Heiser Christmas Letter 1997

Health

Dick is experiencing dramatic improvements in controlling his blood sugar. He is using an intensive system, complex enough for a rocket scientist. Kaiser keeps him supplied with the latest super long-lasting and super fast-acting insulins.

Loretta's shoulder has improved enough that she has performed several times in the fall. She is almost back to the top of her form. She joined the nearby YMCA and loves it; she's working on both strength and aerobics with her usual enthusiasm.

Education

The Internet will redefine universities by providing courses anywhere any time. In the future, kids will be able to pick individual courses from various colleges. For examples of outstanding courses now available on the Web, visit the Sustainable Business ChallengePixartKPT Techniques,Nicholas Fabian's Type Design, or the Yale Web Style Manual . I have started getting my own computer graphics lessons organized on the web. They're not ready yet, but I look forward to making them available for free.

I've had my own learning experience on the Internet. Teacher credentials keep requiring more courses, in hopes that teachers will do a better job. However, these requirements force teachers to attend many meaningless education courses instead of useful teacher training like the UCLA Marine Science course and the Cal Tech parallel computing course. So, this summer I found the ideal course: a UCLA online course about how to design online courses. Unfortunately, it was an absolute disaster. A company called THEN ran the online courses for UCLA. Instead of using the web, they used a clumsy batch e-mail system called Convene. For one thing, the teacher didn't realize how poorly Convene works on Macintoshes. I was shocked to find the online course more stressful, less efficient, less flexible and a perfect negative example of itself. (P.S.: since then, THEN has replaced Convene with something better!)

Welfare

IPPNW, International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, is a group pushing to outlaw land mines. Both Princess Diana and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams raised public awareness. The United States is paying too much attention to the military advantages of mines and not enough to moral issues. Therefore, we will not be leaders in upgrading the rules of war.

The Internet

This is the part of the information age that counts. I'm convinced that the Internet, expected to accommodate more than a billion users by the year 2000, will transform our culture in an unparalleled expansion, like fire or agriculture. Instead of the least-common-denominator mass media uniformity of TV, diversity can flourish. Visual and performing arts, mutual support groups and special interest information are ideal ways to use the Internet to advance human goals. Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility has proposed guiding principles for this to happen:

1. There is only one Net.

2. The Net must be open and available to all.

3. People have the right to communicate.

4. People have the right to privacy.

5. People are the Net's stewards, not its owners.

6. No individuals, organizations, or governments should dominate the Net.

7. The Net should reflect human diversity, not homogenize it.

I've volunteered to help people learn about the Internet at the new Getty Museum opening this month. The Getty is a gorgeous castle overlooking LA and the ocean. I look forward to interacting with visitors from around the world, and giving them a twenty-minute taste of art on the World Wide Web. Where will this all lead? Tune in next year!

Vignettes

Last summer at SIGGRAPH '97 was very interesting. I went with students Elsworth Ramclam, Brian Raber and Ben Cryderman as well as Wesley & Weston Pan and Allan Cameron. We saw 3-D cameras, graphic super computers, animation software, cybernetic bun-raku, and gesture-driven systems. Now I want an Olympus 600L digital camera.

Loretta's art lessons have paid off! She created a nice oil painting of Annie, our dear cat. She's looking forward to having a student recital in February, and is enjoying performing during the Christmas season.

Let me recommend the book Release 2.0 by Esther Dyson. It's about living in the digital age.

Love and Peace! 
Dick and Loretta

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