Federal Bytes

Russell-mania

Federal IT workers were honored last week at FCW's Federal 100 Awards banquet, where comedian Mark Russell entertained attendees.

Russell said the absence of President Clinton— who was visiting Africa— and Vice President Al Gore— who was launching his presidential campaign— has left special prosecutor Kenneth Starr running things in Washington, D.C.

This has resulted in an imperative need for IT workers in the government, he told the audience. "Without you, there would be no one to process all of the subpoenas."

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That sinking feeling

In the wake of another critical General Accounting Office draft report on the Census Bureau's plans for the 2000 census, Rep. Dan Miller (R-Fla.) cashed in on the Titanic craze that has swept the country when he expressed concern about the increased risk associated with the census head count.

"My question to the Census Bureau is: 'Is anyone listening?' " he asked. "Or is the Census Titanic going to hit the iceberg?"

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Elevating the Y2K problem

In a discussion on the Year 2000 problem last week, the General Services Administration's Dennis Fischer pointed out yet another aspect of the crisis that does not get much play: the effect the date change will have on elevators controlled by computers.

Fischer said GSA's Public Buildings Service is working to address the potential problem of thousands of federal employees forced to take the stairs. Fischer jokingly suggested that government could make the best of the problem by adopting staircase climbing as part of the president's physical fitness program in the Year 2000.

* * *

Back to basics

Computer scientists at last week's High Performance Computing and Communications Council's annual conference heard Larry Smarr, director of the National Computational Science Alliance, speak about building a better telecommunications grid to link the federal and academic research communities. He described this concept as analogous to the nation's electrical power network.

But Smarr's presentation started late due to an unexplained power failure.

The irony was not lost on the audience or Smarr, who noted that the "stability and reliability of the electrical power grid'' was not yet perfect 100 or so years after the country first began to wire it. Perhaps Smarr should look for a different model for comparison with his telecom grid.

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