The Daily: 14 March 2023

Happy Pi Day!

(Which I should point out only works as a pun if you note time in the American format, 3/14… not 14 March as I learned it.)

Here is a long and rambling rant on time to while away the hours. (Apologies…)

Daylight saving time began this week. This always leaves me feeling adrift. I do not shift time very well. Travel to different time zones usually means I spend several days trying to adjust my sleep schedule on both ends of the trip. Which also means I am not sleeping well for much of that time. Even just an hour can throw me off. Fortunately, I don’t travel that much. (Can’t afford it, don’t like the carbon footprint, have too much to do here, and suffer from both horrible motion sickness and potential blood clots… so…)

But I can’t get around this time change thing in spring and fall. It’s not even getting up earlier that bothers me. I am just as confused by the falling back change as the springing forward. Same with travel. It doesn’t matter which direction I go, my body refuses to slide into the next time zone.

These time changes, coming as they do near the equinoxes when daylight is already shifting rapidly, are particularly hard on people who already suffer insomnia. And there isn’t much that can be done to ‘fix’ the issue. There are sleeping drugs, but drugging tends to make things worse for me (in most things). I may get a very solid eight hours of sleep, but I feel exhausted and groggy all day long. This is probably because I’m not getting a real sleep cycle; the drugs are just forcing unconsciousness, which is not at all the same as sleep. People like me just have to wait until our bodies adjust. Getting lots of exercise and eating light in the evenings are both helpful. But while it’s easy to get in more exercise in the autumn — the garden will provide! — in March it’s rather difficult to do physical things… other than shovel snow. It’s also hard to get up earlier and exercise indoors when we’re plunged back into morning darkness. (Just when it was getting easy to wake up at 5:30am…)

I know I’m not the only one who has problems with time changes. The US Senate even managed to unanimously agree on that one thing in 2022, voting to abolish the time change beginning November 2023. The vote was to remain on daylight saving time permanently, never returning to standard time. (Making it ‘unstandard’?) Unfortunately, the House let the bill die, so we’ll probably be forced to shift back this year as usual. The Old Farmer’s Almanac runs biannual complaints, rehashing all the issues with shifting time — from milking time disruption to an increase in cardiac arrest after the spring change. They seem to take daylight saving time as a personal affront, especially the fact that most people blame their deity, Ben Franklin, for its creation. (He did not.) My mother still can’t comprehend why, after generations of staunchly refusing the change, Indiana decided to adopt daylight saving time in 2006. One more hassle added specifically to her to-do list.

And that is what I most object to, not only in daylight saving time but in all time management. Or, I suppose, in management per se.

On Sunday, I woke up — late by the clock, but normal by my body’s internal timekeeper — and went about my morning things until I was reminded — because my phone keeps ‘official time’ — that I had to go around and change the clocks. I have clocks in most rooms — because I don’t pay much attention to that phone, the timekeeper for most people these days. So it takes twenty to thirty minutes to wrestle wall clocks off walls, find the dial or knob that changes the hands, and the try to get the clocks back on those damn picture hangers. (Who exactly designed those things? Do they not know that most wall hanging things have keyhole openings?) I also had to change batteries on a couple of them, and since I had the dead battery bag out, I changed the back-up batteries on the smoke detectors. (Used to have to do this twice a year, but on this system which is wired into the house electricity the battery hardly gets used.) So I did more than change the time, but I spent most of an hour of time on that one thing — that one thing that does not need to be done for any reason!

I’ve probably wasted 60 hours of my life on daylight saving time. What precisely is this saving? But more to the point, why do we do these things that are nothing but a waste of time?

People will go on about the amount of time wasted on social media and television. I’ll not gainsay that one. I never used social media until starting this blog and I still don’t watch TV, so I did not understand the vast vacuum that screens are. Nothing escapes Twitter, not space, not light, and not time… I’ll set out to post something (now a manual process because WordPress and Elon Musk don’t see eye to eye on the value of Twitter posting). It should take a matter of seconds. But then there are issues with the images, with the way the text reads, with the link’s functionality, even with accessing the ‘tweet’ button — which is often lost off the bottom of my laptop screen unless I resize the browser window to be more like phone screen proportions. This can easily turn my five seconds into five minutes — and none of this is necessary to anything in my life. In fact, posting ought to be automated. If the technology worked as well as we think it does, it should be one second, not even five. Now, note that I’m not actually doing anything that most people complain about in social media. I’m not scrolling through ‘my feed’. I hardly ever look at that stream of ads and misery. But woe betide me if I actually see something interesting after I submit the post! That can suck up thirty minutes before I’m even aware that time is being lost.

But time lost to social media (or other screens) is the result of a choice I make. It is not required. It is not being forced upon me. In fact, I could easily not use social media at all. It doesn’t seem to have any effect on the visibility of this blog. I use Facebook mostly for family (actually mostly for my mom). Hardly any visits to my blog come from there. Twitter sometimes generates interest, but not enough to really make it necessary. (For the record, I get the most non-subscriber traffic from Google searching… with zero input from me… making search engine analytics seem rather a waste also.) In any case, I have chosen to do this thing and could choose not to. But there are far more insidious and involuntary demands on my time that are, objectively, a complete waste.

Daylight saving time is one, but it’s rather minor. More an inconvenience, a petty grievance (that probably gets hashed out viciously on social media, now I think on it… so… time wasting as the focus of time wasting? hm…). There are far worse both in terms of what is being done and the magnitude of time being thrown away in the process.

For example, how many hours of the day do you spend just trying to get something to work? At the bookstore, I had to go through four login screens, three printer selection and set-up screens, three screens of selecting options to get to where I needed to be, and two drop-down selection menus — just to begin to fill a web order. There were many more screens and the shipping program nightmare to actually send out the item. This could all take about ten minutes if every step was functioning properly, which was not ever the case. (There is always something wrong with the printer… I’m sure Murphy has a law about that.) So normally it took about twenty minutes to just get the combination of software and hardware to the proper alignment to actually do the ten seconds of work involved in printing the order, confirming it, and printing a shipping label. And all this time did not include finding the item in our store and packaging it up.

Now, consider what is being shipped. School branded merchandise. None of which is needed. Most of which is made from toxic materials in abusive conditions and so should not, morally, even exist. All of which — because it’s made poorly and because these are not things that have a long potential use anyway — will soon be trash. Mostly toxic trash. So twenty to thirty minutes to send out one nascent trash, plastic bumper sticker — in a padded mailer, no less…

You could argue that I am being paid to do this work, so it’s still sort of a choice. I could go find a job that doesn’t entail so much wasted time (and wasted everything else). I might have agreed with you ten years ago, back when I was running a bookstore. I had an inventory maintenance program that combined with the point of sale system. So it was one program. It could talk to my vendors for easy digital ordering — just enter item numbers and press send! It had limited use as an accounting system, though I had to download information into Excel if I really wanted to see details in sales. I had to deal with shipping outside the program, but that too was only a matter of visiting the FedEx or UPS website and submitting a simple form — even to send piles of heavy books to Australia! (We had some big names who signed books in our store pretty much exclusively…) Our own web ordering or phone ordering — or even the occasional snail mail ordering — took maybe a minute, including finding and packing the book.

Now you could say, well, yes, but you ran a very small operation compared to the multinational that takes so much more time. Things were simpler. To which I will respond: I was doing exactly the same work with far fewer resources at my disposal, and it took less time. Though I will not deny that things were simpler. In fact, complexity is the problem. That it exists. That it grows. That it keeps breaking functional systems. That it will, by its nature, continually waste more and more time. Complexity is the problem.

My current employer is bigger; it is not better. We tend to think the opposite, that with larger scale efficiencies are generated. Not so. With larger scale, work becomes more inefficient. There is more management involved and less doing the actual work, and management is never productive time. All those steps just to get to the web order are the impositions of management. Most of the separate screens are purely a function of dividing up tasks so that each can be individually analyzed for profit gain or loss. In this corporation, there is no communication between accounts payable and accounts receivable even though both are functions of each other. Nor is there a seamless method of tracking what is in stock and placing orders based on that. Orders do not even get placed within the store. Someone who has never been in that store does the ordering of inventory. This is partly done to generate volume discounts on orders, I’m sure. If you order fifty sweatshirts you pay more for each shirt than if you order five hundred, even with the logos of different schools printed on the chest. So one central buyer will potentially wrest more profit from each sweatshirt (if they sell) than one buyer in each store.

And that is what drives all this complexity — increased profit. Yet… I really don’t believe that profits are increased when so much is being lost. Consider how many hours I am paid to do nothing but stare at a screen, waiting for it to do something. Consider the extra wage hours paid to have a buyer in a separate office, one who has no ties to any of the stores she stocks, who does no other labor than to order sweatshirts in bulk, one who can not, for example, run register transactions and keep the store tidy while creating orders, thereby getting more labor out of each paid wage hour. (As one does when one is a sole proprietor…) Consider all the extra cost of maintaining separate systems — more wages, more hardware and software, more infrastructure, rent, utilities, more management of same. There is a good deal of hand-waving when it comes to corporate accounting, and we tolerate this because all this waste does in fact create more wage hours, more jobs. But does my employer make that much more money on each book sold than I did? I’d be willing to bet that if expenses were precisely distributed, if all the costs that went into selling that book were applied against the revenue that book generated, my small bookstore likely made more money on the sale.

But I only employed fourteen people. And I used just one or two software packages. And my infrastructure was mostly bookshelves made locally, mostly by a lovely man named Claudio (whose ‘real job’ was being a horse trainer for the mounted police…). In other words, my store was not doing much to churn books into wealth. And of course I sold far fewer books.

What scale brings is the ability to sell more overall, so that Amazon can make Jeff Bezos a billionaire even if, at best, it earns pennies on each book sale. This is what we celebrate in bigness. More and more and more gross revenue to make that stock market soar! But more importantly to our economy, scale — and the increasing managerial complexity it entails — enables our society to wrench revenue out of more and more processes within the actual sale of a book or a sweatshirt. My employer pays for far more goods and labor to support the sale of each book than I did in my store. This we do not talk about at all when we talk about scale. Because we don’t want to admit that much of what we are doing is diminishing efficiency, reducing profits on each item sold, and wasting a huge amount of time. Which is not money, but something far more precious — our life.

So I might have agreed that working for a complex corporation was a choice made that led to more life wasting than working in my bookstore, or doing any other directly productive work. Ten years ago you might have been able to find a more productive way to earn wages. Maybe. Though even then the job market was not terribly elastic and the choice to do more productive work often meant choosing to earn lower wages and dealing with the erratic scheduling of service work. But even in service work today, even limiting your job search to locally-owned, small scale businesses, I doubt you could find anything that does not include a substantial waste of time. Because in the intervening decade we’ve doubled down on something that has made all work unproductive while wrenching huge revenues out of thin air — computer technology.

No, I am not referring to social media again. Though that is a symptom. Think about how much more time we spend using a computer to mediate work than we did manually just ten years ago. We think we are saving time. But are we? Or are we merely making the people who sell and manage computer technology inordinately rich?

Let’s take an example that most Americans are dealing with at this time of year — completing your tax returns. Not very long ago, it was unusual to file online. You gathered whatever paperwork you needed. Usually this entailed a trip to the library for forms and maybe a trip to the accountant for explanations and advice (most tax credits remain opaque to me…). Then after a few days of research, you spread it all over the dining room table and filled out the main form. If you’d managed to pile up everything necessary, this last step, the only step that is required in the task labeled ‘filing your returns’, maybe took twenty minutes. After which you could take the sealed envelope to the post office if you were nervous about mail theft (a depressingly common thing in Albuquerque), or you could just put the return in your mailbox and let the postal carrier deal with it.

Notice that most of the time that went into this process was in the management steps. Finding the proper forms. Discovering what jargon terms meant and how they applied to you. Gathering the required records. The actual process could have been a matter of minutes — you earned X dollars, so you write a check to pay Y dollars, or better yet, find out that you’ve overpaid all year and you get a refund of Z dollars. Either way, five minutes and mission accomplished. All the other steps are extra complexity that do no productive tasks toward the actual job of filing your returns. So even then, most of the work done was superfluous. But it was mostly you doing it and a legion of government bureaucrats generating it. There was little extra revenue being created in this work.

Enter online filing. For a while, this was just a digital version of filing paper forms. In fact, it was nothing but a new way to deliver the forms. You still did all the same steps — library, accountant, dining room table of paperwork — and then entered the result into a webform. This was actually a bit of a time saver, at least with respect to getting refunds. (Unfortunately, it was also an instantaneous transfer out of your bank account if you found that you owed…) But it did not save time on doing the work. Usually, it added time to the work done because, unless you were particularly cavalier about sending mistakes to the IRS, you did it all on paper first. So there was one more task added to filing the return.

But with that small breach into the process, tech and capitalism were able to start doing what they do best — churn everything into money. First the forms disappeared from the library. You went to the IRS website and downloaded them to your computer and printed them on your own printer. Note how many new potential revenue streams are added here. Also note how much harder this becomes for someone who doesn’t have a computer. Or a functioning printer with all the correct toner cartridges. Or a reliable internet connection. Even the paper is a new cost to doing your taxes. And things just snowballed from there.

Meanwhile the process of collecting taxes also became a byzantine labyrinth of despair. The number of forms. The mystifying regulations. The bafflingly nested lists of exceptions. It seems that with the dubious aid of computerization, the IRS and all scales of government went on a bureaucracy bonanza. The 1040EZ — the closest equivalent to ‘you earned X so you owe Y’ — doesn’t seem to apply to anyone anymore. Your accountant may still help out if you have one, but most people don’t. So to explain all the new jargon which applied to increasingly large swathes of the tax-paying public (rather than to the few who are sufficiently fortunate to earn enough money to want to try to use credits), there sprang up out of nowhere a whole industry of tax professionals (who seem to work for the first three months of the year without sleep and who apparently have unlimited access to blue foam Statue of Liberty costumes).

Now, compare the scene with the forms all over the dining table and the maybe twenty minutes of actual work — but no extra revenue streams generated in the process — to today’s filing. First of all, you still get to do all the work. You have to find the forms, which is increasingly difficult because you need to know the name of each necessary form. This means that you will begin working on one form and discover you need three more, each of which probably entails another two, three, or five more. You will scrap whatever work you did without the proper forms and spend hours walking between the dining room table and the printer for every two or three lines you manage to fill out on the main form. (OK maybe not that long… but it feels like hours…) So you have to do all that work — or pay someone else to do all that work. Which is the point…

Plus you now have to transfer all that work into the computer. Because not only will you not get your refunds quickly, it seems like the IRS does not want your paper return. You are discouraged from doing anything but file it online. And therefore you are forced to spend all those extra resources and generate more revenue for others. Which is the point…

And this year, I discovered that you can’t actually file directly to the IRS. The IRS has ‘private partners’ who will handle the filing process. In other words, the IRS has contracted out the work of maintaining and processing online returns. In other words, the IRS pays them to do that work. Meaning we pay them to do that work. In addition to paying the IRS to ‘manage’ it all for us. Which is the point…

So you will gather all the records and complete all the forms on your dining room table only to try to enter that information into a webform that is nothing like the paper form in your hand. There are not even commonly recognized labels, like ‘adjusted gross income’. The webforms are written without all that jargon, presumably to make them more friendly. But the result is you have no idea what any given webform box refers to on your paper tax return. It is no longer merely a matter of entering numbers into the computer and hitting submit. You have to think it all out again, largely from first principles. (In my dining room, there was even a bit of recalculation to create a number from all my data that matched what the webform wanted.) You have to spend much more time on this task than before when it was only papers on the dining room table. Or you will pay someone else to do that work. Which is the point…

All this complexity has primarily served as a way to squeeze more private revenue streams out of the very public task of filing a tax return. It has not reduced your workload. It has not reduced paperwork. It has not increased efficiency. All these are the sales pitches used to persuade us to spend more of our lives on this task so that more revenue can be made for someone else. They are all untrue. It is not even true that you are better able to claim tax credits. If you have access to professionals, if you have quite a lot of money and really don’t need credits, then there are certainly more options for credits, and professionals know how to get at those options. The rest of us plebs just have more work to do that ultimately leads to discovering that we don’t qualify for the credits. (Though We remain convinced that We do if only We could figure out what form to use…)

But there are undeniably more jobs generated in this system. They are not great jobs. The majority of them involve sitting in front of a computer screen telling the machine what to do, being paid minimum wage on contract with no benefits or guarantee of future employment. I suspect many of these jobs are done by people with brown skin whose primary language is not English, and ‘minimum wage’ means maybe a few dollars a day. Some of the jobs are just ludicrously wasteful. Twenty years ago, who knew there would be such a need for blue Lady Liberties? But there are more jobs, more wages paid, more resources bought and used, more volume of money flowing about than when you just filled out a paper form.

This is what we call progress.

This is what I call waste.

All of this adds up to compulsory years off my life. Time that could certainly have been used more productively — since you can hardly be less productive than staring at a screen. I could have been walking, reading, knitting, gardening, cooking, playing Yahtzee with my kids, composing poems to the sunset while sipping that finest of wines, Girls Are Meaner. I could have learned to play the harp or ride a unicycle. Maybe even bred my own roses. I could have gone to bed at reasonable times and slept well each night. But I am constrained by all this necessary waste. I am required to do all this other stuff that generates gross revenue for people I don’t know. I am obliged to spend my life propping up capitalism and its younger and possibly more voracious cousin, modern technology.

Why? What exactly does modern technology do for me? Or for society generally? What have we gotten out of this compact except more work and an embarrassment of billionaires? Why are we so enamored of it? It does no real work. It does not feed us or house us or clothe us. It does not even assist in these things except as monitoring and marketing. It meets no social or emotional needs. To the contrary, it makes us deeply unhappy, socially isolated, and emotionally unbalanced.

You might say that there have been improvements in medical tech since computing took over. But what have we gained there? We are sicker now than we’ve ever been. We tend to ‘forget’, but cancer was a rarity even just a century ago and was less lethal in those rare cases. It was a degenerative disease that killed slowly, much like old age. Similarly, diabetes, hypertension and other heart diseases, and all the myriad autoimmune disorders that are killing us daily were unusual cases for a 19th century doctor. Of course that’s not technology’s fault, though that we spend much of our time churning toxic resources into computers and then more of our time sitting on our posteriors staring at those computers is, no doubt, a significant contributor to all these modern diseases.

And then, note that technology has done little to soothe our common ailments and afflictions. We know what causes our colds and allergies; modern medicine can do nothing it. Influenza still kills many, many people of all ages every year. We still have no balm for aging. And childbirth is just as painful as it ever was, may actually be more dangerous in a culture that enforces control over women’s bodies yet does not support women’s health or allow for the informal networks of care and knowledge that women had built up over the millennia before the enlightened advent of modernity.

You might point fingers at the higher average mortality age than that of the past. But those averages wave away the small detail that we began taking inventory of such things well after we were in the grip of cultures that killed young people at alarming rates. If early modern humans survived childhood, they lived just as long as we do now, longer in some regions. In fact, it is not new technology that has enabled more of us to weather infancy, but a revival of old technology that was largely suppressed by modern EuroWestern cultures — that of keeping clean and reducing contact contagion. If anything, ubiquitous screen technology is shortening our lifespan once again by making childhood increasingly lethal. (How many school shootings begin on social media?) And of course, packing us all into cities and keeping labor at work — even in the midst of an epidemic — pretty effectively negates any attempt to slow the spread of disease. 

No, I don’t believe modern tech has had any positive effect on our health. It is note even capable of aiding us in curing what it causes.

So then you might say, ‘But communications!’ And perhaps there is some merit in being able to spread information around the globe instantaneously. Perhaps. Though it does not seem to have made much of a difference in halting violence and oppression. Even this blog is not much better than love letters to those who already agree with me. In any case, I do not think the possible benefit of faster information flow justifies the myriad ways in which modern tech has stolen time from my life, from all our lives.

The worst thing about modern tech is that it doesn’t even work as advertised. The time it steals is daily compounded merely because we’re spending time on trying — and failing — to get tech to do what it is supposed to do, what it is supposed to do more efficiently and accurately than we could manage without it. On the light end of this spectrum of disfunction, I have to spend many minutes posting a tweet or accessing a web order because the programming simply does not work. On the more terrifying side, we depend on computers to regulate things ranging from pacemakers to nuclear power stations — and there are constant malfunctions. I have a friend who used to work on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, one owned by a large and wealthy corporation that spent quite a bit of money on the infrastructure (back when corporations still did things like spend money on infrastructure). She used to laugh at the number of minor breakdowns and near catastrophes that happened every day because some wire got crossed somewhere. Every day! Most of her job was patching together things that could not be fixed — because they did not work to begin with. And this was the state of the art, the best our culture could produce! She said we’d all be constantly freaking out about the end of the world if we actually knew how close we were to it all the time thanks to our flakey tech. I don’t think she was joking. Imagine the gallows humor on the International Space Station.

Modern technology has benefitted pretty much only itself. It has bred an industry of superfluous products and unnecessary work all in the service of growing itself. It gobbles up more and more of our resources. It ingests our lives. It gives nothing in return but eyestrain headaches and a vague sense of hollowness, the suspicion that we’ve missed out on something crucial — which becomes all the more solid a fear as we get older and realize how little we’ve lived because we’ve spent that precious, singular span of time on computers.

And this brings me back to daylight saving time. Because ultimately both the viral spread of computer technology throughout our culture and the need to control time down to the microsecond are symptoms of the same societal disease — the need to turn existence into concentrated wealth. In short, capitalism.

The clock is one of our most stultifying inventions, though of course it didn’t start out that way. Just as computers initially were just that, computational aids, clocks began their existence as a monastery’s desire to order time. The clock was invented to count the hours between the daily round of prayers. Quite innocuous. Until you consider the underlying compulsion for control. Why is it necessary to order time? Why, for that matter, is it necessary to count and compute? These are the tools of hierarchy and domination. Mastery over nature. Mastery over other humans. Mastery over the body, over the self. Mastery over matter. And its older and more nebulous cousin, time.

Those monks would probably be horrified to see the use we’ve made of their invention. We do not order time to better contemplate and praise the benevolent mysteries of the universe. Now, we use clocks to put time — our life’s time — in the service of money.

When Frederick Taylor was busying himself with time management theory, he did not find a way to wrest maximal productivity out of each minute. It is not even possible to measure productivity. What is productive for some is waste for many. But more importantly, we don’t measure what is actually beneficial labor, what is productive work. We measure money. More cars flowing off the assembly line is not an increase in productivity until those cars are sold. More cars is not a goal; revenue is. Taylor’s true goal was maximizing the flow of money. And yet he never seems to have realized this. He talks about labor as if the work done is the productivity, no matter what work is done, no matter if the work generates nothing of real value, nor even actual revenue. Taylor created management though he seems to have been under the impression that he was creating a methodology to create more things for the sales floor in a given workday. Instead, he paved the way for that workday to be multiplied and divided in more and more bizarre increments of time with more and more of it thrown away in increasingly counterproductive fashion all in a blind pursuit of inchoate revenue, until now we don’t think twice about the meaningless, if still very disturbing, phrase ‘Time is money’.

This confusion over the productive use of time is at the root all these forms of time wasting — daylight saving time, computer technology, online tax filing, doing things solely to increase revenue streams no matter the utility of the things done, even just the notion that there should be a schedule, a regular workday that does not conform to either the season or to any human need. This is all us, trying to control time, to wrest the most wealth out of each minute. We are a rationalized society. We ration our time, ostensibly to maximize it. But as in most contrivances that seek to control what is far beyond our understanding, never mind influence, we end up destroying it. More precisely, we end up destroying ourselves. When we put our lives in service to money, we do not live. We waste our time.

I have particular physical difficulties with shifting time, but these are compounded by my certain knowledge that there is no reason at all to do this, no reason for me to suffer except that some guy thought it was a great way to increase ‘productivity’. Productivity that will never benefit me, if it is of any benefit at all. Daylight saving time was proposed about the same time as Taylor was talking about time management theory and largely for the same reasons — it seemed like a way to get more money, or at least less expense, out of each day. It wasn’t adopted until the Germans were conducting their nasty control experiments. It wasn’t more widely practiced until the 1970s when we began to run short on oil and thought that maybe forcibly pinning our working hours to daylight would save energy. On balance, it does not. And it does not precisely because tying the clock-regulated workday to daylight is not equivalent to tying our body-regulated waking day to daylight. And it never has been.

My body wants to wake and sleep with the rise and set of the sun. That’s what all bodies do. We set time based on our energy source, not based on clocks. If we live in places that have extremely long days and nights (at different times of the year), we tend to simulate sequences of days and nights that more or less conform to the tropical conditions of our species’ natal land, Africa. If we live in the tropics, we hardly pay attention to clocks at all because our bodies just use the sun. So in the spring at high latitude, my body is slowly shifting to a schedule of rising earlier and staying awake later. But then there is this very confusing Sunday that forces my body to ignore the sun and get out of bed when it is still dark. This not only makes me uncomfortable, it increases my energy use.

I have to turn on the lights. I have to set the heat to come on before the sun has any chance of warming the house. I have to keep the heat on later into the evening because the sun is still up and I can’t sleep. I also have the electronics on later in the evening. I listen to music. I tend to write on this machine. I have to use lights in some rooms because there isn’t enough ambient light to read. Shifting the clock does not save on either the oil or the electricity bill. It increases both for a few weeks.

Ben Franklin jokingly suggested that Parisians might save candle and lamp oil expense if they rose earlier on summer mornings — earlier than noon, that is! (After a pleasant, if short, night of… well… Paris…) He did not suggest that we meddle with clocks to wring more money out of each day. The idea that time is money did not exist in his day, and he might have laughed at anyone who spouted such inanity. He knew time was life. And he manifestly knew how to get the most life out of our very limited time!

Maybe we need to read Ben Franklin’s letter to the editor again. Maybe we need to stop meddling with clocks. Maybe we need to live in this real world of sun and night and sleep and time divorced from all association with money, freed from all our delusions of control. And maybe we need to jettison the very idea of ‘productivity’. Time is only productive when we live it well.

©Elizabeth Anker 2023

2 thoughts on “The Daily: 14 March 2023”

  1. Fortunately we don’t have daylight saving where I live – the winter mornings are darker and the days shorter, while I revel in the early summer mornings and later nights. As for taxes … we also have an e-filing system, but I am pleased to report that it is much simpler than the one you describe 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here! Here! I’m pretty sure though that daylight savings was never intended to save us wage workers money but to save the employers money. Just like printing out your tax forms saves the government money. E-filing probably saves the government money too but costs us more. But as you note, it also provides “business opportunities” so when it used to just cost a stamp to mail your tax returns you now have to pay Turbo Tax or someone else to e-file for you. It’s a whole racket.

    Liked by 1 person

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