This site functions as an archive of Conner's Blog, which was a blog from 2006-2014 located at http://connermccall.com. Images and links are likely to be broken.

Where, What, When 1:10

David prompted me on Twitter to restart Where, and I promised him I would resurrect it in the new year. But instead of just relaunching Where as it was, I decided to throw in a new twist. The same rules as far as location apply, all pictures will be taken in the Twin Cities Metro Area, in this case the seven county metro area. The difference in this incarnation is that I will ask a question on each image. I will ask for either Where the image was taken, What the image is, or When the image was taken.

The first in the series is a Where. I want the name of the venue that this appears in. I will give you one today and one hint on Friday morning if we haven't had a correct guess before then. Today all I will say is music.

Happy guessing, remember no prizes are awarded, and you can guess multiple times. Good luck!

Happy 2010 and a Quick Look Forward

I vowed to not post until January, but I couldn't let the New Year come without saying something. (Shocking I know) I'll be posting a Friday Five tomorrow of incredible reflections on the year past. I'm amazed at how many great posts I stumbled across this week, but I think that tells you how important it is to write with your heart on your sleeve. Putting it all out there is terrifying, but those who do it affect others in amazing ways.

As I stated in my 2009 roundup this year has been a great year. So many new experiences, new friends, and a new outlook on life. I don't have a lot of resolutions this year. I do have few though. I need to work hard on trying to take things that I want, even if the attempt might hurt. I need to stop being afraid of failure. I've made strides in this, but failure still terrifies me. So I'm making a promise to myself to fail more in 2010. Sounds weird I know, but it's what I need to do. Second, work hard at finding what I am passionate about that I can get paid for. I think my first resolution will help with this, but I'm not sure. I have told a few people I'm looking for a career change, but when anyone asks, "What do you want to do" I have no answer. I love so many things, but I don't know what combination of them I need in a career. So I need to spend some of this coming year searching for what I want to do for a career, and being willing to fail in the attempt to get there.

Anyway, have a great new year, and if you are reading this before 2010 actually get's here I wish you a happy and safe evening. If you read it after 2010, I don't know what to say, I'm disappointed, I thought this blog was all you cared about.

Happy Holidays

Are you celebrating Festivus today? Are you ready for the snow storm? Do you wonder if I will ever stop asking questions and actually get around to answering them? The answer of course is no.

Anyway, Happy Holidays everyone. I've made the decision to not post for the rest of the year. Too much going on, and I need to recharge with cookies, candies, delicious food, and cocktails. I will of course be writing in secret so expect new stuff come January.

P.S. I will be relaunching Wednesday Where in January, it won't follow quite the same format, but hopefully it's fun. So be sure to check back then, or just subscribe to my RSS feed.

A Quick Review of My 2009

2009 was an great year, between my online life and my social life, I've expanded my circles in so many ways it's almost unbelievable. I've posted on this blog 92 times and received 497 comments . I've taken 696 photos that I felt were good enough to be posted on Flickr. I've made jam, curry, gnocchi, and more than a few pizzas. I've met so many new people it's not even funny, and have made a bunch of new friends.

That being said I didn't accomplish a lot of the goals I set for myself at the start of the year. I've hardly put a dent in my MN to do list and I only accomplished three of my seven goals for the year. But I'm fine with that. If I had known how my year was going to go, I wouldn't have set those goals like I did. Instead I would have made the following list.

  • Meet close a 100 new people in real life by using the Internet
  • Break out of my comfort zone and do some crazy public speaking
  • Shop locally as much as possible
  • Eat out at many new restaurants
  • See more live musical performances than I had in all previous years combined
  • Get a photo on Minnpics
  • Fall in love with street food
  • Discover a ton of new music, including lots of local artists

Yet that's the beauty of life. You set goals for yourself and even if you don't accomplish those goals, you usually end up better for it. I'm going to maintain a few of the goals from 2009 going into 2010. I will bike a century and I will look up my relatives. My MN to do list is going to undergo a major renovation and I will try to do more of it.

My major goals for 2009 are to move my career to a place I'm happier with, keep meeting new and interesting people using whatever resources I find, and keep doing what I'm doing. I'm not going to say my life is anywhere near perfect, but it is great. I can't wait to see what 2010 brings.

Driving Home for Christmas

Last night I suddenly got an overwhelming urge to go home for Christmas. Up until then I hadn't really felt bad about missing Christmas. The reason I wasn't going home is because I can't get much time off for Christmas and flying is ridiculously expensive. Tickets are over $400 and going home for 2-3 days for that kind of money doesn't exactly seem worth it.

There are a few issues at work here. One, the cost to fly is now $600+ and rising quickly. Two, the drive is at least 12-13 hours and goes right through the heart of North Dakota which is not only exceedingly boring, but also notorious for nasty snow storms. Three, I'm dog sitting for Nicky and even though I know Ninja can travel well, getting stuck with her seems like a bad idea. I also don't completely trust my car, though I'm sure it will be fine, it doesn't have any problems and is running great when I do drive it.

Anyway, I'm working on making a decision. If I do go it will be a quick trip and next week will be a drag, but spending Christmas with my family is really tempting. It also would lead to mountain photo opportunities which would be fun.

Darn Toothy Sam's Customer Service

How do you get me upset? There aren't many ways, but one is to provide me with awful customer service and then respond to my complaint in a childish manner. So here begins my tale of an attempt to get a camera repaired by Darn Toothy Sam.

Back in October I was out with a friend and dropped her point and shoot while taking a picture. Unfortunately, the lens was out and it ended up getting bent. After attempting to repair it ourselves and deliberating between buying a new camera or getting the broken one fixed we decided to get it repaired. I checked a few different repair services and finally settled on Darn Toothy Sam due to it's price and the fact that it is based in the Minneapolis metro area.

So I shipped the camera off on 11/18 to be repaired. According to their website they take 7-10 days once they receive the camera to repair it and send it back. Taking business days as the 7-10 days I expected to receive it sometime in the first week of December. Well that week came and not only did I not receive the camera, but I hadn't heard anything at all about the camera yet.

On December 3rd I sent a status request using the company's online form. I didn't hear anything back for four days so on December 7th I sent an email to their listed email address for inquires. Still no response so I called. One number did not provide a voice mail box and the other number was never answered though I was able to leave a voice mail. They also have an online chat function that for the first 2-3 days of perusing this never appeared active when I checked it. I emailed once again, and finally resorted to hunting for them on Twitter and Facebook to attempt to solicit some sort of response.

Finally on day five of attempting contact I checked the website and lo and behold the chat function was working. I logged on and chatted with someone named Eric who was sort of helpful. He told me the part for the repair had come damaged so they had to order another part. I requested an email when the part arrived and a response from management both of which were promised.

Two days later the camera shipped. It required a signature confirmation and it took me until Friday to pick up the camera. It works like new and I am satisfied with the quality of the repair. I received one written apology for the delay in the repair from the owner, but that wasn't until I had to work my butt off to speak to someone. At no point did anyone offer to do anything for me other than mail the camera once it was repaired and let me know when it was shipped.

I should note that I paid for this using Paypal, I filed a dispute after the initial four day wait for a response as it was becoming my only recourse. This is the final message I received before I closed the complaint on Friday.

Thanks for the nice messages on Twitter. It's interesting how we stole your camera and yet shipped it back the day after we got in the part and fixed it.

We attempted to deliver your item at 4:40 PM on December 12, 2009 in MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55405 and a notice was left. You may pick up the item at the Post Office indicated on the notice, go to www.usps.com/redelivery, or call 800-ASK-USPS to arrange for redelivery.

I responded to this final message

The problem was your lack of communication. You took longer than the promised time and did not give any indication of why this was. Once I attempted to contact you it took THREE days to get any sort of response from you despite multiple calls and emails. I appreciate the fact that it was delivered and repaired as promised but your overall lack of responsiveness leaves me unable to recommend your services to anyone. Additionally your response to this dispute has done nothing to help solve your glaring customer service problems.

The three days is actually incorrect, it actually took over 5 days and took me logging onto the website and finding the chat function working. I wrote the dispute response before I checked my email logs.

The whole reason I'm writing this is to either encourage Darn Toothy Sam to reach out to me and prove that they actually give a damn about customer service or to discourage anyone from using their service. It's quite disheartening to send someone money and a camera and not be certain if they even received it or are planning on repairing it.

Do you think I overreacted to their delayed response or was I right to be upset? Have you ever had a camera repaired, and if you had where did you get it repaired?

The problem was your lack of communication. You took longer than the promised time and did not give any indication of why this was. Once I attempted to contact you it took THREE days to get any sort of response from you despite multiple calls and emails. I appreciate the fact that it was delivered and repaired as promised but your overall lack of responsiveness leaves me unable to recommend your services to anyone. Additionally your response to this dispute has done nothing to help solve your glaring customer service problems.

Friday Five 12/18/2009 Edition

Today's five includes a few touches of vulgarity, excellent design, and beer. What more can you ask for?

  • I really like this poster that you need to make. Christmas present anyone?
  • Ed calls out Zygi Wilf for the welfare recipient that he wants to be. (note: I don't want the Vikes to leave, but when we can't pay for roads we can't pay for a stadium)
  • Nicole concocts a plan involving Sarah Silverman, brisket, and nudity. I'm all for it.
  • Love this serving glass.
  • If you ever want to know what beer you should drink, this chart has you covered.

Have a great weekend everyone. It's supposed to be in the 20s, so get out there and enjoy it. I for one am going to be playing in the snow all weekend. Of course by playing in the snow I mean running from the bus to the bar as quickly as possible because even 25 is too freaking cold.

Gnocchi Experiment

Tonight I attempted something I've never made before. Now this normally isn't a big deal, I'm a big food experimenter and usually new events in the kitchen don't worry me. This time though I was kind of nervous, I had a few people tell me how difficult it is and after reading a few posts around and about the Internet I wasn't feeling quite 100% certain.

It turns out it wasn't as difficult as it sounded. First off, baking your potatoes correctly is an important step. Make sure you pierce them almost all the way through multiple times and bake them at at least 400 degrees. This way you will get drier potatoes which is really important. I baked mine at 425 for about an hour. The came out almost the right texture.

Once you have them out of the oven you should immediately cut them in half and spoon the inner portion of the potato out. Using a ricer or a collander, rice the potatoes into a large bowl. I baked about 12 potatoes and added about 1 1/2 cups of flour to the riced potatoes. The recipe I was using also called for about a teaspoon of nutmeg. I didn't really notice this when I was eating the gnocchi, but it didn't hurt anything.

Mix all this up well in your bowl and then turn it out onto a work surface. By this time they should be cooled down enough to handle. You basically want to knead the dough until everything is smooth and incorporated. I think I kneaded for about 5 minutes or so. The dough should not be sticky.

To make the gnocchi you want to roll it out into 1/4 inch rolls and then cut the strips into 1/4 inch pieces. Then you roll them against a fork to put a dimple on one side and tine marks on the other. This is time consuming and got a little frustrating, but it was worth it.

The important part is testing the gnocchi, you want to boil some water and then cook 2-3 pieces at a time to test the consistency. I had to add a little more flour as they seemed a little too soft initially and you want them to be a bit chewy. This is where you can perfect the texture. You could also add some egg if you want to make it more wheat pasta like.

I cooked my gnocchi two ways. I boiled some of it, it takes about 2-3 minutes and should end up floating. Make sure you salt the water, it makes a big difference in the flavor. I also pan fried some and this was fantastic. Put a little olive oil in a fry pan, heat it over medium high heat and then throw the gnocchi into the oil. Toss it until it's browned. These turned out crispy on the outside and soft inside. Quite tasty.

I served them with butter and a little parmesean and mozzarella cheese. The boiled version could have used a sauce, but the pan fried were excellent. Even Ninja wanted some, she even put a napkin on to try and convince me to feed her.

Overall I call my first attempt at gnocchi a success. Now if I can just get the pronunciation right.

Defining Eaters

I had a great discussion last night with Sarah and Amanda regarding many topics. From politics, and living without a car, to food we had lot of interesting talks. During the course of the discussion, we discussed the word "foodie", and a person who used the word "eater" to discuss a certain set of people.

The word foodie is coming under fire. I don't disagree with these people, but I did use it recently and I defend myself by saying, "What other word should I use." Then there is "eater," this was kind of a dumb term because essentially all of us are eaters.

So I decided to define a few terms to use when discussing various forms of pickiness. We need some terms and definitions for talking about this stuff, and if no one else is going to take on the challenge, it may as well be me.

  • Food Snob - Someone who turns their nose up at anything not made to their specifications. They wouldn't dream of touching a sloppy joe, unless it was made with sliced Kobe beef, all organic tomatoes, and simmered for at least 25 hours.
  • Picky Eater - Someone who is unwilling to try anything other than what they know, or refuses to eat a certain type of food for reasons other than health/allergies.
  • Foodinie - I herby retire the word foodie and replace it with foodinie. These people go out of their way to try new things. They probably have a favorite class of food, such as street food or tapas. Very little is out of bounds. That being said they usually have a certain standard such as no nationwide chains, and may focus on things such as local and sustainable as much as possible.
  • Eater - This term is dumb, we are all eaters as described above.
  • Foodster - Nothing your mother would cook is good enough. Basic lasagna is boring and is only edible if made with homemade noodles, morels, tempe, and at least 40 types of local cheeses. Different from a foodinie because a foodinie just appreciates good food, whether simple and common or exotic and complex.
  • Nosher - This group will eat anything and isn't concerned with anything other than filling their stomach. They probably appreciate a good meal, but don't enjoy it much more than they would a microwaved quesadilla.
  • Locovore - Eats locally produced food as much as possible.

So what do you think? Any other definitions you would include. Are you satisfied with my definitions?

Lemon Thyme Bars

I made these for work yesterday to compete in a dessert bake off. They are adapted from the Joy of Cooking and turned out wonderfully. The bars themselves are very sweet and the addition of thyme just adds a hint of savory that lingers at the end of each bite.

Preheat oven to 325

Crust

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks of cold butter
  • Salt

Add the dry ingredients to a bowl and whisk together. Cut the butter into the mixture and then using your hands combine the ingredients until you have balls about the size of pees. Put the mixture in a 9x13 cake pan and press dough onto the bottom of the pan and about a 1/2 inch up the sides. Bake at 325 for 35 minutes or until crust is just starting to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.

Filling

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • juice from 5-6 lemons
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • thyme

Combine the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix well. Sift flour over the top of mixture and combine.

I added the thyme at this point, I used dried thyme but I would recommend using fresh leaves. I think I put in about a tablespoon or so. I think you could get by with a little less if you used fresh.

Poor the mixture into the crust and then bake at 300 for 35-40 minutes until set. Let the bars cool completely before serving or covering.

If you give these a try let me know how they turned out and what you thought.