Never write about the room.

I took a few days off after returning from my trip to Japan to allow myself to re-adjust to my local time zone and to allow the revelation of an actual spirit room to settle deeper in my mind. Perhaps I got carried away when I posted the details of that trip in my blog despite a warning from my Japanese host not to do so. I couldn’t help but laugh. I’m thousands of miles away from Japan now. What’s the worst that can happen?

I stood in front of the bathroom sink and applied the shaving cream in preparation for shaving. As I lifted my razor to begin removing my five o’clock shadow, I was startled to see a crack suddenly appear on the mirror. Then a second crack appeared below it and connected to the first. Then a third, and a fourth, a whole series of cracks appearing across the mirror that seemed to resemble characters of some sort.

Japanese characters.

A chill ran up my spine as I backed away from the mirror. I dashed to my bedroom to retrieve my phone so I could take a picture of the strange characters and send them to No, my Japanese host who had issued me the grim warning to keep the details of the spirit room a secret. I snapped a shot of the mirror and sent it to No and sat on my bed as I awaited his response.

A few minutes later, my phone beeped. A message from No.

You wrote about the room, didn’t you.

A feeling of guilt washed over me. After recollecting my composure, I was just about to compose a response when suddenly there was an explosion of shattering glass in the bathroom. The sudden noise made me jump to my feet and there I stood, not sure of what just happened. I slowly approached the bathroom and to my horror saw mirror fragments all over the floor. The mirror on the wall was obliterated.

Then my feelings of fear turned into feelings of horror.

That feeling I was no longer alone.

I sensed there was something, someone, hiding somewhere in the bathroom, maybe in the closet, maybe standing right behind me…

I spun around but there was nothing to see but the hallway leading to my bedroom.

Huh.

That feeling I was no longer alone seemed to dissipate and I began to feel better. When I turned to the bathroom to work on picking up the mirror fragments off the floor…

A screaming figure clad in a samurai warrior costume suddenly appeared in front of me, brandishing his sword while poised to strike.

“You want shave?” the warrior bellowed. “I give you REAL close shave!”

With a slice of his sword, my head fell freely to the floor and I could remember no more.

Now I’m in some dark realm, where my fellow spirits roam, listening for the incantation for them to appear from behind the wall of a spirit room somewhere.

Maybe someone will call for me to appear.

But first someone has to notice I’m gone.

Oh well.

At least this place has Internet access.

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Visiting a Japanese spirit room.

I sat at a table at the famed Myōjōien Coffee shop in downtown Hatawaka, awaiting the arrival of my host. Tonight was to be the night I would visit a Japanese spirit room, a subject of much fascination and speculation in the Western world. Many Japanese citizens deny its existence, yet there exists evidence that suggests that it does exist and in numbers far greater than anyone cares to admit.

9pm came, and in walked No, the pseudonym of my Japanese host who agreed to take me to a house with a hidden spirit room. He looked around the coffee shop and silently recognized me by my wearing a sneaker on my left foot and a dress shoe on my right. He nodded at me and then, to avoid arousing suspicion, walked up to the counter and ordered himself a coffee to go. After he left, I waited 30 seconds before I got up and went outside to meet him in his car parked just outside the coffee shop. After the initial greetings, No covered my head with a paper bag so I couldn’t see where we were going. I agreed not to remove the bag until he said I could take it off. And then we were on our way.

After what felt like 20 minutes of feeling the car moving, we arrived at our destination. No parked the car and then helped me out before we walked up the driveway. After helping me up the few steps to the front door, he rang the doorbell before I heard the front door open. After a few whispered words, I was guided inside the house, down a hallway and into a small room. At last I could take the paper bag off.

The room appeared to be a traditional Japanese tatami room with a lone chair facing a plain wall. There were small candles in each of the four corners of the room that provided just enough light. Akiba, the house’s owner, closed the door to the room before sitting down in the chair before closing her eyes as if in meditation. No and I stood behind her to watch what was about to happen.

Akiba silently muttered what sounded like an incantation in Japanese whose symphony of consonants sounded pleasing to the ear. I turned to No for a translation but he stood silently.

Suddenly, a breeze from nowhere blew out two of the candles to render the room a little darker. The only two candles still lit were at opposite sides of the wall Akiba was facing. Oddly enough, she didn’t seem concerned or even startled.

No tapped my shoulder and pointed at the wall. Something was happening. A small bulge began to form before it grew larger, taking on the shape of a head that was pressing from behind the wall. I could see details begin to emerge, such as eyes, a nose and a mouth. Again, Akiba was silent as if to expect all this.

Then the face began to speak and Akiba responded, her voice heavy with emotion. I was startled but soon realized that I had just seen for myself the existence of a Japanese spirit room. I calmed down and watched the exchange continue for a half hour before the face disappeared back into the wall. I would later learn that the face was that of Kon, Akiba’s late husband who still visits her from time to time.

After leaving the house with the paper bag back on my head, I could hear No explain that spirit rooms are indeed commonplace in Japan, not only in homes but also in office buildings where spirits are consulted for help with business decisions. Art studios also use spirit rooms to inspire artists with their work, a chance for spirits of departed artists to seal their legacy by passing along ideas of art they never had a chance to begin.

By the time No was finished with his narrative, we were back at the coffee shop. He removed the paper bag from my head before leaving me with one last piece of advice.

“Don’t write about what you saw in your blog,” No said firmly but with a smile, “Not unless you want to see what happens to those who betray a secret that’s been around for centuries. Trust me, you don’t want to know.”

Retrieving data from a dead computer.

After years of faithful service, my computer decided to go kaput and completely ignore my request to wake up at the press of the power button. So it was time to replace it with a new machine more willing to comply with my demands to wake up and be ready to serve my needs whenever I so desire.

I do have an external hard drive I use to back up my data, but when I transferred this data to my new computer, I realized something was missing. No wonder, I never backed up my vast music library, which to me is the most important thing of all. All 110 gigabytes of music were still on the old hard drive, but would I be able to recover it?

I thought perhaps if I connected the old hard drive as a secondary drive on my new computer, I might be able to see and possibly recover my old data, but I didn’t have much luck with it. The cables available were too short and didn’t appear to have the capability of supporting a second drive along the same cable. I was running out of options fast.

As a last resort, I went to Amazon to look for a way to connect my old hard drive through a USB connection, and after a few minutes of browsing and pondering, decided to order a SATA/IDE to USB 2.0 adapter. But would it work as advertised? I awaited its delivery so I could find out. Then it arrived.

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The adapter includes connections for both the newer SATA and older IDE hard drive models. One cable connects the adapter to a USB port while the other plugs in your power outlet. Here’s the setup with my old hard drive. Not the prettiest setup, but at least things began to look up.

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After switching on the power to the adapter, there was a short delay as the old hard drive spun back to life before appearing in Windows Explorer. Sure enough, all my data was still there, including the music library I was afraid I’d lost. I don’t think there was ever a problem with the old hard drive in the first place. I was able to easily copy my music files over to the new computer, and yes, back them up to my external hard drive this time around.

It turns out this adapter was exactly what I was looking for and it worked wonders for me. I highly recommend it.

Wary residents prepare for closest perigee in 150 years.

PURGEYVILLE  – Longtime Purgeyville resident John Somers can only shake his head. “I’ve been living here for well over 65 years and have never heard of anything like this happening.” He pauses for a sigh and then adds, “And I hope to never hear of it again.”

Wary residents in this small town of 2,000 are preparing themselves for a visit from the Moon tonight when it reaches its closest perigee to Earth in 150 years. Despite a surge of tourists in town to witness the event, many residents are on edge and are pondering staying elsewhere during what could be an uncomfortably close perigee.

Astronomer Sage Rosemary offers a summary of tonight’s main event. “Tonight the Moon will come so close to the Earth that it will actually enter our atmosphere and miss hitting the ground by only a few feet before it swings back into space to resume normal orbit. We have not had a perigee like this since 1868 when it was witnessed by Cole McDonald, who was out standing in his field when he got bonked on the head by the Moon. He survived, although he was much, much shorter.”

Residents of Purgeyville are planning to observe tonight’s perigee with festivities featuring live music and fireworks along with a re-enactment of the McDonald head bonking.

 

Late for work.

Bedtime.

One last thing to check before I fall asleep. Time to check that alarm clock. Make sure it was set for the right time.

3:45.

Perfect.

Better check it again.

3:45.

Good.

One more time.

3:45.

Cool.

I confirmed that my alarm light was on, meaning my alarm clock will in fact go off at 3:45 tomorrow morning so I can have enough time to get ready for work and actually clock in on time.

I’m all set.

Satisfied, I turned off the light, slid between the sheets and dozed off to sleep.

Then from the darkness, from out of nowhere, came a pair of green, demonic hands, reaching for my alarm clock. One finger pressed down on the alarm button while the other finger pressed the button to change the time my alarm was set to go off. Swiftly and silently the hands worked, without my knowledge or awareness of their presence right next to my bed. Then they stopped before returning to the dark corner of my bedroom.

When my alarm finally went off, I was startled to see that the time on the clock read 9:45. In a panic I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes and ran out the door to commence my crazed commute in hopes that my boss wasn’t waiting for me.

Well, it turned out he was.

And he didn’t buy my story about the demonic hands.

 

Life at a boot camp in Dreamland.

This week I begin one of the most difficult weeks of my life in a boot camp to try getting my life back on track after a series of unfortunate detours.

Yesterday was check-in day into what will be my home for the next 7 days. I was told I would only be allowed to spend $10 for my morning meal and another $10 for dinner. That’s when I got a hunch that I was about to lose some weight.

I also had to produce a small pocket knife as part of my personal inventory from home. I brought two of them as I could not decide on which one to bring. I had to engrave my name on the blade of the knife I would use. At the last second, I decided on the second knife, a small Swiss army knife but with many of its tools missing except for the blade itself. That would have to do.

Then there was drill sergeant Dejarak, whom I found extremely brutal and sadistic. He had a friendly face but it seemed just about anything would ignite his firey temper. Try as I might, avoiding him for a week turned out to be wishful thinking.

After we were checked in, we were placed in a hot, stuffy room to watch an extremely long movie with violent battles, graphic sex scenes beyond perversion, and extremely tasteless pranks (How could they get away with the one involving feeding bits of sausage-touched bacon to a pug?)

Then there was a scene in the movie where some men bought the 7-Up Company for only $5. Dejarak turned to the recruits and asked, “Does everyone understand why?”

“Because the ingredients were cheap?” I offered.

“SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH!” Dejarak screamed. Maybe this man never had a good side.

This morning, however, things began to go awry. I don’t know how it happened, but I got separated from my squad. This boot camp had literally hundreds and hundreds of squads, and I became lost and confused as I desperately tried to find my way back. It seemed that the more I tried, the more lost I became. Dejarak will not be pleased.

It’s going to be a long week.