Wednesday, January 29, 2014

If you thought Don Rumsfeld was a buffoon, think again

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, collections, adages, memoirs

One of my little books of business maxims is titled No Chairs Makes for Short Meetings (author R.E. Rybolt). That's a bit snappier than the way Donald Rumsfeld says it in his book: "Standing up while working tends to be an incentive for those who come in for a discussion to say what they need to say, and not linger," and "…to avoid meandering sessions…it's helpful to have a meeting where no one sits down."

As you can see in this image, from an Air Force photo taken in 2003, Don Rumsfeld does have a sit-down desk, but he doesn't use it much. In his book Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, the care and feeding of meetings comes in an early chapter, about 1/10 of the way through the book.

He has collected pithy statements from the wisdom of others all his life. Over time, he has also added many of his own, condensed wisdom in his own words. In 1974, President Gerald Ford learned of his growing collection and asked to see them, then dubbed them Rumsfeld's Rules. In their current form, found in Appendix B, more than 400 fill 33 pages. The first is "What you measure improves" and the last, with colossal irony, is "If you develop rules, never have more than ten." Well, God got by with ten Commandments, but He is perfect. 400 isn't too bad!

It takes an extraordinary mind to think of collecting wise sayings at a young age. Among the Biblical Proverbs we read "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child … fools despise wisdom and instruction." (22:15 and 1:7) Yet a few, wise beyond their years, willingly learn of others, realizing that they might thus avoid mistakes aplenty. The young Don Rumsfeld was one such. He realized there were numerous new and improved mistakes to be made, without repeating history.

The book consists of the author's commentary on groups of selected rules. I don't think 290 pages would suffice for wise commentary on all of them, and an 81-year-old would have too little time to do so! So we find the Rules providing the structure for a memoir of more than a half century spent in both public and private service. I believe the writers of the Constitution of the U.S. had people like Don Rumsfeld in mind: able to move easily between business and government, not hindered by either from serving the other. They, like I and many others, abhorred the notion of career politicians. I find it interesting that there is no mention of term limits in the book. Yet Don Rumsfeld is a great example of the good one can do with serving a term of one kind, then spending time running a business or two, returning to public service for a time, and so forth.

Near the close of the book, in a chapter titled "The Case for Capitalism", we find, "America is not what is
wrong with the world." Here the author eloquently states what so many of us want to say: Imperfect it may be, but the U.S.A. is much more about what is right with the world. Capitalism and Freedom simply work better than anything else ever tried. He demonstrates by showing a satellite photo like this one. Diagonally at the top, a few Chinese cities are lit up along the border with North Korea. The North/South Demilitarized Zone shows up as a wavy line of light. Between, only Pyongyang is meagerly lit, and at most six or seven other cities in the North. The huge glowing blob just south of the DMZ is Seoul, South Korea and its environs. Is there any starker contrast between freedom and its lack?

A few raw Korea facts:

  • GDP/capita: South = $32,000, North = $1,800.
  • Life Expectancy: South = 79.5 yrs, North = 69.5 yrs - living in the North can take a decade off your life!
And a few of the Rules that struck me as I read:
  • People don't spend money earned by others with the same care that they spend their own.
  • Never assume the other guy would never do something you would never do. (to which I would add, in war let there be nothing you would never do; it improves the imagination)
  • What you see is what you get. What you don't see gets you. (related to his discussion of "unknown unknowns")
  • Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see —Arthur Schopenhauer.
  • The first consideration for meetings is whether to call one at all.
As you can see, I am partial to Don Rumsfeld's distillation of wisdom in his own words. Whatever your political persuasion, or if you have none, you'll profit from reading this book. I may or may not re-read the book, but I will re-read the Appendix with the bare list of the Rules.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Everyone is pixilated but me and thee, and I wonder about thee

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, psychology, psychiatry, standards, diagnostic procedures, polemics

The quaint country saying that titles this post may soon become reality, except that people in very official capacities will be enforcing it. Not a moment too soon, Allan Frances, M.D., who chaired the DSM-IV task force, has written Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life.

DSM refers to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Editions I and II, released in 1952 and '68, were innocuous, and defined criteria for diagnosing a few dozen psychiatric syndromes. DSM-III (1980) and -IIIR (1987) greatly expanded the reach of psychiatry. Seeing how the diagnoses were being abused and expanded into "normal" territory, Dr. Frances tried very hard to establish standards for DSM-IV that would alleviate the problem. He didn't know the hydra-headed monster he was up against! The first direct-to-consumer drug advertisements aired in 1983, just over 30 years ago. By the time DSM-IV was released in 1994, drug companies had a 12-year head start inflating diagnoses, psychiatrists were also eagerly ramping up their business, and family physicians were beginning to get in on the largesse afforded by official recognition of a host of "afflictions" that were formerly considered within the spectrum of normal, or at least, ordinary, behavior and experience. Most of those diagnosed under the new guidelines will be, not the truly ill, but the "worried well."

My own experience with this has been rather peculiar. DSM-IV introduced Bipolar II (BP2), for persons with hypomanic (less manic than full-blown mania) episodes alternating with depression. In 2002, in the aftermath of a serious personal crisis and loss of a valued friendship, I could not shake off persistent depression after several months. My family doctor at first recommended an antidepressant. I tried several and the third try was Zoloft. When I saw him a few weeks after starting Zoloft I was bouncing off the walls. Now he said it might be BP or BP2, and sent me to a psychiatrist for a definitive diagnosis. BP2 it was, and after some counseling and trying a couple of anti-epileptic medications, I decided to learn to live with it. I could not find a doctor willing to prescribe Dilantin, which I had already learned is the most effective anti-epileptic to use for BP or BP2. It is old, off patent, and thus denigrated. Nobody seems to care that it works.

A few years later, after another depressive episode that included some suicidal ideation, yet another psychiatrist prescribed Abilify. It is very expensive, but it seemed effective. I noticed my weight gradually rising, so after a few years I stopped that, and I have determined that is that (I subsequently also lost 20 lbs; losing weight is a great antidepressant). I have cognitive methods to deal with my moods. Prior to 1995 I'd have received the "paid friendship" of a counselor as the only therapy, and it would have been sufficient. I'd have saved a few hundred dollars, and my insurance company would have saved 20+ thousand. By the way, my experience with psychiatrists who will accept an insurance plan such as Compsych is that they are really bottom of the barrel. I could never afford a "real" shrink, but brief contact with one or two made me realize how bad those I'd seen really were.

That thought brings me to a late section of the book, in which Dr. Frances recommends a few things. One is expanding the number of psychiatrists. Who recalls when the baseball leagues were expanded? What happened? The average level of play went down. Think about it. Major league baseball could only accommodate a few hundred of the very best players. The cutoff was arbitrary, limited by salary caps and other regulations. But there were, in minor league teams, players just a tiny bit less talented than the ones who'd barely made it into the majors. However, there were not several hundred at that level. Revising the leagues nearly doubled the number of players. Most of those added were well below star status. If we do encourage a great expansion of psychiatry in America, guess what the average newcomer will be like. Maybe a few will be really great, but not most. I must add that I do agree with many of the author's recommendations, just not this one!

Now with DSM-5 just released, which has much greater potential for diagnostic inflation and other abuses, it is squarely on our shoulders (we, the potential patients) to say "No!" to the attempts by drug companies and newly minted psychiatrists and newly empowered family doctors to redefine almost anything less than "I am perfect in every way every day" as abnormal and requiring treatment, the costlier the better. Here is my own short list:

  • I decided long ago not to allow a doctor to prescribe any drug that I had seen advertised on TV. Make that your New Year's resolution, in place of the ones you've already broken.
  • Make sure you have at least one or two good, good friends you can talk to when you are feeling bad.
  • Don't allow the schools to medicate your kid. A normal grade schooler is inquisitive and active and has a short attention span. The current definition of ADHD covers more than 75% of children! But only if we allow it.
  • If you do have a terrible affliction that time and talk ("watchful waiting") does not alleviate, then get help, but do not let your family doc prescribe Seroquel or something. Get referred to a psychiatrist and demand conservative treatment from the outset. The stronger drugs can have permanent debilitating effects, and if you use one that doesn't work anyway, you could find yourself in worse shape and with little effective help.
Well, this is a bit more scattered than usual. Read the book, it is an eye-opener.

I finished the book on the date of this post, but I am writing it 4 days later. I back date posts in such cases. I was out of state, and it always takes me a while to get over plane rides, but the trip was very good otherwise.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Science Slip-ups

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, science, scientists, errors

I couldn't pass up the title: Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein, Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe, by Mario Livio. I was hoping it would be something better than one-upmanship ("See how much more we know now; aren't we good?"), and I was happily right. I've read an article or two by Dr. Livio—anyone has who has read publications by the STSCI—but none of his books. This one is a pleasure.

There isn't a way to review this book in detail without giving too much away. The concept, however, is clear. Those scientists we call truly great had such useful intuition that even when they were wrong, their errors pointed the way for others who'd never have gotten a better theory otherwise.

To take one example of the five in the book, Lord Kelvin ( William Thomson) calculated an age for the earth, based on temperatures in deep mines, and certain assumptions of thermal conductivity and initial temperature, of 100 million years. He was wise enough to do a bit of sensitivity analysis, and stated that the actual value would probably fall in the range 30-400 my. When others later showed that his assumption of solid conduction may not be correct, and that the earth could be much older, he stubbornly denied it. Yet, he was but one who had said the earth might be older if a source of energy other than remnant heat were involved. He died in 1907, so he didn't learn that radioactive decay is just such an energy source.

I wonder, is Kelvin's earlier underestimate really a blunder? Under the assumptions he made, it was quite valid. And his aim was not quite what we think. There were, at that time, two opposed camps. Biblical literalists maintained the dogma that the Earth is no more than some 6-8 thousand years old. Bishop Ussher's calculations putting Genesis 1:1 as the evening preceding October 23, 4004 BC was well known, but not without competitors. Yet few theologians, whether Christian or Jewish, were amenable to the geologists' contention that, as James Hutton had written in 1788, the Earth showed "no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end." Kelvin wished to correct both errors. He showed first that the rise in temperature with depth in mines indicated an Earth that had not always been as it is now. This should give pause to a geologist who might surmise there is infinite time for modern landforms to develop. Yet Kelvin then showed that deep time was still pretty deep, at least some tens of millions of years, not a few thousands. I find it astonishing that so many today (mostly in America) still deny a "geological" age for the Earth.

In the last section, the author explores the Cosmological Constant, Λ, which, the folklore tells us, Einstein called his "biggest blunder". Then he digs further, and determines that the "biggest blunder" statement probably originated with George Gamow, not Einstein. Einstein himself thought it might be an error once cosmological expansion was discovered. But he was unsure if it ought to be eliminated. Considering that Λ is now called "dark energy", and contributes about 75% of the gravity in the universe, his "error" or "blunder" (pick your favorite) makes up 3/4 of everything!

Oh, and just by the way, I am not certain if this interpretation of Λ is true. It is based on finicky measurements of supernova brightnesses, particularly in the 6-7 ga range of ages. I have yet to learn of a proper study of the effect of metallicity on peak luminosity of Type 1a supernovae, particularly the C/O composition of the original star. The general metallicity of the universe some 7 gy ago was about half what it is today, and was even less some half a billion years earlier when the stars that went "boom" at 7 ga were formed. Do we have another blunder in the making?

It has been occasionally said that some errors are so bad they are "not even wrong." The "blunders" limned in this book might be said to be "not quite wrong". We now have a better way to explain (theorize) each, but will future scientists look back at today's best theories as "not quite wrong, yet not quite right either"? Count on it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Leapfrogging NASA?

kw: book reviews, science fiction, space travel, space policy

Here is an idea for you. The US government has no stomach any more for crewed space travel beyond "low earth orbit", meaning inside the inner Van Allen Belt, at altitudes well below 1,000 km. Imagine persuading twenty or so of the top billionaires to contribute a total of $100 billion to fund a private program to go to Mars. That is the premise behind Ben Bova's latest book Mars, Inc.: The Billionaire's Club. It is no spoiler to tell that the book ends with the ship's launch. The interesting ideas come throughout, as the protagonist, one Art Thrasher, herds together the billionaires, NASA, and a national government or two while fending off hostile takeovers of the company, sabotage and other assorted obstacles, and chases every skirt that crosses his path in the meantime.

Let's consider the finances. Thrasher gets each of twenty billionaires to contribute $1 billion yearly for five years, for a total of $100 billion. It seems he is counting on much greater efficiencies than past programs. The Apollo program cost $20 billion in the 1970s, and if you inflate by 6 (check the CPI calculator for the factor from 1970 to today), it would cost $120 billion. That was to go to the Moon six times. Government estimates for a Mars program range from $1 trillion and up. Of course, the cost to get there and back the first time may be less than that, but $100 billion is wildly optimistic.

Bova imagines using nuclear propulsion (and has a lot of fun with Thrasher getting permission to launch one!), using standard figures that it is more than twice as efficient as chemical propulsion. It is, but if the shielding needed to protect the crew doubles the weight of your craft, it is a wash. This isn't mentioned.

An element I found fascinating is a logical extension of Virtual Reality as we presently know it. Currently affordable equipment can handle vision and hearing quite well. Getting tactile feedback is still in the research stage, and a few primitive versions of the Haptic Glove can be had at steep prices.

Side note: a haptic glove uses tiny vibrators and other wiggly items distributed over its inside surface, wired to a controller that connects it to the computer. It simulates the feel of virtual objects. Simulating heft, body, and mass resistance are separate problems entirely: The glove might let you feel the texture a barbell's handle, but it can't exercise your arm while you "lift" it. Nor can it keep you from closing your hand beyond the surface of that virtual steel handle. There are no prospects for a haptic "Y at home".

Now imagine a haptic body glove. In the novel, Art Thrasher complains that putting one on is like climbing into a stiff Brillo pad. That's probably apt. But Bova's notion is, we may have watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon on our TV sets (a facet of the story no science fiction writer had predicted), but for Mars exploration, how about sending Virtual Reality signals back so that people can experience what the explorers experience? Selling the VR equipment is posited as a funding source for ongoing Mars exploration.

Hmm. Millions and millions of people watched the Apollo 11 landing. Hardly anyone watched A17. I wonder who'd have watched if they'd known it would be the last in their lifetimes? It has been just over 41 years…

It is in the nature of such a book that it becomes a political thriller. Most such turn me off, big time. But Bova keeps the overt politics to a minimum and lavishes the technical, as much as he can. Now, if somebody can just come up with a propulsion system that is double again as efficient as thermal-nuclear, to get people to and fro in a month instead of half a year. We can only dream.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Happy is as happy does

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, psychology, happiness, self help

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, "Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be". If you take that notion, add the principle of hedonic adaptation—we get used to just about anything after a while—, and expand it all to book length, you'll get something like Sonja Lyobomirsky's new book The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't; What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does.

Dr. Lyubomirsky has made a career of studying happiness, and her prior book The How of Happiness is one of a very few self help books with scientific backing (get it, I plan to). Myths goes further, focusing on the turning points of adult life: gaining or losing key relationships, getting or losing an occupation or a windfall, and the inevitable changes of getting older.

Many years ago, during a phase in which I allowed myself to think myself a victim, I was seeing a therapist about "depression", and he had me read the book Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst. It was a big help, and this book would have helped even more. My real problem was coupling the usual mid-life crisis that accompanies one's mid-40s with the stresses of having an infant in the home. Most 45-year-olds have only vague memories of the infant stage of their teen-aged (or older) kids. A few years later, seeing a therapist over a completely different issue (thankfully, relating to non-relatives!), at one point he asked me, "What do you do when you are feeling bad?" I said, "I do something I like." He replied, "Then you don't need me any more," and I haven't been to one since.

The biggest "attitude adjustment" I underwent came later, after I experienced dying of cancer, but was rescued at the last minute by a terrifically skilled surgeon. As Samuel Johnson said, "…when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Here is a before-and-after example. All my life I have been dogged by a tendency to over-submit to authority, and in particular, to quail when challenged. A few months after finishing chemotherapy, a manager (my boss's boss) assigned me something that was far and away outside my competence, in an area I had no interest in pursuing. I could see it was a recipe for failure, and sent a note, declining. She came storming to my office, pretty much trying to say, "Take it or else", and I said, "Look, I already died. What more can you do to me? Assign it to someone who is already good at that." For the rest of my career I operated as an equal partner with any supervisor or manager. And I was a lot happier!

The principle of hedonic adaptation is central to the book's approach, and is well studied. It is encapsulated in the proverbs, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," and "Familiarity breeds contempt," as applied not just to relationships but to anything we might care about. For example: you have a bitter fight with a cherished friend, and there is a period in which the two of you do not communicate. You are alternately devastated and insultedly enraged, but you are definitely not happy. For a time, the matter consumes all your thoughts, but if this goes on for weeks or months, you have to go on with life, and you do. If someone asks you, "Are you happy?" you are likely to respond the way you would have the day before the blowup. Then you get the chance to reconcile, and the two of you forgive each other and resume the friendship. You are over the moon. Then in time, your general level of happiness returns. Over several weeks' time, your "mood meter" might go like this (ironing out lesser events):

Within limits, we get used to both the bad and the good. This goes for money also, for example. We are all happy to get a raise, but it doesn't seem to take very long to find ways to spend it, and we are no happier than before. Suppose it is a big raise, so you buy a boat (or name your favorite extravagance). You are tickled to pieces! A year or two later, you are wondering if you can afford an even bigger boat, or even worse, getting irritated at the amount of upkeep.

Now, what about aging? Can we really age gracefully? It seems we all know someone 5 or 10 or 20 or even 40 years older, who is still good looking and healthy and keeping busy with enjoyable things to do. We might wonder, can I do as well? Look around some more. It is also likely that you know someone of a similar age with this or that problem, and maybe coping with the tighter budget of a "fixed income" retirement, but who seems quite content…or not! If you have known that person a long enough time, do you remember his or her general mood half a lifetime ago? It was probably similar. This gets back to Lincoln's quote.

Externalities don't determine our "inner climate", though they do affect day-to-day moods, more or less severely. As in her earlier book, the author presents a number of methods to attain perspective. I find it akin to Stephen Covey's "circles of concern, circles of control" principle. He advises us to take a careful look at everything we worry about, to determine which we can control and which we cannot. In his view, to be both happier and more effective, we must do what we can to increase our circle of control and to decrease the circle of concern until, ideally, they match.

Dr. Lyubomirsky would agree, and each chapter ends with a section titled "The Prepared Mind" (based on Louis Pasteur: "Fortune favors the prepared mind."). If we have suffered a reverse in any area, and can step back, and expect to adapt to it, we can do so more quickly. If we have a pleasant (or ecstatic) surprise, and we can step back, and realize we will also adapt to that, we can perhaps avoid the negative swing that often occurs when we say to ourselves, "Well, that wasn't quite as good as I imagined, long term." Nobody can get what Lucy wanted in one of the Peanuts strips, when she said, "Why do there have to be ups and downs? I don't want any downs. I just want ups and Ups and UPS!!"

Don't we all. Not available, folks.

Scanner Update

kw: product testing, product reviews, scanners, film scanners, slide scanners

See the post three days ago. My estimate of timing for running with Digital ICE technology was off by a factor of two. The actual time per image is 4.8 minutes, while the time without it is 0.9 minutes.

I also found that it is best to put no more than one strip of any length into each of the four sections of the film carrier. That makes wiping dust off easier, and striving to fill the carrier doesn't actually save any time. This means I seldom do more than 12-16 frames, rather than the 24 a full carrier can handle. As it happened, all my negatives were cut by the developer into 4-frame sections. The sheets in which I have had them stored have room for 6 frames per strip, so I cut every second strip into two pieces to economize on sheets. So now I load them 4, 2, 4, 2, for 12 frames per run. At 4.8 min/frame scan time, that is one run per hour, plus the time to unload and reload the carrier. I could speed things up by buying a second carrier, but I'll defer that.

I do a lot with the computer, so I have found I can run the scanner in the background. To start the day, I load film in the carrier and start a scan. It pays to be careful with the carrier's parts, because the tabs that hold them together are rather small. Once it is all together, I lay it on a light table and carefully slide the film strips until all edges of each image are visible. Then I dust with a blow-brush. I also clean the glass. Dust seems to get in there every time I open the lid. So I run Preview, set the options I want (Unsharp Mask off, Grain Reduction on High, Digital ICE on), and rotate any frames that I took in Portrait orientation. Then I hit Scan and I have an hour to do other stuff.

So it takes two sets to scan a roll of 24 (or 26) and three to scan a roll of 36 (or 38; I squeezed frames onto the leader and trailer as much as I could). I hope this helps. I suppose if you work in a clean room environment you can get by with out Digital Ice, because it really does take a lot more time. But I am fine with it.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Testing a semi-pro transparency scanner

kw: product testing, product reviews, scanners, film scanners, slide scanners

I had promised myself a good film scanner once I got other year-end projects out of the way. I have the negatives from a couple hundred rolls of film plus a few hundred slides, from my pre-digital days. One of my brothers also has several thousand slides our father took. I ordered the scanner a few days after Christmas.

The first shipping day of the year, it arrived, an Epson Perfection V700. I have been reading and comparing reviews and tests and user articles for months, because a $600 investment is no small potatoes for me.

This is a product test, not a total review, so I'll forego a few things and get right to test results.

First, the negative I chose for these tests is a friend playing the banjo, about thirty years ago. I scanned in Professional Mode at 4800x4800 dpi. This first scan establishes a baseline. All options were turned off.

The color is too blue, but I am most interested in the film grain and dust that appear in closeups. You can see a large dust speck on the forehead and above the pegboard of the banjo. There is also a bit of lint on the collar, and others that we'll see in crops shown next:

Here, another piece of lint shows up at lower right, and two scratches, running nearly vertically, one at upper left and another to its right next to the bright curl of lint on the collar. There is also a large speck of dust near bottom center on the shirt pocket, left of the lint.

All of these images can be seen in a larger size (about twice) by clicking on them. At this size the film grain pretty well averages out.

First I turned on Unsharp Masking, a cool mathematical way to sharpen an image:

The primary effect is seen by looking at the banjo strings, which appear more distinct. However, the lint, dust and scratches are even more visible here. I think it better to concentrate on cleaning up the image. Sharpening can be done later.

To that end, for the next scan I turned on Grain Reduction. While I was at it, I also turned on Color Restore; it should not interfere with other functions:

Now the color is much better. A full size image also shows that the film grain has been reduced. But now it is time to test two methods of dealing with dust.

First, the software-only method, titled Dust Removal:

Clearly, Dust Removal doesn't touch lint or scratches. The speck of dust at lower center is still visible also, though perhaps a little less evident. We'll return to this. Note that I turned Color Restore off for this scan.

The second method is called Digital ICE, and uses two scans. One is infrared, and detects the dust, lint and scratches. Then they can be subtracted from the visible-light image by pasting nearby pixel patterns in. Here is the result:

This is marvelous! The dust and scratches are entirely gone, and I can see just slight hints of the lint. The drawback is that scanning takes more than twice as long.

Guess what I did next? I took the film holder out and used an optical brush to clean the negatives. Upon re-scan, the lint and dust are gone, though the scratches are still there.

Let's have a closer look at another area of the image before wrapping up. First, here is the other area of the scan with all options off. This is near the pegboard of the banjo:

In this area the film grain is more visible. This is a tighter crop also. One big dust speck and several smaller ones are evident.

Here is the effect of Grain Reduction:

To my eye, the graininess is reduced by half or better. The smaller dust grains are also less evident. This is simply a blur function.

Now for Dust Removal:

Now, that is nearly prefect. The algorithm finds dust specks in large smoothly colored areas and covers them over quite well. Too bad about the lint and scratches, though.

Here is the result of Digital ICE processing instead:

It is incredibly good. I can just see a tiny light spot where the largest dust mote had been. Digital ICE is clearly the best method for cleaning up images from imperfect film or slides. Of course, it is best to get them as clean as possible first, but that can't remove scratches.

The time spent to scan a roll of film is about an hour. Loading the film holders is somewhat finicky. People who use this scanner for production work (the ones that charge you about half a dollar per neg or slide) buy a second set of film and slide holders, for about $40. Once loaded and placed, scanning takes about a minute or so for a preview. Then you choose options, if you are in Professional Mode (and none other is worth using), and Scan.

To choose options, when the preview is showing you your thumbnails, be sure to hit the Select All button, unless you want to use different options for each image. You can choose them one by one by clicking in the image area of the thumbnail.

I was surprised that scanning is done image by image. I'd have thought the scanner could make a single pass and use software to pick it apart, but it scans each one, taking about a minute each, or a little less. With Digital ICE turned off, scanning a roll of 24 takes just over 20 minutes.

If you have turned on Digital Ice for any images, it scans each one a second time with the backlight turned off, using an IR source in its place. With the extra motion and resetting it does, it takes about 2½ minutes per image. That is a full hour just to scan a roll of 24 frames, or half an hour to scan 12 slides. That compares to over 20 minutes for the film and 11-12 minutes for slides, with Digital ICE turned off. In my estimation, the extra time is worth it.

Scanning film is a task I'll do while I have other stuff I can also do. I can get it going, do other stuff, and take a break from the other stuff to put the film away and load the next batch. I am really glad I got this scanner.