Asians != Chinese?

An unusual thing happened to me recently. I received an email from someone from the BBC who was interested in learning more about alternate reality games. In the process of our chat, she mentioned she was involved with producing a TV show for Asians and wondered if I knew any British Asians who were into gadgets, technology, that sort of thing. I said I’d have a look, and that incidentally, I was an Asian who was into gadgets, etc.

Then she asked me if I was Indian, because the programme was for Indians. Of course, I’m not, and so it ended there. But it made me notice how the British media equates Asians with Indians, or at least people from the Indian subcontinent. The next time you read a newspaper or magazine, or in particular, view the BBC, look out for where ‘Asian’ is mentioned, and you’ll find that what they really mean are Indians.

Take, for example, this BBC pictorial about Asians in Britain. Very interesting, I’m sure. But it’s all about people from the Indian subcontinent. There is nary a Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Thai or Korean person to be seen, despite the fact that they also live in Asia.

Now, this doesn’t particularly bother me. Asia is a big continent, after all. And while there are more than a million people in the UK from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, there are less than a quarter of a million from Hong Kong, Malaysia, China and Singapore combined (Source: BBC). It’s hardly surprising that the Indian subcontinent gets more attention in the media. But there’s no point going on about Asians or ‘Asian programming on the BBC’ when what you’re really talking about is Indians or ‘programmes that are to do with Indians’; it gives the false impression of inclusion, where there is none.

Speechifying

On Wednesday I’m heading off to The Future Laboratory’s Autumn 2005 ‘Trend Briefing’; unsurprisingly, alternate reality gaming is in, and while Mind Candy isn’t giving a presentation, we are going to be featured in one, so we have a few free tickets.

Observant readers will note that their flyer doesn’t actually mention ARGs – rather, it talks about ‘Live Urban Gaming’. I’m not sure if there’s a limit to the number of three letter acronyms the media industry can come up with for the same things, but I do know it hasn’t been reached yet. Despite the fact that LUG doesn’t sound as good as ARG (plus it is identical to Linux User Group), ‘Live Urban Gaming’ does sound a bit less threatening than ‘Alternate Reality Gaming’ to marketeers and suchlike.

(Incidentally, I will be speaking at the Montreal Game Summit about ARGs in November. More on that later.)

Another morning session is about ‘Ladults’, and tells us how a typical ladult is, “secure in his new-found masculinity, he’s ditched the ‘shirt over jeans’ look for a lifestyle and attitude that [is] ‘butch-modern'”. What’s wrong with wearing a shirt over jeans now? Has the fashion industry decided that this is bad? This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this mentioned, I recall seeing the notion purveyed in the Times a few weeks ago.

It’s a bit mystifying to me. There are two reasons why guys don’t tuck their shirts in (unless wearing a jacket, etc) – it’s uncomfortable, and it looks bad on most people. Either would be enough, but both together? It’s not going to happen.

Sweet sweet corn

One of the things I love about going abroad is the fact that the food is always cheaper and better (at the same price) than London. Sure, London has good food – if you can afford the money and time to check it out. When you’re on holiday, not only does the rest of the entire planet offer cheaper food, but you have more time to appreciate it. So when I went to Toronto for a week, I sampled a rather large number of restaurants, pretty much all of which were good.

However, I’m a little sad that I only got to eat one ear of corn when I was out there. For reasons that are still unknown to me, corn in North America is far sweeter and tastier than our so-called ‘sweetcorn’ in the UK. I know for certain that most of the corn I eat in North America is grown fairly locally, whereas UK sweetcorn seems to come from all over the place, including England. But while I have never had a disappointing ear of corn in North America, I count myself astoundingly lucky if I have a decent bit of corn in England.

For some time – before I first travelled to the US – I thought that UK sweetcorn was how real corn tasted: not bad, but on reflection, not particularly sweet. This changed when I travelled. I then mused that perhaps the corn plants I’m eating are just a different species, or maybe the corn was harmed by the way it was transported.

Like a good scientist, I investigated the latter possibility only a few hours ago. In the interests of furthering human knowledge, I have published my findings below:

Is the taste of UK sweetcorn harmed by the way it is transported? (to be published in Nature 439:7208)

Introduction: Most sweetcorn in the UK is bought from supermarkets, who typically package their sweetcorn in film-wrapped packages that are likely to have been in transit for several days or even longer. They may have also undergone additional treatment during the packaging and transportation process, and other treatments associated with the mass production of food. In contrast, the sweetcorn the experimenter (Adrian) has tested in North America has typically been ‘raw’ ears of corn, unpackaged; this type is also available in the UK, but this experimenter has not tasted it.

This experiment will compare the taste of UK ‘raw’ corn to UK supermarket corn.

Hypothesis: The taste of sweetcorn is harmed by packaging, treatment and distribution processes associated with supermarkets, but not associated with ‘raw’ corn bought from healthy shops, etc.

Apparatus:

Sweetcorn bought from ‘Fresh & Wild’ (wholly owned by ‘Whole Foods Market’)
Pot
Heating panel

Method: The green bits on the sweetcorn were removed. The sweetcorn was split in two, in order to fit it in the pot, and then both halves were submerged in water. The pot was placed on the heating panel and a pinch of salt added. Heat was applied until the water began to boil. This heat was maintained for three to four minutes, until which point the sweetcorn was removed from the pot and left to cool for five minutes. Before eating, margarine and salt was applied.

Results: From a qualitative perspective, the sweetcorn tasted significant less sweet and ‘tasty’ than North American corn. It tasted essentially the same as supermarket-bought sweetcorn, although perhaps slightly better due to the method of cooking.

Discussion: It appears that UK corn is significantly worse than North American corn, no matter where it is bought from or how it is distributed. However, the sample size in this experiment is small (n=1) and it is possible that there are other sources of sweetcorn in the UK that are better. Even so, it would be expected that a retailer such as ‘Fresh & Wild’ would source tasty corn, meaning that if tasty corn is indeed available in the UK, it is baffling that F&W would not sell it.

Conclusion: Based on the very small sample size of this experiment, it seems that it is not possible to get ‘good’ corn in the UK. Still, additional investigation is required. Increasing the sample size and acquiring different sources of corn is vital. Secondly, it is advisable that the experimenter travels back to North America to perform additional taste tests on their corn. Funding for this travel will be applied for to UK research councils in the near future.

Terminal 3

After a while, you begin to realise that the only times you get to sit down and update your weblog is when you physically cannot do anything else; on a bus, in jail, or in an airport.

Well, that’s not quite true. I could read a magazine or a book, or gaze at the various electronic goodies in Dixons. I could even ruminate on why, inexplicably, the World News store is the only place in Terminal 3 where you can buy newspapers, magazines and sweets – you would’ve thought that other shops would try to tap into the captive audience of hungry, bored travellers carrying a lot of spare cash. Maybe they’ve been granted a monopoly or something. In any case, the end result is that there is an absolutely enormous queue at World News and I can’t be bothered getting anything to eat (not that they sell anything that wouldn’t immediately give you diabetes).

I got to Heathrow this morning using a rather cheap trick. Because the London Underground is doing one of its periodic ‘the District line doesn’t work and never worked’ maintenances, you can’t actually get to Heathrow via the tube. I would never try it myself anyway, normally I get a taxi because the tube takes far too long and is rather depressing, but in this case, because of the maintenance, London Underground has struck a deal with Heathrow Express where you can travel on it for free if you have a Zones 1-6 Travelcard.

Zones 1-6 Travelcard: £6 offpeak
Heathrow Express single: £14

There’s no competition. I honestly felt sorry for the guy on the train I saw paying full fare. The Heathrow Express itself is a fine enough train but it’s not really worth getting unless the traffic is bad, you’re travelling on your own, and you’re coming from central London. It’s also worth considering that when you get off the Heathrow Express, you still have quite a bit of walking to do before you get to Departures. I suppose if they reduced the price it might be worth the hassle, but I can’t see much difference between it and a taxi.

I’m on my way to Toronto today for a week’s holiday, so there’s even less chance that I’ll update in the near future. I’m also going to be heading to Montreal in November for the Montreal Games Summit to do a presentation on ARGs, which should be fun. Who would’ve thought I’d end up becoming a games designer after doing a degree in neuroscience? Life is strange.