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Y2K



DON'T PANIC! It's over. 

But we began worrying about it sometime around Y1.995K.  The articles below are part of the hysteria, which was great fun at the expense of those who bought about two years worth of coffee.

Millenium Fever
We are human; we are analog
It's the end of the world as we know it
The first millennium baby


©1904 2004 Gerard M. DiLeo, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.



Millennium Fever-- '98.6 and rising

     Every thousand years or so there are great expectations. There are those who predict the end of the world, like they did in 999, and then there are the rest of us who see instead massive changes coming as if we're due. It's called Millennium Fever, and even the double-digit-dated computers are getting a little nervous. It's a time when the dreams of an age are fantasized as within reach.
     As a doctor I couldn't help but notice that someone out there may just have a cure for cancer. The announcement of a substance called Angiostat strangling healthy, growing mouse tumors made a certain stock's price jump from $11 a share to over $80 within two working days. Announcements of human trials have continued the frenzy while separate press releases boasted of groundbreaking work in the fight against breast cancer in women. But before the terminally ill among us head to Mexico to get their hands on the stuff while the clinical trials deny treatment to the majority of law-abiding Americans with tumors, we should all remember the cold fusion fiasco in the field of physics several years ago. Cold fusion promised an endless supply of energy--just as endless for the third world as for the industrialized countries. The difference between cold fusion and Angiostat is that no one could reproduce the results of cold fusion, which made it hard to get a patent on the technique and machinery. But there are many mice that now run their mazes tumor-free. The only hitch is whether this success can jump species to the two-legged, reasoning mammals who can appreciate the monetary value of a good patent.
     Actually, I would have been happy just to see the Berlin Wall come down by 2000, so my Millennium Fever broke way ahead of schedule. The fall of communism, peace talks in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, and global connection into one grid called the Internet--all would have been worthy of the end of this thousand years. So what's left to conquer?
     How about a cure for cancer? I'll take it.
     And a cure for AIDS...and diabetes...and lupus...and Sickle-cell Anemia, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy...and ignorance, poverty, fatherless families, road rage, child abuse, criminal thinking, and domestic violence--there's still a lot we can do in the next two years to make this thousand years a success. Now certainly I don't think it's possible to solve most major problems in the next nineteen months. But when one considers that the total knowledge of mankind has doubled every ten years during the second half of the twentieth century, and may double every few months in the year and a half to follow, thanks to knowledge being exchanged via megahertz and network nodes, it really is possible that incredible announcements may become as frequent as each miraculous shuttle launch.
     There is a formula, predicted and then proven over the last fifteen years, that the power of computers will double every eighteen months while the prices will halve. Everything is falling together to conspire in our favor. We're getting used to not only fast but accelerating progress. Toffler, the author of a book called "Future Shock," wherein he predicted the failings of the masses in adjusting to rapid change, was wrong. We seem quite comfortable accepting milestones, underscored by the news article on Angiostat appearing on page eight of my local newspaper.
     Out in the real world life goes on. So at this time it's appropriate to congratulate my partner, Dr. April Sanchez, and her husband on the birth of their second son a few weeks ago. At the time of her delivery she had me draw a collection of umbilical cord blood for frozen storage should anyone in their family need treatment for leukemia or other blood malignancies. Cord blood storage is just another miracle that slipped in before the end of the century. Rare and sensational in 1998, we plan to offer this routinely in our practice, as will all other obstetrical practices.
     Of course, a cure for cancer may put the medical cold-storage facilities out of business.
     Theologians and historians have now concluded that there was an error in the exact calculation of when Christ was born. Scholars now accept that He may have been born sometime around 3- 7 B.C. So for those doomsayers who are looking for the end of the world at the end of this millennium, we actually passed it a couple of years ago.
     Sorry.
     But the expectations of Millennium Fever will continue unabated. If the assassination of Kennedy in 1963 was the end of the age of innocence for our country, then the cure for cancer will be, should it pan out, the end of our merely bumbling our way through life toward our destiny as a race.
©Copyright Y1.998K Gerard M. DiLeo, M.D.
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We are human; we are analog


    What’s unusual about this millennium frenzy versus the last one is that there’s a lot more going on from a technological standpoint.  Except for changes in the politics, there really wasn’t much difference between the year 1 and the year 1000.  But the year 2000 sees a different planet altogether.  There’s modern medicine with third and fourth generation antibiotics; jet travel wherein it’s possible to eat breakfast at the same time all over the world in one day; information everywhere, for free, via the Internet, and all media going digital.  At the same time, we’re seeking HAL 9000 by trying to make our machines able to think instead of just being pack-rats for our data.
    Remember turntables?  You put a record on it and a diamond needle cruises around its in-spiraling tracts, vibrating electrical impulses according to the waves in the grooves of the record. This was called Analog.  Now, compact discs have pits burned into them that a laser can scan, which sends discrete stop-and-go values to a computer to translate it into sound.  This is Digital, and with are gone the pops, clicks, surface noise, and skips that haunted vinyl records.
    But some say gone is the warmth.
    They say that for some inexplicable reason the digital music CDs, although having better fidelity, seem to be sterile.  Some even go so far as to spurn the new technology and insist on the old analog technology of records.  Are these people taking music much too seriously?  Are they only imagining the difference?  After all, the human ear can only hear only as high as about 18,000 cycles (or waves) per second, but the digital CDs go as high as 44,000 cycles (not waves, but values) per second. 
    We hear with waves.  Our ear drums wave back and forth when sound waves strike them.  We see in waves, too, all of the visible light coming to us in so many waves per second.  We live life through our hormonal cycles in waves, hormones peaking and dipping and peaking again.  We even say hello and goodbye with a wave.
    We are analog creatures.  We are built to receive and give out waves, from our vocal cords to the way we run.  We think and dream and scheme in waves.  Our brains are analog.  On the other hand, computers are digital, and the goal of creating a HAL 9000, if we hope to have real thinking coming out of a computer, involves a little bit of human analog processing.  Computer scientists are developing what they call “fuzzy logic” for computers.  In this method, instead of a stream of 0's and 1's, the computer takes a situation and goes back and forth from data value to another, narrowing in on the best answer.  Even though it’s still digital, the back and forth method of fuzzy logic smells a little wavy to me.  It is the great irony of our age that we as analog creatures seek improvement via the digital route, yet we strive to create the next computer age out of the analog philosophy of fuzzy logic.
    As I type this on my computer, it’s hard not to laugh at the irony of computers going analog while we’re going digital.  This startling crossover is the climax of the millennium. For those who fear the end of the world, the real end of the world is the jump we make to another as we connect up all of our digital computers and try to relate to each other at 44,000 cycles per second instead of at the lower audible range. Unless, of course, it’s my own logic that’s getting a little fuzzy.

© Y1.999K Gerard M. DiLeo, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.
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It's the end of the world as we know it 


     The closer we get to January 31, 1999, the more sensational will be the hype and the dire predictions, as well as the computer entrepreneurial Chicken Littles.  What's unusual about this millennium is that there's a lot more going on from a technological standpoint.  Let's face it, except for changes in the politics, there really wasn't much difference between the year 1 and the year 1000.  But the year 2000 sees a different planet altogether.  There's modern medicine with third and fourth generation antibiotics and laparoscopic microsurgery; jet travel wherein it's possible to eat breakfast at the same time all over the world in one day; information everywhere, for free, via the Internet, and all media going digital.  At the same time, we're seeking HAL 9000 by trying to make our machines able to think instead of just being pack-rats for our data.
      Remember turntables?  You put a record on it and a diamond needle cruises around its in-spiraling tracts, vibrating electrical impulses according to the waves in the grooves of the record. This was called Analog.  Now, compact discs have pits burned into them that a laser can scan, which sends discrete stop-and-go values to a computer to translate it into sound.  This is Digital, and with are gone the pops, clicks, surface noise, and skips that haunted vinyl records.
      But some say gone is the warmth.
      They say that for some inexplicable reason the digital music CDs, although having better fidelity, seem to be sterile.  Some even go so far as to spurn the new technology and insist on the old analog technology of records.  Are these people taking music much too seriously?  Are they only imagining the difference?  After all, the human ear can  hear only as high as about 18,000 cycles (or waves) per second, but the digital CDs go as high as 44,000 cycles (not waves, but values) per second.
     We hear with waves.  Our ear drums wave back and forth when sound waves strike them.  We see in waves, too, all of the visible light coming to us in so many waves per second.  We live life through our hormonal cycles in waves, hormones peaking and dipping and peaking again.  We even say hello and goodbye with a wave.
 We are analog creatures.
    We are built to receive and give out waves, from our vocal cords to the way we run.  We think and dream and scheme in waves.  Our brains are analog.
    On the other hand, computers are digital, and the goal of creating a HAL 9000, if we hope to have real thinking coming out of a computer, involves a little bit of human analog processing.  Computer scientists are developing what they call "fuzzy logic" for computers.  In this method, instead of a stream of 0's and 1's, the computer takes a situation and goes back and forth from data value to another, narrowing in on the best answer.  Even though it's still digital, the back and forth method of fuzzy logic smells a little wavy to me.  It is the great irony of our age that we as analog creatures seek improvement via the digital route, yet we strive to create the next computer age out of the analog philosophy of fuzzy logic.
     And along comes the year 2000 and with it "Y2K."   Y2K is an abbreviation for Year 2000.  It is a computer concern in that the computing techniques etched in cement in the 80's only allowed two numbers for the year that is assigned to data, as if 2000 would never, never come.  Now that we want to party like it's 1999, because it really is 1999, the fun is ruined by the harrowing predictions of the end of the computer world that will have planes crashing, elevators dropping, economies collapsing, and computers paying you your paycheck at 1900 prices.
     Fear not:  Capitalism always wins.
    There's just too much money to be lost by not fixing the problem.  Although I don't think I want to be on an elevator when the ball hits at the stroke of midnight, still I'm not going to make a run on my bank.  I've got a feeling it's going to be business as usual the next day.  What's the alternative?  Move to a country that doesn't rely on computers?  Would you really want to live in a place like that?  You might do just as well staying here where the computers all think it's 1900.  As far as I'm personally concerned this won't be a problem for me until the year 2051, since I was born in 1951.
     Unless of course it's really the end of the whole world, not just the computers.  Religious fervor is being distorted a little by numerology, which is a pagan science if ever there was one.  Let me be bold by saying that I think we actually missed the millennium.  Now that historians are fairly sure Christ was born a few years before what we originally thought, born before that year that was designated "0," that would mean we're actually anywhere from 2003 to 2008.
    Oops.
    Of course the Chinese, several thousands of years ahead of us in the counting, won't sweat out next New Year's Eve.  They'll just enjoy their Year of the Hare.
     And even if it is the Rapture, isn't that supposed to be a good thing?  The faithful can't lose.
     Human beings are a superstitious lot.  Two-dollar bills never could get into legitimate circulation.  The number 13 has it's own mystique.  The Seven Seals, 666, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse--the wrath of analog values are said to be preparing for their wrath on the digital age.  Society is not unlike a watch mainspring, being wound tighter and tighter with competition for knowledge, productivity, and lower bottom lines.  Perhaps a source of our social ills is that there's more subliminal stress in our lives from listening to Beethoven or Cowboy Mouth with digital information going into our analog brains instead of the friendly waves our species grew up with. Progress promises us short-term advances but long-term surprises.  Those record-buying purists claim to hear a difference.  Or maybe it's just that those who take music so seriously as to try to notice a difference have enough time to actually stop and smell the waves.
     As I type this on my computer, it's hard not to laugh at the irony of computers going analog while we're going digital.  This startling crossover is the climax of the millennium. The real end of the world is the jump we make to another as we connect up all of our digital computers and try to relate to each other at 44,000 cycles per second instead of the lower audible range.
     On New Year's Eve, I plan on being in St. Mark's Square in Venice with my family.  We'll see if the reservations to get home fall victim to the one Apocalypse or the other.  If it really is the end of the world, I had my last meal in Italy, which would be my first choice for a last meal.  On the other hand, if it's just the computers crashing, then my family and I are stuck in Italy eating great. And if I think that it's alright either way, I'm willing to defend this little bit of fuzzy logic.

© Y1.999K Gerard M. DiLeo, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.
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Mr. Y2K says, “Gentlemen, start your engines.”


    The race is on. 
    What would it be like to have the first baby of the new Millennium?  Believe it or not, many couples are speculating on how to orchestrate events such their baby can be the first Y2K stork-drop.  Think of the marketing possibilities, the magazine covers, the eccentric endowments.  Yes, the first baby of the new millennium will be special indeed.  Who will it be?
    Probably someone in Western Samoa, just a few degrees longitude from the International Date Line. 
    For Americans, the first baby of the next thousand years will be over an hour old before expectant mothers in Hawaii or in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands toss their hats in the ring.  But for the adventurous--those who seek out the solar eclipses or who long to venture out into the eyes of hurricanes, this could be the biggest maternal thrill left in the twentieth century--actually, the first of the 21st century. 
    Here’s Mr. Y2K to explain how:
    To deliver January 1, 2000, conception should take place at or just before April 9.  The most fertile time is from six days before ovulation until the day of ovulation.  So come April 3, you should engage in intercourse daily.  But wait, it’s not a given that ovulation will occur on April 9, is it?  To assure this, the entire menstrual cycle must be manipulated such that this timing is successful.  To do this, Mr. Y2K recommends you take clomiphene, an ovulation inducer, from the 4th to the 8th day after your period begins.  You guessed it--further manipulation is necessary to assure the beginning of a period on March 28 (just three weeks away).  Again, Mr. Y2K has the answer.  Beginning on March 11, you should begin ten days of progesterone, the hormone that is prominent in the second half of the cycle.  And since March 11 is so soon, Mr. Y2K also recommends that you add a little estrogen so that the lining of the womb can build up enough to actually slough as a period.  After ten days of all of this priming, abrupt withdrawal of these hormones should result in the accurately timed period.  And as above, take the clomiphene as directed, check into the Windsor Court for six nights from April 3 to the morning of April 10.  About two weeks later, get the good news from a pregnancy test and call your travel agent, because you are going on a long trip.
    To Western Samoa.
    Western Samoa in the Pacific is a small island nation with a couple hundred thousand people.  The capital is Apia, where you’ll check into the hospital.  English is spoken there, so there won’t be much of a communication problem.  But Mr. Y2K recommends you bring your own obstetrician, which will contribute sizably to your bill--unless you’re in an HMO of course.  The reason you don’t want to trust the local doctors there is that you have no guarantee you’ll find any cooperation in this scheme, especially with the sensitivity over c-section rates nowadays.  Vaginal delivery is out, since delivery can’t be timed in so tidy a way.
    An experienced obstetrician should be able to deliver a baby by cesarean section within about four minutes of making the incision, so surgery should begin about 11:56 PM.
    And then the magic time arrives.  But there’s something wrong.  Your doctor, you (assuming you have an epidural), and your husband are the only ones shouting in celebration.  What’s the deal?  Surely the first Millennium baby would be a big deal even in Samoa.
    That’s when you’re informed that you delivered on the wrong side of the International Date Line.  Going East across the date line becomes the previous day.  New Zealand was the place to have your baby.  Tomorrow.
    Oops.
    Oh well.  Of all the wonders of the thousand years just ending and of all the wonders yet to come in the next thousand years, there is still nothing so special and full of wonder as having a baby. You look at your beautiful baby on December 31 in Apia, Western Samoa, and if  he or she is healthy, then suddenly all else pales in comparison, including the fact that you can’t get home for a few days because the airport computers will crash.
    (An added note: the official millennium doesn’t actually begin until the next year.  So there’s still a shot.)
   
© Y1.999K Gerard M. DiLeo, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.
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