We are finally free of the dreaded imposition of Daylight Savings Time. I prefer to think of it as Darkness Squandering Time. But most people want their days to last as long as possible. And they don’t like their days to start too soon. So they mess with the clocks and we all have to “spring forward” and add an hour. I much prefer to “fall back” and dispense with that annoying adjustment.

What everyone hates, I think, is the time change. Folks want to pick one over the other.

People in the tropical zones don’t worry about this stuff. Day lengths are pretty much the same all year long. In the northerly and southerly extremes the day lengths vary dramatically. The coastal city of Galway in the West of Ireland is at the same latitude as Juneau, the capital city of Alaska. 58º North. I remember being astonished at the late sunsets when visiting there in July. They add an hour to their clocks at the end of March and in fact call their summer time Irish Standard Time (UTC+01). They turn the clocks back at the end of October and align with Greenwich Mean Time (UTC) for winter.

Here in the mid-latitudes the subject is up for debate. Obviously you add an hour if you live far from the equator, say perhaps at 45º of latitude or higher. If you live between the Tropic of Cancer (23.5º N) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5º S) you keep your hands off your clocks and keep the same time year round. Those of us in the temperate zones (like California) are literally caught in the middle. The Oregon border is 42º N and the Mexico border is between 32 and 33º N. That means we get some benefit to the time change in the high summer, but by the time autumnal weather hits we really need to turn the clocks back.

The Romans lived in a temperate region but they didn’t have modern timepieces. So they just had shorter hours in the winter and longer hours in the summer. That would never fly in our hyper-speed, hyper-competitive world marketplace. We have to chop time up into very small bits and we have to synchronize it with each other continuously. The Sun is a lousy timekeeper. Fortunately the Time Lords (er, Geeks) of the United States Naval Observatory are on the job:

We visited the Royal Observatory in the aforementioned Greenwich, a village on the Thames River on the edge of London. That’s the home of the original Time Geeks. Turns out it was clock-makers and not scientists or mathematicians who solved the biggest time problem of them all—finding longitude. The modern mercantile system of global commerce was perfected by the British Empire in the 19th century and their mastery of navigation was crucial to its hegemony. It had to have galled the aristocrats and philosophers that mere tradesmen were responsible for Britannia’s glory. But that’s the story of all empires: the plebians are buried and forgotten and the patricians write the histories.

Here in the American Empire we are more egalitarian: we are all slaves to time! There is a movement afoot to create permanent Daylight Savings Time in the U.S.A. with the perfectly politically-named “Sunshine Protection Act” (S.623). Only a vainglorious dipshit like Marco Rubio (the bill’s sponsor) would think the sun needs his protection!

In the meantime, enjoy the fall and its promise of cold temperatures, rain, snow, and lengthening nights!

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