November 29, 2015

2015 Thanksgiving in Flower Mound, Texas

2015 Thanksgiving in Flower Mound, Texas
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 29, 2015

We road tripped down to Flower Mound, Texas this week for Thanksgiving.  Along the way, we stopped to pick up my niece, Lauren, who is a freshman at Oklahoma State University.  Spending some time in the dorms brought back a lot of memories!  

We drove the 17 hours to get there for mainly one reason.  So we could bring our silly dogs.  They just love swimming in my sister's pool and my sister just loves having a couple more wet dogs available to run through her house while she was preparing the holiday meal.

The first day we were there, most of the rest of my family was still working so Lauren & Brittany took us shopping to buy the boys some new clothes.  Their old clothes were getting kind of smelly.

On Tuesday night, we went to see the final installment of the Hunger Games series.  We liked it.

On Wednesday night, we went to Grapevine which bills itself as the Christmas Capital of Texas.  It has nice lights so I'm guessing they've earned the title.

We finally had the chance to connect with my other sister, Tammy, and her family.  They are nice people.

Mallory has a new man in her life and we finally had the chance to meet Marcus.  He's a nice man.

Bailey also has a new man in her life.  His name is Justin and he is a nice man as well.

I like spending the holidays with my mom and sisters.  I just wish they didn't live so dang far away!

Our favorite thing to do as a family is stand together and pose for pictures.

We put the mistletoe booth to good use.

And about 2 minutes later, the quarters started pouring in...

The cousins just love having sleep overs and getting to relax in the mornings.

We thought if we exercised the puppies, they might not be so hyper when all the company came over for the Thanksgiving meal.  It didn't work.

Uncle Dave carved the turkey.  He's very thorough at his job.

We were very excited to see our cousin, Terri, and her beautiful daughters Kat & Courtney!   I remember them when they were just little girls, so it's so weird seeing them now that they are all grown up!

Dinner was served.  And it was superb!

As usual, the cousins had a wonderful time with one another.

They even had fun spending a little time with Grandma.  Until she started telling her stories again.  Then they scattered.

In Texas, they have critter issues and Luke loves checking the live traps each morning to see if they caught any possums or armadillos.  He was ecstatic on Friday morning when he discovered a large possum had been captured.  These things look like huge rats and have pretty scary teeth.  Uncle Dave is a kind man, though, and drove this guy off to a nearby lake and set him free.  

The dads were excited to take a trip to Fort Worth to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see one of the two locations in the country where our currency is created.  I found it to be fascinating to see pallets of tens, twenties, and hundred dollar bills literally totaling tens of millions of dollars sitting right on the other side of a glass panel from us.  The kids thought it was the most boring thing to do in the world.

So to get them to quit their bellyaching, we took them to a local gym that had nothing but climbing walls and set them free.  The place smelled like feet to me.

Not sure what the thrill of climbing a wall is all about, but the kids seemed to like it.

It's sad to think about how much stronger Avery is than his father.  So we don't even discuss it.

November 22, 2015

Prior Lake MinneMini FRC Robotics Competition 2015

Prior Lake MinneMini FRC Robotics Competition 2015
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 22, 2015

On Thursday night, Miss Sheri and I went to Mystic Lake Casino because they were having psychics who would do readings for us.  I've always wanted to try this, but ended up not very impressed.  The lady had been doing readings over and over for hours and looked pretty tired when I sat down with her.  We jumped right into it.  She first asked me if the name Molly meant anything to me.  I said no. She then asked me who was into Alfred Hitchcock movies.  I told her I had no clue.  She then asked me who was Neal and I said I don't know.  She then asked if I was in science for a living.  I told her I've sold computers for most of my life and she said that must be it.  She then explained she was getting an image of Neil Degrassi the scientist.  She didn't explain beyond that, but I wondered what does Neil Degrassi have to do with my selling computers?  All I could think of was what I just witnessed was really, really spooky.   

On Saturday, our whole family spent the day at the Prior Lake MinneMini FRC regional robotics tournament.  35 teams from all over the state of Minnesota and 1 team from North Dakota competed in some robot on robot action.  A good time was had by all.

This year the tournament was even bigger than usual because we also were holding the First Lego League regional tournament for the elementary school students in the high school commons.  I heard all in all we had something like 1000 students competing this year across both tournaments which is a whole lotta robot enthusiasts in one building at the same time.

Before the tournament started, I had the privilege of being part of a ceremony that honored our outgoing superintendent, Dr. Sue Ann Gruver.  She's a very nice lady, an incredible friend of the robotics program, and will be greatly missed.

Prior Lake's team has some new drivers this year and they were pretty anxious to get going when I saw them.  

The purpose of this tournament is to give last year's robot one more chance to shine before the kids have to start preparing to build their new robot for the next competition which starts in January.  

Here's a short video that shows KING TeC's robot building a stack during one of it's matches:

Luke is a drummer in the band of the robotics program which I'm guessing is larger than some school's actual band program.

Avery has taken a great interest in programming this year and actually led a class on how to develop using Java.  I was pretty proud of him for this one.

Luke spent most of his day being a score keeper for the FLL tournament and making some new friends in the process.

Our favorite part of the tournament is getting to spend so much time with a bunch of really cool parents and volunteers who help make this event possible.  There's a lot of great people out there willing to put in a lot of hours to create a successful event.

Miss Sheri spent a bunch of time working with the concessions team.  I was thinking about going back there to work, but when I saw Jen pull out the bullhorn, I figured this place might just be a little too dangerous for me so I snuck away.

The tournament really went incredible and at the end of the day, there were a lot of volunteers that were pretty tuckered out.  We had some awesome food prepared for us that pretty much put everyone over the top after a weekend of hard work.

Our night was just beginning, though, because we were fortunate enough to go to the 50th birthday party of our good friend, Portia.  She and Doc always have fascinating stories and are just so much fun to be around.  They also had a big wine tasting competition which was pretty nice as well.

We ended the night with Dr. Bollig who was also celebrating his 50th birthday party.  It was great seeing many of the old gang from Nor-Tech.  I don't get a chance to see them often enough, but we just took off like we'd never been apart and had an awesome time together.  It was a good day all the way around.

November 15, 2015

Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa

Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 15, 2015

Life has been busy lately.  The boys have been mentors for the First Lego League Robotics Club.  It's always fun watching them helping younger kids.

We try not to crowd the boys when they're doing their jobs, but I'm always curious what they're telling the kids.  I'm curious if it's actually good stuff or if instead they are leading the next generation astray.  I know that's what I was doing when I was their age.

On Saturday night, we hung out with our good friends, the Walters Family.  We went to the Pointe for dinner and then did the hot tub thing.  Good times were had by all.

On Sunday night, we crashed Grandma Linda's house for dinner.  She had some leftover Halloween napkins she wanted to get rid of.

Tuesday night brought us to the high school for Luke's band concert.  It's always fun watching him bang on different things.

On Friday night, I drove down to Clear Lake, Iowa to hook up with my old buddies, "Krazy" Kory Madson and Ron "Sugarman" Myers.  We had the pleasure of having dinner with Kory's parents which was nice.  They're like the ambassadors of Clear Lake so I always feel extra special when I get to hang out with them.

I had the joy of bumping into my old friends, The Wagler Family.  I had the chance to meet their grandson.  It was a bit surreal for me since I was with this happy couple on the day they decided they wanted to start dating each other.  Fast forwarding to seeing them with their grandchild makes me feel like time is flying by crazy fast.

The reason for our trip to Iowa was to see former Stone Temple Pilot's lead singer, Scott Weiland, and his new band the Wildabouts.  Kory and Ron were pretty jazzed up for the event and I came along just to have a good time.  Which I did.

For those of you not from Clear Lake, the Surf Ballroom is a famous landmark because it was the last place rock and roll legends, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP "Big Bopper" Richardson played before their tragic plane crash in a nearby cornfield.  The day the music died.

We actually drove out in the country before the concert trying to find the memorial for the rock trio but just couldn't find it.  We ended up driving through a lot of corn field in the middle of nowhere.  Next time, we're going to have to seek it out in the daytime.

The concert was a blast because we got to see many old friends like Brian Benner.

I got to spend some time with Brian's lovely wife, Sherri.  It's been a real long time since we've seen each so it was nice to have a chance to catch up on the good old days.

I also ran into my old friend, Mindi.  She's a good person even if she does have a weird obsession with the Green Bay Packers.

Eventually the band came out and we were ready to rock.

I have to be honest with you, I really wasn't all the familiar with the music.  I guess I was never much of a Stone Temple Pilots fan.  The crowd seemed to be into it, though.

I eventually found Kory and Ron and we worked our way towards the stage to raise our hands and wave them at the Rock Gods on stage.  Kory even touched Scott Weiland's hand and vowed to never wash it again.  I doubt he had many plans to ever wash it again any ways.

It was a fun concert.  

At the end of the night, we ended up hanging out with Tommy Black who is the guitar player for the Wildabouts and his girlfriend.  I wish I would have had a better picture of her because she was a very nice lady and I hate showing her with her eyes closed like this.  But it was the only picture I took of the three of us, so what are you going to do?

On Saturday night, we celebrated the birthday of our good friend, Joyce.  I think she liked the present we brought her.

Joyce is a phenomenal singer and she wanted to sing karaoke with her grandchildren.  The Zitzewitz Family was nice enough to invite us also because they know how much we love to sing.  We had a ball while blasting out each other's ear drums for the majority of the evening.