Beijing’s Lakes: Beihai and Houhai Photos

It was a glorious day in Beijing so I explored its “lake district” which is surprisingly pretty much next to downtown. 20140722-081926-29966051.jpgHere we have Beihai Lake. Who named these lakes “be high” and “how high?” Rastafari are everywhere!
20140722-081925-29965880.jpgHouhei Lake was a bit more serene, less tourists and more guys fishing right in front of “no fishing” signs. They seemed to be catching strange looking catfish.
20140722-081925-29965724.jpgThis is the famous “silver ingot” bridge…
20140722-081651-29811094.jpg… famous for getting your photo with a white guy! I’m not sure why but lots of folks here wanted a picture with me.
20140722-081651-29811424.jpgBeautiful post office building in a hutoung in the back area between some lakes.

Lama Temple and Temple of Heaven Park Photos

20140721-090125-32485363.jpgOh, the Temple of Heaven. Who knew it was so easy to get into heaven? It was about 96 degrees in the shade that day, so it was a quick trip to the park surrounding the temple.

20140721-090125-32485683.jpgHere we see people burning incense outside the Lama Temple, which is a Tibetan Buddhist temple right in the middle of Beijing. I thought that whole Tibetan Buddhist thing was frowned upon, but I guess not!

20140721-090125-32485523.jpgThese little dragons are perched all over the former imperial buildings in Beijing. I’m strangely drawn to them.

20140721-090125-32485845.jpgHere is the outside of the Lama Temple. I — unlike the multitudes of tourists at the place — respected the signs that said “no photography” of the 25 foot tall Buddha statue inside. It was very impressive, not diminished by the sign from the Guinness Book of Worlds Records stating that they confirmed it to be carved from one singular piece of sandalwood.

Great Wall Photos

20140720-115126-42686883.jpgWhat an amazing experience. Right up there with visiting the Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Giza and Mt Sinai. I hired a guide to take me out to the Mutianyu section of the wall, which isn’t the closest section, but much less crowded.
20140720-115126-42686720.jpgI wasn’t expecting the climb along the wall to be so steep! It was hard going, especially in the 96 degree heat.
20140720-115126-42686553.jpgWe walked along the wall for about three hours with plenty of time to rest in the guard towers along the way. The views were spectacular.
20140720-115129-42689849.jpgthis is the chairlift we took on the way up. This section of the wall is between two mountains so it was pretty high up.
20140720-115129-42689124.jpgWhen the wall was used to protect China from the Mongol invaders, they would cut down all the trees on the fat side of the wall so they couldn’t sneak up.

20140720-115129-42689490.jpgon our way down, we took a metal “toboggan” ride down. (That’s Steven the tour guide behind me.)

Photos from Beijing

Tiananmen Square. That place is huge — 100 acres of cobblestones they say. Tight security.

Where did Mao get this hair done? (Entrance to Forbidden City)

20140719-221636-80196259.jpgDetail of a Lion guarding the Forbidden City

20140719-222319-80599892.jpgInside the Forbidden City where palace intrigue was in high gear when the Emperor was on the throne.

Blogging From China

20140719-172005-62405584.jpgTwo days into my China trip and I’m realizing that is blocked here as is Flickr. But for some reason the iPhone app seems like it’s working.
So I guess this is test. Let’s see what happens.

Update: it worked!

Can Twitter Bots Do The Right Thing?

A 'bot trying to do the best it can.

A ‘bot trying to do the best it can.

You probably know that I enjoy a good Twitter ‘bot or two, so I was so pleased to read two very interesting articles in this morning’s The Daily Beast feed.

A Socially Responsible Twitter ‘Bot

One was about a Twitter ‘bot who watches edits to Wikipedia from computers known to be used by people working for the US Congress. (It tracks the IP addresses, if you want to get all technical). And then this ‘bot publishes the results like so:

As of this morning, @CongressEdits has over 12,000 followers. What’s so cool about this comes in two flavors: a) it can show when politicians (or their staffs) try to alter the record to their benefit and b) the creator of this ‘bot has released it’s code to allow anyone to create a similar ‘bot. A quick glance at @CongressEdits feed shows it retweeting new bots like @phrmaedits who monitor the pharmaceutical industry’s edits of Wikipedia, @reichstagedits who monitors the German Parliament for the same actions, etc. So, totally cool.

Stopping Clickbait One Tweet At A Time

The second article was about a Twitter ‘bot whose mission is to save you from being clickbait. For those of you not familiar with these terms, clickbait is:

(Internet marketing, pejorative) Website content that is aimed at generating advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs; such headlines

(Via Wiktionary.) You know the article headline that says “Is Hurricane Oswald Going To Drown Every Man, Woman and Child in Ft. Pierce, Indiana?” just to get you to read the article? That’s clickbait. Anyhow, this Twitter ‘bot, @SavedYouAClick watches out for these clickbait articles and tweets the answers back at them. For example: Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 7.20.34 AM and

  Perhaps not as socially aware as the other ‘bot, but it does have over 126,000 followers.

What sort of ‘bots would help you? Let me know and we’ll see if we can build some.

How Do Apps Build Rapport With You?

“Tell me about your relationship with your mother.”

Had a chance to watch the movie Her again recently. It’s a quirky movie, and frankly a bit slow in spots, but I find the portrait of future technology inspiring. So inspiring, actually that I left my job to start a company trying to apply some its principals.

I love the scene from Her when Theodore installs the new “OS” that he will eventually fall in love with:


During the course of setting up the new OS, it needs to know:

  1. Are you social, or antisocial?
  2. Would you like your OS to have a male or female voice?
  3. How would you describe your relationship with your mother?

Of course the OS then goes on to cut him off as Theodore gives somewhat rambling answers to these questions.

It’s an amusing clip, but it also brings to mind an interesting question: when is the last time a software application tried to build rapport with you? Surely with all of these apps that have access to your Facebook data, some of them would start randomly chatting me up about the Knicks or the new St Vincent album.

One day, they surely will.

It Was Always Going To Happen

After flying my new drone a few times, I felt like “OK — I got this”, and decided to fly it in my rather small backyard instead of the spacious public parks nearby.

Unfortunately, the wind picked up, and I rather inelegantly smacked it into the house! It’s out for repairs, and probably won’t be back until after China. Bummer. So much for my plans to start a drone rental business.

Here’s my last recorded flight:

Third Drone Flight from adamhonig on Vimeo.