Called upon to take steps to establish some form of gun control to help prevent further incidents in American schools like 1999's Columbine High incident, the Republican majority in the U.S. House submitted to heavy lobbying by the National Rifle Association and responded by passing a bill to post the Ten Commandments in all school classrooms. I supported this valiant effort by offering the following version for posting—Neil Davis, December 1999.
The Ten Commandments
For Posting in American School Classrooms,
Courtesy of U.S. House of Representatives
I-- Thou shalt not carve graven images on school walls with thy AK-47.
II-- Thou shalt not worship any gods other than the NRA and the GOP.
III-- Thou shalt not shoot thy teacher or other students without provocation.
IV-- Thou shalt not perform any labor on Sunday except the cleaning
of thy guns and attending gun shows.
V-- Thou shalt honor thy pistol and thy rifle.
VI-- Thou shalt not ever, no never, bear witness against the NRA.
VII-- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Uzi, nor shall you covet your neighbor’s
357 Magnum, nor his Glock, nor his Luger nor even his 38 Special.
VIII-- Thou shalt not commit adultery unarmed.
IX-- Thou shalt not steal another student’s automatic weapons.
X-- Thou shalt not take the name of the NRA in vain.
.An Investigation into the History of the Y2K Problem
by Neil Davis, December 1998
Introduction: In view of the extensive attention devoted to the difficulties likely to be encountered at the end of the millennium—the so-called Y2K Problem—I have been examining what happened near end of previous millennia, discovering that, yes, history does repeat itself.
The Y1K Problem—Perhaps the one person to have the most trouble with the Y1K Problem was Ethelred II, who became king of northern England in A.D. 978. Because he refused to accept the advice of his head tax collector and other close members of the court, modern history books record this monarch’s name as Ethelred the Unready. (Verily, that was his name; back then, they gave people descriptive monikers like that.) Some others were Eric the Red, William the Conqueror, William the Bastard, Louis the Child, Louis the Pious, Charles the Simple, Charles the Bald, Richard the Lion-Hearted, Robert the Devil, Peter the Short, and Leif the Lucky (also known as Leif Ericsson).
Anyway, one day in A.D. 995, Ethelred’s rather oily chancellor of the exchanger, Harvey of Wesson, said to him “Forsooth, Sire, this Y1K Bug we’ve been hearing about is going to be one bitching problem along about December 31, 999, unless we start getting ready for it now.”
“Balderdash,” replied Ethelred, “We’ve been doing just fine for centuries. What’s the big deal about the end of the year 999?”
“The main problem I see, My Lord, is that all the monks thee hires to keep thy tax records have been taught to use only three columns to record the year. When we get to the year 1000 the monks likely will record the next year as 000, and then it’s going to look like the serfs won’t owe the royal coffers any money. Thee and me will starve, Sire.”
“Got any suggestions, Harvey?”
“One option we have is to send the monks back to the abbey for retraining, but thee knows how that goes; those guys are pretty set in their ways. I checked with the cardinal and he wants forty-four farthings per monk to make them Y1K-compliant. That’s pretty steep; maybe we just ought to buy ourselves a whole new set of monks who are capable of dealing with four digits to start with. Either way, it will cost a lot of shekels, I figure about a thousand pieces of eight all told.”
“Nonsense, I don’t want to spend that much on a bunch of damn quill pushers. I need all the money I can get to pay for my knights, not to mention my nights,” spake Ethelred. This was most short-sighted of him, and in late 999 when he finally realized his mistake, Ethelred discovered that Sweyn Forkbeard, King of the Danes, had cornered the Y1K-compliant monk market. Ethelred went broke at the end of the millennium, and shortly thereafter Forkbeard’s Danish hordes took over the kingdom. So that’s why King Ethelred II went into the history books as Ethelred the Unready. A broken man, he died in 1016.
Leif the Lucky (Leif Ericsson) also was bitten by the Y1K Bug. Near the end of the millennium he sailed out into the North Atlantic aiming for Greenland, only to find out that the nautical almanac he carried on board quit at the end of 999. The almanac publisher evidently was convinced that the world would end at Y1K, so saw no point in extending the almanac beyond that time. As a result, in the year 1000, Leif the Lucky got totally lost at sea and wandered around in mid ocean for a long while. Happily for Leif and his crew, eventually the ship made landfall in Novia Scotia. That’s why they called him Leif the Lucky, and also how he became the first European to discover America.
The Y0K Problem—If you view the Y2K andY1K problems as serious you can imagine what the Y0K Problem might have been like for those involved. Contributing to the difficulty of the situation was the fact that ever since the beginning of the world, in the year 4004 B.C., time had been running backwards toward zero. Furthermore, nobody of the times even knew what xero (0) meant.
Oddly enough, it was in the year A.D. 1000 while pondering over the implications of the then-current Y1K problem that the Indian mathematician Sridhara figured out the meaning of zero—and he was the very first man in the world to do so. The concept struck Sridhara almost like a lightning bolt. While resting one day under a palm tree a coconut fell on Sridhara. He sat bolt upright, knocking his turban askance, and smiled inwardly as he inspected the round coconut, the round hole in the bottom of his turban, and then his own round bellybutton. “Heckadoodle,” Sridhara said to himself, “I just figured out what zero means! Zero means nothing, I mean nothing, squat, zilch, naught, null, any number divided by infinity, the rise in sea level you get when you spit in the ocean.”
Of course this remarkable discovery came a thousand years too late for the people who had to deal properly with the Y0K Problem. That is why the Christian world went from the year 1 B.C. to A.D. 1 without passing through Y0K—nobody knew it was there.