Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s and the advent of VCRs and video rental stores and cable TV, and parents who, admittedly, probably weren’t strict enough with our viewing habits, I saw a lot of movies about disasters and apocalypses. The best and worst of science fiction films. But in real life I’d never encountered the idea of “preppers” until the late 1990s, as we approached the turn of the century, and the Y2K bug. That’s when a lot of people became aware of “prepping”, of getting off the grid, stocking up on supplies and guns, being prepared for the collapse of society, the end of the world.

Now, getting off the grid wasn’t new. There had always been communes where people would gather and grow their own food and live off the land.

Even as I worked in computers on Y2K issues, working to make sure “the end” didn’t happen, I still became fascinated by the lifestyle of those preppers. The idea of surviving the end and coming out on the other side of apocalypse. For many years it was an obsession, just the idea of prepping, but not actually prepping. Sometimes I would daydream about some underground bunker fortress cabin in the woods place I would ride out the zombie hordes or atomic wasteland times, but outside of those daydreams I had no desire to abandon the world and watch it die. I wanted people, even as I found it tiring to be around them for more than short period. I wanted… I needed society to be buzzing around me, even if I wasn’t engaged in it all the time.

This is where I think all the preppers and pessimists go wrong. I’m a bit of a pessimist myself. There isn’t a situation I can find myself in where I can’t think of a dozen dozen ways for it to fail. Ultimately, it’s why I’m a programmer and pretty good at it. I’m really good at looking at code, thinking of all the ways it can fail, and finding out why it is failing and fixing it. But personally, in all my pessimism, it’s always about being prepared for failure but then working toward success. Too many preppers get into preparing for failure and then just sit around waiting for the failure.

The preppers aren’t alone.

They have become afraid of things getting better, because if the system doesn’t fail, then all their preparations for failure will have been a waste.

What’s missing from a lot of these people is hope. That sounds hokey, but it is the simple truth. They don’t see how they can be part of the solution, and they don’t see their leaders solving problems, so they have no hope that the problems will be solved. In every case, however, these problems have solutions. Even more, we know what those solutions are, but we do not have the political will to do them. And we don’t have an electorate willing to put the people in office who would.

To Do or not To Do

I love lists. I love making lists. I love crossing items off the lists I have made. I love crossing items off the lists other people have made. I love completing lists. And I think lots of people do lists wrong.

There are, in my opinion, two types of lists: a To Do list, a Backlog.

The Backlog

Look, I’m a computer programmer, so often the things I say sound like programmer jargon. Anyway, the Backlog is an unordered, unprioritized list of every thing you’ve ever thought needed to be done or would like to do. There is no rhyme or reason, no focus, no goal. The Backlog is just a chaotic list. The only purpose of the Backlog is to help you not forget things. If you are trying to use your Backlog to accomplish goals, then you are doing it wrong.

I can say that with confidence, because if you are trying to work from a list that contains everything, you’ll just end up distracted. You’ll finish one item, then go check your list and be face to face with a scattershot collection of stuff. And you are just as likely to pick up a task that you don’t need to be doing as you are to actually correctly select the next task you should be doing.

You should definitely keep a Backlog, but you should never work from the Backlog. Except when you are making a To Do list.

The To Do List

This is where the real work happens. This is where organization and focus live. And if your To Do list is just copying over your Backlog, you are doing it wrong.

The first thing you need to do when making a To Do list is to define the kind of this you are making and it’s limited. The two primary ways to limit a list is to: 1) Set a deadline, 2) Set a goal/scope. Once you have defined the type of list you are making, give it a name, a specific descriptive name that tells you what it is every time you see it.

  • Examples of a deadline
    • “Things To Do Today”
    • ”Things To Do by Friday”
    • ”Things To Do before I go on vacation”
  • Examples of a goal/scope
    • ”Things To Do to clean the house”
    • ”Things To Do to organize my finances”

Once you have defined the limit of your list and named it, the very first item you should put on your list is: Finished making To Do list.

So if your list is ”Things To Do Today”, you brainstorm and peruse your Backlog for items to put on the list, and when you’ve got a solid list, you are done making the list, so you get to check off that first item. This serves two purposes. First, checking items off your list feels good, and it gives you momentum. Second, it gives you a little mental space to say ”This list is whole. So if something pops up that isn’t an emergency, I can’t add it to this list. It goes on the Backlog.”

By defining your list well, and then giving it a complete shape by ”finishing” the list construction, you’ll make more effective lists.

What About A Bucket List?

A Bucket List is the one list that makes sense to be a hybrid. It’s a defined list with a deadline, but it’s an ongoing malleable one.

When making To Do lists, the defining characteristic is, as stated, a deadline or a goal. But most successful To Do lists also should be relatively short. Either the deadline should be immediate or in the near future, or the goal should be one you want to achieve “soon”. Meanwhile, a Backlog is an unfocused container of ideas.

If you are defining a To Do list with a very long deadline or goal, “Things To Do Before I Die”, the first problem you may have is that you aren’t likely to be able to put that “Finish making this list” item on it, because you are going to come across things to add to that list before you run out of time. But this isn’t a list that should be buried within your Backlog of projects and chores and miscellaneous random thoughts.

Personally, I treat it like a Backlog, but I keep it separate from my normal Backlog.

The Lottery List

One other Backlog style list I keep is my Lottery List. It’s a brainstorming list of “Things I Would Do If I Won The Lottery”. I keep it separate because of the process I use to make it and maintain it.

You see, I buy a lottery ticket now and then. And when I do, I pull out the Lottery List and I re-read it, and I scratch things off, and I add new things. Most of these things are crazy or silly, and all generally require a lot of money. However, if an item persists on my Lottery List for a while, I start trying to disassemble it, break it down and chip off pieces that I can move to my regular Backlog, or even put on a To Do list.

For example, if your Lottery List included “Travel the World!” and after a few revisions it remained, perhaps you could break it down… Where exactly would you want to travel? What countries? What cities? Are there specific things you want to do in those cities? And of course there are things you can do to prepare for travel. Do you have a passport? Have you started a travel fund? Would being able to speak another language help?

Sure “Buy a yacht!” isn’t the sort of thing you necessarily want cluttering your Backlog, but maybe “learn to swim”, “learn to sail”, “go on a cruise” are things that could fit in nicely.

Location, Location, Location

The last thing to consider is where to keep your lists. And really, this is going to be very personal. Do you want handwritten sheets of paper? A moleskin notebook? Evernote? An email draft? Some other thing? The main thing is to pick something that works, and if it’s not working, then move to something else. But if you migrate from one form to another, do yourself a favor and really move. Shift all your lists to the new format. Don’t leave half lists in different media strewn throughout your life. You’ll only end up feeling LESS organized.


Last year I made exactly two posts on this blog. The second was about programming bugs and the processes by which companies handle them. The first was my 2021 post. If 2020 was a year interrupted, 2021 was a year on pause. We got a better president (though it was the lowest bar set in the history of this country), and the old president tried to overthrow the government… and about half the country seems to be fine with that. If 2022 wants to be a better year, there better be some high level prosecutions.

On a personal level, my new job has been wonderful. This company learned to do remote well, and have continued that, and adapted. When things were getting better I even went to the office a few times and it was very nice. I rode the bus, which is a thing I can do now. I walked to the bus stop just outside the back of my neighborhood, and rode to within a couple blocks of the office. Commuting without stress. It was glorious. But then everything shut down again because Omicron. Hopefully that will change in the new year.

I did read more books. I’ve read almost all of T. Kingfisher’s books. I have three to go and will be getting to them soon. I also read a few other books. So I feel good about that. I’m going to keep reading into the new year.

Writing, on the other hand, petered out fairly quickly. I tried to reorganize my stuff and my process, and I just never settled on anything that worked. I’m going to keep trying. I want to write more, and reading more has inspired thoughts, but I haven’t been able to capture them on electronic paper.

Exercise went very well. Mostly. We got a Peloton, and I rode that bike nearly every day for months. And I used the app to do some weights and yoga and meditation and other stuff. It was great. I felt great. And then… I went out for a walk one Thursday morning with Brody, our dog, and another big dog ran up to us, off leash, and attacked Brody. I tried to keep them apart, but the other dog managed to get his jaws on Brody’s head, and I knew the next thing that dog was going to do was try to shake Brody and snap his neck. So I dove on the other dog, and I pried its mouth open with my fingers and freed Brody. I hurt myself a lot on the process. My fingers bled from being cut by its teeth, and my body was scraped all over from rolling around on the textured concrete sidewalk. The owner of the unleashed dog arrived and took it away, and Brody and I sat on the ground for a while to calm down. The physical injuries prevented me from working out for a while, and the psychological impact of the attack prevented my from meditating. It basically just really fucked me up for a couple months.

Right about when I was getting physically better, I took a tumble down the front steps of the house and smashed my right knee against the concrete. It’s mostly better now, but still aches a little when I squat at the way down. I probably should have gone to urgent care, but, you know, pandemic panic.

Anyway, with all this mostly behind me, it’s time to get back on the bike I think. I enjoyed the exercise, and I want to do it again.

I did play guitar more. At least until I cut up my fingers prying a dog’s mouth open. They’re healed now, so I’ll probably start that up soon.

On the creation front, I lasted in Making Art Everyday about a month, but so many of the prompts were just flat out uninspiring. I want to do it again, but I need it to be different. Bardot Brush is doing MAE again, but with weekly and monthly versions added on. I might try those. We will see.

Also for 2022, I think I’m going to have to accept that what we have now is closer to the new normal than the old normal. I don’t think we’ll always be as locked down and under such severe COVID threat, but I don’t think it’s going back to pre-2020. There are just too many people who don’t care about anything other than their own inconvenience. And one party in this country has successfully politicized facts and truth as being something they are against. So, we are going to be stuck with walking Petri dishes brewing up variants for a long time to come. To that end, all future vacations will need to involve personal travel and nature. Driving to parks and stuff. Because as much as I like cruises, I’m not sure I’m going to feel comfortable doing those again.

To bring this to a close, 2022, I hope you are better than the last couple of years. And I’m going to read more, write more, exercise more, eat better, play more guitar, and get out into nature. Happy new year, everyone.


Once upon a time I worked for a company. And this company was acquired by another company. The new big company, upon acquisition, set out to conduct a survey of our customers. It was explained to me that this survey was very intense, and very accurate. It would illuminate problems that we would need to fix. And I shouldn’t feel bad when we get a low score, because a low score was expected. This big company had been using this survey for a while, and, I was told, originally scored in the low 50s, but after much work they were very proud of their current score in the low 80s.

The survey was conducted. Our company scored a 96.

They were astounded. Scores this high for companies that had never utilized the survey were unheard of. I was unsurprised at our high score, because the survey was entirely customer service focused, and we were very good at customer service. In fact, most of our customers, if they left us, would come back later and complain about how awful the customer service of our competitor was. If a customer of ours was being forced to switch away from us by management or acquisition, they would lament having to leave us, because they knew we had great customer service.

The new company didn’t understand. Their customer service help desk was run very similarly to ours. So why did we score so much higher? I knew the answer: bugs.

See, the typical manner in which bugs are handled goes like this:

  1. Customer runs into an issue and calls customer service.
  2. Customer service tries to solve the issue with the methods they know.
  3. If the problem cannot be resolved, a ticket is opened with details of the issue.
  4. Product management takes the ticket, prioritizes it, and finds a place on the schedule to put it.
  5. When the scheduled sprint comes around, the responsible team fixes the bug.

The issue with this process is that it can take months for a bug to get fixed. In fact, at most companies with traditional work sprints and product management, they often have to specify a “bug sprint” once a year where all engineering and development teams sets aside all other work to clear out the backlog of bugs.

At my company, the process went like this:

  1. Customer runs into an issue and calls customer service.
  2. Customer services tries to solve the issue with the methods they know.
  3. If the problem cannot be resolved, customer service immediately consults with engineering.
  4. Engineering drops their work and fixes the bug immediately.

Admittedly, my process results is many blown deadlines. We never delivered a new feature “on time”, which is why we never publicized new features until they were done. But, no customer was ever left “broken” until the bug fix could be “scheduled in”. A broken customer was always more important than a future feature. Always.

To me, this is obvious, and is evidence of why, especially if you are a small company, your development team should work closely with customer service. If your company is large, then you can probably afford to have a “bug team” that might only be one or two people whose entire job is to fix bugs as they arise so that your company never needs to have a “bug sprint” to clear the backlog. Backlogs should be for new features, future expansions, new technologies, etc. Fixing broken things should never go on the backlog.

Anyway, to finish the story, the new big company disagreed with me. They put up division between our product’s developers and help desk. They added a ticketing system and product managers who managed deadlines more than the product. They physically moved the engineers to the other side of the building to prevent us from having casual conversations with the help desk. And our scores went down. And our backlog grew. And eventually, I got fed up and left. I’m sure they are fine, still making money, even though I know they’ve lost a number of people. But I also know that the reputation of the company I helped maintain has fallen. And customers wait weeks, months even, to have bugs fixed.


Last year was a rough one. But it was also a good one. Personally, I was inconvenienced by the pandemic, but it didn’t upend or destroy my life. In fact, I got a new job, one that I am more passionate about, and it pays better and has better benefits, and is in many ways just a better job for me. And while all that happened meant I didn’t go to the theater and see movies like I would have otherwise, ultimately, except for the not going out to eat occasionally or meeting up with friends now and then, the year was, on a completely personal level, more or less, normal.

I can’t say the same for the world at large, however. 2020 was a disaster in so many ways, and much of them were perfectly avoidable or manageable if not for the pigheadedness of the current administration and their supporters. There is just so much dumb going on, and it has cost this country hundreds of thousands of lives.

But a new administration is coming, and voter-turnout willing they’ll get a Congress they can work with when Georgia flips further blue. An administration that is ready to believe in science and facts, and to care about human lives again, regardless of their wealth. It can, in my humble opinion, only get better. I hope I never see a worse administration than 45’s, because if there is one I don’t think this nation would survive it.

A vaccine is here. Several of them in fact. And hopefully that means in six months, when it is wide spread, life can get back to normal. Though, to be honest, I might keep wearing masks and taking some other precautions. Since March, when I started working from home and avoiding crowds and contact, I haven’t gotten sick. No flu. No colds. I’ve had headaches, but those are stress induced. I rather enjoyed not losing a week of my life to illness in the November/December timeframe.

So things are looking up for the world. And I think they’ll only get better for me as well.

This being the first post of the year, I guess this is where I put my stake in the ground about what I plan to do for the rest of the year. I’ve done resolutions before, and I’ve railed against resolutions before. My opinion on them is ever evolving.

Looking back at last year, January was chaos. I bought a house, I sold a house, I moved out of a house and into a new one. There was one week from when I took ownership of the new house to when I had to be completely out of the old one. Paid movers did a lot of it, but there was a mad dash at the end, literally getting the last load and locking the doors behind us at 5 AM on the day we were to be out by mid-morning. But we live downtown now, and I couldn’t have asked for a better home to be locked down in for a pandemic. My old house wasn’t bad – it did have an 85″ TV in a theater room and was big a spacious. But the new house, while not as spacious, has all the space we need and a huge covered front porch. The spring, the summer, and the fall all saw lots of use of that porch. We put a table on it and ate outside. We had friends over for socially distant meals in the open air. It has been absolutely wonderful.

And moving also solved one of my other issues: it was a drain on my mood to have to drive past the house my parents lived in, that my mother died in, that their dog Brisco died in, that my father never made it back to from post operative care. I knew it was a problem. I’d recognized the depression is caused. But I hadn’t fully understood what simply not seeing the house every single day would change. And now it’s gone. Like a weight lifted off my life.

On the job front, I mentioned earlier that I got a new job. The old one was okay, but I never really understood the domain, or their company structure, and working for a place where most of the people were in Denmark was difficult. It was remote working, but terrible remote working. Due to the pandemic, my new job has been entirely remote, but the company environment is like night and day. The old job was so desperately focused on billable hours and cash flows, and I really hate that part of the business. I’m not sure why I ever thought I could do a consulting style job. I guess I just wanted the non-contract job and benefits. Looking back, it was a misstep. But now I have a new job, and so far it is wonderful. And it should be even better if I ever get to actually go into the office and work around people again.

I think I’m rambling… let’s go back to resolutions. My opinion on them these days is that I understand why people (myself included) need them. It’s nice to have a day, a mark on the calendar, to say “This is where it begins.” But I understand now that the resolution is an idea, a goal, an endpoint or an ill-defined pointer in some direction. Having them is fine, but you’ll do better with a plan.

My usual resolutions are pretty much my new resolutions. Read more, write more, play guitar, make stuff, etc. If you dig through this blog you’ll find a whole slew of resolution posts from previous years (I’ve been blogging off and on for 23 years!) so you can see for yourself. But what are my plans?

I plan to read more books. To accomplish this, on weeknights, I’m going to make an effort to go to bed earlier so that I can have at least thirty minutes of reading time before I go to sleep. I also started in the couple of weeks before Christmas to get up and do some reading in the morning. I was reading fiction at night, and self-help in the morning. I limited the morning reading to about 10-15 minutes, because frankly self-help books often make me want to scream so I can only take them in small doses, and it worked pretty well. I haven’t done it much in the last week or so because I’ve been on vacation. Monday I’m back, and so is reading.

I plan to write more. As with the reading, I was, before Christmas, doing some writing every morning as part of my waking up routine. I liked this, and will probably continue, but I also need to carve out some dedicated time to write. Possibly on the weekends. I haven’t settled this yet, but I will before I get back to work on Monday.

I plan to play guitar more. I bought myself a subscription to yousician in August last year, and I played with it some and really enjoyed it, but I really overdid it and hurt my fingertips, so I had to take a break, and then I didn’t go back. I’m going to start up again. On weekends. Tomorrow (Today?) will be my first day, and then we’ll keep it going.

I plan to create more stuff. This is kind of open, but I need to make things. I’ve decided the first things I’ll be making are “art”. I bought an iPad back near the start of the pandemic, April I think, and I’ve used it a lot. It’s become my couch-PC, the thing I do internet stuff on when my phone isn’t big enough. I bought the pencil too, because I was looking for a replacement for my Surface which has started acting wonky (it’s dead now). I bought Procreate, because if you have an iPad and a Pencil you should buy Procreate. And I fooled around with it a little, but never really learned it. So I’ve committed myself to Bardot Brush’s Making Art Everyday challenge, where they have a daily prompt and you do it. I did one for the first, and I’m going to keep going. 364 prompts to go.

I plan to get in better shape. Back up above, I mentioned I bought a new house? It happens to be in a pretty nice and very walkable neighborhood. And with the pandemic and everything, and because we don’t have a fenced in yard, I’ve been taking the dog for a walk every day. We’ve also been eating better, because we’ve been cooking more, since we can’t go out to restaurants. I’ve also got weights I occasionally lift. And I bought a Pelaton. It arrives on January 16th. I like bikes. I want to get a real one again eventually, and maybe even use it to ride to work (my new job is not too terribly far from my new house). So I’m going to keep walking every day, and keep eating better, and going to start pedaling.

I think that’s all of the plans I have for now. Well, I do have some plans to fix up some things in the house, but those are more of a To Do List than a resolution. I view resolutions as new habits I need to form.

Here’s hoping that 2021 goes a lot better than 2020. For everyone.

I Miss People

In 1994 I saw Clerks at a local art house cinema. Being of the right demographic – Gen X, white, male – meant that I identified with a lot of the movie. Dante’s lament “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” would end up being a constant refrain throughout my career in tech support where I was often the guy who knew the most, but bad stuff always happened when I wasn’t working.

But as we languish in this pandemic, I find that the lines I’ve come to most identify with is the exchange between Dante and Randal over the mourning service of a mutual acquaintance that has passed.

Dante: But you hate people!
Randal: Yes, but I love gatherings. Isn’t it ironic?

Last week I posted on Facebook “I miss people.” Most people probably read that and felt similarly, that they missed hanging out with their friends and coworkers. For me, though, it was really more general. I’m primarily an introvert. I don’t actively seek out individual engagement with others, unless I already know them – which presents it’s own problem. However, I love crowds. I love concerts and big events. I love going to the mall at Christmas time to experience the rush and people watch. So when I say that “I miss people.” I’m more referring to missing the general commotion of a world full of people. I miss crowds. I miss events. I miss watching people.

In my professional life, I don’t enjoy working “with” people. The modern style of “pair programming” and such are really ineffective for me. I don’t like being at the keyboard and having someone over my shoulder telling me what to type, and I don’t like sitting back and just telling someone what to type while they sit at the keyboard. I prefer that we do our own work, then come together to compare, or better yet to discuss what we learned after comparing on our own. But I hate working from home. I want to be in an office with other people. I want to hear the hustle and bustle of people going about their day. I want to casually pass people in the hall or in the break room. I want to say hello and good bye to people, even if I don’t have deep involved conversations with them.

I crave the casual signs that other people exist in the world. I miss people.


Most people I know, myself included, are frequently looking for easy, simple solutions. From daydreams of get rich quick schemes and lottery wins, to once again clicking on a link to a headline that promises to tell that “one weird trick” to do something hard, we do it. We desperately want things to be simple.

And yet, there are some problems that we continue to insist are horribly complex and complicated and the solutions will be also complex and complicated, and hard won, but they actually have simple answers.

For example: Homelessness. There are people who are homeless. Some of them are homeless because of something they did, and some of them are homeless because of something outside their control. And once someone is homeless, the process to get them un-homeless is arduous. Shelters and programs, counselling, government money and charity solutions… not to mention things like police and sanitation and health system impacts of people with nowhere to go. They don’t have money because they probably don’t have a job. It’s hard to get a job when you don’t have an address or phone, but you can’t get those things without a job to earn money. It all seems like a messy pile of issues and people want to help but they don’t know where to start.

The solution is really simple though – give them homes. Giving a person a home immediately makes them un-homeless. And as long as that home is given unconditionally, it solves the problem. They are no longer homeless. Instead, they are now jobless, or an addict, or a collection of other issues, issues that people who weren’t homeless also have but manage. Now that they have a permanent address, and maybe a cell phone with internet access, getting a job now becomes possible. Once they have a job, they’ll have money for things – like food, or moving to a better home. Once they have a place to live, it gives them the stability to be able to address medical issues, perhaps get therapy, address addiction.

But we don’t give them homes, because when you try you get clobbered with questions of who will pay for it and why should some people get free homes when other people have to work for theirs. You’ll get into what quality of home to provide – some people won’t want you giving them much more than a prison cell, because they can’t get past the idea that a person should be punished for needed help. (Note: this right here is a HUGE problem. This is how you get people upset that those on food assistance programs aren’t eating gruel. If they are getting free food it shouldn’t be “good” food, it should be garbage, or it should be planned healthy meals with no joy. Lots of people are downright cruel toward people in need.) You get bogged down in a lot of details that do need to get addressed, but most of the people asking those questions are trying to make the problem go away – not solve it, just vanish from their site, hopefully without it costing them anything.

Which leads us to an adage that people enjoy repeating, that “money can’t buy happiness” which often is mutated into “money can’t solve problems” (“mo’ money, mo’ problems”). But in a society and system that is very capitalist, yes it can. The root of many problems is lack of money, so giving them money (or providing them they thing they lack the money for) will literally solve the problem. Too many people don’t like money as a solution. Despite being so capitalist, the idea that money can solve problems and buy happiness offends them. “Problems can’t be that simple to solve!” they tell themselves. And so they seek out non-money solutions for problems that are best solved with money, and it becomes painfully obvious why those problems don’t get solved.

Career Path

Most people have worked retail or service jobs in their life. Yes, there are people who are born rich and don’t ever get a “menial” job before getting to college and moving on to “real jobs”, but most people aren’t them. Most people in the teens or twenties, or even later, get jobs waiting tables or making fast food or working a cash register or stocking shelves.

Society can’t live without most of these jobs, but they devalue them just the same, and further society devalues people who don’t want to move on, people who like and excel at those jobs. Believe it or not, there are people who honestly love helping someone find the right shoes, or eat a tasty fast meal, or get a floral arrangement, or just like interacting with people while they ring up their purchases. There are people who love working retail or in restaurants, and they don’t want to “move up” to “better” jobs.

Why leave a job you love doing every day for a corporate job you’ll hate? Money and benefits.

But what if they could get the money and benefits at the jobs they love doing? What if they could work retail or food service and make enough to support a family and buy a small house and go on vacation now and then?

What if all jobs were valid valued jobs and we let people who where they fit best rather than forcing them to move “up”?

Y2K and COVID-19

People know what Y2K was about, but often I feel like they don’t actually understand the problem. You ask them what Y2K is and they’ll say “computers used two digit dates and so it would think 00 was 1900 instead of 2000.” This is, of course, correct, but it is simple and leads people to think computers would be showing “11:59:59 PM 12/31/1999” and the next second would have “00:00:00 AM 1/1/1900” and everything blows up. But that wasn’t true.

The issue, usually, was with storage, not calculation. A clock is calculating time. It’s adding a second to the time on a set cycle. Time + 1, wait, Time + 1, wait, Time + 1, wait… And in calculation, there wasn’t often a Y2K bug. The real Y2K bug was when something would take that timestamp and write it to a file or database, and then it would read it back out. The program would take “06:32:15 AM 4/9/2000” and write it to the file, storing only the “00” of the year. Then later, minutes, hours, maybe even months later, the program would read the file, take the “00” and process it, using a hard-coded “19” to append to the front and come up with “06:32:15 AM 4/9/1900”, which might then play havoc with a bunch of other functions, like maybe one that asks “How overdue is this item?” If the date had been initiated properly, maybe it’s only a few days old, but with the bug it’s over 100 years past due.

But, we (people in the tech industry) knew this might happen. The people who wrote some of these “bad” programs in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, understood the issue, but in many cases they just figured “This software will be replaced before then, and surely those programmers will fix it.” But the software “works” so it’s never in the budget to replace it, a decade goes by and suddenly a decision made many years before becomes a problem as 2000 approaches.

It was also in the hardware, the firmware on that hardware. A machine could run just fine across the 1999-to-2000 line, because that’s calculation, but if it was shut down for any reason, or lost power, the bootstrapping methods in the BIOS of the computer might come back up in 1900, which would mess up every program that relied on the “system time”.

But all this is just to say that we saw the problem coming, and if we did nothing, then it would have been bad. We didn’t do “nothing” though. Companies spent a lot of time and money fixing it. From my personal experience, the rollover to Y2K was spent in an office on a conference call, watching systems roll over to the year 2000, then running diagnostic tests to assure that the write-to-file-then-read-from-file type problems had been resolved. Which they had been. Due to all the time and effort put in.

From outside the tech industry, though, it might seem like Y2K was “no big deal”. The world didn’t explode. Economies didn’t collapse. Everything just kept working, just like it had the day before. And unfortunately this leads to people talking about the “Y2K hype” and feeling like it was some kind of hoax and we would have been fine.

We wouldn’t have.

Here we are, twenty years past Y2K, and the US was faced with another problem. We saw it coming. We’ve had outbreaks of other illnesses before, and we responded to them. And here is this new virus, novel as they say, in China, and people are getting sick and it seems to spread pretty quickly.

I think back to Y2K and try to imagine what it would have been like if we hadn’t done any of the work, if we hadn’t spent any of the money. What if Y2K came and we hadn’t been ready. What if, one by one, computer systems failed – or worse, they worked properly incorrectly, happily proceeding like 1900 was the correct year to be using in their processing. What if banks had collapsed. What if planes had fallen out of the sky.

Now it’s 2020, a full three years into the current presidency, one which has named the media and experts as enemies of the people. And because of all the times I’ve thought about what might have happened if our response to the oncoming Y2K had been nothing, I haven’t been surprised by what has happened since this administration’s response to COVID-19 has been to do nothing. And yet, even as we stand in the midst of more spikes and sickness and death, there are people saying it’s a hoax, that it’s hype.

With Y2K, I think one of the main reasons that we had so much investment into beating it was that a clear case was made that the bug would affect banks. Money would fail if we didn’t fix the problem. Stories about traffic lights or medical equipment failing and people being hurt didn’t move the needle. But telling the bankers that their banks would fail, that the stock market would fail, that all digital records would fail… that motivated getting it fixed. But with COVID-19, it was always painted as human cost. “People will die,” they said. And those with money didn’t care. Their money was safe. Even when the stock market faltered, they told themselves that the illness would pass, people would die, and then we’d move on. Just keep your money invested, it will recover. You’ll get it back.

You can hear them beating that drum. We have to get back to work. Kids need to get back to school (so that parents can work). We need the economy to get back on track. We need to recover the value that was lost.

The lives that are lost mean nothing to them.

The last five months…

… has felt like five years.

It’s really hard to express the toll that 2020 is having on me. I have been broken so many times, and each time not fully mended before being broken again.

I feel like we are learning two lessons right now. One is long overdue, and the other is … well, I’m afraid we might not really learn it.

The long overdue lesson is that racism is garbage AND that there really is a whole lot of racism out there. For a lot of white people, the triple hits of Breonna Taylor being shot in her sleep when the cops invaded her home which was a wrong address, Ahmaud Arbery being hunted in the street, and George Floyd’s slow murder on camera was enough to really make them pay attention to the failures of the justice system that people of color have been living with their entire lives. But I feel like the protests were the real shift in opinion. People took to the streets to support change, and they were met with an army.

It may be just me, but in prior protests, when cops showed up, there were always a lot of traditional blue shirt cops, maybe wearing black bulletproof vests, with the support of a smaller number of ERT/SWAT/RIOT gear cops. But this protest, I’m seeing almost all the cops in military gear. Head to toe body armor and assault rifles. Rows and rows of bodies clad in black, imposing and unforgiving.

And since technology keeps advancing, the average person is being given an unprecedented look at dozens of angles of the same incident from the street level. Even if you don’t live in a city and can’t experience a protest in person, there are so many videos you can watch. What CNN did for the Gulf War, cell phones and social media are doing for protest. And by that I mean that it is bringing the visceral reality of a normally obscured situation right into the homes and lives of the masses.

Most people know that we should believe victims when they tell their stories. But many of those people have trouble believe something they haven’t seen. And now it is easier than ever to see it.

The ripples of this moment are already creating change. Confederate monuments are coming down. The military and NASCAR have banned the Confederate Flag. The calls for military bases named for Confederate Generals are having requests for their names to be changed seriously considered. These are, admittedly, tokens. But chipping away at these tokens is one way to get to and expose the more deep seated parts.

Black lives matter. Black lives matter because all lives matter and right now black lives are being ended for things that don’t end other lives. The inequalities are obvious and now they are getting exposure, undeniable exposure. Black lives matter.

The second lesson is science. We’ve … and by “we” I mean the United States as a whole … been travelling down a road for a while now of science denial in pursuit of profit. When it comes to the environment, the government regulates at a slow pace and only after an unacceptable amount of blood has been spilled to make the cost of protection worth the cost to profits. Or at least worth it to enough people to pass those regulations. And for things like climate change, the effects and causes are separate enough that people have trouble understanding how (A) leads to (B) let alone how (A) leads to (Z). And where you can pull the water from a polluted river and show that it has poison in it from the runoff at a facility and convince them to stop poisoning the water, it is harder to point to the exhaust from a facility in the US and show how it’s melting the snow from a mountain in Asia.

But then you get something like COVID-19. And the scientists tell you that we need to do A, B, and C or else X, Y, and Z will happen. And when we don’t do A, B, or C and here we are with over 100,000 dead, and some people are saying we HAVE to reopen the economy to make money, even if it means more dead people sacrificed to capitalism.

I would hope that the new hot spots and rising infection rates would convince people that the science is right and that we should believe science and do better. But I’m not that hopeful. People seem really dead set on denying any science that would be personally inconvenient to them. Kind of like how they ignore a lot of racism since it doesn’t impact them directly.

I haven’t really been out since March. I drove in the car a couple times (to go to places and play Pokemon Go and Wizards Unite), and got gas once. I want to go out, but I keep hearing and reports of all these people not wearing masks and not distancing. I want to go out, but I’m not willing to put my health in the hands of people who don’t believe in science.

It will get better. It has to. The status quo and the downward trend, neither are sustainable. But I have to constantly remind myself that there is no bottom. People are always asking if we’ve hit bottom yet, the point where we can’t go any lower. But there is no bottom. It won’t stop, but it can be stopped. We just have to stop it.