My Second Annual Y2K Letter to my Family--Long, but worth itgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
About this time last year, I took a 60-page assessment of available y2k data to my family reunion. I considered putting together another huge compilation of recent facts and analysis this year. But I figured most of them have probably bought firmly into the Official Story and would just stick the thing, unread, in a drawer. So I just composed a letter instead, with the prayer that it will find its way into the consciousness of those I love.
Many of you here are like family. I think about you and your ideas the way I think about my cousins or my pals. And like Will Rodgers, I define "stranger" as "a friend I haven't met yet." So I guess these thoughts are for all.
I'm driving four hundred miles tomorrow in a 3-cylinder Geo that needs a valve job. My son had an emergency appendectomy late Friday and has a few secondary associated problems. He's not, his wife says, doing really well. I wanted to leave something here before I left. I hope you'll find it meaningful...
June 28, 1999
Dear Family and Friends,
A year ago, when I first began researching y2k, the concept that was Fundamental #1 in terms of understanding the potential threat was our reliance on the so-called Iron Triangle: Banks, Power, and Telecommunications. Each of these immense, sophisticated, highly technological industries, it turns out, is dependent on the other. If one fails, they all fail.
Whether any of them would fail or not, I learned, depended on a huge string of factors, many of which were outside the control of these industries themselves. For example, in order to generate power, electrically-dependent mining operations would have to continue to work. That is, they would have to have successfully remediated their own y2k problems, or at least to have a detailed, ready-to-go contingnecy plan that included back-up power. Railroad operations would have to go on without serious interruption in order to provide the power generators with a reliable supply of fuel. For these industries to function, availability of diesel fuel must be ensured. That means that most oil drilling rigs and pipelines, and refineries and ships and ports have to continue to work, not only here, but world wide. Thats a lot of gauges and valves and signals and gates. And its all dependent on the smooth flow of information. One way or another. All of it. And how does information travel? Via electrically-dependent computers over electrically-dependent international phone systems . . .
Now were nearly half way through 1999, and not one of the industries Ive mentionedor any other industry, for that matterclaims to be ready for y2k. Yes, banks and the financial sector here in the United States lead the race toward full readiness; yes, the utilities and telecoms say, theyre on target and working hard. But still, in my book, not to prepare is to bet some pretty high stakes that everything will be just fine. (No more than a three day glitch at most. Here in the States, well be just fine. We will be just fine. Prepare as if you were going to be in a bad winter storm. One week. And, oh, have your bank records and financial papers, and maybe a bottle or two extra of the prescriptions . . . just in case. But dont panic. Above all, dont panic; that would only make things worse. Just remain calm. Really, its going to be just fine here. Just fine. )
If its not fine, if major segments of the infrastructure fail, say, regionally, or nationwide, or in whole segments of the globe, if there are problems that extend beyond a very short number of days, the loss of life will be significant. You are educated grownups, and you deserve to hear the plain truth and to decide for yourself what your responsibilities are. The situation is that with y2k, there simply are no guarantees.
The ultimate question is, really, one of fault tolerance. What percentage of failure, to what degree of severity, in what percentage of industries, can our systems endure? Which will fail? What will the repercussions be on the others? The fact is, we simply do not know.
What percentage of refineries can fail without things grinding to a halt? How many chemical factories? Ports? Tankers? Flight control systems? Railroads? Airports? What percentage of banks? Telephone switching systems? Satellite receivers? Water pumping stations? Sewage treatment plants? Desalinization plants? Nuke plants? Oil pipelines? Hospitals? Manufacturers? Food Processors? Countries? Take a handful or these and some of those, and pretty soon you have a real mess.
We know that things will fail and act in unexpected ways. We simply do not know how many parts and processes can fail without serious or fatal damage to the functioning of the systems of which they are a part. Fault tolerance. And remember, social and political systems are involved and at risk as certainly as technological ones. How humans will respond to unprecedented global systemic stress is anybodys guess. But looking around me, I see little ground for genuine optimism. Yes, things are being repaired as you read these words. But the ratio of repaired systems to unrepaired systems is not reassuring, to say the least. Deadlines slip by unmet, undisclosed, or rationalized. Costs continue to soar. Only a fading concept of time available for testing remains. Were truly flying into this blind.
We expect the government to be forthright with the populace, but logistics argue against a plain warning. Immediate disruption of the supply chain would be, some argue, inevitable, and financial and political chaos would quickly ensue. Likewise, logistics argue against the governments ability to supply sufficient aid to the populace in the event that a critical mass of failures occurs.
Governments and industries have been working on solutions to the date change problem for half the decade, and in some cases longer. It is now six months from the immovable deadline and not a single government or industry is verifiably ready. This is a global, technologically based problem, unlike anything we have ever experienced in recorded history. No one can predict how it will unfold. But to respond to the uncertainties as if no serious adversity could possibly befall us is both irresponsible and naive.
Please consider these things thoughtfully, and soberly, and act accordingly and soon.
If I can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to provide any further information that I can.
You are in my thoughts, my heart, my prayers.
God bless us all,
-- Faith Weaver (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 29, 1999
Faith, Will you marry me?
-- big fan (email@example.com), June 29, 1999.
You have spelled it all out beautifully. All the links, all the connections. And the iron triangle. Want to see how seriously vulnerable the iron triangle really is? Try this:
-- Gordon (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 29, 1999.
Faith, do you mudwrestle?
-- King of Spain (email@example.com), June 29, 1999.
Once again Faith, you said it just right.
CLAPPING & GIVING YOU A STANDING OVATION!!!
-- Cary Mc from Tx (Caretha@compuserve.com), June 29, 1999.
No truer words can describe our current situation
-- Ruth the Moab (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 29, 1999.
Faith, I most sincerely have goosebumps.
-- Michael Taylor (email@example.com), June 29, 1999.
Bravo Faith, I couldnt have said it better. Thank you and god bless you. I hope you dont mind if I print it out to send to my family members. I have tryed to talk to them until I was blue in the face, and was praying for a better way to communicate the gravity of y2k, thanks.After a year and a half of serious research I feel were facing a potential 7-10 on the serious scale of disruptions and are preparing contingencies for a possible 10 and praying real hard that it wont get that bad. Staying totally flexible as august approaches.
-- y2k aware mike (y2k aware mike @ conservation . com), June 30, 1999.
My prayers are with your son.
-- Mad Monk (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 30, 1999.
Thank you Faith. I just mailed this to my Mother to print and give my clueless sister (God love her) and sent it to my brother (sitting on the fence). What a wonderful job. For me personally, I get horribly frustrated by the picture in my head and the inability to express and describe the event. Drive carefully and get back here ASAP, OK?
-- Will continue (email@example.com), June 30, 1999.
Faith, I'm praying for your son. You are like family to us, too! :-)
The letter is excellent. Words from the heart are always the best! I hope it makes an incredible impact. Regardless, you have gone above and beyond the "call of duty." Well done, Faithful friend!
-- Gayla (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 30, 1999.
That couldn't have been put better.......it's what we've come to expect of you......great.
I join in the prayers for your son.
-- De (email@example.com), June 30, 1999.
Faith your son was lucky that he had his apendix out this year instead of next. My big fear is that someone in my family may need medical care during the rollover period and it won't be available. I guess we will have MASH like medical care available, but that will be risky at best.
-- Bill (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 30, 1999.
Faith, thank you! I also have written friends and family, with minimal results to date. I will print out your letter and add it to the new package I am sending out once again, with updated info I've been gathering. Have had limited success with others, i.e., neighbors and the man who supposedly was to have appointed a Y2K Study Committee at our church, but who decided he knew enough that he could do it alone, sans committee, because he was sure nothing is going to happen! I've been fighting this, with e-mails to him and to our pastor (we are talking of a congregation of 1,000++) and now this guy calls me his "official reviewer" and sent me a copy of his draft report to our pastor. It was 27 paragraphs, and utterly pitiful! It took me 8 hours on Sunday to refute, or re-educate, him paragraph by paragraph, quoting all the solid info I had time to quote. By the end of the evening, having had no lunch even, I was worn out, my arms and hands were numb, and I was stressed out to the max. However, amazingly his first take (though he hadn't read down to the toughest stuff yet!) in a response was, "I knew your answer would be imposing, but this is really impressive..." and he went on to say he would rethink, etc. So although it is too late for our people to do a lot of what they need to in preparation, at least SOME info may get to them in time to help. If a person has not access to the internet, they just don't get the real truth, and many of these folks are therefore in the dark. It is rewarding when I see two of my coworkers really working at their prep since I gave them info, as well as some of our church families, and a friend in Chicago, who is alerting my good friends there also, and sending her info to all her family/friends (though they think she's nuts, one friend has begun.) This is a ripple effect, and I feel morally obligated to at least attempt to share my info, in the hopes of saving as many good people as possible. Bless you for your efforts too. And all of you out there who are doing the same. We are really a community, aren't we? And I hope we will all be survivors, because they are going to need us after it hits. God bless us all!
-- Elaine Seavey (Gods1sheep@aol.com), June 30, 1999.
Hi De! Good to see you! :-)
-- Gayla (email@example.com), June 30, 1999.
Excellent job Faith!
That's an "e" that will most likely circle the globe and help a few of the undecided take *some* precautions.
Thank you for putting the words into form... for the rest of us.
(Blessing to your son as well).
-- Diane J. Squire (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 30, 1999.
Brilliant and compassionate as usual, Faith. Thank you for sharing it. And please let us know as soon as possible how your son is coming along.
-- Brooks (email@example.com), June 30, 1999.
Faith, I liked your letter so much, I plan to send it out to friends and family who are not online. I added a few paragraphs to my version - I hope you don't mind. If anyone wishes - drop me an email and I'll send my revised html version. Here are the lines I added:
Dear Family and Friends,
To begin with, allow me to quote a few items from the American Red Cross brochure, Y2K: What You Should Know:Most people anticipate Y2K problems may happen December 31, 1999, at midnight. Many experts predict that the problem is more likely to be a persistent one over a few years rather than a single "crash."Elsewhere in the report, one can almost sense their frustration at having to advise the public to withdraw cash "in small amounts" (presumably to avoid bank runs) and to avoid irresponsible hoarding while following sensible stockpiling guidelines.
Stock disaster supplies . . . This includes having nonperishable foods, stored water, and an ample supply of prescription and nonprescription medications that you regularly use.
In case the power fails, plan to use alternative cooking devices in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.
Be prepared to relocate to a shelter for warmth and protection during a prolonged power outage or if for any other reason local officials request or require that you leave your home.
Check with the emergency services providers in your community to see if there is more information available about how your community is preparing for any potential problems. Be an advocate and support efforts by your local police, fire, and emergency management officials to ensure that their systems will be able to operate at all times.
It happens every year: As a hurricane or typhoon approaches land, organizations such as the Red Cross issue warnings to prepare or evacuate. Every year, people ignore the warnings and die.
But how big of a hurricane will Y2K be? One indication might be that the Red Cross began urging Y2K preparations over a year before 1/1/2000. Kookism? Or, a logical course of action based on months of careful research by the world's foremost experts on disaster preparedness?
--- AND ---
On June 9, 1999, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the oldest and largest international non-profit association of engineers and computer scientists in the world, issued an open letter to the several Y2K committees in Congress. Even at this late date, Y2K experts were still trying to educate Washington. Here are some quotes from their letter:1. PREVENTION OF ALL Y2K FAILURES WAS NEVER POSSIBLE: For many large and important organizations, technical prevention of all Y2K failures has never been possible in any practical way for these reasons:
1.1 "Y2K COMPLIANT" DOES NOT EQUAL "NO Y2K FAILURES." If an organization makes all of its systems "Y2K compliant", it does not mean that that same organization will not experience Y2K failures causing harm to itself and other organizations. In fact, efforts to become "Y2K compliant" in one place could be the direct cause of such failures in others. If interconnected systems are made compliant in different ways, they will be incompatible with each other. Many systems in government and industry are mistakenly being treated as if they were independent and fixed in the most expedient way for each of them. When this "Humpty Dumpty" is put back together again, it will not work as expected without complete testing, which is unlikely (see COMPLEXITY KILLS below).
1.2 ALL PROBLEMS ARE NOT VISIBLE OR CONTROLLABLE. In the best case organizations can only address those things they can see and those things they have control over. Given this reality, many Y2K failures are inevitable because some technical problems will not be discernible prior to a failure, and others, while discernible, may not be within an organizations& #146; jurisdictional control to correct. This is especially true in large complex organizations with large amounts of richly interconnected software involved in long and complex information chains and in systems containing a high degree of embedded devices or systems purchased in whole from external parties. (The temporary lifting of certain copyright and reverse engineering restrictions for specific Y2K protection efforts should also be considered as long as copyright holders are not unduly harmed.)
1.3 INCOMING DATA MAY BE BAD OR MISSING. To maintain their operations many organizations require data imported from other organizations over which they have no control. Such data may have unknowingly been corrupted, made incompatible by misguided compliance efforts or simply missing due to the upstream organizations lawful business decisions.
1.4 COMPLEXITY KILLS. The internal complexity of large systems, the further complexity due to the rich interconnections between systems, the diversity of the technical environments in type and vintage of most large organizations and the need to make even small changes in most systems will overwhelm the testing infrastructure that was never designed to test "everything at once." Hence, much software will have to be put back into use without complete testing, a recipe, almost a commandment, for widespread failures.4.1 Y2K IS A LONG TERM, NOT SHORT TERM, PROBLEM. Irrespective of the notion of Y2K being about time, a point in time, or the fixation on the rollover event at midnight December 31, 1999, or even the name Year 2000 itself, Y2K computer problems will be causing computer system malfunctions and failures for years into the next decade. Y2K is much more about the dates that can span the century boundary represented in data that must be processed by software than it is about any calendar time or clock issues. Because of the vast amounts of these, the complex intertwining among them and our less than complete understanding of the whole, it will take years for the infrastructure to "calm down" after Y2K impacts themselves AND the impacts of the sometimes frantic and misguided changes we have made to it. The current prevention phase is only the beginning.
-- Zach Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 01, 1999.
My son turned the corner medically yesterday and is now on the road to recovery. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. (Keep 'em going for my little car! I still have that 400 mile drive home on Sunday.)
Thank you, more than I can say, for your incredible responses to my letter. I was delighted, and touched. And I do like Zach's additions to my piece. I confess that I wanted to add more, too, and the IEEE's comments are excellent.
Loved the marriage proposal. Here's a kiss on the cheek for the sweetness of it, even though I'm already hitched.
As for the mud wrestling, bring a hose and c'mon over. I'll try anything twice (Twice, cuz if it doesn't work the first time, it might just be a fluke. Ya never know.)
Off to the hospital.
Love you all.
-- Faith Weaver (email@example.com), July 02, 1999.