Remembering Y2K

Happy New Year’s Eve!
Happy Last Day of December!
Happy Last Day of 2009!
Happy Last Day of the 2000s decade!

Ten years ago today I was working from home, since I was an independent software developer back then. This was The Day that the dreaded Y2K bug was supposed to hit. The End Of Civilization As We Know It, or just TEOCAWKI for short. Remember?

A number of social commentators were predicting that the Y2K computer bug would cause large-scale failures in our computer-based infrastructure, including some Christian conservatives like Michael Hyatt and Chuck Missler. Ed Yourdon predicted that computer systems administrators would head to the hills en masse because they realized that the problem was huge and couldn’t be fixed. My local hardware store carried large electrical generators with signs saying: “Don’t even think of returning this on January 5 if Y2K turns out to be a bust! We’re onto you.” There were tales of survivalists cashing out their retirement accounts, buying a ranch in the mountains, stockpiling guns and ammo, taking their wives and children up to the compound after Christmas, and keeping a loaded gunsight out for looters when the millennium sun peeked over the horizon. Even modern cars weren’t supposed to work. Remember all that?

As a software engineer, I issued my own prediction in March 1999: Y2K will be no worse than a hurricane. Power and basic utilities will be restored within 48 hours. You’ll be able to go back to work in a week. My prediction seemed pretty mild at the time.

I had a plan, too. I stockpiled about one week’s worth of food, water, and firewood for the “hurricane”, taking care to be sure that anything I bought could be used later for camping trips if Y2K fizzled out. Partly it made good sense to be prepared, partly I was fascinated by the social aspects of worried people getting ready for TEOCAWKI, and partly I wanted to reassure those around me. I still have some extra jugs of drinking water and a few packs of candles and lighters left over. All the Ramen noodles and beef jerky are long gone.

During the summer and early fall I received lots of letters from my bank, my insurance company, my utilities, my retirement company, my post office, all declaring that they had been certified as “Y2K Compliant”. Then in November I got a letter from the supplier of my diskette mailers, saying that they were certified as Y2K Compliant and that the supply of diskette mailers would be uninterrupted by the dawn of the new millennium. I just stared at the letter. Diskette mailers. It’s come to this, probably the most trivial and non-essential item that I purchase. That’s when it hit me that Y2K was gonna be a big bust. The alarmists were wrong. Everything’s going to be all right.

New Year’s Eve fell on a Friday that year, leaving an entire weekend for the computer people to fix whatever problems they found. Ed Yourdon was wrong – the computer system administrators (my friends and colleagues) behaved like the responsible professionals they are, working all that weekend to run tests, re-boot machines, and examine diagnostics for signs of any technical Y2K problems. The weather in Colorado was unusually warm.

I filled up all the bathtubs in my house with drinking water. I remember thinking, “Why should I do this? It’s just a waste of water. Nothing bad is going to happen.” But filling up the bathtubs was Part Of The Plan, so I did it anyway. That evening I discovered that the drains in my tubs didn’t seal very well, and I had lost about half my supply already. The best-laid plans . . .

Since I was working from home, I could keep an eye on the TV. Midnight and the Millennium Dawn were sweeping around the globe. The celebrations were wonderful to watch! In Australia they had trapeze dancers swinging from ropes affixed to the top of the Sydney Opera House. Japan had marvelous dancers and costumed performers. China had spectacular fireworks! Then came Thailand, India, and celebrations in Africa. A few minor problems were reported, like weather maps that displayed the year 19100 and some video rental fees not calculated correctly. But everything was coming out fine, even in Italy who had not done much to prepare. I just relaxed, let all the technical concerns slip away, and watched in wonder as the happy festivals spread around the globe with the coming sunshine. Wow!

Praise God! Happy New Year!

G K Chesterton Tuesday

We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next door neighbour.

———- G K Chesterton

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Aphorism of the Week

Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.

——–  David Star Jordan

G K Chesterton Tuesday

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.

———– G. K. Chesterton

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Academic and Choral Achievement

Here is an update since Kevin updated the blogging software. In May 2009 I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Master’s degree in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Wow, five years is a long time! There were quite a few speeches during the graduation ceremony, but I didn’t mind a bit! It took a lot of work to get to that ceremony, and I just sat there in the sunshine with my Master’s robe and mortarboard cap and drank it all in. John Roberts (a CNN correspondent) gave an inspiring address about making your dreams come true. When you come up against a wall, this is your opportunity to show the world how much you want something. If you want your goal bad enough, you will go over, under, around, or through the wall to reach your goal! I feel that I have so much potential, and opportunity, and rich possibilities ahead of me. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling. My sister and family came to see the graduation. Maybe someday when my kids get frustrated with school and homework and term papers and exams they will remember the bagpipes and the funny academic gowns and their Daddy graduating and they will understand that it’s all worthwhile.

Kevin, I don’t know if you wrote a thesis when you got your Master’s degree from Stanford University, or if the co-terminal program had some other option. I wrote a 110-page thesis describing my research and model results:

Title: Application of Storm Surge Modeling to Moses’ Crossing of the Red Sea; and to Manila Bay, the Philippines

Abstract:
Storm surge occurs in low-lying coastal areas when strong winds blow the sea surface up onto the land. The resulting inundation can pose a great danger to lives and property. This study uses an Ocean General Circulation Model and the results from a mesoscale atmospheric model to simulate storm surge and wind setdown. Two case studies are presented. A reconstruction of the crossing of the Red Sea by Moses and the Israelites, as described in Exodus 14, shows that the eastern Nile delta of Egypt matches the Biblical narrative and provides a hydrodynamic mechanism for water to remain on both sides of the dry passage. The vulnerability of Manila Bay and the surrounding areas to a Category 3 typhoon is evaluated and shows that the simulated surge heights depend heavily on the wind direction and the coastal topography.

The thesis document is published electronically by ProQuest, and anyone can download the PDF for a fee and read it. I classified the thesis under Biblical studies in addition to Physical oceanography and Atmospheric sciences. It would be cool to hear a little bell every time someone reads my thesis, but scientific publishing has not reached that stage yet.

I also made the national news for having sung in the Boulder Messiah Sing-Along for 17 consecutive years now. On November 3, 2009 the Associated Press published a news story on Messiah Sing-Along events, featuring the Boulder Messiah Chorale and Orchestra. Hallelujah for Handel’s ‘Messiah’ is by reporter Ann Levin. I am the Enthusiastic Choir Member in the story. If that link ever ceases to work, you can Google for: “Carl Drews” Messiah. Nobody has recognized me on the street yet (“Hey, you’re that Messiah choir dude!”), but it is nice to see that our sound is gone out into all lands, at least electronically.

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Aphorism of the Week

We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears.

——– La Rochefoucauld

G K Chesterton Tuesday

Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.

———– G. K. Chesterton

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Monday Morning Fun

Stumpy Grinder and his wife Martha were from Southland Maine. Every year they went to the Southland Show, and every year Stumpy said “Ya know Mahtha, I’d like ta get a ride in that theah aihplane.” and every year Martha would say “I know Stumpy, but that ihplane ride costs ten dollahs…. and ten dollahs is ten dollahs.” So Stumpy says” By Jeebers Mahtha, I’m 71 yeahs old, if I don’t go this time I may nevah go.” Martha replies ” Stumpy, that there aihplane ride is ten dollahs…and ten dollahs is ten dollahs.”

So the pilot overhears them and says “Folks, I’ll make you a deal, I’ll take you both up for a ride, if you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say ONE word, I won’t charge you, but just one word and it’s ten dollars.”

They agree and up they go….the pilot does all kinds of twists and turns, rolls and dives, but not a word is heard, he does it one more time, still nothing… so he lands.

He turns to Stumpy as they come to a stop and says “By golly, I did everything I could think of to get you to holler out, but you didn’t.”

And Stumpy replies “Well, I was gonna say something when Mahtha fell out…but ten dollahs is ten dollahs!

Aphorism of the Week

You have to be an intellectual to believe such nonsense. No ordinary man could be such a fool.

———  George Orwell

G K Chesterton Tuesday

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.

———– G. K. Chesterton

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