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NMS: New Millenium Syndrome

© 1999 "Fred" Charters

Washington Apple Pi Journal, July/August 1999, p. 13, reprint information

Helloooo-oooo! Is anybody in there? Apparently not. I have a few choice words to say about the confusion concerning the new millennium. Not all of my choice words are nice. I suppose I'll have to be a bit "choicier."

I thought this was just an isolated confusion, in people who didn't quite qualify for that high school diploma. I was proven wrong. At my mother's graduation, (she's a Doctor now, you see) the Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Maryland gave a heart-wrenching commencement speech, intended to make you swell with pride, to the point of exploding bits of self-importance all over the person next to you. You can tell by my run-on-one-sentence-review that I was...underwhelmed.

The Dean then went on to endear herself to the audience by telling us to look around and remember the faces in the auditorium. (Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.) She said, to the best of my recollection, "These are the faces of the Doctors who will lead us into the new millennium next year."


Get with it, people! Count to ten on your fingers. Don't screw up! It's very important.

Now, count to eleven on your fingers. Be careful! This is where people get confused.

Hopefully, if you did it right, you should have gone through each hand once, plus a thumb or something on either your left or right hand. (I don't care which one.) Don't you see? 2000 is the last year of this millennium; 2001 is the first year of the next millennium. What is so hard about this?!?!?

Obviously, a lot. Not only is it the general population that's lost, it's also the "higher thinkers" who you pay to cut you open and rearrange your organs. (Granted, my mom's class are Doctors of Philosophy, not surgeons. But think about it: doesn't that make it worse?)

I was suffering in silent pain; I looked around to see if any of the new Doctors noticed the error. Alas, no. They were all sitting there, smiling, proud. Proud that they were done with school. Proud that all the fees were paid. Proud that the dissertation and book chapters were submitted, and were going to be printed any day now. Proud that... they couldn't do a lick of math.

Sigh. Oh, well. What can you do, y'know? It's not like it's going to hurt anyone, right? Before I answer that, define "hurt."

I, personally, writhe in untold agony every time someone commits this grievous faux pas. (For the questioning minds out there - Thursday is Big Word Day.) This is a serious problem! I believe a federal agency should be started using federal relief money. (At least then I could see the tax dollars working.) You may think I'm joking - but I'm not! We have a nation full of people (more than 270 million) who can't add!

That's actually very depressing.

I'm convinced that the confusion is caused by a disease. "New Millennium Syndrome," maybe. No group of sentient animals this large can be this dumb. Right?

I'm beginning to doubt myself. At church last Sunday, during Fellowship Time, I overheard a lady announce to her friends that they should start ordering their wines now for their New Year's celebrations. Why, you may ask? Well, isn't is obvious? As the lady explained, there will be a shortage of wine this year because it's going to be the new millennium. Duh!

I hope, I wish, I pray that this will not be the case. People spending an unprecedented amount of money ahead of time for alcoholic beverages for an event they're celebrating a year early is, to say the least, pathetic!

My friends and fellow mathematicians, help me dispel the dark ages. Encourage the people around you to listen to the little voice inside them, gently calling them, tenderly telling them that THEY ARE WRONG!!

Remember, just start like this: "Count to ten on your fingers. Don't screw up! This is very importa-"

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Revised June 30, 1999 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
URL: http://www.wap.org/journal/