Not everything

Benjamin Franklin is widely considered to have been a pretty smart guy, credited with numerous innovative and useful ideas. The unfortunate thing about humans is, we tend to take shortcuts in thinking, and believe that someone is so smart that they don’t have bad ideas, failing to recognize that no one is capable of that, or at the very least lending more weight to any given idea than it merits. Isaac Newton, for instance, hashed out some pretty damn slick calculations regarding motion itself, including planetary motion, but refused to relinquish the idea that a god was responsible for it all, as well as the thought that an orbit must be circular. Pierre-Simon Laplace was the first (known) scientist to disabuse us of those notions.

We could use another Laplace right now, especially one able to produce pithy quotes, because we need to finally, once and for all, get the fuck rid of Daylight Saving Time. This was Franklin’s idea, supposedly to “make better use of daylight” as the amount of it changed throughout the year due to our planet’s axial tilt.

Now, in and of itself, it makes sense to take advantage of daylight for all those things that benefit most from it, and this does include being more active when the sun is up and thus not having to spend as much money on heating a cold house, or lighting a dark one. Yet, this level of saving is trivial at best, for numerous reasons. The first is, few people have manually controlled thermostats (much less have to stoke the Franklin stove to warm up the place,) and have to bump the heat up when they get up in the morning. But even those that do won’t drop the thermostat when it gets dark in the early evening in the winter months – they’ll still be up until midnight bingeing Netflix without the chill. And a programmable thermostat negates all advantages from shifting the clocks and is a much wiser investment overall (which would also be a benefit if implemented by the millions of people who keep their thermostat set at one temperature regardless.) Notably, too, in all of the warmer states, the shift actually increases the energy use and spending, except it’s not for heat, it’s for air-conditioning, which tends to be more expensive. There’s another hit to energy in the form of lighting and general activity (coffee makers, TVs, etc.) but, again, it’s trivial, usually not topping five percent of overall energy usage, and easily offset by a smidgen more efficiency just about anywhere – for instance, using better city lighting that doesn’t throw light up into the sky where it accomplishes nothing, not using TVs as ambient noise both publicly and privately, and not dicking around with electronic devices because we’re bored or can’t handle, like, books.

And of course, there’s the argument that I heard my entire life, which is preventing kids from having to wait outside in the dark for the school bus. I’m not sure how it’s escaped everyone’s attention that this never actually applied, since it’s the shift itself that provokes this often enough in the first place, but also the very simple fact that the daylight is less in the winter, period – we don’t gain any by doing this. Not to mention that very few people even let their kids wait out for the bus anymore, but feel the need to personally deliver them to the school’s doorstep, because of the enormous energy saving that this entails.

Which brings us to the very special brand of stupid that we somehow engage in. Start school and work later, as in, eight o’clock rather than seven? Preposterous! How will people ever get used to that? So, instead of picking a different arbitrary number to make an ‘official’ start time, we’ll actually change the period of the daylight when we go to work or school but try to call it the same thing. We shift everything twice a year, but pretend it hasn’t shifted because we have to change the fucking clocks nationwide. The millions of people who don’t have kids in school, or have to be at work at a given time regardless, or have to work with daylight hours regardless – those that derive not the faintest benefit from this shift – still have to undergo it to stay in sync with this asinine practice.

Worse, this shift actually increases the injuries and fatalities nationwide, as people abruptly change their sleep schedules and, once again, begin driving to work in the dark while their bodies are adjusted for a later activity period. Somehow we try to ignore that, and insist that the school bus and heating bill thing is more important.

Hell, I’m strongly in favor of one worldwide time, call it Greenwich Mean or Universal Time Coordinated or Zulu Time, and having done with it. This is far less confusing than it sounds. Sunrise is at a different time every morning – the shift is constant (you know, orbital mechanics and axial tilt) – and it doesn’t matter what number we want to apply to it. Everyone that has to do any integration whatsoever across a ‘time zone’ has to calculate the variation anyway, even when the business they’re trying to call opens at 8 AM, just like their own – in fact, they usually have to do additional figuring because of this: “Shit, they’re in Japan, how many hours ahead is that? Or is it behind?” Isn’t it far simpler to just say they open for business at 3 AM, period? It’s a bit like adopting the metric system: if you’re trying to translate, it can be taxing, but if you start off learning it, it works as well as any other number – better, in fact, because the fractional nonsense of SAE measurements in non-intuitive and easily confusing.

[I feel obligated to point out here that I have a watch with dual time and the second is set to Zulu, mostly because astronomical events are pinned to that and it thus negates having to translate into ‘local’ time.]

I’m waiting to businesses to get fed up and simply switch their hours in the opposite direction when DST takes place. “Oh, the clocks jumped ahead an hour? Funny, we now open an hour later. See you at the exact same time as yesterday.” Once enough places do this, maybe we’ll get rid of this ridiculous convention of fucking with the clocks twice a year for nearly pointless reasons…

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