Petreley's column: Musings on effects of pending year 2000 crisis

Some readers have pointed out that I haven't devoted significant attention to the year-2000 problem. In fact, I haven't addressed it at all. The fact is, I really have nothing useful to add to all those who have pontificated on this subject during the past few years.

But it came to my attention that I may have my pundit's licence revoked unless I address this vital issue. So this week I finally jump in, elbow first, beginning with what I consider to be the top three pea-brained ideas on how to deal with the Y2K problem.

3. Drink heavily and go into denial.

2. Add three more days to our weekend, making the weekend Saturday, Fatterday, Smatterday, Funday, and Sunday. This gives us both a five-day work week and a five-day weekend.

The additional days will pad out the year and delay year 2000, giving us more time to fix problems. (Incidentally, Fatterday will be a traditional feast day. Smatterday is a day when we check on the welfare of friends and family. You are legally required to play games on Funday.)1. Convert date reckoning to a hexadecimal system. That way, we won't have to deal with the Y2K turnover until the decimal year 8192, which is 2000 hexadecimal. Because the coming decimal year, 2000, is only 7D0 in hexadecimal, the switch will give us 1830 hexadecimal (6192 decimal) more years to work out the problems.

(Note to astute readers: I know that adding days to a weekend extends only leisure time, not work time. And the turnover point in hexadecimal takes place at the year 1A00, not 2000. But, hey, I did say these ideas were pea-brained.)Following are the three problems most likely to be unfairly blamed on Y2K.

3. In a Y2K power outage, you discover your flashlight batteries are also dead.

2. Your hamster dies.

1. Your Windows NT server crashes.

Next are the three Y2K-related problems you are most likely to complain about after a Y2K failure.

3. Your VCR failed to tape the latest episode of Ally McBeal.

2. You microwaved a hot dog for one minute but the microwave ran for seven years.

1. Your mother-in-law wasn't on the plane.

And in case you are in the middle of a Y2K problem hunt, take heart. This isn't the first time such a problem occurred. I found the following anonymously penned historical report at various locations on the Internet.

"While browsing through some dust-covered archival material in the recesses of the Roman section of the British Museum, a researcher recently came across a tattered bit of parchment. After some effort, he translated it and found that it was a letter from a man called Plutonius with the title of 'Magister Fastorium', or keeper of the calendar, to one Cassius. It was dated, strangely enough, 2 BC, November 24. The text of the message follows.

Dear Cassius,

Are you still working on the Y0K problem? This change from BC to AD is giving us a lot of headaches and we haven't much time left. I don't know how people will cope with working the wrong way around. Having been working happily downward forever, now we have to start thinking upward. You would think that someone would have thought of it earlier and not left it to us to sort it all out at this last minute.

I spoke to Caesar the other evening. He was livid that Julius hadn't done something about it when he was sorting out the calendar. He said he could see why Brutus turned nasty. We called in the consulting astrologers, but they simply said that continuing downward using minus BC won't work. As usual, the consultants charged a fortune for doing nothing useful.

As for myself, I just can't see the sand in an hourglass flowing upward. We have heard that there are three wise men in the East who have been working on the problem, but unfortunately, they won't arrive until it's all over. Some say the world will cease to exist at the moment of transition.

Anyway, we are still continuing to work on this blasted Y0K problem, and I will send you a parchment if anything further develops.

(sgnd) Plutonius"

Well, I guess that fulfills my responsibility towards opining about the potential Y2K crisis. What's your best tip?

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