Summer in Thailand is just about over and the rainy season is arriving. This means that instead of being unbearably hot and humid, the weather will instead be hot, humid, and rainy. According to the government, the average daily high temperature in Bangkok was 40.1° C (104.2° F) in April. Official temperature measurements are recorded in the shade, so they truly understate how hot it is for someone in direct sunlight. Recently, the daily highs have been in the low 90s and the cloud cover has eliminated the impact of the direct sunlight. While the difference in measured temperatures is only about 10 degrees, my guess is that the true difference between April’s temperature in the sun and May’s temperature with the clouds is at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps even more.
My compact Nikon Coolpix S8100 camera has sustained quite a few bumps and bruises over the past 18 month, so it was time for a replacement. I wanted another auto-focus camera that would easily fit in my pocket, that has a good telephoto lens, and that has customized settings for various conditions, e.g., pictures at night or on the beach etc. My Nikon was introduced to the market in September 2010 — just 20 months ago — so it is not very old. When I did some research on-line, however, I quickly found out how many more features are available on the compact cameras that have been released in the past six months.
- My Nikon has a 10x optical zoom while newer models have a 16x to 20x zoom;
- My Nikon is rated for 210 pictures per battery charge while newer models routinely get between 260 and 300;
- Most new models come with GPS so that you can automatically know where you took each picture;
- My Nikon has about 15 shooting scene modes from which to choose while the newer models have several more including 3D pictures and movies;
- Many new models come with a panoramic mode in which the user pans the camera from right to left (or up to down), the camera takes multiple pictures, and then the camera automatically stitches them together into one panoramic shot (see examples on right and below).
Based upon on-line reviews, I narrowed my choices to the Nikon Coolpix 9300 (the successor model for my current camera), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20/DMC-TZ30, and the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS. I quickly eliminated the Canon since it does not automatically take panoramic shots; while I could take multiple-shots and stitch them together with software, this is something that I could also do with my current camera and I simply do not take the time to do it. The Nikon, Sony and Panasonic all automatically generate panoramic pictures within the camera, and I expect that I will use this feature a lot.
I went to the Big Camera Galleria at Central World to take a look at the three models. After speaking with the sales people there, I found relatively few differences among the three and I was convinced that any one of them would meet my needs.
I ultimately purchased the Panasonic Lumix based on several factors. First, the flash on both the Nikon and Sony pop-up on the top of the camera while the flash on the Panasonic is built into the front of the camera. With my current Nikon, I often hold it in such a way that I block the flash from opening and I always worry that I will damage the motor that drives the flash mechanism. Second, the Panasonic has many touchscreen controls and I find these easier to use than pushing small button to traverse the menus on other cameras. Third, the Panasonic has a 20x zoom vs. 18x for the Nikon and 16x for the Sony; in this respect, bigger is better. Finally, the Panasonic is marginally smaller and weighs about 1 ounce less (and in this case, bigger is not better!)
I know, I know, I know — haircuts are boring and mundane and something that all of us get done rather frequently. The story, however, is not about the haircut per se but about the service that is so different from what I am used to in the states.
Yesterday morning, I had an appointment for 10 a.m., the time that the Corner Salon opens for business, to get my haircut. After a 10-15 minute walk, I arrive and I am greeted like an old friend. Before we get going, the staff asks if I would like tea, coffee, or water — no reason to rush when there are social pleasantries in which to engage. Over coffee, we chat about the weather (hot) and plans for the weekend (none).
Once I finish my coffee and turn down a refill, the shampoo lady takes me to her area and washes my hair. As the barber (stylist?) begins my scissor cut, he asks whether I would like to add a little color. I explain that I am actually ok with the gray, but the shampoo lady quickly tells me that I would look younger if my hair were darker. I do not ask how old she thinks I am since I learned a long time ago not to ask questions if I do not want to know the answer. She also didn’t say anything about being better looking, and I chose not to go there either.
After the haircut is complete, she washes my hair again and gives me a scalp massage. Back to the barber who dries and combs my hair. All of this for the princely sum of $10 including tips to both the shampoo lady and the barber/stylist. If John Edwards doesn’t end up in jail, maybe he should come to Thailand for his next haircut; the price is even less than his new-found SuperCuts and the service may rival the $400 Hollywood haircuts he received when he was John Kerry’s running mate!
Before I left the hair salon, the young woman at the counter tells me that the store’s stereo speakers are not working properly. She asks if I would take a look at her computer to see if I can fix this problem. After clicking around on the PC, it seems that the output jack isn’t working correctly, so I suggest the universal fix — a reboot — and that fixes the problem. Everyone is happy and I can look forward to another pleasant haircut experience in four to six weeks.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2012 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.