"What do they know that the rest of us don't?"

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Apologies if this has already posted. I didn't see an obvious link.

Knowing this forum has its share of programmers, I'm sure many of you will have opinions on the following. And. . .we'll be most interested in those opinions.

Perhaps Susan Conniry would like to read your opinions as well. Her email address is listed on the same page as the article.

Article can be found at:


"What do they know that the rest of us don't?" By Susan Conniry May 3, 1999

Victor Porlier posed this question last week when he commented that an Albany storeowner reported that a lot of computer programmers are purchasing wood-burning stoves. "What do they know that the rest of us don't?"

When a computer programmer participated in our wilderness survival course and announced he was in class to learn the skills necessary to survive Y2K disruptions, he had my attention. I was fascinated by his dissertation. Here was a man, an expert, working to fix the Y2K bug. According to his own admission, he was the same expert that got us into "this mess in the first place." He was terribly afraid, he said, that there wasn't "time to fix it all." That was eighteen months ago.

Since then, I have gathered and condensed reams of information about this issue from one end of the spectrum to the other. From Westergaard to Gary North Realize the importance and necessity -- I teach survival skills and preparedness for both wilderness and urban arenas -- if this issue will affect people's lives, I would be remiss in not being informed about it and, more importantly, addressing it.

But information provided through the Internet was only one source. Because Y2K represented a "computer problem" and I was no expert in this field, my initial research began with the "real people" -- those assigned to fix the "bug." I wanted to understand the problem, and analyzing quarterly government reports wasn't helping much. So, I went into the trenches, so to speak. These people were quite willing to talk to me. There wasn't a sense of urgency back then. They were working on it, they were hopeful it would be finished in time, indeed optimistic that not so much as a ripple would be felt. However, there was also a sense of the need to consider "what-ifs" if the need arose. I believed that these folks, with first hand knowledge of the progress, or lack of it, would be the first to clearly raise a red flag if all was not well. So, I maintained my contacts. I thanked them for their efforts. I wrote about their progress from time to time giving them credit for the outstanding job they were doing. And, when the going got tough, these same folks began attending my classes. Enrollment in our classes has grown and today one third of our participants are computer programmers (others include emergency resources personnel, law enforcement officers, professional business people, professors and an occasional backpacker!)

One student, a computer programmer, works tirelessly for a local city, in charge of Y2K remediation. She is now an advanced student at our school. She says simply, "We just won't find them all." (The bugs) Another student works for a pharmaceutical company. When he reported to his CEO that he would require an additional one million dollars to remedy their Y2K problems, the CEO responded with, "Forget it." Then he announced to the investors that they were on "top of the Year 2000 Problem and hoped to have it fixed way ahead of schedule." Another computer whiz student quit his job and moved to the country, saying his family was more important than the company he worked for.

One man, a Y2K project manager, went from cheery to sullen in a matter of a few months. As the project loomed ever bigger, he felt it necessary to advise the leadership that all was not well. But, it was not news that was accepted. Instead the announcements by our city and county leaders to the public were ones of great enthusiasm. We had inoculated ourselves against this "bug." Longer wince. Now, this gentleman wasn't sleeping, worrying about what might happen if it wasn't fixed in time and the public hadn't been told to prepare. We worked together, dreamed up ways of sliding in the back door. He added the Westergaard link to his city's web page so that concerned folks might find my survival articles.

After attending the Poway community preparedness workshop he sent the following e-mail:

"Lots of good folks, in government and industry alike, are working very hard to see that critical services are not significantly impacted by the Y2K Problem. Concerned citizens, who may otherwise feel helpless against this threat, can easily acquire some knowledge and make some preparations to help them abide any interruptions that may occur. The resulting increase in their confidence can itself be a tremendous asset." (Later, in confidence to me he added "and it would take a great deal of pressure off me.")

With that said, he made an extraordinary effort to get the videotape of this successful workshop onto public access television in his own city (it continues to be broadcast weekly in the City of Poway.) But the chain of command stopped him in his tracks by saying, "it is not a message that we, the city, want to perpetuate." That strikes us as an inappropriate statement as our message of course was "create awareness without precipitating panic."

There's something wrong here, if cities do not want to promote that concept. (By the way, a dedicated Y2K spokesperson recently purchased our workshop video and has received approval for broadcast on his county public access television station in a county in Pennsylvania. We make this offer to you all. It is the next best thing to our being there! Our permission is granted for broadcast of this video, if you can make the necessary arrangements. Please see this section for details on ordering:

So, repeating the question, "what do they know that the rest of us don't?"

They, the computer programmers know a great deal. They know that they are running out of time, that incessant clock -- the countdown. They aren't sure that they have found all the "bugs." And, they have become painfully aware that the problem is much bigger than originally contemplated. It is not just local - it is global.

These people are in the trenches still working and hoping against hope that all will be well. But, they are also hedging their bets. They have considered the problems that might arise if the disruptions are widespread. They are preparing for themselves and their families collecting supplies and provisions. They attend wilderness survival courses and hope that you will too. And, they chomp at the bit listening to the politically correct statements from the government agencies, local leadership and the CEO's of some companies that are nothing but the public relations two-step.

My tip of the week: Analyzing government reports, sifting through public relations press releases, reviewing the media's amazingly inadequate coverage, and reading the lips of our politicians will not help us determine who is telling the truth. I wouldn't go as far as to suggest that they are lying to us. Heavens, our government, lie to us? Surely not! What I am suggesting is that perhaps what some of these computer programmers know that the rest of us don't is the truth. Some of them are buying wood burning stoves and some are in classes learning preparedness and survival training. Shouldn't you be?

Shelter, water, fire and food are your needs. All the rest are wants.

-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), May 04, 1999


Programmers are about the only ones who know how horribly messy software is. A nice new computer (and a lot of old ones) look so clean and organized on the outside - but that software on the inside looks more like "modern art" than a nice CAD/CAM engineering drawing.

Also, programmers by nature are logical (relatively speaking), and are more likely to be conservative and/or question what is blasted out of TV sets each day on the "major networks".

Programmers don't "know" that Y2K will cause a collapse, but they are more likely to be concerned about potential problems for the above reasons.

This computer-jockey is a lot more worried about BJ Clinton, China and Russia than financial/infrastructure collapse.

-- Anonymous99 (Anonymous99@Anonymous99.xxx), May 04, 1999.

As someone who has programmed for about 20 years or so, I can say that some of the existing code is in awful shape. I've done maint. work on COBOL source where the printout you have to dig through is 4 inches thick. Then you find out that the first 500 lines of logic no longer apply but no one is brave enough to take them out for fear of causing the job to crash. And lest you think this was a "unimportant" program, it's purpose was to calculate billing for a trucking company.

This program was one in a procedure string of nine other jobs; this particular procedure string processed between 2 and 3 million freight bills each month and was a major component of the company's revenue processing.

Folks who have worked on the systems that run the 'enterprises' of this county know there are problems ahead. And I'm not referring to networked PeeCee's. Just because a platform is capable of running as many MIPS as a mainframe doesn't mean it is robust enough run 7/24/365. Please don't take this as a flame on PC & networks.


-- j (fire_water5@yahoo.com), May 04, 1999.

Good for anonymous99.

Here's the scoop on programmers. They are as suseciptible as the rest of us to the old "If the only tool you have is a hammer..." syndrome. If you spend your whole adult life fixing problems with computer code, then every problem looks to you like it has code for a solution. Since all the code isn't going to get fixed, they are worried, because they think code is the world's only answer. Here is the answer: Since not all the code is going to be fixed on time, we have to take steps to protect ourselves from those problems that might be caused by unfixed code. If we work together in community, we can mitigate the effects of those problems. Basically, if we hold civilization together long enough, they will eventually get the code fixed. Fortunately that won't be impossible.

Here's my opinion of what we should prepare for. (It's not a humble opinion, I'm quite proud of it [g].) What happens in Jan (no matter how bad it is) will be as nothing compared to what will happen 6 to 36 months down the road. Nobody suggests there won't be problems in other countries, but few say that those problems will effect us far more than them. Infrastructure won't collapse, (good for you anonymous99) but look for major major economic depression.

-- walt (walt@lcs.k12.ne.us), May 04, 1999.

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