I'm calling out Cornell Dave

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Cornell Dave a.k.a. Dave, aaa@aaa.com,

You were right. You gave away too much information if you wanted to keep your identity secret. I know who you are but don't worry. I promise I won't reveal your identity to anyone else. However, I wouldn't be surprised if others learn who you are by what you have already posted. If I can figure out your identity then others can too.

You have written a lot of nonsense and speculation based on half-truths here. I'm calling you out on this. I'm not calling you a liar but I will say that you haven't done a very good job on your homework. I begin with your assessment of Cornell's y2k readiness status:

Apparently, I'm a lousy lurker. In any event, Cornell University looked like a model of success. Signed PeopleSoft in 1996. Had them on campus by 1997. I thought everything was fine until about two weeks ago. Friends at the Theory Center (Cornell computing facility that used to be a National facility) suggested we were going to get toasted. There has been rumors of abondoning part or all of PeopleSoft's solution; this can't be good news. An hour ago I'm told that the person in charge of overseeing the internal billing system (which can get pretty complicated even at a University) stood up at a meeting and said, "There is no way that the internal billing system will function in January of 2000. Period." (Some paraphrasing). This has to be happening all over the world. Will this appear in a newspaper? No way. Only an hour earlier, a friend of mine who is a private money manager in Boston expressed to me that he is not only not afraid of the y2k problem, he is not afraid of perception. PhD theses will be written about this event (hopefully).

So what's wrong with this picture? The following explains a bit more about Cornell's People Soft Year 2000 project. I am taking snips from the FAQ of the project and inserting my comments.

---------------------------------------SNIP--------------------------- In March, 1996, Cornell President Hunter Rawlings announced "Project 2000" a 5-year transformation of key administrative activities into cost-effective, service-oriented processes to help make Cornell a "best-managed" university. What does Project 2000 involve? Who will it most affect? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

-------------------------------END SNIP-------------------------------

NOTE: As you said, it is indeed true that People Soft is running well behind schedule. You can see details of what is behind schedule, and how far behind they are here

HOWEVER, this is totally irrelevant to Cornell's y2k readiness status. Note that People Soft was started in March 1996 and was intended to take 5 years. This was not intended as a y2k readiness program. The program is now running behind schedule, but even if it had run on time they did not expect to have it fully implemented until 2001. THE STEPS CORNELL UNIVERSITY ARE TAKING TO GET READY FOR Y2K IS LARGELY INDEPENDENT OF THE YEAR 2000/PEOPLE SOFT PROJECT. Some modules of People Soft will be implemented before the year 2000, thus reducing the number of programs that will have to be remedied. (We have been using the y2k compliant timecard system for People Soft for several months now.) HOWEVER, THE VAST MAJORITY OF CORNELL'S PROGRAMS WILL BE MADE Y2K READY WHETHER PEOPLE SOFT IS READY OR NOT!



---------------------------------------SNIP--------------------------- Project 2000 (PeopleSoft)

What is Project 2000?

Project 2000 is a program that enhances our ability to react and communicate more responsively, placing Cornell at the forefront of an effort by universities across the nation to maximize efficiency and service. Its goal is nothing short of changing the way we do business, reinforcing Cornell's commitment to academic primacy, institutional vitality, service quality, and employee excellence.

What is the focus of Project 2000?

Project 2000 concentrates on streamlining and automating processes in five key areas-human resources/ payroll, student information, finance, sponsored programs, and alumni/development. New administrative systems will be adopted in each of these areas and processes developed to work wellwith the new systems. . . .

Don't people work as hard as they can already?

As hard, perhaps, but not as well. That's the crux of the project-to allow us to work more productively. Many of us have to spend time doing things that don't seem to make sense, and add little value-things like re-entering data from one system to another. We don't do these things because we want to, but because our current processes and systems force us to. That's something Project 2000 will change.

-------------------------------END SNIP-----------------------------



Why are we doing this now?

Out of necessity. With diminished government funding and limited ability of families to pay more tuition, Cornell must re-engineer its administrative processes to channel precious resources to its core activities-teaching, research and public service-and achieve better financial equilibrium

-------------------------------END SNIP-----------------------------

NOTE: THIS PROJECT IS NOT INTENDED TO GET CORNELL READY FOR Y2K!!! The timing of the People Soft project was not y2k-driven.

For more information on People Soft/Year 2000 at Cornell see:


For Information on Cornell's the y2k readiness of Cornell's Administrative systems as of April 2nd, see:


For information on the readiness of Cornell's physical plant, see:


Now, it took me all of an hour to look up and read this information on Cornell's web site. A high-powered professor like you should have been able to figure out how to do this in a few minutes. But you decided to spout your nonsense here before checking out your story more thoroughly. I wonder how much of the rest of what you spout is based on half truths and unfounded assumptions. Let's examine some of the other things you've said, starting with this post

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.

All right. Time out! I was at this meeting. I don't know exactly what the FDIC official said to you in private, but I wouldn't be surprised if you are exaggerating just a wee bit. (I'm not calling you a liar, but I can't imagine him telling you flat out that Koskinen was a liar and that he and the infrastructure executives would engage in a coverup.) I suspect you might be reading between the lines here. Perhaps you misinterpreted what he said by filtering his statements through your pre-conceived notions and jumped to an unwarranted conclusion. Your claim that the FDIC representative would tell a complete stranger that the others were liars and engaged in a conspiracy of silence just does not pass the smell test.

An important piece of information that you left out about the meeting is that it was held last November. That was before we learned that the predictions of widespread failure in January 1999 wouldn't pan out. Or that the airline reservation system would be able to go into the year 2000 without a problem. Or that April 1 and April 9th would come and go with barely a notice. Back in November things looked very bleak indeed. There was all sorts of speculation floating about that we would have to check 40 billion embedded chips in our electronic systems. Now we know that this was nonsense. More information is available now then there was back then and our country's infrastructure is in much better shape than we thought. Of course the banker was concerned about bank runs. Who can blame him when the likes of Gary North were spreading misinformation, perhaps with the intention of starting a run. And of course he would say that the ability of the banks to function would depend on their suppliers (i.e. the electric and communications industry). That is just stating the obvious. It is true today. It will be true in January 2000. And it will continue to be true in 2010. So what? The important thing you have omitted from your story is that the telecomunications and electric industries look more robust now than they did in November.

You discussed your conversation with the FDIC official even further:

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 just shows how your conversation with the FDIC official was based on facts that are woefully out of date. (That is, assuming the conversation really happened as you say it did and that you aren't feeding us a line of bullshit.) NO, I repeat, NO serious analyst takes the possibility of the legal system going belly up seriously anymore. This is truly a TEOTWAWKI situation. The only one who thinks like this now is Gary North. Not even Ed Yourdon is saying that this is a realistic possibility. He is now talking about a ten-year depression--not the end of our legal system.

You also said:

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.

So you're saying that based on a three minute conversation based only on WHAT YOU SAID, this economics professor was able to conclude we were in for trouble. Well, I'm sorry. You can't even get the status of Cornell's y2k readiness correct. Why should I believe that your presentation to the economics professor was an accurate reflection of what was going on? When did this conversation occur? Did it happen recently or did you present old out-dated information? Was your interpretation of the available data accurate or slanted through your own doom-and-gloom filter. And was this big brained economics professor able to run a sophisticated computer analyses using his best macroeconomic models to analyze your new information about y2k and ts economic effect on society during his three minute conversation with you on the golf course? Seems to me that this was more a case of Garbage-In-Garbage-Out than a sophisiticated analysis. Your story would be much more persuasive if the economist had spent months analyzing data from various official sources, plugged them into sophisticated econometric models and published his analysis for peer review in a respected journal. Your three minute conversation with an economist on a golf course sounds like a "Just So" story and carries very little weight with me.

You also said:

. . .Another CEO of a 50-hacker private firm wagered a wild guess that any given city had about a 30% blackout probability.

The wild ass guess of a CEO of some hacker firm says about electricity means nothing. What is his expertise in the utility industry? What did he base his guess upon? Even if he were an expert and his guess was on target it is really hard to say what it means. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some cities have blackouts. The key question is how long they will last. I would be very surprised if they last more than a couple of days. As Dick Mills points out, we might have some planned brownouts during peak demand times in the summer. But all of this points to economic consequences--not TEOTWAWKI. By the way, how long ago was this conversation with the CEO? Was it based on old data like your conversation with the FDIC official?

You said elsewhere:

I am new to this site, but have been following this problem for several years. I thought I would relay a personal y2k experience that was revealing. I was at a 1200-room hotel that had recently completed remediation of their computer system and brought it up two days earlier. The day I arrived the damned thing absolutely blank-screened itself. They had no idea who was in the hotel, who had checked out, which rooms were occupied, etc., etc. Guys with walkie-talkies ran from room to room looking for empty rooms to put guests into. Checkin went from your usual five minutes to 3+ hours. This was impressive foreshadowing of things to come.

Well, maybe this is a foreshadowing of things to come or maybe it is just an example of the way we get through life today. I'm not sure this has anything to do with y2k. Was this specifically a y2k remediation project or , was this a new system to increase productivity like the People Soft system at Cornell? How long did it take for them to get their computer system functioning? Were they using it to take reservations a day or two later? The Gartner Group reported that 90% of y2k bugs will be fixed within 3 days. Did you stick around long enough to find out how long it took them to fix this?

Also, this story could be used just as easily to illustrate the validity of what Stephen Poole has said many times: When the computers go down people don't just sit around like bumps on a log and do nothing. It took you 3+ hours to get a room. This was a nuisance. I'm sure it wasn't a lot of fun. But when the computers were down someone went from room to room to determine where you could stay. Obviously, this one example doesn't prove that manual backup systems will work in all situations, but it does show they can at least sometimes work. This story proves the "polly" point of view just as effectively as it proves the "doomer" point of view. In other words, it proves nothing.

Dave, I hope you will check out your stories a little more carefully in the future before posting them here. They are based on partial and probably outdated truths. I wonder how many of the other stories in this forum are based on partial truths and erroneous assumptions.

-- Robin S. Messing (rsm7@cornell.edu), May 22, 1999


Are you preparing Robin? That would help clarify your stance on the matter a little better.

-- Feller (feller@wanna.help), May 22, 1999.


The topic is the veracity of "Cornell Dave" and his "stories" about a major University, a large hotel and his conversation with an Economics professor.

There seem to be some serious holes in this "Cornell Dave" or Dr. Dave's stories.

Now lets hear from the Accused.

A parent with children at Cornell might become concerned about the child's safety if there were any merit to Cornell Dave's story. If enough students were withdrawn from Cornell because of a story online from a poor source, then Cornell will be harmed. They of course, can be "made whole" in a Court of Law.

In case you have not heard, lying is "bearing False Witness" and can be either libel or slander.

On case is a sin in most Judeo-Christian religions. In the latter two, it is cause for Civil action on the part of the harmed or damaged.

-- Feller Offtopic (Off.topic@feller.com), May 22, 1999.



-- Stephen M. Poole, CET (smpoole7@bellsouth.net), May 22, 1999.



Sound familiar? ("vast majority" will be "y2k ready") Tired of the same old vapor trail.

Robin, in trying to refute an argument, it is best not to supply information supporting it.

Aside from the information supplied by Dave, you have given us verification that Cornell will not be compliant. Perhaps you might want to clarify your statement.

-- Mike Lang (webflier@erols.com), May 22, 1999.

Robin S. Messing- what you say proves nothing. It sounds more like some of the spin that we've already been hearing. Well, you had better go back and try writing the paper again if you want that A.

-- noway (ccec@east.com), May 22, 1999.

will everybody shut the hell up, please! leave room for Cornell Dave to respond.

-- Polly Doomer (polly@doomer.waffler), May 22, 1999.

Robin said:

You were right. You gave away too much information if you wanted to keep your identity secret. I know who you are but don't worry. I promise I won't reveal your identity to anyone else. However, I wouldn't be surprised if others learn who you are by what you have already posted. If I can figure out your identity then others can too.

So much for whistleblowers being able to depend on anonimity...

BTW...Yourdon's 10 year depression is his most likely scenario. Ed is still pretty well prepared for TEOTWAWKI, or the collapse of the legal system, as you defined it.

-- a (a@a.a), May 22, 1999.


Your question is indeed off topic. It really has no bearing on whether or not Dave's claims are accurate. But I don't mind answering it.

I am currently a 3 - 4 on a 1 - 10 scale. I think there is a good possibility that there could be some blackouts in some parts of the country in January but I think for the most part power will be back on in a few hours to a day or so. My worst case scenario is a 3 day blackout. My thinking on this has been heavily influenced by Dick Mills.

I think it is possible we will see some disruption in transportation and food supplies, but for the most part things will be somewhat back to normal in two weeks. I would like to see everyone have two to three weeks of food stocked up. I'm not saying that everyone will need it, but this should be sufficient.

I expect the major impact of y2k will be economic. I think we will have a 6 - 12 month recession and the stock market will tank big time in the fall. But I am no economist and the market has fooled me before. We could just as easily have a rally if people outside the U.S. think the U.S. market is a relatively safe place to invest because the we are ahead of the rest of the world in our y2k remediation.

Though I am about a 3.5 now, I used to be an 8 or 9 back in September. I read Michael Hyatt's "Millennium Bug" book and it scared me shitless. I lost 8 pounds in two weeks from worrying. That was the only good thing about y2k: the worry-your-way-to-weight-loss program. I have since changed my outlook as new information became available and I gained a better understanding of the issues involved. I am telling you this only because you asked. I did not start this thread to change anyone's big-picture view of the situation and I have no intentions of getting into a debate of my worldview here. It is off topic for this thread and quite truthfully, I don't have time for an extensive wide ranging debate right now.

-- Robin S. Messing (rsm7@cornell.edu), May 23, 1999.

Feller Offtopic: I appreciate your post and I agree with the main point. I am not sure I agree with this:

If enough students were withdrawn from Cornell because of a story online from a poor source, then Cornell will be harmed. They of course, can be "made whole" in a Court of Law.

In case you have not heard, lying is "bearing False Witness" and can be either libel or slander.

I will accuse Dave of being wrong and careless. I do not have enough evidence to call him a liar. For him to be a liar he would have to knowingly make false statements. I do not know if Dave intentionally lied or if he made his erroneous statements through negligence.

I am not certain what standard the court would require to convict Dave of libel. It is much easier to win a libel suit if the plaintiff is a private individual than if he is a public figure. A public figure would have to prove with convincing clarity that a defendant knew his statements were false or should have known they were false. This is known as the acutal malice requirement. If the plaintiff is a private individual then the requirements will vary from state to state. Most states require mere negligence to convict a defendant who makes defamatory statements about a private individual. Some require the stricter actual malice standard. In New York State the courts use an intermediate standard of gross irresponsibility. The big question here is whether a state would declare Cornell to be a public figure, and thus subject to the actual malice standard or a private figure subject to the gross irresponsibility standard.

I also do not know whether Dave's behavior rises to the level of gross irresponsibility or not. But even if it did, Cornell would have a tough time proving that Dave's statement on the internet prevented students from enrolling. Even if we have a drop in enrollment this next winter, proving that Dave's statements caused the drop in enrollment would be difficult. It would be hard to legally prove that other factors were not responsible for the drop.

Phillisophically, I would be against seeing this case go to court. Dave clearly was in error, but our First Ammendment rights should not be contingent upon always being correct. If everyone had to worry that every detail of their story was accurate before they posted it, then many people would censor themselves and just not post anything on the net. People do have a moral responsibility to make sure to the best of their ability that what they are posting is accurate. But except for extreme cases I would rather not see this settled in court. The propper response for countering erroneous information on the net is posting correct counterinformation. That was the point of my starting this thread. The propper penalty for making false statements is to look like an idiot before your audience.

The overzelous use of libel law poses a threat to those who post on the net. Our legal system is a prohibitively expensive way for most people to use to settle their differences. Lawyers usually charge over $100/hour. A good defense, even for someone who publishes only the truth, could easily run $50,000 - $100,000. The danger comes from large institutions or wealthy individuals using their economic leverage to silence their critics. The mere threat of a libel suit can sometimes shut someone up--even if the person is telling the truth--if they do not have the economic means to defend themselves.

I must make two disclaimers to the above paragraphs.

1)Though I think I have a pretty good grasp of libel law, I am not a lawyer. So take my opinions on the law for what it is worth.

2)The above views are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the views of Cornell University, Dan Quayle, or the March Hare.

These are just a few quick comments. I don't want this thread to go off on a tangent of libel law on the net. I had a good debate with Hardliner on an earlier thread but right now I just do not have time to get into extensive debates.

-- Robin S. Messing (rsm7@cornell.edu), May 23, 1999.

Mike, you wrote:

you have given us verification that Cornell will not be compliant.

So what is your point, Mike? Do you think Cornell is going to roll over and die just because not every program is compliant? Sorry, but I don't buy that. Cornell probably did what any competent organization would do when deciding which programs to work on. They picked the most important ones to work on first and saved the least important ones for last.

Your obsession with "compliance" is one of the main points that separate the doomers from the pollys. I don't buy into it. Cornell, or any other large organization, does not have to be "compliant" to survive. Might I remind you that the Gartner Group predicts that 90% of the mission critical failures will be fixed within three days. I also refer you to this article.. The entire article is worthwhile, but the following section is particularly pertinant:

The Compliance-Metric Bug

A common abstraction appearing in many stories is "Y2k compliance", which lumps all possible date-related failure modes and consequences for each system into a simple binary ("true/false") measure. Essentially, this concept says that if a system works the same (or as well) with 21st century dates as with 20th century dates, it's considered "Y2k compliant" -- if not, it isn't. You really can't talk about partial compliance unless you have some way to meaningfully map all of the real, multi-dimensional details into this single-dimensional measure.

The "compliance" abstraction works only in the limit of total compliance: obviously, if everything is Y2k-compliant there is no problem. But, if only 90% of individual systems are compliant and the rest are not, "compliance" tells us nothing about what the result will really be. This is because the results depend on more details than "compliance" measures. An expert can wave his hands and imagine whatever he likes, but the percentage of compliant systems is useless as a measure of the outcome -- unless it is very close to 100%.

Therefore, any story that bases its predictions on projected levels of compliance is flawed. Its predictions could turn out to be correct, of course, but only by accident.

"Compliance" is a poor way to measure even an individual system. When you look more closely at the root of the Y2k problem you find more interesting and complex things going on than what you may have been led to imagine. Explanations of the Y2k bug tend to be so simplified that the real technical issues are missed or misrepresented. This may be necessary in order to "inform" more people, but it leads to a false sense of confidence in the resulting story.

The Must-Be-Fixed Bug

The sorting example mentioned above introduces another dimension of the Y2k bug. If, for whatever reason, a particular misbehavior doesn't get fixed, what are the consequences? If the records come out sorted in the wrong order, it is, by definition, a noncompliant system. But how much does it matter? Many possibilities exist. A few that come to mind are: 1) it may not matter at all; 2) it may result in a slight loss of efficiency in the next process using the sorted data; 3) it may be acceptable after making an adjustment in a downstream system; 4) it may just take a bit of getting used to on the part of a user looking at the data on a screen or printout; 5) it might be corrected by a new process outside the original system which has been designed just for that purpose; 6) it may be essential to the internal functioning of the system that it be fixed.

This illustrates the inadequacy of the "compliance" metric. The real-world impacts of noncompliant systems are not necessarily all-or-nothing as the label "noncompliant" implies. In fact it may be economically advantageous to leave a noncompliant system alone and work around it, at least for the time being. I never claimed their won't be any disruptions at Cornell. But I have no reason to believe that they won't be manageable. As a Cornell employee I will have to deal with this more than you will, Mike, and I am not losing sleep over it.

Dave made a specific statement: Cornell's People Soft system won't be ready. He made a specific claim based on this statement: Cornell will be toasted because of this. I am making a specific counterclaim: Bullshit!

-- Robin S. Messing (rsm7@cornell.edu), May 23, 1999.

a, You said: So much for whistleblowers being able to depend on anonimity.

A whistleblower can go one of two routs: He can either post anonymously or he can reveal who he is. You can't have it both ways. Dave posted enough personal information to make finding out who he is relatively easy. This was just stupid. Either be anonymous or reveal who you are. If you try to get cute by posting too much personal information then don't be surprised if someone can identify you from that information.

Whistleblowers also have an ethical obligation to make damn sure that what they are saying is correct. They can cause unnecessary harm by falsely blowing their whistles. They might also damage the credibility of other whistleblowers (particularly anonymous ones) if they are wrong. Dave's story was BS. He may have meant well, but his story was inaccurate. I was easily able to determine whether or not it was accurate by a few minutes worth of research. But that is not always the case with other stories. It just makes me wonder how many other stories can be believed and how many are "Just So" stories. Anytime a whistleblower falsely blows the whistle, he tends to damage the credibility of other whistleblowers. It's the old Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf syndrome.

-- Robin S. Messing (rsm7@cornell.edu), May 23, 1999.

My worst case scenario is a 3 day blackout.

Robin, your new optimism is based on what, 75% of the power companies now claiming compliance? What if this were late May and less than 1% were claiming compliance?

I just love this 3 day fix. That's going to be the most productive three days in world history. And, amazingly, it's going to be done in the dark!!

-- Doug (douglasjohnson@prodigy.net), May 23, 1999.

Yes, I keep hearing about the three day weekend fix.

If it can't be fixed in 4 years, what make you think it can be fixed in three days? Where does this information come from anyway?

-- GeeGee (GeeGee@madtown.com), May 23, 1999.


Robin, your new optimism is based on what, 75% of the power companies now claiming compliance?

No, it's based on the knowledge that compliance percentages aren't terribly useful in determining whether the power will go out. For example, it is entirely possible for a utility to operate without its SCADA systems -- as the April 9th drill demonstrated -- complete with the power exchange stuff being done by hand.

-- Stephen M. Poole, CET (smpoole7@bellsouth.net), May 23, 1999.

"For example, it is entirely possible for a utility to operate without its SCADA systems -- as the April 9th drill demonstrated -- complete with the power exchange stuff being done by hand. "

Stephen, stop being an ass. That is a flat out lie. The only thing tested during the drill was whether their phone lists were up to date and how well communications gear functioned. There was never ANY attempt at coordinating the actual grid by these means.

OTOH, if this is what you accept as "proof" that we will not have major troubles, then you are a lot more naive than I thought.

-- a (a@a.a), May 23, 1999.


Have you begun cutting and pasting responses, too? :)

Anyone who wishes to question that statement should see the email from a utility guy at my Web site.

It's called "facts," Buh'wheat. You should try it sometime. It can be quite liberating.

Are you SURE you're not Andy's brother?

-- Stephen M. Poole, CET (smpoole7@bellsouth.net), May 24, 1999.

Doug and 'a',

In order to understand why I believe power will be restored withing 3 days you should read all of Dick Mills' columns. He has two columns of particular interest to this discussion. In the first column he explains that the system can work, even if the SCADA is knocked out. He notes:

I heard an interesting anecdote from an engineer who worked for one of the major SCADA and EMS vendors. He told me that their systems have always had trouble with daylight savings time, so on those two evenings per year when daylight savings changes, they just leave the SCADA and EMS computers turned off for the night or for the hours near 2AM. No power customers ever noticed that the computers were off. No blackouts occurred.

In his second column he notes that failures in the EMS might or might not crash portions of the grid. While the grid can function at least for a while without the SCADA system, there is no clear cut answer on its ability to function without the EMS system. In any case, even if portions of the grid do blackout the power should be on within 72 hours.

-- Robin S. Messing (rsm7@cornell.edu), May 24, 1999.

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