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Changing Daylight Savings Time

2005-08-01

Category: politics

There?s been a lot of hullabaloo about Daylight Savings Time recently. Congress wants to start it a little earlier and end it a bit later. Other people don?t want the change. Some areas don?t even participate. Well, that sounds like the kind of tripe I can spout off on.

Here?s the deal. We use daylight savings time so we can all adjust our clocks to maximize the amount of sunlight available to us during our normal work day. You?ll notice that I specified the work day and not the actual day. This work day is time when the majority of people are up and doing productive stuff. I suppose I should specify that it refers only to those folks who are doing productive stuff and not the people who aren?t so productive (you know who you are).

Anyway, the number of hours of sun light we get in the day varies throughout the year. The shortest day is the Winter Solstice (around December 21) and days get gradually longer until the Summer Solstice (around June 21) when they start getting shorter again. What most people don?t know is that the sunrise happens at different times during the year as well. Sunrise gets really early in January so that even though the days are getting longer they seem to be getting shorter because sunset happens earlier. More Americans see the sunset than see the sunrise.

The productivity thing applies because people can do more when the sun is up. It?s easier to see. The roads are safer. During much of the year it is easier to heat the buildings (this is not a benefit in summer). After work, people accomplish more if they have more sunlight before they go to bed. The point of daylight savings time is that it positions our clocks in a better place relative to when the sun will be up.

You might be asking, ?But LibertyBob, with all these benefits, why would anybody oppose a longer daylight savings time?? I might be responding, ?That?s a good question.? Two of the primary opposition groups have some pretty good reasons to oppose the extension. One group is composed of educators and persons concerned for child welfare. If the sun up happens later on the clock then there are children who have to go to school in the dark. This can be very dangerous to kids. I?ll let you work out the danger scenarios according to your own imagination and hang-ups.

The second group is in software. All over the place, computers adjust themselves according to day light savings time. If you have a Microsoft Windows operating system, you may have gotten the little window that says ?I?ve automatically adjusted your computer?s clock for Daylight Savings time because I assume that you are too retarded to do it yourself.? (It doesn?t actually say that, but sometimes computers seem very patronizing and it gets on my nerves. That?s another rant.) How much effort will it be to alter all those computers to user the new dates?

Programmers are expensive. Believe me, if you saw all the crap and stress they have to go through to write programs that can do everything and survive everything (while hoping their coworkers are equally competent) you would know why they need the money. Antacids and therapy are also expensive. Back to the topic, programmers have to change programs to fix the change in daylight savings time. What?s so hard about a little change? Programs are complex. If you change a little piece of a program it may cause errors elsewhere in the program. Should your program happen to rely on someone else?s program, you have to hope that their coders have made the change correctly as well.

Once the program is written, you have to write another program to install your changes. Again, there are many opportunities to introduce errors (?Divide by Zero Error, I?d like you to meet Data Validation Error.?) You can see, this is just the start of the problems.

Let?s say that you have five coders, each making a little over fifty thousand dollars (US) a year. To use easy numbers, we?ll say they get $4200 per month. Between analysis, design, and actual coding it takes them three months. That comes to a cost of sixty-three thousand dollars. While they are doing this, they aren?t working on other things, so there is the opportunity cost as well. This example assumes that you have a very small software engineering department. Can you imagine what it would cost Microsoft or IBM?

Unfortunately, this is a complex problem. The experts say the increased productivity will more than compensate for the initial cost of changing all the software. That assumes that Congress doesn?t decide to change things back in a year or two. (Smart software engineers will change the dates to a configuration setting that the program can access. That way they only have to change the setting and not the entire program.)

My final advice on the matter: don?t worry about it either way. Our time measurements are established by convention. We all decide when three o?clock is supposed to happen and then adjust our chronographs accordingly. If we all got together and decided that three o?clock was going to be called ?fart o?clock?, then that?s what it would be. It is all arbitrary.

To make matters worse, we have twenty-four different time zones on the planet (it?s always happy hour some where). Most people in the world have never heard of day light savings time. Many areas in the United States don?t subscribe to the practice. Worrying about daylight savings time is like worrying about whether snakes will crawl up your butt while you sleep: it?s only a problem if you live where it is already a problem.

So worry about day light savings time at your own peril. It?s just a thing for Congress to make noise about so you won?t notice what else they?ve been up to.


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