February 24, 2013

Prior Lake Polar Plunge 2013

Prior Lake Polar Plunge 2013
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 16, 2013

There's not a lot of fun things to do outside in Minnesota in February, so when we heard about the Prior Lake Polar Plunge we thought "Why not?  Let's check it out to see what that's all about."

So we bundled up in our warmest clothes and headed out to the frozen lake. 

Our friends, The Walters Family, told us about the event.  When Jen first mentioned it, I thought she actually wanted to participate in the event, but she was pretty animated that there was absolutely no way that she was going to jump in the lake in the middle of winter.  She just thought it would be a lot of fun to watch other crazy people do it.  I have to admit it was difficult to argue with her logic.

When we arrived, I was amazed at the huge size of the crowd in attendance!  Apparently, we weren't the only ones who enjoy watching insane people jump into a frozen lake.  It's a good thing, too, because the event was held to raise money for the Special Olympics.  Judging by the number of people there, I'm guessing they did pretty well at fundraising!

There was a huge line of people dressed up and ready to go!!  Since each one of them represented at least $75.00 in fundraising efforts, I'm guessing the event organizers were happy to see that are still so many psychos left in the world.

You have to remember, this is Minnesota.  In February.  The temperature was only 15 degrees at the warmest point of the day.  The lake had a layer of ice that was several feet thick.  And these people cut a large hole in the middle of it so they could jump into the almost freezing water.  I'm so happy that these people were raising so much money for the Special Olympics, but I just kept thinking to myself.  "There has to be an easier way to raise money."

Luckily, there were a lot of volunteers there in case anybody had trouble.  Although I'm not sure why they had so many firemen present.  We were there for at least a couple of hours and not once did I see any of the ice catch on fire.

There were so many neat people there doing the jump representing every kind of company, organization, and group of people imaginable.  I didn't see anybody back out of doing the jump once they got near it, but the screams were quite loud once they hit the water!

So many people were so brave to do the plunge.  I can't say that I knew first hand what they were experiencing because I didn't do the jump myself.  But judging from the looks on their faces the moment they hit that water, I could recognize that it was pretty painful.

But painful or not, it didn't stop the groups from stepping up to the plate when it was their turn.  Each wearing wackier costumes than the group before them.

Some people seemed to forget their costumes entirely!  Or the fact that it was only 15 degrees outside!

I'm pretty sure they remembered, though, the second they hit that water!

After watching so many brave people sacrifice themselves for such a good cause as the Special Olympics, I must admit I actually became quite inspired.  I'm going to do my best to find a group of people to join me next year and take the plunge myself!  Send me an email if you want to join me!

February 20, 2013

Game of Thrones Tribute Video

I Love Game of Thrones and can't wait for Season three!!  I made this song using the Autorap app and put it with some of my favorite photos from the first 2 seasons.

February 17, 2013

2013 Pebble Beach AT&T National Celebrity Pro AM

2013 Pebble Beach AT&T National Celebrity Pro AM
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 10, 2013

On Sunday, I had the privilege of attending the AT&T Celebrity Pro Am golf tournament at Pebble Beach.  Watching celebrities and professionals play golf on arguably the most beautiful course in the world makes for a pretty cool day!!

I manage my company's marketing relationship with Intel Corporation so they invited me to spend the day at their sky box.  Those folks at Intel sure are nice people!

The nice thing about hanging out with Intel is that you know everything is going to be first class!  Their skybox overlooks the 18th hole right before the green, but it was too nice of a day to sit inside so we spent most of our time on the roof.

Jeff and Diana joined me at the railing as we cheered on the players while they finished their round.  I wanted to heckle a few of them, but figured that wouldn't be polite to our hosts.

Early in the day, I walked around the course taking pictures.  Technically cameras aren't allowed during the tournament, but I didn't think they'd mind.  I did get chastised by one of the security people while I took these photos of eventual champion, Brandt Snedeker.  I knew I'd have to be sneaky, sneaky for the rest of the day otherwise my camera may have been confiscated.

So let me understand something.  You have the most photogenic golf course in the world along with professional golfers and other celebrities playing on it and you want me to not bring a camera?  Sorry.  I just can't do that.

I stumbled across Detroit Tiger's Pitcher, Justin Verlander, after he shanked one into the rough.  

San Francisco 49ers Coach played in the tournament only a few short days after losing the Super Bowl.  I kept wondering to myself if we would have made the cut on the final day if his brother had been playing.

I caught him again at the Sky Box when he made his approach towards the 18th green.  I did have to give the guy credit.  This course is incredibly challenging and he played it four days in a row!  I can't imagine he'd had a lot of time to practice lately.

I probably took more pictures of Jim Harbaugh than any other celebrity that day which I think made him kind of happy.

Vijay Singh in the Sand Trap.

Dallas Cowboy's Quarterback, Tony Romo, walked right below me as he finished his tournament play.  Tony had an incredible set of games and scored 21 below par for the tournament.  This would have placed him ahead of all the pros if he would have been playing from the same tees that they were.  Pretty impressive.  I guess we know what he'll be doing after he finishes his football career.

I hung around for awhile after the tournament was over and was pleasantly surprised there weren't many people left around to watch the awards ceremony.  Clint Eastwood was there to award Snedeker his trophy which was really awesome to see.

I must admit, I was a bit taken aback when I stood close to Mr. Eastwood.  All of my life I've watched his movies and always pictured him to be a massive guy.  Now maybe it's his age, but I was really surprised to see that he was no taller than I am.  It was a bit unsettling and I kept imaging that perhaps his head had been removed and placed on some small guy's body.

The crowd eventually dissipated, but I kept lurking around.  I found myself nearly alone with Sportscaster, Jim Nantz, who had just called the tournament for CBS.  Naturally, he wanted to get his picture taken with me!!

Chris Berman was also nice enough to get a photo taken with me.  Although at the time that we took this, I had the impression that he was feeling no pain.  So I'm not sure if he remembered me the next morning, but I'm hoping he did.

Princess Monterey Whale Watching February 2013

Princess Monterey Whale Watching February 2013
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 9, 2013

Last weekend, I went to Monterey, California.  I'd been there once before and remembered going to see Fisherman's Wharf.  I vowed that if I ever came back again, I would take one of the whale watching tours that launched from the piers.  So I did it.  

I'd heard good things about the Princess Monterey tours and found out that tickets for the three hour adventure were only $40.00.  I found that to be an incredible bargain considering all of the awesome wildlife we saw while on their tour.  I liked it so much as a matter of fact, that I went two times and enjoyed the second trip just as much as the first!

On Saturday, I was accompanied by my co-worker, Jeff, and his lovely friend, Diana.  This was my first time meeting her and I knew we'd hit it off when she tolerated my renditions of Michael Jackson's Dirty Diana and John Cougar's Jack and Diane.  If a lady can handle my singing then she's all right in my book!

On Monday's trip, I was joined by my step-mom, Joyce.  Lori and Dave came along to visit me, but declined going on the boat because she'd had a bad experience in the past.  The water can be really rough and difficult to tolerate as we discovered on Saturday.

Monday's ride was gorgeous, but Saturday's was pretty rough.  Some of the waves were taller than the boat and we were rollicking up and down for three hours straight.  By the end of the ride, there were many people inside the cabin looking pretty sick.  None of my crew tossed chunks over the railing, but we all had pretty nasty stomachs before we got back to dry land.

Not everybody was sick, though.  This dog was pretty consistent in his request to "Bring on the Damned Whales!"

Our guide for the tour was awesome!  She has been a marine biologist for a long time and seemed to have an endless amount of tales about the amazing sea life we were encountering.  She told us about the migration patterns of the whales.  She said that Orcas were the smartest creatures in the sea and there were pods of them nearby that were known to hunt great white sharks.  I could listen to this lady all day!

She later told me that she'd just come back from being far out at sea for more than 27 days!!  I told her I really admired her work and thought her lifestyle seemed incredible!!  I doubt I could handle it, but must admit that following these incredible animals around the planet does sound like a pretty cool way to live!

Although the life of a sea lion doesn't sound too bad either.  Except for that whole being chased by orcas and great white sharks thing.

They told us the bay is really becoming overpopulated with these animals.  Because they are a protected species, people can't harass them, touch them, or feed them.  Therefore, they pretty much get to do whatever they want, wherever they want.  And judging by the smell when we sailed by their little set of rocks out here, they do that very thing.

I don't know if the pelicans are also protected, but watching this guy poop into the water during lunch made me think they sure act like they're protected!

We got all bundled up and prepared ourselves to go out and see some whales!!!

During both of my tours, we saw gray whales pretty regularly.  We quickly learned that you need to watch for the spray and then shortly afterwards, you'd see their backs hit the surface.  I was a little underwhelmed at first because I guess I was expecting to have the chance to see more of the whales.  But I guess it's against the law to try to lift them out of the water so I could get better pictures.

It actually proved to be quite challenging to get pictures of the whales.  The ocean is pretty big and these guys don't exactly sit still. So I just kept clicking away and hoped for the best.  I was pretty happy with some of my shots, but still would have loved to see one of these beasts actually jump out of the water.  Seeing a little tail was the best I could do.

When going through my photos, I noticed the fin sticking out of the water on the left side of this one.  Although I didn't see it at the time, I'd like to think that maybe this was an Orca or great white shark. Although, I'm sure it was just another gray whale.

Apparently, the gray whales usually travel with a companion which is nice so they don't get lonely.  That ocean has to get boring after awhile, so a friend is nice to have to help pass the time.

After awhile of watching this, I kept singing to myself 
"Whale's Got Back!"

We also had the chance to see a huge pod of dolphins coming right at us!  The guide said they're usually skittish and avoid the boats, but I thought this group got pretty close to us.

I wasn't able to get photos of a lot of the dolphins at once, but there had to be at least 100 in this pod.  It looked like they were having a big race of some sort, but I have no idea how they can judge who's the winner.

We were told we were going to have a very special treat on Saturday when we suddenly came across a blue whale.  They said this is the largest creature that earth has ever seen and a full sized adult was the equivalent size of 30 elephants!  All I could think of just how much fun it must be to ride one of these bad boys!

On Monday, we stumbled across a group of three blue whales and spent most of our trip tracking them.  The guide said that normally it's considered early if these animals show up in the Monterey Bay in May, so they really have no explanation why a large group of them have started appearing there in February.  I'm sure glad they did, though.  It was such a special opportunity to get to spend some time with them!

I've never really considered myself much of an environmentalist before, but I sure gained an appreciation for these amazing whales while I was there.  It's hard to believe that in some parts of the world they are still being hunted and slaughtered.  They don't seem to fear man at all and one can see just how vulnerable they'd be to somebody who wished to cause them harm.  The guide told us it was estimated that at one point, there were more than 300,000 blue whales in the world, but now there's thought to be less than 10,000.  I certainly hope that trend reverses, because I'd sure like to see these guys again some day!