October 30, 2016

A New Backyard Project

A New Backyard Project
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for October 30, 2016

My day job is selling ERP software for Oracle.  On Friday, I was having a meeting with a CFO, VP of Accounting, and CIO from a local insurance company in one of our nicer conference rooms.  We had done a lot of preparation for this meeting and were trying to make sure everything was perfect for the presentation.  The clients were in the meeting in person, but our main presenter was calling in on a conference line.  The meeting was going well and the customers were listening intently.  All the sudden, we started hearing some loud bangs outside which is not a very common occurrence on the 9th floor in downtown Minneapolis.  I quickly realized it was the window washers, which wasn't a big deal except they kept making these loud bangs and were slapping their suction cups on the windows.  Nobody said anything and we kept going with the meeting.  But it was just awkward enough of a situation that I thought I should snap a couple of pictures to remember the occasion.

I came home from work on Friday and was surprised to find Miss Sheri and our neighbor, Jim, had removed most of the boards from our deck.  She had told me she was going to replace a couple of boards, but I guess once they started they just couldn't stop themselves and decided to replace all the boards.  They're a lot more ambitious than I am.

Friday night, our friends the Walters invited us over for a bonfire since it was such a lovely evening.  We just couldn't pass on the opportunity to burn things.

We were celebrating the fact that Luke and Jackson both made their decisions for college and have decided to room together at Minnesota State Mankato.  Luke will be studying business and I'm pretty sure Jackson said he'd be studying science.  Congratulations, fellas!

On Saturday night, we invited Jim out to Benihana to partially thank him for all his help he's given us this year.  Aside from countless projects around the house and yard he's helped Sheri tackle, he was also instrumental in helping Luke and Avery complete their eagle scout projects.  Thanks, Jim!!

Jim told us he also grew up on a farm like Miss Sheri, which is probably why they are so compatible for taking on big projects together.  I on the other hand am not compatible with them.  When I discover a project around the house or yard, my first thought is "Can Sheri fix that?"   My second thought is, "If Sheri can't fix that, how much is that gonna cost me?"

But lucky for me, Sheri is willing to tackle the big projects and Jim is kind enough to help her figure out the best way to do them.  They decided the frame of the deck was solid enough to keep, but needed to be raised.  They are then going to replace all the boards.  Which is nice.  Pretty soon it will look like we have a brand new deck!

October 23, 2016

Iowa State University College Tour

Iowa State University College Tour
Todd Swank's Diary Update for October 23, 2016

On Saturday, we woke up at 4am to drive down to Ames, Iowa for a tour of Iowa State University.  That was a little bit too early to wake up on a Saturday morning.

Luke and Avery have each applied at 3 different colleges and we're trying to tour all 5 of them.  We have now been to the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Minnesota State Mankato.  Iowa State makes it number four so we just have to visit the University of Minnesota Duluth and we'll have checked out each of their top choices.   Unless something new arises.

I wasn't expecting much from Iowa State, but honestly they have been one of the most impressive schools of the bunch.  They are just really on the ball when it comes to responsiveness, marketing, organization, and making their tour extremely interesting.  Avery said this visit has made his decision much harder than he was expecting.

We bumped into one of their class mates, Andrew Fristad, who was  was also here for the tour.  We had lunch and did part of the tour together and just generally had a good time with one another.

We spent most of the day visiting the college of engineering.  They told us they have thirteen different majors in the college of engineering and after hearing about them, I wanted to go back to school and try each one of them.  I have such a greater appreciation for education now that I'm an old man than I did when I was seventeen and trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life.

Of course, we all got really excited when we heard about their VRAC or Virtual Reality Applications Center.  Seen behind us in this picture is the VRAC's C6 which is the world's highest resolution fully immersive virtual environment.  Inside the C6 is a room that is 10 feet by 10 feet by 10 feet in which all four walls, the floor and the ceiling, are projection screens illuminated from outside by high-resolution, interactive computer-generated stereoscopic images that provide an experience of total immersion in a virtual environment. Unfortunately, we didn't get to go inside, but I really, really want to go in there!

The Virtual Reality Applications Center, where dreams become simulations and simulations bring about reality.

The students who gave us the tour of the engineering school were really kind and passionate about Iowa State.  They showed us several interesting tools and laboratories including this one which had a water jet used to cut materials into interesting shapes.

Here's a great example of what one can cut with a water-jet.  I thought it was pretty neat.

After we were done checking out the engineering school, we took a tour of the campus.  It was a beautiful day and the temperature was in the seventies.  It's been quite awhile since I've lived in Iowa, but I'm pretty sure the weather is like this here year-round.

The tour guide told us this old water tower no longer holds any water, but is now considered a national landmark so can't be torn down.  Which is too bad because I was hoping to go saw off a couple of those legs to see what would happen.

Outside of one of the engineering buildings, there were several slabs of marble and if you looked at them the right way, you could see this butterfly.  But if you looked at them the wrong way, then they wanted to pick a fight with you.  So I was careful.

All in all, it was a beautiful campus and a beautiful day.  If either of my boys decided to go to Iowa State University, I would be downright proud of them.

October 16, 2016

Luke and Avery Earn Their Eagle Scouts

Luke and Avery Earn Their Eagle Scouts
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for October 16, 2016

On Tuesday night, Luke and Avery had their Board of Reviews at the district scout council where they had to present their final case for them to earn the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts of America.  We thought it was especially appropriate for them to go in with Troy Brown for their Board of Reviews since he was the one we first met the night we considered joining Cub Scouts way back in 2005.  He recruited us into scouts and was with them as they earned the highest honor of the organization.  Pretty cool.

We didn't get to watch them do their presentations, but we did go into meet the men they had to present it to.  Avery went first and we started worrying about him a bit when he was in there for nearly an hour.  But he must have said the right things because he came out with a smile and told us he made it through.

Luke was up next and had to meet with a different group.  We heard they asked him if he could choose to have dinner with anyone, who would it be?  He told them "Will Ferrell."  He then paused and stated:  "Actually, I meant to say the Founding Fathers."  That's our Luke!  He also earned his Eagle.  We are very proud of both of our boys for this achievement!

They have been added as Eagles to their troop website here.

On Friday night, we went to Mystic Lake's Rock, Brats, and Beer outdoor concert and watch some hair bands like Hericane Alice.  We needed to exercise our neck muscles and figured some head banging would treat us just about right.

They also had pretty good Brats and Cheddar Wursts.   Awww, who am I kidding.  They were the Wurst.

We played some games like Hammerschlagen where you use a big hammer to pound a nail into a stump in the least amount of times swinging the hammer.  It's actually a lot harder than it looks.

Miss Sheri and I played against this fellow who is named Jason Davis.  We found that funny because we have a good friend named Jason Davis and it's not this guy.  The guy must have thought we were laughing at him because he proceeded to crush us in Hammerschlagen.  Which made me upset so then I cheated really bad to beat Miss Sheri.  I'm not sure my pride could have survived with a 3rd place finish.

We then stood and watched the bands for awhile.  This guy seemed like a really angry drummer.

The next band was Firehouse who had several hits in the nineties like "Love of a Lifetime" and "When I Look into Your Eyes"  They made us feel very romantic.

We laid pretty low over the weekend, but did try to take the dogs swimming which still never works out very well.  Blue just doesn't get the concept.  Every time we let them into the water, he think it's time to attack Sunny for some reason.  So they get wet, we get frustrated, and then we take them home again.

October 9, 2016

College Tour of Minnesota State Mankato

College Tour of Minnesota State Mankato
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for October 9, 2016

On Monday night, we had the honor to attend the Prior Lake High Scholar Board Scholar ceremony which celebrates students who have maintained a GPA of 3.8 or higher.  Avery earned this achievement for a third time along with a bunch of other great kids that can be seen here.

Miss Sheri should get some kind of award for this also since she is the main one that cracks the whip around our house when it comes to focusing on their school work.  I'm going to get her a certificate for being a board mother.

When she's not whipping the kids to do their school work, she is probably working on some big project.  This week she finished her drainage project and it looks great.  No more water problems on that side of the house!

On Friday night, we went out to dinner at the Artisan Bistro and bumped into our good friends, Troy and Rhonda Brown.  Coincidentally enough, they had two available seats at their table so they invited us to join them.  Maybe it wasn't even a coincidence.  Maybe they just sensed we were going to be there and made sure they had extra seats available just in case we arrived.  We will never know for sure.

On Saturday, we went to Mankato, Minnesota to continue our tour of different colleges our boys are interested in attending.  

Avery decided this is a school he wasn't interested in attending so he stayed home.  So we went down with just Luke.

Jackson was interested in attending Mankato also, so we went down with our good friends, The Walters Family.  This time, our wives didn't let Dan and I sit next to each other because we usually end up snickering way too much.

We had a nice presentation about the school.  They told us that there are students attending the University representing 49 states in the US.  But they didn't tell us which one wasn't represented.  Which made me really wonder which one it was and what the heck is being done to improve recruiting in that state.  Or do they know something that the rest of us don't?  

They had a panel of current students answering questions from the audience which was quite enlightening.  It's interesting hearing college kids talk about what's important to them and what they like about their school.  It makes me want to go back to college.

After the presentation, we had a nice tour of the campus.  Meghan was our tour guide and she explained to us that this was her very first tour.  I thought she did a nice job even if she did say a lot "I've never been in that building before, but I'm sure it's real nice."

I have gone on tours of the University of Wisconsin - Madison and the University of Minnesota.  Mankato is quite a bit smaller than those schools, but has a certain charm to it that I really like.  

All in all, it was a nice tour and a beautiful day.

October 2, 2016

Prior Lake Homecoming 2016

Prior Lake Homecoming 2016
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for October 2, 2016

It was time to get senior photos taken this week so we traveled up to Champlin for three hours of photo taking.  My boys were so thrilled to do this!

I make them pose for pictures all the time so they just couldn't wait for the opportunity to stand next to abandoned barns, weird bridges, the edge of the Mississippi River, and a bunch of other places that we thought were pretty.   Boys just love pretty picture backgrounds!

I totally wasn't thinking when I scheduled the appointment right on top of the Vikings Game!  Lucky for me, there's an app for that!

On Wednesday, we had an offsite meeting with my colleagues at Oracle Direct.  We went to Betty Danger's Country Club in Minneapolis.

It's a really unique place.  It's basically a bar with a mini golf course and a ferris wheel.   Sounds pretty safe to me.  Let people buy a bunch of drinks and then send them soaring in the air.  What a great fit!

Miss Sheri has had a pretty productive week.  She decided to tackle a landscaping project along the side of our house and decided to dig a large drainage ditch as well.  She has so much fun with her projects!

On Friday night, we went to the Prior Lake High School homecoming football game where the Prior Lake Lakers defeated Edina 30 - 0.  That's a nice result for a homecoming game.

Both Miss Sheri and I grew up in small towns, so we're always quite impressed with the amenities that the Prior Lake High School has for their players.  We never had a digital scoreboard or a large inflatable football helmet for our players to run through for their introductions.  We were lucky to have our players run through a paper banner spread across the gate of a chain link fence.  

The band was amazing and pumped up the crowd.

The dance team blew the crowd away with their choreography and style.  I also really enjoyed their music selections, but I'm kind of a funky guy like that.

On Sunday morning, we had breakfast with Grandma Linda and her new friend, Mike.  A good time was had by all!