Category: Living

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The Cats of University Heights: Gypsy

On this date five years ago, the series started with a kitty nicknamed Scruffy—seen once and never again. A few months earlier, surgery in both eyes recovered my vision, remarkably also making it better than anytime earlier my life. Adjusting to a new way of seeing and also wanting to improve my photography skills, I chose cats as objects for my camera (and smartphone).

But I expected the project to be short-lived. As stated on Oct. 17, 2016: “I begin a new series that ends when the photos are all used”, thinking something like 30 days at most, given the pics already taken and the few additional to follow—because in a community dominated by dogs surely few cats could be found. Obviously, I was gravely mistaken; happily, if you prefer.

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Pumpkin Mountain

The iPhone 13 Pro camera system surprisingly satisfies—more than any other smartphone to bless my grubby fingers. I am loving the ultra-wide (13mm) and telephoto (77mm) lenses, along with RAW capture capabilities. Shots are sharper than I would ever expect from a device with relatively small sensor and which primary function is not photography.

All combined, the 13 Pro is creative fun—and that’s from my only surface skimming the sea of benefits. The Featured Image is example, with distortion from the ultra-wide lens adding character to an otherwise mundane scene. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 50, 1/122 sec, 13mm; 1:01 p.m. PDT, yesterday.

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The Big ‘Little Library’

I cannot rightly express my surprise while walking along Campus Avenue close to cross-street Monroe on Oct. 5, 2021. In the distance, a decorated utility box beckoned attention. The things are all about University Heights, but all others are plain grey. Shape and overall size were right for what I expected to find, but something else waited: A “LittleFreeLibrary”.

The Featured Image gives some perspective of dimensions set against the Ford Super Duty truck for comparison. Vitals, aperture manually set for all: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/800 sec, 28mm; 12:59 p.m. PDT.

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Putty Pairs

While looking for kitties to profile in my “Cats of University Heights” series, I occasionally come upon some hanging out together—as is the case with the Featured Image, captured on Sep. 25, 2021. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 125, 1/125 sec, 28mm, 10:26 a.m. PDT. Daniel Tiger approaches Darth Mew. The cartoon character-named orange lives on Louisiana, while the Star Wars black often hangs out there.

A better pairing with Darth Mew is the photo essay accompanying Jedi (a nickname). The others are less friendly: A stand-off with Ash and Bandit—and another between Goose and Jasmine. They all share territory and are not housemates.

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The Better Sentiment

For more than a year, a handmade “Black Lives Matter” sign beckoned from the window where Shy typically sunned. My “Cats of University Heights” series profiled the kitty in February 2019. I don’t support the slogan, because BLM refers to an organization with political and social ambitions that are in many respects incongruous with righting the country’s perceived and real racial wrongs. What appears to be a grassroots group, particularly portrayed during 2020’s racial riots and protests, is something else.

Capital Research Center, which tracks non-profits, their organizational structures, and funding, provides insight in two-part exposé: “The Organizational Restructuring of Black Lives Matter: Movement for Black Lives” and “The Organizational Restructuring of Black Lives Matter: BLM Global Network Foundation“—both from April 29 of this year. Fueled by corporate and other donations following the death of George Floyd while in police custody, the organization raised $90 million last year.

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Cluck, Cluck

When my wife and I walk past the home of Daniel Tiger, we sometimes hear chickens—could be along the side of the building or perhaps the backyard. Today, we saw one of them pecking about the frontage. I pulled out iPhone 13 Pro for some fast shots—and, of course, the bird repeatedly turned back-to as I clicked the electronic shutter.

The Featured Image is one two usable head-in-view portraits. Vitals: f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/122 sec, 77mm; 9:46 a.m. PDT. The telephoto range of the third lens is a welcome change over earlier models’ 52mm. Before going out, in camera settings, I flipped the switch enabling Apple ProRAW, expecting that would be the format for today’s captures. Nope. Unbeknownst to me, the user must tap RAW on the touchscreen to truly turn on the feature. Frak.

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The Cats of University Heights: A.C.

The seventy-seventh feline found behind door or window made a single appearance on Sept. 14, 2021. I hadn’t seen the beastie before that day and not since. While good at spotting furballs, I am not knowledgeable about cat breeds. If my online sleuthing is accurate, you are looking at the series‘ first American Curl.

I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image and iPhone XS for the companion, along Louisiana approaching Adams. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 12:25 p.m. PDT. The other: f/2.4, ISO 25, 1/149 sec, 52mm; 12:25 p.m.

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There’s No Vaxx for That

During last year’s SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns, electric scooters nearly disappeared from San Diego streets. But as the pandemic becomes endemic, and activity approaches some semblance of normalcy, the two-wheel rentals return.

If SARS-CoV-2 could be a metaphor, first electric bikes, then scooters, suddenly were everywhere three years ago. County-wide, communities had no natural immunity (e.g. ordinances) to prevent the e-rides from clogging sidewalks or from masses of people zipping about—jeopardizing themselves and other citizens. City councils imposed restrictions to, ah, flatten the curve—to prevent quite literally the flattening of some riders. But the scooters spread unchecked until COVID-19 lockdowns crushed the scourge.

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An Orijen Story

Let’s talk kitty kibble. Our longhairs, Cali and Neko, eat a variety of McDonald’s-caliber wet food and the exceptionally healthy Orijen Cat & Kitten hard stuff. We typically buy the 5.4-kilo (12-pound) bag, which will last for months. On Sept. 25, 2021, with the last bits eaten, I walked from our apartment in University Heights to Pet Me Please in neighboring Normal Heights. But, uh-oh, so much time had passed since our last purchase that Orijen changed recipes. Ugh.

Cat & Kitten is gone. Where was one, there are now three: Original Cat; Kitten Formula; and Guardian 8 Formula. The store clerk claimed, and surely packaging means to suggest the same, that Original is closest to what we previously purchased. But he warned that the new recipe is different enough. Lovely. We ended up feeding our putty-tats the equivalent of wet fast food following formula changes made to two different manufacturers’ better quality canned brands; our beasties refused to eat the revised recipes. What they get now costs less and isn’t as healthy (grumble) but they like it.

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The Cats of University Heights: Jewel

The cruelty to the kitty backlog of still-to-be-published profiles: We skip to the front of the queue a tabby observed today—on Alabama, making this fine feline the seventy-fifth seen on the street since the series started five years ago this month.

Honey and Phil both live (if they still do) nearby where I passed by the tiger-stripe on my way to the Smart and Final (shopping for frozen tri-colored peppers, but none were available). I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/80 sec, 28mm; 4:06 p.m. PDT.

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Not My Masi

My walk to the pet store on Sept. 25, 2021 was an unexpected trip down memory lane. On the corner of Adams and Ohio, at the leading edge of San Diego’s Normal Heights neighborhood, someone had locked up their Masi Speciale Fixed. What a great roadster. I used to own the exact same color and configuration.

I bought my Masi in November 2008 and treasured her (my site, my pronoun choice)—the more after thieves tried to steal her (February 2010) out of a locked garage (they got bicycles belonging to my wife and daughter—bastards). The Speciale Fixed is what the name implies: single-gear. However, the bike sports a flip-flop hub that allows freewheel conversion. In fixed-configuration, pedals always move when the wheels are in motion. Freewheel is what most riders are accustomed to: Coasting when not actively pedaling.