January 27, 2013

Luke Swank Night Drums

Skiing at Afton Alps with the Iowa Boys

Skiing at Afton Alps with the Iowa Boys
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 27, 2013

My high school buddies came to town for our annual ski trip.  This is the day each year where we pretend we are still in shape and capable of attaching planks of wood to our feet and hurling ourselves down the side of a large hill while a thousand people criss cross directly in front of our paths.  I'm happy to report that for another year we didn't send anybody to the hospital!!  So the weekend can be considered a success!

We used to have lots of exciting crashes throughout the day on these trips, but those don't seem to happen any more.  Either my friend are becoming better skiers or are taking less risks with their bodies as they get older.  Probably a little bit of both.

Even Jason is getting to the point where he can stick with the group. He's never been a huge fan of skiing, but he's come a long ways over the years.  He used to demand that we leave him behind so he could take off his skis and walk back to the chalet, but now he keeps his skis on the whole day!  Way to go, Jason!

 That night we hooked up with some other friends at the Steak House at Mystic Lake Casino.  Mmmmmm, Steak!

We ended the night by rocking out with Spooky Poodle at Arizonas in Shakopee!  These guys rock!

Even though we meet new friends in life, there's just nothing like Old Friends for having fun.  

Ice Castles at the Mall of America

Ice Castles at the Mall of America
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 27, 2013

On Thursday night, we went to the Mall of America to see a new attraction called Ice Castles.  It's basically a bunch of large lumps of ice that have been formed with water pumped in from the Mississippi River.  It was 8 degrees outside and below zero with the wind chill factor added so we thought it would be a great idea to go stand outside and stare at a bunch of frozen water for awhile.

We asked the Zitzewitz Family if they wanted to join us and they said Sure!  Because they are also Gluttons for Punishment!

There were neat tunnels through some of the structures.  They weren't very long, but that didn't stop Grandma Linda from getting lost in them.  Miss Sheri had to go back and rescue her three different times!

The boys scrambled away from us right when we arrived.  When I encountered them 15 minutes later, Luke looked at me and said "What are we doing here?  It's cold!"  Not a great endorsement for the ice castles I'm afraid.

We all pretty much agreed that although the ice castles were kind of cool to see, it was probably a bit over priced at roughly $27 per family.  We were ready to go in less than a half hour, but maybe we would have been a little bit more into it on a warmer night.  But probably not.

Our favorite part of the place was the fire pit.  They should have put one of these right next to each of the ice castles.  Because the main thing each of those structures needed to be was a lot warmer!

January 22, 2013

Dolphin seeks help from diver to remove hook and line from its mouth and fin.

Tim is a longtime friend of Shortarmguy.com and he just sent me this email:

Todd; I have been to this dive spot a lot of times while diving with Jacks Dive Locker in Kona, Hawaii  I've had Manta ray brush past me and graze my forehead. The person that cut the line from the dolphin is Keller Laros  so I was really surprised and knew instantly it was him who cut the line.    Tim.    

January 20, 2013

January Christmas at Grandma's Farm

January Christmas at Grandma's Farm
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 20, 2013

Since we spent Christmas with my family in Texas this year, we needed to head down to Grandma's Farm to celebrate Christmas with Miss Sheri's side of the family.

Grandma was excited to see us, but I think she was even more excited to get this Carbon Monoxide Detector from Uncle Jerry.  Although she debated whether she should install it or not because she's kind of starting to like what she calls her "Laughing Gas". 

Uncle Jerry was also excited to see us, but even more excited to get some new undies for Christmas.  Apparently he's been going without for quite some time now.

I was really excited to get this new wallet until I discovered that I was supposed to fill it up on my own.

Sunny is always very excited to come to the farm because they have a bunch of something that we don't have at home.  Kitty Cats!!!

Luke had to remind our dog that most days, these little kitties wait outside Grandma's door because a sweet lady comes out that door carrying table scraps and other goodies for them to eat.  It's quite unnerving for them when instead that door opens up and out comes bounding a 100 pound drooling beast sprinting directly at them with a blood thirsty look in his eye.  Luke then has to scold Sunny and tell him that chasing the cats up Grandma's TV Antenna Pole is just not appropriate behavior.

I don't speak cat, but if I did I'm guessing this guy would be saying "When the Hell are you people going back to Minnesota?"

Smart-Pod™ Modular "Work-Horse" UAV System is officially live on Kickstarter.

My friend, Doc Vogt has officially launched his robotics company, North American Robotics.  

He's been developing some really cool drones that I've had the pleasure of learning about up close. He's now ready to commercialize his work and is seeking backers via his Kickstarter campaign which tells you all about what he's seeking to accomplish with the technology he's developed.

Here's all the details:


Here's one of the videos showing what his drones look like:

Best of luck to you, Mike!!  

We wish you all the best in what you're trying to accomplish!

Nice Email from Jeremy Overton, Author of "Plan On It"

Hey Todd, 

I've been following your site for years. 

Even contributed a rhino with a massive erection one time in about 2002. I love what you do! 

My book is available on Amazon.com


There are more resources at http://iplanonit.com, including a free mini e-book that's available to the general public. 

I know you're busy, so if you don't have time to read it, if you could browse the e-book and maybe like the facebook page (facebook.com/iplanonit) if you like what you see / read, I would really appreciate it. 

I hope you like it personally. . . On a larger scale, the concepts in the book will help donor professionals better communicate with their donors, ideally resulting in more giving. I hope you find it valuable and would appreciate your feedback. 

Thanks again for all you do!


January 13, 2013

Prior Lake is Really Frozen

Prior Lake is Really Frozen
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 13, 2013

On Friday night, I had the thrill of connecting with my old buddies, Tim and Jason, for a night of glee and joy.  We spent the first couple of hours doing some male bonding/psychotherapy sessions.  Then we went out for a night on the town in the bustling metropolis of Lakeville, Minnesota.  Unfortunately, the guys denied me the pleasure of posting any photos of our evening's activities, but they did take video of my favorite part of the evening.  So I guess all is good.  Here's me singing Gotye!

On Saturday, it was really too cold to do anything but stay inside, but the boys and I figured we had to do something to get some fresh air.  So we walked over to Prior Lake to see what was happening!

It warmed up earlier in the week and rained for a couple of days, so all the snow was melted off the lake.  When it refroze, it made things just a little bit slippery.

  We thought it would be fun to walk Sunny out to the ice houses and see if anyone would let us in.  Unfortunately, Sunny had other ideas.

This dog normally lives on the lake regardless of the weather.  I usually have to drag him off the ice or out of the water because he never wants to go home before I do.  But something was different today.

Every time he retrieved the ball, instead of bringing it to me, he would go stand on the shoreline.  I couldn't quite figure out why.  Was it because his feet were cold on the ice?  That didn't make a lot of sense to me since he went over to stand in the snow.  Then I realized that he didn't like standing on the ice because he felt uneasy.  He didn't like the fact that he would slip every time he took a step.  I took a couple of videos so you could see what I mean...

Next time I'm just going to drive Sunny out to the ice houses.  Oh who am I kidding.  I'm way too chicken to drive on the ice!

January 6, 2013

2013 FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff in Mankato, Minnesota

2013 FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff in Mankato, Minnesota
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 6, 2013

Last weekend, we went to the Mall of America to connect with our old buddy, Krazy Kory, and his daughter, Harley.  We ate at the Rainforest Cafe which was really fun until the check arrived.  I always forget how overpriced that place is!

The Mall of America seemed really crowded for some reason. It wasn't until we were right in the middle of things that we learned that there was a large gathering of Native Americans there for a protest. They were making a ruckus to protest Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who they say has made a decision to violate all of the treaties by taking the land and resources that belong to the Indians in Canada.  I don't know much about all that, but I do know these people can bang drums really, really LOUD!

The people who run the Mall of America didn't seem to like the loud drums much, either!

I was under the understanding that it was a peaceful protest until I saw this lady.  I wasn't sure what she meant, but I thought it was a sign that it was probably a good time to get out of the Mall!

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to join the Prior Lake High School Robotics team as they traveled to Minnesota State University in Mankato for the annual FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff meeting.

There were 18 FIRST robotics teams from Minnesota in attendance at the event.   The excitement level in the room was quite high as the teams would soon find out the rules for this year's competition.  After they found out about the game, each team would then have just over six weeks to build a robot to compete in it.  Here's what they learned about ULTIMATE ASCENT:

Prior Lake's team is called KING TeC.  Joe Passofaro's sons are the founding members of the team and he has been the adult mentor for it since it's inception in 2007.  They have won many, many awards at both the state and national levels.  Joe gave the opening keynote motivational speech to the teams and as usual he inspired the heck out of me to get my kids more involved in robotics.

Part of the core values of FIRST is for competitors to embrace Gracious Professionalism and help others to learn how to build robots as much as they try to defeat them in the competition.  KING TeC always seems to do a great job at this.  They were all over the kickoff meeting hosting technology demonstrations and giving classes on different aspects of robotics including programming, game strategy, drive trains, and design.  Considering the team was the state champions in last year's competition, they have a lot of good information to share!

I was so impressed with the team members as they hosted students from other teams and their adult mentors in the various presentations.  I spent most of my time in the basic programming session, but it didn't help me much.  That stuff goes way over my head!

On Saturday night, we went to the Bollig's house to watch the Minnesota Vikings surprising trip to playoffs.  Shortly before we arrived, we learned the sad news that the Viking's quarterback, Christian Ponder, was injured and wouldn't be able to play which pretty much made the game un-watchable.  But it was still a heck of a season for the home team who finished 10-7 on the year after going only 3-13 last year.  If we see similar improvement next year that would pretty much mean a trip to the Super Bowl!

At least when the game was getting too out of hand, we could go take out our frustration on the Bollig's Zip Line.  I'm sure some of the Vikings players wish they could have been out there with us!