Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spring forward, fall back!

Daylight savings time has arrived again and it’s that time to spring forward, that is to set your clocks forward an hour. That little task alone will take the better part of an hour around here. It is not a matter of the person setting the clocks being slow; it is a matter of so many clocks around here; we have dozens. Some of our clocks are radio controlled; they set themselves from the time signal broadcast from WWV in Colorado. But down here in the Southeast, that signal is a bit spotty and of the 6 radio controlled clocks, only three made the transition. One or two that didn’t change today will make the change on the 30th when the rest of the world does. So the rest will be hand changed today.

I don’t know about you, but as I get older, time change days are getting harder and harder. It seems that it takes my body 2 or 3 days to adjust to the change, so if you run into me before Wednesday, be aware I am still caught up in the throes of the “Zombie Apocalypse.” I wonder if there has been any study done on whether or not there is an increase in traffic accidents in the week following a time change. You can bet that I will be giving my fellow commuters a little spare room tomorrow. They say that the best way to acclimate your body to the time change is to expose yourself to bright sunshine as soon as you can after awakening. The only problem with that is that the sun doesn’t rise for nearly an hour after the alarm goes off. So much for the advice they give. Who are “they” and what do “they” know anyway?

One state in the lower 48 doesn’t switch to Daylight Savings Time, Arizona. However within that state the Navaho Nation does switch. But hold your horses, completely enclosed within the Navaho Nation is the Hopi Reservation which does not switch. Yikes just getting my arms around all that makes my head hurt. What makes it hurt worse is the fact that other countries do not switch on the same days that the US does. The United Kingdom, for example, does not switch until the 30th. Now this is what impacts me personally! I do a show from my home studio here in South Carolina on a UK based station from 2 – 4 PM London Time (Greenwich Mean Time) on Friday afternoons. Normally, there is a 5 hour difference from GMT. So that means that the show runs 9 – 11 AM Eastern time. Except for the next two weeks when the time difference will be only 4 hours. I will do the show from 10 AM till 12 noon, switching back after London catches up to our time change and we go back to a 5 hour difference. Adding to all that confusion there is Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) which is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is a successor to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). For most purposes, UTC is synonymous with GMT but is more precise, down to the sub second level. UTC does not change with Daylight Savings Time. I believe I have that right now but I still may be a bit confused. All week long I was thinking that I needed to do that show from 8 – 10 AM, but I was thinking that change backwards. In the fall, I will need to do all this again, the other way. Yikes!

Left: Changing the clock in the hall outside the House Of Representatives in Washington, DC. As much a pain in the tail as this time changing is, it is still worth it to me. My favorite time of the day is the last couple of hours before sunset. During the winter, I don’t get to enjoy that much as that is 3 – 5 PM and the sunlight is gone before I even get home. But starting this week, the drive home is in full sunlight and I get to enjoy the buds on the trees and the puffy white clouds overhead dancing in the warm glow of the sun. All that snow and ice is gone for at least another year.

Back in my AM radio days, I loved Daylight Savings time for another reason, pattern / power change time. AM radio waves travel farther at night than they do during the day so most radio stations are required to either reduce transmitter power or switch to directional signal patterns at sundown. I was doing an evening show that normally started after the power reduction, but with that hour change plus the longer daylight hours in the summer time, more and more of my show occurred while we were on the more powerful daytime transmitter. At sundown, I would lose most of the audience out on the fringes of our signal for a couple of hours until the nighttime propagation effects overcame the power reduction. One by one, I could tell they were back when I began to get requests from the kids that lived on the edge of our signal. The longer I could put that power change off, the happier I was.

I know that there is controversy about Daylight Savings Time and whether or not it saves energy. The debate always comes up this time of year. I don’t have a horse in that race. I am on the side of Daylight Savings Time just because I like having more daylight at the end of my day, when I can enjoy it. So I go through the annual rite of passage of setting my clocks forward because it brings back so many good memories of the fun we had back in the day. Oh MY!

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