What has Frank been up to…what Frank has been up to… what I’ve been up to (What I’ve Been Doing – Episode 3)

This was originally started in June 2011, after my 20-year high school reunion (Go Mavs!), but it just never got done…since I’ve been updating my blog recently I noticed that this and other blog posts have been sitting in the ‘Drafts’ section for quite a while, and with my 40th birthday coming up it’s about time to finish this up!

With my recent 20th anniversary high school reunion and trip to Texas to see old friends (and in Chicago, too!), I’ve been getting a few more friend requests on Facebook, which is great! Unfortunately, many of the friend requests come mostly from people who I haven’t seen in 10 years (at the last high school reunion), 14 years (when I left Texas), or even 20 years (when I left high school)! So it’s hard to catch up individually with everyone and explain what I’ve been doing in that time. Don’t get me wrong – I love to catch up with folks who I haven’t seen in ages, but by the time I condense the last 20 years of my life to the 20th person, it comes out like, “Moved to California in ’97, moved to England in ’04. What have you been up to?” And that’s just not fair. People (as in literally everyone) want to hear what The Frank has been doing, so here goes a general timeline:

1991 – graduated high school, worked at Tom’s Ribs (the original location!) for the summer, went to North Carolina A&T on a full-ride Army scholarship. I picked ‘Architectural Engineering’ as my degree choice. That was…okay. Continue reading

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What I’ve Been Doing – Episode 2

So, more in the ‘what have you been up to?’ segment…

The past couple of summers, I’ve been to a couple of major RC (radio-controlled model) car racing events around Europe, so I’ve been doing a little extra travel as a side-job and reporting for a site called RCRacing.TV

Basically this entails taking pictures, talking to the top drivers at each event, doing various race reports and posting the reports and pictures online. Pretty geeky, yeah, and very few people realize how seriously many of these racers take their racing – most of them pay hundreds of (pounds, Euros, whatever) to drive or fly hundreds of (miles, kilometers) across the continent to race in front of very few spectators for no other glory than to try to do better than they did last year. Those that haven’t paid their way are there because there are companies that actually sponsor them (with money!) to do well and promote their products – the top guys are actually paid a salary to race toy cars for a living – and if the sponsored guys don’t do well, they know their sponsors might be tempted to look elsewhere when their contract is finished. So there’s a lot of pressure involved and it usually means some good racing.

This year I was asked to try to do race commentary, which, if you’ve watched motorsports before, consists of some guy who thinks he’s a know-it-all about the race and the drivers (‘some guy’ being me in this case) and babbling over the practice, qualifying heats and races. It was my first time doing it at the European Championships for electric buggy (there being two classes: 2WD and 4wD), then the following week I was scheduled to announce for the Championships for the much larger and cosmically faster 1/8th scale on-road class.

Here’s the race edit of just the fastest 10 guys (the A Final) in the 2WD electric buggy, with my commentary (the other voice you’ll hear is my friend and colleague during the trip, Mat):

Continue reading

Big catch-up!

Yeah it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, so I figured what the hell.

What prompted this is I caught up with a buddy I used to play tons of online games with, and getting him up to speed after about 10 years of no contact got me thinking I should update this sucker. Plus, I got in touch with another friend who I hadn’t talked with in several months, had a nice online chat and got caught up with him too.

So over the next little while I’ll be updating this here, so hopefully someone will read this and catch up.

Film project under way!

So my podcasting partner and I are finally about to start actually FILMING instead of TALKING about filming. Various things like vacations, work/kid/family schedules, etc., have all conspired to make the filming not happen yet, and as it stands we’ll have one weekday night every two weeks to do some filming, then talk about the next bit that we want to do.

So…hopefully we’ll have some videos on YouTube in the next couple of weeks!

So, what do I miss about the States?

This post has sat in my ‘drafts’ section for quite a while, and I found it today while looking through old posts. Since I’ve just moved into my own place and it’s the 14th anniversary today of me working for HPI (the company that moved me from Texas to California), I figured what the hell, I’ll update it and see if it’s all still true, and correct what isn’t.

Well I’ve been in the UK for nearly 8 years now, quite a long time, really. I was in Southern California for 7 years, so now I’ve here for longer than I was in SoCal, which is really weird, because I really feel I connected with and loved a lot about SoCal.

Still, I was in Texas for 16 years before I moved to California, so there’s still some time to go before I reach that milestone.

But I was having an online conversation with a friend a while back and he was laughing that I have to pay for my RC car parts now (we work for the same radio control model car company, but at different branches), and I said yeah, also I live in a much smaller place, get paid less and pay 3 times as much for gas/petrol than I did before.

However, there are certain trade-offs, like easy access to Europe (not to mention the rest of the UK, much of which is lovely), country lane driving, eons of human history to explore and touch, that sort of thing. There’s certain things about the States I don’t miss either, but to be honest there’s a lot of culture creep in the UK because of US TV shows, movies, shared corporations and the like. That sort of thing is different to different people, the average American expat in the UK is fairly liberal and doesn’t miss Hummer H2’s, soccer moms, Giant Gulps and Real Housewives of Orange County, if you get my meaning.

Anyway, back on topic: What Do I Miss About the US?

  1. Texas smoke pit BBQ (specifically, Bob’s Pit BBQ in San Antonio)
  2. Sunday barbacoa (Mexican specialty, it’s called something else in SoCal but it’s basically a cow’s head cooked in a metal garbage can buried in the ground for about 16 hours)
  3. Road trips – oh you do road trips in the UK and Europe, but every few hours you hit a new country. In the States you could be on the I-10 in Texas or the I-5 in California for, like, 12, 16 hours, and still not cross the next border. Plus, you get the ‘real Americana’ on the roads and highways – weird tourist attractions like a snake farm or old cars stuck in the ground like Car Henge, and other strange road sightings like that.
  4. Being able to talk your way out of a speeding ticket – here it’s speed cameras ahoy. You just have to know when to slow down, or keep your eyes open for different types of camera boxes. If you didn’t slow down enough you have to wait a few nervous weeks for a letter from a local council. If your letter slot stays ticket-free, rejoice! You got away with it. Otherwise…it’s a few points on your licence.
  5. Outdoor malls  – I’m not so much into ‘retail nirvana’ any more, but it is very cool to be able to stroll from store to store in bright sunshine, sipping a soda or holding an ice cream, deciding on the next food court to hit or next item of clothing to look for. Strip malls are one thing, and America is absolutely infested with them, but the mall I’m really thinking about is the Spectrum in Irvine, California. I used to live just minutes from there…and it. was. amazing. Nothing like the shopping streets in the UK!
  6. Properly outfitted movie theaters – it’s all a game of keeping up with the Joneses with movie theaters, having to upgrade to stadium seating, rocking chairs, wider screens, digital distribution and 3D, but at least for metropolitan areas with lots of moviegoers, the cinemas seem to have stayed with the curve. Not that movie theaters in the UK are all crap, but you really have to be near a decent-sized city to get a really big screen and all the amenities – although there’s a cinema in Derby (UK) that lets you order food and drinks to be delivered halfway through the show!
  7. Big honking cars and trucks – OK, yeah, sometimes I do miss them and their clueless drivers. But then I visit the US and realize…no, I didn’t really miss them that much.
  8. Big posh neighborhoods – I grew up watching loads of John Hughes movies, and movies that copied his style, like Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, that sort of thing. Where everyone lived in massive 2-story, 10-bedroom houses with huge front yards and gigantic back yards with every suburban luxury you could dream of. Well I used to like driving through these neighborhoods and just…drive. It helped when I used to deliver pizza to some of these houses, because then I could find the nicest houses as drove past and just daydream. For whatever reason those kinds of neighborhoods are hard to find in the UK, or just don’t exist. It seems most of the housing estates (except new build areas) are left over from the old mining and industrial days and you’ll have rows and rows of terrace/rowhouses, overlooked by a few large houses where the overseers/owners lived. Not better or worse to me, just different.
  9. Immigrant neighborhoods and funky foods – Not that these are hard to find in the UK or Europe, but these sorts of areas in the US just have a different feel to them. I don’t know if it’s the relative lack of outright racism (which you do get in the UK from a vocal minority) or what, but it’s…just a different feel. It’s been so long since I’ve been in an area like this in the States that it’s hard for me to describe it actually.
  10. Crazy loner people – Everyone must know some desert rat or some person living as a hermit in a cabin in the woods or something, I used to know a bunch like this in California. Living out in the desert must either require a lack of some sanity, or it must slowly drive you crazy, because most of the people I’ve met from these sorts of places seemed like the jumped right out of a Mad Max movie or something. Mountain hermits must be the same way. There’s just so much land in the US it’s relatively easy to do this sort of thing, building landships and digging your own septic tank system. In the UK there are laws and health & safety regs and all this BS hoops you have to go through to get anything at all done, it’s amazing anything gets completed.

I think that’s about it, I had to stretch a little but I think this post is finally done 🙂 There’s probably some bits I’m missing, too, and more I could expound on but there’s a life to live off the computer!

So some co-workers are going to Vegas…

I’ve tried to give them the gist of what they’ll see:

  • everyone smoking inside (this is a bit of a shocker coming from UK/EU)
  • old people stuffing dollars and nickels into slot machines
  • no ‘whales’ or big-money spenders – they’re kept isolated with their $100 slot machines
  • someone blowing hundreds of dollars at blackjack or roulette or poker, busting out, then taking out more bills to give to the dealer/croupier
  • lots of trophy wives (well, wife for the night)
  • limousines
  • off-road trucks going up and down the Strip
  • blazing hot heat
  • douchebags in loud shirts

And of course the places they should visit:

  • Bellagio
  • Ceasar’s Palace
  • Paris
  • New York New York (used to be my favorite)
  • In n Out Burger