Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Spinning Bird Kick!"

Had my mother-in-law over for Christmas Eve dinner last night, and introduced her to the wonderful world of turkey dinner with all the fixin's. Dinner was a success, the turkey was a beautiful caramel brown, the casserole looked good, the taters were fluffy. Until...

We were watching the All-Japan Figure Skating championships while eating, and the announcers were explaining some of the moves during the down time while awaiting individual's scores, and started on a move called the "Flying Sit Spin". Now, I should explain that Japanese doesn't have a 'si:' sound. It has a 'shi:' sound. I heard the announcer say the move's name, looked at the skater revolving in circles in a one-legged squat, and brayed like a jackass. My wife cracked up at the same time (see why I married her?), and we laughed till we cried.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas! And a Happy New Ear!

I finally got around to putting up my Christmas lights today. Spent a couple of hours climbing up and down the ladder, hanging lights, and finally reached the last step, hanging the flashing "Merry Christmas" light rope.

Now people had been walking by all afternoon, looking at me hanging the lights and saying things like: "Wow!" "Beautiful!" "Spectacular!" And their comments about the lights were even more effusive!

Then a group of Southeast Asian workers came by as I was hanging the last light, and were giggling and talking together. One guy wanted to be friendly, I guess - I heard him say something about the lights in Japanese, then he decided to sing an appropriate song instead:

"Happy Birthday to You!"...

Laughed so hard, I almost fell off the ladder

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


So, you've gone out and done the dirty dance with the devil. You've wheedled, bargained, stormed out, and finally settled on a price for your soul. Congratulations! You are a new car owner.

Just wait - there's another whammy coming!

After 3 years of ownership, it's time to get your safety inspection, or sha-ken. "No big deal," you think, "my car's still in good shape." It's only 3-years old, no major faults. Change out the engine and transmission oils, put in new filters while you're at it, check the brake pads and spark plugs. "What can it cost? Maybe $50 bucks?"

Ehh-hh-hh-hh! (insert raucous buzzer noise here)

Nope. Mine was an ass-biting $1500 US. No, I didn't type an extra zero, didn't make a conversion mistake. And at today's exchange of less than ¥80/$1, my 5-yr check just cost me a coronary-inducing $2000.

Back when Colorado still had a safety inspection, it cost $25/year. The emissions inspection used now runs less than a hundred. WTF?

Do the math. I managed to talk a salesman with a rapidly-approaching quota down to $22,000 for a black 1st-gen Alphard, a true beast on Japan's little roads with mini-cars zipping all about. But with sha-ken at 3-, 5-, 7-, 9- and 11-yrs, and every year thereafter, I will be spending an additional $9000 over the first 11 years. That's 41% of the purchase price, and only if there are no problems. And if I try to keep the car running for 20 years, I'll pay more than the purchase price of the car...