“You’re burning daylight!”

One of the phrases I heard while growing up on a farm, at least one of those phrases repeatable in a family friendly posting, was “You’re burning daylight!” The best time to get tasks done was when you could see what the heck you were doing. Idle time would wait until either the chores completed or it was too dark to safely keep working. Daylight was a precious commodity and wasting it caused problems.

Unlike many other creatures, humans are diurnal (or at least most of us are) and our eyes are better suited for daylight rather than moonlight. Farming as an occupation involves using machinery that can cause serious injury or death. Harvest time was especially tough because the daylight hours were several hours shorter than during the summer. My family would hear accounts of someone damaging a piece of harvesting equipment by hitting a rock or culvert at night that would have been visible during the day. I know I had a few close calls back in the early 1970s pulling gravity boxes filled with grain in the wee hours of the morning including the one time and only I dozed off and nearly ended driving into the creek (sorry, Dad!). I would not have been able to blame it on texting.

Today most of the United States went on Daylight Saving Time (DST). Please notice it is NOT Daylight Savings Time, since according to Wikipedia “The form daylight saving time uses the present participle saving as an adjective, as in labour saving device“. As a city dweller, I do enjoy having an hour of extra daylight at the end of my day to enjoy outdoors. Society has migrated from agrarian rural to industrial metropolitan since the Industrial Revolution in the 1750s. One of the premises for implementing Daylight Saving Time is energy conservation with a benefit of extra time for a round of golf after work. The Wikipedia article mentions that there is no conclusive proof that DST saves energy. Most of Arizona does not participate because of the extra energy required to cool houses during the summer. Indeed, the biggest winners of DST are sports teams and the leisure industry. The United States tried year-around DST in 1973 and has not attempted it since. It was more dangerous for children waiting for school buses in the northern states because of the later sunrise. Every year there is a hue and cry to abolish DST and yet it remains. There is one immediate DST benefit in my neighborhood. If my imbibing neighbor feels compelled to yell at the hoot owl, he’ll have an extra hour of sleep before the hooting starts. It also means the feathered alarm clocks start their pleasant morning serenades an hour later.

Keeping track of time zones and time changes is a daunting task. My web server runs a UNIX variant called FreeBSD. UNIX and Linux systems use a file containing all the time zones and the start and end dates for DST, Summer Time, or whatever the locals call the clock chicanery. As part of my systems updates, I receive notifications when the master time zone file changes along with a change synopsis. There were fourteen changes in 2011, ten changes in 2012, and nine changes in 2013; no changes for 2014 yet, but the year is still young. A global economy complicates time keeping.

Farm critters don’t use a time clock. They stick with “God’s time” or solar time. Animals can perceive time but in a qualitative form (“it’s not as light out, I must find shelter!”) rather than quantitative (“it’s 7:05 pm, I must find the baseball game on TV!”). Dairy cows don’t like their schedules changed. I can imagine a farmer stumbling into the barn after DST with the cows giving him the “What the hell are you doing here so early? I still need my beauty sleep!” look. Chickens are not going to “spring forward” with egg production to accommodate the farmer tied to city time. We won’t discuss the pigs, since George Orwell correctly theorized in “Animal Farm” that pigs will take over the world and institute equality for all…except for that pesky “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” clause.

One of the local coffee shop chains is offering a free extra shot of espresso in any coffee drink today. People residing in areas participating in semi-annual “spring ahead/fall back” time manipulations experience a form of jet lag. In my case, it is similar to leaving the Central Tome zone and waking up in the Eastern Time zone. One of my stops today will include picking up a medium turtle mocha with skim milk, dark chocolate, and low-calorie whip “moosed”. That combination saves 125 calories, mostly in fat, and still provides a needed caffeine jolt. The Orwell quote in the previous paragraph may inspire me to have a ham sandwich, too. It would honor the mock Latin motto found on the crest of the Addams Family from the mid 1960s eponymous TV show: “sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc” (“we gladly feast on those who would subdue us”).

My area is finally seeing temperatures closer to normal, and the crowded stores and car washes, along with the later sunset, offer unique people watching opportunities. It is easy to pick a bicyclist or motorcycle rider out in a crowd because of the brown pyramidal tire spray water stain on his or her back from the snow melt and wet roads. Some people will have open windows or sunroofs and no doubt, a few will show off a several kilowatt sub-woofer shaking the glass in buildings half a block away. Temperatures in the 40s mean some people will venture out winter coats with shorts and flip-flops. Perhaps sleep deprivation is a contributing factor.

Try to get out and enjoy the day after fully waking up, and I do hope this posting does not lull you back to sleep. Be sure to give your special someone a meaningful hug and try to find quality time with those closest to you. Time spent with loved ones is never considered burning daylight.

Burning daylight refers to not wasting time. Daylight Saving Time creates a set of challenges along with the benefit of more daylight to enjoy leisure activities after work. Spending time with a loved one is not "burning daylight".

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