November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 30, 2014

Normally we venture over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's House we go for Thanksgiving.  This year, Miss Sheri's family came to us and we got to host Thanksgiving for a change.  So it was over my own bed and through the hallways to our downstairs dinging room table instead.  Which was nice.

Uncle Jerry was kind enough to carve the bird for us.  Which was nice.  I don't really trust myself with knives!

Stop.  Grandma Time!

After dinner, the boys and I decided to tackle the coldest Thanksgiving in like 50 years by going sledding.  Here's a quick video of our fun times:

On Tuesday night, we took the boys and their friends to see Mockingjay Part 1.  We don't get to sit with the kids any more, but I'll be darned if I'm not gonna still get my pictures!  The movie was good, but I'm still disappointed that the producers felt the need to split the final book into two movies.  It would have been better as one.  Oh well,  now we have to wait another year before seeing the conclusion.  The boys probably won't even let us come to that one with them.

On Saturday night, we connected with the funsters for a night on the town in Downtown Minneapolis!

The night started out with a cocktail at Grumpy's Bar and Grill.  The boys sat at one table and the girls sat at another.  Otherwise we all start getting frisky way too early and the night just gets kind of ruined.

Kim and Mike pretty much organized the event.

Chris and Teresa were there.

So were Jen and Jason.

Luke and Steph rounded out the crew.  We were set for a night of debauchery.

We headed over to Wasabi Fusion for some hibachi style cooking.

I didn't think we'd all get to sit at the same table, but they were able to accommodate us.

Mmmmm!  The food was excellent!  Our server was 2 Chains and that guy could cook!

I like hanging out with this lady!

I was so excited when Kim said we were going to end the night at the 1029 Club and do some Karaoke!  I love having a microphone in my hand!

Turns out most of our group loves having microphones in their hands as well!

Miss Sheri and I really need to work on our duets.  We always end up screwing up a song or two because we bite off more than we can chew.  I like to push ourselves.

The night ended suddenly when Chris and Jason accidentally squashed our waitress.  She was just a little thing so it was completely unavoidable.

November 23, 2014

2014 Minne Mini-Regional Robotics Tournament

2014 Minne Mini-Regional Robotics Tournament
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for 11/23/14

This weekend was the fourth annual Minne Mini Regional FRC robotics tournament at Prior Lake High School.  35 robotics teams from across Minnesota as well as 1 team from North Dakota brought their robots to compete against one another in the Aerial Assist game.  It was quite intense!

Miss Sheri and I are the marketing and fundraising mentors for the team and spent the day manning a table featuring information about FIRST Robotics as well as seeking out new volunteers, mentors, and sponsors for the team.  It was quite enlightening.

We also sold about 300 raffle tickets to help raise money for the team.  It was quite enriching!

The boys help the team in a variety of ways including helping with the analytics and scouting out the competition as well as helping to identify which other team's robots would make for good alliances.  It was quite informative!

Luke also took part in the KING TeC band performance.  It was quite Funky!

The opening ceremonies started the event off with a bang.  It was standing room only and people were ready to watch the nearly 50 matches of 3 on 3 robot action that was about to unfold before them.  A lot of metal scraping metal was set to begin.  It was quite electric.

We didn't get to watch too much of the tournament because we were supposed to be working, but ended up spending much more of our time harassing the other parent volunteers.  There's a lot of ornery people that hang around these events.

I was very excited to have the chance to meet Yoji Shimizu.  He's world famous in the Robotics community.  He's a professor and assistant dean at the University of Minnesota as well as an MC and game announcer at a lot of the state and world's FRC robotics tournaments.  He's also very photogenic if I do say so myself.

Our team's robot #2169 performed quite well and ended up being a member of the winning alliance at the end of the tournament.  We were all quite thrilled because the kids have been working so hard at tweaking it to run well.

The kids were excited that their robot was winning.

Dance Break!

I even figured out a way to weasel myself on to the center stage insisting that I needed to be the one to announce the winners of the raffle.  I thought it was kind of a weak argument, but it worked.  I sure do love having a microphone in my hand.

So this will be the last official performance for this robot.  The team will start anew this January when the new game is rolled out by the FIRST organization and then they will have  6 weeks to build a brand new robot that will be required to do some crazy new tasks.  We can't wait to see what that new game will look like!

On Sunday, we went to the University of Minnesota to watch the Minnesota Vikings take on the Green Bay Packers.

Some people on the Vikings stage invited us up to come to take some pictures.  We didn't know they started taking them while we were still yelling at Avery to come join us!

Luke insisted that he could beat his brother and cousin in the football passing contest which we all thought was cute.  Then he hit the target 2 out of 3 times while the other two boys went 1 for 6.   I gotta remember that Luke has a lot of positive energy on his side.

We went in to the stadium and immediately walked down to the field to see if we could get close to the players. 

Unfortunately we were on the Packers side of the field so we only got to see players like Aaron Rodgers.  Nobody good.

 The smoke started rising high in the sky so we figured the game was ready to begin.

The team did a lot to honor the military throughout the game which is always a nice thing.  We probably wouldn't be able to have games like this if it weren't for the US Military.

We were worried the game was going to be a blow-out because the Packers have been on fire lately while the Vikings have been struggling.  But it turned out to be a really good game, even though the home team lost by three.  Although you wouldn't really know they were the home team because there were so many darned Packers fans at the game and all around us.  That can get to be really annoying after awhile.

November 16, 2014

Karaoke and Robotics. Again.

Karaoke and Robotics.  Again.
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for 11/16/14

On Friday night, we went to Wayzata with our old friends, Karl and Tina Zitzewitz.  Rumor was, there was going to be some singing involved.

We went to Wayzata because it's where Tina grew up and we knew her mother was going to be at the American Legion.  We like hanging out with her mother.

Her mother, Joyce, was celebrating her 80th birthday!  She even had a balloon to prove it!!

Best of all, we were finally going to be able to hear Joyce sing.  We'd been hearing about her talents for quite some time, but this was the first time we had the chance to see her perform live.  She was great!  She was even nice enough to sign one of her CD's for us which really was the icing on the birthday cake for us.

Of course, I've never met a microphone that I didn't like so I had to give it a shot myself and belt out some tunes.  I think the crowd really enjoyed it.  They even turned their heads and looked at me a few times.

My sons try to tell me they don't think I'm a good singer, but when I get in front of a crowd I end up feeling pretty proud of myself.  Karl seemed pretty proud of me as well.

One of the most interesting people I encountered was this gentleman who's name is Bruce.  We were talking about the Minnesota Gophers basketball game which was being played at Air Station Boinquen in Puerto Rico.  Bruce mentioned to us that he served out of this base back in the sixties and even earned several medals which he later showed me.  I discovered later that Bruce also used to be married to none other than Loni Anderson about twenty years before she was married to Burt Reynolds.  I think I probably would have led with that story, Bruce.

On Saturday, we spent much of the day at a First Lego League Tournament.  The boys were referees for some teams of elementary students competing with some Lego robots they'd been making for the previous few weeks.  It was a pretty intense competition.

Although I think the boys may just like doing it because they get to wear cool shirts all day long.

It's hard to believe, but winter is officially here in Minnesota.  We had several days of snow this week and the temperatures dipped into the single digits.  This weekend we even discovered that our lake was almost frozen, but not completely.  Lucky for us, none of us fell through the ice.  Somebody who was walking out there before us apparently did judging by the footsteps walking up to the big hole we discovered while we were down there.