A Malaysian Journal:

Not there, yet.

10 June 1998


(I had planned to wait at least a week before doing another posting, but Jackie just said it was ok to forward some snippets from notes she's been sending me. I'm adding them to the end of this note. It's taking awhile for her 'regular' network access to get established, so she is borrowing Other People's Accounts. Danny DeVito would approve.)

By way of reminding folks of some context for Jackie's comments about her work, remember that she's helping Universiti Putra Malaysia, Business Centre look for ways to make money from their research.

Also, thanks for the responses to my first posting. One item of clarification: Jackie is teaching a full course, not just lecturing at a single class. She's told me that they do use the same book as she has used as SJSU, if they can scrounge up enough copies.)

I'm under orders not to pass on the details of some wonderful stories and reactions that Jackie's having, since she's putting them in her own note. She's promising to post is Real Soon Now. If a major goal of life should be to Create Memories, Jackie's first week in KL has countered any experiential deficiencies she might have had in the past few years. On the downside, she tells me that she isn't living alone, and worse that she is delighted with her cohabitants. From what I can tell, however, there's no indication that I'll be replaced anytime soon. My, but cultural norms DO vary.

Though not in Malaysia yet, my 3 weeks in Europe are providing continuing contrast to life in the US. I stayed in a 'tourist' hotel in the heart of Amsterdam's centre city. I wondered what it meant for a hotel to get that label. It became pretty clear, one morning, when the breakfast room was filled with entire groups of people, one speaking German, another Chinese, and so on, through French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, English and American. I'm surprised the breakfast tables did not come equipped with ear pieces for tapping into translators. (I'm in Geneva, now, so that facility seems pretty automatic.)

Alas, I'm not all that thrilled with the performance I'm seeing from some Americans. The image painted by the book 'The Ugly American' was pretty strong, but STILL valid more often than any of us would like to admit. Knowing that Americans aren't the only obnoxious visitors doesn't help; most places getting large amounts of a particular people don't like those people, except perhaps American's with Canadian visitors... Still, the loudness and criticism that seems to emanate from Americans, more than others, is embarrassing. (I would also worry about our pushiness, but we don't have a corner on that market.)

Our Amsterdam breakfast buffet was a nice, simple array, with choices of granola or bran cereal, boiled egg, 2 cheeses, 2 slices meats, juices, coffee/tea, and various breads. One morning an American asked the girl (she was that young) behind the counter what the granola was and she showed him a box -- I think it was made by Kellogg -- with Dutch labeling and the word "creuseli" on it. I explained to him it came from the term meuseli, a popular Swiss cereal, was sugar-coated, and tasted great. He responded, loudly of course, that he didn't eat things with names he couldn't pronounce. Sigh. Why did he leave home?

For that matter, travel must be pretty difficult for anyone who is not an adventuresome eater. While wandering around I stopped at a stand that sold fish sandwiches. There are a number that seem to specialize in herring and I like herring. On the other hand, the simplicity of preparation was a surprise. They threw into the bun a bit of onion and two entire herring halfs, minus heads, skin and bones but otherwise raw and unprocessed. Tasted fine, but I hadn't heard that Europeans also created sashimi.

It's really strange. I hadn't ever noticed how much airtime CNN devotes to sports. Seems like 90% but that can't be right. Has the proportion changed?

And speaking of media, I dialed up the net and listened to the last half of the press conference announcing the "White Paper" from NTIA's Becky Burr, who became the lead for this activity under Ira Magaziner. While the portions of the voicestream were lost occasionally, it mostly worked well. The idea of being able to sit in a random hotel in Europe and listen in to what is really a rather obscure press conference would not have been possible a couple of years ago, of course. The quality of the voice channel was good enough to make clear that Becky was not having much fun...

A couple of us were talking last week about the effect of air travel. At the beginning of this century, travel abroad was extremely unusual. It was a big deal even for the very rich and certainly was not done frequently by anyone. By roughly mid-century, such travel was accessible to many but was close to a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I'm told that the US passport office now issues to only a few percent of the population. That seems hard to believe, but the amount of travel done by that few percent is incredible. Besides extensive business travel, it's no longer remarkable for someone to travel halfway across the globe for a yearly vacation. But then, with the net, it's now not unusual to do a virtual trip halfway across the globe for an evening.


And now some words from Jackie:

At 02:14 PM 6/8/98 -0800, Jackie Snell wrote:

[Editor's note: We've been told we should buy a car, and it appears that Jackie plans to wait for my arrival in 2 weeks. Quite unexpectedly, the person helping Jackie with logistics provided her with a car and driver, in the interim. /d]

Yesterday I had the car and driver, went to pick up Stephanie [another Fulbright fellow at ITM, and did lots of things. She wanted to go to the countryside, because she doesn't have access to a car. That sounded good to me, but we had a terrible time convincing the driver that we wanted to see the country rather than go to museums. Supphaiye (the driver) is really very sweet. He speaks English, Malayu, Tamil, Hindi, Cantonese, Hakka, and Hokkien! He claims Hindi is harder than Tamil, but then Tamil is his 1st language.

[Editor's note: One day before leaving California, while shopping in our local hardware store, I heard an Indian employee talking with a customer who was interested in where he was from and what Indian languages he spoke. I don't remember his origin, but he said he spoke ALL Indian languages. The customer then listed some, including Tamil, which is southern Indian and the prevalent origin for the 15% of Malaysia that is Indian. He said yes to her list, except for Tamil, he said he doesn't speak Tamil because it is so difficult. But, then, most of us think English is pretty easy... /d]

At 11:07 AM 6/10/98 -0800, Jackie Snell wrote: ...

We have an Amah (house cleaner) now, though. When I first saw the place I thought it was pretty clean, but in the daylight it turned out to be pretty grubby. I think I got into some politics over the amah, hope it turns out ok. The Malays say the Indians are dirty and the Indians say the Malays are dirty, and we have 2 Malay ladies and an Indian that work in our building. We are suposed to get cleaning w/ our flat, but I figured we need to pay some extra to get deep cleaning - e.g. the stove is sticky-grimey. So I put out feelers a couple of different ways and got to (had to) choose between 2. There is an American Prof of English on the ground floor of our building. She recommended the Indian lady, said the other one lined up for us has loose fingers, so I took her word for it and hired the Indian. So we are paying 80 RM (~$20 USD) this week for the big cleaning job, and 50 RM /wk after that. I think in the US we would pay $20 just to clean the stove, it is so dirty. Kamalah (pronounce it like Carmilla, only w/o the r) doesn't speak any english, so more motivation to learn Bahasa.

I was invited to an MOU signing ceremony yesterday, and the Tan Sri (very imprtant title just conferred on our Vice Chancellor) gave part of his speech in English, just because I was in the audience.


I better go now. Need to get ready for my first business meeting. About carotene production from palm oil.

[Editor's note: Paying 'extra' is a topic that Jackie and I are discussing a bit. In American parlance, it tends to be called a bribe. Yet it is a natural part of doing business in many cultures. That creates one heck of a dilemma for Americans trying to do business abroad, as we have all noted in assorted exposes in the news in recent years. A perspective that another San Jose State professor, and others, offer is as a 'gift' rather than a bribe, and the important part is to mean it, not just use it as a euphemism. An even more powerful business perspective is to note that the people getting gifts tend to have lousy incomes and the 'gifts' really are necessary for their survival. In other words, it's like tipping a waiter. /d]

From the department of Unintended Consequences:

I believe I haven't previously mentioned a rather curious problem with advanced integration of technology. My Dallas family has acquired a facsimile machine, which is on the same line as their regular telephone and uses the same number. There's a clever electronic device which lets them or their answering machine pick up the phone but the device detects if the call is really for facsimile and then switches things over to the fax machine. The only problem with this is that this incoming fax call rings their phone. Since the Dallas folks can't know it's a fax call, they are compelled to answer the phone. Normally, that's merely a bit inconvenient. The real problem occurs when one uses an email-to-fax service, such as I now have access to. (It also does the reverse, so that facsimile and voicemail, to me, go into my email.)

The problem is that we are all used to sending email whenever we wish. The recipient picks it up whenever THEY wish. There is no need to send email with any concern for the "convenience" of the recipient. Except that now I am sending this note to a list that includes the Dallas facsimile number and their telephone rings pretty soon (under an hour; usually minutes) after I send the message. I'm trying to be careful when I send notes, so that the phone doesn't ring there in the middle of the night -- Dallas is 7 hours earlier than Geneva -- but there's no mechanisms in the email software to help me make sure. Never one for high consistency, I'm too-often forgetting to delay a message.

For those of you who have a modicum of technical expertise, please spare me/them the suggestion to get an alternate ring service. The telephone company gives you a second phone number and rings the phone differently, so that you can make one number go to your regular phones and the other go to the fax machine, even though you can only get one call at a time. The problem is that this service costs about 1/2 of a regular telephone line and that is FAR too much for the value.

Too much cost for the value, when doing an abstract analysis. A few more of my transmitting messages at the middle of Dallas' night and the cost/benefit analysis might change.