January 19th, 2009

Homer in the Land of Chocolate

Chocolate reviews, part 1

As I slowly savor my way through the stack of exotic chocolate bars I bought the other day, I'll post my thoughts and opinions on them.  For now, I'll cover some bars I'd purchased previously.

Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar (applewood smoked bacon, alder wood smoked salt, 41% milk chocolate)

This was probably the most unusual candy bar I've ever seen.  Bacon and chocolate, you can't really get much weirder than that.  But the flavor was surprisingly mild.  There were small bits of crispy bacon scattered throughout the chocolate, which gave you little bursts of salty smoky flavor, contrasting nicely with the chocolate.  You really couldn't taste bacon, per se, and if you didn't know it was a bacon bar, you'd never guess it. 

Lindt Excellence Chili Dark

Again, another bar that you wouldn't guess what it was made with if you didn't read the label.  It tastes like good, dark chocolate, with no discernible chili flavor.  But as you make your way through a square, you gradually become aware of the feeling of heat, slowly building in your mouth.  By the time you finish the square, it's quite noticeable, but not unpleasant.  If you dare eat a second square, however, the heat continues to build and starts to really burn as you finish.  I don't think I could handle more than two squares in one serving.

Bellagio Sipping Chocolate

This is a very fine chocolate powder that you mix with a small amount of hot milk, two tablespoons for just 1/3 of a cup!  The powder was somewhat difficult to dissolve completely; a small whisk or fork might work better than a spoon.  The result is a thick, extremely rich, bittersweet chocolate beverage.  As the name suggests, you want to sip the stuff slowly; this is not your grandmother's Ovaltine.  One serving is barely a mouthful, but it's much too strong to drink in one gulp.  The package also suggests trying it over espresso.

Hello Computer

Data safe

One thing that I worry about is data security.  I have so many files, some of which date back over 15 years, that I don't know what I'd do if I lost them.  I have almost every e-mail that I've sent or received since 1997.  I have letters sent by friends whom I haven't seen in ages, I have pictures and video of family members who've passed away.  I have pictures and images that would be nearly impossible to replace.

I've long ago grown past the capacity of any available optical media, and while a tape drive could handle the sheer volume of data, anything large enough is well beyond my finances.  I obsess over preserving my data.  My last three computers have had RAID arrays, and even my laptop was ordered with mirrored hard drives, at considerable expense.  I have multiple external hard drives that I back up to, including a network attached storage device so I can keep a copy of my data in another room and a pocket drive I could grab in the event of a natural disaster. 

But none of that would help in the event of a fire or flood when I'm not home, and carrying around the pocket drive would risk data falling into the wrong hands.  I could deal with losing my things, my computers, my books or my furniture; all these things are insured.  But nothing could bring back lost data.

The other day I was surfing Amazon.com when I came across the SentrySafe Fire-Safe Waterproof Data Storage Chest.  It has a USB pass-though; you place a 2-1/2" hard drive or flash drive inside, connect it to the internal USB port, close and seal the lid, then run a USB cable from the back of the safe to your computer.  You can then access the drive without having to remove it from the safe.  It can also protect CDs and DVDs, or anything else you can fit into a 5 inch cube. 

It's a bit pricey, $146.50 from Amazon with free shipping, and it's fairly big (a cube about 10 inches per side), but this will really give me some peace of mind about my data.  They also have larger versions with 1.2 cubic feet or 2 cubic feet of space, but they're $400 and $700, respectively.  I already have a fire and water proof case for my non-electronic valuables, so I didn't need the larger units.