April 23, 2017

Springtime in Minnesota 2017

Springtime in Minnesota 2017
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for April 23, 2017

It was a beautiful day in Minnesota on Saturday so I woke up early with the desire to get outside and enjoy the weather.

We bought a couple of these new bird feeders that suction cup to the outside of our windows so we can see the birds up close.  I absolutely love them!

You can see them here if you're interested:

I saw a Goose nearby me on my morning journey and he looked like he really wanted me to take his picture.  So I walked pretty close to him, but then he started honking at me really loud so I stopped.  Maybe I mis-read his desire to have his picture taken.

When I came home, we thought it would be fun to take the dogs swimming.  They always love to do that.

I don't know how much time Ole Sunny has left with us.  He turns 12 this week and has started having some heavy breathing issues.  He wheezes constantly and really has stamina issues.  He's been diagnosed with Laryngeal Paralysis and we're trying to decide if it makes sense for him to have surgery or not.  If he does have it, he'll never be able to go swimming again, which just sucks.  But it's hard to hear him struggling to breathe so much, so we're just not sure what to do with him.  It is no fun to get old.

Luke talked me into buying him a new drone this week even though we've never had much luck with them.  They always get lost and broken.  This time was no exception:

This is the drone we bought on Amazon:


In less than 24 hours after opening it, the drone was lost in the lake. It's too bad because we were having fun with it until it hit the water and was lost forever.

My old buddy, Orlando, brought his daughter down to see us sink drones and take our dogs swimming.  I think she enjoyed it.

Orlando likes to take me on new adventures around my house that I haven't done before.  This week we went near Carver, Minnesota to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Orlando tried to tell me if we were ambitious, we could follow this trail all the way to Bloomington and beyond.  I told him, I'm not that ambitious.

For a moment, I had a shiver go up my spine that perhaps Orlando was trying to lure me into the woods for unpleasant purposes.  Then I remembered that Orlando was my buddy and he's never tried to murder me before, so I had that going for me.

When he brought me to this abandoned house, I started saying my prayers.  Then I discovered that all of the windows were boarded and the doors were chained shut so there was no way we could get in to it.  This house is more than 100 years old and right over the river so I imagined that at one point in time, some family lived here and there wasn't anybody around for miles.  I have to imagine, there were some pretty spooky moments spent here.

The barn next to it said it was built back in the 1880's.  I couldn't find any leftover animal carcasses in there, but I'm sure they were pretty spooky also when they were still around.

Eventually we wandered down the trail and down to the Minnesota River.  It was an absolutely beautiful day!

There was supposed to be a bunch of rapids down the trail, but we couldn't find them so we climbed on to these rocks to see if we could get a better look.

We waved down this boat and asked where the rapids were.  They said we were looking at them, but the water was too high to get an appreciation of them, so we left.  Worst rapids ever!

April 16, 2017

Happy Easter 2017

Happy Easter 2017
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for April 16, 2017

Springtime is in the air and the Easter Heron's are feeling generous.  Actually it's probably the Easter Bunny that's feeling that way, but I didn't get a picture of a bunny this week.  Only this stupid Heron.

We connected with quite a few friends in quite a few restaurants this week starting with my old buddy, Krazy Kory.  He was in town for a work gig, but we still were able to make a quick trip to the casino together.  It was a great experience for him and just an OK one for me.

We found ourselves back at the casino on Friday night although we didn't actually do any gambling.  The Meadows bar is trying new things to attract customers and this week was their first attempt at a karaoke night.  We had to check that out!

Dan started us off for the night.  It's tough to follow him because he's a real good singer and I'm not.  

I tend to yell more than actually sing, so I have to be selective in the songs I attempt to try to match with my voice.  One of these days I'll find a song that sounds OK.

Of course, Miss Sheri sounds like an angel which makes it all the tougher on me.  When she started singing, the guy at the next table asked me about her.  I had to say "Sorry, dude.  She's into guys who like to yell."

Saturday morning we had the great joy of stopping by to see Victoria Bailey who is the daughter of our good friend, Madison Bailey, and the granddaughter of our good friends, Kim & Mike Bailey.  They said this was their first official full family photo with Victoria so we felt very honored to be the ones to capture that.

I'm starting to have more and more people I grew up with becoming grandparents which just doesn't seem possible.  Mike seemed so happy holding his granddaughter so I can definitely see the attraction to it, but it also makes me feel like I'm getting really old.

We met up with Jason and Jen and had lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Salsa a la Salsa.  It was fun to catch up with all these crazy kids.

Saturday afternoon brought Luke to Lunds and Byerly's grocery store to do some bagging as a fundraiser for the robotics team.  It's nice to carry groceries for people.

On Saturday night, we hooked up with our friends the Zitzewitzes and went to Kona Grill in Eden Prairie.

We had a lot of debate if it's a Japanese restaurant or a Hawaiian restaurant.  The waiter told us it was kind of a Pan-Asian menu which didn't settle our argument.  The food was pretty good even if we couldn't label it correctly.

On Easter Sunday, we picked up Grandma Linda, went to church, and then had lunch at Benihana.  I was kind of surprised that it wasn't very crowded.  I thought Teppanyaki style cooking was an Easter tradition for most people.  I guess not.  Next year, we're bringing some colored eggs and doing an Easter egg hunt in this place.  That will attract more people.

April 9, 2017

FIRST Robotics Competition Minneapolis North Star Regional 2017

FIRST Robotics Competition Minneapolis North Star 2017
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for April 9, 2017

I did the Polar Plunge back in February.  My blog post about it is here.  I just discovered this picture on the Minnesota Polar Plunge website and liked it so much I just had to share.

Tuesday night, we went to the Minnesota Valley Electric Coop's annual meeting.  Avery won a college scholarship from them and was asked to attend the event to accept his award.  That was awful nice of them.

On Thursday night, I competed in the Toastmaster's Divisional competition in downtown Minneapolis and won third place out of 6 contestants.  I don't get to advance to the next round, but had a great time participating!  

On Friday night we went to the Meadows bar in Prior Lake and connected with our old friends, Kirk and Debbie Sumner.  They're such nice people.

This weekend brought us to the University of Minnesota's Mariucci Arena to the FIRST Robotics Competition North Star Regional 2017.

We were there to support our favorite FRC robotics team, KING TeC #2169.

We have a large team out of Prior Lake High School and they all come to support the team with their capes and crowns ready for action.

All the parents wear their "I'm with Royalty" KING TeC t-shirts as we support our kids in the competition.  It's always a lot of fun hanging out with these good people.

I guess it's a good thing we all get along so well since we spend about 10-12 hours sitting next to each other during these two day tournaments.  It probably wouldn't be nearly as much fun if we spent the whole time bickering with one another.

The kids do a great job working together to have a competitive robot and mentor other students and teams to be successful as well.

The boys have had some great coaches and mentors over the years.  It was great to see our old buddy, Joel Volm, at the event.  He was the boys coach for several years and also one of their high school science teachers.  He's been a very good friend to Luke and Avery over the years.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar stopped by for a few minutes to show her support for FIRST robotics and the kids who were there developing their STEM skills.

The robot performed very well over the 12 matches in which it had the opportunity to compete.  They are able to make it consistently hang during the end game and have one of the fastest gear hanging robots in the competition.  This tournament the team put a lot of focus in getting their robot to be able to score points during autonomous mode and had some pretty good success.

Avery is the head of programming and works closely with the mechanical and drive teams to make sure they are all syncing to have the best chance for competing.

There's always a lot of intense debate on what tweaks to make to the robot between matches.  It's a lot of fun watching the kids negotiating and making their cases for what they should do.

The team had two close attempts at pulling off the challenging "Two Gear Autonomous" feat.  This maneuver is particularly challenging because each robot can only control only 1 gear at the start of the match.  So the way they attempt to do this is to have an alliance partner drop one of their gears in autonomous, then they add their first gear, and then go back and pick up the second gear that has been dropped on the floor.  These were the two closest attempts.

Cole and Katie have been part of the team responsible for the "Chairman's Award" presentations.  They did such a good job in Peoria that they helped the team to win the Chairman's Award which allows the team to advance to the World Championships.  Because of this, the team wasn't eligible to compete in this tournament's Chairman's Award competition.  But the team did win the  Entrepreneur's Award in Minneapolis.  So they got that going for them.  Which is nice.

Bill Jenkins has been an incredible mentor for the team.  He has a career in programming, so he and Avery have been spending a lot of time together the past few months.  
Avery has learned a ton from him!

In only a few short months, Luke and Jackson will be college roommates at Minnesota State Mankato.  I just can't believe the time is flying by so fast!

When I asked Jackson if he was excited to be living with Luke, he had an interesting reaction.  I hope this means he's excited about it.

We went to lunch at Stub & Herbs which gave us a good taste of college life.  I want to go back to college!

What an incredible team containing so many talented students with such bright futures.  It has been wonderful spending time with all of them.  I'm really going to miss it when my kids graduate.

I've always taught my boys to swim against the stream and I guess that's what Luke was thinking here.