Category: Society

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Birds in a Tree (Hey, It’s Art!)

I rarely walk along Georgia Street between El Cajon and Meade but traipsed there today, hoping to see either Husky or Romper—both profiled in my “Cats of University Heights” series after separate sightings. Approaching El Cajon, I came upon the oddest thing: a metal mobile hanging from a tree alongside the outside wall of a commercial building. I wondered: Why here? Home decoration makes sense, but before a facade of bricks? How odd. That said, what’s more appropriate than birds in a tree?

Location presented excellent opportunity to capture mobile and The Boulevard sign in the background. The Featured Image, which is composed as shot, comes from Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/4, ISO 100, 1/640 sec, 28mm; 3:41 p.m. PDT. In post-production, I experimented with several different lighting scenarios—one that silhouettes tree and metallic birds—before choosing the one you see.

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A 20-Year-Old Memento

While rummaging around for one of our daughter’s old drawings, my wife pulled out my press pass issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 20 years ago. At the time, Microsoft sought to overturn, or at least diminish, its adverse antitrust ruling and recommended remedy that would break the company into separate applications and operating systems companies. The U.S. Justice Department and 20 states attorneys general filed the initial case in May 1998. One state dropped out almost immediately. If I rightly recall, only 18 states remained by mid-2001.

I was a staff writer for CNET News.com and remember the court case well. My reporting got lots of attention, particularly analyses of the case and where it would lead—such as prediction that the appeals court would remove the trial judge; it did and upheld eight antitrust offenses. I am unable to find the news piece online because CNET removed the byline from all my stories—presumably purged in a content management system upgrade five years (or so) ago. Even more disturbing: The stories I have found universally have the wrong datelines. For example, my report “New judge assigned in Microsoft trial” has a publication date of July 20, 2002 but should be Aug. 24, 2001. Ugh.

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Aspiration is a Long Way from Talent

My artistic talents peaked in first grade and never improved. That school year, I won my one, and only, award for them—and decades later I doubt doing better, if as well, as the ribbon-winner that is the Featured Image. I vaguely remember making this drawing, with the teacher looking over my shoulder either to offer praise or suggestions; perhaps both.

The next clear recollection is my mom talking on the party line to see who would win, my anticipation, and both our excitement at the news. Gosh, I felt so proud. The next day, the second-grade winner and I basked in the limelight and awaited our prize. What would it be? Speculation killed me. Then, with modest fanfare, the teacher presented each of us with a proper drawing pad and black marker. I was crushed. How boring.

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An Independence Day Reflection

I can’t attest to other San Diego neighborhoods, but University Heights has undergone dramatic, observable changes since start of the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns in mid-March 2020. Many of the older, long-time residents sold their homes during the bubble boom and much younger folks—many of them couples with small children—moved in; more new renters can be seen than buyers, and a good number of the arrivals are Northern California escapees.

The question: How much does the demographic shift affect observable patriotic behavior—and, perhaps, installation of a more liberal administration in Washington, D.C. diminishing Donald Trump’s brand of rah-rah Americanism? I ask because this Fourth of July noticeably differs from every other seen since our first here in 2008. Most notable: The significantly smaller number of U.S. flags hanging from houses or multi-unit dwellings and absence from Park Blvd, which is the main business street. Other reasons may include progressives’ success spotlighting the country’s racial wrongs. Dunno, but I can say that this year’s celebration is muted—more so than even during pandemic lockdowns. Also observed: A surge in rainbow flags, which considerably outnumber the Stars and Stripes—that, too, diverges from all previous years.

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‘Not Politically Correct’

Yesterday, as my wife and I walked along the alley separating Louisiana and Mississippi, between Meade and Monroe, she stopped, then said: it’s “not politically correct”, referring to a framed poster that I hadn’t seen. People put out giveaways all the time, and art ranks low on my interest meter; hence my blind disregard for an object worth inspection. Not only is her statement accurate, it could explain why someone discarded the thing. With all the hubbub about systemic racism, the caricatures could offend someone. Perhaps raised awareness led the owner to let go the wall hanging. Click through to the Featured Image, and you tell me.

I used Leica Q2 to make the moment, choosing to leave the framed poster leaning as we found it, rather than repositioning for the shot. Composition intentionally reveals some of the alley, for context. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/4.5, ISO 100, 1/500 sec, 28mm; 9:29 a.m PDT.

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The Bicycle

My wife typically goes to bed and rises earlier than do I. When getting up to feed the cats, Cali and Neko, Annie saw bicycle handlebars sticking up behind a parked car; about 3:30 a.m. PDT. She assumed that one of the apartment building’s other tenants had a visitor who left the bike locked on the sidewalk. But daylight revealed a wayward fixed-speed roadster, apparently abandoned and unlocked. We both wondered where it came from and how in a neighborhood rife with bicycle thieves no one had ridden off with the thing.

Someone stole two of our then three bikes from a locked garage, in February 2010. Annie sees frequent posts on Nextdoor about bikes taken from behind locked fences or about neighbors reporting random two-wheeler chop shops. We wondered where the women’s rider came from. Perhaps someone, ah-hum, borrowed—then abandoned—it?

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Decisions, Decisions

On June 15, 2021, California will largely reopen—fifteen months after Governor Gavin Newsom shut down most businesses and institutions, also instructing citizens to stay at home, in an attempt to slow spread of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19. This sidewalk sentiment seems oh-so appropriate for near-normalcy returning. Granted, inflation rises, the housing market is insanely competitive, supply shortages increase cost for goods like lumber, and many reopening businesses struggle to hire enough employees—among other oddities. So normal isn’t nearly enough.

Newsom will free Californians four days before the traditionally celebrated Freedom Day/Emancipation Day—also known as Juneteenth. How ironic—or arrogantly preemptive—is that? But he is not relinquishing the emergency powers used to close down the state. How will that decision affect his chances during the special recall election that could, in a few months, remove him as governor? Surely some people will respect his maintaining authority, while others will say that he oversteps his gubernatorial powers. We’ll see soon enough.

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The Question is Why?

If I rightly recall from past signage, the same neighbor also believes that the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Looking at this simple statement, perhaps he is among conspiracy theorists convinced that SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 vaccines also inject nanites. If I could be so bold to suggest: Should Deep State operatives really want to track you, the 4G or 5G smartphone already carried would be more than sufficient. My question: What makes you (or me) so important that anyone would bother?

We already live in a surveillance society. If not cameras from any other house, it’s Facebook, Google, your Internet Service Provider, or a host of other online entities watching—and creating profiles about you. Because bungling bureaucracy is so certain, I would welcome government snooping over the efficiencies of high-tech money-grubbers committed to turning you (or me) into a profitable commodity. Suddenly, writing this paragraph, I am convincing myself that “No 4G/5G Here”—or any Internet access—has merit. Or maybe it’s time to install the VPN software that I licensed long ago but never activated. 🙂

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Cheerful, But Serious

I don’t recall seeing this friendly graffiti yesterday—or the day before. I walk past the intersection of Adams and Florida often enough that surely my ever-roving eyes would have seen something and registered so in aging synapses. New or not, zooming in on the Featured Image suggests that the message wasn’t painted but slapped on and glued (look to the apparent air-bubbles typical of paper pressed onto a surface).

Maybe coincidence, or not, the flower is opposite the alley location where I found the “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power” protest placard two days ago. You got to wonder if something—person(s) and/or event—connects the two. The utility box is outside the Adams Substation, which is visible behind, located in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood.

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The Discarded Sentiment

What demonstration marched through the neighborhood unbeknownst to me? While walking with my wife through the alley separating Alabama and Florida streets, I stopped to wonder about the forlorn placard that is the Featured Image. I captured a single photo using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 4:33 p.m. PDT, today.

The message piqued my interest—and as a photographic object, I liked the mood created by bands of light shining through the fence. For your edification (and mine), according to Wikipedia: Yellow Peril “is a racist color-metaphor that represents the peoples of East Asia as an existential danger to the Western world”. Yikes!