Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #15 – Monday, April 29, 2019: Return home

Once again, our luggage decided to stay an extra day or two. Richard met us as promised, to the right at Arrivals. We took the elevator up to his parking space, then drove home along the 407. The 427 was jammed all the way to Finch, and then the 407 itself had a backup because of an incident at Pine Valley Drive. Welcome home.

Our luggage returned on Wednesday. That’s a good thing, when you look at it: It was delivered right to our door, and the only inconvenience was the wait at the carousel.

Bye-bye Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest, and all social media

What started in February, with my resignation from Facebook, continued into the spring, with my closing of all my Google accounts, including the ones I used to access YouTube. I had already closed my Twitter account because Twitter wouldn’t delete the account of that orange madman in Washington. As for Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest, I use them so little that I don’t really care if I’m on them or not. And I don’t do Amazon.

So, I am basically free of all social media.

Yes, of course, I still communicate with friends and relatives over the internet, via text, email, and blogs. But I don’t participate in those hives of “friends”, “followers”, etc., that constitute social media. My provisional definition of social media is any website where connections between people are defined by links called “friends” or “followers”, and where the currency is “likes” of any kind. It’s the social feedback of likes among networked users that is the poison. Microsoft, a company that once sold software in the traditional marketplace, came late to the game, but moved in swiftly by buying the social network LinkedIn, and installing the always-on virtual assistant Cortana on millions of computers, phones, gaming devices, and “smart speakers” around the world. It was surprisingly easy to disable Cortana on my laptop.

There is a vast literature out there, largely ignored, that explores the psychological impact of total immersion in social media of people, mainly young people born into the internet age, who spend most of their waking lives on-line, who have no means to define themselves other than via their network of “friends” on social media, who have no means to evaluate their social worth other than the number of likes they receive to their posts, who have no route to adulthood at all other than reconciling the thin tissue of their personal self-image with the unrelenting judgement of their networks on social media. The only way forward for many of these young people is to act just as the social media want them to, that is, to follow their influencers and buy the products and use the services that they think will gain them acceptance and membership in their social network. And that is the goal of surveillance capitalism. It is not an overt goal, and not one stated by the executives who lead the powerful companies that drive the surveillance economy. But it is the statistical goal of the algorithms underlying surveillance capitalism: If they can nudge the consumer towards buying one of the company’s advertised products or services, by whatever means, or by acting in ways they want usersto act, they will profit in the long run.

If you think this theory lacks weight, that Google, Twitter, and Facebook couldn’t operate on such a thin business plan, consider this: They offer all their services for free, they only gain income from advertising, and yet they are among the wealthiest, most powerful corporations on Earth, in history. And that is why I’m abandoning them, and why you should, too.

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #14 – Sunday, April 28: Return to Venice

Disembarkation was confused and delayed. There was a half-hour delay even before we left the theatre (where they were showing videos of people falling and playing tricks on others). And then we were all on the same gangway, actually two gangways merging into one. The further delay was for people picking up confiscated items such as knives. Why they had to serve those people in one line with all the rest of the passengers is beyond me. Probably MSC didn’t want to pay for another crew member.

Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, was close to the airport.

I think that MSC, and other lines as well, should have something better than stickers to show bus numbers. Some of the stickers inevitably fall off, to be stuck to floors or pavements, to further piss off the locals. Maybe lanyards would be better. They could use lanyards for other purposes on board as well as on shore.

This photo shows the general vicinity in Venice where the MSC Opera crashed a few weeks after our cruise.

Finding our luggage was easier than last year because of the colour coding. We were in the “Lilac” area.

We searched for the shuttle in the rain and eventually took a taxi to the hotel (70 euros). It turns out that for all the delays in disembarking, we were in the bus area too soon than scheduled, and we left in the taxi before our Crowne Plaza shuttle arrived. Our bad, their good.

Our fellow passengers in the taxi were a lady and her husband I recognized from our regular dinner sittings on the MSC Opera. They were from Great Britain. The husband said the MSC cruise was terrible compared to others: he recommended Norwegian and Princess.

Another couple, whom we met at the beginning of the trip, were also staying at the Crowne Plaza.  It turns out that they were the aunt and uncle of that girl who was hit in her car by a rock thrown off a bridge over the highway 401 in Durham a few years ago. She is still alive, but she lives daily with pain, according to the aunt.

Betty was sick with a cold and slept most of the day.

The Crowne Plaza had some intriguing artwork throughout. Here are some few samples.

It looks as though the upper half of each work is constructed from pieces taken out of the lower half, though there are no seams or cuts to indicate that they actually were constructed that way. I think they may have been 3D printed. There were other works in the hotel, in glass, and in steel, and in different styles.

I explored the neighbourhood in the early evening drizzle. Homes there have gated front yards, so you have to open a locked gate to even access their front doors. 

We left early the next morning for the airport and our flight home.