Friday, June 29, 2012

Revealing my Exotometer

"Where are you coming from?" "I am flying in from Laos". The security person at Istanbul airport stares down at me with a look that almost makes me want to confess that I am a terrorist: "there is no such country" he asserts. I reply softly, "Sir, I can assure you there is a country like that. It is next to Thailand".

"Wow!!!!! You're in Madagascar?!?", IMs to me my friend from Cambodia (I always have my current location set on my chat status), "what a wonderful country! I learnt all about it from the movie". Well... ehmm... "The movie is not really about Madagascar, you know... it is a little more crowded and polluted, but the people are wonderful and I love the music" "I didn't realize they have people there"

"Cambodia!!! Cool!!" gChats my Kenyan friend, "didn't realize you also work in Latin America", "That's Colombia my dear, Cambodia is in Asia, and they are more into sticky asian pop than salsa, I am afraid" "no salsa??" "nope."

"I can't believe she doesn't know where Cambodia is! That is so lame!" frowns my Cambodian wife and takes insult on behalf of the entire Khmer empire. "My love, Own Sum Lahn, can you tell me where about is Burkina Faso?" "You are making that up, right?"

"You're where?? Somalia?? Oh my gosh! Don't they chop off people's heads there?" "Today's Wednesday. I don't think they do it on Wednesdays" "Oh good. SMS me if you need help".

What makes one country sound exotic vs another sound mundane? Since I work a lot in countries which some people consider exotic, I have been applying my "Exotometer" - essentially measuring the number of written or verbal exclamation marks after the words "cool!!!" or "wow!!!!!" or similar expressions my friends around the world use when they learn that I am in country X. Many of these friends, incidentally, live in countries others would consider exotic. Finally, after collecting enough raw data, I have proceeded to reverse engineer the data to discover the underlying algorithm for determining the level of exoticness of a country. Here it is, v1 of the discovered algorithm:

Level of Exoticness of country X, as perceived by person P living in country Y:

(1) Is the country less than 3000 km away? NOT exotic! END

(2) Was it in a children's book or a movie that you first heard of the country? (Madagascar, Winnie the Pooh)? DEFINITELY exotic. END

(3) Does the country have at least 8 letters in its name and/or starts with a Z? Gain 2 Exoticness points

(4) Is the leader's title Sultan or King? Gain 2 Exoticness points for Sultan, 1 for King

(5) Has a rich acquaintance of yours gone there on an unaffordable "getaway" and can't stop talking about it? Lose 2 Exoticness points

(6) Is it a tropical island? Gain 2 Exoticness points, unless you live on an island yourself

(7) Do the locals have the same skin color as you? Lose 3 exoticness point

My Exotometer is still in beta, and the reverse engineering is still in progress, so feel free to comment if you have different observations!

1 comment: