Time to Vote Them off the Island

I confess…I’ve been watching the TV reality show “Survivor” from the get-go. There have been some shameful returning contestants and questionable editing, but one thing remains solid: getting voted off the island (though it’s not always an island, and, OK, sometimes they’ve jury-rigged the rules to bring someone back).

Herewith, we present four ideas or practices that almost everyone would agree need to be voted off the island.

1. Daylight Saving Time. Doesn’t save time or money (probably never did) and simply adds to the total aggravation in the world. “While most of North America and Europe observe DST, all those nations don’t change clocks at the same time, creating further discrepancies” (See National Geographic 2013), not to mention wreaking havoc with various religions’ prayer times (See also Washington Post “5 Myths”) and international conference calls.(update below*)


2. “Natural” label on foods. There is no legal, medical or biological definition of “natural”—and obviously there are numerous items — lead, arsenic, ricin, polonium, cyanide (which occurs naturally in the stones of apricots), and of course the pleasant-sounding “dog button plant” seed, aka, strychnine. (And don’t get me started on forcing GMO labels.)


Expiration/”Use by”/”Enjoy by” dating on foods. Serves no purpose, has nothing to do with health or safety, no consistent standards from state to state, methods of determining are often arbitrary… and results in massive waste of food, not to mention the water, land and transport needed to produce food which in many cases is perfectly healthy but illegal to even give away to charities, homeless and food banks.

best-by-crossoutIn short, printed food dates are not federally regulated and do not refer to food safety.

For example: Grade A milk sold in Montana must be labeled with a “sell-by” date 12 days after pasteurization, and retail sellers must remove that milk from their shelves upon expiration of the 12-day “sell-by” date. Compare this with other states, such as my home state of Pennsylvania that requires 17 days from pasteurization, California which requires a processor-decided date when product would normally (but not required to be) removed from the shelf, and Texas which has no requirements at all. (See Montana)

What is probably needed is a national standard so that your housemate (I’m not naming any names here) doesn’t simply toss your still-quite-useable milk carton without so much as a sniff test, leaving me, er, one, with dry Cheerios for breakfast.

Non-Metric (traditional) measurement: The International System of Units (ISU, i.e., metric system) has been adopted as the official system of weights and measures by all nations in the world except for Myanmar (Burma), Liberia and the United States (World Factbook). Pretty fancy company there, eh? And the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has identified the U.S. as the only industrialized country where the metric system is not the predominant system of units.metric-countries-300Isn’t it time the U.S. joined the rest of the world?

Runners Up

Two-year election run-ups – Canada: 11 weeks; Mexico: 3 months (with 60-day “pre-campaign” period); U.K: 139 days. Meanwhile, in the U.S. it’s about two years, with Ted Cruz most recently announcing his candidacy 596 days before Election Day.

iTunes updates – enough already. Every time Apple updates its iTunes interface I have to completely re-learn all the tabs and controls I had mastered.

The phrase “politically incorrect.” It’s almost always used with a snarky sneering tone, suggesting that we shouldn’t have to do things just because they’re “the right thing to do.” I know, I know, there are further implications and subtleties, but I can’t think of any usage situation where the phrase actually adds anything of value to a conversation. Imagine someone saying “I know it’s politically incorrect to suggest that ________ aren’t as smart as Whites…” or “I know it’s politically incorrect to call someone a __________.” I say:  say or don’t say it but don’t try to excuse your rudeness or insensitivity with a pre-emptive non-apology.

Update: I have since heard as a casual reference on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast (Episode #586 – 10/01/2016) that DST is still with us because of the candymakers (Big Candy, I guess you’d call ’em) — apparently the later amount of daylight allows kids to stay out longer collecting candy. I’m skeptical of that and not sure if the show commentator was serious.

3 comments on “Time to Vote Them off the Island

  1. Susan Vogt says:

    Although I understand why an Arizonian would be especially sensitive to the DST issue since it requires you to adjust your time every 6 mo, to the rest of the USA, even though I don’t live in AZ,, I frequently communicate with people in Asia who don’t do DST and we have to keep adjusting our conference call times because of the USA’s DST.
    On the “Natural” and “Sell By” issues, these are simply marketing ploys to separate those who don’t know enough from our money. Ignorant consumers trash the item and buy a new one without even trying the sniff test.
    Non-metric USA is an economic and cultural superiority issue for the USA. I originally understood that for USA industries that would have to convert sizes and parts to a slightly different metric gauge would cost money. We kept our measurement system because we’re big enough that we can and others just have to lump it. It’s cultural imperialism. The interstate road system tried to wean us off miles a few years ago by posting dual measurement signs. I don’t know why the practice was abandoned. Probably cost saving.
    2 year election cycles try the electorates’ patience and produce psychic numbing for many by election day. We don’t have to go as cold turkey as Canada’s 11 weeks, but I think 6-9 months tops would be plenty of time for the electorate to do an adequate assessment over time of a candidate’s worth.
    So, bottom line, I agree with your pet peeves, but choose to use my limited time fighting other battles – with the exception of replying to your interesting blog post since I agreed with it and it gives me a chance to ventilate.

    • jveeds says:

      What’s especially interesting about doing away with Daylight Saving Time is that, from what I can figure, it would cost practically nothing. (I was going to say “absolutely” but presumably there would be some government posters and informational campaigns to let people know that they don’t have to do a darn thing except ignore DST.

      As Susan points out, there is some cost to converting to metric — which undoubtedly have been completely amortized by now if the U.S. had simply kept the movement going after Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act back in 1975.

      I’m not sure that “sell by” dates are simply marketing ploys. My understanding is that it came about because consumers noticed that manufacturers had been stamping products with consumer-indecipherable date codes for very practical commercial reasons between the manufacturer or producer and the store or vendor. Consumers then started demanding, or calling for, these codes to be made public. Of course this adds a certain amount of cost to the product both in terms of the imprinting cost and the elaborate mechanisms for determining the actual dates…along with the consumer cost of throwing out safe food.

      So there may be some benefit to the manufacturer in selling more product, but I’m thinking it’s as much of a cost as a marketing advantage.

  2. “Vote it off the island” is a phrase I’m going to start incorporating into my lingo. Also, I knew sell-by and use-by dates were arbitrary, but even an explicitly written “expires on XX?” You could kind of explain the first two as recommendations to “ensure” quality, I guess, but the third…

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