Author: Joe Wilcox

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The Twilight Zone of Pandemic Politics

Some things go so oddly together that you must stop and regard them and wonder. Today, while walking along Shirley Ann Place in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood, a “Recall Newsom” sign surprised me; it’s the first one seen anywhere here. My wife fixated on the Easter eggs hanging from a tree in the same yard. She missed the one thing, and I the other. Mmmm, what does that say about selective vision and being drawn to what interests you while having a blindspot for what doesn’t?

As strangely as the cheerful eggs and hopeful sign are juxtaposed, something else made the scene feel even more Twilight Zone-like: The house beyond with the American flag flew something different before the Presidential election: Old Glory with spray-painted BLM. Well, I couldn’t leave without photos, which were captured using Leica Q2. The Featured Image (warning: 27MB file), which is composed as shot, shows the street. The cropped companion brings the three elements together. Vitals, aperture manually set for both: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/200 sec, 28mm; 12:25 p.m. PST. The other is f/2.8 and 1/640 sec.

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Everything You Need to Know About Facebook in One Popup

On Feb. 23, 2021, a news story from BBC Online about an explosion following the collision of a freight train and 18-wheeler riveted my attention. An early version of the report offered video footage embedded from Facebook (additional media is available in the linked version that you can click). I tapped the play icon on my tablet, which got the video going but also an overlaying message requesting permission for the social network “to use cookies and website data while browsing BBC.com”. Hell no, FB CEO Mark Zuckberg’s zombie-bots aren’t allowed to track my activity. Give blanket permission for all the Beeb? Eh, no.

Dirty bird! Pressing “Don’t Allow” stopped the video playing. Not once, but every time—and I confirmed the behavior on my laptop browser today. If you think the Internet is free, I got some swamp land in Florida to sell you right now. I don’t own it and you wouldn’t want it, but if you’re gullible enough to think social networks and other content-rich sites give you something free without taking something more, let’s you and I make a swamp deal. You are tracked, your browsing behavior is catalogued, and advertisements are targeted based on your online activities. That’s the Facebook Way.

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The Cats of University Heights: Olive, Too

Our sixtieth feline from Alabama Street, between boundaries Adams and Lincoln, is the second Olive to appear in the series. In the Featured Image, her brother Goose is to the lower right. She sits on the railing where I last photographed Lupe before she and her bondmate Laramie were abandoned by a previous tenant (both were later adopted into a new home).

The portrait comes from Leica Q2, on Feb. 3, 2021. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/4, ISO 200, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 4:54 p.m. PST.

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The Cats of University Heights: Goose

The number of Alabama cats increases, again—fifty-nine featured in the series for the street between boundaries Adams and Lincoln. Goose (yep, real name) is the first of five recent newcomers, who all live on the same block. In fact, he and his sister Olive reside where once was the home of Laramie and Lupe before they were abandoned by their previous owner, who moved to Arizona, and eventually were adopted after spending nearly a year in foster care.

I used Leica Q2 to shoot the Featured Image on Nov. 5, 2020 and iPhone XS for the companion four days earlier. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/200 sec, 28mm; 9:30 a.m. PST. The other: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/122 sec, 26mm (film equivalent); 3:26 p.m. The two growing kittens are let out for romping around time but, by my observation, they spend more time (safely) indoors.

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Message to the Homeless?

While walking with my wife along Panorama Drive, in San Diego’s University Heights community, we passed by a sign that I ignored, then turned back to capture. What does “dumping” mean, I wonder. Could it be throwing garbage into the canyon, which access would be difficult but possible from that location? Or could it refer to the business that people do when they need to, ah, relieve themselves?

Pricey Panorama, where are some of the costliest homes in UH, would be one of the neighborhood’s least welcoming of the homeless—and more are seen in the area everyday, although likelier two to three blocks closer to El Cajon Blvd. And, yes, they are known to “dump” in unexpected places. With SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 restrictions keeping eatery dining rooms closed and most retailers barring bathrooms to the public, everyone is limited on where to go when nature calls. So I got to wonder, who is the sign meant for?

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The Cats of University Heights: Paws

The Featured Image of our sixty-second putty seen behind window or door won’t win awards—or even be considered for one. The make-do portrait is from a single sighting, along Madison near Monroe. I used Leica Q2 to capture the moment, Adobe Lightroom Classic to crop and edit, and DXO ViewPoint 3 to align the perspective of vertical and horizontal lines. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/1250 sec, 28mm; 12:50 p.m. PST, Nov. 22, 2020. As the shooting date reveals, we’re still working through the backlog of photographed but unpublished kitties.

The tuxedo earns nickname Paws for the distinctive black color between its toes. The contrast is becoming.

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The Monarch and I agree: What an Aroma

San Diego is a three-season climate: Early Summer, Mid Summer, and Late Summer. The first fully flourishes: Little birds tweet; crows caw; citrus grows in residents’ yards; squirrels scamper; and non-perennials burst with fresh flowers; among many other delights. In some other locale, these things would be signs of Spring, but Summer never really ends here and merely transitions from states of vitality—which booms this fine February. Despite the drier-than-typical third season, lusciousness abounds. Sights and sounds of vibrant life are everywhere.

Smells, too. While walking along Meade Ave. between Alabama and Mississippi, in the University Heights community, on Feb. 23, 2021, a wondrously friendly fragrance greeted my nostrils, and I stopped to regard the source—the purple flowers you see in the Featured Image. The Monarch presented photographic opportunity, and I pulled out Leica Q2 for two deliberate but hasty shots. Luckily, the first is wings down; the unpublished other, they’re up. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/500 sec, 28mm; 10:39 a.m. PST.

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The Cats of University Heights: Dido and Dodger

I profess ignorance about the ways which feisty felines negotiate territory. Two cats regarding one another is a commonly observed occurrence, particularly as the neighborhood’s demographics change—and the number of kitty owners increases. Last week, I passed by newcomer Pepto standing on the fence outside the home where lives long-time resident Daniel Tiger, who sat back-to on a table in his front yard. Likewise, Ash and Nelson often are seen together. All four have different owners.

On Nov. 10, 2020, I observed a new territorially tense pair somewhere on the West side of Park Blvd. Because the house number is so prominently displayed, I won’t disclose location—other than to note that a “For Rent” sign stood outside the property on that sunny morning. Both beasties had collars and tags, but neither would let me approach close enough to read their names. For now, let’s call the black Dido and the tiger Dodger.

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The Hummer Metaphor

San Diego changes around me, particularly from the cost-of-living increases brought by the ever-growing emigration of high-tech workers escaping Northern California; they’re well-paid and find here comparatively affordable rents and home prices—all of which rise as more Googler-types relocate. SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns set them free to work from anywhere there is reliable Internet.

So I was only modestly surprised to see a Hummer parked off of Lincoln in the University Heights neighborhood on Feb. 21, 2021. What amazed me more, when arriving here in October 2007, was the number of Hummers seen seemingly everywhere. You could have played an adapted Punch Buggy—and lost—for the few non-military Hummers traveling about the Washington, D.C. metro area that we left nearly 14 years ago. In San Diego, the contrast was stark, and I wondered why all the gas guzzlers given stereotypes about carbon-aware, environmentally-focused California culture. Should I answer status symbol? The late-2008 economic collapse purged the oversize vehicles from local roadways. Who could afford higher monthly payments or gasoline for a roadster rated city driving of 13 miles to-the-gallon?  By mid-2009, their numbers had diminished to near nothing; that I observed. Eventually, as the economy recovered, based on increasing sightings, various Jeep models replaced the Hummers as all-around utility vehicles.

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The Cats of University Heights: Bello

My short-lived time with Leica M10 started in early April 2018 and ended the first week of October of that year. The days are many that I regret letting go the camera. My consistent inability to precisely manually focus prompted my decision to sell. However, a change in eye glasses later—and addition of prisms to the prescription—and my vision is probably more than satisfactory for the task. Sigh.

On April 26, 2018, I spotted Tink inside her window and stopped to practice portrait focusing with the new camera. The Featured Image is the first of seven shots, with Summarit-M 1:2.4/50 lens attached to the M10. Vitals, aperture unknown: ISO 100, 1/1500 sec, 50mm; 9:38 a.m. PDT. In post-production, I used DXO ViewPoint 3 to align the perspective of vertical and horizontal lines.

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We Got Tested for COVID-19

The saga starts simply: On Feb. 17, 2021, Annie suffered tummy upset all day, along with loss of energy. By late afternoon, my wife had developed a fever of 37.8 degrees Celsius (100.1 Fahrenheit). Morning of the 18th, her body temperature had fallen to 37.2 C (99 F) before returning to normal and staying that way. But she felt crummy and lethargic. More worrisome: Low-grade fever is one of the signature symptoms of COVID-19—the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2).

Next day, the 19th, I felt off and started coughing; often. If not for Annie’s fever the story would end there, but the symptom shouldn’t be ignored. I checked our health insurer’s website, which indicated that COVID-19 testing would be free with a referral. Around 8 a.m., when the doctor’s office opened, I cancelled a 9 a.m. self-defense lesson with my trainer and called our physician, with whom the scheduler set up an 11 a.m. phone appointment. Who would guess problems would start there.