When to admit it's not serious

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

If on February 15th, 2000, the USA looks more or less like it does today (i.e., no rationing, martial law, massive infrastructure or business failures, banking panic, or the like), then I will admit that my estimate of the problem was overblown and that we will probably get through the whole thing with a BITR. On the other hand, if things are clearly going downhill at that time, I'm not going to relax significantly until at least June. Of course, I'm not going to get rid of any of my preparations until the situation has been resolved completely, and will keep some of them indefinitely for other potential disasters (mostly weather-related).

Anyone else want to comment on when they will change their positions, if "nothing" happens?

-- Steve Heller (stheller@koyote.com), December 13, 1999


I'll feel better when Alan Keyes is sworn in as President.


-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), December 13, 1999.

There are more bumps than road right now. I've found over two dozen failures in the U.S. alone from reliable news sources. And there have been two Y2K failures in my sleepy little central Texas community (pop. 3,000) this month which have gone unreported by the local/regional newspapers. The folks that have had to suffer through these "glitches" have lost money, time and face. This is an international emergency representing a clear and present danger to life, property, and global stability. I'm not a doomer but I can tell when a situation is out of control.

-- Fred Remington (ira@texfiles.com), December 13, 1999.

I am thinking more of June 1st as a somewhat arbitrary end date, with perhaps a relaxation date of September 1st. This is entirely contingent on "nothing happening". I am still terribly concerned about electrical infrastructure and oil (all facets).

Like you, I'm holding on to my preps regardless of the outcome. I have been a prep advocate for almost 20 years and see no reason to change, even if we get "lucky" with Y2K.

-- Irving (irvingf@myremarq.com), December 13, 1999.

Yes Steve, I do believe I will:

I have publicly stated what I think may happen and will publicly say I was wrong when they are proven wrong.

Regarding a timeline? I give it a year before I'll relax at all. Sometimes little problems need a bit of time before the true impact effects are known.

Long term? I've learned a lesson about self-reliance... and my family won't go back to the bad old days.

Now that I've got your ear, thanks for sharing your mind with Corey Hamasaki--you've been of great assistance in my y2k education. Here is my thanks sir!

-- (Kurt.Borzel@gems8.gov.bc.ca), December 13, 1999.

I agree it will be sometime after January before we know how it's going to fall out. But I won't have to eat any crow because I never made any concrete predictions.

-- Forrest Covington (theforrest@mindspring.com), December 13, 1999.

By the way, I haven't made any specific predictions either, except to say that if Y2K turns out to be "nothing", I'll be amazed. And you can take that to the bank!

-- Steve Heller (stheller@koyote.com), December 13, 1999.



Companies shouldn't expect all Y2K problems to show up on January 1.

According to Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), "It's going to take several months for the whole thing to play out. And if we are in trouble, it will have to cascade and build over a period of several months and we won't really know until March or April of 2000."


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), December 13, 1999.

I have maintained a consistent 6 month window. Jan and Feb for TPTB to attempt to coat any problems locally and Mar, April, May for the slide down hill and all the Big Co. stockpiling to become empty warehouse space. June if we are humming along there was a bump in the road and Greenspan becomes "THE MAN."

If only wishing could make it so.

-- Squid (ItsDark@down.here), December 13, 1999.

My position is/has been that 2000-01-01 will see a huge spike in failures, leading to more (cascading) and continuing failures in the near future. Depending on how well power, water, waste disposal, and fuel (including automobile gasoline) hold up initially, that will determine immediately the level of civil disorder. Following that will be the economic decline due to banking screwups, manufacturing slowdowns due to both a company's own screwups, plus inability to get materials/components from others.

Timetable: (WildAssGuess) If there is a decline in "everything" but it starts turning up again by June, then I would say 2000-07-01, we could relax a bit. If the decline is continuing through June, it ain't gonna turn around.

BTW, if we do squeak through, get ready to stick you butt in the air for a reaming by Big Brother as government redoubles its program to complete your slavery. "There are none so enslaved as those who believe themselves free."

-- A (A@AisA.com), December 13, 1999.

"It" has always been serious, "it" is still serious, and "it" always will be serious, as long as we have hides to pamper with food and water and warmth. Many of us only realized this lately...but we won't go back to living out on the end of a long shakey limb of dependencies ever again. It feels much too good, this being prepared for various potential troubles, to wish to revert to the tender mercies of dumb luck. Merak

-- merak (merak@kachina.net), December 13, 1999.


Your scenario sounds very good to me although I might tend to relax regarding infrastructure by the end of January.

Supposing that we have the internet and the ability to communicate as we do now, we should have a pretty good idea where things stand regarding infrastructure and political management of any problems.

This discounts a leap year problem but at that point, I don't think it would be a major issue especially in light of the fact that at that point Y2K wasn't a 6+ and that the EURO fell into place fairly well.

I don't think I will stand down completely until at least June.

As an investor, I read tons of news items about companies as I am looking for quality stocks to put money into. I recall that there was a health care company, I don't remember the name, that following a merger developed software problems. The software problems, along with mismanagement, cascaded over several months to the point that the company filed bankruptcy. I have wished many times I had articles on that to share because it sticks in the back of my mind alot concerning Y2K.

Here's to hoping we have a peaceful Y2K transition. I love investing and hate being out of the market right now.

And like you, I will be far better prepared to handle a natural disaster if that ever happens. Wind up radio, solar charger for re- chargable batteries, large water filtering and storage capabilities, a rather large pantry system, a generator for short term problems, one heck of an education on survival, and on and on.

- however, I remain a 7

- 18 days

-- the Virginian (1@1.com), December 13, 1999.

6 months minimum.

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), December 13, 1999.

I will keep al my preperations for a year...Maybe longer

I do not actually believe that the lights will all go out at midnight Dec.31/99 (oops Dec 31/1999) rather I believe the problem will be DEATH BY 1000 CUTS. I think there will be a slow but sure death of our critical infrustructures. I may ease up on the food and water preperations in about 6 months if everything is looking good but I wont get back into the stock market untill the nect major crash (aside from Y2K we are very due for a severe stock market crash (Longwave theory)

-- Ron Wiebe (ron_wiebe@bctel.com), December 13, 1999.


I have two businesses, one which does 95% of it's business at present due to y2k concerns. I have been on television, radio and in the paper supporting my position repeatedly in the past month. There's no quietly laying low for me after the rollover, especially if I (we) are wrong, so I have thought a lot of the things that are going through your mind and the minds of others.

And then I think about the fact that for the past 2-3 months we have been getting surges through our phone lines about twice a day that disconnect whoever is on the phone. You start to hear a static noise, then the voice of the other party gets fainter then they zip out and the line goes silent. Bell Atlantic is aware of the problem and knows it is their lines and wants us to chart (they are random) the times. As the largest phone user in a 25 mile radius, no one else has it happen consistently.

And then I think about the two times in the past month that all of my toll free lines were mysteriously and accidently switched to a phone number that happens to be my fax number. This was done by AT&T instead of another, non-related order. The second time it happened because the order reversed itself for no apparent reason.

And then I wonder why I have had 3 blackouts in the past 2 months at my home, two of them 12 hours or longer. They were during winds, so they were weather-related, however last winter I had none. Regardless, having oil lamps, candles, a water barrell with a manual pump (I have my own well, so to have water my submersible pump requires electricity), woodstove, etc. made the outages more manageable.

And then I think about my 18,000 + customers who are almost unanimously - very intelligent and reasonable people. About a quarter of them work in companies that are either doing nothing or very little or the wrong thing to become y2k compliant. All of these people, without a doubt, are close to one or more people who not only will NOT prep, but antagonize them FOR prepping, as if it were somehow wrong or a waste of time, money or both. All of them have to live in 2 worlds while prepping. Many of them cannot get their preps shipped to their home for fear that their spouse will make them return them.

And before and after interviews with the press, when I do the interviewing, asking the 'reporter' what they thought about the presidents 50 day report (strong concern about preparedness in 911, medicaid, water & sewer, business', etc), I feel stronger that I'm right. I'm right because to date, not one reporter has been aware of the contents of the report. They all remember President Clinton's press conferences though, in which he claimed all was well except for a few small businesses. It's amazing but true, they are not paying attention to Y2k. They honestly believe the spin. Now I'm sure the more well known journalists have to be aware of what could happen due to Y2k, I think they just don't believe it could happen. They are also swayed by the spin.

And then I think about the fact that hundreds of billions have been spent worldwide on Y2k remediation and yet we haven't even scratched the surface. Most small business have either not done anything yet or not enough. A good percenrage of medium sizes business' haven't either, and we now know that many water and sewer companies haven't as well. My two congressmen and Senators have never even broached the subject with the state yet. Nor has the governor (directly) or anyone else for that matter. I find this really wierd and troubling, considering the amount of money spent so far and the unbelievable repercussions to our country, the economy and society.

Anyhow, sorry for dragging this out so much, it's just that I can't imagine having to say I was wrong. But if I'm wrong in what I have been telling people all along which is that the real issue is the economy and international trade, then I'll admit I was wrong and start another business (which is already in the works), vote for a democrat for the first time in 20 years, and enjoy the excellent economy which will never, ever, ever end.

-- Mark (markmic@kynd.net), December 13, 1999.

Starting to back-track a little?

-- for real (for@real.com), December 13, 1999.

Upon awareness of the Y2K problem, one has to weigh the risks. If the potential disruptions are deemed severe even if the likelihood is low, I found it prudent to prepare to the best of my ability for the worst case that I can afford. As we sit here so late in the year, I never dreamed that REAL information would be so meager. Should we believe the government? When did that ever turn out to be the correct thing to do? Can we trust the business community that has everything to lose if panic ensues? I feel totally without any solid evidence supporting either the polly claims or the doomer claims. I feel no closer to the truth than I did two years ago, despite all the discussion and banter.

But I decided that the risk of disaster was such that it infringed upon my comfort zone to motivate me into action. I drew the line in the sand, and took a stand. That is, I have made my decision, and I am sticking with it, since it seems that what is to follow in a few weeks is up for grabs.

I am comfortable with my preparations no matter what happens. What I have learned and had to do has improved my life immeasurably. I have no regrets. I will start to relax in early spring, will let my guard down in the fall, and after a year, will start getting rid of some preps, but never will I be caught without anything again. I am horrified now to see how totally dependent I used to be on the "system".

Although prepared for TEOTWAWKI, I will be thrilled to see a BITR.

-- novice (koyote@howl.com), December 13, 1999.

We've passed a number of predicted dates where nothing serious overall has occurred (hey, as a programmer I'm now supposed to be getting $300/hour in cash according to some I've read). The failure of the preductions of significant problems was dismissed because it wasn't 01/01/2000, the "real" date to be concerned about.

I now find it strange that some people are pushing the date months/year(s) past before they'll stop believing that it'll be anything more then a BITR. Isn't this supposed to be the unmoveable deadline?

Sorry folks, but unless there's a significant number of problems in early January you might as well forget seeing anything at a later date as well. As we pass the January 1st date companies would have all that much more time to fix any potential problems. Furthermore, the "death from 1000 cuts" concept becomes even more remote as there would be more time to heal between each cut (and a lot more resources would be freed up to tackle the emergency problems).

-- Phil (lurker_phil@hotmail.com), December 13, 1999.

"Death from a thousand cuts" is a good analogy. Most of us have probably suffered a thousand cuts (to our skins) over our lifetimes, to no permanent ill effect. OTH, I wouldn't like to get them all in one day, one week, or even in one month.

BTW, for the last month, there have been several electrical "brownouts" in my area, WHEN NO STORMS. Previous to that, even in the summer, very rare.

-- A (A@AisA.com), December 13, 1999.

Phil the lurker

Check these out...


I expect we will experience no major national breakdowns as a result of the Year 2000 date change. - Bill Clinton.

Through some twisted invocation of selective logic that has yet to be questioned by a single journalist in the popular press, the White House congratulates businesses, industry and government departments for stockpiling supplies while insisting that individuals who pursue the same Y2K risk-reduction strategy are wackos and extremists. What's good for the people, it appears, is no longer good for the country. And by all means, unless you want to be called an "extremist," be sure that you take absolutely no action whatsoever to prepare for Y2K. - Mike Adams

I expect enough large systems to fail that we will pitch over into a depression. The scramble will be on to re-fix these things. The question is whether the firms will flub on failure, bypass and limp on, or what? I plan to sit this one out. I don't want to take on work, listen to the clueless contract administrators yelling and crying, and get stiffed when they're fired and their company goes bankrupt. Vendors and suppliers are paid last. Net30? Forget it. But we'll see. 45 days now [on November 16], 1096 Hours. I took a look at one of the Polly Places on the Internet the other day. Those boyz are running scared. It's one thing to polly-rant when the storm is way out at sea but this one is starting to rattle the windows. This will be greater than a category five IT failure.

Category Definition/example Resolution

1 occasional missing records DR, reprocess next week

2 slow performance DR, schedule maintenance

3 < 30 minute outage DR, call VP, tiger team

4 one day failure Crisis, switch to backup

5 > one day failure Call bankruptcy lawyers.

What's unique about this is that is that there will be multiple simultaneous category five failures.... Almost everyone, everywhere, at the same time. Nothing like this has ever happened on a global scale before. - Cory Hamasaki

I do not know what will happen on January 1 or in the months following. However, Y2K is not, nor has it ever been, about predicting the future. It is about risk management.... I do believe that the bump-in-the-road scenario is the least likely based on what most unbiased surveys continue to show. The only way you can assume that this is a likely scenario, in my opinion, is to take the self- reported data at face value and read nothing more than Y2K press releases.... reports all indicate that Y2K remediation is lagging, even in some of the largest organizations and in some of the most significant industries. I honestly don't know how anyone can assess this data and be optimistic. It appears to me that it is in spite of the facts rather than because of them.... I still have an informed hunch that Y2K is going to be a rough ride. - Michael S. Hyatt

The news, in my opinion, is getting drastically worse, yet the government, utilities, banks, etc. are (at least publicly) becoming more and more happy-faced in order to avoid panic. - Steve Baxter [webmaster, Canadian Y2K website]

Y2K is just like the fellow who stepped off a 10-story building. He's now at the second floor and everything's OK so far. - Ralph Burgess [Peer Financial Ltd.]

The combined bill for fixing y2k in the U.S. is $100 billion. That's a lot of money to spend because of consultants' hype. Senior managers are obviously easy marks for unknown consultants. All that money to fix a problem that really did not exist! It's amazing how the profit system works. People in control of the crucial institutions are unable to recognize a $100 billion scam. It's amazing that they reached such positions of influence. - Gary North

When I worked for XXX, they had a plan in 1995 to try to convert all mainframe systems to client/server, and address the Y2k bug in the process. They did a pilot project, finished in 1997. They then planned to do about a thousand other programs in the next 3 years. This is actually a project that would take 100 years with the programmers they have. Failure is a certainty. When I worked for company YYY, they were installing SAP. They abandoned that a few months ago, and are going to convert all their mainframe programs to be Y2k compliant. Not holding my breath, sold my stock. These management types have never been able to do accurate time estimates. The smart ones ask programmers for time estimates. Most of them, however, simply work backward from the deadline, announcing that you will be done at such and such time. This is the equivalent of telling a house builder that he will have your house built in a week. Doesn't work. - Amy Leone

Last month, International Multifoods Corp. (NYSE:IMC) filed a 10Q with a boilerplate-type Year 2000 disclosure.... The Company did not warn that installing a new Y2K-compliant system would create massive distribution problems. On Nov. 11, news that problems associated with the computer upgrade would affect this quarter's earnings slammed the stock down over 20 percent.... The stock fell so rapidly that orders became delayed and trading was temporarily halted. Investors in Multifoods lost about $112 million from the crash. - Michael S. Robbins

I saw the most delightful article in the Wall Street Journal the other day, just a minute, ah, here it is.... "Heard on the Street" reported that Chase Manhattan's bond balance sheet had a $40,000,000,000.00 discrepancy earlier this year. Yowza, that's what Bill Gates would call real money. The Chase worked on it and got the discrepancy down to $14,000,000,000.00 by September. They spent more months looking through their thousands of bond issues, the WSJ uses the word "painstaking", and have reduced the error to a mere $5,000,000,000.00. The problem started with a software system called "Bondmaster" that seems to have gone berzerk. There is no evidence that this is Y2K related nor (or is it or) have the fingerprints of one Jo Anne Slaven been found at the scene. Earlier when I raised the JAE and detailed my concerns the pollies said that no company could lose track of its balance sheet. You Pollies need to read WSJ, get out more. Maybe talk to the Chase. They both obviously don't have your big polly bra ins.... The pollies in denial-ville will claim that since the sun came up and my ATM card worked, this is incontestable proof that SAP is the answer, that banks "Get it", and that a college drop out with a PeeCee can solve the problems because. So there. Oh, and sell real estate too. No. It doesn't work that way. The problems at, sigh, Hershey, Bang and Olufsen, Samsonite, Whirlpool, the World Bank, the State of Nevada, and now The Chase are mere warnings. I sense a disturbance in the force. The main event is yet to come. These early warnings are just that, warnings. Evidence that the world doesn't work the way the pollies think it does. Evidence that banks don't "Get it", that SAP is not the answer, that simple problems can persist for months.... The forty billion dollars that the Chase misplaced is $160 for every person in the U.S. This statement makes as much sense as: "We're 99% done." So, if your heart stops for 15 minutes, 1% of the day, you're still dead.... "All our mission critical systems are ready." Ready for what? They'll still break because that's what software does. I'd be laughing if this weren't so sad. This is playing out worse than I expected. We're in for it. - Cory Hamasaki

I know this much about Chase, although it is secondhand. They could use an application of jam as they are toast. Instead of using an outside company to review their Y2K remediation, they used a very young, somewhat inexperienced group of new hires. The results? Bug city. The friend I spoke to was a consultant on site through last month. He advised me that the problems are being discovered during normal operations. No parallel testing. No stepped implementation.... His contract expired, as he had planned, and they begged him to stay on. He wanted no part of it, especially the thought of working in their shop on New Year's Eve, a long way from home. Even scarier is that they have basically given up and gone into what he called "bunker mode". They are resorting to F-O-F.... Just a cheery thought from a friend of mine who was at COMDEX trading war stories... - John "9.5" Galt

Y2K publicity efforts are filled with inherent contradictions. Take the North American Electric Reliability Council's "Y2K drills," for example. These drills were heralded as some kind of "industry-wide" test of the Y2K compliance of electric utilities. That was the public explanation, and that's what the press reported. But upon closer inspection, it turns out the drill didn't test electrical generation or distribution in any form whatsoever! In fact, this drill tested nothing but the backup communications systems of electric utilities. In some facilities, this was nothing more complex than a couple of guys chatting on walkie talkies. They say, "Can you hear me?" "Yes, I can hear you!" "Good, tell NERC we're Y2K ready!" - Mike Adams

The reports from the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post confirm my predictions of the look and feel of an IT meltdown. I can't recall any time in the last 30 years that there have been so many IT mega problems.... the right thing to do would have been to put every geek and geek wannabe to work in 1997, that doesn't mean that people will do it. They didn't. I overestimated the smarts of management. I was wrong, I thought they had a clue... So my sense of the mess is that the work did not get done. The few IT megaflops.... are indications and warnings. These show us what a flop is like, how long it takes to recover, and what the impact is. - Cory Hamasaki

More money has already been spent on Y2K readiness than the government spent on of all of World War II.... We are confident things will be OK. But we won't say there will be power. - Michael A. Thompson [account manager, Massachusetts Electric Co.]

Last week, a local corporation sent e-mail to the department managers: "URGENT! What is your contingency plan for Y2K?" They just discovered that their MIS system will fail on the rollover. This is after assurances for the last year from the vendor that it was compliant. By itself, this is not a big deal. This organization can function using paper and pencils, FAXes, pocket calculators. - Cory Hamasaki

I was contacted by a Time reporter who wanted to interview me about my plans for New Year's Eve, and I declined to get involved. As you may remember, Time did a cover story at the beginning of the year that focused on the religious-fanatic aspect of Y2K, with a rather lurid graphic on the cover of the magazine. The problem was that several of us Y2K "activists" (for lack of a better term) were interviewed at great length by reasonably intelligent reporters WITHOUT being given any inkling that the senior editors had already decided on the overall theme and perspective of their story. As a result, we got incorporated into a story that we would have preferred not to be associated with at all. Having thus been burned once, I now know enough to stay away from Time reporters... - Ed Yourdon

I have a friend who knows Ed Yardeni quite well. He says that in private, Yardeni paints a picture of extreme depression. - Greg Caton

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), December 13, 1999.

Remember this: it will be a lot easier to leave the wilderness if Y2K is a BITR than it will be to escape from a city in that's in chaos or under martial law.

-- Ocotillo (peeling@out.===), December 13, 1999.

I hope everyone keeps posting their thoughts, feelings and observations here in this forum next year throughout the time they remain personally "on alert".

-- (normally@ease.notnow), December 13, 1999.

My local electric company claims 6 weeks of fuel stockpiled. I'm calling April 1 the time to relax.

-- Firemouse (firemouse@fcmail.com), December 13, 1999.

Hey, Steve --

Why do we have to declare any dates at all? Why not simply make prepardness a way of life?

I don't see the world getting any safer, and we've been sleeping so much better now that we have stable alternative heat, electric, and water sources, not to mention that we got out of debt and now stock three week's worth of food in our "public" pantry. That sure beats the living from paycheck to paycheck lifestyle that we had!

If Y2K turns out not to be a big deal, we haven't lost a thing, except our old, wasteful habits. (:

-- (ladybuckeye_59@yahoo.com), December 13, 1999.

When I can take an unused Millenium Mill down to Virginia, blow it into kindling with an 870 never fired in a "social situation" (as Jeff Cooper sometimes refers to them), present the kindling to Paul as kindling for the charcoal for the roast and dunking party on the 4th of July, I will be happy to call it quits and get back to the important things in life: Auto racing, trying to get published, driving for the consultants.


-- Chuck, a night driver (rienzoo@en.com), December 13, 1999.

I'm declaring March 31, 2000 as my "no unmanageable Y2K problems yet = no unmanageable Y2K problems period" date. I feel that a full fiscal quarter is reasonable, because until those first quarter earnings are out you just don't know what the story really is.

BTW Steve, your Feb 15 cutoff date obviously comes before the leap day of Feb 29, which is also a worrisome event since the calendar rule that declares 2000 to be a leap year is obscure enough that it may have been omitted in a lot of the code that is out there.

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), December 13, 1999.

By the way, I haven't made any specific predictions either, except to say that if Y2K turns out to be "nothing", I'll be amazed. And you can take that to the bank! -- Steve Heller (stheller@koyote.com), December 13, 1999. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

http://www.kiyoinc.com/WRP127 .HTM

"I think it is going to be very bad. In fact, the best possible case for which there is any hope is another Great Depression...."

-- Hoffmeister (hoff_meister@my-deja.com), December 13, 1999.

Hi Steve! If I am not mistaken, you are the guy who works with short-wave radio, right? Can you recommend a reasonable, hand-held short wave radio that will transmit 20 or 30 miles? I am studying the book for novices/technicians but I don't have my license yet. Thanks!

-- JoseMiami (caris@prodigy.net), December 13, 1999.

If it is any thing less than a 9, gawd darnit, I will have to get a job and I hate the thought of being a slave again so lawrd please I hope you did not make these present day bosses and politicians any smarter/honester this generation than the previous two or three generations. I'm praying and a prepping lawd, Thank you.

-- Because I am a country boy now and like it (a10@IamWishing.com), December 13, 1999.


Thought provoking question, even a ground hog needs an indicator.

I agree with your Feb 15 indicator, things normal equals a good sign.

I doubt news of problems will be any more available or accessable than it is now or than it was in the days following Three Mile Island.

If there are systemic business or process problems, I would expect to see them reflected at the pump of my local gasoline station. Any change in price and availability will be an early indication of wide ranging business and manufacturing conditions, similar to the winter of 1973 - 1974. I would expect changes to appear before Jan 15.

If not, it would be a bullish indicator for me.


-- Tom Beckner (tbeckner@xout.erols.com), December 13, 1999.

How Bad --

How bad I think it will be... And what you can do about it

by Steve Heller, WA0CPP (stheller@koyote.com)

I can assume that everyone reading this newsletter takes Y2K seriously. The question, of course, is how bad it will be.

I think it is going to be very bad. In fact, the best possible case for which there is any hope is another Great Depression. Why do I say this?

Ironically, my main argument for a terrible outcome is based on one of the primary Pollyanna arguments: "They'll work around it. They always do."

The key here is not "it", which we all agree is shorthand for "whatever problems arise because of Y2K failures". No, the key is who "they" are: the engineers who keep our industrial infrastructure running. Yes , they *do* work around it on a regular basis; in fact, that happens every day.

But what would happen if these engineers were not available? Who would work around these problems then? I think the answer is obvious: no one. And what would happen to our civilization in that case? The answer to that is just as obvious: i t would cease to function until and unless it were rebuilt.

The reason I'm so concerned about a long-term outage of the infrastructure is that I don't believe that most of the engineers will survive very long after rollover.

To see why I'm so concerned about this, let's start with what I expect to happen soon after rollover. On January first, there'll be a spike of errors in process control systems that will cause widespread power outages, communication outage s, and other immediate effects. However, some power companies will manage to keep the power on in many places, and many people will breathe a sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, this relief will turn out to be premature. Over the next several weeks, breaks in the supply chains to the power companies, primarily fuel supplies, will result in a gradual degradation of the infrastructure. Water treatment plants will run out of supplies, hospitals will stop functioning properly due to lack of drugs and other supplies, and this will be repeated in every industry. The economy will grind to a halt.

But the most serious problem, in the north at least, will be frozen pipes. If the power's off for more than a few days in the middle of winter in Detroit, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and other northern tier cities, th ey'll be devastated by frozen water pipes and sewer line backups. Plague will follow shortly. Most of the inhabitants of the northern cities will die within a matter of a few weeks, from cold, disease, fires started in an attempt to keep warm, or random v iolence.

This is bad enough, of course, to qualify as a disaster ranking with the Black Plague, if not the extinction of the dinosaurs. But wait, there's more: Most of the engineers that could actually rebuild the infrastructure, or work around the problems in the remaining infrastructure, live in the cities. If we lose too many of them, we may end up in the sort of devolutionary spiral postulated by Infomagic.

Obviously, there's nothing you or I can do to get the engineers to move out of the cities to someplace safer; the information about how bad it might be is widely available on the Internet, not least via this newsletter. If they haven't fig ured out yet, it's not likely they will.

However, there may be something that we can do to prevent the devolutionary spiral from going all the way down. We can preserve the information on how to restart our industrial infrastructure from a level of technology that does not requir e working computers.

Of course, this is a gigantic undertaking, but I think it's possible. Ironically, it is partly the availability of small, cheap, fast computers with large storage capacities that makes this even remotely feasible. In particular, laptop com puters that have CD-ROM players can provide access to a gargantuan amount of information while being rechargeable from a small solar panel.

For example, I have recently purchased the entire run of QST magazine, the official journal of the American Radio Relay League, from 1915 to 1994, on a set of about 35 CD-ROMs. I bought this set not because of an academic or hobbyist inter est in the history of amateur radio, but because it contains thousands of articles on how to put together an amateur radio station without recourse to commercially built transceivers.

Why is this important? Because I think it is entirely possible that we will lose our manufacturing capability for electronic products. By "our manufacturing capability", I specifically mean not only U.S. manufacturing, but foreig n manufacturing. Since most amateur radio equipment, for example, comes from Japan, even if the United States somehow miraculously gets through Y2K without serious damage, a Japanese Y2K disaster could still interrupt our supplies of that equipment. In su ch a case, knowing how to build and repair amateur radio equipment is likely to be absolutely vital.

Why do I consider amateur radio so important? Because if the experts on any topic who do manage to survive a Y2K disaster are going to be maximally useful, we will need some way to consult them even if they aren't in our immediate vicinity . If infrastructure-dependent communications and transportation are seriously disrupted for any length of time, as I believe they will be, amateur radio will be the only reliable means of communication over any distances farther than you can walk.

Of course, there are many other areas of knowledge that we will have to preserve. One example is the construction and use of metalworking machinery. There is a series of books called "Build Your Own Metal Working Shop from Scrap" , which begins with a charcoal foundry with which you make your own aluminum castings. This series of books is available from "Lindsay Publications"


which also publishes a lot of old, out of copyright, books on practical subjects from the pre-computer era. According to the Popular Mechanics WWW page on this publisher (http://homearts.com/pm/diybuzz/04bookb1.htm),

"You've got all the pieces here to jump-start a smaller version of the industrial revolution: first make some charcoal, use it to melt and forge metal, build some precise but simple machine tools, use the tools to build bigger and bet ter machine tools, make products for export and domestic consumption, use the hard currency to upgrade industry and infrastructure, and away you go. Come to think of it, we could use some of this right here in the United States."

So that's the good news. If enough people have this kind of knowledge, no matter how badly our infrastructure falls apart, we'll be able to put it back together again eventually. Of course, we have to survive the collapse first, so make su re that you have your food, water, heat, and other necessities taken care of. But once you've done that, you should do your part in trying to preserve the tools that we can use to start everything up again. And get that amateur radio station set up (http: //www.koyote.com/users/stheller/ham.htm) so you can share your knowledge with others!


(c) 1999 Steve Heller, WA0CPP

-- are u 4real? (nopredictions?@heller.???), December 13, 1999.

Hi Steve! If I am not mistaken, you are the guy who works with short-wave radio, right? Can you recommend a reasonable, hand-held short wave radio that will transmit 20 or 30 miles? I am studying the book for novices/technicians but I don't have my license yet. Thanks!

-- JoseMiami (caris@prodigy.net), December 13, 1999.

I like the Alinco DJ-190. It's reasonably inexpensive (<$150, maybe <$100 if you find it on sale), can develop 5 watts with a 12-V power supply, has provisions for attaching a better antenna, and is relatively easy to use. I've routinely communicated with a repeater over 20 miles away with such a radio.

-- Steve Heller (stheller@koyote.com), December 13, 1999.

http://www.kiyoinc.com/WRP127 .HTM

"I think it is going to be very bad. In fact, the best possible case for which there is any hope is another Great Depression...."

-- Hoffmeister (hoff_meister@my-deja.com), December 13, 1999.

I forgot that I'd made that prediction, but I'll stand by it. We don't have too much longer to wait to see whether I was correct.

-- Steve Heller (stheller@koyote.com), December 13, 1999.

Why do we have to declare any dates at all? Why not simply make prepardness a way of life?

I don't see the world getting any safer, and we've been sleeping so much better now that we have stable alternative heat, electric, and water sources, not to mention that we got out of debt and now stock three week's worth of food in our "public" pantry. That sure beats the living from paycheck to paycheck lifestyle that we had!

If Y2K turns out not to be a big deal, we haven't lost a thing, except our old, wasteful habits. (:

-- (ladybuckeye_59@yahoo.com), December 13, 1999.

I agree. I'm not going back to unpreparedness, no matter what happens. However, the debate on when we'll know has been raging for some time, and I thought others would be interested in it now that we're so close. Apparently I was correct; someone has even posted my WRP piece on the thread. Who knows? Maybe someone who has been sitting on the fence will take at least minimal precautions after reading it. If so, that alone would make this debate worthwhile.

-- Steve Heller (stheller@koyote.com), December 13, 1999.

I expect we will experience no major national breakdowns as a result of the Year 2000 date change. - Bill Clinton.

This is an example of "legally accurate" speech, if you ask me.

"I expect..." I do not guarantee anything. If anything "unexpected" happens you better believe I am not to blame and will quickly point my finger to the nearest scapegoat.

"...we will experience..." HA HA!! "We!" Who is "we?" Certainly not the people in my circle of friends. We have multiple bunkers throughout Pennsylvania, WVa, Va, and Maryland where "we" can ride out the storm for years, if necessary. "You?" Well you may be lit out of shuck.

"...no major national breakdowns..." There will be nothing "major" going on, and certainly not on a national scale, not in every square mile of the 50 states. (New York City, however, whoooweee! Koskinen tells me they might be in for a surprise!) "Breakdown?" If something breaks down, it doesn't get back up unless it is replaced or fixed. But "breakdown" is not the same as a glitch, which is like a breakdown only smaller. And while I did not emphasize it, we WILL experience lots and lots of glitches, in a great many "local areas." Don't want to say how many "local areas" will be affected because the dumb people with skoal and pickup trucks will panic if they hear that about 75% of local areas are going to be severely deprived of 1 or more basic services.

"...as a result of the Year 2000 date change." Yes. Very few things will happen as a result of the CDC, which is of course an arbitrary change in our Eurocentric measure of the passage of years. But (shhh!) many many things will happen as a result of the COMPUTER FAILURES due to the inability to properly measure the CDC!

I think Clinton gets a bad rap in some areas, and has had to suffer through things that other Presidents did not have to because of the salacious nature of modern news coverage. But GEEEZ! Here he really brings on the ridicule, himself! Isn't it obvious how everything he says is carefully sculpted by PR people and the brightes legal experts in Washington? He should write a book about "How to Say Nothing" and win massive poll ratings in the process.

-- coprolith (coprolith@fakemail.com), December 13, 1999.

extremely severe -- clear by 01/01/00

severe -- 07/07/00

serious vs. non-existent -- 03/01/00

-- Dave (aaa@aaa.com), December 13, 1999.

Compare spikes: Y2K with Leonids peak

-- telescope (into@the.future), December 13, 1999.

Mr. Heller, you continue to "amaze" me, and I don't even have to wait until February 16. So you conveniently "forgot" about that prediction that the "best possible case for which there is any hope is another Great Depression". So you still I want to claim that "I haven't made any specific predictions"? How about this one that you made on this very forum in August when I asked you for your rating on the 1-10 doom scale: "I expect something around 9 to 10".

Gather around doomies, and see how your mealy mouthed leaders are trying to get their butts out of the frying pan. These guys are backpedaling faster than Clinton when he found out about the blue dress. For months it has been embedded, embedded, embedded, blah, blah, blah, and now, miracle of miracles, it seems that Heller won't know for sure until February 15. So Mr. Heller, what do you figure those embedded systems are going to do for the first six weeks of the year? Take a long vacation? What about the web of "interconnectedness" that we have heard so much about? Where is Sysman going Tick Tock when you need him?

And once this magic date in February rolls around, will we see an outpouring of contrition? Will there be apologies to Hoff, Decker and the other debunkies for calling them morons about a million times? Judging from the exit strategies being so carefully prepared it seems unlikely. In fact, the air will ring with the back slaps of self-congratulation. And it will all be richly deserved, right Mr. Cook? After all, the doomers saved the world with their warnings, right? The government and corporate sector never would have done anything if it wasn't for the preps holding their feet to the fire, right? Besides, Heller never claimed he had an any of hands on knowledge of remediation - so it was an honest mistake, right?

You know, it's ironic. There has been a lot of talk around here about those horrible, evil politicians and their "self-preserving, self-serving, self-interested, thoroughly biased, unchecked, and unverifiable words". Well folks, take a look at the exit strategies of the "legion of doom" and you get all of the these - in spades.

-- Computer Pro (first_minister@hotmail.com), December 13, 1999.

Pro (and if yer not the "PRO" of "Y2K" fame, might I point out that that was a por choice of handles),

Anyone can be wrong, even you. Time is short...better be gathering and filling those water bottles, since that's about all there's time left for.


I don't see any sharp drop off point, but see the danger as dereasing a small increment, with each passing day. When do I stop holding my breath? I'd pretty much agree with your time line on that one.

Why do I not see the day after Jan 1 as the time to relax? Some problems may at first appear to be small, and thus ignored, in favor of fixing the more immediate serious problems. These overlooked issues could lead to problems later. Think of it as a table with a bad leg. It might not fall apart immediately, but at some future gathering, where someone leans on it, just the right way...BOOM!...there goes granny's china.

-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), December 13, 1999.

If the majority of my polly friends/family are still laughing at my preps by mid-Jan, I'll consider myself wrong.

-- Amy Leone (leoneamy@aol.com), December 13, 1999.

I guess once one of you Pollys get hold of a fact, no matter how small, that you can use to discredit someone, you'll never let go. I've already agreed to stand by my prediction that we are looking at another great depression at the minimum. As for my credentials, I posted a link to my resume for all to look at. As soon as the anonymous character assassinators do the same, then we can talk about who is more qualified technically to comment on software development issues. Until then, they have to be dismissed as having no credibility whatsoever.

-- Steve Heller (stheller@koyote.com), December 13, 1999.

Russia is said to have enough fuel in stock to run their power plants on diesel backup for one week - so I would suggest waiting at least two weeks before giving any all clear. If the rest of the world can conduct business as usual on 01/14/2000, than I would say we got off quite easy; much better than I expect.

-- Bill P (porterwn@one.net), December 13, 1999.

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr (pic), near Monterey, California

Phil said: I now find it strange that some people are pushing the date months/year(s) past before they'll stop believing that it'll be anything more then a BITR. Isn't this supposed to be the unmoveable deadline?

I'll never admit "It's not serious." If it weren't serious business and government wouldn't have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to fix it. I'll never admit to being "wrong." What I've said is that there's a possibility of things going seriously south. No matter what happens, there was always that possibility. The "don't worry, be happy" folks are telling us that there is NO possibility of problems. No matter what happens, they will always be wrong for having said so. I'll never relax. The stock market crashed in 1929 but the worst of the depression was a good nine years later. Few, if any, historians today question that these were related.

Think oil. The ability to pump or pipe or refine or transport it may go down or partially down. We may limp by for a while on stockpiles. If "fix on failure" [FOF] (with the help of quake damaged Taiwan) doesn't beat the stockpile deadline things could really begin to smell.

I offe red a specific bet about the severity of Y2K but nobody took me up on it. Even if I they had and I lost the bet, still I would not "admit" to being wrong to prepare for the possibility of bad times. There are plenty of things that could still go wrong... solar flares, nuclear war, and what not. Throughout history hardly a generation has gone by without a major calamity, and we've had an amazing good streak.

Related links: Will We Know the Extent of Damage Within Two Months?, Won't You Feel Foolish?, On Being Wrong

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), December 20, 1999.

Feb 15 is too "early" to be confident of "success" - granted, by that time we would have had one billing cycle, but very returns yet from the cycle....if overseas suppliers, the distribution system(s), or internatiional shipping are hit hard, then the tirtiery, quadrary, and fifth-level effects of those failures would ahve just begun to surface.

For example, after the strike at the one GM plant began, the rest o fGM was able to stay up for three weeks....there is "some" slack in the JIT supply stream, but not much. Failures in January in production, payments, and distribution won't seriously affect things economically until 3-4 weeks later.


All this ASSUMES no social disruption when/if states and local government social, welfare, utilities and employment/regulatory functions and taxes fail.

After all, a lot of people become unemployed quickly if building permits cannot be issued. Or if teacher paychecks are "cancelled"...

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), December 20, 1999.

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