Feb 25 2008

Scanning Your Slides, or, 50 Ways to Love Your Liver

Published by at 11:11 pm under Advertising,Consumer products,Technology

Technologists are eternal optimists, in that they blithely assume that their new products will never turn manifestly evil.

But of course, even the most innocuous inventions can misfire, even when one is not actively seeking to use them for harm (and don’t let any guy fool you — the first thing any normal guy thinks when he’s confronted with a new device or technology is “How could I break this?” Another part of him is only a step behind, thinking “How can I use this as a weapon?” A slightly lower layer, a sort of ever-present meta-theme permeating all guys’ thoughts, of course, is “How can I use this to attract the babes?” ).

This is true even for things as seemingly prosaic as exercise equipment, which I can permanently attest to based on the first time I saw a Gravitron — and really, can you blame me? With a name like that you should be able to take down a starship or compress all the mass in a room down to neutronium.

Instead, faced with a simple system of weights and levers, my male weaponry-disposed mind immediately thought of ways to use it as 1) a catapult; 2) a guillotine; and 3) a set of large channel-lock pliers (don’t ask). Constrained by the rules of civilized society (bah!), I settled for using it to get buff (there’s that meta-level!). Then I went home and invented a gravitic cannon, which is what the Gravitron should have been in the first place. Damn marketeers.

Anyway, if I haven’t lost you by now, good for you! Because what I was really getting to, in my usual straightforward way, was holiday celebrations. See, as a gift for my mother I scanned in a bunch of old photos (many of them were even of our own family!) and loaded them onto a digital picture frame, like this one, or this one, or this one

These picture frames are, quite frankly, pretty darn cool.  With an inexpensive memory card, they can hold hundreds or thousands of high-resolution photos, which you can show at varying speeds, maybe with some music (note: mothers over a certain age apparently don’t like The Prodigy, even though they should).

Now, this is where I was hoist on my own petard. There was so much room left on the memory card that I rooted around in my mother’s basement and pulled out a bunch of old Kodak slides (real, honest-to-goodness Kodachrome, cardboard-framed slides, some still in the carousels for the slide projectors). Then I sent them off to a slide scanning service, like this one, or this one. I then rested happily, thinking that I had offset a few of my dastardly, evil deeds with a smidgen of goodness. Little did I know.

The subsequent sequence of events began with an odd, random call from some hysterical woman I had never met wailing and accusing me of all sorts of interesting things (some of which I was so intrigued by that I started taking notes and making up to-do lists), and calling me names that I immediately agreed with, though I did not know how she had deduced that I merited them.

Since I usually receive three or four calls like that per week, only later did I connect up the CallerID number with the slide scanning service. After the FBI agents paid me a visit.

I had already seen these guys so much that we were on a first-name basis and I knew how they liked their coffee. They’d come to have a resigned air about them, as all the incidents they were investigating (massive power surges and drains, unexplained local gravity variations, heavy equipment squashed flat as pancakes, etc.) turned out to have no solid connection to me, at least not one that would stand up in court.

But during this visit, Harry and Joe looked really excited, inexplicably resembling Wile E. Coyote when he thinks he’s finally caught the Road Runner. But as usual, there was only one Super Genius in the room, and neither Harry nor Joe was it.

I invited them in (after deactivating the various robotic intruder-disintegrators and computerized death rays) and almost as soon as they sat down on the living room couch they spread out a montage of blood-red photographs, which, I realized, showed various bits of things usually residing within human bodies. They glared at me triumphantly, awaiting my horrified shock and confession upon being confronted by these images.

Instead, I grabbed the closest one and said “Hey! I remember this one! Boy, this sure does take me back!” They edged away from me a bit, fingers inching nearer their concealed weapons as I dug through the photos excitedly and started naming years, as if the pictures were fine vintage wines that had only just been rediscovered.

Then I realized why Harry and Joe were there, and was able to refrain from laughing only because of the stab of pity I felt for them. What they thought was irrefutable evidence of my serial-killing ways was merely a happy childhood memory.

My father, you see, was a doctor, and though you might be prone to think otherwise, was quite the opposite of the Dr. Mengele type that you could be forgiven for assuming was my sire. Somewhat unfortunately, he was also an avid and talented photographer and an early developer of high-quality photographic techniques within the surgical theater.

He’d be the middle of a complex operation, and then suddenly be struck by the beauty of the organ he was about to alter, repair or remove, and pause to grab his sterilized Nikon and snap a few elegant shots of his handiwork.

This produced some novel family slide shows, since he did not always replace the film in the camera before or after these medical photographic safaris. So we’d have some family friends over for dinner or a party, and out would come the screen and projector and the lights would dim, and a scenario like the following would ensue, punctuated by the sound of the slides changing:

“Hey! There’s Aunt Mabel at the beach! Boy, she likes funny bathing suits.”


“Oh, look! There’s little Mind Scalpel with a toy particle ray gun he built himself! Say, where’d that hole in that boulder come from?”


“Wow…what a beautiful sunset….”




“Awww…there’s little nephew Sammy. Isn’t he cute…”




“Oh, what an adowable wittle puppy…”.

Etc. I had, you see, failed to screen the slides before sending them off en masse to the scanning service.  Apparently they haven’t fully automated their processes, because one of their people had caught a glimpse of some of these little treasures and called the police just before signing up for intense stress counseling.

A little explanation and corroborating testimony later, Harry and Joe left, crestfallen as ever.

And it just goes to show you, sometimes a heart-warming memory can be of something as simple as a vivid Kodachrome — of an actual warm heart.

But I have to confess, I never did figure out a way to use those slides to attract the babes….

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