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.

Thoughts and Link 12/1 Edition

It's been a while since I posted anything. I took the entire Thanksgiving weekend off of participating in social media of any sort, including my blog. I posted approximatly 3 Twitter updates all weekend. It was a nice break, but now I'm back. Here are the latest thoughts and links from the world at large.

  • If you ever wondered how not to write an about us for your website, check out the CIA's HR page for details.
  • Alexis posted this wonderful looking recipe for Corn and Chayote Soup. I may make it this week and let you know the results.
  • Ana Marie Cox posts a letter she received and her response. I do hold out some hope for future generations.
  • Via Kottke. Photography is for Jerkoffs funny but definitely not safe for work.
  • I believe I've mentioned Margaret and Helen before, but as long as the two of them continue to write I'll keep linking. Margaret's last post is great, but her Thanksgiving letter to her family deserves a gold star. Here is an actual thought; this is why the Internet is great, where else can a couple of wise old ladies be heard by thousands of people, we all need to get our grandparents a blog.
  • In case you wondered, the Timberwolves do have a playbook and it supposedly contains 75 plays. I'm not sure if this includes out of bounds plays or not but either way this is further proof Randy Whittman is insane.
  • I went out to moto-i on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It was a great experience, really good food and the sake is as good as advertised. The atmosphere was more bar like than expected but I still give it my recommendation.
  • Finally, a zoo in Japan discovered something any 15 year old who lives on a farm would know. You can't mate two polar bears of the same sex. It's just not possible.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Remember to avoid the stores at all costs for the next three weeks, and if you are traveling for the holidays be safe.

Black Friday and The Economy

With retailers already cowering in fear over the results from Black Friday already, this is a good time to step back and look at this unofficial national holiday. Every year millions of people wake up early, drive to the mall or Big Box Store, and spend, spend, spend. People will be injured and feeling will get hurt, someone will go to jail, and there is always the sad possibility that someone will be killed. Of course, this year spending is expected to fall. This appears to be somewhat of a surprise even though hundreds of thousands of people have lost jobs this year.

I know that the retailers will start freaking out after Friday; stock prices will drop, CEOs will be fired, and we will hear that the end is near. What should really happen is Congress declaring a national Blue Law on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The only thing that should be open are grocery stores and Chinese takeout places. I'm not an economist but I think forcing people to drop the retail habit would be a healthy way to go. It may cause our recovery period to take longer, but if consumer spending was no longer the prime economic indicator, we would be better off. It might even force corporations to start trying to sell good and services to other countries, something that this country stopped doing.

Instead, people will do what they always do. They will go out to get the "best deal" of the holiday season and put it on their credit card. What does this say about our country? If anyone really understood why we are in this mess, everyone would stay home Friday, enjoy spending time with their family, avoid crowds, save gas money, and save on interest payments. One of the major causes of this crisis is everyone took on too much debt. We went from a culture that saved, allowing banks to lend our savings to people and businesses to a culture where a good portion of our money was tied up into overvalued and mysterious financial instruments. Spending is only a short-term solution; we need a solution that leads us to saving again.

Skills I Should Master

A list of things I should try and master. These are skills I have some experience with, but which I never went the extra mile to really become a guru.

There really is no question of what I should do with this list, I should take one and spend four months working on mastering the skill. Maybe putting it in writing and publishing it will be the motivation I need.

How about you, any skills you have that you wish you would master?

Ads Be Gone

I am dropping ads on this blog. I have been using Google Adwords for a while, but unfortunately Google doesn't know what to do with my site. The contextual concept isn't exactly driving huge click through rates. In fact in the four months that I have actually written regularly I've made a whopping $5.

I'm not complaining though, I want to make that clear. I didn't start this blog to make money. And it doesn't cost any anything to host it at this point, as traffic volume is low. I decided that having ads on the page, while it didn't distract from the content, also wasn't adding value. I just want to write and hope that a few people find me interesting enough to continue to visit once in a while. If my blog ever gets to the point where I need to pay for hosting, I may decide to put ads back in.

A couple other notes. I fixed my servers mail system so I can send mail again. This allowed me to re-enabled sending new posts via email to those who prefer email to RSS. Also, on the suggestion of Bill Roehl and Ed Kohler I've decided to add the ability to subscribe to comments via email. Hopefully some of you find it useful.

Edit: Well due to Bill Roehl, ads may once again grace the pages of this blog. His suggestion sounds promising.

Foye Shows Up (T'Wolves Box Score Observations)

Last night is the kind of night I expected out of this years Timberwolves. I didn't get to watch the game, in fact I completely forgot about it until I got into my car and the game was on the Fan. I listened to about 3/4 of the third quarter and the first few minutes of the fourth before I headed into the Orchestra (which was wonderful).

Randy Foye showed something last night, the question is can he keep it up. Fourteen assists is impressive, and if he can give us half of that most nights I think most fans would be happy. According to sources his teammates and coaches told him to be more aggressive. This is exactly what he needed to do, he has the talent, he just was playing in fear of making mistakes.

A few other observations from the box score.

  • Kevin Love has been regressing, he had 4 rebounds and 2 points against the Pistons. Hopefully he can pick it up, but if we win I'm okay with him taking his time.
  • Al Jefferson only scored 19, he has been a little off as of late, but I think the team performs better when he isn't the focal point in the offense. He is good enough to get 20 without touching the ball every possession.
  • Craig Smith has really come on strong. He scored 16 last night and had 9 rebounds. I'm okay with him and Love being the 6 and 7th men.
  • Jason Collins started and looked terrible. While I was listening to the game he picked up two fouls in less than 10 minutes. He didn't score and had 1 rebound and 1 assist. We need more from our starting center.
  • Rashad McCants was injured and didn't play. This is a good thing and needs to continue. McHale needs to trade him soon, he provides nothing of value other than the ability to jack up 10-12 shots in 5 minutes.

It is good to see the Wolves win a few games. Last night's game was their most impressive of the year. The Pistons are contenders in the East and last nights game should have been a game that helped them get on track since the Iverson trade. Instead the Wolves blew them out and held onto the lead.

Last year the Wolves got on track in the last month of the season and played .500 ball. If they play .500 for the rest of the year, this season will have gone from a complete dissapointment to a success. Of course I still think Randy Wittman is not the best man for the head coaching job, but as long as he keeps the job I'll support him when he wins.

Mashed Potatoes

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, which is a story in itself as I have no idea where the year went. But I thought I would post a mashed potato recipe. As with most of my recipes it's not technically a recipe, it's more here are some things I put in a bowl, when the amounts are right it's really tasty. I honestly never measure anything when I make mashed potatoes so I wouldn't feel comfortable giving measurements. I'll try to guesstimate though.

First there are a few musts here, the first involves soaking the potatoes. Now soaking your potatoes is not good for them in the sense that it leaches out the majority of the good things out of them. But if you are making potatoes on Thanksgiving is health really that important. Now the potatoes can be peeled if you would like, but I like to have some skins. What I generally do is peel about 1/2 - 1/3 of the potatoes leaving the skins on the rest. Then I cut them into approximatly 1 inch to 1/2 inch cubes, put them in a large pot and cover them with water. Soak them like that overnight. Soaking them keeps them from getting starchy and sticky when you are mashing them.

Let the potatoes soak overnight, in the morning drain the water and cover them with fresh water. Stick them on the stove and bring them to a boil. Another tip that can be helpful, is to put a wooden spoon in the water, for some reason this helps keep the water from boiling over. I'm sure someone can give a reason for this, or maybe it's my imagination, but I swear this works. Depending on how many potatoes you have it can take a while to cook them, I cook until a fork slides in without any resistance, at that point you can drain them again.

Now here is where the fun starts, I add the following to my potatoes, one or two sticks of real butter, and approximately 1 to 2 cups of milk. Bring this to a boil in saucepan. Once the butter has melted then you add some fake mashed potatoes. Add enough of the powdered potatoes to get a consistency just runnier than you would want if you were serving them alone.

While you are waiting for the butter and milk to heat, you should be mashing the potatoes. I generally use a electric hand mixer as it will get you a more consistent texture. But if you like to have a bit of a rougher texture, you can use a hand masher. Once you have added the fake potatoes to the butter and milk, pour that into the mashed up potatoes and blend in. At this point you need to use your judgment, if they seem too thick you can add more milk, if they are too thin some additional fake potatoes may be necessary. Season as you like. I use Lawry's Seasoned Salt and pepper only. I find Lawry's really adds to the flavor, but of course you could use garlic, sea salt, or other seasoning as you feel fit. Once you have them seasoned how you want, they are ready to serve.

One last tip. If you have leftovers, don't put them in a tupperware container. Instead put the leftover mashed potatoes in a Zip Lock bag. Fill the bag with the amount you and you family would eat. Now when you heat them up, all you need to do is throw the bag into the microwave and knead the bag occasionally. You could also heat it in a pan of boiling water if you don't like using a microwave. Then once they are warm, just cut a corner out of the bag and squeeze. Easy and mess free.

5 Radical Ways to Save Money

  1. Water down your water. Really you are paying about $1 per bottle of water, so buy a nice canteen, and put half a bottle of water in it and then fill it with tap water. Tap water is cleaner so you get both taste and cleanliness.
  2. Start using incandescent light bulbs again. People think heating costs have risen dramatically because energy prices have risen. Ha, think again, we no longer have heat producing light bulbs running constantly, this means your furnace need to run more often. Go back to incandescent bulbs and save yourself a few bucks each month on heating costs.
  3. Build a second wall around your house. Yes it would be a fairly large upfront cost in both time and money. And dealing with the bureaucracy of getting a building permit is not fun, but the cost benefit will be dramatic. Leave out the windows on the second wall and you will be golden.
  4. Start eating the heels from bread loaves. Gross you may be saying, but consider this. If you buy loaves of bread that generally contain 20 normal slices, and eat the heel, you get a free loaf every time you buy 10 loaves. Now who doesn't love a buy 10 get 1 free sale?
  5. When going out for a night of drinking, ask the bartender to pour you a mat shot before your first drink. You won't spend a penny and get to experience a wide variety of liquors before experiencing the fun of vomiting into a toilet or trash can.

Thoughts and Links 10/20 Edition

  • Do you hate being asked questions that require a 3 second Google search. Send them to letmegooglethatforyou.com and your problem is solved.
  • Remember when Forbes Magazine used to be smart, it has become a camouflaged version of People. Then again I guess it's things like the Hottest Tots that sells magazines these days.
  • I normally don't approve of fans booing their team, but the Thunder as a whole deserve it. Maybe not the players but the owners for sure. In fact I propose that the Thunder get booed at all games regardless of where they take place.
  • Fun photo of the day, check out the Star Tribunes front page. Does this inspire confidence in the recount? The guy in the stocking cap is a nice guy I'm sure, but really??
  • Michelle Bachmann did not need to do anything else to prove she is insane, but that didn't stop her. Can someone please tell her that an urban legend generally doesn't have video tape to prove they are real.
  • My blog recommendation for the week is one I discovered but forgot about. Margaret and Helen have a lot of wisdom and aren't afraid to tell it like it is. Thank to RosaPena and and nukirk for reminding me.
  • Three new MN based blogs for your reading pleasure
  • Did you see the Timberwolves won last night. They avoided the fate of the 2003-2004 Magic who went 1-19 after winning their first game(check the last item).
  • This song was played on Tuesday morning on the Current. When the first song of the day is titled Zydeco Taco you know things are looking up.
  • If you didn't like my chili recipe, here is a vegetarian recipe that looks tasty. Also the story preceding the recipe is kind of cute. (Yes, I'm a guy and I will use the word cute)
  • For those on Twitter, if you haven't see this, check it out.

Orchestra Concert on 11/23/08

I wrote about this on Twitter but thought I would share it here. Sunday night the Metropolitan Symphony Orchastra will be performing at St. Olaf's Catholic Church. The concert starts at 7:30. Here is a link for more information. The concert itself is free and no ticket is required though the orchastra does ask for donations. There is also free parking at the energy center building on the second floor or above. I've talked to a few of the players and they all say it will be a really good show.

On Health Insurance

Everyone knows America’s healthcare system is screwy, but here are some things you may not know.

If you are involved in an auto accident in your own vehicle, and this accident may be work related, your auto insurance will require you to submit a claim to your work comp insurance. Your auto insurance can only pay if you receive a denial from your work comp insurance. If you happen to not know you have medical coverage under your auto policy it may even go through your health insurance first and get denied. This means that potentially three insurance companies get involved before a single bill is paid. If someone else hit you you could potentially have four involved.

Sometimes health insurance will not pay a bill just because you mention a vehicle when filing a claim. I had a customer who needed a claim opened under his auto insurance just so we could write a denial to send to his health insurance.

Did you know that in Minnesota, if you are injured while unloading something from a truck or a car, your primary coverage falls to the medical coverage on your auto insurance? Guess how many of these claims go to health insurance and get denied before being submitted to auto insurance?

These are just three instances where a claim could sit in limbo for weeks or months and not be paid because the right company is not informed. This is a perfect example of why a single payer system makes sense. Some people think that government getting involved would only lower costs by decreasing how much hospitals are paid. But consider the cost of each of the above situations. Get rid of situations like that and we could cut administrative overhead substantially.

Additionally, consider how many places you get charged for health insurance where it's not called that. Work-comp insurance, your auto insurance, and homeowner's insurance all have a medical cost built into them. A socialized medical system will cost everyone less in the end. Opponents never seem to realize how many times each of us pays for health insurance. Wouldn’t it be better if we all just paid once?