Know your sources. Know your "computer friends". : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I have seen several posts now concerning people who say their "computer friends" told them that Y2K is not an issue. In response to such vague (aka, poorly qualified) opinions, I would like to add my voice to the lot here.

First of all, I know a lot of folks who are employeed as "Computer Help Desk" clerks. While these folks may be your friend, may technically be called "computer people", and may be speaking out on Y2K, they are NOT reliable resources. They don't know Jack Feces about programming, databases or networking. Similarly, there are "Systems Analysts" that serve as a mediator between the client/user community and the programmer in articulating (verbally and in writing) what needs to be done. In essence, they serve as translators between those who only understand technical lingo and those who are computer illiterate. Many of these analysts may also be your friend, may technically be considered "computer people", and may be speaking out on Y2K. But again, some of them have no practical experience in database management or programming and have no right in speaking out as 'professionals' on the issue. And quite frankly, the same can be said for most corporate officers (with the exception of CIOs).

For those of you who want a REAL professional opinion, seek out a programmer analyst who is directly involved in addressing the issue. Since I happen to be one of those folks, let me be the first.

I am a computer scientist. Previously, I was the Senior Programmer Analyst at The Children's Hospital in Denver, CO (5 years), Providence General Medical Center (Everett, WA), and most recently Senior Programmer Analyst at BHP Building Products, USA. While I will not single out any of these institutions in regard to Y2K, I simply state my employers here so that you know my credentials in addressing Y2K and this forum.

Corporate America, in my opinion, is going to collapse. More importantly, from what I understand from other professionals in the field, our governments and our fellow countries on who we depend for import and export of products and services - and who are going to be severly impacted. The summation necessarily implies that corporate america will be severly impacted too... regardless of what my personal observations might be. But this is all insignificant to the pain and suffering the people themselves may be facing. Read on.

My experience, understanding, and observation of the applications and situations in the health care industry has lead me to the understanding that ALOT of people will be... to be blunt... dying.

Anyone with any knowledge about epidemiology knows that the main reason you treat 'social' diseases (like influenza) with antibiotics is NOT to make you feel better. Rather, it is in the social concern of stopping the disease from spreading to epidemic proportions. The physicians primary concern is not yours but societies.

If a community, city or societies health care delivery is compromised, it implies that fewer and fewer people are being treated adequately. At some point, you reach a threashold where the disease spreads faster than your efforts to stop it. Plain and simple.

Given all of the issues surrounding Y2K (embedded systems, power failure, etc), my technical understanding of Hospital Information Systems, and my understanding of the politics within the health care industry, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that that threashold will be compromised. From my view, disease will run rampant. We speak of social unrest and violence as a main concern. But let me be the first to suggest to you that disease will be the number one killer by far if Y2K is not addressed adequately. And quite frankly, I believe we are too late to address it now.

I have a friend who works for the city (sewage). With all the talk about power outages, I asked him "how does sewage get from my house to the treatment plants". I thought... I hoped... it was a gravity feed system. WRONG. Wishful thinking. Think pumps instead. Think electricity. Think about power failures again.

Just three weeks without power. The sewage lines are backed up. You cannot use your toilet.

How long can you hold it? An hour? A day? A week?

My mom lives in the city. Behind her house is an apartment complex. Image all the people who live there. Image all there toilets not working. Where will the "go"? The ground has been covered with pavement. It is all one big parking lot "outside". Think about it rationally folks. The only place is the alley behind my moms house?

This is a serious question folks. Where will the sewage waste go when the power goes out? While there may be enough Porta-potties to supply a dozen construction companies in your city, there are NOT enough to supply the hundreds of people in one appartment complex... not to mention there are far more apartment complexes than construction companies.

Now, in January or February, all that waste won't be too much of a problem. If you are lucky, most of it will freeze solid. But if you live in Seattle... Well, you can guess that Western Washingtonians (together with Orgonians and Californians) will be experiencing a real issue. When the weather warms elsewhere in the country, the flies will find enumerous and massive breeding grounds. Disease will have an avenue to migrate. We talk about the "outbreaks" of E. coli in our foods today. E. coli is a naturally occuring bacteria in our feces.

Think of flies as honey bees... think of us as flowers.

And what about mice and rats? While I have nothing against these otherwise cute creatures of God, after digging in the sewage, they become nothing short of a disease arsenal.

Food shortages, power outages, social unrest aside, quite frankly, my professional opinion is that we ALL are in for a whole lot of shit.

We need to be reducing the impact now before it gets here. And we need to be preparing for absolute chaos when it hits. This thing has the potential to kill more people than WWI or WWII. I have heard estimates as high as 5/6ths of the people dying from credible sources. Imagine the state of California... what do they have... say 10 million people. How about 5.6 million people dead in just that one state alone. Are you preparing? Or have we become soft, ignorant and illogically defiant in the comforts our forfathers have given us?

One final note. I am not a rich programmer. I currently make under 50K a year. I have recently quit my job and am moving to the country side. I will be renting a small farm on 2 acres. That is my only hope to survive. The point is, I am not in this for the money. You don't make a lot of money when you are unemployeed. Just so you know.

-Ken Boettger

-- Kenneth J. Boettger (, June 05, 1998


Very good post! Especially about diseases. I think that will be a MAJOR problem...think about all of the people "using" the ponds and streams around town from everything from bathing, to drinking to "going". It will be like the Ganges in India! If people get thirsty enough they probably would drink from anything. If they do, they won't live long. If the gov't knew the water would be out for a long time, couldn't they have the natl guard dig "Community outhouses" to keep the stuff off the streets? No matter which way I look at it, there are too many "triggers" or weak links (sewer, water, food, electricity, banking, Russia's nukes) that if any ONE of them fail because of Y2k many, many people will die.

-- Kay P (, June 05, 1998.

I have read literally HUNDREDS of posts and articles on-line. That was the most disturbing to date. My first thought about the sewage was the same as yours. I, of course, was wrong, too. I hope . . . no, I PRAY we are wrong. Great post.

-- zerad (, June 05, 1998.

I have to dispute the idea that programmers wouldn't dismiss Y2K. I am a programmer, and while I am very frightened myself, I have to say that EVERYONE that I have tried to discuss this with brushes me off or makes fun of me - and this includes many very experienced mainframe COBOL and Assembler programmers. I keep printing off what I think are really scary stories from the Internet and passing them around, but I haven't succeeded in alarming a single one of my co-workers.

-- Deborah Barr (, June 06, 1998.

Does that mean it's not real and we're just kooks, or does that mean they and their families will just be other passengers on the "Flaming Millenium Death Train?" I keep scratching my head as my spending to prepare continues to mount.

-- zerad (, June 06, 1998.

I loved this post. It's the kind of stuff won't answer.

Also, to understand the mindset and experience of widespread diseases and social impact I think that reading The Plague (fiction) by Albert Camus is a must.

-- Ken (, June 06, 1998.

Ken, your post is so disturbing it brought tears to my eyes. I think of my dear brother, age 71, who has to give himself insulin shots 2x a day...and other like him. Where will they get their medicine? It's truly overwhelming! Regarding all the illnesses from disease: I am a retired nutrition consultant who began practicing what I learned to earn an MS in the subject. At 73 I have better health than when I began studying nutrition 20 years ago. It is so very important for any "junk food junkies" to prepare themselves for the debacle ahead by starting NOW to build their defenses against disease! EAT HEALTHY, FOLKS! And, part of our Y2K "stash" should include some fresh garlic, then liquid or capsule garlic for when the fresh is gone. This is the best, natural antibiotic in the world! Before flu "season" arrives, Echinacea, with Golden Seal, is a good defensive to take for a few weeks. There is much literature available in nutrition stores now to help prepare. Those who are trying to be wise about being as ready as possible for Y2K should not neglect their personal care!

-- Holly Allen (, June 06, 1998.

Holly, I appreciated your advice for better health.

I would only add that 1 teaspoon if apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey in a 6 oz. glass of water is a good recipe for keeping down the bacteria count.

Dave Jones

-- Dave Jones (, June 06, 1998.

This post almost brought tears to my eyes too. Thank you for your insight! Also, thanks to Holly and Dave for their tips on staying well. I'll begin immediately!

-- Annie (, June 06, 1998.


I'm not saying that I "loved this post" in the sense that people will die. I it because I like the fact that this guy is being realistic and *disproving the no-big-deal crowd.* Not b/c people will die.

I'm sorry if my previous post made you feel bad, that was not intended.


-- Ken (, June 06, 1998.

Ken, Your insights were really good. The sewer scenario obviously sat well with a lot of forum readers including myself. I would like to agree with your arguments about the inability of some so-called computer experts to see the danger that lies ahead and expand on those remarks. Recently, I called a local radio talk show because their guest was a Y2k book author. I pointed out some of the obvious problems within our own community, basically lack of interest by our community leaders in the Y2k crisis. When I got too specific about which government officials should be held accountable for a coordinated community-wide effort to address this problem I was disconnected. Perhaps this was a technical problem or perhaps I struck a nerve. What annoyed me more than being cut off was the comments of the next caller. This character called in to say he was a "microcomputer expert" and he could assure the audience that this Y2k thing was no big deal. As he rambled on he exposed his credentials as someone who develops database applications for PC's and explained how he could easily go back and fix those that were not compliant. The essence of his argument was that since it was no big deal to go back and fix his little, light-weight programs it must not be a big deal for anyone. Ken, the problem of ignorant experts goes beyond help-desk employees and includes a lot of programmers. It is a reflection of the inability of many people in our society to grasp the big picture in their own worlds and the bigger picture of the world around them. These myopic tendencies thought by many to be reserved for politicians and corporate executives can also be displayed in computer programmers and anyone else who has lost the ability to think horizontally. This crisis is finaly becoming understood by enough people that many of these "it's no problem" experts may soon look over their cubicle walls and discover that their small contributions are of no value if the glue that binds them to other folks' contributions disolves. Best regards to all, Don

-- Don Harlow (, June 10, 1998.

Know your sources? That is some of the best advice I've heard. Furthermore, anyone here has at least heard of Ed Yourdon, so you should be at least passingly familiar with his credentials. Here's my two cents worth.

My credentials: Computer Science education at Texas Tech University and Boston University. Over the last 16 years I've been employed as a programmer, software engineer and programming manager at two medical schools, two managed healthcare companies, a relational database and tools vendor and a membership wholesale business.

This is not TEOTWAWKI. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Neither, however, is it "no big deal." Not by any stretch of the imagination. The poster who heard a PC database programmer on the radio say it was easy to fix any problems was correct (IMHO) in feeling that this guy didn't have a grasp of the problem. However, I caution against the other extreme, represented here by Mr. Boettger, of "head for the hills, there's no way out of this thing!" Extremism is rarely a good thing, or an effective position to solve problems from.

Will every system be fixed before the problem hits? Of course not. Software professionals have a well deserved reputation for being late and over budget. Will there be problems? I can't imagine that there won't be, some of them big. Will there be an economic impact? Almost certainly, and probably a negative one. However, I don't see the fall of the government, the total collapse of the economic system, or the Trumpets Of Armegeddon. There are ways to deal with this mess, and if enough people concentrate on finding solutions instead of running from the problem it can be dealt with.

Mr. Boettger's actions are his choice, and he has obviously not made them lightly. However, I would ask him to, before he heads for the hills, to spend just a few moments considering if he could apply his talents and skills to being part of the solution rather than hiding them away where they are no good to anyone other than himself. If we as an industry (computing) created this problem for our society, are we not ethically and morally bound to help solve it?

-- Paul Neuhardt (, June 11, 1998.

Another programmer/analyst weighing in here.

I've been in the IT biz for 14 years and am now heading up Y2K testing for a medium sized mainframe system.

As concerned as I am about the whole Y2K issue (I too surf the web and read the trade journals), I have to say that I still haven't seen the evidence that we're in for catastrophic times. The reason I say this is that I don't know that to be true, so I can't say it. Furthermore, I believe that to predict doom-and-gloom at this point is rather disingenous and possibly dangerous.

Having said that, let me add that I also don't believe we're in for smoothe sailing come 1/1/00. I get the feeling that there may be some rough times, possibly bad times, but I don't know enough to make any statements with certainty, as I am seeing all too often.

I also have to add that other programmers where I work are aware, but nonchalant about Y2K. I personally think it's more a sign of the times than their belief that all will be well. In good economic times people are happy and don't want to think of the end of the gravy train.

When I speak to people about Y2K, I am very careful not to project gloom and pessimism. After all, what good will it do to turn off the very people whom you're trying to convince? Let's keep our heads about this. Prepare and inform, yes, but let's not pull the fire alarm just yet - the stampede could be worse than the fire!

-- Ted Markow (, June 11, 1998.

Ken's post promted me to Email my County's Public Utilities office. Here's their Email reply, dated June 12, unsigned: "Pierce County operates and maintains a number of sanitary sewer pump stations and all of them are provided with emergency generators in the event of power failure. The vast majority of the county owned and operated sewer system is through gravity sanitary sewers systems. (Para) The County Information Services Department is working on the year 2000 compliance issue for all departments with Pierce County and it is their responsibility to insure that the Sewer Utility is immune to the Y2K phenonmenom." I don't know if I should be comforted by this or not! I am saving plastic grocery bags, however...just in case!

-- Holly Allen (, July 09, 1998.

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