Sunday, January 31, 2010

Allure of Chocolate

Last month, my fellow strawhatter, “A”, asked if I would be interested in attending a talk on chocolate. I have a confession to make:

My name is OldRoses and I am a chocoholic.

Is there such a thing as “Chocoholics Anonymous?” If there is, I don’t want to know. I love my chocolate too much. It’s genetic, you know. My mother always said that she could eat an old boot if it was covered with chocolate.

“Allure of Chocolate” was held at the NJ Museum of Agriculture and included a presentation on the history of chocolate and its processing by Birnn Chocolates, a local chocolatier followed by a demonstration of chocolate recipes and creations. Afterwards was promised a chocolate “Shoppe” with Birnn chocolate products for sale and refreshments which turned out to be samples of the recipes demonstrated during the talk.

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed. The part of the program covering the history of chocolate and how it is processed was fascinating. But too short. Also a little hard to follow. There was a video with subtitles telling what was going on and a lecturer who added his two cents as the video played. I’m too old to multitask like that. I either want to watch the video, read the subtitles or listen to the lecture. But not all three at once.

This was followed by a nice lady who went to great lengths to demonstrate her chocolate ideas and recipes. I think I would have enjoyed more lecture and less cooking. I was looking for information on the different types of chocolate, the ideal temperatures and methods to melt them, how they are used in various baked goods and confections and where to buy specialty chocolates.

I also would have loved more information on the history of chocolate, its discovery, its uses and the differences between the modern chocolatiers. My only real criticism of the lecturer was that when he was asked about the health benefits of chocolates, he laughed and said there were none. I beg to differ. I just received The Healing Powers of Chocolate from the Early Reviewers Group on LibraryThing purporting to discuss precisely that.

A and I skipped the “chocolate shoppe” after the lecture. We are contemplating a little field trip to the Birnn Chocolates factory in Highland Park. They offer tours of their facilities. Yum!! The refreshments were very disappointing. Too many “shortcuts”, i.e. use of mixes, readymade foods and cheap chocolate.

The Museum of Agriculture was fascinating. Lots of old tractors, wagons, carriages and farm implements. Labels were lacking on quite a few items. A and I puzzled over one structure, either a henhouse or a rabbit hutch, we couldn’t decide. In the lobby was an old organ and a tilapia swimming in a fish tank. All in all, a fun place to visit.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Back in the Greenhouse

There is no better way to spend a cold winter afternoon than working in a greenhouse. The warmth is welcome as are the growing plants. The greenhouse at Rutgers Gardens has been busy since last fall. The tropicals were all brought before the first frost. Plants have been divided and bulbs have been cleaned and stored. Then cuttings were begun.

If you have ever been to the Spring Flower Fair, you might be surprised to learn that some of the thousands of plants offered for sale started out as cuttings in the greenhouse. In past years, I’ve helped with the coleus cuttings. Today, I was working on scented geranium cuttings. I loved the scent of the rose geraniums so instead of discarding the leaves that I cut off, I brought them home to scent my living room. Kind of casual potpourri.

When I finished, I gave the cuttings a big drink of water. The misting table didn’t seem to be working.  Coleus cuttings were dry and shriveling up. I watered them also then notified the horticulturist via email of the problem with the misting table when I got home.

I remembered to slip a few treats for Rutger into my pocket on my way out of the house. He kept me company while I worked.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Big Move

ACL finally moved into their new headquarters nearly a year after the original move date of February 2009. When that date was first announced, I thought that they were being wildly optimistic. After all, my neighbors went without a kitchen for six months because of delays with contractors and inspectors.

ACL had purchased a building that was just a shell. There was nothing inside except the floors. They closed on it in June 2008, expecting to move in less than a year. Instead, the entire process from architects to CO took 18 months.

I had no idea what was involved in moving a company. The infrastructure alone was mindboggling. The floor under the data center had to be reinforced. The original floor would never have been able to support the weight of our equipment. To get the air conditioning units into the data center, windows and a wall had to be removed from the building. The three units were then hoisted up to the second floor, where the data center is located.

Since ACL is a shipping company, the lobbies on the second and third floors in front of the elevator are built to resemble the interior of a ship. The structural support column in the middle of the lunchroom is disguised as a propeller. The elevator itself is small, so the propeller had to be brought in in pieces.

My own involvement with The Big Move started last week, as we began packing up the data center. It took me three nights to pack more than 1,400 tapes. Backup schedules were adjusted as non-essential servers where shut down ahead of time and email was switched to our Disaster Recovery data center in Europe.

Friday, I was in the office early as employees were sent home and the process of backing up the remaining servers and then removing them began. The data center was chaos as the movers removed and packed the servers that had been shut down earlier in the week. I shut down each remaining server as its backup finished. Then the movers took them out of the racks and packed them. My coworkers had spent the afternoon breaking down users’ workstations to be packed and moved. When they finished with those, they too moved into the data center and began breaking down all the cabling and powerstrips.

Then suddenly it was quiet. The movers had made their last run of the night. My coworkers had all gone to the new building. I stayed behind to lock up. I checked all the nooks and crannies, looking for anything that had been overlooked. Everything I found, I packed in the crates that would be moved on Saturday. Then I checked all of the crates, labeling any that were missing their location labels. I was home before 10 pm, earlier than usual, but I was exhausted.

Saturday and Sunday were a blur. I was surprised to learn that it is still dark at 7 am. I’m not accustomed to waking up in the dark. I was even more surprised that I was able to get up at that hour, which is normally the middle of the night for me. I made it into the office before 9 am each day, earlier than I normally wake up.

I now understand why people complain about fumes that are given off by new carpets and furniture. My nose ran and my eyes burned all day Saturday. By Sunday, I was feeling better probably because the outside doors had been open for the movers on Friday and Saturday allowing the fumes to escape and fresh air to come in.

We spent hours hooking up user workstations, installing printers and faxes and of course I had to unpack and rack those tapes. Fax lines had to be tested. Printers which were moved empty had to be filled with paper. While the drones were busy readying the users, the managers were working to bring the network back to life. By Sunday night, almost everything was back to normal and I was monitoring backups once more.

I was glad that I had the foresight to ask my friend from whom I had adopted Bandit to catsit for me. She came by once a day to feed the Fur Patrol and scoop their litterboxes. I was so exhausted Saturday and Sunday nights that I drove home like a drunk driver, weaving all over the road. Once home, I had to force myself to eat something before falling into bed.

For once in my life, I’m glad I don’t work the dayshift. I admire my coworkers who had to be in the office first thing this morning, fixing glitches and helping users. I was able to catch up on my sleep. By the time I came into the office at my usual 4 pm, almost all of the problems had been solved.

My commuting time is about the same but I’m not happy about the location of the new office. Of all the towns in New Jersey, they had to pick Westfield. I lived there while I was married. A lot of very bad things happened to me there. I left fifteen years ago intending never to go back. And now I have to go back. Every day.