Play School dumps clock with Big hand, Little hand

Monday morning I discovered that Play School has dumped the clock with Big hand, Little hand. I was running late to work, and while Owen was being breastfed Play School came on, and I overheard the presenter reading out the time. No more Big hand on this, Little hand on that.

I remember that some kids got analogue clocks quickly when we learnt in grade 3, and others just didn’t get it. My dad has always said that digital clocks aren’t an appropriate way to measure time, especially in a wrist watch or wall clock – because that’s not the kind of time you’re interested in – 19:37 is actually half past seven, or maybe a bit after half past – the precision is false/meaningless precision.

Oh, and in case I’ve been misleading you, the hands are now called Long hand and Short hand; clearer to the kids because the hour hand, whilst shorter is also stubbier, which could make one think it was larger. And no longer in this day and age is shorthand as common as it once was, so the risk of confusion there is reduced. And in a subsequent viewing of Play School (I’ve been home sick – stupid baby), they were back to Big and Little, so perhaps the presenter misspoke.

Oh well, time marches on…

While we’re here, a little tip: time should only ever be stored and (inter-system) communicated in UTC. If you’re designing a database that has time fields, for The Love of Sweet Merciful God store the time as UTC, regardless of the hoops involved in adjusting to that time zone. Because, when it comes to query, and you’ve got to start allowing for the fact that when daylight savings ends there are two 02:17s – and one came before the other; in addition you have the difficulty of knowing if the time on the clock was wound forward/backwards correctly – Australia has so many states with different time zones, and a propensity to diddle around with when the changeovers are meant to happen. Whilst effective, it is not desirable to use the “solution” one company I worked for went for – shutting all the machinery down for an hour when the clocks rolled back (especially given this was at the peak of processing for the day, not some idle time – and I mean business processing, not running the computer centre!). And figuring out when something happened in one time zone, compared to another, is a nightmare if all you’re storing is localtime; but equally, getting comprehensible output is tough if you’re not storing localtime alongside UTC. Here endeth the lesson.

Thursday night I had a dream – no, stick with me, this is relevant and interesting. Anyway, for whatever reason I had to build an analogue-to-digital clock converter, out of Lego. Now, I know how I did it in the dream, and on reflection, it would have worked. As a hint, I used Lego Mindstorms (in the real world I don’t earn enough to own, or for that matter to have ever touched, Mindstorms).

How would you construct an analogue-to-digital clock converter out of Lego?

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