Author: Joe Wilcox

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Damn, Discontinued

Four days ago, Apple unceremoniously terminated the full-size HomePod. The life-support plug is pulled, the product is flat-lined, and the lower-cost mini model is the replacement. We bought our first HomePod, white, in February 2018. The Featured Image is from Google Pixel 2 XL, captured on June 23 of that year. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 246, 1/40 sec, 26mm (film equivalent); 3:37 p.m. PDT.

During an argument, my daughter’s then-boyfriend plopped her HomePod into a pot of water soaking in the kitchen sink. I know, I know. She inherited ours, and this one is the AppleCare-warranty replacement. However, the other one mysteriously stopped working, and I gave her the parent’s unit (isn’t there some Woke prohibition against using Mom and Dad). We later bought two more HomePods, in grey, and regret the day. We don’t subscribe to Apple Music, and Siri seriously needs to spend more time in Artificial Intelligence school—although she’s not as remedial three years later.

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The Cats of University Heights: Mane

We return to Alabama for the sixty-first kitty from the street, between boundaries Adams and Lincoln. This magnificent ginger is also sixty-third seen behind door or window. The longhair is third, following Goose and Olive, of five newcomers on the same block. And, finally, the cat resides in the apartment directly below the flat where once lived Holiday (family moved away). For fabulous ruff, the animal earns nickname Mane.

I first spotted the beauty on Sept. 7, 2020, sitting on a cat tree looking out an open window. But I couldn’t produce a portrait on that day or others; unsatisfactory lighting is reason. Then, unexpectedly, on Feb. 18, 2021, Mane appeared in a side window, while workers whacked to pieces a beautiful palm tree in front of the building. The Featured Image comes from Leica Q2. In post-production, I used DxO ViewPoint 3 to align the lines. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/1250 sec, 28mm; 11:33 a.m. PST.

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The Cats of University Heights: Curly

Along Madison, not far from Mississippi, my wife and I unexpectedly encountered a tabby with stubby, twisty tail on Jan. 24, 2021. Name tag identified the chub of love as Curly, which makes sense to me. We had not seen the feisty feline before that day and not since.

I used iPhone XS to capture the Featured Image and companion. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/390 sec, 52mm (film equivalent); 10:21 a.m. PST. The other is the same but 1/387 sec. The second shot gives a little better sense of the tail, but not as good as the photo I chose not to publish—a rear shot that unflatteringly reveals a bit too much of Curly’s bum.

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Fear is the Contagion

The four words of this essay’s title are exactly my reaction to learning about China’s massive quarantine for the Novel Coronavirus in late-January 2020. I warned my wife and anyone else to prepare for the spread of fear: How it would infect and disrupt distribution of goods and services; how panic would lead to supply shortages; how desperation might cause people to react violently. But following the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic, one year ago today, the outcome over 12 months is much worse than I expected.

Society didn’t suddenly break down from widespread contagion, like portrayed by Hollywood films and TV shows. Instead, the economic and social fabrics shredded over longer time, as well-meaning citizens obeyed orders to “shelter-in-place“, “social distance“, and close their businesses. My contention: When Science catches up with collated data, the forensic analysis will show that governments over-reacted with lockdowns that inflicted more harm than the virus that everyone feared. Meaning: The cure is far more damaging than the disease, which danger is overblown.

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The Cats of University Heights: Aisho

Seventeen year-old Aisho (real name) is surprisingly spry, considering his advanced years. Along Maryland near Madison, I passed the ginger and his owner as she chatted with another neighbor on March 4, 2021. I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image at 10:58 a.m. PST. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/400 sec, 28mm.

For people who have trouble pronouncing or remembering his name, Aisho also goes by Mr. Jones.

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A Plea for Continued Relevance

On March 1, 2021, as I walked along University Ave. in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, a huge banner beckoned my attention. I frequently see signs like this in apartment and house windows but nothing this large nor with Still added. I used iPhone XS to snap the companion to the Featured Image, which I captured the next day with Leica Q2 Monochrom. Vitals for the smartphone shot, which is composed as taken: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/761 sec, 52mm (film equivalent); 9:05 a.m. PST. For the camera, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 200, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 10:27 a.m.

Why is such a banner, with Still added, seen as necessary? The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is underway in Minneapolis. He is implicated in the death of George Floyd, whose alleged homicide sparked racial riots and protests in the city and across the country—with loud voices crying “defund the police” and “no justice, no peace”. Nearly ten months later, Americans have largely stopped rallying for racial reckoning—and the organization that gathered them before isn’t yet, if it ever will, marshaling masses together. Black lives still matter, but the movement apparently does not.

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Now There are Two

Last September, my path crossed what I called the “Sidewalk Gym“, along Meade Ave. near Utah Street in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood. The padding wrapped around a tree evoked make-shift, outdoor Mixed Martial Arts arena—and space to workout whenever Governor Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom issued a new lockdown order meant to slow the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19pandemic.

The space remained a fixture since, with the appropriately-toned motorcycle and SUV typically parked beside the MMA studio. But, today, moseying past, I saw something new: A second motorcycle, which is change enough to assault you with a new Featured Image captured using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 3:39 p.m. PST.

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The Cats of University Heights: Alcatraz

Along Madison near Park Blvd, I observed a fine black-and-white shorthair looking out from an apartment window on Jan. 17, 2021. I snapped a couple of shots and planned to add the animal to the series. He reappeared scrunched in front of the same blinds on several subsequent occasions but never with light as right for a portrait.

Then came the unexpected meeting: February 26, the cat romped about on the same property, nearby sidewalk, and parked cars. He sure looked like an escapee to me, which is why the nickname Alcatraz—for the infamous California prison from which no one (supposedly) successfully made a break and lived.

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The Cats of University Heights: Breezy

Outside the house where Hamlet the pig and his family used to live, a young kitty pranced over to my wife and I on Jan. 26, 2021. We had seen (and heard) the shorthair in a window on several previous days’ walk-bys. She seemed beyond excitement to be outside, which suggests to me a temporary escape from indoor living.

The Featured Image and companion come from iPhone XS, which I will choose over my camera when a cat is moving about quickly or coming over to me and rubbing my legs. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/406 sec, 52mm (film equivalent); 11:01 a.m. PST. The other is the same but 1/372 sec and a few seconds later. The grey Calico earns nickname Breezy for the lightly-windy day and how she breezed by us.

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Why is Hollywood Obsessed with Viral Armageddon?

I really want to know. That sentence, the title, and a short list of TV Shows about viral epidemics is as far as this post proceeded when I started it on April 26, 2016. I meant to come back many times over the nearly five years since and really regret the failure following the World Health Organization’s declaration of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Still contemplating writing this essay, but not getting to it, I shot and edited the Featured Image on June 11, 2017. San Diego’s Museum of Man (since then renamed to “Us”) featured exhibit “Cannibals: Myth & Reality”. With so many of the virus movies or TV series focused on Zombie apocalypses, the exhibit artwork seemed so perfect illustration. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/1000 sec, 28mm; 2:07 p.m. PDT, Leica Q.

Half a decade later, I wonder: How much did pandemic feature films and TV shows create soil for COVID-19 to grow into a state of global fear—and, as I will opine in six days, far exceeds the real risk posed to the majority of people; whether or not they are infected? Surely, you can guess my answer.