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On Daylight Savings Time

I’m a fan of Daylight Savings Time. Basically because I don’t like to get up in the dark, and I like it to stay light as late as possible. My ideal would be for the sun to come up about 15 minutes before my alarm went off every day, but that’s not very realistic.

Lots of people hate Daylight Savings Time. I recently tweeted that Daylight Savings Time is like the Designated Hitter for non-sports fans. (Non-sports fans didn’t seem to get the joke; the existence of the Designated Hitter has been a major controversy in professional baseball since it was introduced in the early 1970s, with both sides being so entrenched that it’s unlikely anything will ever change. Long, long ago I wrote a short essay in defense of it. But I digress.) I have some appreciation for why they hate it, but I don’t agree with them. And rants I read about it often make me feel like they have no appreciation at all for why I like it.

This article, Why I Like DST, has been making the rounds this week, but I think it obfuscates its point (in particular, I think all his talk about computers is just a sideshow; automation has nothing to do with whether someone likes DST or not). Being one of those “arrogant programmers” he talks about, I thought I’d try fixing his article. :)

I think Daylight Savings Time basically comes down to this: Here’s when the sun will will rise and set in San Francisco on the shortest and longest days of the year of 2013, on each Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time:

  Longest Day
(June 21)
Shortest Day
(Dec 21)
Pacific Standard Time
(Winter time)
Rise: 4:48 am
Set: 7:35 pm
Rise: 7:22 am
Set: 4:55 pm
Pacific Daylight Time
(Summer time)
Rise:5:48 am
Set: 8:35 pm
Rise: 8:22 am
Set: 5:55 pm

(Table from the United States Naval Observatory, from which the article above also got its table.)

I don’t want the sun coming up at 8:22 am in the winter – winter can be depressing enough (expecially for people with seasonal affective disorder, which I think I have a mild form of) without waking up in the dark every day. I’d rather the sun came up closer to 7 (around the time I get up). On the other hand, I don’t really want it coming up at 4:48 am, several hours before I get up, in the summer; I’d rather have it come up later and stay light until nearly 9 pm.

And I’m happy to change my clocks twice a year to get closer to those ideals.

Now, your mileage may vary: You might get up or go to bed at a very different time from me, you might always get up in the dark year-round (Debbi gets up at 4 am most weekday mornings, well before sunrise in any of the squares on the chart), you might just hate changing your clocks twice a year. It’s really a matter of opinion. But it seems like people who hate the switch just don’t understand why people might like it. For me, it serves a purpose: I’m a light fiend, and I want to have as much of it during my waking hours as I can.

If we do someday end it, I’d rather we land on Daylight time year-round, since it’s closer to what I’d want (more daylight later in the day). I guess it would be some consolation that in the dead of winter I could watch the sun come up when I’m sitting down to breakfast.

But switching between the two times, as we do, is even better.

Oh, and I’m also pretty happy with the change made a few years ago to start DST earlier in the year and end it later, since it means I can bike to work for a few more weeks without having to bike home in the dark.

3 comments to On Daylight Savings Time

  • This is one of those posts where putting in links makes it read more authoritatively. “Hey, this guy put in a link to the Wikipedia entry for Seasonal Affective Disorder – he must really know what he’s talking about!” Complete bullshit, of course, but it makes me giggle since it sometimes seems like people use links when writing on the web mainly to punch up their voice of authority, but they’re mostly linking to stuff no one cares about.

  • Subrata Sircar

    I didn’t used to care as much, but now I like it both because of biking times and because I’m getting up a lot earlier than I used to. Since we got blackout curtains for AJ’s room, he’s been a little dubious about going to bed while it’s still light out but it hasn’t phased him as much. That was the one drawback I had and hopefully it’s gone …

  • On a personal level, it’s optimizing for daylight that I would like too. Having the sun set at 4:45pm means that I’m guaranteed to be leaving the office when it’s dark outside. I’d prefer more sunlight at the end of my day rather than at the beginning of my day because I get to actually enjoy the sunshine at the end of the day. But I can see how someone else’s sunlight-optimization might be on the other side of that equation.

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