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The Samurai's Heart by Walt Mussell

The Samurai's Heart

by Walt Mussell

Giveaway ends January 08, 2018.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rumors

Add your own choice of Fleetwood Mac music in your head as you read this,.

There is a rumor going about that Gus Malzahn drinks a lot of coffee. I can appreciate this. I drink unseemly amounts of coffee, enough to concern my wife, and can sleep through a 11:00 p.m. double espresso shot.

However, I’m not about to unleash an offense that people have in their heads as having failed miserably last year. Still, it’s good to know that Malzahn is up late. Auburn fans lost of sleep last year and we appreciate the coaches not getting much sleep either.

So, with a week to go, what is there to say.

Tyrik Rollison, though laid up with rumors of the flu, was already back at practice this week. Tyrik, if you do feel even a slight twinge of cold, get back home. Flu bugs can destroy teams for weeks.

Gene Chizik, stay with it if the rumors are true that you enforced stern discipline on Ed Burns. Auburn fans do appreciate principles.

Trooper Taylor, if the rumors are true (and yes, I’ve definitely read that this one is) that you instill a family concept with you receivers, stay with it, please. It’s how teams are built.

Auburn Team, if the rumors are true that you display signs of the score of last year’s Iron Bowl for motivation, stay motivated. We are, too.

And, as hopefully foes of ours throughout the SEC are about to find out, rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated. And whether you agree or disagree with me on this, I’d love to hear about it.

With football opening next Saturday on the Plains. Please visit on Wednesday and Sunday for previews and post mortems.

War Eagle!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Braves Still In The Hunt

Yes, I know. The last three days were a blow to fans. After taking two of three from the Marlins to go ahead of them in the standings, blowing the series to the Padres hurts our chances. (As Joe Simpson said tonight, "They're running out of games.") But it's not over yet. And with it being late August, that's still a good thing. The Braves are still in the playoff hunt for the first time since I arrived in town in 2006. I realize in 2007 that they acquired Mark Teixeira to hopefully make the playoffs, but injuries decimated that team and they fell into a losing streak. However, with injuries still hurting this year’s Braves (pretty much most of the season, including last weekend when three outfielders on the bench), this team still has a chance.

But is that true? My gut tells me that the division race is out of reach. As Skip Caray used to say, it’s not “Games Behind” that matters so much as differences in the loss column. At this writing, the Braves and Phillies have too many losses difference to make it up with less than 40 games to go. It would take a collapse of Met-like proportion by the Phillies for the Braves to overcome it. Even with six games remaining against the Phillies, a 5-1 record would only eliminate half of the deficit as of this writing.

However, the Wild Card is still definitely attainable, despite the performance of the last three days. The Braves trail the Rockies by 4.5 games (with only four in the loss column) and the Giants are also ahead of them. (The Braves and Marlins are tied. They have seven games left with each other and can ether fight it out or one team can just put the other away.) Between the Braves and the Rockies, the remaining schedule looks easiest for the Rockies. Both teams have a sizable number of home games left, but Coors Field is one of the biggest home-field advantages in baseball. However, the Rockies have three left against the Dodgers and seven against the Giants and none of those will be easy. Like the Braves, the Rockies also have three left against the Cardinals. The Giants also have numerous games with the Dodgers in addition to their match-ups with the Rockies, plus a big three game series in Philadelphia.

With all that in mind (and with the Braves starting a seven game road trip today with three against the Phillies and four against the Marlins), it still promises to be an exciting September. Click here to check out the Braves website and find good deals on upcoming games. Remaining home series are.

9/4 – 9/6 Cincinnati
9/15 -9/17 New York Mets
9/18 – 9/20 Philadelphia Phillies
9/28 – 9/30 Florida Marlins
10/1 – 10/4 Washington Nationals

Go Braves!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Skynyrd Lives

“Daddy,” my second-grade son said to me over the weekend, “I stopped a kid from singing at school.

“Singing? Why would you stop him from singing?”

“Well, he started singing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. I stood up and said ‘I hate Alabama.’”

I had to chuckle at that one. While my kid learned shortly thereafter from his friend (and also his older brother who was listening to the conversation) that the song refers to the state and not the team. (Besides, no child should be dissuaded from belting out Lynyrd Skynyrd at appropriate times). However, my son still expressed his true feelings.

I had to at least admire the sentiment. I can’t stand Alabama either. And it’s good to know that my kids have developed an affinity for my alma mater, even though college should be about education and not sports. Their mom attended Drew, a school in New Jersey that doesn’t have a football team. (Drew does have a very active alumni office. When we moved from Portland to Atlanta in 2006, my wife received her first alumni donation request from Drew within a month. Trust me, we didn’t tell them.)

However, though my kids are learning to bleed orange-and-blue, it hasn’t always been easy. One of my older son’s teachers in elementary school was a rabid LSU fan. My older son has developed a secondary affinity for LSU that likely caused his great-grandmother to turn over in her grave. For the SEC Championship game between LSU and Tennessee two seasons ago, we had relatives (one a Tennessee grad) over for what we titled a “Let’s cheer on Uncle Tap’s team party.” My son, bless his heart, followed what he picked up from his teacher. (What are we allowing the schools to teach our kids anyway?)

So, when it comes to SEC football, what interesting things have your kids said and done? I’d love to hear it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Camping with Dad

One of the two activities my older son enjoys the most is the Boy Scouts. (The other is baseball.) Scout meetings are fun. He likes being with other kids, but what he really enjoys is camping. When he shifted from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts earlier this year, we discovered that his new troop has at least one weekend activity per month. However, as he had baseball games every weekend, he often couldn’t join them. Finally, the spring baseball season ended and Andrew went away on his first trip. He had a blast.

And then the summer came.

With trips to the beach and to visit to California to visit my wife’s parents, Andrew missed many activities including Scout Camp (to which he’s determined to go next year). When my family returned in August, I knew the same conflict between baseball and camping would arise again. So, I tried to ensure he could make the camping excursion in August. Because it was a family outing, I wanted to go with him. (OK. I asked to make sure I wouldn’t cramp his style, but he was happy to have his dad along.) I considered taking my younger son, but figured he might make the weekend difficult. I could make it difficult without his help, given that I hadn’t been camping since my own Boy Scout days.

We hit Lake Lanier on a Friday night and got our tent set up. My older son was excited and lachrymal at the same time. The baseball coach had called on Thursday. The first two practices were Friday and Saturday, both quicker than anyone had expected. However, Andrew quickly lost himself in the activities, spending most of Saturday earning a canoeing merit badge with a couple of boat trips thrown in for good measure. By afternoon, I was in the water helping him and the other kids who would also earn their canoeing badge that day.

We returned home late Sunday morning. My wife refused to kiss me until I’d had a good hot shower. My son said he was glad he had gone because he’d had fun and really liked earning the badge. I’d enjoyed spending a weekend out with my older son, though my younger son was jealous. However, I’m left with two questions from the weekend.

1) When I was young, what did the adults do since they didn’t have Twitter?

2) What was I thinking when I forgot to bring soap?

How about for you? For those who went camping when they were younger and have since taken their kids, how have camping trips changed over the years?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's Todd

Mid-season last year, within a week of the firing of former OC Tony Franklin, somebody sent me a cartoon of Franklin talking to a Rhett Butler-type mustache wearing Tommy Tuberville. The captions had Tony Franklin asking “Where shall I go? What shall I do?” Tuberville’s response was “Franklin my dear, I don’t give a %@~>!” (I’ve been unable to paste the cartoon, or I would have put it here.)

When Franklin came to Auburn, he brought with him one of his recruits, Chris Todd, a former Texas Tech QB who supposedly could run the spread offense. Todd lasted for part of the season before injuries and fan demands put Kodi Burns in the QB spot. Most Auburn fans saw Todd as part of a duo with Franklin. When Franklin left and (then nearly the entire coaching staff followed), many Auburn fans probably thought they’d seen the last of Todd. Technically, people knew Todd was still around. However, they probably held him in lower regard (in terms of football only) than Daniel Cobb.

For those of you that may not remember, Cobb, a senior in 2001, was pushed to the side in favor of a freshman named Jason Campbell. It was one of the first times I could remember where Auburn football, who like the Republican party often chooses its leaders by primogeniture (the oldest guy gets the nod), said the future is now. Though the season ended not the way we would have hoped, Cobb is now etched in Auburn lore as coming off the bench to lead Auburn to an upset win over #1 Florida when Damon Duval’s 44-yard kick into the wind and rain sailed through the uprights at the end of the game.

Back to now. Todd has survived. Last week, he was named the starting QB. Kodi Burns, an incredible athlete who people thought might be the QB, has been practicing with the receivers in a move that gives Auburn a lot of flexibility if it works. (Think Antawn Randal-El.) For Todd, to come back and face his critics and win the QB role, is something that demands respect. It proves his character. Last year, he often played hurt. This shows his character, too.

Am I Todd fan? No. The feeling I had when I heard he’d won the starting QB job is the same I’d had when I’d discovered Chizik got the head coaching job.

But I am an Auburn fan.

And people who can shine through adversity are people who make Auburn better.

We’ve had a week or so to think about this QB news. Now that you’ve had a chance to roll it around in your mind, I want to know what you think about Auburn’s chances with Todd at the helm.

War Eagle!

Friday, August 21, 2009

See Atlanta

My family and I go to Japan every four years to visit friends and family. However, in September, we will get the opportunity to welcome friends from there to Atlanta. In looking for things to do while our visitors are here, one of the things we discovered was an Atlanta City Pass. The pass (click here to be taken to the website) offers an opportunity to see six of Atlanta’s main attractions in nine days. The sites include: Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Zoo Atlanta, and the CNN Tour with options on Fernbank, Atlanta Botanical Garden, High Museum of Art, and the Atlanta History Center.

Yes, I know. Summer’s over and school has started. However, it’s something to think about, either for guests coming to town or for long weekends (or over two weekends with it being nine days) where you could fit in a lot of activities that you want to do. And with the pass only costing $69 (kids: $49), the value might be right.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Question of Money

You know eventually we’ll see a survey come out about it.

Someone will start comparing the amount spent per game by Auburn and Alabama on its head coaches in the first year. Alabama paid Saban $4 million and he went 6-6. This equates to $667 thousand for each victory. (Yes, I’m rounding, but what’s a dollar give or take, when we discuss the annual salaries coaches make. It’s equivalent to being tasked to cut $100 million from a trillion-dollar budget.)

Chizik is getting paid $1.9 million. Translation: three wins and Auburn is getting more bang for its buck out of its supposed savior on the gridiron, at least in the first year. I’ll think we’ll meet this target easily. However, Auburn, which has a habit of paying coaches that no longer work for the University, is still sending a check for $5 million to Tuberville sometime this season (if I have my understanding of the buyout). That’s right. It’s paying Tuberville more not to coach this year than Alabama paid Saban to coach in his first year. Combined, Auburn will pay current and former head coaches $6.9 million this season. Combining Shula’s buyout clause ($4 million over five years) with Saban’s contract, Alabama paid only $4.8 million in 2007. (I’m not adjusting for the job Shula took after Alabama fired him. However, adding in Shula’s contract means Alabama paid $800K per victory in 2007.)

A note on Tuberville: I honestly don’t begrudge him his buyout. His agent negotiated it. We had some great years under him with a lot of exciting football. God bless him. However, I feel when looking at the money Auburn is paying this year, we have to acknowledge the money going out.

So here are my questions?

1) In looking at a per game value for wins, should we include what is going to former head coaches? Or should we treat it as a sunk cost from a contract we’ve written off?

2) If we do include the money going to Tuberville, then Auburn needs nine wins this season to reach a per game value that exceeds what Alabama paid during Saban’s first year. Assuming my prediction of 7-5 is correct, Auburn will have 13 games this year (including the bowl game). Let’s say that we win the bowl game, that means we need to win eight games during the regular season. What teams can we upset? I predicted losses to West Virginia, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Alabama. Let’s hear reasons why I’m wrong on specific games, other than just pride.

3) Will the announced failure on Monday of Colonial Bank have any effect on Bobby Lowder’s influence, real or perceived, in the Auburn athletic department?

War Eagle!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Return to the Mundane

On the first Wednesday in August, my wife and kids returned from their visit to southern California to visit my wife’s parents. They’d been gone for a month. I did visit them for ten days in the middle of their stay, but it was still a long month. During the last ten days, when I had returned and they were still there, I went a little stir crazy. I especially had trouble sleeping. After 14 years, I’m accustomed to having her there. I can't relax when she's gone.

So, on the day when she and the boys came home, I was at the airport a little early. I’d been afraid of being caught in traffic, but there were no issues. Of course, the plane was late. I had coffee and did my best to be patient.

From the airport, we headed home, stopping at a fast food restaurant to get something to eat. Then we went home to what I hoped was a clean house. I’d done my best to keep it as such. Granted, I was only one person. How much damage could I do? The dishes were in the dishwasher. The clothes were washed. Things were put away. Mo immediately noticed that I hadn’t changed the tablecloth since the time she’d left and made a crack about it. Life was suddenly back to normal.

On Thursday, my wife called me at work. “I found your science project.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Did you eat any rice while you were home alone?”

“Nope. Was on the South Beach Diet while I was home. No starches.”

There was a pause on the other end. “I left you some rice in the rice cooker. You haven’t touched that since I left.”

“Didn’t know it was there.”

“Well, that explains why the rice had changed color..”

Ok. Maybe I missed a few things here and there.

With school coming the following Monday, the boys didn’t much time to relax. On Thursday, they went to the open houses. On Friday, they rested, only a little, for the first time in month. Friday night, we watched the season premier of Monk, the favorite TV show of the family and one we always try to watch together. On Saturday, I got up early like I always do, and made my older son waffles. Both had baseball tryouts later that day, as we prepared for another season.

On Sunday, we went to church, something else we hadn’t done as a family since they’d been gone. Mo shopped for school supplies afterwards, and we went along for the ride.

It was definite a mundane weekend.

And it was good to have my family home. Without them, the place had only been a house.

What about you? Have you had long times away from family? How did it affect you? I’d love to hear about it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Week 13: Auburn vs. Alabama

Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early August. If you found this information the week of the game, please note that my actual game preview will be posted on Wednesday with the postgame on Sunday. Please click on the Blog Archive 2009 heading to be taken to the weekly preview or postgame.

I’m wrenching my gut as I say this, but I think Auburn will come up on the short end of this one. It will be a lot better game this last year, but that will be little consolation.

Score Prediction: Alabama 20; Auburn: 13.
Record Prediction: 7-5

This leaves us with a 7-5 record for the year. However, it’s the SEC and anything could happen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Week 12: Auburn has a bye week

I have a feeling our record won’t change this weekend. Safe bet.

Score Prediction: N/A
Record Prediction: 7-4

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Another Broken Political Promise

According to a Fox Sports article, Lou Holtz is not going to run for Congress. (Click here to be taken to the article.) It's too bad. He probabably had a good chance. Two years ago, Holtz said Auburn had as much chance of beating Florida in Gainesville as he had of being elected to the Senate.


We know how that turned out.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Week 11: Auburn at Georgia

Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early August. If you found this information the week of the game, please note that my actual game preview will be posted on Wednesday with the postgame on Sunday. Please click on the Blog Archive 2009 heading to be taken to the weekly preview or postgame.

With Matt Stanford gone Pro, Auburn will relish the chance to face a different QB. Georgia will be the predicted favorite, but Auburn will continue away field dominance.

Score Prediction: Auburn 21, Georgia: 15.
Record Prediction: 7-4

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Week 10: Auburn vs. Furman

Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early August. If you found this information the week of the game, please note that my actual game preview will be posted on Wednesday with the postgame on Sunday. Please click on the Blog Archive 2009 heading to be taken to the weekly preview or postgame.

Auburn will be bumming about a loss to Ole Miss, but it won’t matter that Auburn is distracted when they meet Furman in what is obviously the Homecoming game. Look for big fat scoring by Auburn, equivalent to the size of the check they are sending the Furman Athletic Department.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 38, Furman: 7
Record Prediction: 6-4

Monday, August 3, 2009

Week 9: Auburn vs. Ole Miss

Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early August. If you found this information the week of the game, please note that my actual game preview will be posted on Wednesday with the postgame on Sunday. Please click on the Blog Archive 2009 heading to be taken to the weekly preview or postgame.

Ole Miss is predicted to fight with Alabama and LSU for division supremacy (and if Auburn isn’t in it, then I know who my pick of three would be) with many saying Ole Miss will come out on top. For the first time in my life, and I hate to say it, but I think we’ll lose a close one.

Score Prediction: Ole Miss: 17, Auburn: 13.
Record Prediction: 5-4