My Photograph is Being Used Without My Permission and Unpaid, In an Ad Featured on (Or, “My Face is Clickbait for the Lotto, Even Though I Don’t Believe in Playing the Lotto”)

Apparently, I have the face an everyday Joe who happens to be smart enough to figure out how to win the Lotto 7 times.

This morning a friend from college sent me a screen shot of an article on ESPN, asking me this question:

“Hey – I took this screen shot at the bottom of an ESPN article. Is this you? And if it is, did you know your likeness is being used?”

The answer is yes, that’s my picture; and no, I did not know my photo was being used to promote a story about the Lotto.

It’s very easy to prove that’s a picture of me above the clickbait article, “A 7-Time Lotto Winner Reveals the Big Mistake You Make When Playing the Lotto”.

They simply cropped the title card from my 6th most popular YouTube video, “What a #1 Guard Buzz Cut Looks Like With a Receding Hairline”.

I published that video back on December 20th, 2015, and since then, it has received over 49K views.

So I laboriously scrolled until I found the article. When I clicked on it, the actual article does not feature my picture; and title of the article changes to simply, “How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lotto”.

However, I was unable to share the article from my phone:

It comes up as an invalid website when you search that or any of the content from the article.

So it’s as if the click-bait article was deliberately coded in a way that it can not be Googled; the only way to get to it is to click on the ad from a 3rd party.

Some major irony in me being forced against my knowledge or permission to be the face of click-bait, is that I fundamentally do not believe in playing the lottery.

For me, it’s not a moral issue. Instead, it’s common sense one. I see the lottery as “a tax for people who are bad at math.” This concept is only reinforced in movies like Casino and The Godfather, Part II.

While I quickly admit I am definitely bad at math, which is why I’m naturally more skilled in writing and communication, I am a follower of Dave Ramsey. Therefore, it goes against my identity to play the Lotto.

I definitely do not endorse the lottery, nor did I win the lottery 7 times.

However, I do own the rights to the photo, and when you click on my YouTube video, you’ll see that I published it on December 20th, 2015; nearly 2 and a half years ago. It’s time stamped.

This reminds me of an article I read back in November 2017, where a photographer’s photo of VHS cassettes were stolen, to be used as part of Netflix’s Stranger Things boxed set.

It also reminds me of another article I read yesterday about how SnapChat’s value dropped $577 million in value when Rihanna’s picture was used without her permission in a tasteless ad.

Here’s a convenient side by side comparison proving that’s my picture; the ESPN ad on the left, and my YouTube channel on the right:

So what do I do now? Does ESPN have any responsibility in this? Now that I have tweeted this story to them, they are officially aware that one of their sponsors is using my image against my will; and even worse; not crediting me or paying me for my image, which is part of the reason people are clicking on the lotto story.

Or is it left to me to go on a wild goose chase, in an attempt to find the 3rd party of a 3 party who is recycling this lotto story, yet not making it possible to directly find their website.

After all, TopLifestyleTips, the website named below my photo in the ad, is not an existing website. Here’s what happens when you Google TopLifestyleTips along with A 7-Time Lotto Winner Reveals the Big Mistake You Make When Playing the Lotto.

Under normal circumstances, that would bring up the existing article right away. The company responsible for using my photo without my permission, or at least any compensation, is doing a great job of hiding within plain sight.

Until then, I feel trapped in a Black Mirror episode, where my image is perpetually used to promote an idea I am fundamentally against, and am not even paying paid to participate in.


Dear Holly: Nonna’s Visit While I Was Away in Florida

1 year, 10 months.

Dear Holly,

Last week while I was driving across the state of Florida for the Toyota Grand Slam event, Papa brought Nonna here to take care of you during the day while Mommy was at work.

Now that I work from home on my own schedule as a freelance social media specialist, it’s much easier for me to be able to travel on press events; as long as Nonna can take my place during the day.

So while I was out promoting Toyota, you got to have a lot of fun with Nonna. She sent me plenty of pictures throughout the week so I could catch up on what you were into.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment last week while Nonna was in town was that, for the first time, you ate noodles! You saw Nonna go to the pantry to get some Ramen noodles for lunch.

That’s when you explained to her, “Daddy eat.”

Nonna made you some for lunch, and as these pictures illustrate, you enjoyed your noodles. Good to know!

I appreciate how Nonna had you pose for some pictures for me while I was away. My favorite shot is when you were standing by the stairs. You held on to the sides of your clothes and leaned backwards, with the cutest look on your face.

This picture meant so much to me that I made it my wallpaper on my phone. It really shows your personality, as that was your response to choosing a pose for a picture that you knew I would like.

You read my mind!

While I definitely enjoyed my trip to Florida, I obviously was very happy to come home and see you again. You enjoyed helping me unpack on the Toyota souvenirs I brought back.

You especially liked the cup with the carabiner lid. These days you’re definitely at that developmental stage where you can easily spend 30 minutes in a loop, as you get lost in figuring out how a basic object can be manipulated.

So I truly believe had I actually spent money on real souvenirs, it wouldn’t have been quite as cool as the swag I brought home.

You were well taken care of while I was gone.



Dear Jack: You Were the Man of the House While I Was Gone in Florida

7 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack,

I just now realized that while I was in Florida working on promoting Toyota, you were the man of the house back home in Tennessee. Granted, you were school most of the time, as it was Monday through Thursday that I was gone; but still, you were only male at the house with Mommy, Nonna, and your sister.

As usual, you did a great job taking care of your sister while I was gone. You let her borrow your Monkey, named Bobby. I know that meant a lot to her.

You also decided to sharpen up your skateboarding skills in the driveway; which I am very proud to see.

Fortunately, my plane landed back in Nashville just in time for me to make it home in time to see your 1st grade musical. Though it could have been a coincidence, it’s possible you were placed right in the middle of the stage because you knew the songs and motions so well.

Once we got back to the house, it was nearly like Christmas as I let you and your sister open your presents, I mean, unpack my Toyota swag.

While I’m sure I’ll be breaking in my personalized Braves’ jersey with our last name Shell on the back, eventually it will be yours; once it fits you well enough to at least become a shirt for you to sleep in.

I also especially thought of you for what I call the “accordion” cup, that stretches out if you want to fill it with more snacks.

It’s funny for me to take a moment to consider how somewhat unusual it is for you to be accustomed to me going on these “business trips” and bringing you back swag souvenirs. But it’s not like I sell insurance or medical supplies. I simply am a daddy blogger.

I don’t suppose most of your friends can relate to having a Toyota beach towel or a stick of Toyota chap stick. Oh well, you do!




My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Florida Road Trip: From Cape Coral to Manalapan in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 3 of 3)

While I obviously loved the entire Toyota Grand Slam Road Trip across Florida last week, I have to say that my final day of the tour stood out as my favorite.

For me, there was much intrigue surrounding the 2018 Toyota C-HR; a new vehicle which I had yet to see in person until last week at the event.

On the first day when we were presented with the vehicles, I was immediately drawn to the aqua (radiant green) colored SUV with the white top. As I began walking around it, taking pictures, I realized this was Toyota’s new SUV.

The C-HR, which stands for “compact high rider” (but is also understandably identified as a “cross hatch run”), ultimately became known to me as the “High Roller”. At least, that’s the name several of us automotive writers referred to it as.

As I am regularly loaned vehicles here on my blog throughout the year, I especially look forward to being able to travel in the C-HR with my family. I can already imagine how cool my 7 year-old son will think it is.

Day 3 started off great with the “choose your Toyota and your driving partner for the day” part, where I was instantly invited by Chris Chin to team up with him in the maroon (ruby flare) C-HR. Toyota had provided two C-HRs to help ensure each of us writers had a chance to spend at least half of the day driving one.

Something I learned about myself during the Toyota Grand Slam event was just what a niche my blog is: I am a daddy blogger who happens to write about cars a lot, as my family takes a lot of road trips. Therefore, when I feature new vehicles on my blog, I focus a lot on how much backseat space there is with two child car seats; and also, how much 3rd row seat space there is if an adult sits back there.

In other words, I write about being a parent first and foremost, and therefore, about cars on the side. In contrast, my driving partner Chris Chin (along all the other guys on the trip) are true automotive writers. That’s their main focus.

So as we were driving across the more uninhabited parts of Florida, and we made our way from Cape Coral to Port St. Lucie to see the Yankees play the Mets, he was talking about all kinds of technical stuff that I could barely follow him on; meanwhile, I was just thinking:

“This sure is fun. I like being in the C-HR. I can’t wait for my family to ride in it with me. I wonder where we’ll drive in it? Maybe North Carolina like when we drove the Sienna last fall? Or to Kentucky when we drove the 4Runner last spring?”

My thoughts were interrupted when Chris and I couldn’t help but notice that we were driving down a road surrounded by orange groves on both sides of it. With both of us being focusing heavily on photography in our writing, we decided it would be a sin not to pull over the C-HR for a perfect photo op.

We weren’t breaking any rules. This was a public road with no “private property” or “no trespassing” signs anywhere; no fences or gates.

And we were right: It made for some really cool pictures of the C-HR, in the midst of the orange grove. I particularly focused on some shots of the wheels in the sandy dirt. I felt those pictures really helped match the fun character of the C-HR.

But then, after Chris and I had captured all the shots we needed, we loaded back in the C-HR to continue on our way back on the route. He started the ignition and pushed the gas pedal, but all we heard or felt were the tires spinning.

It took me back to my childhood in the 1980s, when cartoons and movies were constantly warning and preparing me for the inevitable danger of quicksand as an adult.

Chris continued revving the engine and attempting to maneuver us out of the sand and back on the dirt road. It helped that he is truly a professional driver who tests out cars’ power for a living.

Just as I was thinking how I probably needed to get out of the vehicle and help push, the tires made their way onto the dirt road again; as there was barely a distinction between the sand on the dirt in the first place.

It wasn’t much longer until we made our way to Lake Placid, where we stopped for lunch at the Good News Juice and Smoothie Cafe; which conveniently for me on the week of my 5th anniversary of being a vegan, happened to be a vegan-friendly cafe.

Once we arrived in Port St. Lucie, I was definitely in the mood to watch a baseball game. The fact that it happened to be the Yankees playing the Mets made things that much more exciting. It was nothing short of hilarious to hear the zany banter between opposing fans during the entire game.

Plus, it was nice that we had such good seats, right behind the action, and out of the sun. By this 3rd game, I had realized how much I truly enjoy watching baseball. It’s a different mode of thinking; so much different than basketball or football or hockey.

It had been a wonderful action-packed week, but it was time for everything to come to a close. That night all of us guys had a classy Mediterranean feast at Temple Orange, the restaurant there at the Eau Palm Beach Resort in Manalapan where we were staying the final night.

Our server couldn’t help but notice our Toyota name tags, and so he decided to incorporate the Toyota logo into our dessert play. That was so cool.

After a perfect day though, I knew I needed to head back to my room, since I had to leave the hotel at 5:00 AM to catch my flight.

My hotel room was amazing. My balcony faced the ocean. I would love to go back there some day with my wife.

As if I needed to point out the obvious, it was honor to be asked to join the Toyota Grand Slam road trip. Selfishly, it makes me feel good to know that my blog’s SEO is healthy enough to qualify as a social media influencer, to this degree.

I had so much fun. I met great people. And I got to experience an exciting week of adventure and entertainment.

So yeah, my calendar is already marked for next year!

To read all 3 parts of My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Florida Road Trip series, just click on the link below for the ones you haven’t read yet:

An Awesome Dad Vacation (Part 1 of 3)
From Orlando to Fort Myers in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 2 of 3)
From Cape Coral to Manalapan in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 3 of 3)




My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Grand Slam Road Trip: From Orlando to Fort Myers in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 2 of 3)

After waking up at Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Studios, I began the 2nd day of my road trip across Florida by rushing downstairs to call dibs on the Toyota I would be driving that day.

It was the 2018 Toyota Camry that had drawn my attention. Not only is it a sporty (and fast) looking car, but I’m a sucker for red interior. As I began loading up my gear, I realized I wouldn’t even need to find and choose a driving partner for the day, as I noticed someone else’s gear was already loaded up.

Of the 8 of us automotive writers there for the event and 5 vehicles to choose from, my driving partner and I found each other simply by the process of choosing the car first.

Ray Logan, of, had also chosen the Camry, and therefore, he had chosen me as well. It was no surprise that Ray and I hit it off quite easily.

Our mission was to take the Camry from Orlando to Fort Myers, where we would be watching the Orioles play the Twins at Hammond Stadium.

The midpoint stop on our journey was a vegan shop in Sarasota called CROP (which now that I am looking closely at their sign, stand for “coldpressed, raw, organic, produce”).

Of all days to be introduced to this wondrous place, it just happened to be my 5th anniversary of being a vegan. So as you can imagine, the owner was truly able to celebrate with me.

I explained to him how I have been free of dyshidrotic eczema, constant sinus pressure, and pet allergies for the past 5 years in which I have not consumed any meat, eggs, or dairy. While he was obviously happy to hear this, he wasn’t surprised, as he also personally believes in the power of plants alone.

It was such a thrill for me to be able to stock up on all kinds of manly vegan goodies for the 2nd half of the road trip. I enjoyed a HeartBeet Burger, a peanut butter and banana smoothie, chia coconut pudding, and some delectable vegan chocolates.

Yeah, I may have went overboard, and but hey… what a fun way to celebrate 5 years being healed of eczema (thanks to my vegan lifestyle) than to stock up at Crop!

By the time Ray and I made it to the game, food was no longer on my mind. But having gotten a little too much sun from the game the day before, we decided to hang up in the shade up at the top of the stadium; enjoying the game from a nearly aerial view.

After a good time at the game, we made our way to The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village. I loved how right there at the balcony near my bed, I had a nice view of yachts on the water. It made me think of the 1983 Jimmy Buffett song, “One Particular Harbor”.

I admit though, I felt kind of guilty not being able to share this amazing hotel experience while my wife was back home with the kids. Either way, I slept like a rock.

And I would need every minute of that solid sleep for the adventure ahead the next day in the Toyota C-HR, with a new driving partner.

This was an action packed road trip, for sure.

Work hard while playing hard. That was my theme.

To read all 3 parts of My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Florida Road Trip series, just click on the link below for the ones you haven’t read yet:

An Awesome Dad Vacation (Part 1 of 3)
From Orlando to Fort Myers in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 2 of 3)
From Cape Coral to Manalapan in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 3 of 3)

My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Grand Slam Road Trip: An Awesome Dad Vacation (Part 1 of 3)

Yes, it’s true that just two weeks ago I made my big TV debut on The Lifetime Network. But a few weeks before I obtained my 15 minutes of fame, Toyota had already reached out to me and invited me to join them on a road trip across Florida; to be part of the 2018 Major League Baseball Spring Training Grapefruit League tour.

Now that I work from home as a freelance writer and social media specialist, I didn’t even have to ask to time off; like I used to when I worked in an office. Instead, I just had to (quite easily) convince my mom to take care of the kids for a week. And as for my wife, she was more than happy to let me go out for a 4 day road trip with a bunch of other guys who also write about cars for a living. She was all for it!

Toyota made it clear in the invite that they would be taking care of everything: My flight to and from Florida, all my meals, all my hotel stays, all my entertainment; and of course, brand new Toyotas to drive from Orlando to Fort Myers to Port St. Lucie. So yeah, as you can imagine, it was an awesome trip!

It was a welcome culture shock, as a stay-at-home dad who works from home, to enjoy the finest hotels (like Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Studios featured in many of these pictures), restaurants, and entertainment; while driving brand-new cars and meeting other guys who were a lot like me.

The vehicles I had access to included the blue (and also a maroon) C-HR, the silver Camry, the red Corolla, and the newly redesigned white Prius.

Over the course of three days of driving, we saw three baseball games:

The Pirates vs. The Braves at Champion Station in Orlando on March 5th

The Orioles vs. The Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers on March 6th

The Yankees vs. The Mets at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie on March 7th

The folks at Toyota even had a special Atlanta Braves jersey with my name on it, for me to wear to the Braves’ game. In fact, when the whole trip was over and I got back to Nashville, I had a Toyota backpack stuffed full of Toyota swag.

So as you imagine, there was no need for me to buy any souvenirs for my kids. I simply brought home all the Toyota goodies and my kids basically thought it was Christmas!

This is just my 1st of 3 posts about my amazing experience. Stay tuned for the 2nd, when I share about my day of driving the 2018 Toyota Camry, and the 3rd, featuring my experience in the 2018 Toyota C-HR.

I love being a daddy blogger!

To read all 3 parts of My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Florida Road Trip series, just click on the link below for the ones you haven’t read yet:

An Awesome Dad Vacation (Part 1 of 3)
From Orlando to Fort Myers in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 2 of 3)
From Cape Coral to Manalapan in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 3 of 3)



Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I Lost 11 Pounds in the Past 2 Months, From Overweight to Optimal (A Testimonial about Vegan Weight Loss)

Exactly two months ago on January 8th, 2018, I was very vocal and public about the fact I had become overweight, as a vegan. I was getting too much protein, and fat, and sugar.

I wanted to make sure it was common knowledge, and beyond anyone’s doubt, that with a BMI of 26. At 5’9″, I was officially 6 pounds overweight, at 176 pounds.

So I decided to cut out empty calories, and even extra protein, like the chia seeds in my morning smoothie and the mixed nuts in my oatmeal. I started eating whole apples and oranges. I switched back to just balsamic vinegar instead of oil-based salad dressing. I began drinking tea at night, lest I be tempted by anything more alluring.

A month later, which was a month ago in February, I had lost 7.5 pounds (at that point 168.5 pounds) and lowered my BMI to 24.5; which meant I was no longer overweight.

So what progress have I made since then? I lost another 3.5 pounds (now 165 pounds); which means my BMI is now 24, and I’ve lost a total of 11 pounds!

Here’s something that some fitness freaks won’t like hearing:

I haven’t been working out at a gym.

The weight I have lost has been exclusively because of the empty calories, and well as the extra calories, I’ve been cutting out of my diet.

I still haven’t reached my goal, though. For me, it’s about comfortably fitting into every pair of size 31 pants I own; as I was able to a few years ago.

That means I’m aiming to get down to 156 pounds; which would be a total of 20 pounds lost since January 8th of this year. That’s another 9 pounds to go.

And then once I reach my goal, it’s a matter of maintaining that weight.

I feel, though, since my formula is clearly working, I should be able to maintain the weight loss as long as I remain faithful.

This is my personal story about vegan weight loss.