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Outside the Fire http://outsidethefire.org Tue, 03 Apr 2012 17:46:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.19 Something I learned today http://outsidethefire.org/?p=379 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=379#comments Tue, 03 Apr 2012 17:46:54 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=379 For my tech geek friends, I learned a new feature of robocopy today.  (Source)

I had to recreate the directory structure of one server on another server, including permissions.  At first I copied the files over with xcopy and then started comparing permissions.  After three folders (out of hundreds), I got bored and figured there had to be a better way.

There was.

Robocopy was something I played around with back in my DOS 6.22 days.  And it’s still around (which is pretty cool).

So for the curious, if you ever need to replicate a directory structure from one machine to another (or even on the same machine) and include file permissions, the below is what will do it for you:

robocopy "source" "destination" /e /z /SEC /xf *

source – your source directory.
destination – your destination directory
/e – include empty subdirectories (use /s if don’t want empty subdirectories)
/z – copy in recoverable mode (in case of error)
/SEC – copy permissions
/xf * – exclude files matching * (everything)

Thus ends today’s geek lesson.

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Where is my Tricorder? http://outsidethefire.org/?p=339 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=339#comments Tue, 05 Jul 2011 12:00:03 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=339

For the past month I have been floored with a sinus infection /cold / allergies / Heaven only knows what is going on.  I’ve had lots of time to think, ponder, and squirrel away packets of food in case I get hungry while hacking up my lungs (maybe it’s the  squirrel flu??).

This….plague…involved two trips to the doctor, several trips to the pharmacy, and many hours of sleepless nights.  All this had me thinking the obvious….where is my tricorder?

Many who know me (and now, those of you who don’t), know that I have successfully walked the fine line between loving Star Wars and loving Star Trek.  To me it’s never been a problem – one is about a whiny farm boy who goes out and saves the universe, the other has light sabers.  One fights an evil Empire, and the other battles his father.  They are very obviously two different stories told using outer space as the background.

One thing that Star Trek featured that Star Wars simply included in the background is the medical scanning device (nicknamed, obviously, the tricorder from it’s ability to um….triangulate recordings).  One quick scan with this magical device and doctors, nurses, random Vulcans, or medical droids were able to ascertain what was wrong, and which dial to twirl on the hypo-spray to make you better.

Wrr, wrr, wrr — Hm, it says here you’ve got a minor infection of the upper cardio cephalogram.


Whatever, take this.  Pfft.

Wow, I feel better.  What was that?

Hypospray setting #2.  The Tricorder said to give you that one.


Alas, instead I must fight through the visits with the doctor, the guessing, the hoping, the needless pills and days of feeling icky.

Unfortunately, this thought process got me thinking of other things that television and movies have been promising me forever that still aren’t here.  I figured after they got the personal communicator working (cell phone), it would certainly be simple enough to give me the other things I’ve been promised.

I imagine a world in which I can talk to my wife using the video phone, wave good bye to my Rosie robot maid, take a jet pack to the parking garage and use my flying car to get to work.  Lunch is easy at work now that they can make all meals in drink form. After work, I can come home to my kids playing on their hoverboards, and the door opens as I approach.  I turn on the news to see that there is an air shortage on Mars and it is resulting in more Martians being born with…um…extra…tracts of land.  Needing to zip over to my dad’s place across the country, I hop on my transporter after replicating him a delicious dinner.  Before I go, the news reports trouble with the Klingons and the Gungans in some far away galaxy.  Unfortunately, with the invention of Warp Drive that far away galaxy is only 12 parsecs away.  Not to worry, we’ve convinced the Rosies robot maids of the world to form up and instead of attacking humans, take on the Klingons and Gungans. Dinner for the kids  is a snap with my PB&J gun and I tuck the kids in bed telling them stories of how we used to have to get movies from a store to watch them.  I relax by remote controlling my Avatar in a real world version of dungeons and dragons.

I realize I have a grand vision of how I expect the future to look, but really it’s the fault of TV when you think about it.  Without all these awesome inventions, promises, and just plain spectacular cool-ness that is dangled in front of us year after year, how could anyone not expect the future to be full of jump suits and spandex leotards?

This article originally appeared in Dave’s Computer Tips on June 26, 2011.


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High Maintenance http://outsidethefire.org/?p=323 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=323#comments Tue, 01 Jun 2010 08:45:52 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=323 Every 3000 miles, my truck needs an oil change. I’ve accepted this. In fact, I make reminders to myself to get the truck into the shop so that the oil is changed on a regular schedule. Tune ups, tire inflation, oil changes, this is all part of owning the vehicle.

So why is it when it comes to computers I grunt and groan and belly ache whenever the computer needs maintenance. I expect it to turn on and just work without any performance care on my part. And why not? Computers are smarter than cars. I have to tell the car where to go, the computer should know exactly what I want it to do. The car has moving parts that I can look at, the computer is a box under my desk (or in my lap) that makes some noise but doesn’t have anything moving that I can see.

And yet, computers need just as much TLC as a car does. Except instead of an oil change, I run a virus scan. Instead of a tune up, I open the case and blow the dust out. I clear out temp folders and files instead of putting air in my tires. I backup and make duplicate copies of all my important files instead of…ok, so there is no equivalent here. But wouldn’t it be nice to walk away from a car wreck, shrug your shoulders, and say “That’s ok, I have a backup in my garage.”?

I replace my car every 3-5 years as a matter of course, dropping thousands of dollars on replacement vehicles. Yet I expect my computer to last forever. I expect it to never need replaced and always functional. I gripe when it comes time to drop any additional money on my computer.

Lately, I’ve found that my attitudes towards all this have been shifting. Instead of getting an oil change, I’ll scan my hard drive for malware. Instead of a tune up for my truck, I’ll tear apart my computer and clean dust out of the corners. This could explain why my transmission is no longer working…

This post originally appeared in Dave’s Computer Tips issue #53 on May 1, 2010.

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Kids say the darndest things… http://outsidethefire.org/?p=314 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=314#comments Fri, 09 Apr 2010 02:43:20 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=314 Tonight, my oldest son came down the stairs (after bedtime of course) and the following conversation took place:

(he’s 6 by the way)

Son: “Um…what would be the effects if someone were to swallow a quarter?  Or a token?”
Me: “Uh.  Did you swallow a quarter?”
Son: “No, I swallowed my Chuck E. Cheese Token”
Me: “…”
Son: “How do I get it out?”
Me: “It’ll come out eventually.  It will hurt too.”
Son: “Oh. ”
Me: “Why was it in your mouth?”
Son: “I don’t know.  I’m sorry!”
Me: “You’re not in trouble, I was just curious.”
Son: “Can we get it out?”
Me: “Nope.  You’ll have to do it on your own.”
Son: “OK.  I really liked that token.”

He heads on back up to bed and my wife and I shake our heads and laugh.  How?  Why?  What? Really?

My first thought was to call poison control (after all, it’s a foreign substance), but I turned to Google instead.   Kids seem to swallow all sorts of things.  Google helpfully suggested a quarter, dime, penny, nickel, coin, tooth, etc.  But I saw some that gave me pause.  Marble.  Lego. Battery?  Why would a kid have a battery in his mouth long enough for a parent to need to Google this?  I digress…

A bit of poking around Google results confirmed what I already knew.  As long as he passes it, all is fine.

About 20 minutes after the above conversation, he’s back downstairs again.  (Yes, this is a nightly ritual of playing the bed yo-yo game).  He holds up a coin and says “Wa-da!  I found it under my leg!”  Huh.  OK, good.  Go back to bed.

I don’t think it’s good that I worry this much about my 6 year old. At least he didn’t really swallow the token, he only thought he had.

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How to Change a Car Battery in 2.5 Hours http://outsidethefire.org/?p=306 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=306#comments Tue, 30 Mar 2010 11:05:08 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=306 Here’s a humorous story of how I took a twenty minute battery change and made it last two and a half hours.  Yes, I’m that talented.

Sunday morning, the family piled into the car to head off to church.  We got everyone situated, buckled in, kids had drinks, everything was good.  Turn the key in the ignition and….  nothing.  Well, sort of.  The quick rat-a-tat-tat of the starter told me something was going on…but a not running car told me it wasn’t anything good.  No problem, we’ll jump the car.  I turn the truck around, raise the hood of both vehicles, pull the jumper cables out and…have an embarrassing moment as I forgot what goes where.  A quick call to the neighbor, who came over and laughed a bit but helped get the cables all set up.  Car is jumped, we’re off to church.  We’re now late.

After church, we pile all back into the car and turn the key and…nothing.  This time there was no rat-a-tat or anything.  Sigh.  No worries, flagged down a friend and got the car jumped and we’re off to home again.  Get home, pull in the garage, turn off the car, and decide it might be time to replace the battery.

Pack the family away safe inside the house, change clothes, and head out to the Internet to figure out the right order to disconnect the cables.  (FWIW — I used the lovely site eHow.com) Next I head out to the garage to face the (according to the Internet) simple task of replacing the battery.  I pull out my tools, raise the hood of the car, and begin.

Step 1: Disconnect negative battery terminal – It took a few attempts, but I found the right size wrench and disconnected the negative battery terminal.

Step 2: Disconnect positive battery terminal – I thought this would be easy, but the positive terminal was a different size then the negative terminal.  A few different attempts with a couple different wrenches and this one came off easily.

Step 3: Remove battery – How hard could this be?  Grab battery and lift.  Wait, it’s stuck.  What?  Oh, there’s a bolt holding it down.  Now this bolt was at the bottom of the battery.  held in place with a nut.  None of my sockets fit over the bolt to get on the nut.  I eyeballed the nut, guessed at its size (can you see where this is going?) and hopped in the truck to get to Autozone and get the deep socket I (thought I) needed.  I bought the socket, went home, and…it didn’t fit.  I needed the next size up.

No problem — hop in the truck, back to Autozone, this time I see a full set of the sockets that I need.  For a bit more then the single socket (but not much more).  Get those, back home, and…they still don’t fit.  I have American sockets, the bolt is metric.  And rusted enough that the American sockets are slipping.  Sigh.

This time I went to Advanced Auto because I felt silly going back to Autozone for a third time.  Walked in, told them what I needed…they were out of stock.  Sigh.  I see a sign up on their wall “Free Battery Install”.  Hmm..  What’s the price on your battery?  They told me, and it was about $10 more than the battery at Autozone.  OK…sure, why not.   I leave Advanced Auto (sans tools) and head home.  However, I refused to be defeated by a simple bolt.  And how else could I know that the job was done right unless I did it myself?  I talked myself out of having Advanced Auto do it and went to Autozone and bought a metric kit with the deep socket I needed.  At this point, I think I’m on a first name basis with the check out guy (Tim).

I return home, and use my new socket to remove the battery from the car.  Put the battery in the truck and head back to Autozone yet again.  They test the battery (yes, it was dead.  Bad would have been an improvement), and pull down the one I need.  I pay, take it home and begin again the process, but in reverse.

Step 4: Clear corrosion from terminal contacts – easy.  Took me 2 minutes.

Step 5: Place battery in car – Easy again.  And with my new handy dandy tools, was able to rebolt the battery into place.

Step 6: Hook up positive battery terminal – it’s so much easier to do things in reverse.

Step 7: Hook up negative battery terminal - And again.  Now we’re done.

Start up the car, and everything works.  Let it run for a few minutes while I clean up, set the clock on the radio, etc.  To test again, I turn off the car.  Wait a few minutes, then restart it.  Starts great.

And just like that, this simple 20 minute job is done 2.5 hours later.

So, lessons learned:

  • Don’t eyeball bolt sizes.
  • Buy kits instead of individual sockets.
  • Never buy a car again that uses both metric and American sizes under the hood (yeah, I know, good luck with that).

So…if anyone around here needs their car battery changed out, give me a call.  I have the tools and experience to do it now!

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Digital Identity Crisis http://outsidethefire.org/?p=291 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=291#comments Tue, 23 Mar 2010 20:56:08 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=291 Since my introduction to the Internet (Geocities anyone?), I’ve kept a healthy respect for the necessity of a hard line between real life and digital.  Frankly, in a world of Google, Facebook, and Twitter it’s probably fair to say that most people don’t have much privacy left.  Knowing that everything that goes onto the Internet will eventually leak out to the World Wide Web helps keep a sobering perspective on what exactly is posted.  I’m fighting hard to keep my kids anonymous until they are old enough to decide for themselves (for all the good that will do — :D).  To date, I’ve fought hard to keep my life as anonymous as possible from the perspective of Google.

And yet…I recognize that the world is changing.  Privacy is quickly diminishing, if it even truly exists anymore. The social aspects of life are moving online in ways that ten years ago would have simply been unbelievable.  The world is truly morphing, and with it I feel myself beginning to relent.  And this leads me to my digital identity crisis.

Since 1995 when I stumbled into my first AOL chat room and was able to reach out to the world from my living room (well, my aunt’s office technically), I’ve hidden my online personas behind a morass of digital identities.  People who knew me could usually sort it out, but to the world at large I (hopefully) remained unsearchable.

And now Facebook is tearing those walls down.  I’m not a huge fan of Facebook and rarely use it beyond the occasional game of Wordscraper, but I’m beginning to see the value in putting the real me out as a real person, not just another online persona.  I often wonder if the people who actually know me just laugh and scoff over the inane usernames I pick that bear no relationship to who I actually am.  Do they understand the need for privacy?  Do I?  Everytime I see a tagged photo leaving someone in a not so happy looking situation, I wonder who will end up seeing that photo? Who will see it that that person doesn’t want to have seen it?

And maybe I worry over nothing.  After all, how interesting am I (or any of us save a few) as a person that I would ever need to worry about someone even bothering to find me on the Internet, let alone worry about someone connecting me to an old hacker name I no longer use.  As an individual, I’m really not that interesting.  The paranoia in me screams out in terror every time I think about it.

As an example, I once took a friend’s Twitter id (just her id from one post!) and used Google to pull tons of information about her.  I scared her into blocking her posts for a bit (sorry!).  But this is what people need to be hyper-aware of.

In fact, there was a website up for a while (pleaserobme.com) which watched Twitter / Facebook / {insert social network of choice} and reported when users reported they were not home.  They’ve stopped, they got their point across. It’s indeed scary.

Thus, my identity crisis.  It’s one I think I’m going to fight for a long time to come.  Maybe this blog will be a lessening of the boundaries I’ve set up, but within reason.

Word to my invisible audience of 6ish — be careful what you post anywhere online.  It’s permanent, and not nearly as private as you assume it is.

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Fun with FiOS http://outsidethefire.org/?p=7 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=7#comments Tue, 16 Mar 2010 19:16:49 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=7 I wanted to post about my FiOS experience while it was still fresh. You guys will get a kick out of this (Verizon provides DSL and Fiber and is our local telco where I live).  Names would have been changed but I just don’t care.

In September, 2009 I moved around the corner from where I live. The landlord where I was living sold the house and didn’t renew my lease so it was time to go. I called Verizon and told them I was moving and I needed to transfer my service. Told them I’m moving 9/26/09 and would love to have the service overlap by a couple days, but they were unable to do that. OK….can you do the transfer on the 26th? No problem I’m told.

That call was on 9/9/09 or so. The next day, our Internet and TV service are shut off. WTH?!?! Call Verizon, spent 2-3 hours on the phone with them, oh we messed up. someone will be out in a week to hook you up. No, I say, you turned it off remotely, turn it back on remotely. “We can’t sir, someone has to come out and check your lines before we can reactivate service.” ~blink~

WHAT?? I had service this morning and the lines were fine!! Do you think I ripped them up to spite you? Six supervisors later, many frustrations, yellings, and expletives later, my Internet and TV were turned back on. At this point I told them I only wanted to transfer the Internet, didn’t need their TV service anymore. “Oh yes sir, no problem” I’m told.

~sigh~ That should have been a sign.

Remember, I’m moving on the 26th? On 9/24/09 My Internet gets shut off again. WTH?!?!? Another 2 hours on the phone with Verizon “support” and I get “We had to disconnect it today to move your account on the 26th?” Wha?? I was told specifically, I say, that it would be no problem to maintain service through the 26th for my move that day. “I understand sir, but it’s been shut off” Well, turn it back on! “We’ll have to schedule someone to come out and check your lines.” ~sigh~. 4 supervisors later, many yellings and swearings and my Internet was turned back on. For two days. They insisted on charging my credit card $2.47 – the amount of two days of service. Really? Fine. whatever. “Oh, and for your trouble sir, we’re extending you one month of free service”. Well, how nice. Why the $2.47 charge? No one knows.

So I move, bills cross in the mail, October bill is sent to my old address. I don’t think anything about it cuz things take time to change. Then a charge for way more than my service appears on my credit card (yes the same one from above) from Verizon. So I call Verizon. Another 2 hour phone call ensues in which they check every account I’ve ever had and have no idea why that billing showed up on my credit card. OK, I say, why did you bill my credit card? “We don’t know.” Take it off then. “We can’t unless we know how we billed you.” What’s to stop you from doing again? “You could close your credit card….” I call my credit card company and they remove the charge and charge it back to Verizon.

As if this wasn’t enough…my November bill comes shortly thereafter. It’s sent to the wrong address. Sigh. OK, computer glitch. Call Verizon, say hey my billing address is wrong, you’re sending the bills to the wrong address. “Oh, we’ll be happy to change that for you sir, we’ll just need a credit card number.” Wha??? “Yes sir, you’re an Internet only account now, we require a credit card on file.” Umm…the last time I gave you a credit card number I got random charges unrelated to my account. “That’s unfortunate sir, but we do require a credit card.” Umm…no. I don’t have one. “Then we can’t change your address. The system won’t let us.” Then I can’t pay a bill I don’t receive. “Then we’ll be forced to turn you over to collections.” Don’t get me wrong, I want to pay the bill, but if I’m not receiving them, I can’t pay them. “Yes sir.” Ummm….ok.

I hang up. Very frustrated. Prepared to write consumer affairs, the BBB, God, Gandhi, Bill Gates, whoever…I post on twitter “VERIZON FAIL: changing a mailing address should not require a credit card. Comcast is looking better and better.” Within seconds a rep from Comcast has replied to my tweet. “Can I help?” By the next day I was in touch with a senior account rep at Comcast who had me sold on a new line from them. With paper billing (laughably, my one requirement in an ISP…).

Call Verizon today to try one more time (Comcast had a 30 day cancellation policy with no penalty) to change my address. I go straight to the cancellation department. “Hello can I help you?” Yes, I guess I need to cancel my account because you guys can’t send your bill to the right address without a credit card that I don’t have. “We should be able to send your bill, let me look.” Ok, fine. “Oh, you’re Internet only”. That’s right. “We need a credit card.” I don’t have one. “Then I can’t change your address.” What do you suggest? “Get a credit card.” Umm….no. “I can give you a $25 account credit.” Will that change my address? “Not without a credit card.” Then that won’t do me any good. “So you’re refusing the account credit?” No, I’m just saying that won’t solve my problem. “What will solve your problem?” Seriously? Changing my billing address. “I’m not able to do that without a credit card.” And I’m not able to give you one. “Then I can’t change your address.” And I can’t pay a bill you’re not sending to me. “Yes sir.”

I think Verizon is full of retards at this point (sorry).

Fine, cancel my account. “Yes sir. You are under contract and we will be charging you a fee for breaking it.” Wha???? How can you accuse me of breaking a contract when you refuse to send me bills to pay? “We are sending bills sir.” Not to me. “Then we need to change your address.” Then change it. “Not without a credit card sir.” I don’t have one. “Then I can’t change your address.” and I can’t pay you without a bill. “yes sir.”

I had them cancel the account. Surprisingly, they asked me for an address to send the final bill to.

Verizon says they record these phone calls…i wonder if I can get a copy?

Fast forward 4 months, I’m still receiving bills from Verizon – for existing service.  I’ve sent several letters…no response just more bills.  I may call again.

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The Cost of Discipleship http://outsidethefire.org/?p=161 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=161#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2009 17:57:00 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=161 Well…I know I don’t blog often, and I know I’ve never blogged seriously, so this is going to surprise just about everyone, I think.

Last night my church held it’s kickoff meeting for the 2009 Men’s Ministry events. What this has mean in years past is that we’d get together, eat pizza, shoot the breeze, and talk about activities that we may or may not do as a group of men in the church. All basic light and fluffy crap. This is why I never actually attended before, so I could be wrong on what they did, but outward appearances did not suggest otherwise.

This year was different. We knew going in that this wouldn’t be typical. We were asked to show up with no knowledge of the agenda. Our wives were asked to pray and fast and “strongly encourage” husbands to attend. Even if I knew nothing else, I knew that this event was being given some weight. Surely they wouldn’t do this for pizza and soda, would they? No, they didn’t.

Our pastor got up in front of about 30-40 men of our church (though I didn’t actually count so I don’t know how many were actually there). He spilled his heart, shared his vision, and sat down. I won’t go into all the details here, but the short of it is that he called us to follow a different model of Christianity: discipleship.

Now I’ve been in and around the church all my life. When I hear the word discipleship, I immediately start thinking of another class to sit through on another Tuesday night in another church basement learning from a book the ins and outs of how to serve God. But that’s the Christian view of discipleship, not God’s.

Now last night could not have come at a more perfect time. It’s winter, so I’m already in my closed in depressive funk where I don’t want to do anything and I feel cooped up and cannot accomplish anything. Add to this money troubles, economy concerns, and some stir-craziness and I’m in a right state already. Yet, I felt….something. I could call it God speaking, though I’m not sure I’ve ever learned to actually hear his voice. I just know that something in me was reminding me of college, when I fought for what was right, when I challenged the status quo and my brain was active, engaged, and living. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was forming a group of disciples around me, and I didn’t even have the answers!

What? Disciples? Maybe not in the Christian sense of the word, but I was surrounded by people who listened to me, talked to me, learned from me, and were influenced by me. I did not lead anyone in college anywhere that I am proud of, but I did lead. And people followed. And I miss that. Not the heady sense of power in that people listen to me, but the influence I have/had in other people’s lives.

So I’m remembering all this…I think it was Friday night, maybe Saturday night. I’m thinking, ‘Something has to change, I’m not happy anymore’. I go to church Sunday morning and we had communion. During communion I begged God for something different, a change, anything.

So Sunday night was really the perfect time for me. My heart had been prepped and readied and I was ready to follow.

I don’t know where this road will lead. God promised only to light the path at my feet, not show me where to go. All I can see is the next step. Then he’ll show me the step after that, and the step after that, etc. If what the pastor said was true (and most everyone reading this knows about my issues with pastors), then this…opportunity is exactly what I have been looking for. If he’s wrong and/or if it’s not, I can’t stop here. What was described Sunday night is what I need.

So, that’s really the end of this post. I’m challenging everyone reading this to hold me accountable as I try to pursue a Biblical following of Christ, not just the acceptable definition of Christian. I may offend people, though it’s not my intent, and I doubt anyone will agree with me, but that’s why its my blog, so I can say what I will.

Does anyone accept the challenge? Will anyone hold me accountable? Or, moreover, is anyone willing to take this journey with me? Please know that I don’t have all the answers. But I’m hoping to find some.

comments will be screened for this entry. I hope the reasons are obvious.

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I’ve slowed down…. http://outsidethefire.org/?p=160 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=160#comments Thu, 29 May 2008 17:04:00 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=160 87 words


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Komets win the Turner cup in 3 OT! http://outsidethefire.org/?p=159 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=159#comments Tue, 13 May 2008 19:41:00 +0000 http://outsidethefire.org/?p=159 So I realize that no one really knows who the Komets are or why you should care, but this is my blog so there! :P

The Komets are an IHL hockey team based here in my town. Normally I don’t watch hockey, but this was the championship (the super Bowl of IHL hockey). So I went, since it was game 7, and we won, but it took three overtimes.

So I didn’t get to bed til 2 last night.

But still….

Alright, I’m done bragging. You may go back to your regularly scheduled lives.

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