Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall back: returning to standard time

Next weekend in the US, we will "fall back" -- set our clocks back an hour, returning to standard time from daylight saving time.

For more information, click here.

Why do I care about this? For one, the time the sun rises, the time it sets, and how much daylight there is in between, are part of how I measure the seasons and the time of year. Daylight saving time, I admit, messes with this sense for me; whenever we transition between standard time and daylight saving time, it takes me a while to re-adjust. "Springing forward" is harder for me -- an hour less of sleep, when I'm not much of a morning person to begin with, although I do appreciate the extra hour of light in the evening, when I can truly appreciate it. "Falling back," of course, is easier for me -- an hour of sleep gained back from earlier in the year; an hour of light gained in the morning. On the other hand, no longer having that hour of light in the evening tells me even more emphatically that winter is on Her way, and that Winter Solstice is around the corner.

We're living further north this year than I've ever lived, and we'll have the least amount of light -- the fewest hours of daylight -- on Winter Solstice than anyplace I've lived. But then, on Summer Solstice, we'll have the most...

A good fall to you, and blessed be!


Ben said...

I often get the impression — I don't quite see it here, but it's kinda hinted at — that daylight savings time is somehow unnatural. This is backwards. It's standard time that's unnatural.

The decision to use accurate 24-hour clocks on a society-wide basis automatically means that the clock-times of sunrise and sunset will fluctuate. This isn't the way people normally function — we've used artificial light to keep going when it's dark outside for many thousands of years, but we've mostly preferred to do so in the evening, staying up later than the sun rather than rising earlier. Thus, the "most natural" seasonal time system would probably be one in which the clock time of sunrise is fixed. Unfortunately, this would require replacing every clock with magical GPS clocks that gain or lose a minute or so every night, plus make little adjustments whenever you travel north, south, east, or west.

sta┼Ťa said...

Hi, Ben,

I don't feel like daylight saving time or standard time is unnatural -- it's the switching back and forth that poses challenges for me. :)

Actually, it makes more sense to me, body-wise, to adjust what time I get up, based on sunrise, as you say.

Hmmm. I've actually been thinking about this lately, about whether or not I could just do what my body wants, and get up around sunrise each day. It'd be interesting to see what happens for me in the evening. (Since I'm setting my own schedule right now, I just might try this...)

And thank you for pointing out how much of a cultural construct our notion of a standardized, society-wide clock-time is. I always like it when somebody helps me see how my notion of something is, well, a construct. (Jessica Mitford is great for this regarding the funeral industry, but that's another post.)

When you get that tech worked out, let me know! :)

- Stasa