Sunday, October 28, 2012

56. Time on Our Hands

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‘What a difference a day makes
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain’

Dinah Washington’s 1987 song gently pours its sounds in my ear, her voice beating the time on the lyrics translated into English by Jamie Cullum from Maria Grever’s Spanish lyrics ‘Cuando vuelva a tu lado’ (When I Come Back by Your Side). But how little is an hour of those twenty-four?

Doubtless, the song is loveable: where there’s fusion, there’s value to be found. What about that one little hour that – we are told – we’ll be gaining for advancing the clock – or having advanced it by now? Is it a gain or a loss?

Google Images: Decimal Clock,
in Fritz Lang's Metropolis
This morning we all stepped into Daylight Saving Time again. Some did it mechanically, accepting, as it were, what has been decided for the general benefit. Others (like me) still question the usefulness of imposing rules on rhythms, and don’t see any positive changes – not as far as the individual is concerned.

Waste Not, Want Not

Ten words have been removed from the text below. They are to be found among the fifteen words written below the article. Five of those words are then extra – or, better to say, distractors. Find the good ones and complete the text:

[adapted from the Wikipedia article on DST]
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As modern societies operate on the basis of "standard time" 1. _ than solar time, most people's schedules are not governed by the movements of the earth in relation 2. _ the sun. For example, work, school and transport schedules will generally begin at exactly the 3. _ time at all times of the year regardless of the position of the sun. However, in non-equatorial regions the total number of hours of sunlight in a day will vary a 4. _ deal between autumn/winter and spring/summer. As a result, if "standard time" is applied year 5. _ , a significant portion of the longer sunlight hours will fall in the early morning while there 6. _ still be a significant period of darkness in the evening. Because many people will tend to sleep in the early morning hours, these hours of sunlight are "wasted" for them, 7. _ if they are shifted to the evening via DST, they can then be "used". People could simply wake up earlier to take advantage of the sunlight then, but this is impractical because of the inflexibility of clock-based schedules.
As days shorten again in autumn/winter, sunrises get later and later, meaning that people could then be 8. _ up and spending a significant portion of their mornings in the 9. _ so clocks are then returned to the "standard" time. The actual effects of DST can vary significantly by location depending on its latitude and position relative to the centre of its time zone. For example, DST is almost redundant in extremely northern/southern locations because the very long/short days mean that the artificial manipulation of time has little or 10. _ practical effect.

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Dark – darkness – great – getting – may – must – no – rather – round – same – to – waking – whereas – while – with

Why do we do it? Or why do we (here and now) have to do it?
Is it observed everywhere on the globe?
Whose hour is it, anyway?!

If it were just for that biological time of 60 minutes, maybe we wouldn’t mind. In favour of advancing the clock in October, and as homage to its promoter William Willett, Churchill said (in 1934) that “it enlarges the opportunities for the pursuit of health and happiness among the millions of people who live in this country”… This automatically sends our thought to DST for interests far above the individual’s own life span. But Man is made of subtle rhythms which belong to his ancestral heritage: not even five thousand years of evolution could make such important changes in human biology as to help an organism cope with all the changes triggered by shift in circadian rhythms. 

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We suffer from SAD (Syndrome of Autumn Depression) and we project our suffering on people around us. We feel like eating without stop and we blame ourselves for every ounce of food because we think we lack strong will to shed the extra kilos: in fact it has to do with leptin, serotonin, cortisol, and other hormones that regulate the chains of chemical reactions taking place in our body while awake vs. while we are asleep.

No, definitely, I won’t buy this – unless someone shows me the real advantages of changing the clock and consuming more power both early in the morning and late at night! 
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