What can go wrong unexpectedly?

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Periodically, folks suggest that if there are major problems, the source may be completely unexpected happenings. How about some creative thoughts about what such unexpected happenings might be. (Yes, I know, if we can expect them, they aren't unexpected).

For example, if the power stays on and the phones keep working, will everyone get on the phone at 12:01 a.m. on 1/1/00 to call their cousins to ask if the power is still on over at their house, thus bringing down the phone system from overload? Or will everyone flush their toilet at the same instance to see if the water is still on, etc, etc?

-- Dan Hunt (dhunt@hostscorp.com), April 13, 1999


Just look at recent history for the answer. Anytime there's a major storm in Florida or an earthquake in California, no matter if the phone systems isn't damaged the system is overloaded by people calling in to the affected area to check one people. No matter how much the phone companies and authorities plead with the public not to do this they still do, instead of waiting for the persons they want to hear from to call out.

Will something similar happen for Y2K? Heck, I'll bet that if the country got nuked, the survivors would try and call the targetted cities to see if their friends "felt it". Phone line meltdown for Y2K is a given, problems or not.


-- Wildweasel (vtmldm@epix.net), April 13, 1999.

What about overloads (unexpected) to utilities from people on New Years Eve Day who will be watching the 'domino effect' of unprepared countries, airports, cities around the world as a "last minute Y2K awaking" ( panic ? ). Could this insure a grid failure ? Or, things are fine in Japan and Australia, so they all turn off TVs . Eagle ... circling ... watching !!

-- A. Winged Bird (A999Eagle@Nest.com), April 13, 1999.

Actually in California, a big telephone danger related to earthquakes is pay phones. They fall off the hook in any decent quake, and suddenly innumerable receivers have open lines.

The day after the 1/94 Northridge quake (which nearly killed me), my best friend George in Minnesota reached me by going to the California Forum on Compuserve, and finding somebody there who could call me (in-state calls worked, just not out of state). I can't tell you how glad I was to hear the voice of someone I'd never met, making sure I was alright. So those calls may lock up lines, but I can sure understand the reason for them. That's why I'm so nuts about getting a ham license prior to Y2K. I know how I felt back then, totally isolated.

Like the fires, floods, other quakes, riots etc. that so livened up my life in all my years there (till 3/95), people are the most unpredictable and interesting part (to me) when it comes to surprising situations. The Marine weapons instructor who lived in the apt. across from me waited 10 minutes, went back inside, took a shower (!) and got dressed, and he was sitting reading the paper calmly with coffee when I showed up at his door again, wretched from no sleep and terror for hours. Nobody but me bothered to check on the old people living nearby. I was the only one organized enough to have flashlight, candles and matches, battery-powered-radio etc. handy and findable in the dark chaos, so that I was in the parking lot outside 30 seconds after the main shaking stopped (and half the neighbors joined me in pajamas, a real interesting site, all your neighbors in pajamas in candle light!). And we all stood outside in the parking lot in the dark praying to God that it was close, and had not hit San Francisco, since we knew if we got that kind of jolt down in L.A. they'd be wiped totally off the map. Since it's easier to be scared for other people than yourself when you're really terrified and trying to keep your head together, we almost trembled in grief and fear for them... that was kind of weird.

Unexpected: Despite that this was a massive quake (some say that at the EC it actually spiked meters as high as 8+), despite that the most RATIONAL and well- known thing to everyone in the area is that aftershocks happen, they can be bigger than the initial quake, and everybody should get their act together, prepare for that possibility and so forth, most people didn't. Everyone around me put what few knick knacks had survived, back on their little shelves, which eventually got knocked off and broken by one of the aftershocks. (My apts. were on super-jello dirt and we had probably the equiv of 6-7pt shocks -- I thought literally the buildings swayed so far they'd just collapse like cards, and I had to keep pushing the fridge back in place -- while a mile away, on the shale hill where my boss lived, they weren't even sure we were having one! -- boy, weird!)

We all felt like the ground was always shaking. Then a psychologist came on the radio and explained how we shouldn't panic, everything was fine, and this was a perfectly normal psychological reaction to having been thrown out of bed at 4:31am seconds prior to half your house falling in. Turned out we were having thousands of aftershocks in the weeks that followed. The ground *was* always shaking! So much for psychology. This is going to be John Koskinen in January 2000, LOL!

So the unexpected part was that kind of like Y2K, even when the evidence came in that something serious HAD happened and something serious could or likely WOULD happen, people STILL acted like it was a momentary break in reality and everything would be fine now. It really makes me wonder if Y2K will get that kind of response. You know, the power won't go off in many areas, or it might but will come back on, and the people who didn't plan for it anyway, will say see? -- and even if the power goes off and on and the news says that the rest of the planet has imploded, you know people will still be casually munching 7-11 hotdogs and watching COPS instead of getting a clue.

It could happen. The most UNpredictable things always seem to end up being people.

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (fire@firedocs.com), April 13, 1999.

You're all talking expectedly unexpected. Everyone knows that earthquakes happen and can make plans.

There have been several known instances of major service-disrupting glitches in telecomms networks as a result of software changes having unexpected high-level side effects. One of these pretty much took down comms on the USA Eastern Seaboard for a couple of hours. These were changes that had passed all the normal testing; the problem showed up only when an entire full-scale network was exposed to the change.

Y2K or a Y2K bugfix could have similar side-effects. And there's a big problem: there won't be the option of rapidly reinstating the pre- bugfix code (well not if it triggers at 1/1/2000, anyway).

Don't be too hard on psychologists: I can vouch for thinking that the ground was shaking after receiving a major shock that had absolutely nothing to do with an earthquake!

-- Nigel Arnot (nra@maxwell.ph.kcl.ac.uk), April 14, 1999.

I remember someone mentioning that if people disconnect their electricity (say I flip the main breaker off cause I'm not wanting to experiment with the ability of my house system to withstand too many spikes etc) that this will cause an excess in the flow that can in turn create problems....

-- Shelia (shelia@a.com), April 14, 1999.

Everyone knows that earthquakes happen and can make plans.

Ah, yes! Someday, eventually, to some degree, one will happen. We could plan. Do people? Not many. Even in high quake zones.

Y2K will happen, absolutely, we even know when, we even have a clue to many of the potential problems. 285 million people in this country, supposedly. How many are planning?

Expect the unexpected-Y2K-is-really-a- problem-surprise of neighbors to provide the expected threat to peace and sanity. :-)

Ya never know. I can't predict problems, I'm not an IT guy (the web doesn't count). But I enjoy novelty. All the phones could go dead on 1/1/00... or... all the phones could start ringing, hey wouldn't that be intriguing? Reminds me of that movie "Lawnmower Man"....

Hey, if this were REALLY bad, I wonder how many backyard cheap plastic wading pools could be filled with water and a few carp and algae suckers. Would that work? Dad always said he just wanted to retire so he could go fishing.


-- PJ Gaenir (fire@firedocs.com), April 15, 1999.

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