What We Did With a Lost Hour

Yesterday was a slow news day, which was a good a thing because most people were wandering around more slowly than usual after losing an hour of sleep to to the switch from Daylight Savings Time to the most usual Standard Time. That early morning moment when the clock sprang forward an hour on Sunday turned out be one of the most reported-on events of the day, and The Washington Post even had an opinion piece about about how “Daylight saving time is just one way standardized times zones oppress you.”
Although we were a bit groggier than usual when reading the headline, we really didn’t find the time change or our time zone all that oppressive. Being the nocturnal sorts we had been up to watch the clock jump from 1:59 to 3:00 on our computer screen, but we were nonetheless in our usual spot in the pews at the always-too-early services at the nearby church where we worship, and when we congratulated the deacon on getting there early enough to set that lone clock at the back of the pews ahead he explained that it was programed to spring forward by itself, and after a scholarly sermon from the Gospel According to John we both agreed that this was indeed still an age of miracles. We quickly got back that hour of lost sleep and then some with an afternoon nap, and with half the usual caffeine we were relatively alert during the early evening rehearsals for our annual amateur theatrics, and at no point on a cold and rain day did we feel any more oppressed than usual by standardized time zones.
The author of The Washington Post’s opinion piece is described as a “doctoral candidate in sociology at Columbia University,” which is more than we can say, but he also “studies organizations and the sociology of science, knowledge and technology,” which we have occasionally and deeply dabbled in, and at this point we are no longer intimidated by academic credentials. His essay was nicely illustrated with a well-shot silhouette photograph of the clock tower in Clay Center, Kansas, a town we quite like, which warmed our Kansan hearts, and he starts with a perfectly reasonable rant about all the Daylight Savings rigmarole, which is arguably unreasonable in this day and age when most folks don’t work on a farm, but from there it devolves into utter nonsense about the oppression of time zones and and time measurement and time in general.
Time zones make sense to us, given the fact that the sun rises in the east and then rises somewhat later in the west, and that it would it be damned discombobulating on an everyday basis for all of us out west to have to get up at the same time as the folks back east, especially here on the western edge of the improbably vast Central Time zone where the days can last through the evening on a summer day. As imperfectly as those time zones may have been drawn, they’ve allowed people to start their day at the respectable hours and tend the fields and man the factory floors and come up with all sorts of caffeinated schemes in the office suites, and despite the banking time differences between the east and west coasts the coast-to-coast commerce has benefitted. That’s not a feature but rather a bug to our Washington Post opinion piece author, though, as he bitterly notes that “Standardized time is immensely useful. It is no exaggeration to say that the modern world depends on it.” We have our own complaints with the modern world, as regular readers of this publication well know, but we can’t see why a doctoral candidate in sociology at Columbia University is so dissatisfied with it that he would want to plunge any part of the world into the inevitable darkness that his apparent preference for a singular clock would inevitably cause.
The author seems to have a certain dislike of any measurement of time, especially those he deems artificial. Earth’s every trip around the Sun takes a year, every day represents another rotation of the Earth along that journey, and the months have something to do with the waxing and waning of the moon, so the author doesn’t object to that, but those seven days of the week and those 24 hours of the days and the sixty minutes within each hour and the sixty seconds of each hour strike him as suspiciously conducive to commerce. So far as we can tell the seven days of the week have something to do with the seven days God when created everything and then took a rest, even though they’re named for Roman gods and emperors and other pagan faiths, and the sixty minutes in an hour and the sixty seconds in a minute apparently derive from some ancient mathematical theorem that no one has ever disproved, and so far they’ve worked well enough for us to show up where we’re supposed to be at the right time, except for all the times when it usually our fault.
The author of the The Washington Post opinion piece seems to find the whole concept of time oppressive, and to that we can only say amen. A late and lamented friend of ours once wrote that “Frighteningly, at any given moment another hour has passed,” and we growing increasingly aware of his point with each passing day. Elect any old visionary you want, but the Earth will take another spin and edge another 365th on its passage around the Sun, you’ll also be another day older, and it really doesn’t matter if you break it down to longstanding mathematical theorems or some convoluted political philosophy.
On America’s command the sun will set another hour later tonight, and we’ll be glad of it, because we like the daylight, and we’ll enjoy watching it stretch into the summer solstice. We can remember some times right before Daylight Savings Time kicked in when we were waiting for a school bus in the dark, and even our nocturnal selves appreciate that some people like the early hours of day, so we don’t even argue much with that admittedly artificial Daylight Savings Time stuff. Tempus Fugit, as they used say a long time ago, so we’ll try to be more alert today.

— Bud Norman


The Modern World and Its Discontents

As regular readers of this publication have no doubt already noticed, even on a ordinary day we have no affinity for this modern world. This has been no ordinary day, however, and we are more fed up than usual.
It all started a week or so ago when we noticed that our connection to the internet, one of the few saving graces of modernity, had somehow gone awry. According to one of those little boxes that appear on a computer screen when investigating such matters our cable was unplugged, despite our slightly less reliable real world observation that our cable was indeed plugged, and after some time-consuming difficulty in getting in telephonic touch with a representative of our internet provider, and much time-consuming difficulty in running through his incomprehensible internet-testing drills, we were advised that there must be something wrong with the cable connecting our modern to our computer. The cable looked much as it always had, leading us to suspect that it had something to do with an update our computer-maker had offered offered around the same time, which upon being downloaded turned out to have pretty much re-configured the whole machine, but we were advised by the people on the telephone, who presumably knew what they were talking about, that we’d have to purchase a new cable from one of their local stores.
We won’t mention the name of the internet provider, lest they retaliate with further complications, but suffice to say it is a major telecommunications company that once enjoyed a legally-protected monopoly on its industry. Despite the company’s prominence, however, its closest store was clear over at 21st and Maize. The internet was still coming in and our dispatches were still going out due to some strange metaphysical force called “wi-fi,” albeit at a frustratingly slow pace, and there was a daunting amount of snow on the ground, which we can’t really blame on modernity, although the global warming crowd will probably try to find some post-industrial explanation for it, so we procrastinated on our purchase of the cable for a week or so.
For those of you unfamiliar with the cartography of Wichita, Kansas, 21st and Maize is so far on the west side of the city that you can almost see the Rocky Mountains from there, and beyond where any of you have any reason for Wichita to exist, and the journey seemed daunting. It’s a spot we can fondly recall from our boyhoods as an antique gas station where Ma and Pa Kettle used to do business surrounded by scenic wheat fields, but is now on that densely populated west-of-the-Big-Ditch part of town where the traffic is tortuous and the stoplights take forever, and all the businesses are links on national chains and the architecture is unimpressively upscale and everything seems less like Wichita, Kansas, than Anywhere, USA. Our own residence is a few blocks west of the Arkansas River and therefore technically west side, even if it is in the fashionable Riverside neighborhood, so we can’t be snobby about such things, and it’s not as if the oh-so-chic 21st and Rock Road traffic jam out on the far east side is any less offensive to our old-part-of-town sensibilities, but we do dread a drive to 21st and Maize even in the recently inclement weather.
Of course the store did not have the promised cable, but of course there was a large electronics chain right across the street, and it had a cable we thought might be worth betting a rather small amount of dollars on. We figured we’d also wager the meager price of one of those thingamajigs that plugs the cable with the square plastic prongs with the little plastic peg into those one of those cables with the rectangular metallic prongs that actually plugs into our new computer, just on the off chance that the old one was the problem, and then we spent interminable minutes at incessant stoplights on the way on home with our newly purchased gear. The thingamajig that plugs the cable with the square plastic prong with the little plastic peg into the one of those cables with the rectangular metallic prongs required that we download a compact disc onto computer, which also proved to be time-consuming and difficult, and then another one of those little boxes on the computer screen indicated that it had created a new portal to the internet, and when we clicked on the magic icons that bring us the internet we we were met with more boxes offering instructions to log on. This proved easy enough until a password was requested, at which point we realized we had long forgotten which of the innumerable “open sesame” incantations was requested, and after several futile guesses we wound up consuming more time and encountering more difficulty getting an actual human from that big inhuman telecommunications company on the telephone.
She was quite nice and helpful, we must say, but her help was time-consuming and difficult. It involved much typing and clicking, including some code numbers listed on tiny script on our modem, and we kept typing “7” instead of “?” because the type was so small and our brains are accustomed to seeing numbers rather than punctuation marks in code numbers, so much re-typing and re-clicking was required, but we eventually worked it all out. We were soon plugged into the internet by wire rather than “wi-fi,” as God and Thomas Edison intended, and suddenly everything was going so fast that you’re probably speed-reading through this posting. In short order the Drudge Report and the rest of the right-wing media had caught us up on the day’s news, but alas, it did little to improve our opinion of the modern world.
At least the forecast for our formerly small and pleasant prairie city is calling for clear skies and gradually increasing temperatures through the next week, to an extent that we might even be able to have the top down on our next drive across our unnecessarily enlarged town, and if that’s a result of the modern world’s carbon emissions we’re still glad of it. Early Sunday morning we’ll spring forward to another hour of daylight, too, another modern innovation that doesn’t actually extend the extent of daylight but at least pushes into the evening where it belongs, and we’re also glad of that, even if it means the preacher at out our old west side church won’t get our usual alert attention during his Sunday morning sermon. We expect the days will grow warmer and longer yet, no matter what the modern world might contrive, so we will be hopeful and continue to air our gripes about the modern world on this newfangled internet machine.

— Bud Norman