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

Why I gave up on "Catch 22"

This is the first Plinky questions that I instantly wanted to answer. I bought Catch-22 a few months ago. I had actually nearly purchased it every time I saw it for about a year but had never taken the plunge. Maybe my subconscious had been telling me. Consciously, It had intrigued me for some reason, the concept of a bumbling pilot in World War 2 who was just trying not to get killed seemed interesting. It also had a ton of praise behind it so I decided it can't be bad.

Well I won't say that it was bad, but I just couldn't get into it. I just couldn't get past the authors writing style, which was really messy. The story jumped all over the place and though it was full of the kind of ironic humor that I usually love, I just didn't find it funny.

I think I'm about 1/3 of the way through it, I had it sitting on my nightstand for about a month, and finally just gave in and put it back on my bookshelf. It currently sits there mocking me. Someday when I've read everything in my house and everything on the series of tubes I'll pick it up again. Until then, the adventures of Yossarian will remain only partially complete.

Chili with Bacon

My office has a chili contest every Friday before the Super Bowl. I've made it my mission to win this year, so I had to come up with a recipe that would be able to compete with the reigning two time champion. I also decided this would be an opportunity the showcase my kitchen talents after being inspired by Doniree's latest test kitchen post. This recipe has it's inspiration in my basic chili recipe, Kassie's delicious looking Greatest Chili Ever, and Emily's Bacon Blog. On a side note, I will be referring to Emily's blog as Emily's Bacon Blog in the future.

I decided to roast my own peppers, cook my own beans, and try to avoid canned ingredients as much as possible. The only things that I bought canned were tomato products. It's hard to find good tomatoes in January and if you do find them it will cost an arm and a leg. This is what I started with.

That package in the front, yep that's bacon. Don't worry I didn't waste the Furious by putting it in the chili, that was for consumption during the cooking process. I had soaked the beans all night and during the workday, so I started heating those up before I did anything else.

Chili isn't the most difficult thing to throw together, it's a matter of getting the ingrediants ready at approximatly the same time so you can put them all in the pot quickly. The first thing I cooked was the bacon. I decided to bake it, since I didn't want to spend an hour cooking up a pound of bacon. Here is the bacon before it went into the oven.

A wondeful sight, isn't it?

Here is the bacon after it came out of the oven. Mmmm.

While the bacon was cooking it was time to get the other ingrediants ready. The first thing I did was remove the stems and seeds from the peppers. I went with pablano pepper, chili peppers, and jalopenos. I was going to roast them before chopping them. Here they are ready for the oven.

Here they are after being roasted, and chopped. I left them fairly large so people could pick around them if they wanted to.

While the peppers and bacon were in the oven, I chopped up some onions and mushrooms. I went with a yellow and a white onion, and stuck with white mushrooms. Here are the mushrooms chopped and ready to go into the pot. Don't they look lovely?

For meat I used pork, which I find gives chili a much better flavor than beef. I browned this with come ground cayenne pepper and a few red pepper flakes. Then I added the mushrooms, onions, peppers, and pork into a pot, added about a 1/2 cup of chicken stock, approximately 3 tablespoons of chili powder, and let that cook down a bit.

I should mention here that I completely misjudged how much chili this was going to make. I ended up cooking it in two pots. This is a ton of chili.

At this point I added the tomato sauce and chopped up and added the whole tomatoes. I had misjudged how much of this I was going to need, so I had to make a grocery store run to pick up a few additional cans. I ended up going with a 32 oz can of sauce in both pots of chili.

Finally it was time to add my secret weapons. First I added two cloves of garlic into each pot. Followed by this.

And this

Yes that is brown sugar and bacon. I decided adding a little sweetness would be a good idea, I love putting brown sugar in pasta sauce, it adds another layer to the tomato flavor.

Here is the finished product. Two pots of delicious chili. I don't know if it will take first place or not, but I will say that it is some really good chili.

I'll update the post later today with the results of the contest.

Completely forgot to update the post. I didn't place in the contest, the chili was still good, but after sitting overnight the bacon kind of took over the flavors. If you love bacon you would have loved it but apparently my co-workers don't love bacon as much as Twitter.

Some Recent Dining Adventures

Along with my New Years Goals and my MN todo List, one of my goals this year was to try more local dining options. The last few weeks I've hit up a bunch of new (to me) places. Here are a few quick thoughts about them.

Common Roots Cafe - I checked out this spot after my visit to the Walker. We were going to go to The Bulldog, but changed our minds as the atmosphere wasn't exactly conducive to a conversation. My date told me that the bagels were phenomenal, so we ordered one to share. I also had a beer at that time, I believe it was a Surley but can't really remember. Unfortunately, the bagels were stale so I didn't really get the full experience. I returned last Saturday as I was meeting a friend for some web design work and this time I ordered coffee and a egg and cheese bagel. This time the bagel was phenomel. I told one of my co-workers from Conneticut that if she wanted a good bagel this is a great place. It has a wonderful atmosphere, plenty of tables, and the food, when it's fresh, is tasty.

Longfellow Grill - I went here last Saturday after visiting the winter carnival. My plan had been to check out the Blue Door Pub but it was packed, and since I was by myself I didn't feel like waiting for a table to open. I had been intrigued by the sweet potato fries ever since I read about Ed's fry day, so I decided to check it out. The first thing I have to say is that the employees here are wonderful. I sat there for about 2 hours and chatted with the bartender, the manager on duty, and a couple of the servers about everything from cell phones to the inauguration. They had an excellent selection of beer, and the food was fabulous. I ordered the Turkey Burger and the sweet fries and it was one of the best meals I'd tasted in a while. I would definitely recommend checking them out if you haven't already.

Wilde Roast Cafe - I took a date here last Sunday. After driving by it and circling for what seemed like forever(I really don't know NE Minneapolis at all), I finally figured out where to park and headed in. I will admit it wasn't what I excepted, it's like Common Roots in that you order at the counter and then they bring you your food. We had the artichoke dip and rosemary chicken pizza, both of which were wonderful. Apparently if you order two entrees you can get a bottle of wine for 1/2 price, we didn't take advantage of this, but it definitely an option if you are looking for an inexpensive night out. I wouldn't say it's my favorite place I tried recently, but definitely worth a trip sometime.

Herkimer - I met @artallen for a drink after my incredibly ridiculous experience at work Tuesday. I didn't try any of the food, but did try a couple of their beers. I enjoyed the Alt beer, though it wasn't as hoppy as I would have liked. I also tried the Sky Pilot Cellar Beer, which was good. I wouldn't say I found my favorite beer here, but will definitely return. I've been told the food there is great, so I plan on going there earlier some night so I can test this for myself.

I've been keeping busy the last few weeks, and loving all the new things I've been doing. Have you tried anything new recently?

CPSIA Reaction

I don't normally just re-post a single link but this deserves all of our attention. Over at the Empty Envelope, this post went up today linking to a discussion on Etsy. If you don't know what CPSIA is, you should look into it and write your legislators. Child safety is important but when laws are enacted that not only hurt low income families but impact hundreds of small business owners, fill our landfills, and cost our economy even more jobs, it's not a good law. Please read.

Wednesday Where? #8

Hey, this is the eighth Wednesday Where? and I keep chugging along. After last weeks debacle though I needed to choose a photo that I couldn't screw up. This one is a little more obscure, but the building is really unique. Every time I drove by it I wanted to stop and snap a photo. I finally did it a few weeks ago. Now you get to guess the location.

Rules: The photo was taken somewhere within the Minneapolis/St. Paul 7 county area(PDF). Put your guess in the comments, multiple guesses are permitted. No prizes will be offered, other than the pride of knowing your city better than you ever should. Enjoy.

Remember the first hint goes up tonight, and you get two more tomorrow.

Family Concert this Sunday

I know it's Super Bowl Sunday this weekend, but don't let that stop you from introducing your kids to new music. Come join the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra at the first of two family concerts. The concert is being held at St. Mathew's Catholic Church in St. Paul. There will be eight works performed, including Leonard Bernstein's Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and John William's The Raiders March. This Orchestra is joined by the Neighborhood House drummers and dancers who should keep the little ones entertained. The show starts at 3:00 and runs for about an hour. Come join the fun.

This is a free concert, though donations are welcome. I'm on the board of the Orchestra so please either email me or leave me a comment and I would be happy to answer any questions. There is a second family concert on the 15th of Febuary so if this Sunday doesn't work you are welcome to join us then.

Additional Information

MN Todo List Checklist - Winter Carnival

Continuing my exploration of Minnesota, Saturday I headed to St. Paul to take in the Winter Carnival. At a brain freezing -10 with a stiff breeze, I didn't intend on spending much time outdoors, but I braved the chill. I didn' experience as much as I would have liked, but I did check out the ice sculptures in Rice Park. I'll share my favorites here, but please check out the Flickr set for more photos.

The first sculture that really caught my intention was this one. It was very impressive. You could see a lot of detail work went into it. Just check out the fire and the fish in the stream.

You can see in the next photo, not only was the fire extremely detailed, but the tee-pee in the background is well done.

My favorite sculpture was the next one though. It was from an Alice in Wonderland scene, and the details on the Cheshire cat were amazing.

I will admit that I didn't experience as much of the carnival as I should have. But I may go out this weekend if the temperature heads north of 0. Have any of you been to the Carnival?

Poorly Worded Instructions

I've been on a mission to unsubscribe from a few mailing lists that I opted into at one point or the other. It's an annoying process most of the time, and of course you're never sure if your request is going to be honored. Some people might just click "Report Spam" on these emails, but since I chose to receive them, I feel that wouldn't be fair. You run across a lot of odd things when you are doing this. For example, here were the instructions I found on a piece of mail I tried to unsubscribe from this morning.

You can choose which specific emails you'd like to receive from [ACME Corp] by checking the boxes below to opt-out when you do NOT want to receive that type of email. We recommend opting-in for all email since they keep you informed, and help you enjoy ... our site

I'm not sure what the rule is for allowing people to opt-out of your email, but I wonder if it has a part about making the instructions clear. I had to read that two times to figure out whether I checked the boxes to unsubscribe or if I left them blank to unsubscribe. I checked the boxes, hopefully I got it right.

Thoughts and Links 1/23 Edition

Lots of great content around the intrawebs lately. Here is a list of links to keep you from working on this cold Friday.

That is it for today. Hope you all have a wonderful Friday. Stay warm out there everyone.

Yesterday 1/20/2009

I wasn't planning on writing about the inauguration. The week before I was actually kind of annoyed at all the coverage the festivities were getting. I was very excited that Bush was going to be gone and that Obama would be president, but the inauguration seemed kind of pointless.

When I woke up yesterday, I did what I always do. I flipped on my computer, checked the email, and then signed into Twitter and the NY Times. Within a few minutes I realized this was special. Everyone was talking about the inauguration. I started looking at the photos being posted to Flickr and CNN and was absolutely astounded by the crows of people taking part in this day.

Unfortunately I had to work so I flipped on MPR in the car to listen to the coverage. The more interviews I heard the more I came to realize that the day was something to be savored and remembered. I finished my first meeting of the day and then found a place to park and just sat there listening to the coverage, following Twitter, and taking in any images that I could find. I slowly came to realize that this wasn't just a change in power, it was a change in the way this country thought about itself. Election night started the process, but it wasn't until yesterday that it was completed.

As a nation we went from a culture of fear to a culture of hope. Our president the day before had once told us to go shopping(Google cache) when things were not going well. Our new president had asked everyone who wasn't working the day before to go volunteer somewhere. The president from the day before had landed on a air craft carrier holding a sign proclaiming Mission Accomplished. Our new president spoke eloquently about race while running for president. The president from the day before had a citizen of another country throw a shoe at him. Our new president attracted a crowd of thousands when he traveled to Europe while running for office.

I don't believe that President Obama can fix everything. There is a lot to fix and he would deserve a spot on Mount Rushmore if this country was put together in four years or even eight. The only thing I know is that for the first time that I can remember we have a president worth looking up to. He's someone I would want my children to emulate, and because he's in office I think that if I have children they will have a chance to do so.

I'm excited for the next 4 years, and glad that I decided to witness history. Of course it's just the beginning. As our new president said," [o]ur journey has never been one ... for those who prefer leisure over work," meaning it's time to get to work. We have four years to prove we made the right choice, let's not put it all in his hands.