A few notes and a column (The Diet App*)

In three days, I will celebrate my 3rd anniversary as a columnist with the Mountain Press

When I started three years ago, I never imagined I would still have ideas about things to write about every other week for all that time.  Surprisingly, I still have lots of ideas rolling around in my head.

I remember asking Stan Voit, the editor at the time, about how a person gets a chance to write a column and he responded simply with, “send me a sample.”  I was so excited, I emailed him two samples within a couple of hours and his response was simply, “Ok.  I’ll run one of your columns once a month or so.  The first one was too long.  The second one is about right.  Keep them at around 600 words.”

And so it began – my career as a columnist.

I have also celebrated another amazing milestone recently – over 6,000 unique visitors to my blog page.  6,257 to be exact but who’s counting.

I am pretty amazed by this as well but can pretty much attribute it to one or two columns that kind of went viral on a small scale, I suppose.  The most popular column, by far, is Mississippi for Dummies, which has had several thousand views.  It is one of my top picks but not my personal favorite which is The Fires of Brazil and has netted me 120 views from Brazil.  Some search engine down there likes me and Brazilians keep showing up to read it periodically.  I used a few Portuguese words in that column that I stole from a restaurant menu so I hope I am not the butt of some joke like the guy I once read about who got a tattoo using the Japanese Alphabet to say “loyalty.”  It was later discovered the literal translation was not loyalty but instead, “noodles.”

I could see a goof like that bringing in 120 Brazilian people to laugh at me.  Might bump me up on their search engine too.  Darn.  Now I am overthinking it.

By my estimate, I have published about 70,000 words in the last three years which is right about the range of a typical novel.  I suddenly realize all my arguments about how I can’t find time to write a book are really not too valid anymore.  At the very least, maybe I will consider an anthology of my current works interspersed some new material as well.

I’ll keep you posted.

I have also considered setting up a Patreon page which I typically am not especially keen on but I do find it to be an intriguing way for content creators (a fancy phrase that encompasses all creative people posting stuff on the internet) to crowd fund a project.  I’ll keep you posted on that as well.

Until then, why not enjoy another column? I present my very first column from three years ago, The Diet App.

The Diet App *

Recently, I embarked on a task of monumental proportions – to lose some weight.  Being the tech savvy guy that I am, I knew before even looking that there would be an app for that and, boy, did I find a goodie.

It encompassed calorie counting, peer accountability and credit for exercise.  Best of all, it cost $0.00  which was slightly under the ceiling in my price range.

As I chose my meals wisely, I entered them in my app and was rewarded with congratulatory messages automatically posted to my various social networks for all my friends to see.  “Michael completed his food and exercise diary and came in 123 calories under his daily goal!”

Encouraged, by this reward system, I took it a step further and hit the treadmill.  15 minutes and a few short entries later, my circle of friends knew that “Michael burned 257 calories doing: 15 minutes of vigorous treadmill exercise.”

I was hooked!  And best of all, it was actually working for me. This method of public reward or public shame was really keeping me motivated.

It wasn’t long before the pounds started dropping. One weekend, after a long day of yard work, I was pooped and thought there must be some way I can get credit for this hard work. I perused the preloaded exercises and was absolutely thrilled to find lawn mowing as an option -both push mowing and, surprisingly, riding.

Voila…”Michael burned 558 calories doing 90 minutes of lawn mowing – push mower.” And, friends, let’s not forget “Michael burned 135 calories doing 60 minutes of lawn mowing – riding mower.”

I was completely enamored with the idea of being able to burn 135 calories sitting on my lawn mower for an hour.  Gears started turning in my head.  I even considered riding my mower to work!

Ok, not really but I was going to explore this app a little further.  I already knew that if I couldn’t find a particular food item, I could create a custom food item and use it.  I wondered if…. And there it was….  “Create a custom exercise.”

In no time at all, my friends were sharing in more of my digital accolades.

“Michael burned 250 calories doing: 45 minutes of folding laundry.”

“Michael burned 125 calories doing: general garden work.”

Some friends began to voice concerns that I might be going a little overboard but I argued that, in the diet game, accuracy is imperative.

“Michael burned 15 calories doing: hunting for the remote control.”

“Michael burned 6 calories doing: walking from recliner to TV.”

“Michael burned 3.5 calories doing: vigorous teeth brushing.”

Oddly enough, my social network is dropping friends faster than I am dropping pounds.  But I will not be distracted. I will continue to stay focused on my goal and will not be deterred by those jealous of my success.

“Michael burned 37 calories writing a column for The Mountain Press.”

If you enjoyed this column and would like to see more, click here.

© Michael L. Collins

  • Originally appeared in the July 7, 2013 edition of The Mountain Press.
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