"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Caution: the next six months may be harmful to your health...

My chances of having a heart attack went up five per cent today, thanks to Ben Franklin. Old Ben did a lot of things for us and this country, for which we are thankful. He was quite instrumental in the process of America declaring its independence from the British Empire, as well as teaching us that flying kites in electrical storms can be electrifying.

However, a new study from Sweden indicates that another of Ben’s ideas is harmful to my health. Yours, too. While Ben was whiling away his time courting the ladies of France, he apparently had a few spare moments to dream up a way to have more evening time to further pursue his interests. He came up with the simple idea of starting the day an hour earlier, thus having an hour more daylight for his evening pursuits. This idea came to be known as Daylight Saving Time.

You’ll note there’s no “s” on the end of “Saving.” This is the correct grammatical spelling of the word, and if you must know the actual reason, it’s that “saving” in this use is a verbal participle (or adjective) and modifies time. Well, you asked.

Once upon a time, Alaska had four different time zones: Pacific, Yukon, Alaska, and Bering. In 1983, all of Alaska but the western-most Aleutians combined into a new zone called Alaska. The Aleutians and Hawaii were in a new zone called Hawaii-Aleutian. If memory serves correctly, this new time zone idea had a lot to do in defusing one of the reasons for moving the capital from Juneau closer to the population centers of the state. With the combining of three time zones into one, Juneau slipped back an hour, and Anchorage-Fairbanks moved ahead an hour, making them all the Alaska time zone.

As for how it affects me and where I live, high noon is now at two in the afternoon. That’s because we moved an hour forward in the consolidation of the time zones, then another hour forward for DST. It does, however, make for some delightful summer evenings. I recall the first trip I made outside Alaska, when I was nineteen, to the Seattle area. The whole idea of being able to walk around in the evening without a sweater or jacket was quite the novelty. Now, thanks to the miracle of time (zone) travel, it’s common to go sleeveless in the evening, and I am completely out of the habit of taking a jacket with me., which is why I've had to add to my wardrobe several times when caught late in Anchorage.

There’s no such thing as a regular time for the countries of the world to “spring ahead” or “fall back.” Each country does it or not, according to their own decisions. Even in the U.S. states can opt out, as do Hawaii and Arizona.

Arizona doesn’t care to join the rest of the nation. I guess during the summer they don’t need an extra hour of searing heat. However, the Navajo Nation there that spreads into three different states, does observe DST. Completely surrounded by the Navajo Nation is the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. It doesn’t observe DST.

Well, I suppose if the countries of the world can’t decide on something like Daylight Saving Time, how can we possibly agree to stop killing each other.

Which brings me back to Ben Franklin. That Swedish study shows heart attacks increase by five per cent when we “spring forward” each March, and decreases by the same amount in October when we “fall back.” Just one more thing to worry about. It’s hard enough remembering which way they mean when they say “forward” and “back.”

It would be so much easier to understand if they just say we lose an hour of sleep in the spring, and get it back in the fall. But, no, that’ll never happen. Way too easy to understand.


  1. Hi Gully
    Here in Australia, the country's three largest state capital cities are in the same geographical time zone: Melbourne in Victoria, Sydney in New South Wales, and Brisbane in Queensland. But Queensland doesn't have Daylight Saving Time, which means that doing business with the other cities from Brisbane gets kind of weird sometimes. Mind you, the major holiday destination, the Gold Coast, actually straddles the border between Queensland and New South Wales, which makes things even more chaotic – for example, because our southern summer runs from October to March, on the Gold Coast one can celebrate New Years Eve in New South Wales then walk across the street/border and do it all again an hour later. But one of my favourite things about Queensland's rejection of Daylight Saving was the assertion by some of its opponents that the extra hour of daylight would cause curtains to fade faster. Now that's enough to cause a heart attack.

  2. Firstly - what a great blog you have! You were introduced to me by my blogging pal Saboma. When I started to blog in 2007 I was going to call mine GT too, my very first post explains the story :)

    Here in the UK I have to commute circa 1 hour and ten and in the winter this means to work in the dark and home in the dark. Now us Brits have to moan about something don't we :) so I think its a government ploy to distract us from real issues such as bankers getting massive undeserved pension pots. You'll laugh at us too because we had snow for the time in a decade and London stopped completely!!

    Any how got your blog in Google Reader now to follow your facsinating posts. Spring is on its way and the cherry tree in the garden has just blossomed...daylight is here!

  3. I definitely learned something today. I won't say Daylight Savings Time anymore. I'll drop that illegitimate "s" that likes to hang around with Saving.

    The fact that DST is harmful to my health is news too. You're a fountain of knowledge, my friend.