Februdairy Fails

Inspired by Veganuary, Dairy farmers have hopped onto the bandwagon, aiming to cut a slice of its success.

The vegan community’s online campaign to encourage society to try out a plant based diet for the month of January has bloomed inspiration across the farming community. The aims of the gaudily named ‘Februdairy‘ are to flood social media with milk – specifically, positive messages about milk production.

Dairy farmers are being rallied; encouraged to share 28 short, positive posts about Dairy using the hashtag #februdairy to celebrate every milky stream of the industry.

What a load of bullocks!

The initiative was first schemed up of 12 months ago, in what I fondly imagine as, an envious fervour among industry experts. It gained some form of traction after an independent livestock sustainability consultant, Dr Jude Capper shortsightedly tweeted:

“Whenever I speak to groups, I always say you need five positive messages about farming to counter one negative one”

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Just think about that a minute:

“Whenever I speak to groups, I always say you need five positive messages about farming to counter one negative one

I still feel like banging my head off my desk when I read that. Honestly, instead of skirting around the issue with counter initiatives hoping to share pictures of cute calves, I wonder if Dr Capper ever considered undertakingsome root cause analysis on this little observation?

Quantitatively, five tweets does not seem like a lot to overshadow the truth behind dairy production. The truth behind which has taken a long time to break into the mainstream.

Februdairy is a reactionary movement; a jerking knee following decline profits across the dairy industry. US dairy sales will drop by over 10% by 2020; a trend that can be witnessed across the Western world. Since last February a whole heap of stats highlighted the global shift towards plant-based alternative foods.

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It seems we stand upon the precipice of a war, where the rivers will run white…with milk. It seems the unfortunate farmers may have retreated from the first battle; probably, due to the shortsightedness of the ‘five positive messages‘ sentiment previously discussed.

Regrettably, sharing happy images of happy cows is a little futile when said cows are being:

  1. Artificially inseminated
  2. Separated from their mother
  3. Slaughtered during infancy

Honestly, if there’s a PR officer that can put a positive spin on that in five tweets, find them and point them towards Donald Trump; talent is talent.

Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Dallas

 

The campaign has been stamped ‘counterproductive‘ by the National Farming Unions president, who admitted it wasn’t necessarily a good idea to begin with.

Andrew McCornick of the NFU said that ‘promoting the benefits of eating meat and dairy’ would be better than the campaign; because, ‘it would allow people to make that decision themselves.’

McCornick makes a solid point; people should be able to make their own decisions. But, to make decisions a populace must be informed. Coming from an Irish society, I grew up drinking a glass of milk with my dinner; worshipping Cheesestrings; and thinking, that producing milk was something that cows naturally did all year round.

I was ignorant. Promoting the benefits of eating milk and dairy is what the farming industry has been doing for decades – and it breeds ignorance.

Where’s the honesty in it all?

At the end of the day, it’s a person’s own choice if they want to be vegan, but what I don’t like is that some vegans are forcing their opinions onto other people, and making our industry look bad – McCornick said.

One of the most modern concerns we have on the internet is ‘preaching’. Some might say this post is preaching, some might say I’m a vegan trying to force my opinion.

At the end of the day, people will think what they want about this; the way people think what they want about anything. But people can only think about what they know of. That’s why hiding, or misconstruing information is dangerous.

We’ve been listening to biased information from the dairy industry for decades. Maybe Februdairy is a chance to reconsider what we have, and haven’t, been listening to.

Maybe we had begun to reconsider, and maybe that’s why the dairy industry is urging farmers to abandon the cause.

 

 

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The Trials and Tribulations of an Ignorant, Irish Vegan

I’ve preached it before, and I’ll preach it again; it isn’t easy for an Irish person to go vegan.

This is where the chorus of booing begins, and the stubborn Gaeilgeoir’s perk their ears, should the conversation involve them.

I simply mean that as a culture, our food, traditionally, excludes meals that would easily translate to a plant-based lifestyle. Irish food is globally renowned as ‘hearty’; we’re a nation of pub-grub lovers, a meat and spuds kind of crowd. Without something familiar to revert to, it’s hard to deviate away from the norm and the food that mammy used to make: the food you grew up with. That’s why I think it’s difficult for Irish people to go vegan, it’s just so alien to the food we are used to. 

  • This is where I’d like to note that our national treasure, the humble bag o’Tayto; is NOT Vegan friendly (sigh).

In my first bout of vegetarianism, I threw off the shackles of Irish cooking to embrace the exotic. Asian and Indian cuisine became my default. Unlike Irish, these diets have embraced vegetarianism in many ways; partly due to financial constraints, and partly for religious purposes – such as the Sramana movement in India, where 42% of the population refrains from eating meat.

 I looked East out of necessity in a way; here, I could see a culture with a long standing tradition of vegetarianism, with recipes that could keep me engaged during a challenging transition. We’re I to simply try and convert my standard Irish meals into plant-based meals, I’d have ended up with spuds, peas and fresh air topped with gravy. That’d be enough to discourage anyone.

So in many ways, overnight, in pledging to become vegetarian I had been forced to admit my own ignorance – I had no idea what to eat! And despite my informal, culinary education during these early days where I blundered my way through lentil-based Mung Dhal’s and Potato Massaman Curries; in becoming Vegan, yet again I must face my own unawareness of food.

Who knew so many things contained milk? Honestly, who knew how impossibly difficult it was to pick up an uncensored product in Tesco and not feel dismayed at it’s dairy listings?

I will say though that vegan options are becoming more prominent in Dublin – I can’t speak for the whole country, but there are more restaurants opting to provide plant-based options. And, there’s a vegan festival this weekend!

Moving on, I’d like to share a vegan burrito recipe that I made the other day. I’ve ‘borrowed’ elements from Oh She Glows and combined it with my very (rolls eyes) knowledgeable taste-buds.

Spicy Bean Mix

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil 
  • 150g finely diced yellow
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 200g can of chopped tomatoes 
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Sprinkle of coriander (I say a sprinkle because I can’t stand the stuff; decision rests with you!)

Avocado Lime Sauce

  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 large avocado, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus more to taste 
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste

Other S*ht you will need

  • 200g rice (choose your poison, I used a white Long Grain)
  • 1 tablespoon refined coconut oil
  • Salsa (at your own discretion, no-one will judge)
  • Sliced scallion, to garnish
  • Sliced cherry tomatoes, to garnish (optional)

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  1. To cook the rice, add it and one tablespoon of oil into a medium pot, along with some water. Bring to the boil, and then immediately allow to simmer; covering it with a lid. Cook the rice until it doesn’t hurt your teeth to eat it, and the water is absorbed. For white rice, this takes 15-20 minutes, but if you’re using a different type then please, follow package instructions.
  2. Whilst the rice is doing its thing, add some oil to a large pan and apply a medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic and a dash of salt and gently sauté until soft.
  3. Next, pour in the can of chopped tomatoes and add the various herbs and spices. Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes, so that the tomato has time to absorb all the flavours.
  4. Add the tomato pasta and the squeaky-clean, drained black beans (sidenote: please rinse beans to avoid becoming a farty vegan, see here). Allow a few minutes to further cook, adding salt if desired. If you’re using coriander, now is the perfect time to add it in! And, you’re finished! 
  5. Lastly, I’d advise making this delicious Avocado-Lime Sauce. To do so, mince the clove of garlic in a blender; adding the avocado, lime juice, water and salt. Let it whiz about until it’s smooth and then add further lime juice if you fancy; you have the power.
  6. The presentation lies with you; I won’t dictate how you serve this delicious stuff. I ate my burrito in a bowl, simply dividing the mixture across a base of rice with a beautiful line of lime sauce. Throw some scallions on the top, (tomatoes if you wanna) and that’s it! Enjoy!

Revolutions, not Resolutions

Dear Diary, it’s been exactly one month since I last wrote. Chained to my desk, I’m struggling to shake this persistent morning fatigue that has plagued me since the Christmas break. Sipping upon a thick, stewed brew of coffee, I’ve stretched my fingers to the sky, ready to type.

Today’s post is all about REVOLUTIONS – not resolutions.

Since January 1st, I’ve began upon a path to better myself in a number of ways. Constructing new, healthier, habits that will (hopefully) influence both my health and attitude throughout life. Don’t worry, the irony of revealing this through a medium which I have failed to maintain does not escape me!

I say revolutions for two reasons:

1) New Year Resolutions have become somewhat of a joke; a dying fad that we no longer respect and discuss dismissively over coffee and, the biscuits that we had recently swore off eating. Perhaps this has led to the popularisation of January themes – such as veganuary, dry January etc…?

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Acknowledging and defining the “New Year, New Me” zeitgeist in a more structured and inclusive format might actually help individuals steel their resolve; we can participate in something grander than ditching butter biscuits in stoic, solitary misery.

Of course, haters relish the opportunity to ridicule such movements. They thrive in sh*tting their negativity onto threads and hashtags otherwise filled with positive people, striving to do positive things. Basically, avoid picking up the Daily Mail in January or you may be forced to read drivel such as this. Although, perhaps avoiding the Daily Mail in general is quite good advice (you’re welcome). 

2) Resolutions are so goddamn meek: Google defines a resolution as, “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” Honestly, I could firmly say “no” to a couple of drinks on a Friday night only to hear my lips sputter, “ah sure, go on then” two seconds later. I could decide I’m annoyed with my girlfriend, firmly pressing my lips to a frown, only to smile a second later at her jokes.

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It’s only a definition and I’m not in the mood for a battle in semiotics, but at it’s core, a resolution seems an unstable base to jump off from.

Why not name our personal choices something more powerful? For my ‘resolutions‘ I am:

  • Going Vegan
  • Going Dry (coughs, referring to alcohol)
  • Going for Gains!

This is no mean feat for someone who essentially spent six months on the road for work, eating sausage rolls and walking to the bar for exercise. This behavior stopped for me about October but honestly, I’ve been reeling since – struggling to get back into a healthy routine that I am comfortable with.

So I’m not just making a firm decision to change my lifestyle habits, I am revolutionizing the way I think about my diet, my attitude and the way in which I place myself in the world.

Shouldn’t we all turn our bad habits upside down and f*ck them out the window? Shake ourselves off and embrace a personal revolution? Or are we content to make firm decisions and struggle, conscious of the absence of biscuits in our lives?

Personally, this is working particularly well for me. Previously, I had focused on New Year resolutions on a micro-scale, by say giving up chocolate or cheese (my ultimate Achilles heel). Now, I’ve gone macro – I’ve leapt upon the chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve become vegan. Joining in with veganuary has forced me to cut out all the foods I consider bad anyway, and revolutionized the way I think about my diet. I’m not motivating myself by what I CAN eat, as opposed to what I CAN’T eat.

positive.pngDespite being a cynical cretin in many ways, I’m a massive believer in positive thinking and I firmly (lol) believe that the way we talk about our decisions (both internally in our minds, and externally to the world) has a massive impact on how we perceive them. 

So my advice to those of you who may be struggling already at this early stage in January is to flip the way you think about resolutions; they aren’t difficult, they are challenging. Resolutions aren’t a chore, they are an opportunity. 

1) You’re not giving up smoking; you’re simply not a smoker.
2) You’re not ‘off the drink’; you’re doing Dry January.
3) You’re not ‘staying away’ from biscuits; biscuits are staying away from you (cause you’ll smash their face in!)

Employ active and powerful terms when you talk about your resolutions, and I bet not only will the month pass faster but you might find yourself making habits for life.

 

Crash N Burn-icoot

With my girlfriend working overtime on Saturday I had an alleged seven hour gap, at the end of a busy week, to devote to my beloved Playstation. It is a rare treat to spend such time with this forgotten mistress; and, like a child writing a Christmas list, I browsed the PSN store with hope and wonder for what may come. But like many festive season’s gone by, I ended the day disappointed and with less money than I had started with.
SOB

Realizing the rarity of such an occasion, and the limitations of my time, I searched for a game that I wouldn’t have to pour a wealth of time into, something which I could dip in and out of with ease.

Granted, I had a back catalogue of unfinished games that I could have used my time to address. The Witcher 3 lays dusty – cast aside in sullen rage, having blundered into some high-level area and had my ass handed to me on a golden platter. Dragon Age: Inquisition hasn’t had a look in since I tired of the smug, self-appointed elf deity I forged in the depths of political correctness (roll your eyes at my Neutral Good alignment).

I dreamed of Bloodborne. One of the first games I enjoyed, really enjoyed, on the Playstation 4. In a world of superficial games that lacked substance in favour of ridiculous online tirades, Bloodborne was a genuine challenge. A self-effacing, dark and skillful exercise. This is where I should have invested my money, and time, but I did not.

With an ill-advised tap of a thumb, I found myself downloading Crash Bandicoot: The N Sane Trilogy.

Why did I do this? For years, I worked in a popular gaming store where we relied on trade-in’s to fuel our business. Even if I wasn’t interested in a game, I’d get whirled up into the excitement of a new release. I’d often ask my customers their review  of a game, especially if it was being sold swiftly following its release.

Crash was one of those games that flooded the shelves within the week of it’s release; with most customers complaining of it’s poor mechanics and tedious plot structure.

With no nostalgic drive pushing me towards the title, I let it sit since June. If there had been a remake of Spyro the Dragon, it would have been a different story…(see image below)

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But, I ended up with Crash. The game premiered in 1996 before my infantile hands developed the dexterity to control a joy pad, much less before my brain had grown to understand the complex images projected by a console. But at 24, I’m disappointed to learn that I still lack the necessary motor logic control this particular Bandicoot.

While the current generation’s graphics serve a beautifully rich remake of the Series, the controls are unfortunately stuck in the 90’s. Vicarious Visions retained the original controls in an ill-advised attempt to add authenticity to the experience; to say that great precision and patience to play each of the three games would be an understatement.

These games are difficult. After a couple of hours of twisting my Dualshock 4 controller in slick, tensed hands – I abandoned the first game. Hearing the words ‘Game-Over’ was becoming a massive trigger, with each re-iteration pushing me over the edge a little further than the last.

In order to justify my unusual failure with the game, I began looking at reviews, only to discover that Vicarious Visions had built the jumping mechanics around the games from Crash Bandicoot: Warped. Reportedly, this has caused issues with the first game when attempting shorter, more precise jumps as Crash’s jumps are a little longer in the later titles.

This small tweak has led to me missing platforms, getting burnt to smithereens, being eaten by mutated Venus Flytraps – GAME OVER, GAME OVER, GAME OVER.

Yet, all in all, something compels me to run home and find twenty minutes spare to punish myself with this mad marsupial. Maybe it’s the competitive streak in me, not wanting to be bested by a damned game, or maybe there’s something compelling about finding a challenge in an age of transparent games. It isn’t Bloodborne, but Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy will certainly test you – as a gamer, as a person, and as a sane member of society.

source

 

 

 

Packed Lunch 

In the tentative term of my twenties, I’m struggling to spend money on anything non-essential. My peers are clutching cocktails at lavish clubs, breaking out for brunch midweek, and generally living it up like Avengers to the Celtic Tiger. Meanwhile, I’m packing lunches in the morning; taking solace in saving €7 that otherwise would line the pockets of some local Starbucks.

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The difference is, that I am a girl torn between two worlds. Like many of Ireland’s inhabitants, I have fled my native county for greener (albeit more concrete) pastures in the capital. See, the beautiful thing about living in Dublin is that there is so much to do! Hailing from a small enough town, I carved my place in a local pub and expanded my tastes between one or two restaurants. Whereas, the City opens up a whole new world of selection – if you have the money to avail of it.

Having slummed it in Dublin as a student, I knew of its harsh impositions. Renting a flat tacked on to a musty Georgian build on the South Circular Road, which boasted ‘compact but efficient’ space for an extortionate €900 a month, I had lived above my means. My means being a slightly defunct Student Grant, and a subsidized kitchen at the expense of my parents. I soon retreated to the proverbial nest to commute for the remaining duration of my studies.

Returning to Dublin nearly six years later was not an easy choice, but one borne of necessity. At 24, I felt the overwhelming pressure to ‘move up the ladder’, to make the best of my educational training, to start paying into a pension. Remaining in my hometown was providing no immediate relief to what was beginning to feel like a ‘dead end job‘, so I looked to the Big Smoke for more opportunities.

Whilst receiving a hefty pay rise in the move, my expenses also soared. A recent survey by expat website InterNations discovered Dublin to be the fifth worst city in the world for emigrants – ranking so poorly due to the high cost of living and lack of affordable properties.

Rent has shot up by 12% in the past year, with the average cost now peaking at about €1,700 a month – that’s if you can even find an apartment to pay for! Most of the people I have spoken to have gotten a place to stay on pure chance, or through a friend.

Whilst I’m relatively lucky to be paying less than the average in rent (knocks wood), I entirely bemoan the fact I wasn’t born in Dublin! My peers gallivanting on Grafton Street, Brown Thomas bags swinging at the hips- I bet you they aren’t commuters, nor are they living in a dingy flat on the SSR. They’re bound to be living at home with Mammy and Daddy in Sandyford, giving out about donating €250 a month to the familial pot as their ‘contribution‘.

It’s cruel to complain too much though. Essentially, we are all in the same boat here – Dublin is fit to bust, as anyone who has ever attempted to get the 37 bus at peak time will tell ye. According to a report published by The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, more than 30,000 new rental properties will be needed in Dublin by 2022 to sustain new jobs.

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It’s a dog eat dog world out there; at least we can look to 2018 with a bit of optimism. The ESRI have said that some 60% of it’s members plan to offer pay increases next year. I just worry that without regulation, our greedy landlords will increase rent in tow. Because if that happens, what are we really working for? If we haven’t even disposable income to buy our lunches out, there’s little hope to be saving for a house deposit.

 

   

Inspiring Earworms 

So, it’s been approximately two months since Queens of the Stone Age released their newest album Villains. In this short period of time, I have passed probation on one job only to leave it for another; settled into a new home, in a new city; and become engaged.

That’s a lot of new, you might say – and with very little relating to Queens of the Stone Age. And in some ways, both these statements are correct. You see, it’s as though I have fallen off the post-adolescent train of irresponsibility and began tumbling my way down the tracks towards adulthood at an alarming speed.

Observers may point at my hurtling form and remark, “slow down, young buck! You’re moving too fast!

It makes me ponder the very finite concept of age that we wrestle with; placing property ownership, marriage, children, all on a marble pedestal that can’t be climbed until your thirties.

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Hunched over the canteen table with my new found work colleagues, someone spoke of a recently departed *Anne, “yes, she’s very young to be promoted but sure, she’s engaged as well! And only 26!”

Uneasy laughter. Internal monologue of cursing.

Don’t judge her too harshly, guys.” I say, “after all, I’m two years younger and engaged!” 

 Uneasy laughter. Unconscious shifting in seats.

Of course, this judgement isn’t entirely unfounded; according to data compiled by the Central Statistics Office, the average age of marriage in Ireland for 2016 was 37 for men, and 33 for women in heterosexual couples. Whilst same sex couple’s tied the knot a little later at 40 and 41, respectively.

But to entertain the notion that marriage is restricted to the blessed few within this age bracket is nonsense! Why do people get married after all? Au nom de l’amour! 

It’s common for young people to rattle off a list of chronological milestones in opposition to marriage – or even, monogamy. College being a primary forerunner in the race towards Tinder glory.

But it’s these very milestones in consideration that made me say ‘yes’ to my sweetheart when she popped the question!

We’ve been together since our teenage years, withstanding thick and thin. Tackling the infamous Leaving Certificate; packing off to College for studies; moving away from home for the first time; going broke during the recession, and moving back home again; getting our first jobs; touring IKEA for our first grown-up apartment.

To swing things back round to Queens of the Stone Age, one of their recent tracks that really resonated with me was Fortress. 

One of the more personal tracks from Villains, ‘Fortress’ reflects a sentimentality that’s rare of the band. The lyrics croon; “I don’t want to fail you, so I tell you the awful truth: Everyone faces darkness on their own.”

The song, wrote by Josh Homme for his daughter, speaks of the indefinable walls we draw to surround ourselves from the world – “Your heart is like a Fortress…keep your feelings locked away.”

We promise to those that matter, that irregardless of what darkness faces them, “If ever your fortress caves, you’re always safe in mine.”

To some, marriage is just a legal rite, to others it’s a public statement. To me, it’s solidifying a promise I made to a girl, a long time ago. It’s the promise of a safe fortress, if ever mine should cave.

This is a little mushy but in an age of apathy and pessimism; but we all need somewhere to rest if ever we get lost in the wilderness of modernity.

Anyway, this inspiring earworm might not pitch as the perfect first dance, but it’s the subject of my first post and my blog title is a little nod to this.

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Rock on Queens of the Stone Age; here’s a link to Fortress if anyone is curious enough to listen.