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Where I sit down, put my feet up, and try to sound clever.

Steve Albini On The Music Industry

“Make everything about your existence as a band comfortable and sustainable and pleasant; you should enjoy it. And if you find yourself doing things that you don’t enjoy because you’re obliged to do them, then you’ve made a mistake and it’s too late.”

And

… it makes it harder for you to do things that you’re comfortable and happy with if you have to use your art as a way of generating your income.

 

Saving Costs: Mobile Carriers

Smartphones. Ten years ago only geeks with a lot of money and business professionals owned them. Today, pretty much everyone has a smartphone. Hell, you pretty much need one.

No longer are we chained to our desks in order to stay connected. We don’t even have to lug around a laptop, no matter how svelte it may be. We can now stay connected via the little supercomputers in our pockets.

Now, some people have iPhones. Some people have Andriod based phones. Some people have Windows Phones and there are still more than a few Blackberry’s out there. A few people spend their time vehemently arguing which one is better and making fun of/putting down people who disagree. This post isn’t about what phone people prefer. You go and get what phone you want. This post is about something we all agree on:

The mobile carriers you have to sign up and deal with for two plus years, and how they nickel and dime you into spending piles of cash.

Mobile carriers, much like ISP’s and TV providers are near universally hated. You rarely hear someone say “I LOVE my mobile carrier!” the same way they’d say “I LOVE my smartphone!” In fact, we all agree that all carriers suck in some way shape or form. And we agree that they’re all expensive.

I started giving my mobile provider the side eye once I realized that my monthly bill had climbed to over $100. Granted my employer allows me to expense some of the monthly bill, but for what I was getting I thought there may be some better deals out there.

Here is the funny thing: my charges went up after I had called the carrier to get my phone unlocked. They offered me an extra gig of data for “around the same price I’m paying now”. They would also offer a Spotify Premium account and a decent roaming package (the reason I was unlocking in the first place: Ms. Tucker and I were travelling a couple of weeks later). So I got my phone unlocked and said sure, why not? Give me the extra gig! After all, it was around the same price.

Turned out that “around the same price” was a few dollars more and didn’t include the iPhone package my old plan had (visual voicemail etc) so that cost another five bucks to get turned on. Needless to say I felt a little bit burned.

That being said, the timing could not have been more perfect. My contract was a couple months away from ending.

And I had an unlocked phone.

The Power!

Decisions, Decisions

I started shopping around. Let me tell you it isn’t easy. Especially in Canada. Up here we have two major media players, Rogers and Bell (both of which do TV, Interent, landlines, and mobile), and one moderately major player, Telus (mobile only and some internet – Telus, though, is the biggest mobile carrier on its own). There is also Shaw, which is West Coast, and Videotron, which is Quebec only, but the majority of us deal with either Telus, Rogers, or Bell. Whether we know it or not.

There are also smaller players but, surprise surprise, all are owned by the three biggies. For example:

Telus owns Koodoo and Public Mobile. Rogers owns Fido and Chatr. Bell owns Virgin and MTS Mobility. You can see the full, gory list here. So no matter who you decide to go to, it all trickles up to the big guys in some way, shape, or form.

My plan was with Fido (Rogers) and here is what I had: 3GB data, Unlimited Canada Wide Calling, Unlimited Worldwide Text, Picture and Vieo Messages from Canada to US and International numbers, , iPhone Value Pack (visual voicemail, some kind of “premium calling rate”, some 2500 call forward minutes and something called “WhoCalled” which is a text message sent to you if you don’t pick up the call; you know, just in case you don’t want to check the list or recent calls). Oh, and I got a free Spotify Premium account; I think it was for a year? I can’t remember.

Total bill after tax: $108.00.

Looking at that entire list of features I decided that most of what they tack on as a bullet point is included no matter who your provider is. Things like call display, call waiting, and basic voicemail are pretty much the norm these days. Other items such as conference calling and forwarding I’ve never used so if I don’t have it, I don’t care.

As far as Data goes, 3GB is nice, but I used to get by with 2GB and checking my usage I was normally hovering around 2GB and a couple of months I went up to 2.4-2.5GB because I was being lazy with wireless hotspots.

I use the phone for work, so unlimited calling minutes is a definite bonus. US minutes would be a good add-on as well as I call a lot of US numbers.

  • Data: 2GB (3 if deal is good)
  • Unlimited text
  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling
  • Some kind of deal on US numbers

Naturally, when shopping the for a new plan the first thing to do is check with the big providers as they seem to offer the widest range of plans and see what a comparable plan would cost without purchasing a new phone.

Those In Power

Rogers

I started here because Rogers owns Fido, the carrier I was using at the time. Rogers offers the above at 2GB, without a US number deal, for $90.00. I don’t know how much extra a US number plan would have been; you have to call. So my guess it I’d be playing the same for this package as I was with Fido and would have a gig less of data. Also, no word on if it’s month by month or contract which means most likely contract.

Bell

Bell has been a thorn in my side since I can remember. I don’t like their offerings and I don’t like their service. All of the times I’ve had to deal with Bell in the past have been horrible experiences. Truth be told they were not even on my radar for a cell phone plan but I checked them out anyway.

Bell offered pretty much the same deal as Rogers: Unlimited nationwide calling, 2GB data, unlimited texting: $90.00 and no word on if it’s month by month or contract which means most likely contract

Telus

Unlimited nationwide calling, 2.5GB data (seems arbitrary considering no one else deals in halves). $85. No mention of texting/SMS. And saving up to 95% on long distance is another $2 a month… (Small print: pay $2 a month and calls to the US are $0.10 a minute). Or pay $15 a month of US calling. I’m guessing that it’s unlimited? Also, checking more small print, certain area codes in the US are not included in the $15/month add-on and are billed at the normal rate of $0.50 a minute.

So, 2.5GB of data, unlimited Canada calling, somewhat, maybe, kinda, sorta, unlimited US calling and maybe text? $100.00. No word on if it’s month by month or contract.

The Subsidiaries

I thought the big guys would act like the big guys, and they didn’t disappoint. So moved on to the next group: The Subsidiaries.

Wind

Wind had some good deals on their website, so I went into their store and stood around being ignored for over thirty minutes before walking out. After looking into them more, I hear that their coverage sucks mostly because they built their own network – laudable considering the competition is, essentially, an oligarchy. But the coverage is like, the city. If you leave the city and hit up a suburb, you’re now roaming on a partner network and get charged a roaming fee. Go a little farther and you’re on an “away” network and get charged as so.

Wind is also a throttler; they offer “unlimited” data but you pay for, say, 3GB and once you hit that, they throttle your conneciton to nearly unusable speeds. In Winds case, they offer 4G HSPA data and then cut you down to 256 kilobits per second download and 128 kilobits per second upload. I’m not completely down on this idea, even though it seems a little whacky.

So sucky service, sucky coverage… who cares about the plans. I honestly didn’t even give them a second thought after I walked out of the store.

Vigin

I like Virgin Airlines, they’re awesome from top to bottom. I wished they still served Canada. So Virgin Mobile must be awesome too. Subsidiary of Bell. Unlimited minutes, unlimited worldwide texting, and 2GB of data for $65 a month.

Oh, Not bad, not bad at all. Let’s check the small print: Ohhhhhh…. unlimited weekends and evenings (5pm -7am). With more stuff to read about calling within Canada that doesn’t really explain anything. Also, $0.50 a minute to the US.

Koodo

They seemed to have some good deals. Koodoo does the throttling thing. They call it “Shock-Free Data”. 1+1GB (sooooo, that’s 2GB, right?) data at normal speeds (can’t find how sloe the “Shocked” data would be), unlimited Canada wide calling, 1000 international long distance minutes (that strangely does not cover the US, and there is no mention anywhere I can find about US calling) and MMS for $55. Ok, let’s click on that and see what I can add on and if there is any more small print… oh. I can’t do anything on the Koodoo website unless I’m a customer. I’m being told I have to go into a store.

Next.

Mobilicity

Merging into chatr so….

chatr

chatr is a throttler. The offer “Unlimited” data with throttling after you run through your paid data cap. They throttle the speeds from 3 Mbps to 64 kilobits per second. In other words, pretty much unusable no matter where you are in the month.

chatr also proudly advertises “No credit checks, no term contracts”.  Good.

Looking into the details they keep mentioning something called “in-zone” which is a “chatr unlimited data zone”. After some digging it works kind of the way Wind does. You go outside of this “zone” you’ll get charged extra depending on your plan.

chatr has a $45 plan that’s 2GB un-throttled data, “unlimited” talk and text but it’s in-zone only so … you know what? I don’t want to spend my time worrying if I’m burning through talk minutes or getting dinged for data just because I crossed the street. Also 3G in 2016? Should be a fallback when LTE is being wonky, not the primary speed. If that makes me sound like a privileged whiner, so be it.

All of this brought me to

Public Mobile

I tripped across Public Mobile simply because I looked up the aforementioned List of Canadian mobile phone companies. So I checked out their Wiki writeup, liked what I saw, and headed to their website.

Public Mobile is set up as budget brand under Telus. They’re entirely self service. There are no stores. There are no phone numbers to call. They have a website, a customer self service portal, and a community forum. They use the Telus LTE network which has excellent coverage (and you don’t have to worry about roaming in your own city).

There are no contracts. There are no weird fees and the small print isn’t very small. Again, the only caveat is that PM is self serve.  Here’s how they work:

  • You order a SIM card. Cost is $11.30 for shipping
  • Once you get your SIM card, you activate it and choose a plan.
    • You can port over your existing number if you still have one, or choose a new one if you don’t.
  • Pop in the SIM … if you had your number ported, you’ll get a text asking you to reboot your phone.
  • If you want, once your SIM is activated, you can get the $11.30 shipping charge refunded.
  • And… well, that’s it.

You access the self service portal to add money to your account, or set it up to auto pay depending on the schedule you chose (every 30 days? Every three months?). Have an issue? Head to the community forum and ask. The Public Mobile reps on the forum are great and help people fairly quickly.

Costs? Here is what I put together:

90 day Plan Length, Unlimited Canada and US calling, Unlimited text/MMS, 6GB data (over the 90 days, essentially 2GB every 30 days): $150.00. Or $50 a month.

What about roaming? The big guys now offer roaming where if you go into the US, you pay $5.00 a day and just use your regular data ($10.00/day overseas) and the little guys normally have some sort of roaming fee. Public Mobile offers NO roaming outside of Canada at all. Nadda. Zero. Zilch.

No problem with an unlocked phone. After some research, I found Roam Mobility. You buy a SIM for about $10.00. Activate it. Before you head to the US, purchase a plan (for example, 5 days – unlimited calling, unlimited texting, 2.5GB data: $24.75 plus tax) and go. The only caveat is that your number won’t work. You have another number. Big deal. A lot of people on the PM forums love this service.

Needless to say, I decided to give Public Mobile a try. I ordered a SIM, activated it and… ran into a glitch. Went to the community forum, sent a private message to one of the reps and they had me up and running within 30 minutes; including porting my number over from Fido. I chose the plan mentioned above and so far so good. I’m going to keep an eye on my usage over the next few months and make adjustments to my plan if need be.

The interesting thing to me is that Public Mobile is so inexpensive simply because they don’t have what people think of as “real support”. PM is entirely web based. I get it, sometimes you need to talk to a person. Honestly though, the amount of times I had to call Fido was minimal and it was never for an issue with the service. It was only account related questions. And the reason I called them was due to the fact that Fido’s web experience leaves a lot to be desired (and the help pages always points you to a phone number anyway). I like using websites for info and service. So Public Mobile is right up my alley. I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I’ve found over time that if you want to shave dollars off of services, you have to sacrifice something.

For me, Public Mobile was exactly the right choice. I’t will be interesting to try out Roam Mobility the next time I’m in the US. I’ll update here once I’ve had a chance to try it.

Conclusion

Dealing with services of any kind is always a drag. Especially when you’re looking to save money. Cell phone plans, ISP’s, Phone companies, as soon as you mention you want to cancel or move to a cheaper tier, they go into retention mode and start offering deals in order to get your money. This move to another mobile carrier was pretty easy this time around because I chose the carrier that doesn’t do the nickel and diming thing. All of the other providers would have been pushing me to add this and that and the other and I probably would have ended up paying the same or more than I was when I was with Fido.

Sure, wading through the websites of every single mobile carrier was tedious but it was worth it in the end. I found a great service for a great price and I’m no longer locked down in my choices.

Here are some tips for anyone who is nearing the end of a contract or looking to find ways to cut back on how much they are paying:

  • Buy an unlocked phone. You don’t want to be stuck in a contract where part of your monthly fee is paying for a phone you can only use on a single carrier. If you’re really serious about saving some money on your smartphone plan, save the cash and buy yourself an unlocked phone. With it you have the power to shop around and get a decent plan. As well, the resale value of an unlocked phone is greater than one that is locked in.
  • Try really hard to avoid contracts. This goes hand and hand with the first point. If you have an unlocked phone, you do not have to succumb to the almightily contract where you are locked in with a carrier for at least two years. You could end up paying for the phone, the calls, the texts, the data, and the overages… And then they want you upgrade at the end of that and keep you on the hamster wheel.
  • Combining 1 and 2, you’re going to need to get a new phone at some point. Don’t give into the offers of upgrading via a carrier, you’ll get sucked into a contract. Rather than going with a carrier “deal”, simply save for a new phone. The average upgrade time is two years. You can probably stretch this out to three or four if you take care of your device (or if you’re lucky).  Over this time, put away a few bucks a month and you’ll have enough for a new phone when your current one finally gives up the ghost. And don’t forget, you can sell your old phone for a good price because it’s unlocked.
  • Read the small print. I can’t stress this enough. Look beyond the prices and click on the little “i” or “?” icons. Find out how many minutes you actually get; does “unlimited” mean all day? Or does it mean between 6pm and 5am? What are the data overage costs? Is the small monthly charge only for new accounts, and will go up after three months? What is the coverage really like?
  • Figure out what you need before you start shopping. Look at your current usage. How many calls do you make? Do you really need unlimited minutes? Or do you only call a few people here and there? Do you really need 3GB of data a month? Or can you cut that back to, say, 1GB and make liberal use of Wi-Fi hotspots? Once you have an idea how of how much you realistically use, go forth and find a plan that fits.
  • Stick to your guns. If you have to talk to someone on the phone or go into a store to get a plan, never, ever let them talk you into something you don’t want. Stick to the list you put together based on your realistic usage and don’t let someone manning a Kisok tell you that you need more. Sure, more always sounds better, but it also costs more for something you won’t use. If they start getting pushy, walk out, or hang up.

If you have some patience and a want to save some money, then do your math, do your research, and go for it. You won’t regret it.

The Dog Ate My Update

Well shit. It’s been what? Four months or so since I put anything here? I can go on and on about how “I was meaning to update but this and this and, OMG, THIS happened. Im lazy and broke my NY resolution” and whatnot, but fuck all that. Excuses are like assholes, as they say.

Instead I’ll say: “I’ve been busy. Here is a post.”

 

Life, In General

If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. So goes the saying, so goes 2016.

Massive dumps of snow. A couple of upheavals at my work (which I survived so that’s ok). Ms. Tucker started a new, full time job which meant day camps for the kids this summer, and all that implies. There was a trip to Italy in May for our tenth anniversary, but…

Ms. Tucker was booked for surgery in April. She had a spinal compression and they hand to go in and do work on her neck. Four days before that, however, she slipped on a scarf in the front hall, fell, and broke her ankle. So three days before her spinal surgery, she was under the knife getting her foot and ankle screwed back together.

So there we were in Italy, a month and a half later, Ms. Tucker in a walking cast and using a wheelchair when one was available. I was holding her hand or pushing her chair and and helping her traverse places that were designed and built in a time where accessibility wasn’t even on the radar. Hell, they didn’t even have radars.

All in all it was an awesome vacation. Sure, it was trying at times, but we got through it and enjoyed ourselves and life is moving along at its weird pace. Although Ms Tucker was recently back in the hospital getting her foot fixed again. She’s confined to a wheelchair until at least the end of October so I’m driving her to work in the morning and picking her up in the afternoon.

We also have a family trip coming up, but at least we’ll be going to a place where accessibility will not be an issue.

Hopefully this is the end of medical issues for Ms. Tucker (and no one wants it to be over as much as her) and the family can go back to some semblance of normalcy… whatever normalcy is ;)

 

The Vegan Thing

So I went Vegan late last December. Then we went to Italy in May and I fell off the wagon. Big time. Vegan in Italy was near impossible so I threw it all out and ate whatever. This was kind of ok. I mean, I had meals ranging from super fucking awesome (strangely, the only Vegan meal I had there – which should have told me something) to absolute fucking dog vomit (a place in Venice that actually had me begging for a McDonald’s). I know, I know. I could have made the effort, and I didn’t. Sue me. There was another Vegan on the trip and even he gave up early on and went for the cheese because “you just can’t avoid it here”.

The shitty thing is that, ever since we got back, it was just way too easy to slide back into old habits. It’s been meat and dairy left right and centre for the past three months*. Part of me was like “whatever, it is what it is. The other part of me kept thinking: “Dude, you’re an asshole. You feel like shit physically. And remember Earthlings? The trailer alone scarred you. You feel like a douchebag every time you bite into a piece of (insert deal animal here), so what the hell gives?”

All that being said, the one, major thing I have noticed is that I do kind of feel like shit. By this I mean by the time 3pm rolls around I’m tired, wiped, done. I just want to fall asleep in my chair. I certainly didn’t feel like this at all between January and May. I was amazed how I felt pretty damn  good all day both physically and mentally. Now I’m back to being lethargic and grumpy more often than not.

I’ve also put weight back on. Last year around Christmas time, I weighed in at about 185 pounds. By the first week of February this year, I was at about 173-175 and I just kind of stayed there. No extra physical activity required. When an acquaintance asked me recently if I actually felt a difference with the Vegan thing or if it was just to feel better consciously. I replied that I did feel a difference. Now I really know the difference. I’m back up around the 185 level…

So fuck it. I went right back to Veganism, head first. No 90%. I’m going full tilt. And the next time I travel? I’m sticking to it. Even if all I can eat is ice soup.

 

Art

I’ve started drawing and painting again. I found inspiration when I spent time with a couple of good friends while I was in San Francisco this past March. Both are extremely talented and both showed me their works; sketches, paintings, doodles. All of it fantastic.

Looking at their works made me realize how much I miss Visual Arts. So I decided to start again.

I’m super rusty. Picking up pencils and brushes was hard at first, but it’s coming back and I’m remembering how Visual Art was therapeutic for me in so many ways. It was my first real escape. As a kid, I would lose myself in painting. I would spend untold hours in the basement, sitting at my easel, music playing in the background, painting. Whenever shit got hard to deal with, I painted. Fight with the family? Hide and paint. School going to shit? Hide and paint, Art school not cutting it? Hide and paint something other than what I was supposed to be painting (thinking back on it, that may have been part of their plan). And so on and so forth. This would be a post in itself. Maybe I’ll get around to it someday

Clarinet Busker

At some point in time that I can’t put my finger on, Art felt like it became work and I gave it up. I do know that computers were a big part of this; when I first saw Photoshop back in 1999 or so, I felt like I’d been handed the holy grail of art and design. No more cutting and pasting manually, no more dicking around with messes I had to clean up, no more making mistakes that caused me to start from scratch…

After awhile though, computer art started to feel sterile. Everyone was doing it and I pushed it off to the background and only did computer art if I had to; birthday invites for the kids, family Holiday cards, the odd graphic for the band site. Trust me when I say that I’m not one of those people who loves vinyl, or bikes with no gears, or hand powered coffee grinders (I used to have one of these and it was a fucking nightmare). Yet there was something about picking up a pencil and a paintbrush that just kind of resonated with me.

Man With Newspaper. Florence, Italy

I’ll be honest and way I’m not drawing every day. I’m only poking at it when the mood strikes. What I can say is that slowly but surely, I’m getiting the feeling back, and it feels damn good.

 

Writing

Fifteen (sixteen?) years ago I’d started writing a screenplay. I had this idea of a not-so-dystopian-future/cyberpunk story rattling around in my head and I figured that with the help of all of the super talented people I knew, a short film could be made. The problem was that the more I wrote, the bigger the story became. It ceased being a screenplay and started to take on the form of a novel. There were big busts of writing over the next year and a half followed by bigger gaps of nothing.

Here and there I’d go back to the story and re-read, edit a few paragraphs, delete a sentence or two, and try and push the the whole thing forward. Problem was I could never quite see the ending. I had this interesting idea that went… nowhere.

Last month I was in the hospital while Ms. Tucker was recovering from surgery. I was trying to sleep on a super uncomfortable chair and all of a sudden the ending came to me. Just like that. I sat up, pulled my computer out of its bag and started typing; I didn’t want to forget a thing.

The “book” is not done, but there is finally an ending in sight. I have the base laid out and know where the story going. It’s going to take a bit to actually get it there, and I’m going to have to go back and rearrange some things for the sake of continuity, but I’ll get it there. It’s so close I can taste it.

 

This N That

There are a few more things that are in various stages of draft posts:

  • We landscaped the backyard. On our own. Fist, our timeline was too aggressive for local contractors to fit in. Second, the one company that said they could do it wanted ten grand. Before tax. So I learned how to put in patio paves and sod and had at.
  • I’ve finally** taken more than a vested interest in the household finances. Big plans are afoot. Big, big plans.

So there it is for now. Life is moving along as it does. The family is good. The band is good.

Life is good.


* Seeing first hand how easy it is to slid back into just grabbing whatever from the store and the fridge made me realize how backwards and crazy we are when it comes to food on this side of the world. I mean, decent produce is always so stupidly expensive (there were times this summer where a small head of cauliflower was selling for six bucks) while factory farm meat, and all that implies, and processed “food” costs pretty much next to nothing.

** Finally, indeed. Ms. Tucker has been taking care of the finances since we met. First, budgeting and finance is something she does for fun. I play guitar, she updates the budget. She’s been trying to get me more interested in this, and it’s finally happening.

Typing Typing Typing

Writing writing writing.

Just not here of late.

i am still here and I do have a lot to rant about, trust me. Yet life has become more than a little crazy of late. At the same time, and seemingly out of nowhere, I found a spark, and see the ending of something I’ve been working on for a very long time.

Call The Wahhhhambulance!!!!

Shut up, Scott Ian. Just please shut the fuck up.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not the Internet. It’s that no one cares all that much about you anymore (if they ever did. Anthrax was always the weakest of The Big Four):

… it’s interesting that Scott Ian blames the internet seeing as how Stomp 442 only sold 115,000 units and it was released a near full five years before the whole mp3 downloading thing exploded. And their last album in 2011? It sold about 110,000. As for the two albums in-between (each which sold south of 100,000)… well maybe some of it was due to downloading but don’t forget that they were also released prior to The Big Four tour that kinda put you back on the Metal map a little bit. And seriously, until that tour in 2010, Anthrax was not on everyone’s mind (and how many NEW songs did you play on the Big Four tour, and subsequent tours? Right. Nostalgia act).

I’m so very sick and tired of these dinosaurs complaining about how things ain’t like they used to be. Go ahead Scott. Delete your website and social media accounts. Pull your music from iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else it’s available digitally. Pull the physical media from Amazon. Sell your shit only in physical record stores. See where that will get you.

No? Then shut the fuck up.

The Little Bits We Can Do, Part Two

So I’m going Vegan. Hell, I’ve gone Vegan.

This post has taken a long time to write. I really wanted to think this one through. After all, what caused this change, all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere? Me, omnivore extraordinaire, lover of all things haute cuisine (aka pretentiously cooked food), giving up meat and cheese and crème fraîche and butter?

What the everloving fuck?

While Vegan and Vegetarian cookbooks have been coming into our house for a while, and we’ve been discussing cutting a lot of “unhealthy” (read: heavily processed) food out of our lives, I’ll be honest and say it was a single, simple, selfish thing that made me really start considering a Vegan diet.

“I love fine dining. I love cooking complicated, extravagant dishes. How can I cut all the wonderful meat, cheese, eggs, etc out of my diet and still be able to cook and eat wonderfully pretentious meals?

Then dinner was at a local restaurant called Café My House.

You see, I follow a few local chefs and restaurants on Instagram. Eventually, Café My House began appearing in the Discover People feed and their dishes were making my mouth water.

Needless to say when the opportunity presented itself, reservations were made and a meal was had. Their five course sharing plate with wine pairing was simply one of best meals I’ve ever had in my life… and it was completely meat and dairy free.

(Side note, this is the greatest cocktail ever created. You need to go this restaurant just to have this drink.)

Second, Thug Kitchen and Oh She Glows came into our house by way of Holiday gifting.

Reading through these cookbooks, and thinking back on that dinner at Café My House, I started to see that all the crap I’d ever heard about vegan food is exactly that. Crap. Before me were wonderful, delicious recipes. All made with a complete absence of animal products and a completely different way to look at cooking.

This, in turn, caused me to think about the health, environmental, and humanitarian issues with eating animal products. I realized that these three items stood tall above my wanting of a super fancy dinner. I really started to take a good, hard look at Veganism.

The health issues have been studied and studied, and it’s been proven, time and again that a diet which includes meat, dairy, and processed foods can be severely detrimental to your heath. The China Study is the largest of these and pretty much solidifies the idea that a whole foods, plant based diet is the way to go.

The environmental issues are well known. If you want a good introduction to the issues of food and its impact, especially here in North America where fast food and convenience is thought of as a god given right, the documentary Food, Inc is an excellent starting point.

Humanitarian issues? We all know, or at the very least, have a vague idea of what goes on in abattoirs. In reality, there is so very much more. To put it mildly, we humans are pretty terrible with our treatment of the species of this planet. Yet we just turn a blind eye because business is business and people gotta eat. If you need a simultaneous punch in the head and gut and a kick in the ass to drive this point home, check out Earthlings. The trailer can be seen here. A warning though: it’s a super hard watch and the trailer alone (which is all I managed to get through) will put you in a grey mood for at least a couple of days.

After weighing all this I thought: Fuck it. I’m going to do this. I’m going to cut meat and dairy out of my diet.

And you know what? It hasn’t been hard at all. In fact, it’s been downright easy.

I’d always thought that giving up meat and dairy from my diet would be next to impossible. I thought it would be akin to a junky trying to kick heroin. I pictured myself shaking and sweaty, craving steak constantly or sneaking mouthfuls of cheese when no one was looking.

Since I made the decision, the week between Xmas and the New Year, I’ve eaten meat and dairy twice. The first was my sons birthday; we ate at Beckta (which was reserved in November of last year). A few days later I had a pulled pork sandwich which ended up wreaking total havoc on my insides. After that sandwich, I’ve had no meat and no dairy*.

I basically dove head first into Vegan cooking. The food we’ve been preparing, with the help of cookbooks borrowed from the library, and Vegan blogs on the Internet, has been nothing short of phenomenal. I think we’ve only repeated a couple of dishes. I find it fascinating that I’ve been able to replace every dairy based garnish, sauce, and cream with whole food options. I no longer have to resort to, or rely on, highly processed “food”. I’ll put it to you this way: I love making food for scratch and I now make pretty much every garnish, sauce, cream, “cheese”, etc from scratch… with no animal based ingredients at all.

So here we are. There is more to write, of course. Much more. And I’ll get to it in good time. For now, I’ll pause and catch my breath.

 


* The dairy thing is not completely true. I should mention that for most of January I was drinking coffee with half and half in it. My reasoning here was that there was about six litres of the stuff in the fridge – yes, I drank that much cream in my coffee – and I didn’t want to just up and waste it. So once the cream was done, about a week after the pulled pork sandwich, I was done with it (I was also using it to make crepes/pancakes/waffles for the kids so it went pretty quickly).

Strangely, this had another effect: other than the odd soy latte here and there – like one a week – I pretty much cut coffee out of my diet. I don’t really like the taste of coffee on its own. My “coffee” was pretty much lots of cream and lots of sugar and a bit of coffee. I do like soy lattes so once the half and half was gone, I set about figuring out how to froth soy milk without buying a machine. I failed. You just cannot froth soy using any of the methods found on the Internet. 

Paying five or six dollars for a soy latte every day and/or paying whatever is being charged these days for an espresso machine did not appeal to me in the slightest. So I basically gave up drinking coffee every day. Caffeine isn’t good for you anyway, so I may as well cut way, way back while i cutting everything crappy out of my diet.

Funny thing. The other day we made fajitas. For the kids, we made chicken and they had sour cream and shredded cheese (I’ll touch on this in a forthcoming entry). For us it was fried portobello mushrooms, cashew cream, and home made, fire roasted tomato salsa. Cleaning off the table, I took the spoon from the cashew cream and licked it (yeah, I’m that person) before I put it in the sink. Without even thinking about it (seriously, I was on auto pilot) I then took the spoon from the sour cream and licked it and… holy shit did it taste simply fucking gross. I can’t even describe how disgusting sour cream tastes now that it’s been removed from my diet.

 

The Little Bits We Can Do, Part One

I started writing this post on January 3, 2016…

Normally I don’t make a fuss about resolutions. I know, I know. I’m “edgy” and all that. But really, why do we have to wait until the end of the year to consider ways we can make ourselves better? Yet this is the time of year the local gyms are full of people making good on their resolutions. Don’t worry, regulars. They’ll all be gone by the middle of February at the latest.

Yet here we are. It’s 2016 and I’m writing about making myself better. The timing, however is mere coincidence.

Around the end of November I had started writing the the long overdue “Meat, Potato, and Veg” entry from my birthday dinner when a small series of events happened and I decided to take a bit document what could be considered a New Years resolution… And a pretty hefty one at that:

I’m going Vegan.

Yes, that’s right. I’m going to completely cut all animal based products out of my diet.

… more to come…

The Poor Fetish. 

“How empty if must feel to work a job that could be abolished tomorrow. One that at best makes no tangible difference to society and at worst encourages poverty, hunger and ecological collapse.”

Fantastic read