Heiser Christmas Letter 2003

Vote Counting

California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has just announced that he will require all California counties to establish a paper trail on electronic voting. This is a sleeper issue that has many computer professionals concerned, while the public imagines that electronic voting machines will somehow make voting more accurate. Wrong. Without a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, election results would be meaningless and uncorrectable. In November, for example, 144,000 votes were tallied on the computerized voting terminals in Boone County, Indiana, out of 19,000 registered voters of whom 5,352 voted. Without a paper trail, there's no audit or recount. The voter doesn't know whether the vote is recorded. A single "mistake" could change millions of votes without recourse. We're lucky our state is protecting the machinery of democracy. The feds and the other states should follow suit.

Litter Pickup

There's a weedy strip alongside Sepulveda Boulevard, a highway running through our neighborhood. Dick has "adopted" two miles of our side of the street. It started out very simply: to remove some unsightly weeds growing between the sidewalk and the curb. While removing the weeds, the litter became obvious; then Dick noticed the overgrown trees and bushes blocking the walkway and bike path. As the cleanup project expanded, Dick is confident that it's still the right thing to do because he can proceed without committee meetings or coordination. The neighborhood improvement association is holding workshops for "streetscape visioning" of a multi-million-dollar remake of the same area, which will take years to happen. Meanwhile, useful improvements on a smaller and more immediate scale make sense too. Picking up litter puts Dick in "flow," like doing jigsaw puzzles, but he doesn't want onlookers to assume some judge ordered him to do community service. Doing community service shouldn't be so shameful!

Cruising Classroom

UCLA runs half-day oceanography field trips from Marina Del Rey. Dick is a new volunteer, excited to learn and teach about plankton and water quality.

Loretta's Hideaway

Loretta has longed for her own space for projects and to hang out. Creating a conventional building in the back yard turned out to be impractical, but by sewing her own tent to fit a ten-foot-square deck, the results were better than she could have imagined. She loves it!

Law of Unintended Consequences

Term limits in the legislature gives us a population explosion of lobbyists.

Who's Your Daddy?

The Discovery DNA Explorer Kit from discovery.com includes a centrifuge and electrophoresis cell, $80, for ages 10 and older.

What's Hot: Amazon Book Sales

Dick has sold 45 used books, receiving more than $500. Amazon collects the payments, and it's easy to list books for sale. Highly recommended.

Peace and Love for 2004!

Dick and Loretta