i was doing camera research into the wee hours of last night. first it was from my kindle in bed, but when that got to be too slow, i stumbled into the dark living room to retrieve my laptop, where i continued surfing for a while longer.

when i went to bed last night i thought i'd decided on the panasonic lumix DMC-ZS7. but then i got to thinking about nikon cameras, and went online looking at their selection. the nikon S9100 seemed promising, with its 18x optically stabilized zoom (25-450mm 35mm equivalent) and its auto-panorama feature (like the sony), and priced at $300 it wasn't so expensive. but half the amazon customer reviews absolutely hated it, with complaints about blurry focus and a step down from the previous version.

before i went to sleep the new favorite was the canon powershot SX230 HS.

i woke up late today and decided to stay in bed a bit longer since i already had my computer next to me on the nightstand. i audio skyped with alex, getting the latest update on the situation in tokyo. we were chatting but then at one point he texted me a message: "baby coming soon. like end of next month." i didn't think he was joking but it took a few seconds for the news to sink in. forget that he didn't tell me about this earlier and wait this long; alex wong is going to be a daddy! i never thought he'd get married, much less have a kid. he and miwa were arguing over what to name their daughter. alex wanted something like "aleksis," which i thought was a pretty selfish choice.

when i finally got out of bed it was already noon. gise was already camped out with her laptop. friday. at least she and victor would be out of the house for much of the long weekend (and so would i). i fixed myself a few slices of pound cake and told her i'd be out running errands for a few hours.

errands meant biking down to the cafe to present my findings to my parents so they can choose the camera to buy for their china trip. my mother was at the doctor's and wouldn't be back until later. my godmother's son alex (huang) stopped by to put away a few unwanted suitcases in the basement. when my mother finally returned to the cafe, she made me a bowl of goat noodle soup with sauerkraut.

the canon powershot SX230 HS represents a new breed of travel cameras: compact size, wide-to-telephoto zoom, HD video recording, and GPS tracking. on paper, it's very similar to the panasonic lumix DMC-ZS7, but what makes the SX230 better? it was primarily 2 things: image quality and GPS data. in a side-by-side photo comparison between the two cameras shot at various ISO speed, the canon has better image quality in every instance. even at a low ISO of only 100, the panasonic revealed a lot of blurring/sharpening at actual magnification. true, all digital photos look crappy blown up to full size, but it just didn't sit right with me, and i was even surprised that the panasonic managed to get such great reviews despite this obvious and in my mind critical flaw. the 2nd thing was GPS data: for some reason the panasonic doesn't record the altitude. i actually think altitude is a more useful piece of data than the actual coordinate, so to not have it was a glaring omission. even though the SX230 was $50 more expensive ($350), i felt it was worth it just to have a better camera.

the 12 megapixel SX230 features a 14x optically stabilized zoom (28-392mm 35mm equivalent), a 3" 16x9 aspect ratio LCD, 3200 ISO, and 1080p HD videos.

little did i know that getting ahold of a SX230 was easier said than done. i just assumed amazon would carry it, so when i went to add it to my cart, it told me there was a 1-3 month backorder. huh? this camera was only recently introduced to the world this year (january) and began selling just last month. with what's happening recently in japan with the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear accident, there seems to be a supply shortage. that's definitely reflected in some of the other amazon affiliates who did have the camera in stock but at a $100 markup. it seems everyone want the black version, but there was one dealer selling a blue model for $350 (retail price). i didn't want to risk it being sold so i bought it right away. i had a $75 credit in my account so the final cost was only $282 (including some shipping).

hours later i began to have some buyer's remorse after reading up some more about the SX230. the camera is almost perfect in every way except for a few things: the flash annoyingly pops up every time the camera is on (there's no way to disable it); it seems to drain the battery (so bring a spare or two); the wide angle is only 28mm; i prefer it in black (a minor detail); and it's a bit expensive (especially pay shipping cost on top of the retail price). also later i found out newegg had them in stock (with free shipping), but only the blue and pink models.

such is the plight of early adopters, and this camera definitely seems like an intermediate version to something more polished and greater down the road. but as long as pretty photos get taken with this camera, all is good. there doesn't seem to be a better alternative at this point in time anyway.

before i returned home i stopped by star market to pick up some soda for tomorrow's festivity. in my stack of mail i got a letter from MGH. oh great, what now? turns out it was a check in my name for $600, an amount they said i overpaid. the problem is it's my motorcycle insurance that overpaid. through some kind of mix-up, i was the middle man between the hospital and commerce insurance. when the hospital handed me the bill, i forwarded the info to commerce and they cut me a check. my question is: can i cash the check? is this money mine to keep, or will commerce come back to me to reclaim this amount? it gets even more complicated because blue cross is involved as well.

victor and gise went to harvard square for dinner in the evening, leaving me with a few precious hours of me time. i took a shower, cooked up some toaster oven pizza, and watched the latest episode of fringe (terrible episode with a matrix-inception plot that devolved into animation, pretty weird). my roommates didn't get back home until after midnight.