72 Comments

  1. I don’t think the cartoonists got it wrong, I just think that the compulsive guy in the office is the only one who bothered to set his clock forward, and the guy on the phone is trying to fool him, so as to give everyone else a believable excuse for being late.

    P.S. Europe won’t shift until the last Sunday in March. America had the chance to make life across the Atlantic easier (by changing to the dates that everyone else uses), but they blew it.

  2. There’s no evidence Rajiv is trying to fool Len. It wouldn’t work because Len’s response would be “But I did set the clocks ahead.”

    To be fair to the cartoonists — who, clearly, screwed up — I had to think through the whole scenario in my head to realize they were wrong.

  3. My head aches from going through, several times, what Len might have done about DST because I hoped I could find a way that the strip made sense. The only thing I was sure of is that what Rajiv says is correct.

    However, it turns out that what Rajiv says is actually NOT correct (grammatically and truthfully) and I know share Kilby’s original understanding.

    It was bugging me that Rajiv uses the word “later”. He says “.. in the Spring, you reset your clocks an hour later.” There is no way in common English usage that that means “.. in the Spring you set your clocks TO an hour later.” ; in Rajiv’s comment, “an hour later” is an adverbial phrase saying when he’s going to do it. That’s the joke. It does not make very satisfying sense; it’s not supposed to; but it does makes more sense than thinking he said the correct thing.

    Kilby was correct and it took me over half an hour to realize it.

  4. Yeah, I also have been trying to make something out of Rajiv’s use of the word later, which the comic calls attention to both because it is not the normal idiomatic usage, and thru typography.

    But I wouldn’t explain it quite the way Kevin A does, as indicating when the act of setting the clocks should take place. How would that help Rajiv justify or explain his absence?
    My alternative, however, is a bit of a reach. I’m suggesting Rajiv is trying to create a meaning of “clocks should be set to accommodate an hour of lateness”.

    (When I originally said the cartoonists may have gotten it backwards, what I meant was that this could have worked in a Fall publication, and showed Len mistakenly setting everything ahead by an hour, and thinking his partner and their employees are all late; only to be corrected by Rajiv telling him in the Fall you set clocks back. Which however is all pretty flat-footed — accurate but not funny.)

  5. The only thing I noticed – or paid any attention to – is that the cartoonist used daylight savingS time, rather than the correct daylight saving time. Does that make me super-pedantic? Or just too lazy to try to figure out what this was all about . . . ?

  6. Rajiv’s use of “later” goes well with his misunderstanding of time change. Len is right, although in these days where people get the time from their phones, the strip seems a little dated.

  7. I think the cartoonist just screwed up and Rajiv really did mean, “We move the clocks an hour ahead” rather than indicating when he would change the clocks.

    Andrea – I noticed that, too. I’ve long since given up on ever hoping that usage will change.

    Downpuppy – I agree about the phones and such. Mostly. On Sunday I was refing in a soccer tournament and between games I grabbed a snack. I checked my watch to see how much time I had until the next match. I was almost late because I thought I had a little over an hour. Turns out I had just 10 minutes. It was easy to lose track of time when jumping from match to match.

  8. Thanks to Kevin A for putting new meaning into my embarrassing mistake @1. 😉

    P.S. Besides the automatic time adjustments in newer mobile phones, tablets, and computers, many (battery powered) clocks in Europe have an internal antenna coil that lets them use a synchronizing radio signal. This not only keeps them on time(*), it also provides automatic semiannual corrections for DST shifts.

    P.P.S.(*) Well, at least most of the time. Just before noon today, I noticed that not just one, but two of our radio-controlled clocks had inexplicably gone haywire. One of them was 10 minutes slow, and the other more than an hour. Restarting them both (one with a fresh AA battery) fixed the problem.

    P.P.P.S. @ TedD – I suspect that Andréa has already read Sunday’s “Foxtrot“, but just in case she hasn’t:

  9. P^4.S. Just in case anyone is wondering, the reason that the radio synchronization is only used by battery powered clocks is that most clocks attached to house current use the 60 Hz AC cycle (50 Hz in Europe) to stay accurate. This is why you should never take a classic plug-in clock radio when travelling internationally. Even if you use a transformer to reduce 240V (European) to 110V (US) power, the frequency stays the same, so your American clock radio will lose 10 minutes for every hour, or four hours per day.

  10. 1) The US Senate just passed a bill to eliminate changing of the clocks. SO many headlines refer to the Senate making Daylight Savings Time permanent. These are professional writers doing this.
    2) When the US adjusted the start and end of DST, I went from not having to adjust several devices in my house to having to adjust them 4 times a year. At least if DST is made permanent I’ll have to change them just twice a year. Some of them may have an AZ or HI setting. I can only hope.

  11. We will probably always say “Daylight Savings Time” just like we will probably keep on saying “Smokey THE Bear” no matter how much the Forest Service says “It’s Smokey Bear.”

  12. I never understood the objection to Smokey. He’s a bear whose last name is “Bear”?

  13. The Senate just passed the End to DST bill; if the House passes it and the President signs it, WHAT are cartoonists going to do every March and November?

  14. @Kilby #1 PS:

    I once stood with some friends at a jetty on the shore of Lac Leman looking at the timetable of a boat service which hopped around the shore of the lake, trying to work out how long it would take us to get from where we were (somewhere in France) to Montreux. It was a large board with the stops in rows and scheduled times in columns. Almost simultaneously two of us called out two different trip lengths. Turned out that the multiple sets of colums for different months wasn’t only because of seasonal differences in services but also because Switzerland (then) didn’t have DST but France did. As the boat schedules were all shown in local time, it was easy to get the wrong idea of journey times by looking at the wrong set of arrival/departure times. Or the right set but without the right understanding.

  15. Smokey Beowulf.

    (I only recently learned that “Beowulf” is actually what it sounds sort of like in modern English, “Bee Wolf”, a kenning for bears (which prey on bees).

  16. “deety: -What do Attila The Hun and Winnie The Pooh have in common?
    -Same middle name!”

    And a tip of the hat to the “Rex” brothers, Oedipus and Tyranasaurus. . .

  17. Brian in STL – Most of the bears in my Teddy Bear Village use “Bear” as their last name – as in Papa Brown Bear or Grandma Grey Bear or Baby Fozzi Bear (he puts on a show in summer for the cubs). Exceptions exist – Mr. and Mrs. Koala (who are not teddys or technically even bears of course, but were trapped here while on a vacation when the fires broke out in Australia a few years back) and Mr. and Mrs. Panda (who run the Panda Panda restaurant – vegan and fish). But by far the most common last name is Bear.

    (Yes, they are just small toys and figurines, but having this silly village in our house and pretending it real has helped us cope a great deal with the pandemic as a place to visit.)

  18. Back over a decade ago when Robert was still working full time I had a good system to deal with the time changes – I mostly ignored it. The clocks had been changed, of course, but I would mostly wake up at the same time and go to the bed at the same time – not clock time, same actual time as I did the rest of the year. There were exceptions – when I had to get up earlier to actually be somewhere (such as a client) at a specific time or weekends when Robert was home, but I left my clock on the same time all year and would wake up what was to me “earlier” for those events.

    Then Robert quit his job/retired and was here all the time and I had to go back to changing my clock.

  19. Re the US vs Europe (& therefore UK) DST dates – I spent my life working for US companies, and I know there was always a window when we had to be very careful arranging conference calls, as one of us had changed and the other hadn’t, so the normal time difference did not apply. But from memory I thought the “fall back” date was usually the same as we did the last Sunday in October and the US did the 4th one, and more often than not they were one and the same.

    To be fair, it must be a nightmare to come up with a sensible system when your time zones are longitude based – I imagine the practical aspects of sunrise/sunset times in winter are a bit different in Maine than they are in Florida…

    Apparently there are moves in the EU to change how/when/if DST is organised there, but the UK has vowed to take no notice of any changes (natch, as the EU is officially Satan’s curia on earth), opening up the possibility of time differences, or varying time differences, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

  20. BTW – my experience of radio time signal regulated battery clocks is that they were quite rare.

  21. But to return to the theme of this evening’s symposium…

    I just don’t get the cartoon. Ignore the semantic stuff about ahead and later,and:

    Len wakes when his bedside clock says 08:00. That is either right, as he adjusted it the evening before or it’s automatic, or it’s now an hour slow.

    Then, when he looks at his watch he panics.

    Are we supposed to assume that his watch is displaying the correct time, and “OMG it’s 09:30 not 08:30”?

    Is this because his watch is auto and the clock isn’t?

    Is it because he remembered to adjust his watch but not his clock?

  22. IF the U.S. ends the time shifting, my assumption is that Arizona would decide which time zone to be in and stay there (either Pacific or Mountain); Hawaii would join the Pacific time zone; and those counties in Indiana who’ve refused to join the DST shift would join the rest of the state in whatever time zone it’s in. This would, most likely, depend on the state legislatures and, perhaps, even putting a resolution on the ballot.

    Fun times . . .

  23. The EU would like to get rid of time shifting, but they want every country to be in the same time and can’t agree on what it should be. The northern countries want to be on standard time and the southern countries want DST. And that’s just the countries that are in GMT+1. There are also countries in GMT+2, like Greece and Cyprus, and Ireland is in GMT. I’m not really sure it’s fixable the way the EU wants it.

  24. @ Andréa – Hawaii might shift by an hour, but is quite unlikely to join the Pacific coast, especially if the continental US stays on Summer time. That would be a three-hour shift, and would make their morning hours uncomfortably dark.

    P.S. @ Mike P – Radio clock synchronisation is (much) more difficult in the US, because it would be harder to set up a single antenna that would provide universal coverage, and then you would still have to set the time zone, and tell the clock whether to comply with DST shifts. In Europe, there are a large number of countries that all use the same time zone (GMT+1), the same DST rules (last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October), and are all within range of a single antenna (in the middle of Germany).

  25. @Kilby: “That would be a three-hour shift, and would make their morning hours uncomfortably dark”

    I’d not thought o’ that . . .

  26. @ Andréa – Personally, I think staying on permanent Summer time is stupid. I remember the one year during the oil crisis, in which the US kept “Summer” time all winter long, which meant we all walked to the school bus stop in pitch dark for a couple months. However, since the decision won’t affect me, I can pretty much ignore it.

  27. @Kilby – I’m with you regarding staying on permanent DST. While I will be glad to not have that time shift twice a year, I wish they’d stick with Standard. Oh, well, at least I won’t have to spend two weeks a year convincing the dogs that it is NOT breakfast time yet.

    Regarding the comic, however – I still can’t figure out exactly what Rajiv means by “one hour later.” Since the official switcheroo takes place at 2am, doing so “one hour later” would indicate making the change at 3am, and thus by 8am he should still be on the updated time zone. I’m also unfamiliar with the comic; how many people work in that office, and is it realistic that everyone except Len would forget?

  28. @Kilby: it’s been a while since I delved into the specifications, but there are no special differences between doing radio time in Europe vs the US. In the US WWV sends several shortwave signals from Colorado (and I think WWVH from Hawaii?) (there’s also a longwave/groundwave signal — it requires a very big antenna; we built a receiver for that back in Explorer’s club when I was a kid, but I think we ran out of time/money or something and never got beyond winding the antenna around a big square of plywood); I can’t recall if the same signal contains data and voice, or if they’re separate, but the point is they cover the whole nation (and beyond, since it’s shortwave); you are responsible for knowing your local time zone. There is a DST bit encoded in the signal, so you know whether DST applies or not – whether you apply it is again up to you. Practically speaking, on the east coast, you can’t rely on getting the signal regularly for the small alarm clock I have — the clock listens for the signal something like 4 times a day, and requires worst-case 8 minutes to get all the data off the signal (or at least it gives up after 8 minutes), like when starting from fresh batteries in (I suspect the people who designed it did not do a very smart job here: the entire time signal is contained in a linear thirty second signal, if I recall correctly, and it sounds like the people who designed the clock rather lazily just use one instance of the signal for each component they need, one at a time, so year, thirty seconds, month, thirty seconds, etc.; so best case 3 minutes for year, month, day, hour, minute, second, 3.5 if you listen for the DST bit, add another maximum 30 seconds to wait for the start of the signal, so 4 minutes — IF the signal doesn’t get interrupted (there are check sums, but as I am suspecting they didn’t design it very smart, forget using those), and so 7.5 minutes if you allow one repeated attempt for an interrupted signal per element… (I think they were at least smart enough to listen for the seconds FIRST, so in most cases even if you don’t get a clear signal, you update that most likely in need of updating…) When we were designed our clock for Explorer’s Club, we had a much more efficient decoding algo, which could get all the data from one 30 second signal (we even used the checksums) (but of course that does require more logic and actual components, a short-term memory store of some kind…), so assuming clear reception, you could expect at most a minute for all the data, because you have to listen for the start of the signal…)
    So for a small quartz clock it’s fine if once running it only successfully gets an update signal every few days because you’re only checking the seconds, and they won’t stray too much. It is however, too much to rely on it getting a signal the night of DST and waking up to the clock being properly synchronized (I think there is in addition to the DST bit another bit that warns of the approach of DST, but even if there is, I don’t think my clock designers use it…). I usually put the clocks right by a window around DST in hopes of getting a signal. This year, of the three such alarm clocks I have, one caught a signal on Sunday and one on Monday (they live on opposite sides of the bed, so one is always closer to the window, and it gets update signals more readily — the far one’s indicator showed it hadn’t received a signal at all for a while, making it apparently need the WHOLE signal, whereas the other one could just update the seconds and the DST bit); the third one I didn’t position near a window, and it still hasn’t caught a signal … actually, it looks like it HAS, and I don’t have it set to apply DST… crap, I’ll have to dig out the manual. This third one is one of a set I have from Lidl, one bought in Germany, and one bought here, so the German one obviously doesn’t work here as it is listening for the European signals (different frequencies, different encoding?), but otherwise the clocks are very much the same (I bought them for the remote thermometer unit, time keeping was just incidental); they are equally badly designed button-wise, so that you just can’t figure out what the heck the buttons do without consulting the manual. The American bought one recently needed new batteries, which is when I might have screwed up the “use DST” setting…

  29. Wow, talk about bad design… So yes, I HAD screwed up the use DST setting on the clock when I replaced the batteries, because when I replaced the batteries I had to reset everything, and so when it asked “use DST”, I assumed it wanted to know whether to apply it NOW, and as this was a couple months ago, the correct answer was “no”, because it wasn’t summer. Of course, what it REALLY was asking was, “should I automatically apply DST when it is appropriate to do so?”, and so my saying “no” meant it didn’t automatically apply DST. And now when I changed ONLY THAT SETTING, it still has to try and catch a signal to see whether DST should apply or no, because heaven forefend the clock waste a memory bit by storing that piece of information locally (yes, I said not to use that info, but I didn’t understand the question, and really, how hard can it be to store ONE lousy possibly superfluous bit?) The design decisions on this clock are SO bad that I don’t think I’ve ever had a smooth transition so I could see if this one maybe utilizes the one week DST warning bit, so that the clock adjust on the day even if it DOESN’T catch a signal that night. I just read in the manual this one has the same maximum listening time of around 7 minutes, meaning they too listen serially to the signal for each component they need, instead of trying for parallel signal processing and squeezing more information out of the signal so you don’t need such a long time with a signal that might be interrupted… Another brilliant design choice was in the setting of the time zone: they went with 4 numbers, 0 to 3. Guess which is EST? No really, I dare you. It happens to be 3. I remember that because of this idiocy I confused this clock with its nearly identical German counter part, because I assumed that this was a European setting, zero being GST, because it never in my wildest dreams occurred to me that 3 might be EST…

  30. Susan, I’ve been reading the Edge City strip for a while, but quite casually and mostly for the domestic drama themes. It’s convenient for our discussion that Len and Rajiv use each other’s names in the dialogue, so we can name them without doing any lookup! 🙂 However, I did indulge in a little lookup, and it seems Len and Rajiv are the founders and equal partners at the head of the company. The layout of cubicles suggests a few more in-office employees, plus of course they would have actual couriers. (Who might check in in-person to start a shift, or might get their first pickup assignment sent to them.) I haven’t checked right now but I do think I’ve seen the bosses making delivery runs themselves too.

    Also it seems the strip is not being produced any longer (ending at the beginning of 2016) and different syndicators are tracking the archive at different schedules. Somebody at King must have had the idea of running this one on DST Sunday!

  31. It wasn’t the existence of radio sync I was questioning, just that not many clocks implemented support. Now we have DAB clock radios we get the same function via that.

    My car has both a digital and an analogue clock, which automatically adjust (presumably GPS is what drives that) but the analogue one is not capable of being driven backwards, so in autumn it goes forward by 23 hours, not backwards by 1.

    I’ve been to Hawaii, and to me it felt like summer. It was weird to be subconsciously in summer and have it getting dark at 6PM.

    Iceland is in the same time zone as UK/Ireland/Portugal. That must be fun in winter.

    The North-east extremity of Norway is further east than a big chunk of Turkey, but on the same time as Spain. Ditto fun. But then in midwinter they get no daylight, and only about 3½ hours of twilight so it’s hard to see how much fun can be added or taken away by where pointers on a dial are.

    Which highlights the unavoidable truth – ye cannae change the laws of physics by adjusting the pointers on a timepiece. The closer you are to a pole the more you will run short of daylight hours in winter. In the north of Scotland there’s nothing we can to to arrange daylight for people getting up and going to work/school and coming home.

  32. Iceland is in the same time zone as UK/Ireland/Portugal. That must be fun in winter.

    I can’t speak as an Icelander, but as someone who loves to visit in the winter, I can say that they have the time zone optimally chosen for the short amount of daylight they get. In Reykjavik, it starts to get light around 9, 9:30, and then the last of the light goes away around 4:30, 5. Having the sun just above the horizon makes for a magical, daylong sunset, as the sun just circles you instead of setting. I love the light in winter there.
    (Though I have to confess one time we had to wake up early to drive my aunt to the airport, and it was MISERABLE in the complete dark. We went to a municipal pool near the airport that opened at 8 am, and it was still pitch black, and it was MISERABLE! I don’t mind so much the dark at the end of the day, and it was weird because I’m sure the exact same pool and hot tub at the end of the day pitch black would have been much less miserable to me than the start of the day darkness. So as long as you can sleep in (like I can on vacation), waking up around 9, everything is fine for me… 🙂

  33. @ larK – “…there are no special differences between doing radio time in Europe vs the US…”

    There is, however, one simple difference. On the one side, there are the steps and decisions necessary to get a radio-controlled clock working in the United States (see your description above). Compare that to the process necessary to get a typical radio-controlled clock working in Germany (no matter whether it’s a cheap one from Lidl, Aldi, or Tchibo, or an expensive one from a department or jewelry store):

    1) Take the clock out of the package.
    2) Put the proper battery into the clock.
    3) Toss the manual into the trash.

    There are no buttons, and no options to set. This is why radio-controlled clocks are ubiquitous in Germany, but scarcely known in the US.

  34. @Mike P

    so in autumn it goes forward by 23 hours, not backwards by 1.

    No, it doesn’t. It goes forward by 11 hours.

    You idiot.

  35. @ Mitch – “…different syndicators are tracking the archive at different schedules. Somebody at King must have had the idea of running this one on DST Sunday…
    I have to admit that King Features took much more care with the rerun date for this strip than GoComics has ever taken with any of their re-runs. It’s impossible to be sure, but it looks like April 7th must be the original publication date (in 2002).

  36. Kilby: you confuse the stupidity of DSL with the usage of an atomic radio clock. DSL usage is just as stupid in Europe as it is here, atomic radio clock usage is just as easy here as it is in Europe.

    The reason for the apparent difference in popularity, if indeed it turns out to be real, is a deep-seated cultural one, which as an emigrant from Germany to the US I can articulate as thus: American individualism doesn’t like anyone questioning the accuracy of their chosen timepiece, and it doesn’t like a central authority telling the individual what the exact time is, questioning the quality of the individual’s timepiece. I’ve seen it again and again in the US, you insinuate that someone is not on time, and they lash back immediately, saying how do you know it’s not YOU who has the wrong time?! (Because I set my clock last night to WWV, that’s why…) Every public facing clock, back when this was a thing, differed plus or minus ~5 minutes as to the time it showed. Americans value punctuality, but you are given a 10 to 15 minute leeway around the agreed upon time, because no one can agree what the correct time is; in Germany, people will walk outside your door for 3 or 4 minutes, so they can press the doorbell at exactly the agreed upon time (and in Germany, there is no problem with everyone agreeing upon the correct time) — I’ve both done this, and seen it done.
    This has changed only recently with the ubiquity of cell phones, and only because no one asked, it was just done, that the cell phones all synch to the exact correct time by default.
    If there is less atomic clock usage here it’s because the inhabitants here don’t want nor value having the exact time. The US has been doing the atomic radio time broadcasts a lot longer than Europe has….

  37. @ larK

    “In Reykjavik, it starts to get light around 9, 9:30, and then the last of the light goes away around 4:30, 5.”

    Guess it depends on what “starts to get light” means.

    On 21st Dec, official daylight in Reykjavik is 11:22 – 15:29. Morning twilight kicks in at 10:02 and afternoon dies at 16:48

  38. @ Mike P: I’ve never been there exactly on the solstice, just early December, or January. Remember that it’s not quite linear, so the days will get shorter faster (and then longer quicker) as you approach the solstice. As you note, you can’t fight the laws of physics, but they do optimize the sunlight they do get. What I describe holds for early Dec., and January; even the most extreme short days are still balanced well, I feel (though yeah, if I had to get up for work in December and it doesn’t even begin to get light until 10, I might be miserable…)

  39. Remember that it’s not quite linear, so the days will get shorter faster (and then longer quicker) as you approach the solstice. @larK, are you sure? If it’s a sinusoidal curve, and the solstices are at the max and min, that’s where the slope gets small. It would be at the equinoxes that the daily change of day-length gets largest.

  40. I guess the Forest Service got tired of the joke “What’s Smokey The Bear’s middle name? The.”

    All of the Senators who voted for year-round DST must live on the East Coast. Detroit, Michigan is in the Eastern time zone, and when they get year-round DST, on December 28 the sun will rise at 9:00 a.m.

    Southern states have less of a seasonal difference in the length of the day. Hawaii has the least of all. Ecuador has 12 hours of daylight every day year round.

  41. Yeah, Mitch, you’re completely right; I don’t know what I was thinking. Somehow it seemed that way this year when we were paying attention with our Liberian exchange student. I guess it’s noticeable how the days get longer quicker right after the solstice, but just before it they don’t get shorter quicker….

  42. _those counties in Indiana who’ve refused to join the DST shift _

    That went away some years ago. However, some counties are in Central time zone as opposed to the rest of the state.

  43. @ larK – (Re: “precision”) – When I was learning Spanish (many decades ago), our teacher told us that Spanish invitations were only approximate (she claimed that showing up 15 to 55 minutes late would be perfectly acceptable), but the amusing part was that if the host wanted the guests really to be “on time”, they would allegedly add “tiempo americano” (“American time”) to the invitation. I have no idea whether there is any truth to this at all.

    P.S. A long while back we took a two-week vacation in Iceland, very close to the Summer solstice. It never got dark outside, and in several locations we had to hang an extra blanket over the curtains to get the bedroom dark enough to sleep.

  44. I am well known in in my family for delivering the cheery news on Dec 23 that it’s less than 6 months until the nights start drawing in.

  45. As time zones – and even time itself – are artificial constructs and have no place in reality (at least, according to Sir Terry [Pratchett]), all this talk of time is so much blarney. Says the person who gets up when the dogs tell her to do so, and goes to bed when she feels like it.

    Anyway, today’s XKCD has something to say about this . . .
    https://xkcd.com/2594/

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