March 11, 2018

The Boys Are Back In Town

The Boys Are Back in Town
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 11, 2018

I'm getting really sick of winter.  When we walked out of our neighbor's house the other night, I took this picture of my house because I thought it looked like it was sitting on a mountain of snow.  Technically we're at the top of a hill, but I thought from this perspective it looked like a hill of snow.  What do I know?

Monday gave us another 7 inches of the white stuff.  It also brought down one of our neighbor's trees into our yard.  They were very nice, though, and took a chain saw to it and hauled it away for us.  Such good neighbors.  

Luke and Avery were home from college this weekend for Spring Break.  Avery also brought home his girlfriend, Emma.  They were reminiscing about how much fun they used to have building snow forts and one thing led to another.  They now have a big snow fort in the front yard.  They know how to have a crazy time on a Saturday night!

Luke spends a lot of time bowling when he's at college so we thought it would be fun to get in a game while he was home.  It was.

On Friday, my buddies from Iowa came to town for a boy's weekend.  It was really good to see them.

The weekend started at Shooter's Billiards in Burnsville where we played a bunch of pool.

On Saturday morning, we headed over to the Mall of America because that seems like an appropriate thing to do on a Guy's weekend.

We were excited to be there because the stars of the upcoming movie Midnight Sun were there to make an appearance.

Patrick Schwarzenegger is the son of Arnold and Bella Thorne is a former Disney star.  Both of them seemed to be pretty excited to be at the Mall of America.  Just like I was.

We stopped at Bubba Gump Shrimp factory to eat some seafood and watch Forrest Gump silently on the screen in front of us.  Don't tell us we don't know how to party.

Later that night, we came back to the Mall to go to Benihana.  Our boy's weekends used to be quite a bit crazier.  Now they seem to be focused around food a lot of the time.  In any case, I had a bunch of fun with my old buddies.

On Sunday, we met Grandma Linda for lunch.  I'd like to think that she looks as small as she does because it's a trick of photography because she's sitting at the far end of the table.  But no, it's not a camera trick.  She really is that small.

March 4, 2018

Starting A New Job at Oracle

Starting A New Job at Oracle
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 4, 2018

I started a new job at Oracle this week.  I was promoted from being an inside rep selling our applications software to being a field rep selling our core technology solutions.  Instead of working in downtown Minneapolis, I will now alternate working from home as well as in our Bloomington office when I'm not traveling to see customers.

I took this photo on Friday afternoon from our office.  More than 10 years ago, I was working for Nor-Tech and used to host customer events in the building pictured.  At that time, I used to dream about what it would be like to work for Microsoft and work in a building like this.  At that point, I decided that's where I wanted to go in my career.  

Well, it's taken a long time and a whole lotta interviews, but I feel like I finally achieved my goals.  Sure it's with the 2nd largest provider of enterprise software rather than the largest and I'm in the tower next to the one I was originally envisioning, but it's close enough.  Now I have to execute.  Thanks to all of you who have helped me to achieve my goals up to this point.

On Monday, my former team and I went to lunch at Fogo De Chao.  I'd always wanted to try the place and was very impressed with it.  You gotta go there with an appetite, though, because it's more meat than I've ever experienced in a single sitting.

I've made a bunch of good friends in my two and a half years at Oracle including everyone in this picture.  I'm going to miss them all very much.  

George Petruck and I have gone to lunch together probably 80% of my work days over the past 2 years.  He's the only person I know who used to work directly for the US Speaker of the House and actually once had a beer bought for him by Barack Obama.  I'm going to miss his perspective on things both at work and in the world.  Although we will both probably lose 20 pounds or so after not going to lunch together any more.

On Wednesday night, we went to O'Briens in Shakopee to see Robert the Piano Man.  I went to elementary school with Robert's wife, Hollie, and we discovered recently that we both now live in Prior Lake together.  It's such a small world.  But I'd still hate to try to carpet the whole thing.

Thursday night was our monthly get together with the Prior Lake Empty Nester Club.  We enjoyed ourselves at Artisan Bistro and shared a whole bunch of laughs with one another.  We didn't realize how naughty the painting on the wall was until we later looked at this picture else we would have requested they sit us in the PG-13 area of the restaurant.

Luke is home for Spring Break from Minnesota State Mankato University.  We thought it would be fun to visit the RV show happening at Canterbury Downs on Saturday and made ourselves comfortable in several of them.  They're lucky that they didn't have the TV's hooked up else we probably would have stayed there all night as well.

  On Saturday night, we went to a "Game Night" at our neighbor Jim's house.

When we last went to one of Jim's Game Nights, I was thinking we'd spend the night playing Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit.  Turns out he means Game as in game that he and his crew have hunted and converted into food that we all get to enjoy.

They had quite the impressive spread and a wide variety of different game for us to try.  There was pheasant, venison, salmon, halibut, and a bunch of other yummy selections.  I think I was a little more adventurous in my selections than Luke and Miss Sheri, though.  Their preferred game animals are cows and chickens.

  It was a fun night with fun people.  Best of all, when the night was over we only had to stumble across the street to get home!

February 25, 2018

Saturday Night With The Minnesota Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls

Saturday Night With The Minnesota Timberwolves & Chicago Bulls
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 25, 2018

Luke and Avery both came up from college this weekend and Avery brought his girlfriend, Emma, along for the adventure.  We braced ourselves for a good time.

 It started with a birthday celebration for our beloved Golden Retriever, Blue.  He turned 3 this week and was pretty melancholy while we sang him Happy Birthday.  He perked up quite a bit though when it was time to eat his muffin.  We were glad he allowed us to blow out the candle for him before he dived into it.

The boys told us they invited a few friends over Friday night.  We got a little nervous when the doorbell kept ringing and reminded them that our house wasn't their college dormitories.  Lucky for us, they are all good kids that came over to visit.  So we'll let the boys off the hook for now. 

Blue liked having all the company because it meant there was a whole bunch of people willing to pet him.  I was a little shocked when all of them went out to the hot tub and apparently were all able to enter it somehow.  It is only designed to hold 8 people so how they were able to squeeze 15 in there, I guess I just don't want to know.

Avery wanted to show Emma some of his favorite things we do as a family, so naturally we had to head off to the Minnesota Zoo.

We've been having a lot of snow lately in Minnesota, so we were a bit cold while going through some of the outdoor exhibits.  I'm sure the animals felt a lot of sympathy for us.

I wouldn't have thought we would have spent as much time touching the water critters as we did, but they just felt so squishy we couldn't resist.

The white-cheeked Gibbons are a lot of fun to watch.  This guy walked on a tight rope for us and jumped to the shore while the ducks were being fed in the water next to him.  He actually even swatted a duck that swam too near to him, but I'm going to assume it was an accident rather than branding him as being a violent offender.

I thought it was cute that these two were hanging out on the same branch with one another.  I mean it's a huge place with thousands of branches and they still choose to be right next to each other like this?  That's pretty cool.

On Saturday night, Miss Sheri and I drove through a blizzard to get to downtown Minneapolis.  It wouldn't have been too bad except the dang windshield wipers kept building ice on them and would stop working.  So there was quite a bit of cursing going on as we drove almost completely blind down the interstate.  The language became markedly improved after we pulled over to smack the ice off of them, though.

The Chicago Bulls were in town to take on Karl Anthony Towns and the home team, Minnesota Timberwolves.  

I believe this was Zach Levine's first visit back to Target Center since he was traded for Jimmy Butler last summer.  He was a great player for us and won the slam dunk competition twice while he was here. But Jimmy Butler is arguably one of the top 10 players in the league, so I'm still glad the Wolves pulled off the trade.

Zach must either be into that "Cupping" stuff I hear that athletes do or one of his team-mates must have come up and pinched him on his shoulder.  Either way, it looks kind of painful...

Speaking of Jimmy Butler, the team lost him to injury in the Houston Rockets game the previous night.  Shortly before tip-off, we heard he tore a meniscus in his knee and would be out at least 4-6 weeks meaning he may be able to come back and join the team if they make the playoffs.  This was actually good news, because the fear was that he tore his acl and would be out for at least a year.

No.  It is not OK if you run little race-cars through the lanes of my hair.

Freddie Hoiberg is now the coach of the Chicago Bulls, but he will always hold a special place in our hearts.  He grew up in Iowa and was a star player in Ames in high school and college.  He then came to play for the Timberwolves.  Eventually, Hoiberg discovered he had a heart defect and had surgery at the Mayo Clinic to correct it.  After this, he became involved with Camp Odayin which is a camp for kids with heart defects.  Luke and Avery actually met him there one summer while they were campers.  So we find ourselves rooting for Freddie whenever we can, except for when his team is playing the Timberwolves.

Halftime brought us this crazy dude who balances on rolling steel cylinders.  He kept adding more and more until eventually it seemed certain he would fall to his death.  But he didn't.  It only looked like the tower would collapse multiple times throughout his show.  That's gotta be a tough way to make a buck.

The Bulls played tough, but eventually the Wolves proved to be too much for them and won the game by a score of 122-104.  This puts their record at 37-26 and in 4th place in the Western Conference.  There's 20 games to go in the season and we will be playing most of those without Jimmy Butler.  I'm real hopeful we make it to the playoffs this year, but we will just have to see how things play out.

February 19, 2018

The Animals of Key West

The Animals of Key West
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 19, 2018

One of our favorite things to do on vacation is interact with the local critters.  Key West certainly has an eclectic mix of animals to make your stay more enjoyable.  Perhaps the one that seems most out of place is all the dang chickens who are roaming the streets.  Don't get me wrong.  I find them to be absolutely beautiful, they just doesn't seem to fit in with the island paradise motif.

Miss Sheri and I stalked them every chance we could get.  They're sneaky and would be hiding in all sorts of unusual places.

I was a little surprised to see how aggressive the males were with their female counterparts.  There was more than one time where I felt it necessary to step in and tried to separate a rooster getting way too physical with it's mate.  In front of the kids even.  I don't know who's in charge of chicken domestic disturbances in Key West, but they are doing a piss poor job of getting that behavior under control.

Another unique creature you see all over Key West are the green iguanas.  These things are everywhere.

Apparently these guys aren't native to South Florida, but years of people bringing them in as pets and abandoning them have allowed their populations to flourish.  Our Uber driver told us she hears they even pay people to come in and exterminate them because they're such a nuisance.  I don't know, we found them to be pretty cool.

This guy lived under the pier at our hotel.  We liked to visit him before heading out for the day.  He seemed to like it also.

If you look closely, you can see him peeking his head out below me.  The Uber driver told us they could be pretty aggressive and not to get too close to them.  Although I approached several for pictures and they never seemed to be ready to confront me.

Of course there's a million birds there also.  We always like the ones who catch fish and give us a performance while doing it.

The pelicans were the best.  These guys fly all around and then swoop to the water like a missile ready to catch any unsuspecting fish in it's path.  

Of course when you see these guys, you instantly go into Finding Nemo mode and shout "Mine, Mine, Mine!" over and over again.

Some sweet pelican lovin' was happening in the harbor while we were there.

Of course, my favorite critters are the ones that can tear you apart.  Pay special attention to the glowing eyes in the water.  These massive fish are called tarpon and they are famous to come flying out of the water to attack their food.  We loved going down to the harbor when the fisherman were cleaning their catch because the predator fish were all over the leftover scraps being tossed overboard.  We even saw a 6 foot long nurse shark down there during the afternoon one day.  All I kept thinking was how bad it would suck to fall in the water to join these critters for a swim.