Back on the air

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I'm in Paris for IETF 63 and this is the first time I've had Internet connectivity since I got here, hence the light blogging. Things should resume tomorrow.

For now, a few superficial observations about Paris:

  • Everything seems to be really expensive. Beverages seem to be especially expensive. I paid €3 for a tiny glass of squeezed OJ but only €1.20 for the croissant that came with it. Mrs. Guesswork theorizes that because people tend to sit in cafes and nurse their drinks you're paying extra for your drink to rent your table.
  • There's quite a bit of begging/busking on the subway here and it's quite aggressive. I've seen two musical performers (one accordionist and one rather good female singer in hajib and long skirt) and two 30-40 year old men who made loud announcements about how they needed money. I've ridden the DC subway extensively and there the begging is mostly people sitting silently with their hands out and I've never seen busking on the trains. What accounts for the difference?
  • Almost all the dentists in Paris go on vacation in July. Try not to have a toothache. You can, however, get acetaminophen + codeine without a prescription.
  • Most of the shops see you are 30-50% the size of comparable American shops, including a tiny little hole in the wall pharmacy we went to near the Ecole Militaire. Why have these survived here when in the US they've been almost completely driven out of business by the big chains like Rite Aid and CVS, even in places like San Franciso where real estate is super-expensive and so owning a big store is a substantial cost?

In other news, the IESG has approved TLS 1.1 (RFC 2246bis) a minor update to TLS.

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Ecole Militaire is near Rue Claire, I think. Go food shopping on Rue Claire, it's a great experience.

I suspect the difference between Paris and San Francisco is the number of customers in each city who are driving to the store. If there are enough pedestrian shoppers in a neighborhood, then it makes sense to open small shops to cater to them, since they'll happily stop by to see if they can get what they need (and pay more for it) rather than walk a longer distance or take public transit to get to a bigger store. On the other hand, if most shoppers are already in their cars, then proximity is much less of an issue, and they'll be inclined to find a large store with parking, where they will be sure of getting what they're looking for at a good price.

I was recently in Edinburgh, and found myself looking for a few standard pharmacy items. There, too, the pharmacies were tiny compared to North American ones. But because one of the items I was looking for was unusual, I ended up scouring the whole neighborhood around our B&B. I found three or four within easy walking distance.

(Note: The item I was searching for was lactase. I asked several pharmacists, and as far as I can tell, I might as well have been asking for eye of newt. Lactose-intolerant visitors to Europe, beware....)

Don't take anything from the subway/train beggers. If they put a card or something near you, don't touch it. If you take it, they (and their gang of thieves) will create a fuss and attempt to steal from you.

Watch out for little girls and boys dressed as normal, cute western tourists. They may be thieves employed by the gangs.

Wine is one of the less expensive beverages in Paris. So enjoy. :)

- Expensive: Bear in mind that almost all prices include 20+ percent sales tax (VAT); (licit) labor costs are kept high by huge social charges; and the EUR/USD exchange rate (about $1.21) is relatively unfavorable to you. (In October 2000 it was about $0.85. Timing is everything!)

- Begging/busking: Because it's tolerated, and because it must work for the beggars and buskers. The best music isn't on the trains but in the corridors of the bigger, busier stations like Chatelet-Les Halles. Paris also has a plentiful population of homeless people, politely called "SDF" (sans domicile fixe). Even tony neighborhoods have their clochard sleeping on the sidewalk. Usually drunk.

- It's probably closer to half the dentists in Paris that are on holiday in July. The other half go away in August.

- Small retail is protected, and large retail is restricted, by innumerable laws and regulations at every level in France. The outcome you observe is politically intended.

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