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.

No-Spend Days (an update)

I've had two people ask me about my no-spend days. At first I was just sort of embaressed, because honestly they didn't happen. Then I thought, hey, blog post idea, I can't pass those up these days.

The truth is, no-spend days were a disaster. Between traveling for work, where I ended up at happy hour almost every day, and my overall lack of planning I didn't accomplish my goals at all. But, now that I've been reminded, I think I am ready to give them a chance again. Only I'm going to modify them a bit.

Instead of planning on spending no money three days a week, I'm going to change to cash only during the week. I'm just going to pick a number out of thin air and say $40 is my limit Monday through Thursday. I'm may even try leaving my check card at home the next few weeks. This means that I have to do a better job of planning. Groceries need to be purchased on Sunday, and if I find I need something, I'm paying cash. I think this is a much better option for me. I'm still able to grab drinks with friends, or go to things like Give and Take. But if I want to eat lunch out, it's one less thing I can do in the evening.

I'm applying a few exceptions right out of the gate:

  • Dates - Same as last time, I'm allowed to break my rule for the sake of my love life.
  • Bills - They have to be paid.
  • $50 a month for groceries. I'm used to going to the grocery store 4-5 times a week, this way I can still randomly decide to roast a chicken on a Tuesday.

I have no idea how this will go, I've never been good at planning my spending in advance, so this could fail just as spectacularly as last time. But I have hope that the few tweaks I've put into place might lead to success. .

Well Happy Easter

Wait, it's Easter, when did that happen? I thought it was still March. Must be the weather that's confusing me.

"So what are you up to?" you may be asking yourself. Honestly, I don't know. Music and food mostly. I was in Portland for a week, ate way too much food. Have a half written blog post about it too. Have been to several shows, failed in baking a pie, hosted a cheese party, and a few other things.

I also decided to take up running, or at least give it a fair chance. I woke up this morning and was just about to get in the shower, when I remembered I was supposed to run this morning. So I did. I didn't go very far, and I ran a block and walked a block the entire way. Still, I felt pretty good after I was done. And then I did yoga. Very confused, just hoping this keeps up. Would be fun to begin the summer a little healthier.

A few other things. One, I redesigned and relaunched Active First Dates. I rebuilt and redesigned it on top of Wordpress, so I have a lot more functionality. You can even comment on a date idea if you want. Two, I have a couple Minnesota centric web projects in the works. I won't make any promises on the time frames for either one, but I have hope that they will both get launched in the next three to four week. Three, I have a new tumblr I created to share tidbits with the world. It will fill the gap where this blog and twitter intersect. In essence, anything less than 100 words but more than 140 characters.

So that's that. Have a fantastic holiday and see you next time, whenever that may be.

Six Steps to Make Me Like Your Company when using Social Media

I present to you six easy ways to get me to actually pay attention to you on Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else you might find me.

  1. Write in all caps at least 25% of the time. This way I know you are being serious. If you aren't yelling at me frequently I'll forget you are there and likely wander off into a giant pit of earthworms. By pit of earthworms I mean sites like this and this. If you think getting my attention away from my friends is difficult, just try getting my attention away from various stranger's dumb text messages.
  2. Constantly ask questions throughout the day. Things like, "What is your favorite pizza topping" and "What side of the wing do you like to start with" are good examples. Once you start this, never respond to a single answer anyone gives. Just ignore your audience. This way I'll continue to answer your questions. Once you respond you're just like everyone else and become boring.
  3. Never post a link to a site you don't control. If you really want to share an article your company didn't write, be sure to start a blog so you can post links there and then direct all social media traffic to that site. I'm trying to kill as much time as possible during the day so make sure we can't get to the content you're linking to easily.
  4. Check into a location based service frequently and push those check-ins to all your platforms. This might seem counterintuitive, but I really enjoy sitting down at Chipotle and look down and see Widgets Inc. just checked in as well. Even if I don't use the service in question it's amazing. I'll know what you look like by the company logo you have painted on your face and come say hi.
  5. Occasionally, be sure to have me like something or retweet a link before you will donate money to a charity . Nothing says "charitable organization" like letting me do your marketing for you before you donate money. Always do this after major disasters. Never fail to utilize the disaster to your advantage.
  6. The best thing to do is be boring. Never speak directly to me. Just announce your latest sales, your latest article, and never act like there is a person composing the updates. If you ever engage with a friend or follower, make sure it's to sell them something because they mentioned a keyword you are searching for. If you actually interact with me like a person I'll probably have to stop following you since corporations can't have personalities.

So there you have it, six simple ways to make sure I pay attention to your company.

edit: This is a joke. If you ever follow any of these points you will actually cause me to drop your company's social media efforts like a hot potato covered in acid.

Pay Walls(or how my thoughts on paid online content changed)

Today, The New York Times announced their intention of enacting a pay wall for their website. At first my reaction was somewhere between, "Idiots" and :Sure To Fail". Then, I started thinking about the issue a bit more and I slowely changed my mind. I still think the current plan for the pay wall is seriously flawed, but I also see a possibility for a change in how we access content online.

First, I should note that nytimes.com is generally the first site I go to when a major news story breaks outside of Minnesota. I also tend to explore it's many different blogs, the magazine, and other sections of the site throughout the week. As far as sites I spend time on, it's in my top 10, possibly top 5. Still, the thought of paying $15 a month to access that content seems a bit crazy to me.

However, the truth is, we need to pay for our news somehow. Advertising dollar's aren't paying the bills. As someone pointed out to me recently when I complained about still seeing ads in Hulu+, "it works for cable." We've paid for ad supported content in the past, and we're going to have to do it again unless we want our news quality to continue to suffer.

I finally realized my main issue with paying for nytimes.com access comes down to options. Today, I tend to go to at least three or four major news sites every day. CNN, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NPR, and BBC news get visited two or three times each throughout the day, even more so in the initial stages of a major story. Throw in MPR, Minnpost, Star Tribune, and the Pioneer Press for Minnesota news, and I have 10 websites that I visit for news throughout the day. Ad in the sources I visit via links on Twitter, Facebook, and my RSS feeds and your looking at upwards of 20 sites a day I visit for news.

For me, that's the biggest issue with paying for the subscription to the New York Times website. It's not that I don't want to pay someone for my news, it's that I don't want to be tied to any specific site. Once we start having pay walls eveywhere, which will happen if the New York Times succeeds, you're stuck with one source for the news or stuck paying multiple subscription fees. Even if every site has a 15 article allowance for free access, you're still limited.

What's the solution? I certainly don't have the answer. I just know that it's not longer the concept of paying for content that bothers me about online pay walls, it's the concept of being tied to a single source.

Green and Hockey (or how my weekend is going to be epic)

Happy St. Patrick's day everyone. Hope you remembered your green, have a stock of good Irish whiskey and beer on hand, and have a safe and sober ride to wherever you are planning on celebrating today.

Today marks the start of one of my favorite traditions. First, it's the beginning of March Madness. The NCAA's basketball tournament that is, at least in my opinion, the best major sporting event of the year. The fact that it coincides with the start of spring most years might have something to do with this. But there are also the upsets, the ridiculous amount of games happening at the same time, the bracket, and the fact that every year some team wins several games they aren't supposed to.

Then we add the men's WCHA hockey tournament in St. Paul, where the UND Fighting Sioux are the favorites to win the entire tournament, and my sports itch is pretty much scratched until the Twins start playing again. College hockey is one of my favorite sports, and I get to enjoy it with some of my friend's from college. It tends to be a crazy fun weekend regardless of how UND does. This means I'm going to be in downtown St. Paul for St. Patrick's day with no work the next day.

This weekend is one of my favorite's, and I'm ready for it to start. Just four hours of work today and then I get to enjoy my first vacation hours of the year. I'm pretty excited.

Walking (and getting lost, sort of)

I took this photo on Sunday from one of the skyways over Hennepin. I took it because snow was just starting to fall and the fog over the Hennepin bridge into northeast was really neat. I didn't really capture that, but still loved the way the photo turned out.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been walking a lot to keep winter from totally defeating me. I've probably put more miles on my shoes in the last month than I did the previous three combined. Sunday I had a destination, I had something to return at Target, but after I had accomplished that mission I just started wandering around downtown. I wasn't ready to go home and it was a pretty nice day. I ended up going to see True Grit which was fantastic. I'm finding it fun rediscovering the joy of just walking, I definitely intend on keeping up the walking in the summer, even though I'm crazy excited to get back on the bike.

Winter's Mean Spirited Embrace

Winter has defeated me. It's true, for the first time in years, I'm sick enough of winter that I'm seriously contemplating getting out and moving somewhere else. But, since I know we are nearing the end, (seriously, it's true) I'm fighting through and will not go crazy. Some things I've learned about myself since succombing to winter's depressive nature.

  • Music can dramatically improve my mood
  • Especially when paired with walking
  • Even when the temperature is in the single digits, walking somewhere instead of busing or driving makes me feel much better about things.
  • I still like to tinker with technology. It's not really a good day until I think I break something.
  • As always, cooking is my favorite activity, I've actually only eaten at a restaurant once in the past week.
  • I love my apartment, finally
  • I still suck at blogging

In reality, the main takeaway from this winter has been that I have to take better care of myself next winter. My two week sickness in January took a lot out of me and I never really recovered. On a positive note, my empty social calendar has led to me accomplishing a lot around the apartment which I had been meaning to do since I moved in. I am actually excited to have people over sometime soon.

Oh Memories (or I don't actually remember this)

I was purging some stuff from my apartment today and dug out my "memory" bin from under my bed. I opened up my old high school comp papers and came across this little gem. Which I have no recollection of actually happening. I actually emailed my mom to find out if she remembers it.

It was the summer of 1990 and Park lake, which is the lake south of our house, was as dry as a parched desert. We had planted oats there, and they were tall, at least three and a half feet tall if they were an inch. It was the beginning of autumn and we were in the middle of harvest and my parentswere out in the lake trying to get the old green and white Ford grain truck up asteep slope out of the lake. About half way up the hill, the old truck just stopped dead in it’s tracks and just would not start.After spending about fifteen minutes trying to start it, my dad decided it would be a good idea to try and put gas in the carburetor to help it start,this might have worked another time, but it didn’t work that time and becausethe gas was near the hot engine a fire started in the truck.It was very dry and my parents Where worried about the sparks catching the prairie grasses on fire, so my dad thought quickly and tossed some dirt in the engine. This put out the fire but made it impossible to start the truck, and because they had no other vehicle they ended up having to Walk back to the house in roasting hot weather about one and a half miles on the dusty dirt roads. After they got back, they had to turn around and go right back again. I guess my parents learned from that experience becausewe quit farming the lake soon after that summer.

 

It's a bird, it's a plane. No, it's a blog post.

Has it really been this long? Yes, yes it has. I don't know why I don't write here anymore. It's definitly not you, it's all me. My readers were and are awesome and I wish I spent more time with you.

I'd like to write a post promising I'd write more, 3 times a week, 3 times a month, anything would be better than what I've been doing lately. But I'm not going to do that, mainly because I've done it before and we all know how well that worked.

On the other hand, it wasn't that long ago that I set out to write a 50,000 word (yes, this said pages earlier) novel in a month, and accomplished the mission. It seems like I should be able to take that energy and pour it into this blog to get it running again. Even if I wrote a quarter of that, it would be more than enough content for a post every weekday for the month.

So I'm challenging myself to put together more posts over the next three months. Even if it's not here. I hope to write up a post for my friend Doniree's site, Nomadic Foodies, in February or March, and maybe I'll find some other outlets to pique my interest.

Mainly what I'm trying to say is spare me the pruning for another month. I'm not promising anything, but you never know.

Penny Pinching (or a decision to spend less by spending less often)

I come to a scary realization last week; I hadn't gone a single day in two weeks without spending money. A quick review of my finances showed that this wasn't a positive thing. I spent part of the weekend, and the beginning of this week trying to decide what to do. I needed to rethink my budgeting strategy once again. I was doing really well for a while, keeping my spending in check, bringing lunch to work every day, etc. However, things had broken down again, and I've decided I need to do something new to get myself back on track.

So I'm introducing #nospend days to my week. My new goal is to go three days per week without spending a penny. Now, this only applied to things purchased in stores, if bills are due, they will be paid regardless of whether the day was a #nospend day. I'm also allowing myself a few exceptions for the first two months of this project. I can spend money on transportation, suck as gas or reloading my Go-To Card and necessary essentials, such as toothpaste, toilet paper, and deodorant. After these two months are up, I hope I will have improved my budgeting enough to prepare for the days ahead.

The truth is, this shouldn't be that hard. There is no reason why I need to spend money more than 4 days a week. Especially in the winter when half the time I would rather bathe in rancid butter than walk back outside when I get home. There is a good possibility I'll revisit this plan come summer. Still, I think it will help, not just financially, but in getting to a point where I plan my meals for the week in advance, have more social gatherings at my home, and other things we all should probably do more of.

There is one caveat to this, and that is that it won't be possible in January. Since I'll be living in a hotel room without a way to cook my own meals, I will be forced to go out to lunch and dinner daily. But, if I only allow myself to spend money on those two things 3 days a week, I'll be in good shape.

Oh, and dates. If I meet someone and decide to go bowling, ice-skating, or out for a drink on a day I had designate as a #nospend day, I'm giving myself a break. Just in case, someone notices and decides to call me out.