Drew Griscom Roos


You May Not Like DST, But You Probably Like Whining

Every time the clocks change there’s another flurry of articles and blog posts bemoaning Daylight Saving Time. Many decry that DST is pointless. Others whine that the switch is too complicated or burdensome. A rare few just completely lose their minds instead.

But let’s set the record straight. DST is unequivocally awesome. It’s awesome because it makes the sun set later, and the sun setting early is fucking depressing. Now I’ll admit I’m a night owl, so to some extent this is just personal preference. But history is on my side: time zones have gradually drifted westward as cities and counties on the eastern edge realized they could make the sun set an hour later simply by switching sides. Later sunsets have broad appeal.

It’s not about energy savings or making life easier for farmers or any of that. Even if there ever were any appreciable difference back in those simpler times, these days it’s no bigger than the margin of error. It’s about lighter evenings and that the summer sun rising two hours before anyone is awake is dumb. Full stop.

As for the actual twice-a-year switching between Daylight and Standard time, I could take it or leave it. If it were up to me, DST would last all year long. Several countries (most recently Russia) have decided to do this, setting their “standard” time to one (or more) hours ahead of solar time – effectively year-round DST. Conventional wisdom in the US says that to do the same would be politically infeasible over safety concerns about schoolchildren catching their busses in the dark – a justifaction likely to be just as statistically insignificant as any claim about DST vs. Standard Time – but it’s for the children, so…

Not to say I’ve ever had much trouble with the switch itself. You have to change the time on your clocks, but my most important clocks (computer, phone) are smart enough to switch themselves. Changing my wristwatch and car take about ten seconds each.

Then there’s the complaint of grogginess for the next few days afterward. Jesus christ people, I regularly fly with time differences in excess of three hours and it takes me about a day or two to recover. To complain about a difference of one hour which occurs without you ever having left your bed is THE literal first-world problem!

The most valid complaint is that of forgetting the time change entirely, and ending up late for something. There’s a reason the change happens early Sunday morning. Even if you manage to miss the week’s work of warnings, and then go an entire day ignorant of the true time, worst case scenario is you might indeed miss one meeting.

Though I hope I’ve convinced you DST is a Good Thing™, the real point of this post is to rail against the two most rage-inducing retorts in any thread about DST:

“Just get up earlier”

Maybe this would work if you lived in a cabin in the mountains (I did briefly experiment with DST – Drew Standard Time – for a week at an off-the-grid beach bungalow in Mozambique). But normal people live their schedules according to external commitments – regular hours for work, school, shopping, restaurants, last call. Either you’re an outsider to the daily life of everyone around you, or you try to convince a critical mass to switch with you in some kind of ‘war of the clocks’, creating the very problem DST is meant to solve.

Funny, these people never respond well to the suggestion, “hey, how about those sitting-duck schoolchildren just get up an hour later…”

I’m a programmer, and I read programming forums, so I must presume it’s other programmers spouting this idiocy. But here’s a question any decent programmer should be able to answer: when you want to change something, is it easier to change it in one place, or in a million places?

“Abolish time zones and everyone use UTC”

This is what I call a “consider getting some chickens” moment (from some long-ago Cracked-style article about “10 easy tips for frugal living”, of which one was “consider getting some chickens”*) – a statement so inane and completely removed from practicality that it makes you immediately question everything that person has said or ever will say.

* Now you may disagree, but to me chickens seem neither easy nor frugal. Looking back, I think the point was your kids would be so entertained by the chickens that you wouldn’t have to pay for a trip to Disney World.

Nevertheless, let’s play a little game of make believe

Wow, it sure is awesome to have the date change at some arbitrary point in the middle of the day – no problems lurking there AT ALL.

Isn’t it fantastic to travel to a new place and have to completely recalibrate your sense of the proper time to eat/sleep/whatever?

Can you believe how eagerly the world’s population embraced divorcing the notion of time from the position of the sun – a universal and key aspect of the entire human existence – all for more convenient scheduling of conference calls across time zones and so you could be lazy about your date/time formatting code?? (Nevermind that you have no idea if that conference call you just scheduled with the overseas partners is in the middle of the freaking night).

Even looking past the extreme lapse in judgment necessary to think this was good idea, of graver concern is that someone could believe it’s even remotely implementable. You can’t even get communities to adopt officially-proclaimed time zones that differ from the natural solar time by more than an hour or two.

Everything that person has said or ever will say…

Come on programmers, this isn’t even optimizing for the 1% at the expense of the 99%… it’s more like the 0.00001%.

Is DST in practice not without difficulties? Yes.
Should cross-time zone coordination be done via UTC? Yes.
Would everyone be better off with internationally standardized switchover dates? Yes.
Should politicians who fuck with the dates of DST from year to year (god forbid sometimes just a few days beforehand) die in a fire? Yes.
Are you going to make anything better with your hare-brained schemes? NO!

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