Heiser Christmas Letter 2002

Lack of Dates Blamed on the Economy

Many of you have been getting a box of dates from us, but not this year. Dick blames the stock market. He hopes the dates will return, but is careful not to say which year.

Friends Outside

Dick has been volunteering at Friends Outside, a counseling and support agency in Watts. Sam Spicer, the case manager, helps ex-prisoners with job referrals and a variety of social services. Sam organizes monthly orientation sessions to explain the services, and Dick likes to help out at these well-attended meetings. Friends Outside also organizes a Christmas party for kids and bus trips to the women's prison so kids can visit their mothers.

Arts and Learning

PLATO is the learning-in-retirement group Dick joined at UCLA. It has been extremely stimulating, and he enjoys participating in classes enormously. There are monthly lectures too. He has studied the brain, anthropology and photographers. Next is American art 1940-1990; it should be very good. He's also attending lectures at UCLA and Caltech and enjoys many free and low-cost concerts around town. He exhibited one of his digital photos in the Getty's basement, for Getty Underground 2002. This was the first time docents could participate in the show. You can see that photo on our website.

War in Iraq?

Dean Demory and his mom Dorothy inspired Dick to join them on a bus trip to San Francisco for an anti-war rally October 26th. It was a great experience, with loving people and lots of creative home-made signs. His favorite signs: "Stay glued to the TV, you hysterical brainwashed fool!", "Unreasonable Women for Peace" and "Regime Change Begins at Home".

We think you'll like a recent movie clip at: http://www.dubyadubyadubya.com/

So, what's Loretta up to?

Loretta is teaching piano and cello lessons. Last year she gave eight teas, using her collection of china and creating a Victorian environment in the front room. She also has been making paper, from which she designs collages and greeting cards.

Recommendations

Barbara Ehrenreich's best-selling book Nickel and Dimed is a readable story of what it feels like to be working and poor. What's heart-breaking is the inefficiency of poverty: people are spending $50 per night for a hotel room because they don't have $1,000 to move into an apartment. It's like going to a loan shark.

Sean Penn's I Am Sam is our favorite movie this year. We had no idea Sean Penn was so talented and sensitive.

The Onion (www.theonion.com) and Ironic Times (www.ironictimes.com) are hilarious, brief, weekly, free satirical newspapers. For example, "Picture of Post-War Iraq Emerging: Daylight Savings Time, right turn on red light, martial law." -Ironic Times

A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram is an enormous and wonderful book. Dick easily completed the 900-page main text. Wolfram made the graphic illustrations using the Mathematica language he invented. Wolfram laid out all the pages himself, so no figure numbers are needed; his references to "the opposite page" are always correct. In fact, Dick found only a single typographical error in the whole book. As with fractals and chaos theory, we are beginning to understand how complex behavior can emerge from simple roots. He identifies four levels of complexity patterns. Once you exceed a very low threshold, systems become universal computers, capable of simulating any other computer. Adding more complications after that doesn't increase the complexity. Chapter 8, Implications for Everyday Systems, makes especially interesting reading.

The Segway Human Transporter, now for sale at Amazon, is high on Dick's wish list. The Segway joins the Benson Gyrocopter, which has been on Dick's list for 50 years. The Segway sounds like a like a magic carpet; the Amazon review says going downhill produces a "dreamy, floating feeling". Then Dick remembers that it would not only be cheaper but healthier to go bicycle riding instead.

Playing the Disconnect Tone found at http://home.attbi.com/~dakine/defeat.htm on your answering machine may delete you from telemarketer lists.

We hope you have a wonderful new year! Love and peace!

Dick and Loretta