Category Archives: the consumer

where, oh where, is a good dentist? how do I find one?

dentistYou knew it was coming. I don’t get all lovey-dovey about docs for long. So here it is, the consumer-interest dentist story. In our grossly capitalistic medical system, where money is more important than people, somehow we’ve forgotten that we are consumers as well as patients. Are we ever right? Or have we given our rights up entirely to the bizarrely god-like status of american doctors? Some of these characters need to be questioned.

Overheard on the street tonight, just after I started writing this. Two very skinny UWS women talking to each other about plans:

Women 1: Well, Anna has a dentist appointment that morning which I totally forgot.

Women 2: Oh yes, who do you see?…oh yes. No, I haven’t been. They say every six months, but really, I’m a once-a-year girl myself.

Women 1: Well, you know, I could try to change the appointment, but, well, I have this thing about…

Women 2: Oh heavens no, I understand…

Every six months indeed. What a racket. I won’t admit how long it’s been since I’d seen a dentist because I’m sure my health degree would be yanked away by some wrathful authority. It is a double-digit multiple of 6 months, though. Why? At first, no insurance. Then I couldn’t find a decent one who took my insurance then—I just never got around to it. Busy with many other things. Look, I brush. I floss. I gargle. And thank heavens, it’s paid off. Yes, I have a dodgy-looking front tooth from a childhood incident when a kid jumped on, instead of over, my head at Maca Pool, poorly fixed with a pin by my childhood ghetto dentist. It’s strong though, and the root is alive and healthy. I’ve always considered getting it fixed, when I had the money (which always seems better spent on other things, quite frankly, though I know many don’t agree).

Alas. I have dental insurance now and it was high time to get a checkup. I asked everyone I knew, then everyone with my insurance, if they could recommend someone. With the exception of a guy out in Queens, no one could. So, I consulted my health insurer’s website and found a place on 125th Street. I made an appointment for my lunch break the following week. I showed up on time, and waited 45 minutes. The place was a circus and I sat wedged between a water cooler and the bathroom. Luckily, I had my book.

After 45 minutes, I asked the receptionist, who was very kind given the stress of her position, how long it would be because I had to go back to work. She checked, and asked if I could wait just 10 more minutes, which we all know means at least 25. I said no, and left. I waited a day or two, and after momentarily considering a trip out to Queens, logged into my insurer’s site again. I found a place fairly close that I’d avoided before because of the name, “Dental Passion.” Oh dear. It reminded me of some unfortunate experience my mother had with a dentist when she was young and under the influence of laughing gas. To be brief, he behaved inappropriately.

Nevermind, it was close. I went early, this time, and was assured on the phone that I wouldn’t have to wait. This was true. I was the only person there. The tech was to first give me x-rays, but I didn’t want them. So the very young dentist came in and talked me into them. Full mouth. It’s been a long time. Less radiation than daylight.

toothKnowing I might not see a dentist again for awhile, I agreed. The tech was very sweet. She had me bite on a huge square thing that cut my lower mouth and was extremely painful. After about three, the computer froze and stopped processing the images. She had to retake them over and over, and it became more and more painful. The dentist wasn’t sure why it didn’t work. Neither did the receptionist. They explained to me that she was taking over a previous dentist’s business. He’d retired. They were setting up a newer, faster, more efficient x-ray system. It wouldn’t hurt as much, the tech explained.


I’ve no idea how many attempts at the x-rays had been made at this point. Surely over ten. This is when the tech decided to put the lead vest on me. Not at the beginning, but now, way in. Didn’t I say I didn’t want x-rays because of radiation? Wow.

Ten or so attempts later, they all gave up. They’ll give me a call when the new system is in. So the dentist got on with the cleaning.

Maybe a minute into the cleaning, my chair starting moving. Up. Then down. The dentist didn’t know how to stop it. Nor did the tech. At this point I thought I was trapped in an SNL skit. I laughed, but I was annoyed. The chair was still moving to and fro. The receptionist, who’d been there with the previous dentist and so knew a thing or two (especially about insurance) came and unplugged the chair. I was told we had to move to a different room. The tech helped me up. The chair stopped with me in a backbend, my head closer to the floor than my feet. As my head lifted away from the chair, at least 25 hairs were pulled out, tangled in the metal bars of the headrest.


The other room was much less dramatic. I got my cleaning and was told I have 3 cavities, perhaps more, and might need a root canal. She wouldn’t know for sure until after the x-rays. I thought this very strange, as I’m in no pain. Hmm, I thought. I told her in the beginning that I’m into what she termed, “less aggressive treatment.”

I went out to pay a co-pay, but was told by the receptionist that my insurance covers up to $3,000 of dental work a year. She looked at the dentist and said, “They’ll pay for everything. Let’s schedule those fillings now.”

I reiterated that I’m into less aggressive treatment and suggested we wait until the new x-ray system was in, especially as my calendar was at my desk at work. I asked her, for future reference, how much the treatment would be without insurance. First time visit, $125. Cleaning, $75. X-rays, $225. (These are approximate, from what I remember after all this. These prices are an important reference for the next post.) My insurance wouldn’t be billed for the x-rays, as they were far from complete. She told me about dentalsave, which is dental insurance anyone can buy, which seems a good deal, especially if you’re a every-six-months kind of girl. Not that I advocate extra insurance.

I left. During that visit, I was the only person in the office. Nary another patient.

I told my boss the story and he found it odd the retiring dentist hadn’t referred his patients on. Two weeks later, I received a letter at home from that retiree, who I’d never seen in my life, recommending a third dentist (also unknown to me) to his beloved patients, whom he will miss dearly.

After a few days to recoup (I swear I couldn’t sleep well after all the radiation), and a more serious consideration of the trip out to Queens, I logged back into my health insurers website. Story of the third, x-rayed, cavity-free visit to come.

scancafe. oy.

Another from the Staten Island Ferry

I am all over the place, trying to get ready for the trip, getting photo stuff (batteries, memory cards, filter for new lens, adpaters for aussie voltage, etc), plus getting the daily nonsense done. Now, two weeks later (rather than 3-4 days), scancafe has reloaded my order.

Why did I do this?

I wonder if in the end it will all be worth it. I won’t have the images back before I go to Australia, because of their delay, which means they won’t be safe until I get back. Great. On top of that, the hassle of all of this, and the fact that many of the photos that inspired me to send the whole lot off weren’t scanned, makes me wonder if the time and money were worth it.

Reflecting, though I didn’t want the photos of college antics, there were a number of completely innocent photos that weren’t scanned because they were deemed improper. Okay, prudecafe. Some were of friends’ tatoos in Lithuania, inked by Narimantas. Furthermore, the Pakistan images aren’t there. I won’t know what’s what until I get them all back. Unacceptable. Annoying.

I’m too tired to even look through at the rescanned images. Thank heavens those I deleted are as marked.

Pleasant thought? Last week while doing laundry, there was a guy teaching his small son (about 3) how to do laundry. The kid sat on the machine and put quarters in, and helped with the clothes as well. That’s what I like to see. Cute, too.

scancafe update from a quality manager


NYC is rainy today. Inspired me to buy the domain (Above pic: Brooklyn Bridge, 14 August 2008.) Here’s the scancafe update of the day:

Dear Anastasia,

I just wanted to inform you that I have found some quality issues with the images of your order which we have observed during my quality audit. I am personally involved in reprocessing the images in your order. Please allow 3-4 business days for us to complete this process. We will upload the reprocessed images online and will inform you through email once it is ready for your review. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused.

Best Regards,

Quality Manager
Image processing center

This is good. I’m just hoping like mad that the 1936 images I deleted are still deleted, and I can review whatever has been corrected (yes, I requested this in an email), because I just can’t bear going through all 5783 images again. I been through them about 1.2 times. I also hope the Pakistan pics are found. Yay. (I also hope that I get the DVDs back before I leave for Australia.)

more thoughts on the scans

Picture 6

I want to clarify the last few posts on scancafe, and I’d planned to do this even before I was told I sounded whiney and was boring everyone with the scancafe stuff (probably including Kirigalpoththa. Apologies!). But I think consumer experience is important, especially when it’s something as important as preserving personal photos.  I started writing about the scancafe experience in August with the intent of sharing my experience all the way along. I don’t have the images back yet. I’m only able to see them online, in the format you see in the screenshot above (me, 1997).

As I mentioned in the comment to John, the scratches were on very old negs. I don’t think scancafe techs put them there, but they certainly didn’t clean them up, as their site says they do. Same for the thumbprint. That could easily have been cleaned. As for John’s job, if I had negs and images I couldn’t live without, I don’t think I’d send them to scancafe. And I didn’t send my medium format work. I thought I’d test them with this job first.

I’m exhausted by looking through all the pictures, which contributes to the mood. My deadline is Nov 2, next Monday, and 14 days total is not that much time to go through all 5,783 of them considering the format of the site. The pictures were numbered in order, but the folders aren’t in order. When I told customer service this, they told me I could rearrange the photos into folders. Because I can’t see what image is in what folder, this would take far too long. It’s just not worth the time. (S/he acknowledged that this would take years, and said their people are working on a better way.)

Customer service also told me I could tell them which images weren’t to my liking and they’d take them to their technicians. I might take them up on this, though it will require going through all the images again, and I really just want it well and done so I can move on to other things. I will have to send them though workflow to archive anyway.

I’m not regretting sending the images to scancafe, as it would have been about $1500 anywhere else. We’ll see how the job turns out in the end. Who knows? I might be perfectly happy. 🙂

finally done reviewing scancafe. where are years 1997-1999?

Picture 5

Exhaustion. It took seven days, but I’m through the scancafe pictures. All 5783 of them. Question: Where are years 1997-1999? Yes, I know I lost the India negatives (1998) but I didn’t think I’d lost Pakistan (1999). They pick up again in June, 1999. I read in a review on photonet that it’s not uncommon for scancafe not to do the entire job. Oh heavens.

My camera broke in Turkey, before India, and so I bought a point and shoot to get me through the trip. (This was 1998.) So I wasn’t that bummed about losing those negs. But Pakistan? And I had some great pics of NYC in that bunch, too. Hmmm. I hope they are there. I’m not careless with my negs, and I lost the India negs because they were with the albums and, I think, fell out when I moved. No reason for the others to be gone. Yes, this means there will be no comparison with the Pakistan photo below.

It’s all a bit anti-climatic, finishing. Especially when all the images aren’t there. Ah, well. As it goes.

I’ll run through them all one more time tomorrow and delete a few more. I finished with 32% deleted. Will try to edit out a few more, then be done with it. Will wait until I receive the DVDs to organize them, rather than mess with their system much longer. I’m reading The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers and just got a book on Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to learn proper digital asset management. I love organizing, but I am exhausted by all these images. I’m not even through the Sri Lanka photos. And I’m soon off to Australia.

Slowly, but surely.

reviewing the scancafe scans. still. review. ing.


Okay, so I’m wading through all the scans. I’ve been through about 4500 and have about 1200 left. It least, I think I’ve done about 4500 as the images are no longer in order. They were pretty good up through the slides, but the negatives went all willy nilly. They seem to have been scanned in order, and are numbered as such, but the folders aren’t in any order at all, so I’ll look at images from Mexico, then see images of New York, and then it’s back to Mexico, which is annoying as I can’t keep fresh which images I had chosen if exposures are similar. I certainly don’t need them all. It also means I can’t keep track of the percentage I’ve deleted or even how far along I am.

So I suppose it makes sense to keep them in this order rather that reorganize & rename the folders them on their system, and do it again on my own, as I don’t trust them to get it right when burned to DVDs. Worse than the order, though, is the quality of some of the scans. I just passed one with a thumbprint on it. Huh? They claim to spend 3-4 minutes cleaning and optimizing the images. Some, maybe, others, no way. There are some scans I know can be better because I’ve scanned them myself (but didn’t go through all the negs before I sent them to take them out). They claim that they do scratch removal (they didn’t), but to not clean off a thumbprint? Hmmm.

Some of the color corrections are shockingly over-saturated and look odd. The slides looked pretty good, but now I’m at the negs, and it seems like the technician got tired of the job or something, and started zipping through them with no attention at all. I’m hoping the files will be large enough that I can correct, or re-correct, them in photoshop. There is a testimonial on their site that claims the photog’s photos came back 100% useable, whereas a competitor’s came back with 50% needing correction in Photoshop. I’d say a large number of mine, if I want to use them, will require adjusting in Photoshop. Some of the photos I scanned on an office copy machine came back with better color than the previews on scancafe. I don’t know if it’s because of overcorrection or not, but, whoa, that’s odd.

That said, I wonder if the job were smaller, a better level of quality would be maintained. I am glad I sent them off because it’s great to have the digital access. I’m not sure where I’d get better quality short of paying a few dollars a scan. I also wonder if their people are properly trained in negative scans, which are more difficult than slides. At any rate, if anyone has experience in this,let me know.

This project has me totally consumed, as I have to choose and organize them in the next few days, in addition to finishing the Sri Lanka photos and preparing for Australia! (I’m behind on email replies, I’m sorry!)

[Photo: Grandma K at the grocery store. 1995.]

scancafe: your images are online and awaiting your review



Rawalpindi, Pakistan, 1999, print-to-flatbed scan
Scancafe comparison negative scan to come

My 5783 scans are done! I received the message a week early, so now, so much for the Sri Lanka photos and trip planning. I’ve got to wade through all these images before November 2 (in 14 days) to decide which I want and don’t want.

It is amazing to see these images scanned. I’m going though the chromes (slides) first. It’s amazing to see them because many I’ve never seen larger than a 16x loupe. And, of course, to go back and see those images. Anything I haven’t digitized or printed hasn’t been seen in years. It’s like finding a stack of photo albums.

Other than being unable to sign into scancafe’s site (forgot password, and the retrieved password didn’t arrive in my inbox for >20 minutes, which was confusing as the site never verified that the password was sent), it’s fairly well organized thus far. Some of the images are much darker than the actual chrome, but only about 5% thus far, and I imagine I can fix those myself if I need to. Overall, it’s incredibly exciting.

The actual number of scans came back as 5783. My guesstimate was under by exactly 50. Wow, maybe I am neurotic. 🙂 Scancafe allows you to scan all your images, but you only have to choose and pay for half of them. I was sure I had so many duds that I might not even want half. I’ve only been through 506 of them, and I’ve only managed to delete 136, or 26%. Oh heavens. Scancafe is smart to work it this way. Guess I’m out about $400 more than I’d estimated. Very worth it, though.

scancafe: “your images are being scanned”

slides scancafe

On Friday, 18 Sept, I received an email from scancafe informing that my images have been received at their imaging center in Bangalore. They’ve sent me emails about my order along the way: when I placed it (31 Aug), when it arrived in California (8 Sept), and when it got to India. (It seems that it took one more day to go from Cali to India than it did NYC to Cali. Nice job, UPS.)

While I ate dinner last night, I thought about all of my images in India. Will one person be assigned to scan all 5000+ negatives and slides? Or do they break them up and assign them to different people? If it’s one person (which seems more romantic as well as potentially more weird)—good word they will know me well by the end of this job. I cannot imagine. I wonder who this person is, where she sits, if she likes her job, if she’s eating dosa for lunch or dal and rice. Who she is. Okay, it could well be assigned to a whole room of people. Who knows. I was given an estimated date of Oct 26 for them to be finished and online. If it’s one person not working weekends, that’s over 200 images a day. Oi.

When I checked my email a few hours later, a new update from scancafe: “A technician has been assigned to your order and the process of manually scanning & repairing each of your images is underway.” Hmm.

I reminds me a bit of a play I saw last year, “There or Here.” A subplot involved an American woman frequently calling a helpline for assistance with her computer and getting to know the woman on the other end in India who helped her out.