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September 23, 2022


Usually those living near the middle of a time zone have the least problem with a unitary time. It's those on the edges (in particular where it is for geographical reasons extended beyond the 'natural' borde that suffer from a difference between true (local solar) and artificial (discrete zone) time, They get shifted into the night (or out of it, if there is a switch between summer and winter time).
The military went the radical step to simply drop local time in favor of global (GMT or one centered on the capital city like Moscow in the Soviet Union).

In that regard, China, which sprawls across what would be several time zones, uses all one time.

Make Universal Time universal!

AKA, "One Time to Rule them All"

But what meridian to use for that? What city would be privilged by that making others jealous?
Why not go for a 23 (or 25) hour cycle, so it moves round the world every 24 days. Every place on Earth would witness true noon at 12am at least once a month.

Hartmut's and Snarki's comments, and my own example of China all point indirectly to what makes all the advocacy on this subject seem so odd to me.

What the clock says doesn't mean a damned thing on its own. What matters is how we schedule our activities in relation to daylight and nighttime.

"Nine to five" is such a classic work day that they named a movie after it. And yet the state of Maine's bureaucracy, back when I worked for it, had an eight to four schedule. In general, you would be hard put these days to find very much consistency in relation to open hours for businesses, medical offices, etc.

There has been news over the years about how very early school starting times aren't healthy for kids. This is especially relevant for teenagers, who need more sleep than younger kids and yet whose school starting times are often earlier than those of the younger crowd.

But try to shift school hours later and a resistance movement springs up based on the following (at least):

1) it makes it harder for parents who work;

2) it pushes after-school sports into darkness in a lot of places for a lot of the year (and heaven forbid ANYTHING AT ALL should interfere with kids' sports); and

3) kids who have after-school jobs don't have as much after-school time available for work.

Seems like maybe all these important- and expert-sounding groups advocating one permanent time or the other are ignoring the reality that

1) humans are capable of scheduling their activities in any way we collectively decide makes sense; and

2) there is already no consistency to when offices, businesses, factories, and schools start and end their days.

So why ARE all these groups weighing in on one side or the other? Are there hidden agendas based on specific interest groups whose lives would be easier (or more profitable) with one system or the other? Do all these groups (i.e. people) not have enough imagination to realize that it isn't which system we use, but how we schedule our activities, that matters in a practical sense?

I can see an argument being made, and advocacy happening, based on the question of whether we should change the clocks twice a year or not. (Accident stats, etc....) But as to whether permament standard time or permanent DST is better........hmmmmm.

As a lifelong night person, I know which system I'd prefer.... As long as the rest of the world operates the way it does at the moment, i'd rather have permanent DST, because I'm never up early enough for morning darkness anyhow, and i like it when the daylight last longer into the evening BY THE CLOCK (i.e. in relation to the way activities are scheduled in general).

(I fully expect "my whole argument" to be shredded by the rest of you. I just thought it was an interesting debate that surely must have some hidden agendas involved somewhere.)

The clock should shift gradually to ensure a 7:15 AM sunrise throughout the year at some agreed-upon location within a given time zone. Fight me.

Okay, so adding to Hartmut's suggestion:

24h 37m 22.7s or fight!

Wow, this old chestnut.
Bizarrely, they’re discussing it over here too, on the day of the (quite likely sub optimal) “not a budget”.

This is a chestnut?!?

Congress has apparently passed a law that "if enacted" would put us on permanent DST. I can't on a quick search find out what the "if enacted" is about, and I don't care enough to search more thoroughly.

it pushes after-school sports into darkness in a lot of places for a lot of the year (and heaven forbid ANYTHING AT ALL should interfere with kids' sports)

More accurately, heaven forbid anything should interfere with fanatical parents' intrusion on kids' sports. The kids generally seem fine (or more than fine) with an absence of parental involvement.

So, is it tyranny to force people to change their clocks twice a year or suddenly forcing them to stop it? Have the talking points already been distributed on that? Can it still be made into a campaign issue in time for the midterms? ;-)

This is a chestnut?!?

Whether or not to change the British time system has been an regular part of political discussion as long as I can remember.
Most people don’t care all that much, but a few get very worked up about it.

I meant no disrespect to your header. :-)

Checking in with the Congress.gov database on bill status...

Passed by the Senate, held at the desk in the House. That is, the Speaker has not yet assigned the bill to any committees for review. The rest of September will be consumed by trying to pass a spending authorization bill for the next fiscal year. From October 1 through the week of election day the House is in recess for campaigning. If the Democrats lose the House in November, Daylight Saving Time is probably not what they want to spend the last weeks of their Congressional control on. If they win, there's no rush to do anything. So it's probably dead.

The phrase at the beginning of the bill is "Be it enacted" which is code for "Change the existing statutes in the ways described below".

In my life experience, moving a long distance north or south is much more disruptive than Daylight Saving Time, but people don't do that very often. When I flew 900 miles north from Austin, TX to my parents at Christmas my first year in graduate school, it felt like the sun just never really got up.

Thanks for the legislative details, Michael.

I haven't noticed the effect much on my rare visits south (relatives in Florida, one week in Baja California once) --- but I *have* noticed in England, Ireland, and especiallly an Alaska trip in made in February.

But I do travel regularly between the eastern end of my own time zone (Maine) and the western (my home town in Ohio). There's a 45 minute or so difference on the clock between the two locations in relation to when the sun sets -- and in fact, I have never quite gotten used to it setting "earlier" in Maine.

Nigel--I knew you weren't casting aspersions. I was just bemused by the framing. :-)

Which also reminds me -- there's a faction in maine that raises the issue now and then in the form of "let's join Atlantic time" -- we're close buds with Atlantic Canada, after all. Then there have been other proposals (and I think in fact something that passed both houses of the Maine leg) saying we'd go on permanent DST but only if all the other NE states would do it too.

Let each community and town decide individually.
And add the question, whether one should drive on the right or left side of the road. It seems to have worked in pre-Anschluß Austria*, so no excuse for not restoring that freedom to Murica.

*which was already properly fascist before that guy with the toothbrush moustache came back home, took over and put his evil Nazi spin on it. And forced his unitarian traffic rules on the country.

"every town having its own time" was the way things were in the US, before the railroads came though and said "we don't care what the clock on your city hall says, the next train leaves at xx:xx by OUR clock"

...and standardization was the result. Congress only got into the act later.

And then there was the huge event, over just a few days, in which (nearly) all US rail converted gauge to 4 ft 8.5 in.

Railfans are obsessive about these things and they have a chokehold on Wikipedia.

The merits of "railroad time" would seem to have diminished with passenger rail being now of minimal impact. And rail freight no longer stops at every wide spot in the (crossing) road -- it's more about rail/truck depot to rail/truck depot.

Zoom, and international conference calls, may doom us all to familiarity with UTC for scheduling. But I'm too old fashioned to be enthused about it.

And then there was the huge event, over just a few days, in which (nearly) all US rail converted gauge to 4 ft 8.5 in.

Pedantic, but Dad worked on a railroad for some years when he was very young. Much of the US was already using 4 ft 8.5 in. The big change was in the South, which had largely standardized on 5 ft.

Railroad gauge is why getting a deal to allow grain exports from Ukrainian ports has been such a big deal. Ukraine still uses the Soviet 5 ft gauge, so moving the grain to EU ports would require transferring it from one set of rail cars to a different set at the border -- slow, tedious, and expensive.

Slightly easier, but important for similar reasons, in Feb/March this year during the run-up to the war, Ukraine finished disconnecting their power grid from the Russian grid and synchronized with the EU power grid instead. As Ukrainian power plants go up and down (eg, due to Russian artillery attacks), some of the lost power can be replaced by imports from the EU. Seldom mentioned is the extra effort the EU had to put in to get the conversion done that soon.

Pardon my ignorance, but isn't the purpose of freight containers to allow shifting freight between very different types of vehicles. Seems like those shouldn't care what rail gauge was being used. Or was that the shifting you were referring to?

I think containerizing buck cargos is a relatively new development. They may not have the containers or infrastructure to handle them.

They may not have the containers or infrastructure to handle them.

Ukraine has added a lot of bulk grain-handling terminals at their ports in the last 10-12 years. All the publicity pictures are very conventional: barges, grain cars, massive silos, huge overhead conveyors for bulk freighters, etc.

The destinations for a lot of their exports are smallish MENA ports, on old ships, using old offloading capabilities.

"every town having its own time" was the way things were in the US, before the railroads came though and said "we don't care what the clock on your city hall says, the next train leaves at xx:xx by OUR clock"

Same in Europe. In German it was/is Eisenbahnzeit and initially was a hot button issue.
But so was switching from sun-dials to 'unnatural' mechanical clocks at an earlier point in time.

The merits of "railroad time" would seem to have diminished with passenger rail being now of minimal impact.

Maybe true in the US but definitely not in Europe.
High speed rail is now a massive rival to air travel. Airports move out of town to reduce noise pollution in densely populated areas and (even more so after 9/11) one has to show up hours in advance of departure. Trains go from city core to city core and one can show up at the last minute. So within at least 1000 km air travel does not actually save time where high speed rail is available. Airlines had to massively drop prices and reduce service to stay competitive while the train companies advertise with convenience and relative luxury while maintaining a relatively high price level. At least in my experience air travel within Central Europe is now often the cheapskate option. At the moment Germany is discussing and experimenting with national monthly tickets at a reduced price to shift even more people off the road and onto the railways. Train companies are alreadsy complaining that they can't keep up. The main dampener has been Covid but that hit every kind of transport and was by no means rail-specific.

I'm beginning to suspect that NASA knows something about the SLS moon rocket that's sitting on the pad that they're not telling us. They seem to be very, very, very much opposed to hauling it back to the Vehicle Assembly Building. They brought some higher up from Washington down to Florida to do a press conference where he said things like, "Well, in Washington we don't try to predict the weather five days in advance" and "We think the rocket will be fine on the pad as long as the winds don't exceed 75 knots." If it goes back they have to partially disassemble it to recertify the self-destruct system. What else do they think they're going to find?

Over at Ars Technica one of the commenters wrote, jokingly, back in about March, that he thought NASA was hoping something would go terribly wrong so they could just cancel the SLS program. Some of the other commenters have borrowed his 'nym and coined the term "a Wickwick event" to mean an event that is nominally outside NASA's control but would destroy enough of the rocket to justify cancelling the program. One of them asked yesterday, "Does leaving the rocket out in a hurricane and having it blow over count?"

Hartmut's 2:05 reminds me of the calculation I make every time I drive out to Ohio to see family. There are no sensible rail or bus options these days, so it's either fly or drive. It's about 750 miles, and it could be 99% interstate highway, except I like "back" roads better than risking snarls of traffic in Albany and Buffalo. So I usually take two days and meander through northern New England, NYS farm country, etc.

But as I get older, it becomes ever more questionable whether I should be making the trip alone. I haven't had to answer the question for three years because of covid, but one day I will want to go again.

So, flying? There are no direct flights from Portland, which is 1:15 away from me by car; or else a bus from Augusta. So for that option there's either a parking fee or bus fare, plus getting to and from the airport and leaving time to get through security etc. Plus a layover and the risk of not making the second flight, and double the risk of a flight being late or canceled.

Boston is a 3-hour bus ride one way, plus all the extra time needed to make sure I get there on time, get through security, etc.

On the other end, my brother would have to drive an hour and a half each way through heavy Cleveland traffic to pick me up, and again to drop me off. I could rent a car, but that's another expense added to the ledger, and it still takes an hour and a half to get to my home town.

So every time I think: why am I driving, wouldn't it be quicker to fly? I go back through that calculation and get the same answer. It's not quicker to fly if you add in all the extra time (mine and my brother's). Not to mention the $ trade-off, which is pretty favorable to driving even given a night in a hotel.

California, now that's a different story.

California, now that's a different story.

Sometimes, depending on the end points. But even then, things can get . . . odd.

For example, next month I'm off to a conference being held at a conference hotel in (no, really!) Hollywood. I could readily fly from Oakland to Burbank. Hassles at each end, but nothing like what Janie describes. (For that, I'd have to be daft enough to fly into LAX.)

But most likely, I'll opt to drive. It's pretty much a straight (if not particularly interesting) shot down I-5. By the time you figure time and trouble getting thru airport security, etc., it's not actually that much more time. And vastly more schedule flexibility. Not to mention the option to decide on a more scenic route home. Maybe something like El Camino Real. (In California, anybody who righteously insists on English only basically cannot speak of geography.)

But for other parts of the state, say the north coast near Eureka to the southeast desert near Death Valley, the nominally available flights take substantially longer, not to mention requiring drives of hundreds of mikes on each end. Well, unless you have the resources to charter a plane.

And vastly more schedule flexibility.

I forgot to mention this. :-)

I love the flexibility of driving perhaps the most of all.

And by California being a different story, what I meant was the tradeoffs of my going there. I went in April and the hassles esp. on the Boston end were enormous. Living in the boonies and visiting someone who lives in the boonies on the other side of the continent is not a minor undertaking. More than once I've said, "I wish I could just get in the car and start driving..."

I have made three round trips driving between east and west coasts in my lifetime (all with friends; i.e. I wasn't the only driver) -- all in the 1970s. Then I had kids and that was the end of that. Not that people don't do it, but it's a major undertaking.

One time in 1969 I arrived at LAX and about ten minutes later I was on a plane lifting off.

One time in 1969 I arrived at LAX and about ten minutes later I was on a plane lifting off.

In the 1960s, I could catch a bus to the Oakland airport, walk across the tarmac and up the stairs into the plane. (Paying cash at the foot of the stairs.) Fly anywhere in California for under 200 inflation-adjusted dollars. No reservations, no security, just walk on like it was another bus.

The world has definitely changed. Sometimes for the better (I can remember other kids getting trashed by "childhood diseases"); sometimes for the worse.

A former Internet buddy was a flight attendant on those planes about that time.

He said on one flight a beehive in cargo broke open and the bees inundated the cabin.

After the revolution, time shall be seen for what it is……an oppressive bourgeois artifact.


Some here might want to check out
Peter Galison's Empires of Time, a historical survey of Einstein and Poincare


I was aware that both the US and Britain slow-timed taking action regarding the Holocaust during WWII, but the detail in this story came as news to me.
Very interesting long read.

The God-Damnedest Thing’: The Antisemitic Plot to Thwart U.S. Aid to Europe’s Jews and the Man Who Exposed It

That is interesting, Nigel, thanks.

Haven't read the article yet, so my apology if the below is accounted for in it.

There are claims that allied strategists noted how many German trains were occupied by transporting people to and between camps to the detriment of military transports and that this was a reason not to bomb tracks leading to camps (despite demands from Jewish groups) because that would free those trains for more useful purposes. And this diverting of trains for the holocaust is said to have increased during the war increasing the appeal not to do anything.

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