I quite liked Barbara Ellen's defence of the person who likes to be alone, as opposed to the sad lonely person:
This study could just as well be interpreted as saying that many Britons are self-reliant problem-solvers, respectful of others people's privacy – and what's wrong with that? Isn't this the modern British definition of neighbourliness: not over-chummy and intrusive, but friendly, considerate and, most importantly, happy to sign for your Amazon parcels?
Because, as you know, my dearios, I can be found sitting at the opposite side of the room from Robert Frost's neighbour as we intone our mantra, 'Good fences make good neighbours'.
However, yet again we get a gratuitous smack at social media: 'provides a sense of ersatz "community" without human interaction for those who want it (the equivalent of the television left on "for company"?)', to which, you know. bollox. Social media is a) not a monolith and b) it is actually a good form of interaction for many people and does, in fact, provide a sense of community which is not dependent upon being the same physical space or even time-zone.
Also, there is the loneliness of being among a cheery crowd of which one does not feel part, or just sitting in a room in the company of the wrong person.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/2108693.htm
Okay, I got to Toronto Pearson in good time and managed to wrastle successfully with the self-check-in machine, except that it printed out the baggage tag from an unanticipated aperture, against which my case was leaning, and this crumpled it to the extent that at bag-drop she printed out another one.
And, oh, it looks so cool to have those free iPads all over the place + charging stations, and I sure do appreciate those, but, O Toronto Pearson, for the best part of the two hours I was sitting there I completely failed to access your free wifi on my own tablet. I would be informed that it was connected, and go to the log-in page, and this would just hang there and not, actually, enable logging in. Bless, I say, the wifi on the Airport Express Bus.
However, I did manage to access a rather good margarita.
But Southern Comfort Reserve no could haz, alas.
I had one of the worst possible seats on the plane - when I did the online checkin, which I did about an hour or so after this had opened, there was absolutely nowhere else I could shift to, woe. I was right at the front of the economy section. As far as I can see, the only, if not entirely insignificant plus to this is being able to make an expeditious exit upon landing.
Otherwise: emergency exit row: check. No seat in front under which I could stash my handbag, so it had to go in the overhead locker, which was quite inconvenient: check. Bang next to the loo: check (perhaps there was some slight upside to this, but on the whole, especially as I was on the aisle seat, not). Opposite the cabin crew area at the front of economy: check. In a draught: check. I.e. all night people coming and going, lights coming on and off, etc etc.
Plus: the seats did not recline.
What with all this + the itching, I am surprised I managed to get even a bare hour's shut-eye.
Nor were my troubles over when I arrived at Heathrow. Somebody nearly went off with my case before realising it was not one pertaining to the group they were with, while I stood there waiting and waiting for it to come round on the carousel. Fortunately I spotted it on the other side where the group were amassing their impedimenta.
Partner had managed to get to Terminal 3 in time to meet me as I got through Customs, but o dear, the Heathrow Express was having a real morning of troubles.
Anyhow, home now, unpacked and two loads of washing accomplished along with various urgent matters of life administration.
The guy is technology correspondent on The Observer, reviewing a book, The People's Platform, about The Internet. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/a
In this he mentions the 'startling' instances of gender imbalance and asks:
Why there is not more public debate on this?
Okay, maybe it is the particular corners of the Web that I frequent, but yr hedjog notes no lack of debate, comment and protest precisely on this issue. Which suggests to me that Mr N is not looking in the right places, no?
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/2079295.htm
And the theme this week is connection - yes! the BT engineer came today and provided us with new cable for the one outside that was crumbling away.
- that would have had me nervously backing away even in my salad days.
What is wrong with meal and a movie, really?
Still having brief windows of connection and lots of downtime - which leads to a certain terseness in posting - but at least have contacted a telephone engineer.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/2059881.htm
(Internet has been very up and down all weekend: I think it is coming time to bite the bullet and deal with the phone line issue. Aaaargh.)
Saturday breakfast rolls: lightly malted brown with chopped apricot (the basic adaptable soft roll recipe, half and half wholemeal and strong white flour, some malt dissolved in the milk/water mixture).
Today's lunch: game casserole (mix of pheasant, pigeon, partridge and mallard) in red wine with onion, garlic and crushed coriander; served with glutinous rice with lime leaves, stirfried spinach, and chicory quartered, healthy-grilled in avocado oil, and splashed with wild pomegranate vinegar.
I am in a really foul mood this morning.
Partly no doubt to not sleeping well last night and having the prospect of various rather wearing things to do towards the end of the week, some of which I can't even sort until a colleague returns to the office.
Several things which are all massively first-world problems but cumulatively, very irksome:
- my tablet expired, or rather, went into a 'let's stay with the pretty coloured X screen' at the weekend (this was probably purely a coincidence and nothing to do with downloading an app the library wanted staff to test...?), wouldn't respond to the procedures for a factory reset, and I was obliged to take it in to that firm of loathsome scamster shysters where I bought it (at least it's still in warranty), who tell me they will send it away for repair, which takes 2 weeks. Aaaargh.
- The home internet connection has been particularly up and downy the last couple of days. Yes, we should get somebody to come and look at the phone line. However, this would involve moving quite a lot of furniture and books so that the interior cabling was get-at-able. This would be tiresome enough that I think 'and if we did that, perhaps we should take that opportunity of having shifted substantial amounts of STUFF in that room to replace the carpet?' And then I hide under a blanket, missing my woolly stuffed dog.
- I think my iPod needs a new battery. The charge runs out very quickly.
- Never not irritated by the sluggishness of the logon of my work computer.
I have more or less got a whole lot of things with March deadlines in sufficient state of preparedness to go out into the world, littel myne chaptyre/artykel: and then I get a message re chapter I sent off (probably the only person in the project to get it in by the New Year deadline) asking for a revised version by early May. There is going to be a workshop for the papers in July anyway. I have desperately been trying to clear my desk for March/April so that I can focus on Important Thing I Am Doing, and this request cast me into despair and fury.
I am not sure this all accounts, however, for my spiny sea urchin state of grouchy this morning. Or maybe it does.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/2053178.htm
I have several Google accounts created over the years for assorted purposes. One of these is more or less only in use these days for the analytics for one of my sites.
When I log in with the intention of checking these stats, I get a solicitation to sign up for G+ (which I'm already signed up for on one of the other accounts*) and requesting various personal information, such as a phone no, which is No Business Of Theirs.
And this does not have any option to let me skip on to where I want to go. I've worked out a somewhat clunky way round this, but boy is it annoying.
They are already finding out probably more about me than I would really approve via my main account, which is the one associated with my tablet.
They've already demonstrated that they know that all these various accounts belong to yr hedjog, because if I'm not logged in to any of them, I get a menu of the various possibilities.
It would really look like much better ton not to hound people for their personal details when you already have a plethora.
*And keeping being encircled by total strangers, most of whom appear to be either lightly veiled commercial enterprises, or sad gits who have vast nos in their circles and are in very few circles of other people.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/2050023.htm
My dr rdrz will be aware that I am somewhat over-pressured at the moment (even if one thing is no longer accruing, there is still the backlog to work through).
But, okay, I thought I could probably squeeze in refereeing one journal article within my sphere of expertise.
Then, lo and behold, ta-da-da-BOOM! -
Request for assessment of research funding application that I agreed I could be named for months ago lands in my inbox.
Chapter within sphere of my expertise that I agreed to read as a favour for a friend a considerable while ago ditto.
Over the last few days home internet has been playing up, running slow, and intermittently dropping. High level of crackle on the phone line suggested it might be this but BT declares that line is perfectly sound. ISP has helpful list of procedures to undertake to see if those fix it before calling them, which, you know, in present circs, MASSIVE FAFF DO NOT WANT.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/2035489.htm
I was going to write a thoughtful and discursive post about, well, some serious topic, but my internet connection has been dropping off and coming back and dropping again for most of the evening, and I feel too frazzled.
Ain't broke, don't need fixing, is a motto some of these people who want to do rad new things with these weird book objects that those other people seem so keen on might take on board.
I was almost, larfs liek drayne, at the following:
What makes all this activity particularly striking is what is not happening. Some features may be getting a second life online, but efforts to reimagine the core experience of the book have stumbled. Dozens of publishing start-ups tried harnessing social reading apps or multimedia, but few caught on.
“A lot of these solutions were born out of a programmer’s ability to do something rather than the reader’s enthusiasm for things they need,” said Peter Meyers, author of “Breaking the Page,” a forthcoming look at the digital transformation of books. “We pursued distractions and called them enhancements.”
Except one has had perhaps too much experience of software designed by people who had no idea whatsoever about the people who would actually be using it and their requirements.
Also I suppose in the same sort of area of 'how is this a good idea' is that site which is now about acc-en-tu-ate the positive and not having negative reviews. How soon before anything that is not the gushingest 'this is best thing EVAH' is considered inadequately positive?
Not really connected to the above, is anyone else getting that recurrent and annoying 'Connection was reset' thing with LJ? In related business, my posts are no longer successfully cross-posting to InsaneJournal - I thought it might have defuncted altogether but it is still there and I can log in (quite surprised that I still remembered my password), but for several weeks now none of my posts are showing up. I am not precisely bothered, but it is puzzling.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/2010624.htm
Another WOEZ WOEZ dystopian novel about Eeeevilz of Teh Intawebz by a litnovelist: Eggers's innovative optimism appears to have paused at the frontiers of social media, looking forward, not to a world of open potential, but to an encroaching nightmare.
Jonathan Franzen appears to be singing from the same hymnbook: Franzen's target was, true to form, our "media-saturated, technology-crazed, apocalypse-haunted historical moment", populated by internet users too doped up on "enslavingly addictive" technoconsumerist products to "face the real problems" of the modern world.
Do these blokes ever think about how people might actually be using modern media (and how much does this sort of thing recall late C19th hoo-hahing about the Tit-Bits model of journalism? enquiring minds would like to know).
Everyone else – you, me, the consumers – ignores the jargon and just gets on with what we're doing, adopting and adapting accordingly. It's perfectly possible to own an internet TV, a DAB radio, an iPad, laptop, some Wi-Fi speakers and still find yourself listening to your old transistor while you're tinkering in the shed. You might be a Twitter over-sharer but occasionally want to read a book, alone, without telling anyone what you think of it.
What I'm trying to say is that, for most people, the modern world is OK. It's changing and we can use it as we wish. For those who work within the media, though, all this disruption is difficult.
Yay Miranda Sawyer. Because, yes, that.
While Eva Wiseman points out that life online is real life too.
Also cause for cheer and anti-jeremiahing: digital devices have made this a golden age for the written word
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/1982233.htm
New technologies always provoke generational panic, which usually has more to do with adult fears than with the lives of teenagers. In the 1930s, parents fretted that radio was gaining "an invincible hold of their children". In the 80s, the great danger was the Sony Walkman – producing the teenager who "throbs with orgasmic rhythms", as philosopher Allan Bloom claimed. When you look at today's digital activity, the facts are much more positive than you might expect.
Indeed, social scientists who study young people have found that their digital use can be inventive and even beneficial. This is true not just in terms of their social lives, but their education too. So if you use a ton of social media, do you become unable, or unwilling, to engage in face-to-face contact? The evidence suggests not. Research by Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Centre, a US thinktank, found that the most avid texters are also the kids most likely to spend time with friends in person. One form of socialising doesn't replace the other. It augments it.
Plus, it also indicates that 'social media' does not begin and end with FaceBook, which does not score highly in this research.
In other news:
Gladwell's manifesto for the underdog is flawed, argues David Runciman: in fact we note that some of his claims are open to the same objections as my perennial unfavourite, syphilis and genius. See also, claims that Dante had narcolepsy.
Was life really better in the good old days? asks Katharine Whitehorn:
I'm not saying that everything's marvellous these days, but as we struggle with all the new inconveniences we have, we can at least cheer ourselves up by remembering just how tiresome the olden days could be.
This is rather grim: There may be five million IVF success stories, but for many millions more women, the treatments have failed. So why do we never hear from them?: '77% of treatments fail.... a world of sleight of hand, massage and plain lying by omission in the world of fertility statistics.'
O, Country Diary, bless: A special delivery arrives beside our doorstep: a hedgehog dropping.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/1975080.htm
Came across nice passing remark in column about something else re people 'editing', or it might have been 'curating' their online presences. Which evoked a 'how true' moment.
Because while people don't necessarily engage in the feats of deceit once associated with the internet ('no-one knows you're a dog'), neither do they let everything all hang out as some jeremiahs claim.
Okay, I will concede that there is oversharing and people being inappropriate in particular venues, but how is this different from how people behave offline?
? Invoke here Goffman's on/offstage theories?
People mostly behave differently in public and observe a certain civility.
We will further concede that people's ideas of civil behaviour differ (as I have been given to think by Dutch escalator habits); that some people have difficulty in grasping the 'different modes for different situations'; some people were off with the flu on the day concepts of civility were handed out; and, of course, there are always those who believe that behaving with civility is lying down under the Iron Heel Of The Man.
People don't need to be engaged in a tangled web of deceit to craft a particular persona - and I've noted the phenomenon of making one's life sound more vibrant and exciting than it feels like in the living of it in certain situations or conversations. It is a natural human behaviour.
Cannot help suspecting that this - claim that 'half of employers find graduates they are employing are not "work ready" - is a plaint for which there are substantial precursors, including the moans about inflated expectations about what they're worth, and lack of appropriate formality.
Debrett are offering a course to give social skills back to a generation of young people who have had their heads buried for so long in smartphones that they struggle to make eye contact, let alone proffer a firm handshake.
And I will concede that this may reflect some degree of change, but I'm not sure it's the changes that are being posited here.
'[L]ack the ability to spell or write a letter' - this surely used to be less of an issue, when One had Secretaries to Do That Sort of Thing.
Also, wonder if there is expectation that young entrants should already be up to speed with the procedures and protocols of the places where they are working rather than undergoing induction into the mysteries.
As for 'unable to get through a day without regular online checks on what their friends are up to', I cop to that one myself and I've been In The Workplace for decades.
I also cop to, in my younger days, 'hitting the free drink too hard at work social events'.
Also to the not wanting to pick up the phone unless there are no alternatives.
I also think that in the current state of the economy it's probably utopian to expect that young people would be able to get 'some sort of summer job' to teach them about The Real World of Work.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/1963512.htm
Man is the only animal to whom God has given a perfect hand. Even with our intellectual endowment, if God had not given us our hands it would have been physically impossible for man to have risen much above the level of the lower animals, but with his hands man prepares his food, compounds his medicine, manufactures his clothing, builds houses in which to live, writes and prints books, constructs all kinds of machinery, builds railroads and great steamships with which he can outdo even the birds in their flight. With all these things God is doubtless well pleased.
But because of the evil in man's mind and the wickedness in his heart he also uses his hands to inflict pain and injury upon his fellow-man. He constructs great cannons, and gunboats, and other instruments of death with which he destroys his fellow-man in battle. Moved by the wickedness in his heart, and encouraged and helped on by Satan and others who are wicked like himself, man uses his hands to accomplish many things which are very displeasing in the sight of God.
But, strange to say, man is possibly the only animal which persistantly pollutes and degrades his own body, and this would not have been easily possible to him if God had not given him hands, which He designed should prove useful and a means of great help and blessing to him in his life upon the earth.
Sylvanus Stall, DD, What a Young Boy Ought to Know (1897)
With this diatribe in mind, I am less than impressed by this:
In Beeban Kidron's sobering documentary British teenagers open up about how they use and feel about their smartphones and the internet
I am really pretty sure you could match quite a lot of the Terrible Things there with Terrible Things that were supposed to be the outcome of earlier causes of moral panic.
Am also somewhat distressed that although there is a nod to the 'and there can be positive things too!' this seems really downplayed, when it's entirely possible that the positives massively outweigh the negatives, because anecdote =/= data, right?
The whole thing is even undercut by an article in another part of the paper on television:
It can be enormously stimulating. Clive James, the celebrated Observer TV critic of the 1970s, attributed his daughter's decision to become a scientist to the high quality of science programmes on British television. And yet it can also be stupefyingly pacifying. Among the many things that TV has reshaped are the dimensions of our bodies. That we've grown visibly more obese in the past half-century is in large part due to the paralysing comfort of the armchair in front of the telly.
So television is stifling, dull, lazy, formulaic, predictable, repetitive and queasily melodramatic; and it is stunning, original, transfixing, compulsive, mind-altering and magnificently verifying.
See also Carol Dyhouse, Girl Trouble, for the young girl as the focus of wider anxieties about Modern Life, over the C20th.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/1958548.htm
Some snippets of his wit and wisdom:
"A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization."
I wish I had found this one when I was doing my 100 things about London project:
[I]f you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists."
And somehow, the following seem apposite when I find some young thing alleging that
The internet means, in educational terms, that "it no longer makes sense to make a person a repository of information … With a phone in your pocket it's a different world," one of instant access to facts and figures.
(Should that not be 'facts' and 'figures' in scarequotes?)
True enough that "Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
but with the provisos that
"Vulgar and inactive minds confound familiarity with knowledge, and conceive themselves informed of the whole nature of things, when they are shown their form or told their use."
"I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding."
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/1958368.htm
Interesting article about internet interaction that actually gets the anonymous/pseudonymous distinction. And additional major plus points for citing research that finds that pseudonymity is Not A Bad Thing.
This reminded me that I spotted something in the paper yesterday going WOEZ and claiming that in Ye Olden Dayez, people signed their official name to communications with the press.
And I was, WTF, have you ever looked at the letters to the editor in ye olden newspapers, because signing off with a meaningful pseudonym was pretty much the order of the day, or at least relatively common, whether it was 'A Trueborn Englishman', 'An Old Soldier', "Mother of Six', or some erudite Latin tag.
Even if I hadn't seen this myself, in Naomi Mitchison's All Change Here she describes how she was writing to the local papers about pacifism, the League of Nations and similar topics under an array of assumed identities, some of whom were sock-puppets intended to get up an apparent debate.
So, honestly, it's not even as though it's some horrid new practice never before encountered throughout The Whole Of Human History.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/1950468.htm
Given that there was a good deal of panic about the dreadful pace of modern life - trains! trams! steamships! five posts a day! electric telegraph! telephone! periodical press! - in the later C19th, did the terrible stress this caused ever form the basis of fictional futuristic speculations?
The usual suspects were leaning on urbanisation, industrialisation, capitalism, and class antagonism, whether as the evils overcome in News from Nowhere or as producing the Eloi/Morlock division in The Time Machine. The feminist writers were about putting the evils of society on male dominance.
In fact, checking up in NfromN, Morris makes Idleness, rather than frenetic activity, the disease of the past:
It is said that in the early days of our epoch there were a good many people who were hereditarily afflicted with a disease called Idleness, because they were the direct descendants of those who in the bad times used to force other people to work for them—the people, you know, who are called slave-holders or employers of labour in the history books. ... [T]hey, especially the women, got so ugly and produced such ugly children if their disease was not treated sharply, that the neighbours couldn’t stand it. However, I’m happy to say that all that is gone by now; the disease is either extinct, or exists in such a mild form that a short course of aperient medicine carries it off. It is sometimes called the Blue-devils now, or the Mulleygrubs.
This thought brought to you by encountering a similar sf scenario to that posited, to general critical scorn, by Susan Greenfield in 2121 - teh internetz b rewiring ur braynez, disaster and dystopia ensue.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/1949307.htm
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- Current Music:The Beatles, Don't Bother Me
It is a fascinating tale, and if there is an element of luck to Olson having such great access it is the kind of luck you have to work like a dog to win, because this may be a tale about the reach and power of new technology, but it is backed up by old-fashioned investigative reporting. Olson's research is properly impressive.
Which is why it is a shame there is not more of her in the book. When I interviewed her for a piece I wrote on Anonymous last year, she described how she'd flown up to Shetland to meet Topiary while the world was still clueless as to his identity and it is such a great detective thriller that it's a shame that there's not more about the investigative process itself, though it is to Olson's credit that her modesty and sense of journalistic decorum prevented that.
For every possible pattern, you can concoct an equally convincing opposing theory; for every victim, there are countless survivors.
So, why 27? It remains a mystery. If there is any scientific research to explain why it's a particularly volatile age, then it is not included here among all the broad-brush quotations from the likes of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Sounes painstakingly demolishes conspiracy theories and other forms of magical thinking but offers no persuasive alternative. It simply seems that some gifted musicians are unhappy, some of the unhappy ones become addicts, some of the addicts die, and some of those do so at 27. The longlist of 27 Club members in the appendix sinks the concept for good.
Sort of a new 'sifilitic geeenyus' trope? I.e. the correlation is a stretch and the causation, no can haz.
Yay Ruth Rendell:
I just want to tell a good story so I always ask myself, are these people real to me? The things I write about are completely removed from my own life, but people want to know the characters better. There are schools of thought that dispense with all that now, but I think if there are strong characters, people want to know more.
I have talked before about the withholding of information from the reader in a great book like Jane Austen's Emma and I do think it should be part of any story, if it is told well, whether or not it is detective fiction. The reader has got to be thinking, what does it mean? Why did they do that?
And possibly paging the shade of EM Forster about the role of mystery and withheld information in constructing plot.
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/1946016.htm
Sort of generated by/riffing off a conversation between a couple of colleagues this morning, the general and recurrent WOEZing about the deleterious impact of the internet on our lives, and having people with whom my connection is solely in the professional sphere doing the cheek-kissy thing.
I am hesitant to suggest that there is any actual connection between people living their lives online and what seems to me (yes, moi, wot lived through the 60s) an increasing level of touchy-feely (cheek-kissy-kissy, hugs) in the real life social world.
I am not against hugs, but I feel that there are people who are in my hug-zone and people who are not, or not yet. While a person may be a nice person, if our main connection is online and we have been in the same room twice, both on academically-related occasions, I am not sure I am ready for the embrace-as-greeting.
Call me a stuffy old dodo, but I don't think cheek-kissing is appropriate in the context of archive negotiations, from intending donor to intended archivist*.
Is this because people feel they have to overcome the anomie of living their lives online, and overcompensating by bringing the flesh into rl encounters?
Is it to do with the way email conversations segue from the initial business-formal of Dear [title] [surname] to first names, to one-line or even one word responses confirming meetings?
Is it all about the erosion of the public/private spheres?
Or is it Just One Of Those Things that happens, and nothing has anything to do with anything else?
*Or am I becoming Katy Carr and her Society for the Suppression of Unladylike Conduct?
This entry was originally posted at http://oursin.dreamwidth.org/1926488.htm
- Current Music:The Crystals, And Then He Kissed Me
Actually, yesterday was the day of retour, and the journey was not too bad: apart from getting to Prague Airport with far too much time to spare, and the flight to Heathrow being delayed by approx 30 minutes; with, on the upside, the taxi to the airport being a lot cheaper than anticipated, not just missing the Heathrow Express, and a short taxi-queue at Paddington. Though the 'free wifi' at Prague Airport is dire: takes ages to connect and keeps dropping.
Our hotels were both good (and both were breakfast included and free wifi, although at the one in Prague there was occasional dropping): though I don't think I'd positively recommend either to anyone with mobility issues. There was no lift in Prague, in a rambling building with lots of little stairways up to room levels as well as the main one. Fortunately I had someone to carry the luggage up... While the Dresden one did have a lift, once one reached the bedroom level there was a short flight of steps up.
Food was pretty good, if a bit, especially in Prague, heavily carnivorous (the sea-coast of Bohemia not being famed for its fishing-fleet). Though on another paw, we found restaurants sometimes cheaper than we had been led to anticipate, though part of that may have been down to not having wine with the meals in question. Finding lunchtime snack-type things was a bit problematic as there was a distinct sense of 'it's not a sandwich unless it's got cheese in it'.
One thing that I particularly liked about Dresden was that the restored buildings very strongly reminded me of my dream Strange Architectural Features.
Prague is clearly a last redoubt of smoking culture: although there are no-smoking areas in restaurants, in several cafes it was all-smoking. This presumably also explains the significant number of tobacco/cigar shops, some of which also sell absinthe and one of which claimed to be 'cigar shop head shop absinthe shop', going for the trifecta. There are also casinos dotted among shops.
You do have to look up up up to see the glories of much of the architecture: at street level everything looks like standard, and in many cases international homogeneous, shops, cafes, etc, and then your gaze rises to something entirely itself. A situation that cries out for double-decker buses, but in the vast array of Ways to Tour Prague (including Segways, vintage cars, fake trains, and antique trams) these do not feature.
While the place was heaving with tourists, and it was pretty much impossible to get away from tourist-aimed amenities, did not encounter any rowdy stag or hen parties. This may, of course, be due to the fact that we were usually back in the hotel by mid-evening.
Free wifi was on offer everywhere (though whether it is any better than that at the airport, I did not take the chance to find out) along with numerous internet cafes: this struck me with a certain irony given the charges to use loos heretofore whinged about, though okay, they were free if one was in a cafe/restaurant. I am still put out, however, by the iniquitous scale of charges at the main railway station, and aggrieved by the situation at the castle.