All of the heads of world superpowers are liars.

It’s become painfully clear that the leaders of all of the world’s superpowers, the U.S., Russia, China, Amazon, Facebook, Tesla, and Google, are all liars. I would include Uber and the loosely-named United Kingdom among these, but they are minor players, and fading fast.

Citizens of the world will turn away from these tinpots and gravitate to real leaders, who put a green new deal, a just recovery, housing justice, gender equality, an end to income inequality, and other progressive movements into the forefront. This can’t happen soon enough.

I am a refusee!

I believe I have coined a new word. A refusee is someone, like me, who has abandoned social media. Search engines autocorrect the word and don’t provide any hits, except in the politely offered french equivalent refusée.

What is refusee? It’s a pun on the word refugee, someone who has taken refuge. But what is a refusee? It means someone who has refused: Someone who has abandoned social media.

And not just that. Beyond quitting Facebook, Google, Instagram, Whatsapp, Twitter, and all similar social media, a refusee has turned down hardware like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Nest, and Voice, and software like Siri and Maps. Someone who has turned down Samsung’s voice-activated TV’s, Apple’s Watches, and an exploding number of similar surveillance applications, including even robotic vacuum cleaners that map our homes and send the information back to central servers.

Refusees don’t buy drones with built-in cameras and internet connections. We don’t buy fancy WiFi doorbells. We don’t invest in any Internet-of-Things products like smart fridges that do our shopping for us. We don’t use Spotify for our music. We refuse to participate in this brave new age of surveillance capitalism. Full stop.

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.

Betty and Ken’s Eastern Mediterranean Adventure #13 – Saturday, April 27, 2019: Bari, Italy

Rain overnight, but clearing in the morning. People still haven’t got the hang of which way the elevators go. Twice this morning, an elevator stopped on our deck (the top deck) full of confused passengers.

The harbour wasn’t very welcoming. This wreck was waiting for us at the entrance to the harbour.

But check out this massive crossbow!

Our excursion to the Caves was cancelled due to lack of interest. I don’t see why MSC would have cancelled the tour. After all, we paid for it (of course, we were reimbursed, but still.) We just spent the day on board.

Betty and Ken’s Mediterranean Adventure #12 – Friday, April 26, 2019: Corfu, Greece

There were about five cruise ships at the port, many more people than the small city could support. It was also Orthodox Good Friday, so there were parades and larger crowds than usual.

Most of the people on our excursion were Spanish-speaking, and they monopolized the conversation with our guide, Mikesi. 

Mikesi explained that the more cruise ships in port, the worse business is in the town. It’s because of the crowds, and because people had to rush through their excursion.

Corfu is a bit poorer than the other ports we visited. More garbage, dingier buildings. The same old trinkets for sale, though.

There were dozens of swallows flying and screeching overhead in the town. Just as crazy and graceful and daring as in Canada.

We visited a pretty little monastery, with one monk and one acolyte.

They kept songbirds, chickens, and turtles there. And a sort of museum of tools.

They’re set up for catering at the monastery, though we didn’t eat there.

We drove to the mountainous end of the island, and went to one of its many beaches and enjoyed a beer.

Some of the many T-shirts on sale. I thought the designs were cleverer than we see in Canada.

It was at this point in our adventure that we began to get a little weary of the whole routine. Only one more destination to go: Bari!

Betty and Ken’s Mediterranean Adventure #11 – Thursday, April 25, 2019: Santorini, Greece

The caldera:

That’s our ship, floating in the mouth of the gigantic volcano. Santorini (part of the rim of the caldera) looks like it’s made of sedimentary rock, but it’s actually layers of volcanic ash. There is ash accumulating even today.

This is the biggest volcano in at least 10,000 years of history on the earth. The main volcano is still active, as is another volcano under water. Volcanic dust is accumulating every day on the island. People are whisking it away and cleaning it off their cars. You can see it in fields, about eight inches of dust that will eventually harden after a few million years.

The snowy peaks on the island are actually whitewashed houses.

I bought three mathematics-themed T-shirts on Santorini. There were tons of brilliant designs, and I could have bought dozens.

According to Betty’s phone’s pedometer, we climbed fourteen storeys on Santorini.

Another crazy T-shirt design.

All the grape vines are kept low to the soil, out of the wind. They are woven into little basket shapes to hold the grapes. Once that was explained to us, it was obvious that the whole island is planted in grape vines.

The residential/hotel part of Oia, Santorini.

We took a cable car down to the ship (there was no other option. Well, there were donkeys.). It was quite terrifying for some, not so much for others. Here’s a stock photo of the cable car:

The cable car mechanism. I have a movie of this.