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Back Buzz - July 21, 2012

pumping heartUrartu Coffee, 119 North Maryland Avenue, Glendale, California

On my recent trip to America, during my Los Angeles expedition my friend Mistah Rick and I spent a night with friends in Altadena. The next morning we drove over to Rick's hometown of Glendale along the Ventura Freeway, mist covering our windscreen and the Verdugo Mountains rising to our right. In Glendale we parked centrally and walked along a pretty shopping arcade of a main drag, passing by a group of builders sitting around a big table set up in the middle of the street. Just beyond this slightly surreal scene we passed through a door and into another world, that of Urartu.

The cafe is small with three tables outside on the pavement. As it was still a bit misty we decided to stay inside and seated ourselves at a window, admiring the Assyrian decor, with Egyptian-style profiles carrying coffee gifts, an ancient wooden ship, and Mesopotamian images. Even the toilets were galleries. As it turns out, Urartu was an ancient kingdom of Armenia, in what is now Turkey, with borders on Assyria and Mesopotamia. Existing from the 13th to the 17th centuries BC, Urartu was a civilisation advanced agriculturally and commercially, thanks to the influence of the Assyrians with whom they fought constantly. This history definitely explains the diversity of decor.

Our single cappuccinos were served in stoneware coffee mugs with an Alpine range of milk foam. I tasted the top of the Matterhorn and wondered what the coffee down at base camp was going to be like. The barista had forgotten to bring our croissants, but when she realised her mistake she offered to "hot" them up for us.

Eventually Rick got past the yeti and found Bigfoot underneath. There was a nice roasty and interesting tasting coffee down there, with a bitter robustness of ground layer. It was well worth the search.

The beans are from Gaviña Roasters, a coffee company owned and run by Basque descendents. Our visit to Urartu seemed more like a global voyage than a simple coffeehouse stop, taking us from the ancient Middle East through the Alps and on to northern Spain. And all because we chose it solely based on the fun of pronouncing "Urartu". Ooo-rharh-too. It still makes me feel like a purring cat.

Speaking of global voyages reminds me of a recent three-way Facebook conversation between myself in the UK (British Summer Time); an old friend on the East Coast of America (Eastern Daylight Time); and Mistah Rick on the West Coast of America (Pacific Daylight Time):

Want! But I want it, too! Shall we chip in together? You bring the truck. Beware, the utility bill might do you in. The Energy Star Rating is pretty low. Will it fit in a Nissan Micra? If you have a hitch, you might rent a 27 km trailer. It could be tough, though, manoeuvring that through the streets of Sheffield. Might be a better idea to fold it through a wormhole. Do you want the control center in your cellar? No, better make it in the attic, next to the jewellery casting moulds. It might help with my new 4-D earring line. The hitch is an excellent idea. I assume that you'll take it through the Chunnel. Wonder what the toll will be on that? Also, that 27km trailer may not be great on turns. We don't have any tight turns that we're thinking of, right?

Oh. One more thing. We may need an adapter to plug this in. Those silly UK sockets get me every time. Hmm, the double-ess-bend down the road might be a problem. But I've got a 30V transformer. It worked great with my food processor, so it should be fine with the LHC. Looks like we're good to go. But I think I have a better idea. The USPS has flat rate shipping. If it fits in the box it ships at one small rate. Maybe we can fold it up to fit in one of the larger boxes. There is no weight limit, you know... Well, if they have proved the existence of the Higgs boson, couldn't we just twist up some of the superstrings and fit it into a letter-sized envelope? Do you have a Universal Remote? That might save you a run up to the attic while you're preparing dinner and you want to split some particles for that special salmon sauce. I do like the idea of the superstring folding. Even better, why not just collapse into a tiny black hole and post the sucker? Of course, expanding from the black hole might be problematic. And special handling to make sure you don't come in contact with the black hole. That could leave a nasty burn. Yeah, there's that... I'll make sure I wear some goggles and gardening gloves. That should be enough protection. But that's only if it arrives safely. I'm worried it could end up in the Arctic ocean somewhere. I really don't trust the Royal Mail. And thanks for the recipe reminder, Rick -- I'd forgotten about my Saumon Luminescen. A couple of friends are coming for dinner on Saturday, and I'd really like to impress them. I wonder if I should tell them to wear goggles and gloves as well... Hmm, now the only problem is the cash. I could come up with £100. How about you, ExtremeMan? Do you think they'd take a down payment first, with a promise to pay the rest in a week? Then we'd have time to find that faster-than-light particle, quickly rig up a time travel device, and I could speed out to the Bank At The End Of The Universe, withdraw a hundred billion or so from my account (it would be good to have a little extra for any parts or brilliant scientists we may need), and I'd be back in time for dinner. Sounds good. Only problem is that the notes you take back will have dates from the far future on them. If anyone looks at the date, they'll think it's a forgery, which will really mess things up. Now, what if you went back far enough to just buy the damn thing outright, assuming that the date thing never occurred? That's great, but then you'd be out the 100 (because you paid outright). We could just put the balance on my Visa, and pay it off slowly. But I did a back of the envelope calculation, and the payoff date doesn't end until a little after the sun goes supernova. That's going to hurt the resale value a lot, so I'm not comfortable with it. I'm going with plan B. We watch Craigslist and grab it when they are just saying to come by and pick it up. All right, that sounds sensible. And I'll put a watch on eBay in case any cheaper second-hand LHCs come up.