On our first day since M arrived, we set out to the Forbidden City, one of the must-sees of Beijing. In front of the hotel, we bumped into a woman who works for Microsoft in the area of accessibility, and we shared a taxi, then decided to hang out the rest of the day. She and I had a surprising amount in common, and bored M silly with talk of standards and accessible graphics. We walked around Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and then took a bicycle rickshaw to the hip lake district for dinner and souvenir shopping.
In the Forbidden City, I rented an audio-tour player, and relayed tidbits to them along the way. I learned about various measurement devices there (such as a sundial) which were not merely the official standard for the empire (e.g. for time); one of the roles of the Emperor, was as supreme –even divine– authority of Heaven’s standards on Earth. Perhaps that’s taking it a bit far, but it does emphasize the importance of standards (even arbitrary ones) in making a collection of disparate entities work together, be they formerly independent kingdoms or browsers. It’s worth noting that even today, despite China’s breadth, it has not four or five time zones, but only one.