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Daylight Saving Time

It seems that Daylight Saving Time (DST) is one of those things that people either love or hate. While I enjoy being able to do more in the evening because we have an "extra hour" of daylight, I remember living in Michigan and having daughters who protested at having to go to bed while it was still light outside. We couldn't convince them that it was night. Monday of this week, I had two very different, personal reactions to DST. When my alarm went off at my usual 5:30 rising time, it still felt as if I were getting up at 4:30, and kinda like I had been hit by a truck. But then it was nice to be able to take a walk in the evening while it was still light out, which is something I haven't been able to do in a while. I decided to look into the history of DST, of which I post a synopsis below.

It is often said that Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea of Daylight Saving Time, but from what I could find, that is not necessarily the case. While living in Paris, Ben Franklin woke up earlier than usual one day and was struck by how many hours of daylight were being wasted to sleep during the summer months. He published an anonymous letter to the Journal de Paris in which he suggested satirically that Parisians could economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. He did not specifically mention moving the clocks ahead. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, he suggested ways to enforce (rationing the sale of candlewax and levying window shutter taxes) and to encourage (ringing church bells or firing cannons at sunrise) such economies.

Our much-loved/much-hated method of advancing the time by one hour in the spring and rolling it back an hour in the fall is credited at least partially to George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand. Because of his love for collecting insects, he greatly valued daylight in the evening, during after work hours. His initial proposal in 1895 was that his country adjust the time by two hours! In England a builder (also an avid golfer) named William Willett, also proposed a form of DST to give people more time before dusk for playing golf. He came up with this idea independently from Hudson.

DST was first widely adopted by warring countries during the Great War (WW I) as a means of conserving the coal needed for military purposes. The first to do this was Germany and its allies. Many other countries soon joined them in this practice, and Daylight Saving Time was truly born. I found the following map on Wikipedia. It was especially interesting since it shows that many countries at one time had DST, but have abandoned it.

If you live in one of the countries that used to observe DST, how did people get them to stop?! Do you wish they hadn't stopped or are you happy to be no longer changing your clocks?

The debate over the usefulness of DST continues to the present. This past week someone sent me some ways by which you can know you've just "sprung forward." Below are my favorites from that list. Some are positive, some negative, and some depend on your way of looking at it.

How You Can Know You've Just Gone on Daylight Saving Time

You go to bed at your regular time, but you can't fall asleep, and stay up an extra hour. Then you're dead the next morning from staying up too late.

You have an extra hour of light in the evening — just enough time to mow the lawn.

You set the timer on the coffee pot, but when you get up there is no coffee.

It's dinner time according to the clock, but you are not hungry yet.

You arrive for church an hour late - just as everyone else is leaving.

The clock in your car has the right time for the first time since last November.

When you decide to reset the time on "singing bird clock," it starts singing and won’t stop until you remove the batteries.

You think half-seriously about moving to Arizona since they don't have to deal with all this nonsense.


In the hall Monday morning a Swiss student and I were talking about the similarities between the effects of DST and of jetlag. In connection with that he asked me a question. When I didn't know the answer, he gave gladly supplied it. (I translate from the French):

Q: What is the purpose of jetlag?
A: It's so that, when your flight arrives at the airport, you look like your passport picture.

How about you? Do you like DST, dislike it, barely tolerate it, roll easily with it, get wiped out by it? This week some of my students have told me that it's really thrown them for a loop, at a time when they are already really tired. I'm sure the debate will continue to rage, but we can discuss it here in the comments.


"The gospel is scandalous to people who think that salvation is only for good people." — Drew Conley

=^..^= =^..^=

"Definition of a complainer: One who tarries long at the whine." – Kenneth Carr

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11 Comments on “Daylight Saving Time”

  1. #1 Ann M
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 7:25 am

    DST doesn’t really affect me. I’m on full disability with no fixed schedule ever. However, it did affect me last fall. I had somehow missed the reminder that the time was changing. On that Sunday, I thought that either my computer clock was wrong or that I was losing my mind 🙂

  2. #2 David Lowry
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Even though I utterly despise DST, I’m not sure I would want to change it. Every time Congress changes the DST schedule, IT professionals have to update pretty much every computer, server, and device they have to account for the changes. I think any money that we save on energy costs is lost on the effort it takes to change the schedule.

    I guess it’s nice to be able to come home and be outside, but I’m not sure it’s worth the cost.

  3. #3 Elizabeth
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 9:01 am

    When I was growing up in southwest Michigan, the northern part of Indiana did not observe DLS. So half the year we were on the same time zone and half the year we weren’t. It made for a lot of confusion in our homeschool group. People were always showing up an hour early or an hour late to events. That was over ten years ago, and they’ve since both changed their time zone to EST and begun observing DLS. I can’t imagine it is nearly as exciting as it used to be!

  4. #4 Reverie
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Quote from a coworker about DST: “Time change is like jet lag without the benefit of foreign travel.”

  5. #5 Michael
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 9:42 am

    I hate DST. I don’t believe it’s needed any longer. What we need to do in the U.S. is spring forward in March and not fall back in November. Just keep the DST all year long. Also, I’m very frustrated every year at the traffic lights on my route to school each morning. A few years ago the spring forward date moved from early April to the middle of March. However, our government has not adjusted the computers that control the traffic lights so the traffic lights think it’s 6:30 a.m. when it’s actually 7:30 a.m. This causes significant backups and congestion when it could be so easily avoided.

  6. #6 Amanda
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 10:10 am

    DST used to never bother me. Not that I enjoyed losing an hour of sleep in the spring; I just bounced back quick. The next day I would be fine. I think I’m finally getting old though. This year I missed the morning service on Sunday because I slept through my alarm and I left myself half an hour to eat breakfast, shower, and get to my office on Monday because I slept through *two* alarms. Yuck. The time change has also thrown off my eating schedule, not a good thing when you’re diabetic.

  7. #7 Bron Eubanks
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 10:39 am

    As a programmer, I don’t like DST. Time zones are bad enough, but throw DST and top of that, and ugh. Computers typically use Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Since UTC is the same everywhere in the world, the computer converts to and from the local time zone on the fly.

    So imagine an employee in the Eastern time zone clocks out at 1:30 am the Sunday that DST ends. Which 1:30 am? There were two of them. Technically, during DST, his time zone is EDT (Eastern Daylight Time). So … EST=EDT-1, EST=UTC-5, and EDT=UTC-4. Then, if he forgets to clock out, his boss has to figure out what he means by “Add an out-punch at 1:30.” UTC would be unambiguous, but normal people don’t use it.

    Mispunches at 1-2 am Sunday during the time change may be uncommon, but that’s just one small example of the problems. Dates and times present many complications.

    I’ve seen it proposed that the world switch entirely to UTC. I confess the idea has its attractions. The trouble is the cultural associations (like “noon” and “midnight”). The weirdest part would probably be the “day” changing when the sun is still up, depending on your location in the world.

  8. #8 Vikki
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I wish they would just pick one and stick with it. Personally, I would choose the DST format to leave permanently so that there’s always the additional light in the evening.

    How do I feel about DST? It depends on if you ask me in the spring or in the fall. I’m a night person by nature, so I always look forward the fall when I can get an additional hour of sleep. But spring?!? Let’s just sum it up with what I posted on Facebook Sunday morning: ‘Dear Day Light Saving Time, I HATE YOU!!’.

    ~stepping up on my soapbox~

    True, it is nice to have that extra daylight in the spring. But I hate to see kids standing at the bus stop in the dark each morning.

    I’ve heard the argument that it’s suppose to save money because we don’t burn the lights for as many hours in the evening – but what about in the morning while we’re getting ready for work? And the argument for the farmers needing that additional hour of sunlight? How many farmers actually do their chores according to the clocks?

    When we lived in the Chicago area, we spent years driving to work looking into the blinding sun as it came up until it was finally high enough in the sky for the visors to work only to have DST hit and the sun once again blinding us on our drive. When we moved here to Greenville, we chose a house where we can drive to work with the sun to our backs.

    ~stepping back down~

  9. #9 Nancy
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 11:57 am

    A colleague said this of DST: It’s like jet lag without the benefit of foreign travel.

  10. #10 Sarah
    on Mar 14th, 2012 at 11:58 am

    DST has always presented me with a little challenge to remember to change the clocks, but it doesn’t throw me off overmuch. It always seems like I need that extra hour of sleep in the fall, when days are getting shorter; also, I find it hard to get up in the dark, and if we kept DST all year round I would have to do that for half the year. In the spring I seem to have more energy anyway, and I don’t miss the lost hour of sleep too much. This year, though, my body still hasn’t quite adjusted to the new time, and I’ve been staying up too late this week.

  11. #11 Don Johnson
    on Mar 27th, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Rob, when I was growing up we didn’t have DST in Alberta, but BC did. So in the summer, we had the same time as BC, but not in the winter. Now Saskatchewan is the lone hold out up here.

    Personally, I have favored daylight wasting time, but I can’t get many people to take me up on it. They’re too busy!

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3