I just found the first (and creepiest) instance where the year 2000 crisis is not just a digital problem, but a very "analog" one, as well. It seems that the burial industry (or whatever you call it) is faced with an oversupply of headstones precarved with a "19" prefix.

This is pretty out of my league, but apparently it's common to preorder your tombstone, specify an inscription, and then leave a space blank for the actual date. Because it's cheaper to precarve (who knew?), people add the "19" prefix and then leave the remaining part of the date for loved ones to fill in.

The companies responsible for holding onto these precarved tombstones have started worrying that they'll have a lot of useless "19xx" grave markers unless an awful lot of people, pardon the crassness, drop dead over the next year and a half. One company is experimenting with a cementlike paste to fill in the number "19" and has had results buffing the stone to hide the error, while others are experimenting with brass plates that fit over the "19."

I find this particularly fascinating from an archaeological viewpoint, because centuries from now, archaeologists will wonder what the mystery brass plate meant on some of our markers. Were we hiding dates? Did some people in our culture die twice? Was brass plating a sign of nobility? Or poverty? Anyway, you get the idea, and I've obviously had way too much coffee, but I think this one helps us keep our perspective.

Of course, the truly dark and morbidly missing link in all of this is the opportunity to buy them up wholesale and offer them up to the poor data managers who can't face another day struggling with the digital year 2000 crisis (couldn't resist!).

Updated at 15:48 EST on Tue Apr 11, 2006