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Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Samurai's Heart by Walt Mussell

The Samurai's Heart

by Walt Mussell

Giveaway ends October 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Great Book. A Great Time

One of the pleasures in life is reading a good book. I’m having that pleasure right now.

I’ve recently acquired a book titled The Preacher’s Bride. The book is the debut novel of author Jody Hedlund, a fantastic writer from the Michigan area. A blurb (taken from the publisher’s website) is below.

In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher--whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth Whitbred ignores preacher John Costin's protests of her aid. She's even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.

Yet Elizabeth's new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John's boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher's enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she's more determined than ever to save the child--and man--she's come to love.

The characters in the book are fictional, but are based on the real life of John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. With this story, Jody Hedlund brings an interesting perspective to the history of Bunyon by focusing on the story of his wife, Elizabeth. I first experienced Bunyan's work when I lived in Japan. However, as much as I'd heard about him, I'd never considered the perspective of the person who supported him. Until now.

I have to admit that I’m still a short ways from the end of The Preacher's Bride, but I've been enjoying every word. A copy of the cover is below. Click here to be taken to Jody’s blog.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Auburn vs. South Carolina Post Game

I was wrong.

I said both in pre-game post and in preview back in the summer that South Carolina would beat Auburn. And, as I watched the first half, I figured that Auburn must have read my blog. With two fumbles in the first half, TOs that USC converted into 13 points, Auburn had decided to beat itself.

With the negative TO performance from the Clemson game, I realized that by the halftime of this game we’d gone at least six quarters without a takeaway. However, there was a huge difference. Clemson wiped the field with us pretty much in the first half before we finally asserted ourselves in the third quarter. How was this game different? We actually led USC in total yards at the first half, with three times as many rushing yards.

And as I watched Auburn play, I began to realize one thing. I’d undersold our boys. We were outplaying South Carolina. We just couldn’t put them away. That’s what happens when you give a team a short field.

So what do we know from today’s game?

1) We have a senior-laden defense, with some good freshman
2) Wes Byrum can have an off night.
3) We should question sometimes why we give Mario Fannin the ball.
4) We have a coaching staff that can make adjustments at halftime.
5) We can actually beat the spread.

But what we really know is that this team doesn’t get down on itself. For the second week in a row, we got down by double digits and came back. And that bodes well for out self-confidence.

But my heart can’t take much more of this.

War Eagle!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Auburn - South Carolina Preview

For the fourth straight time this year, Auburn will go into a game against an undefeated team.

Ok. I admit that’s not saying much. Arkansas State hadn’t played anyone. Mississippi State had beaten only Memphis. Clemson had wins against two nobodies.

But South Carolina comes in 3-0 with an SEC win over UGA and a ranking higher than ours, at least in one poll. Auburn is ahead of USC in the other. And the pundits are taking notice.

A lot of discussion has revolved around Auburn’s failure to make a Tiger out of South Carolina’s true freshman RB, Lattimore. With Dyer and Lattimore in the backfield, people speculate that Auburn could have printed Championship t-shirts both two and three years from now.

That may be putting the cart before the horse, but there’s no doubt that each back provides his team an opportunity to win the game. A combined backfield with the two of them would have been devastating.

But to whom is the game more important? Though both teams can have good seasons, neither is expected to contend for the championship and definitely not the national title. However, what impact will it have on the divisional race?

This game will likely not decide the SEC East. There are many who feel that the SEC East champion will have at least three losses. Though Florida was expected to dominate, the general consensus was that the teams would beat other up. The West has seen years like that, when three losses still didn’t knock a team out, leaving head-to-head as the deciding factor over which school went. However, this year the West is different. The champion there will likely have one loss and many would be surprised at two. There is less room for error. There is more to lose.

In my preseason speculation, I said Auburn would drop this game. I still would not be surprised if they did. Marcus Lattimore has been excellent this season and will likely be so this weekend. The downside is that USC is one dimensional. If Auburn can stop Lattimore, than USC has little else to fall back on. However, if Spurrier schemes and run Lattimore as a feint, Auburn may bite and find themselves in the same hole that they did with Clemson.

Like last week, this game will not be pretty. I just hope it will be a win.

By the way, the undefeated opponent streak will not continue as ULM is 0-2, including a 34-20 loss to Arkansas State.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coach

My kids love to play team sports.

You may have guessed that from some of the earlier posts. My older son is playing Pony League fall baseball. My younger son is playing football. They’re both having fun. (My younger son is likely having more fun as his team is undefeated.)

However, most of the time, I’ve watched from the sidelines. I’ve kept a scorebook. Being athletically inept when I was kid, I learned to take the one of Dirty Harry mantra, “A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations.”

However, as the coach of my son’s baseball team announced that he would have a harried schedule and needed all the help he could get, I did the one thing I never expected to do. I signed up to be an assistant coach.

My son told me that the idea of me on the field freaked him out. I told him to get over it. However, I set low expectations in advance. I can definitely keep the book and can get on the field to run the bench if needed. And it really doesn’t take much to do soft tosses with a kid in a batting cage.

However, with the other assistant coaches out for a game one Tuesday evening, I faced having to actually get on the field and handle first base. And when the game was over and obligatory “good game” handshakes were exchanged, I fist bumped with the kids and the shook the home plate umpire’s hand.

And he called me “Coach.”

I have to admit I was caught off guard. I glanced left and right without turning my head, but I knew he was talking to me. It was weird feeling. It just didn’t fit. But, I accepted it and left the field.

I’ve been called coach once since and I handled it a little better. Though I may never get used to the term, I at least wasn’t surprised.

Now if I could only get used to getting on the field.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Auburn vs. Clemson 2010 Post Mortem

This is appropriately a post morten. We were nearly dead.

As the old saying goes, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

On Saturday night, we were lucky.

The evening started with us at my sister’s having burgers. A cousin and her daughter were visiting .We hadn’t seen them in a while. I caught that less than memorable first quarter while I was there. We looked like crap.

With my wife having a girls night out planned (and my cousin, sister, and another woman joining), I had to leave in the middle of the second quarter, go with her to pick up her friend, and then take them to the bar where they planned to spend the evening. The way the second quarter went, being my wife’s designated driver was the only thing that kept me from wanting to down something myself to erase what was going on in that first half.

I can’t remember when I’ve seen/heard such a pathetic display of Auburn football.

And then we kicked off the second, like we seem to kick off a lot of seconds. With mistakes. And despite taking the lead in the 3rd quarter, we continued to make mistakes. The refs rewrote the definition on what pass interference means. I never knew it was possible to call pass interference without actual contact occurring.

Still, many of things that were going on were of our own making. We fought valiantly to take the lead at 24-17. Yet, the way we played, I counted us lucky that we made it into overtime. Given that Clemson’s receivers couldn’t hang on to the football, I count ourselves lucky that we won.

But, in the good category, our guys fought hard. That was one of the hardest hitting games I’ve ever seen. I’m convinced that we’ll be seeing that hit to Kyle Parker for the rest of the season, the same way we did a few years ago against LSU. And I’m surprised we weren’t called for more late hits than we got flagged for.

But a win is a win. We’re 3-0. And given the way we’ve played the last two weeks, we’ve been fortunate. We are one caught pass each week from being 1-2.

Until next week. Until South Carolina. Until the heart-wrenching roller-coaster that is Auburn football.

War Eagle!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Church of the Chocolate Sprinkle

One of out most important days in our church occurred last Sunday, at least for my 8-year old son. It wasn’t Easter. It wasn’t Christmas (though this day is particular popular). It wasn’t even the infamous “nudge Sunday” where family members deliver polite elbows to the ribs as the pastor discusses the gospel reading about how you should treat other family members.

It was doughnut Sunday.

Nearly every Sunday, around the time when Sunday school begins for a new year, my church begins serving coffee and doughnuts in the narthex. It’s meant to serve as an opportunity for parishioners to get to know each other after the service or just relax for a few minutes before heading home.

For my younger son, though, it’s something else. Being eight, he doesn’t quite get into church, but he does enjoy Sunday school. Part of the reason is he has friends in the class and he likes being with the other kids.

But another part is definitely the doughnuts.

This summer, when he realized that Sunday school was about to start, he looked at me and asked, ‘Dad, when are the doughnuts coming back?”

“After Labor Day,” I responded.

So, he counted down the Sundays until it was time This past Sunday, he was ready early. We arrived fifteen minutes prior to the start of class. He drooled about the doughnuts (thankfully not either on them or over them) picked up a nice chocolate one with sprinkles and some chocolate milk to wash it down with.

And enjoyed a few minutes of quality time with his Dad.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Typical Auburn football: Gut wrenching to the end

I am at least satiated for a moment to get out of Starkville with a win. My alma mater at this time has a lot in common with my 8-year old son’s team. They’re 2-0 and they both fumble a lot.

So what else did we learn from this.

1) Our defense can come through. They bent but didn’t break last night.
2) Our offense has some warts. They could have put it away with a number of scoring opportunities, but they couldn’t convert anything in the 2nd half. This also goes to when they had it about 3rd and 1 with under two minutes to go and all they needed was a first down. They blew the opportunity.
3) Our special teams has some serious work to do.
4) We have “two minute” issues. We can only score within two minutes when there’s more than two minutes to go. There’s no reason why we don’t try to score a field goal at the end of the first half.
5) The “Cowbell Compromise” is worthless until it starts affecting the team’s play on the field.

One of my tweeps wrote last night “Being an Auburn fan has taken years off my life.” I concurred. I kept thinking Auburn was finally going to drive a stake into the vampiric resurrection that was MSU last night. Didn’t happen until the end. Was concerned it might go into OT. Was concerned we could possibly lose. Was concerned that I was watching a repeat of Auburn-Northwestern with just a lower score.

Nope. I was watching football. In the present. And it’s just like it’s always been in the past. Gut wrenching. Nail biting. Heart thumping. It’s the reason Auburn fans are so good at dealing with stress.

However, now that the game is over, we can sit back and watch all the games on Saturday and relax for a change.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Little Things

I took my younger son to football practice last night. Despite it being Labor Day (and all the Dads wanting to get home to eat quickly and watch the Boise State-Virginia Tech game), just about every one was there.

The topic of conversation, though, was the miracle finish from the weekend. My son’s team, in their weekly game, took the opening kickoff and marched down the field, taking a 7-0 lead. However, the game turned into a defensive struggle. At the half, the score was still 7-0. At the end of the third, it was 7-6 and late in the 4th quarter, my son’s team surrendered the lead.

Trailing 12-7 with the opponent needing to run only one more play, it looked bleak. However, the defense stood up the runner and the ball got loose. One of our players picked up the ball and ran it back for a TD. The final score was 13-12.

It was bedlam. I can’t remember a more exciting ending. Granted, I’m a parent, so I’ll always say that about games my kids are in.

But more than the game, though, is the enjoyment I get out of watching my kids play.

My son is enjoying football. That much is obvious. He looks forward to practice and to games.

But what I’ve noticed more is the way he expresses it. He loves his Legos. He loves to draw. And he’s used both to try to explain the game to me. He’s pulled out his sketchbook and drawn up the plays, showing me what he needs to do.

“Dad, on this play, I’m a pulling guard.”

“OK. Show me how it goes. Who do you hit?”

However, his drawings don’t seem to be enough for him. He also takes his Legos and puts them one a board, diagramming the same plays. (They’re easier to follow on paper, but it’s funny to watch a Lego Darth Vader as wide receiver.)

He shows me what he’s supposed to do and excited about it. Though, when he’s in action, he never seems to get the player he’s supposed to hit before the play is blown dead. I tell him he needs to be more aggressive.

He’s getting it.

I’m just glad he has fun while doing it;

Sunday, September 5, 2010

One In The Books

According to he weather reports, it was supposed to be in the 50s on Saturday night. I was looking forward to that. It‘s been so hot of late that a cool night was welcome and an excellent start to the college football season.

However, by halftime, I was looking at something I didn’t expect, Auburn’s point total to exceed the temperature.

But with Auburn having scored 35 points by the end of the first half, I was thinking:

1) We have a new QB and he’s good.
2) We have an improved offense and it’s better.
3) We have a kicker who can kick to the end zone, which beats that pooch kick garbage we seem the thrive on.
4) We have a suspect defense and that’s a problem.

I originally thought Arkansas State wouldn’t score that much, I knew they’d beaten Texas A&M and had given Iowa all they could handle last year. At the same time, they’d also been blown out by Nebraska. And I’d expected more of the same.

Until our defense plays better, I should know better. They gave up too many big plays.

However, after three straight fumbles, I began to wonder about the offense, too. And though the third one was overturned on review, I wondered if any team with the talent to match Arkansas State’s enthusiasm would blow the offense off the field.

I needn’t have worried. Auburn bucked up and held on.

Final: Auburn 52, Arkansas State 26

Only a few days to rest before they travel to Starkville to play Mississippi State.

War Eagle!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Dacula Miracle

It had been a nervous day at Dacula Park. My son’s team, the Mill Creek Hawks, had taken the opening and marched down the field, scoring on a 20-yard pass on 4th and 5. However, after that we hadn’t done much. Still, the other team didn’t pick up a first down the first half and we led 7-0 at halftime.

The second half, though, it was a different story. We continued to have trouble moving the ball, while the other team, the Dacula Falcons, were ripping off larger gains. They finally broke the plane of the end zone late in the third. However, a missed extra point left the game 7-6.

Finally, we began to make progress, but a promising drive stalled in the red zone. The Falcons took over and drove the field, scoring again to make it 12-7.

We had one drive left.

And we made progress.

With the clock ticking away, we picked up two first downs and made it to the red zone. However, it was not to be. And with about two minutes to go, we turned it over on downs. The only option was to hold them and hope they would run their plays quickly. However, with the Falcons facing third down and only having to take a knee, it looked hopeless.

The Falcons, though, ran a play. And when the ball squirted loose, one of my son’s teammates picked it up and ran it for a TD.

Mill Creek Hawks 13, Dacula Falcons 12.

And so it ended.

My sister Jeanne and her family made it to the game, with my nephews seeming to enjoy it. They especially like my wife’s shaker, a water bottle with beans inside. My nephews shook it hard toward the end of the game. One of them may even believe that he caused the fumble.

We’re not going to correct him.