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.

Answering Questions (or one of the many reasons I didn't become a scientist)

I've always been an inquisitive type, or at least I have been for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories of school, was during second or third grade when I asked my teacher why dinosaurs couldn't have been brightly colored instead of the brown that they were always depicted as. I don't really remember the reasons she gave as to why they couldn't have been brightly colored, but I know it didn't convince me.

In highschool, I never got along with my science teacher, mainly because she was one of those incredibly intelligent people who just assumed everyone should accept what she said as truth and move on. I questioned her at every turn. I'll admit that toward the end of my time with her, I did this more to antagonize her than because I actually thought what she was saying was wrong, but still, during my last two years of high school science I grew to dislike science. Which is sad, because my earlier science teachers were usually good at teaching me to ask questions, and not to just accept things just because someone in authority said that was how it was.

This morning, I replayed my high school years a bit when I heard NASA's announcement that a lifeform that was previously unknown had been discovered. Even more amazing, it lives in a way that went against a lot of accepted theories for what was necessary for life. It was really cool for a variety of reasons. But all I could think about was the fact that I bet thousands of students throughout the year have asked, "Why couldn't life exist on planets that aren't exactly like Earth?" only to be told, "because I said so." Which leads me to my next question, what did the science teachers of those that made this discovery say when they were asked that question?

This train of thought also brought back memories of this panel, which is one of my favorite xkcd comics of all time. There is so much to love about it, and a lot of lessons to take from it. Every teacher, parent, aunt, uncle, older sister, and older brother should hang this somewhere prominent.

Vacation (Or what I do when I have no plans)

I had to burn four vacation days before the end of the year or I would lose them. Honestly, nothing would make me cry faster than wasting the opportunity to get paid to do things I enjoy. So I planned to use these days to coincide with Nanowrimo. Amazingly enough I didn't recognize the fact that this fell the week after Thanksgiving. So basically I've had 6 of the last 7 days off and have 4 more days off before I return to the office. Pretty freaking awesome.

So what have I done?

  • Washed all my laundry
  • Cleaned my entire apartment
  • Organized my pantry
  • Celebrated two Thanksgivings
  • Discovered the box of wine in my fridge is no longer drinkable
  • Cleaned my fridge
  • Finished a novel (reading one)
  • Finished a novel (writing one)
  • Got my Washington biography jones going again, I probably read 100 pages the last two days
  • Am in the process of making some killer chicken stock
  • Am also making some bread and rolls
  • Purchased a thermal carafe so I don't have to drink my entire pot of coffee in 30 minutes
  • Discovered the existence of and purchased a butter bell

I probably did other things I've forgotten about, but I've decided I'm taking four days off without any plans every year from here on out. It's been amazing so far.

I Wrote It (or what I learned during Nanowrimo)

I've been trumpeting my success across the Internet, but I can't help it. I finished a novel, 50,000+ words in November. All part of the same story. It was part of National Novel Writing Month, something I had been thinking about for about three years, and was finally talked into.

A few things I learned during this experience:

  • I'm capable of writing a novel.
  • I can churn out a remarkable number of words in a short period of time if I focus
  • You might have created your character's lives, but they still tell you what they are going to do
  • Urban Bean sometimes plays really weird music, but is always a fantastic place to write
  • Quixotic Coffee in St. Paul may pour my favorite cup of coffee in the cities
  • Amber, Art, Emily, Erica, Jen, and Ang are fantastic influences
  • Dragons are not evil, they just look mean
  • Two glasses of wine puts me to sleep, one glass makes me write more
  • My cat allergy has gotten significantly worse over the past two years of not living with a cat
  • Open Office gets really slow when the document is over 40 pages long
  • Dropbox brings piece of mind
  • Writing is hard
  • Cinnamon Raisin toast with really good butter is excellent writing fuel.

Edit: Also, I hate people asking me what my novel is about. Neither my family or my closest friends know, and I might never share it with another soul, ever. And I'm ok with that.

On Shopping Local

I started this blog back when I was almost against the concept of buying locally. I remember writing a post, though I think it never left my draft folder, about how much I disliked my hometown's local business owners complaints about how no one shopped at their respective stores.

My how things change when you move to a town with more than 200 people. My complaint about my hometown owners was that they didn't provide a product that was worth the premium they were charging. The only competitive advantage I could see was proximity, and that didn't offset the cost savings that went with driving 60 miles to the "big" city of Williston, ND.

When I first moved here, I never paid attention to local, regional, national, or other tags. I bought what I wanted, usually the least expensive thing and was fine with that. Then I started paying attention to where my food came from. I tried to keep it local, and when I couldn't I attempted regional, and so on. I did this for various reasons that I won't get into in this post, but mainly because it made sense to me. It increased my grocery budget, but not by too much.

My local food fascination led to me becoming obsessed with Farmers Markets. Last summer I visited 2-3 a week regularly. This summer I mainly visited Uptown Market, but I hit up others on occasion as well. This put me in touch with local sellers. Artists and growers mostly, but then I decided to give this soap guy a try. I mainly bought his product because he was a lot of fun to talk to, but after giving his Honey Soap a try, I decided I was going to give local producers my entire soap budget. There were a few reasons for this. One, the soap made me smell like a man and not a neutered sheep dipped in flowers. Two, it was all natural, no Sodium Larythelalsm Sulfate(or whatever that junk is). Three, it didn't cost much more.

This switch has led to me trying to be more conscious in my buying decisions. Looking at the environmental impact, the economic impact, and even the social impact of my purchases.

So what does this actually mean?

  • I want to buy from small and local businesses whenever possible
  • When forced to purchase from non-local businesses, try to focus on smaller companies, avoid the mega corporations if possible
  • Focus on quality over expense, it's better to spend twice as much today and have the product last four times as long
  • Avoid spending money at places whose ethics I do not agree with
  • Meet the owners if I can
  • Consider the environmental impact of the product, during it's lifetime, it's production, and it's disposal
  • Buy second hand when it makes sense, and donate when finished

One thing that I really want to focus on is quality. It makes no sense to me to purchase local products if that product isn't good. Minnesota wine is an example of this. Minnesota winemakers are getting better, but even now, it's hard to find a great bottle of Minnesota wine. This isn’t a dig at them, it’s just a really difficult thing to produce in our climate.

One thing about this whole shift for me is that I have more fun shopping. Walking into shops that focus on local goods is not as crazy. Again, food was the driver of this whole endeavor, and the first time I walked into a Cub after shopping at the Wedge exclusively for months, I had a small panic attack. How I navigated that clusterfuck for so long is a mystery I hope never to solve. When you have 40 choices of prepackaged cornbread, something is wrong. Plus, it’s also easier to ask questions when the seller is only one step removed from the person who made the product, and even easier to talk to the person who made the product.

Again, this isn’t me saying, “buy everything local or you’re killing our planet.” Instead, it’s just a post about why I’m making the slow transition to more local products, and with that higher quality, yet more expensive products. Local and small is just one way to do this, and it’s the path I’ve chosen. It might be cliché, but I think local products are “made with love” compared to those made in a factory, and that love aspect might just be why it rocks.

*It should be noted that I'm equating local with small. This obviously isn't true. Target, Cub, and others are local, but I'm trying to limit my purchases in these places. I didn't define small because I don't have a definition for it.

Cat vs. Dog, a Decision

I'm getting a pet you guys!

Ok, I'm not getting one today, in fact I'm not getting one until April. Not because I can't get one today, but because I'm forcing myself to wait until then to make a final decision on whether to get a cat or a dog.

There are several things to consider when it comes to choosing the type of pet I'm going to adopt. I've made one decision so far, I know I'm adopting from the humane society. Cat or dog is the question.

Reasons to get a cat:

  1. Much more self-sufficient. I can fail to come home after work and not worry about finding presents
  2. No walks in the winter
  3. I don't have to move to a new apartment
  4. Purring
  5. Laser pointer fun

Reasons to get a dog:

  1. I think they have more of a personality
  2. Unconditional love
  3. Girls like cute dogs and I can the dog on walks where girls can be found
  4. I'd get to move to Northeast, South MPLS , or some other awesome new neighborhood
  5. No litter box
  6. I'd be forced to spend more time at home

Ok, so there is much more to this than those things, but since I've giving myself plenty of time, I think I can work it out. The other issue is that I am in the process of looking for a new job. In fact, the last job I applied for would have required me to travel 50% of the time, which would have probably precluded me from getting any pet.

Anyway, I always love hearing people’s thoughts on pets. I'm neither a dog or a cat person. I'd take both at the same time, but not unless I can live in a much larger space than I can probably afford. So, try to convince me either way, I'm listening.

Some Realizations

I've learned a few things about myself the last few weeks. First, I think I finally figured out a negative things living in a really small town caused, I'm recognizing it and working on it. Second, though I work well under stress, when I take that stress home, especially when I don't realize I'm doing it, I kind of go mad. Three, I need to be social, even though staying in is good for the waistline and the budget, it's not good for my mind. I'm a social creature, I can't function when I don't get out. Four, when I go crazy, I really go crazy. Seriously, looking back on some of the things I've done and said during the last four weeks has me a little embarrassed. I didn't do anything that would prevent me from being hired by anyone I'd want to be hired by, but I still kind of frightened myself.

Anyway, I've recognized the issue, am going to work on leaving work stress at work, and am going to focus on hanging out with friends more often. Hopefully this gets me back to being just the right sort of crazy and not the utter nuttiness of the last few weeks. So you no longer have to be afraid to read this blog, I promise. Sort of.

Oh, and number five in the list of things I've come to realize, I need to start exercising again. Biking to and from places just isn't cutting it, I need to work off some excess energy.

Is K a C Killer?

It seems like only yesterday that the letter C was all the rage. We had cage, capital, cot, and cane being used everywhere. You couldn't turn your head without running into the curvy letter.

On first look, the Letter K seems to make the letter C seem obsolute. It's straight lines, they way it looks in Helvetica, and the way it rolls of the tongue seem to rival the letter C in every way. It handles words like take, took, kitten, killer, and kiss better than the letter C. K even fits perfectly into Minnesota's favorite football team's unofficial slogan, Skoal Vikings. It seems to be an all purpose fit.

All isn't roses though though. After a few days of playing with K, I discovered it doesn't handle all the words that C can. K can't replace C in replace for instance. Or instance for that matter. It doesn't fit in certain, choice, chance, or mace. It seems K just doesn't have all the features that C does.

In fact sometimes it seems it would be better to have both. Such as in clack, back, cackle, or puck. The C and the K compliment each other so well in those situations it's amazing someone hasn't come out with a letter that can do everything C and K can in one letter.

So is K a C killer? Well not yet. It appears that for now C will continue to have it's place in the market. Maybe the next version of K will be work better than C does in all situations, but for now, users will have to choose between the two based on what they want out of their letter.

A First Date By OkCupid

Today, I received an email from OkCupid with an attachment showing a flowchart to my heart. Apparently they boiled down a bunch of questions I've answered on their site and gave me a graphical representation of why I want in a girl. I was intrigued so I checked it out. What I found was the perfect way to weed out the women who are perusing me, or maybe not. In reality, it's created an insanely awkward first date.

Here is a link to the flow chart.

Me: My best friend told me he was thinking about suicide last week. He asked me to keep it to myself, but I contacted some people and now he's in therapy. So glad he told me about this. Do you think I did the right thing?

Her: Oh definitely, so glad things are working out.

Me: So is the earth or the sun bigger?

Her: What?

Me: The earth or the sun, which is the larger object?

Her: (looking at me oddly) The Sun???

Me: Good, last night I went on a date and she said the Earth, almost laughed her out of the room. (I chuckle)

Her: (inches closer to edge of the booth, looks around for possible escape routes)

Me: I noticed you promised you would be here at 7 and actually got here at 7:02, don't promises mean anything to you?

Her: Ummmm, well yeah, I got stopped by a couple looking for directions on my way in though, sorry.

Me: Oh, ok, good. I was worried there for second. Got to keep those promises, otherwise the world just falls right off it's axis. (giggles)

Her: Yeah, I guess. So how was your day?

Me: Well it was good, except for my boss keeps calling me an asshole. He started this about a month ago, what do you think I should do?

Her: Wait, he's been doing what?

Me: Calling me an asshole, it's really frustrating, I tried changing my behavior, but it's just not working.

Her: Well you should probably get him help, or just quit, that's not healthy. What did you say you do for work again?

Me: Oh, I'm an self employed writer.

Her: (takes a big gulp of her drink, edges a few inches off the booth seat, and prepares to run) Wait, you said your boss calls you an asshole? Aren't you your boss?

Me: Yeah, kind of limits my options doesn't it.

Her: Ummm, well not really, but....

Me: Wow, you have really nice teeth!

Her: Oh, (smiles, inches a bit less off the edge of the chair) thanks!

Me: Yeah, brushing your teeth is so important, so glad to see you take care of yourself.

Her: Well, thanks...I think.

Me: Yep, big on personal hygiene. Got to keep things clean. Showering is important too, how often do you shower?

Her: (inches back off the chair) Ummm, once a day.

Me: Well, that seems about right. So, is this a one night stand type thing, or do you want to see if this leads so something long term?

Her: Well, let's just stick with this drink.

Me: Oh, OK, well in that case I have one really important question to ask, do you smoke?

Her: What? Well, I smoked a cigarette a couple months ago as a friend's wedding. I smoked in high school, sometimes I just have to have one. What does it matter to you?

Me: Oh, well in that case I got to run. We are obviously not going to work. Thanks for the drink!

Why I Do What I Love (or shutting up that stupid voice)

I have this little voice in my head. Sometimes I ignore it, sometimes I only sort of listen, but on occasion it starts to drown out everything else. It makes me worry, this voice, it tell me things I know aren't true, but since it's in my head it seems plausible.

Now this voice isn't actually whispering to me, it doesn't use words, it just implants thoughts. Thoughts about girls, about jobs, about friends. Why didn't she call you back? Oh, because she's just as busy as you are? No, the voice says, again without words, it's because she doesn't like you that much, never mind the fact that when you do talk to her she always seems excited to hear your voice.

This is what the voice does, it makes me illogical, it makes me feel like I'm in high school again. It ignores the fact that I have more good friends around me now than I had people in my high school. It distracts me, puts me on edge, makes me forget that I'm a 27 year old guy who has a pretty fucking awesome life.

And the voice always wins, unless of course I find ways to ignore it. Reading used to do it for me, also video games. But those don't work that well anymore. Cooking is one way I thwart the voice now, something about sauteing onions and garlic just does it. Biking does it too, though only if I go for ride without a destination, biking for transport is good but not the same. And writing, I never thought I would be someone who needed to write. But I do, when I focus my attention on putting words into sentences, and creating thoughts that at least partially make sense, I can ignore the voice. All things things help for more than just the action, they are drugs in a sense, but good drugs.

The truth is I don't think any of these things actually stops the voice, I think they change it. I think they make it recognize just how good things are. True, I'm still single, it's not like money is never a worry, and everyone who knows me knows I'm job searching. But I have amazing friends, live in an amazing city, and all of my problems are first world problems. Something about writing, cooking, or biking, makes those things so much clearer. It reminds me that pining on the negatives doesn't make them better, that I need to let things happens and not worry about things I can't control.

Maybe it's because I can control all three things. Cooking is good because I can take the last farmer's market haul and figure out how to make it into something tasty. Biking is good because I can focus on my pace, my breathing, and how the bike is running. Writing is the same, I make the words connect to each other and hopefully what I write will resonate with one other person.

So I need to focus on doing these things more often. More cooking, more biking, and definitely more writing.

(Or I could just shut the voice up and realize I can't control everything and life will happen as it happens, but I think I'll stick with doings things I love)

On Writing (or why do I keep trying to impress people, this is about me)

Stephen King once wrote a book with the same title as this post, minus the subtitle. I only ever read portions of it, something about reading non-fiction by one of my favorite, at the time, fiction writers seemed wrong. Maybe I should have, maybe his advice would resonate and I wouldn't hit these slumps that I get myself into.

Writing here is cathartic; it helps me get thoughts out of my head that are cluttering up the place. I love getting comments, love having friends tell me they liked that one post when were having a beer, and I like, and sort of hate, looking back on my previous posts. This blog started out as a place I could be myself, and throughout its life I've stayed true to that mission, mostly.

There have been many times I've fallen off the writing bandwagon, though I think that happens to everyone. Then there have been the times when I tried to hard to impress my audience. That doesn't work, writing to impress is a lot like dressing to impress, once you start worrying about others and not yourself, it can get uncomfortable, which isn't impressive.

That's sort of what happened this time, I tried to become a brand, and not be me. I wanted to be funny, I wanted my posts to resonate with everyone, or I wanted to get Uhaul to quit screwing with my parents. I wasn't sticking with the mission of this blog, which is "I write for myself and hope I can get a few people to enjoy the ride." I would start writing a post, get a paragraph in and think, who wants to read this slop, and hit delete.

So here we go again, I'm hitting refresh and writing whatever I want, whenever I want, and doing it often. I've realized my mood has been crappy lately, and I think part of that can be attributed to not writing. I used to use Twitter as my outlet, but anymore Twitter has become a communications platform and not a place to just spout off, though I still do that occasionally. I never realized how much I needed to write until recently, so I'm bringing back "Conner's Blog" and getting to work. Well maybe I'm getting back into the playground, since the whole point of this post is that writing here shouldn't be work.