November 19, 2017

Richard Petty Driving Experience at Texas Motor Speedway

Richard Petty Driving Experience at Texas Motor Speedway
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 19, 2017

Miss Sheri and I got a sneak preview of Wonder Tuesday night. Loved it. Best portrayal of being part of a special needs family I've ever seen. And it does a beautiful job of portraying the challenges of being a special needs kid. l will admit, I cried several times and laughed quite a bit also. It had a really good message. After the movie was over, I leaned over and told Sheri that she is very lucky to have someone like me in her life.

It was back to the airport on Thursday as I was flying down to Dallas, Texas for a couple of nights.

I was going to Dallas to visit some of my customers for my job at Oracle.  We were sponsoring an event with the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

My co-worker, John Eder, and I work together on several mid-market accounts in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  John is the field rep while I primarily work with the accounts remotely from Minneapolis.  John invited me down to help with this event and have the opportunity to meet some of our customers in person.

He was also kind enough to invite me to spend the night at his house and meet his family.  I had the opportunity to meet his wife, daughter, parents, and his wife's aunt & uncle.  They were all wonderful people and I found them to be so considerate for accommodating me like they did.  It was a very pleasant evening.

On Friday, we went to the Texas Motor Speedway.   We had about 25  customers and partners in attendance.   The plan was to have lunch then do our customer presentations, and finish with the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

John asked me if I'd like to do the presentation with him and I was happy to help.  We spent about a half hour talking to the audience about our Oracle cloud solutions for SAAS applications in areas like ERP, EPM, supply chain, & logistics.

The audience seemed pretty riveted with what we had to say if I do say so myself.

John and I were partnered up with three of our customers from Farmer Brothers Coffee.  We had just done some business together back in September, so it was really nice to get to meet these guys in person.  Especially while participating in such a thrilling experience.

This was our driver Jim.  He told us about his many years of experience driving race-cars and that today we'd be exceeding speeds of 160mph.  Sounded good to me.

We divided into 5 teams and we all got to ride for 6 laps while "Racing" against 4 other teams including pit stops where we each had to perform various activities like refueling and waving the sign at the driver so he knew where to stop.  

The most challenging part of the experience was swapping riders and making sure that people could get in and out of the car quickly while also being sure to have everything strapped and buckled properly.  Much more difficult than it sounds.

If you are claustrophobic, you might not enjoy this.  The helmet is incredibly snug and you can't hear much while wearing it.  You also have to wear some kind of shoulder pads that attaches to the helmet.  Then when you get in the car, you have about 5 different straps to hold you in the car in various ways.  It makes you feel safe and secure, but it's not very easy to turn your head or anything to look around while you are riding.

The ride itself was amazing.  I was the first to go in our group and we did 3 or 4 laps with the pace car before they dropped the hammer and started going really, really fast.  I was pretty amazed by the pressure of the G Forces pulling at me as we zipped around the curves at 160mph+.  I got to do that for 6 laps and we passed a couple of other cars while I was in there.

On the first lap where we started going fast, I noticed my driver was trying to pass one of the other cars on the inside and suddenly the car we were trying to pass, accelerated and cut us off pretty hard.  I wondered if we had a close call and asked my driver about it after we were all done.  He told me "Yeah, that was a pretty sharp cut.  I didn't mean for that to happen and I was a little nervous we were going to wind up in the infield."  I'm glad I didn't know that while I was riding with him because I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed the rest of the 6 laps like I did had I known that.

Here's a short video that shows what it was like when taking off in the vehicle...

Both of my sisters live in Dallas.  So when my work obligations were complete, I was able to go spend the evening with my sister, Tracy, and her husband, Dave.  We went out to eat in Grapevine, Texas and set ourselves up for a night of fun.

We dropped in for a quick little visit to the concert of Zuriel Merek.  He is an electronic violinist and was playing a concert at the Palace Theater.  It was some pretty surreal music.

You can get a taste of how the music sounded here.

We stopped at several other establishments on the streets of Grapevine.  It was fun seeing all the stores and locations decorated for Christmas.  It got me in the Holiday Spirit!

On Saturday, we connected with my other sister, Tammy, her husband, David, and three of my nieces.  It was great to have a chance to see all of them!

It was Tammy's birthday recently and she was just dying to show me the new hat she bought to celebrate the occasion.  I thought it was a bit much, but I guess that's how they do things in Texas.

We had a few hours left before I had to go back to the airport, so we went to Six Flags holiday in the park for some fun.

The place was packed so we only got to go on one ride after waiting in line for an hour.  But the ride was well worth it!

I was hoping to get a ride back to the airport with Dave & Tracy, but they came across this mistletoe and started making out.  I couldn't catch their attention and after a half hour, I thought it would be a good idea to just grab an Uber.  It was a fun couple of nights in Texas, though!

November 12, 2017

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Nebraska Cornhuskers

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Nebraska Cornhuskers
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 12, 2017

I bought the new iPhone X this week so I've been having fun playing with the new photography features in it.  I especially like the Animoji Feature as can be seen here:

The Poop Animoji Sings Metallica's One.

I live by the boat launch and wander down there quite often to see what's happening. The temperature was down to 20 degrees on Friday, so I was a bit surprised when I found this nice young lady about to go out on the water by herself. I asked her what she was doing and she said she was studying the habits of the carp in the lake. She was tracking them and trying to understand what they were doing right before the lake ices over, thus the timing. I asked her if the end game was to reduce the carp populations and she agreed that was the eventual goal. Her name is Mary and I asked her if I could call her "Mary The Carp Hunter" and she thought that was OK. I wish I had a name like Mary the Carp Hunter.

She worked for a company called WSB and had a pretty high tech set-up. She said they had previously put radio tags on some of the carp and this antenna looking thing would help her to locate them in the lake. I'm also hoping to be able to pick them up on my Dish Network at home because I'm guessing those carp sound pretty amazing.

On Friday night, we invited some friends over for a hot tub party. It was 25 degrees outside so perfect time to go out and take a bath with some good friends.

I still was playing with my new iPhone and taking photos of anyone who would let me. Lucky for me, Karl never seems to tire of me taking his picture.

He actually didn't believe it was on and leaned in to investigate, but it was on.

Actually, I think it may have been Ana who took the previous photos. Apparently, this was her first experience with the iPhone X and so I woke up to find all sorts of fun new photos and videos filling up my new phone. She really seemed to like the animojis.

Luckily for all of us, The Browns showed up so we could put away the cameras and phones and get to the business of the evening! Appetizers! I even bought a new swimsuit for the event. I think it makes me look pretty hot.

Sadly for Blue, he's not allowed in the hot tub. It's cute that he gets out a towel and puts on a swimsuit, but we can't just let all that hair get in the there. Sorry, Blue.

Saturday morning came up a little too quickly for my taste and we headed downtown to TCF bank stadium to see the Minnesota Golden Gophers take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

We were greeted by a light dusting of snow before we left the house, so we knew it was going to be a cold day to watch the game. We made sure to bundle-up extra good.

We were pleasantly surprised to see our neighbor, Jim, at the game along with his grandson, Carter. He came along with his daughter, Jill, who we normally would go tailgating with if only we could get out of bed earlier.

Everybody was bundled-up to try to stay warm, even the cheerleaders.

It was veteran's day, so we had several opportunities to pay respect to those honorable men & women who have served our country.

The band always does an amazing halftime show and we were pleased to see them incorporate honoring the veterans during their performance.

Thanks to all veterans and active military personnel for serving our country and helping provide us the freedom to live in the greatest country on the planet! You all rock!

We were pleased to see our son, Avery, who gives us the honor to come over and visit us for a brief while during halftime. We didn't even have to pay him to do it this time.

The Gophers had been struggling in the Big 10 so far this year, and were only 1 and 5 in the conference before this game. But for some reason, they had Nebraska's number and put a whooping on the away team by a final score of 54-21. It was fun to be able to cheer for some touchdowns for our team for a change this week.

November 5, 2017

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Indiana Pacers

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Indiana Pacers
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for  November 5, 2017

Miss Sheri and I are pretty much on our own now that the boys have moved on to college so we go on dates from time to time just to get out of the house.  Last Tuesday night, we went to eat at Crave in downtown Minneapolis before we went to the Timberwolves game.  Steak and Sushi really hit the spot!

Walking to Target Center took us right by the world famous First Avenue nightclub.  It always feels like a museum to me rather than the dive bar that it actually looks like.

There's a whole bunch of stars on the outside of it filled with music legends who have played here in the past.  Of course, our hearts are always with Prince who's Purple Rain made the bar famous in the first place.  I've also been there a few times in the past to watch professional wrestling which believe it or not are classic memories for me as well!  I also saw Run DMC perform there when I was still in high school which was my first official concert experience.

The Target Center just went through a $140 million renovation project that was completed right before the NBA season started.  It looks really nice!!  Although I'm sure if they would have let me do the negotiating I would have got it down to $138 million.

Timberwolves owner, Glen Taylor, still looks a little bit shell-shocked for having to spend that kind of money to fix up his arena.

I bumped into local sports columnist and radio personality, Patrick Reusse, before the game and he was kind enough to take a picture with me.  Patrick asked where I was from and I told him Prior Lake.  He then told me that his kids graduated high school from Prior Lake and as a matter of fact, he did also.  I thought that was a pretty cool coincidence.  Maybe we can start hanging out together or something.

We were excited to go see the Wolves because they had a tremendous off season and brought in veteran stars like Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson, and Jeff Teague to go along with their young superstars Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns.  It should finally be a great year for us after suffering through more than a decade long drought of not making it to the playoffs.

We were somewhat disappointed when the starting lineup was announced and we learned that Jimmy Butler was out sick.  We thought that really sucked because he was the main new player we wanted to see.  We figured, "Oh well, I'm sure all the rest of the players will step up and still play great."  We were wrong.

In what was probably their worst performance of the young season, the Wolves couldn't find their defense and were outscored by the Pacers 130 to 107.  Jimmy Butler was also sick their next game against Detroit which they lost, but since he's been back the Timberwolves have gone on to win 4 in a row and now have one of the best records in the NBA.  I guess we'll have to get to another game sometime and see if we have better luck to watch them have a victory!

I work on the 8th floor of the Oracle building in Downtown Minneapolis and am always fascinated watching the window washers scale up and down the building.  I don't think I could do this kind of work.  I would never be able to stop making fart noises with the suction cups long enough to clean the windows.

We had a Halloween costume contest at work and my co-workers and I dressed up as characters from the kids game "Guess Who?"  I also had on a wiener costume, but that wasn't for Halloween.

On Friday night, our friends Jen and Dan Walters came over for a hot tub party.  It's always so much fun taking a bath with them.

We still have a plethora of albino squirrels visiting us.  I was finally able to get two of them in one photo which is quite a difficult accomplishment because these guys are very skittish to pose for pictures.  According to this article, the odds of a squirrel being born albino are thought to be about 1 in 100,000 but for some reason, we've had them come visit us regularly for the past 18 years since our boys have been born at two different houses.  We find that pretty cool.

Attendance at our monthly Prior Lake Empty Nester club meetings fizzled quite a bit this month.  Although our old buddy, Ted, is still a trooper and joined us.  We're going to have to pump up the marketing spend in December to see if we can get some others to join us again. 

Blue is pretty frustrated with this whole almost winter thing and gets very upset with me that I don't take him outside more often.  He wants to go swimming constantly and doesn't care that it's 38 degrees and snowing.  Just throw the dang ball in the water!

I know Goldens are bred to be hunting dogs and retrieve birds in the coldest of conditions, but it never ceases to amaze me that they just seem to be impervious to the cold.  This dang dog and every other Golden I have owned will jump into the water over and over again and not think twice about the icicles hanging off his ears.  I get cold just throwing the ball to him.

Having the boys go to school within an hour of home has given us the luxury of regular visits from them which we love.  They both came home this weekend.  Of course, I thought it was to spend time with us, but after about a half hour of being home they informed us they were going out with friends and we didn't see them again for the rest of the night.  That half hour was nice, though.

On Saturday, they did actually go to a movie with us.  We saw Thor Ragnarek which was fine, but I'm getting a little burned out on superhero movies.  I do like wearing the 3D glasses, though.