Three hundred and sixty-four days ago, this column invited readers to predict the grand, glorious, ignominious events of 1999. (You do remember 1999, don't you? It was the year before the world was going to end.) Now the deeds have been done, the odometer's turned, and it's time to exhume the entries and unveil the winner of the Quick & Dirty YTK (Year To Kome) Prediction Contest.
But first, consider some of the things that didn't happen, even before the Millennium Bug failed to plunge us into a new dark age. Various readers (you know who you are) predicted that Hillary Rodham Clinton would undertake the most notable name change of 1999, dropping the "Clinton" and the Clinton in her life. Several also predicted the Artist Formerly Known As Prince, in a new fit of publicity-craving, would change his name to "Y2K." Instead, 1999 proved notably lacking in big name changes—and in scorching sex scandals, after the 1998-vintage affaire Lewinsky receded.
Also, US forces did not fight in Africa, Cuba, or India, or bomb North Korea, as some readers predicted. None of you predicted we'd bomb Serbia and go into Kosovo, or that National Guard troops would help clear the teargassed streets in Seattle. No one except Kathy Biscardi imagined that the prime rate would climb to 8.5 percent, a fearsome-sounding number a year ago. Biscardi guessed it would close at 8.75.
Other events that did not befall us in 1999, despite your predictions: a wave of bankruptcies at Elliott Bay and other independent bookstores; earthquakes at Mount Rainier and the Mediterranean Sea; a big flop starring Kevin Costner. But all these forecasts may well prove to be merely premature; anyone want to make any bets on the whole "Naughts" decade?
Better prophecy through numerology
So what did readers guess right? Most predicted that the Y2K thing would be nothing more than a "minor nuisance" and that Bill Clinton would finish the year in the White House—in contrast to all the pricey pundits who were calling Clinton dead meat and Y2K a looming disaster. Most figured ailing Boris Yeltsin and Pope John Paul II would survive the year. Kathy Biscardi came uncannily close in predicting that the Dow Jones Average would finish the year at 1134 (it closed at 1157). But she missed the mark in guessing that Amazon.com's millennium-turning stock value would be 46. "Gail" (no last name) came closest with a forecast of 56 ?; Amazon actually finished at 76 1/8. Other predictions varied from 13 ? to 250.
Roger Clarke Johnson came nearly as close as Biscardi to the Dow's close (others guessed way, way low) and had the best take on what would be 1999's hottest fashion statement: "Stock ownership." And he rightly predicted that Bill Clinton, whose political obituaries were already being written, would make 1999's "biggest comeback" and that Viagra would be 1999's "trendiest drug." (No connection implied.) J.E.B. Woodhouse rightly predicted that disastrous rains would fall, Spielberg would win the "best director" Oscar, the Yankees would take the World Series, Ken Griffey Jr. would still be a Mariner, Saddam Hussein would still be defying UN sanctions, and the Arizona Diamondbacks would be comeback kings. (They did lead the National League West.)
Free passes to the Seattle Art Museum for all these able prognosticators. But the winner of the contest (and of dinner at the Yarrow Bay Grill) is P. McIntyre of Redmond. McIntyre likewise figured right on Clinton, Griffey, Saddam, Yeltsin, Oscar, and the World Series. He predicted that scientists would clone a cow; in fact, they've cloned many. And he forecast before anyone else that Hillary Clinton would run for office.
Maybe biblical numerology is the secret to such forecasting; McIntyre also forecast that Bill Gates would change his name to "666" last year, since the Roman numeral values of the letters "IS GATES" add up to 666. And of course Gates didn't attempt anything of the sort—unless Judge Jackson and the Justice Department headed him off at the apocalypse.
Here's one to file under "Everything you know is wrong." For many years, press and human rights groups have decried the sometimes fatal discrimination against infant girls in China and other Asian nations, as parents obliged to keep family size down but determined to get male heirs abandon female offspring. But this outcry is having unintended consequences in at least one country where Americans go looking to adopt. The Greater Seattle Vietnam Association reports (in its GSVA Update newsletter) that according to the International Mission of Hope, a leading adoption agency, "99 percent of families [seeking to adopt from Vietnam] choose to adopt girls." The reasons: American parents tend to favor girls, and they want to help those children they think face the worse prospects back home. The result: "Boys . . . are often left behind in orphanages until a much later age, if adopted at all." Americans are now urged to consider adopting boys.