The sinister plan behind daylight savings time (the one that they dont wan’t you to know)

If you live in Europe, you would have noticed that Daylight Saving Time (DST) started last Sunday and the clocks moved forward by an hour. Well, not all of them – only the super intelligent electronic clocks moved forward on their own. If you still have some old-fashioned analog clocks, they were blissfully unaware of this phenomenon till you reached up to them, dislodged them momentarily from their hanging place and turned a small knob of some kind. That circular motion moved a cylinder helically around its axis, which turned the arms of the clock to display the proper time.

Of course, all the above was true if you were aware of the fact that DST started yesterday.It is possible that hundreds of people were blissfully unaware of this (much like the clunky analog clocks) and only realized this fact when they missed an appointment, a plane or a soccer game. The whooshing sound made by that mysterious missing hour in the day, as it rushes past you, is a puzzling sensation. Having experienced it a few years back when we moved to Europe, I can vouch for it.

But why does this happen? Why should we move our clocks forward an hour in Spring and move them back an hour in the Autumn? You can blame it on William Willett an Englishman, who was one of the first and most vociferous supporters of DST back in early 1900s. He argued that it saves energy, promotes outdoor leisure activity in the evening, reduces crime etc.  Many people are in favour of this, the most obvious choices being retailers, outdoor sports enthusiasts etc. But in reality, the most enthusiastic supporters of this concept are sleepwalkers. The extra hour of sunlight helps those early owls to ‘see’ better as they embark on their sleep walking rituals. This enables them to reach the altar of Hypnos (the god of sleep) bright and early and be among the first ones to collect the juiciest dreams being doled out, before Morpheus (the god of dreams) barges in. It is a widely known fact that Morpheus does not own an electronic clock and does not read newspapers, thus is never on time anyway. 

And of course, there are the opponents to DST. They argue that actual energy savings are inconclusive, it disrupts morning activities, causes people to lose sleep and is generally a hassle. I am firmly in their corner. The most obvious opponents of DST are burglars. The added extra hour of sunlight robs them of the opportunity to rob other people of their precious belongings. Because of their nature of work, the burglars cannot afford to be too vociferous, so they tend to keep it quiet and grudgingly live with this inconvenience. The only time their voices are heard is around springtime when some dumb burglars, who do not own an electronic clock (much like our man Morpheus), land up at their robbing rendezvous an hour earlier than planned and are pummeled unconscious by the puzzled homeowners who have sat there wondering why can’t they get sleep and why have the burglars arrived early today?

All this conjecture is fine, but we seem to be digressing from the point of this post. What is the real reason for DST? Let me get back to that ….

DST was not introduced because of all this hullaballoo about saving energy etc. This was an idea thought up by clock manufacturers to boost their sales, after the famous ‘Clock depression’ that prevailed through the 19th century. Many theories exist about why the ‘Clock depression’ happened. The foremost being that in the 19th century people were generally starting to come to the conclusion that time and space are an illusion and the time for clocks had passed. So to keep track of an illusionary thing, no one was buying real clocks. Another reason doing the rounds was that clocks, with their incessant sound of ‘tick-tock, tick-tock’ were the prime cause of untimely insanity among the masses. So doctors started prescribing patients to get rid of their clocks and put sun-dials inside their houses instead. But once people put a sun-dial inside the house, it did not show the time of the day as it did not get any sun. So it further reaffirmed the first belief that time is really an illusion, and the vicious circle continued.

Once people had a clock, there was no need for them to replace it. It just stayed nailed to the wall, tick-tocking away. Typically the clock didn’t break or start smelling after a few years, so the clock manufacturers had little repeat business. But all of this changed when Mr Willett,  a builder by day and a clock manufacturer by night, came up a with cunning plan. This nefarious plan rested on two arms.

  • Firstly, we should artificially change the time a couple of times of year. He figured if it is given a scientific sounding acronym like DST, which has the word ‘saving’ in it, people will think it is of paramount importance and will agree to follow it.
  • Secondly, he introduced a new global design standard for clocks. The new standard ruled that the knob which you need to turn to change the time would now be placed at the back of the clock, and not on the side. And the hole or the hook by which the clock is hung to the nail on the wall, should be made inconceivably small and be hidden away in an unreachable place so that it is practically impossible for you to hang the clock back on the wall, once you have taken it off.

Both these standards were passed unanimously in the annual horological conference of 1907 and have worked like a charm since then. Every year, millions of people try to change the time on their clocks around spring and autumn. Having successfully fiddled with the small knob and changed the time, they are then unable to hang the clock back properly on the nail where it was originally stationed. The imperfect alignment of the nail and the hole, induces the Newtonian laws of gravity and causes the clock to fall to the ground, spectacularly smashing it to smithereens and giving people a small glimpse of what ‘Big Bang’ would have been like. The guilty man (another statistically proven fact – it is always the man who performs this annual ritual) then looks to redeem his honour in front of his family by buying another clock and hammering a new nail. The vicious circle continues and the clock manufacturers continue to rake in the moolah.

I was one of the people who fell prey to this ancient nefarious plan and smashed our clock last sunday. On my twitter feed, I read about this exact accident being repeated in places around the globe. The otherwise pristine streets of Zürich were riddled with broken clocks being thrown out of their windows by the disgruntled owners. All this was celebrated by the clock manufactures at their lavish parties at the glitzy ski resort of St. Moritz. 

The clock makers have made billions out of this annual ritual and are now the secret owners of the many of the largest holding companies in the world. One of the lesser chronicled sagas of global business is the economic rise of the clock manufactures in the 20th century. The following graph shows the rise in fortunes of the clockmakers since these momentous changes were introduced.

 

Apple, never the one to lose out on a business opportunity, has quickly recognized this and is said to be working on an iClock. Since they yet do not own the patents for the clock design passed in 1907, the iClock will have some cunning features to overcome the issues faced by folks like you and me.

  • To honour Steve Jobs, it will be surrounded by a black rubber casing (like his turtleneck sweaters) to cushion the inevitable falls
  • The user will be able to circumvent the knob and change the time via an app (though the app will only run on the iPad 5, which you will need to buy separately)
  • The entire back side of the clock will be a giant black hole, which will be backward compatible with any nails or walls manufactured since 1907

All the clock-breakers and Apple fans the world over have hailed this revolutionary move and crowds have already started thronging outside Apple stores, waiting to get their hands on the iClock.

The clock makers on the other hand, are reportedly building a new super telescope so that they can spot Darth Vader’s ‘Death Star’ in the far reaches of the galaxy. They hope to convince him to use the dark side of the force to make sure that Apple’s plan does not work and the clocks still continue to fall and break around DST. 

Who will win, only time will tell. Till then, leave those clocks alone and enjoy the extra hour of sunshine and the beautiful spring weather.

An ode to the exclamation mark ‘!’

The poor old exclamation mark is probably the most misused and exploited of all the punctuation marks that the English language has bestowed upon us. Just the sheer form that it comes in lends itself to the ruthless exploitation it is subjected to.  How can one resist that temptation to end a sentence that will otherwise go unnoticed, by this little thingy which is the closest relative in the English language to a ‘jack in the box’ – a line jumping out a hole. It is bound to attract attention. It screams – look at me, love me or hate me but you can’t ignore me.

In spite if it being so ubiquitous in nature, what attracted my attention to our very own J.I.B (Jack In the Box – as i will choose to refer to our little friend, the exclamation mark, in this piece) was a word in a book i recently started reading. This book ‘About a boy‘ from Nick Hornby who is also the author of the quirky ‘High Fidelity‘, contains a word which epitomizes the effect of the exclamation mark. The word is  – ‘S.P.A.T !’ …. see the effect of our friend , the J.I.B. It instantaneously transforms the otherwise meaningless word to the equivalent of a 60 meter electronic flashing billboard screaming at you on a desert highway. All for a fraction of its cost, trouble and carbon footprint. This word in the book is an acronym for a Single parents association or some such banal meeting that the protagonist of the book is going to. Why was the ‘!’ meaninglessly appended to the end of the acronym is anyone’s guess. But it ensures tremendous recall value, while no-so-subtly accentuating the frivolity of the meeting’s purpose.

One other famous misuse that springs to mind immediately is –  ‘WHAM!’ the now defunct pop group from the 80’s whose success was completely down to the successful inclusion of ‘!’ in their name. Now that WHAM! is no more, look where the lack of an exclamation mark in George Michael’s name has led him to. He is now reduced to drawing audiences to his concerts with a misleading promise of  an orchestral performance and then proceeds to torture them with his yodeling. He doesn’t let go of them till they are sing out in unison – “Wake me up, before you go-go! … “

In literature, the addition of our friend the J.I.B, at the end of the one-line review blurbs usually found on the back covers of the books, has tremendous commercial value and is responsible for the sustaining of the lavish lifestyles of many authors. More the number of sentences that end with the !’, the more subliminal messages that are passed on to the casual reader – This is book is of profound importance and impact. Miss the chance to read this book at your own peril…etc…etc. How else can one explain the success of millions of self-help books that are sold the world over, whose back and front pages are splattered with the ‘!’.

Stephen Hawking (by no means a self help book author) was told by his publishers – any equation that he includes in his seminal work – ‘A brief history of time’ , will cut the sales by half. What his publishers did not tell him was that inclusion of a ‘!’ in the title or on the back page will more than cover up for the loss of sales because of that one damn equation. Maybe his publishers should have consulted ‘WHAM!’

In politics as well, it has served great value over the years. George Bush & Silvio Berloscuni are two prime examples of leaders whose election to office was lubricated by the generous use of ‘!’ in their campaigns, speeches and actions.


We bow to your power – the great J.I.B, the great uplifter of the mundane and the harbinger of promised excitement. We vow to continue to unabashedly abuse your power. Till such time that the Oxford dictionary bans your usage and Microsoft word’s spell check starts to draw squiggly red lines under you – your followers will continue to grow and prosper. Amen!

All’s well that ends well

So the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth games finished a few days ago. But chances are that many of you did not care or even know about it. No … you are not living on Mars, many of you could be either European/American, for whom the word ‘Commonwealth’ does not ring a bell or many of you couldn’t be bothered about spending your precious time following a sporting activity that is considered to be among the 10 largest sporting events in the world, but probably has little practical significance in the ‘bigger picture’ (at least that’s what some people think)

But me, the perennial skeptic, does not belong to the above camp. For the following 7 galactically important reasons, the games held a lot value:

1. They created common WEALTH – Yes they did, and loads of it … so what if it was only for the organizers! How can we overlook the fact that anyone at a reasonably important post in the organizing committee/s would have seen their personal networth increase handsomely. Some estimate that spending for the Commonwealth Games overran the original estimate of $500 million nine-fold. Do the math yourself and wonder where a lot of that $4.5 Billion went

2. They increased GDP/standard of living for many Indians – Thanks to all the kickbacks that thousands of people received, many families will have spanking new cars, apartments, LED televisions etc. In the time of the current recession it matters! All that money spent of spiffing up public places that nobody was going to visit, paper projects that never saw the light of day and will eventually get reported as handsome profits for many companies (some non-existent). How can one argue against improving the living conditions of people in a country where many live on $2 a day?

3. They reduced unemployment – Thousands of workers were hired to make and then dig-up the same roads, lay and re-lay pavement stones, paint broken walls. I happened to be in Delhi during July. On visiting Rajiv Chowk (one of the most important locations of Delhi) I witnessed dozens of workers snoozing in the shade of trees waiting for inspiration to repair the roads they dug up last week. Then hundreds must have been hired as a last ditch effort in the last few weeks to help the poor overworked souls. Obama – take note, here’s a tip on how to reduce America’s unemployment

4. New heights of luxury were created – Who in the world can boast of  $80 rolls of toilet paper (Kimberley-Clark: did you miss a massive opportunity here?), $61 soap dispensers and $125 first-aid kits. You cannot even partake of such luxuries at the Ritz Carlton

5. New architectural grounds were broken:

China gave the world this  …. 

India gave us this ……

Now put your hand on your heart and tell me, which one of these will end up heralding the new era in architecture and design?

6: India emerged as a sporting giant – India stood second in the medal tally, beating the mighty sporting nations of Tonga, Bangladesh and Cayman Islands. Come the next summer Olympics – China and America will be trembling in their ranks.

7. It brought mankind closer to nature – .. or was it the other way round? For hundreds of urbanite sportsmen who were not conversant with the glorious Indian fauna, this was their chance to get close and personal with it. Don’t trust me? … read it here

But …. as the saying goes – ‘All’s well that ends well’. These were minor hiccups, compared to what in the end turned out to be hugely successful games . They did have some truly momentous sporting occasions, the spotlight shone on India & performances of Indian athletes in areas like Shooting, Hockey, Women’s 4 x 400m relay will go a long way in reviving interest in sports other than the omnipresent Cricket. It wasn’t really all that bad … was it?

So world … look at the brighter side and bring on the Indian hosted Olympics!