The 2018 Giants Draft

OK, so this is the first NFL related blog post I’ve written on here. I’ve been an NFL fan for a long time and the Giants have always been my team. After a few great years with 2 Superbowls in recent memory, last year was a train wreck. The Giants cleared house, out went the head coach and the GM and in came the promise of a high draft pick, No 2, the highest the Giants have had in decades.

For those that don’t know, the NFL selects players from the college ranks every year who are eligible and have declared that they wish to leave college and enter the pro-game. The team with the worst record from the previous season gets the first pick, and the team with the best record gets the last pick. There are seven rounds of picks. Its a little more complicated than that, but you’ve enough there to understand if you know nothing about the sport that the Giants were god awful last season, hence the number 2 pick.

Round 1 – The Giants opened by taking a running back, Saquon Barkley. Barkley is probably the most talented player in this draft at any position. Big things are expected of him and without doubt he has the potential to dominate the league for the next 10 years at running back. Barklay seems an intelligent level headed young man, he was calm and assured in his first press conference as a Giant and appears to know how to say the right things, or better yet, say nothing at all, much like Eli Manning. This is a positive thing in New York with the media circus. That being said, I am not a fan of this pick, not because of any problems with Barkley, but rather the position he plays. Running backs are disposable in the NFL nowadays. They play 4-5 years, get hurt and end up in a rotation somewhere and you never hear from them again. Moreover the difference between an elite running back and a committee of good enough running backs isn’t that large. If we think back to the truly outstanding backs of the last 10-15 years we thing of Adrian Peterson and LaDanian Tomlinson. Both truely elite players in their prime. Neither of them carried their side to a Superbowl. The Giants have much bigger needs right now, namely at quarterback and are unlikely to pick this high again in the years to come so if they haven’t got a QB this year, then they could struggle to get one in years to come, unless they trade up which costs future draft picks, which are not really spent on that QB, but have been spent on Barklay. I wish him all the best and I don’t have any real doubt that he will succeed. Its just that the Giants had bigger problems that should and could have been addressed with this pick.

Round 2 – The Giants selected offensive guard, Will Hernandez. Hernandez is very likely a day one starter and will bring help to the Giants offensive line which has been frankly terrible for some time now. He will be a big asset in the run game and he plays the game with a mean nasty streak that quite frankly I like. He comes across as an intelligent grounded young man, just like Barklay and that’s important everywhere, but especially in New York. We’re not going to be reading about him in the papers for the wrong reasons. This pick is a great bit of business and will be a big help to Barklay in year one, who the Giants are clearly hoping to lean on.

Round 3 – In round three the Giants selected Lorenzo Carter, an Outside Linebacker. The Giants were once famous for their Linebackers but that hasn’t been true since the 80’s and in recent years, this has been a constantly neglected unit on the roster. Perhaps an overall reflection of how the league has changed, your number 3 corner is now far more important than your number 3 linebacker. In any event, we’re here in round 3 and the Giants have picked another guy likely to be a day one starter. Thats tremendous value. The Giants have beefed up the linebacker unit considerably this offseason and the addition of Carter will be welcome. Carter can get after the passer from the Outside Linebacker spot and thats something the Giants needed badly having ranked 29th out of 32 teams last season. I mentioned that the Giants were terrible last season right?

Round 3 – The Giants had a second pick in round three, I did say it was more complicated, but anyway, they chose to use that pick on a defensive tackle BJ Hill. Hill is a good athlete and has the size you look for in a D Tackle. He played with Bradley Chubb in college so may have had an easier time than you’d expect with opposition teams focused on Chubb. Hill a two down DT who should be able to play well against the run, but he needs a little work. He’s no pro-ready but you can’t always expect that from a round three pick. In time he may become a starter or he could flame out. It’s a good value pick at this point though.

Round 4 – Giants took quarterback Kyle Lauletta from Richmond. Lauletta is a good player who moves well. The knock on him is questionable arm strength. It’s not unusual for NFL teams to take a QB in the later rounds and see if they can develop him into something. The problem is the Giants already have that player on their roster and his name is Davis Webb. Because last season was so badly managed, when the Giants were out of contention management refused to put Webb in the game and so the Giants have no idea what he is capable of in game situations. One suspects that he is not highly rated by the current management team, otherwise they wouldn’t have drafted Lauletta. It’s an admission though that the QB position is not where it needs to be in New York and makes the pick of Barklay look more like a luxury pick.

Round 5 – Last pick was RJ MacIntosh, a defensive tackle from Miami. MacIntosh has long arms and will provide depth on the d-line. He’s likely to contribute on special teams and perhaps as spot cover on defense but he needs to improve if he’s going earn significant playing time on defense.

Ed Rating – 7 out of 10

I am not a fan of the Barklay pick and I think the round 4 pick of a project QB makes it look even worse. That being said the Giants have unquestionably added a lot of talent in this draft and the team is instantly improved. If everyone stays healthy next year (a real challenge for the Giants, see again, train wreck that was last season) then the offense has the chance to be special. It may be held back however by the 37-year-old quarterback the Giants have failed to replace.

 

The Defiant Ones

The Defiant Ones is a HBO show currently available on Netflix. The show revolves around Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre and tells the story of both of them coming up from completely different backgrounds and successes and failures they enjoyed along the way.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of what is contained in the show, but the story is compelling and its weaved together in such a way as to pull the viewer in and it just keeps bouncing along. As happens with anything good on Netflix, you binge watch it over a day or two and it’s done. You know its good when it’s one am in the morning and you’re on your couch and you can’t stop yourself from putting on the next episode.

It’s a documentary in several parts which a huge number of music stars have contributed to in the form of long interviews. One of the things that is revealed, which would not be apparent to armchair music fans like me, who like music but aren’t regular readers of Rolling Stone, is the incredible web of talent that Jimmy Iovine has been involved with, everything from Bruce Springsteen, U2, to Gwen Stefani, Nine-Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. Each of them make a meaningful contribution to the show although some make a more involved contribution than others, Bono, I’m looking at you.

The other thing it shed some light on for me that I was not particularly aware of is the whole East Coast / West Coast Rap rivalry thing that took place in the late 90’s and early 00’s. I was aware of it vaguely but the show gets into some detail that again, unless you were reading Rolling Stone or were massively into hip-hop, you won’t be aware of.

Backed by an amazing soundtrack of hits from the RnB and Rock and Pop world, the show is as much a feast for the ears as it is for the eyes. You’ll find yourself humming along over and over again to songs by artists you weren’t aware were even vaguely connected.

If I was to make a minor criticism, it is certainly a bit hagiographic, especially in relation to Dr. Dre. and Snoop Dogg. Both men have a chequered past, violence against women, shootings, and jail time, which while covered and talked about, are moved on from fairly quickly and sort of brushed away a little bit under the guise of that was back then, or that was a crazy time. It’s also worth noting that the death of 2-Pac is covered but the death of Biggy Small is completely ignored, I’m not sure why. It certainly fits with the narrative of violence and gangster lifestyle that the show largely revolves around. It strikes me that it was a decision made by a lawyer somewhere and there is tape related to it on a cutting room floor somewhere.

One of the interesting narratives that comes through is the repeated end of humanity that seems to come around with each new generation of musicians that become popular. Gangster Rap was corrupting the youth, then Nine Inch Nails, then Marilyn Manson, then Eminem. It goes back further than that of course, right back to the 50’s when Rock & Roll was being described as Satan’s music by the church, but it is interesting to see it laid out in sequence as it is in this show. It’s one of the criticisms of modern music is that it’s not offensive to middle aged white guys as I have become. My teenager listens to nothing that I find vaguely offensive, because that music just doesn’t get made anymore. Why? Because Spotify and Apple Music and the likes don’t want the controversy and are happy making billions selling Justin Timberlake and Ed Sheeran records. Anyway, I digress.

 

 

Ed Rating: 9/10

Fabulously entertaining, it sucks you in and as with all good shows on Netflix, you can’t help yourself but to watch several episodes in a row late into the early hours of the morning. Is it perfect, no it’s not. But it is a ripping good watch and you won’t regret putting a few hours into it.

Blacks of Kinsale – Worlds End Chocolate Vanilla Imperial Stout

Worlds End Chocolate Vanilla Imperial Stout is a sweet dark stout beer made by Blacks of Kinsale Brewery. Upon opening the bottle the smell of chocolate is immediate. It is quickly followed by a vanilla undertone. The taste of the beer is not complex but it is powerful. It’s a sweet dark chocolate flavour with almost no trace of malt and absolutely no trace of Hops. It is reminiscent of the Narwhal sampled a few weeks ago, but with the volume turned down to a more tolerable level. It’s very much a sipping beer to work your way through over a period of time and probably one is enough given the sweetness. One is probably enough anyway given the 8.5% ABV. It would do well to be paired with food, the sweetness is heavy work on its own after a while.

In the glass the beer is a dark black beer, there is only the merest hint of a red colour around the edges when held up to the light. There is no fizz to speak of and no head at all. The bottle is well enough presented, albeit the label is a little busy. The raven on the label is becoming more and more familiar site in off-licenses and supermarkets as they expand their range and find themselves in a wider and wider range of outlets. It currently retails at €4.50 in O’Brien’s off-license, making it at the upper end of the price range.

Blacks are a proper craft brewery, newly established in 2013, no doubt aided by the rise in popularity of non-mainstream beers. It’s a family run establishment that grew from a hobby into a livelihood and it’s great to see an Irish business like that doing well. Their avowed aim is to produce beers with passion and personality and they have certainly achieved that with this beer. Yours truly appreciates that they haven’t attempted to tart up the beer with a convoluted nonsense backstory like we see with many of the craft beers that are out there.

It’s not knocking my socks off if I’m completely honest. As with the Narwhal it’s something you’re either going to like or you’re not. I respect it for what it is, it’s a beer with a point, with a genuine attempt to make a statement with flavour. It’s afraid of what it is, it knows some people won’t like it and it’s unapologetic for it. It’s not my cup of tea, if someone handed it to me I’d drink it but I won’t be rushing out to buy another one.

Final Score: 6/10

I really wanted to like this beer more, it ticks a lot of boxes for me, Irish made, family business, really bold flavours, but the chocolate-sweet thing really isn’t my bag.

 

 

 

CUTE HOOR IRISH PALE ALE

Cute Hoor Irish Pale Ale is an ale brewed and distributed by Heineken Ireland. Here we have another “craft” beer on the market that is in fact a beer made by a massive international drinks consortium trying to cash in on the ever growing craft beer market. The eponymous lager produced by Heineken is to fine craft beer as a Big Mac is to fine dining.

However, that’s not the fault of the beer that it’s made by Heineken, so I won’t ramble on any more about the evils of globalisation and the crushing rigidity and conformity of the marketing machine that drives everything toward the safest, banal, middle ground in an effort to maximise shareholder value by pedalling as much mass appeal product as possible.

The beer itself is a pleasant enough drink. It’s well balanced between hops and malt, with the hops slightly coming out on top. You can definitely taste a roast flavour off it, it would work well with a Sunday lunch. Its light enough that you could work your way through a few pints without that bloated feeling you get sometimes from heavy beer.

The colour is a dark golden colour with a pale head which doesn’t disappear.

The bottle is reasonably well presented. A “cute hoor” is an expression used in Ireland to describe a sneaky person who is out for personal gain while maintaining an innocent face to the public. Many politicians fall into this category. The sort of chap who says for example they are going to get strong on guns but at the same time are the head of a party that receives massive donations from the National Rifle Association. Sorry, I’ve come over all political in this blog post.

Anyway, back to the beer. As I mentioned above it is pleasant enough, but it’s not anything to write home about. It’s the sort of thing that you would be happy enough to drink if someone handed you a bottle of it for free, the sort of thing you might be glad to find at the back of the fridge when you discover you’re out of beer you actually like.

Ed Rating: 5/10

A beer that is trying to appeal to craft beer enthusiasts but fails because it doesn’t offer up any particularly strong or appealing flavours. This is not an adventurous beer, it’s built to appeal to Heineken drinkers who might be craft curious. If you’re a fan of bold flavours you’ll be disappointed. It’s not unpleasant but it is very middle of the road.

Veganism

Veganism is the practice of living a lifestyle that uses no animal products. There are varying shades of veganism from people who are extremely activist and believe all use of animals for everything should be banned through to the other end of the spectrum of people who won’t use any animal products in their diet when they are at home, but do not seek to insist that others (friends, family, restaurants) accommodate their needs. Within that there are various shades from people who won’t eat anything that is an obvious animal product, e.g. cheese, to those who are obsessive packet readers who won’t use any product that has sugar in it because the sugar is likely processed using bone char.

For a period of about three months I have been experimenting with veganism. Early on I made the decision that I was not going to be the activist obsessive packet reader. It was to be an entirely personal experiment to see if it worked for me. Even within my experiment I did not stick to it with religious fervour. I allowed some deviation at weekends and when I was out and about.

The first thing that struck me was how genuinely easy it was in the initial stages. Honestly I thought I would be craving meat, cheese, eggs, milk, chocolate, and all the things I love to eat. Not so. In the first few weeks I stayed away from the “vegan alternatives” to the traditional ingredients and stuck to whole foods. Vegetables, nuts, rice and replaced milk in tea with Soy milk.

After reading a number of blogs and consulting the university of YouTube as well as talking with the one friend I have who is vegan, I got myself a B12 supplement and some national yeast and I was all set.

The transition was easy and for about a month it was totally fine. I missed cheese a little, did not miss meat at all which really surprised me. I did start to crave milk though. A little background is needed here. I’m Irish. Having milk with your meal is the done thing in Ireland and it has been forever. It was drilled into me as a child. To an Irish person there is nothing more refreshing than freezing cold milk. I did not, at any time in my vegan experiment, find an alternative that worked for me. I tried all of the milk substitutes, oat, hemp, rice, soy, almond…the list was endless. None of them stood up to the taste test when drank on their own.

All was not lost. I resolved to having Tea with my meals, the only acceptable alternative in Ireland. As with the milk, a love of tea is bate into us in childhood. I’ve been drinking tea since I was probably four years old.

As I moved into month two and on into month three, things started to go downhill. The energy that is often ascribed to being a benefit of a plant based diet was not forthcoming. In fact the opposite was true. I had no energy, really had to fight to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve never been a spring up and go sort of guy but generally one press of the snooze button is enough. It got to the point however where I was still lying in bed an hour after the alarm went off trying to dream up a plausible reason to go back to sleep.

My health wasn’t going well either. I hadn’t lost the weight that every blog and Youtuber you meet says you will lose when you make the transition. My weight stayed basically constant throughout. Due to the lack of energy I wasn’t exercising with my normal vigour. I was still cycling to work every day, because that’s what I do, but it wasn’t anything you could call training. My stomach became irritable. Frequent, often fairly urgent, trips to the bathroom became the norm. Sorry, TMI, I know.

My mood suffered as well. Again, I can be inclined to get a bit morose in the winter but a spin on the bike or a bit of sunshine at the weekend usually sorts me out. Not so this winter. Low motivation. No vigour. I was grumpy and unhappy all the time.

After three months I called a halt and went back to my normal eating habits about a week ago. All of the issues above have resolved. My mood is lifted, my energy has returned and I’m no longer walking around like I’m stuck in an exceptionally depressing Leonard Cohen album.

Ed Rating: 6/10

I am glad I tried the experiment. Veganism isn’t for me. I could put up with the restricted diet if it did not have the negative side effects I experienced. I took some positives away from it. Overnight Oats with soy milk are delicious. Scrambled Tofu is awesome. Soy cream with onions, mushrooms, pepper and pasta is divine. I have also become keenly aware how I can do without meat for extended periods without issue. It just wasn’t something I missed.

The reasons for going vegan are many and varied from ethical animal cruelty reasons, to environmental reasons, to health reasons, the environment and even religious beliefs. I admire and have a great respect for those who can sustain the lifestyle. Ethically it’s hard to defend doing anything else, from an environmental and an animal cruelty point of view it is the morally correct position to be in. Hats off to all the vegans out there who are making it work.

French Cooking Academy

French Cooking Academy is a YouTube channel run by a Frenchman named Stephane. It is essentially a string of instructional videos presented in a simple fashion.

The channel is very different from many of the home kitchen cooking channels you will find on YouTube, usually run by American presenters which go out of their way to be happy, smiley and frankly a bit annoying. This channel is not about the presenter, it’s about the food.

The presenter demonstrates a respect for the food, for the ingredients, for the tradition that is not present on most channels. I don’t mean to suggest that it is stuffy or dry or dull, far from it. Stephane in his calm presenting style puts you at ease and shows how it is possible to create elements of French cuisine that you might have thought were beyond the home chef.

He has a number of videos about creating base sauces and others about how to do simple things like create a Roux and explaining the difference between a white, yellow, brown Roux and what you might want to do with these.

There are more advanced recipes demonstrated, but nothing that should be out of reach of an enthusiastic home chef. There are even demonstrations of how to make Michelin Star food at home, bringing this very high end food in reach of the ordinary home chef. Why we put so much stock in Michelin Star food is something I could rant about. See what I did there? Stock…food… never mind, I’ll get my coat.

The whole thing started as a guidebook in France to tell a motorist where he could stop to get some food while his car was being refilled and his tyres pumped. One star was acceptable, two stars were worth a diversion, and three stars were worth a special trip. Why we want a tyre company to rate our food is a mystery to me.

Anyway, back on topic, I have made a number of his recipes, my favourite is the Rustic French Tart, cause who doesn’t like a bit of Rustic French Tart. The taste is phenomenal and the instructions were easy to follow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdbJqMd0CX0

This morning I made his crustless cheesecake. Picture of my effort at the top. Again, excellent flavours, minimal fuss. This is a good one to make with the kids as well, lots of measuring, stirring and mixing and breaking eggs and all the other things kids like to get involved in when cooking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqBFPc-nmrw

The ingredients Stephane uses are generally items you will have at home or if not they are easily obtained in your local supermarket, even here in a small city on the Western edge of Europe.

Ed Rating: 8/10

This is an excellent channel if you are keen to explore and learn a different cuisine. If you are a keen home chef you will take things from here and incorporate them into your standard repertoire as go-to recipes forever. If you are just learning out the helpful explainers on making sauces and roux will be great building blocks you need to have in place to expand your culinary craft.

Alpro Raspberry-Cranberry & Blackberry Yogurt

Alpro Raspberry-Cranberry & Blackberry Yogurt is a plant based yogurt alternative made by the Alpro company. Alpro are a Belgian based company making plant based dairy alternative products. They are the Coca-Cola of this fringe market insofar as they control 43% of the market. Anyone who frequents supermarkets will be familiar with their range of milk alternatives and more recently yogurt alternatives.

I picked up a 4 pack of the Raspberry-Cranberry & Blackberry in Tesco for €2. I was sceptical having tried dairy free yogurts before and found them to taste either like a cardboard box, or be so over sweet as to have lost all flavour. Not what you want from a yogurt which should have a little bit of zing on the back end of the flavour from the tartness given by the cultures within.

These yogurts were a step up from what I had tried previously. There is decent size chunks of fruit in them and they do at least taste like a yogurt should taste like. Think a less sweet version of a Yoplait yogurt. There is no sugar, always a bonus, but there is a list of ingredients that you’ll have to google if you want to understand what they are. That applies to regular yogurt as well so whateves. On the upside for the vegans among you, they have B12 added so that’s pretty handy.

I’ve tried them on their own and also mixed in with overnight oats which was really excellent. They are not 100% exactly the same as a full on natural dairy yogurt but they are 95% of the way there, which is a lot further along than any of the milk alternatives in the Alpro (or any other brand) range.

They do come packaged in a single use plastic container so down with that sort of thing. On the upside if you’re the sort of person who worries about such things you will be the sort of person that turns the yogurt pot into a pot for germinating seeds so maybe it evens out. Failing that they are great for arts and crafts with the kids, they hold fiddly bits of Lego, loom bands if they are still a thing, or work great as tiny kids paint pots.

Ed Rating: 8/10

Look, it’s a tub of yogurt, so it’s not going to change your life. You don’t have to be vegan curious or actively trying to reduce dairy to try these things. They are good enough to stand on their own, I’d take the Pepsi challenge between these and a regular yogurt any day of the week. At €2 for four you lose nothing by giving them a try.