December 29, 2013

2013 Christmas in Inwood, Iowa

2013 Christmas in Inwood, Iowa
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 29, 2013

On Monday, we went over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house in Inwood, Iowa.  We couldn't believe how cold it was outside and Miss Sheri's dashboard confirmed it was insane.  We saw it go as low as 25 degrees below zero which is as low as we've ever seen it.  With the wind chill, it was probably 80 below or something.  Thank God we didn't get a flat tire else Miss Sheri would have really been freezing while changing it!

Sunny was excited to be at the farm, even though I had very little desire to stay outside with him for too long.

Especially after the silly dog decided to run through a field full of cockle-burs.  His shaved tale looks so attractive now.

Christmas was great with a littler Double Grandma Action as well as a trip to the casino buffet.  They have such pretty Christmas trees at the casino.

We came home and had a little bit of a reprieve from the freezing temperatures when it got all the way to 47 degrees on Saturday.  That means we saw a swing in the temperature of almost 75 degrees in less than a week!  Minnesota weather is just crazy.

We thought it would be fun to go skiing at Highland in Bloomington since the weather was so nice.  Unfortunately, half of the Twin Cities had the same idea so the ski lift lines were quite unpleasant.  So we're danged if we do with the weather and we're danged if we don't.  Either that or we just like to belly ache too much.

I ended last week's diary entry by wishing everyone Merry Christmas from the Swank Family so I probably shouldn't do that again.  

Happy New Year from the Swank Family!!

2014 Is Gonna Rock!

December 22, 2013

Spelling Bee At Club 331 in Minneapolis

Spelling Bee At Club 331 in Minneapolis

On Saturday night we joined some friends at Club 331 in Minneapolis to compete in a Spelling Bee.  We like to get wild and crazy!

Our friend Luke led off the competition.  It cost $6.00 to enter which included a free Grainbelt Premium beer.  Then you received a drink ticket for another Grainbelt Premium for every round you were able to get through.   There ended up being about 45 contestants most of whom made it through the first round.

Steph was up next and she was full of confidence with her Christmas Yeti headpiece.

Kim tried to sweet talk the judges by claiming "She's Been Good" but we all knew better.

While Mike tried to get away with being sly.  That didn't work much either.

Our new friend, Carolyn, hustled a couple of us before the competition even began by challenging us to a beer chugging competition.  I almost had her, but she's good.  She's really good.

Miss Sheri explained to the judges that because she was a blonde she should get easier words than her dark haired competitors.  Her strategy seemed to be working as she advanced through multiple rounds.

I felt pretty cocky about my chances until the judges sprung the word "Neoplatonism" on me in the second round.  Needless to say, I didn't make it to the third round.

Miss Sheri was one of our groups' three representatives in the final round and our last man standing when she got on the stage.  The judges told her word was "Orgiast" which she found out was defined as:  

1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of an orgy. 
2. Arousing or causing unrestrained emotion; frenzied.

I've always hoped she would have got that one. 

 Apparently, so did this guy in the audience.

Jason and Jen showed up too late to join us in the competition.  Jason wasn't all that happy about it either.

Lucky for all of us, he eventually got happier. 

After the competition we went down to Nye's to see the world's most dangerous polka band.  Before we entered the building, I had something happen that hasn't happened to me for awhile when I was recognized by a stranger because of my website.  She exclaimed "You're Shortarmguy!"  And I said, "Yes I am!" She then told me her name was Lisa and after she told me her email address I recognized her as someone I've been exchanging emails with for at least a couple of years now.  Her and her husband, Allen, were very nice people and allowed me to take this photo with them.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!!  

Let's make 2014 the best year yet!!!

Swank Family 2013 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas!  

We can’t believe it’s time to write another silly Christmas letter.  We’re still dealing with all the cease and desist requests we received from people demanding to be removed from our mailing list last year.  Darn lawyers.

We blog about our lives every week, so what can we say that we haven’t already told people?  We honestly considered doing one of those glossy photo cards this year, but then remembered that we’re not very attractive people.  Those high resolution photos don’t do us any justice.  We’re much better served by the crap photos our home printer creates.

We have dealt with a lot of change this year.  Change sucks.

After fourteen years of working at Nor-Tech, Todd accepted a new job at a different computer manufacturer called Equus.  Although it was really hard to leave his good friends, he felt it was time to take on a new challenge.  He’s no longer doing sales, but instead is leading a team of product managers and is hard at work helping them to develop new servers, computers, and notebooks that will make people forget all about the new products bring shipped from Apple and Google.    Should be pretty easy.

Sheri also changed career paths and retired from her job as a paraprofessional at a local elementary school.   She now is a full time mom and basically lays around the house all day watching TV.  At least that’s what Todd thinks she does.  He also thinks that little elves come in and mow our lawn, do our laundry, cook our meals, and beat our children when they don’t do their homework.  He doesn’t realize those little elves need to be managed.  That must be what Sheri does during the commercials.

Luke and Avery changed schools this year and are now officially freshmen in high school.  Which means they get their heads shoved in toilets on a pretty regular basis.  Not at school mind you.  Apparently, that isn’t a thing anymore.  Instead, their dad does this to them at home.  He figures since it happened to him so much when he was a freshman, this would finally give him the chance to get some revenge.  When they’re not dealing with swirlies, the boys spend their free time focused on Boy Scouts, Band, and Robotics.  And girls.

Sunny is gonna be nine in 2014 and is really starting to slow down.  So the only change he really has to deal with is when we change his doggie diapers every time he becomes fecally incontinent.  Which sadly is becoming a much more common occurrence 

For 2014, we’re going to figure this whole life thing out so we have a much better letter to write for you next December.  This one was horrible.

God Bless Us Everyone!

The Swank Family                                                                                                                                              

December 18, 2013

Networking Chip Vendor Avago Plans Major Storage Push With LSI Acquisition

Maintaining those relationships is important for the success of the acquisition, said Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based custom system builder and long-term LSI partner. 

"We all know the storage business will continue to grow, and LSI seems to have the right technology," Swank said. "Intel uses LSI's controllers on most of its server motherboards, as well as in its RAID cards. If a company like Intel buys from a company like LSI, you know it's good." 

Swank said he does not expect Avago's acquisition of LSI to impact Equus' relationship with LSI.

Read Full Article Here:

December 15, 2013

Prior Lake sure is frozen early this year!

Prior Lake sure is frozen early this year!
Todd Swank' Diary Entry for December 15, 2013

Minnesota has become really cold really early in the season.  The thermometer has been saying 10 - 15 below zero, but the wind chill gets us closer to 25 below.  Now in Dallas, Texas where my sisters live, the whole city shuts down for a week when they get a little snow.  In Minnesota, we don't shut down for nothing!  As the boys discovered when they had to work their shift at the Boy Scout Christmas tree lot when it was 10 below zero!!  They learned the phrase, "It's a cold night, but we got Hot Deals on Christmas Trees!

Because it's been so cold, Sunny has been feeling neglected.  He doesn't get to go outside for walks much when we don't want to tackle sub-zero temperatures.  So he's forced to just lay on the couch and cuddle his teddy bear all day.

When I saw that it warmed up to a balmy 17 degrees on Saturday, I asked Sunny if he was ready to go play ball.  I didn't have to ask twice as he practically trampled me to get to the door, get outside, and play in the snow.  I was surprised to find that the lake was pretty frozen already and there was a ton of activity going on with people ice fishing and snowmobiling.  I guess not everybody likes to stay inside when it's freezing cold out!

On Thursday night, we took Grandma Linda to Mystic Steak House to celebrate her 71st birthday.  My mama is all grown up now!!

Avery is now way taller than Grandma and we keep waiting for Luke to get there also.  He's so darned close!!  Just a few more months of Grandma shrinking and it will be done!

On Saturday night, Avery and his friend, Sabrina, went to the Sadie Hawkins Dance at Prior Lake High School.  I have no idea what the Superman shirts were all about, but supposedly it was socially acceptable to be dressed like this when they arrived.

December 8, 2013

FTC Robotics Tournament at Lakeville Middle School

FTC Robotics Tournament at Lakeville Middle School
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 8, 2013

Luke and Avery were fortunate enough to make the high school robotics team and they've been hard at work with six other students on building a robot for Saturday's FTC Tournament in Lakeville.

We arrived at 7:30am and the temperature outside read 16 degrees below zero.  Perfect weather for spending all day in a gymnasium with some friends and some rolling robots.

You have to wear safety goggles when working on the robots in to order protect the kid's eyes from flying pieces of metal.  Some of the kid's have cooler goggles than the others.

It can make for a pretty stressful day making sure the robots are ready to compete.  Some kids are better at hiding it than the others.

Coaches Volm and Olson were there to support the three Prior Lake teams that were competing in today's event.  Mr. Olson switched t-shirts based on which team was competing.  Mr. Volm kept on the same kilt throughout the day.

We even had one of the older King TeC students on the referee crew representing the unique style that makes the Prior Lake high school team so great!

Before the tournament began, the team has to present their robot to the judges and explain to them how they worked together as a team and what their process was for building the robot.  For some reason, they don't allow parents to be in the room while this happens, but I was still able to sneak this picture from outside the door.

After the initial judging was complete, the tournament began and our team competed in six different matches over about a ten hour period.  It was a long day of robot competitions, but well worth it with all the excitement that is generated in each one of the matches.

The boys were on a great team this year, but won't be getting the chance to compete again together this season.  Of the 24 teams in the tournament, only 8 teams had the chance to advance to the state finals.  Unfortunately, we weren't one of them.  But that's what happens some times.  You work really hard and things don't always work out the way you want.  The important thing is to keep a positive attitude and appreciate all the lessons gained from the experience.  At least that's what my boys keep telling me.  I still spend a lot of time crying about it.

On Sunday morning, we were lucky enough to spend a couple of hours supporting the high school band by volunteering at a pancake breakfast fundraiser they were having.  After we were done helping, we got to eat some pancakes ourselves with Grandma.  Mmmm.  Pancakes.

It's been really cold in Minnesota this week.  I saw 16 degrees below zero on my car once.  When that happens here, people don't get upset.  Instead they build penguins out of ice.  Then they put them outside and they last way, way too long.

  On a sad note, Prior Lake lost one of it's resident angels recently.  Sue Heaton was a friend of the family and an incredibly inspirational lady.  She battled cancer for 16 years, but you would never have guessed it by as much as she contributed to the community.  This lady was involved in everything and was a tireless supporter for so many wonderful causes.  She also helped with a lot of the programs our boys were involved in like band, Boy Scouts, and robotics which is how we got to know her so well.  This is an article in the Prior Lake American that discusses her incredible legacy.  This photo of her was taken last April before our sons went on a band trip to Chicago together.  She asked me to sneak a photo of her giving her son a hug because she knew he wouldn't let her take one willingly.  I took this photo shortly after the hug right after he realized what I was doing.  I thought it was a precious moment.  And she was a precious lady who will be missed by many, many people.

December 1, 2013

2013 Thanksgiving in Dallas, Texas

2013 Thanksgiving in Dallas, Texas
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 1, 2013

 We flew down to Dallas, Texas to see my sisters for the Thanksgiving holiday.

We also saw their husbands, but only from the opposite side of the table.  These guys can be pretty grumpy having to live with my sisters all the time.

The real reason for our trip, though, is so Luke and Avery can see their cousins.  They really love these guys and don't get to see them often enough.  Probably because it's so dang expensive to fly down to see them and driving takes too dang long.  So when we do get the opportunity to get together, we do our best to make the most of it.

We also had a very special treat this time around getting to meet their newest cousin, Eli.  This could possibly be one of the cutest babies on the planet.  But it's also possible we're being a little biased.  Not sure which it is.

My sisters were somewhat excited to see me, but Conner was truly elated.

To be honest with you, we don't even really go down to see my family.  It's just starting to get really cold in Minnesota and they have a hot tub and warmer temperatures.  Well, kind of warmer temperatures.  It still got down to the thirties, but that's way better than Minnesota.

Tammy and David hosted us for Thanksgiving along with some of their friends.  They were all nice people and the turkey was sublime.

Since Thanksgiving is now no longer supposed to be about family, but rather about shopping, we did our civic duty as American Citizens and lined up outside of Target for Gray Thursday.

Tammy is a grizzled old Black Friday veteran and knows exactly how to throw her elbows around to get to the bargains she wants.  Sure there were some folks left bloodied and battered, but as Tammy always likes to say "Them's just the spoils of war."

On Friday, we headed to the Federal Reserve Building in downtown Dallas.  We heard they gave free tours and were hoping they might even give out free samples of money, but no luck on that point.  All we got were baggies full of shredded old bills, but no matter how much tape and glue I use to help me stick them back together again, it just doesn't seem possible.  I kind of feel ripped off.   I keep hearing that the federal government is printing money like it's going out of style, so I'm not sure why they couldn't just give us some new bills instead of the crappy old shredded ones.  I'm going to write a letter to Obama and give him a piece of my mind.

We then went to Dealey Plaza which is famous for being the place where John F Kennedy was assassinated.  Part of me was thinking it was kind of morbid going to see the place where a president was shot, but when we arrived I was amazed to see how many people were already there checking out the place.  There seems to be a lot of morbid people out there, so I guess it's good that we fit in.

This is Robert Groden.  He's written several books of conspiracy theories on the JFK assassination, appeared in the film JFK, and was the first person to show the Zapruder film on national TV on a show Geraldo Rivera hosted.  He and his buddy were there selling DVD's and books and telling all sorts of stories about what really happened on that day back in 1963.  I'm surprised the CIA allows him to stay.  Or the Russians.  Or Marilyn Monroe's relatives.  Or any of the people who really did kill him for that matter.

But we don't need to go to Federal buildings or Historic landmarks to have fun.  Oh no.  We have fun anywhere we're together including Bass Pro Shops.  And we don't even like fishing all that much.

 Yep.  It's really good to be with family.  Even when they wrap up your Christmas presents in a box of Tampax and then make you open them up in front of their cute friends.  Who better to do that kind of stuff to you then your family?