Author: Joe Wilcox

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What Real Camping Looks Like

Welcome back to the North Maine Woods, circa mid-1970s. I am the skinny, short kid to the far left; my father, in the red hat, is to the far right. Next to me, my cousin Dan looks at something; my guess is an insect.

His sister Debbie, sitting up, came along with two obnoxious friends. I spent several weeks as object of their abusive taunts and teasing. Wicked women, they were.

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The (Honorary) Cats of University Heights: Tag and Tig

We shamelessly jump the backlog of unpublished putty-tats to add a pair spotted today in a backyard along the Arizona-Hamilton alley in North Park, which is about one-and-a-half blocks beyond the neighborhood’s boundary. Hence, the honorary designation.

The kittens romped and chased like kids playing tag might. That explains the nickname for the black and Tig for the tabby. The Featured Image comes from Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, which I had to raise high to clear a fence; the obstruction determined composition. Vitals: f/3.4, ISO 32, 1/340 sec, (synthetic) 230mm (digital and optical zoom); 1:56 p.m. PDT.

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After the Pond

My father was a controlling, jealous, and quick-tempered man. The distance between Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies separated our personalities. He and I shared little in common, so much that if not for some physical resemblance my only conclusion must be illegitimacy. But Mom was faithful; he was the one who slept around, which precipitated her divorcing him.

Ah, the day she confided in me was joyous. I was relieved that he would be gone and me freed from his anger, curses, and putdowns. My sisters suffered loss at his departure. I thrived in his absence. Even during the lean teen years, when we had no Christmas presents and often were hungry, I wouldn’t want him around. Mom was a single mother with four children; he contributed nothing. She suffered for her brood; he looked after himself and his new family.

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My Cat Wants to Know: Why Use a Digital Camera?

I ask the question, too. I love my Leica Q2, but—increasingly leave it at home. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is good enough shooter for more than 90 percent of any of the photographic opportunities.

The smartphone is always present, quick to use,  and immensely versatile. Consider, for example, the three optical focal lengths—23mm, 70mm, and 115mm—plus the hybrid digital-optical 230mm. Colors are accurate across all four focal lengths; 50– and 200-megapixel options are available; manual controls are outstanding alternative to the excellent auto mode; and RAW shooting is available. Then there are the ever-useful AI-editing capabilities.

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Grampy and Grandsons

We aren’t finished with the family photos. The Featured Image is another, provided by my cousin Dan, who sits playing checkers with our mutual granddad. I am the kid with the dorky grin. The photo was taken sometime in 1970, making me either 10 or 11, depending on when.

My Uncle Glenn made the portrait; camera unknown. Where: The Wilcox Family Farm—the majority of which my father unexpectedly deeded to the co-pastors of his church. A long-time family friend sent me a copy of the Quickclaim Deed, dated March 27, 2024. He died almost exactly three weeks later.

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My Uncle and His Camera

Now a blast from the past: 54-years-ago this month, meaning May 1970. My Uncle Glenn holds his gorgeous Yashica Mat-124. The newer G model released that year; I don’t know how long he owned the medium-format twin-lens reflex camera.

Wow, what a beauty she is (oh, and my uncle is handsome, too). The Mat-124 packed two—count `em—lenses at one of my three favorite Prime focal lengths: 80mm (28mm and 135mm are the others).

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Midday Mourning Cloak

While Annie and I walked yesterday, she delighted about a butterfly fluttering by. It stopped long enough for me to get off a couple quick shots using Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. The Featured Image is best of the set.

I grew up collecting and studying insects and quickly recognized the Mourning Cloak. Certainly, I know the butterfly from Northern Maine and assumed that, like many other Lepidoptera, Mourning Cloak was limited to the East. Wow, my big mistake: The range is broadest among the block of 11 continuous Western states.

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What Happened Here?

My wife and I walked around Mission Valley Mall—no longer a Westfield property—today. More stores are local small businesses, although some big brands are present—like Target.

The big surprise: The apparently permanently closed Temple Custom Jewelers and the mysterious signs you see in the Featured Image and companion. I knew that the establishment was black-owned but have no idea what were the circumstances leading to the signs. Googling gave no answers, tonight.

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The Farm

Today would be my father’s eighty-third birthday, but he died on April 16, 2024. Rather than commemorate him, I celebrate what he took away. Secretly, sometime during his 40 dying days, he signed over title to a large portion of the family farm to the co-pastors of his church.

They say 75 percent. But other documentation indicates that he only had control over 7/12ths of the nearly 100 acres. Regardless, as I begin to grasp the extent of subterfuge and lies, presumably unprompted (but who knows) on his part, my feelings about him darken. My great-grandfather purchased the property in 1895.

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Games We (Poorly) Play

Yesterday, one my neighbors expressed surprise about filling out paperwork at a doctor’s office, where she was presented with choice of a dozen genders. I would think that a medical practice would stick to the science: Humans are biologically either male or female. How people feel about themselves is something else.

All through the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns, we kept hearing about the science—physicians and researchers following it, and we should, too. In 2024, should a doctor’s office do no less? Meaning: Put basic biology before social culture?

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The Cats of University Heights: Rainbow

Meet the one-hundred-second kitty seen along Alabama Street, somewhere between boundaries Adams and Lincoln. On May 5, 2024, my wife and I saw two shorthairs chasing one another, playfully. Mittens we immediately recognized, but not the grey. Oh, and how Mittens has grown from a kitten, in two years.

I used Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra to capture the Featured Image and companion. The first isn’t sharp, but the rainbow colors make the moment, nevertheless. Vitals: f/3.4, ISO 40, 1/60 sec, (synthetic) 230mm (digital and optical zoom); 3:49 p.m. PDT. The other is the same but one minute later. Both are composed as shot.

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Croak or Caw?

Along Adams Ave., at the end of the bridge above Texas Street, I spotted some huge birds in the trees below. The vantage point presented another opportunity to see how good (or bad) Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra could be shooting distant objects.

Unlike the S23 Ultra, which packs 10x optical lens, the newer model relies on 5x optical and in-camera close-cropping 50-megapixels to produce something that is supposed to be as good as, or better than, the last-generation smartphone. You judge.