Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh, Maya: Calendars, Chicken Little, and Getting a Grip

My wife and I met while taking courses in the computer science department of Minnesota State University, Moorhead. We knew about the programming shortcut that became known as the Y2K bug.

We also knew that infrastructure like the North American power grid was run by computers that might or might not, depend on old code that read only the last two digits in the 'year' part of a date.

Optimism and Caution

Our assumption in the last months of 1999 was that most IT (Information Technology) professionals would convince tech-challenged executives that the bug:
  • Was real
  • Could be fixed
  • Had to be fixed
But we also found a sheet of insulation we could use to seal off the basement, and determined that supplies we normally have on hand would be enough to keep the household fed and watered for at least a week.

That's not as impressive as it sounds. We've got a largish water heater, which would act as an emergency reserve; and we often buy food when it's on sale, and make ready-to-heat meals for unexpected situations.

After Y2K

December 31, 1999, gave way to January 1, 2000, I watched television coverage of the New York City Times Square festivities, and life went on. As I recall, a few folks got automated warnings that they had a century's interest due, and most companies fixed their systems' Y2K bug by upgrading their system.

We didn't change plans when Mr. Camping's End Times Bible prophecy went national:
For one thing, we've both seen many of these wannabe prophets come and go. For another, we're Catholic, and know our faith:

Times Square, Desk Calendars, and Cosmic Significance

Coming to the end of a calendar is significant, in its own way.

For example, I'll take down my 2012 calendar and put up one that's got 2013's months and days on its sheets. I also plan to watch folks celebrating in Times Square, via television.

But I don't expect the world to end, just because a calendar has run through one cycle.

That's what's happening today. The Mayan calendar reaches the end of what archeologists call its long cycle. That happened in the autumn of 3114 BC. It's happening today, and will happen again in spring of 7138, summer of 12263, autumn of 17388, and so on: every 5,125 years.

I got curious a few years ago, and found a pretty good set of explanations of how the Mayan calendar works:
Actually, there's a possibility that the Mayan calendar started on August 13, in which case their long cycle rolls over on December 23, 2012. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (November 15, 2009))

Either way, there's no cosmic significance to the Mayan long cycle.

Chicken Little and Getting a Grip

I've heard too many followers of Chicken Little, religious and secular, to take the latest 'we're all gonna die' prediction seriously. The trick is telling the difference between a real threat and the usual fearmongering, and that's another topic.

America's perennial 'Bible prophecies' and their secular equivalents are amusing, in a grim way. Sadly, some folks take them seriously, and I've been over that before. (November 30, 2012)

Folks at NASA focused on children and adolescents. That's appropriate, both as an emotional appeal, and as a serious consideration. However, I think everyone is vulnerable to scare tactics to some extent. What varies is what scares us, and how we listen to our fears:
"2012 Mayan Apocalypse Rumors Have Dark Side, NASA Warns"
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer, via (November 28, 2012)

"NASA scientists took time on Wednesday (Nov. 28) to soothe 2012 doomsday fears, warning against the dark side of Mayan apocalypse rumors - frightened children and suicidal teens who truly fear the world may come to an end Dec. 21...."
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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.