About Kesher Talk

  • "Kesher" means "connection" in Hebrew. The banner image is the mosaic floor of a 6th c. synagogue in Jericho, showing a menorah flanked by a shofar and lulav; the inscription reads "Shalom Al Yisrael." (This synagogue was destroyed by Arab vandals a few years ago. The condition of the mosaic floor is unknown.)
  • Contributors:
  • Judith Weiss
  • Van Wallach

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November 28, 2010

I, Consumer

I play many roles in life, but crazed holiday shopper is not one of them. Being Jewish and from a small family helps me step aside from the mass culture. The distance is probably healthy because I have a very mixed record as a consumer. Buying gifts for others usually works out well, either based on what these others tell me they want or my own innate sense of what they want, typically based on off-hand comments about entertainment choices that I tuck away for future use around birthdays, Hanukkah and the beautiful Jewish tradition of Valentine's Day. Vacations are surprisingly easy once I work out the destination.

The hardest person to shop for? Hands down, that is -- myself.

Except for the most random impulse buys (Pandora music service, the fall issue of the great City Journal) and groceries, I always struggle to buy myself anything. I do massive research, collect opinions, canvass friends on their suggestions and worry about whether I'm getting ripped off. Call it neurotic; I call it a sure-fire strategy for almost never buying anything.

I finally do give in and get whatever I need. Case in point: A year ago I moved into a new apartment. The wooden boxspring for my bed would not fit through a door, so the movers left it in the entryway (which I have all to myself). I flailed around looking at mattress websites, aghast at all the consumer rage at these companies. Then I had my epiphany: I would dismantle the boxspring (somehow), whisk the pieces upstairs and bolt them together (somehow) with my trusty toolkit from Target.

I borrowed a saw and got to work. After much wheezing amidst twanging, stop-and start saw action, I had made a dent in the wood, but I couldn't see how I could ever finish with a dull blade and a big boxspring. So, ever resourceful, I moved to Plan B: I borrowed a hefty electric saw from a friend. He was dubious, to say the least, but let me have it.

The mighty Melita saw sat in my apartment for a while, quietly daring me to use it. Go ahead, big boy, it silently sneered at me. Plug me in. Turn me on. Cut some fingers off.

I read the instruction manual and realized that my entire approach to using the this saw -- I can't even begin to list the safety violations I would have committed - was insane. I had never used one. I had nobody to help me. I didn't have a secure place to put the boxspring. Sadly, I filed away my fantasies of being Mr. Goodsaw. I turned to the only tool I can handle with confidence -- a credit card.

My problem, in part, was the horrible reputation of the national bedding chains. I decided if I needed to get a boxspring, my best bet would be to find a local provider who would likely appreciate my business. I would become, therefore, a bedding locavore. And I found exactly that, in the form of Norwalk Mattress Company. I measured my bed, hauled myself to Norwalk, described my needs, found what I want, placed the order and left. A few days later I got the boxspring and metal frame and bid the hard, semi-sawed wooden boxspring (which was more of a platform, with no springs) a fond farewell. I was left with a comfortable bed and, most important, all 10 fingers.

Now I'm moving into the next consumer quandary, a new camera. Almost two years ago I wanted to replace a Canon digital hobbled by a broken zoom lens button. I went through my whole dramatic search cycle and finally settled on a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28. It works well enough, but its bulk makes it impractical for use on the streets of New York, where I always like to have a camera in hand for when I stumble onto a political demonstration, an engaging image of buildings in silhouette, or some wackiness in front of News Corp. building, home of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. I always feel too obvious with the Lumix, and want something more pocketable.

I've been brooding over this decision for months now. I check the selection at Costco, where I got the Lumix. I avidly scan the reviews and suggestions on CNET and Consumer Reports, then I look at dense technical reports on the digital photography reviews. The comments pro and con on Amazon make my head spin as my eye constantly gravitates to the negative comments, and I imagine how I'll suffer from every obscure menu and misplaced control button. I have zeroed in on Canon and Panasonic models -- until a friend with an exceptionally advanced knowledge of cameras started singing the praises of the Olympus E-PL1, which is now enticing me with ads on Facebook. I'll try to find it in a store to see whether it's small enough, and a get a sense of its controls. In the mean time, a personal recommendation carries a huge amount of weight with me.

Part of the fun is the waiting -- for lower prices, for more options, for the blinding insight or experience that points me toward THE right choice. I read someplace that new cameras roll out in February, so that should lower the prices on existing models. But I may decide to make a decision before then and actually get something (knowing me, perhaps something not even on my radar screen at the moment).

Now, when it comes to clothes shopping . . . let's save that discussion for another day.

Van | 11/28/10 at 05:16 PM | Categories: Life and how to live it

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There are a lot of variables here. Forget megapixels, they are no longer interesting. Sensor size, OTOH, is important and you have to dig for the info. (try dpreview.com, they have a very nice comparison tool). Lens apertures, interchangeability, and zooms are important, also.

Your current Panasonic has a lot of zoom, and a small sensor. Size is also a consideration a number of cameras are much smaller, but they may not have the zoom capabilities of the larger cameras.

The Olympus is a type of camera called a 4:3 for its large sensor size. Sony makes a competitive camera.

I own a Canon A1000 (since superceeded). It is pocketable. It costs about $150.

If you want to write me with your budget, and size considerations, I would be happy to give you my thoughts.

Fat Man [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 28, 2010 09:23 PM

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