Thoughts on Infomagic's March timeframe? : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

In Infomagic's "Locktime" article, published early to mid-January, 2000, he spoke of waiting until March before we could even begin to understand the impact of Y2K on the economy. Other than capacity problems in the petroleum mining and refining business, I've not seen substantial evidence of cascading failures or the domino effect. Have we had enough month-ends and run time with embedded system to be able to assess Infomagic's position?

-- D. Howard Rusling (, March 11, 2000


Why, we've seen plenty. Y2K has already been suspected of causing most plane crashes, some shootings, all manner of manufacturing snafus (which have been successfully covered up so far), the loss of 50% of the power in an anonymous country, and the stock market crash. Does it really matter *who* "suspects" this?

The lack of any documented evidence for any of this (OR for the y2k oil problems) should make it obvious to you that TPTB have been working overtime on y2k. And if you still have any doubts, just ask noted authorities Paula Gordon or Ed Yourdon. But fair warning -- these people won't divulge more than innuendo for free.

-- Flint (, March 11, 2000.

Got to say this looks on target with state mainframe ops.There's vested interest in keeping this sort of thing very quiet, very few government employees utilize IT to document IT "glitch" events and e- archives are usually sequestered.

With the Supreme Court's decision to allow deletion of electronic records it's going to be very difficult to establish occurrence much less event origin- especially since the general population is not in contact with government IT on a regular basis. That's one very good reason for maintaining open forums and free information flow.

-- another government hack (, March 11, 2000.

In other words, Flint is saying there have been no substantial y2k problems, the current oil crisis has nothing to do with y2k, and the coming recession/market crash has nothing to due with those non-y2k induced higher energy costs.

All those government agencies were as dumb as Bruce Beach in their preps. And that $ trillion spent by IT of the world was a hoax by the consultants.


-- (@ .), March 11, 2000.

Still waiting for the repost of "Flint's Take" BTW...

-- (@ .), March 11, 2000.

Infomagic turned to writing fear-mongering essays right after he lost his job teaching part-time at the local junior college. He continued to post this brand of fiction after his latest novel was rejected by thirty-nine publishers in order to keep his sanity. By day, he was a frustrated "help guy" at the local Comp USA, no respect, sub-standard pay. By night, he was Infomagic, not to mention a host of other AKAs, which will become know when the TB 2000 classic archives are compared with DeBonkers.

After losing his job at Comp USA in late January, Infomagic left the area. Rumor has it that he's now working at a McDonald's in Pittsburgh by day and hacking into CMU computers (specfically, the Lucent Tech project) by night.

Then again, I might be making all of this up. MGVN

-- (, March 11, 2000.

I guess I need to be more rigorous.

First, skyrocketing energy prices, for *whatever* reason, have wide- ranging effects, both direct and indirect. Surely if they get too high too quickly, and stay that way too long, it will have an effect similar to the FED raising interest rates a whole bunch rapidly. It could crash the market.

In one sense, the question of WHY energy prices are rising is moot. It's the effect of the rise, not the cause of the rise, that's of future (and to some degree present) concern.

But in another sense, this is an important question, since you need to know the cause if you intend to DO anything about it. By all indications I've seen, the *primary* reason for price rises is political -- this is an OPEC decision.

But let's say for the sake of argument that malfunctioning equipment is a key reason, whether admitted or not. And it's sure as hell NOT admitted, since nobody has yet come up with a SINGLE device suffering a documented y2k problem. Unfortunately, this leaves us where we were with respect to *everything* before rollover -- we assumed it would all fail because we could not PROVE it would not, and we weren't willing to even *begin* to trust those who *could* prove it would not.

So we must start by assuming y2k problems without evidence. Then we must assume these problems are leading to an extremely abnormal number of breakdowns, the "evidence" for which is mostly wishful thinking. Then we are assuming that that these assumed breakdowns cannot be fixed or worked around within any reasonable time. Then we assume that we don't KNOW any of this because it's being covered up, so it must be true. Hey, didn't we go through this before? Haven't we learned a damn thing?

So quit dreaming up unsupported ways to get unrelated circumstances to fit foregone conclusions. It must be in the interest of oil exporters to get the stuff repaired if it's broken. Anyone working on it? Who?

-- Flint (, March 11, 2000.

Yeah, my 105 year grandmother being forced to sit in kindergarten classes is just a bump-in-the-road.

-- ,-, (comma@dash.comma), March 11, 2000.

For those so quick to dismiss y2k, out of hand, answer these questions:

WHY is our oil inventory running 14% under this time last year? (O.K. O.K., on this one the "conventional wisdom" answer is a resounding: OPEC.)

BUT. . .seeing as how I think all will agree that OPEC has absolutely NOTHING to do with the following, WHY these energy shorfalls:

Natural gas inventories: down 27%

Propane inventories: down 48%

Nuke Power: 40% more reactors off-line than at this time last year.

Coal: down 20%.

Operating oil and gas rigs in the U.S.: 35 fewer than 2 weeks ago, a 4.5% decrease.

WHY this startling set of coincidences? If not y2k, there must be some common thread, somewhere. Certainly, it's NOT OPEC.

Anybody have an alternative, reasonable explanation?

-- Wellesley the Wiser (, March 11, 2000.


There are at least two additional questions you need to be asking here:

1) If these are y2k problems, why has y2k been so amazingly selective about energy? The processes involved, while various, are not particularly specialized to energy in most respects. Why are NO other sectors, many of them even more computerized and automated than energy, and using essentially similar equipment, not experiencing similar problems?

2) If these are y2k problems, why has nobody been able to document a bonafide date handling error in any device or system used by any of these elements of the energy industry? Not a single one (itself a surprise).

[This is humor, OK] Does the energy industry deliberately recruit stupid engineers and programmers, or does working in that industry make them stupid? WHY are all the dummies in energy?

-- Flint (, March 12, 2000.

Flint, it must be because all the smart ones are playing with statistics.

-- Bob Brock (, March 12, 2000.

Yep, here I sit, cold brewski in one hand, typing on my puter with the other, illuminated by electric lights, had a fine meal at a local Mexican restaurant this evening, and I find myself thinking that Infomagic was right; devolutionary spiral in full effect.

-- Uncle Deedah (, March 12, 2000.


Can you please provide some links that back up your statistics? For example, I posted a link in another message here about the number of operating rigs this year compared to last. There are HUNDREDS of more rigs operating this year, exactly what you'd expect with rising prices. Even if the number of rigs is less on a one week basis, this is a very poor comparision to use for Y2K problems.

I'm totally baffled by this fascination with Infomagic. Here we have an poster that, as far as I know, has no expertise in any of the fields he writes about. He was absolutley, totally wrong about all his predictions regarding the calamities that would take place at rollover. When the rollover faded on him, he said wait until everyone goes back to work. When that prediction went belly-up, he now wants to wait until the end of March. When nothing happens then, it'll be the planetary alignment thing in May, I suppose.

-- Jim Cooke (, March 12, 2000.


You are right. The high point for rigs operating in the U.S. was hit in 1981--4,500. The low point was hit April 9 of last year--498. Since that time there has been a big increase in the number of operating rigs, chasing the price of oil, up to 768 active rigs now. Source is Baker, Hughes, Inc., Houston, who have been reporting the number of operating rigs in the U.S. weekly since 1944. The downward trend is VERY RECENT. In the past 2 weeks, at a time when the number of rigs should STILL be increasing, chasing the price of oil ever-upward, the numbers have, instead, started to drop--down 4.5% in the past two weeks.

My sources for Natural Gas down 27% is the AGA, for the 48% dip in propane, OPIS, for the 40% increase in off-line Nukes, Reuters, and for the coal decline, an AP wire report.

Add to this, another chunk of REAl BAD NEWS: As you may know, Canada is a major natural gas supplier to the Northern U.S. states. Well, they now have but 31% of their capacity filled in storage--A WHOPPING 43% DECREASE from a year ago. This, according to a news release from the Canadian Gas Association issued last Thursday.

So, while the rest of your are arguing about y2k--is it yet real, or still a hoax?--I will add to my stock of 6 battery-operated fans. I expect a LONG, HOT SUMMER.

-- wellesley the wiser (, March 12, 2000.

I'm not sure where Reuters got their nuclear figures. I checked outages for 2/25 on NRC's board and the number of plants down for maintenance/refueling is actually lower this year.

-- John (, March 12, 2000.

Jim, in essence you have touched on the crux of all that we speak to on this forum. Y2K is just the one bad thing until the next bad thing is identified. You see, Armageddon will not be denied in the eyes of many, it will certainly arrive soon. The only questions left to answer are when and in what form? While we are waiting there must be some business opportunities here for the quick of mind.

-- Ra (tion@l.1), March 12, 2000.

Wasn't it about 2 weeks ago that OPEC said they were considering opening up the spigots more, TBD at their March meeting? We know that's when April oil futures suddenly dropped about $2.

-- Flint (, March 12, 2000.

Forget it, Flint... you cannot use reason or logical thinking on those who see Y2K problems in the fall of every sparrow. The infomagic scenario had us fighting off roving bands of maruaders right about now. Paying a bit more at the pump hardly consitutes the end of the world... at least as I know it.

If one asserts Y2K problems are causing a shortage of oil, one simply need provide the data to support this hypothesis. The increase in price itself does NOT prove there were any Y2K problems. In fact, there are many more plausible reasons for increased energy prices.

But wait, I'll let the few remaining Y2K pessimists make their argument first....

-- Ken Decker (, March 12, 2000.


You asked "1) If these are y2k problems, why has y2k been so amazingly selective about energy? The processes involved, while various, are not particularly specialized to energy in most respects. Why are NO other sectors, many of them even more computerized and automated than energy, and using essentially similar equipment, not experiencing similar problems? "

Can you identify a different industry that is as visible as oil, gas, propane and nuclear that would also loose capacity if (and I mean IF) Y2K problems were hitting them in a similar way? Energy seems to have various organizations watching it. This gives us a way to gauge it's performance. I guess we need to know what other industry uses similar equipment and where do we go for production and inventory data for it.

Watch six and keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), March 12, 2000.


Look at the various manufacturing sectors. Would we notice if the automakers couldn't produce cars? By now, probably so. I work in manufacturing, and we haven't noticed any unexpected shortages of parts -- tens of thousands of different ones, any of which would shut down a line if missing. No lines have even slowed down.

Process problems in the chemical industry would also have ripple effects pretty quickly. But none have been reported. Transportation? Zip.

Also, I think oil is visible only because the rising prices have made it so. If oil was fine but car dealers were screaming for inventory, I think we'd somehow find cars to be very visible. Look back at recent history, and we find media focus on any problem area, no matter what or why.

The whole point is that y2k problems were supposed to be systemic by nature, not specialized and certainly not delayed.

-- Flint (, March 12, 2000.


Some denizens of this board have been pointing to OPIS reports as evidence that an increase in failures in oil have been occuring since the begining of the year. You suggest I look at he various manufacturing sectors. Part of my observation was "how?".

I understand the tendency for some people to see what they want to see in events. Especially if it involves hotly contested points of veiw. Not that would ever happen on a board like this, of course! ;-) I consider that a possibility as well.

I have seen a few Y2K software errors. Allstate for instance, as I described about three weeks and two message baords ago. I have seen a rise in the number of burst water mains locally. Three in two weeks. But when it comes to manufacturing, I have few tools to detect a slow down. What I was hoping for was an industry that used the same sort of equipment as oil that is also watched by industry outsiders.

Which, now that I think about it, is asking for quite a bit.

But I can hope. Any suggestions?

Watch six and keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), March 12, 2000.

Might I suggest that a key industry to watch--that is probably representative of what's going on behind closed doors in umpteen-zillion other companies and industries across the world--is railroads.

Since 1967 there have been 11 derailments per year, on average, or, roughly one every 33 days. Derailments are a good measuring stick. They involves switches and signals, which, in turn, involve computers. And, their failures are highly visible, not subject to the cover-up which is most likely going on in many industries. When a train runs off a track, people notice.

Now get this: so far this year, there have ALREADY been 11 derailments in the U.S. So, as you can see the current average of 1 derailment every 7 days is CONSIDERABLY higher than the 33-year average of 1 per each 33 days. This is a PHENOMENAL increase of some 400%.

Tell you anything? It speaks volumes to me.

-- Wellesley the wiser (, March 12, 2000.

Perhaps you might recommend an other industry that is as dependent on the same type of flow control technology??

Water perhaps??

You have already talked about gas (nat and pro).

What other industry has the same reliance on flow technology??

Perhaps the failures are in the flow control architecture, which you WILL admit is QUITE different from Manufacturing Control Architecture.


PS your communications systems might be considered here but you would have to look closely at the architecture.


-- Joss Metadi (warhammer@Pride.of.Mandeyne), March 13, 2000.

What oil shortage? We have high prices but no gas lines. 1974 was a shortage. This is OPEC economics 101.

-- Chief (, March 13, 2000.


Where do you get such figures about derailments? Here's the actual data from

09 Derailments 1995 1,742 1995 1,816 1997 1,741 1998 1,757

Not 11!! If you've only found 11 we have are having a fabulously good year for derailments. In addition, most derailments occur at points removed from any switch or signal.

If you want to worry, at least do some research. And post links to your data if you expect anyone to believe you.

-- Jim Cooke (, March 13, 2000.

My derailment figures are for REPORTED ACCIDENTS, out on the lines, where damage is incurred, not every silly little railroad yard goof that happens every day when the RR people are putting cars together at 2 miles an hour.

Also, I must correct you, Jim, on WHERE derailments occur. If you knew anything at all about the operations of the rails you would be fully aware that these can occur ANYWHERE--often far away from a signal or switch. (Although, often a siding is involved.)

As to my research, it is THOROUGH. I do it primarily for my own enlightenment. This is entirely an avocation to me. Thus, I couldn't care less whether anyone believes me or not.

-- wellesley the wiser (, March 13, 2000.

Interestingly, all of the arguments here are statistical, and suspiciously selective at that. So Wellesley decides to select only those derailments he believes have actually gone up, and ignore all those that have not. He doesn't even attempt any causal explanation of why certain *types* of derailments (undocumented) might have changed pattern.

As I tried to say earlier, breakdowns normally follow stochastic patterns -- if your focus is fine enough (i.e. derailments only at higher speeds, only out on the line, only at or near switches), you always find that these happen in bunches because that's what a random distribution generates. So all you need to do is find these statistical bunches, of *anything*, and claim they're due to something *other* than a normal, statistical stochastic pattern.

This is like flipping an honest coin a thousand times. Heads and tails don't happen alternately, and you will find times when either side came up 5 or 6 times in a row. This is completely predictable. Selecting out those times alone, out of context, and arguing that there is some *external* factor (like a 2-headed coin) causing them, is a statistical error almost always used by the dishonest to claim something is there that is not.

Meanwhile, nobody can find any systems or devices with any known, documented date bugs. None. You would expect there to be at least one or two out there somewhere. Unusual distributional patterns, if they are indeed unusual, can suggest clues, guiding you to where to LOOK for actual bugs. Why haven't all these "clues" helped anyone FIND such a bug?

-- Flint (, March 13, 2000.


Thanks for the examples of statistical anomolies. Keep 'em coming as they are instructive and useful.

As far as finding a defective part based on a slew of failures let me ask you a question. How would you, or any of us, know if they did?

Watch six and keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), March 13, 2000.


Of course we would need the appropriate information. Say you get a recall notice on your car, that a certain part has been redesigned and needs to be replaced. These notices happen because there has been an abnormal failure rate of such parts -- even though yours hasn't failed. And your car dealer's perspective may be too small for HIM to have detected this pattern either.

I doubt such information is available to us. Certainly my employer doesn't advertise it when some parts turn out to have, say, lifespans shorter than spec.

But what I'm trying to point out is post hoc ergo prompter hoc argument. We *start* by assuming anything unusual is due to y2k problems. Then we look for something unusual, which we can always find. Then we blame it on y2k problems to fit our assumption. In the case of oil, it's far from clear that breakdowns even *have* been happening at an unusual rate, much less what the reasons might be.

The interplay between Cooke and Wellesley has been played out numerous times. We can find reports of only a tiny percentage of incidents, because only a very tiny percentage is actually reported. This situation is extremely sensitive to reporting frequency. If only one incident in 1000 is reported, and heightened awareness leads to, say, 3 in 1000 being reported, then the *impression* is that incidents have tripled, when in fact they haven't changed.

To use statistics to find problems, those statistics must be either complete, or if they are a sample that sample must be random. The numbers Wellesley is using don't come anywhere close to meeting either requirement. So he might be correct in his assertions about causes, but his numbers are not adequate to suggest this one way or the other, making them useless except as window dressing around a guess.

-- Flint (, March 13, 2000.


So you see the problem. In order to detect any change we need to have a source of data that is complete from before testing and CDC that runs to present date.

I agree that any of us doomers who start to look for Y2K problems in the news will suddenly start to find them. But likly it's only because we didn't pay attention to aircraft problems before hand. And we would be inclined to think "Was it Y2K?". Human nature, I guess.

This is why my quest is for complete data that spans pre-Y2K testing and runs to the present. The closest thing I have seen is the OPIS alerts. I don't know much about who compiles them or how. Looking in to this is on my "to do" list. (Right after "[1] Find "To do" list. ;-) )

In any case, that describes the sort of standard that I hold any information I come across to. And I try to keep an open mind. (Goes with the eyes, you see.)

Any suggestions, now or in the future, would be appreciated.

Watch six and keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), March 13, 2000.


Yes, indeed, this type of thing has played out a lot during Y2K. I find it instructive when someone posts any type of statistics if they also have links to the numbers. At least that gives one the opportunity to evaluate both the source and sample size. Simply posting numbers without a source inevitably leads to the types of definition problems so apparent in this thread.

Returning to the issue, an industry that should reflect oil in many ways are utilities, especially natural gas. Both use many of the same systems and we should be seeing supply problems in utilities if there were non-fixable Y2K problems. To my knowledge, there have been no electric or natural gas supply problems.

-- Jim Cooke (, March 13, 2000.


Fine. Show me the source of your 11 derailments and the comparison to last year. I've showed you what the Federal Railroad Administration says (which, by the way, does not include any derailments that occured within yard limits) so show me your authority. You say you don't care if anyone believes you but I assume you must since you've taken the trouble to post.

-- Jim Cooke (, March 13, 2000.


I doubt any such data source is available to us, if indeed it exists anywhere. Generally, statistical means aren't how we find most problems. We find most problems because they announce themselves by happening. Things break, and we fix them and try to understand why they broke. Statistics may help us find problems like substandard materials or workmanship. But they're not necessary for y2k problems, I don't think. Usually date bugs cause a very clear and evident failure mode.

But in general, stories we read of problems don't detail the failure mode except in spectacular cases (several deaths, for example). I should expect y2k bugs to be different, since we're still kind of sensitive to them, so they'd be mentioned. They haven't been, but that's no guarantee that they haven't contributed to any problems.

Besides (it always comes back to this), the OPEC decision to throttle back production is known, adequate, and sufficient to explain what we're seeing.

-- Flint (, March 13, 2000.


I agree that the OPEC announced policies could explain price increases. I don't think they could explain a rise in refinery outages or failures. So the questions remain, is the amount of refinery outages listed by OPIS unusual? Is OPIS data complete and reliable? My homework assignment seems clear, eh?

Watch six and keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), March 13, 2000.


I'd pay careful attention to the *reason* for an outage. Last time we went through this exercise, normal scheduled maintenance was ignored until very recently, after which it was the single largest cause of downtime. And what an *amazing* increase in downtime we saw!

Prior to 1999, the oil industry (according to the incidents collected) was fantastically robust and safe. They averaged one outage of 15 minutes or more every 750 refinery-years, and never needed to maintain anything. Yet even the current year's outage rate (phenomenally high as it was) was significantly less than the normal rate according to the industry itself. Bottom line -- the numbers just aren't there to do useful statistical analysis.

But that's OK, all we need is a couple case studies of major outages tracing the problem to a date bug. Good luck.

-- Flint (, March 13, 2000.

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