X-Message-Number: 10480
From: Olaf Henny <>
Subject: Message #10470 Y2K: Fire, and The Marines (Peter Merel)
Date: Sun, 27 Sep 1998 14:57:13 -0700

Re: Message #10470
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 08:34:04 -0700
From: Peter Merel <>
>Subject: Y2K: Hard Facts, Fire, and The Marines

>Although this report draws optimistic conclusions, the data tells the real
>story. NERC surveyed just about every electrical utility in the US over Q3 
>98; almost all responded. Dig the crazy curves in sections 4.2-4.8. See how 
>they all magically reach 100% readiness in Q4 99?

>Now remember what we know for a fact: 80% of all technology projects are 
>delivered late. They're delivered late regardless of size, importance, or 
>resources. Charting technological development is not even a black art - we 
>simply don't know how to do it reliably. The relationship between progress, 
>quality, resources, requirements and time is highly non-linear. Even if we 
>accept the wildly unrealistic curves here on face value - and this is hard to 

>do with projects jumping magically in completeness by 25% every 3 months - the
>cold fact is that 80% of these projects are going to run late. 

Peter, these technology projects are research projects, which 
explore NEW ground.  This can have unpredictable quirks and 
setbacks.  The correction of the Y2K is a (-n at least to some) 
well known procedure, which "only" requires hard work, blood 
sweat and tears, a process, much more predictable than the 
development of a new software program or an even smaller chip 
with even greater capacity.

>This is still more certain when you realize that most electric utilities 
>won't be adequately tested before 1/1/00 because they're 24/7 systems, and 
>that according to the report 36% of these organizations don't even have a
>written plan on they base their magic estimates. 

I am quite sure these utility companies will be able to scare up 
a couple of old-timers, who still have not forgotten how to throw 
a switch by hand and how to start up a starter motor, and with it 
the main generator.  Oh, it won't be quite a efficient as our 
computerized system now is, and most certainly lead to some 
brown-outs here or there, but it won't be the catastrophe you are 

>You can substantiate this horrible thing with more detailed if less
>comprehensive data: check out Minnesota State's recent study of its 
>utilities at
>http://www.dpsv.state.mn.us/docs/infocntr/year2000/survey.htm .
>On the strength of this, the US power grid seems certain to go out.
>When we think about for how long the power will go out, the important
>factor is on the generation end of things. Failing hydro and nuclear plants, 
>if their remediation can be effected instantly, will come back up within 
>a matter of hours. Coal-fired plants, however, take a week or more to come 
>back online because they need to bring boilers back to heat. More than 
>half the electricity in the US comes from these coal-fired plants.

Who says, that these coal fired plants will be allowed to cool 
down completely, before they are fired up again?

> Add to 
>that the implausibility of the hydro and nuclear plants doing a magic 
>instant remediation, and it's certain that the blackouts will last for 
>at least a week across the US.

Subtract from that the fact, that the rate of obsolescence of the 
governing software is extremely rapid, and a huge portion of it 
has been replaced since Jan. 1st, 1997 (I cannot imagine, that 
any reputable software manufacturer was not aware of the Y2K 
problem by then), and you can drop a huge chunk of all industries 
from your problem list.

Banks and other mortgage providers have long dealt with dates 
reaching well into the next century.  Defense related industries 
as well as manufacturers of durable goods have not only delivery 
deadlines, which bridge the turn of the century, but most of them 
made or still are making damn sure, that their suppliers and 
shippers right down the line are Y2K compliant.  Sure, they are 
not all there yet, and there will be a last minute panic, but you 
doom and gloom will not happen, because in the end every business 
will be motivated to cover their own but.  The market says so

>What does this mean?
>Water and telephone networks rely on electricity for their function; so
>they go out too. In the absence of light and TV, most city folk will use 
>candles and oil lamps to read by. One in a thousand bump their candle 
>or lamp onto something flamable.

Peter, I don't know which "source" you are quoting on that one, 
but you better throw it into the trash and put a very heavy lid 
on it.  It tends to take credibility away from all your other 

While my comments pertaining to computer correction are based on 
no particular subject knowledge other than a life time of 
experience of human procrastination and their penchant for 
finally pulling through in a crunch to safe their hides 
(economically speaking), as a veteran of well over 1000 power 
blackouts, from 1945 through 1951 in East Germany, I am a bit of 
a expert on that subject.  I can assure you, that during all that 
time I have not heard of anybody setting his/her house on fire 
because of it.  Admittedly the news reporting at the time was not 
as efficient as it is today, but in my small hometown of 12,000, 
the grapevine would have reported any incidents.  By the 
accounting of your source half of the country should have burned 

>Dial 911! Whoops, can't do that, no 
>phones. Use the garden hose! Uh, sorry, no electric pumps means no 
>pressure. Without water the fires spread fast, and even if the fire 
>department could get to them they don't have the manpower for this kind 
>of load. It's midwinter: supplies of heating oil turn to sheets of flame.
>Folk can see the fires sweeping toward them and panic. Jump in the car! 
>Get outta there! Whoops, gridlock. It's midwinter: those that don't burn 
>to death in their houses freeze to death in their cars.

Awh, Peter you have seen too many action movies.



Tolerance is wisdom's finest fruit

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