Neighborhood, Grassroots Community Creation & Y2K : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Neighborhood, Grassroots Community Creation & Y2K

In an effort to provide some more positive Y2K contributions to the forum, Ill be re-focusing part of my energies, not all, on collecting and posting community building Y2K information. (Its my way of countering the Koskinen inanities).

The military stuff of the government spin DOES NOT leave me with a good feeling about what is happening in this country, right now. In fact, it makes me spitting mad. (There, I vented).

Our last defense, in the Y2K offensive, is always local.

This particular article is interesting reading even if it hasnt been picked up by the Washington Post, yet.


P.S. As Neal Peirce, the author told Tom Atlee, The column is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group, but the Post itself usually doesn't print it. Syndication is in such papers as the Baltimore Sun, Houston Chronical, San Diego Union, Charlotte Observer, etc.

For Release Sunday, February 14, 1999

Copyright 1999 Washington Post Writers Group


By Neal R. Peirce

SPOKANE -- They may be technologically sophisticated, far-sighted, good- hearted.

But right now, barely 10 months before the millennium turn, proponents of neighborhood preparedness for potential Year 2000 computer-triggered emergencies find themselves in a tough struggle for credibility.

Take Spokane, one of America's more advanced Y2K towns. Several Y2K neighborhood groups are active. Their efforts have been legitimized by a city-county Y2K task force that's received endorsements from local government leaders, the city police and county sheriff, the chamber of commerce and major local utility. Editors Judy Laddon and Larry Shook of "Awakening: The Upside of Y2K" make their homes here. So does futurist Robert Theobald, a lead spokesperson for U.S. and global Y2K awareness.

But meet with a handful of Spokane's grassroots Y2K organizers and you hear:

"We have to be willing to look like fools."

"One lawyer here said of Y2K-- I'd rather be embarrassed than sorry.' But in fact a lot of people would rather be sorry than embarrassed."

"Y2K preparations are about as easy to sell as hail insurance."

"It's tough to get people to focus on shared community welfare around an issue that lacks clear and definable risk."

When a leading Spokane minister and his wife tried to get the city's churches to collaborate on a Y2K initiative, most of the clergy turned them down.

Belatedly, perhaps, but now at increased speed, America's array of utilities, transportation and financial service firms, plus our major city and county governments, are focusing hard on Y2K preparedness.

And most of us applaud that. A recent nationwide survey, conducted by the University of Connecticut's Center for Survey Research and Analysis, shows 53 percent of Americans believe Y2K is "one of the most important issues facing the country right now."

But will corporate and government steps be enough? Tiny programming or code errors in imbedded chips could cause severe glitches on and around 1/1/2000.

It's still possible -- even if unlikely -- that entire regions could be hit by power losses or failure of food supply, fresh water or sewage disposal systems.

If that occurred, a big chunk of pulling through would fall back on neighbor-to-neighbor assistance.

But so far, there's little evidence that more than a handful among the nation's hundreds of thousands of neighborhoods are getting ready in any meaningful fashion.

Sure, check the Internet and you'll find what seems like a wild proliferation of groups trumpeting the perils of Y2K, recommending survival techniques, advocating grassroots preparedness.

But specifics on neighborhood-based preparations are very thin.

There seem to islands of neighborhood conversation, but little real action. In Spokane, for example, there's been talk of neighborhoods setting up "hub houses" equipped with alternative heat, food storage and other basics -- but no real action to make it happen.

So why so little action?

No one has a fix on how serious the perils really are. "It would be easier if we could predict an earthquake next year," said one of the Spokane neighborhood activists. "People know what an earthquake is, not what a Y2K is."

Media reports sensationalizing the Y2K peril -- lurid tales of gun-toting survivalists, predictions of global disaster -- may actually give people a convenient excuse to "turn off" the story.

Paloma O'Riley, co-founder of the Colorado-based Cassandra Project, the premier Y2K community-preparedness web site, takes issue with the survivalist pitch in media coverage. She told the Seattle Times that organizing efforts are hampered by "the fact that the media is doing a great job of making anyone who is working on Y2K look like an idiot."

Reluctance to organize flows from the widespread belief in our culture that technology -- or some "them" in the corporate or government world -- will come galloping to the rescue in any crisis. We seem too often oblivious to the brittleness of extraordinarily interdependent electric power grids and globalized markets, transportation telecommunications and the lack of prudent stockpiling driven by profit demands of "just-in-time" manufacturing.

What I did hear from the Spokane Y2K activists were two powerful reasons for timely neighborhood organizing.

The first is that grassroots organizing creates community resilience -- the capacity to deal with any kind of crisis, from an ice storm to earthquake to a prolonged power outage that might have nothing at all to do with Y2K.

Second, prepared neighborhoods will have a web of support for the elderly, small children, anyone who has difficulty coping alone.

Neighbors that know each other, that learn mutual assistance, are stronger on every front from crime prevention to dealing with city hall, neighborhood beautification to fending off unwelcome new highways.

Still, it takes a real leap of faith today to believe that significant numbers of American neighborhoods will use the golden opportunity of this year to get ready -- either for Y2K, or for the century dawning on them.

E-mailed out by :

Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * Oakland, CA *

Y2K information:

-- Diane J. Squire (, February 18, 1999


This is a good article which appeared in the Seattle Times last month: year_012199.html

Posted at 01:41 p.m. PST; Thursday, January 21, 1999

Y2K bug could be a disaster that builds community feeling

by Eric Sorensen
Seattle Times staff reporter

Just when you had written off the Year 2000 computer problem as one for nerds and survivalists, there's a knock at your door.

It's your neighbor talking about things like a "capacity inventory" and "contingency waste treatment."

You can have one of two reactions: You might get a subtle sense of community that has been eroded by the anonymous urban and suburban life, the automobile, television, even the electric garage-door opener that keeps us in a sealed bubble from work to home.

Or, with a pained smile, you might hear yourself think, "There goes the neighborhood."

That pesky Y2K computer bug - the one that will seize computers not programmed to roll from the year '99 to '00 - could end up being a community-builder on a par with floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters that bring people together through adversity. Only, this effort would be planned. For while some people will ring in the new year in stocked and fortified mountain retreats, a small but growing number are bracing for Y2K as a community effort.

"The best way to be prepared is to have a prepared neighbor," said Janet Luhrs of Seattle, author of "The Simple Living Guide" and co- author of the "Y2K Preparedness Guide: 110 Ways to Create A Sustainable Life - Crisis or Not." "The theory is, if you pull together as a community, you're better prepared for anything than you are if you just take care of your own needs."

Nationwide, some 200 community-preparedness groups are discussing ways to weather the Y2K problem which, in theory, could cause computers and electronic devices to fail and disrupt the networks that control institutions such as banks, airlines, utilities and services. In Washington, groups have been caucusing in Spokane, Port Townsend, Olympia, Seattle and on Whidbey Island.

Luhrs, along with voluntary-simplicity experts Vicki Robin and Cecile Andrews, will attempt to jump-start a citywide community-preparedness effort with a presentation at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the Phinney Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N. One theme will be how the principles of voluntary simplicity can be adapted to better prepare for a potential emergency like a loss of electric power or water.

But the discussion's organizers and other community-preparedness advocates also stress that - Y2K power outages and empty store shelves aside - their efforts could lead to a renewed sense of community.

"Even if nothing happens, what you will have gained from all that preparation and working together and cooperating with neighbors will be a really vital transformation of our society," said Luhrs. "Even if nothing happens, you're going to wind up better off."

If their efforts take root, the community-preparedness effort will also signal a shift in how the computer bug is being perceived. It started as the domain of computer techies, then spawned a growth industry fueled by Web sites, survivalists, futurists and religious millennialists, even though the Christian millennium technically doesn't start until 2001.

But where the millennialists talk about The End of the World As We Know It, the community-oriented crowd takes a more-balanced approach that combines self-reliance, an American tradition dating back to the Colonial period, with bonhomie.

"We're taking a positive approach to this," said Dorothy Craig of Spokane, where a Y2K action group has about 100 people in planning committees on food, water, energy, shelter and health care. "The people heading for the hills, that's based on fear. This is based on love."

This new wave is far from the mainstream, but it's heading in that direction and there are signs the movement is gaining momentum.

The Utne Reader, a national alternative news magazine, last month distributed its "Y2K Citizens' Action Guide" to 260,000 subscribers and printed 100,000 more copies. Among those placing orders are a Massachusetts charter school, a Chicago museum, a Salt Lake City bank, a Wisconsin public library, a Maryland hospice and a building contractor in the Okanogan County town of Omak. The magazine is now printing an additional 140,000 copies and is talking to retailers about distribution.

Still, the effort prompts the question, Y2Care?

President Clinton does, warning in his State of the Union speech Tuesday that the country "must be ready for the 21st century from its very first moment, by solving the so-called Y2K computer problem."

Then again, he noted that only one member of Congress stood to applaud his remark, "and we may have about that ratio out there applauding at home in front of their television sets."

For all the hundreds of Web sites and thousands of articles written on the subject, it is remarkably unclear whether Y2K is a legitimate problem or worthy of the response "Armageddonsickofit."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) this month urged counties, cities, towns and school districts to get moving on Y2K fixes and contingency plans. While states and larger local governments are addressing the issue, "many smaller local governments, as well as some state and territorial governments, seem not to be aware of the problem," said FEMA Deputy Director Mike Walker.

Ed Yardeni, chief economist for the international investment firm Deutsche Morgan Grenfell and one of the most widely quoted Y2K prognosticators, last month said the nation's top companies are lagging in their spending to fix the problem. Only five of the 34 utility companies he looked at had spent half their Y2K-related budgets.

But the nation's electric-power companies this month issued a report saying, basically, don't sweat it. A review by the North American Electric Reliability Council said any impact from the bug will amount to a "nuisance."

The Washington Small Business Development Center last week released a survey suggesting that only half the state's small and midsize businesses are taking measures to solve potential Y2K problems. Some businesses may have already checked their systems and found they will be unaffected, said Stuart Leidner, the center's coordinator for innovation and research.

Those trying to organize a community response to the problem are finding plenty of public inertia.

"I tried to get my church involved, but nobody was interested," said Peter Gienger, a member of Seattle's Year 2000 Preparedness Council, a grass-roots group, who lives in the Snohomish County town of Gold Bar.

Paloma O'Riley, co-founder of the Colorado-based Cassandra Project, the premier Y2K community-preparedness Web site, said organizing efforts are hampered by"the fact that the media is doing a great job of making anyone who is working on Y2K look like an idiot."

As an example, she pointed to the recent "The End of the World!?!" cover of Time magazine, which hyped itself as "a guide to millennium madness."

O'Riley advises community organizers to take a low-key approach, giving neighbors solid information and a phone number to call with questions.

The Whidbey Island project is having teenagers go door to door to take a "capacity inventory" of what skills residents can bring to bear on a Y2K-induced crisis.

"It's kind of asking people to bring their best selves forward, instead of `I've got mine, no problem,' " said Rick Ingrasci, director of the Whidbey CyberC@fe & Bookstore and member of the South Whidbey Community Resilience Project."We're looking for an increase in random acts of kindness."

Community-preparedness groups have agendas thick with presentations on subjects like electric generators, bicycling, food storage, emergency management and organizing block watches.

Luhrs, in her book of 110 ways to prepare for Y2K, offers a range of suggestions that run from the practical to the less-than-realistic. Riding a bike is an everyday sensible thing, but moving closer to work is something else.

It makes sense to keep good paper records of your financial status - mortgage payments, savings, mutual funds - but is the Y2K siege going to be so long that we really need to take up bartering?

Luhrs and others say Y2K preparations will become more widespread but are dawning on the public consciousness like the stages of grief, with varying degrees of denial, anger, fear and acceptance.

In the next six months, predicted Ingrasci, the Y2K problem will be legitimized, possibly with support from high government officials. But solutions to the problem, he said, cannot come from on high.

"What's needed is everybody participating, and I mean everybody," he said. "The more people that are involved, the more likely we are to be able to deal well with whatever disruptions occur."

Eric Sorensen's phone message number is 206-464-8253. His e-mail address is:

-- Diane J. Squire (, February 18, 1999.

Additional useful information .... tips_012199.html

Posted at 07:48 a.m. PST; Thursday, January 21, 1999

Tips on Y2K preparation

Tips drawn from the "Y2K Preparedness Guide: 110 Ways to Create a Sustainable Life - Crisis or Not," by Janet Luhrs and Cris Evatt.

-- Build community. Use Y2K as an excuse to get to know your neighbors. Host a Y2K party and go door-to-door making an inventory of neighbors' skills.

-- Grow and store food. Start a vegetable garden; store grains and beans in five-gallon buckets and keep perishables in a root cellar.

-- Prepare food without electricity. Consider propane stoves, outdoor barbecues, woodstoves.

-- Have on hand a supply of candles, flashlights and rechargeable batteries, or lanterns.

-- Keep good paper statements of your mortgage, stocks, mutual funds, savings and credit cards.

-- Practice transportation alternatives: bicycling, using the bus, shopping near home, sharing rides.

-- Stay healthy. Prepare a home health kit, learn about home remedies, stock up on prescribed drugs and first-aid items.

-- Keep warm. Wood stoves and propane heaters are good alternatives; generators work but are noisy and expensive.

-- Don't forget water. Harness rain with a catchment system of rain barrels or cisterns, then filter the water and use it for drinking and washing.

-- Simplify your life. Clear your clutter, get out of debt, make time sacred. Consider ways a technologically dependent lifestyle can make Y2K a problem to begin with.

Copies of the $12 guide (plus postage) are available at 206-464-4800.

-- Diane J. Squire (, February 18, 1999.

See also CNNc comments last month ...

Grassroots Y2K efforts sprout

Community activists give practical help and nag officials to plan, too.

January 22, 1999 Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT)

by Nancy Weil

(IDG) -- The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency issued an advisory on January 6 urging communities, emergency services agencies, and the public to prepare for possible problems from the Year 2000 computer glitch. But thousands of people across the country were hard at work well before FEMA offered advice.

The effort appears orderly and calm but an underlying sense of urgency grows as the days tick by. Generally, groups encourage people to stockpile food, bottled water, medicines, medical supplies, and other necessities and to have cash on hand -- the same sorts of preparations needed for an approaching hurricane or blizzard.

The grassroots leaders are also building awareness that problems may occur over the course of this year and into 2000. We might see glitches linked to July 1 and October 1, when fiscal years roll over.

Practical preparation

As part of the effort, some communities are considering how to depend less on supply chains that rely on technology. Meeting agendas cover ways to find energy from alternative sources and developing neighborhood gardens and food cooperatives that can be sustained long after the millennium dust settles.

Whatever the approach, the effort involves people from all walks of life. Some are high-tech professionals who are particularly able to help their communities because they know what efforts businesses and government are making to deal with Year 2000 problems. They also know what questions to ask officials.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility encourages other computer professionals to get involved. Some in the industry, however, have said publicly they will move away from urban areas to avoid any mayhem that might ensue. Others argue they have no particular responsibility to help their communities.

"If you have skills or knowledge that can be used constructively, you shouldn't walk away," says Marsha Woodbury, CPSR chair.

Based on interviews, e-mail exchanges, chat boards, and listserv postings on the Internet, it appears community organizers are persevering -- despite what they perceive as indifference by government officials and neighbors, and media cynicism. They express hope that January 1, 2000, will come and go with scant problems. But they all seem to expect disruptions of varying severity. Some portend a time of tremendous upheaval.

Aging code

The Year 2000 problem results from two-digit date fields being used in most older software code. As a consequence, computers will interpret the "00" in 2000 as "1900" and fail to calculate correctly. Many embedded processors also have two-digit date fields, though no one seems to know exactly which ones will fail as a result.

Not even the so-called experts have consistent theories about what will happen. That presents perhaps the greatest challenge to grassroots organizers.

"It's such a difficult thing for people to get a handle on -- how a little two-digit problem could have such global ramifications," says David Sunfellow, director of the Y2K Task Force in Sedona, Arizona.

There is a plethora of opinions on the consequences, making it difficult to know what to do. Should you stockpile a week's worth of food and water, or enough to last a year? Should you join the list of people waiting for a new supply of generators to come in at the hardware store? Or should you figure the power grid really will, as the U.S. government predicts, operate well enough to avoid widespread failure? How much cash is enough?

"The nature of the situation produces uncertainty and confusion," Sunfellow says. "Obviously, it's very difficult to mobilize a grassroots response out of that."

But mobilize they have, in communities small and large.

Millennial troops

Two umbrella groups have emerged as leaders in grassroots coordination and information-sharing. The Cassandra Project, based in Louisville, Colorado, formed to promote preparation, monitor government activities, and provide information. Its Web site lists contacts across the country and in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The Joseph Project 2000 in Woodstock, Georgia, has Christian roots and works primarily through local churches to offer preparation help.

The Utne Reader, a monthly magazine, produced a Y2K Citizen's Action Guide offering a wealth of details on starting a neighborhood group.

"As we prepare for Y2K, something surprising and unexpected and quite wonderful is going to happen," Utne founder and editor-in-chief Eric Utne wrote in his introduction to the guide. "We're going to get to know our neighbors. Probably for the first time in our lives, we will begin to know what it means to live in a real community."

Utne, perhaps somewhat dreamily, predicted that the Year 2000 problem is "the excuse we've been waiting for to stop making so many compromises in how we know we should, and want to, live our lives. Y2K is our opportunity to stop polluting and wasteful practices, and start living more sustainable, environmentally friendly lives. Y2K is the conversational gambit that can lead to discussions that begin to knit webs of affiliation, care and mutual support."

Impeachment, not Y2K

It would be helpful, say those on the front lines of this grassroots effort, if discussions were headed by national leaders. Numerous organizers said the lack of comments from President Bill Clinton and others is a tremendous source of concern. The credibility of the U.S. Congress further suffers as that body pursues impeachment proceedings related to the sex scandal that has embroiled Clinton.

"I think that (lack of dialogue) is contributing to the overall anxiety level," says Rebecca Kaplan, co-founder of the Oakland 2001 Y2K Network for Community Preparedness and Advocacy in Oakland, California.

Kaplan and others worry that national leaders' silence (with a couple of notable exceptions) will encourage panic at some point. People may get nervous as more states say they will mobilize the U.S. National Guard -- if things won't be dire, why are state governments taking such actions?

Lack of discussion contributes to denial in some cases, Kaplan says.

"A lot of people are in denial. They say that this can't be serious if the government doesn't think it's serious," she says.

Lacking leadership

FEMA, which responds to disasters and is in charge of planning for the millennium bug, has not yet dealt with its own computer systems, and that jeopardizes the agency's credibility, Kaplan said.

"What will cause panic is people feeling they are being lied to and kept in the dark," she says.

Other organizers say the media has created problems by not taking the Year 2000 bug's possible effects seriously. Most news reports fall into a couple of camps, both of them hostile to grassroots preparedness efforts. Some reports convey dire, frightening consequences that leave readers thinking no amount of preparation will be enough. The others cynically dismiss concerns.

Indeed, one grassroots organizer declined to speak to the IDG News Service, saying he has been "burned" too many times by the media when discussing the subject.

A recent newsmagazine article included a graphic of Jesus returning to Earth at the millennium, amid people looking frightened. Then, "two- thirds of the way through (the story) they talk about what can be done. Why not reverse that," said H.A. "Red" Boucher, a community activist in Anchorage, Alaska. Boucher is a former mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska, state lieutenant governor, and representative, and now works to bring Internet connectivity to the largest and most remote state.

"It's moved beyond a technical issue to solely a leadership issue," he said.

Boucher wishes that Y2K talk would focus on the psychological process of coming to grips with what could be a disaster -- denial, anger, fear, depression, panic, acceptance. All are common reactions, and some of those grassroots leaders say they experienced those emotions before they could take constructive action.

Long ago, Boucher reached the point of insistence.

"I don't want maybes," he says of responses from utilities and others whose computer systems must work to avert global problems.

"Never mind, 'We're taking care of it.' That's a bunch of baloney. My last question to them is always, Do you have a written contingency plan? If you do, I would like to see it," Boucher says. "If they don't have a written contingency plan, as far as I'm concerned it's gross negligence."

Those pushing the grassroots effort have a growing sense that doing nothing in neighborhoods and communities also constitutes negligence. Some turmoil will result from the changeover to the Year 2000, they agree. Actually having a fixed date presents a unique opportunity to prepare.

"There's no sense in waiting as people watch the clock roll around the world to see if London crashes before New York," Boucher says of what might happen on January 1, 2000. "That's stupid."

-- Diane J. Squire (, February 18, 1999.

You Go Girl.

Diane's Y2K News Clipping Service.

Your clippings have been the only decent news I've heard of late.

Got church?

-- INVAR (, February 18, 1999.

[Neighborhood, Grassroots Community Creation] is vitally important work. It helps the "social infrastructure" of communities. That will be the only thing that prevents tertiary degradation from technology problems to economic problems to 'social infrastructure' problems. (snipped from PNG)

I'm registered for the following event. If anyone else on this forum is attending, please let me know. Let's connect. Meeting Our Y2K Challenges Together

A free briefing for Congregations, Non-profits, and Community groups

Thursday, March 11, 1999
9 am12:30 pm Plenary Session 7 25 pm Working Groups
Washington, DC

One of the featured leaders is Margaret Wheatley, organizational consultant, systems expert and author of Leadership and the New Science and A Simpler Way.

John Koskinen will also be presenting. (attention: this is not a lightning rod)

Register at: http://www.c ~C~

-- Critt Jarvis (, February 18, 1999.

Thanks for the great articles, Diane. I happen to like my neighbors and my neighborhood, and I'd really like for all of those people to still be around after y2k hits. It's encouraging to know about all the community building activities that are going on in other areas, and I hope your continued focus on community organizing gives me the push I need to try to bring y2k planning to my neighborhood.

-- Pam G. (, February 18, 1999.

See also ...

"Practical Pantry Y2K Got You Bugged? (Portland, Oregonian --Long Post)" 000VSJ

-- Diane J. Squire (, February 18, 1999.

Big Thanks, Diane!

Maybe if we just keep saying it over and over again..."community, community, community...."

-- cat (, February 18, 1999.

Diane, thank you for helping us focus on solutions instead of problems. Those are great stories.

After some false starts in my neighborhood, I realized that this ground needs a lot of preparation before you can plant seeds, and the seeds take a long time to bear fruit. I know you are all waiting breathlessly for my thoughts(!) so here goes:

How big is your neighborhood? 25 households? How many of those do you count as actual friends? 10? 5? 2?. Start with the folks who already have the impression that you are not a complete wacko. Hopefully that number is >=1. Send 'em a letter with a brief explanation of what you're concerned about. I did this last week, (Ill post the text if anyone wants it) and I included copies of Sen. Bennet's recent article in Y2KToday , the FEMA , National Guard WWW announcements, and a copy of the International Association of Emergency Manager"s January newsletter focussed on Y2K

Only one response so far, but it was very positive. My intention is to find the receptive folks first, begin to discuss it, consolidate a bit, then invite all the other neighbors to join us (not just lil ol me), for a discussion.

I am assuming that a large segment of my neighbors will not get it until much too late. If I can get half of the households near me at to at least keep their eye on the ball, that will make me feel alot safer.

Im convinced that it is not only pointless for me to be prepared if my neighbors arent, it may actually be more dangerous to be the only one on the street with awareness and resources. Ive stated my belief elsewhere that a Milneish response (hunker in the bunker) is ultimately unwise. How long can you live in a bunker? If an intruder gets lucky, who will defend your family?

The best part of a neighborhood-level response has been often stated: Its a win-win. If Y2K is only a speedbump, you still get a better neighborhood. If the fabic of technological civilation does begin to fray and tear, having like-minded neighbors may at least give my family a chance.

-- Lewis (, February 18, 1999.

Thank you for this thread, Diane. Your enthusiasm is infectious and has prompted me to re-look at being a pest again. I got waaaay discouraged after being ignored in my city for 3 months. They could have at least called me a wacko, and 'moved away from on the bench', but being ignored was like exile, and very energy depleting.

I'll have another go at it.

-- Donna Barthuley (, February 18, 1999.

I forgot that I included the Red Cross info in my packet:

Red Cross

And FWIW, here is the cover letter I sent out:

Dear Neighbor: You may think of us as the wacky neighbors who worry about the Y2K problem. Well, we are still wacky, but as you can read from the enclosed publications, we are now in good company.

I have been following the Y2K issue very closely for over a year now, and even at this late date, no one has a reliable estimate yet of how many computer systems will fail because of this problem, or of how the cumulative effect of these failures might impact us. It may well be a minor annoyance, or even a major annoyance, or maybe worse. No one knows.

As a database analyst at (______), I have a healthy respect for complex software. Historically, in every industry, large software projects are notorious for slipped deadlines, poor management and outright failure. (For an excellent overview, I recommend Timebomb 2000 by Ed Yourdon.) Many companies are saying Y2K will be handled differently. I hope so.

If you take some time to review the enclosed information, you will discover that there are now many responsible individuals and organizations who think that a more serious situation is, if not the most likely outcome, at least a real enough possibility that some precautions are appropriate. Our personal approach is to panic early and avoid the rush. With two little kids, its not something we want to guess wrong about.

What, if anything, should we be doing to prepare our families and our neighborhood? My chief concern is that we must contend with winter. Any preparations you may choose to make for January 2000 which include alternative heating arrangements should be done now. Many of the products (such as kerosene heaters) are only available seasonally, and next fall we may be in a much more urgent situation. There are numerous reports of shortages in generators and wood stoves already. It might be good time to put in some disaster supplies. We have a relative in Canada who went through the worst of last years power outages. After only a few days without heat and power in winter, its a very different world.

(___) and I are not proclaiming the apocalypse. There is a good chance the lights will stay on, only minor glitches will occur, and you will then be welcome to tease us about our overreacting. We just feel that there are enough nasty possibilities for the next 18 months that we felt it worth communicating with a few of our neighbors about them. If you would like to discuss these issues further, wed love to hear from you. Knock on the door, or call us at (___-____). We have been known to eat pizza from time to time.

In any event, we hope you are well, and we urge you to watch this issue very carefully over the coming months.


-- Lewis (, February 18, 1999.

Great post, Lewis. Thanks for the suggestions.

-- Pam G. (, February 18, 1999.

Great info and letter, Lewis.

May I "borrow it" with modifications?


(P.S. Would someone please encourage me to get on with sorting through my great community building notes from the Oakland Y2K Around The Bay gathering and the Seattle Year 2000 Expo -- I admit to some extreme procrastination after getting over the flu. Groan! First, I "need" a caffe latte break, again. Yeah, right).

-- Diane J. Squire (, February 18, 1999.

Feel free, Diane et tout le monde.

I'd like to encourage you to get on with sorting through my great community building notes from the Oakland Y2K Around The Bay gathering and the Seattle Year 2000 Expo.

Just felt compelled to say that. I don't know why.

(Teasing. Thanks for all your hard work. Glad you're on the mend.)

-- Lewis (, February 18, 1999.

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