Dec 2, 2019
Olivia had been wanting to get Hot Pot for a while so we went to the Chinatown in Houston and had lunch at 75 BBQ and Hot Pot Buffet. The restaurant only had a few people in it but we could immediately tell that it was a good spot. It had a large selection of sauces and a decent sized buffet of meats, seafood and vegetables that you can get yourself. Most Hot Pot restaurants have the customers order dishes that are then brought to your table but I prefer a buffet where I can choose just little bit of each thing I want. This way I can just get some broccoli instead of being committed to eating a whole plate. The selection was good with beef, pork and lamb meats along with crab, clams, shrimp, salmon, fish balls, meatballs, squid and many type of vegetables. They also had the option to grill the food or put it in the hot pot. We were there for a good hour and a half and stuffed ourselves silly. I ate so much that later on I didn’t even eat dinner.
With full bellies we proceeded with our task for the day. The autofocus telephoto lens on Holly’s camera had had been broken for a few weeks now and we were unable to get it fixed in El Paso. I figured that we should go to a camera store to see how much the lens cost before making a decision on fixing it. After all, it would be really silly if the repair cost more than a new lens. Also it was possible that the problem might be some silly setting or user error so I wanted someone who knew about cameras to look at it.
We went to the Camera Exchange in Houston, a very nice camera store. A nice lady at the store took a quick look at the camera and determined that yes there was a mechanical problem with the lens then told us that the lens was probably under warranty since Holly had purchased it from Costco less than a year ago. Only thing was that we would need to go through Costco to get it fixed. Cool, might get fixed for free.
While we were at the camera store on Cyber Monday I had Holly look around. I had been meaning to have Holly get a wide angle lens to go with her normal and telephoto lens and figured Cyber Monday was a good time to get it for Holly’s Christmas gift. I also wanted to get one at a real camera store since I know very little about cameras and wanted to get the expert personal advice not available on the internet. Well it turns out that a wide angle lens costs $249! ($50 off its normal price of $299 for Cyber Monday!) Holly’s whole camera with two lenses just cost $429! Doh!
OK, lenses are expensive. Perhaps a simple flash. The salesman showed Holly a simple flash for $115. Much better. Wait a minute the external flash was powerful but it since it was powerful it would wash out the skin tones of the subject. Need to get a diffuser for the flash to produce a softer light. $60 for a piece of plastic. Holly noticed that it takes several seconds between shots for the flash to charge up. To allow faster flash intervals, special batteries would be required. $30 for a charge and 4 AA super camera batteries. The flash requires 4 batteries so we will definitely want to get an extra 4 pack of batteries for another $20. Olivia demanded some attention so I played with her for a few minutes and when I returned the $115 flash had been upgraded to a $199 flash which was smaller and more compact because who wants a huge bulky flash on top of their camera.
HOLD UP! WAIT! WAIT! This simple flash costs more than the wide angle lens! OK looks like I am in deep. I told Holly that she could choose either the wide angle lens or the flash. Holly chose the lens since it would be more useful and easier to learn how to use rather than all the intricacies of light and shadow that a flash would require. Cool, Ok, expensive but at least my Christmas shopping was half done. It is not easy finding a Christmas present due to the space limitations of our RV. It is not like I can surprise her with a big screen TV. Oh wait, the camera bag that came with Holly’s camera does not have room for another lens. Well there is a nice selection of camera backpacks with special flexible padding perfect for holding a number of small delicate items such as cameras and lenses. Holly found one she liked for $60 after the 10% Cyber Monday discount. DOH!
OK well Holly’s camera was getting a serious upgrade, least I could do was to get my cell phone a bit of an upgrade so I could keep up. I got a DJI Mobile 3 foldable gimbal arm for my phone. This handy little device would hold my cell phone steady while moving or walking allowing for those buttery smooth video shoots. Normally $119 on Amazon and elsewhere the store had it for $109.
By the time we left the store we were over $400 poorer and almost two hours had passed. I guess in camera terms we did not spend a lot of money since a single lens can cost thousands of dollars and the salesperson had patiently answered Holly’s questions for well over an hour. Would have felt bad if we hadn’t bought anything.
Our next stop was Costco to continue our quest to fix Holly’s telephoto lens. We went to the nearest Costco and they had a record of Holly’s purchase along with a concierge support line. We got a copy of the receipt and I called the Costco concierge line and got through admirably fast considering it was Cyber Monday and I am sure there were many people needing support for the new stuff they bought on Black Friday. The Costco rep was able to get me to Canon tech support after a short hold and the Canon tech support verified our warranty status and went through a basic troubleshooting before sending me the information to ship the lens to Canon for repair.
We continued our quest as the next thing we needed to do was to print and fill out the form so we could send the lens for repair. For that we would need internet access so we went to the nearest McDonald’s with a play place. Holly took Olivia to the McDonald’s while I broke out our laptop and printer and tapped into the McDonald’s wifi. The form was pretty easy and was able to print out the repair paperwork but by this time it was too late to ship the lens out.
I had gotten an email about a sale on photo and video editing software on Black Friday and the offer expired on Cyber Monday. $25 for Paintshop Pro Ultimate photo editing software and Pinnacle Studio video editing software. These were not the most powerful programs but we didn’t need all the complicated bells and whistles. These programs were reputed to be easier to use and much less expensive. As I just spent hundreds of dollars on camera equipment, can’t cheap out on $25 worth of software to actually edit those photographs and videos so I bought it. By the time everything was downloaded and installed it was 11pm at night. We hoofed it over to yet another Cracker Barrel and turned in. Three nights in a row at Cracker Barrel without staying more than one night at each. Turns out that Houston is ringed with Cracker Barrels and with RV parks in the Houston area running around $50 a night I took solace that we saved $150 in rent in just those 3 days.