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The best sandwich place in Paris is called Cosi. Actually, the best sandwich place in the world is most likely still Cosi. An awesome little joint that also happens to be right downstairs from where I stay (which is also where I used to live back in student days). They serve outstanding combinations of fresh ingredients stuffed in a kind of pizza bread, made in their own oven right in front of you. If you decide to eat it on the spot, a charming room upstairs will enhance your gustative experience with tasty local arts on display and Italian opera in the background.
Cosi is the only sandwich joint where you would consider bringing a romantic date.

But Paris, and in particular my local dwelling of predilection, the Latin Quarter, is just so filled with sandwich places that you could easily go a whole year eating all your lunches out and never at the same place (without spending astronomical amounts).

Yesterday, I spotted a new sandwich place down the street and can only venture that it is somewhat of a franchise (albeit a rather small one), from that “made in the same marketing mold”-look that seemed to run through the whole decoration (signs, furniture etc).

Nil’s, the Scandinavian Sandwich, offers, you guessed it, “Scandinavian Sandwiches”, Danish to be more precise.

You might be wondering what a Danish sandwich is made of and whether it really deserves its own dedicated eatery. I was. So I went in and asked the ostensibly not-Danish clerk if I could have one. All the sandwiches had nice little labels in front of them, informing you on their nom-de-sandwich (scandinavian-sounding words that made the place look like the culinary equivalent to an Ikea catalog) along with the main exotic ingredients they contained.

As you would expect (or not), fish was heavily represented, but not the only option, far from it, and not the strangest one.
Since they were straight out of baby-seal-mayonaise on rye, I had to settle for their very special: “Smoked Lapon Reindeer with Potatoes on Polar Bread” (see picture above).

The skinny?
it’s not half-bad, although honestly, reindeer won’t be replacing bacon or ham any day soon… but it sure makes for great sandwich descriptions…

PS: Selina, if you are reading this: I’m just kidding of course, the meat-looking ingredient you see above is just a strikingly similar meat substitute that they make in Denmark using only free-range cruelty-free organic polar tofu.

Update: Regarding Cosi, Scott (who was also a big Cosi fan, back when we were neighbours both living upstairs from that place) once told me he had run into a “Cosi” in NYC that looked strikingly similar to the one we both knew in Paris and that seemed to be part of a franchise. Drew (the owner) confirmed that indeed Cosi was now a franchise in the US… though he was not really involved (except I guess, for selling the rights), and if I remember correctly, Scott was not all that impressed by the US version.
Incidentally, here is the address of the one and only French one: 54, rue de Seine (VIe arrondissement), at the corner of rue de Buci… Enjoy!

One of the only real parks in Paris is Le Jardin du Luxembourg, located in the 6th arrondissement, about 5 minutes from Saint Germain des Prés.
The name though, is usually shortened by locals to “Luco”.
“Going to the Luco” was a key element of my studying years in Paris, since the park was less than a minute away from my school and part of my commute. During the three months of decent weather that Paris gets each year (somewhere between May and September), many a days was spent chilling and taking the sun with friends in the park, all the while supposedly preparing our finals.
The Luxembourg is the exact antithesis of Anglo-saxon parks such as Hyde Park or Central Park: here, you won’t find large lawns and semi-virgin bits of forrest inside the city. It’s all about symmetry, order and absolute control over every single element of nature. Archetype of Jardin à la Française (the technical gardening term for Control Freak Wet Dream), the Luxembourg features an appallingly low amount of grass for a “park”, and most of it is strictly off limits to pedestrians (numerous signs and whistle wielding security agents are all there to remind you that grass is too rare a commodity to be left for people to lay down on it: watch, but don’t touch). As a result, a sizable share of the park is made up of huge bare alleys planted with armies of meticulously aligned trees. Yea, it is about as exciting as it sounds.
Of course, there is some greenery too, though I challenge you to find one randomly placed item in this picture… There’s probably a guy responsible for measuring flower spacing and ensuring it never goes out of a predetermined variation margin. By the way, keep in mind that every single chair in that picture is strictly disposed outside of the grass area.
Depending on mood, weather and other factors, ideal spots can be: seated around the main basin, where one can check out at leisure cute tourists and young Parisian MILFs strolling their offsprings around, or in some corner of the park where that unforgivable law-breaching act of placing your derriere on a patch of grass will not catch the eye of park security…
Have you noticed how even the crappiest pictures taken with a substandard cheap piece of digital camera turn out nearly ok once you slather them with color filters?
Sometimes, standing in the middle of the park and looking around reminds you of a geometry class.
On one side of the park, is the French Senate.
Apparently, they set up an outdoor opera in front of it during the Summer (la Boheme was playing this week).
And outside the park (the side that runs along Bd St Michel), the fence periodically hosts coffee-table style picture exhibits (this one dedicated to D-Day commemorations). When I came last year, stills from Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s awesome book Earth from Above were on display.
Of course, the park closes every evening (you wouldn’t want people roaming around in a park without close supervision, now would you?). I am told some particularly stupid people in their youth once hid inside and spent the night reenacting Giligan Island in the middle of Paris, but I’m sure you would never think of doing something that immature.
Beside it’s incredibly hard lighting up a small bonfire without getting busted right away by park security patrols (yea, they do patrol the inside of the park at night, no, they do not shoot at sight, as far as I know).

I think it’s been established by now, that I am a horribly self-indulgent whining bastard with an amazing talent for ranting about every single pointless non-issue in my life. I got a good ten yards of blog entries to prove it, right here.

BUT, I pride myself in that you will never hear me, in the middle of a regular conversation with friends, start detailing excruciatingly dull and meaningless minutiae of my work life: how such or such project is not coming along as we expected and how I can’t stand the girl from accounting and so on and so forth.

I might mention some work-related items or geeky stuff somewhat connected to work every once in a while, since after all, work is quite a central part of my life (well, until that massive cocaine deal goes through, that is: after that, I’m off to retirement for good).
Informal roundup of long time friend’s careers, idle “how was your day” chat and the like: it’s all good.
But do I ramble endlessly about the finer points of project implementation, the mediocre sex life of complete strangers that I happen to work with, or the new color of my office wallpaper: nope.

NOT, mind you, out of some stupid altruistic consideration for my friends and their understandable lack of interest for discussing the intricacies of somebody else’s work, for which they do not receive a salary. Once again: I’ll gladly bore to death anybody with the most pathetically mundane details of my life provided I got enough rope at hand.
No. The reason I do not bask in office stories when going out with friends is that It is only a fucking JOB.
Call me vain, but no matter how I might actually enjoy doing my job, I am still glad to be done with it at the end of the day. And I DO like my job. doing a job I am happy to do is, along with reaching a complete moratorium on the presence of any alarm clock in my bedroom, the only lifelong professional ambitions I have ever had: in that regards, I can safely say I am quite a successful man, since I haven’t owned a sound-enabled time device in many years now. I like my job, but I like doing other things even more, ok?
Seeing how the goal of my day is usually to get my work done with, so as to be able to partake in other occupations that are not work, no matter how similar in practice, I don’t see why I would ever want to drag work along once I’m done. If I wanted to keep feeling at work, I would not be sitting in a bar with a beer in my hand, I’d be in my cubicle (ok that’s an image: I don’t have a cubicle and my office is about 5 feet from my bed, on my couch, previously dragged in the middle of our 2-square-feet garden if the sun is shining).

I don’t bore other people with petty work-talk because it also bores me. And I pretty much expect the same selfish courtesy from my, otherwise fondly cared for, friends. If I keep switching the topic off that latest xml scheme you’ve been fighting about with your boss, onto the hairdo of the blonde next to us, it’s not because I really care about scary 80’s soap opera fashion revival, it’s because I am desperate and about to kill someone if the word “project flow” is uttered one more time when I’m drinking a beer.

So in the future, unless your job is absolutely fascinating (and I do mean fascinating, as in I-hunt-and-trade-albinos-unicorn kind of fascinating, not I-improve-workflow-productivity-for-major-corporation-XYZ-foreign-exports-division kind of fascinating), please just stick to the skinny and assume by default that I really do not want to hear about the woes of your IT department when they tried to upgrade all the PCs to Windows 2006. To put it bluntly: I don’t care. And I know you probably don’t care about whatever else I might launch the conversation on, but at least, it is not work. And that’s good enough for me. And please don’t get pissy if I finally clue you in on the level of tear-inducing boredom of your work-related topic of predilection: I don’t hate you, I love what you got to say, but come on, you are better than that, I’m sure you can discuss non office-life-related matters with the same brilliant insights and exciting details that flourish when relating your boss’s secretary last fling with another [equally unknown to me, likely to remain so for the rest of my life and therefore of no interest whatsoever] workmate.

PS: If you are a friend reading this and we’ve gone for drinks and chat in the past few days: I’m not talking about you of course, I’m talking about all the others.
PPS: To my parole officer and my buddies at the twelve-step program: I know I screwed up. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought back that pack of red bulls from Barcelona. I thought I was stronger than the Can now. I thought I could control it… I was in denial, I know.
But I swear I’ll stop soon as soon as my paxil prescription comes though. Just one more can, and I stop. Promise.

* we are currently accepting votes on this entry for the title of most uninformatively meaningless subject line.

If you read any japan-related newspaper or blog, you have read that wire by now:

TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) — A Japanese teenager was forced by his teacher to write an apology in blood after dozing in the classroom, the school’s principal said on Monday.

Source: Reuter through CNN

Somebody interestingly translated a different article about this story as published by the Asahi Shimbun.
I know this is old material, but I could not miss this occasion to point out that the teacher did not get much grief and nobody involved even considered any kind of retaliatory action, beside some small verbal admonestation by the principal and, I guess, an invitation to use more traditional methods of discipline the next time around. While this lack of lawsuit probably shocked beyond words American soccer moms, it is hardly anything surprising in Japan.

As Galvin, JET teacher from hell, only half-jokingly pointed out: if you were to “accidentally” dislocate the arm of a student or gouge out a few eyes while experimenting with some novel educative methods with your class, not only would you be entirely safe from any blame whatsoever, but the parents would probably come and present you with their apologies for having raised such a clumsy troublemaker.
Japanese kids are no angels, mind you. They are, maybe as much if not more than they Western counterparts, unbearable spoiled brats. But unlike in the US, where parents expect teachers to live the same kid-ruled hell they go through themselves, Japanese parents consider school to be outside of their realm of lax leniency (and the kids better get used to it, because it doesn’t get any better for them until University, provided they get in, that is).

That being said, I’m glad my teachers never got this bright educational idea, as I would probably be long dead from anemia (instead of that, I left school with a flawless knowledge of irregular German verbs that has not abandoned me to this day, not in small part due to having copied them thousands of times for various punitive reasons).

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No, I’m not talking about ladyfriends, you sickos… beside, do not believe the wild rumours: every woman I ever met in Europe (save maybe for the most desperately rural areas where sheep and cattle outnumber humans) does attend to her feminine shaving routine at least as much as their non-European counterparts. Maybe even more, if you account for the unfair advantage held naturally by the feminine gent in other parts of the globe.
Ahem, anyway.
Let’s try not to taint such an innocent little entry, adorned by cute-to-puke pictures of softy kitties, with unnecessary reflections on the relation between culture and shaving habits of the modern woman.

The only downside to my tiny studio under the roof is that I got to go two floors down in the morning to get my shower in my cousin’s apartment.

The upside, which entirely makes up for it, is that I have direct roof access (just got to step outside my window).

Hanging on the roofs seems to be one of my favorite activities when in Paris…

Unlike Tokyo or SF, European cities like Paris offer lotsa possibilities when you get on the roof of an old building: you can pretty much make your way around the whole block and sometimes farther if you are feeling very adventurous (and discreet, as, needless to say, the local police does not see these urban acrobatics with a keen eye).

Of course, the times where you end up doing some climbing around are usually the times were you probably should not be doing it (like, after coming back with some friends from a night out drinking), but catching a summer sunrise on the roof in Paris is definitely film material.