Ishmael...........again : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Thank you, whoever suggested the book "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn. I'm too lazy right now to go down and find the original thread.


I ordered the book from and it was delivered to where I work today. I read the first two chapters. Put it in my bag. Worked late, went out after, had a coupla beers with friends. Walking to the subway...oh yeah, I can read another chapter or three before I get home...

Page 14, Union Square. Guy sits down next to me (not verbatim but accurate in it's essence) ..."Ishmael, oh, what a beautiful book..." I look at him, "yeah, I can tell already that this is important."

"I loved that book..." (don't say too much, please) "It made me rethink my place in the...scheme of things."

(i say) "I haven't gotten that far into it yet, but I think that the idea of communicating this kind of information telepathically is something that..."

(he says) "Telepathically? I seem to remember something more along the lines of..."

(i interrupt) "Well, I've only gotten to page 14, and I would prefer it if you didn't tell TOO much more..."

(he says) "Oh, but what could I possibly say to ruin it for you, it works on so many levels. How far have you gotten?"

(i say) "In the cage next me I hear the visitors call out the sound Zsa Zsa, Zsa Zsa, Zsa Zsa. At my cage they call out Goliath, Goliath, Goliath..."

(he says) "Goliath? I don't remember..."

...Third Avenue...

(I say) " Hey, how about if I tell you about how I heard about this book?"

(he says) "Ok. Maybe that would be better, I wouldn't want to ruin it for you."

(i say) "I'm a participant on an internet disscussion group about the year 2000 computer problem, you may have heard of Y2K?"

(he says) "Oh, isn't that that computer virus that will wipe out data on people's computers and make it difficult for companies to conduct business?"

(whew...let's see...) "Yeah, you've heard about it? It's a problem because many many computers are programmed to read year dates with the last two digits rather than all four digits..."

"Oh, that's right. I understand. But, aren't companies working to solve the problem?"

(i say) "Oh, of course they are. They're working very hard and spending a hell of a lot of money to do so."

...First Avenue...

(he says) "So, I don't get it. Why is this a problem?"

"Think about the Willimsburg Bridge. How many rivets are there holding together the Willimsburg Bride? One million? Now imagine that the bridge is about to collapse because many of those rivets are rusted through and needbe changed. Because there aren't enough people to do the work, you alone are responsible for replacing all those rivets. Each rivet represents one line of computer programming where a date is represented by two digits rather than four digits. You have eleven months in which to change all those rivets. You know that many of those rivets are not bearing as much weight as others, but you don't which ones are the important one and which ones aren't. The prudent thing to do would be to replace them all. Do you think you could replace a million rivets in eleven months, even if you were trained to do so?"

"That's a hell of a lot of rivets. Which ones would need to be replaced?"

(i say) "You don't know. There may only be five that absolutely need to be replaced, or five hundred thousand. You won't know until you replace them and see if the bridge still stands. That's the essence of the year 2000 computer problem."

...Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn...

(thoughtful look on his face) "I'm going to have to look into this more. It seems like the Willimsburg Bridge, as you describe it, may not be as sturdy as it appears!"

So, whoever suggested "Ishmael," thank you. Not from me, but from that stranger who's life you may have saved...

-- pshannon (, February 04, 1999


Congrats, pshannon! ;)

Now if only we could all convert people by reading great books! ;)

-- Leo (, February 04, 1999.

I also read Ishmael because someone on this forum recommended it. Whew! You have to look at things differently after reading it. Oddly, the committee who gave the author the Turner Award caught all kinds of grief for it.

-- Pearlie Sweetcake (, February 04, 1999.

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