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Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time Hardcover – Mar 7 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Printing edition (March 7 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593760531
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593760533
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 16.1 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #979,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 16 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A Time of Confusion and Controversy April 12 2005
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Around 1965 when my friends and I would go to the movies, along with the previews of coming attractions, we would be treated to a polemical short film designed to teach us the evils of Daylight Saving Time. "Do you want to lose an hour of sleep every night?" boomed the self-important voice, as a cartoon illustration of a red-eyed man appeared on the screen. "Do you want your children staying out after bedtime because it is still light?" My buddies and I thought it funny at the time to answer back "No!" to the first question and "Yes!" to the second. We did not know it at the time, but were doing our small part to continue a storm of controversy and puzzlement over clock-shifting. In _Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time_ (Shoemaker & Hoard), Michael Downing has given a sprightly history of a peculiarity in timekeeping that has pleased and bothered people ever since it was first seriously proposed for action. You might think that the only confusion that DST causes is for people who forget on the appointed night to change their clocks, or our surprise in the first week over how high the sun seems compared to the nights before the change. The truth is that there is much more confusion to go around on an issue that you probably thought was simple.

The US adopted DST in 1918, but repealed it just a year later; the repeal was sparked by protests by farmers, who were among the first, though certainly not the last, to insist on a return to what they viewed as "God's time." How God came to divide the day into twenty-four hours, however, they did not clarify. The influence of farmers, however, could not compete with that of Wall Street, which liked the idea since it meant that there would be a one hour window in the morning when both the New York Exchange and the London Exchange were open simultaneously, permitting exploitation of prices during those sixty minutes. In fact, the New York Exchange so missed the lucrative hour when DST was repealed that it put itself on DST just for trading hours. Exchanges in Boston and Philadelphia did not want to lose out, so they followed suit, small islands of anomalous time within the nation. The patchwork coverage of DST and the attempted legal patches to make it all sensible resulted in timely confusion. If you drove the 35 miles from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, and wanted your watch to keep the local time, you would have to change it seven times on the route. In St. Paul, Minnesota, there was an eighteen-story office building with nine floors on DST and nine floors not.

From time to time, like during wars, DST was promoted as the patriotic thing to do, since it saved energy, but this has not conclusively been shown. Some think there are good scientific reasons for DST, but there is no science behind it. What powers DST in a small way is emotion; most people simply like the long summer evenings (and Downing admits that he is one of these). I like it because it shows the arbitrary nature of timekeeping; we can shift hours just as we can (or could, if we wanted to) shift from feet to meters. The biggest force, though, is economic. Wall Street likes it, and that's important, but there were significant gains for specific industries. Sales of golf equipment and course fees go up in DST, and so do sales of barbecue equipment, and seeds and gardening supplies. Farmers still don't like it, but there are fewer and fewer of them to complain. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of people (and businesses like movie studios) that don't like it, and although we have relative standardization in its implementation now, there are still attempts to tinker with it. Falsifying clock time in America has become "the most sustained political controversy of the last 100 years," says Downing. His often hilarious book shows that the controversy isn't going to go away any time soon.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Downing's and Prerau's books compared Feb. 12 2007
By Debra Hamel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Downing's Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time is one of two books about Daylight Saving Time that were published in 2005, the other being Seize the Daylight by David Prerau. Downing and Prerau cover much of the same ground in their respective volumes, both authors detailing the complex history of DST since its adoption in England and the U.S. during World War I. But there are, of course, differences between the two books. Downing's is a shade more conversational in tone than Prerau's, and Downing seems to be less sold on the benefits of DST than Prerau, his relative negativity toward the time shift perhaps signaled in the "Madness" of his subtitle. Another difference between the two books is that Prerau's approach to telling the story of DST is primarily chronological, while Downing adopts more of a thematic approach to the subject. He offers chapters on DST and sports, for example, on New York City's role in the DST debate, and on the oddities of time management--sidereal days vs. solar days, solar months vs. lunar months, and so on.

Certainly Downing provides information in Spring Forward that Prerau does not include in his book. Downing offers a fuller account of the 1966 U.S. legislation that regularized (more or less) DST, and he writes about the attempts of various Pacific island states to profit from the millennial celebrations by tinkering with their clocks. But on the whole Prerau's Seize the Daylight is the more thorough and informative of the two books. Prerau's approach to the subject is easier to follow and, frankly, his book is simply a more interesting read. If you have the time, as it were, by all means read both books. But if you're going to read just one book about DST, I recommend you make it Prerau's Seize the Daylight.

Debra Hamel -- author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece (Yale University Press, 2003)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
As the government dithers, the sun stays on time June 13 2005
By Jon Hunt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For those of us who have grown up at a time when we automatically spring ahead and fall back each year, Michael Downing has written a wonderfully detailed and hysterically funny book about Daylight Saving Time and the attempts to come to some justification and standardization for it. As he indicates, how does one "save" sunlight?

Downing begins with Congress's passage of a Daylight Saving bill in 1918 only to be repealed a year later. The ensuing chaos is worth the price of the book. State legislatures, local governments and citizens up in arms tried (and often succeeded) in changing the time that would suit themselves or their constituents best. The book is full of witty anecdotes. On April 24, 1932 he cites two persons who "died" of DST....the first account tells of a Chicago woman who climbed a ladder to change her clock, fell, and broke her neck. On the same day a Pennsylvania man who was so concerned about getting together a petition to repeal Daylight Saving Time died of a heart attack. Downing, however, has many serious points in his references. I couldn't quite believe it when I read that for years China, geographically as large as the United States, had only one time zone!

"Spring Forward" delves into the proponents and opponents of DST and how they've jockeyed for positions of power on the subject. It is an exposure of years of government dithering and Downing delivers a quick thrust of the knife into the heart of political cowardice. I heartily recommend this book as a quick, easy, informative and very funny read on the subject of Daylight Saving Time.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Not bad, but... May 2 2005
By Bruce R. Gilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As it happens, two very similar books came out only days apart, this one and David Prerau's "Seize the Daylight". If I didn't have Prerau's book to compare with this one, I might have rated this one higher; but Prerau's is so much better than this book that I cannot give a 5-star rating to this book.

Both books give some background history of timekeeping. Prerau's goes back to ancient days and covers the previous changes from temporal hours to equal hours, from apparent to mean time, and from mean local to standard time. Downing's book starts at a later point, and also devotes less space to the details, as well as putting this material in a flashback chapter, which makes for inferior organization.

In addition, I find this book is not written as well as Prerau's, which does a better job of holding my interest, and in addition, Downing makes a number of minor (but significant) errors such as writing "latitude" when he means "longitude" or "east" when he means "west." This causes a bit of difficulty on some occasions.

I cannot say I didn't enjoy this book, but I liked Prerau's better.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Be Prepared to Laugh April 19 2005
By John Matlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I looked on the back of this book and saw that one of the proponents of Daylight Saving Time was Richard Nixon. Then I saw that one of the opponents of Daylight Saving Time was Richard Nixon. Yep, I decided, this book has to make good sense. At least as good a sense as Daylight Saving Time does.

Then he said on the first page that he adjusted his clocks before he went to bed instead of at 2 AM. His neighbor told him that he was breaking Federal law. The neighbor then said that if the Feds came around he would lie for him and give him an alibi.

Then on Page 4 Britain's Royal Astronomer suggested that in addition to changing the clocks that the thermometer should be put up ten degrees in the winter so we would be warmer.

I was hooked.

The conclusions of the book: nobody knows why we have it, nobody can prove any savings (or cost).

My real conclusions on this book. Be prepared to laugh. (I also found it necessary to telephone people and read them parts of it.)


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