Saturday, November 7, 2009

Book Review: Seize the Daylight

Seize the Daylight is a history of daylight saving time.

I'm sure most don't at first think that sounds like a particularly entertaining story, it's actually quite interesting. At one level, it's a story about an idea that one guy spent his whole life evangelizing a simple but crazy idea, at first to ridicule, then to mixed reception, and then, after his death, to acceptance.

While others, including Ben Franklin, had the idea and proposed it in various forums, it was one man, William Willett, who spent the better part of his life trying to convince society we could be more productive and efficient by getting our collective ass in gear by sunrise.

Roughly a hundred years later, a billion people follow his guidance. Along the way though, curious things happened over the course of a couple world wars, an energy crisis, and a modernization of global commerce that necesitated everyone getting in sync.

David Prerau takes what otherwise would be a boring subject about legislation and debate between competing interests, and colors it with a ton of colorful bits of history about poorly timed train crashes, terrorist bomb plots gone awry (you know those clocks you see in the movies ticking to a certain detonation time - may want to note whose clock those were set to!), etc. Hard to imagine that only a generation or two ago there was a time where different states, cities and suburbs each observed different DST policies and dates, resulting in chaos.

Anyhow, if you enjoy the history of systems, technology, and of putting big ideas into practice, you may enjoy Seize the Daylight.

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