How to Customize BuddyBoss Theme – Add A Blank Page

After trying Mighty Networks and I decided that BuddyBoss was the way to go for the all-new for 2023 Write & Direct Film School.

So far? Love BuddyBoss.

Like most modern site configurations I have a main url, and then a client dashboard/community at a ‘my’ sub domain. The sub domain site is where BuddyBoss lives. It’s also where I collect enrollments for the school.

As you can imagine, my primary site is themed completely different than BuddyBoss. And though the BuddyBoss theme offers a plethora of options to customize the look and feel, I wanted the enrollment page on the ‘my’ subdomain to be identical in look and feel to my primary site. For me, this is a better user experience.

So I needed to customize the BuddyBoss theme outside of the normal parameters, and create a completely blank page that would allow header to footer styling. The first step to accomplish this is activate the BuddyBoss child theme.

1. Activate BuddyBoss Child Theme

BuddyBoss provides a child theme out of the box which makes it easier to add custom styling to aspects of your BuddyBoss site. Simply activate the child theme and with your sFTP client, browse to the /wp-content/themes/buddyboss-theme-child folder. In this folder you’ll find items like functions.php, screenshot.png, etc.

You can add your own PHP functions to the functions.php file, change the theme image in the WordPress Admin by replacing the screenshot.png file — You get it. I’m not going to dive into child theme possibilities here.

Let’s get onto styling a page to match my primary site.

2. Create New Page Template

My registration page on the BuddyBoss site is called ‘enroll’. To customize this page I simply create a page-enroll.php file and drop it in the root of the child theme. The contents of the PHP file should look like this (download it here):

3. Override BuddyBoss Styling

When I created my blank page and added content, it worked. But I couldn’t change the header and footer of the page to match my primary site. And this didn’t work for me.

Reached out to BuddyBoss support and asked them for a way to have a completely blank page without including their styling in any way. They don’t have that option. So, it was off to the wild wild west of overriding CSS with !important declarations. Not ideal, but guess what? It works.

In the assets > css folder (in the BuddyBoss child theme) you’ll see a ‘custom.css’ file. This is the file for customizing your CSS.

4. Create Your Page & Get The ID

I’m not saying this is the only way to do this. For example, you could play around with creating a template that you choose from the admin, etc. But that route wasn’t working for me in this scenario.

With that said, simply create the page you want to style in the WordPress admin (if you haven’t already). Make sure the permalink matches the name you give your PHP file.

In the top of the WordPress admin (with the page in edit mode) look for “post=” and a number. That number is your page ID. Jot that down.

5. Add CSS Overrides

Next add the lines below to the custom.css file. *Note: Use your page ID number instead of 877.

/* buddy boss mods */
.page-id-877 #content{padding:0 !important;margin:0 !important;width:100% !important;}
.page-id-877 .site-content{padding:0 !important;margin:0 !important;width:100% !important;}
.page-id-877 .container{padding:0 !important;margin:0 !important;width:100% !important;max-width:100% !important;}
.page-id-877 .bb-grid{display:block !important;}
.page-id-877 .site-content-grid{padding:0 !important;margin:0 !important;width:100% !important;flex:0 1 100% !important;}
.page-id-877 img {padding:0 !important;}
.page-id-877 .buddypanel {display:none !important;}
.page-id-877 #page {margin:0 !important;}
.page-id-877 .site-header-container {height:0px !important;position:fixed !important;margin:-100px 0 0 0 !important;}
.page-id-877 .footer-bottom {display:none !important;}

This will move the BuddyBoss header off the page and completely hide the footer. You can also do a display:none on the site-header-container if you’d like.

This CSS removes margins, spacing, hides the BuddyPanel and changes the .bb-grid class to not display as flex box. That’s a huge one as your content that you add in the next step will not look right until .bb-grid is set to display:block.

6. Add Your Own Styling

Now you can add your own header, main content and footer using the same styling from your primary site! Of course the actual BuddyBoss header and footer is being processed, which includes the WordPress loop, etc. We have just hid them.

You can check out both of my pages and see how they now match up:

In Summary

As mentioned, there could be other ways to customize the BuddyBoss theme and create your own blank template page, but for my scenario this gave me what I needed. Obviously you could add other page-name.php template files, grab the ID and add to your CSS. Or try creating a template to select from the admin. As mentioned, I had issues with that route and BuddyBoss.

How to Migrate WordPress Sites Without Plugins

I’ve used WordPress plugins for my share of site migrations. Anything from All in One WordPress Migration to iThemes BackupBuddy.

The problem?

Sometimes the migrations will simply fail. And after you bang your head repeatedly on the desk, you hope for a better way. The good news?

There is a much more reliable method for migrating your WordPress sites!

In fact, after you move your first WordPress site using the command line and sFTP, you’ll never go back to using a WordPress migration plugin again. Ever. If people knew how easy this was, the site migration plugin business would be dead overnight.

You’ll need command line access to your server. You’ll also need to update your DNS records to point to the new server IP. And you’ll need an sFTP client.


Here are the bullet proof steps to move sites:

1. Export Your Database

Open up the wp-config.php file for your current site to get the db name, user and password.

Next use the command below to export your database. It’s going to ask you for the password, and then it will export the database as ‘sitedatabase.sql.’

mysqldump --no-tablespaces --opt -u USER_NAME -p DATABASE_NAME > sitedatabase.sql

*Note: This command will not include table spaces. The PROCESS privilege is new as of MySQL 5.7.31 and MySQL 8.0.21 and is required to export table spaces. So to get around this, we tell the export process to skip them as they’re irrelevant for WordPress sites.

You will be prompted to enter the password, which is also contained in the wp-config.php file.

2. Copy the Exported Database

You can find the exported database file with an sFTP client like ForkLift from Binary Knights (for OSX users). Note: The sql file will be in the root folder on your server. Not the root of your server, the root folder.

3. Zip Up Your Website Files

Next on the command line you need to move to the parent folder that your website files and folders are located in. Basically, the folder that contains your WordPress folders like wp-content, etc.

Example: If your site files are in /var/www/ then enter the following command:

cd /var/www/

Now it’s time to zip up your site! Make sure you remove any archived backup files from those plugins that don’t work that well anyway — The backup files hog a lot of space. Once you’ve cleaned stuff up run:

zip -r choosefilename public_html

*Note: If your site files were in another folder besides ‘public_html’ then name that folder in the command.

4. Copy the Zip File

You’ll see the zip file in the ‘’ directory. Copy this to your local computer.

5. Install WordPress on Destination Server

You need to get a clean install of WordPress up and running on the new server.

6. Remove the WordPress files

Once you have the new WordPress install live, we need to toast all the files.

On the destination server, sign in via command line and type the following command where is the name of your website, and public_html is the folder that contains the WordPress files and folders.

rm -r /var/www/

7. Copy Zip and SQL Files to Destination Server

Now use your sFTP client to copy the zip and sql files to the destination server. Place them in the parent folder for your site. Example: If your new site is located in /var/www/ copy the files to /var/www/

8. Unzip the Files

On the command line of the new server, move the folder you copied the files to above.

cd /var/www/

Now unzip the zip file (use the name you selected in Step 3):


9. Import the Database

Open up the WP-Config.php file for your your new WordPress site on the destination server.

Once you have this open and see the database name, user name and password, type the following command on the command line (use the name of your sql file from Step 1):

mysql -u USER_NAME -p DATABASE_NAME < sitedatabase.sql

Once you enter the command, it will prompt for the password.

*Note: If you receive an ‘Unknown Collation’ error, edit the sql file in a text editor like Sublime Text. Find and replace “utf8mb4_0900_ai_ci” with “utf8mb4_general_ci“. Then copy the updated SQL file back to your new site folder and run the import command again. See this Freaky Jolly article for more information.

10. Enable Fail2Ban on Gridpane

If you’re using Gridpane and had Fail2Ban enabled on the original site, you’ll need to enable it on the new site or you’ll get errors in your browser (that say nothing about the Fail2Ban plugin).

11. Wrapping Up

That’s it! This may have seemed like a lot of steps, but once you see how easy it is to migrate your WordPress sites without using problematic and expensive migration plugins, you’ll never go back.

A special thanks to Gridpane for providing some of the steps here. If you aren’t using them, I highly recommend it!

Which Film School Should You Go To?

So why not be a filmmaker? I was 26 when the light finally turned on.

It happened in my office at work. Out of nowhere something crashed into my head. Not a ceiling tile or light fixture. It was this radical idea: “I should go to film school.”

That thought eventually changed my life. Packed up everything and moved to Los Angeles. Just me, an old Honda and BIG dreams. My life had finally begun!

I attended school at the Los Angeles Film School on Sunset Boulevard. My directing teacher was a member of the DGA. Sound design teacher worked full time on Law and Order. My editing teacher cut Blazing Saddles back in the day. Needless to say, I learned a lot!

But there was a problem. Something school didn’t prepare me for.

What was it? That Hollywood doesn’t care about your education. Attending film school in the heart of the entertainment industry was not the silver bullet I thought it would be. I was a double major, graduated with honors. Had one of the most polished reels in my class.

But it just didn’t matter. After school I was sleeping on an air mattress, working retail to pay bills.

Tracey Wadmore-Smith, Kyler Boudreau and Bod Odenkirk.

Fortunately I met someone who worked at Universal Pictures who got me on to couple films directed by Bob Odenkirk (Let’s Go To Prison and The Brothers Solomon). Working on the studio films was exciting! But there is no path from production assistant to director.

As fun as the studio sets were, I decided to jump into the world of independent film. But the challenge with indie filmmaking is that it just doesn’t pay. This means you need a full time job to pay bills, while working on movies nights and weekends.

Slating on the film RECKONING shot in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

It’s been 16 years since I graduated from film school. There have been many lessons, some learned the hard way. Mastering the craft of story telling for the big screen takes a lot of time.

Let’s circle back to the entire question of this blog post: Which film school should you go to?

I think education is definitely important, but the system is messed up. The entertainment industry is overloaded with people trying to make a living. Thousands of hopefuls journey to LA each year dreaming of their chance to “break in.”

But if you don’t approach your film education right, you could end up as yet another statistic. You know, that cool person who moved to LA from Ohio to follow their dreams only to crash and burn and move back home at the age of 37.

The entertainment industry is overloaded with people trying to make a living. Thousands of hopefuls journey to LA each year dreaming of their chance to break in.

Film school should teach the craft quickly without draining your bank account. Because the only way to becoming a writer and director is to in fact write and direct movies. But if you spend $30K a year on film school, you don’t have anything left to keep going.

And this is precisely what Write & Direct is all about.

Write & Direct is a cohesive, hands on film school for those who want to direct movies.

Write & Direct is hands on, cohesive training that teaches the craft of filmmaking at an affordable price. Students begin in development and move through every phase of making a movie. They complete their first film during training — A film that can be submitted to film festivals, and even put on IMDb!

The goal of Write & Direct is to teach aspects of the craft that took me years to learn. While liberating students from financial bondage so they have the resources to do what every aspiring director must do — write and direct movies.

This online film school officially launches in 2022! Discover how to launch your filmmaking career!

iPhone 4K | Moment Anamorphic | Avid Media Composer

When I went to film school we shot on mini DV. Now I have an iPhone that can shoot 4K footage. It’s insane. Of course, 4K from a phone isn’t anything like 4K from a Black Magic or RED, but it’s great for short films and more!

The Basic Requirements of Filmmakers

Story tellers using the medium of movies for their art typically want 24 frame footage, shutter speed and white balance control, focus control along with 4K footage with an anamorphic frame size.

iPhones can’t do all of that.

The good news? The Moment Anamorphic lens combined with the Moment Pro iPhone app will deliver. You can shoot 4K anamorphic footage at 24 frames while controlling shutter speed, aperture, white balance and focus. DUDE.

When Moment announced their new anamorphic lens, it didn’t take me too long to spring for it. But when I started prep for my first short film with the new setup, I realized there was a small learning curve for post.

The iPhone 4K Workflow

My editing tool of choice is Avid Media Composer. I’ve cut three feature length films and who knows how many short films in Avid. Love it! Avid is stable, used by the industry pros, and it just makes sense.

Here is a 100% tested workflow to get your iPhone 4K anamorphic footage into Avid Media Composer. This assumes the following:

  1. You’re shooting on an iPhone (X/XS/11/12/13)
  2. The Moment app is set to 4K
  3. The Moment app has the desqueeze option turned off
  4. You’re shooting H.264 or ProRes (ProRes possible on iPhone 13 Pro)
  5. You’re cutting in Avid Media Composer on Mac
HEVC vs H.264. Remember that HEVC is about smaller file size, not better quality -- At least from what I've read. Also, Avid MC doesn't support HEVC files. Obviously that could change in the future. If you do shoot HEVC, you can run them through Compressor and convert to ProRes which Avid can then work with.

1) Media Management

Smooth post production begins with good media management. Trust me – you do not want to rush this part.

We’ll be AMA linking the footage in Avid vs importing it. Back in the day of DV tapes from the lab, importing was obviously the easiest and only option. But with with various high resolution formats, AMA linking is the ticket.

I recommend you create a separate folder outside of Avid MediaFiles called Avid Original Media. Then create sub-folders for each project you work on, with consistent naming applied to project sub folders (raw, sound, etc).

Consistent file management will save your sanity.

2) Copy Footage from Photos

The easiest way is to airdrop the files to your computer. After obtaining the files (downloads folder), copy all of the .MOV files into the raw folder of your project.

You can also grab the files after a normal iPhone to Mac import. If you’re familiar with Apple, you know imports dump all the videos into the main photo library. Open Finder and go to your User Folder > Pictures. Right-click on the Photos Library and choose Show Package Contents. Open Masters and then navigate to the date of the import.

Note: I’ve lost an entire day’s footage before with the Photos library corrupting. It’s horrifying. My method to avoid this is to first import all of the footage into Photos. Once that is done, disconnect your iPhone graciously via iTunes. Then close Photos completely. Once you’ve done that, then do the Show Package Contents on the photos library.

4) Create Your Avid Project

If you’re new to 4K, there are different types, as you’ll soon see when creating your project in Avid. DCI 4K is a pixel resolution of 4096×2160. 4K UHD is 3840×2160.

Moment says on their website that the lens is a 1.33x or 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The 2.40:1 part isn’t accurate. I beat my head against the wall a bit, then finally reached out to Moment to get the official word.

Turns out the Moment anamorphic lens is a 2.36:1 aspect ratio. Footage comes squeezed from the camera at UHD dimensions of 3840×2160. The actual project size to unsqueeze would be 5106×2160 or 3840×1624. 5106×2160 is not broadcast standard, so when you deliver you’d need to size that down.

For any of you who have shot with Moment's desqueeze setting to on, you know the resulting footage is 3840x1624. So if you don't want to lose quality, make sure that setting is off in the app. I think it defaults to on!
Setup your Avid project as 5106×2160 for a 2.36:1 aspect ratio.

Click a new project and choose Custom under format. Type in 3840×1624 and you’ll see the Aspect Ratio field automatically adjust to 2.36:1.

As mentioned, back in the day you’d receive tapes from the lab and digitize the footage. Avid would create MXF files (formerly OMF files) to represent each digitized clip. You can still do this, but there can be drawbacks. Here we will do the AMA link method.

Open a bin, right-click inside and choose Input > Source Browser. Navigate to the raw folder and link your footage! You can also simply open Finder and alt-drag the files into the open Avid bin. This automatically AMA links vs importing. If you drag without holding the alt key, it will import vs link.

How you organize your project is up to you, but I create bins to match my folder structure on the computer, for simplicity.
The Source Browser windows in Avid Media Composer

Once the AMA linking is done, simply close the Source Browser and double-click on a clip to view in the Composer Window. You’ll see that Avid automatically adjusts the 3840×2160 footage to match your project settings!

Footage from my shoot in Switzerland 2019.

However, playback could be an issue, especially if you did a high data rate when recording (Moment Pro and Filmic Pro allow you to change this) and you’re cutting on a MacBook Pro like me. If you notice stutter, you should transcode your footage.

6) Transcode Your Footage

Transcoding footage allows you to create new clips at a lower resolution, and then cut in a resolution that your computer can handle. Once you’re editing is done, simply relink to the original source footage with zero quality loss!

To transcode, highlight all of the clips in a bin, and right-click. Choose the Consolidate/Transcode option. It will bring up a window with settings. Select the transcode radio button.

Transcode your footage for a better editing experience.

Next you’ll need to specify Target Drive, Raster Dimensions, Target Resolution and Linked Source Scaling. All of this depends on the length of your project and the speed of your computer. Just be sure to check the Keep Source’s Frame Rate radio box to ensure no relinking issues later.

There are no wrong answers here. You can set the Raster Dimension to 1/4, Target Resolution to Avid DNxHR LT and the Source Scaling to something less than full. This will all help your playback and editing be more enjoyable.

After you transcode, the AMA linked clips will now show the new code information. If you’re wondering what codec and quality to choose, I went with high on everything (including DNxHDR HQX) and playback was fine vs the stuttered playback of H.264.

7) Exporting A Sequence

When you have a 4K sequence ready for export, simply go to File > Output > Export to File. You’ll need to choose Custom vs Same as Source and then specify the dimensions. If you leave it at Same as Source you’ll get a quicktime file with a green screen instead of your footage.

Avid Export to File settings window

BOOYAH! That’s it.

Cutting 4K iPhone footage shot with the Moment Anamorphic lens is a ton of fun. And it’s shocking how far technology has come. Now anyone has the tools they need to tell a good story without spending a fortune.

Patagonia Yulex vs Simms Wading Socks

I don’t do waders. Maybe it’s the $700 price tag for a good pair of Simms. But regardless of the weather or the river, I’m always in the water without them. That means snow falling and frigid water. From the South Holston in TN to the Madison River in MT.

So when you’re addicted to wet wading, you definitely need incredible boots and socks. To date, Simms has supplied me with both. I wouldn’t trade my Simms Guide Boots for anything. Well, the new Sage LL might convince me.

Patagonia Yulex vs Simms

On a recent outing I left my old Simms socks wet for too long and they mildewed. I’m talking the kind of smell which rivals a dead animal. They went in the trash.

Ordered a new pair of Simms Guard Socks and decided to also take a look at the Patagonia Yulex. Why? Initially for shallow reasons: They come in black. But there’s more to it than that…

The Patagonia Yulex and Simms Wading Socks. See what I mean about the black?

Materials Used

So here’s the big difference in the two: Simms is made of neoprene. It’s been around forever, and it’s made by DuPont. You know, the company featured in the film Dark Waters that polluted American lands and attempted to cover it up. If you haven’t watched the movie, watch it.

But back to fly fishing: The Patagonias are made of natural rubber. Not the DuPont neoprene that never breaks down. Patagonia champions environmental health while companies like DuPont don’t have the same track record.

BTW — The neoprene debacle is a growing concern with the likes of surfers and free divers. They know their old neoprene suits are going to sit in a land fill forever.

General Comfort & Fit

Okay, so here’s where things really matter, right? I mean, we’re human. And though we love the idea of saving the planet, unfortunately we need a little more than that. The good news is that Patagonia delivers.

The Patagonia Yulex screen left and the Simms Guard Sock screen right.

The Patagonias are made for right or left foot while the Simms are now anatomically correct (My old Simms Guard Socks were not like this). Personally, I don’t want to try and figure out which is left and right when heading to the stream at 4AM. But whatever.

Initial Sock Comfort

The Patagonia Yulex wins hands down for initial comfort. The Simms have very noticeable seams on the inside of the sock. Sure, if you’re wearing additional socks inside the guard socks it probably wouldn’t matter. But if you pull these onto your bare feet like I do, those seems are a tad annoying. The Patagonia Yulex feel great. No noticeable seams.

Size and Fit

I wear size 9 in Altra running shoes and size 8.5 in classic Converse Chuck Taylors. Simms rates their medium as a men’s US 6-9 which I think is quite the span. Patagonia’s medium is rated at 8-9 which is more dialed in IMHO. Both mediums fit perfectly. So the sizing seems to be good.

Using the Patagonia Yulex while night fishing for large browns on the South Holston in October.


Something I enjoy about the Simms are the small holes throughout the lower sock. This allows water and air to move in and out keeping your feet fresh. Not so much that it changes the temperature or anything crazy. But just nice to have, especially in warmer weather.

All Day Performance

I’ve fished the Simms more, but have fished both in the cold waters of the South Holston. My initial thoughts are that the Patagonias are totally comfortable. However, the Simms Guard Socks do feel slightly “springier” than the Yulex. The Yulex don’t feel bad at all. In fact, the day I put them on to fish, my initial thoughts were, “These feel great.” But when you pull one pair off and put the others on and walk around, you can notice a difference between them. I think the Simms have a little more cushion.

Update: After fishing these socks more I’ve discovered something regarding the Patagonias: They are VERY difficult to put back on when wet. Dry, they slide right on. But damp from a previous day of fishing? Not fun. The Simms go on much easier when wet.

The Simms Guard Socks look normal pulled up. Not the Patagonias.

Winter Wet Wading

The entire idea of a guard sock is the fold-over design that keeps crud out of your wading boot. Got it. But for those of us in 45-degree water, sometimes it’s nice to pull those bad boys up for a bit of leg insulation.

The Simms Guard Socks are made to do this. You pull them up and there’s another Simms logo ready to shine. But Patagonia printed like the entire company roster on the inside of their sock. Do the trout care? But if you’re into how you look tromping around a stream, there it is.

Price Comparison

Both guard sock options are priced closely. The Patagonia Yulex rings in at $45 direct from Patagonia, and the Simms Guard Socks ring in at $50 direct from the Simms website.

Patagonia vs Simms – The Verdict

So what’s my opinion? The Patagonia Yulex perform and they’re made of more natural materials by a company not destroying the planet. I do like the springy feel of the Simms Guard Socks, but I don’t like the left and right foot stuff. It doesn’t make a difference IMO. The seams inside the Simms Guard Socks are also slightly annoying while the Patagonias feel perfect on bare feet.

The Young Living Purification essential oil blend will help keep your boots fresh like nothing else.

Bonus Tip: Extend Wading Boot Life

Another tip for those of you who like clean smelling wading boots: Use an essential oil blend.

Of course you’re religious about immediately rinsing your boots upon arriving home (you do this, right?). But something I’ve been doing for a few years now is adding a few drops of Young Living’s Purification essential oil blend to the process. Essential oils are an entire topic on their own, but trust me — incredible stuff.

The Purification blend uses Citronella, Lavandin, Lemongrass, Myrtle, Rosemary, and Tea Tree to fight the bad stuff that will grow in wet boots. I add 2-3 drops per boot, fill them up with water and let it slosh around. Then rinse out the boot and let them dry.

I kid you not, if you picked up one of my boots and took a nice whiff, you’d never know I’ve put hours and hours on them in all types of water! Use this link to order, and if you do it helps one of our home businesss:

Once there, search for “Purification” and get a bottle or two. You’ll love it. I’ve been using the same pair of Simms Guide boots for about 5 years now.

Are Short Films Worth It?

The Importance of Short Films

Getting back in the director’s chair for Rose and the Outlaw was more rewarding than anticipated. My end game has always been to direct, but most of my filmmaking career had been spent in post production and writing spec-features.

As mentioned above, I thought feature length IMDb credits should be the only focus. But the decision in 2020 to write and direct a short film ‘Rebel Without a Crew’ style changed my mind completely. In fact, the sequel to Rose and the Outlaw is already scheduled for 2021!

Are Short Films Worth It?
On set shooting Rose and the Outlaw | Released 2020

You Learn By Doing

Writing and directing Rose and the Outlaw opened my eyes to the importance of actually doing the craft. Sure, I’ve spent thousands of hours working as an editor and a writer, and these are crucial skills. But you only become a director by… wait for it: directing.

Rebel Without a Crew

Robert Rodriguez, James Cameron and other successful filmmakers talk about the importance of being experienced in not just directing, but every aspect of making a movie. Why? Because it helps you communicate more effectively with crew. It also empowers you to make more creative decisions, and it avoids delaying your shoot if someone can’t make it. The sound mixer is sick? Well if you know how to run sound, you don’t have to delay.

The timeline for Rose and the Outlaw in Avid Media Composer
The timeline for Rose and the Outlaw in Avid Media Composer

Short films are ideal for teaching you how to do it all, because you in fact do have to do it all. Unless you actually have the budget to pay a bunch of people. On Rose and the Outlaw I was forced to run camera, sound, direct, edit, do sound design and color. All on top of acting in the film. And as difficult as that was, I’ll never have a production hiccup due to reliance on crew.

Building An Audience

The path of the indie filmmaker today is to build an audience. You can have talent, great scripts and still get nowhere because financiers and studios often want guarantees before they spend their money. A new filmmaker coming to them with an existing audience can go a long way.

Speaking of that, if you’d be so kind to follow my YouTube channel, I would seriously appreciate it!

Keep IMDb Fresh

IMDb is owned by Amazon, and it’s the de facto place to have credits in the film industry. When I worked as an editor on indie features, my IMDb profile stayed current. But when I switched to writing spec features, it looked as if I’d fallen off the map.

Directing IMDb qualifying short films helps keep me active on the industry’s largest resume database. It also allows people to rate my films, which helps overall marketing endeavors. If you’d like to rate Rose and the Outlaw on IMDb, that would be HUGE. Thank you!

Reckoning: My Next Film

The sequel to Rose and the Outlaw is titled RECKONING and scheduled to go into production November 2021.

The sequel will be longer (25 minutes), have more characters and be shot on “real” equipment. Reckoning is set in the 1800s in the town of Little Cataloochee, NC. This mountain town doesn’t exist anymore, but is now part of a national park. However, you can find fascinating history about Little Cataloochee online.

So are short films worth it? You bet. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, my recommendation is to get your feet wet now and learn the craft of story telling by writing and directing short films!

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to be in on the behind-the-scenes action for Reckoning, sign up here.

How to Install Linux Malware Detect on Debian

It only takes a single malware incident on your linux server to have you vow against such an outage in the future. The good news is that you can install Linux Malware Detect (LMD) on your Debian or Ubuntu server for free.

What is Linux Malware Detect?

Linux Malware Detect is a malware scanner released under the GNU GPLv2 license. LMD is updated by community resources and other methods. LMD ups the malware detection game by not just discovering threats at the OS level (trojans, rootkits, etc) but also at the user account level which is a growing issue in shared hosting environments.

Main Site:

From the site: “The defining difference with LMD is that it doesn’t just detect malware based on signatures/hashes that someone else generated but rather it is an encompassing project that actively tracks in the wild threats and generates signatures based on those real world threats that are currently circulating.”

1. Install Inotify Tools on Debian

Inotify is used to monitor and act on filesystem events. You’ll need this for Linux Malware Detect. Inotify is available from Debian’s official repositories.

apt-get install inotify-tools

2. Download Linux Malware Detect (LMD)

To download maldet or LMD simply go to your server command line and type the following. The first will download LMD and the second will extract the files.

tar -zxvf maldetect-current.tar.gz

3. Install Maldet

You’ll need to change to the downloaded directory and run the installation script. Change the directory path name to match the version of maldet you extracted. For example, at the time of writing the current version is 1.6.4. So that would be cd maldetect-1.6.4.

cd maldetect-1.6.4

4. Edit Linux Malware Detect Config

The configuration file is stored in /usr/local/maldetect/conf.maldet. Open this file in a text editor and set the following values:

email_addr="[email protected]"

5. Install ClamAV®

Clam AntiVirus is an open source antivirus engine designed to detect trojans, viruses, malware and other nasties on your linux server. When you install this scanning engine, LMD will work with ClamAV for improved scan performance and also increased detection capabilities.

apt-get install clamav

6. Perform a Scan

To do a manual scan, use maldet –help to see the options. For example, to scan everything in the /var/www/ folder you would type:

maldet -a /var/www

7. Update Linux Malware Detect

To update LMD use the following commands:

maldet -u
maldet -d

The first command updates the signatures from and the second updates the version.

8. Automatic Scans

When you install Linux Malware Detect it will add a file to the /etc/cron.daily folder called maldet. This file downloads definitions and performs daily basic scans. However, I personally add cron jobs to do the updates along with some specific scans on my servers.

crontab -e

This will open up an editor (you might have to select your preferred editor of choice. I always us Nano). I then add commands to update definitions, LMD version and run two different scans:

5 1 * * * maldet -u
15 1 * * * maldet -d
30 1 * * * maldet -a /var/www
30 2 * * * maldet -a /var/lib

Crontab works beginning with the minute, hour, day of month, the month, day of week and then the actual command to run. The wild cards will not limit. So using a wild card for day of month will make the command run every day.

Once you save this file, you should see it show up under the user you used to create it in /var/spool/cron/crontabs.

9. That’s A Wrap.

Your debian server is going to run a little safer now! A huge thank you to the people behind LMD and ClamAV. You can make a donation to LMD on their main page:

Story Structure

Does that sound like film blasphemy?

It’s true. But does that mean a movie will bore you due to a lack of twists, turns and character development? Of course not. But every film follows a structure. From Die Hard to Jerry Maguire to Black Panther.

Spoiler alert: What you’ll learn in the next few minutes will cause you to see things in films that you’ve never seen before. But when you’re able to point this stuff out, you’re gonna look really cool to your friends.

The structure discussed here is largely from the late Blake Synder. Blake took ancient conventions of story telling and placed them into contemporary vernacular. However, nothing discussed here is new under the sun. Blake’s books that have helped me the most are Save the Cat and Save the Cat Strikes Back.

Every film you love follows story structure. From Die Hard to Jerry Maguire to Black Panther.

Important Note: By each section I show the time span of a movie the section typically covers. These are loose guides. For example, a 90 minute film is going to hit everything differently than a 2 hour film. Stories also flex these points in different ways. As Morpheus told Neo in The Matrix, “Try not to look at it as right and wrong. It’s a guide.”

Opening Imagery (1-5 Minutes)

The opening imagery also sets the tone of your film. It also sets us up for the change. Remember, your story is about transformation. And a well done films show us imagery at the beginning that supports the broken state of our situation.

Jaws (1975)

Jaws opens a POV shot of something swimming through the water. Cut to a woman enters the water at night, and it eaten. If we knew nothing about the film, we know now. How does Jaws close? Two men swimming through those same waters with no fear, because they killed the shark.

The Matrix (1999)

The opening of The Matrix shows people running for their lives from “agents” in what we later learn to be a fake, digital world. The end of the film shows agents running from a human in that same world. A human who is above the code. The tide has definitely turned.

The opening of The Dark Knight shows us an insane villain lose in Gotham City. Image copyright Warner Brothers.

The Dark Knight (2008)

We’re immediately shown one of the best antagonists of all time: The Joker. He is about to unleash a reign of terror on Gotham City. By the end of the film, he and his terror have been both contained and proven wrong.

Setup (1-15 minutes)

The setup includes our opening imagery, and also tells us when and where the story takes place. It tells us who our hero is, and we’ll meet many of the main characters. But not all of them. Some critical pieces also happen during the setup, let’s take a look:

Theme Stated (5-10 minutes)

Premise and plot are the action of the film. They sell movie tickets. But theme is what the movie is really about. Somewhere in the first 5-10 minutes of a film, the theme will be addressed. It’s also called the spiritual journey of our hero(s). And usually the basic theme will be stated by someone other than the hero.

Dr. Grant tells the kid to show some respect. This is the theme of Jurassic Park. Image © Universal Pictures.

Jurassic Park (1993)

A punk kid challenges the idea of raptors at the dig site. Dr. Grant tells him to show a little respect. We also see that Grant has issues with kids. These themes persist in huge ways for the rest of the film. Grant learns to love kids, and everyone on the island learns what happens when you disrespect nature and play God. Everything about Jurassic Park hangs on this single moment.

Die Hard (1988)

The plot of Die Hard is about a cop that dies hard against thieves. Die Hard’s theme is about a husband whose love for his wife dies hard. See how the action of the plot mimics the deeper story? This makes a film meaningful. And in Die Hard, the real story was addressed with the limo driver at the very beginning.

Story Tip: We always have a flawed hero. They might not be “bad” but there is something they need to learn. Example: Can you guess what Chief Brody’s flaw was in Jaws? What his spiritual journey was all about? I’ll tell you in just a minute. Huge kudos if you figure it out on your own!

Inciting Incident (12 minutes)

People will also call this the catalyst, and your entire film hangs on this moment. At the beginning of every movie you’re ever seen, something happens in the first few minutes that changes our hero’s life. This is what launches them on their journey of transformation.


When Chief Brody finds the remains of a woman on the beach, his world changes. It’s no longer about parking tickets and neighborhood complaints. He’s going to have to kill a shark and we all know it right then and there.

It would have been just another day on the farm without this catalyst. Image © Twentieth Century Fox.

Star Wars

When Luke Skywalker is messing with a droid on the farm and sees a message intended for Obi-Wan Kenobi, his world changes forever.

Jerry Maguire

When the hockey player’s kid curses at Jerry in the hallway, Jerry’s eyes are opened to what he’s become and there’s simply no going back.

Think about your favorite movies. The inciting incident is what launches things forward. It must be significant. It must entertain and launch our hero on their journey of change.

Endearment Intentions (1-10)

Endearment intentions are things done right off the bat to help the audience empathize and like our hero. Some call this “pet the dog” or “save the cat” and in some movies, it’s literally something like that.

Chief Anderton asks a colleague if she’s had any contractions. Image © 20th Century Fox.

Minority Report (2002)

Within seconds of meeting Chief Anderton (Tom Cruise), we see him ask a colleague if she’s had any contractions yet. This is the Save the Cat moment. Why? Her pregnancy has nothing to do with the story. But is shows us our hero cares about others. When this happens, subconsciously we’re on his side.

When done correctly, endearment intentions can even make us root for a hero who isn’t a good guy at all. Think Godfather, Hannibal and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Characters who may not be likable, are given likable traits to make us empathize with them.

So a quick recap: The Opening Image and Setup set the stage for a story, the Save the Cat moment makes us like our hero and the Theme is what the film is really about deep down. What happens next?

Debate (12-25 minutes)

Our hero’s world is now turned upside down. What’s next?

Does Chief Brody move back to New York? Should Luke forget he saw the dumb message from the Princess? Can Jerry Maguire keep living life as a disconnected sports agent? Does Hugh Grant ignore the juice he dumped all over a famous movie star? No. There’s no ignoring, but there is a debate.

John McClane realizes he’s gonna have to do it the hard way. Image © Twentieth Century Fox.
Story Tip: Movies are about a hero who chooses to change. They embrace the challenge. But here’s the thing: They don’t know that yet. In most well done films, the hero will say “no” to the journey at least once. Because hey, they’re like the rest of us – they’re human.

Jurassic Park (1993)

When the owner of Jurassic Park asks Dr. Grant to visit the island, the answer is a big resounding no. Grant is way too busy digging up dead dinosaurs. But when funding is offered for his dig site, he changes his tune. Jurassic Park’s debate section continues a bit, as Grant isn’t completely sold. Until of course he sees his first living dinosaur.

The hero will always say “no” to the journey at least one time. Sometimes, they’ll say it more than once.

The Matrix (1999)

Neo chooses not to follow Morpheus’s instruction at work, and is then captured by agents. Afterwards he agrees to meet Trinity (along with Cypher and Switch) in a car where he says “no” again and starts to bail. Trinity has to convince him to see the meeting out. Neo agrees.

Star Wars (1977)

Luke says “no” to going on the journey with Obi Wan Kenobi. But when his aunt and uncle are murdered by storm troopers, the debate officially ends. Luke is ready to continue the journey, which takes us to…

Act 2 (25 minutes)

Films are typically written in a three act structure. Act 2 happens after the hero is done debating, and they’re ready to do something. Our hero makes a conscious choice to step into Act 2. It’s not an accident. It’s always a choice. This is always a turning point. The catalyst changed things up initially, but the choice to enter Act 2 is our next massive course alteration.

Neo is about to make a choice that will change the rest of his life. Image © Warner Brothers.

The Matrix (1999)

When Neo takes the red pill, he willingly steps into Act 2. This film’s Act 2 transition is about as strong as they get. And aren’t we glad? What if Neo had just wimped out and taken the blue pill? Story over.

Minority Report (2002)

Chief John Anderton is framed for a murder. He rushes from the Precrime Building only to be surrounded by his own police officers in an alley. The lead officer tells Anderton to surrender. Chief Anderson says, “Everybody runs” and then in pure Tom Cruise fashion, he charges into Act 2.

Story Tip: Remember, our hero is still flawed at this point of the story. Their attempts at fixing their upside down world aren’t going to work yet. Did you get that? A story is about transformation, and our hero is just at the beginning of their transformation journey. So don’t expect them to do everything right at first.

B Story (30 minutes)

The Opening Image and Setup set the stage. Save the Cat makes us love our hero. Theme tells us what the film is really about. The Catalyst turns our hero’s world upside down. And after they’re done Debating, the hero steps into Act 2.

So what’s next? Our hero needs a little help. Put your hands together to welcome the B story characters!

Some of your favorite actors have been B Story characters. Think Harrison Ford in Star Wars. Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws. Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Cuba Good Jr. in Jerry Maguire. B Story characters have joined our hero and will see things through to the very end.

Han Solo and Chewbacca appear on the scene to help Luke on his journey. Image © Twentieth Century Fox.

B story characters typically appear about 30 minutes into a movie. How do you know who they are? They help the hero on their journey — Sometimes both the physical and spiritual journey (theme). Even though our hero has decided to take the plunge into Act 2, they’re gonna need some help to figure things out.

The Matrix (1999)

This B story is very unique. Both Trinity and Morpheus lead the B story lineup. However, Neo meets both of them before Act 2. So how does this work? Because Neo doesn’t meet them in the real world until after Act 2. Everything is in The Matrix – The digital version of these characters. Neo meets the real people right where the B story should officially begin.

Die Hard (1988)

John McClane has plunged bare footed into Act 2. Right at the point where he really needs some encouragement, our B Story character shows up: A lone cop who will see things through to the end.

Fun and Games (30-55 minutes)

The Fun and Games section of a film is our last stop before the halfway point. And don’t let the title fool you — Depending on the genre and type of film, things may not be “fun” but they will be very on topic. The film is “having fun” with the subject matter here.

The Fun and Games section of The Matrix is my favorite. We see the first signs that Neo is “The One.” Image © Warner Brothers.

In Jaws this means more shark attacks. In The Matrix, we see the first signs of Neo becoming “The One.” In Jurassic Park we finally see dinosaurs! Typically, the part of a movie poster or trailer that made you buy a ticket will really begin to hit home during this part of any film.

Midpoint (55 minutes)

The Midpoint is one of the most important parts of your film. It seems I’m saying this about a lot of things, but that’s why filmmaking is so complicated. There are a lot of points that can nuke your movie if you don’t understand them.

Why is the midpoint so important? Because it’s here and only here that our hero is forced to an initial breaking point. They’ve spent the first half of the film trying to fix things in the wrong way, based on their flaw, and it hasn’t worked.

The midpoint is also where we see the antagonist hit really hard. And why does that make sense? Because it’s the antagonist that pressures our hero down the journey of transformation.

Jaws (1977)

Our FIRST look at the shark, and it’s a brutal attack that we witness in detail. All the way down to a leg floating to the bottom of the bay. Chief Brody’s son is front and center, and goes into shock.

Jurassic Park (1997)

The T-Rex steps onto the screen for the first time at the midpoint of Jurassic Park. It almost eats the kids, and snacks on an attorney. Things just got serious.

The T-Rex steps onto the screen exactly half way into Jurassic Park. Image © Universal Pictures.

The Moment of Grace

This comes from the author of the Moral Premise. In my opinion it’s one of the most important parts of every film. So what is it?

Before the midpoint our hero has been attempting to fix their “upside down world” in the wrong way. On their own without changing themselves and fixing their flaw. This will never work. Then the midpoint happens where the antagonist causes such havoc that our hero is forced to realize what they’ve been doing isn’t working.

In my opinion, the moment of grace is the most important part of any film. Our hero takes their first step towards transformation.

The good news is that after the bad news our hero is presented with a moment of grace where they take their first step towards change. It doesn’t mean they completely change, as that doesn’t happen until Act 3. But our hero is going to finally move towards their final transformation.

Story Tip: Most films end happy. Our hero has changed for the better. However some films like The Talented Mr. Ripley don’t end this way. The hero doesn’t change for the better. In these films, the moment of grace point will mark a decision against change, not for it. So yes, if you see your hero continue in their flaws after the midpoint, you might be up for a sad ending.
Chief Brody takes his first step towards change right after the Midpoint of Jaws. Image © Universal Pictures.

Jaws (1977)

Did you figure out Chief Brody’s flaw? Fear of man. Chief Brody let the Mayor bully him into keeping the beaches open which violated his core job as the Chief of Police — He was supposed to protect people from all threats. Brody’s flaw gave the shark (antagonist) power. All Chief Brody had to say was, “the beaches are closed” and Jaws is over.

At the midpoint (after his son is almost eaten by the shark) Chief Brody pulls the Mayor to the side and demands that he sign the paperwork to hire the fisherman. Chief Brody also tells his wife (when she asks about moving back to New York) that they’re not going anywhere.

At the moment of grace they finally allows themselves to fall for each other. Image © Paramount Pictures.

How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days (2003)

I’ve been hitting a lot of action, thriller and drama. Let’s include a romantic comedy as they abide by the same rules! At the midpoint of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days Ben (Mathew McConaughey) and Andie (Kate Hudson) visit his parent’s house on Staten Island.

In their moment of grace, they both realize what they’ve been doing until now has been wrong. One is trying to drive the other away, and the other is trying to make them fall in love — All for the wrong reasons. They’re each other’s antagonists. For the first time, they allow themselves to fall for each other.

And when they do…

Bad Guys Close In (55-75 minutes)

What happens in life when you try to make a change for the better? All too often life starts chunking hard balls. And that’s exactly what happens to our hero.

In a romantic comedy like How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, relationships begin to fall apart. In an action film like The Matrix, the agents gain the upper hand. In Jurassic Park, things continue to spiral out of control on an island infested with unrestrained dinosaurs.

Why all of the bad? Because our hero hasn’t finished changing. They’ve made an initial step in the right direction, but there’s more transformation ahead.

This part of the film will last for around 30 minutes.

John McClane doesn’t think he’s getting out. Image © Twentieth Century Fox

All Is Lost (75 minutes)

75 minutes into a film, after the “bad guys” have been chipping away at our hero, things really go dark. It’s our hero’s lowest point. Many times, the hero’s mentor is either stripped of power, or killed. It’s at this point that the hero often considers giving up, or they think they’re going to die.

Everything is lost.

But it takes this type of pressure to make someone really change.

Die Hard (1977)

John McClane pulls glass from his feet as he realizes he’s not going to win this battle. He tells the B Story cop outside: “Tell my wife I’m sorry. She’s heard me say I love you, but she’s never heard me say I’m sorry.”

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

At the “Frost Yourselves” event when they each realize their relationship started as a game — As a bet. They sing, You’re So Vain to each other on stage. Things are really over.

The Matrix (1999)

Morpheus is captured by Agent Smith. Cypher kills some of the crew and Neo thinks he isn’t The One. It seems like everything has failed.

The Greatest Showman (2017)

P.T. Barnum’s circus burns to the ground. His wife takes the kids and goes to her parents house. They lose their home. Everything is lost.

Act 3 (75-120 minutes)

Once our hero emerges from total despair, they hold on to what they learned at the Moment of Grace. But even though our hero has decided to do the right thing, it’s no walk in the park. The bad guys are going to test this resolve unlike any other point in the film. The final transformation of our hero happens in Act 3 when they “Storm the Castle to rescue the princess”, but instead of a princess, they find a waiting dragon.

Neo storms the castle only to face his ultimate enemy. Image © Warner Brothers.

The Matrix (1999)

Neo begins to believe. He experiences temporary victory when fighting Agent Smith, but the real victory doesn’t happen until he runs for the phone, and opens the door only to be face to face with his ultimate enemy. Agent Smith sends a clip full of .50 caliber bullets point blank into Neo. Neo dies. Then the B Story character (Trinity) helps him come back to life with truth. Neo awakes a transformed man. He always was, but now he truly is The One.

The final transformation of our hero happens in Act 3 when they “Storm the Castle to rescue the princess”, but instead of a princess, they find a waiting dragon.

Star Wars (1977)

Luke makes a courageous decision. He joins the Rebel attack on the Death Star. But when their fleet is decimated, and Darth Vader is hot on his tail, Obi Wan tells Luke to make a big decision: Don’t trust the ship’s equipment to make the shot. Luke is to trust his new understanding of The Force. Luke does, and his transformation from a doubting farm kid to a budding Jedi is complete.

The Passion of the Christ (2003)

Jesus makes the final decision of obedience, and endures horrible Roman torture. He’s whipped and beaten to shreds, and then literally nailed to a wooden cross. At the very last moment while hanging on the cross, Jesus cries out as even God his Father has forsaken him. Then Jesus yells “It is finished!” and dies. But through the power of God and the Holy Spirit, Jesus rises back to life. All powerful and all victorious.

After they’ve learned how not to lose each other. Image © Paramount Pictures.

Finale Imagery (120)

The final imagery of a good movie will show the complete change. The transformation from a flawed individual to changed hero. It will be the polar opposite of what we saw at the beginning of the film.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2013)

Ben (Matthew McConaughey) has finally learned that he doesn’t want to lose the girl. He makes them both face the truth, and we end the film with her staying in New York and each of them surrendering to love.


We opened in terror as something moved through the water and attacked a woman at night. At the end our hero and the B story character swim freely through the same waters during the day after killing the shark. The town and our hero have completely changed.

The Matrix 

At the end of The Matrix we see Neo as the one. Instead of people running of agents, agents are now running from a person. The world and our hero have completely transformed.

The Dark Knight

The film opened with the Joker taking his first steps to ruin Gotham City. We close with Batman, The Dark Knight, willingly taking the blame for the damage done by the Joker. The Joker’s attempt to show everyone that people can’t be trusted is ruined by our hero, who shows that he’ll lay down his life to save the city. The movie opened with selfishness and ended with sacrificial love.

The Passion of the Christ

Jesus Christ went from despair in the garden at the opening to rising from the dead in a complete, absolute victory at the end. The film closes with Jesus walking out towards the opening of the tomb.

The risen and victorious Christ is the opposite of the beginning. Image © Icon Productions.

That’s A Wrap

Some people buck the idea of structure with writing. But just like musicians adhere to the rules of music theory, and a painter creates within the four walls of a canvas, writers follow rules for telling stories.

The rules have existed since the beginning of time. For those who master them, they can tell tales that not only entertain, but change people for the better.

Have fun discovering these points in your favorite films!

Note: The image at the top is me and my friend Alveraz Ricardez. This photo was taken by my wife during one of many screenwriting lessons. Alveraz had a lot of patience with me in that California Coffee Bean as I grasped the beginnings of writing. I’ll always owe you man!

How to Map Keys in Avid Media Composer

Any editor worth his salt uses the keyboard like a maniac when editing in Avid Media Composer. Clicking buttons and choosing menu items will blow so much time that your creativity will be crushed as you sweat to make deadlines.

Here’s how you can easily map functions and menu items like Match Frame and Find Bin to save tons of time!

1) Open Keyboard Settings

With your project open, go to Avid Media Composer > Preferences. Click the User tab and scroll down to keyboard. Double-click on the keyboard that is selected. You should see a miniature keyboard pop up. Perfect!

Avid Media Composer > Preferences. Click the User tab and scroll down to keyboard.

2) Open the Avid Command Palette

With your keyboard open, go to Tools > Command Palette (Option+3 Mac) to open the Media Composer Command Palette. This contains most of the commands you’ll use when editing. Trust me, they’re all there. Just look through the tabs!

The Avid Media Composer Command Palette & Keyboard.

Button to Button Reassignment. Click any command and drag it down to the keyboard. The keyboard key will then be updated with the new icon.

Menu to Button Reassignment. This option allows you to map any menu item to a button. Example: Window > Save Current Workspace. You must select the keyboard key first and then select the menu item.

Active Palette. This means the Avid Command Palette will be ‘live’ if you will. Simply click a command and it will act as if you selected it from your keyboard or from a toolbar on your sequence, etc. Handy for having open sometimes.

3) Example: Map Match Frame & Find Bin Commands

I don’t know about you, but finding clips and bins in a project is a crucial time saver for me! These are definitely mapped on my keyboard for easy use. With your Keyboard Settings and Command Palette open, click on the ‘Other’ tab. Look for Find Bin in the second column and Match Frame in the third. Click and drag each to the keyboard keys you want to map them to. Voila!

The find bin command is priceless for quickly locating media already inserted.

Now in a sequence hit the Match Frame key to bring up the clip, and then hit the Find Bin key and it will open the project bin. BOOM! Such a time saver.

Hopefully this helps someone new to Avid. Editing with the keyboard will make you so much faster than accessing buttons and menu items. Just remember to back up your user settings, and take these with you from Avid workstation to Avid workstation! Once you get used to the keyboard, not having the keys mapped is a huge drag.

Torin 4.5 vs 4 Running Shoe

I’ve been a fan of Altra running shoes ever since I ditched my Hoka Cliftons for the Altra Torin 2.5 back in 2014. Have run in a few Altra models since.

When the Torin 4.5’s were announced, of course I was curious. The Torin 4 Plush was an incredibly solid shoe for running on pavement. But the temptation to try the new model won out. For those who want to cut to the chase, I like the Torin 4.5 better than the Torin 4. But not at first. Initially they seemed like a mistake.

I wanted to send the Torin 4.5 back & keep my Torin 4’s.

When the 4.5’s arrived I was anxious to put them on for a run. First, what’s my run look like? It’s a little different as I’m not a hard core runner. Currently I do around 3/4 of a mile in about 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Then I do sprints over the length of a football field. So about 28 seconds for each sprint. That’s my routine and it’s all on pavement.

The Altra Torin 4.5 Plush ready to run.

I Wanted To Send Them Back

As soon as my foot slid into the shoe an alarm went off. “These are way too tight.” But they were the right size. “Crap!” I thought. But decided to try them out anyway as Altra has that nice 30-day run and return policy.

I hit the pavement and things just didn’t feel right. My left foot had suffered a fracture two years ago, and less than a half mile in it felt odd. No pain, just like a weird knot or something under the ball of my foot. I mean, it was so distinct that I looked under the shoe to see if there was something wrong with the sole. Nothing. Went ahead with the sprints, but wasn’t sold by a long shot.

After Three Runs It All Changed

Decided to give them another shot and did my routine another day. Same odd feeling in the ball of my foot, but no pain. Then after day three things got better. Not just better, the shoes performed really well.

The tight feeling turned out to be a perfect fit, and the odd feeling in my left foot completely went away. I’ve been running and sprinting in the 4.5’s for a couple months now, and can honestly say that I love the shoes and wouldn’t go back to the Torin 4! Now, let’s talk a few specifics:

Altra Torin 4 vs 4.5
The Altra Torin 4.5 Plush is screen left and the Altra Torin 4 is screen right.

Perceived Width

As mentioned above, the Torin 4.5 feels at first like it’s too small. Today I slipped on one of my 4’s and one of my 4.5’s to try them side by side. The 4’s feel roomier in the front of the foot. However, do not be alarmed. I think the 4’s are a touch too roomy.

My feet are pretty wide. I order the wide version of Chuck Taylor’s to avoid having to order a 1/2 size longer than I need. The platform of Altra has always been the selling thing for me. My feet hang off the side of Hoka’s and are crammed in the likes of Nike.

The platform of the Torin 4.5 is there and solid. The entire shoe just feels a little more streamlined than the Torin 4. In fact, I held them up sole to sole today, and the 4 and 4.5 appear to have the same width sole. So it must be an upper revamp only.

Short Laces and Redesigned Tongue

The 4’s had crazy long laces and a soft, comfy tongue. The 4.5’s have what I’d call “sticky” laces that are short, but don’t come untied. The tongue is also made of a material that won’t move to the side as much during a run. Technically I don’t think this tongue will breath like the other, but I’ve ran in very hot and humid weather with no issues.

Altra 4.5 tongue and lace redesign.

A More Comfortable Bend

If you’re familiar with the Torin 4 you know there was a somewhat odd crease where the shoe bends. Not painful or anything, but noticeable. It was never a deal killer for me, but with the 4.5 Altra did away with that flaw.

Comparable Cushioning and Weight

Overall, I didn’t notice that much of a difference in the cushioning. I mean, sure the 4.5’s are a little springier because they’re new. And technically, they’re a little lighter. But the 4’s are very light. In these two areas the shoes feel similar.

The footbed of the Torin 4.5 does feel different than the 4. Could be related to the tighter upper, or just to the fact that they’re new and not hammered out as much as my 4’s.

Sprints and Turns

These feel great in sprints, and if you have sharp turns during your run, these will do just fine. I remember trying the mesh Escalante’s and it felt like the mesh was going to let me slide right off the foundation of the shoe on turns. The Altra Torin 4.5’s are not like that.

10 Month Update

After running in these for around 10 months, something bad happened: The sides tore on the outside of each shoe. Literally separated from the sole due to the tighter fit. I contacted Altra and they sent me a new pair of 9’s. When they arrived I tried them on and they were super tight again. Sent them back for a size 9.5 and everything changed for the better. The 9.5 Torin is PERFECT for my foot. And this is odd since my prior three pairs were all 9’s.

The Torin 4.5 vs the Torin 4

In summary, if you’re on the fence about the 4.5, my advice is to get them. And give yourself a hand full of runs to make a decision. I think the shoe has a more streamlined feel, and I like them so much it’s a temptation to just order another pair in case Altra goes to the dark side and screws up the Torin 5!

As with all of my reviews, I didn’t get these shoes for free. Altra doesn’t even know I exist. I’m just a runner who loves the Torin, and can’t believe how many years I wasted with the likes of Asics and Hoka One One.

How to use AOS with WordPress

You’ve gotta admit, websites that correctly use animation as you scroll down the page just feel pro. So if you’re like me and have your own WordPress theme, you start Googling how to add animation to WordPress – WITHOUT another plugin!

Guess what? The solution is easy. You can animation to your WordPress theme a lot easier than you might think by using AOS (Animate on Scroll) by Michał Sajnóg. I’ve added basic animations to the home page of Follow Hook.

Let’s not waste time! Here are the steps to integrate AOS with WordPress:

1) Enqueue JS and CSS

If you’re new to referencing javascript or CSS files in WordPress, the correct way to do it is by enqueuing them into your theme. Don’t manually place them in the header or footer of your site – as tempting as that may be!

To enqueue the files, edit the functions.php file of your theme. This is found in the root of your WordPress installation.

Add the following to your functions.php file:

add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'add_aos_animation' );
 function add_aos_animation() {
     wp_enqueue_style('AOS_animate', '', false, null);
     wp_enqueue_script('AOS', '', false, null, true);
     wp_enqueue_script('theme-js', get_template_directory_uri() . '/js/theme.js', array( 'AOS' ), null, true);

You’ll need to update the above code to get the latest stable release of AOS. As of December 2020 it is:

Free Tip: I’m a Mac guy, and my favorite sFTP client is ForkLift3. Favorite code editor is Atom. These are just perfect. If you’re on the hunt, check them out!

2) Create Javascript Initialization

The first two lines use the CDN files. Now, you can also host them yourself, and then adjust the paths above. To do that, simply download the source files from Michal’s site (scroll to the bottom):

The third line you added to your functions.php (theme.js) specifies a file you need to create and add to your theme. When adding AOS to a non-WordPress site, you’d initiate the script in your page with the following line:

<script> AOS.init(); </script>

For WordPress, we add this to a javascript file, and enqueue it like everything else. So in your code editor simply create a file called theme.js, and place the following line in it (don’t include the <script> tags here):


Now save that in a ‘js’ folder in the root of your theme. Notice the third line that you added to your functions.php file — It is looking for a theme.js file in the template directory (your theme) and the js folder. Obviously, you can customize any of that. Just make sure the file is located where you have WordPress looking for it.

3) Use AOS in Your WordPress Theme

Now it’s time to use AOS WordPress. And this part is easy!

Example: Let’s say you have two div containers that are side by side on a page. Their classes are simply ‘box-one’ and ‘box-two.’ One has an image and one contains text. And you’re using flex-box or float to have them side by side on the page (we’re not showing that styling here).

The code would look something like this:

<div class="box-one">
<img src="myimage.jpg">
<div class="box-one">
A paragraph is here.

Add AOS Animation

Now let’s say you want to have the image box fade in from above and the text fade in from below when someone reaches this point on your page. You add AOS animation with ‘data-aos’ and then a variable like ‘fade-up.’

That same code, using AOS would look like this:

<div class="box-one" data-aos="fade-down">
<img src="myimage.jpg">
<div class="box-one" data-aos="fade-up">
A paragraph is here.

Specify AOS Duration

AOS has default times for things like delay and animation. You can adjust these inline with ‘data-aos-duration’ and ‘data-aos-delay.’ The setting is in milliseconds, and can only be a value from 50-3000 in increments of 50. Don’t make make my mistake and slap on a value of 4000 and wonder why it wasn’t working!

Here’s how the code would look to specify duration and delay:

<div class="box-one" data-aos="fade-down" data-aos-duration='1500' data-aos-delay='500'>
<img src="myimage.jpg">
<div class="box-one" data-aos="fade-up" data-aos-duration='1500' data-aos-delay='1000'>
A paragraph is here.

In the above example, the image container would animate slightly before the text container. There are other parameters you can change like offset, easing, how many times it executes, etc.

Here’s a list of all the animation attributes with random values:


4) Set Global AOS Parameters

I mentioned above that AOS has defaults built in. You can change these globally when you initiate AOS in your theme. Remember where that was? If you said theme.js you’re already at Einstein level!

Jump into that theme.js file and change it to look something like this:

delay: 0
duration: 1000

This would tell AOS animation on your site to always have a delay of 0 milliseconds and a duration of 1000 milliseconds. But if you specify a different value inline, it will override the global defaults.

5) Visit the AOS Github Page

Now that you have AOS working with WordPress, there are tons of animation values, theme.js parameters and other things you can do! To get the full scoop, visit the official page here:

Have fun with your AOS animation for WordPress!

And a tip for ACF Pro users: I use ACF to place the values in drop downs from within WP-Admin. If you’re adding this to a site where you want to easily change AOS settings for items in a page or block template, simply add the value list for a parameter using an ACF dropdown.

Thanks for reading!

Getting Started with Gridpane

I’ve used Linode VPS servers for a long time. They have been fast and reliable. But there’s been a problem: I can spin up Debian/Ubuntu servers, set them up and get sites going with no issue. But when it comes to detailed database tuning, firewall configuration or tech issues, I’m lacking.

Decided it was time to engage a control panel, and went with Gridpane due to their support and feature sets. If you’re like me two months ago, you’re probably wondering what a control panel offers. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.

This blog post will walk you through a start to finish task list of setting up Gridpane, provisioning a server and moving an existing WordPress site to the new install. Ready? Here are the topics I’m covering:

Advantages of Gridpane

Gridpane provides an entire admin interface to your servers and websites. This alone makes life easier, but it doesn’t stop there. Gridpane is focused on WordPress, and they have a LEMP stack tuned for the best performance. Plus the stack adjusts config parameters whenever you resize your VPS! Some other important points:

  • Latest Ubuntu LTS LEMP
  • Easy Site Cloning
  • You keep root access & ownership
  • Site Backups
  • ModSec WAF or 6g WAF Per Site
  • Global Sendgrid Implementation
  • WordPress Plugin Bundles (Awesome!)
  • Redis Caching
  • Change PHP Versions Per Site
  • Support (FAST chat response)
  • Server Updates (NICE)

There’s even more, but you can see by the above feature set that your VPS servers will benefit in massive ways.

Next I’m going to take you through setting up the defaults, creating and connecting to a server, and setting up a website. I had a few questions during this process, and documented my journey which is specific to Linode, OSX and WordPress websites.

Configure Gridpane Defaults

Click on your name at the top right of Gridpane and then go to Your Settings. Here we’ll set some basic options before setting up servers or websites.

Gridpane global settings are located under Your Settings

1) Add A Linode API Key

First you’ll need to sign in at Linode and click your account name in the top right. Then My Profile. Go to the API Tokens tab. Click Add a Personal Access Token and grant it Read/Write. I’m sure you can narrow it down, but I just did everything. Copy the new API key and paste it in as a new token at Gridpane > Your Settings > Cloud Providers > LINODE API.

2) Add System User(s)

What’s this about? It’s recommended to not use the default gridpane user that’s setup upon server creation when you’re creating your nginx sites. Go to System Users and add a user for each of your servers.

Adding a user per server is the minimum. Ideally you should create a new user per site you setup as that is WAY WAY WAY more secure.

3) SMTP Providers

Under SMTP Providers I added my Sendgrid API key as a global site token. You can then enable this on a per site basis, which we’ll cover in a minute.

4) Default WP Build Settings

Here can enter the default admin account you want to create on all of your WordPress sites. NICE! You can also set some defaults like PHP version, etc.

5) Bundles

Okay, so this a pretty sweet time-saver. You can name and create a new bundle. Then within that you can add default theme and plugins to use on any new website using this bundle.

Here’s what you need to know:

1) Only include the end of the plugin or theme URL at Not the full address. The Follow Hook CRM full URL is To add this plugin to a bundle, simply enter follow-hook as show below.

2. If you want to add licensed plugins that aren’t hosted at, use a full URL to a path they can be downloaded from. Example:

Provision Server(s)

With these basic defaults complete, it’s time to provision a server! As you can see below, the current choices are Digital Ocean, Vultr and Linode. I’m all about Linode, so that’s who we’re using. And not to state the obvious, but point one above is required for this to work.

Simply name the VPS instance, choose your plan and region and create the server! When this completes you’ll see the server in your Linode account. I haven’t really discussed this yet, but Gridpane doesn’t own your VPS instances, you do. So if you were to cancel Gridpane at any time, you’d still have all of the servers at Linode.

Create SSH Keys

So this one was a little new to me. I’m one of those admins who has always skipped SSH keys, and just used a good password for attaching to servers. However, Gridpane requires SSH keys to be used.

An SSH key is a pair of files. One is called the private key, and you should never give this out. The other is called the public key, and this key is what you upload to Gridpane.

1) Generate SSH Key Pair

I’m on a Mac. To generate an SSH key pair in OSX you’ll need to open terminal and type in the following command:

ssh-keygen -t rsa

Next you will be prompted for a passphrase. Give it a unique passphrase or hit enter to skip. Ideally, you want a passphrase in case someone were to gain access to your computer. You know, think a hotel room you leave it in. While you’re in the bathroom at the coffee shop, etc.

2) Copy Public Key

OSX has now generated a key pair and they are stored in the /Users/Your-Username/.ssh folder on your computer as as id_rsa and Now you must copy the public key so that you can add it to your Gridpane account.

Type the following in Terminal:

pbcopy < ~/.ssh/

Your public key is not copied to clipboard.

3) Add Public Key to Gridpane

Go to Your Settings > SSH Keys in Gridpane. Name the key and paste it in.

Note: Make sure your cursor is up next to the last line versus down on the bottom (see above). You will then need to turn the key on in the lower section of this same screen.

4) Add Key to Desired Servers

Within Gridpane, you can choose what keys have access to which servers. For example, maybe you have a contractor who only needs access to a single VPS, etc. Go to Gridpane > Home > Active Servers. Click the key icon next to a server, and add your new key to grant access.

Now if you attempt to access the server via SSH it will use the key and prompt you for the passcode you entered. Voila!

5) Using sFTP Client

If you want to access your server with an sFTP client, you’ll now need to also use the key. I use ForkLift3 from Binary Knights. IMO it’s the best sFTP client out there. Like, if Apple built sFTP abilities into Finder, it would feel like ForkLift3.

In ForkLift click Go > Connect and enter the information (yes you’re connecting as root). You’ll need to click the key and browse to your /Users/Your-Username/.ssh folder. Choose the id_rsa key. Not the public one here — It’s your private key. Once done, the key will turn blue and you’ll be able to enter the passphrase you used in step 1.

Note: If you have problems connecting, uncheck the blue key but use the password you set on your secret key and try again. This will should make it work.

Create A WordPress Site

One pain-in-the-rear part of moving to Gridpane is the fact that your existing Linodes cannot just be moved in. It’s impossible. Now, you can setup a new Linode, import the sites and have Linode move the IP address.

For this next step, we’re going to setup a new Gridpane site, and then export and import from old to new. Ready?

1) Create Site on Gripane

Go to Sites from the top menu. Fill in the site URL, choose the server, system user and bundle (if using a bundle). Next you’ll need to uncheck Staging Site if you’re not doing one of those. Click Add Site!

It’s that easy. No creating nginx server block files or Maria databases.

2) Export Data on Original Site

Sign into the site you’re moving and install the All in One WP Migration plugin. Once it’s activated, access it from the menu and choose Export > To File.

Once the export is complete, download the file. If you accidentally close the window before downloading the file, you can access the file from an sFTP client. Just look for a file with the wpress extension under the ai1wm-backups folder in WP-Content > Uploads.

3) Change Local Hosts File

Since public DNS is pointed to your old site, you’ll need to modify your local hosts file in OSX to correctly resolve to the new WordPress site. Go to Terminal and type in:

sudo nano /etc/hosts

It will open your local hosts file. Navigate to the bottom and then type your IP address + tab + the domain name. So if your Gridpane server IP address was and your domain name was, it would look like this:

Hit Ctrl + X to exit and type Y to save changes. Now ping your domain name from terminal. It should give you the updated IP address.

4) Import Data to Gridpane Site

Sign into your new Gridpane WordPress site. You can launch the sign on from within Gridpane (cool!) or do it the normal way. Remember, you’re using the global WordPress admin account you specified in Gridpane here.

If your current site has an SSL cert installed, your browser is going to try and use https when you access the new copy at Gridpane. This won’t work yet. Manually force your browser to go to and then you’ll be in business.

Install the All in One WP Migration plugin. This time choose Import from the menu. Browse to that file and import! Remember, if you forgot to download the file, simply use an sFTP client and access your old server. The file will be in the ai1wm-backups folder.

Note: If the site says the file you’re inputting exceeds upload limitations, you need to install a Pro plugin from All in One WP Migration. The good news is that Gridpane licenses them for you! Just click on any website within the Gridpane control panel and then click on the Downloads tab. You’re looking for the All in One Migration MultiSite Extension.

Once the import is complete it will prompt you about overwriting everything. When you click Proceed it will actually overwrite the data. Then click Finish on the final prompt.

5) Save Permalinks

Click Settings > Permalinks on the new site. It will make you sign in again. Sign in with the admin account on the original site you imported. Then go back to Settings > Permalinks unless it takes you there.

On the Permalink Settings page, scroll to the bottom and click Save Changes two times. You should see a Permalink Structure Updated message as shown below.

5) Change Public DNS

Your site is ready to go! Now you’ll need to change DNS to point to the new Gridpane IP address.

If you can spare a little downtime, I like to first transfer the DNS to Gridpane and setup the SSL and such before importing the site.

6) Enable SSL

Once your public DNS is changed (and updated!) you can enable SSL within the site settings area under Gridpane > Sites. Simply click on the new Gridpane site and toggle SSL to on. If your DNS has updated, the Let’s Encrypt Certificate will work. If not, just give it some more time.

Speed Things Up

Now that your new WordPress site is ready, let’s setup object caching and page caching to make things really fly. But first I need to clear the confusion about something. Well, at least I was confused at first:

Nginx Fast CGI and Redis Static Caching are mutually exclusive. From what Gridpane has said, you need to use Redis page caching if your users are using certain plugins in WordPress like page builders as Fast CGI might not be compatible.

1) Redis Object Cache

With Gridpane, Redis can cache both database queries (object cache) and additional page content. These are each enabled in different ways. To use Redis Object Cache, you’ll need to download and install the following plugin:

This is their own modified plugin that is more streamlined than what you’ll get from Currently you have to download from Github, but they will be adding it to the WordPress repository soon.

Once installed and activated, you’ll need to enable it under Settings > Redis Object Cache. Enable the cache, and then you should see it active as shown in the screen above. Read more about setup at Gridpane:

2) Redis Nginx Cache

In addition to object caching, Redis can also do static page caching as well. I’m not using this as I use WP-Rocket for my caching, but if you do want to enable it, here’s how:

First, go to Gridpane > Sites and click on the site you’d like to cache. Toggle the Redis Caching option to On as shown below.

Next you’ll need to install the Nginx Helper plugin from the WordPress repository. This plugin also has settings. You can view instructions on proper configuration by visiting the Gridpane Support article here:

3) Fast CGI Caching

As mentioned above, Fast CGI and Redis Static caching are mutually exclusive. If you’re not using Redis you can enable Fast CGI under the same site configuration area shown in Step 2. You also need to add the nginx helper plugin. here’s an article with the details from Gridpane:

I plan to do some testing soon, but right now I’m using WP-Rocket for me static caching. I’m going to test it against Gridpane only caching and see which works better!

Always check your migrated site in a browser that you didn’t use to sign into the site. The reason? Even if you turn off the Redis page caching, it is on be default. I’ve had my Gridpane server only show the WordPress 2020 theme after migration due to caching, and nothing I did on the site helped. If you run into this, simply go to Terminal and type in: gp cache fix

Setup and Use Malware

If you’re like me, malware protection was one of the perks that got me considering Gridpane to begin. However, you must install it yourself on servers, and then run it occasionally. You can learn more about linux malware protection for dev plans in the Gridpane KB.

That’s A Wrap!

Boom! You’ve done it. Hopefully this has helped someone navigate a few startup issues with moving to Gridpane. Overall, I’m loving the service, and can’t wait to get all of my VPS servers under the Gridpane hood!

Politically Correct: A Harsh Revolution

Did you ever read about the French Revolution?

Rapid judgements and public executions to the sound of a jeering mob? It’s chilling. Sobering. And it’s happening today.

Politically correct and freedom of speech are struggling to coexist. I’ll never condone freedom of speech to be a device of hate or abuse. But with that said, our current “politically correct” climate is way too hot.

Every time I turn around someone is being hauled off to the guillotines on social media.

Their crime? Being human.

Naive Realism

Naive Realism suggests one’s perceptions are realistic, unbiased interpretations of the social world versus a subjective construction and interpretation of reality. This belief system spawns a couple interesting ideas:

1) Everyone is going to think like me.

2) Anyone who doesn’t must be uninformed, irrational, or biased.

Drop naive realism into a modern world where people are from different countries, backgrounds and religions — What do you get? A freaking mess.

Crane’s Court Room | Copyright Warner Brothers

Fuel native realism with the flames of social media, and you’ have something growing that will soon be out of control. Just like Crane’s infamous court room in The Dark Knight Rises. Remember the scenes? People hauled in, judgement cast in 5 minutes and then off to their deaths?

True Freedom is About Tolerance

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of tolerance is as follows:

Tolerance: The willingness to accept behavior and beliefs that are different from your own, even if you disagree with or disapprove of them.

So that sounds like a good thing, right? But today’s politically correct climate does anything but accept others. We’re not about love, forgiveness and understanding. We’re about dogmatic views based on subjective constructions of reality.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a very recent example:

The Judgement of Terry Rossio

Terry Rossio is an Oscar nominated writer. Terry was recently hauled off to the social guillotine. His crime? Using the “N” word. But here’s the thing, he wasn’t actually using it. He was simply trying to show how horrible another term was.

Terry’s tweet:

“My heart goes out to all the parents of vaccine damaged children, who have to not only endure the sadness of their loss, but also the vitriol of ill-informed and insensitive people (such as those here). Anti-Vax is equivalent to calling someone a (removed) and makes as little sense.” – Terry Rossio

What happened? People went off-the-walls-crazy.

But Terry wasn’t trying to be hurtful or racist. He was actually standing up to bullying that’s happening across the US right now. Terry tried to say using the term Anti-Vax is as hurtful to some as using the “N” word is to others.

What Few People Understand

Was Terry’s analogy 100% accurate? Of course not. Few things compare to the atrocities done to African Americans — And very few white people really get that.

But there’s something else few people get: Taking your cute kid to get their vaccine shots, and having them turn into a vegetable, stop talking or become extremely autistic immediately after the shots. It’s happening to a lot of people, and parents without damaged kids are saying some pretty hurtful, disgusting things.

Story Tellers Speak In Extremes

Robert McKee says story tellers talk in extremes. Writers love analogies. Terry was attempting to show sympathy to parents who have children damaged by vaccines. So he picked a vivid way to make the comparison because he’s a writer.

And when Terry chose the wrong analogy, people cried “aristocrat” and hauled him to the blade.

It’s scary and out of control.

Photo courtesy of Fox News
Photo courtesy of Fox News

The Judgement of Mel Gibson

Most people loved Mel Gibson. From his heart wrenching cry of “Freedom!” in Braveheart, to his comedic personality in Lethal Weapon. This Oscar Award Winning Director also demolished all records with his The Passion of the Christ. But then one crisp night in Malibu, after leaving the popular Moonshadows restaurant, the social guillotine fell.

Mel Gibson had too much to drink. He’d been taking a lot of heat for the supposed anti-Semitic nature of The Passion, even though no one can deny the Biblical accuracy of the film, and he said something to the tune of:

“The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world!”

People from no-name bloggers to Barbara Walters drug Mel Gibson to the guillotine fast. I remember sitting in Universal Studios, waiting on a delivery, and reading Barbara Walter’s comment: “I’ll never watch a Mel Gibson film again.”

I couldn’t believe it. Another guy from a local church in LA said he couldn’t associate himself with Mel Gibson any more.

Are you kidding me?!?!

Many years later, after the completion of Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson was interviewed by Variety. In the interview he talks about the unforgiving nature of people’s responses:

“Ten years have gone by,” Gibson stated. “I’m feeling good. I’m sober, all of that kind of stuff, and for me it’s a dim thing in the past. But others bring it up, which kind of I find annoying, because I don’t understand why after 10 years it’s any kind of issue. Surely if I was really what they say I was, some kind of hater, there’d be evidence of actions somewhere. There never has been.”

The Monster Beneath The Surface

Here’s what I think about our hot politically correct climate… And hey, I’ll be the first to admit that this is my subjective viewpoint:

I think deep down people believe it’s cool to “righteously” rip people to shreds. It makes us feel better about ourselves to point out the mistakes of “inconsiderate bigots.” Politically correct makes us feel like we’re a part of the good in society. We’re better. The elite. The educated. The good.

PC also allows people to hide behind their own viewpoints. If I’m a Democrat and can prove that a Republican in office is a failure in any way by joining in on the mob scene, this also promotes my subjective viewpoints.

But I’m here to say PC isn’t good. It’s not tolerance. It’s not love. There’s another monster lurking under the deceptively placid surface of PC, and as more people fall prey, maybe we’ll all get a clue.

What James Had To Say

James is an author of one of the books in the Bible. James was a brother of Jesus, and said this about the human tongue:

“And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.”

Sound a little harsh? Maybe, but then again, when I spend 5 minutes on Twitter I start to see what he’s talking about. And let’s be honest, I also know what I’m capable of saying or thinking — it isn’t always good. Sometimes quite the opposite.

Let’s learn to love. Truly forgive. Have true tolerance. And that will be a good start to changing society. If we don’t kill the PC monster now, nobody will be outside its ravenous reach.

French Revolution Image:


Setup LEMP on Debian 10 (Buster) with NFTables

Debian 10 is out! I discovered this after running into a problem on a new Debian 9.8 distro. Decided to spring for 10 for my LEMP server needs. Debian 10 also ships with NFTables which replaces IPTables – Something I didn’t know until neck deep in setup.

The order I execute these steps isn’t the only way to do it. My goal is to take you from a fresh server install to installing a WordPress site with an SSL certificate. So the order I execute reflects this.

Ready? Let’s get on with it!

Update Your Server

*Note: This post assumes you have just loaded Debian Buster on a server or VPS. Get to your command line via SSH (terminal for Mac) and type:

apt update && apt upgrade

*Note: Normally, you’ll always type in sudo and then the command, as you won’t be signed in as the root user. This is assumed.

Set Server’s DNS Name

Now make sure you’ve entered your server’s fully qualified DNS name into your server’s hosts file. Obviously this needs to be setup in DNS as well.

nano /etc/hosts (no trailing slash)

The format should look similar to:    servername

Install Nginx

As you know, LEMP servers using nginx vs apache. As of April 2019, Debian 10 ships with nginx 1.14.2.

apt install nginx

Use nginx -v to see your version after installation.

Remove Apache

I like to get Apache2 off my Debian 10 server. Why? Every once in awhile, it can accidentally get loaded on a server reboot, and you’ll beat your head on the desk trying to figure out why nginx won’t load.

service apache2 stop
apt-get remove apache2*
apt-get autoremove
apt-get autoclean
rm -rf /etc/apache2 /var/lib/apache2 /var/lib/apache2

Be sure to run all of those commands (sudo assumed) or the rebellious Apache2 will raise it’s ugly head later on. If you still have problems with Apache2 showing up, use these commands:

apt-get purge apache2
apt-get remove --purge apache2 apache2-utils

Install Maria DB Server

If you’re new to later versions of Debian (or Ubuntu) you may not have used Maria yet. Don’t worry – it’s a beautiful drop in replacement for MySQL. All the commands you’re used to using still work.

apt install mariadb-server

Secure Maria DB Server

Running the secure installation script allows you to tighten up the default Maria install for your Debian LEMP server by setting a root password, removing test users and disabling remote access. Remote access does not mean an SSH connection, as that is signing on as if local.


Set the root password (hit enter as there is none set for Maria yet). Answer ‘yes’ to the other remaining questions. Easy as pie.

Install PHP & Libraries

If you use WordPress, you know they’re recommending php 7.3 as the minimum version. Maybe still a little bleeding edge, but I’ve not had any issues, and my WordPress site does some complicated stuff. PHP 7.3 is the current stable as of April 2019. Type php -v to show the version after install.

A handful of other common libraries you’ll need, including support for Maria DB and PHP-FPM (FastCGI Process Manager) :

apt install php-fpm php-cli php-mysql php-zip php-gd php-curl php-xml php7.3-mbstring

Configure NFTables (Firewall)

You’ve probably heard of iptables — It’s been the go to firewall for Linux for many moons. But Debian Buster is now shipping with nfttables as the replacement to iptables. NFTables is a different animal, but more powerful. When you first load your VPS, nothing is blocked, so you need to do this quickly.

This will list the current ruleset:

nft list ruleset

If that command doesn’t produce a result, your particular Debian 10 distro probably has iptables instead. Just use apt remove to remove and then apt install.

apt remove iptables
apt install nftables

Update NFTables Config

Use an sFTP client (you can also you nano) and edit the /etc/nftables.conf file. If you’re a MAC user, ForkLift cannot be beat. Trust me. It’s the best sFTP client out there.

The link below contains a sample starter configuration that will allow http, https and ssh ports while blocking everything else:

Load New Configuration

Type the following:


Now your config is live. If you use the command at the top again, you’ll see the updated ruleset.

Make New Ruleset Persistent

Type the following commands in to make your NFTables config persistent when your Debian 10 server is rebooted:

systemctl enable nftables
systemctl start nftables
systemctl status nftables

You’re good to go! There’s a lot more that can be done with NFTables, but now your server has basic protection. Also, if you change the nftables.conf file, use these words to tell Debian Buster to load the new config:

nft flush ruleset

Now type nft list ruleset to show the new config. You should see your new rules listed.


Setup Website with Nginx on Debian 10

Now let’s get that first nginx-based website rocking and rolling. We’ll prep the server for a WordPress site, which will obviously use both nginx and Maria DB.

Create Site Folder & Download WordPress

mkdir -p /var/www/

Go to and download the WordPress installation files. Unzip them, and then copy the contents to the public_html folder created above.

Change Ownership to WWW-DATA

Once you’ve copied the WordPress files to your public_html folder, use the following command to ensure the www-data user has ownership:

chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/

Create Nginx Server Block

nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

Add a space or any minor change, and then hit Ctrl-X to save the file. Follow the prompts to save as a different filename. Name the file the name of your website, including the TLD. Example:

Enable the Website

Once your server block file is ready, you must enable it. The command below places a link to your new server block file in the /etc/nginx/sites-enabled folder.

ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/ /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/

*Note: You’ll also want to remove default from the sites enabled folder.

Verify Website Configuration

At the command line type:

service nginx restart

When you hit enter, it should take you to a blank command line. If there are any problems, you’ll see an error message. The best way to get the scoop on nginx errors is to open the log. This can be found at /var/log/nginx/error.log.

Enable SSL with Let’s Encrypt

Obtaining an SSL certificate and installing it for your website used to be a royal pain. Not it’s easy thanks to Let’s Encrypt and their official server client: Certbot. Back at your command line type:

apt-get install certbot python-certbot-nginx

Now let’s add an SSL certificate to your new website. I do this before installing WordPress so the installation configures the site for https:// right out the door.

certbot --nginx (use TWO dashes before nginx)

The first time you do this it’s going to ask you a couple questions like admin email, etc. After that completes, it will display the available nginx server blocks on your Debian 10 server. Select both the www and non-www names via their number and a comma. Next you’ll be asked about redirect – You want Option 2.

More on certbot:

*Note: DNS for the domain name you’re setting up must be pointed to your server for this to work. Try and ping your domain name from the server command line to ensure DNS is working.

Create WordPress Database

As you know, WordPress needs a database to run from. Let’s jump into Maria DB server and get a database ready!

mysql -u root -p

Enter the password you set in the MySQL secure installation step from above.

create database yourdbname;

*Note: All MySQL/Maria DB commands must end with a semicolon.

Now that your database is created, you need to assign rights to a user. The command below grants access to your new database to a username you create (make one up here) identified by a password (make this difficult and jot it down as you’ll need this when setting up WordPress).

Grant all on yourdbname.* to 'yourdbuser' identified by 'yourpassword';
Flush privileges:]flush privileges;

Now type quit to exit Maria DB.

Set File Upload Size

Before we kick of the WordPress installation, you’ll want to set a file upload size in two configuration files on your Debian Buster server:


You’ll find this file in /etc/nginx/. Add the line below to the http area. Restart nginx after saving to verify everything was done correctly.

client_max_body_size 25M;


Sometimes there can be more than one php.ini on a server. The one you need to edit for PHP-FPM on your Debian 10 server is found at /etc/php/7.3/fpm/php.ini. The upload max filesize line will already be in this file. You just need to update it.

upload_max_filesize = 25M

Now restart your PHP-FPM service:

service php7.3-fpm restart

Install WordPress

You’ve done it! You’ve setup LEMP on Debian Buster. BOOYAH!

If you’re familiar with WordPress, you know that simply going to your domain name in a browser will kick off the install. I won’t go into detail on that here, but it’s pretty straight forward.

Bonus Configuration Files

I frequently use 8GB VPS setups at Linode (highly recommend them by the way). If you’re doing the above, here are configuration files that will save you some time beating your head against the wall. Trust me – the wrong configuration can make your server take 10 hours to do a task it could do in 40 seconds — I’m not kidding.

Just download this zip file, and replace the files on your new Debian 10 server. These adjust nginx, php-fpm and maria db. These assume php v7.3.

Configuration Files

What is the Best Balance Bike? Woom 2 Bicycle Review

If you’re reading this and over the age of 40 (like me), you probably learned to ride a bike with training wheels. I still remember my dad taking me to the local fire station for that first non-training-wheel lesson.

So what’s wrong with training wheels? Quality time with dad & the fire station?

Nothing wrong with that.

But IMHO a balance bike sky rockets the learning experience. Your kid will learn to ride much faster, and that quality time you missed can be spent at the ice cream parlor instead. See where I’m going with this?

The Balance Bike Difference

To ride a bike, your kid has to learn to balance at some point. Am I right? Training wheels don’t teach this, they simply deliver a false sense of control. All they really do is delay the entire learning experience.

A balance bike has NO training wheels and NO pedals. Your child sits on the seat and runs with their feet. Balance bikes gradually introduce the concept of balance while you’re kiddo is having fun. It all happens naturally! No screams of terror, tears or pressure to make the switch.

Training wheels simply deliver a false sense of control, and delay the entire learning experience.

Our daughter is four years old. After probably less than five combined hours on her new balance bike, she was already saying things like, “Daddy look!” as she lifted both feet in the air. And once they start doing that, you simply move them to a bike with pedals. BOOM!

You’re probably like, “I clicked on your blog post to read about the best balance bike, not get lectured on the benefits.”

As the manager of the Cardinals said to Jerry Maguire: “I know, I know.”

Let’s get reviewing…

My daughter on her WOOM 2 bicycle.

WOOM Bicycle Review

When our daughter hit the age of four, I went on the hunt for the best balance bike. Began reading reviews and eventually took the plunge with WOOM.

A good decision. Woom is definitely the best balance bike IMHO.

Check this out: You’ll notice in the image above that my daughter’s WOOM 2 bike has no pedals, but it has the crank for them. Although it’s not called a balance bike, WOOM designed it to be either.

BOOYAH! Now I’m saving time and money — More ice cream!

After my daughter learns on her balance bike, I raise the seat a touch and screw on the pedals. It just doesn’t get easier.

Company Information

Christian Bezdeka and Marcus Ihlenfeld (out of Europe) started WOOM while Mathias Ihlenfeld (Marcus’ brother) runs the USA branch in Austin, TX. According to WOOM, it all started with a search for perfection. They wanted to know exactly what it took to build the ultimate children’s bike.

WOOM bikes are made overseas, but not in China, which made me happy. Their US branch inspects everything for quality control — Another cool detail.

The WOOM bikes are designed to be easily maintained.

Attention to Detail

Not only do WOOM balance bikes look beautiful, you get cool features typically only found in adult bikes. Quality seats with quick release. A smooth stem with no exposed screws. Pedals that screw on and off. Aluminum frames that make the bikes LIGHT (This makes for easy carrying when your kiddo’s ambition outdoes their stamina).

A very cool chain guard adds to the look and keeps the grease at bay.

Chain Guard

The chain guard is completely enclosed! Say goodbye to grease and grime, along with dirt and rust filled chains. This also keeps young fingers out of areas that might bring some tears. With this design (on the smaller bikes) there is a small amount of associated noise. I don’t mind it, as it’s minimal.

The steering limiter is a thoughtful addition that helps those new on wheels!

Steering Limiter

Things like the steering limiter just make sense on a balance bike. It’s designed to stabilize steering and prevent overturning and falls. You’ll see it in the image above, attached to the fork and the frame. Brilliant!

Smart hand brake system.

Smart Brake Design

Remember how cool it was to get handbrakes as a kid? I remember manually adding them to my pedal-braking dirt bike. They come standard on WOOM. Not only are they designed to fit very small hands, but WOOM colors the right one green to encourage safe braking vs your child launching themselves into cyber space. Bravo!

WOOM wheels just can’t be beat.

Super Cool Wheels

WOOM bikes have pro wheels in mini-size! They’re made with ultra light aluminum rims, aluminum hubs with sealed bearings and 16 stainless spokes. The WOOM 2 bike is required to ship with a pedal (coaster) brake setup – It’s federal law. But you can order their freewheel kit for only $19. They send you and ENTIRE new wheel that can be installed by any bike shop. This gives your kiddo the freedom to pedal backwards as they cruise!

The kickstand is an add-on item. Highly recommended!

Optional Kickstand

I can’t imagine not having the kickstand. Super easy to add to the bike. It’s made of lightweight aluminum and designed to be kid-friendly (spring loaded) and there’s no sharp edges.

Journey sporting her WOOM 2

Final Summary

For all of the features you get with WOOM, you also get a price tag. But here’s the thing: How long the bike lasts (and how it helps your kid) is where the value lies.

My parents didn’t have much money, but somehow they managed to buy me a little bike that was well built when I was young. Guess what? Not only did my brother and sister use that same bike after me, my sister’s kid has even used it! It’s still going strong. So when you do that kind of math, that was a very inexpensive bike.

Sure, you can go to Target and buy a $99 made-in-China bike that will rust next week, or you can eat out a little less and invest in something your kid and other kids will really, really love.

I hope this review proves helpful. You can read more about WOOM on their website: As always, that’s not an affiliate link. I write about what I love.

Enjoy your next bike purchase!

Fun Fact: Our 4-year old daughter snapped the photo of me at the top. Not bad!

The Best Organic Mattress

Our home currently has four organic latex mattresses. But before I tell you anything about an organic mattress, let me tell you why we had to get one: It was all due to a scare with our top dollar memory foam mattress.

Memory Foam: Good or Bad?

It was around 2010. My wife’s back was the collateral damage of a worn out mattress. We decided to go memory foam, and purchased the most recognized brand on the market. Due to what I’m about to tell you, I’ll not say their name here.

What Are They Made Of?

After sleeping on the memory foam mattress for three years, I discovered scary reports about the materials used to make them.

My wife was also experiencing odd issues that we’d spoken to her doctor about. The doctor had her switch to all cotton clothing. We made other changes. The only common denominator was our memory foam mattress as we’d even moved to California during the process.

So I called the company. What happened next was quite surprising.

The Company Rep Didn’t Know

The memory foam representative answered and I asked her what the mattresses were made of. She couldn’t tell me, as she wasn’t even allowed to know. But “All of her grandkids sleep on them and they’re safe.”

So you don’t know what’s in them, but they’re good for your grandkids?

Yeah okay, whatever floats your boat lady.

I then proceeded to tell her we’d been to our doctor about my wife’s situation, and the only thing we hadn’t changed was the mattress. When I said that, she sent me a form to sign that basically said, “You promise not to sue us for any health issues and we’ll come get your mattress and issue a full refund.”

When I said that, she sent me a form to sign that basically said, “You promise not to sue us for any health issues and we’ll come get your mattress and issue a full refund.”

So wait… They had that legal form on file?

I ran it by an attorney who was also very surprised. The attorney asked if my wife had cancer or anything major. I said no. He then said there wasn’t anything really to do. So we signed the paperwork. A few days later the company picked up the king sized mattress and gave us a full refund! We’d been sleeping on it for 3 years.

Time For A Change

After his we were going organic for our bedding material. We decided to try organic latex, and we’ve been sleeping well for several years now. When some people hear “latex” they might think they’re allergic. Don’t worry. Organic latex is not the chemically laden stuff you’re used to seeing in disposable gloves.

The Benefits of True Organic Latex

Natural rubber latex is 30% better at relieving pressure points than memory foam. It’s bed bug resistant, mold resistant, it’s quiet and has zero chemicals hitting your body. That is if you’re using a company who uses true organic materials. The company we chose builds your mattress to order. They don’t want mattresses sitting stored anywhere that would taint the materials.

Chemical Off-Gassing: You might be thinking that memory foam and the like are okay after off-gassing has completed. I used to think this way too. But as foam deteriorates with use, more chemicals are released as the chemicals are permeated throughout the foam. Some toxic flame retardant chemicals take 7 tears to exit your body.

The Company of Choice

Our first organic latex mattress was an OrganicPedic® from OMI. Super comfortable. We took it from California to Kauai and back again. If there’s any place something can mold, it’s on the north shore of Kauai. Our OrganicPedic did just fine.

Eventually we purchased a home with a couple guest rooms. I decided to try the sister company of OMI called Lifekind®. What’s the difference? OMI has retail stores while Lifekind is sold only online. They have different models, but are made in the same facility. Like OMI, a Lifekind mattress is built once ordered.

The Lifekind® Trio

The Trio is one of the finest latex mattresses you’ll encounter. It’s comprised of three layers of various firmness. This not only allows for you to customize the comfort of your mattress (they let you pick the firmness for each layer), but makes moving it way easier than a latex mattress made of a single layer — Trust me on that!

Putting It Together

The mattress will show up in 3 boxes. Three layers of organic rubber latex and a thick, organic wool casing (wool is naturally flame retardant).

When you unbox each layer you’ll notice holes which allow the mattress to breath.

Fun Tip: Bend over and take a deep whiff — Wow! Zero chemical smell. Organic rubber latex smells so freaking good. Kind of like cookie dough or something. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s now one of my favorite scents.

Handling Tip: Take care in handling the layers. The thin casing is not made to support the weight of the layer. Use open hands to lift and move — Don’t grab and pull. Make sense? Once you stack the mattress layers into the mattress case you simply zip it up, and you’re ready to go!

Layer Exchange

LifeKind allows for a free layer exchange after you try it out. Well, at least they offered this when we purchased the Trio in 2018. We ordered the default configuration of firm, medium and soft. This creates a mattress that is mildly firm and mildly soft. If we had it to do again, I’d probably swap the bottom firm for a medium and see if that made it slightly softer without going too soft. Don’t get me wrong, the default Trio is not too firm, but our OMI mattress is ever so slightly softer, and that’s what we were used to.

OMI or LifeKind?

Overall, we’ve loved both the LifeKind and OMI mattresses. In fact, we ordered two more LifeKind mattresses for our daughter’s toddler and full beds. The companies offer different models, so it’s not an exact label change. If you can go to an OMI show room, that’s obviously the best route to take. However, the LifeKind phone reps are very knowledgeable.

Buying Tip: We tried the Euro at medium firm and it’s just too firm for some guests. We fixed with a latex topper that is soft, but if we had that to redo, we’d have just ordered the Trio again for the full bed in the guest room. It’s worth the extra dinero.

Learn From Our Mistake

If you’re looking at a new bed, don’t go with something made from chemicals — It just isn’t worth it. I hope you give OMI or LifeKind a try. As always on my site, none of the links on this page are affiliate links. I get nothing from recommending these brands except sending you on your way to a better night’s sleep!

Sweet dreams…

Kentucky’s Hatchery Creek

The state of Kentucky isn’t really known for trout fishing. But they do have the Cumberland River which flows in the lower east section of the state, not far from the Tennessee line. This river has some massive trout along with torpedo sized stripers and crisp green and white walleye cruising the depths.

There’s also a hidden gem called Hatchery Creek. It’s a man made stream full of “wild” trout. Sound crazy? That’s what I thought.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

The TVA has been constructing large dams on rivers since the Great Depression. They create massive lakes and then use the passing water from the dam to generate electricity. The resulting deep lake is used for recreation and the tailwater beneath the dam is not only a food factory for trout, but an excellent fishery.

Fly fisherman who wade tailwaters like the Watauga, South Holston or the Cumberland are at the mercy of the TVA for prime fishing conditions.

The Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown

The TVA has a dam on the Cumberland River in Jamestown, KY. Next to the dam is a national fish hatchery, and that’s where things get interesting — The fish hatchery requires constant flow from Lake Cumberland to keep thousands of hatchery trout alive and healthy. In the past, the expelled water simply flowed a mile down to the Cumberland river without serving a purpose. In 2012 that changed in a huge way.

Hatchery Creek is a man-made stream with wild trout. Quite the paradox.

A Man-Made Trout Stream?

Kentucky decided to bring in biologists, tons of rock and then used the flow from the fish hatchery to literally build a trout stream. Pools, riffles, wetlands and everything else trout need to be happy. The price tag hit over $2 million, but it worked. The trout in the river figured out the new stream was there, and big fish moved in. I’m talking 20+ inch rainbows and browns.

A beautiful spot in a lower section of Hatchery Creek were a side section splits off.

Don’t let the name fool you — Hatchery Creek is inhabited by anything but hatchery fish. In fact, I think trout are now spawning in the creek which is huge, as they can’t spawn in the Cumberland River.

So this man-made creek is now producing wild trout. Quite the paradox, right? And when you hook into one of these beauties, you can see the difference from a stocked fish. They’re simply gorgeous.

The Layout of Hatchery Creek

When you turn off the main road towards the Wolf Creek Dam you’ll take the first right and then the first left. In about 300 yards there will be a parking lot on the right for accessing the creek.

My daughter fishing the Upper Reach of Hatchery Creek.

The Upper Reach

At the headwaters of the creek is a very short section where they do stock trout. This consists of a couple pools and riffles and then hits a spill way that sort of keeps the stockies in a single place. The orange highlighted section below is this area. Any type of bait or lure can be used here, and trout can be kept.

I find great pleasure in hitting this area sometimes, catching a stocked rainbow, and releasing it just below the spillway. Talk about a new lease on life! It’s quite fulfilling — When you’re there you should try it.

Hatchery Creek on the Map

Lower Hatchery Creek

The next section begins lower hatchery creek, and this is where the big fish can move in from the river. They have to jump up about 7 pools when they leave the river, and then they can make their way up to the spill way.

Don’t underestimate fishing below the spillway below the stocked section. Sometimes there are MASSIVE browns in there just waiting for an injured stocked fish to get washed over.

The Wetlands

Each green section on the map marks a wetlands area. These are a network of water ways that meander through beautiful forest. It’s a little more tricky to navigate, but you can definitely find fish.

Riffles and Pools

The blue areas above are typical rock-bottom riffles and pools. Your classic small trout stream feel. In these you can hook into beautiful small trout and large fish that will break tippet. My personal best to date was a nice rainbow in upper hatchery creek that inhaled a size 12 or 14 green drake nymph.

My daughter wading through a section in Lower Hatchery Creek.

What Are The Fish Like?

They’re gorgeous. You can always tell a wild fish over one dumped in from a fish hatchery. Trout just look better when they live like God created them to live. The creek is supposed to have rainbow, brown and brook trout. I’ve personally only caught rainbow and brown.

You can see the difference in a fish that didn’t come from the hatchery.

Hatchery Creek trout are also picky. I’ve been totally skunked on a trip out before. If you’re not using stealth, or matching what’s in the water, or not presenting the right way, they’re not having it. Remember, this is a catch and release fishery that is fished HARD. And I wouldn’t even consider going on the weekends.

Summer Fishing

Can you catch fish in the summer? Yes. However, there is algae growth that crowds an already small stream, and most of the large trout have gone back to the Cumberland River. Plus you’re dealing with a lot more people which can make things more of a challenge. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t nice fish in there.

A 2020 summer rainbow caught just below the spillway of the Upper Reach.

October through Early Spring

When the air turns crisp in late October and the browns begin to spawn, everything changes for the better. Small pools that only held 12-inch fish in the summer now have 18+ inch fish on a regular basis.

A small Hatchery Creek rainbow from 2020
A Hatchery Creek rainbow from early 2020

The rainbow above was caught near the end of the Lower Reach of Hatchery Creek. Meaning, this fish had recently moved it from the river. I’ve found these bows to be a little less picky than the ones who have moved a half mile upstream and seen 5 million flies.

Catch and Release Only

The entire Lower Reach of Hatchery Creek is a catch and release only, artificial lure only trout fishery. This makes for picky yet persistent fish. I highly encourage you to report anyone you see doing otherwise — Have had to do it once myself already. However, most of the time it isfly fisherman. And as you probably know, the type of person who invests the time to learn fly fishing is also the time of person who has a sometimes greater respect for nature and the rules.

Thanks for reading! If you live near Jamestown, KY definitely give the creek a try. It’s a beautiful place, especially in the winter! In fact, part of my short film entitled Rose and the Outlaw was show there.

What’s Hollywood Like (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of the What is Hollywood Like series! Here I want to give you a snapshot of my ongoing experience in the entertainment industry. It’s both AMAZING and at times a bit of a sweatshop, with not a lot in between.

First, let’s continue from What’s Hollywood Like Part 1 with geography…

Primary Studio Locations

The Hollywood Studio system is spread all over the place. Paramount is located in Hollywood itself — In fact they take up their own city block right off Melrose. Warner Brothers occupies an enormous plot of land in Burbank. Sony Pictures is found in Culver City (near the old and famous Culver City Studios). Universal Studios is, wait for it, located in Universal City. The list goes on…

An entrance to Paramount off Melrose in Hollywood, CA

City Block Castles

Each of these major studios are small cities surrounded by 40+ foot walls keeping everything inside shielded from the general public. And when they have films or TV shows coming out, they hang massive 30-foot high posters on the sides of the castle walls. It’s actually pretty cool to see.

A Multitude of Smaller Studios

In addition to the major studios, you have a plethora of small studios, film labs, and sound stages sprinkled from the ocean all the way in past Hollywood to the valley. Many actors have their own production companies. Adam Sandler (Happy Madison Productions) operates out of the Sony Pictures lot while Bruce Willis (Cheyenne Enterprises) has a small production company right off Wilshire in Santa Monica.

Film School in Hollywood

Attending film school in Hollywood was a smart decision in my books. Film school is primarily about two things: Teaching students the craft and giving them access to connections. It isn’t about a degree. Hollywood is an industry where they simply don’t care where you were educated. You’re better off being Jerry Bruckheimer’s nephew than going to Harvard.

The Los Angeles Film School | Sunset Blvd in Hollywood, CA

The Los Angeles Film School

I enrolled at LAFS without ever visiting the school. It just sounded like the right move to make. I later learned that sometimes this school is great and sometimes not so great. What makes the difference? The current class of students.

God blessed me with the March 2005 class. Many of us were somewhat older individuals who were serious about becoming filmmakers. We’d given up other careers to pursue the dream of working in Hollywood.

Kyler directing an actor on the set of a short film at LAFS.

LAFS is right on Sunset in the old RCA building. Elvis recorded in one of our classrooms back in the day. Pretty cool. We had access to tons of cameras, lights, mics, dollies, Avid workstations… you name it and we had it. LAFS also scored a deal with Universal Pictures to allow us to use props from the Universal lot — I’ll never forget seeing full sized raptors. Universal didn’t let us take those.

The Real World of Entertainment

Finding success as an artist is always difficult. Look at Van Gogh — He was dead before becoming famous. Finding success as an artist in Hollywood is definitely an arduous, uphill climb.

Graduation from LAFS left me in LA with two roommates (I slept on the floor), over $60K of school debt and no job. I interviewed at Cheyenne Enterprises for a FREE internship, but there were multiple people willing to work for free, and I couldn’t get that job. I still remember calling Fox, hoping to score an assistant editor job. The receptionist was like, “You know we only hire award winning editors, right?” Click.

Fortunately, a connection made in film school landed me an editorial PA job on Universal’s Let’s Go To Prison. BOOYAH! The film was released in November of 2006 and it was my first experience on a “real” movie production!

If you’re attending film school, I can’t say this enough: Work you brains out and network as much as you can. Take every opportunity that comes your way. One of them will deliver.

Editorial Production Assistant (PA)

Working as a PA doesn’t pay a lot, and getting coffee for people at the age of 30 wasn’t great for my ego. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for ANYTHING.

As an editorial PA I worked primarily for the Post Production Supervisor and the Assistant Editor. And of course anyone else who needed me to do something.

When I was a PA, films were still being shot on film. So I began each day at the lab picking up dailies (yesterday’s footage) for the Assistant Editor, who would then prep it for the Editor. Then I was off on coffee runs, trips to set, drop-offs for the sound designer, composer, executive producer… Oh man! It didn’t stop. Basically continuous driving from Pasadena to Santa Monica and everywhere in between.

The cool thing about working as a PA for editorial is that you’re involved with the filmmaking process from the first day of production until the film completely wraps. You get to meet all kinds of people from actors, to the director, producers, sound mixers — basically anyone and everyone involved. Since you’re part of the film, people are relaxed around you. Will Arnett, for example, is much more serious in real life than portrayed in most of his characters! He was totally chill around me as we talked about how the shooting was going.

ictured from left to right: Tracey Wadmore-Smith, Kyler Boudreau & Bob Odenkirk

Bob Odenkirk – A Truly Nice Guy

Both of the films I was an editorial PA on (Let’s Go To Prison and The Brothers Solomon) were directed by Bob Odenkirk (The Post, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad). When you’re the lowest person on the totem pole, you get to see what people are really like. Bob is an extremely patient, kind, humble and dedicated person.

An example? If he walked into editorial and the office water supply was empty (my job) Bob would refill it himself. He’d say “Hey, Kyler” when he walked in, even though I was a nobody. Bob treated me just like he treated everyone else. He drove a Honda Accord even though he could afford something much nicer – He even told me he didn’t see the need for a nicer car. Wait, what? Are we still in Los Angeles?

I definitely left Bob’s films feeling impressed with him as a person. And honestly, this sums up a lot of the people in the industry: They’re creative folks who love story telling. Sure, you have challenging people like Michael Mann and Michael Bay, or others like Weinstein, but these guys don’t represent the norm.

Independent Film

There’s no singular way to work up the ranks in Hollywood. I could have slaved away as an editorial PA and eventually moved up towards editor, but that could take 10+ years easy.

After The Brothers Solomon I decided to bite the bullet and jump into independent film. My Grandad gifted me some money to purchase an Avid setup, and I hit Craigs List in search of my first feature film to edit.

Indie projects don’t pay the bills, so you typically have to work full time and do your creative work for free. I worked full time as a web designer, and then cut films on nights and weekends. As an editor, I worked on three feature length films for a total of $4000 in payment. But guess what? I wouldn’t trade the experience!

Sure, it’s tough slaving away after working full time, but the drive to be a filmmaker keeps you going. And each project you work on lands you a shiny new credit on IMDB, which is the universal Hollywood resume system.

Fast forward to 2019. I worked with some crazy talented directors. The two that helped me the most are Emmy Award Winning John Scoular (Lunatics Lovers & Poets, Paradise Reef) and Alveraz Ricardez who is now an actor (Grace & Frankie, Grey’s Anatomy). After cutting my third feature as an editor, I wanted to be in charge of the story telling. It was time to become a writer.

Life As A Writer

Learning how to tell a story the right way is no easy task. Alveraz (pictured below) patiently schooled me on my first script. He was patience as I was in bad shape back then! In addition to his training, many books like Story, Save the Cat and The Moral Premise helped immensely. The Master Class series from Dan Brown and Aaron Sorkin were also incredible learning tools. And of course the best tool is to actually start writing.

Alveraz Ricardez and Kyler Boudreau hashing out a script.

After a few years trying to get script number one “fixed” I decided to move onto the next project: Paradise Strikes. My second script was so much easier to write! Paradise Strikes also made it to the semifinals in a couple screenwriting competitions in 2018. God willing we’ll be shooting it as an independent film on the island of Kauai in the near future!

2019 marks the beginning of script number three. It’s a thriller about evolving technology. Sign up below to stay in the loop!

Hey, thanks for reading about my experiences in Hollywood. There’s much more to say, but that would be more like a book than a blog post. Hopefully this helps clear the fog for anyone interested in the creative industry! If you have any questions, I’m happy to help out. Simply contact me.

What’s Hollywood Like? (Part 1)

What do you imagine when you think of Hollywood? Perfect weather? Gorgeous beaches and celebrities strolling Rodeo Drive? Some of this exists, but not in the ways you’d expect.

I moved to California for film school in 2005. I lived in Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Hollywood, Culver City and Santa Monica, and can give you a decent grasp on what to expect if you’re thinking about moving to work in Hollywood.

What’s Hollywood Like? is being covered in two posts:

1) General geography & where to live.

2) The filmmaking/creative side of Los Angeles.

Greater Los Angeles

Los Angeles is weird because you’ve got this thing known as “Hollywood” that sits inside LA county, but garners more attention than Los Angeles itself. In fact, if you’re employed in the creative industry, downtown LA is something you may rarely see. Why? None of the studios are there and the local scenes are pretty good.

The map below (sketched by Alden Olmstead) shows the general layout.

Courtesy of Alden Olmstead –

You’ll find downtown LA southeast of Hollywood (look for Paramount & Sunset Blvd). Santa Monica and Venice sit right on the ocean to the west.

Traffic Like You’ve Never Seen

Ever had the experience of driving home from work and suddenly you hit massive gridlock due to an accident? That’s LA every day. On the 405, the 10 and the 101.

A normal day on the 405 | Image copyright The Washington Post

The traffic on the 10 and the 405 is the worst you’ll ever experience. Except for say the mayhem that will ensue during the apocalypse.

Not kidding.

You can ride a bike faster than driving a car during rush hour on the 405. Any attempt to take surface streets is already being tried by 50,000 other vehicles. If you like motorcycles, this is your new nirvana. Bikers can “white line” which means your favorite crotch rocket will get you anywhere in half the time.

I’ll never forget when my wife first moved to the LA area. One day I came home from work at 5:30. We were meeting her uncle at LAX at 7PM. LAX was 12 miles from us. I rushed in the door and said, “We’ve gotta get ready and go.” My wife was like, “We don’t have to be there until 7.” I responded with, “I know, we’ve gotta go!”

Places to Live

The best place to live IMHO is a place where you’re not spending your free time breathing exhaust fumes. This means that if you want to live in Santa Monica, you’d better not be working in the valley. If you live smart (compared to where you work) you can avoid a lot of the traffic everyone else has to deal with.


The real Hollywood is a lot different than what I imagined. There’s really not much to see. Sure, you’ve got the Walk of Stars, Capital Records and other sites to see, but the main strip in Hollywood is really for tourists, and it’s not that nice.

You’ll find people walking around in cheesy costumes along with Ripley’s Believe It Or Not types of sites. And a lot of Hollywood can also be… Well, a little disgusting. Especially if you’re wearing flip flops.

The Walk of Stars | Hollywood Boulevard

If you’re after glamor, you’re not going to find it in Hollywood (Head west on Sunset to Beverly Hills and things will get increasingly better).

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some cool stuff there. Paramount sits right off Melrose. Deluxe is nearby. And there’s a plethora of other places that have created the films we all love, in addition to local theaters and clubs off Sunset (Viper Room, etc).

But at the end of the day, Hollywood was not a place I wanted to live. The Hollywood Hills are nice, but you’ll need some cash to afford it.

Beverly Hills, CA

If you’re after clothing stores with price tags that could feed thousands of starving children across the world, Beverly Hills is the place to go. All joking aside, it’s a really nice place to live. Beautiful streets, creative eateries and a police force that responds faster than 99.9% of the rest of them.

If you’re working in Hollywood and want a nice place to live, Beverly Hills is an excellent option. Albeit it’s going to cost you. You can’t live where people like Steve Martin live, and expect it to be cheap, right?

“The Valley”

When someone says they live “in the valley” they typically mean Burbank, Glendale or Pasadena. Chatsworth (known for porn) and other non-desirable places are also technically included.

Burbank is the first place I lived while attending film school. These cities contrast the rest of LA with less congestion and more affordable living. You can go to a grocery store with an actual parking vs a parking garage. You can buy a home with a yard for the same price as a condo in Santa Monica. You get the idea.

Downtown Glendale, CA

Valley cities also boast small downtown scenes with outdoor shopping and entertainment. Honestly, they’re nice places to live. The drawback? Smog. It’s pushed in by the winds from the Pacific Ocean and stops at the mountain range that lines the eastern border of the valley. The valley is also a long drive from the ocean, and it gets much hotter. If it’s 70 with a cool breeze in Santa Monica, it could easily be 85 with a hot breeze in Pasadena.

Culver City, CA

I really enjoyed Culver City. It’s a small, happening place located in a real sweet spot. Not too far from Santa Monica/Venice, not too far from Hollywood. Not too far from downtown Los Angeles. You can find Trader Joe’s for shopping, along with a newly opened co-op which offers an incredible array of organic foods. You’ve got cool Hollywood history like the old hotel situated next to Culver Studios that John Wayne won in a card game. You can also find one of the original shooting places of King Kong (shown below) – Stuff like that. Sony Pictures is also located in Culver City.

A sign in the parking outside my office in Culver City, CA

Venice, CA

Another fun coastal city near Hollywood is Venice. If you’re in Culver City, you simply drive west on Venice Blvd. towards the setting sun! Venice is unique in that it has a self-contained water way similar to Venice, Italy. It’s actually pretty cool to see. Locals have small docks and boats and there’s no parking anywhere so the canals stay pretty quiet.

Venice Beach Skateboard Park

Venice also offers great shopping along Abbot Kinney, a boardwalk with local vendors and a beautiful beach scene with a pretty rad skateboard park (pictured above). Check out Gjelina for food and the Toms flagship store for great coffee and a chill place to drink it. These are just a couple of the sweet spots along Abbot Kinney.

Crime used to be really rough in Venice. Like so bad the police wouldn’t even come if you called in saying you heard gunshots. Things are now better than they used to be, but Venice is still not a place I’d hang around after dark.

Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica is by far the best place to live. This beautiful city is oceanside (we lived 5 blocks from the beach). There are 2-3 Whole Foods within 5 miles of each other. And you’ll find quiet, beautifully groomed neighborhoods ideal for an afternoon stroll.

My wife Sandi with the Santa Monica pier in the backdrop.

All of the architecture is unique, and you can have fun guessing who lives in the beautiful homes (people like Halle Berry & Edward Zwick).

Santa Monica has good access to the 405, the 10 and highway 1. Yet if you live in the good part of the city, the highways are too far away to hear any traffic. The downside? Many of the apartment buildings are old, and the new ones will cost you a fortune. 1047 4th Street in Santa Monica has the best landlord you’ll ever find. If they’re renting, grab it before it’s gone.

Most people driving in from the valley are hitting the Promenade along with the Santa Monica Pier. If you want a quieter environment, check out Montana street. Quaint shops and restaurants along with my favorite writing spot – Peet’s Coffee on 14th and Montana (you can see famous people here in the morning).

For quaint and legit Italian, look no further than Osteria Bigoli. To see your favorite old films on the big screen, check out the Aero Theatre across from Peet’s. And Sweet Lady Jane is a bakery worth checking out on a nice afternoon… which in Santa Monica is every afternoon.

Local Tip: Wilshire runs through the heart of Santa Monica, CA. You might be tempted to pronounce it “Wil-Shyre” but it’s pronounced “Wilsher.” You’ll sound like a local if you remember this.

Malibu, CA

This coastal city features restaurants located right on the water, a calm and quiet pier and beaches that are IMHO more of the California experience. Santa Monica, for example, is a great city but I’d never go to their pier or beaches. Why? Saturated with tons of people driving in from the valley. Malibu is just far enough that a lot of people won’t make the drive.

Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, California.

A very popular restaurant right on the water is Moonshadows. I’ve eaten there many times. Saw Ed Norton there once! If you like sushi, Zooma is a must visit. Also right on the water. Great food and environment. The Malibu Pier also has a couple nice restaurants worth looking at.

Malibu is also where people with money live. You name it, they’re up there. It’s been home to people like Mel Gibson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, etc. The infamous pull over that got Mel Gibson so much heat happened as he was leaving Moonshadows and heading to his Malibu home.

Me with my daughter, checking out a home for rent in Malibu, CA.

You need to be rich to live in Malibu. I’m not saying there isn’t cheap housing: Some people will rent out their guest house, etc. But for the most part, you’re looking at serious bucks. My wife and I checked out a house for rent once (photo above). It was old but in good condition. Beautiful yard and views. $12K a month in rent – it didn’t even have beach access or a pool!

More Places to Explore…

I haven’t come close to covering all of the places to live in the LA area: You’ve got Marina Del Rey next to Venice, the Pacific Palisades between Santa Monica and Malibu, and much more. But I hope this at least gives you a glimpse into areas to consider if moving to LA.

Read What’s Hollywood Like Part 2 to learn more about the entertainment industry.

Torin 4 vs Torin Escalante

I’m definitely an Altra fanboy. For years I ran in Asics. Then after a mild knee irritation, switched to Hoka One One. Most of my running was on sidewalks, and I was a heel striker. Not a good combination.

The Altra Difference

I discovered Altra on a random runners blog. Decided to try them out, and at the same time, set my mind to begin running right — No more heel strikes!

My achilles and calf muscles screamed at me as I rapidly made the switch. My first Altra’s were the Torin 2.0, and I was in love. For years I crammed my feet into an unnatural toe box — Those days were instantly gone. Check out my Torin 2.0 compared to my Hoka One One Clifton… See the difference?

Hoka One One Clifton vs Altra Torin 2.0

When Altra released the Torin 2.5 I made the jump. Then they released the 3.x models and, well… Call me shallow, but they just looked to weird and clunky. I dug the more stream-lined look of the Escalante, and decided to make the switch. The new shoes was nice, but the difference in cushion caught up with me a little.

Altra Torin 4 Plush vs Escalante 1.5

When the introduction of the Torin 4’s, Altra created two models: The Torin 4 and the Torin 4 Plush. I’m not really a super cushy shoe fan, but after reading a few reviews on the 4 Plush, I decided my on-pavement-sprints might appreciate this model. When they showed up I strapped them on and went for a short run.

Here’s the main things that stood out to me:

Escalante 1.5, Torin 2.5 & Torin 4 Plush

The Fit – Length and Width

The Torin 4 feels slightly longer (especially than the Torin 2.5). This change was a good change for me, as size 9 in the Torin 2.5 could have been a 1/4″ longer and fit me better. Either way, this change is so small it shouldn’t force anyone to a different size.

The width of the 4 Plush feels a tad more snug at the mid-foot area. But we’re talking just a little. Might just be that I’m used to the super soft mesh of the Escalante. Either way, it feels fine. Just noticeable.

The Fit – Heel Lock

Altra has been weak on the heel lock. Both the Torin’s and the Escalante’s had these thick, bulky heel areas. That was my biggest gripe when moving from Hoka One One to Altra. The good news? Problem gone with the Torin 4. BOOYAH!

The Torin 4 (left) has a better heel lock compared to the Torin 2.5 and Escalante 1.5

As a side note, something I loved about the Torin Escalante was the toe room without the bulk. Past Torin’s just seemed bulky to me. The Torin 4 not only slims up the heel, but the front of the show looks less exaggerated.

The Support – Side to Side

The mesh top of the Escalante is comfy, no doubt. But IMHO you sacrifice major side to side support. Example, if you’re doing straight sprints, the Escalante is fine. But if you’re running, and need to make turns at high speeds, heck no. The Escalante will make you feel as if you’re about to slide off the sole.

The Torin 4 combines the mesh look and feel with the support required to make those turns at higher speeds. So much better.

The Support – Forefoot Real Estate

The Torin 4 gives a tad more foundational real estate in the forefoot area than the Escalante. I never felt robbed of space in the Escalante. But wearing them side by side, the Torin 4 offers a little more for my pinky toe to land on.

Torin 4 Plush and the Escalante 1.5

The Support – Cushioning

Massive difference in the cushioning between the Torin 4 Plush and the Escalante 1.5. But here’s the thing: The Torin doesn’t feel to cushy. Like, I’m really wondering now what the straight up Torin 4 feels like. To me, the plush model is perfect for pounding the streets.

The Escalante has so little between you and the ground, that if you’re running on uneven/rocky ground, it’s gonna work areas of your foot that you’re not used to working. And if you’re not in your 20’s or a consistent runner, the lack of cushion in the Escalante might encourage an injury.

Final Summary

Personally, I really dig the improvements to the Torin 4. They support my feet more than the Escalante, they secure my feet better for turns, and they just look a lot better than Torin’s of the past. At this time, I simply don’t have a good reason to use the Escalante’s any more. My mid-life feet enjoy a little more support.

If you think the plush would be too cushy — I really don’t think they are — Then I’d go for the straight up Torin 4 over the Escalante 1.5. I think Altra really has their mission dialed in with this newest model.

Why Network Marketing is Incredible

If you haven’t tried network marketing, you probably have a family member or friend who has. It’s one of the fastest growing sales models in America. If you have considered network marketing weird or slimy, it’s time to rethink.

Let’s address some of the common misconceptions about network marketing or MLM:

#1 – It’s a Pyramid Scheme

Recently I was at dinner with my wife and daughter. We admired the charisma and spirit of our waiter as he told us about his career goals, yet confessed the field he wanted to pursue wouldn’t deliver a very high salary. We suggested network marketing. He quickly threw out the “Pyramid Scheme” nomenclature and the conversation wrapped. He has no idea how successful my wife is.

We tried.

99.9% of the people who use the term “pyramid scheme” have no idea what they’re talking about. They think they sound cool, but in reality they’re advertising a lack of knowledge. People assume that if a business resembles a pyramid, it’s a pyramid scheme. That’s like saying a hot air balloon must be a planet because it’s round and positioned high in the air.

The GAP Retail Store Example

Let’s use Gap Inc. as an example. Most of us have purchased a clothing item from Gap (who also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic). I used to work for Banana Republic back in the day, and have seen behind the scenes details of how things work.

At the very top of Gap Inc. sits Art Peck (as of 2019). Under him you’ll find the Global Presidents of Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic. Somewhere under these executive roles you’ll hit regional managers. Then district managers, individual store managers, assistant managers and eventually you’ll end up at the lowly sales associates who are actually responsible for selling the products, yet make the least out of everyone.

If you consider the GAP business structure, what does it sound like?


Pretty much every institution in our country, from the American Government to your family tree, resembles a pyramid. And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that. The Egyptians definitely dug it.

So if a pyramid structure isn’t bad, what is a pyramid scheme? has a definition that explains it well:

“A pyramid scheme is an unsustainable business model that works by recruiting an increasing number of members at different levels. Instead of supplying any tangible, for-value goods or services, the model banks on promises of profits for enrolling other members into the scheme. These recruits are required to pay an upfront cost, and this cost makes for the promised payments.”

See the difference? A pyramid scheme is Gap Inc. minus the clothing.

A quality network marketing company is all about their products, with the majority of customers being just that – customers. Only a small percentage of people involved in a network marketing company are actual distributors or business builders.

#2 – Prices Are Raised to Pay Distributors

This is a common claim you’ll hear. People accuse network marketing companies of hiking product costs to pay distributors. This argument (yet again) broadcasts a lack of understanding of the modern business world.

Let’s stick with the Gap Inc. example and discuss areas that affect product cost:

A) Product Quality

Having worked for Banana Republic, I can tell you the majority of BR clothing is pretty high quality. But you pay for that. In the Gap Inc. family you’ll find the lowest quality of clothing at Old Navy, then Gap and then Banana Republic crushing both of them. This difference in quality also means a sharp difference in price.

The same goes for network marketing. Consider Young Living Essential Oils. This is the network marketing company my wife and I are involved with. Young Living has been around longer than any other essential oils company. They’re the only ones with a Seed to Seal® quality guarantee. Young Living also uses the most sophisticated lab testing processes in the world.

And guess what? You pay for all of that.

Can someone go purchase lavender oil from their local health food store for less than Young Living? Sure. I think you can even get them at Target now. Is the quality the same? Not even in the same vicinity.

B) Marketing & Sales

So here’s where things really get interesting:

All retail companies spend a lot on marketing. It’s reported that Gap spends around $650 million dollars a year on advertising – give or take a few million.

Did that sink in?

This doesn’t include what Gap pays out to their CEO, global brand presidents, regional managers, district managers, store managers, assistant managers and sales associates.

You know… the pyramid.

That $650 million also doesn’t take into account the costs of leasing thousands of store fronts, annual utility costs and employee benefits.


Every piece of clothing you see neatly hanging in an Old Navy, Gap or Banana Republic store is wildly marked up to cover these business costs.

Network marketing companies can be very efficient with operating costs.

Going back to Young Living Essential Oils: They don’t have to spend money on storefronts, employee benefits, TV ads or marketing campaigns. Instead they use their money to pay distributors who are carrying the sales and marketing load. Young Living doesn’t need to hike product costs to pay. They simply take the money they didn’t spend on retail stores, employee benefits, and crazy expensive marketing strategies.

So are network marketing products overpriced to pay distributors? No more than every other item you purchase from your local grocery store, Best Buy or Gap Inc. Ever wonder why you can buy a shirt at Banana for 40-50% off most of the year?

Now that’s markup!

#3 – Network Marketers Are Pushy & Slimy

Can network marketing pros do it wrong? Oh my goodness yes.

One day an old friend I’d attended grade school with reconnected with me on Facebook. When I saw the friend request I quickly approved it. They proceeded to send me a message. I opened it only to realize they were asking me to get involved in their network marketing company. After 20 years of silence, this is what they had to say? Honestly, I was really offended.

We’ve all had that distant relative or friend who reappears in our life only to ask us to buy their amazing products. And it’s all too easy to quickly stereotype the sales model because of this.

But have you ever had a bad experience at a retail establishment?

I have. The last one was Home Depot on the island of Kauai. It was horrible customer service. Does this mean all retail stores are bad? Does it even mean all Home Depot stores are bad?

Of course not.

I’d be stupid to boycott Home Depot because a single sales manager at an island store didn’t give a rat’s rear about customer service.

It’s not the sales model, but rather individuals who taint the model and cause the problems. However with that, for some reason it seems that people do it the wrong way more often in network marketing.

Why is that?

A) Uneducated Business Owners

The reason your long-lost-friend-turned-network-marketer hits you as slimy is because they simply don’t know how to operate a business. IMHO, this is the primary issue with network marketing: People can be business owners without any training on how to sell.

Let’s say I still worked for Banana Republic, and every time I sat down to have a drink with friends, all I wanted to talk about was the latest dress shirts or chinos. Would my friends want to hang out with me? No. What if I called my long lost uncle and asked him to come in and purchase a BR dress shirt from the store I worked at? Would that call go over well? Of course not.

But when you’re an employee at a Banana Republic store, they teach you how to sell the right way.

B) No Walls for Business

Here’s something you must understand: In most professions, your work is forced into the four walls of a building.

When I punched the clock at BR, the last thing I thought about was trying to sell another piece of clothing. But for network marketers, the entire world is the sales floor. It takes learning to navigate this correctly.

Network Marketers also have to pursue training on their own: There is no sales lead or manager telling them how to do it right, unless they have an experience team leader above them.

“Don’t be weird!” is what my wife Sandi is always telling her people. When Sandi first started selling Young Living, she spent a lot of time and money in training. A lot of time and money. Sandi learned how to sell the right way, and her hard work really paid off. It helped her be successful while protecting relationships.

C) Poor Products

Another problem that damages the network marketing model are companies with lame products. Since network marketing is still “new” and different, it’s easy for a single company to tarnish the entire industry. But that simply isn’t fair.

If I go to Old Navy and have a bad experience, I apply my opinion to the brand as opposed to forming a global stereotype of Gap Inc. or the retail model as a whole.

Just like there are many inferior products in the retail industry, there are many inferior products pushed via network marketing. As with anything you purchase, you must do your research. Trust me, you’re going to have friends and family who become network marketers selling a product that just isn’t the best out there.

Don’t judge the model. Judge the company.

#4 – I Don’t Want to Be Different

For many people (if they’re honest) they just don’t have the guts to be different. They’d rather punch the clock and be a slave to the grind. But hey, at least they’re “normal.”

My wife isn’t normal. She can take off an entire month at the beach and still get a paycheck. Nobody with a normal job can do that. But my wife has worked hard, built up leaders and put systems in place that maximize the network marketing model.

As luxurious as the beach life sounds, most Americans want to be normal more than they want freedom. But think about it: The people we respect both current day and from history were the ones who had the guts to not be normal. Think about our Founding Fathers. Think William Wallace. Think King David or Moses. Each of these sacrificed a life of ease for something greater.

I rest my case.

In Summary

Remember the Gap Inc. organizational pyramid I described above?

Here’s the rub with that model: It will take you years and years to climb to the top and sit on the throne as Pharaoh of Gap Inc. — If you can even get there before turning into a mummy.

Same with all retail: How many Apple employees got to even talk to Steve Jobs? In most large companies, someone typically has to move up or out to allow room for you.

With network marketing you can make your own miracles happen. Not without training and work and God’s blessing, but when those things line up it’s really amazing to see.

Interested? Take the plunge and change your paycheck, your home, your future. I say this from personal experience. But you need to have the guts to be a little different — Just like the other successful people in the world.

Are You A Network Marketer?

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