Saturday, April 16, 2011

Was It the PDUs or the Carrot Cake?

I was drawn out of hibernation (in more ways than one) when the Baltimore chapter of the PMI scheduled a dinner in Harford County.

For those outside the Project Management culture, the PMI is the Project Management Institute, an international organization that maintains the standards of the project management field and provides professional certification to project managers. They host networking and training opportunities for their members in which you earn PDUs - Professional Development Units. A certain number of PDUs are required to maintain your certification.

The Baltimore chapter is located in Anne Arundel County, which is the other side of Baltimore from me and could very well be the other side of the planet for the number of times I actually drive through the Harbor Tunnel. Most of the really good events are in Annapolis or Columbia or some other place that requires a 90-minute drive home. I attended a dinner in Annapolis last month and the drive off set the value of the dinner considerably.

So, I was looking at upcoming events for the Baltimore PMI and saw a dinner in Harford County that was not related to government contracting. This is what we usually get in Harford County due to the Proving Ground in Aberdeen. As I said, all the really good events are elsewhere. The April PMI dinner topic was Risk Management. The dinner menu was provided and was pretty standard until I saw the desert selections. When carrot cake was among the choices, I knew I had to attend.

The dinner was held at the Aberdeen Clarion. The presentation on risk management was pretty good. The presenter included a clever example to demonstrate how S-curves and Tornado Charts really work and provided a demo of a Monte Carlo simulation. This is where you use a computer program to take your project activities and risk register, along with those probabilities and S-curves, and let the software run through a jillion  iterations to determine the most likely outcome. I got a lot out of it for my $10 and was glad for the PDU.

The food, on the other hand, was bland and without taste, much like the Clarion itself. While I did not have high hopes given the locale, the quality of the dinner managed to hover below even my lowest expectations. Served buffet-style, everything was over-cooked and lukewarm and made me think of e.coli and botulism. I made it through dinner by focusing on the salad which was, for the most part, fresh. Washed down with liberal doses of water (sans the provided lemon, which looked old and tired), I managed to consume enough to convince my stomach that it had indeed been fed.

In contrast, I approached the desert table with much enthusiasm. The usual choices were on display - cheese cake, chocolate layer cake, a variation on strawberry shortcake. And, in the center of the table, the coveted carrot cake. When I served myself a slice, I was impressed at how it held together, especially given the volume (and size) of walnuts. The cake itself proved to be moist with a very good texture. The walnuts were, however, a bit too much. That, along with the presence of the dreaded raisins, detracted a bit too much from the cake itself. This might have been a blessing in disguise. When I picked a bit of cake sans the add-ins, it was flat and flavorless - not even a hint of sweetness, let alone carrot or spice. The icing was smooth and buttery, though, and was the saving grace to a dismal carrot cake that topped off an abysmal gastronomical experience.

I awoke the next morning bloated and gassy, but a little better educated. The sad truth is, I will most likely do this again. As the Harford County contingent within the Baltimore PMI continues to grow (thanks to BRAC and the Proving Ground), there will be more opportunities in my neck of the woods. Here's hoping someone - anyone - in Harford County figures out how to cook.