Why Two Kay?

I have a Y2K story. It’s for real and it caused me a lot of problems. I was able to resolve everything and make 100% sure it would never happen again, but for a while there I was scared.

Assuming my hat as a Project Manager, I was working on this massive schedule utilizing a software package sold by a company I’d rather not endorse. For those in the know, MS Project is terrible at handling project resources, so it’s nearly impossible to develop a cost estimate that’s resource-based, unless you have unlimited people who each work 40 hours a week on the project. However, if you know your task costs beforehand, it’s pretty simple to get a straight task-based cost estimate along with your start/finish relationships, etc. My boss, a decent man to work for but kind of non-appreciative of the stylish and elegant work a creative person can do, wanted to see the numbers in a one-page table with totals in the right place, including who gets how much.

This is very, very difficult to do accurately in MS Project.

Unless you’re good at it (I am and most everyone I work with is – that’s why we’re not in charge…).

The trick is linking the MS Project task sheet to a spreadsheet and then sorting or whatever-ing the tasks ultimately arriving at nice, neat, impressive, that’s-the-bottom-line tables. (I don’t do this for a living any more, yes, it was horrible). The project was multi-year and continued on into the year 2002, starting in 1996. Thus, I needed dollar amounts for each year, sorted by whose department gets how much (I don’t do this for a living any more, yes, it was horrible). Bear with me, you MS Project people, you’ll appreciate this.

The spreadsheet we used and were required to use at the time was Lotus 1-2-3, a fine package indeed. The task at-hand came to me as pretty straight-forward: paste/link the MS Project task sheet into a Lotus spreadsheet. From there, use Lotus’ database table tools to set up query tables that would sort everything by year -by in-house vs. contract, -by in-house and in-house lab, by in-house department, etc. (I don’t do this for a living any more, yes, it was horrible).

With the MS Project task sheet linked to the Lotus spreadsheet, any time I updated the schedule the database tables would automatically change, reflecting the update (turn “auto update” on in Lotus). It took a little bit of tweaking, but I ended up with a dynamite set of project budget reference tables, added some cool formatting to them (I like double lines for borders, etc., but only under the titles, prefer to keep the sides free) and there it is. The ultimate result was the ability to play lots and lots of “what if…” games very quickly.


But how come the grand total in the spreadsheet is less than that in the MS Project task sheet?

Profanity! Arrgh! Aaaieeee! Sonofbitch! Shit!

A bit more tweaking, well, about half a day’s worth (I had a lot of other things to do, mind you) and I’d discovered that Lotus didn’t recognize the year 2000 as 2000 but as 1900. And anything past 1999 was really 1900, 1901, 1902, etc. This was a problem. But my boss didn’t give a rat’s ass about such problems, because, after all, the putz in the next cubicle over didn’t have this problem (I don’t do this for a living any more, yes, it was horrible).

Well, how to work this out? Since I’d sorted by start date (we accrue money at the start – yes, I eventually had the resources sorted by month with accompanying monthly costs, with serious tweaking I got the money costs out of MS Project – I don’t do this for a living any more, yes, it was horrible).

The trick was to simply sort by tasks starting in 1901 and 1902 and let those equal tasks starting in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Naturally, I put a heading of “2001” and “2002” on those tables, my boss didn’t know. The problem was tasks beginning in 2000. Now, I should mention that our fiscal year starts in October, so the “year 2000” begins in October 1999. This was easy since all you had to do was put a query command looking for “(Start Date >= 1 October 1999) OR (Start Date <= 30 September 1900)” This bracketed the start date between October 1, 1999 and September 30, 2000. The tasks starting after 31 December 1999 would be recognized by Lotus as starting in 1900, 1901, 1902, etc. Since anything less than 1 January 1900 didn’t exist to the computer, I didn’t have to bracket between 1899 and 1900 (but I did for those in 2001 and 2002). Worked like a charm (SQL pros: this is nothing special – just like what you do for a living , } B{> – that’s a DLB smiley).

The problem was twofold, but I didn’t necessarily pin down the answer. MS Project certainly did list tasks that started in 2000 and thereafter with “2000,” etc. And of course I was able to set the year starting in October, piece of cake. The datenumbers, however, were for 1900 and so on, however, and therefore Lotus interpreted them as such.

This happened in the spring of 1995, and I had a bit of a laugh as, of course, this wouldn’t have happened had we all Macs instead of these PieCes of shit.

The “happy ending” to this episode was that by 1997, everyone had new computers utilizing MS Everything AND they had to be so-called “Y2K” compliant, which they all are. The Publications Office, however, upgraded to Mac 9300’s, and recently their whole office went G3. (Spawny Gets!)

All this illustrates is that Y2K is/was very, very real for those of us who get stuck with lousy software. I mean, MS Project showed the years as 2000 and on, but what’s up with Lotus? Oh, well, damn trivial it was. All fixed now.

Now, I tend to side with the Dave Barry Party concerning most of the doom and gloom put out by people who will all be wanted after 1 January 2000. That is, “…an elevator doesn’t need to know what year it is…” Neither does your car, nor an airplane, nor life-support equipment, nor an appliance (except a computer), not lots and lots of other stuff. Embedded chips? I don’t believe it. But just to be sure I’m making an inventory of all my neighbors’ storage locations so, after I take them all prisoner, I’ll eat.


But, what about the schmucks, like myself in 1995, to whom the year was tremendously important? Databases, databases, databases. Records. Anything that had a date recorded into a computer had a good chance of turning over to 1900 until it all got fixed a year ago by one of those Y2K companies that just went belly-up.

I wouldn’t worry about bank accounts disappearing, ATMs malfunctioning, payrolls missed, credit cards failing and the like simply because that would be ridiculous (besides, that kind of stuff’s been happening randomly for years!). The buildings where the banks are housed are not going to disappear, neither are your paper records of your transactions (you do keep all your receipts, right?). Banks, insurance corporations and other financial companies are the most anal retentive institutions of all. You think a company’s accountant is anal? What about a company of accountants, for accountants and by accountants? There is no way they’ll not account for every penny when the century ends (which, by the way, is scheduled to happen on 1 January 2001). There’s interest to be made and those who thrive on the usury economy will not allow anything to “disappear.”

The so-called events of “biblical proportion” simply aren’t going to happen. First of all, “biblical proportion” is meaningless to people unless they’ve studied the Bible. In that case, the events described in the past and the future are pretty terrifying, unless you’ve been living right. But, for your information, the “Mark of the Beast” and subsequent stuff happens when people aren’t paying attention to what’s happening in the world. In other words, the exact opposite of how seriously people are taking Y2K. When everyone is happy, look out…

Twentieth century Americans have weathered an awful lot and come out all the better. We’ve won the equivalent of three world wars; the Great Depression ended up making everyone richer than ever before (but not without problems, mind you). The sun doesn’t care what year it is. The Y2K “problem” is nothing compared to the fact that most people’s computers crash a couple of times a day, it’s nothing compared to occasional power failures, it’s nothing compared to waiting two minutes for some stupid little .gif image to download on your web browser, it’s nothing compared to a 404 message, it’s nothing compared to a bicycle having a flat tire, it’s nothing compared to not being able to dial into AOL, it’s nothing. We’ve been through worse and been scared of less.

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