October 25, 2015

Oracle Ignite Sales Training in Santa Clara, California

Oracle Ignite Sales Training in Santa Clara, California
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for October 25, 2015

On Sunday, three of my co-workers and I traveled to sunny California to Oracle's headquarters for a week long sales training.  We learned a lot, played a lot, and slept a lot.  Except for that last part.

Our training occurred at an old Sun Microsystems campus that has a very dark history.  It's a former Insane Asylum that Sun bought from the state back in 1997.  It's supposedly Haunted which kept us very intrigued at least for the first couple of days.  During breaks we ran around to different buildings to see if we could take selfies with a ghost in the background, but none of them would cooperate with us.

I heard that the mansion where the director lived was the most haunted place.  Supposedly the basement of this building had a lot of spiritual activity, but it was closed off to the public.  We couldn't use our badges to get into this building.  I was really excited when I found out that my co-workers were going to get to practice some role-playing in the upstairs and quickly rushed over to see them when my training session was complete.  Lucky for me, they were still training and my co-worker took a quick break to let me into the building while they were doing their thing upstairs.  She had to rush back to her group, leaving me alone on the first level.  I have to admit, I was a little scared being down there alone, but couldn't resist my desires to get pictures of a ghost.  So I crept around the mansion going from room to room and looking for the entrance to the basement.  Unfortunately, the door was locked and I couldn't go down there.  So I stood in the lobby waiting for my co-workers to finish.  Eventually I was bored and had an idea.  Since all the people upstairs thought they were the only ones in the mansion and had also heard the same story about it being haunted, I thought I'd play a trick on them.  So I walked up to the wood wall and started banging on it with all my might.  Then I ran out of the front building and hid behind a tree.  When I later met up with my co-workers, they told me that they definitely heard my banging, but nobody really speculated about what they thought it was because they were still doing their training.  I hope someone thought it was a ghost and had a good story to tell their friends. At the very least, I got a good giggle out of it.

Most of our days were spent in the auditorium hearing lectures, doing interactive role-playing activities, watching videos, and rocking back and forth in our chairs watching the paint peel from the ceiling.  It was good information, just a whole darn bunch of it stuffed into a week!

Wendy and the other trainers did a good job at mixing in humor and crowd participation activities to keep us all entertained while we were absorbing the valuable information.  

At night we had fun checking out various restaurants in Silicon Valley and hanging out with new friends from Oracle offices all over the country.  Tommy was from Dallas and stayed at our hotel, so we got to enjoy a whole bunch of good times with him.

Andrew was from Miami and Matt was also from Minneapolis, but serves a different customer base than we do.  They are great guys.

On Wednesday night, we went to Levi's stadium where the 49ers play to check out a restaurant called Bourbon Pub.  The stadium was right down the street from our training facility, so it was close enough to stop by a couple of times.

The bar and restaurant were crazy busy, but the burger was awesome so I guess it was all OK in the long run.  We also got a chance to meet Ian from Oracle HQ and he was a bunch of fun.

There was a game on Thursday night, so we decided that morning to go and check it out.  The new stadium was very impressive, but their concessions lines need to be re-evaluated.  It took way too long to get a beer!

It was fun to see the former Super Bowl participants take on the home team, but the game quickly turned ugly when the Seahawks started scoring and the 49ers didn't.  They have really nice video screens in their new stadium, though, so they have that going for them.  Which is nice.

You may have heard that Silicon Valley has a little bit of corporate money flowing through it, therefore there were more corporate suites than I'm used to seeing.  

Sammy Haggar performed at halftime.  He was quite proud of his age which I believe he said was 98 and sang a couple of his classics like I Can't Drive 55.  I remember when I was a kid and the speed limit was 55, but that's not really the case any more so he should really change those words.  Like I can't drive because my vision can no longer pass the state mandated requirements.  That would totally rock.

Eventually our last day of training arrived.  It was time to do our final presentations and say goodbye to our new friends.  We're going to miss these people!

We drove up to Redwood Shores to see the HQ buildings and the boat that won the America's Cup back in 2010.  It's an amazing place and I hope to get to go there more often in the future!

We then spent the rest of our evening driving down to Pier 39 and seeing the sites like Alcatraz in the few remaining hours we had left.  I have to visit this prison island some day soon as well!

We were all pretty cranky after a week of being together, so the drive to downtown San Francisco was filled with zingers.  But I'm really glad I went to this training with this particular group.  They are just really good people.  I like really good people.

October 18, 2015

Trail of Terror in Shakopee, Minnesota

Trail of Terror in Shakopee, Minnesota
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for October 18, 2015

Fall snuck up on us, so we figured it was time to start doing some of our favorite autumn activities.  On Sunday, we headed to Minnesota Harvest which is an apple orchard featuring a bunch of family activities.  And pumpkins.

They have wagons being pulled by tractors going out into the orchard.  We never end up buying any apples, but we always like going out into the fields on the free wagon rides.  It's fun seeing apples up close!

How do you like them Apples?

They have an observation deck in the building where you can watch the workers sort and pack apples.  They were working awfully hard for a Sunday.

On Friday night, we drove up to Jake's City Grill in Eden Prairie to meet up with Jason, Jen, and Tim.  They're nice people.

It was time to do the final cleaning of the boat and pack it away for the winter.  I explained to the boys that when I was little, my dad used to make my older sisters wash and wax his boat every week so they were lucky to only have to help once a summer.  I don't think they believed me, but it's true.

On Saturday night, we drove to Shakopee to check out Trail of Terror and their haunted attractions.  I had high hopes for scares when I met this guy at the front gate.

The boys brought their friend, Carson, and we walked down a haunted trail and through several haunted buildings.  I found them to be a little bit scary, but it was hard to shake the fact that in the end it was just some high school kids hiding in the dark and yelling Boo.  I suppose that could be scary in it's own right.

Pretty soon, I got bored at going through the scary places with the kids and instead stood up and did some karaoke on the outside stage they had set up there.  I'm guessing I may have ended up scaring some people on my own!

October 11, 2015

Kidney Stone Removal Surgery

Kidney Stone Removal Surgery
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for October 1, 2015

It was an interesting week in the Swank Household.  I had been dealing with medical stuff which we thought was some kind of UTI or bladder infection, but it wasn't going away with antibiotics.  So my doctor sent me in to get a cat scan, a colonoscopy, and visit the urologist to check things out.  They discovered I had a 7mm kidney stone that didn't seem to want to pass out of my kidney so they recommended I go in for surgery to get it blasted out of me.

On Wednesday, I went in for surgery.  They wheeled me over to get x-rays before the surgery which I thought was kind of silly since I had just walked into the hospital on my own, but who am I to complain.  We ran into a bit of controversy when the surgeon came in to see me and said he could no longer see the stone on the X-Ray but he thought it best that he go in there anyways to check things out.  No problem I said.  I've always wanted to have someone shove a long tube up my urethra.  At least I was completely asleep for the procedure!!  After about a half hour of going under anesthesia, I woke up confused and asked the people who were there "What happened?"  They told me the surgeon found the kidney stone in my bladder and was able to remove it from there.  Lucky for me, they didn't have to put in the stent they were planning which would have been a whole different experience to have removed.  So hopefully this episode is behind me and I don't have to deal with this again.  They tell me to drink lots of water and that should help.  So I'm an H2O guy now!!

On Friday night, we decided to put our medical concerns behind us and go to a show!  The America's Got Talent All Stars show was at Mystic Lake Casino, so we decided to check it out.

We loaded up Grandma Linda in the trunk and headed to the casino.  There was a bit of electricity in the air as we came up to the showroom.  We just knew we were about to see some TALENT!

The boys both love Taylor Williamson.  He was a comedian that took second place on the show a few years ago.  He's got a real dry wit about him, but judging by how many times Luke and Avery shouted out his punchlines to me it seems that he's been leveraging the same AGT material for awhile now.  He was hyping for us to come back to his one hour show, so I'm sure he's got a bunch of material there which might not be as "Family Friendly" as what he said on the show.

Emily West was on last year's season belting out songs like Sia's "Chandeliers" which she sang for us again.  It sounded beautiful in person as did the rest of the songs she sang to us.

The Kristef Brothers were as wild and crazy as they were on the show.  They're a couple of impressive acrobats who mix comedy into their performance while they do circus type feats of strength.  I was particularly impressed with the balance my brother on my head trick.

The great Smoothini calls himself the "Ghetto Houdini".  I got to see this side of him first hand when I tried to go up to him during an intermission to to get a picture with me.  He was walking straight toward me, took one look at me, pretended to turn to talk to someone in the audience, then literally ran away to the other side of the auditorium.  Watching him from afar for awhile, we came away with the impression that he was much more interested in taking pictures with the young ladies than with old dudes with funny arms.  I guess I can't really blame him for that.

Most of the performers did 2 or 3 different acts and it was a great variety of singing, dancing, music, magic, comedy, and circus type performances.  We all left the show feeling like it was really good time and a whole bunch of fun.  Way to go, America!

After the show, we tracked down Taylor so the boys could get photos with him.  He was a nice guy, although he did seem a bit overwhelmed by all of the attention.

The Kristef Brothers didn't hang around to take photos with the audience, though.  They were headed straight to the bar when we came across them.  We ended up walking with them for awhile and they were great.  The big guy told me that some of the group are pretty fun and they all like to party together.  He said he and his brother grew up in a circus family and they really love what they're doing.  Good for them!

On a sad note, a good friend of mine passed away recently.  Heradio Lopez was only 61 when he succumbed to his battle with cancer leaving behind his loving wife, Elizabeth, and 4 great kids.  I worked with Heradio at three different companies and he was really a great guy.  We went to his Celebration of Life on Saturday and I had the chance to see some other old friends who I used to work with in the past.

Rest in Peace, Heradio!

October 4, 2015

Prior Lake Homecoming 2015

Prior Lake Homecoming 2015
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for October 4, 2015

On Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of going out and having a beer with my old buddy, Bob Dornik.  Bob and I have worked together at 3 different companies and reminisced about a bunch of old stories from the past 20 years.  Then we shook our heads and said, what the heck happened to that 20 years?  No way has it been that long!  Then we quietly left the bar feeling that time is just moving way too fast.

On Friday night, it was the Prior Lake Homecoming football game.  Maple Grove was coming to town and the crowd was electric on this beautiful evening in Minnesota.

 The boys went to the game by themselves, so Miss Sheri and I had a date night.  We decided going to a high school football game would be a very romantic way to spend the night.

We showed up just as the game was beginning which was a mistake.  There had to be at least a few thousand people there, so there was no way we were getting seats.  Prior Lake High School has 2400 students which is just a wee bit bigger than the high schools Miss Sheri and I went to when we grew up in Iowa.   

We had to stand at the fence and watch the game from the end zone.  Lucky for us, we were there with a bunch of fun people like the Walters and the Zwingers.  I could stand near a fence with these guys anywhere!

We also had the chance to hang out with PLHS principal, Dave Lund.  Mr Lund is a great guy and has been fantastic at helping us with Luke and the amount of school he's had to miss for doctor stuff.  He's also been a great friend to the Prior Lake Robotics program which is another big plus in our book.  It's always weird for me to hang out with teachers and principals as an adult, because when I was in school I never thought they liked me all that much.  

During half time, the band came out sporting their new uniforms.  The Band Boosters have been collecting money for these over the past couple of years.  They had to collect something like $15,000 to make this happen so it was nice to finally see them in action.  I think they even made the kids sound a little better, but that's just a theory.

Prior Lake made some great plays in the game, but it ultimately proved to be a futile effort as the visiting team ended up wining the game by a score of 42 - 21.  You'll get 'em next year, guys!

I've been dealing with some medical problems the past few weeks and went in for a doctor's appointment on Saturday morning.  While I was there, I thought it would be a good idea to get a flu shot.  The nurse told me afterwards that I was very brave which made me happy.  Don't forget to get your flu shots!

On Sunday, we decided to take out the boat one more time before putting it away for the winter.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but we discovered it was pretty dang cold once we got out there.  Darn Minnesota.