Matters of Time

Roman Mars:
This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Roman Mars:
For the most part, we take time for granted. Maybe we don’t have enough of it, but at least we know how it works. At least… most of the time. A lot of what we think about time and how we keep track of it is relatively recent and some aspects that we take for granted aren’t actually all that universal. And today we’re going to be talking to a few of my 99pi colleagues for a set of mini-stories about our evolving relationship with time. And to get us started, it’s Kurt Kohlstedt, the co-author of the 99% Invisible City. And in our book, we wrote about the standardization of time that came with the rise of railroads.

Kurt Kohlstedt:
Right, and before standard times, rail companies had to juggle all of these city-specific time zones, but there’s one really neat artifact in particular from that period, which really brings the point home. So here’s this old ornate clock that hangs on the facade of the Bristol Corn Exchange building in England.

Roman Mars:
So this is a lovely clock with red letters and red hands, except for there seems to be what looks like a long black, almost like a second hand potentially, but I can’t quite make sense of what it’s for.

Kurt Kohlstedt:
Yeah, yeah. One could definitely think that’s the second hand, but it’s actually a second “minute” hand. So there are two different minute hands and they’re set about 10 minutes apart from each other and they’re painted those different colors so that people on the streets below can tell them apart.

Roman Mars:
So does this second minute hand also have to do with trains?

Kurt Kohlstedt:
Absolutely. So they have this one hand that’s for Bristol and then when train travel started becoming more commonplace, they added a second minute hand to show London time and that’s the one that’s colored black.

Roman Mars:
Got it. So one hand is for locals — they’re still on the local time — the other is for people traveling in and out of the city. And presumably, that the local time is based on high noon, when the sun is highest in the sky. That’s what we talk about in the book. How did they get this London time that’s shown here in this picture about 10 minutes off?

Kurt Kohlstedt:
Right. So that’s the crazy part. Apparently, they actually sent people out from London on trains with these precisely tuned watches. And so that way they could keep clocks like this one up to date on London time.

Roman Mars:
So the railroad used the train network to keep track of time.

Kurt Kohlstedt:
Yeah. It’s sort of this weird meta-phenomenon. And so you have these dedicated timekeepers who would arrive in a given town and then they’d hop off the train and they’d go show their watch to the station master because the local railroad operators needed to know the precise time in London. And then those same watch-wearing travelers would hop on to another train to a different city and so on and so forth. And they’d go about basically updating clocks all across the country, one station at a time.

Roman Mars:
That is wild. Imagine all these people riding around just to set clocks. Everyone’s like a cog in their own clock.

Kurt Kohlstedt:
Yeah, it’s great.

Roman Mars:
They’re just parts of a machine. That’s hilarious.

Kurt Kohlstedt:
Yeah, I love it. I love it so much. And it’s so hard for us today to wrap our minds around the way it was. But really, up until that point, local time was just the time and so that’s just how people went about their days and a lot of folks were pretty reluctant to get on board with these newfangled ideas, like standard time.

Roman Mars:
So really this three-handed clock is a relic of that brief moment in time between the old and new, when there was an acceptance that standard time was kind of required in some ways but local time was still preferred and you were just in this weird interregnum where both of those things were equally dominant.

Kurt Kohlstedt:
Yeah, that’s exactly it. And what struck me in writing about this transition is that railroads really, effectively, collapsed both space and time. And what do I mean by that? Well, they made longer journeys go faster, right? But they also compressed the world into these fewer number of timezones. So suddenly you don’t have hundreds of timezones for every city, you just have two dozen spanning the globe. And meanwhile, local time was this really big headache and increasingly a safety hazard for railway operators because if they got it wrong, even by a few minutes, trains could literally crash into each other. And of course, eventually there are global agreements around time and things became standardized, but I’m really fond of these quirky exceptions and these little remnants of that interstitial period, like this clock in Bristol.

Roman Mars:
So what follows is a bunch of stories about the struggle of us all being on the same time together. Who gets left behind, what individuality gets squashed when everyone tries to sync up and all be at the same place at the same time. For our next time story, we’re going to be talking to 99pi producer, Joe Rosenberg.

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Roman Mars:
Hey, Joe.

Joe Rosenberg:
Hey, Roman.

Roman Mars:
So what do you have for us?

Joe Rosenberg:
So for this story, we’re basically going to start where Kurt left us off. This moment of transition when it comes to timekeeping in Britain.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. Like the rise of it, the regimented London time.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah, exactly. And everyone running around with watches being like, “This is the time, this is it.”

Roman Mars:
Like, “I know the time, you don’t. Get with the program. This is the time.”

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah, exactly. Because it turns out that there’s this one very specific profession from around that period, the middle of the 19th century, that’s a variation on that phenomenon. And out of all of the whimsical, quirky jobs that have ever existed in human history, it’s now my favorite.

Roman Mars:
Okay. What is it?

Joe Rosenberg:
Well, I want you to imagine that you are a factory worker in say, Manchester in the 1860s.

Roman Mars:
Okay.

Joe Rosenberg:
And maybe you’ve moved to the city from the countryside where you were used to just getting up with the sun. You worked when it was light, you didn’t when it was dark. It’s pretty simple. But now you have to get up before it’s even light because your shift at the local cotton mill starts at 2:00 AM sharp. So the question is, how do you do this? How do you wake up?

Roman Mars:
I’m assuming there’s no alarm clocks at this point. There’s probably not even widespread watches for this class of people necessarily.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah, no alarm clocks — and the watches we’ll get to. Those things, yeah, they’re not cheap or widespread at the very least. So instead, the solution is that you would rely on a human alarm clock by hiring a knocker-upper.

Roman Mars:
A knocker-upper.

Ruth Goodman:
It sounds faintly rude really, doesn’t it? Out of context. But it wasn’t. It was a proper job title, a knocker-upper.

Joe Rosenberg:
This is Ruth Goodman. She is a UK historian and TV presenter and the author of the books “How to Be a Victorian” and “The Domestic Revolution.” Her specialty is everyday life in historical periods. And she says a knocker-upper was someone with a good watch – meaning back then, an accurate watch – who would be paid a small fee by various individual residents of a working-class area to wake each of them up at a particular time, depending on when their shift started.

Ruth Goodman:
But naturally, you can’t have somebody banging on the door at two o’clock in the morning saying, “Wakey, wakey, wakey” loud enough to wake all the neighbors.

Joe Rosenberg:
And so the way the knocker-upper would do it is they would go around with this really long, fine cane and just reach up to the upper floors of buildings and lightly tap on their customer’s window panes until they woke up.

Roman Mars:
I can see why this is your favorite job in history. This is so delightful. I love it.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah. I mean, it’s like the Dickensian but nice.

Roman Mars:
Exactly!

Joe Rosenberg:
And so, they would just slowly go around to one address at perhaps 4:05 AM, tap on the upper-left window, then move on to the next house at 4:10 AM, tap on the lower-right window and just go down their list and always aiming, of course, to tap very gently — but not too gently.

Ruth Goodman:
Some knocker-uppers swore by that you needed a particular bit of something on the end of the cane to get the right amount of noise that would wake people up in the room, but not wake people up next door. And that way, if they wanted a wake-up call, they’d also have to pay you. There’s no point having one paying customer in a street and the whole street getting the benefit.

Joe Rosenberg:
And so here, let me show you a photo of a knocker-upper plying their trade.

Roman Mars:
Oh, this is great. So this is a long row of houses, connected houses, rowhouses, and a person on the street with a cane that looks like, I don’t know, maybe 15 feet long or something like that. Really something.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah. Yeah, no, it’s a solid… somewhere between 15 and 20 feet long. This giant cane just to reach up to that second floor. And you can see he’s just going down this classic London row house tapping on each window.

Roman Mars:
That’s so great. So I see why you need to use the cane for the second floor. What do they do for the first floor? That seems kind of unnecessary. You’d be like in the middle of the street, trying to reach with that thing.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah, so there were a few different knocking-up methods. That cane was just one, depending on where your customers were and what the lay of the land was. So some people had a mallet for ground floor doors. Others, in company towns, might be hired by a mining company to very deliberately wake up everyone at the same time. And apparently, those knocker uppers, since the whole point was to be as loud as possible, used one of those wooden clackers that you would see at soccer matches. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Roman Mars:
Yeah. Yeah, I do actually.

Joe Rosenberg:
But most knocker-uppers, like Ruth said, found ways to be a little more precise.

Ruth Goodman:
One very famous knocker-upper, she used a pea shooter. She had a little hollow tube and she would blow dried peas at the window.

Roman Mars:
Wow. Do we know who that person is?

Joe Rosenberg:
We actually do. That apparently was Mary Anne Smith of East London. And there’s also a really charming photo of her. Let me show you that one too.

Roman Mars:
Oh my God. This is so great. So she’s just there with her peashooter, her hands in her cardigan, which I’m assuming holds the pebbles or peas that she is shooting.

Joe Rosenberg:
Her cheeks are puffed out.

Roman Mars:
Exactly, yeah. Like she’s in mid-pea shoot. That’s so good. Oh, it’s so good.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah.

Roman Mars:
It’s really fascinating the way the official regimen of time is just kind of proliferating and it hasn’t quite reached into the bedroom of the working class, but just as far as their window.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah. And in addition to it spreading practically, it was also spreading culturally in the 19th century. People were getting really into being very precise about what time it was. Ruth says it was just seen as the modern, forward-thinking thing to do. And she says one fun example in her own research where she could see this playing out is actually the Jack the Ripper case.

Ruth Goodman:
Going through all those police reports was extraordinary because there they are, at the end of the 19th century saying “At 9:16” and I’m thinking, 9:16? That’s ridiculously accurate. And then they’re saying, six minutes later this happened and 14 minutes later that happened. There is no way a watch from that era could possibly be giving you quite that accuracy and the people who was making these statements weren’t even carrying watches.

Roman Mars:
So the reports of Jack the Ripper, they’re just making it up?

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah. Yeah. He just heard the church bells ring maybe a quarter of an hour ago. And he’s just winging it.

Ruth Goodman:
But he doesn’t choose a nice round number. He chooses a very precise number because it lends authority to his statement. So the idea that you could be that precise was culturally enticing, but not actually practically possible.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, if you want to give legitimacy to your testimony, make it really precise. It totally makes sense, but it’s really funny.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah, it really is. And so of course, in this kind of cultural environment where you would rather lie than be caught not knowing the exact time, pocket watches are really coveted items.

Ruth Goodman:
It was the must-have bling, techno-bling, but they were pricey. So from about the 1860s, you start to see little businesses setting up with people who have got some sort of a timepiece giving time information to other people.

Joe Rosenberg:
And so this is when the knocker-upper business is really in its heyday. Where every urban working-class neighborhood had its own knocker-upper. And that person would invest in a good, accurate timepiece, almost like someone invested in a taxicab medallion, and then embark on this career and hope to pay that timepiece off and eventually start turning a profit.

Roman Mars:
And was it considered a good career? I mean, I know that having a watch was a high-status symbol, but was being a knocker-upper a high-status symbol job? Could you make money in it?

Joe Rosenberg:
Well, I asked Ruth about that and she told me you might charge each client maybe six pence per week. Which of course meant nothing to me.

Joe Rosenberg:
“Is that a lot? Or is that within… is that reasonable? I’m curious if that’s like a-”

Ruth Goodman:
“I mean, yeah. It’s sort of reasonable. I mean, if you had 20 or 30 clients, then you could just about scrape some survival. So it is a profession of desperation done by people who are really poor, particularly older women. There seem to have been a lot of older female knocker-uppers.”

Joe Rosenberg:
And so it turns out people like Mary Anne Smith of East London were not the exception. Ruth says that when we think of the Victorian period, we like to think of the women as being strictly in the home. But the truth is, is that in the lower classes, the number of women earning an income, doing heavy manual tasks, hauling bricks, breaking stone, shifting clay, was huge.

Ruth Goodman:
So many of these women will have been physical laborers and in their younger years and now they’ve reached a point where they simply can’t do that. The body won’t take it anymore. And this sort of knocker-upper work is the sort of thing that somebody in that position would take.

Joe Rosenberg:
And in some ways, this put them in an even more vulnerable position, as you might imagine. Walking the streets of London’s roughest neighborhoods alone at night.

Ruth Goodman:
It must’ve been quite a dangerous job, I would have thought. Particularly for an older woman. You’d have to be pretty tough. I mean, some of the pictures shows some of these people who would take a dog with them. Personal security, and you can’t say you blame them. Yeah. Another interesting group of people who did knocking-up however, completely different, and that’s the police constables.

Roman Mars:
Oh, so they did it as a little side gig, for the police constables?

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah, exactly. So apparently most police constables did not have a watch. Like we mentioned before, at least an accurate watch. But those that did, if they had a good watch and the night shift, this was something they could do for a little extra cash. They could just moonlight as a knocker-upper. And incredibly, you also see this in the Ripper case.

Ruth Goodman:
The very first victim, Mary Ann Nichols, when the chap found her he went to find a constable. He found a constable and he told him he’d found this body and the constable was too busy knocking-up. He carried on knocking-up, he didn’t come and see the body immediately. He had clients waiting.

Roman Mars:
Time is money. You got to get your knocker-upper job. The body can wait.

Joe Rosenberg:
The body can totally wait. But I still like to believe that if only he had not been knocking-up, we might know who Jack the Ripper is.

Roman Mars:
The tyranny of time has kept us from knowing Jack the Ripper. I mean, it’s so interesting. I mean, the way all of these people in these situations are just beholden, culturally and economically, to this new form of timekeeping, whether they had a way of measuring it or not.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah, and like you said earlier, mechanized time wasn’t yet in most people’s bedrooms. But somehow here it was reaching out and almost literally tapping on their windows because they had to conform to it.

Roman Mars:
Like time was coming for them, whether they liked it or not.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah. And of course, this technology eventually came for the knocker-uppers too once we no longer had any use for them. And I actually found an old article from “The Guardian” from 1914, where they interviewed an unnamed knocker-upper describing the decline of the trade. And he says, “London knocking-up isn’t what it was. At one time I had 60 clients on my books. Now I’ve only 20 and I’ve bought up the businesses of three others. I expect I shall be the last of the knocker-uppers. What can you do when alarm clocks loud enough to summon a fire engine can be bought for half a crown? I’ve knocked-up for 30 years and never broken a pane or wrapped on the wrong house, except one. And they let me get them up for a month before they told me.” And he says that that family never paid up.

Roman Mars:
Wow. So not only was it a hard job, it got harder as the years went on. And he was just so polite. So polite until the very end. The whole process seems incredibly polite with this kind of light tapping on windows. It’s sort of sad to see it go by the wayside for blaring alarms in our rooms.

Joe Rosenberg:
Yeah. I mean, it almost makes me wish I could be woken up by a knocker-upper myself instead of my iPhone. But incredibly, some people got this wish because this guy was wrong about one thing. He wasn’t the last. There are reports that the very, very last of the knocker-uppers in the town of Bolton, in Northern England, didn’t retire until 1973.

Roman Mars:
1973, that’s the year before I was born.

Joe Rosenberg:
You are a contemporary, Roman, of knocker-uppers.

Roman Mars:
That’s hilarious. So who that last knocker-upper.

Joe Rosenberg:
I have not been able to find that out. I don’t know their gender or their clients or their method, but I’m just really touched that this profession that started out as a harbinger of the forces of change, nevertheless turned into a tradition and in the process actually became a timekeeping holdout.

Roman Mars:
That is lovely. Well, thank you so much, Joe.

Joe Rosenberg:
Thank you, Roman.

[MUSIC]

Roman Mars:
Up next is producer Vivian Le.

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Roman Mars:
So ever since COVID started, 99pi went all remote and the staff has scattered across North America and so now we have staffers in four time zones, which can be kind of a pain in the ass, but I guess the alternative would be worse. Like if we were in one timezone but actually 3000 miles away.

Vivian Le:
Yes, exactly. And that’s a story that I have for you right now. It’s a story about one timezone, a place with only one timezone and how it’s become intertwined with power and politics and freedom.

Roman Mars:
Wow. Okay, well this is dramatic. Let’s hear it.

Vivian Le:
Yeah, so as you mentioned, very wide countries like the US or Canada or Russia, we have these multiple timezones to break up the day because otherwise the amount of daylight in a day would be unevenly distributed depending on how far east or how far west you are.

Roman Mars:
Right.

Vivian Le:
But there is a country with a very wide landmass that only uses one official timezone across the entire territory and that’s China.

Roman Mars:
Huh. One timezone across the entire country.

Vivian Le:
Yeah, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s actually the largest country in the world with only one timezone.

Roman Mars:
I mean, it’s one of the largest countries in the world in general, so-

Vivian Le:
Yeah, I guess so!

Roman Mars:
But how wide is China? What are we working with here?

Gardner Bovingdon:
It’s roughly as wide as the United States or Canada, and as astronomers in China have pointed out many times, it really, by all rights ought to have five timezones which generally go every 15 degrees.

Vivian Le:
So this is Gardner Bovingdon. He’s an associate professor in the departments of Central Eurasian Studies and International Studies at Indiana University.

Roman Mars:
Wow. Gardner Bovingdon? Next time I check into a hotel under a pseudonym I’m going in as Gardner Bovingdon. It is such a good name.

Vivian Le:
That’s exactly what I said.

Vivian Le:
“Has anybody ever told you that you have the perfect name for a podcast guest?”

Gardner Bovingdon:
“It has been mentioned before so… awesome!”

Roman Mars:
So Gardner is saying that China should actually encompass five different time zones. Why does it operate with only one, and has it always been like this?

Vivian Le:
No, it hasn’t. And actually timekeeping cross country was sort of all over the place until the end of World War II, and for a brief period of time, they actually did observe five time zones across the country. But that was all thrown out in 1949 after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. So the communist party had just won this long civil war and leadership thought that having one national time on every clock across China was this very literal way to unite a fractured country.

Gardner Bovingdon:
A state has many challenges in trying to touch people in all the parts of the country, what we call the reach of the state. This was a quick, very efficient way to do it, to say there’s one time and it’s the time we’re using for the entire country. And that time is called Beijing Time.

Vivian Le:
Which means that when it’s 9:00 AM in Beijing, it’s 9:00 AM 2,700 miles away in Kashgar.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, so one thing I’m struck by is that if you look at a map, Beijing, that’s the nation’s capital where the national time is based, it’s all the way up in this northeastern part of China. And so that leaves everyone to the west really… if it was centered, at least you would have something to work with, you know what I mean? But it’s really in one extreme location. So how do people in the far west deal with a clock that doesn’t match their solar day really at all?

Vivian Le:
Yeah, so Gardner is actually a scholar of Xinjiang, which is an autonomous territory in the northwest of China. It’s reeeeally far west and it’s home to about 12 million Uyghurs who are an ethnic minority native to Xinjiang. They speak Uyghur and are Muslim, and they’re very different culturally from the Han majority which make up about 92% of the country. And for decades the Chinese government has worried about separatism in the region and it’s led to pretty severe state-sponsored suppression of Uyghur life and to an ongoing genocide, I’ll get more into this later.

Roman Mars:
Okay, okay. We’ll put a pin in that.

Vivian Le:
But I wanted to rewind back to the 1990s when Gardner first began traveling to Xinjiang.

Gardner Bovingdon:
My first trip to Xinjiang was in 1994.

Vivian Le:
He was doing field research in the region and he realized that there were actually two separate timezones that existed in Xinjiang. There was Beijing Time, which was the official national time and this was used by the Han Chinese in the area, but then there was this totally different time that was used by the Uyghur population called Xinjiang Time or local time.

Gardner Bovingdon:
It was only when I started to understand Uyghur that I heard people using this expression for Xinjiang Time in Uyghur and then I started thinking, wait a minute, why are they saying that? Then I started noticing that the time that they used, the numbers they used for time were two hours off that of Beijing Time.

Vivian Le:
So Beijing Time was, and still is, the official timezone in Xinjiang. So things like train stations and government offices, they all run on Beijing’s clock. And if you were to ask a Han person what time it was, they would tell you in Beijing Time. But Gardner noticed that if an Uyghur person were asked what time it was, they would most likely respond with the “local time”, which was two hours behind Beijing. And this was because it more closely followed the solar pattern of Xinjiang.

Roman Mars:
Wow. That is complicated, at least from what Gardner observed back in the ’90s. How did that work in everyday life?

Vivian Le:
Yeah. So take, for example, what we call noon. So basically when the sun is at its highest point in the day.

Roman Mars:
Okay.

Vivian Le:
If you were to ask someone who was Uyghur what time it was, they might say it was 12:00 PM. But if you were to ask someone who was Han, they would probably tell you it was actually 2:00 PM.

Roman Mars:
So for Han Chinese people in Xinjiang, life is just lived two hours earlier than local time? Are they waking up and going to work in the dark and just dealing with the inconvenience just to keep in step with Beijing, to work Beijing hours?

Vivian Le:
Yeah, I wondered that too, but no.

Gardner Bovingdon:
Since I started out by suggesting Beijing wanted to sort of extend its authority over the whole country and show that it was doing so it might make sense for people to get up, right? To be ready at their work unit at 8:00 or 9:00 Beijing Time and so on. And that might’ve been so at one time, but my impression was in the 1990s and 2000s that that wasn’t so, that even Hans who use Beijing Time shifted two hours. Now, I was curious about this and I asked some people, so the convenience of one timezone is defined by the fact that if a Beijing official calls at 9:00 AM, Beijing Time, the person in the work unit in Urumqi is not going to be in the office, right? The person said, “Well, yeah. But that’s understood.”

Roman Mars:
So Han people actually lived by Xinjiang solar time, even though they use Beijing’s clocks to communicate the time.

Vivian Le:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Roman Mars:
Okay so, how much did these two timezones bump into each other? Because, I mean, it just sounds so confusing.

Vivian Le:
Yeah. I mean… kind of. So if you’re a foreigner and you’re meeting up with a local, you should probably specify which time they’re using. I was reading this account from a Han Chinese person who happened to be friends with a lot of Uyghurs and he was annoyed because he would always show up two hours early for everything. But Gardner said that in most cases, it wasn’t all that confusing because Uyghurs basically knew which clock to refer to by the language that they were speaking or who they were speaking to. If they were talking to a Uyghur family member or friend maybe they would say, “Hey, I’m leaving for work at 8:00 AM.” But if they were speaking Mandarin to a Han person they automatically knew to say, “Hey, I’m leaving for work at 10:00 AM.”

Roman Mars:
I mean, that sounds just like classic code-switching, but that someone who is Uyghur would have to adjust their language depending on the culture of the person they were talking to and they would know to do it, and the onus would be on them to do it.

Vivian Le:
Yeah, exactly.

Gardner Bovingdon:
I didn’t actually know the word “code-switching” in 1994. Today, I think you’re spot on. It’s exactly right. So there are linguistic codes, right? When a bilingual Spanish-English speaker speaks, she will use the Anglo version of names to convenience English speakers and switch to the Spanish version of names in order not to be mocked by fellow Spanish speakers. And here we’re talking about time codes, switching time codes.

Roman Mars:
It is interesting to me that the time of day actually depended on the ethnicity of who you are asking.

Vivian Le:
Yeah, yeah. And Gardner says that he thought that this was actually a political statement. Even in the 1990s for Uyghurs, open dissent could be interpreted as a threat of separatism, which could get you in a lot of trouble with the Chinese government. But by choosing to set your watch to local time, instead of Beijing Time, it felt like this quiet and private form of protest or solidarity.

Gardner Bovingdon:
People might not dare to be openly hostile, openly resistant, openly demonstrate and so forth. And so instead they’ll find little ways, possibly hidden or half-hidden, to express their defiance and to show each other that they are defying the government. And so we could say that keeping one’s daily schedule on Xinjiang Time, and when pressed, calling it Xinjiang Time, and rejecting Beijing Time are all modes of everyday resistance.

Roman Mars:
Hmm. That is just so fascinating. And given the intensity of the news coming out of Xinjiang now, how safe is it to use Xinjiang Time presently? How secret can you be?

Vivian Le:
Yeah, so as you noticed Gardner’s observations of local time versus Beijing Time mainly took place in the 1990s and early 2000s. Basically, Gardner is part of a group that calls themselves the Xinjiang 13. They’re a group of scholars who have essentially been pretty much barred from entering China because of a scholarly work that they wrote about Xinjiang. So he hasn’t actually been able to return to China since 2005. So that’s why most of this comes from the early 90s or the mid-90s. But over the past few years, the human rights crisis has escalated severely. It’s at the point where the US has determined that what’s happening to the Uyghurs in Xinjiang is genocide.

Archival News Reports:
[MASS INTERNMENT OF UP TO TWO MILLION MEMBERS OF THE MOSTLY MUSLIM ETHNIC MINORITY GROUP, THE UYGHURS-]

[PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE-]

[U.S. AND OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE LABELED CHINA’S TREATMENT OF UYGHURS AS GENOCIDE-]

[SAID CHINA MAY BE EXPANDING ITS SO-CALLED RE-EDUCATION CAMPS-]

Vivian Le:
And among many other human rights violations, a large population of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained in what have officially been called “vocational education training centers,” but are effectively re-education camps.

Darren Byler:
I mean, clearly they’re camps, which is a distinction between other schools or training centers or prisons as well in some ways. But it’s very clear from people that have been in them, that have worked in them, they are actually camps, that they’re a prison space, a carceral space, really a medium-security prison.

Vivian Le:
So this is Darren Byler, he’s an anthropologist at Simon Fraser University. And he studies how ethnic minorities in Northwest China are surveilled and policed. He’s done a lot of fieldwork in Xinjiang and was last there in 2018. And he says that because of the pervasiveness of surveillance technology paired with smartphone use, using local time could actually be potentially dangerous.

Darren Byler:
I’m sure most people now have their phones set to Beijing Time. And most people expect to have their phone checked, to have it scanned, or in some cases, they’re forced to install nanny apps on their phone, which will upload the data that’s being collected on their phone. So most people are aware that everything on their phone is basically state property at this point.

Vivian Le:
And it’s not that it’s necessarily against the law to use local time but Darren says that a Uyghur person could be putting themselves in a vulnerable position if they had their phones set to anything other than Beijing Time.

Darren Byler:
So in the government documents or in documents that are in circulation in the Chinese internet from Xinjiang, they talk really directly about this issue. They say that you should look really carefully at people that are using local time. They don’t say outright that it’s illegal necessarily in most cases, but it is certainly something that they’re looking at as a sign of suspicion.

Vivian Le:
There’s a laundry list of things that can be interpreted as a “sign of separatism”, like wearing a headscarf, having a beard, having WhatsApp installed on your phone, or simply speaking to someone who lives abroad. These are all things that have gotten people in trouble with the government. And Darren even said that he noticed people having to self-censor themselves in all these private ways like having to change the way that they greet each other over the phone so that they drop Islamic identifiers. So time is just one example of how these intimate parts of Uyghur culture are being suppressed.

Darren Byler:
It’s a sign of them potentially being separatists, of being more loyal to their own ethnicity, their own geographic location, than the nation. And so there’s definitely pressure on people to use Beijing Time.

Roman Mars:
I mean, when you think about the history of the implementation of one timezone, you see it sort of presaging all this other form of suppression that has these differences that are perfectly capable of existing inside of one country. Time zones can exist inside one country. And it’s just kind of stunning that they once had five timezones and created one, and what that says about everything else.

Vivian Le:
Yeah, and Gardner Bovingdon, from early in the piece, said that even from the beginning it was very clear who wasn’t going to fit into a system built on Beijing Time.

Gardner Bovingdon:
You design a system of timekeeping that’s manifestly at odds with the local experience of the sun’s transit through the sky and so reminds people constantly, you are at the periphery. You’re not in the center.

Vivian Le:
Gardner said something kind of interesting, which was like, the reason why it’s set to Beijing Time is because this is the capital, this is where the orders emanate. This is where you should be looking for leadership. But that really shows how little thought that they put into the people 3000 miles away in the West, how little consideration that it took to consider what their days might look like.

Roman Mars:
And how little consideration they had for the sun. It is telling to me that there’s this denial of reality that goes along with this denial of human rights. It’s not surprising to me that those two things go together.

Vivian Le:
Yeah.

Roman Mars:
Wow, I got really intense there at the end. I thought we were just going to talk about time zones. Well, that was incredibly fascinating. Thank you so much.

Vivian Le:
Thank you.

Roman Mars:
When we come back, Chris Berube on the surprisingly controversial issue of springing forward and falling back. After this.

[BREAK]

Roman Mars:
So, I’m here with Chris Berube. And Chris, you want to talk about one of the great time-related debates.

Chris Berube:
I do. I want to talk to you today about Daylight Saving Time.

Roman Mars:
So, I always say daylight savings time. Is it not daylight savings time?

Chris Berube:
Absolutely not. That is not what I’m here to talk about. No. In all the legislation that has made DST, Daylight Saving Time happen, they dropped the S but that’s not the controversy around it. There’s other controversies related to Daylight Saving Time. It’s something that people around the world kind of take for granted in large parts of North America and Europe and South America. And you know how Daylight Saving Time works. It’s in the summer we spring forward one hour so that’s actually the daylight being saved, is the extra daylight in the evening when the sun sets later. And then around October, it falls back, so then you lose an hour and you have an earlier sunset. And it’s something that I’ve been used to because I’ve had it my whole life. It’s just a thing that happens twice a year, but it’s actually really controversial. And there are people who are trying to change the future of Daylight Saving Time right now. And that’s what I want to talk about. But before we get to that, Roman, do you know where Daylight Saving Time comes from?

Roman Mars:
I was always told that it was because of farmers that they needed more daylight to do farming.

Chris Berube:
That is not at all the case. Much like Daylight Savings Time, it is a myth that it’s about farmers. And I know that because I called this guy-

Dr. David Prerau:
Hi, this is Dr. David Prerau. I’m the author of the book, “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.”

Chris Berube:
He actually is the world expert on the subject of DST-

Dr. David Prerau:
I don’t like to say that, but just some people have said that.

Chris Berube:
“When people find out that you are a daylight saving expert, do they get mad at you? Because I feel like it is a charged thing, people have strong opinions about it.”

Dr. David Prerau:
“Well, what happens is, the day they lose the hour of sleep, everybody gets mad at me. The day they sleep an extra hour, nobody comes and thanks me.”

Chris Berube:
So, when I was talking to Dr. Prerau I brought up the farmer thing that everyone seems to think about daylight saving. And what he told me is it’s a total myth.

Dr. David Prerau:
Farmers, many people think, they always say that was put in to help the farmers. And it’s the exact 100% opposite. They have to follow the sun independent of what the clock says. So, you might say, “So what? Let them just do it and everybody else change their clock.” But the problem is that farmers have to interact with the rest of the world. They have to bring products to market.

Chris Berube:
So, farmers have to get up with the sun and the businesses they’re working with are using the clock so it’s inconvenient when a year, the clock-based businesses are shifting their time around. So, the headline here is farmers are not responsible for Daylight Saving Time. The credit/blame belongs to a British housebuilder named William Willett.

Dr. David Prerau:
And each morning he’d wake up at sunrise, go out for a horseback ride around his area. And while he was gone, one of these morning horseback rides, he would realize that everybody else is asleep and they’re not making good use of the beautiful spring and summer mornings.

Chris Berube:
So, he wrote this pamphlet called “A Waste of Daylight.” He wrote this pamphlet, promoting the idea of pushing back the clocks one hour in the summer. And it was really influential. And the British Parliament actually took up his idea. That’s how influential has pamphlet became.

Roman Mars:
Wow, and did they approve it based off this pamphlet?

Chris Berube:
They did not. So, some politicians argued, this was a completely pointless thing. They were like, “Hey, if you want more daylight, why don’t you just wake up earlier?”

Roman Mars:
Just wake up early.

Chris Berube:
Yeah, it seemed intuitive to them, so they rejected it.

Dr. David Prerau:
But Willet was not the type to be dissuaded. So, the next year he came back again with the same proposal and the same proposal the next year and the next year as it kept being considered, but rejected.

Chris Berube:
And this became a perennial piece of legislation. So, actually, like Winston Churchill became a champion of this. He was the headline speaker at a big rally for daylight saving, but it was rejected in 1911. It was rejected in 1912, it was rejected in 1913, it was rejected in 1914. And then-

Dr. David Prerau:
In 1915, unfortunately, Willett passed away never to ever see his idea come to fruition.

Chris Berube:
If Willett had lived one more year, he would have seen his idea implement it because in 1916, World War I was in full swing and across all of the countries fighting in the war, there was an energy crisis because a lot of coal miners had joined the military.

Roman Mars:
So, they wanted to save energy because there wasn’t enough coal miners to actually provide the energy that they needed to run the country.

Chris Berube:
Exactly. And Germany were the first country to realize like, “Hey, one great way to save energy is to do this daylight saving thing that Britain has been considering for all these years.” So, Germany brings it in and then immediately Britain becomes really jealous.

Dr. David Prerau:
Within a month after having rejected it for seven or eight years, within a month of the Germans putting it in, the British put in and eventually the countries put it in both sides of the war.

Chris Berube:
And that’s how we got daylight saving is because of World War I.

Roman Mars:
That’s amazing. And also “keeping up with the Joneses” during World War I was just an amazing part of that story.

Chris Berube:
Yeah. It might be more accurate to say we got it because of World War I and jealousy. Those are the causes of it. And actually, at first it was really complicated. It was a big problem because people kept breaking their clocks because the clocks were not built in a way that you could manually move the hour hands back and forth. But fast forward 100 years and throughout the last century, most of Europe adopted Daylight Saving Time. It spreads to North America countries around the world have tried using it on and off. And what we see now is about 70 countries worldwide have Daylight Saving Time. And even though it’s common, it’s still pretty controversial. Like I grew up in Canada, I really liked Daylight Saving Time in the summer because you get that extra sunlight in the evening. But I’ll say during Canadian winters, when Daylight Saving Time goes away and we go back to Standard Time, it can be brutal. There are parts of Canada where you can just get these really early sunsets.

Roman Mars:
Well, that part of daylight saving — it’s not that I have a problem with daylight saving in terms of like, I think it should be there all the time. I mean, I don’t understand why it needs to fall back. I think is the thing. So, my sense of the controversy is the period of time that is not Daylight Saving Time. Not, the part that is, does that make sense?

Chris Berube:
Yeah. And you’re not alone in that position at all, because about 10 years ago, there was a political movement in the United Kingdom where this whole idea comes from to take Daylight Saving Time and push it even further.

Roman Mars:
Oh, that’s exciting.

Archival Tape:
[NEWS REPORTER: WELL, HERE’S THE QUESTION. COULD THIS WEEKEND BE THE LAST TIME WE PUT THE CLOCKS BACK? ASSUMING YOU REMEMBER TOO, OF COURSE. WELL, THERE ARE GROWING CALLS, THIS TIME FOR EXACTLY THAT SAYING THE CURRENT SYSTEM IS OUTDATED.]

[WOMAN: YOU GO TO WORK IS DARK. YOU COME HOME IS DARK. HATE IT.]

[WOMAN: PERHAPS WE SHOULD DO WITH AN EXTRA HOUR LIGHT, GET A LOT MORE DONE WHEN IT’S LIGHT. CHILDREN CAN PLAY OUT LONGER.]

Chris Berube:
And it became this really popular campaign. It actually had a catchy name. The name of the campaign was “Lighter Later.”

Roman Mars:
Lighter Later.

Archival Tape:
[NEWS REPORTER: JOINING ME NOW AT LIGHTER LATER CAMPAIGN…
(crosstalk / Daniel) GOOD MORNING.
(reporter continues) — LIGHTER LATER CAMPAIGN, THIS IS DANIEL.]

Chris Berube:
Yeah, memorable name, really hard to say. And actually, the Lighter Later Campaign wasn’t just about moving the clocks up one hour in the winter, that campaign actually proposed that we double Daylight Saving Time in the summer.

Roman Mars:
You’re going to have to explain what that means because I have a very tenuous grasp on daylight saving as it is.

Chris Berube:
So, it’s complicated, but please bear with me. So, under Lighter Later, you’d have an extra hour of daylight in the winter. Basically, you won’t do the fallback.

Roman Mars:
You won’t fall back. Okay. Yeah.

Chris Berube:
And then just for a treat, just for fun, let’s actually give ourselves one other hour of daylight in the summer. So, basically the clocks will move forward one hour, all year round in the winter in Great Britain, you’d be on summertime and in the summer you’d be on something called Double Summer Time.

Roman Mars:
Which just shifts everything.

Chris Berube:
That’s exactly right. And when this campaign was rolling out, they were listing all these benefits and like just listen to the list of benefits of Double Daylight Saving Time. It sounds really good.

Archival Tape:
[NEW REPORTER: IT’S CLAIMED THE OVERALL HEALTH OF THE NATION WOULD IMPROVE, AS PEOPLE COULD ENJOY DAYLIGHT, FOR LONGER. CHILDREN, THEY’D BENEFIT. AS MANY OF THEM AREN’T ALLOWED TO LEAVE THEIR HOMES AFTER DARK, THEY’D BE ABLE TO PLAY OUTSIDE FOR LONGER. IT’S ESTIMATED UP TO 100 ROAD DEATHS COULD BE PREVENTED ANNUALLY ACROSS BRITAIN DUE TO BETTER VISIBILITY. AND AROUND 450,000 TONS OF CO2 WOULD BE SAVED BY PEOPLE SWITCHING THEIR LIGHTS ON LATER.]

Chris Berube:
It’s great for the environment. It’s great for safety. It’s great for health. What is not to LOVE about this idea?

Roman Mars:
I mean, it sounds fantastic. It does seem like as you begin to creep up even further, it’d be really dark in the morning, right?

Chris Berube:
Oh, 100%. But I mean, just think about all those benefits! The argument they always made was like, “Look, yes, obviously it would be darker in the morning than we’re used to, but the benefits outweigh that one negative part of this.” So, in 2012, the UK Parliament actually decided to take up this idea and it felt like one of those few things that everybody could agree on. So, environmentalists liked it. Business leaders liked it. Also politically, labor politicians were in favor of it. And so were the Conservatives. Actually, it was a Conservative MP named Rebecca Harris who proposed launching this pilot project for Lighter Later. She’s the one who put forward the legislation.

Roman Mars:
Wow. All political persuasions enjoy the sun.

Chris Berube:
That’s the idea. So, Rebecca Harris puts it forward about 120 members of parliament say, they’re going to support the bill. Polls show it’s really popular. It looks like it’s just going to cruise. Like it’s going to be a slam dunk once the legislation reaches the house and it comes up for debate in 2012 and-

Roman Mars:
You’re setting this up for this, not happening.

Chris Berube:
So, what actually ended up happening is that members of Rebecca Harris’ own party filibustered the bill.

Roman Mars:
Oh, why?

Chris Berube:
Roman, you may be disappointed to hear this, but it’s all because of your friends in Scotland.

Roman Mars:
Oh, I want to hear their take on it because usually, me and Scotts see eye-to-eye on most things.

Chris Berube:
You’re pretty much on the same page always, I think. So, Roman, I mean, just think about where like Scotland is geographically in the UK. So, where is it? If you look at a map of the UK or Scotland.

Roman Mars:
North of England.

Chris Berube:
So, they have a different climate from the legislators down in England who were putting this forward. And for them, the idea of having Lighter Later mostly means that they’re going to have much later sunrises than everybody else. So, the whole line was, we’re about to have another referendum on Scotland staying in the United Kingdom, and this feels like it is those big, bad politicians down in London, making Scotland live a certain way. And this is government overreach. And it’s like ammunition for these people who are campaigning for Scottish independence. So, all of a sudden there’s a couple of MP’s who were like, “Oh, well the most thing is we have to make sure Scotland stays in the UK.” So that’s how we end up seeing a couple of rogue MPs turning on this bill. Roman, have you ever heard of a guy named Jacob Rees-Mogg?

Roman Mars:
No.

Chris Berube:
So, Jacob Rees-Mogg is a politician in the UK who was very pro-Brexit. He’s a very prominent person in Boris Johnson’s government. He’s the House Leader. But for our purposes, the reason he’s important is because he is a gigantic troll. And Jacob Rees-Mogg came out very much against this bill.

[Archival Tape]
JACOB REES-MOGG: THE PROBLEM WITH DAYLIGHT SAVING BILL, AS IT’S CALLED, IS IT DOESN’T SAVE ANY DAYLIGHT BECAUSE THERE’S ONLY A LIMITED AMOUNT. AND IN THE WINTER, NOT A LOT OF IT.

(crosstalk) NOT A LOT.

JACOB REES-MOGG: AND I THINK CHANGING THE CLOCKS IS A BASICALLY FRUITLESS EXERCISE.

Chris Berube:
So, Jacob Rees-Mogg – being a giant political troll – decides the best thing that he can do is basically put in a poison pill amendment to try and kill this legislation. So, he proposes that Somerset, the area he represents in England, should have its own time zone that is 15 minutes behind the rest of the United Kingdom.

Roman Mars:
Oh, goodness.

Chris Berube:
And it was this very attention-grabbing idea. Suddenly people weren’t talking about Daylight Saving Time anymore, they were talking about this idea of Somerset time. And Jacob Rees-Mogg went on the BBC to explain it and also kind of get like a light ribbing for proposing this idea.

[Archival BBC Clip]
REPORTER: CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG, BUT HAS SOMERSET ALWAYS BEEN 15 MINUTES BEHIND THE REST OF US?

JACOB REES-MOGG: IN MANY WAYS, SOMERSET IS AHEAD OF THE REST OF THE COUNTRY AND A LEADER IN ALL THINGS.

JOURNALIST: WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO IS SABOTAGE THE BILL TO MOVE THE CLOCKS FORWARD, CORRECT?

JACOB REES-MOGG: BASICALLY, YES.

Chris Berube:
The bill comes up for debate and they spend a lot of time talking about Scotland a little bit of time talking about the joke idea in Somerset. But in the end, the dissident MP’s are able to talk out the bill. Basically they just debate it long enough that the clock runs out and the bill just dies.

Roman Mars:
So, there’s really like a classic filibuster. They ran out the clock from talking and that-

Chris Berube:
Exactly.

Roman Mars:
That died. So, there is sort of widespread support. There’s some valid reasons to not because, I’m always on the side of Scotland to tell you the truth. And then there’s some invalid reasons to not do it like this trolly guy. So, where are they? What are the options now?

Chris Berube:
Well, the UK isn’t getting a second time zone. They aren’t going to give Scotland its own time zone, which could solve some of these problems. And the government has said, they’re not taking up the daylight saving issue anytime soon. And even if they did implement Lighter Later, even with all the support that it has, there’s no guarantee that it would be popular because there’s something I have been holding back from you, Roman. And that is that the UK has actually tried this before. So, during World War II to save energy, they tried switching to double summertime. And I talked to our expert, David Prerau about this. And he told me, people just really hated the dark mornings.

Dr. David Prerau:
It was considered a wartime measure by a lot of people. And a lot of people, especially the rural people who again, still had a very large political influence, a lot of them felt it was very disruptive to their situation and were willing to accept it during the war. So, once the war was over, they wanted to get rid of it right away.

Chris Berube:
And that’s not the only experiment that hasn’t worked. So, the UK also tried permanent Daylight Saving Time in the ’60s. So they basically didn’t change the clocks. They just had the later evenings in the winter and people didn’t like that and they switched back. And here’s the wild thing, the United States tried it during the energy crisis in the ’70s.

Roman Mars:
I had no idea.

Chris Berube:
And people didn’t like that either. And every time this happens, despite all the benefits, despite saving energy and being better for exercise and saving lives, the dark mornings are the thing that people always complain about.

Roman Mars:
It’s really interesting that everyone thinks that they want this new thing and when they get it, they really hate it.

Chris Berube:
Yeah. And people keep thinking that they’ll figure out the best way to fiddle with daylight saving. And we have these examples in the United States, in the United Kingdom where we’ve tried something else. We’ve tried the later evenings and then gone back to the system that we already have.

Roman Mars:
Oh right. Oh, my goodness.

Chris Berube:
And David Prerau, our expert, he thinks the system we have now is pretty good. And he gets why people keep messing with it. But basically, all he wants is that people look at history and have a better debate about it.

Dr. David Prerau:
At this point, I have sort of a mission to at least try to get states and the federal government if they could talk about making changes, to make change based on facts and reality and history and not just on surface knowledge. And if they do that, then that’s fine with me because I don’t mind whatever they choose as long as they choose after having considered all the options.

Roman Mars:
I like him. He’s like from the 99pi school of design — “Think about what you’re doing. Listen to history, know that it can be changed. Everything’s in a continuum, but you just have to think about it, don’t just react.” That’s so good. Thank you, Chris.

Chris Berube:
Thanks, Roman.

———

Roman Mars:
99% Invisible was produced this week by Kurt Kohlstedt, Joe Rosenberg, Vivian Le, and Chris Berube. Music by our director of sound, Sean Real. Mixed by Carolina Rodriguez. Delaney Hall is the executive producer. The rest of the team is Christopher Johnson, Lasha Madan, Katie Mingle, Emmett FitzGerald, Sofia Klatzker, and me, Roman Mars. We are a part of the Stitcher and Sirius XM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora building, in beautiful uptown Oakland, California.

You can find the show and join discussions about the show on Facebook. You can tweet me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram and Reddit too. You can find other shows I love from Stitcher on our website 99pi.org, including “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.” If you listen to the episode with Will Arnett, you will hear them make fun of 99% Invisible. But if you want to listen to or read a bunch more stories about design, look no further than 99pi.org.

 

 

  1. Martin Clark

    fab series, as ever.

    But as an architect, working in Bristol – one very small detail you have wrong.

    The black hand on the Corn Exchange clock is in fact Bristol time, nearly ten minutes solar mean behind Solar noon time in London (GMT as was) – London being 100miles east so almost exactly 10minutes delay, as the world rotates, at this latitude (52degrees North)

    Thought you’d find that interesting; keep- up the great work!

  2. Paul Campbell

    I have THE solution to Standard time.
    It is hard to adjust to a one hour change in the clock every 6 months, especially when the clock changes back in the Spring.
    The solution it to change 10 minutes EACH month. It is easy to adjust to a 10 minute change.
    Problem solved!!!

    1. Christian

      Why stop there? If you slew it at 20 seconds a day hardly anyone would even notice.

  3. Rob

    Code-switching in talking about the time also happens in east Africa, where many languages start counting the hours from what in English is called 6 am. So someone might talk about meeting for lunch at seven (when speaking their own language) or 1 pm (when speaking English).

  4. Quinn

    In some East Asian countries like Vietnam or China in ancient time, local government is responsible for night time keeping. A night is divided into 5 periods (called “canh” which literally means guard shift in Vietnamese). Every two hours or so a guard at the village hall beats a drum loudly to announce the time and the shift change. How they know what time it is varies from place to place and from period to period in history. It could be a water drip clock, or burning incense, or a western time piece, or just plain old guessing. This practice continued until after WWII in some places. In places where there is no village time keeper, people use roosters to know when to wake up for work. The roosters (everywhere in the world starting from a very old period in history of evolution I would guess) always crow at about the same time every night: midnight, then 3:00 AM, then 5-6 AM. People also used the moon to tell time. If they know the date in the lunar month, they can tell the time by just looking where the moon is in the sky. This method has a lot of limitation however since in the first quarter, the moon disappears after 9-10 PM, not even mentioning cloudy nights, and the fact that you have to wake up and step outside and look.

  5. Rachel

    Waker uppers can still be hired in the form of personal caller services. These phone operators, mostly from India, are often used by adult children who need someone to call their elderly parents and remind them to take meds or keep appointments. But others might use them for personal wake up calls, keeping up with and developing habits, and other reminders.

  6. Chen Yang

    I’ve been a subscriber and fan of 99% invisible since 2017, and your show brought me knowledge and joy combined so far, however, I find the Xinjiang section of this episode inappropriate and unacceptable. Being a Chinese who has traveled in Xinjiang as early as 2004, and lived in different countries such as UK and USA, I think your interpretation of the single time zone as a symbol of suppression is a condescending prejudice. Even a coin has two sides, and you’ve deliberately omitted the fact that transportation, communication and administration have benefited substantially from the single time zone across the whole country. Moreover, my fellow Chinese are all smart enough to ‘code-switch’ without going through your demonized way of time-telling. Having worked in the northwestern part of China since 2015, I didn’t experience any of the ‘trouble’ potentially threatening my liberty or well-being by following the Beijing time. Politicising every detail of ordinary life in China without critically assessing the information is a real shame. The comments from interviewees are biased, and they are strongly misleading for people who are interested in the culture and history of ethnic groups in China. I am deeply disappointed at your choice of perspective, and I have to speak up and demand an apology.

  7. Inga Rún

    Thank you for this great series!

    As a person from West Iceland, I’ve lived my whole life on almost double daylight saving and I would not want it any other way. Yes, the mornings are dark in the winter, but everyone is only rushing to work anyway. I find it way better to still have some daylight after work, when we are actually free to enjoy it.

  8. Emma Smith

    Really interesting episode covering so many different aspects of time keeping. I am not an expert on sleep but remember reading in a recent best selling book on the subject (Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep) about the rather disruptive impact of the one hour change during daylight saving time on sleep. The overnight change increases the short term risk of heart attack, stroke and even traffic accidents. (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm/how-to-prepare-for-daylight-saving-time). It is also interesting observing this on a baby who really doesn’t care about what the clock says but reacts more intuitively to the daylight itself and the daily routine around him/her. After the one hour clock move, it would take the baby a month or two to adjust the sleep pattern to the new “timezone”. But for adults we are forced to do that overnight!

  9. Budo

    “Gardner Bovingdon” reminds me of another name, an art historian named Bendor Grosvenor.

  10. Susan Brinkhurst

    My parents are from Saskatchewan Canada, and there they don’t fall back in the winter! They don’t do double summer time, probably because it turns out early sunsets in the winter also means late sunsets in the summer and it isn’t really necessary. Canada Day fireworks are always very frustrating for parents of young children because of how late you have to stay up to see them.

    My parents are not big fans of daylight saving time, and I have to say, living in Ontario and having to bus home from my 5pm classes in the pitch blackness makes the idea of year round daylight saving seem very enticing.

  11. Susan

    It kinda surprised me that Chris Berube didn’t talk about how one of Canada’s provinces, Saskatchewan, is on permanent daylight saving time!

    Saskatchewan has a lot of farming, and parts of it are quite Northern, so it really does make sense to not fall back at all and stay on DST all year round. Weirdly, even though a good portion of Saskatchewan is less northern than Scotland, nobody really minds the dark mornings. Probably because the convenience of not having to move the clocks outweighs the inconvenience of the dark mornings.

    My parents are from Saskatchewan, and when they moved to Ontario they found the clock changing extremely frustrating, and I must say the idea of not having to come home from school or work in the pitch blackness is somewhat enticing.

    This might be a duplicate comment, I’m not sure if the first one didn’t work or if there’s just a glitch

  12. Bryan

    In 1975 I had a summer job in the kitchens of a holiday camp in Wales. We had a Liverpudlian former seafarer whose job was knocker up, to get the kitchen staff who were on early shift to work on time. His name was Paddy McKeown, a good Liverpool-Irish name, and he took his job very seriously. He could often be found in the staff bar berating those who’d had a few drinks. ‘Get to bed, you horrible thing, you’re on early tomorrow!’ Of course the inevitable happened and he slept in. Chaos ensued that morning and he was assigned a less crucial post.

    The main entrance had a row of twenty or so flags of many nations which were hoisted each morning and lowered each night. Another gentleman called Cliff had the job of flag man, and his responsibility was solely the raising and lowering of the flags.

  13. lsdc

    Fascinating to hear about the transition to accepted standards – that by their very nature become normalised and (>99%) invisible…

    Other examples include the screw thread and TCP/IP – which would make for interesting stories

    One localisation point: “row” houses in the UK are known as Terraced houses.

  14. Hae

    Fabulous episode as always, but I also have to say that was the best outro yet :) Thank you Roman and the 99PI team :)

  15. Carlos

    Excellent episode as always. I just didn’t get why people keep laughing throughout the episode, including Roman. The world is larger than the US, there is nothing funny about how other nations decide to conduct their own business.

  16. Éamonn Conlon

    An extra problem with double daylight saving time is that it would have aligned UK time with Central European Time. Maybe that’s why then-future Brexiteers like Mogg didn’t like it.

    A further trivium for time-nerds: Here in Ireland standard time is GMT+1. In winter, time changes to GMT. So summer time is standard time. That puts us on the same clock as the UK, without admitting it.

  17. A

    Just listened to your episode on time and knocker uppers and I had to laugh. I used to do paper routes for the Columbus Dispatch as a kid in the 2000’s. Customers occasionally left standing notes to the paper carriers, and while I was substituting for another friends’ paper route one week I saw one really strange one that said something like: “Throw the newspaper hard against the metal screen door so customer can wake up.” I was really confused. The next morning I ran past, threw the paper neatly to his doormat as always. Then I stopped abruptly, ran back, looked down at the paper, looked back at the instruction sheet, picked up the paper, and (grimacing) hit it as hard– but also as softly– as I possibly dared. Then thinking maybe it wasn’t loud enough, I picked it up again and hit the door one more time before plopping it back on the mat. I considered it with a cocked head for a moment, and then ran to the next house. It was so awkward. My friend later told me that that guy tipped really well so it was worth the weirdness.

    So maybe the knocker uppers didn’t *really* die until the 2000’s! Because I was one of them! (And surely he’s a digital subscriber now, right?)

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