Happy New Year, All!
It's coming... Every tick of the clock brings us a little
closer. The year 2000 is on the way, and many otherwise sensible
people are predicting that Saturday, January 1, 2000 will be the
end of civilization. We had all better take our loved ones and
as much canned food as we can carry and...
There will be some problems with a majority of older
computers. We may find cancelled insurance policies and 100-year
overdue bills (none of which would stand up in court, by the
way.) When "PC World" magazine tested a wide selection of
computers, they found that 80% failed to update the date
correctly. But the machines continued to work just fine
otherwise and there are free patches available for many programs
that fix these minor date problems. The reason for all of the
confusion about "Y2K" is that no one really knows just what
problems will come up or how serious they might be. It's easier
to talk about something unknown that has a fixed schedule than
the usual, garden variety of random disaster.
But does this problem make life any different than it is
right now? This is probably the first "disaster" in history that
operates on a predictable timetable; at least we can see this one
coming. As I'm writing this, unpredictable ice storms in the
Southern U.S. have grounded planes and caused accidents and power
outages over a dozen or more states. That didn't seem to bring
civilization to an end - such civilization as exists in Texas, I
mean. If wars, political instability, financial chaos, El Nino,
paranoia, terrorist bombings, greed, satellite failures, oil
shortages, racism, rainforest logging, rampant commercialism,
weapons of mass destruction, scandals, ethnic cleansing, nuclear
accidents and pollution haven't caused mass insanity and the end
of life as we know it, this little techno-fart probably won't do
it, either. We go on. I mean, it's not like we have a choice or
anything. People have always stumbled from one problem to
another - it's about the only thing humanity is really good at.
Maybe we've just been focusing so much on quarterly profits
lately that the long view seems beyond us. It wasn't always so.
A year or two ago, an old building at Oxford New College in
England needed reconstruction. Being England, the NEW College is
about 500 years old. The university thought they would have a
serious problem locating the huge oaken beams that would be
needed to do the rebuilding. The answer was right next door.
Over 400 years before, the people who built the place had
realized that the building would need to be rebuilt in some
distant, future time. So they planted the oak trees that still
surround the building, just to make sure to have the proper type
and size of wood available and convenient. Maybe, in our time,
we just need to re-discover that it's easier to transport the
seeds of forethought than the heavy beams needed to repair our
Speaking of timely; I needed a way to move from mumbling on
philosophically to Thanking those of you who have sent material,
encouragement, cards, food, money - well, whatever you've sent,
it was appreciated. It would be very short-sighted of me if I
forgot to thank: Etsuko Hori, Jerry Taff, Timothy McChain, Dick
Ginkowski, Bernie & Donna Becwar, Howard Lesniak, The Petersons,
Hiroe Sugiyama, Carol Becwar, Mark Emnott, Peter Adler, Sue Yan,
Sylvia Libin He, Beth Butler, Fumiko Umino, Laura Hong Li, Harry
Cherkinian and The Wohlge Family. We all get along with a little
help from our friends. Even if all of these magic computers went
up in smoke tomorrow, our friends would remain. And I'd probably
be doing SUNFUN in chalk on a sidewalk somewhere, just for the
Have a Great Week - And a Nice Holiday!
Somewhere between "it's never going to rain" and "the
sky is falling!," there must be "it looks cloudy, take
an umbrella." Before we get to the silly part this
week, make a note to get a copy of the January Issue of
"PC WORLD Magazine" - a nice, sensible discussion on
Y2K that stays clear of the extremes of both panic and
FIRST STROKE OF MIDNIGHT?
The first place in the world to see January 1, 2000 - or any
other day - is the Pacific island nation of Kiribati (Greenwich
Mean Time +14) at 5 AM Eastern Standard Time (U.S.), December 31,
1999. I couldn't find out if they have any computers.
The last places to change to the new millennium are also in
the Pacific, on various islands just east of the International
Date Line, which happens at 7 AM, EST on January 1, 2000.
ALL THOSE LETTERS AND NUMBERS...
The old saying goes, "To solve a problem, you have to define
it." Define it? We can't even spell it.
It's "Millennium" according to my Webster's New World
dictionary, and WordPerfect agrees. So does, MS Word - which is
about the only thing the same between them.
This makes it hard to explain how New York's "Millenium
Hotel," Elizabeth Arden's "Millenium Skin Cream," the firm,
"Millenia Architecture" in British Columbia, Canada, the
"Millenium Boutique" in New York City, or even, the "Mazda
Millenia Sedan." How could so many companies get it wrong?
"It's too cumbersome with all those 'L's and 'M's and 'N's,"
said Hillary Fox from Elizabeth Arden's marketing department.
"It takes up too much space."
Makes me glad they make cosmetics instead of aircraft parts
or we might have planes with proplers.
Then there's the special case of places that take the effort
to get the spelling right, only to find that others "correct" it.
"The phone book does us wrong. It's two 'L's and two 'N's,"
said Maria Becerra at furniture showroom Millennium Inc. in New
York City. "That's Becerra," she added. "One 'C' and two 'R's.
Don't screw it up." (Reuters)
BACK TO THE FUTURE...
Bank One Texas is determined to be prepared for the year
2000. They have an extensive testing and development program to
simulate any problems they may encounter.
Recently, they tested a segment of their software package to
see whether it could recognize overdrafts dated past the year
2000. It did. In fact, it worked so well that it notified over
2,000 customers that their accounts were already overdrawn - as
of January, 2000.
"We've spent millions of dollars to make sure the Y2K
problem doesn't exist at Bank One, and it won't," a Bank One
spokesman said. "Human error still exists, and we'll do our best
to alleviate that."
[ And according to our accounts, you have
until 1879 to pay off your mortgage, too. ]
James Annable, chief economist at First Chicago NBD:
"Will there be glitches? Absolutely. Will it cause a
recession? Absolutely not. Will it cause the end of
the world? The question should be, 'What are you
THANKS FOR THE MEMOS...
Subject: PC Replacement
Corporate has determined that there is no longer any
need for network or software applications support. The goal
is to remove all computers from all desktops by December,
1999. Instead, all work group employees will be provided
with an "Etch-A-Sketch."
There are several benefits to this move:
1. No Y2K problems
2. No technical glitches keeping work from being done.
3. No more wasted time reading and writing Emails.
TECHNICAL SUPPORT AND FAQ (FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS):
Q: My Etch-A-Sketch has all A: Pick it up and shake it.
of these funny little
lines all over the
Q: How do I turn my A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: What's the shortcut for A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: How do I create a New A: Pick it up and shake it.
Q: What is the proper A: Pick it up and shake it.
procedure for rebooting
Q: How do I delete a document A: Pick it up and shake it.
on my Etch-A-Sketch?
Q: How do I save my A: Don't shake it.
HEY, WE'RE PREPARED!
The city of Lubbock, Texas held a drill just recently to try
to uncover the kinds of problems a city might face if all
services shut down in a massive computer failure. To test
preparedness, they simulated a failure of the city's "911
Emergency" service and a telephone outage. They people in charge
solved the first by just using the County 911 service and sent
Emails to all of the city officials to let them know what was
Federal emergency officials said they were impressed...
[ Now let me get this right - the computers
failed so they used the computers?! ]
Biblical scholars tell us that Jesus Christ was born no
later than 3 BCE, because King Herod died just
about that time. Therefore, the "third" millennium
began some time in 1997. Aren't you sorry you missed
ANOTHER MC THREAT TO CIVILIZATION...
EXPERTS WARN OF THREAT FROM 100 GIGABURGER BUG
Economists and Harvard MBA's warned today of a new and
deadly threat to our beleaguered civilization: the 100GB Bug.
This bug has shown a potential to caused economic disruption and
poses a threat of worldwide starvation. Like the "Y2K bug," it
also is the result of being stuck with an earlier design that
can't deal properly as numbers grow larger than two digits.
As most people know, McDonald's restaurant signs show the
number of hamburgers the giant chain has sold. That number now
stands at 99 billion burgers, or 99 Gigaburgers (GB).
Within a short time, that number will roll over to 100GB.
McDonald's signs, however, were designed years ago, when the
prospect of selling one hundred billion hamburgers seemed
unthinkably remote. So the signs have only two decimal places.
This means that, after the sale of the 100 billionth burger,
McDonald's signs will read "00 Billion Burgers Sold." This,
experts predict, will convince the public that, in over thirty
years, no McDonald's hamburgers have ever in fact been sold,
causing a complete collapse of consumer confidence in McDonald's
products. Since McDonald's buys more than 10% of America's beef
production, this could lead to economic collapse of the farm
sector, which would, in turn, affect the other sectors of the
"The people who know -- the sign-makers -- are really scared
of 100GB," one expert said.
The ensuing catastrophic drop in sales is seen as almost
certain to force the already-troubled company into bankruptcy.
This, in turn, will devastate the U.S. economy, which, finally,
will complete the total devastation of the global economy, ending
civilization as we know it. People may have to learn to cook
again, and vast food and cookbook shortages are forecast.
One economist predicted, "Who knows, we may all be forced to
subsist on insects."
[ Oh, humbug!]
[ On the other hand... I wonder where I
could have put that copy of "THE FIELD GUIDE
TO NORTH AMERICAN INSECTS?" ]
TIMELY NEWS SECTION...
The government of Kenya formed a committee last October 19th
to investigate the problems that may be caused by the conversion
of computers to the year 2000. As with most such government
committees, they have set a fixed schedule for meetings and for
completion of work.
They have assured the Kenyan government that all of the
problems will be addressed and that they can deliver their final
report according to the properly set schedule.
The only problem with that is that the schedule shows them
delivering a final report on which problems must be addressed in
That still beats Jamaica, which has announced that they
should be able to overcome all of the problems caused by the
Philip Paulwell, Jamaica's minister of Commerce and
Technology, said, "It will realistically not be fully dealt with
until the year 2004." (Reuters / AP)
[ Could you hold the millennium just a bit,
if you please... ]
The difficulty with the Year 2000 problem is that changing
the 1000's happens so rarely. It is hard for people to get a
real feeling for one century, let alone ten. So it would be
really helpful to find out what people were thinking when this
happened the last time. After much research, and a certain
amount of cash, The Sunday Funnies is happy to bring you a copy
of a letter written by a monk nearly 1000 years ago:
January 3, 1000
Most Holy Bishop,
I am writing in behalf of the abbot as official
scribe of the Tempora monastery. My brothers and I
wish you a most Blessed New Year, having great hope for
your reign as our new Bishop.
We must apologize most sincerely for our grievous
and sinful error in missing your installation as our
bishop. The dawning of this New Year of Our Lord 1000
caused this abbey much confusion & distress. We found
that our book of days had been made with only two
spaces to inscribe the year, and has caused serious
tardiness in our assigned tasks. Tho' perhaps not as
serious as that caused by Brother Chablis, who after
imbibing a bit too much wine, carelessly broke our only
I assure your holiness that we scribes have
laboured dutifully, which makes it all the more painful
to report that we had not completed our task in dealing
with this YOOL 1000 problem before vespers on the last
evening of 999. I must confess that in our panic, we
sinfully feared that God would strike us down for our
foolishness. It was both a surprise and relief to find
ourselves still able to perform our assigned tasks when
the new millennium dawned.
We pray most fervently that our Lord grant those
who follow us more wisdom than ourselves. Certainly,
our future brothers a millennium hence will not have
such problems as God has sent to test us. And I am
certain they will have the wisdom to allow more spaces
in their day books.
Your humbl and obed'nt servant,
[ It's true. There's just nothing like
ancient wisdom to get you through a crisis. ]
© 1998 by Bill Becwar. All Rights Reserved.