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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Time Passages

The most recent round of tinkering with daylight savings time seems to me, without having given the matter much thought, to be mostly a nuisance -- all sorts of electronic devices are going to have the time wrong in November and March for years to come. But it reminded me of a complaint I saw in the newspaper during the last round of tinkering.

This fellow wrote a letter to the editor, the gist of which was that God had arranged day and night during Creation, and man shouldn't be fiddling around with God's work. I really couldn't get my mind around what the fellow thought was happening -- did he believe that the US Congress was adjusting the Earth's orbit so as to actually alter day and night? Or, was it that, while creating day and night, God had also decreed that the middle of the first be called "noon," and of the latter "midnight"? Then what about all those people who don't speak English? Are they guilty of some form of temporal sinning?

And that reminds me of a story my wife told me. It was early January, and she was in her office. Her colleague mentioned how cold it was. She said, "Yeah, it is, but at least the days are getting longer."

He looked at her incredulously. "No they're not -- they're getting shorter!"

She was trying to convince him that the days had started getting longer just before Christmas, but to no avail, when a second co-worker joined in, saying, "You know, she's right -- the days are getting longer now, and the nights shorter, but not by the same amount."

Not by the same amount? Where was the difference going?

And that reminds me of a story I hope Woody will post in the comments.

11 comments:

  1. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Yodelio, than are dreamt of in your
    philosophy.”

    I don’t know what prompted the creation of a brief history of Swiss watch making that night. I don’t recall if we were drunk, stoned or more, but in those days we had to have been in some altered state. It was during that particular time in life when the biggest professional challenge was how to operate a piece of heavy machinery with an acid hangover.

    Gene and I were employed as fork-lift jockeys. There was a guy working with us who we affectionately called “Yoda.” He earned the sobriquet “Yoda” because of his physiognomy. He looked like a cretin, but was he?

    For a reason I cannot recall Gene, Yoda and I were standing around talking in the parking lot after work one night. We were talking about the complexity of the universe, and using time as an example…

    The argument, as I recall, worked like this:

    I got Yoda to agree that days felt longer in the summer. “You know why they feel longer? Because they actually are longer!”

    Yoda was not just agreeing that the period of daylight was extended during the summer, but that the rotation of the earth would change in such a way that the total length of a day would expand. As we informed Yoda, “Clocks are really simple things, and there has to be a reason why it took hundreds of years for the Swiss to come up with accurate clocks!”

    “Have you ever looked inside of a watch and seen all those gears and stuff?” Yoda understood that there were a lot more parts to a watch than would correspond to a simple 24 hour model of the earth’s rotation.

    “Well, you see, it took many years for the watch makers to develop models that would expand and contract, bringing into play different spokes and gears, to reflect the changing passage of time.” … “Thus, you might feel like you were working for an hour in July, but it really might be an hour and ten minutes in December time.”

    I think it was for the best that we got out of the business of stacking pallets in a warehouse.

    Gene, what do you remember of this conversation? It was over 20 years ago!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The one notable thing I recall that your account omitted was your explanation for why these facts weren't more widely known: The powers-that-be, you explained, didn't want the masses to know about this, because then the workers would demand more pay during the summer.

    ReplyDelete
  3. woody2:39 PM

    I think I had just the perfect amount of tequila last night. I woke up this morning laughing about the conspiracy angle of this story.

    Yes, I recall explaining to Yoda that the expanded summer hour was the raison d'etre for "summer employment." Why else would companies offer real jobs to students? They've got edge!

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  4. woody5:49 PM

    My wife points out that since I get paid for each assignment I complete, under this model of time I should have worked this summer.

    I like to think I took the summer off because I didn't want to exploit myself.

    A lot of the work I do is out-of-doors (in Florida), and the 17% just doesn't compensate for the sweat, bugs and snakes I'd encounter.

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  5. Anonymous7:57 PM

    And whatever happened to Yoda? Do you think he demands more pay in the summer?

    ReplyDelete
  6. woody4:09 PM

    The last I heard, Yoda moved to Florida, it didn’t work out, and he moved back up north. He was working for Disneyworld as a performing character.

    It’s possible that something like this happened: It gets awfully hot inside of those woolen character suits, with their heavy headpieces. The heat might have made Yoda think about the nature of capitalist exploitation. Smith, Ricardo, Marx… they all missed it, and would have been advised to look into Swiss chronography before expounding on political economy. Don’t laugh, if Yoda would just put a pen to paper your grandchildren would be quoting him. Anyhow, as we are now well aware, surplus value is derived from the extra labor-power expended by the worker during the longer hours.

    Something Yoda might not have known before he took his southern sojourn, was that a winter hour in Florida can be nearly as long as the longest summer hour in Connecticut. I often feared that he might open his mouth after figuring this out. Disney stock options, with their leverage to Florida and California (the hours in the southern half of California approach Florida in terms of “productivity”), cannot hold their value in the face of a worker revolt.

    The capitalists have long been aware of the “Floridian Advantage.” Has anyone ever wondered why businesses have been relocating to the sunbelt? The government has been working with “industry” to build new highways, schools, etc. as part of a worker’s paradise. Workers in the sunbelt earn a little less in absolute terms than their northern counterparts, but they think they’re also getting paid in sunshine. Nothing could be further from the truth! In Marxian terms the workers are getting “bent over.”

    As Yoda and Marx understood the truth is really quite revolutionary. In order for the circulation of commodities to be maintained, it is absolutely necessary that the rate of exploitation rise. It does not surprise us that capital and labor are migrating towards the sunbelt. How long can they keep a lid on the truth of the nature of time and exploitation? Hey, they’re trying to reintroduce creationism in public schools in this country, so I think anything is possible.

    Yoda was always thinking several steps ahead. He must have decided to keep his fool mouth shut, he enjoyed his life, and, besides, he liked the hours better up north.

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  7. Anonymous6:25 PM

    It appears you gentlemen are also the inspiration for Dali

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  8. But didn't Bohm-Bawerk refute Marx by showing that clock hands go "round-about"?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Woody6:12 PM

    I think he said that capitalists provide the time clocks, so time could not be the basis of exploitation. Adds another dimension to circularity, doesn't it?

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  10. woody9:15 PM

    Dali...

    Do you think it's a mere coincidence that the most comprehensive collection of Dali's work is located in St Petersburg, Florida?

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete