A History Lesson

Donald Shephard

Blarney Castle, July 4, 2107

You may be wondering why we paint the streets of the metropolis of Blarney red, white and blue every Independence Day. Many American-Irish have forgotten the story of our ancestry. Why did our forefathers immigrate here to Ireland one hundred years ago?

A balloon with the most microscopic hole in it is no longer a balloon. Every computer of any importance in all of North America had been checked for the Y2K problem. It seems incredible now that we have multiple-interchangeable-language sensitive brain chip implants with infinite capacity that there was a time when programmers saved space by reducing the designation of a year to the last two digits. Hence 1998 was known simply as "98", 1999 as "99" and so on. The year 2000 or "Y2K" as it was known would be "00" under this system. Every school child knows that 00 comes before 99 not after it. But, as every member of the Natural Order Brain Society (NO BS) will tell you, computers are fast not smart. There was a danger that society, especially industrialized society, would collapse. Bank computers would fail, money would not circulate, the economy would crash. Telephones would malfunction, satellites would fall out of orbit, communication would cease. That was the pessimist point of view prior to the end of the first millennium.

Before the second millennium began, all programs in all computers were fixed save one small program in one small computer at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the old country. Professor Reginald Ernest Gresham, professor emeritus of regression analysis zoology, had been running replications of the same experiment for thirty years. He was looking for the biochemical links in the genes which caused regeneration of dermal papillae in hooded rats.

When he presented his doctoral thesis on the subject, the pharmaceutical companies had stood in line to fund what they considered to be his research into hair growth. You will no doubt have noticed that there are two competing hair-related issues. Some people spend a great deal of money trying to grow hair on certain areas of their bodies, while others spend equal amounts trying to remove hair from other areas of their bodies. But I digress.

The university administration regarded Professor R.E.Gresham as a harmless curmudgeon who used little space and rarely used all his budgeted funds. He was a revenue source but nothing more. There were three critical things which they overlooked. Firstly, he had invested wisely in pharmaceutical companies and he could have bought a significant amount of U.C. Santa Cruz (U.S.A.). Secondly, he had just broken the chemical code which would surely have made him the darling of Wall Street, the then financial center of the old country, had he lived after January 1, 2000. Thirdly, his ancient Apple computer controlled the only unresolved Y2K problem in North America.

One minor aspect of the thirty years of breeding, cross breeding, in-breeding and back-crossbreeding (rat incest was legal in those days) was a physiological change in the good professor's rats. Gresham had produced a strain of rats that could vomit. Old-millennium rats normally did not have the ability to throw up poison grain but the professor's mutant strain could hurl lustily. He knew the horrendous importance of this biochemical trait should it escape into the rat gene pool of the world and so he devised a system of electronic locks for rat cages and laboratory alike. All human contact with live rats in his laboratory had ceased. The experimental animals were fed, bred and bedded by automatons. He was a biochemical genius but an electronic clutz.

His security system relied on an ancient Apple computer - a toaster or door stop in the tecky jargon of the day. At 12:05 a.m. on January 1, 2000 this machine became fatally confused and in place of a command to feed and water the rats it released all the electronically controlled doors to both the rat cages and the laboratory itself.

When R.E. Gresham came to his laboratory the next morning, he found the door ajar. He was horrified to see his carefully tagged and numbered rats running wild. He began calmly analyzing the situation. But as the R.E.Gresham analysis quickly showed, the results were devastating. As the realization hit his adrenaline button, the adrenaline hit his heart, and his heart failed.

University authorities were quick to clear up his laboratory and assign it to a visiting professor of Feng Shui who promised to be an even better revenue source. But the rats were out of the bag. Thirty days later there were 5,000 offspring born in the hills around the university and in the sewers of the town. By April 1, 2000 the tills of pest control operators were ringing a merry tune throughout the county. The City of Santa Cruz became aware of the strain of pesticide resistant rats and in August the city council formed a citizens advisory committee just as the mutant rat population passed the number of Big Mac's sold in the town. The committee was known as the Pied Piper Committee or PPC.

On January 1, 2001, the true start of the millennium, rats were consuming most of the food produced in California. The problem was particularly devastating to the image conscious wine country where drunken rats added nothing to the appellation.

By 2004, the new species of rat, Rattus regreshamus, as the International Biological Society (IBS) named them, had spread throughout the North American continent and had colonized all of the industrialized nations. In a twist of fate, third world countries were largely spared the plague. Their economies flourished, they rapidly industrialized and in turn were infested by the new rat. Only Ireland was spared. Just as Saint Patrick had rid Ireland of snakes, so he miraculously rid this country of rats even before they landed. At least, that is the belief of the Northern Ireland Theologist Society (NITS) with whom I am not prepared to pick a fight. No, I am not a nit-picker!

Back in the old country, poor Americans, who had to survive mostly on Hamlinburgers, were emigrating to Ireland by the millions because of the rat induced famine. That is why we American-Irish dress in red, white and blue and celebrate with American games such as rat packs, the rat-tailed dance, the Pied Piper lecture series and the most infamous of all, the rat hurling competition.

So , in the final analysis, it was Professor Gresham's computer program flaw which was the microscopic hole in the balloon of American history. One minute detail deflated the mighty American economic machine, ended the American civilization as we know it, and began our exile here in the Emerald Isle.

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