Some more personal anecdotes to ponder... : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I find talking on this forum a cathartic experience. So much for the lurking. Here are some thoughts and observations that nobody else in the world seems to want to listen to.

I get an amazing amount of info from the fact that I travel alot. I start the conversation, find out what they do, and then get their y2k spin. (Not surprisingly, this strategy works better than it did on women in college.) Anway, given that y2k could influence everybody, then everybody's opinion -- whether incisive or out-to-lunch -- offers you a window into the problem. For me, a valuable part of a link like site like this is that people relay what they can scavenge from personal contacts rather than from the press. While we all know that sources on this web are only as credible as the presentation allows, it helps me nonetheless. Keep them coming and I will do the same. We can all choose to believe whomever we wish.

Actually, I started following the problem when a Wall Street analyst friend (a true five-hundred pound gorilla at Goldman Sachs) alerted me to the time required for companies like PeopleSoft to implement. However, I got really serious about this stuff when a conversation with the CEO of the PRT Group (trades as prtg) revealed that they had not completed their own y2k work even though 20% of their business was y2k. As an aside, he also said he was swearing off future y2k projects because they were completely unreliable due to management's non-stop screw-ups on their time-lines.

Another CEO of a 50-hacker private firm wagered a wild guess that any given city had about a 30% blackout probability. I was at Columbia during the blackout of '77 (oops! 1977) in New York so this really caught my attention. This guy was a self-professed optimist. When asked what he was doing personally, he said that he put all his assets in his wife's name. Why you might ask? (which I did) His answer: "Because I assume that my corporation will eventually be sued into bankruptcy regardless of my best intentions." He also said that the Feds were uncontestably toast and that Asia and Europe would be seriously singed as well. He suggested that his foreign clients seemed to take offense at the "yanks" coming to solve the problem, which, in turn, led to be "compliant" rather than truly cooperative. behavior.

A representative of the FDIC finished his highly optimistic presentation to a group of about 100 people in Ithaca. I could here something in his voice. I walk up to him and say, "You're scared shitless of a bank run, aren't you?" He says, "You bet." Once we cleared away the facade, he concurred that the other panelists representing the key infrastructures either (1) had no idea what the real story was, or (2) wouldn't tell us if they did. My own experience is that alot of these guys (maybe even Koskinen) will really "fess up" once the microphone is off.

I talk to a Professor of Economics here at Cornell (during a chance meeting on the golf course) and he says the problem will not even be a bump in the road. Within three minutes of cross-examination he's begging for mercy. This guy didn't even understand the problem at the level of "People Magazine". Big head, no brains.

The question that will be asked over and over is, "Why do some get it and some don't?" It doesn't correlate with brains, education, profession (IT aside), etc, etc. My dad, a retired engineer, bought into it immediately. I do believe that really smart people may find their intelligence challenged by buying into such a grand conspiracy/cult. I'm surrounded by these guys.

Best regards Dave "Cornell"

-- Dave "Cornell" (, May 13, 1999



Thanks. It's really great to have you turn off the cloaking device and share!

"I find talking on this forum a cathartic experience". I feel the same way! That first post is tough and from then on it's tough to shut up sometimes. It's the support of talking to others who understand that feels the best to me.

Thanks again!

Mike ===============================================================

-- Michael Taylor (, May 13, 1999.

Dave "Cornell":

Do you think the FDIC won't be able to come through with 100 G's to match 100 G losses in the bank from bank runs. Also, do you think there are loopholes in the fine print for the FDIC corp. to not pay up? Sincerely, Feller

-- Feller (, May 13, 1999.

This is MinnesotaSmith, author of the Y2K-preparatory website Dave, you are exactly on target with your observation as to there being no observable correlation between intellectual credentials and ability to understand Y2K and its implications, as long as we are talking about triple-digit IQ level types. My wife and mother-in-law have exactly one bachelor's degree between them, and it took them less than 2 weeks combined after long conversations on Y2K to be willing to begin preparing. My parents and sister have 8 degrees between them, and only my dad has the attention span to read for more than 30 seconds on the topic (and he still isn't willing to actually do anything, which makes any understanding he may have irrelevant). I have sent them over 4000 pages of material, and they might as well be Helen Keller before sign language was invented, for all they understand about it. Remember that most people are like icebergs, with the logical part of their minds represented by the 1/10 above water, and the emotional/rationalizing/procrastinating/"it doesn't apply to me" part represented by the 9/10s below the surface. The above-water part is what they display, but the below-water part makes up most of what they are. You may be interested in the two articles on my site whose titles begin with "Warning the...". Also, if you (or anyone else) is interested, just E-mail me and I will send you everything relevant that is not yet posted to the site. Yours in preparation, MinnesotaSmith

-- MinnesotaSmith (, May 13, 1999.


Not a chance that I'd e-mail you, you'd send me 4000 pages!! No wonder your family won't read it. 4000 pages of ANYTHING is just junk. Learn enough about the problem to be succinct!

-- walt (, May 13, 1999.

Response to Feller: (Is that young Feller or old Feller?)

I really have no understanding of the FDIC. All I can say is that this FDIC guy -- certainly a very low level guy if sent from NYC to Ithaca for a y2k meeting -- was very spooked. When I mentioned the litigation problems, he responded by noting that heavy litigation was the good news. Again, I found myself asking why. Again, the answer was confounding: he said that heavy litigation assumes that court and/ or legal system hasn't gone belly up.

This whole thing is so surreal. Today is not one of my more balanced.


-- Dave "Cornell" (, May 13, 1999.

My thoughts:

I find it somewhat comforting that the thing the FDIC man is most worried about is bank runs. This seems to imply that he is more worried about public perception of banks' Y2K readiness than the readiness itself. Does this mean he thinks banks will be ready??? For a person who is "low level", I assume he is more in touch with the people who did the actual exams, or he was involved with the exams themselves.

Am I reading this wrong, Dave?

-- newlurker (, May 13, 1999.

"....he said that heavy litigation assumes that court and/or legal system hasn't gone belly up."

Interesting how this rather obvious thought never seems to occur to anyone. If things really hit the fan, there won't BE any lawsuits. A mitigating factor perhaps....

-- really (really@hates.lawyers), May 13, 1999.

This is MinnesotaSmith, author of the Y2K-preparatory website A few things, Walt: 1) I sent the material to my family over a 6+ month period. It includes books such as The Millennium Bug and Time Bomb 2000, as well as lengthy government reports. I suppose that you have criticized Hyatt & Yourdon for going over 50 pages in their books? In science, it is being thorough to document why you hold a particular position (including anticipating objections) when you are attempting to convince someone it is accurate. Should I just say "Computers no work next year, you die", and be surprised at a lack of success in motivating my relatives to move out to rural areas and stockpile food? 2) All of the articles together that I have written for my site are less than 200KB. 3) When someone offers to give you something free, with no strings of any kind attached, gratefully accepting or politely declining are the only civilized options. Rudeness at the very thought of someone giving you a present is not normally considered mature behavior. 4) Below is the introduction to the whole Y2K problem that I use on my site. Please feel free to tell me how it could be any shorter and not leave out significant information. MinnesotaSmith

An Introduction

I believe that the time is behind us when it was possible to prevent the Year2000 computer problem and other related phenomena from causing a multitude of very serious threats to the American people's livelihoods, comfort, and safety in the very near future. The late start on code remediation, the hardly-scratched embedded systems problem, the lost (and unrecoverable) source code, the lack of pivot- date standards for windowing, the Leap Year problem, the End-of-File Protocol problem, the almost total lack of Y2K remediation outside the English-speaking world, the GPS Rollover, the expected solar flares in 2000, the speculative bubble (overdue to burst) we call the Stock Market, the destruction of manual backup systems (e.g. railroad switching yards), the inherent fragility of a fiat currency interacting with a fractional reserve banking system, the sensitivity of Just-In-Time Delivery systems to cascading disruptions, and our accelerating social decay (consider the order-of-magnitude illegitimate birth rate increases in the U.S. during the last 50 years) are all coming together to create a synergism that will very probably make the Great Depression look rather mild. My assessments are not based on apocalyptic religious or political beliefs. I am not an environmentalist who resents Man's presence on this planet; neither am I some kind of Luddite. I have two hard-core science degrees, and am working on a third. When I am cold or sick, central heating and antibiotics look pretty good to me. I am just a reasonably intelligent guy who 1) learned years ago how to investigate and think; 2) has looked into the impending situation to a greater extent than the vast majority of people he knows (although I'm not on the level of the people in the Other Links or Suggested Readings sections); and, 3) thinks that the situation is such that action that would be paranoid/crazy in normal times is the only reasonable way now to carry out one's duties to one's family.

My judgement of what probably lies ahead of us begins with the opinion that most utilities, banks, welfare/pension systems, petrochemical refineries, pharmaceutical production, motorized transportation and telecommunication systems will be disrupted for months or years. I expect that the IRS and Social Security will cease to exist in 2000, that China will probably take Taiwan, that U.S. agricultural production in 2000 will be under a third of 1999's, and that most international trade will fall to levels less than 20% of current levels. (Think food, oil, coal, platinum, palladium, chromium, bauxite, vanadium, copper, tungsten, computer chips, spare parts, ball bearings, tools, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, medicines, water treatment stuff, money, food, and food). Did I mention terrorism?

Nearer-term, I think we can expect bank runs before the end of September, and a Dow Jones under half the current level by Thanksgiving. I fervently hope the Nuclear Regulatory Commission disbelieves the nuke plant P.R. releases and forces all the U.S. nuclear power plants to shut down by July. (It takes 4+ months to cool the cores, and this has to be done while there is still external power, or they melt. Can you say "Chernobyl x 102"?).

Wow. I must sound like a total nutcase. Still, before you blow off my conclusions as preposterous, you owe it to those who rely on you to check into the Y2K subject and decide for yourself.

-- MinnesotaSmith (, May 13, 1999.

Dave, I had to chuckle when you mentioned your conversation with a CEO who admitted they hadn't completed their own work even though part of the company's business was Y2K. I also know a consulting company which just assigned (1) person to look into getting their systems ready, and another one whose outsourced payroll system isn't compliant, but they don't seem to be worrying about it (their employees are, management isn't). It would be hilarious, these conversations I have with those who supposedly know all about the problem but aren't really acting on it either, if it didn't show the same pattern of procrastination which is a good part of what got us into this mess in the first place.

I've gotten to the point where I don't even think of it being a Year 2000 "computer" problem anymore -- it's a Year 2000 "human" problem. In my view, that's the crux of the gloomy news about Y2K.

-- Bonnie Camp (, May 13, 1999.

newlurker wrote:

My thoughts:

I find it somewhat comforting that the thing the FDIC man is most worried about is bank runs. This seems to imply that he is more worried about public perception of banks' Y2K readiness than the readiness itself. Does this mean he thinks banks will be ready??? For a person who is "low level", I assume he is more in touch with the people who did the actual exams, or he was involved with the exams themselves.

Am I reading this wrong, Dave?

As someone who is intimately familiar with this particular point of view, I can tell you that bank runs are the biggest concern because they will be the first effect to be felt.

Then on 1/1/00 we'll have to deal with whatever computer glitches strike. There will be some, but we'll have to wait to see how serious they are. TEOTWAWKI is possible, in my humble opinion.

Then in early 2000 (if TEOTWAWKI hasn't struck) there is going to be a big fallout from bank borrowers who didn't get compliant and can't make their loan payments. IF we make it that far, this will be a SERIOUS problem. Banks are NOT doing enough to ensure their borrowers can repay them in 2000.

Any way it goes, it's gonna be bad...

-- Nabi Davidson (, May 13, 1999.

Hey, Dave Cornell,

How long ago was this meeting in Ithaca in which you talked to the FDIC guy? Did it happen recently or was it, say a year ago. Things look much better now than they did back then. Back then, I thought TEOTWAWKI was a likely possibility, but there is more information available now so the possiblility of a long lasting collapse of the power grid seems increasingly remote. We may have some economic ramifications due to the international situation, but things look much better now than they did then.

I'm just trying to put the bankers' statements in the propper time frame. I would consider it much more alarming if this conversation happened within the past month than if it happened, say last June.

Just Curious

-- Just Curious (, May 15, 1999.

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