Y2K Cover Letter -- Need Additional Comments

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Y2K Cover Letter -- Need Additional Comments

Well, I could use a little forum help fleshing out a Y2K cover letter.

Ive already fired off a response, but I can see the issue will come it again, so Id like your additional convincing sound-bytes. What needs to be added?


Ive occasionally attended a Silicon Valley Luncheon which has an interesting speaker line up. The group is also on a listserve. In a response to one message, I mentioned Sorry but anyone NOT focusing on the Y2K situation globally, is just not "getting" what is important at this timing.

And I received a sincere reply that began: I don't think that the Y2K problem is so serious that planes or bombs will fall from the sky. ...

What has the media done here, if an otherwise intelligent person has THAT classic thought form about Y2K?

In the rest of the e-note he mentions his medical insurance bill for the past two months has not reflected payments hes made that have cleared the bank. He wondered if it was an indicator of a bug fix gone awry. He even mentioned the customer support line is continuously busy and he cant get though. Then he wonders if he should be suspicious.

At least he did offer ... If you have some particular topics and/or speakers to suggest to ___ (who plans our speakers), I'm sure he is open to suggestions.

I ask you? Sheesh!


Dear ___,

I've been "seriously" studying the Y2K problem since last October. I'm a regular contributor to Ed Yourdon's bulletin board forum, because of my "concerns." We've developed quite an internet research (and commentary) team.

The media has done the country a real disservice if a "pat" answer in the mind's of most is ... "I don't think that the Y2K problem is so serious that planes or bombs will fall from the sky."

No, many planes will likely be grounded by their insurance carriers. (Think foreign airline and airport problems too).

And we will have "flight" rationing, not to mention a shortage of fuel supplies because the U.S. foreign sources of oil supply are in deep trouble. Venezuela and Saudi Arabia pipelines and oil refineries (not to mention those at home, Chevron in particular) have serious embedded chip problems.

Can you spell gas "rationing" not just long gas lines? What could that do to your business?


Most of America is not paying attention, because the 50-50% media spin is keeping the subject off balance. And "happy face" Koskinen, our Y2K czar, wants it that way. Just enough "bad" news is leaked mainstream, while attacking the wackos and fundamentalists (not that they aren't off balance too) so people won't dig in, and study the inter-locking potential domino effect problems.

I spend a lot of time studying the information coming out of Washington D.C., most the alphabet agency web-sites and the military web-sites. FEMA is the lead in organizing emergency management teams across the country. The Red Cross is even encouraging preparation. Behind-the-scenes in Washington there is a HUGE scramble going on. D.C. itself is in big trouble. But they want the general public to remain unalarmed because their biggest fears are panic and bank runs.

Silicon Valley's State Senator John Vasconcellos just had Y2K hearings in Sacramento last week. The state auditor, last week, has just come out with a report on the Y2K state of the State of California. In contradicting Governor Daviss assertions to the contrary, basically we are in deep trouble in the capitol and many cities and towns. Small Business also may well be the worst off. Health care. Well theres a serious in-attention problem.

Manufacturing. Can you spell supply chain problems? Last week a representative from Intel Corporation told the State Senate hearing that PG&E can NOT guarantee they will have power available. (Intel, fer gosh sakes!) PG&E has a wealth of Y2K problems. What would an extended S.F. blackout scenario, or if we get really lucky, intermittent brownouts with a lot of dirty power do to your business computers? Not to mention your personal life?

The global situation is quite serious. Can you spell economic repercussions? Asia, and Pacific Rim transportation and manufacturing supply delays? What can that do to local Bay Area business? Go pay attention to the United Nations web-site. The CIA testified at the Senate Armed services committee meeting about the serious state of Russia and the "disappearing" nuclear problem. Canada is openly mobilizing their military.

Then of course there is the added element of Y2K linked with terrorism, to add extra "spice" to the mix. Study the FEMA web-site, but dig! It's all there.

The Marine's upcoming Urban Warrior exercises in Oakland are part of the Y2K preparations taking place around the country. It is quite certain now, that the U.S. military will be "stationed" in 120 cities around the country. More and more State governments realizing their Y2K problems will not be fixed in time have announced, publicly and in the media, intentions to mobilize the National Guard's in their states.

So, much information is now coming "in" that NOT paying attention is going to cause some discomfortable times for most in the U.S.

I could go on, and on.

Meanwhile, Silicon Valley sleeps.

Please wake up ___.

Yes, you are experiencing Y2K related medical billing problems. So are millions. Just a portion of what is happening ever makes it into the mainstream media. Companies are not fond of admitting problems. You owe it to yourself to start doing your Y2K homework. Then get on with your personal, neighborhood and community preparations.

Y2K has already started. Pay attention!

Diane J. Squire


So team, what else needs to go in this kind of letter?

(And next, a list of Y2K speaker topics).



(P.S. Feel free to borrow any of the wording as your own, and add to it as well).

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), February 28, 1999


Diane: Good post. You can back up your reference to the planes/insurance subject with Sen. Bennetts' remark today on the Face the Nation show in which he said the insurance of flights is a real concern.

I would probably rephrase some of the remarks that could be construed as somewhat condescending (just in my opinion) they start with "can you spell" - Some people may respond better to this though so that is why I qualify my advice here - bottom line is you want the person reading it to not be put off by anything and stop reading.

As far as the medical bill foul-ups, if you want I will look through the failures list for related failures (There are some on this topic) so you can cite specific examples of exactly these types of failures. Let me know if you want me to do this.

-- Rob Michaels (sonofdust@net.com), February 28, 1999.


I enjoy your commentary, but I would seriously re-word your "cover letter". Multiple use of the phrase "can you spell.." is verbally aggressive and is counter productive to the awareness you wish to raise.

"I don't think that the Y2K problem is so serious that planes or bombs will fall from the sky."

In answering this phrase, I would ask them if they know that IBM has told the FAA that all of their mainframe computers for Air Traffic Control will fail and need to be replaced. Then supply the approriate references. As far as bombs falling, ask them if they know the US is frantically trying to fix the early warning and command/control parts of the Russian military!

Keep responses short, non-threatening and backed up with verifiable facts and sources.

Recently, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a long (but shallow and happy face) article on the status of the airline industry. Not a single word about the FAA problems. I telephoned the editor of the story and gently asked them if they knew about the FAA/IBM mainframe problems. Answer- NO! They asked me to e-mail them info and I did. Will it help? Who knows. But, I'm sure the editor was surprised and shocked when I phoned him and had verifiable, technical information to back up my criticism of the article.

-- RD. ->H (drherr@erols.com), February 28, 1999.

Thanks for the comments guys.

I admit to feeling "hot" under the collar when I fired it off. Really need to wait for a "cool down" period.

Starting to receive listserve answers ...

"_____, I read diane squire's post. i never understand what people mean when they say preparations.... can you enlighten."

Interesting response.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), February 28, 1999.

Diane - try this method of discussion to get him to gradually agree to the degree of disturbances and points you'd like to make, without threatening his defenses excessively. The idea is to use the sales technique of getting the client to agree with you on each minor point one by one, leading him to agree with you on the overall point without you telling him to change his mind.

"There are fundementally three different things that could happen as result of widespread computer and manufactoring/process failures next year:

One. Nothing will happen, and we will continue life as we know it without noticing a problem. the government doesn't think this is likely - they are telling us to prepare for widespread outages and are passing legistlation excusing state and local governments from Y2K liability suits. The Canadian and UK governments are planning military units to act as crowd control and help keep martial law. The NZ government is planning to minimize and even prohibit public celebrations next New Year's Eve to prevent problems.

Two. Everything will fail completely, and we will be unable to recover any functions of our current lifestyle. We will be forced to recover to a mid-1890's early 1920's life of farming and pre-automated homes. This isn't very likely, but some people have chosen to think worst-case scenario os realistic. Fine, let them enjoy the freedom to spend their money for their families as they see fit. What these people do in their private lives is none of our business in a free society, just ike the communes in the 60's and 70's were none of any body's else's business then. Besides, if the people who chose to withdraw and isolate themselves from sociatey for a few months are exactly the ones who will NOT cause problems or disrupt and rob others. If you don't wish to isolate yourself, don't. Ignore those who do chose to withdraw from society, for they will not cause you any problems.

So that leaves a third choice: a future no one can specifically predict because we have never faced these kind of potentially massive simultaneous failures before. Ever. Anywhere. There are no "experts" in this scenario - no one can predict what will happen to the utilites, nor to what will happen when society faces loss and disruption of the basic services people have grown used to using. There are indicators both ways: riots occur after Super Bowl wins and World Cup losses. Riots happened in Brazil when power was out for several days, but people helped each other when an earthquake happened in Southern CA. Riots and massive theft and looting broke out in Florida when a armored car overturned, and in LA when a not-guilty verdict was announced.

Utilites and services could fail locally for only a short time in few areas, or a fail intermittently for longer times over a wide area, or fail for several days over very wide areas. We don't know. We don't know - no electric power company has been able to test everything yet in the grid, their power plants, and their distribution centers. No telephone company has even been able to start to test everything in their systems yet. Only a few water systems nationally out of thousands are finshed remediation - and even those rely on power for their pumps and filters and sewage treatment. Most counties and cities haven't started repairing things yet. We don't know what they will find, nor how they will fix it, nor what the effect of not fixing it will be. No state or national government agency (at any level) has completely finished remediation and testing of their welfare, housing, salary, and admistration and tax systems.

Will banks fail? Probably not driectly due Y2K programming errors, they have been working on their programs for several years now. But payments, loans, transfers, ATM's, and checking accounts can't be processed without power, lights, heat, telephones, and central banking support centers. Your tax payments and insurance deosits must go through several dozen banks and insurance and government agencies to be successfully posted from your bank account to the final county office and its bank - and these transactions have not been tested anywhere - as best we can tell.

Only three or four counties nationally have tested emergency response programs - and those such as Virginia and Texas only after a lengthly repair process of each system. Fortunately, those systems repaired passed the test - which means that those counites who don't repair their programs and emergency response process (911, fire, police, and medical) need to both repair and test their programs before next January. Again, less then 40% of the counties nationally are planning to repair their programs. The rest - we don't know.

So the response next year will either be: nothing is lost at all for any period of time at any place in the country (not very likely); everything is lost forever in every part of the country (not very likely), or different services are lost in different areas for different periods of time depending on where you live and work.

So what will you plan for? And, if you don't want to plan ahead for losing power, water, light, and heat for 3-4 days, what will you do if they are are lost for that long? How long will you chose to sit and wait in the dark if the lights go out at your house?

What would you prefer people to do? Prepare for loss of power, heat, and water for 72 hours, then be glad it was only out for 16 hours? Prepare for nothing - then get hungry, thirsty, and cold and frightened if it is lost for 32 hours? For 48 hours? For 60 hours?

Because when the lights go out, nobody can tell at that moment when they will go back on again. You can't get water from a dry faucet, and you can't get power from a dead circuit.

In the past, when utilites were out across one area - the affected city essentially shut down and waited, while the rest of the country tried to help. Essentailly, the rest of the country remained unaffected by the local failure: this happened in New England and Canada during last winter's power outage, during hurricanes in FL, SC, GA, LA, and TX, during the Northridge earthquake, the Oakland fires, and during the recent SFO power outage. Even in New Zealand and Australia, loss of gas and power to city areas was devestating, but the region overall manged to get by. Not do well or gain economically, but get by.

If regional failures occur, no one knows what the economic impact will be. Gasoline, food distribution, water, and air and truck transportation are all threatened simultaneously by area-wide communication and electrical/electronic failures.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.R@csaatl.com), February 28, 1999.

Thank you, Robert, for the well-thought-out argument that leads any intelligent person to the sensible conclusion: prepare!

I found much in this that dovetails with what is in my own writing, but I especially appreciate the way that you have laid it out so that the reader/listener has to exercise their own processes of thinking and use logic to be "persuaded". I think "enrolled" is the more accurate term, because they choose to come to your conclusion.

Many thanks for your perspective,


-- Sara Nealy (keithn@ptd.net), February 28, 1999.

You're getting good advice -- avoid any confrontational tone -- think how you yourself respond when challenged this way.

You haven't mentioned the USPS IG's report on the dismal situation there. See http://www.house.gov/reform/gmit/hearings/testimony/990223kc.htm and this thread for comments on it.

IMO Corcoran's report will be much more convincing than second hand reports of possible problems in obscure hardware. Everybody knows how dependent we are on the mail if only on a personal level.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), February 28, 1999.

THANK YOU!!! Everyone.

Between this great advice, the private e-mails and the links on ...

What are the most compelling reports?

http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id= 000YKR

I can compose a more balanced response, with a cooler head.


P.S. Had another interesting listserve reply to the original, which I think will be okay to share parts of ...

... y2k---HUGE ISSUE. I agree with you. ... Most of my friends don't want to accept the potential for disaster, but I tell them to get prepared for the worst earthquake you can visualize and they will be in pretty good shape. ...

[Californians UNDERSTAND earthquake analogies]

... An electrician has set me up for house current delivery from the generator. He said he is now averaging a call per day on this type of installation, and last year I was only the second to call him about it.

... joined a food cooperative for local deliveries of truck loads. The first Y2K meeting in ____ drew 8 people in December. The January meeting drew 50 concerned citizens. In February ... packed with more than 700 activists to hear PG&E, Bank Official, County leaders, etc. try to keep the lid on. (Contrary to the Mayor of Portland, OR, who admits the problem and is organizing district leaders and passing out literature to thousands.)

... People who ignore this as a "self-fulfilling prophesy" are also ignoring the fact that it does not matter HOW a prophesy is fulfilled.

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 01, 1999.

Diane and all,

At the risk of incurring wrath of this forum, think twice about using "I'm a regular contributor to Ed Yourdon's bulletin board forum" to establish a level of expertise. Why? Try to remove yourself from the GI status for a while. Imagine, if you can, that you don't get it or you are trying to get an understanding. Then checkout Yourdons' site. Look at the 1st 3 to 6 posts. And evaluate those base on content. In those first few items each day (rember you don't get it - you are trying to figure things out) did they provide concrete Y2K help? Do this for a week.

Then review the week - does this really provide factual, useful, or otherwise valuable info for Y2K. I think you might conclude (again as a curious outsider) that there's a lot of chat, conjecture, worry, and other information that is irrelevant to Y2K. And gi you caught a particlur series of discussion on your first visit you might even conclude that the forum was composed a bunch of nuts or 'fruitcakes'.

By the same token, you could get some really useful tread. By doing a sampling you can decide on the odds of it bolstering or undermining your case.

Good Luck jh W

-- john hebert (jt_hebert@hotmail.com), March 01, 1999.

John - better then to say words to the effect: "I closely monitor an international discussion group analyzing the impact of Year 2000 on the government, the economy and the news media."

This would emphasize government and media releases, analysis, and avoid trip-wires like Y2K, the "internut", and specific forums or threads. Doesn't hide it, but still sets some creditionals in place. Could even insert (since there aren't any other "experts" out there...) "an international group of experts analyzing..."

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), March 01, 1999.


Agreed. The international experts line may be too much like padding a resume for my liking but you understand where I was going with the suggestion. Credibility is the key - and perhaps sizing up the audience. Different audiences will respond to different issues.

Diane, perhaps this will clarify my audience comment. If you understand the hamonics of your audience and choose the appropriate chord, they will respond. Last I knew that was a law of physics.

Good Luck, jh

-- john hebert (jt_hebert@hotmail.com), March 01, 1999.

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