The Annual Rant About Daylight Time

Imagine the ridiculous conceit that the sun would change its place in the heavens or the earth pause in its rotations because some men in Detroit were unable to do the math necessary to talk with their business partners in Boston and New York, after the telegraph and telephone made that even possible. Or the perhaps more ridiculous thought that the better way to have “more” daylight after work is to move the hands of the clock to trick us into starting work earlier rather than, oh, I dunno, working less. These conceits function reasonably well, for some definitions of well that include its opposite, because the clock is, in these cases, providing less a means of measurement than a means of coordination.

The clock no longer describes the relation of the sun to a given point on the earth, and hasn’t since the invention of Standard Time, yet we insist on maintaining the fiction that it does, despite periodic affirmation to the contrary. We have, for the most part, given up attempting to attend to our circadian rhythms. We have, for the most part, surrendered control to our devices. The clock tells us when to rise, when to work, when to eat, when to study, and when to stop. Electric light provides the illusion of daylight, and our buildings — malls, offices, and factories — hide the sun to disguise the passing of time. The information age hasn’t changed these industrial habits, but made them worse: computers have no need for the Vitamin D, and we’ve adapted to their dim screens by staying inside so that we might see the moving pictures. Even cows stay indoors all day, lit by artificial suns, for convenient milking on schedule.

All of which makes the biannual altering of the clocks even more nonsensical than it was to start.

This weekend I was awakened just after falling asleep because someone couldn’t deduce the problem from the messages logged by their application telling them explicitly what the problem was. One of the ordering systems sets a default future due date six hours ahead of the order placement date, so every year, because timezone math is annoying, from 20:00 to 21:00, the damn system throws an exception because there is no time between 02:00 and 03:00. And this problem only exists because the computers are using America/Dallas, because that’s where the corporate headquarters are. Nor did it occur to anyone that a due date when people tend to be sleeping might be problematic.

Just pick something and stick with it. Using Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) for the whole Earth would seem a reasonable basis for discussion. It’s not like we’ll ever visit the moon or Mars any time soon.

Also published on Medium.

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