Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier

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A Halloween Memory

One Halloween, I was Sam Jackson, in a mélange of his roles from three movies: Snakes on a Plane, Pulp Fiction, and Star Wars. I wore a Jedi robe and a Jeri curl Afro wig. At a Halloween party, I scattered around two dozen rubber snakes early in the evening. After the refreshments started flowing, I climbed onto a chair to complain (very loudly) about all of the effing snakes. Then I recited from memory (also loudly) his speech from Pulp Fiction:

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.

Finally, I whipped out my Star Wars Jedi light-saber (the one that lights up and makes a loud humming noise), leaped into the startled crowd, and started smiting left and right. It was fun!



Summer Travels

The highlight of this summer’s vacation was cycling 300 plus miles under rain-filled skies surrounded by verdant green forests and raging brown rivers. What a treat to leave drought-ravaged southern California and see not only mud but also puddles. Flashes of lightning and the crashing thunder underscored the power of vacation to reawaken sleeping senses.

We started with a visit to the mother-in-law in Massachusetts. This afforded me the opportunity to swim in Walden Pond’s 60 degree deep waters. An hour communing with Thoreau was worth the amount of life exchanged for it. Did I mention state officials warned about high levels of potentially dangerous bacteria? I swam anyway. Can you say civil disobediance?

From there it was off to Buffalo for the wedding of a friend’s daughter. Given the distance, they were surprised we chose to attend. So was I.

The bike ride started in Buffalo, the Sunday morning after the wedding. The forecast was afternoon rain and thundershowers. The hotel had some plastic shower caps. We each had a set of regular clothes and a second set of riding gear, all packed in plastic bags. Off we rode along Lake Erie into a gray upstate New York cloudy day. The heavens let loose that afternoon.

We took shelter in what we thought was a restaurant. It was a bar filled with folks who seem to start their daily drinking well before noon. As we stood outside on the veranda, the patrons came out to console us as they rotated for cigarette breaks. Finally, we realized there was no way to stay dry for the hours we had yet to ride. Off we went navigating by gps and local redirects.

Bed and breakfasts were our general choice of lodging. There were also a few motels during our six day trip. We rode through New York’s Amish country where we passed several horse-and-buggy rigs. In Pennsylvania, we rode on the Allegheny River Bike trail, a conversion of a former railway. The sensory deprivation experience of riding through a dark dank tunnel was unparalleled. Not knowing when the tunnel would end was part of the thrill. Rolling fast down the hills helped balance the work to climb them.


We didn’t get wet everyday, but we learned no matter how wet we got, it didn’t take long to dry. Finally, we arrived in Pittsburgh where our oldest son attends college. Showing up at the high tech company where he works was interesting. His boss said, “So these are the crazy parents you were talking about.”

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Summer in Mayberry

Frank anchored himself on the garden’s gray bench as the Wilson’s Memorial Day BBQ got underway. Grandpa Will enthusiastically manned the grill and the smoker as usual. Chicken sizzled on the spit, ribs cooked in the smoker, and their delightful smoky aromas permeated the air. Frank’s mom carried trays of fresh vegetables. Mel placed red poppies and pink zinnia on a dozen picnic tables, each covered with red gingham. Folks laughed and talked. The sunlit backyard embraced the growing number of friends and family.

Frank breathed deeply, smiled, and reflected. His summer didn’t wait for the solstice in mid-June. Frank’s summer started when the jacaranda bloomed. He noticed the purple flowering trees most when riding down La Cuarta where bright blossoms blessed both sides of a two mile stretch of road. In the middle of that stretch, if he looked south towards the Pacific at the right spots, he wouldn’t see the ocean; instead he’d see more jacaranda flowers filling the sky, as trees on either side reached heavenward and met in the middle. Light purplish-blue blossoms everywhere signaled the first days of summer and the last days of school.


Read more about Mayberry in my novels—Well Oiled and Cyberbully Blues.


Celebrate Pi Day

Mathematics is all about making the invisible visible. The relationship between the distance around a circle and straight across can’t be seen directly but is well known. The ratio of circumference to diameter is pi, whose symbol is π.

In 1971, Petr Beckman published A History of π which details humanity’s attempts to capture this irrational number. From about 3, to 22/7, to 256/81, to as many digits of accuracy as you are willing to compute, mathematicians and dilettantes have approximated π with precision.

Some people celebrate Pi Day by eating pastries and pies. A slice of cherry pie works for me. Technical schools and math classes celebrate by writing digits of pi, by answering math questions, or having an all-around fun day. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology celebrates by sending out its admission decisions. Einstein was born on March 14. This is a special day.

Pi Day this year of 2015 will be a once-in-lifetime event for most of us. Look at it — 3/14/15 is the first five digits of π = 3.14159265358979. If you see people in a joyful but quiet moment around 9:26, they may be paying attention to π with additional precision.

If you need some help remembering, the following is a famous piem (pi + poem) where the letter count of each word is a digit of π: How I need a drink, alcoholic, of course, after the tough chapters involving quantum mechanics.

Given the technical nature of Cyberbully Blues, it seems only fitting to help celebrate this very special day. On Pi Day, on Amazon, Cyberbully Blues will be released. Perhaps, you’ll join in the celebration.


A Web Presence

Should you ask a barber if you need a haircut?

Should writers have a web presence? Search online. You’ll get hundreds of thousands of links offering lists of reasons why every writer should have a blog, a website, or a website with a blog. Rationality doesn’t explain my web presence. As a recruited WCW contributor, this blog was foist thrust upon me. I already had a website.

Here’s why I had a website. My first novel, Well Oiled, involves characters interacting with mayberryoil.com. An hour after the book hit Amazon, it occurred to me that my readers should be able to interact with the website as did the characters in the book. This brainstorm hit thirty minutes before I needed to leave for a dinner engagement. In that time, I was able to confirm that the name of the website used in the book wasn’t taken. I bought it.

After dinner, I built the site using Drupal. I also created an account with a username and password matching a character in the book. In the next week, I added treats to the site — pictures of elements in the book and related materials. To access the treats requires answering questions based on the story.

It takes time and energy to maintain a web presence. There’s probably a benefit. I still don’t know if every writer needs a website. My reason for having one is simple — it seemed a good idea at the time.


Welcome to Mayberry

The Pasadena Author’s Fair took place on February 21, 2015. Hobnobbing with other authors, and signing and selling books entertained me from setting up at 9:30 am until packing up books, bookmarks, and posters at 2 p.m. There was also a chance to present. My remarks, including four passages I read, are the bulk of this, my first blog post.

Good afternoon. I’m Rubin Johnson, a Californian, born in New York. I graduated Harvard before doing an engineering Ph.D. at Berkeley. I worked at big companies before starting a software firm. Lately, I’ve been focusing on the craft of fiction.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my novels – Well Oiled and Cyberbully Blues, both Mayberry Multisport Adventure stories. Why Mayberry? I’ll explain and then read some excerpts.

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