Category: Society

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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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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 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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Accidents are Inevitable

My relentless criticism of so-called “traffic calming measures”—part of the future Georgia-Meade bikeway—continues with a current look down Meade from Georgia. Click on the Featured Image hyperlink and take a close look at the activity at Alabama, where is the first of the traffic circles that replaces stop signs.

You are witness to a near accident—as two vehicles converge from different directions. Who should yield to whom isn’t always obvious, which is gravely complicated by poor visibility for some approaching vehicles and the speed with which many drivers enter the roundabout intersections. I can’t imagine how much more dangerous will these circles be when the route officially opens to bicycles.

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Surely There is a Better Way to Help the Homeless

I specifically shot the Featured Image, yesterday using Leica Q2, to illustrate this essay. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 11:22 a.m. PST. The carts belonged to one of three homeless men gathered together a few meters away on the Hillcrest side of Washington Street Bridge (University Heights is on the other). For sure, San Diego has a significant indigent population. But I write about San Francisco and something that surprises me—and perhaps will you, too.

According to the SF Chronicle (sorry, subscription required), the city is “currently sheltering more than 2,200 homeless people in about 25 hotels” and the “monthly program costs range from $15 million to $18 million”. By my math, that works out to between $6,818.18 to $8,8181.82 per person each month. If these people were paid, the equivalent annual salary would be between $82,000 and $98,000. Oh, and looks like the United States government will cover costs through the end of September 2021.

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Life Before

A year ago, the Chinese government locked down the city of Wuhan for what would be 76 days in response to a virus later given name SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2); COVID-19 is the disease that results from infection. For some reason, perhaps then-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial as distraction, I didn’t see news about China’s action until three days later. I immediately recognized the implications: Supply-chain disruptions being one—and another, as I told my wife: “Fear is the contagion”. That statement is even more true as the Novel Coronavirus crisis enters its second year.

We started stocking supplies—things we anticipated wanting but possibly would be unavailable if SARS-CoV-2 disrupted Chinese manufacturing and shipping, which later occurred. By early February, I religiously watched Prepper videos on YouTube in preparation for a pandemic—either real or result of widespread fear. Annie and I came upon an apartment we wanted to rent, which delayed our buying foodstuffs. On February 28, we chose not to take the place and finally starting stocking up. As such, we beat the long lines and supply shortages resulting from the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic (March 11); Trump proclaiming a National Emergency (Friday the 13th); and Governor Gavin Newsom closing California for business and ordering citizens to stay home (March 16).

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Divided We Stand

At Noon EST today, Joseph R. Biden Jr. ascended to the Presidency of the United States, having taken the oath of office about 12 minutes earlier. He later issued 15 executive orders, which is an unprecedented number compared to his predecessors. None to one is typical on the first day. Democrats are unified controlling the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

Biden’s first-day actions and posturing by the House and Senate are indicative of a party with a mandate. But there is none. The 46th President won the 2020 Election by slimmer-than-appears electoral margin and Democrats command a narrow number of seats in Congress. The data, along with recent protesting and rioting by conservative and liberal constituents, reflect a nation deeply divided, rather than united behind the new Commander-in-Chief. The situation portends that his calls for unity will fail, although I hope otherwise.

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Citizens are the True Symbols of Our Democracy

I wonder on this 92nd Martin Luther King Jr. birthday what the great civil rights leader would think about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. during 2021. Following last week’s U.S. Capitol breach during a massive rally of Donald Trump supporters, the District is essentially locked down ahead of the January 20 inauguration of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris. A seven-foot high, non-scalable fence surrounds the symbol of American democracy, which may never be freely open to the public again.

“Roughly four times the number of American troops currently deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined”—that’s 21,000—are protecting the U.S. Capitol and D.C. for the inauguration, Karina Zaiets, Javier Zarracina, and Kim Hjelmgaard write for USA Today. Alex Ward, first-hand reporting for Vox: “The seat of American democracy looks like a city under occupation”.

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Flowers, Anyone?

The Featured Image is an attempt to soothe the soul, following an insane few days that promise to be absolutely crazier. I captured the flowers on April 2, 2018, using Leica M (Typ 262) and Summarit-M 1:2.4/50 lens. Vitals: f/4.8, ISO 200, 1/250 sec, 50mm; 10:24 a.m. PDT. Photo is composed as shot; no edits.

As for the bizarre goings on, to start: During a massive rally of up to 1 million people (my guess, 250,000-plus) in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, protesters broke into the U.S. Capitol during certification of the electoral vote that confirms the 2020 Presidential Election winner. Violence ensued, and lawmakers were evacuated, including Vice President Michael Pence. A woman (Ashli Babbit) from here in San Diego was shot and killed by police. Later, an officer (Brian Sicknick) died of injuries sustained during the melee. Politicians quickly called the assault an “insurrection” and failed “coup”, blaming President Donald Trump for instigating the incident.