There were once two wise men. The first man believed he could fly, and demonstrated. The second man said, “That’s not flying, that’s falling with style!”

And such is life.

Since my filing down of the spring shaft on the German porcelain 4-pillar clock has been unsuccessful (thus far unsuccessful… Still falling) I decided to post a list of classic clock failures.

The first failure that comes to mind is (physically) the biggest: Planet Earth. If you didn’t know before, well, I’ve got some bad news for you.

Planet Earth’s rotation is slowing down. 😑

Now, I don’t care about all that biology, astronomy, ecology, human kind, blah blah whatever mumbo jumbo. The important thing here is, how do we define a second?

Above: An atomic clock. Maybe it’s more impressive in person?

Well, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) uses a mish-mash of atomic time and rotational time. Rotational time is based on the Earth’s rotation being exactly 24 hours, so one second is 1/86400 of a day. Atomic time is a more consistent unit – it’s 9.something billion oscillations of a cesium 133 atom. Needless to say, it’s very precise. But if the Earth’s day is getting longer…

Right now many time-keeping organizations (yeah those exist!) use the occasional leap second. Some want a more frequent leap millisecond. Satellites use atomic time and so are straying farther and farther from UTC. What are we to do?!

Well, I’m not here to solve your problems. I just blog about clocks. Onto the next clock failure!

In September 2015 the iOS 9 Apple iPhone update not only began by being off from the World Clock website by 5 seconds, it actually reached 15 seconds off at one point. Cue mass panic! Apparently some online gamers who needed to compete simultaneously were distraught. Woe is me. I feel for them. No really, I do. I feel a very strong sense of disregard and apathy. Play a board game next time. Ticket to Ride is great. Start there. Hey, apparently I can solve all the world’s problems?


Since this is a history of famous failures I should probably mention the Romans, since they always seem to be on these sorts of lists. Let’s see, they were the ones to divide the day into 24 hours and they decided there were 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness… Um, sure… Well there’s a failure for you. They knew it was totally wrong though, their “hours” varied wildly in length by breaking day and night time into twelve pieces. Here’s to you, Romans, for falling with style.

This one doesn’t totally keep with the category but is definitely my favorite…

Apparently broken clocks are VERY bad feng shui. Because they are clutter and you’re stuck in time metaphorically and you waste literal time whenever you look at it. Also never give any clock as a gift, especially to an elder. And don’t put it in a doorway. Or anywhere else a guest can see it. Also cover your clocks at night. Okay I’m starting to think these feng shui people have a pretty bad anxiety disorder relating to the passing of time. Regardless, if you are super into Feng Shui (or are anyone else with a time-is-passing anxiety problem) and read this blog, this is what I have to say to you: sometimes the most extraordinary things in life happen in the shortest amount of time, and those stay with you forever – forever as in for all of time, ever. Clocks are just there to tell you if it’s late enough in the day to have a beer. Do Feng Shui people drink beer?


The Electric Kit Cat Klock. Now, this one really touches home with me. You see, they got the word Cat right… But the word Klock wrong! Why? How? I mean, at least be consistent with your spelling errors! Oh anyway, apparently don’t spent thousands of dollars buying them as an investment because they are prone to breaking. Even if you can fix your own, apparently the market is flooded with not-really-refurbished “Refurbished” Kit Cat Klocks. I hope you guys didn’t spend a fur-tune on those.

Alarm clocks are bad for your health, we should live by circadian rhythms, etc etc, says every life science journal ever.


Clocks in Crossfit apparently encourage bad form and an over-competitiveness that is contrary to…. Wait what? This is supposed to be a blog about famous clock failures! Why can’t I find any?!?!

Well I guess clocks are awesome then.

I would be remiss without mentioning the Doomsday Clock that hangs in the University of Chicago. It counts down to our eventual demise as a species. It used to depend on the risk of atomic warfare but now it’s about climate change. It may be set by the Hand of God, or perhaps an underpaid U Chicago postgrad.

This post was brought to you by anger at graduate academic system, by frustration with the fact that I am stuck on not one, not two, but four clocks right now, and by the fact that my graduate advisor told me to watch my tone. It is undoubtedly my least technical post ever, though in my defense it was quite well researched.

Perhaps one day I’ll write all about how we tell time on the railroad. For those who don’t know, I spent three months inspecting live railroad track, because I’m awesome, and who needs grad school anyway?! The only clock you use when inspecting live track is your eyes. You throw the schedule out the window – metaphorically but legitimately, we never referenced a schedule. You set up an appropriate number of watchmen and you keep your ears peeled for the air horn and hopefully it’s not rush hour. After the air horn you have up to thirty seconds to vacate the track before the train arrives, 15 seconds if you’re in central NJ because they go faster there (obviously).

Please share any bad clock stories you have in the comments section below! And send me your positive vibes as I craftily apply the use of twelve metal files to a spring shaft while imagining various educators, administrators, and bank loan advisors.

UPDATE: I have a lot of broken clocks. Like, a whole lot. Like, upwards of 15. Maybe 20. Maybe if I cover them up on Monday the feng shui won’t affect my first day of class???

Railroad Expert Margaret

2 thoughts on “Flying

  1. You give new meaning to “stream of consciousness….” I have learned many new things, some of which I would never have given any thought to, prior to reading your words. Well, keep it up.


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