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Back Buzz - August 21, 2005

pumping heart Costa Coffee at Waterstones, 24-26 Orchard Square, Sheffield S1, South Yorkshire

Espresso and books go so well together -- drinking an espresso and reading a book, that is. (I don't much go for coffee stains on my books, although for avid readers it's an occupational risk.) That's why the idea of having an espresso inside a bookstore is so pleasing to me. In my adopted home town of Seattle this is very common (see my reviews of Elliott Bay Books, M Coy Books & Espresso, Bauhaus Books & Coffee, and even Chapters Coffeehouse, directly connected to Shorey's Used Books). There's also a coffeehouse in the Borders Books & Music in my real home town of Long Beach, California -- and there are many other coffeehouse/bookstores in the world which I have yet to visit.

Here in Sheffield the obvious choice is the Waterstones in Orchard Square. This particular Waterstones reminds me so much of the Borders in downtown Seattle where I used to while away the hours. It's a huge, modern bookstore maze covering two stories accessible by a central stairway and a lift -- although there is no Up escalator like in the Seattle Borders. I remember fondly those hours spent in that Seattle shop, researching books on chaos theory and complexity for my novel, drooling all over the Architecture and Urban Design sections, and having expat fantasies in the Travel section. Along with all the literary temptations of my nearby Tower Books and the cafe-oriented Elliott Bay Books, I could have frittered all my dollars away easily. But alas, these days I have neither the time nor the money to spend much of my sterling in this Waterstones. But seeing as how they just happened to have in stock the Ordnance Survey map I needed for my research job, this seemed like a perfect excuse for a spro!


The upstairs Costa cafe features nice comfy chairs grouped around small tables. My "solo" (i.e. single) macchiato was a typically satisfying Costa macchiato served in a pleasingly Italian macchiato-sized cup, made with Cafedirect, Costa's robust fair trade coffee, and served with a long plastic "COSTA" soda spoon. They seem to be really pushing their frescatos, iced drinks made with coffee or fruit. But on this warm summer afternoon I didn't see any iced lattes advertised, so I guess Caffé Nero is still at the top of the UK market in this respect.

The open plan cafe feeds into Waterstone's Travel Section, with Dictionaries, Foreign Languages, Careers, Education, and TV and Radio not far away. Aside from the drinks they offer some nice looking prepackaged sandwiches and wraps, although they seem a bit dear for the career-minded world-travelling bilingual student who might pop in for a pick-me-up.

At this point I figured I was fortified enough to go out and catch another 95 bus home. The bus I rode into town earlier that afternoon jittered and shook so badly I thought my fillings were going to fall out. Perhaps, to ensure a smoother ride, the driver should periodically clear away any bodies jammed under the front fender. Or something.


Speaking of unveiled sarcasm reminds me of an e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend from a couple of years ago:

DATE: 7 July 2003 10:47am

This is the third e-mail I've received like this in the past four years. The first one was directly related to time travel and seemed to be a response to my novel about fractal time. So are these being sent by somebody who simply wants to amuse, or are they actually serious?


We need a vendor who can offer immediate supply. I'm offering $5,000 US dollars just for referring a vender which is (Actually RELIABLE in providing the below equipment). Contact details of vendor required, including name and phone #. If they turn out to be reliable in supplying the below equipment I'll immediately pay you $5,000. We prefer to work with vendor in the Boston/New York area.

1. The mind warper generation 4 Dimensional Warp Generator # 52 4350a series wrist watch with z80 or better memory adapter. If in stock the AMD Dimensional Warp Generator module containing the GRC79 induction motor, two I80200 warp stabilizers, 256GB of SRAM, and two Analog Devices isolinear modules. This unit also has a menu driven GUI accessible on the front panel XID display. All in 1 units would be great if reliable models are available.

2. The special 23200 or Acme 5X24 series time transducing capacitor with built in temporal displacement. Needed with complete jumper/auxiliary system.

3. A reliable crystal Ionizor with unlimited memory backup.

4. I will also pay for Schematics, layouts, and designs directly from the manufacture which can be used to build this equipment from readily available parts.

If your vendor turns out to be reliable, I owe you $5,000.

Email his details to me at [e-mail address deleted].

Please do not reply directly back to this email as it will only be bounced back to you.

j doij h kyeh

DATE: 7 July 2003 10:53am

That's interesting. I remember one of the others you received recently. It sounds serious to me. Do you suppose there are really people trying to build these things? Or maybe it's a veiled request for instructions to build weapons of mass destruction.

We could ask a friend of mine's husband if this is credible sci-fi or fantasy. He seems to spend his days smoking dope and writing and engaging in computer games and alternative realities.

I'm curious about the seemingly random strings of letters on the subject line and in the signature ("yg kcmud lvlaneh", etc.). Although I don't receive much spam compared to you, I've gotten several messages with such gibberish on the subject line. I usually delete without opening them, assuming that it might be some randomly generated subject trying to foil primitive virus detection. It didn't occur to me that it might be a cryptic language like mnx, text-messaging jargon or Klingon. Would Babelfish be able to render it into something we recognize?

DATE: 12 July 2003 9:32pm

We recently saw a program on BBC about e-mail spam which claimed that most of it originates from 14 people in Florida, especially one person who is responsible for sending out something like 250,000 different spam e-mails a day. Is this guy a Klingon? Is spam the evidence that we are being invaded by extraterrestrials? And spam has doubled in only 8 weeks, during which time I was convinced that extraterrestrials had taken over our Ford Orion's electronic alarm system. Now that the car is suddenly working normally again, we have all this e-mail about expanding penises, losing weight the Oprah way, and building dimensional warp generators.

What are they trying to do to us?

DATE: 14 Jul 2003 10:17am

Did the BBC program say if these 14 people earn hundreds of dollars a day sending out tens or hundreds of thousands of e-mails? Maybe there is a profit opportunity here for you, the recipient. Did you already suggest informing senders that they would be charged a small fee for spam they send to you? Is there a way to route, say, 50p into your PayPal account for each one? Our Federal government, and especially California, are really cracking down on unsolicited phone calls and making noise about fighting spam. Now you can register your phone number on a national "do not call" list; if you report violators who call anyway, they may be fined more than $10,000. (I don't know if you get a percent of this.)

From another angle, I heard that Hormel is taking action against the Seattle-based maker of anti-spam software for using its trademarked name in the title of its software. Is that truly copyright infringement? Does anyone confuse the salty pork product with unwanted e-mail? (Was the canned stuff invented by extraterrestrials? Maybe it's their favorite food.)

DATE: 18 July 2003 11:47pm

Perhaps salty pork products from outer space can be used to increase one's penis and breast size, help one to lose weight, make one live longer, refinance one's house, and grow new hair or remove unwanted hair! Perhaps we've all been eating the wrong things.