September 30, 2018

A week spent at the Oracle Campus in Austin, Texas

A week spent at the Oracle Campus in Austin, Texas
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for September 30, 2018

On Monday I flew down to Austin, Texas for a week of training and spending time with my Oracle teammates.  Austin was quite a bit warmer than Minnesota.  Weird how that works.

I met up with my brother-in-law, Cliff Nelson, who lives in Austin.  He told me we needed to go for some authentic Austin BBQ so he took me to Terry Black's.

It was pretty darn good.  We had beef brisket and sausage.  Mmmm.  Sausage.

I've always heard about the bats that fly out from under the bridge near downtown Austin, so I asked Cliff if we could do this while I was in town.  He was happy to oblige.

We stood on the bridge through sunset and then started seeing flashes of the bats whizzing out from under the bridge beneath us.  There were tons of tour boats and people on kayaks below in the water to watch the bats wake up and hit the town.  They were much smaller than I thought they would be, but there had to be thousands of them flying around.  Kind of creepy, but I never saw any come near us.

After the bat show, we went downtown to Pete's Dueling Piano Bar.  Naturally I made a request and told them it was Cliff's birthday.  I thought it was funny when they called him out and had the whole place sing Happy Birthday to him even though it wasn't his birthday.  My prank backfired on me when later in the evening they called up the birthday boy and his friend to have a dance-off competition in front of the whole bar.  It actually ended up being pretty fun.  Lucky for us, we can dance like madmen!

The next morning, I went to the Austin campus to meet some of my teammates and attend a couple of days of sales training.  This place is amazing!  It just opened early this year.  Oracle spent more than $300 million and has created one of our most impressive innovation hubs.  They're already building the next expansion and I heard they eventually plan on having more than 25,000 employees work here.

This is me and several members of my sales team at Oracle.  We worked hard during the days and played hard during the nights.  They're a fun group of people.


When I arrived back in Minnesota, I had one night at home before it was time to leave again.  We headed to the St. Croix river for an overnight adventure to Treasure Island casino.

It's become an annual tradition for us to end the summer with an overnight boat trip with Karl and Tina Zitzewitz.  It was a bit chillier this year than year's past so we sealed up the boat while we made our way down the river for our 3 hour tour.

I always love seeing the old railroad bridge.  We saw a train go over it so we had to wait until that was gone and then the bridge-master lifts it up so we can make our way through to the other side.

We saw an incredible amount of bald eagles on both our way there and back.  We counted seeing at least 25 of them.  Such majestic creatures.

Our most unusual bald eagle sightings were when we saw two of them seemingly stuck in the water.  There were also two more circling above them overhead.  We scratched our heads trying to figure out what was going on.  Eventually we did a google search about can bald eagles drown.  It said there have been reports of bald eagles latching on to fish that are too large for them to carry.  Sometimes in cold water they will hold on too long and eventually develop hypothermia and drown.  Not sure if that is what was happening here, but it sure looked like it could have been a possibility.  Hope the eagles made it out OK!

I always enjoy seeing the monster barges.  This one was going so slow and then we saw on it's banner that it was from a port in St. Louis, Missouri.  That has to be a long trip!

We saw several great blue herons on the trip.  We also saw some pretty good blue herons as well.

We had a fun night visiting Treasure Island casino eating at the buffet and playing some slots.  We particularly enjoyed the Game of Thrones machine and the Brady Bunch one.  Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Both of our boys came home from college this week for different reasons.  We love seeing them when they come home, even though it's usually for a short time.  They usually need to re-stock on something or other and then get back on their way of being independent adults again.  Blue sure likes seeing them.

Luke came home for his quarterly trip to the Mayo Clinic to get his CT scan to keep an eye on the nodules on his liver.  The doctor was somewhat concerned that although the nodules had been stable the past couple of times we looked at them, this scan revealed that they are starting to get a little bit bigger.  He's not so concerned that he wants him to get another biopsy, but we are going to pull in his next CT scan by a month so we can just keep watching them and make sure they aren't going to turn into an issue.  If you can keep Luke in your prayers or send him positive vibes if that's more your thing, we'd certainly appreciate it!

As if on cue, our friendly albino squirrels always seem to make an appearance when we are concerned with one of the boys medical situations.  This little guy stopped by our porch every day this week.  This has happened so many times to us over the years it really feels like it has to be more than just coincidences.  In any case, they always give us a little peace of mind whenever we see them and help us to believe that things are going to turn out to be OK.

September 23, 2018

Mallards on the St. Croix

Mallards on the St. Croix
Todd Swank's Diary Update for September 23, 2018

Work brought me to the exciting city of Omaha, Nebraska this week.  Such a colorful place.

Krazy Kory is also in sales and covers Nebraska as well, so we happened to both be in town at the same time.  We connected for lunch and some pre-sales call pep talks to motivate each other to go out and make it happen.  Which we did.

Luke came home from college for a quick visit so we took him to one of our favorite restaurants, The Outback.  Our waitress, Maddie, was a bunch of fun and ended up hanging out with us throughout the night.  We love waitresses like this!

We are in the process of re-modeling one of our bathrooms and found ourselves at The Tile Shop in Burnsville to make some selections.  Bryan was our salesperson and was very helpful for us in making our choices.  If you're in the market and in the neighborhood, I'd recommend him wholeheartedly.

On Saturday, we headed to the St. Croix River for one of our last boat rides of 2018.  The weather is getting cooler and the water temperature is down to 65 degrees already.  Where did summer go?

Captain Karl was ready to take us for a joy ride.

It was us, the Zitzewitzes, and the Browns ready to go for our 3 hour cruise.  We had a special treat in that Tina's mom was also there for the weekend and she makes boat trips extra fun!

The guys stayed up top while the ladies remained down low.  Not sure if there's any significance to that, but it's just the way it worked out.

Is that a chimney on your shore or are you just excited to see me?

Our destination was Mallards Restaurant and Lounge in Bayport.  Miss Sheri and I hadn't been there before, but Karl and Tina really liked it so we looking forward to checking it out.

I was surprised later in the evening when the waiter brought me a drink and told me it was from a gentleman at the bar.  I asked if he was trying to pick me up or something and he said he didn't know.  So I wandered up there and found one of my longtime customers from Nor-Tech, TJ Hoffman.  It was great seeing him!

We thoughts Mallards was great.  They claim to have the best seafood and Cajun food in the Twin Cities.  I had the Jambalaya and thought it was really good, so I guess I wouldn't argue with their claim.  Good times.

September 16, 2018

The 2018 Cabin Classic Golf Tournament

The 2018 Cabin Classic Golf Tournament
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for September 16, 2018

I keep trying to get braver with my drone and to test that I'm flying it over the lake more and more to try to take pictures.  It's definitely a bit stressful because the wind seems to be more powerful over the water and I find it drifting from time to time while I'm trying to get the shots.  But somehow I've kept it from going into the water so far, so hopefully I'll be able to avoid that fate.

On Friday night, I drove down to Clear Lake, Iowa for the 2018 Cabin Classic Golf Tournament.  It's named after Jason Alexander's cabin and the fact that's where we stay for the weekend.  It was good to see the old gang again.

Krazy Kory was even able to join us this year which definitely helped amp up the Kraziness Factor throughout the weekend.  He usually has that kind of effect on things.

All in all there were 13 of us golfing and we decided to go to the course in Sheffield, Iowa for the event.

We did a 2 man best shot tournament and played in groups of 6 so I got to hang with these fellas for the day.  Normally courses frown on sixsomes, but the course was pretty quiet while we were there.  Kind of odd because it was an absolutely beautiful day.

I think your ball went that way.

This course has some unique features, but the thing that stands out the most is "The Ruins" in the middle of hole number 4.  There used to be an old brick and tile company that had stood on this land and these remnants are leftovers from the kilns.  They can be a pretty tough hazard to deal with if you get stuck in the middle of them.

Your concentration can be broken pretty easily when the train comes barreling down the railroad tracks that run alongside the course.  Nice flag, though.

 I tried to explain to Chris that he wasn't using this right, but he just kept smiling and going on with his business.

At night, we like to relax and play some Texas Hold 'em tournaments.  I even managed to win a couple of rounds this year which was a nice change of pace from the usual results.

Chris broke the record for the largest stack of the evening so we had to deal with him rubbing that in our faces all night.

Miss Sheri had a fun week getting the chance to re-connect with her college friends again.  It's always good to see these ladies!

September 9, 2018

Kangaroo Crossing at the Minnesota Zoo

Kangaroo Crossing at the Minnesota Zoo
Todd Swank's Diary Update for September 9, 2018

We went to see our friends, Cathy and Jeff, on Monday.  They have a big pizza bash every year on Labor Day and we like to go to eat our share.  Jeff is a good pizza chef!

The kids are back in college, so our Empty Nester Club had it's best turn-out in months.  We even had some new empty nesters which I guess is probably likely to happen in the Fall.

This will probably be our last gathering at Charlie's on Prior this year.  For some reason, sitting by the lake isn't nearly as much fun in Minnesota when it's fall and winter outside.

We bought season passes to the Minnesota Zoo earlier this year and realized we better go out there again since it's going to expire soon.  We also realized that there's a new attraction called Kangaroo Crossing which we hadn't experienced yet.  I was surprised to see that once you entered the attraction, the kangaroos were basically  able to come on the path to interact with the humans.  I wasn't surprised to see that pretty much all of them were sleeping just beyond the barrier where the humans are not supposed to go.

Miss Sheri tried to tell me that all of these aren't kangaroos, some of them are actually Wallabies.  I don't know the difference between the two, but they kind of look like really big rats to me.

After seeing the claws on these guys, I realized I didn't want to mess with them.

I couldn't tell if she was pregnant or he had some testicular issues.  I'm hoping it's the former.

Another new part of the zoo is back in the swampy area.  They added some walking trails over the top of the water which allows you to get a pretty neat view of the ecosystem.  I just love unique ecosystems.

I felt kind of bad for the turtles.  You'd think they'd get sick and tired of being this dirty all the time.

This funny looking bird had the right idea.  Stay above the green goop and it won't mess up your yellow feet.

It actually ended up being quite the lovely day for a walk around the zoo.

The bears were being kind of frisky.  Probably gotta get it out of their systems before settling down for their long winter's nap.

We had never seen the camel this close to the fence.  He was so wanting to get that sweet, sweet green.

We'd also never seen the moose this close to the fence.  He's got a bunch of crap all over his antlers which really bothered me.  I kept beckoning him to come up to me so I could help him clear it all off, but he ignored me.  His loss.  

After the zoo, we stopped at the Burnsville Fire Muster which is a community festival where they bring in all the fire trucks and let people play with their hoses.  Seemed like a lot of wasted water to me.

One of the food trucks had a unique system for gathering tips.  I guess this settles it.  The Vikings are winning the Super Bowl this year!

We continue having fun with our new drone and haven't got it stuck or dropped it in the lake yet.  I can imagine that will be happening soon.

I keep thinking our albino squirrel friends will disappear for awhile and then look in the backyard and there's another one.  They must really like us.