DigMyPics.Com vs. ScanCafe.Com

Like a lot of people, I have thousands of photographs preserved on 35mm slides and negatives that I’ve really wanted to get scanned. There are a lot of companies that will do that for you, but the two leaders in that area are DigMyPics and ScanCafe . . . two companies that have often had a contentious relationship, to say the least.

After ScanCafe.Com became popular a year or so ago, based on undercutting DigMyPics pricing, DigMyPics started a campaign to highlight the fact that ScanCafe was shipping photos to India for scanning.  For example, on its website DigMyPics had this helpful FAQ entry,

Will the work be done in the USA?

Some companies quietly your photos to a foreign country to have the work performed to increase their profit. For instance, one company in Miami will ship your photos to Costa Rica and another in California will ship them to India to have the scanning done even though these companies never mention those facts on their websites or they give the information in carefully chosen language and bury it in far less prominent places than their pricing.**

Nothing against Costa Rica or India, but I wouldn’t want my photos shipped there by a third party and out of my control.

While outsourcing to another country may make sense with high volume, low margin manufactured goods, it hasn’t worked so well with services. Irrespective of the clear risks involved with sending your photos to a third world country, it’s quite clear that dealing with the company’s employees who are working on your project in your language and culture produces a much more efficient and gratifying end user experience as well as a superior final product.

Rest assured that DigMyPics never ships your photos anywhere else and that all work is done right here in the USA by professional American photographers and artists.

Got that. India and/or Costa Rica are “risk[y] . . . third-world countries” where your photos are “out of my control.” Certainly you’d be much better sending your photos to a safe, American company (cue the Lee Greenwood music).

So last night, I was once again pondering whether to send my negatives off to be scanned and hit the DigMyPics site to see what their current pricing was. And this is what is currently on their front page,

DigMyPics.com

To our customers and friends,

On Monday May 5, 2008 at approximately 2am, Arizona Time, DigMyPics suffered a devastating fire which destroyed our building and most of its contents.  The fire was large and the neighboring city of Mesa was called in to help fight it.  Three large ladder trucks were used to douse the flames.   Despite the best efforts of both city’s firefighters, the building was completely destroyed. Our website, email, customer database, and telephone lines are all currently down as a result.

As you can imagine, Annette and I are heartbroken by what has happened. We always believed that our customers placed their trust in us when they sent us their photos and videos and we took that responsibility personally and extremely seriously.

Annette, the employees of DigMyPics, and I are all still in shock and disbelief and we aren’t sure if we’ll even try to rebuild the company.  What we are sure of is that we want to help those people that had put their trust in us to retrieve whatever is retrievable.  We’re putting together a restoration team to help us restore whatever is uncovered.  The Gilbert Fire Department has been extremely helpful to us and are sensitive to what we had in the building.  They’re working hard to help us find and extract our customer’s photos and videos.  The scene is currently under their custody as they investigate the fire’s cause but today we delivered a trailer to them and they’ve agreed to put any photos, film, hard drives or computers that they find in that trailer and give us access to it twice a day.  We’ll take the material to another site we’ve temporarily leased to begin work on salvaging any images or videos that can be saved.

I don’t want to give any false hope, some people may have lost everything, but we had some encouraging news today.  The fire department was able to successfully retrieve our servers and their forensic team has told us that the servers look good and that the data is likely retrievable.  We store a copy of the images that have been completed on some of those servers.  The building is completely destroyed but the roof collapse may have sheltered some areas from the worst effects.  Fire crews are removing pieces of the roof and have found some photos and reels in tact.

Ouch.

Kansas State Students to Stop Throwing Chickens During Basketball Games (Seriously)

Apparently it is common for students at Kansas State to sneak live chickens into the auditorium when their team plays rival Kansas, whose mascot is the Jayhawk. The student(s) then throw the chicken out onto the floor as a way of mocking the Jayhaw mascot.

Yeah, it didn’t make any sense to me either.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals got wind of the practice, however, and sent a letter to Kansas State objecting to this mistreatment of animals.

The athletic department followed up with a statement asking fans to discontinue the tradition, saying,

These actions severely tarnish the image of our University, its athletics teams and the majority of our outstanding fans and supporters and while viewed by many as harmless pranks, these acts are likely illegal.

PETA’s Debbie Leahy told the Associated Press, “Any student who throws live birds on a basketball court should be thrown out of school.”

A bigger question might be how the chicken throwers managed to get in to Kansas State in the first place.

Sources:

N.C. vs. Duke: blood feud. Reggie Hayes, The News-Sentinel (Indiana), March 6, 2007.

Kansas State Athletic Department Condemns Chicken Toss. Associated Press, February 28, 2007.

The American College of Surgeon’s View of Animal Research

In a letter to the editor of the Tribune & Georgian, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Aysha Akhtar responds to a previous letter published in that newspaper attacking PCRM.

Akhtar discusses the current state of animal use in medical schools and writes,

The America [sic] College of Surgeons no longer uses live animals in its clinical training programs and has endorsed the use of simulation technologies to replace live animal use in surgery training programs.

Since Akhtar is so fond of the American College of Surgeons, it might be useful to look at the entirety of their position statement on animals in education and research. The following is the full text of that statement, first adopted in 1991 and then altered slightly in 2002 to reflect changes in federal animal regulations,

The American College of Surgeons supports the responsible use and humane care and treatment of laboratory animals in research, education, teaching, and product safety testing in accordance with applicable local, state, and federal animal welfare laws. Further, the membership believes that only as many animals as necessary should be used; that any pain or distress animals may experience should be minimized or alleviated; and that, wherever feasible, alternatives to the use of live animals should be developed and employed.

The American College of Surgeons believes that now and in the foreseeable future it is not possible to completely replace the use of animals and that the study of whole living organisms, tissues, and cells is an indispensable element of biomedical research, education, and teaching.

Certainly the American College of Surgeons has recommended the use of non-animal alternatives for clinical teaching where the non-animal alternatives are equal to or better than traditional animal methods, but the ACS does not share Akhtar’s or PCRM’s view of “the need to move away from using animals in medical research and education.”

Sources:

Animals are not meant for medical research. Aysha Akhtar, Letter to the Editor, The Tribune & Georgian, March 6, 2007.

Statement on the Use of Animals in Research, Education, and Teaching. American College of Surgeons, 2002.

More Animal Dissections in Schools than Ever?

Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss has an interesting look at the current state of animal dissection in American schools. Among other things, the article suggests that animal dissections are more common now than ever, in part due to the popularity of animal dissection at lower grade levels.

The article claims that,

Across the country, more dissections are performed than ever before, according to the advocates and critics of dissection. The nonprofit Humane Society estimates that 6 million vertebrate animals are dissected in U.S. high schools alone; the number of dissections of invertebrate animals is probably comparable, it says.

Unfortunately, Strauss doesn’t include any information on estimates of animals dissected over time, so readers have to take her word for it. Moreover, the increase in animals dissected over a much earlier time could represent the large increase in population in the United States over the past few decades rather than any genuine increase in the popularity/prevalence of animal dissection.

One genuine change appears to be an increasing number of animal dissections at the middle and elementary school level (the first time I remember doing an animal dissection was in the 7th grade).

Of course animal rights activists argue for replacing animal dissections with computer models of the same, and 9 states require students who object to animal dissection to be given some sort of non-animal alternative. But Kenneth Roy, chair of the Science Safety Advisory Board of the National Science Teachers Association, defends animal dissection,

I would use the example of driving a real car versus a driving simulation on a computer or in a game room machine. The real-time dissection provides awareness to all of the senses — touch especially — texture, form, etc.

Source:

When cutting up in class is okay. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, March 5, 2007.

Maps of Religious Belief/Membership in United States

As part of his American Ethnic Geography courser, Valparaiso professor Jon Kilpinen has posted a gallery of maps that show how religious belief/church membership is distributed across the United States. The data is taken from the Glenmary Research Center’s Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States, 2000.

China Moves Toward Liberalizing Its Currency Market

China has started making moves toward liberalizing its currency market, though not fast enough for some in the U.S. government who bizarrely complain that China keeps the yuan artificially low.

In December, China announced that it approved 13 foreign and domestic banks who would be market movers for the yuan. If it follows through, this will change China’s long-standing micromanagement of its currency designed to keep its value from rising against the yen, pound and dollar.

Having a number of banks that are market movers for the currency would, in theory, limit the ability of China to intervene to keep the value of the yuan down.

There are a lot of reasons that China should stop such intervention, but one of the odd things is watching U.S. officials complain about the cheap yuan. The argument goes that the cheap yuan is largely responsible for the U.S. trade deficit in which the United States imports far more goods from China than it exports to that nation.

But if China is crazy enough to essentially subsidize exports to the United States, why should the United States object? The United States get goods far cheaper, raising the effective buying powers of wages, and China gets cash it uses for the capital investment necessary to continue its economic growth.

Source:

China reforms its currency market. BBC, December 30, 2005.