In Siberia this is the dark time of year: dawn comes late and dusk comes oh, so early. This year, though, the dynamics are a bit different. It gets light an hour later than it did last year. Darkness also comes an hour later. No, the earth didn’t change its tilt—which wouldn’t cause exactly what I’ve just described anyhow. It’s just that last year, the Russian government decided the country would go to Daylight Savings Time in the spring and stay there for good. What this means, practically speaking, is that here in Novosibirsk, on the shortest day, it’s dark until about 10:00 a.m. Then sunset comes around 5:00 p.m.
Actually, I think this was a brilliant move. Not only do people not have to change the time on their ten or so clocks twice a year, but they also have a chance of getting home from work before it becomes pitch-black outside. This is more than a fair trade for the long, dark mornings. Even under the old routine, if your work started at 8:00 or even 9:00, you would in any event have to travel there well before morning light during the winter months.
Yes, perpetual daylight time is a good solution for a northern latitude where in winter the hours of sunshine are few. But what amazes me is that Apple and Microsoft seem not to be up to speed on this development. For some years, although I had to run around the house flipping hands and digits, my Macintosh changed to DST and back automatically. It still does. The trouble is, now it shouldn’t. So, in order to get my Mac to reflect the right time, I had to trick it—tell it that I live not in Novosibirsk, but in Krasnoyarsk, a city in the time zone one hour ahead of ours. In the spring I’ll have to “move” back from there to Novosibirsk. This single move is certainly easier than fiddling with all the other clocks. My Russian friends tell me that they had to resort to a similar workaround with their Windows OS. But I’m curious: how did Apple and Microsoft miss this development, if they did in fact miss it?
For me, this typifies the general ignorance or perhaps apathy of Americans toward Russia. One would think that American firms would be current with these things. The American news media could choose to report such a change in policy, even though it doesn’t much affect the U.S. Maybe they did cover it and the software execs missed it. Or maybe the companies knew, but didn’t bother to reset their programs. Possibly they programmed this development into the latest versions of their operating systems, but didn’t take the trouble to update older versions. I have only the next-to-latest version of the Mac OS, so cannot say for certain.
From watching Russian news coverage of the U.S., I can only conclude that Russians have a far better knowledge of us than we do of them. They don’t always understand why things are as they are in our country, but they do follow what is happening. About them we usually know neither the “what” nor the “why,” except when it comes to cold-war-type soundbites about nuclear arms or who’s really in charge.
Russia, so vast in territory and rich in resources, is and will continue to be a major world player. On that level alone Americans and American business should pay attention to the details, however small. Russians avidly follow American news developments and American life, not in order to know the adversary, but to know their friends. In general they have immense good will toward us and are vitally interested in what goes on in the U.S. Is America too self-important or self-absorbed to return the favor?