My Diet Is Trying to Kill Me

Posted: August 31, 2012 in Health and Diet
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This is day five of this thing they call a “diet”. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted anything that has the word “die” in it. And apparently this diet plans to kill me by hacking a pound or two off my body every week until I’m gone.

Anyway my diet involves two very specific steps.

1)   I want food

2)   My wife won’t give me any

I have half a mind to hoist myself off this couch and get it myself except I’m not entirely sure where she keeps it. Plus she’s set up this thing called a “no fail environment” where she’s essentially hidden all the food.

Our pantry used to draw envious looks from the likes of Willie Wonka and the Keebler Elves. Now it looks like those countries you see in UNICEF adds where it hasn’t rained in 37 years.

A “No Fail” Environment

There’s another component of this “diet” I should mention. Its called “exercise”, and it involves putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly—and it doesn’t end at the refrigerator or couch. I have been engaging in this senseless activity for the last week and have logged approximately twelve miles. Yet I find myself standing in the exact spot where I started.

I was also startled to learn this week that most buildings are equipped with a backup to the elevator. Its called “stairs” and I find myself climbing up and down them like some sort of deranged hamster.

I’d like to say I’m doing this out of some noble effort to get into shape and live longer and healthier…look better. But that sounds like my wife talking.

“It’s like having my wife clipped to my belt”

I’m doing it because of my “Fitbit” Ultra wireless tracker. The little sucker sits at my side, watching every step I take, every calorie I eat and every calorie I burn. It’s like having my wife clipped to my belt! My ultimate goal isn’t to lose weight, but to crush every record ever set by Fitbit wearers around the world. I’m competitive that way.

Anyway, after five days I’m proud to say the diet hasn’t killed me… but it’s trying.  It’s carved 5 pounds off of me so far.

Here I go again.

Here we go again

Today I embark on a quest. Like Christopher Columbus set out to find the “New World”, today I set out to find the “Thin Me”. I know he’s in here. Just like Columbus had actually been to North America three times before he “discovered” America I have lost substantial amounts of weight three times. Like Columbus I hope the fourth time is a charm.

Since I’m in a historical mood today, a little history about me and weight: When I was in my 30′s I woke up one morning and decided I needed to lose weight. Ten weeks later I was thirty pounds lighter. In my 40′s I reached the same decision and ten weeks later I was forty pounds lighter. A few years ago, now in my 50′s, I rolled out of bed, hit the floor with a resounding thud and decided I needed to do it again. Twelve weeks later I was fifty pounds lighter.

Before & After

This tells you two important things about me. I’m a world-class champion at losing weight. And I suck at keeping it off.

When Carolyn and I decided to lose weight and include you, our Facebook, Twitter and TV friends I told you the journey is the destination. That’s especially true for me. When Columbus set out on his fourth exploration he knew the world wasn’t flat and he wasn’t going to fall off. I know with certainty I will reach my weight goal. My real journey begins the day I do.

I’m glad to have you aboard for this journey. I promise I will be supportive if not occasionally obsessive about it. But after we complete our journey and reach our destination… that’s when I’m going to really need your help.

Lets roll!

Stephen

I have good news and bad news to report in this space today.

First, the good news:  I just had my weekly weigh in and have officially lost 35 pounds in six weeks. You might remember from some of previous posts I’m not actually on a diet. I am deeply undercover researching diets, and because I’m a committed investigative reporter I packed on 40 extra pounds over the last ten years just because that’s how dedicated  I am.

Anyway, after losing 35 pounds I’ve come to the startling conclusion that eating less food is the key to weight loss. I know…radical, right? I plan to try out another outlandish theory that exercise can actually help with weight loss just as soon as I get the energy I lost when I stopped eating.

Now the bad news: Ollie, our family’s “spare” cat is missing. That accounts for the other 15 pounds I lost. I guess he’s not technically missing since my daughter knows roughly where he is. It’s just that Ollie shows no interest in coming inside the house.  I suppose this will take some explaining.

Sophie, my elder daughter, is in her second year of college at Western Michigan. Despite the fact that she can’t keep a houseplant alive Sophie wanted to take Ollie with her to her new house. There are like ten girls and a German Shepherd living in the house, what could go wrong? We had a family meeting where my younger daughter and I voted “no” and my wife voted “yes”. Being a democracy and all, my wife won and Ollie was on his way to Kalamazoo.

I have described Ollie in previous blogs where I used words like “buzzsaw”, “Feline Freddy Krueger” and “Ginsu knife with fur”… well, I wasn’t actually there in Kalamazoo last weekend when Sophie arrived with Ollie at her new house. But eyewitnesses used similar adjectives to describe Ollie as Sophie approached the front door. Needless to say Ollie never made it into the house.

For the last week or so there have been numerous “Ollie Sightings” in the neighborhood around Sophie’s house. Ollie, being a big-city cat, has apparently taken control of a mob of small-town Kalamazoo cats. They all spend the day sleeping under porches and all night avoiding Sophie’s house. My wife, feeling quite guilty about the whole thing, has launched “Operation Ollie” which includes fliers in the neighborhood, a notice on the animal control website and, according to my MasterCard bill, the Goodyear blimp. She has also rented a live animal trap from Kalamazoo Animal Control which sits on the front porch disguised as something that even the dumbest cat would recognize instantly as a live animal trap.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of “Operation Ollie”.

In the meantime, the good news is I’ve lost 50 pounds…. but I’d kind of like to get 15 of them back.

Stephen

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What Is The #Backchannel

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

I get asked that question a lot and it occurred to me the other day that it is getting increasingly harder to answer because the #backchannel seems to be so many things to so many people.

This self-reflection began last Friday night when I got a tweet from someone I hadn’t seen on the backchannel before. “@Missive” was complaining about a link I’d posted a few minutes earlier…a news item out of Arizona about a man so high on meth he put his baby in the freezer because “the kitchen floor was dirty”.

“Very impressed by backchannel.” @missive wrote, “But RT-ing news about meth-head idiots will take this project exactly where local news is–gutter.”

Now, as you all know, I agree that local news spends too much time in the “gutter”. We spend far too much time covering fires, shootings and murders and not enough time covering stories about “good people doing good things”. But I also believe you can’t just ignore the bad stuff. It’s not going to go away just because TV doesn’t talk about it. So in the interest of balance I use Twitter in general and the #backchannel specifically to present what I believe is a more “balanced” news source. I find a story about a meth addict tossing his baby in the freezer “instructive” if for no other reason than to answer the question about why the law chooses to prosecute “victimless” crimes. I think the baby might take issue with that position.

But along with that story I also tweeted the story about the Garden City family who started a salsa business that saved the family home and paid off the son’s college tuition. Balance.

But @missive was unswayed. ” How does that man’s story lift your city?” she tweeted, “How is it newsworthy? This space needs news that changes things. Not a tabloid.” What I found interesting about that comment is that @missive is telling me what the #backchannel is supposed to be and I’m the guy who invented it!

But @missive was so disappointed by my retweet of a story about a meth addict with bad parenting skills that she told me she was less likely to use the backchannel as an example of a “media paradigm shift” in the city. To her credit I believe @missive understood that just the fact we were discussing the issue was an example of a rather radical “media paradigm shift”. I mean, when was the last time a TV station actually listened to anybody’s complaint?

Now you’re old news with a new toy

I thought we were having a pretty civil discussion until she threw that bomb into my tweet stream. “Now you’re old news with a new toy,” @missive wrote. I admit, after 30 some years in TV I certainly qualify as “old news” but the suggestion that I think of Twitter and the backchannel as a “new toy” that, by implication, I will tire of and toss away is simply unfair.

But it does raise the question that is at the center of this blog. “What is the #backchannel?”

First you have to answer a much bigger question. “What is Twitter”.

I think of Twitter as kind of like those ice skates in Tom Hanks’ “Castaway”. They were pretty useless on a tropical island as skates, but invaluable as a tool for everything from chopping wood to rope-making to dental procedures.

Twitter, for me, is kind of like those skates. It started as a fun way to reach out and meet people. But on my little TV “island” the skates seemed to have very limited value. I mean, I can “connect” with 200,000 people in one sitting…what’s the value of talking to one person at a time? So, like Tom Hanks I had to come up with a new way to use the skates…turn the toys into tools.

The tool turned out to be the #backchannel. A place for people to meet both during and between newscasts to socialize and to make connections. A place for everyone, not just me, to post news of interest and impact. From the fund raising cancer walk on Belle Isle to, yes, the meth addict who shuts his baby in the freezer. But in the incredible interaction that quickly evolved I saw another opportunity. One of the most pervasive comments in those early days mirrored @missive’s complaint that TV news was in the “gutter”. So I issued a challenge to help get us out of that gutter. Come up with those stories about “good people doing good things”. And just so you understand how TV news got to where it is I further challenged you to figure out how to take that good news story and make it visual and interesting. I think you’re beginning to understand that its not as easy as it seems.

But I believe this “crowd sourcing” will eventually turn the tide. Together we can show “old media” that there is a new game in town…and if you can find “good” stories why can’t we? Does that mean the “bad” news will go away?  No. I think there needs to be both…but a balance of both.

That’s what I think the backchannel is…. I want to know you think.

After all,  I may be steering this ship but you’re the motor.

Stephen


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#Backchannel Upgrade 2.1

Posted: August 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

I know I just released backchannel 2.0 a week ago so don’t consider this a new OS, rather think of it as a service pack upgrade….#backchannel 2.1.

I’ll explain what I have in mind in a moment but first I want to update you on the progress of backchannel 2.0. As you know I put out a challenge last week to stop complaining that there’s never any “good news” on TV and find me some. But that challenge came with a few strings. Since talk is cheap (and Tweeting is even cheaper) I don’t want to just “hear” your suggestion. I want to see it. I asked you to grab your flip cam or cell phone and shoot video to show me compelling pictures. Interview that fascinating person you want Detroit to meet. I want you to edit your video and add a narration with some basic information and post it on YouTube. If the backchannel agrees that it’s an interesting story I’ll grab my gear and shoot the story for Channel 7.

I think it’s a brilliant idea that accomplishes three things. First it allows you to tell a story they way YOU want it told without that “left-wing” “right-wing” bias that I’m alternately accused of having. Secondly it allows you to discover, as I have over 30-some years, that it’s not enough to be a “good” story… it also has to be visual.  And three, it saves me a whole lot of legwork.

So far I’ve had a lot of people excited about backchannel 2.0  and suggesting stories. They apparently forgot to read the part about showing us the story. I’ve had several people who promise they’re working on a video (aren’t you glad I didn’t put you on the same deadline I have to work under?). And I had one bright-shining example of exactly what I’m talking about. PSCU_Amy submitted a story on an urban farm in Detroit. The story comes dangerously close to being ready to air just the way it is. But just to prove I’m not totally irrelevant I’m scheduling myself to cover the story by the end of this week. I’ve invited Amy along (mainly so I’ll have someone to carry my tripod).

@DaveMurr @bchesnutt @balanon @sclarkwxyz

Anyway, this brings me to our backchannel upgrade. It occurred to me that we have a sizable force of active and observant Tweeters on the backchannel. It came to me this past weekend as I hosted a few of our area’s more distinguished tweeters at my house for a few beers, barbecue and boat ride. @bchesnutt, @balanon, @davemurr and @techsocialite tweeted, twitpicd and foursquared virtually every moment of our excellent and epic evening. It got me thinking, what if all of us used the backchannel to keep each other informed of things happening around town? It would be just like having our own TV station without the suits, ties and that horrible pancake makeup!

So what I’d like to propose is that we all start thinking of ourselves as “digital correspondents” on the Backchannel. If you see a traffic jam, or construction delay….tweet it. Let us all know where to avoid. If that sudden thunderstorm knocks a tree across the road…take a TwitPic and post it on the backchannel. If there’s a building on fire… do what @ScottBettinger did Monday night. Take a little video, slap the #backchannel hashtag on it and tweet it.

And don’t stop at breaking news. If you’re at a community meeting, a rally, the school board. Keep us informed on the backchannel. You find a store giving away free ice cream…by all means Tweet us! Don’t wait for Roger Ebert to tell us whether he liked “Inception”… give us your review before the credits have even rolled. We can all use the backchannel to keep each other informed about what’s happening in our community…news, weather and sports. Just like a TV station…but with content that is relevant to all of us.

This is in addition to the project I outlined in backchannel 2.0. I don’t want you to stop thinking about the special stories and people that make our community better. I still want to see the compelling video tape and interesting personalities like the one submitted by PSCU_Amy. And we will continue to share those on the backchannel and on Channel 7… like featured “special reports”. But in the meantime, we’re all a part of the backchannel so lets use it to keep each other informed, enlightened and entertained. For our backchannel friends from out of town, you can skip the traffic reports, but keep us up to date on the big stories in your town.

I know inevitably there will be some who see this as an opportunity to spam us and try to sell us some kind of garbage. I propose we police our own neighborhood. When someone tries to scam or spam us… if we all reply with a #backchannelgong I think the abuse will stop pretty quickly…plus it might be kinda fun to gong a few of the idiots.

As always I want to know what you think about this. I think it’s exactly what Twitter is meant to be…the very definition of “social media”.

I look forward to our first #backchannel news update.

s

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I hope you’ll excuse a little gushing. But I feel like a new father who has just been handed his first child and she is beautiful beyond belief.

Actually what I was handed wasn’t a baby… but it still promises to mature into something of great beauty and power. What I was handed… or more acurately “Tweeted” was our fist official submission to the #backchannel  and it is a thing of beauty.

@PSCU Amy

Here is the link to the video from @PSCU_Amy I would like for you to watch this video and take note of several things.  First of all, Amy has followed the #backchannel v 2.0 instructions to a “T”. She shot compelling video of an urban garden, which she unnecessarily apologized for, she shows us how that beautiful greenery fits into the surrounding urban landscape. She interviews, quite deftly by the way, two gentlemen in charge of that garden. Her interview shines a light on their passion. She went several extra steps by superimposing the names of her interview subjects and telephone numbers. She even included a standup with the ‘outcue’ “For Channel 7′s Backchannel I’m PSCU AMY”, which I believe we ought to adopt as our standard “out” on all our submissions (except for the PSCUAmy part…feel free to use your own handle).

In short Amy has handed us a story that will educated and inspire. And she has handed me a story that will serve as a blueprint for a story that I will cover. Because of PSCUAmy, the twitterverse will become measurably better…and so will the Channel 7 viewing area… the greater Detroit area. People will see something good happening in their community because of something good happening here on the #backchannel.

I know you haven’t even voted on this story yet, whether you think it’s a worthy story. But I’m going to exercise my right as the guy who thought this up and go cover the story anyway. I hope PSCUAmy will go with me and infect me with the passion that motivated her to submit this video.

If I smoked, I’d be passing out cigars right now.

We have our first child… and she’s beautiful.

Stephen


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#Backchannel v 2.0

Posted: August 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

I promised a big announcement today so here it comes.

Okay, I’ll have the big announcement in a minute or two. First of all I just want to tell you how amazed/pleased/excited/energized I am over what the #Backchannel has become in a relatively short time. As you know when we embarked down this path I only had a vague idea where it might lead. My immediate goal had been just to open some line of communication between us…to remove the glass screen that has blocked my view of you through my entire career.

So I tweeted. And like some lonesome cry in the night wind a few of you heard me and tweeted back. It was like that moment in “Castaway” when Tom Hanks finally made fire. You “early adopters” will remember what started happening pretty quickly. A few more joined in. I tweeted…you tweeted back. You asked questions about the stories we were running on the air. You made comments. You wondered abut the process of making television. I lifted the curtain and gave you a peek…like Dorothy getting her first look at the Wizard. That was pretty cool in itself… but then a really cool thing started happening. You stopped talking to just me and started talking to each other. Like new arrivals to a new subdivision you realized there were people on the other side of that fence. And the #backchannel community was born.

That leads me to where we go next. What is #backchannel v 2.0? I got a glimpse Friday night. We ran a story about a couple whose wheelchair ramp was stolen and sold for scrap. Before the story was done we had backchannelers volunteering to get together and build them a new ramp. That is a peek into the combined power of “old media” and “new media”… of TV and Twitter. The ability to put out a message and amplify it with action.

So this leads me to the big announcement. At least I hope that’s the way you see it…I do.

Starting immediately I want you to find the stories that I will cover on Channel 7. I want you to find the good people doing good things in your community. I want you to tell me about the interesting characters and fascinating sights that make your communities special. I want you to stop complaining that all you see on TV is bad news and give me some good news.

That’s it…pretty simple. Oh, there is one little catch. I don’t want you just to tell me about it. I want you so show me. I want you to show the entire #backchannel. It doesn’t have to be perfect and polished. Just take your flip camera or iPhone and shoot some video. Show us the pictures of why it is a compelling story. If you have a fascinating character that needs to be introduced to the #backchannel… and the Channel 7 audience… put him/her/it on camera and show us. If you can edit some sound, video, even your own narration into a short story, do it! Post the video on YouTube or Vimeo or wherever and hashtag a synopsis to the #backchannel.

I’ll post the links on this blog site and open it to comments. If the backchannel agrees that the story is compelling and interesting I’ll grab my “junior correspondent’s” camera gear and shoot the story for broadcast on Channel 7.  If you really hit your “pitch” out of the park I’ll find a way to slip your version past the “suits” and get it on our website at wxyz.com…maybe even use some of your story in my story. The #backchannel will start showing Detroit it’s best, rather than worst side.

Something I have learned about myself and about you since we started getting together is that we are exceedingly passionate and motivated. We backchannelers are pioneers in a vast new world that stretches somewhere between “old” and “new” media. I have faith that we’re up to this challenge and I can’t wait to get started.

Who’s first?

Stephen