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Back Buzz - March 29, 2009

pumping heartNew York Deli, 6 Commonside, Walkley, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

When this place first opened a few months ago -- in what had previously been a baked potato takeaway called Spud Shack and before that a key-cutting shop called Monkey Business -- I was excited. Ah, a little bit of traditional Americana in my own Sheffield neighbourhood, I thought. My carnivorous friends will be able to enjoy a good pastrami or corned beef sandwich, while I can enjoy a Swiss cheese on dill rye or perhaps some fine Nova lox with some Philly on a freshly baked chewy onion bagel -- with, of course, an espresso to wash it all down.

A few days ago I finally stopped in before work for a quick lunch and an espresso. I can't really understand the "New York" part of the image. Sure, there's pastrami on the menu as well as bagels, hot dogs, and pancakes. But the only cheese available is cheddar, and the only fish on the menu is tuna, prepared the British way with sweetcorn. Ah, well, what did I expect? I will admit the "small" cheddar sandwich I had was big enough to feed an army, just like your typical American sandwich. As all sandwiches include salad and coleslaw I declined the coleslaw but went for the salad, which included sliced iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced peppers, black olives, sliced pickles, and sliced onions, all stuffed with the cheese into a long breadcake. It was quite satisfying with a good mixture of textures and flavours, just like your typical American sub or hero sandwich.

But the coffee -- oh my god. There is a small coffee machine which automatically dispenses either big or massive cappuccinos or lattes and which cannot deal with such a civilised request as a double short. I went for the "small" Original Cappuccino, which turned out to be nearly a pint-sized cup of scalding milk with a slight coffee taste served in a giant paper cup, and of course that damn sprinkling of chocolate which I normally hate but don't resent as much when the coffee has no taste and I know I won't make it halfway through all the milk. The coffee menu is appalling. Aside from a Filter Coffee, which is probably the only sensible choice for somebody who likes coffee, the Cappuccinos include Original, Toasted Marshmallow, Toffee Cream, Hazelnut, and Amaretto, and the Latte choices are Creamy, Irish Cream, Gingerbread, or Spiced Pumpkin, which gives the impression that one has accidentally walked into an ice cream shop.

In other words, "coffee" at the New York Deli is a misnomer; "dessert" is more descriptive.

New York Deli is located next to Rajput, the area's best Indian takeaway, and within a short distance from the exquisite new Rajput Restaurant (formerly Take Five Cafe). The other food-orientated neighbours include the Sandwich Stop and the very popular New Cod On The Block, the latest chippy by the owner of the late Battersea Cod's Home on South Road and Codrophenia in Walkley Bank. I'll have to try one of New York Deli's vegetarian panini sandwiches before I can judge how well they'll compete with the local lunch market. But this so-called "cappuccino" I'm currently struggling with proves that Commonside, with all these eateries, is still devoid of decent coffee. What a cryin' shame.

Complaining about crap coffee reminds me of a recent e-mail exchange with a workmate where we complain about crap software:

On Saturday night I was out in Sheffield, watching a string quartet play works by Moravians. I woke up that night to find I had a cold. Sunday I was full of cold but felt that I'd passed the worst of it in my sleep. Today I am on the dregs of it. My nose no longer is a constant stream of water; instead it smells of glue. My eyes are no longer a stream of liquid; they are just dark pits in my head: a sign that screams "this person did not sleep well last night".

Have I mentioned before how much I hate MS Outlook? I hate Outlook lots. I could list all the little things I find really rubbish, but we'd be here all day. So here's the top few: addresses are hidden, making copying and pasting recipients a laborious process. Try as you might, there is no way you can get a respectable reply-string format. The composer window is a separate entity, so it requires resizing if you're deliberately avoiding full-screen because you've got the Guardian's cricket reports at the bottom. The search function is slow and useless, as is pretty much the entire directory management system. Filters are only narrowly definable, so e-mails from people I don't know are highlighted in the same shade of green as e-mails from you. It took them till 2007 to introduce spellcheck-as-you-type. I could go on...but it would be painful for us all.

I'm now going to go upstairs where something genuinely exciting and interesting won't happen. I'll not tell you about it tomorrow because it will have slipped my mind.

This lack of anything happening, and it not happening so very very slowly, rather reminds me of "Heroes".

Buffy the Cheerleader Slayer I already wrote you a nearly entire e-mail in reply to this one -- but when I was nearly finished I suddenly realised that I had completely forgotten a scheduled task for today and I panicked, looking for some way to save what I'd written. So one more thing I hate about Outlook Web Access: there is no easy route to saving a draft.

So how do I quickly recall what I replied to your e-mail? Oh yes, something about a Moravian string quartet. If I had a spare £15 I wouldn't mind going to see the Great Britain Ukulele Orchestra at the City Hall at the end of the month. But I haven't.

What I had originally written was much wittier, but perhaps a bit distracted as I was simultaneously conversing with two workmates.

If your eyes are nothing but dark pits, try hiding the fact by using a couple of John Lewis Doll Eyes. You don't even need any glue, because you've obviously got a source in your nose.

What I had said about Outlook Web Access is yes, I too hate the invisible e-mail addresses. I also hate the fact that you can't make different e-mails different colours. At home on my iBook the e-mail addresses show so there's no problem with that, and I can set up mail rules so that e-mails from you, Mistah Rick, and other inspiring friends arrive as, say, green, e-mails from other friends arrive pink, e-mails from my family arrive red, work-related e-mails arrive brown, and CoffeeBeer website-related e-mails arrive purple. And suspected spam arrives grey. On my old version of Outlook Express, back before I had Office 2004 and OS Tiger, I could even set groups of e-mails so they'd come in with a certain sound. For instance, the "Oh, shit!" that came with my Mac sounded so much like my mother that I set my computer to say "Oh, shit!" every time I received an e-mail from her.

Now all my e-mails arrive with the same boring "bip" or "fweep" or whatever.

But I agree on you about the search. It's crap and it's always been crap. My favourite search used to be in an ancient version of Word which was cross-file and really good. I guess Microsoft decided to get rid of it because it made using a computer too easy.

Needless to say it is very busy in this library. And our line manager wants to do something about the weird old guy in the stocking hat and socks pulled up over his boots who hangs out here all day and harasses the shelvers. Watch this space...

So Distracted I Don't Even Know Who Or Where I Am Ah, the e-mails I've lost. Back in the early days, at the University of York, the e-mail client of choice was "Pine", but the terminals we used were a bit old and unstable and would occasionally lock up or fall over. Pine was, nonetheless, a wonderful piece of UNIX pleasure, despite some eccentricities: oddest of all: ^x was, bizarrely, SEND; the number of premature e-mails I sent while tweaking with the text...ho ho... When I got my own PC, I downloaded Pine but found that it didn't support pop servers or something; it needed a host network I think. So I made the leap to my trusty "Eudora" and never looked back. Eudora is a post-Outlook client but without all the annoyances. It is eminently customizable, and rather friendly. In it you are green. But you are also green on Outlook, along with people I don't know. Yes, I'd forgotten how much worse the Web Outlook was than the real Outlook.

Where are you? In the Village.

Who are you? You are Number 6.

The new Number 2 Yes, I remember all those incompatible bits of software and computers, for that matter. For instance, back when I was a programmer and I'd finish working on the IBM TSO-based minicomputer, the HP Unix-based workstation, and/or the keyboardless graphics-only Adage terminal at work, as I didn't have a PC at home I'd go over to a friend's house who had a PC (usually something from Radio Shack aka Tandy) or an Apple (yes, before they came up with the name Mac), and instead of a keyboard like I was used to at work the Tandy PC had 100 tiny rattan cages with a baby shrew in each, and as you pressed the baskets the shrews would shriek, sending an electrical impulse to the computer. If you learned how to use the basketed shrew system it wouldn't help you with the Apple, because it had a large mirror covered with iron filings and a magnet underneath, and you had to move the magnet to move the iron filings into the correct position to engage the computer. Naturally these two antiquated pieces of equipment weren't the least bit compatible, because a baby shrew wouldn't be the least bit interested in either a pile of iron filings or a magnet. If they'd used pieces of cheese, then perhaps Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would have formed a partnership.

The reason I look green in your In Box is because I am a bit green. My stomach hasn't been feeling too well lately...

I must go hide again in Level 2 and spend some time with C++, Java, and Business Law. This morning I got to Bebop to the Boolean Boogie (yes, that is an actual book!) and boy, are my Or Gates tired.

The Creature on Level 2