[LEAPSECS] Schedule for success

Daniel R. Tobias dan at tobias.name
Tue Dec 30 08:57:18 EST 2008

On 30 Dec 2008 at 13:26, Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:

> Yes, it is geekcentric view, and that is because it is the geeks

> who have the trouble with the leap seconds, everybody else just

> ignores them.

The non-geeks ignore them because they're at too fine a level of
granularity to matter to people who just care about longer time spans
like minutes and hours. But get rid of them, and the seconds will
add up into minutes and hours eventually, and be noticeable even by
the mythical little old lady who goes to church once a week and
doesn't care what the clock says any other time; she might start
complaining that when she started this weekly trip as a little girl
it was always light enough outside to walk to church, but now 80
years later it's too dark at this time in the winter months and she
might trip and hurt herself (I've fallen and I can't get up!) because
the accumulated leap seconds have added up to minutes. The
divergence between solar days and atomic days, and the human life
span, are both increasing, so this will be an increasing problem.

People can get away now with using UTC even in places where the
relevant documents say to use GMT, because the difference between the
two is less than a second, and only geeks care about this difference;
everybody else just accepts whatever interpretation the geeks put on
it, so that if the geeks say "That really means UTC", they just say
"Whatever". This will no longer be true if the two time scales

You seem to be hoping for a stealth redefinition of the standard
under the noses of people who won't care until it's too late to do
anything about it. This is a time-honored method of trying to get
one's way in a dispute where there are vocal camps supporting two or
more different positions, and no solid consensus is ever likely to
develop, but the majority of the public doesn't care one way or the
other; in such a situation, the status quo, whatever it may be, has a
great advantage in that an impossible-to-achieve consensus is needed
to ever change from it. Thus, the way to get change in the direction
you want is not through a straightforward above-the-board process,
but by coming up with some sneaky way of getting your change
indetectably incorporated into the current status quo in a way that
nobody notices for a long time, so that when they finally do, it will
already be a long-established position that's the current status quo
which requires an impossible consensus to change.

That's the way to get controversial policy changes enacted on
Wikipedia, for instance... sneak them in using seemingly innocuous
wording so people won't realize what they mean until they're already
established policy, skipping the whole "consensus" thing that their
policies are supposedly based on. But it's a lot older than that;
the British show "Yes Minister" outlines the many ways the entrenched
bureaucrats get things to go their way by baffling the politicians
with bullshit... and a venerable old document, "Action Comics #1"
(June 1938) has a crooked senator saying "There's no doubt about it!
The bill will be passed before its full implications are realized.
Before any remedial steps can be taken, our country will be embroiled
with Europe!"

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