompanied him from NJ and we all enjoyed her visit during the week.

We saw many old friends, many old campers and many new faces, too.  Thanks to Doug for his lifelong dedication to camp and to Ben for making the commitment as Program Director.  The staff and campers are lucky to have your leadership.

Olivia is 60% on going to camp next year.  I'm 105%.  See you then!

By Jason Rhee · August 16, 2014 · 0 Comments ·