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OOPS! MAYBE WE MISSED THE MILESTONE

This just in from Party Pooper Central: We regret to inform you that the brand-new millennium has, in fact, already been born.

Five years ago. If it were our kid, we would be making plans for kindergarten.

How could the whole world be so wrong? How could the Spice Girls have sold that many albums? Blame poor fundamental education.

The original millennium bug was apparently encoded in the sixth Century, when a monk entrusted with calculating the year Jesus Christ was born bumbled the math. Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Small) was off by a wee three or four years on the birth date.

Today's historians place the Nativity at 4 B.C., judging from other accounts recording the death of King Herod.

But the monk wasn't done.

He started counting forward at 1 Anno Domini (which stands for "the year of our Lord") instead of starting from a Year Zero.

The errant monk's mistakes were discovered years later, but the corrections never took hold.

So this is really what, the year 2004?

Publicizing the calendar error has hardly slowed down the Last Days doomsday-sayers claiming inside information on the end of the world. They point to the biblical admonition "Thou shalt not know the day nor the hour in which the Lord cometh."

That's why the mistake was made, they insist. It's all part of the plan.

That's almost as interesting as the people who want to argue about whether the new millennium actually begins on Jan. 1, 2000, or Jan. 1, 2001.

Because there was no year zero, the technically correct answer would be in 2001, they say. (Because only 1,999 years will have passed by Jan. 1, 2000.)

If such a conversation breaks out at any party, federal law allows participants to use cast-iron cookware to end it. But that might not be enough.

The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports only one sure countermeasure. Handcuff him to the loser who's repeating, "See you next millennium!"

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