That was the year that will be

Forget all this millennium hype. First we've got to get through 1999. We'll be so obsessed with entering "the 2000s" (or whatever you want to call the next century) that we won't even notice this year passing—until it bites us. And while we fret over looming Y2K madness, we won't even notice if half our computers go loopy on September 9, 1999, because "9999" was old programming shorthand for "end file."

So, get a grip before disaster strikes. Stop looking back at the '90s (that was last week). Forget all those daily-paper retrospectives on 1998 and quizzes on last week's news and look ahead to the Year That Time Forgot (before it even happened)—or, as we prefer to call it, the Year To Come, YTK for short.

The beginning of the end

Now back to Y2K jitters. Will we look back on midnight, January 1, 1999 as the moment the breakdown began? I'll always remember where I was. A few of us decided to try a New Year's version of the Jewish tradition of going for Chinese food on Christmas Eve; we went for midnight Thai grub. When I gave the server a credit card, she asked for a check; the Visa network had suddenly and mysteriously gone down.

We laughed, and I figured it was just a fluke—until I saw this dispatch from University of Pennsylvania computer guru Dave Farber: "I have seen a number of annoyance computer failures over the weekend. Nothing bad, just annoying. For example, Quicken's PC payment system had a major problem. It screwed up the presentation of information but did not affect the actual data. They said it would be fixed by tomorrow. The US weather bureau seemed to have problems with its reports with old warnings being kept on for a long time. Seems 1/1/1999 was a problem."

Any more dispatches from the brink?

Buddy, meet Gus

Speaking of cute whale names, I gave the Sea Shepherds excessive credit (or blame) when I said in a November 19 feature that they were the first to name the resident whales in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Yes, they did christen Buddy and his buddies, who are hanging out there now. But folks at the Whisky Creek Beach Resort in Joyce, east of Neah Bay, used to call a whale that hung out there for five years "Gus." Whisky Creek manager Ron饠Little says Gus disappeared last year. (Since the resident grays appear to be teenage males, Gus had probably bulked up enough to join the breeding sweepstakes out in the wider ocean.) "When the other whales would migrate, he'd have company for a few days," recalls Little. "You could see them rolling around together."

Sorry, Father Paul

I denied Mayor Paul Schell due parental credit in last week's column, referring to him as "childless." He has a grown daughter. Extra credit for politicians who don't make a big show of their families.

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