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Sunday, March 12, 2017

The "What Happens To My Sundial?" Story


It was an ordinary day.  An hour shorter, but still an ordinary day.  I suppose you know by now that in the United States as well as many other parts of the earth, daylight saving time began today.  Ben Franklin, the American inventor and politician proposed a form of daylight time in 1784 to make daylight last an hour longer.  I assume he did realize that daybreak would also last longer and normal sunrise times would be altered too.  Franklin wrote an essay about the subject and sent it to the editor of The Journal of Paris, suggesting that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning, making use of natural morning light instead.  Then in 1895 New Zealander George Hudson also proposed the idea, but it wasn't until April 30, 1916 that the German Empire and Austria-Hungary organized the first nationwide implementation of daylight saving time (DST).  It has been used by many other countries since then to help conserve energy.  But, daylight saving time does complicate international timekeeping as well as disrupts travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices and sleep patterns.  My computer and TV seem to have no trouble with it, but I'm not sure how it affects other countries and jurisdictions in the world as far as dates and timing.  Even when Franklin, publisher of "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise", was American envoy to France, it was said by many, including me a minute ago, that he proposed the idea of DST, but it was meant more as a satire on economizing on candles.  He proposed taxing window shutters, rationing candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise, since it was said that Europe didn't keep precise schedules as I guess he thought they should.  Didn't matter anyway since rail transport and communication networks soon afterward required a standardization of time.  Today at 1:59 am the clock jumped forward to 3:00 am DST making the day 23 hours long while in autumn the clock will backup from 1:59 am to 1:00 am, thus making the day 25 hours long.  The coordination and shifting of time schedules must be almost impossible throughout the world.  The European Union shifts all zones at the same instant, 1:00 am Greenwich Mean Time while North America shifts its time zones at different times; with Hawaii and most of Arizona not even observing DST.  Australia districts shift times on different dates.  
Daylight saving time has caused controversy since it began.  Winston Churchill was all for it since it enlarged "the opportunities for the pursuit of health and happiness" for the people of England.  Traditionally, retail stores, sports and tourism love DST while agriculture and evening entertainment have opposed it.  And, did you know that on February 9, 1942, during "War Time" in the United States, a year-round daylight saving time began.  It was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was to help conserve energy.  Then in 1986 another bill was passed to make daylight saving time run from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.  In 2007 it was changed and set daylight saving time from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.  Wonder what will happen when the current administration takes charge of the clocks.  I'm sure it will be an amazing and great event.  My only question throughout all these time changes is: What do I do about my hand-made sundial that my friend John S. made for me years ago?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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