The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Travelling the Silicon RoadSHANGHAI — The best laid plans sometimes get shot to hell when you cross the international dateline.

All of China is one time zone: Beijing time. Most of the people I’ve asked here that are Chinese think it’s just fine that way. The people out west in China simply keep later office hours, so ultimately it’s just like the United States or Europe in that respect, you just never have to reset your watch.

I’m beginning to think that’s a good idea, not futzing around with time zones. Which brings me to the latest Jeff’s China Travel Tip of the Day:

When you get here, and you’re traveling on business, and you have a month’s worth of appointments set up in Outlook, DON’T SET YOUR LAPTOP’S CLOCK TO LOCAL TIME!

See, of course, I did this, because apparently I have an anal retentive nerd streak that chose to express itself at an inopportune time. I figured I was here for a whole month, so why not. And of course all my appointments got screwed up. Suddenly all my appointments were taking place at 2 in the morning and whatnot. Probably Bill Gates’ fault somehow.

But do I do the simple fix? Of course not. Like a moron I went through and manually fixed them all, rather than just set my laptop back to my normal U.S. time zone. It was tricky business, because I had crossed the international dateline, so some of my appointments were not only at the wrong time, but on the wrong day.

So consider yourself warned. Seems I didn’t get at least one appointment changed to the correct day. I sat down earlier this evening to prepare for said meeting tomorrow, and was scrolling through the related e-mail correspondence, when I spied the date of Oct. 19th. I looked at my watch, realizing already that today was the 19th, and that the meeting had been scheduled for this afternoon.

Tony the Interpreter came along to my hotel room around about this time, and consequently got to learn some new English words, phrases and expressions, of the colorful colloquial variety, and almost got to witness a Dell Latitude get ejected from a 13th floor hotel room. Yes, the 13th floor; 13 isn’t an unlucky number in China — well not for the Chinese, anyway. Seems it is still in play for us laowai.

Which brings me to my public apology to one Ng Chong Meng, the managing director of STATS ChipPAC Shanghai. Mr. Ng, I apologize to you wholeheartedly; please forgive my ineptitude in understanding the intricacies of international time zones and Microsoft XP’s clock function.

Weird Food Update

The past two days I’ve taken advantage of Shanghai’s international flavor and numerous tourist traps to subject Tony the Interpreter to more strange Western food: last night was French, tonight was German. Unfortunately, the French restaurant was about as French as I am, and the German restaurant little better in terms of authenticity — but then this is Asia, after all. At least the alcohol at each restaurant was genuine.

Escargot (that’s snails to you uncultured boors and Asian readers out there) didn’t particularly impress him one way or the other; but then sea invertebrates barbecued on a stick are sold by the ton by street vendors here, so I guess land invertebrates naturally wouldn’t be a big deal. He was more intrigued by the idea that snails were a staple of the French diet; I explained to him that it was delicacy, not everyday food.

He also wanted to know why the French ate snails in the first place — which struck me as rather incredibly ironic — and I suggested that it was more of an excuse to eat a lot of butter and garlic, as opposed to any real desire to eat snails. What did prompt the first French chef sometime way back in antiquity to pick up a snail and exclaim “Sacre bleu! Mais oui!” and fire up the sauté pan?

Anyway, German food was a little more interesting to Tony; ghoulash soup tasted a little like certain Chinese dishes, apparently. And the various kinds of German sausage, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut seemed to go over O.K. Much better than that weird pizza stuff with that exotic cheese, he pointed out.

But the middle of the dinner was definitely a low point for him; things went downhill with the arrival of mixed green salads. Tony, being Chinese, doesn’t really understand raw vegetables outside of tomatoes and cucumbers, and he flat out turned up his nose at French dressing. Maybe I shouldn’t have ordered French dressing in a German restaurant.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaI think he would have skipped the salad all together, but I badgered him with “C’mon, you said you wanted to experience Western food! Besides, I ate squid on a stick! I ate dog, for chrissakes! Donkey! I’ve eaten Chinese food everyday since I’ve been here, you can choke down a salad.”

I’m a cruel taskmaster. I think I was feeling crabby about blowing my appointment with STATS-ChipPAC. Guess I owe Tony an apology too.

I remain your intrepid reporter on the Silicon Road,


Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

at 10/19/2005 12:32:23 PM, Richard H. McKee said:

Jeff, You must try the appetizer of cold, marinaded duck’s feet. Likewise, try the Tea-leaf smoked DUCK. There are as many variations on roast duck as there are restaurants in China, but the tea leaves impart a flavor like nothing else- WONDERFUL! -Cheers!

at 10/19/2005 1:32:18 PM, Walter Bordett said:

Maybe your Chinese friend is just being prudent. Chinese agricultural practices traditionally involve human waste spread on fields for fertilizer. Usually works OK if all produce is well cooked. Raw salad may not be wise. You may not want to drink the water unless its boiled first. That makes ice a no no. Big cities may be safer, but you never know….

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