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The Great Gift Mom Gave to Me

On this first Christmas without mom, who passed away nearly five months ago, there is little pause for reflection. Flu symptoms started on December 20; today is the first in five where fever dropped below 37.8 degrees Celsius (100 F); 38.9 C (102 F) was frequent. My core body temp tends to be below normal (36.1 C; 97 F), which (I hope) explains why low-grade fevers are so debilitating. I let the blog auto-post several entries to my “Cats of University Heights” series, which is one reason there are so many uninterrupted.

There is little sentimental about this December 25. My wife finally succumbed to the flu by Christmas Eve; we steered our daughter away from the quarantine household. She is in Northern California with a friend’s family, and looks like she feels out of place, too. We’re here, as is her bag of presents, and she celebrates without mom and dad but with the loss of two grandparents. My father-in-law passed away Jan. 11, 2017. He already was in desperate decline last Christmas Day; I can’t imagine the dire circumstance if Anne and I were this bedridden then, when he needed so much assistance. 

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The Cats of University Heights: Lupe

Meet Lupe, who lives in the same home as Laramie and on the same block as Smokey and Monkey. What is it with the letter L in the household? The family also owns dog Lincoln. Hehe. One of my high school classmates had seven siblings—and all eight kids had names beginning with G. L works for me!

On some mornings, I see Lupe sleeping  on a chair in the yard. The Featured Image, captured on Dec. 3, 2017 at 9:08 a.m. PST, using iPhone X, puts him on the porch. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/510 sec, 6mm. The companion photo is a contrast in timing and lighting—bright sunlight versus darkening dusk. The smartphone could never have produced usable portrait. 

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The Cats of University Heights: Laramie

If this series had a motto—or perhaps, better stated, an unbreakable rule—it would be: “One cat, one time”. Each furball is profiled once. The problem: Sometimes there is uncertainty, and occasionally I will chance repeats. Hanoi and Bell may be one in the same, although I put the odds of not at 70-30. I am less confident about Betty and Betty Too or Stalker and Twilight. Odds are more like fifty-fifty, with proximity of sightings majorly causing uncertainty. In preparing this post, and reexamining photos, I see a common curvature to the two Bettys’ tails that increases the likelihood of a goof.

That introduction brings us to Laramie (his real name) and my big question: Is he the same feline as the one nicknamed Spry, whom my wife and I observed in the alley behind Alabama on June 13, 2017? Out on the street-side of the same block, where also Smokey and Monkey live, resides another ravishing grey; his housemate will be the next kitty to join the series. The cats were seen so close, could be. 

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The Cats of University Heights: Burglar

Our newest addition to the series verifies the not-so-old-adage that the best camera is the one with you. Because of the shocking number of Alabama kitty sightings, I now regularly include the street in my regular walking route, looking for more. Few days back, as dusk settled into night, I barely made out a white cat with orange markings sitting in a yard; photo wanted. But as I approached the fence, a dog barked from inside the house. There really wasn’t enough light to use iPhone X, anyway, so I gave up.

Twice yesterday, I walked by the property, hoping to see the beastie again. On the second go, the furball approached from the cross street strutting quickly down the sidewalk my way. Paying no attention to me, the kitty scooted into a yard. By the time I came up to the corner of the fence, iPhone X already out and camera app open, the cat had reached the house and started climbing up the side of the building to a window ledge—or so it seemed. I wrongly assumed that the meowing feline asked to be let in. Failing to understand what was transpiring, I missed the perfect shot—or series of them. Nevertheless I got something memorable, because of the smartphone’s camera.

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The Cats of University Heights: Reddy

After days of sun and unseasonably mild (and dry) weather, clouds blanket San Diego this morning. Overcast skies are excellent photography weather, and I just had to take a cat walk (accompanied by my beautiful wife). Along Georgia Street, between Adams and Madison, Anne spotted a fluffly ginger-light—tan, if you ask me—rolling around a lawn. Just then, the owner parked his vehicle, and by the looks of dress and carry-alls, he had returned from the gym.

He told us about Reddy—a one-eyed, 10 year-old male without a tail. The family found him as a kitten, with apparent injury that later required his tail to be amputated. Reddy lost his eye years later, when wearing a collar. Something caught on a fence—and, well, let’s spare the gruesome details. But suffice to say he notched the second of two lives, and, you know, he can’t afford to lose any more body parts. 

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The Cats of University Heights: Brawn

Dec. 10, 2017, as I walked down Louisiana, a handsome orange tabby presented himself—somewhere between Madison and Monroe, perhaps beyond. I thought at first that he might be a similarly colored cat spotted on the same street seven months ago. But on close inspection, differences are clear enough, and the animals displayed different temperament: One was friendly, the other standoffish.

I nickname this husky, handsome shorthair: Brawn. We never got close. I shot the Featured Image, which is cropped about 100 percent, using iPhone X. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/216 sec, 6mm; 2:47 p.m. PST.

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The Cats of University Heights: Willow

Along Alabama Street—on the same block where live Goldie, Itchy Valentino, Mr. Kitty, and Nine—there plays a lovely feline that I started watching closely last month. The first photographs were okay, but not great. I returned repeatedly, hoping for a better set and to discover the animal’s name. I got the first, on Dec. 3, 2017, but not the second.

I dubbed the shorthair: Frolic, for how quickly she gets around (On Feb. 19, 2018, I met the owner and learned her real name: Willow). The cat is energetic and playful; I wish she would spend less time on the side of the street and meandering around parked cars. The Featured Image, shot with iPhone X, is first in a series leading up to the big portrait. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/120 sec, 6mm; 11:59 a.m. PST. 

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iPhone X is a Surprisingly Super Shooter

Approaching rush hour on 805 marks my walk along Adams Ave. above to Pet Me Please, where I learned a valuable lesson. Always call ahead. I used Siri to check normal business hours, but there were none. A sign on the door announced that the shop would be (uncharacteristically) closed today because of the “Lilac wildfire“. Well, frak me. At least I got some good exercise and shot of slowing traffic.

I captured the Featured Image at 3:16 p.m. PST, through a small opening in the overpass bridge chain-link fence, using iPhone X. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/810 sec, 6mm. The image is an auto-generated HDR composite.

Tech reviewers rave about Pixel 2 XL’s photographic charms; they can have Google’s smartphone. I am wholly impressed with Apple’s tenth anniversary handset, which is a suprisingly super shooter compared to my (now discarded) 7 Plus—or any other cellular mobile to find its way into my grubby paws. 

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The Cats of University Heights: Twain

I greatly respect people who keep their blinds drawn open. That’s how we live. Pretty much anyone can see in any of our windows anytime of day or night—not that I invite you to step up and gawk. What’s the point of all that glass if you can’t look out or let the outside in (eh, like sunlight)? This series features a number of felines sitting inside windows, staring out: CoolCurious, Glass, KitSeeker, StarStill, and Watcher.

Open blinds reveal, in the windows’s lower right side, a handsome tiger sitting on a cat tree. Another relaxes on the sofa. Their owners earn my praise for enabling the furballs to look out. Good for them! 

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Guess Who Won’t Attend San Diego Comic-Con 2018?

On any other morning, with tree cutters trimming palms right outside my office window, I would dash about the apartment complex parking lot with camera in hand shooting photos and videos. It’s an event! One well-worth documenting. Trimmers arrived at (cough, cough) 7 a.m. to do the whack job. But my focus was shaving and bathing, preparing for San Diego Comic-Con 2018 Open Registration and perhaps my last chance to snag a pass for next year’s gathering.

Comic-Con emails eligible participants a registration code, which must be activated on the website between 8 and 9 a.m. The process of randomly choosing people starts promptly at nine o’clock. My luck ran out during early reg, as it did vying both opportunities for this year’s Con. I attended Sunday, on a last-minute chance, and felt humbly fortunate for that. As you can guess from the title, I couldn’t purchase a pass.

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Fallen Fronds

Late yesterday afternoon, I walked over to University Heights West to survey the wind damage around our old place. Palm fronds littered roads and sidewalks pretty much everywhere. Strong Santa Ana winds, unusual for this time of year, roared through San Diego County, driving raging wildfires north of the city.

At the corner of Cleveland and Monroe Avenues is a massive-trunk palm tree that dominates the intersection and much of the street. As I walked up, a young woman had just finished collecting the fallen fronds. She was being neighborly, by picking up debris that littered sidewalk and street. But taking risk. Even when winds aren’t roaring that tree drops chunks.