HEY! Give Me Back My Hour!


Happy 100th birthday to a really dumb concept.

We can thank the railroad companies of the world for the entire idea of time zones, which were basically established in the late 19th century in order to get the trains to run on some sort of consistent time. Prior to that, people just looked up at the sun to know what time it was. And at night, it was dark, so they didn’t need much more than a vague idea of the time. railroad workers. jpg

First time zones, and then along came the concept of standard time, and suddenly we needed alarm clocks in order to get to school or work Oh yeah, the Industrial Age was a slave driver.

And here’s the thing – the railroads were such an enormous economic engine, all around the planet, that the replacement of sun time with standard time was enacted with no legislative backing, and very little public resistance.

daylight savingWhen it came time to mess around with the time zones we’d landed up with, proponents of a ‘daylight saving’ bank pushed those who believed moving our clocks ahead by an hour during the months with the most sunshine, would reduce energy consumption and encourage people to get out and do things outdoors.

Well, they were partly right.

Moving the clocks ahead DID influence our behaviour. When the days are longer, later sunsets dramatically increase participation in after school sports programs, and increase paid attendance at pro sports events. Golf ball sales in 1918 increased by 20 percent. In fact, the entire golf industry was well served by daylight saving, with each DST month worth mega millions in additional sales and greens fees.

But energy savings? Not so much. In fact, studies have proven that North Americans use more domestic electricity when they are in daylight saving mode than when they are out. And, yes, they’re going to the park at night, but they’re driving there, so there’s no decrease in gasoline consumption.

daylight saving NativeWe also didn’t have a lot of info, back then, on what messing around with our brain’s sense of time could do, and how changes impacting our sleep could do real harm to our society. We certainly know a lot more about that now.

It was on March 18, 1918 that American President Woodrow Wilson signed the Calder Act, requiring Americans to set their clocks to standard time. And less than two weeks later, on March 31, 1918, the nation’s first experiment with daylight saving began.

And was repealed within a year.

However, many of the larger American cities, including New York City, were setting their own daylight saving policies, apparently without requiring or asking permission of their government to do so. In 1920, it appears that it was the Chamber of Commerce that decided these matters.

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen an increase in sales of everything from golf balls to summer fashion? By 1965, pretty much all of the states had a daylight saving program in effect. And have continued to practice that ‘savings’ ever since.

” There was a time US municipalities could choose whether or not to observe daylight saving. Then, as technology integrated different local economies, differing time changes and zones caused chaos and confusion. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which required whole states to fully commit to daylight saving.

States have the option of opting out, so long as the whole state stays on the same time. Arizona and Hawaii, for instance, don’t observe daylight saving. Florida is doing something different, in wishing to be on DST permanently, which requires congressional approval.”

Florida lawmakers are considering a “Sunshine Protection Act,” which would make daylight saving a year round reality.

By contrast, consider an experiment done in Queensland, Australia. After a three year trial of pushing their clocks ahead one hour during the summer months, the people had a referendum on the question, “Are you in favour of daylight savings?”

While there were many who argued that later daylight hours in the summer would be beneficial for both economic and public health, in the end the voters narrowly chose to abandon the practice, 54.5% to 45.5%.

The plain truth about daylight saving is that it was never about energy savings, health, or giving farmers an extra hour of light to work the farm.

It was always about corporations lobbying to sell more stuff. There are no energy savings. But we spend more money in those long summer evenings. The big winners during daylight saving are the candy lobby, the barbecue lobby, and the golf ball lobby.

Fore!

Meanwhile, sleep deprivation experiments run on healthy people prove that less sleep leads to slower reaction times and an inability to handle tasks that require concentration.

“There’s some literature showing that there are increases in accidents, workplace, motor-vehicle accidents, and the severity of them is greater following the time change. And there research showing that even a small amount of sleep restriction, an hour or two, can have an impact on your ability to drive, and things like that. “

There’s a movement going on that wants to end the daylight saving programs all over the U.S. Lives are a lot more flexible now, and we tend to set our own schedules, morphing the hours we spend at work and play to fit what works for ourselves and our particular group of friends. We don’t do ‘event TV,’ anymore, we watch it when we feel like it. Our world is 24/7.

So, if we are no longer slaves to ‘official time,’ why change it twice a year? The Monday after the clock springs forward is notorious for having more car accidents, heart attacks, and the general grumpiness of sleepy people. Time to stop that artificial construct, and maybe save a few pedestrians lives …

 

 

 

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Being apolitical, not having the need to follow the politics of your own country and others, is a privilege. It may not seem so, but the very fact that your life and identity does not hinge on the whims and laws of those in power, is a very big privilege denied to many.

Ai WeiWei, a Chinese artist and political activist, has lead an interesting life, most often at odds with authorities. His latest project is the documentary, Human Flow.

Human Flow, an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.”

The trailer images made me weep. Even as countries harden their borders and hearts, the stream of refugees continues. This film should upset you, and make you think. It is only by the grace of your current place and status that you are not one of those fleeing,

 

 

 

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seagulls pulling my girls Wilhelm photography

And now, a delightful palate cleanser! I just discovered this wildly entertaining family, lead by John Wilhelm, an IT Director at a Swiss University.

 

pregnant mama john-wilhelm

The family – mother, father, three daughters and a son – are the subjects of Wilhelm’s surreal and imaginative photo manipulations.

 

beaver child john-wilhelm

It is a world of fantasy and imagination …

 

 

mouse trap john-wilhelm

“Due to the fact that it’s more an obsession than plain passion I call myself a photoholic.” John Wilhelm.

 

Discover more of his wonderful art on Facebook at tuasmalou.ch, or visit his website for even more amazing images!   http://www.johnwilhelm.ch/

 

No Sleep Til Brooklyn …


When I mentioned that I was going for a sleep apnea test a while back, I was surprised at how many people I knew that had already undergone the polysomnogram. Was this an aging thing, something that happens as our bodies rebel against all the indignities we’ve put them through?

Time for a PSA! Here’s what you need to know …

sleep-apnea-riskSleep apnea is a disorder that anyone can experience, even little kids. But it’s more likely to happen if you’re male, over 40, overweight, and have a family history. It’s also common in those who suffer from gastric reflux, or who have a history of allergies, sinus problems, a deviated septum, large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone. Having a larger neck (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women) may indicate problems as well.

Basically, apnea is when you stop breathing, or have difficulty breathing. Naturally, this can create problems, since your brain would prefer you breathe at all times. And there are two kinds of sleep apnea – one involves a blockage of the airway, when the soft tissue (that big tongue or tonsils) collapses at the back while you sleep, and the other kind, which is when your brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center. If you snore, you may have experienced the same sort of temporary breathing cessation.

Beyond that pesky “needing to breathe to live” thing, problems with sleep of any kind can lead to everything from headaches, and being distracted at work and school, to depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart failure. Oh yeah, and to top it off, poor sleep makes you more likely to be overweight. So really, this is something you don’t want to ignore.

On the day that I was to take the test, I was told to abstain from caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, but to otherwise eat as normal, and report to the clinic for 8pm machine that goes pingwith my jammies. And so, one cold and snowy night, me and my footie pyjamas were ushered into what looked like a budget motel room, where I filled in numerous forms and was then weighed and measured, before being hooked up to the machine that doesn’t go ‘ping!’

 

Here’s what happens next: “About two dozen sensors are applied to the skin of your head and body with a mild adhesive. These small metal discs are called electrodes. They are connected to a computer and record the vital signs of your sleep. The wires are long enough to let you move around and turn over in bed. Flexible elastic belts around your chest and abdomen measure your breathing. A clip on your fingersleep study or earlobe monitors your heart rate and the level of oxygen in your blood. None of these devices are painful. They are all designed to be as comfortable as possible. The sensors may feel strange on your skin at first. But most people get used to them very quickly. They should not be an obstacle that keeps you from falling asleep. After everything is hooked up, you will do a test to make sure it is all in working order. You will be asked to move your eyes, clench your teeth and move your legs. Once it is all ready, you are free to read or watch TV until your normal bedtime. Then the lights are turned out and it is time for you to go to sleep.

Yes, it’s a tad intrusive. But I’m game. So in a fairly short time, I fell asleep. Between the electrodes, the strangeness of the room, and the howling winter winds bouncing off the building like sonic booms, I’d guesstimate I got about 4 hours sleep total. I’ve never been so glad to get up and go home at 6 a.m. in my life.

And then, you wait. The analysis of a sleep study is a complex and time-consuming process. A typical sleep study produces about 1,000 pages of data. This information includes things such as brain waves, eye movements, and breathing patterns. It requires hours of work from a trained professional to accurately analyze the results. A sleep technologist processes or “scores” all of this data.  A sleep study is not somethisleep-clinicGlobeMailng that you pass or fail. The scored results are simply given to a doctor for further evaluation. At an accredited center, this doctor must be a board-certified sleep specialist. The doctor will review the study to find out what kind of sleep problem you may have. Because of the detail and amount of time involved, it usually takes about two weeks for you to get the results. The doctor who ordered the study will discuss the results with you. If your primary care doctor ordered it, then the results are sent to him or her. If you met with a doctor in the sleep center, then he or she will tell you the results.”

So it was about a month later that I heard from the sleep centre. Both my husband and I were fairly certain that I hadn’t a problem, but since we lack those twelve plus years of actual med school, thought we’d defer to a professional’s better judgment.

As it turns out, I do have a mild case, along with some moderate snoring. It could easily be relieved by stopping smoking, dropping ten pounds, and getting some exercise now and again. However, if I chose not to clean up my act, or if my particular apnea had been more severe, I would have been advised to first test drive, and then purchase, a machine called a CPAP.

CPAP six CPAPsThis is a mask that will either cover your nose or your nose and mouth. Another version has soft silicone tubes, called nasal pillows, which fit directly in your nostrils, and provide a steady stream of air that gently blows into the back of your throat. This treatment is called positive airway pressure (PAP). While there are three kinds of PAP, the most common uses a level of pressure that remains continuous (CPAP.) In Canada, Health Insurance subsidizes a percentage of the cost, but, depending on the model you choose to buy, you’re looking at shelling out somewhere between $200 and $1000.

(Apparently there’s a thriving ‘black market’ for ‘gently used’ CPAP masks on Craigslist and Kijiji as well … though some might find it a little spooky to buy grandma’s old hand-me-down contraption.)

Bottom line, sleep is important for everyone. Getting older often means accepting certain health problems, but sleep disturbance should not be one of them – the brain and body simply cannot function properly and efficiently without being refreshed nightly.

So if your doctor wants you to have a sleep study, go for it. Worse than can happen is that you’ll lose a few hours of rest in your own lumpy bed. Bpsaest case scenario might mean a vast improvement in your health and overall enjoyment of life.

And that concludes our Public Service Announcement.

At the sound of the tone, you may go back to your regularly scheduled activities … ping!

 

Perspective


getting betterIs there anything more glorious than feeling better after being ill? We often take our human bodies for granted, and whimper when they’re damaged. But wondrously, for most of us, the majority of our ailments can be repaired by modern medicine.

We take a lot of things for granted until they’re gone or disappear for a while. Sleep, for instance. I’m blessed to be an ‘insta crash.’ When I’m tired, the slip between awareness and deep sleep goes almost unnoticed. I sleep, perhaps dream, and then awake, refreshed and ready for another day.

But so many suffer from insomnia. There are those who dread night time, because their struggle to get a good night’s sleep is like trying to wrestle a wild animal into submission. And over time, that becomes what they expect to happen, and so the dread becomes normal, and waking up achy and groggy commonplace.

We take walking for granted too. And yet the differences in how we walk are mind-boggling. I’ll never forget watching this short film a lifetime ago, and marvelling at how very differently our bodies can move. The images have never left me, and when I see a real life example of some of the more extreme walkers, I even mentally hear the music that accompanied their animated gait.

things changeThat’s the thing about being human; what seems commonplace loses it’s mystery and beauty over time. Every decade, more wonders appear in our world, and we cast aside the things we had before, sure that our old toys are no longer relevant or worthy. And yet, someone from a place that has not reached our level of technology would seize upon what we so eagerly toss on the dust heap, with joy.

It’s all relative. We’re constantly balancing where we are with where we’ve been, and where we hope to go. We make internal compromises, knowing that some of our actions will harm us, but assessing just how much harm we can do to ourselves without suffering unduly. It is the human condition.

Over a lifetime, it becomes harder to shrug off what we remember of how it felt to be innocent of experience, and to embrace the new that is always beckoning. We remember how vibrant and alive we were as kids, and how passionate our emotions felt, and how everything we experienced was for the first time, fresh and intense and life-changing.

young people don't knowWe get better at the things we do, or maybe we just get more experienced. Either way, we become blasé, and start to judge those who’ve only just learned what it feels like we’ve always known. We forget the joy of novelty, and heaven help us, sometimes we mock those trying to do what we once did for the first time. How dare they try and do it differently and in their own way?

And with every year our fragile shells are getting older and less flexible, prone to wearing out and being damaged by a misstep or an unlucky chance encounter with something greater than ourselves, be it a virus or a Mack truck. Or a corporate raider, or a venture capitalist, for that matter. That’s when the rubber meets the road, and we find out what sort of base we’ve built for ourselves, internally.

bad times wake us upIf we were very lucky, our parents prepared us for both the good and bad that everyone encounters in life. I was blessed with a mother who survived hard times in her youth, and who instilled in me her ability to bounce back from whatever came along. Just last night I dreamt that I was penniless, homeless, and friendless, but in the dream, my mum appeared to show me the humour in the situation, and soon we were laughing and singing, ready to face the situation and begin again. Now, that’s a solid base. I’m a lucky woman to have had such a strong mother, who could put aside her own fears and troubles to raise me with the ultimate gift; the ability to survive any catastrophe that comes along, and to remember that we are stronger than adversity.

interesting timesWe live in interesting times. Some would say, we always have. Forces will always struggle to contain the masses who want autonomy over their own lives and thoughts. Change is inevitable, whether it be for the better or the worst. And yet we wonderful and very human beings seek to control what little we can; our bodies, our families, our fortunes, our realities.

In every generation, there will be those who revere the past, and those who want to destroy or rise about it. There will be those who say that today’s art is puerile and lacklustre in comparison to the art of their day. Some will plod along, making the best of their lot, while others will aim for the stars. Both will both fail and succeed. And it was ever so.

So, as awful as it is, it’s a good thing to get sick once in a while. Illness forces us to stop for a time, to step off the treadmill of what we and others expect of us. It’s a time to drink hot soups and read trashy magazines and sleep for hours while our antibodies and immune systems work tirelessly to get our fleshy selves back into a state fit to return to what needs to be done to keep us viable in our lives. We learn who cares about our well-being, who is kind, thoughtful and helpful, and sadly, we also learn that life will go on without us, no matter how important we think we are to the planet. Illness keeps us humble, because, in the end … we’re only here for as long as we’re supposed to be.

To quote David Lee Roth … “life goes on without me …”

(first published in Don’t Believe A Word I Say,  September 13, 2015)