Heiser Christmas Letter 2008

"The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative." –Winston Churchill

Dick is spellbound by the incredible creativity and sensibility of the Obama folks. The change.gov [now whitehouse.gov] website links to a weekly YouTube video, a sort of “fireside chat”. Good work! Their interest in feedback and transparency is good, too.

Dick has always been more inclined toward information than to relationships. When he retired, he bragged that he was finding more interest in relationships, but this is not completely true. Social networking on the Internet is his logical next step. He’s starting with Facebook, which has a more mature demographic, but he stuck a toe into MySpace, LinkedIn, Hi5, Bebo and orkut. On Facebook right now, he’s looking for people he already knows; he’s “collecting” friends. He has located friends from college, from the Computer Store, Fairfax High teachers and students, ICUJP, his Quaker meeting and the PLATO Society. Unfortunately, he hasn’t decided yet what to do with these Facebook friends.

Nuclear disarmament

Dick plans to work for nuclear weapons abolition. This is a great time to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely, as even George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn have endorsed abolition. At napf.org , you can sign a petition about practical steps we can take right now to make the world a safer place. Dick’s going to collect as many signatures as he can.

Trillion is the new billion

Apparently, the banks are going to use the bailout money for mergers instead of lending it out. The credit card companies are raising rates. Then Congress gave an emergency tax break (a loss carry–through) to the banks that are merging. We haven’t seen the unwinding of excessive leverage and derivatives. The newspaper pundits are full of screwy ideas like closing thousands of car dealerships to help save the car makers.

Dick’s website at AOL is no more; they must be crazy to stop offering service. So he moved to a Google website redirected from dickheiser.info. The photo galleries and resource links are the best parts.

The Encyclopedia of Life is like Wikipedia for biology. They plan to have a page for each species, lots of photos, and ways to search, for, e.g., “California butterflies”. They’re also scanning in 500 million pages of existing biological literature.

Kaiser Permanente is the first HMO to score four stars on California’s Health Care Quality Report Card. This is an important new scorecard for people choosing health care plans. Kaiser has even started to pay for Dick’s continuous blood sugar monitor, thanks to the efforts of Bonnie, the nurse practitioner.

[Oh my goodness! I misquoted it! This copy has been corrected. It's "vega.org.uk" not "vega.co.uk"! Thanks to my high school friend Wendell Mendell !!]

This year, vega.org.uk unveiled videos of Richard Feynman explaining his theory. [Even more here.] Wonderful. Another winner is the “civil war in four minutes” on Google Video [no longer available, sorry!] Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers deserves a nod even though it promotes the benefits of hard work.

Pop culture

It’s disturbing to hear about little kids dressing up for Halloween as sexy, trashy or macho, violent characters. They could find themselves relating to unworthy caricatures of each other.

Loretta’s news

Loretta’s finally getting over a throat and neck condition she’s had for a year. She’s thrilled to be playing Prokofiev’s String Quartet No 1 with Eve, Susan and Heide, all wonderful musicians. She’s also experimenting with mixed media for inclusion in her collages and cards.

We are grateful for good health, leisure and friends, and hope we will all weather the recession safely.

Peace and Love! Best Wishes for 2009!

Dick and Loretta