What is the muddle through scenario?

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I have heard of what some are calling the "muddle through" scenario. I'm not sure what is meant by this. A guess is that if we have power, at least to some reasonable semblance of what we all take for granted, then we will be able to "muddle through". Two questions: What does muddle through mean to you, and do you think that if we have juice we won't be toast?

-- Rob Michaels (sonofdust@net.com), January 18, 1999



Jo Anne Slaven wrote an excellent article on what might happen if power is restored within 10 days or so. This is from Cory Hamasaki's Y2K Weather Report #99. Gary North described it as a 7.5 scenario.

Basically, this scenario is about a depression and shortages in 2000. It's "muddle through" IF you have the preparations to deal with early 2000. This to me is a perfectly plausible account of what we may all be facing next year...

"Jo Anne's Scenario": http://www.kiyoinc.com/WRP99.H TM

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), January 18, 1999.


Several years ago my wife took a class for which required reading was a book with "Muddling Through" in its title. Its theme was that America had handled several recent crises by "muddling through" rather than by any clear-cut plan.

From Webster's Third New International Dictionary:

muddle through : to achieve a degree of success without a decisive plan

-- No Spam Please (anon@ymous.com), January 18, 1999.

Kevin: The post by Jo Anne Slaven is a good one, and does go through what is at least one plausible scenario. Sounds like a muddle through to me. One thing that struck me is that even under this "mild" scenario, we can expect a host of problems, including depression, lasting for quite a while. Who knows what we get when we start adding in looting and rioting into the mix, as far as impact goes. It would have to be worse. Wonder why she deliberately left it out. Another thing that was interesting was the idea of her timetable in general. I know that she is just guessing, as we all are, but I agree that it is not an unreasonable scenario given the 1 - 10 day outtage. To me, this scenario is best case, and it is hard for me to accept it really happening, even though it is possible - I think it will be more of an impact, and start earlier, most likely well before November, as a result of a stock market crash and/or bank runs. But that's just my guess. Thanks for the link, at least now something comes to mind when I hear the phrase "muddle through".

No Spam: Never thought to actually look in the dictionary - Duh. So due to a lack of a decisive plan, we will I think see more contingency plans. If you will allow me, may I suggest a new sniglet :muddleingency! LOL. And thanks also for your contribution on the newbie thread.

-- Rob Michaels (sonofdust@net.com), January 18, 1999.

The title is "Muddling Toward Frugality".

-- curtis schalek (schale1@ibm.net), January 18, 1999.

Rob - she also left out any intentional acts of terrorism...I think she was trying to avoid running off the end of some of the audience members' visible spectrum - as we've seen around here, when one talks defense issues and such there are a certain number of otherwise GI folks who tend to shut down / go into denial in order to avoid dealing with those topics.

Actually, here scenario as it stands is about a 5 to me...


-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), January 18, 1999.

I've converted/upgraded systems or data structures before (ie HP 3000 to AS400)...and whenever I've heard the term "muddle through...", it's likely to mean "fix on failure" or "deal with problems as they arise".

If there aren't too many "anomalies" at one time and they're easy to trace and rectify, this is feasible; but if you have a ton of 'em, the phones will be ringing, you'll to drop everything else and fix, and call for pizza delivery.

Been there, done that :-)

-- Tim (pixmo@pixelquest.com), January 18, 1999.

One often hears the expression "muddle through" in terms of Y2K these days. As if it were just a big snow coming or something, and even though the power may go out for a bit, and the roads might be impassable for a bit, that even there might be a recession or something, nevertheless things will basically turn out to be OK.

I'm sure that this is the same sort of thing that the Jews said in Germany when Hitler took power....

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), January 18, 1999.

I can relate, Tim. Whaddaya gonna do if you can't order pizza, and the telecom system is down, and you have sporadic power?

-- spirit (spirit@iserv.net), January 18, 1999.

Pizzia MREs?

-- Bill (bill@microsoft.com), January 18, 1999.

Pizza MREs?

-- Bill (bill@microsoft.com), January 18, 1999.

Arlin: About 5 sounds right for 1 - 10 days of outtage, and her overall scenario. I am still thinking about 8 on the WDCY2K scale which translates to extended blackouts, fires, major shortages of food and fuel. And you make a good point about the avoidance of the other non-Y2K issues - Y2K by itself is somewhat overwhelming, when you throw in all the rest and mix with a good dose of uncertainty it is way too much for many to continue even listening or considering. Besides. most people do not enjoy thinking, they want to be "entertained".

Tim: As a programmer for over twenty years, I have had my share of pizza and sib sandwich deliveries too. LOL. I remember one short three-month debugging session (joke). So, muddle through we did, since it was a lack of a decisive plan that put us in "reaction mode" to begin with in some cases, and in others that four letter word "user" caused us to jump through the muddle hoops.

Jack: The first I heard this expression in a Y2K context was from Senator Bennett. He was talking about electricity specifically if I recall correctly. Another comment from him that I will never forget, before he started talking the pollyanna crap (despite what his daughter is actually reported doing), was "what is at stake here is Western Civilization"; that if the rollover were tomorrow it would be the end of Western civilization. This was back during last Spring. Really left an impression with me. Still does.

-- Rob Michaels (sonofdust@net.com), January 18, 1999.

Tim, I moved a whole business's data from a 3000 to a 400: it nearly cost me my sanity... or maybe it did...?

You would be astounded at the muddle-thru mindset mgt. had for a Y2K conversion that I just left. In fact, I think they're muddling thru as we speak. Sheeesh. Criminal, really.

I think if power doesn't go out, period - and I think the supply chain will bring it down, not chips & software - we'll find ourselves in continental economic isolationism for at least 10 years....and that's a good muddling thru, in my opinion.

-- Lisa (lisab@shallc.com), January 18, 1999.


If there's no pizza and no telcomm, then it's likely that things will be so FOOBAR there will also be no paycheck...and if you do get one, cashing it may be an interesting experience as well...if that's that's the case, you won't find too many programmers hangin' around, either.

-- Tim (pixmo@pixelquest.com), January 18, 1999.

I agree that the muddle-through scenario implies a primarily reactive strategy. Related phrases are crossing the bridge when we come to it, playing it where it lies, making quick-and-dirty fixes, etc.

It seems to me that for muddling through to work for y2k, we're making three key assumptions: that the large majority of bugs will be minor enough that we can live with them for a while, that there is some suboptimal good-enough-for-now fix that can be made to almost all the rest, and that these fixes can be made rapidly.

What's disturbing is that by now, we're probably all betting our lives that these assumptions are all true. No choice any more. Any guesses on the odds for this particular bet?

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), January 18, 1999.


Interesting what you say about the impact of Bennett's statement last year about Western Civ. Had very similar, persistent effect on me, too (persistent in absence of any substantivey good news since).

Would be fascinating to share similar, crisp statements that had major impacts on some of us. Wonder how much convergence there would be?

I'll offer another one: North's insistence on Y2K being systemic.

And, yes, the acronymn, TEOTWAWKI, as troublingly evocative, even if it is outliving its usefulness.

Others, I wonder?

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), January 18, 1999.

Here's the transcript of that speech by Sen. Bennett:


-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), January 18, 1999.


Mine would be the title of Infomagic PART 2: SET RECOVERY ON - THE DEVOLUTIONARY SPIRAL

Though it may not be probable... the possibility is staggering.


-- c (c@c.c), January 18, 1999.

Flint: Ok. Three assumptions - none of which I am comfortable making, never mind all three. I would put the odds near zero, and yes it is disturbing, this whole thing is disturbing, but we preparing as best we can and that is all we can do at this point. Perhaps it won't be too much longer that we won't even be able to do that. But some of us will have done enough hopefully, whatever enough turns out to be.

BigDog : Another statement that I always come back to is Milne's 7-11 reference. It covers most of the people that I know.

-- Rob Michaels (sonofdust@net.com), January 18, 1999.


Yeah, that was it -- "Muddling Toward Frugality" -- Thanks!

Hmmm ... that class had to have been in the 1981-1984 time period. Wish I'd read all the book instead of just a bit.

-- No Spam Please (anon@ymous.com), January 18, 1999.


To me a "muddle through" Y2k scenario implies applying a wide mixture of plans -- non-centralized, ad hoc, but consisting of the resourceful contributions of many different people at all levels. These wouldn't all be successful, but enough of them would succeed to bring about survival in reasonably good shape (from the viewpoint of the survivors, not necessarily from ours now).

-- No Spam Please (anon@ymous.com), January 18, 1999.

Rob, in answer to your SECOND question:

Have juice = soggy toast. No juice = burnt toast.

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), January 18, 1999.

NSP: What you describe sounds like the expression which every programmer and others are familiar with - its called flying by the seat of your pants, and yes, I think it qualifies as a muddle technique.

BigDog: Congratulations, I knew someone would pick up on that. Next thing you know you'll be joining us at the FRL! (Know Your Fruitcake thread).

-- Rob Michaels (sonofdust@net.com), January 18, 1999.

Yes, BigDog and Rob, our Virginia farmer friend can occasionally turn a phrase. I saw this one for the first time on a Milne post and it has stuck with me even on my most optimistic days.

"Multiple, simultaneous, parallel, systemic failures." [shudder]


"Hu-mons are nice friendly people -- as long as their bellies are full and their holodecks are working" --- Quark

-- Hallyx (Hallyx@aol.com), January 19, 1999.

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