How I messed up being vegetarian

Being vegetarian is awesome. Living with a smaller footprint and in harmony with the environment, contributing to a more sustainable life while taking good care of your health. Who doesn’t want this? This last New Years Eve I tried to remove meat from my diet altogether – just to find myself in misery a few months after.

Starting the smart way

Jumping into such a huge change is never an easy move though, and I wanted to do the right way. First, I moved away from meat step by step (here is a blog post on how I started out about a year ago). I also talked to vegan nutritionists and vegetarians regularly, asking about the shift towards vegetables without missing all the important nutritions.

I’ve read all what was out there to read: about vegetarian weight lifters’ diet, the need of iron and all that. My kitchen became fantastic. The number one rule was to keep on adding new dishes instead of just removing the meaty ones – so I ended up learning great tastes and even new vegetables and fruits.

In theory, everything you need is available in a vegetarian diet, especially if you vary the ingredients a lot. Betting on this I was fairly confident that everything will go fine.

This is not a symptom, is it?

If something small is missing from your diet, you won’t know about it until much, much later. At a time, when you don’t even expect it to come from skipping meat.

Looking back, my first warning signs were after a day in the mountains, when we did sports all day and had one too many glasses of wine in the evening. The next day, while driving home I was feeling really week. Have you ever felt week? Yeah, I did too. It’s not really a symptom, is it?

Sleeping got worse, on a few occasions I woke up in the middle of the night. Once I even noticed heart palpitations; had a little water and went back to sleep, and the next day I continued my yoga routines. All went back to normal again, so I was suspecting my turning-30-anxiety – all my friends had those as well, I guess.

More fun was to have short depressive episodes. I had beers with friends, when those weird thoughts crossed my mind: ‘it’s quite alright to collapse here, there would be enough folks around to call the ambulance‘. I didn’t consider these hundred-percent-normal for sure, but it was easy to blame the alcohol intake and the lack of sleep.

Fortunately, at this point I’ve met a friend who is an animal right activist and a vegan nutrition nerd. We had lunch one day, and she mentioned that most vegetarians take B12, because it’s impossible to get it from outside animal products. Oh, and by the way, most vitamin deficiencies cause weakness, fatigue, bad memory, heart palpitations – all sorts of those not-very-defined symptoms I had.

Fight B12 and iron deficiency

Having started taking vitamins right away, I went for a blood count the next week. The results showed that I was indeed lacking B12 and some iron as well. Good news is that fighting mineral deficiencies is rather easy. Supplements come in many forms like vitamin pills, power drinks and even as a tooth paste.

There is one big drawback: it’s all interconnected. As an example, while milk contains B12, it also affects the ability to absorb iron. And if you take iron pills, you should supplement it together with zinc – and so on. The whole thing is very, very confusing, and I couldn’t even guess what else was missing from my diet. Hence, for until my body finds its way back to normal, I decided to eat some meat again.

What is it like, to eat meat after a long time?

It’s rare to see my girlfriend as happy as the day we went for our first real burger. Well, at least till the point we actually entered the joint. After the first few bites I felt terrified and expected a heart attack any time; the room suddenly became too loud and smelly for me to bear, and we had to leave with half the sandwich to go.

Only the next time I ate meat did I realise that it had huge effects on my body. I was crossing a bridge on a sunny day after lunch, and my heart was about to jump out of my chest – pretty much the same experience as in the burger joint, except that this time I could enjoy it. It was like drinking six coffees in a row.

Fix your nutrition, it fixes your mind

Having to drink less coffee is only one upside of paying attention to my vitamin intake (and eating some meat again). A bit more than one month in, my overall mood is ways better, I’m more patient to my friends, and I’m less and less anxious before lunchtime.

The upside is, in the last half a year I learned a lot about food, the importance of nutrition, vitamins, micro-minerals and the effects they can have on the body and the mind.

In the end of the day: what doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger.

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Why the software industry needs more short-time jobs

How taking short-time projects will make you a better developer, and how managers should hire those brains to give a long lasting boost to the software team.

Being a good developer doesn’t end with having a deep understanding in the technologies and languages you use. It goes even further than knowing the ins-and-outs of the tools, patterns and algorithms you utilise on a daily basis. To be a great developer you have to constantly research, and adapt the new solutions and technologies others invented.

So if you are programming Java websites since university, the least you should do is writing some Android apps on the side. It might be the same language and tools, but you will surely end up looking into some UI/UX stuff that will broaden your mind and skill set.

Corporates have a good reason to keep programmers dumb

Experimenting with new technologies is not what usually happens within corporates though. Engineers are paid to provide a solution that works, within the shortest time frame and with the most certainty that the software will not break. Not exactly the best place to be creative and invent new stuff.

This is one of the key factors for most of the workplaces not using the latest software or technologies: implementing those takes time, and sure: why would they bother updating something that worked just as fine before? It may be totally understandable, but that’s how you end up with software running on Java 1.5 and office documents written with Office 2007.

Reading Hacker News? Come on. Xkcd, maybe, if it was fun.

Start small, start quick

It’s very usual to get comfortable after having the same job for years. Showing up at work just a bit late, having a long coffee break in the kitchen, starting the morning with Facebook and Twitter – and at the same time, feeling more and more tired of work

This industry has a crazy pace though and having an up-to-date knowledge doesn’t come easy. It’s already hard enough to predict which technologies will stick in the long term. Who could tell if it’s better to start with iOS or Ruby now? How many months before Nokia was going down did Symbian developers start looking into Windows Mobile code? (I actually know this last one: two.)

Cash in for what you learned

Committing for something completely new would be too much of an investment, and perhaps not very wise either. First, it’s hard to find the time in the evenings and weekends to learn. Second, with those few projects you can launch, or the 1-2 years of experience you may gain, you will probably look at a lower salary level than at your current workplace with 2+.

There is a way to learn some new tricks quickly though. They say that the only way you can get better in chess is to play with someone who is better than you – and the same rule applies very well in the field of programming too.

Good enough reason to be in the market for short-time projects. If you change your jobs every 6-12 months, you will be introduced to many more projects and even more people, exposed to new technologies on a daily basis. All of this you can learn from, and the new stuff will look great in your CV.

And a great CV eventually leads to a fat pay check.

Managers, this is what you do

If you are leading a software department, now you think you shouldn’t keep the employees for too long with the company. This is hardly the case. All you need to do is to hire some developers for a few months, every now and then.

They don’t even need to be the best fit for a project. The more experience a programmer has with other technologies the better, but the main thing to make sure about is that during the project, the outsiders should be well integrated within the team.

Everything else is magic.

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Reducing the meat problem

Living healthy starts with eating right. Unfortunately if you are not a fitness-, cooking- or calories nerd, it’s not easy to decide what to put on the table every day. As for me, most of the time I end up buying some meat, roasting it and, serving with bread, call it a dish. Now this came to an end.

I would not want to go cold turkey (ha!) and become vegan, especially for all the excellent salamis and great wild meat out there. The only thing I want to stop is the mindless defaults: why would anyone eat chicken wraps and Frankfurters anyway? 

Somewhere I’ve read that an average grown up person in Europe would eat something like 50 kilograms of meat a year – my consumption seems to be fairly close to this, although I’m trying to be on the healthy end.

Ready-made products and those with unidentifiable origin seem to be easy to avoid, but then again: the recent horse scandal shows that even if the label looks very accurate, it’s rarely the case. Döner kebab is not something you would have high expectations about, but even Nestle and other, seemingly reliable companies sold horse meat as beef products.

Not that I’m picky with animals, I would eat whatever – my biggest complain here is that if we don’t even know the type of the animal, how would we know such very important facts like whether the unlucky pig was raised in a cage with hundreds of others, or: if it has ever seen the sun.

There I can get very picky actually. How much more awesome is to know that the animal I eat was in good health, free of weird antibiotics and full of energy! (Before it got slaughtered.)

If you just search for some minutes, you will see that some chickens are living a total of 32 days before you find them as ‘chicken wings’ in McDonalds. I can’t see how this is not bad for the public health and the environment – in the race for low-price meat, the food industry is leaving us with antibiotic resistant germs. (And even worse: food snobs, who only eat stuff coming from Bio Company shops.)

So here is my plan: I quit being a part of the problem and will reduce my food consumption to a more eco-friendly level, with the following:

  • Emerge new defaults: breakfast with cereals, choosing hummus and falafel when eating out (kill all the chickpeas!)
  • When buying non-vegan products, going for organic: looking for meat directly from farmers
  • Not buying minced meat or similar all-in kind of products
  • Keeping track of my food: keeping meat products below 500g a week

Please be aware of the fact that I’m in no way more clever than you with this. I’m not a doctor, have no idea of biology, fitness, health – so you better don’t follow anything you read here.
This post might be a good food for thought though. And please, feel free to send me further readings, hummus recipes, or just get in touch and encourage me / tell me I’m a fool on Twitter.

I might return to this topic later, if anything significant happens – although, I would be surpised if that was quite soon.

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Sickness resolutions

I’m sick for quite a few days now, which means spending most of my time in bed and skipping all the fun. This is a no-go, especially on possibly the last warm days of the year here in Berlin.

The worst part of the whole thing is the mood. Not being able to do anything that’s not a must. This is to get over with first: it’s not enough that I haven’t written in weeks, but reading the starred articles in Google Reader should be the bare minimum. (Now I’m finally doing these both. How proud.)

Being nailed to bed didn’t come as a surprise: I had quite enough signs and there were a few things I shouldn’t have done. First, a week with fifteen meetings and four parties in three countries. Eating out in cafes ways to often. Not taking the weather seriously enough: after the first time having 15 degrees in the room I should have switched on the heating.

So now, as soon as I got better and be able to do sports again, there is going to be a new deal.

1. Vitamins. I raised my Vitamin C intake to 2g a day (plus shitloads of oranges and paprika).

2. Sports. Running four times a week, short daily yoga sessions.

3. Being prepared for sub-optimal weather situations. Always having a scarf and another layer in my bag. Switch on the heating as soon as it’s needed.

To be organized is the new deal.

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Goodbye Nike+, welcome miCoach

As you may remember, I started to track my runs with Nike+ just about two months ago. Since then we shared a few moments (ten sessions and 50 kilometers) – quite enough time to know: I need something else.

Adidas miCoach - about Android, web, tech from Richard Dancsi
miCoach – slightly less style

The main reason for the break-up was something that’s not the really Nike’s fault: their app is only for running. Because I like to track my cycling routes as well, I had to have a separate app for almost the exact same thing: see some speed and location data on a map.

And since miCoach from Adidas (the Android version) was already there, I couldn’t help to see the advantages of it:

1. Better statistics: shows my actual speed in time (not only green/yellow/red colors), average by kilometers, fastest km, elevation data etc. Just perfect.

2. Works without registration. (Now, I registered anyway so that I can see my data online, but I really like the fact that I didn’t have to for using the app.)

3. Feels more accurate. Sometimes Nike+ showed 100m as the distance so far, right at my 600m turn (I used to run on the same route a lot.)

Some drawbacks:

1. Slightly worse UI. Not bad, not ugly, but well… Nike+ really was top notch on that.

2. miCoach asks for a code every time I start it. (Why? Anyone who gains access to my phone, could check my emails, Twitter, even payment data – but not how far I ran? It really doesn’t make sense.)

3. I have no idea, how the achievements work.

Well, let’s see how long this relationship lasts.

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Why does Android look dodgy?

As much Android deserves the love for the great freedom it gives to its users (try to install a file manager to your stock iPhone or copy music to a friend’s computer), the user interface is just not there. They surely have put a lot of effort into Jelly Beans, but the devil is in the details. Look at these widgets, for example.

Android widgets: power control, music and weather
different colors, sizes, outer glow – on stock elements

In every operating system, at least the stock widgets should look alike – but, to mention just a few flaws, the three main widgets (power control, music and weather add-ons) are different in size, colors and they use different spacers between the buttons. The widgets coming from 3rd party developers in Google Play are not much help either: even the ones that claim support for the stock Ice Cream Sandwich are missing the guidelines with a mile or two.

Maybe Google’s development teams don’t work together very well. Maybe the UI teams’ quality assurance is missing. Maybe they just don’t care, because manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola and HTC have their own design tweaks anyway.

Either way, in 2012, the pixel-perfect paradise is not here yet.

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Breaking: Frederique for iPad in Emanata

Emanata is a great new app to discover indie comics and emerging artists. From today, your ol’ man is among those visual storytellers featured in the app – this, looking at all the others drawings, is a great honor.

Frederique will come every two weeks to Emanata. I have to admit, I’m really excited about working with this new format.

Get the app from the iTunes.

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Barbecuing down the Spree

Probably the coolest mean of transport in Berlin: the grill-boot. Sitting around the table, drinking beer, cooking Frankfurters on the barbecue, while floating around on the river. During today’s run I could capture a close enough shot of the grill boat, so here you go dear readers:

Barbecuing down the Spree - grill-boot in Berlin

For the full experience, please imagine some minmal techno while viewing the picture.

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Look at the guy with the screwdriver

…fixing a Leica C-Lux-1 camera’s misplaced lenses!

Some say, the easiest way to make money is not spending it. According to this, I’ve just earned 250 EUR, cash: that’s what this friend’s camera (which I shamelessly broke) was worth.

Before… and after!

What made a guy who knows next to nothing about cameras, to actually try to repair one?

First, I was sure that I will replace the precious object with one with similar specs, so I already considered the money as a loss. Furthermore, according to the service, the camera was beyond repair – so trying couldn’t do any more harm.

Second, whereas I know less about repairing cameras, I know quite a lot about photography – and in this case, the lenses seemed to be in one piece. Based on the sounds, the engine was not broken either, so there was a slight chance that the pieces are just misplaced.

And last: I love doing things like these.

With all that, it wasn’t an easy job. For starters, it took me a week to buy the proper screwdriver set. So I’m actually a hero here.

And also: it takes quite a camera to survive a drop like that. So if you ever think about buying a Leica (or in general – to spend some extra money a premium product), I can just say one thing:

go for it.

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