December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 29, 2014

My sisters, Tracy and Tammy, came up from Dallas to join mom and I for Christmas.  It's so much nicer when they have to drive rather than the other way around.

We had 14 people and 3 dogs in our house for five nights.  We really like togetherness.

We started off Christmas Eve with a candle light service at church.  Normally it's not safe to be around this crowd and fire at the same time, but we got lucky and made it through the night without incident.

Christmas morning was a lot of fun and laughs and spoiled children.

Since we had been having an unseasonably warm December in Minnesota, the ice thickness experts from Texas thought it would be a good idea to go out and test the stability of Prior Lake.  Thank God the ice seemed to be strong enough to hold everyone.

Just to be sure, though, the kids thought it would be a good idea to stand close together to concentrate their weight in one area.  These definitely weren't the brightest bulbs on the Christmas Tree this year!

On Friday, we traveled to Welch, Minnesota for some downhill skiing.  We were worried about the conditions because it had been warm and rainy all week, but the artificial snow seemed to be holding up well and all the runs were open.

Some of us did better than others.

My son, Luke, convinced me it was a good idea to let him go down one of the hills with a black diamond sign posted.  He made it about halfway down before bailing and losing his skis.  His brother kindly went down afterwards to help him while Luke finished the hill on his belly based upon the suggestion of somebody passing by overhead on the chairlift.  I was glad to see he was still smiling afterwards and that ended up being his last black diamond of the day.

I think the kids had more fun on the chairlifts with their cousins than skiing down the hills.

Three nights in and hardly any knock down drag out fights had occurred yet.  That might be a new family record.

Since we still had a lot of pent up energy to disburse, on Saturday we went to a local sledding hill to do battle with one another on slippery pieces of plastic.

Hardly any blood spilled which is yet another personal family record.

Luke pushed the limit for the family ending with approximately three serious face plants and a couple of head-on collisions.  Not bad numbers for only going down the hill 6 or 7 times.

Some of the members of my family didn't feel the need to join us in the sledding battles.  I won't name names, but they are wearing blue jeans rather than snow pants.

On Saturday night, we went to the Mall of America for some good old fashioned Japanese Cuisine.  It's like a family tradition, even if this was the first time we'd been there as a family.

The night ended on a log ride.  As any good night should.

December 28, 2014

2014 Minnesota Christmas Sledding

Published on Dec 28, 2014
My family was in town for Christmas, so we went to a nearby hill in Prior Lake, Minnesota to do a little old fashioned Christmas sledding. Only minor injuries were reported.

December 27, 2014

My Favorite Video I Made in 2014

Miss Sheri and I were by ourselves at Mystic Lakes Casino on a random Friday night.  We just happened to be sitting near this stage playing a slot machine when the announcer announced a dance contest to anyone who wanted to compete.  Since I had never been in a dance competition in my life before, I felt the need to take the opportunity.  This video was what happened next.

Published on Jun 13, 2014
Todd Swank enters and wins Dance Competition at Mystic Lake Casino on June 13, 2014. He may not have the youth of the other contestants, but he sure has the moves that gets the crowd chanting his name!!
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December 21, 2014

2014 Swank Family Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas! 

Unbelievable.  Another Christmas letter?  We still feel guilty for all the lies we told last year to make our lives seem       interesting.  We’re so glad we don’t have to be sworn in under oath before writing these things.

2014 was a year full of excitement at the Swank household.

Sheri and Todd celebrated reaching the glorious milestone of 20 years of marriage.  They just barely made it and 21 years certainly seems to be a stretch at this point. *

Our biggest surprise of the year was jumping back into the medical arena with Luke when we found out his liver was showing signs of being damaged caused by his congenital heart condition.  We had to endure two different heart and liver transplant evaluations at the University of Minnesota and at Lurie’s Hospital in Chicago.  We feel very blessed that the doctors have determined that neither transplant is critical at this point.  Instead, he’s going to get a pacemaker to hopefully help ease the pressure on his liver.  Being his father’s son, Luke has been using humor to deal with such a stressful situation.  He recently told us a story.  When he was first able to go back to school, one of his friends gave him a big hug and exclaimed “I don’t want you to die, Luke!”  He responded, “Don’t worry.  If I die, I’m gonna come back and haunt the crap out of those doctors!”  We sure do love that kid.

 Avery on the other hand has not been having  medical problems. He’s been a picture of health.  The kid literally works out every night in his room before going to bed.  Who does that?  He’s starting to get muscles everywhere which makes us all a little nervous.  We’re pretty sure we could still take him if  needed, but are starting to really hope it never comes down to that.

 Our other drama of the year involved both boys getting their braces removed and both of them getting their     driver’s permits.  Once the boys started driving, the cops had to get involved only a   couple of times in the first month which is honestly much better than we expected for Swank children. 

  Other than that stuff, Luke and Avery stayed busy with high school, robotics, golf, band, Boy Scouts, and some         mysterious activities in the bathroom.  *

Our dog, Sunny, continues to get old.  We will probably have to trade him in for a younger puppy soon.  *

Our goals for 2015 are to live each and absolutely every day to its fullest.  We are going to focus on things that make us happy and inspired and not on worries and fear.  We hope you all do the same.

God Bless Us Everyone!

The Swank Family

*Sheri made me identify the lies like this year.  Like you people are gonna actually take me seriously.

2014 Prior Lake Middle School VEX Robotics Tournament

2014 Prior Lake Middle School VEX Robotics Tournament
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 21, 2014

On Tuesday, I had lunch with my old friends at Nor-Tech.  And Nick Rahman.

On Saturday, we spent the entire day at the Prior Lake Middle School Robotics tournament.

There's a lot of great parents that volunteer to make these events run well.  Traci and Shelley are two of them.  We arrived at the school at 7:30am and I think Shelley was still a little bit tired.

We volunteered to judge the event for the special awards given at the end.  I didn't really think it was going to be that difficult until I started doing the math on how long it would take to interview 18 teams for an average of 15 minutes each.  It ended up being a very long day!  But tons of fun seeing these kids get all excited about the robots they designed and built to compete in the tournament,

The tournament was held at Twin Oaks Middle School.  I have to say something about this sign because it kind of bugs me a little.  There used to be a ton of focus on something called STEM which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.  I'm a big proponent for teaching students these skills considering I've spent the past 21 years of my career selling technology solutions.  The past year or so, though, Prior Lake now promotes ESTEM which adds Environmental Education to the beginning.  Really?  Is this needed?  Don't get me wrong.  I care about the environment as much as the next guy, but there are already a ton of programs focused on the environment in our schools and community.  Do they have to horn in on STEM as well?  And at the beginning of the word no less?  My guess is the environmentalists were getting frustrated that more money and focus were being put into STEM so they had to get in on the action.  It just doesn't feel right to me, but what are you gonna do?

The tournament began bright and early and the middle school students had teams of robots perform various methods of scoring various balls in various ways.  The matches are always full of a lot of action and it's fun to see the kids operate their robots to compete and try to win the game.

The high school team, KING TeC, sponsors the tournament so Luke and Avery were there to volunteer.  

The team is large enough to have it's own band and they opened the ceremony with a stunning rendition of the national anthem.

There were more than 40 different matches and a bunch of awards given out to the various teams.  A good time was had by all.

December 16, 2014

Western Digital's HGST Acquires Skyera, Plans Enterprise Flash Solutions

Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based custom system builder for the enterprise and high-performance computing markets, told CRN via email that while the demand for storage overall continues to soar and will do so for the foreseeable future, the vendors, including hard drive manufacturers, all recognize that long-term trends are moving to flash storage because of the performance benefits customers can get. 

 "Since those trends favor the large flash suppliers like Intel and Samsung, the hard drive companies need to continue to know the products and opportunities better than anyone so they have a long-term plan to stay viable in the storage industry. I think both WD and Seagate continue to make smart moves, which in the long run will benefit their employees, customers and shareholders," Swank wrote. 

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December 14, 2014

Grandma Linda's Birthday Celebration

Grandma Linda's Birthday Celebration
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 14, 2014

Friday night was the celebration of the birth of Grandma Linda.  72 years ago her mother spilled her out into the world which enabled me to spill these boys out into the world some 57 years later.  That's just a lot of good spillage.

I took her to Mystic Lake Casino to celebrate.  After walking her around the parking lot for awhile, I thought she'd have even more fun if I took her inside.

We went to a holiday show called Borealis.  It's kind of a low budget Cirque Du Soleil type of show.  It was enjoyable.

There was a lot of circus type performances and dare devil acts.  There was even a little bit of humor.  Which was nice.

Unfortunately for me, Grandma Linda has always wanted to join the circus.  She hooked up with these fellas and I haven't seen her since.   I hope they treat her well.

On Saturday night, we had our good friends the Browns and the Zitzewitzes over for a hot tub party.

The nice thing about having Troy come over for a visit is that he always comes bearing pizzas!  This time he brought 6 different kinds that he made himself in an oven he built himself.  My favorite pizza this time around was something he called The Bullfighter.  It had several kinds of peppers, three alarm fire cheese, and coated with Sriracha sauce.  After two pieces, I definitely felt like the Bull had won!

We all ate and then we hopped in and took a bath with one another.  That sounds a lot naughtier than it actually is.

Hot tub parties are fun, but not the best for photo opportunities.

We came to find out later that it was Tina's birthday the next day!  Lucky for us, Miss Sheri usually has a cake laying around for just such an occasion
The surprise of the evening came when our old friend, Bad Brad Nelson stopped by for a dip in the pool.  It's really a lot of fun taking a bath with that guy.

December 8, 2014

Video of Incredible Winter Fireworks Show in Clear Lake, Iowa

Clear Lake Iowa's Christmas by the Lake Fireworks Show 2014 

Published on Dec 7, 2014
On December 6, 2014, I drove to Clear Lake, Iowa to visit some old friends and enjoy the 20th annual Christmas by the Lake celebration the town puts on every year.. I wasn't sure what to expect from a winter fireworks display, but was absolutely blown away by the show. They had plenty of red and green fireworks and ended the show with two incredible fireball explosions. Definitely worth the trip just to see these.

December 7, 2014

Christmas by the Lake in Clear Lake, Iowa

Christmas by the Lake in Clear Lake, Iowa
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 7, 2014

On Monday night, we went to a ceremony at the high school where Avery was recognized for being a Board Scholar student.  This honor is given to the kids who achieve at least an overall 3.8 GPA after their first year of high school.  I guess all that screaming his mother and I do at him to do his homework is really starting to pay off.

Luke just missed the cut this year to also receive the honor.  He was absolutely thrilled to sit through the ceremony while his brother and his friends received their awards.  Absolutely thrilled.

On Saturday morning, the boys woke up bright and early to perform their duty of selling Christmas trees at the Boy Scout tree lot.

It seems like every year it's getting easier and easier for them to haul trees around.  Not sure why that is.

Miss Sheri stayed there to help them but insisted I bring the Windex because the dirty windows on the office building were driving her crazy!

On Saturday night, I drove to Clear Lake, Iowa to visit some old friends and enjoy the 20th annual Christmas by the Lake celebration the town puts on every year.

My buddy, Ron Myers, came also and brought his beautiful family.  It was hard to pull him away from the singalong he was hosting, but we had to get down town!

It was an absolutely beautiful night with the temperatures a balmy 38 degrees.  A perfect evening for a parade.

I hung out with Krazy Kory all night and we had the pleasure of hooking up with his parents, Gene and Bobbe, for awhile.  They are like the ambassadors for Clear Lake and were able to get us a front row seat for the main event of the evening.

I wasn't sure what to expect from a winter fireworks display, but was absolutely blown away by the show.  They had plenty of red and green fireworks and ended the show with two incredible fireball explosions.  Definitely worth the trip just to see these.

We then went to our old buddy Jason Bradshaw's birthday party and saw a bunch of old friends.  And we got leid!

I haven't hung out with Dancing Dave Hansen, Jason A, and Krazy Kory all at the same time since high school.  It was plenty of fun seeing these guys.

We ended the night at Elly's Lakefront Tap and danced the night away to some of that good old rock and roll.  Always a good time going home to Clear Lake!

On Sunday morning I drove home just in time to join my wife and mother for a Pancake breakfast to support the high school band at the local VFW.  Mmmmm, pancakes!