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.

Trapped

I don't know if anything frustrates me as much as having an amazing idea while I'm at work and not being able to get to work on it right away. This happened today. Actually, what happened is I figured out the next steps in implementing an idea I've been slowly incubating for the last month. I think this was actually worse.

Regardless, I find this happens to me more and more as I get involved in more things outside of work. It used to be I would go to work and just think about work, and probably what I was having for my next meal. Now when I sit down at my desk, start working on my projects and apparently my brain is constantly working on problems that are completely unrelated to the task at hand. Suddenly an idea will pop into my brain and it's all I can do not to grab the MacBook and head for the nearest coffee shop to code, design, research, or whatever the idea happens to require.

A lot of ideas have been lost over the last few years due to this. But as it became more frequent, I started working on systems to prevent idea loss due to being trapped at work. I always have a blank text document open. If I come up with a great idea I take the time to type up whatever I can and then save it to my Dropbox account. Then when I open my Mac at home I can open up the folder and see what ideas I generated while at the office.

But even with this system I still feel trapped when it happens. There I am with this idea flying around the inside of my head like a cat on catnip and I can't do anything about it. It's painful.

So the question I ask my readers, how do you deal with being trapped with a big idea?

Dear Fellow Bikers (a commentary on bike safety)

First, thank you for biking. I love the fact that you chose a bike as your form of transportation. Whether you did it to save money, because it's faster than driving, or just because you love biking, it doesn't matter. I'm glad to see you out there.

But we have a problem, a big problem, and you need to help us with it. There is a huge percentage of our fellow bikers who don't get it. They don't understand that we need to be examples to everyone. Every day I see bikers flying through stop signs, ignoring traffic lights, biking the wrong way down one ways, biking without lights at night, and doing other things that are very dangerous.

I know some of these bikers. These are the bikers that will stop traffic to allow their fellow bikers to cross an intersection, even though they don't have the right of way. Bikers that think that just because they aren't driving a car they are better than people than those behind the wheel. This is the wrong attitude and we need to work on fixing this.

Bikers have a obligation. An obligation to show everyone around us that bikes can be a major form of transportation. We can all wish that the car would just go away and we could have the city streets to ourselves. But it's not going to happen. The solution to bike safety and acceptance is all of us biking smart.

Biking smart doesn't mean following every single traffic rule. I will roll through stop signs if there is no one coming, but I always slow down. I always stop at red lights, though I will cross the intersection when the light is red if it's safe to do so. Bikes and cars are different and I think laws should be adaptable enough to respect those differences.

But there are some things we need to start pressuring our fellow bikers to stop doing:

  • Running red lights without stopping
  • Not slowing down when entering a controlled intersection you don't have the right of way in, whether a car is approaching or not
  • Not stopping for stop signs on bike trails if a car is coming
  • Not signaling turns
  • Passing every car to get to the front of a line of cars, you can wait behind the car in front of you
  • Not taking lanes when you should
  • Biking on sidewalks(there are a few places in town where you have no choice)
  • Turning in an intersection from the wrong lane. If there is a left turn lane, get into that lane and turn from there, or cross the intersection and then cross it again going the other direction.
  • Passing cars on the right side when they are stopped (even if they don't have a blinker on, assume they are turning)
  • Biking the wrong way down one ways
  • Biking at night without lights
  • Biking with headphones in
  • Biking without a helmet

Here's the deal. I know there are drivers out there that will dislike bikers no matter way, I know bikers have the same rights as cars do, but we need to take our role more seriously. We need to show cars respect, need to be extremely defensive, and we need to stop acting like we own the road. Learn and follow the rules and we'll be better off.

Other Resources

I Write Things In Other Places Too

I despise the term “online dating.” Granted I use it on occasion since it’s difficult not to. But the truth is, it’s a term we should retire.

I wrote a post for Cyber Dating Sidekick last week and it was published on Friday. Go read it and then check out my friend Amber's awesome services. She will hook you up.

The Cocktail Question

My friend Doniree posted a link to an old post of hers from 2009. (Have I really known her for that long?) It was entitled The Cocktail Question and I immediately remembered discussing this very thing with her back when she posted it. In fact I wrote a fairly boring response to it, though the comments sort of rocked.

So I thought, hey, why not give it another shot? So here goes.

So. What DO I do?

I write on occasion. Not as much as I would like and not well. Yet it doesn't matter because I only write for myself. It's carthetic and helps me make it through the tough weeks.

I read, sometimes a lot, sometimes infrequently. Biographies and fiction mostly. But also a lot of online essays.

I do not work out. I've tried running, yoga, swimming, and even jump rope. None of it sticks. Instead I walk and bike everywhere. Someday I hope to find something that keeps me motivated.

I work for an big insurance company. I build letters, I teach logic, and I fight to make things make more sense. It's a job that is slowly evolving into a career. Which scares me.

I have a lot of friends. People I go to shows with, people I go to dinner with, people I take pictures with, and people I drink with. Most of them fit in all those categories. All of them are great and I probably don't tell most of them that enough.

I have a few great friends. Friends who let me bitch about things that don't matter and never judge. People who would never hold me back and sometimes push me to actually do some of the crazy things I want to do. Friends who I would move the world for.

I love Twitter. I spend a lot of time on it. It's my place to be myself even when I'm in all day meetings where I'm supposed to act professional. For some reason 1,400 people like what I say. This is both a point of pride and point of terror.

I cook, not often enough. I make great risotto and an excellent pizza crust. I do not bake cakes.

I sometimes take pictures. I used to take a lot, but the passion has faded. Which is ok, it was fun, and I now know more about photography than I need to. Plus I made a ton of great friends.

I date and have fun doing it. I used to take it seriously, now it's just fun. No games, no nonsense. Go to the zoo, play bocce ball, see a show, have dinner, drink a few drinks, maybe make out. Whatever. The one is either out there or she isn't. If the worst thing that happens to me in life is I meet a ton of cool women and never fall in head over heals in love I think I'll be better off than a lot of people.

I have political arguments. I have discussions about body oder. I have debates about grass. I learned more doing these things than I ever learned in my 5 years of college.

I play on the web. This site, Garlic and Onion, Active First Dates, and soon a few other sites may magically appear. Or not, it's just a hobby.

I don't sit still. I bike to shows, happy hours, board meetings, farmers markets, festivals, and dinner. I'm rarely home at night and like it that way.

I wear silly t-shirts. I own a lot of them. I like to wear them with hats.

I like adventures. Square dancing, duck tongue and secret bars were some I've had recently.

I don't like detailed plans. I'll be at X place by this time is enough. The best nights start with a destination and end with a glass of whiskey at a bar with a friend you didn't intend on hanging out with but who was just who you needed to see that night.

I like to talk about our food system. My favorite conversations are around food. Most people who have these conversations with me get a little frightened. It is my passion, where it comes from, how we grow it, how we prepare it, how much of it we consume, and what it tastes like. I love these questions.

I'm rarely late and sometimes too early.

I love food trucks, not just the food, but the whole concept. A mobile restaurant that serves food to people on the street. Neighborhoods can be built this way. Communities can get to know each other.

I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Graduated in a class of 7. I wouldn't trade in that experience. I'm lucky I had parents who never made me scared of the world even though I didnt' get to experience a lot of it growing up.

I'm learning to make good cocktails. I'm teaching myself how to host parties. I'm always terrified I'm going to disappointed my guests.

I never want to grow up so I don't have to answer the question about what I want to be when I grow up.

The Shuttles

The second to last launch of a space shuttle happened today. It's near the end of an era and the geek in me is sad. Not because the shuttle's are going away, but because I fear we won't see their replacements for a long time. Space exploration used to inspire, and it still can, but what will it say to our children when we no longer take risks to do big things?

The shuttle launch also led me down memory lane to the time we were in Florida when a shuttle launched. I don't remember if we were completely surprised by it or not, but I know we ended up on a beach since we couldn't go to Kennedy Space Station due to the shuttle launch. Regardless of the circumstances, the fact that I got to see a shuttle launch from the edge of the Atlantic ocean is a childhood memory I will always cherish.

Turbulence (random thoughts inspired by travel)

I had the worst flight of my life today. I had a 7:55 flight from MSP and if you live in Minneapolis you know that around that time we got a bit of a storm. My plane was delayed by about 30 minutes. When we took off the pilot warned us it might be a bit bumpy. It was bumpy all the way to Chicago. I was actually nervous for a bit of the flight. That has never happened before.

I'm in Kansas City for the week for work. We're training in a bunch of new people to do what I do. I've only been doing what I do for about three months. I'm sort of terrified, since I'm going to be leading the training. I'm also not good at training, never have been. When I walk in tomorrow I'm making sure everyone knows they are required to interrupt me once per day to ask me to clarify something. I'm awful about assuming everyone just gets technical stuff. Even though I know this it only helps a little bit.

It's funny that whenever I travel I end up at a Target. It's comfortable. Plus, I can at least pretend some of my travel expenses end up back in Minnesota. It's generally just for breakfast stuff and maybe some bottled water, but I almost always find on.

Rental cars suck. I never feel comfortable in them, even if I've driven the same model in the past. Plus I'm in a somewhat unfamiliar city. I've also come to the realization that no one knows how to adjust side mirrors correctly.

Everyone who complains about The Current needs to travel more. The second you get in a rental car in a different city all you will want to do is turn it to 89.3 and here Mary Lucia. I think every DJ in America is 99% worse than the worst DJ on The Current. Also, radio advertisements make me want to hurl.

Context in Newspaper Advertising

Yesterday, some of my friends were featured in an article in the Star Tribune for creating a movement called Summer of Dresses. Looking at the article got me thinking, not about social media, and only a little bit about women in cute dresses. Instead I noticed the ads at the bottom of the article. An ad for a comedian performing at a church, a jewelery trunk sale, and ad for Monique Lhuillier.

My thought, why didn't the paper reach out to the local shops in town, the places where many of the ladies who participate in summer of dresses shop, and sell them advertising for that page.

I posed this question on Twitter today and received this response from Dan Lind, the Managing Director of the MN Newspaper Association. "It's done for special sections, but typically not articles. Need to avoid appearance of endorsed/paid editorial content." Which is a very fair point.

First, I should note the only newspaper experience I have was when I worked on my high school paper. I may have filled every roll imaginable, but doesn't mean I have a clue what I'm talking about. Still, here goes.

Why can't papers do something similiar to what Google does? Instead of selling ad space in specific sections or pages, why not sell it based on context. Basically once an article is written, someone reads the article and assigned 3-4 tags to it. In the case of Summer of Dresses they could have been dresses, local, clothing, and maybe summer. This would need some thought to make this really work.

Then, once an article has been flagged as ready for print, the tags go up and it's possible for advertisers to bid on ads that will be placed next to the article in question. You would need a system to handle allowances for size, color, and even the possiblity that no ads would appear next to the article. This would allow the potential for contextual advertising next to articles. And if the process was known to the public, it would limit the chances someone would think an advertiser was sponsoring content.

It may even be possible for advertisers to put in a timeframe where they want to bid X number of dollars on spots next to any articles with certain tags or combination of tags available to them. I still think newspapers could allow day of bidding, but this would allow advertisers to relax and not worry about being online at 7 o'clock bidding on articles they think are useful.

This would likely need to be limited to specific parts of the paper. Maybe just the special insert section. So it wouldn't be that much different than it is today, but if even the special sections had more relevant advertising, it would increase advertising revenues.

I'm just throwing ideas out there. I want newspapers to succeed, because we need them. Anyone can decry the death of main stream media, but the truth is "new media" still doesn't know how to track down a story. Journalists can't work for free, and we need someone to pay their way. This idea just came about because I saw an article and thought, why isn't a local shop being advertised? The logistics and technology behind something like this would be massive. But as we slowly move to an online world were every ad is more and more focused at the individual, maybe newspapers need to find a way to do the same.

Hey, I Bought A Bike

[caption id="attachment_2047" align="alignright" width="600" caption="The Bike*"][/caption]

Remember when I was whining because I couldn't find a bike I liked. It worked.

I'm now a proud owner of a 1980's Fuji 10-speed. It's in great shape. Other than needing a new saddle and some new wrap on the bars it's pretty much good to go. I found it on Craigslist and after a back and forth conversation trying to figure out when I could stop by to look at it, I managed to get over to Northeast Minneapolis to give it a ride. I really liked it. It's solid, quick, and in incredible shape for it's age. I'm not positive but I think almost everything but the wheels are original. I'm sort of sad that I need to replace the saddle since it's the original and still has the Fuji logo on it, but it has a tear and is really worn. The bar wrap is very worn down as well, basically like holding onto plastic.

I rode it home last night in the dark. I'm not proud of the fact that I didn't have any lights, but it was a one time deal. It will be fitted with appropriate safety measures by Saturday. I'm very excited I'm back on two wheels. It will make the summer a lot more enjoyable.

*Better photos to come.

Bike Shopping

My bike was stolen last fall, it happened just before the weather turned so I didn't bother finding a new bike. I actually was given a bike by some friends, a pretty nice single speed that got me through the last two weeks of summer. This spring I fully intended on buying a new bike. Something a little larger than what I had been given, a little faster and more nimble. Then the crank fell off the bike I was using which meant I was bikeless. So to the bike shops I went.

But it turns out bike shopping just isn't working for me. I don't know why. I wander into a bike shop, look around, see a few things I sort of think look neat, but nothing catches my eye. It's been an extremely frustrating experience, and I have no one to blame but myself.

I use my bike as my main form of transport during the summer. I don't typically commute on my bike, but I do try to ride it to the light rail a few times a week. This is only about a 2 mile ride, so it's a pretty small portion of what it's used for. Bike on city streets. I'm not a leisurely biker, when I'm going somewhere I generally want to get there. My bike gets locked up downtown in the evenings, and will be ridden in the rain on occasion. It will go on 30 or 40 miles rides once in a while, though the majority of times it's probably ridden less than 5 miles at a time.

I could buy something used, I've been pursuing Craigslist on occasion, but nothing has really jumped out at me. I've also visited a few of the used bike shops in the city. I've yet to find anything that excites me there, at least nothing that is in my size.

A couple other things. I thought I wanted gears, but the more I look the more I wonder if I should even bother. My budget isn't set either, which is making things more difficult. I also have very little bike maintenance experience. And yes, I know I can take classes and that I should take classes, but I know myself, this won't happen. I'll either learn it on my own or pay someone to do it. It's how I operate. So a used bike seems like a potentially bad idea.

I've asked for advice from numerous quarters. And received a ton of recommendations. But I thought I'd turn to my blog for potential inspiration. Anyone have a recommendation of where I should shop or what I should buy. Just remember, I'm looking for inspiration here as much as ideas, so fire away. Even if the bike in question costs as much as my car.

Keeping Busy(woah, 18 days?)

This winter got me down. It was long, cold, snowy, and miserable. And it's still hanging on, though we keep getting glimpses of a world where spring does exist. But as winter progressed, especially after my 2 week sickness in January, my social life stopped. Weekends were spent with me at home, watching Netflix, playing games or reading. It wasn't awful, but it definitly wasn't the sort of lifestyle that made last year one of the best years ever.

With the coming of April, and the hope that spring would actually arrive one day, that changed. Weekend have become social endeavors once again. The winter dolldrums have passed and I'm once again running around town trying to stay out of trouble.

The thing is, it's spread, my weekend business is suddenly weekday business. In fact, I was going to schedule dinner with a friend last night and looked at my calendar to see when I would be free. Other than a loan Saturday night I decided to keep for myself, I wasn't free until the 18th. THE 18th. Good lord. And the 20th - 22nd are packed with goodness as well.

The final third of my month is still mostly free, but I'm positive that will change over the next few weeks. Anyway, here are a few of the public events I'm going to be participating in in May. I hope to see one or two of you at them.

  • Tonight - Metro Mag's Men's night and Summer of Dresses' Frocktails. Red Stag Supper Club and Aster Cafe
  • Thursday (5/5/)Cinco De Mayo and a Tumblr Meetup at the CC Club
  • Saturday (5/7) Midtown and Mill City Farmers Markets open
  • 5/15 - Lyn Lake Street Fest - Happening on Lyndale between 28th and Lake, this is going to rock. The musical lineup is excellent, I highly recommend setting aside this day and possibly the following Monday right now.
  • 5/16 - I'm technically staying home, but Active First Dates will be hosting a #datechat on Twitter. It's a cool little event that is run by Cyber Dating Sidekick.
  • 5/17 - The TC Daily Planet has their birthday party.