Saturday, May 19, 2012

Life Essentials: Insurance

Need an Insurance Quote? Contact Stacy Tucker State Farm Insurance

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Steve Nash Chronicles: The Perfect Fit

     Rumor has it that Steve Nash is most likely going to be on the way out of Phoenix before the start of next season.  The two time former MVP despite his loyalty to the Phoenix Suns has made it clear that he plans on going elsewhere unless the Suns improve vastly.  With the chances of the Suns vastly improving being rather slim, the question of "where to" arises.  Most people assume that Steve will join a title contender in hopes of finishing his career with that illusive championship ring.  I however believe that Steve, though probably too old to be the star of a team, still has a lot of game left and shouldn't settle for a small role on an already elite team. With that being said, I believe that Steve Nash will be taking his talents to a somewhat mediocre team and creating Magic with them (hint hint).
     Throughout his career, Steve Nash has established himself as arguably the best pick and roll point guard the league has seen since perhaps John Stockton.  His exceptional court vision, along with his adept shooting touch puts the defense at a disadvantage regardless of how they may chose to defend the pick and roll.  This ability ultimately transformed the Phoenix Suns into a championship contender after several years of failing to make the playoffs.  Obviously this dream was short lived, as that team was dispersed after a few failed experiments, however I believe that Steve Nash could re-live this dream if he decided to become a member of the Orlando Magic.
     The Orlando Magic is a perfect fit for Steve Nash for many reasons.  First off, the presence of Dwight Howard immediately makes the team a piece or two away from contending.  Howard, who is a much more dominant force than Amar'e Stoudamire was in Phoenix, will provide Steve Nash with a perfect pick and roll partner.  His mobility and ability to finish around the rim ferociously will be a gift to Steve Nash, as he will have met a Blake Griffin to compliment his Chris Paul.  As we all know, Dwight still has a long way to go in terms of becoming a prolific scorer in this league; I believe that Steve Nash could make this transition much easier for Howard by giving him many easy shots to boost his scoring average and ultimately his confidence.  As I mentioned earlier, Steve will not be in Orlando to become "the guy" but rather just a guy with enough abilities to make the Magic a contender.
     Another big reason why the Magic will be a good fit for Steve Nash is the fact that he will be surrounded by a variety of shooters.  It's no secret that the Magic are highly dependent on the three point shot; the addition of Steve Nash will make it much easier to get high percentage shots from three, due to his pick and roll abilities.  Ryan Anderson, JJ Reddick, Q-Richardson and Jason Richardson (both ex teammates of Steve back in Phoenix) are bound to make a living from the three point line if this move is to be made.  Despite the success that these players currently enjoy from long range, it's nothing close to what they will experience if Steve Nash was to become the commander-in-chief of the Magic attack.
     Finally, Steve Nash should become a member of the Orlando Magic due to the possibility of being reunited with the man who orchestrated the offense that made Steve a back-to-back MVP: Mike D'Antoni. It is a well known fact that Stan Van Gundy will not return to the Orlando Magic next season, which opens up a coaching vacancy that could very well be filled by Mike D'Antoni.  If Steve Nash was to become a member of the Magic organization, that would increase the chance of D'Antoni following in the same path.  This would benefit D'Antoni himself, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and the entire Magic franchise.  Overall, the addition of Steve Nash could be the change that may bring a championship to the city of Orlando.  It is bound to be the perfect fit, out of all other possible options, given the circumstances listed.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

What is Love?

Love is blind, love is irrational

Love is when you care about another as much as you care about yourself

Love is commitment, love is an investment

Love is giving it your all in hopes of getting the same in return

Love is unconditional, love is persistent

Love is fighting through the ups and downs and never giving up

Love is sympathetic, love is unselfish

Love is willing to make sacrifices just to make your significant other happy

Love is patience, love is passion

Love is fondling even after a heated altercation

Love is honesty, love is trust

Love is assurance that your significant other has your best interest at heart

Love is comforting, love is relaxing

Love is reliance on another individual for emotional support

Love is beautiful, love is indescribable

Love is a feeling that can't be sufficiently expressed even with the use of "I love you" 

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

NBA MVP: And the Winner Is _________?

     This NBA season has been unique in many ways.  Besides being one of only four shortened seasons due to a lockout, this season has experienced lots of unusual stories, occurrences, records, etc.  From Linsanity, to Kobe becoming the all-time leading scorer in All-Star history, to Kevin Love's historic performances; this NBA season is one that will forever be remembered by loyal NBA fans.  With the regular season coming to a close, the question of who is this season's MVP is one that has become a hot topic.  Many players are deserving of this honor, however no one player has emerged as the clear-cut winner of this award.  For this reason, I wouldn't be surprised if NBA history was made in regards to this award as well.
     According to most people, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder should be this year's MVP.  Although very deserving, I don't think Durant is the obvious pick for this award.  My main argument against Durant winning this award is that his teammate, Russell Westbrook, is arguably the most valuable player on that Thunder team due to his all around play.  Durant, to me, is solely a scorer who happens to pull down many rebounds due to his 6'10 frame.  Despite his effort to be more of a team player this year, he still averages more turnovers than assists.  His impact on the defensive end is also mediocre at best.  Nevertheless, Durant is putting up about 28 points per game with over 50 percent shooting on the best team in the Western Conference.  That alone is good enough to make him very deserving of the MVP award.  His incredible performance against LeBron James in the first match-up between Miami and OKC this season also made a case for that MVP trophy, however as I mentioned before, I don't believe that all these achievements have made him the clear-cut pick for the honor.
     The other player who many consider a deserving candidate is LeBron James of the Miami Heat.  Statistically, LeBron has had the better season, as he averages as many points and rebounds as Durant (28 and 8 respectively) but with twice as many assists (close to 7).  LeBron's versatility on the defense end definitely adds to his campaign, as he is also a candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award.  Like Durant however, LeBron has another superstar in Dwayne Wade who many could argue is also deserving of the honor (though not as deserving as Westbrook).  Although Miami is 9-1 without Wade, his fourth quarter heroics in many games this season slightly devalues LeBron's impact.  That unfortunately hurts LeBron's chances of winning the award.  LeBron's tendency to disappear in some big games or even big moments has also hurt his chances of being named MVP.  His performance against OKC in the second meeting of their regular season battle made up for his sub-par performance in the first, along with other mediocre performances in big games; this however isn't enough to make him the clear-cut favorite for the award either.
      In most cases, the best way to break a tie is by flipping a coin; in this scenario however, I propose that this tie should be left knotted up.  I propose that for the first time in NBA History, Kevin Durant and LeBron James should be named co-MVPs for the 2011-2012 season.  I believe that it is the most fair decision to make in this case, because neither player has clearly separated himself from the rest this season.  One could argue that if anything Kevin Love is that one player who has had a remarkable season that separated himself from the other NBA Elites (based on statistics), though the record of his team eliminates him from contention in my opinion.  With that being said, why not make this NBA season even weirder than it already has been?  Instead of giving the MVP award to a player who isn't an obvious pick like Derrick Rose was last year, this award should go to the two players who deserve it the most: Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and LeBron James of the Miami Heat.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Power of Words

     When considering the most powerful tools available to mankind, we primarily consider things such as hammers, or even rocks, knives etc.  These items are known to have the ability to effect many things, due to the fact that they can alter the state of being of an object.  As far as I'm concerned, having the ability to change the state of anything; whether in a physical or emotional manner, personifies power.  Power in this sense can be demonstrated in  many actions, ranging from the ability to start a fire to the ability to put a smile on someone's face.  In almost every situation, a physical action is triggered by the expression of an emotion which is usually demonstrated in the form of words.  The way an emotion is worded has the ability to provoke a reaction from another individual, whether good or bad.  For this reason, words (whether spoken, written, or signed) are the most powerful tools available to mankind.
     Let's start off by looking at the power of words in a positive context.  I'm sure all of us, at one point or another, have received a compliment praising something about us or something that we did.  A simple compilation of those words that were expressed by a kind soul uplifted our spirits and gave our morale a boost.  A gesture such as a compliment can go a long way toward making an individual feel better about themselves.  Through the expression of those words, the individual who complimented you has exerted power over you; not because they own you or have control over you, but simply because their spoken words were able to alter you emotional state of being and cause a reaction.   In this case, the reaction is in the form of morale uplifting which can go on to affect your entire day.  This goes on to show how powerful words can be in a positive context.
    Words don't always have to be in the form of a compliment in order for them to be considered powerful in a positive context.  One major way of exerting power positively in the form of words is through encouragement.  It isn't unusual to go through a day of feeling hopeless and alone, and feeling like nothing you do is right.  Times like these are when words are most influential on a person's life.  A simple word of encouragement, whether from the Bible or a fellow human can immediately alter your state of mind and give you the inspiration needed to strive to achieve whatever task is at hand.  Though those words might not physically move your arms and legs and push you toward one direction or another, they initiate the the impulsive reaction that do indeed cause you to push toward one direction or another.  For that reason, words can be a powerful tool of positivity in one's life.
     Despite its ability to impact life in a positive way, words are often used as a tool to put others down and inflict major damage to a psyche.  Words are arguably at their most powerful state when used in a negative context.  Depending on how condescending or torturous a group of words are, they can  lead to the infliction of physical harm to an individual.  Take for example bullying:  there have been many occurrences of bullying in this country that have been known to cause many problems in the lives of teenagers.  The continuous use of insults, name-calling, and taunting can go as far as causing an individual to commit suicide.  If that doesn't show how powerful words can be, I don't know what else could possibly demonstrate that! 
     The power of words in a negative context isn't limited to insults alone, as words can also be used to persuade an individual to believe falsified statements.  Though persuasion is sometimes good, it is often used in negative manner to alter a person's mindset on a specific subject.  Take for example that step-dad who constantly reminds you that your goals of becoming a professional baseball player is merely a fantasy that will never happen.  Through his words, he can get you to actually believe that you aren't capable of pursuing a career as a professional baseball player.  Though this isn't necessarily condescending or insulting, it can alter your state of mind and perception, and cause you to lose confidence in your ability as a base-ball player.  This can ultimately lead to you giving up your dream and pursing a normal 9-5 job, when you could have possibly became the next A-Rod or even Jeter.  Through his words, he has exerted power over you, due to the fact that he altered your perception and changed what you once believed was reality.
     To sum it up, words are very powerful and go a long way toward making or breaking an individual.  A simple compliment can cause an individual to smile for the rest of the day and relieve stress.  Conversely, an insult can be the reason why a young lady may feel the need to starve herself in order to reach the standard that your words seem to set.  We have all been given bits of power in the form of words that can alter an individual's state of mind and ultimately lead to physical reactions; therefore use these words wisely and be the reason why someone feels good about themselves and their abilities on earth.  Ask yourself, what impact have your words had on someone today?

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Teenage Pregnancy: the Emergence of a New Trend

      Teenage pregnancy, although statistically proven to be on a downhill spiral, is an issue that remains prevalent in this country. It isn't a rare occurrence these days to log unto facebook to find a former elementary/middle/high school classmate of yours post pictures or a status announcing a newborn baby. Unlike previous generations where sex was only an activity of married couples, an average of five out of every ten teenagers today engage in sexual intercourse at least once in their high school years (Santrock, 2011, p. 358). Such a statistic helps to explain the prevalence of teenage pregnancy, but why is that?  What is the reason behind this sex craze? Can we point to one thing as the main factor behind this modern day "baby boom?" Certainly not, however, there are many aspects that contribute to this ongoing development.

      Let's start of by dissecting the infatuation with sex among this generation. The concept of sex is something that is promoted constantly in almost every aspect of life in modern day. Be it the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the shows we watch, etc, sex seems to be one reoccurring theme that all these things have in common. Take for example the music that teenagers of our generation listen to: artists have the tendency to refer to sex and promote the act in their music as if they were being paid to do so. One could argue that they are in fact being paid to do so, as the concept of sex is something that attracts a large audience. Nevertheless, a vast majority of this audience happen to be curious teenagers caught up in a stage of experimentation. The messages, highly endorsed by their role models and idols, are bound to influence the decisions these teenagers make in life.

      The lack of guidance, be it from parents or even the church (or other religious affiliations) play a role in the increase of sexual activity among teenagers as well. As we all know, most religions promote abstinence until marriage, and since a huge portion of teenagers today lack that religious affiliation, they lack that sense of urgency to honor that code. The absence of a parental figure, or even involvement in a teenagers life serves as another huge contributing factor as it gives them the leeway to make risky decisions, some of which like sexual activity leading to teenage pregnancy ends up jeopardizing their future.  It is statistically proven that children who receive proper parental guidance are less likely than those who don't to engage in sexual activity at an earlier age and risk teenage pregnancy (Santrock, 2011, p.359).

      Shows like Teen Mom and 16& Pregnant are supposed to educate teenagers on the hardships that pregnancy can bring unto one's life, however one could argue that these shows do in fact make teenage pregnancy seem much more appealing that it actually is, as it could potentially give some teenagers the idea that a baby could be their gateway to early fame.  A naive mind could think that having a baby may grant her access to being the next big reality star on MTV because of these shows.  They might even think that the concept of having a baby itself is "cool" because the stars of these shows that they look up to have babies as well.  I applaud MTV for its efforts, but shows such as these can create a delusion of what teenage pregnancy really is, as most of the babies end up being taken care of by others who weren't responsible for it anyway.

      Finally, peer pressure can be blamed indirectly for playing the role of a contributing factor to teenage pregnancy.  As we all know, peers have the power to influence our lives in various ways.    As a teenager, your peers' involvement in sexual activity might serve as reinforcement for you to do the same.  Simply because they do it and avoid pregnancy doesn't mean you are bound to have the same luck, as they might be on birth control or be beneficiaries of other contraceptive methods that you don't know about.  It's needless to say that they might be ready and prepared for sexual activity when you simply are not.  It is important to stay in your own lane and not jeopardize your future for the enjoyment of a few minutes, but if you chose to do so, protection is a MUST.

     To sum it up, teenage pregnancy is still a major issue in this country, despite its decline.  This problem needs to be addressed because many promising futures are being altered due to the pleasures of an activity once reserved for married couples.  Having a baby is a blessing, but the timing of it can make it unpleasant. To all my females out there, before you consider letting a boy insert his willy inside of you without protection, think about the potential damages it can cause to your life.  Think about the burden of having to carry a baby for nine months, the pain of birth itself, the risk of not making it past birth, and the dreams that the little one could potentially shatter for you.  Is it all worth it? Are you willing to do all this for a boy who most likely won't be by your side to nurture his own creation?  Those are all things to think about.  And to the fellas, are you ready to give up your education and pursue a full-time career in the workforce in order to cater to this new family that you didn't envision having anytime soon?  Or are you just gonna run away from the problem and live the rest of your life knowing that you are a coward?  Before you plan on engaging unprotected in an activity that is supposed to be for a man and his wife, ask yourself if you are man enough to handle the aftermaths of your decision.  At the end of the day, it's not worth it.  

Santrock, J. W. (2011). Life-Span Development. (13rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Injustice: the Trayvon Martin Story

    Blacks in America have always been at a disadvantage.  Tracing back to slavery, to the imposing of Jim Crow laws, and even the mass incarcerations attributed to the war on drugs, African-Americans have always been the victims of some sort of racial injustice that goes on in this country.  To some extent, being black automatically makes an individual a target in society; in a society where racism supposedly no longer exists.  This article is not meant to stir up any racial tension or accuse anyone of racism or anything of that sort, but with an incident like the killing of seventeen year old African American Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a self appointed Neighborhood Watch member George Zimmerman, you can't help but to think that his race played a major role in making him the victim of this shooting.
    The attack on Trayvon was uncalled for to say the least.  Considering no one has a first-person account by Trayvon on the incident, the only source of information that the public can use to reach conclusions is the recordings that have been publicized on the news, and the account of the eye witnesses.  Nevertheless, all of those sources indicate that Trayvon was victimized simply for his race.  Zimmerman, the 28 year old Hispanic or White (police and family present different accounts on his race) male who shot Martin was clearly recorded saying to the police "These as*holes, they always get away."  That statement alone creates controversy, as it implies that Zimmerman categorized Martin as being a part of a certain group. Given the incident, and the popular stereotype of African-Americans being up to no good, that group seems to be black people.
     Based on the conditions, in which Zimmerman was allegedly alarmed by Trayvon's "suspicious activity," I can't help but to wonder what this "suspicious activity" was.  Was it because Martin was on the phone? Or that he had a pack of skittles and iced-tea in his possession? Or that he had a hood on?  Or was it the simple fact that he was black? Considering all these things are considered legal (at least they were last time I checked), what probable cause did Zimmerman have to attack the young black teenager, especially after the police had made it clear that following him was not needed?   Wearing no police uniform or anything of that sort, he had no right to approach Martin and question him, let alone try to exert any physical control over him.  How was Martin suppose to know that he was part of the Neighborhood Watch?  Zimmerman was clearly out of line for all of these actions.
     Besides the horrific incident itself,  the aftermath of the event raises many unanswered questions.  Why is Zimmerman still walking around as a free-man today?  Why was the police so quick to accept his claim of self-defense?  Why were these tapes that contain so much evidence held in private for so long?  Why is the death of this seventeen-year old African American male not avenged yet?  With all this injustice going on, I can't help but to think that the outcome of this story would've been completely different if the victim was Caucasian.  Zimmerman was undoubtedly angry at a certain group which Martin belonged to, and ended up taking out his frustration on what happened to be an innocent boy.  Considering Zimmerman knew nothing about Martin, the only categorization that could be made on the spot had to be based on race.  With that being said, Trayvon Martin's race played a role in making him a victim.   Again, my intention is not to stir up any racial controversy, but this seems to be a perfect example of another disadvantage that African-Americans have to endure in this country: walking-while-black.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

NBA Trade Deadline: The Winners, The Losers

Ellis for Bogut
Initially, I thought this move was not smart on both parts; after further consideration however, I like this move for both teams. Although Monta Ellis was a vital part of the Warriors' offense, I believe he was expendable due to the talent in the back court at Golden State. With a healthy Steph Curry, and the emergence of Klay Thompson, along with the offensive fire power of Nate Robinson, the Warriors' back court will be fine. The lack of help up front for David Lee, however, was a problem that needed to be addressed, and will be fixed with the acquisition of Andrew Bogut. For the Milwaukee Bucks, this gives Brandon Jennings a side kick who can take some pressure off of him. Although both are known to take a lot of shots, I believe they compliment each other well because both can play either off the ball or on the ball. The development of Larry Sanders is bound to help fill the void of losing Andrew Bogut, therefore I don't think that this trade was much of a loss. For these reasons, this trade was a win for both teams.

Nene to DC, McGee to Denver, Young to LAC
I like this trade for all the parties involved. I believe that the young Wizards needed a veteran with somewhat of a winning experience and a moderately good low post game, and Nene provides all the above. I don't expect him to completely change the franchise around, but it's a step in the right direction. In terms of McGee to the Nuggets, it could turn out really good for them, or it'll end up having no effect. Either way, it won't hurt. The emergence of Kenneth Faried made Nene somewhat expendable, therefore the potential failure of McGee to live up to expectation won't hurt. McGee, however, might be able to turn his extremely sloppy career around with the help of George Karl's leadership. Nick Young to the Clippers addresses their need for a two-guard, to help make up for the absence of Chauncey Billups. Young's ability to score will definitely come in handy for the Clippers who sometimes go through difficulties putting up points. The Clippers lost almost nothing to make this acquisition, therefor a good move for them. Overall, this trade was a win for all teams involved.

Sessions to LA
The Lakers are officially back to contender status with this move; that's how much I love it. The major problem they've had all year (for some years now really) has finally been addressed. Ramon Sessions will be a great fit for the Lakers because he is a solid facilitator of the offense who can score the rock if needed. Derek Fisher might have been perfect for the triangle offense, however the move into the Mike Brown system made it inevitable to have a pure point guard like Sessions. Considering all the Lakers gave up was a 1st round draft pick (which definitely won't be a lottery pick), Jason Kapono, and the human victory cigar, Luke Walton, this trade was definitely worth it. Keep in mind that Christian Eyenga, who was also acquired, is an athletic defensive minded player who can definitely produce if need be. For all these reasons, this trade was a big win for the Lakers, however not much of a loss for the Cavs, due to status of their season, and their up and coming franchise point guard Kyrie Irving.

Fisher for Jordan Hill
This trade is one that I believe was made simply to avoid Derek Fisher having to become a bench player. With the acquisition of Ramon Sessions, and the production of Steve Blake, Derek Fisher was bound to receive sporadic playing time, and this trade avoided that situation all together. Don't get me wrong, Jordan Hill is a good player, but the Lakers don't necessarily need him. Besides Bynum and Gasol, they have Josh McRoberts and even Troy Murphy, who are productive bigs. This move, to me, was kind of pointless and unnecessary. Due to the acquisition of Marcus Camby, the Rockets may not miss Hill; if anything he will be missed slightly. The Lakers, however, even though improved at the point guard position, will definitely miss Fisher's leadership. The Rockets can certainly benefit from Fisher's leadership, but I see no major impact on the court. For this reason, this trade was neither a loss or a win for Houston. The Lakers, on the other hand, took a slight loss, due to the fact that a man of Fisher's character cannot be replaced.

Marcus Camby to Houston
Being the experienced veteran that he is, Marcus Camby is definitely a plus for what ever team he goes to. He could certainly contribute to the Rocket's push for a playoff spot with his leadership and his defensive abilities. The loss of Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn, who rarely received any playing time, is definitely not a big factor, therefore this move was a win for the Rockets. The Blazers on the other hand seem to be in rebuild mode, which gives these young players a chance to make a name for themselves. Considering the team has basically eliminated itself from playoff contention with its moves this trade deadline, the Blazers have taken a loss for this move, along with the other moves they made.

Gerald Wallace to the Nets
This move, was one that made no sense to me, from either perspective. From the Blazer's perspective, I didn't understand the sudden urge to split up the team. Despite their struggles, the Blazers could've made it to the playoffs, even if as a very low seed. From the Nets perspective, I didn't understand why they would give up a first round pick which is most likely going to be a lottery pick in a draft that is sure to be filled with many up-and-coming stars. As of right now, it was a good move to acquire Gerald Wallace, as it might give Deron Williams some much needed help. Temporary success can lead to the draft pick being less valuable, which will make this trade a smart move by the Nets. Until then however, I see this trade being a loss for The Nets, as Wallace isn't likely to turn this franchise around, and may not be worth the draft pick. I see this trade as a loss for the Blazers too, as the loss of Wallace ultimately eliminates the Blazers from playoff contention.

Stephen Jackson for Richard Jefferson
A move like this is worthy of a nod and a shrug; meaning that it's a good move, however not too big of a deal. I believe both players will enjoy their new roles, as it may be a better fit for them. Jefferson will get the chance to put up many points for the Warriors, like he did back in New Jersey, and Stephen Jackson will get the chance to utilize his versatility in San Antonio. I mentioned that I don't think this move is a big deal because I doubt that it'll make the Spurs any more of a championship contender than they were, nor will it make the Warriors a sure fit for the playoffs. Considering Stephen Jackson was yet to play a game for the Warriors this season, he won't be missed. On the other hand, all the services that Richard Jefferson provided for the Spurs are capable of being handled by Stephen Jackson. For its fairness, this trade is a win for both teams.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pointing Fingers: Knick Scapegoats

The Knicks have been a below .500 team since the arrival of Carmelo Anthony back in last year's trade-deadline move. Despite making it to the playoffs, it was fair to say that the Knicks had a disappointing season, as they failed to win a single post season game. At the time however, many could point to the injury of Chauncey Billups as the main reason behind the post season struggles. Since the need for a point guard has been filled with the emergence of Jeremy Lin, and the roster has been vastly improved, what lingering factor is to blame for the consistent struggles of the Knicks?

As the superstar of a team, credit is often given in successful times. Unfortunately, criticism is also a part of stardom, especially when the team fails to succeed. In this situation, Carmelo Anthony is guilty of being unable to spark a successful run with this team. As a leader, his play hasn't been able to elevate the play of others, nor has it been enough to individually take this team to another level, with the likes of a Derrick Rose. For a talent who was acquired in exchange for three good players who contributed to a winning effort, Melo hasn't been able to surpass that level of success, or at least maintain that level. He also hasn't been able to adjust his game to fit the system and the talent around him, like LeBron was able to do last year with the Heat. His recent return from injury has taken away the pick-and-roll offense that successfully sparked a run during the Linsanity era; this has led to a stagnant offense full of confusion. For these reasons, he is blameworthy of the Knicks' failure to succeed.

Management took a big risk by shipping away multiple valuable pieces that had contributed to the success that the Knicks were experiencing in the first half of last season. Although Melo is a superstar with the ability to make many game winning plays, I felt that the Knicks gave up too many assets for a player who had the power to change the game in only one dimension: offensively. The risk of starting fresh when the Knicks were already on the right track was one I didn't believe was worth taking, and judging from the results to date, I seem to be right. Although the Knicks went out and acquired Tyson Chandler in the off-season and claimed Jeremy Lin off waivers, I believe that they have put together a roster who's pieces aren't compatible. Amare's game has been on a decline ever since the arrival of Melo; that is a clear sign of incompatibility. Acquiring another big man to clog the paint certainly doesn't help either, especially since Stoudamire is at his best when he starts at center. Picking up JR Smith was a good pick up in terms of the need to acquire some extra offensive fire power, however JR Smith's off-court distractions haven't helped out the Knicks' losing problems. The failure of management to acquire compatible pieces with winning attitudes can be blamed for the struggles of this team.

If this was a multiple choice test, I'd have to circle this choice because it seems to be the best answer to this question. Mike D'Antoni might be known as an offensive genius, but even he hasn't been able to find a way to incorporate Melo, Stoudamire and Lin into a productive system. His inability to make defense a major priority also contributes to the struggles of the Knicks. Superior defense would make it much easier for the Knicks to get out in transition, as they would like to. D'Antoni has also not done a good job of putting his key guys into positions where they are comfortable. Much like the Heat when the big three first got together, the key players on the Knicks seem to have to settle for taking turns isolating to try to make something out of nothing. It is the job of the coach to run plays which involve all players working with one another to create havoc for defenses. His inability to utilize his pieces and implement a system that fits all three of his key players makes him blameworthy of the struggles of the New York Knicks.

Every player on the Knicks can be held accountable for their struggles. From the stars to the bench warmers, everyone can be blamed for not helping to create a winning attitude. Amar'e Stoudamire for example can be blamed for settling for mediocrity this whole season. Nothing about his play has been worth the $100 million contract he signed two summers ago. Tyson Chandler can also be blamed for not changing the defensive culture of the Knicks, as he was expected to. Injuries could certainly be considered a factor, however every other NBA team endures some sort of injuries, therefore it isn't a liable excuse. Regardless of what the reason might be, the Knicks have a limited time to figure out their problems, because the Milwaukee's acquisition of Monta Ellis ultimately makes the Bucks a threat for that number eight playoff spot in the East.

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Why Relationships Fail: 5 Reasons

Fairy-tale Beginnings, Nightmare Endings
A lot of people who are desperate to be loved, find themselves committing to a relationship once they come into contact with a person who does an unusual thing or two to sweep them off their feet.  Relationships like these are rushed into because the couple doesn't take the time to study one another and really find out if they are compatible for one another.  This is what I refer to as a fairy-tale beginning and a nightmare end.  It's a fairy-tale because the way you fall in "love" is so full of dream-like occurrences that you end up being blinded to reality.  When you do in fact come back to earth from this high, the reality setting reveals a multitude of problems that one could consider a nightmare. The Kim Kardashain 72 day marriage is a perfect example of a "love" that began with an fairy-tale yet ended with a nightmare because the couple barely even knew each other.

Lust vs. Love
A big reason why a lot of relationships are short-lived is the lust vs. love factor.  A lot of people find themselves committing to another individual in the form of a relationship simply due to a mutual physical attraction which is mistaken for love.  This physical attraction creates the delusion that there is some form of emotional connection which is worthy of a commitment, when in fact the only connection is in the sack.  In such relationships, the other basic needs of a healthy relationship are not catered to, which leads to dissatisfaction in every regards besides intimacy.   Cheating and a lack of commitment are usually the end results of such relationships, as certain voids are left unoccupied.  In other cases, the two individuals settle for being friends with benefits or simply "cutty buddies."

The Ex-Factor
As I had mentioned in "The Effect of Your First Relationship: First Cut is the Deepest" the ex has the power to ruin future relationships.  Besides the capability of the ex to lure you back into an unsuccessful relationship with lingering problems, the ex has the power to leave a scar on your expectations of a partner.  If your ex cheated, you might falsely expect your current partner to cheat.  If your ex broke your heart, you might find yourself having your guard up, etc.  The ex-factor is one that has the power to disrupt progress in any future relationships.  It is very important to keep your ex's in the rear-view in order to be able to move on in life.

Unsatisfied Needs
As human beings, we all have needs.  Sometimes, the desire to fulfill these needs serve as a major contributing factor to why we develop relationships in the first place.  Be it a need for communication, care, attention, or even sex, relationships tend to be the solution to most of these needs.  Unfortunately, when such needs aren't satisfied, or are no longer satisfied, individuals tend to look elsewhere for fulfillment. This search for fulfillment can sometimes lead to cheating, which ultimately leads to a break-up.   In other cases, this leads right to break-up, depending on how important this unsatisfied need is to the individual.  

Me vs. We
A relationship is meant to be a foundation built on togetherness and commitment to one another; unfortunately, many forget that a big part of a successful relationship revolves around giving up selfish needs for the betterment of the union.  This unwillingness to make sacrifices usually leads to the demise of a relationship.  Doing what is best for you is never a wrong thing, however if you truly value your relationship, doing what's best for the couple should be the priority.  When both individuals are too caught up in pursing what's best for themselves as opposed to what's best for the both as a whole, the relationship typically comes to an end.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Dwight Howard Chronicles: Why Staying Home is the Right Move

        I've tried to come up with a logical reason as to why Dwight Howard is so pressed to leave Orlando, and so far I haven't been able to do so.  I understand that he believes a trade will give him a better opportunity to win a championship, however,  I doubt that even a move to LA would make that happen. That certainly wouldn't happen in New Jersey, nor Golden State, and what Chicago really needs isn't a center. Quite frankly, Dwight choosing to stay in Orlando would the best decision for him to make for many reasons.
        Money is most likely not a factor in Dwight's desire to be traded because if it was, he would be losing a lot of money by going elsewhere.  Staying in Orlando, where income taxes do not painfully deduct revenue from your hard-earned money, along with a contract extension with the Magic is bound to make Dwight thirty million dollars richer than any other team/city would.  If that isn't a big enough incentive, then I don't know what is.  Also, the city of Orlando, its fans, the management, etc. have remained loyal to Dwight throughout this whole process.  Dwight is fortunate to not be greeted with boos at each Magic home game due to his publicly expressed desire to part ways.  I believe that whenever an organization shows loyalty, the best way for an individual to show appreciation is to be loyal in return.  Dwight owes it to the city to remain a Magic.
      Another big reason why Dwight should stay put in Orlando is that the team is perfectly structured to fit his style of play.  As we all know, any post player's dream is to play on a team full of prolific three point shooters who space out the floor and allow the inside force to operate.  The Magic have arguably the best three point shooting roster in the NBA, where almost everyone, excluding Dwight himself, Daniel Orton, and "Big Baby" Davis, are known to be capable three point shooters.  The starting power forward for goodness' sake leads the NBA in 3 pointers made, how rare is that? Moving to any other team would eliminate the kind of spacing that Dwight enjoys in Orlando.  He may take it for granted now, but if he was on a roster where outside threats were unavailable and defenses could really key in on him, his limited offensive skills would be exposed, which brings up my next point.
      If Dwight believes that his team isn't good enough to win a championship, he should take that upon himself to elevate his game to another level and propel his team to championship caliber status.   We are all aware of the fact that Dwight, despite his occasional flashes of brilliance, isn't all that skilled offensively as a big man.  In this generation where the league lacks prolific low post scorers, one could make the case that Dwight isn't even the most prolific of them all.  With that being said, he needs to focus on getting better and becoming dominant like the Shaqs and Olajuwons and Ewings of their days.  Seeking a trade will not make up for what he's lacking, therefore his focus should really be on getting better.
      After Shaq challenged Dwight on TNT to average 28 points per game in order to be considered great, Howard has responded, averaging 28.5 points per game so far in the month of March.  If Dwight is able to maintain this kind of performance consistently, the Magic, in my opinion, will automatically become a contender, eliminating any need for a trade.  To sum it up, Dwight should stay in Orlando because it's perfect for him, financially and tactically.  The answer to his championship quest lies within his performance and improvement.  If he's able to elevate his game to a level where teams can no longer handle him one-on-one, the various shooters in Orlando will certainly be given a chance to earn their paycheck, and perhaps spark a playoff run like the shooters of the Maverick's did last year.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Kobe vs D-Wade: The Aftermath

     Yesterday's Heat vs Lakers game was one of the rare occasions where LeBron James wasn't the center of attention against Kobe Bryant. In lieu of the hard foul that transformed Kobe into the Masked Mamba, and the fact that Kobe, who had been rolling for two straight games, had the opportunity to extend his team's winning streak against the 28-8 Miami Heat, this was a statement game. Many were curious to see what kind of revenge Bryant would seek against Wade, or even better yet if that foul committed during the All star game could spark up some toughness in the Lakers against the dominant Miami team. All these factors played a role in making this a statement game, but more than anything, this presented the opportunity for D-Wade to prove that perhaps he belonged in the same breathe as the likes of a Kobe Bryant. Unfortunately for Wade, he was unable to make that statement.
     This game was Wade's opportunity to make a case that he could be considered the best shooting guard in the league at this point of his career, and there was no better way to do so than to shine against the reigning best shooting guard, and arguably the best player period. The way the game started proved that Wade, despite his elite status, has a long way to go. Kobe started the game hot, Wade didn't; Kobe made things tough on the defensive end, Wade didn't. Kobe was calm and consistent throughout the whole game, Wade was sporadic and eventually lost his composure. It was a perfect case of student getting schooled, early and often by the tutor; the tutor in this case being Kobe. Kobe proved that even though he is in his 16th season, he was gonna hold his own against the 9th year veteran whom many claim to be the only competition Bryant has at the shooting guard position. Yesterday however, kobe made his own statement; that Wade was no competition.
     Wade's inability to at least keep up with Bryant, in what was suppose to be a matchup of "Wade vs Kobe; the revenge of the All-star game foul" proved that Kobe was leaps and bounds ahead of Wade. I was disappointed that Wade allowed Kobe to get off to a hot start, I was disappointed that he let this hot start proceed to become a great game, I was disappointed that he let this frustration lead to him committing silly fouls, but more importantly, I was disappointed that he didn't go up to Coach Spolstera and demand to guard Kobe in the fourth quarter before fouling out. That to me showed that Wade was accepting that he couldn't in fact guard Kobe, and that he was willing to give up and let somebody else try. That to me was the ultimate victory for Kobe.
     As Wade sat on the bench with a towel wrapped around his head and six fouls in the book, I bet he thought of all these things. The loss was more than just loss number 9 for the Miami Heat, it was an individual failure on Wade's part. The final score indicated that the heat lost by 10, but in terms of an individual matchup, it was much more than that. Kobe had gotten a revenge on Wade for that hard foul, and he didn't even need physical retaliation for that. He let his game do the talking, and it sure did say a lot. It proved that Wade was not quite on Kobe's level yet, it proved that the Wade's mental toughness was lacking a bit in comparison to that of Kobe's, it proved that despite Wade's great abilities as a help defender, he had a lot of improvement to do one-on-one, and finally it proved that the title as the best shooting guard in the league was quite possibly only gonna be passed down to Wade upon Kobe's retirement. Wade's reaction to this occurrence is what I'm interested to see. I hope he uses this as motivation to take his game to that Kobe Bryant level, because it evidently isn't quite there yet.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

LeBron James: Pass or Shoot, the Diagnosis

     LeBron James is by far the most scrutinized and criticized player the game of basketball has ever seen.  Every move he makes, on and off the court, is analyzed by millions of basketball fans and analysts, trying to detect a flaw.  To some extent, LeBron deserves all this negative attention, for actions such as the infamous decision of June 2010; however as a human, no one deserves this much criticism.   I find myself asking the question "why" a lot of times because it seems to be the only reaction to many of LeBron's decisions when the spotlight is shinning the brightest. When he decided to "take his talents to South Beach," I asked why.  When he went completely MIA in the NBA Finals, I asked why.  When he made that costly turnover in the last seconds of this year's All-Star game, I asked why.  When he took the ball out of bounds, eliminating himself from possibly taking the last shot of the game, I asked why.  When he passed the ball to Udonis Haslem in the closing seconds of last nigh'ts game against the Jazz, I asked why.  The answer to all these questions, only LeBron knows, but after studying LeBron's life a little more and digging back to his High School days, I may have the answer to that question.
     The game of basketball is a game of habits.  Be it a rugged defensive mentality, or the tendency to take practices lightly, such habits develop at an early age, much like most other aspects of life.  LeBron James has always been a great basketball player.  Dating back to his AAU days as middle school student, LeBron has always stood out in comparison with others of similar age.  From his size, athleticism, and basketball IQ to his unbelievably versatile skills, James showed flashes of brilliance from a very early age.  Unfortunately, around the same time, he started to show signs of that one flaw that is, in many regards, his biggest flaw today; deferring to others when it matters the most.
     With less than 30 seconds to go in the finals of the Division Two State Championship of his junior year, LeBron dribbled up the court in what seemed to be an isolation play.  Down three, most people would assume that young LeBron James would dribble out the clock and hoist up a three pointer at the end to either tie the game and send it to overtime, or miss it and lose in heartbreak fashion.  LeBron, on the other hand, had other ideas.  He passed up the ball to a team mate curling off the baseline for a three.  Now, if the teammate had made the shot, many would've congratulated LeBron for making a great pass; however since he missed it, the situation which didn't seem to be that much of a deal back then, seems to be a reoccurring theme in LeBron's career.
    Looking back at that play years later, I can't help but to wonder why.  Was it because that was the play that the coach had drawn? Was it simply due to the fact that LeBron, who's vision surpasses that of many point guards at any level of play, spotted what he considered a higher percentage shot?  Or was it a case of LeBron simply shying away from the pressure?  The answer to that, is another one of those that we as an audience will never know; however, that play, to me, explains why LeBron at the age of 27 still defers to teammates in crunch time: it is a basketball habit that he has developed.
    As I mentioned earlier, habits are developed at an early age, and usually stick with an individual for the rest of their life.  Habits, whether acquired naturally or taught, are very difficult to break out of.  Some of you are probably wondering, "well what does that have to do with anything?"  Here's my point, LeBron's habit to pass the ball in such situations is one that he developed way back in his high school days; unfortunately, I blame his High School coach Dru Joyce for not instilling into his mind that crunch time is where stars rise to the stage.  That play against Cincinnati's Roger Bacon High School, is in my opinion, the root of LeBron's crunch time fears.  Had he made, or at least taken the shot, he would've learned at that age that he had to perfect his craft for those moments.  Since he passed it up, in what looked to be a designed play, it appears that LeBron was building a habit of counting on others when it matters the most; a psychological trait that to this day still exists.
     I'm not here to list Dru Joyce as the reason behind LeBron's lack of a clutch gene, I'm merely here to point out the impact of a play, that he most likely drew up, on LeBron's current situation.  I understand that LeBron didn't have many opportunities to take/make a lot of crunch time shots, considering most of his wins were blowouts; however, if LeBron had been accustomed to taking those type of shots in the few instances that such shots were needed, it would've developed the confidence that he needed in order to step up to the plate and shine, as oppose to shy away from the spotlight.  Such is a habit that he clearly hasn't developed yet.  It is apparent that he lacks that killer instinct to WANT to take that last shot, and deal with the aftermaths of a possible miss.  Will he ever develop this? We are yet to find out.  We will most likely find out the answer to this question in June, on the biggest stage in basketball.  All I'm saying is, if LeBron had been accustomed to taking those big shots early in his life, that habit would've been developed and wouldn't be a problem today.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Legalize: the Unbiased Perspective of a Non-smoker

     The debate on whether or not Marijuana should be legalized is one that may on go for multiple years without any changes in its implementation; I'm here to tell you, as a non-smoker, why I think the legalization of Marijuana might turn out to be of greater good for this country.  First of all, the amount of time and effort that law enforcement puts into enforcing drug laws, in particular marijuana laws, is quite excessive.  I personally believe that the government is too concerned with being an authoritarian father figure and trying to tell us how to live our lives, as opposed to be being authoritative and allowing us to make our own decisions.  What I mean by that is that the government tries too hard to control our lives, as opposed to leading us in a direction where we can make smart decisions for our own benefits. As long as smoking pot doesn't put somebody's life in danger, I see no reason to abolish it.
     Now, I understand that the government would rather not take the risk of having a whole bunch of potheads walking around scott-free, however I see no harm in it.  Marijuana, from what I know and what I've observed, is a happy drug.  I know many people who smoke pot because they consider it a vacation from the hardships in reality.  Marijuana is not the type of drug to provoke violent action or things of that sort; if anything, marijuana does the complete opposite of that.  Here's my point, if the government believes that marijuana might contribute to criminal acts, then they might as well make alcohol illegal, because it is proven to make an individual aggressive after a good amount of consumption.  Alcohol, in my opinion, poses more of a threat to society than Marijuana.
    Regardless of whether or not Marijuana is legalized, people who find the need to spark a flight to la la land will always find a way to do so.  I believe, in fact, that the thrill of knowing that it's illegal contributes to the desire of individuals to smoke pot.  America, since its foundation, has been know to be a rebellious nation.  From the Boston Tea Party to the actual Declaration of Independence, America is known to be a nation takes pride in not conforming to rules, be it good or bad.  Americans have naturally adopted this trait.  Americans take pride in doing the "wrong" thing and getting away with it, or living by their own rules.  I believe that the thrill contributes to the amount of pot smokers that there is today to some extent.  Legalization might decrease that.
     Marijuana could also be a great source of revenue for this country.  With the amount of money spent on marijuana on a daily basis, taxation could be a great source of financial gain for the country.  This money could be used to better education and regain the top ranks as the best education system in the world, among other things.  California, for example, serves as great proof that legalization can be an excellent source of revenue.  The state is projected to save over 200 million dollars in law enforcement costs, while gaining over 300 million in state taxes.  There's no doubt that the legalization of Marijuana could be a great boost to our economy.
     Finally, I think that law enforcement should focus their attention on matters that actually affect the well being of society, not a drug that makes one a couch potato who consumes so many potato products that they might even turn into one.  With the current overcrowding of prisons, it is fair to label possession/smoking of Marijuana a petty crime that doesn't warrant time behind bars.  Considering that half of property/violent crimes today aren't solved, law enforcement should perhaps focus their attention on that, not Marijuana.  The choice of whether or not to smoke pot should be a decision that a person makes after analyzing the pros and cons of its effect on the individual's life.  That decision shouldn't be the concern of the government.  As long as law enforcement provides a safe environment for all, they are doing their job, and that's all that matters.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mid-Season NBA Awards

Rookie of the Year - Kyrie Irving
With his stellar play so far this season, I think Irving is a safe bet to win the Rookie of the Year Award.  Despite pretty good rookie seasons from others such as Ricky Rubio and Brandon Knight, Irving has proven that in the league where the value is of a point guard is rising, due to the emergence of stars such as Derrick Rose and Chris Paul, he might very well be the next big star at that position.  Averaging 18 points and 5 assists in about 30 minutes of play each game, Irving has shown flashes of brilliance with his ability to get to the rim effortlessly.  Any doubts about his shooting ability were silenced in the Rookie-Sophomore game where he went 8 for 8 from 3-point range.  At 19 years of age, Kyrie Irving is proving to be the reason why Cleveland fans will soon forget about a certain LeBron James.

Most Improved Player of the Year - Jeremy Lin
This one, in my opinion is no-brainer.  The emergence of Linsanity has created a buzz that the league hasn't seen, probably since the infamous decision that was made two summers ago.  Lin's struggles to make an NBA team, let alone stick to one, is a mind-blowing story that warrants such an award.  His hard work, dedication, and most importantly, perseverance has given him a well deserved spot light which he apparently plans on keeping for a long time.  His current seasonal averages of 14 points and 6 assists fail to tell how much of a jump this young man has made in his game.  The many garbage-time minutes that he collected earlier in the season have brought down his averages, however, his stats at the end of the season will be sure to illustrate how much of an improved player he has become.

Sixth Man of the Year - James Harden
This category is one that I was a bit unsure of, due to the performances of usual bench assassins like Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, Al Harrington, etc.  James Harden, however, is very deserving of this award due to his immense contributions to a winning effort in OKC.   I use the word immense because OKC, despite their great success, have only three consistent scorers, with Harden being the third.  Besides Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have no prolific scorers who can create shots, not only for themselves, but others as well.  Harden has hit some big shots for the Thunder so far this season, and with averages of 17 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, his well rounded efforts are well deserving of this honor.

Defensive Player of the Year - Serge Ibaka
A big reason behind the dominant play of the OKC Thunder is Serge "Iblockya" Ibaka.  His shot blocking, and shot altering presence in the paint has an impact that goes far beyond the statistics that he's been putting up this season.  Although Ibaka averages over 3 blocks, and has had several double digit block games thus far in the season, the most important attribute that he brings to the team is his deterrence factor.  Ibaka strikes fear in the minds of the opposition because they know that any moment, a lay-up opportunity may turn into a Sports Center Top 10 play that will leave them embarrassed.  Even when he doesn't get credited with a block, Ibaka certainly alters a number of shots in the paint for OKC, and for these reasons, he deserves to be named the Defensive Player of the Year.

Coach of the Year - Frank Vogel
The Pacers may not have the best record in the League, or even the Eastern Conference, but if you were to tell me at the beginning of the season that they would be third in the Conference, I would label such a statement as absurd.  Despite the acquisition of David West, the Pacers on paper were not what I would consider the third best team in the East.  With that being said, I think Frank Vogel deserves a lot of credit for being able to make the most out of the resources that he has.  The Pacers have exceeded expectations, and for that, their coach deserves this recognition.  Other coaches such as Rick Adelman and Scott Brooks are also very deserving of this honor, however, what Vogel has been able to do in Indiana surpasses the accomplishments of these coaches in my opinion.

 Most Valuable Player of the Year - LeBron James
When LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach in the infamous decision of June 2010, I thought he had officially said good-bye to all individual achievements/awards that he would have otherwise received in Cleveland.  The occurrences of this year, however, have led me to believe that he may be able to add another individual achievement  trophy to his collection.  As usual, the two time MVP has posted stellar numbers across the board all season long with averages of 27 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.  Though he posted similar numbers last year, LeBron is deserving of the award this year because those stats have lifted the play of the Heat to a level that was unseen last year.  Though one might argue that Wade and Bosh contribute to the success as well, therefore James is undeserving of the award, I think LeBron's performance when Wade was out with injury justifies the fact that this team will only go as far as the King takes them.  His elevated play caused many to question if the Heat even needed Wade.  The return of Wade hasn't slowed James down a bit, as he continues to play at a high level.  One might also argue that Durant is more deserving of this award than James is.  Despite Durant's success this season, the play of Westbrook makes him second on the list in my book because Westbrook is having an MVP type season in his own right.  His contributions across the board might cause one to believe that he may even be more valuable than Durant, who is merely just a scorer for OKC.  Others might argue that perhaps Kobe, or even Chris Paul deserve this award, however, with the inconsistencies of their teams, they're great individual play isn't worthy of an MVP award, at least in my opinion.  With that being said, this should be the third MVP award that King James adds to his collection.

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The Effect of Your First Relationship: First Cut is the Deepest

     Your first major romantic relationship, regardless of how early or how late it occurs, has the power to change your love life forever.  It has the power to transform your view on love, the opposite sex, and the nature of relationships.  In many ways, it can "make you or break you."  Knowing this is not suppose to scare you from relationships if you are yet to begin one, but this knowledge can give an individual a better understanding of why they are the way that they are in a relationship, or why they are so fearful of a relationship.
     In life, the basis for reaching conclusions is comparison.  You may find yourself saying "My new girlfriend is great," but on what basis do you make this statement?  Be it that she possesses traits that your female friends lack, or that your friend's girlfriend lacks, the reasoning for this claim is based on comparison.  Unfortunately, the object of comparison in many relationships is the ex, in particular your first love.
     Your first love changes the way you see things from there onward.  The relationship you had, or the way your first love treated you, sets the standard for what you will expect in a relationship.  If your first relationship happens to have been a bad one, its unfortunate, but you are very likely to lower your standards for what you look for in a relationship.  In other instances, that relationship scar might scare you away from even attempting to start a new relationship.  For that reason, your first love will always be a part of you.
     We all know of that one friend who puts up with her boyfriend despite his cheating, abusive behavior, etc, and we have no clue as to why she does.  The answer is simple, she knows no better.  The way her first relationship went might have taught her that such occurrences will happen in every relationship, or at least every relationship that she is involved in, so she has grown to accept that.   She might cry about it every day yet fail to leave because it is imprinted in her mind, because of her first relationship, that things will never change.  This is a perfect example of a relationship lowering the level of expectation for future relationships.
     The impact of the damage that your first relationship can have on you is not limited to putting up with unnecessary baggage alone.  Your first relationship, in more ways than one, contribute the insecurities that you may develop and take into future relationships.  Let's go back to the example of the girl who puts up with her boyfriend cheating etc, if she' able to grow out of that relationship and move on to another, she might automatically begin to suspect that her current boyfriend cheats.  Simple actions, such as interacting with other females in a friendly manner, might strike the girl as a sign that her new boyfriend cheats, simply because those same signs that she once avoided could have led her to figure out that her ex cheated.  The root cause of such insecurities usually traces back to the first serious relationship that altered her views on relationships as a whole.
    Fortunately, not all relationships have bad outcomes.  Some of us are fortunate enough to be put in a situation where you almost have to pinch yourself every now and then to make sure that you are not dreaming because the relationship you are in is too good to be true.  Relationships like this higher your standards and make you extremely picky in the future (that's if, of course, this almost perfect relationship somehow comes to an end).  Being picky isn't a bad thing, it's a great thing in fact, because it shows that you  aren't willing to settle for anything but the best, or at least what you consider the best.  If you are currently in this position, you may want to thank your first love, because they most likely played a part in making you this way.  If you are not, whoever it may be is an ex for good reason.
    I'm not here to provoke you to contact an ex and blame them for making you the way you are in regards to relationships, I'm just here to provide a perspective that you may have never considered.  Giving your heart to someone, or committing to a relationship is a risky decision that we often find ourselves making. The effects, whether good or bad, are bound to change your outlook on relationships as a whole.  So ladies and gents, before you engage in any activity that can possibly scar your mate for the rest of their lives, think twice.  Appreciate them for giving you the power to do so, and reward them by being the reason why they settle for nothing but the absolute best that they deserve.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Life Essentials: A Relationship With God

     The topic of religion is a very controversial subject, and rightfully so, due to the fact that the existence of religion isn't necessarily a known fact.  Besides what we feel within our souls, the only source of validation that there is a God is found in ancient texts whose authors we know nothing of.  The Bible, for example is a sacred text that we respect dearly and use as a manual to life, however, do we even know who wrote it? What did this author look like? Or better yet, what credentials does this author have?  What reason do we have to believe in what he says? With all these uncertainties, I am here to assure you that choosing to follow in the path of God is a decision that will by all means not create any negative results in your life.
     Religion, in the general context, is an advocate of positivity.  From the Ten Commandments to the various Suras, religion promotes human relation skills that should be practiced one way or another regardless of religious affiliation.  It is common sense to honor thy father and thy mother, it is in your own best interest to not steal, or to not kill, it is common courtesy to not covet thy neighbor's goods, etc. Religion, ie. a relationship with God, is merely a guideline to lead you in the right direction in life.  As far as i'm concerned, religion, and not laws, is the best measure of what's right and what's wrong.  With that being said, being religious has no negative repercussions.  You have nothing to lose when you develop a relationship with God.
     One might say, "Why waste your time being religious if the God that we worship might turn out to be non-existent?"  Religious faith is something that can't be taught, you either believe it, or you simply don't.  What I can, however, say  is that even IF there isn't a God, you have nothing to lose by choosing to be religious. Doing good is bound to lift your self esteem and ultimately make you a happier person.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather live a positive life led by religion, even if it leads to nothing in the end, than live a life frowned upon by God and risk being denied access to eternal life when he proves that he does indeed exist.  Like I've reiterated several times, you have nothing to lose, and like the old British idiom said, it is better to be safe than sorry.

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5 Keys to a Healthy Relationship

1) Communicate Effectively 
As with any form of interaction that involves more than one person, effective communication is very important.  It is important to be able to share your feelings and opinions with your partner in a manner that will not create chaos.  Being an effective listener is essential to effective communication.  Be the shoulder to lean on when your partner has had a rough day and needs someone to vent to, be the one they can always count on to understand them when no one does, and lastly be the one they can always count on to have their back.
2) Embrace the Similarities yet Respect the Differences
Most couples are bound together by a list of things that they usually have in common.  Be it interests, views, hobbies, etc, these similarities play a big part in why two people decide to form a union.  As time goes by however, you may start to notice the differences among the two.  Instead of demanding your partner to change their ways or leaving the relationship, accept them for their opposing views/actions, and respect it.  After all, God made us all unique human beings.  Besides, what fun would it be to date someone with identical qualities as you?
3) Compromise
The art of compromising is a necessity whenever different views come together.  Take for example deciding upon where to go for dinner; if your partner wants to go to a fancy restaurant that specializes in steaks yet you want to go to a cheaper more convenient spot that has great seafood, what do you do?  You compromise.  You may have to give up some elements of your stance, perhaps broaden your range from just seafood to a restaurant with all types of foods.  In some instances, it's okay to sacrifice your desires for your partner, as long as you know that they will one day return the favor.  Compromising presents a win-win situation, even if the results don't come up immediately.
4) Have a Healthy Sex Life
This view might be a bit controversial and might differ from person to person based on religious views, age, etc, however engaging in sexual activities of any sort have been proven to relieve tension that may otherwise cause unnecessary arguments.  I'm not saying that a relationship should be a hump fest where one is only "in it to get it" however, it is a proven fact that a healthy sex life relieves stress and makes an individual happier.  If the couple is yet to engage in any sort of sexual relations, then I advice to by all means wait till marriage, however, if both individuals have been sexually active in one form or another in the past, they are bound to have needs, therefore those needs should be taken care of to avoid unnecessary tension.
5) Don't Give Up on Each Other
Break ups today occur far too often and are by many means unnecessary.  Many couples find themselves leaving the relationship as opposed to working on the relationship whenever times get hard.  In my opinion, obstacles are just another way to strengthen a relationship as long as they are overcome.  Walking away from the situation will not solve it, therefore don't give up on your partner whenever the going gets tough.  Work with one other, provide support, and save the relationship, for love is hard to find.

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Obesity: A Larger Than Life Problem

        In today's society, the rate of obesity has reached levels that one wouldn't have been able to predict centuries ago; who is to blame for this rapid increase? Fast food? Lack of activity? Technology? or Genetics? None of these factors can individually explain this recent phenomenon, however, components of each contribute to what is becoming an alarming problem.
         Take for example fast food, it is merely impossible to drive 5 miles today without coming across a McDonald's or some other type of fast food joint.  With such consistent luring temptation, how is one supposed to stay true to a steady diet? Especially with the low cost of such fatty, greasy, high caloric food, how is one suppose to say no to a double cheese burger and yes to a salad?  Oh and by the way, keep in mind that the same dollar that is capable of buying you multiple different things on a dollar menu at McDonald's is most likely insufficient to buy you a vegetable, let alone salad dressing to put together a healthy choice of meal.  How is mankind suppose to eat healthy when all the smart economic choices are nudging us toward the direction of unhealthy food?  Going out to eat was once used as a reward of some sort, today, it is used as a substitute for making dinner/lunch, due to the lazy tendencies that we have developed.  With that becoming a normality, how are we suppose to track the amount of calories we consume in a day?
      Another thing to consider is the lack of activity by the people of this generation.  Technological advancement have given mankind a reason to be lazy, and this, believe it or not, affects our health.  Take for example the impact that video games have our children.  The time used to break a little sweat by your son through playing a sport with the neighbor's kid is now being used to sit behind a TV or a computer moving nothing but fingers. The once active american child is now replaced by the social media obsessed kid or the video game junkie.  But how can we blame these kids when the environment in which they live in, due to the many gadgets and social media advancements, have given them no choice but to indulge heavily in such activities?
    The last point I will like to make is in regards to the way a child is raised from birth.  This isn't necessarily genetics, however considering this impact begins at such a young age, it might as well be.  Children these days are introduced to obesogenic tendencies at a very early age.  From the feeding of formula as opposed to breast milk, to the very first meal a child has, many children are taught by parents and other caregivers an eating lifestyle that might ruin their lives for good.  Imagine if as a kid your usual meals consist of happy meals at McDonald's, why wouldn't such become a norm for you upon maturation?  The familiarization that we develop at an early age, with such tendencies, set us up for failure.  With that being said, one can't point a finger to any particular one aspect of life for this outbreak of obesity, however, a combination of all these components play a huge part in elevating the problem to this magnitude today.

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