The End of an Era – Letting go of Facebook

A few days ago, I took the decision to delete my facebook account for good. The idea had long been under consideration, but there were some factors that proved to be the last straw. Throughout this article, I will go over some of the pros and cons of using this highly popular, yet much maligned social media network. Let’s start with some of the things that tickled me the wrong way.

  1. The Cambridge Analytica scandal

Thanks to the heroic efforts of people like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange among others, most people know that a Big Brother style mass surveillance system is in place all over the world. What still astounds people however is the sheer scale of this snooping. Once you truly delve into the matter and look at the business models of giant tech corporations like Facebook and Google among others, it becomes clear that they are only free because they peddle your privacy and sell it to the highest bidders. In this case however, their attempt to further monetize users’ data may have backfired spectacularly. Apologies by the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are also hard to believe, as he’s the same person who referred to people trusting him with their data as “dumb fucks”.

2. The dangers of Internet Addiction

I joined Facebook in 2007 at the behest of a friend. Over time, I began to use it more and more. I found that much like many people around the world, I whiled away a lot of time unproductively in a way that did not add value to my life. When I got bored, instead of trying to find something interesting to do, I would sometimes take shelter in the bright red lights of notifications and messages. These features are designed in a way not at all dissimilar to those find in casinos. Curiosity killed the cat, but as people are by nature curious, it’s hard to ignore a message especially when it could be significant from a business or relationship point of view. With the introduction of mobile data, this became even more dangerous, although I always made it a point to ignore the beeping sounds while driving, not because it’s illegal, but because it’s extremely unsafe and and foolish to do so. Something had to give. By leaving facebook, I no longer have to check notifications relgiously. I can live my life without risking falling into addiction. If I do not crave alcohol, coffee or cigarettes, why would I  want to crave being part of a network that sells personal information for profit?

3. Unrealistic Expectations

Social networking sites do not increase happiness. Comparing oneself to others doesn’t do that either. All we have to do is focus on improving ourselves everyday, and the world by extension. People show off endlessly on the internet, showcasing their best and ultimately fake sides. We all have our highs and lows, but this is not immediately evident on social networking sites. You risk falling into a spiral of believing everybody is travelling and having fun, while you’re not doing so at the moment. Let’s not even start talking about the issue of fake news, which spreads like wildfire thanks to social networking sites.

All in all, I am really excited to be gone. It’s true that I may suffer a few withdrawal symptoms related to the sudden “loss” of some 2,000 people, but I didn’t speak to most of those on a regular basis anyway. Not having access to events pages will also suck, as that’s quite a useful feature, but in the end it comes with the rest of the baggage. 4 companies, including Airbnb and Etoro among others had access to my data thanks to Facebook. By leaving Facebook and deleting my account, I may not be able to erase my online trace, but I do prevent unscrupulous companies from packaging and selling me as a product. Let’s not kid ourselves, I’m still on Whatsapp and still use Google, although no longer for image searches. Doubtless, user data is still collected about me, but if enough people give them the boot, perhaps user privacy will gain some momentum. In the meantime, you may want to give this some thought. Perhaps you too can benefit from a bit of detox from social networks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The End of an Era – Letting go of Facebook

Musings of an Amused Mind :)

Here are some thoughts that were arrested while swirling in my head. They have the right to express themselves. Anything they say can turn out to be either true or complete codswallop.

One year ago I met a person who inspired me to practise yoga. This activity has helped make me a more balanced individual in terms of health and fitness. I used to think that yoga was just for women and leftist hippies but when I saw how this person exuded peace and looked to be in excellent physical condition, I realized that yoga was the real deal and there’s something to be gained even for practitioners of other sports.

The idea that multi-tasking is not possible for men seems unrealistic to me. Conventional wisdom has it that women are capable of using both their hemispheres simultaneously, while men have higher quantities of grey matter. How is it that one can drive a car and hold complex conversations at the same time? Perhaps driving does not require significant amounts of brain power, but I seem to be capable of multi-tasking and if I can, then others presumably can as well.

Driving in Malta has become extremely hazardous. Among my pet hates in this regard is when people overtake me on the inside lane, or cut off my inside lane by veering into it at roundabouts. To date I have never been involved in a traffic accident, although I did hit a kangaroo on the Tasman Highway to Triabunna in Tasmania. I hope to keep things that way. I love having an interesting and varied life, but driving should be boring on account of being uneventful. As it stands, in Malta it is rarely so. You can never let your guard down. It is an inherently stressful affair as you need to anticipate various moves and calculate speeds and trajectories on the fly. I have the utmost respect for cyclists and runners, and always do my best to protect them from harm. I was myself once a runner. Now I dare not run as it is becoming highly dangerous and pollution is on the rise.

Some teachers complain of “problem students”. In my opinion, while some students may be more challenging, it falls to the teacher to be able to tap into their abilities and bring out the best in them. I do not always succeed in this, but I do my best. Another thing about teaching is that I like to promote creative thinking by asking students to write about anything. I read an article yesterday about how dogs have become incapable of thinking for themselves thanks to humans doing everything for them. My cat embodies this unfortunate phenomenon. She is unable to exert all but the bare minimum of effort in my ill-fated enrichment activities and experiments. In my view, education tends to stifle free thinking, leading to mindless robots who cannot think for themselves. I try to challenge this by forcing students to analyze and question everyone and everything, including myself. If you have people who do not question, then you have stagnation.

I went swimming today as is my wont on weekends. While swimming, even in Malta, one must be constantly aware of the most dangerous and lethal of all ocean predators. People tend to underestimate the danger of boat strikes and jet-skis, but you ignore such hazards at your own risk. I tend to feel much more at ease when diving with certain species of shark, than when at the surface around moving vessels. Speaking of sharks, is it not ironic that people would not bat an eyelid if they knew that sandy beaches are often the haunt of stingrays who branched off the shark family tree millions of years ago. They are placid as long as you don’t mess with them. Just ask Steve Irwin. He will always be missed.

Recently I have been reading about the awesome power of nature. I learnt that the Toba supervolcano was so powerful that it plunged Earth into a volcanic winter for years! I was fortunate enough to visit Samosir island which sits on Lake Toba. It is a stunning place. Incidentally, monsters such as Campo Flegrei near Naples, and the Yellowstone supervolcano threaten to unleash hell if they wake up from their slumber. Just research the latter volcano and see what ticking timebomb the eastern US is actually sitting on. This would be a jihadist’s dream. Imagine scores of states being pelted with volcanic ash. Let’s hope it never happens. NASA will apparently try to cool this bad boy down. It is a sobering thought that even the Tsar Bomba, the greatest of all nuclear weapons in terms of yield, does not even come close to what one of these natural powerhouses can do.

Speaking of jihadis, isn’t it sad that even as ISIS is being crushed and kicked all over the shrinking boundaries of its so-called caliphate, the chickens are coming home to roost? In reality, one can never fully defend every soft target in Europe without turning into a police state. Even then it would not be enough. What happened in Barcelona and Finland, as well as possible Russia(to date not confirmed as terrorist attack), will happen again. Though we are statistically unlikely to be killed in a terrorist attack, it really is a huge pity that instead of advancing human civilization, some people are trying their best to create rifts between communities. Let’s be honest here, 1.6 billion Muslims are not going anywhere, nor should they. They’re a part of this world, and hate terror as much as we do. Still I may be biased in this, but I do hope millions of people abandon religions of all kinds, as I feel that this irrational form of thinking contributes to sowing divisions between people on the basis of whose God is real and whose is not. Then again, everyone should be free to believe in whatever rocks their boat, or ark in the case of the Zoroastrians, whose epic of Gilgamesh likely inspired the Noah’s Ark myth. Would it be too much to ask, if they spared my damned and hell-bound soul in the process? I really love my imperfect and heathen life so, so much.

Game of Thrones has really become a force unto itself when it comes to epic camera work and CGI effects. Sadly, it also seems to have become incredibly shallow in terms of plot. What started off as a show full of intrigue and Machiavellian plots has now degenerated into a mind-numbingly absurd concoction of time-travelling characters, predictable plot lines, out of character behaviour and anemic dialogue. Although I still enjoy watching it in spite of frequent, dare I say, planned spoilers on the part of HBO themselves, I just can’t wrap my head around how characters traverse huge swathes of land across the course of a single episode. By hey, if there’s giants, dragons and ice-zombies, then why shouldn’t teleportation also be a part of this universe? George R.R. Martin must be rolling in his….oh well…he’s probably doing ok for himself seeing as how popular this whole thing has become, literary masterpieces that the books are.

Feel free to leave comments here or on facebook if you wish. I hope you enjoyed reading this. I sure enjoyed thinking these thoughts during a drive back from the beach. Thanks Mr.Excruciatingly slow driver I just couldn’t overtake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musings of an Amused Mind :)

General Election Madness

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A snap general election will be held on the 3rd  of June. The country goes to the polls a year early. The choice is between an incumbant Labour government battered by various scandals including the Panama saga, and a Nationalist party still smarting from its defeat 4 years ago after some 25 years in power where it had seemingly outstayed its welcome.
Whichever path we choose will have severe repercussions on the future. This election will require citizens to do our duty and vote using reason if possible. The choice is clear for those who can look beyond the brainwashing of red and blue party lines but if this thing goes tits up, we’re looking at a race to the bottom and a free-for-all of theft and rampant corruption the likes of which have never been seen before.
Let’s endure this month of campaigning hell, and whatever happens we’re still gonna be friends when it’s all over because when the dust settles we’re still the same people on a rock smaller than the Isle of Wight and this Labour/Nationalist enmity is only fostering the platform that our rulers can use to pull wool over our eyes and money out of our pockets.
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General Election Madness

The Quest for Freedom

Freedom Day. The 31st of March, 2017.1975019_10151934036945636_1611905075_n Another sacred holiday. 3 day weekends help one’s mind, body and spirit to recover. Although some jobs like those that involve teaching are relatively pleasant, they still require you to trade time for money, and time is a finite commodity.
Hard and serious workers though they may be, some believe that work is an unnatural condition for humans. In the future, they may aim to be self-sufficient in a way that will allow them to focus on life experiences by way of travel and adventure.
By cutting off the fat of the mindless consumerist society, such travellers can maximize travel time and experience at minimal cost. So long as passive income exceeds expenses, they can travel indefinitely like a nuclear powered aircraft carrier that rarely ever needs to refuel. Malta is quite simply becoming undesirable in many ways as the little remaining countryside is being gobbled up.
This kind of lifestyle is not for everyone and thank goodness for that, for it would create seismic shifts in the way society is structured. Perhaps we need people to work all their lives to grease the economy’s wheels, but who can blame one for seeking an alternative lifestyle to pursue the things they dream about? Who can blame them for doing what makes them feel alive? This is after all what individual freedom is all about!
The Quest for Freedom

Stadium Survival

Earplugs so powerful they blocked out the sound of over 4,000 fans in a stadium, but they couldn’t block the Slovak shots which were anything but slow. The pitch was as slippery as a veteran politician and that didn’t help our goalkeeper.
 
Malta lost 3-1 unfortunately but it was a brave performance by the boys. One guy in the crowd annoyed the hell out of everyone by shouting out useless instructions to the players. My hopes that he’d have a sore throat by the second half were dashed. A guy sitting behind me translated the dubious advice into English for his fiance.
 
The people in front of me on all sides were smokers and the foul smell of smoke formed a pungent cloud of death and lung cancer. A woman sitting nearby placed her handbag on the seat next to mine. On the other side, someone placed a jacket. My personal space was almost being invaded.
 
Karma struck in the second half when she carelessly deposited the expensive black handbag on a cup of coke much to the dismay of the guy sitting behind me whose coke will now surely melt the seat so that nothing remains in the morning.
 
All in all, it was an enjoyable experience although I’m not sure I’ve ever watched Malta win a football match. Maybe we should lobby for firework making to become an Olympic sport.
 
As I’m writing this, the cat seems utterly convinced that my shoes are evil and must be destroyed. Maybe she’s also upset that Malta has lost. Maybe she doesn’t give a rat’s tail about it which is a pity as I’m sure she’d be interested in a rat’s tail if she saw it. Oh well, you can’t have it your way all the time.
Stadium Survival

The Irresistible Lure of the Road

When I came back from the 28 month adventure, I swore an oath at the seaside in Monaco. I vowed that I would not rest until I am able to travel again far and wide to explore the entire world. There I was surrounded by every sort of luxurious cars, goods and yachts imaginable and all I could think of was the freedom of the road, the excitement of seeing new places, meeting new people and creating unforgettable memories on across the planet.
 
I have held true to my promise and am relentlessly approaching the targets. The South America 2021 project is alive and well and after that, Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, even Antarctica. I have chosen to play the long term game. When the time comes, backpack in hand I will once again embrace the ever-changing horizons. Meanwhile, it’s not a bad thing at all to be living in a country like Malta. For all its warts, Malta has a lot going for it, especially in Summer.
I don’t know whether I was born to do this or whether it’s an acquired taste. All I know is that the idea of diving with sharks again fills me with intense thrills. All the animals and places I read about as a child come alive when you see them in real life. They tell stories of their own. During your travels, you have to rely on intelligence, quick thinking, charisma and endurance to solve unfamiliar challenges. You encounter various cultures and use a number of languages. You shed prejudice and realize to a much more refined degree how the world works and where it fails spectacularly.
I can completely understand why some choose the comfort of home and family. Stability can be a powerful motivator and the fear of change is palpable in many. My travel style is unorthodox and stresses experiences over comfort. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted, nor for the vast majority of the population. I have experienced devastatingly heart wrenching moments but these have been more than offset by ecstatically joyful and serene feelings. If all goes well, I should be able to eventually transition to a semi-permanent state of travelling. For now though, perhaps I can trasmit some of this passion and knowledge to others for whom Malta itself is the adventure of a lifetime.
The Irresistible Lure of the Road

Skydiving over Lake Taupo

If I were to pick moments in my overseas trip that stood out, the skydiving experience would definitely be one of them. The sheer adrenaline and intensity encapsulated in that short jump were truly out of the ordinary. The scenery could barely be more spectacular. Lake Taupo is a spectacular place. The lake itself is the result of one of the most cataclysmic volcanic eruptions of all time. The rolling hills and placid lake make it yet another of New Zealand’s endless poster card paradises.

Having finally taken the plunge and booked the skydiving, there was no backing down. My hopes that the weather would be clear materialized and we were good to go. I got picked up by a van and taken to the airfield. Once there we were given a briefing of how to survive the jump. All of us were afraid of course but fortunately we would be jumping in tandem with highly experienced guides. Few human beings would have the balls to jump out of a plane flying at 15,000 feet as this totally defies basic human survival instinct.

The fear grew as the aircraft spiralled higher, and strapped in to our tandem partners, we could only wait for the inevitable. What madness had possessed us to do this. What if these seasoned veterans made a mistake? What if their countless jumps made them cocky or complacent? What if some screw or clip were left undone? Would the beautiful lake Taupo be the last thing my eyes would see and barely appreciate as I plunged to death with my body completely disintegrating on impact?

With bravado, the guides were joking among themselves. Their humour did not rub onto us lambs being led to the slaughter, a slaughter we had signed up for on our own free will. As we got to the designated height, with a crew member outside videotaping the whole thing, the tandems began their jumps. One by one, they disappeared into the cold New Zealand air. We were the last to jump. Relentlessly, my Swedish guide inched towards the plane’s door and then WHOOSH!

An indescribable feeling overtook me. A tremendous fear caused bedlam in the brain as screams failed to escape the mouth. For what seemed like an eternity, I was trundling towards the ground, soon to be turned into a pancake, a Maltese qassata perhaps. As it turned out and thankfully as it turns out on the overwhelmingly vast majority of cases, billowing strings of canvas were deployed as we stabilized and fought the relentless pull of gravity. Now instead of fear, there was elation, as the picturesque scenery became apparent. Everything on the lush green fields or in the lake was a mere ant as slowly but surely we approached the safety of the ground we call our domain.

As we got closer and closer, I was given the chance to steer but must have made a right hack of it, as the Swede said that “he will play a little now”. Deftly, he guided the pair of us towards the landing zone where the others were to be seen in various staged of landing. Some were watching from the sidelines, while others were just about recovering their composure. or unlatching their gear. As we got to within metres of the ground, I dug my feet into the ground as we lurched to a complete stop very much alive.

Back in the debriefing room, I was shocked to see that my hearing was gone. I couldn’t hear shit. Playing table soccer against unsuspecting victims did little to ease my concern. We were shuffled to a video room and shown footage of what had just taken place. For just under a hundred dollars the footage could be ours. I passed. Paying around 400$ for a jump is one thing, but I didn’t need to pay that much money just for a video. People who don’t want to believe I did the jump would be welcome to do so if they wish. I had done this for myself, and not for bragging rights.

As we were leaving the place, beaming with our certificates in hand, I said goodbye to my Swedish guide and thanked him for his support. He informed me that I had a running nose. Jumping with some congestion can do that to you but there was no way I was passing on skydiving and I’m so glad I did it. I didn’t have time to be too embarrassed though as the good old Svenski was already on his way to another jump. This job is perfect for adrenaline junkies. You get paid a shitload to do something really fun.

As for myself, I contemplated a second jump at reduced prices but decided that for the sake of my wallet and sanity, I had seen enough action for that day. The glow of the experience was with me for a good few days afterwards and the memories still give me a feeling of elation and trepidation. Perhaps I will do it again one day. I most certainly think that if you haven’t done it yet, you might want to give it a try!

Disclaimer: photo is from internet and not my own. I have no photos of videos of the experience. They’re all stored in my brain 🙂

 

Skydiving over Lake Taupo