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Bill Dale on Numbers Schmumbers


Subject: Bill Dale on Numbers Schmumbers - "If you're local, you may be sunk"


Bill Dale responds to our being distracted from the important stuff that isn't going to work...

Here's the problem with those questions, the problem with this whole aspect of this thing. Everyone's being insane about it. Everyone's all wrapped up in the button, button, who's got the button, "They're lying, come on, what are the REAL numbers and percentages you liars, liars, liars!!!" game, and wasting their time.

Numbers schmumbers. What do they mean? This is all so stupid I can hardly stand it anymore. Doesn't anyone get it? What good would it do anyone if they had the exact, accurate, totally honest and real, real, real number of "mission critical systems," and what percentage of them were "compliant" or about to explode?

That doesn't tell anyone anything, yet everyone's busting their brains going around and around the bush about it.

Here. Let's just make up a number and a percentage and pretend this is the absolute accurate truth. Let's pretend the Department of Agriculture has 721 mission critical systems and 598 of them are really and truly compliant - tested and working. That's 83% (I think).

Okay. There we go. We know that now, and it's been certified and verified by ITAA and the Pope.

Now what?

What does that tell us about the future?


Here are the questions no one's even close to asking, and that they'll never get an answer to. And this is just the "top" layer.

Which systems are not compliant, what do they do, and what will happen if they're not fixed?

If somebody could get the answers to those questions then somebody might be able to get a clue as to what might be the actual real world impact of whatever systems won't be working.

"Oh. I see. That's the system that tracks set-aside acres and which farmers have credits coming. Okay. That would mean that a farmer participating in the set-aside program is probably going to find that aspect of things screwed up, is that right? So he or she should maybe talk to whoever they have to talk to so they can sort of plan on that, right? Okay. Thanks."

But I guess that'd make too much sense or something. Apparently, it's more important to just about everyone under the y2k sun that, by God, we get the accurate count on those mission critical systems and their overall remediation rates, and that those responsible for feeding us the misinfo. be made to admit it right now!

Or how 'bout this one, seeing's how we DID actually seem to get some kind of numbers that meant something last week. What was it? 9% of the water systems in America are projected to not be working? 30 million people are maybe in thirsty and sewage-laden trouble?

Now. That's better. But tell me. What's wrong with THAT picture?

That's right. It's too big. Are you one of those 30 million? Is your community one of the ones that made the report say that?

Who knows?

Not many.

Why not?

Who knows? (See panic speculation below.)

Is it because "no one knows?" I don't think so. How could those numbers been derived without someone knowing which communities have the soon to be faulty systems?

So there's a report released that says 9 or so percent of the water systems in America won't work and 30,000,000 people may not have water, but nobody seems to notice they neglected to say anything about WHICH 30,000,000 people. I mean. If you lived wherever it is that may not have water 9 months from now, wouldn't you rather know that than how many of your country's or community's mission critical systems are compliant? Obviously, the mission critical systems out at the water plant would be part of the non-compliant percentage, but as long as everyone's all hung up on the numbers only, who's going to find out about a little thing like that?

I'm constantly amazed at the amount of energy that's spent trying to get some kind of fix on the big numbers picture. It wouldn't be so weird if it would mean something concrete when they were arrived at, but unfortunately, it doesn't. (It's like the fortune being spent to try to figure out how old the universe "really" is. Is it 8 billion or 12 billion years old. Let's pretend it turns out to be 11. Okay. Now what? It's always explained away as having something to do with figuring out "where we came from" or something along those lines. I'm pretty sure if anyone ever figures that one out it won't have a lot to do with how old the universe is or isn't. But anyway...)

Another one just like this is the very slick, "Local disruptions only" thing that's been sliding right by all the questions askers lately too. In January that became the "party line." It was there again yesterday in that FCC report. "We are guardedly optimistic about the major communications systems, but we are not nearly as confident about smaller, local companies."

And who knows? It could be true. AT&T, US West, MCI, etc., may indeed be getting there, and there may be a national dial tone. But there could be "local disruptions" in phone service. In a way that's logical, makes sense, could actually be about the way it is. But again: Without knowing WHICH smaller local companies make the FCC say that, what good does that information do anyone?

For example: AT&T could be your long distance provider, but your local carrier is New Tech Communications which is Bob LeBoine and his cousin Earl who decided to get into the phone biz when they broke up AT&T. But while AT&T's been busy spending 86 billion to ferret out faulty packet switchers, fix code, and replace boxes, Bob and Earl have been saving and making money by driving around from lunch to lunch talking about how they think the y2k thing's a buncha hype put out by computer consultants who want to get rich.

So (pretending for a moment that what the FCC is saying is true), you don't have a dial tone or access to AT&T January 1 because Bob and Earl dropped the ball a couple years ago. But you didn't know that because Bob and Earl's lawyer told them what to say when you called to check. And because Earl told the newspaper reporter who called to check the same thing, and he or she didn't know any better, and because you don't get on the Internet and read notes like these, you don't know you're supposed to make a "personal contingency plan" which means getting a cheap phone that doesn't need electricity to work, and calling US West (or some other local carrier), to ask a few questions and maybe switch your service over to them.

So even though "all disturbances" actually did turn out to be "localized," you get stuck without a phone (and maybe a few other things), because you didn't have a clue local meant you because when was the last time anything anyone in Washington said had anything to do with the place *you* live. It's always meant someplace else.

"Several local areas were hit by tornadoes last night."


"The bombing raids were localized and amazingly accurate."


Okay. More than enough out of me for tonight. Except this. I have no idea if "they" know they're doing it or not, but if you wanted to keep people distracted you could hardly find a more effective way of doing it than getting everyone to try to figure out which of all these huge numbers and percentages is "accurate," or "What's going on here, anyway!?" I have no idea if it's conscious or just working out that way. All I know is anytime you write to anyone who could tell you *which* systems might not get fixed and what that might mean - anytime you contact anyone who could tell you *which* water systems or communities are likely to suffer local disturbances - you don't get any replies at all (not even boilerplate).

I suspect it's related to the panic factor. That's a tough issue that has a whole lot to do with that powerful little thing called "Fear of Death." Nothing like having 30 million people trying to call you up to ask about stuff like that. I believe the average citizen is out of the loop, and is mostly going to remain so until whatever's going to get sprung gets sprung (if anything's going to be). At the same time, I'm sure some heavy duty phone conversations and a few personal visits to "the authorities" are happening behind the scenes in those places where those lives are at risk. No doubt some kind of emergency/contingency plans are being made.

But that's a whole 'nother story, and it's way past my supper time.

Until next time, Bill