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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Merry (Belated) Christmas to Me...

It was 16ºF when I rode my bicycle out toward Mickey's...

I had some Christmas money, that is to say gifts of cash given to me, that in my mind were earmarked for cycling gear.

In particular, warm boots and a cycling jacket.

The boots were actually purchased, in fact, at Mickey's Surplus. They have a pretty restrictive return policy, but my first commutes to work had resulted in a bad case of toesicles and I wasn't having it.

Then Corinna found out the boots I was riding in had steel toes, and she thought that was the problem. It's a pair of waffle stompers I bought when I was twelve, and I never thought about the steel toe, but apparently once it gets cold it really wants to suck the heat out of the flesh toes in the boot.

Speaking of Corinna, I spotted this old Army bike at Mickeys that was so...her.

My waterproof boots have no such toe, they're cheapies from Wal-Mart bought because of chronic basement/garage flooding, and while they don't have a couple pounds of high-tech insulation for each foot, they do block the wind and don't act as a heat sink to suck the warmth from my toes.

And for $1.29, on days when I'm going to be out awhile, I can put Toastie Toes chemical warmers on and I'm good for ten hours even in the single digits. So I wanted the $137 I paid for the boots back and hoped I hadn't managed to scuff them enough in my bedroom to be stuck with them.

The jacket would still be nice. The thing about cycling jackets is you want to block the wind on your chest and shoulders but you don't want your back all sealed up. You're exerting and you sweat no matter how cold it is.

Fortunately, I was a big Mork & Mindy fan growing up, and I realized that if I put my coat on backwards, it would function perfectly in this regard. I'm certain I looked as ridiculous as a guy riding in the snow with a Hawaiian shirt and half a tutu on his head, but my arms and chest were warm and my back was comfortably vented.

What to do with that Christmas money then? A thinking man would probably have fixed his damned garage door opener, but my inner child drowned out this thought for a couple of weeks by shouting, 'CAMERA! I WANT A NEW CAMERA! YOU SEE WHAT KIND OF FREAKIN' CAMERAS YOU CAN GET FOR LESS THAN THAT OLD POWERSHOT COST YOU?'

My inner child kept this shit up for weeks. Really, the whining started a couple years ago, and it's not as if I don't use a camera.

Since I bought my last PowerShot, I've clicked off over 54,000 snap shots and videos. Sure I want a pro camera, but I don't have the budget for the glass, let alone the frame of a decent dSLR.

And when I do, someday, find myself in the way for a full frame dSLR, I'll have some idea how to use it from snapping so many pics with my pocket cameras in manual, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, etc. In my obsessive way, I've become the opposite of the guy with the pro camera that's never been off 'auto,' I'm the guy with the amateur camera that might as well not have an 'auto.'

And lovely as those full frame dSLRs are, you can't put a two pound camera in your breast pocket. You can't take that monster into the circus or most concerts, and you can't shoot video of your girlfriend riding down Beardsley from the saddle of your moving bicycle with one hand. So even if I had a Nikon D3 I'd still want a pocket camera with some balls.

Mickey's refunded me on the boots, and I resisted the worst temptation ever while there. I bought some wool socks and an extra balaclava, but there were these gloves that almost had me deciding to get another year or two out of that A570IS PowerShot.

Ridiculous, I know, but in a perfect kind of way. A pink tulle helmet poof, a coat on backwards, to top it off you see your friendly neighborhood commuting cyclist pedal up the street in biker gloves he obviously stole from Gene Simmons' dressing room.

They seemed like warm gloves, and who could beat them for visibility? But they were expensive and I already have warm gloves and mittens that have so far served me well into the single digits. And I couldn't really get the camera if I said yes to the sexy armored gloves.

And as I say, my inner child was looking at the 4x zoom capability my 7 megapixel PowerShot offered and seeing cameras with double the resolution and over three times the optical zoom and my inner child was having a tantrum.

So the gloves stayed at Mickey's and I rode off to Crick to buy my camera except I didn't make it to Crick. I was trying to make the 3:00 ride in the Crossroads, and there was a Wal-Mart so much closer.

Then I found myself with the camera and a battery I didn't recognize. The shape of the body was all wrong, and to top it all of the F-stop range wasn't as wide as the old camera.

I so wished I'd gone to the camera shop and let the camera shop guys ply their expertise. I bought my last camera at Crick and while they're not always the cheapest, they're not far from it and they know photography. I described what I like to use my camera for, what I objected to in the new PowerShot, and told them that I basically had some buyer's remorse and was thinking of returning this sucker to Wal-Mart and bringing the refund to Crick.

What I paid for the new camera was, in fact, the exact dollar amount of the old camera I bought at Crick in 2007. Surely they could turn the same sum into another three and a half years of photographic satisfaction.

What camera would they recommend? In the end, the salesman told me he'd probably keep the camera I bought. Talk about honesty, he could have probably talked me into anything in his case at or below the same price and he instead told me the optics of the lens on the camera I bought were worth the price of admission alone. I could, in his view, save forty or fifty bucks but I'd be giving up more than that in performance and by the time I've shot fifty thousand frames, would I really benefit?

I missed the 3:00 ride anyway, so I definitely should have toughed it out and gone to Crick. I did, on the plus side, manage to spend eight hours in the saddle on a day that never even threatened to get above freezing. I had some hamstring cramps in the evening, I need to remember to hydrate as if it were hot outside when it's freezing cold.

And of course I took pictures of everything, even my cell phone.

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