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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.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Auburn - Ole Miss postgame

Well…Auburn will be #1 in the BCS when it’s released on Sunday evening. We survived the #1 jinx, though at this writing I wonder if Oregon will avoid it. When I began to relax, I thought about turning it to watch the Oregon-USC game. However, I talked myself out of it. Watching Auburn play like this is a joy to behold.

However as I look back on the game (and wonder if Cam Newton’s first endorsement will be for Chapstick®), I realize that this was the most relaxed I’d been in a while.

It started with the usual weirdness. Ole Miss came out in the gray jerseys as some sort of symbolic, spiritual statement. First time they’ve ever worn gray jerseys. Teams do this regularly. Georgia brought out the all black jerseys awhile back in a game where they upset Auburn. Auburn has occasionally worn orange jerseys and has pretty much sucked when they did it. (Side note: Oregon could never wear special jerseys as they pretty much act like the caricature of the spoiled rich girl who never wants to wear the same outfit twice.)

But back to game.

Cameron Newton had 45 rushing yards on the ground. For the average QB, that’s a good night. Cam Newton is not an average QB. He’s a Heisman candidate, one-man team, Superman plus, excess other superlatives individual.

So what’s he doing looking like a typical QB?

He’s showing he can play a typical game.

He’s showing the rest of the world what only Auburn fans seem to realize at the moment. Auburn is not a one-man team.

Yes, Cam Newton is a great player. He’s a special player. He’s a one-of-a-kind player. He’s already breaking all records running, throwing (TDs), and tonight he even showed he can catch a pass.

Yet, against Ole Miss, Auburn showed it can run a conventional game and still pick up 300+ yards rushing, with nearly 200 yards by freshman RB.

It showed that it’s experienced offensive line can open holes for whomever is running.

It showed that the defense, which bends a lot, can stop someone on a 4th and inches play.

It showed that our special teams is dangerous and capable.

In short, it showed that Auburn can play a complete game and gave Auburn’s remaining opponents something to worry about…that Auburn is a good TEAM.

War Eagle and Happy Halloween!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Worth A Smile

A little bit of disclosure about myself. I attended Auburn University.

For those of you that pay attention to college football, Auburn had an important game last Saturday. (For those of you that don’t know, Auburn, unbeaten and in the Top Ten in the nation, faced LSU, also unbeaten and in the Top Ten in the nation. Auburn won and is now the #1 team in the nation in the poll that determines who plays for the championship at the end of the season.)

Usually, I’m hard to reach mentally when Auburn is on TV.

Saturday was a different story.

We had a tiring family day this past Saturday. We opened it up at 9:00 a.m. with my older son’s fall baseball team playing the final game of their regular season. My son’s team won 7-6, stranding the tying runner at third base after he reached there with less than two outs. My older son went 1-3 on the day, thrown out at second when he tried to stretch his single into a double.

When that game ended, we headed to another location in Gwinnett County for the first round of the playoffs for my younger son’s football team. My son’s team trailed 14-13 at the half but had an awesome third quarter to finish with a 47-27 victory.

So what does this have to do with Auburn vs. LSU?

I missed the first part of the Auburn – LSU game because of the end of my son’s game. No big deal. Any parent would have done the same. Had I even had a second thought about paying more attention to the TV game than my son’s, I should be criticized, chided, lampooned. Pick your verb.

It was what we did Saturday night that drew gasps from friends.

You see, we had tickets for Saturday night’s hockey game between the Gwinnett Gladiators and the Florida Everblades. The tickets were about center ice down low and my younger son loves hockey. With them dropping the puck at 7:00, we left a little after 6:00 to give us time to be there for the start. In other words, I left during the third quarter.

Granted, I wasn’t completely cut off from it. A friend of mine texted me with updates on the game throughout the 4th quarter. I went nuts when I found out Auburn won. Still though, my younger son loves hockey. And the smile on his face, along with the Gladiators win, made missing the 4th quarter worthwhile.

As I read this, I think it sounds a little shameless. I did what a dad is supposed to do.

But sometimes it’s nice when little choices in life remind of us what’s really important.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Perfect Day

We had a tiring family day on Saturday.

We opened it up at 9:00 a.m. with my older son’s fall baseball team, the Pony League Phillies, playing the final game of their regular season. They were playing the top team in their league. My son’s team, who has had a difficult season, opened up a 7-0 lead before holding on at the end 7-6. They stranded the tying runner at third and managed to strike out two to ensure that he didn’t make it home. My older son went 1-3, thrown out at second when he tried to stretch his single into a double.

When that game ended, we headed to another location in Gwinnett County for the first round of the playoffs for my younger son’s football team. It was the first round of the playoffs and my son’s football team, the Mill Creek Hawks, were playing the Grayson Rams. With my son’s team being the lower seed, it was an away game. They trailed 14-13 at the half but had an awesome third quarter to finish with a 47-27 victory. The win sent my son’s team into the quarterfinals where they will face the top seed in Gwinnett County in another away game.

So what does this have to do with Auburn vs. LSU?

As much as I love to watch my Auburn Tigers, sometimes life provides you with other opportunities. And as my son’s football game started over thirty minutes late, I knew I wouldn’t get back even to my car radio for the start of the Auburn-LSU game. 3:30. 4:00, the clock continued to run. Still, I wanted to share my son’s joy more than anything else.

When I finally did flip on the radio, it was already Auburn 7, LSU 0. I drove home, catching both the LSU and Auburn field goals. It was the sometime in the 2nd quarter. Unfortunately, I did catch LSU’s TD at the end of the half.

But our day wasn’t over yet.

You see, we had tickets for last night’s Gwinnett Gladiators hockey game against the Florida Everblades. The tickets were about center ice down low and my younger son loves hockey. With them dropping the puck at 7:00, we left a little after 6:00 to give us time to be there for the start. I heard LSU’s 17-17 tying TD in the parking lot at Gwinnett Arena. A friend of mine texted me updates on the Auburn game throughout the 4th quarter. I went nuts with the news of the win.

And then the Gladiators made it a perfect night, defeating the Everblades 5-2. The smile on my younger son’s face made missing the 4th quarter worthwhile.

I will catch the complete game somehow on replay later this week. I’m curious as to how a player can be stopped and carried back seven or eight yards for a loss.

But, for now, I’ll just remember how much I enjoyed my day with my family.

War Eagle!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Doing The Right Thing?

After dropping my older son off at a function about a week ago, I took the brief time I had before picking him up to run some errands. My first stop was my bank as I needed to make a deposit.

I parked outside and walked toward the ATM. Someone was already there, so I maintained a respectful distance as the man completed his transaction. Finished, he left the machine and walked toward me. We said our casual acknowledgements as we passed, though neither of us was really listening, just being courteous as the sidewalk to the ATM allowed little room to get around each other.

I inserted my card and pulled out the checks when I noticed a card lying on the bottom portion of the ATM tray. I picked it up and read the name, assuming it belonged to the man who’d just left. I turned to see if I could catch him, but his black truck was speeding out into the street. I caught part of his license plate but little else.

OK. So what now?

Had it been me, I would have eventually noticed that my card was gone. However, I doubt I would have realized it while I was driving. Being that the person who’d left his card was a male, I figured he wouldn’t either. Still, I waited a few minutes. No one returned.

I could have left it where I found it but knew that wasn’t a good idea. A number of people would visit that ATM that evening. And while I like to think that the world is good, I know the chance exists that some less than honest person will pick up the card.

The best thing to do, I reasoned, would be to drop the card in a night deposit box of some kind. I looked for one but didn’t see any. Next, I looked at my ATM receipt and called the customer service number on it. After dealing with the bank’s IVR (Interactive Voice Response), I finally got to the right department, only to get the recorded message that said the department was closed and that I should call back during normal business hours.

I thought about putting it back right there. It wasn’t my problem. I’d made a good faith effort and come up empty. But I’d worked in a bank before, handling business customers, and had often dealt with situations where customers or their family members had been defrauded. It’s not a fun process.

I looked at the front door and saw another number printed on it in big white letters. The security number for break-ins. What did I have to lose? I called them and explained and asked if they knew a place where I could put this away. They didn’t but transferred me to another number. Unfortunately, it was another group who couldn’t help. I wasn’t the card owner. They were prohibited.

I turned the card over and saw a new customer service number, at least one I hadn’t tried. After navigating that system, I finally got a live sympathetic body. Unfortunately, it was the credit card group. She couldn’t help. I was holding a debit card. And while she could give me the number of the correct department, she couldn’t transfer me directly. She suggested I slip it through the door. I said that might set off the motion sensors, at which point I would have to wait for the police. And though they would probably believe what happened, it would be a long night either way.

So, at that point, I gave up. I could have the called the debit card group, but I was done. Instead, I placed the card near the front door, in a place only an employee (or as bank robber) would notice. Hopefully, someone saw it in the morning.

So what would you have done? Would you have called the debit card group? Would you have done what I did? Would you have given up earlier? I’d really like to know.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Auburn vs. Arkansas Wrap-Up

When Arkansas tool the lead on Auburn in the second half, my wife commented that Auburn’s games are kind of like our 8-year old son’s football games. My son’s team led for most of the game, only to surrender the lead with three minutes left in the 4th quarter, going down 18-14.

My wife had no idea how prescient she would be.

My son’s team fumbled the ball away twice in the 4th quarter, one of them deep in their own territory as the other team picked up the ball and ran for a score.

And then I watched as Auburn ran a fumble back for a TD and then picked up two interceptions. And somewhere in the 4th quarter, I finally relaxed (and enjoyed a wonderful dinner).

Still, the fumbles were controversial. I’ve already seen the AP story about how Auburn and the replay officials combined to beat Arkansas. Let's face it. Auburn got slammed by the replay booth as well over that spot of the football on the 4th and six that Arkansas "converted" in the second half . Given the history Auburn has experienced this season alone with phantom pass interference calls (pick any game), it was about time that Auburn had some things go their way.

It was better, though, for Auburn to remove this particular monkey off their back. (Despite the “basketball score” jokes peppered all over Twitter.)

Auburn hadn’t beaten Arkansas in since 2007 and seemed to always lay an egg against Arkansas in big years. And while I don’t think we’ll go undefeated, this game still worried me more than any other. In no other game this year will Auburn face an offense so well designed to exploit Auburn’s defensive weaknesses. No other team has QBs like Arkansas combined with a comparable receiver corps.

But we came through it. We survived another week in the SEC. We even scored the most points in the history of an SEC game and the most points we’ve scored on an SEC team in 40 years. And forget what AP says, we WON the game.

Next week, LSU (expected to be undefeated) comes into Auburn. We’ve lost three straight to LSU.

I don’t expect us to lose a fourth one.

One of the realities of an afternoon game is the evening highlights. You know you're going to see the game replays throughout the evening as you enjoy what else is going on in college football.

I'm looking forward to a nice rest of the evening.

War Eagle!!!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When Brothers Meet Brothers

Before I start, I’d like to congratulate Bobby Cox and the Braves on an exciting season. In the end, the injuries from the season were just too great to overcome: Chipper, Prado, Medlin, Jurrjens, Wagner, and the list goes on.

Now back to the post.

Sometimes, I bring it on myself.

Admittedly, I’m a history buff and I put that in my kids. Occasionally ever, sometimes I overdo and then my kids drive me nuts. Such was the case this weekend.

On Monday, we drove up to Toccoa, Georgia to see the Stephens County Historical Museum. For those of you who don’t recognize Toccoa (my eight-year old kept calling it Taco, Georgia), it was the beginning training area for paratroopers during WWII. If you’ve seen the movie “Band of Brothers,” it’s the location of the first thirty minutes of Episode One.

I’ve known we were about an hour from the area and I’d longed to see it. I thought my boys might enjoy it, too. So, with them out of school for Columbus Day, I took Monday off. To prepare them, I even pulled out my copy of Band of Brothers and watched Episode One with them.

I learned a lot going up there.
1) Toccoa is a nice town full of friendly people.
2) The museum is small, but the military portion of it is quite interesting. One of the items they have is a stable from England, which shows how many GIs were housed when they trained in England.
3) There’s very little left of what was once there.
4) Toccoa Falls, located at Toccoa Falls College, was an unexpected benefit to the drive up there.

Granted, it was just a training facility. The government ended its use in 1945 and then sold it to a private company, making it a judicious use of public money. (There’s a rarity for you.) A monument remains. You can climb to the top of Currahee, the mountain they ran up each day.

So where do my kids get overzealous?

It was a lot of fun when my kids would grab me and say. “Daddy, come see this. Daddy, come see this.”

But now they want to watch the rest of Band of Brothers...in a row.

I’m not sure I can take nine straight hours of questions from my kids.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Auburn vs. Kentucky Wrap-Up

I tweeted last night right after the game that “The Prilosec commercial just before Byrum's field goal was appropriate.”

It’s also Auburn football.

Part of me was hoping for an easy evening. In the old days, a match-up against Kentucky was considered a breather. And while some Auburn games with Kentucky were close, there was never any doubt. (Sort of like when Kentucky plays us in basketball.)

Yet, I knew that was a forlorn hope at best. At my younger son’s football game earlier in the day. I was sitting in front of a fellow Dad and UCLA grad. Of course, we talked football. He thought Auburn should handle Kentucky easily. I gently explained it to him. If an Auburn game is on, heartburn is a given. I’m convinced that the god of Auburn football makes a commission on every tablet of Nexium. As a friend of mine commented on Twitter recently, “being an Auburn fan has taken years off my life.”

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

No. I don’t mean that I’m this happy with the additional gray hairs I accumulate each week. I’m also losing my hair, too Eventually I’ll go completely gray and go bald. I just mean I’d rather be an Auburn Tiger than anything else.

So what did we learn this week?

Between last season and this season, we had enough gas in he tank to finish the game. We started that final drive at our own 6-yard line after that had to be one of the dumbest, ill-advised hand-offs on a kick return that anyone has ever seen. We survived.

This time last year, we had a loss to Arkansas in a game that we weren’t really in. We survived.

After falling behind early by double digits twice this year and coming back, we went up by double digits and gave that up. We survived.

We gained over 500 yards for the sixth time this season. (Cam Newton picked up over 400 yards.) We survived.

We won our second road game of the season by three points. We survived.

And we advanced.

And that’s good enough for this week.

Next week is Arkansas. We owe them like we owed Kentucky.

War Eagle!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How to Properly Demote A Seal

For a long time, my 8-year old son has slept with three stuffed animals: a seal, a dog, and a teddy bear. Being the creative sort, he gave them unconventional names. The seal was called “Seal-y.” The dog was “Puppy.” The bear was “Bear-y Bear.” (OK. Maybe they're not that original.)

However, a few nights ago, I got a surprise when I tucked him in.

“Dad, I don’t want to sleep with Sealy anymore.”

‘Why not? You love Sealy.”

“Well, I’m eight now and growing up. It’s time to put Sealy away.”

I was stunned. The trio of animals had been his friends for so long. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Do you really want to break up the group?”

He nodded. “Yes, it’s time. I’ll put Sealy away now. When I turn 10, I’ll put away Puppy. When I’m 12, then I’ll put away Beary Bear.”

I asked again if he was sure and he confirmed he was, so I picked up Sealy and held it up to my son, who gave it a last kiss. I then put Sealy on the other bed in his room, staring at his former charge from a distance.

I went back downstairs and told my wife the news. Sealy had been demoted. She was as stunned as I. However, we figured it was only matter of time. The little guy was getting bigger.

The following night, I put Sealy on the other bed again, said goodnight, and tucked him in. It was a sad time.

The following night I got home late. He was already in bed. When I went to check on him, I got a shock. Sealy was back with the trio.

Since that night, Sealy has continued to be a part of the group. It’s as if the growing up has been forgotten.

And I’m happy to have him be little just a little while longer.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wisconsin Grad Admits Michigan Loyalty

Normally, I would fill this space with a review of the Auburn – ULM game. However, given the final score of 52-3, I‘d like to do something else instead.

There are some things in life that, like watching college football, bring great pleasure. One of them is reading a good book. I’ve recently finished a wonderful book called The Preacher’s Bride. The book is the debut work of University of Wisconsin graduate, Jody Hedlund. 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 Bunyan by focusing on the story of his wife, Elizabeth, and the internal conflicts she faced.

However, as I have discovered, Ms. Hedlund is no stranger to internal conflict. The author did do her graduate work at Wisconsin, having attended undergrad at a place that doesn’t play football (Taylor University in Indiana). However, when pressed, the author admitted a deep secret.

She and her family are die hard Michigan fans.

I tried to put in a call to Bucky Badger, whose publicist said that Bucky is canceling his push-up promotional tour for the book, but will reconsider it when he travels to Ann Arbor in November. He promises to even read the book himself to make his decision.

I predict he’ll change his mind.

A copy of the cover is below. Click here to be taken to Jody’s blog.