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Archive for June, 2018

( Full Disclosure: I am a long time Laker fan, having rooted for them since the days of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. I have stuck with them through the highs- Magic, Worthy, Kobe, Shaq – and the lows – Kobe’s final years. I admire the Warriors for their unselfish style of play which reminds of the glory years when Magic was battling Bird and the Celtics.  I detest Lebron because of his arrogance and selfishness and his me-first attitude and am thankful to Golden State for raining on his parade).

Now that the Warriors have swept the Cavaliers, Kevin Durant’s detractors have come out in full force. Over and over again, I hear him labeled ” a coward” and ” weak” for having joined a 73 win team in order to get a championship ring. These same people hate the Warriors for making the NBA championship a foregone conclusion. Many of them are also Lebron supporters who rail against the ” unfairness” in Lebron having to play, all on his lonesome) against a team with four All- Stars and a deeper bench. To which I say ” Bosh!” and I don’t mean Chris Bosh.

These critics seem to have forgotten that it was LeBron himself who, eight years ago, orchestrated the idea of a ” super-team”, one with three All-Stars when he enticed Chris Bosh to join him in decamping to Miami and teaming up with Dwayne Wade. There have been other super teams before but they were put together by GM’s through the draft and through trades. This was, as far as I know, the first time that players took it upon themselves to form a super team. Kevin Durant, on the other hand, suffered for seven years in Oklahoma City with the ball-hogging duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook before being recruited by Stephen Curry and a bunch of Warriors players. Who can blame him for not wanting to continue playing with Westbrook, a player  like Lebron whose ego is even bigger than his admittedly great skills. Besides, in coming to Golden State, Durant not only took a huge play cut but subjugated his skills for the good of the team. It was only when Curry and Thompson misfired that Durant unleashed his one-on-one skills for the good of the team. The Warriors are only too aware of the sacrifices that KD has made and that’s what makes them such an unselfish team and a joy to watch.

Lebron is a terrific player with unbelievable physical attributes, definitely in the conversation for the Greatest of All -Time for fans who are interested in such things. He is also a selfish player who demands the ball, a flopper and a whiner who gets more than his share of calls because of his reputation. In recent years, he has expanded his game and is a threat from anywhere on the floor but I dislike his ball -dominant style of play where most often he barrels over defensive players and gets the call when he should actually be  called for an offensive foul. If he does not have a good supporting cast, it is partly because he insists on getting his full market value leaving very little for management to recruit other players with. He also drives away teammates with his selfish play. Kyrie Irving demanded a trade inspite of  reaching the finals three times and winning a Championship with LeBron. According to one report, he was tired of seeing Lebron hog the ball for most of the 24 second possession , being unable to do anything with it  and then passing ( to Irving) with only  2 or 3 seconds left . Irving would then have to hoist a desperation shot with the shot clock winding down, missing more often than not and getting the blame. Finally, LeBron undercuts team mates and the coach and often acts as a de facto GM insisting on trades and then moaning about the lack of support when things don’t pan out.

In the first game of these finals, LeBron played a fantastic game and I felt for him when the Cavs lost due to J,R Smith’s bonehead play. I was feeling more in sympathy with him after the final game and he had to stomach yet another defeat. Then he had to come out and talk about his self inflicted injury and detract from the Warriors win instead of keeping quiet about it and giving them their due. Reminded me of Serena Williams, who never lost a match without making excuses for it.

Now that the finals are over, there is a lot of speculation about where LeBron will go next. The possible landing spots are Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston. I don’t care where he goes or whether he stays in Cleveland… I just don’t want to see him join the Lakers. LA has a  young team , and in Luke Walton, a coach in the Steve Kerr mold. They are fun to watch and with the addition of a superstar or two could challenge the Warriors and the Rockets. But not with LeBron. His me-first attitude would destroy the team’s chemistry and would impede the progress of the youngsters. Furthermore, LBJ has played so much basketball that he is older than his chronological age of 33. His skills will ,be on the decline in the next year or two; if he is given a long term max contract it will tie up valuable cap space much as happened in the final years with Kobe. I hope the Lakers don’t make that mistake. I loved Magic as a player but as a GM he is still an unknown quantity. I was unhappy with his drafting Lonzo Ball because of his crazy dad. Giving LiAngelo, a tryout was inexplicable. Please Magic, take a pass on LeBron.

 

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(On Friday mornings at 11:30, my wife conducts a meditation session at our clubhouse. Usually about 20-25 people attend and, as we all sit in a circle, she plays a meditation tape from a free app called Insight Timer. It guides us through a meditation exercise which lasts about 15 to 20 minutes. There follow ten minutes of gentle music or, sometimes, silence.  The entire session lasts  thirty minutes and has been described by some participants as the best part of their day as it soothes and refreshes the mind.  Additionally, the act of sitting together engaged in a common pursuit enables us to connect and creates a sense of community. Lately, I have been closing each session with a short talk, usually a teaching story from something I’ve read or a personal experience. Here is an example).

Twenty years ago, words like” Mindfulness” and phrases like ” being in the moment” were still exotic. Nowadays they are mainstream; one hears them in the oddest places. Yesterday, I was reading an old issue of New York magazine when I came across a little filler, a paragraph about how habits are created. According to researchers at MIT, habits are formed as the result of a three step process: Cue, Routine, Reward. For example: “You feel bored” ( Cue). You pull out your iPhone ( Routine) A few moments of empty stimulation (Reward).

But, all too soon, you are bored again. What is to be done?

Solution: Choose a reward that contributes to your feeling of well being. Two of the best rewards, happiness wise: Staring a conversation with a stranger  Or Being more present in the moment.

What do these two things have in common?

In both cases, you consciously remove yourself from center stage. You become the observer, not the central character. You do not think of I.. I.. I.

This too is an aspect of mindfulness, one that I don’t think is stressed enough.

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Summer Fruits

A couple of weeks ago, the New York times critic Pete Wells listed his Top Five Fruits of summer. They were, in ascending order, as follows.

5. Raspberries

4. Peaches

3. Blueberries

2. Cherries

1.Watermelon.

His choices were based on not just on the fruits eaten out of hand but on their versatility in various preparations. It was an interesting list and started me thinking about my own. My first act was to see the complete list of summer fruits. There were 25 of them listed in many sites and I thought that was too inclusive. Many like Boysenberries, loganberries, and gooseberries are not widely available. Some, like grapes, are available throughout the year and don’t really come under the category of summer fruits.( In my book, summer fruits are those available primarily in the summer months, from June to September.) Guavas are delicious in tropical countries but a sore disappointment in the U.S. They’re out. And , as for zucchini, I don’t consider it a fruit.

My Top 5 list and my reasonings for elevating these above all others is given below, in ascending order of desirability.

5,. Honeydew melon. I love the fragrance and the delicate taste. Great eaten chilled on a hot summer day  but also wonderful when made into a smoothie At this point, I’ll also mention that, on my list, honeydews edged out watermelons, the number 1 choice on the NYT list. Watermelons, it is true, are synonymous with summer but I find them one-dimensional.  Very often, they are not very sweet and perhaps I am turned off by their ubiquity. I admit they are more versatile than honeydews but that is not enough.

4. Blackberries.  They are larger, plumper and usually sweeter than raspberries. The latter are more attractive to look at but they also spoil quickly. Too often, I have had to throw raspberries away because I left them in the refrigerator for a couple of days instead of eating them immediately.

3.Peaches, when they are at their peak, are really really good. I remember attending the U.S. tennis Open at Flushing Meadows for many years with my father and my friend Bill. At the time, fans were allowed to bring in outside food ( I don’t know if it is still the case). I would bring the ham sandwiches and the water bottles. Bill would bring peaches, and what peaches they were! When I bit into one of them, the juice would run down my chin . And as for sweetness, they were unbelievably sweet. I’ve never had peaches elsewhere that were half as good. Usually, they are hard and bland, almost a different fruit. I do like the peach flavor though in ice cream, in peach melba and in peach pies.

2.Mangoes might have been in the top spot except that the varieties available in the U.S are not as good as those I’ve eaten elsewhere. The Alphonso mangoes available in India are in a class by themselves and the variety of  mangoes on offer there, each with it’s distinctive character, is mindboggling. The Kent mangoes, which are widely available in the U.S, are not bad but they lack flavor and are often fibrous. Still, a so-so mango is better than most other fruits.

1. Cherries carry, for me, a certain mystique. I’ve seen peach trees, blackberry and raspberry bushes and mango trees but I’ve never seen a cherry tree. All I know is that in late June and early July the supermarket has bins of the luscious black fruit at affordable prices. I like the sweetness of cherries but also their firmness. I could happily eat them year round but, alas, after a scant two months they disappear just as suddenly as they came on the scene. I like them fresh and eaten out of hand but also in cherry pies and clafoutis and, of course, in cherry vanilla ice cream. At the doctor’s office, one lady ( who was a diabetic) was plaintively bemoaning the doctor’s command that she not eat more than six cherries at any one time. ” Six !”, she moaned” “After six, I’ve only just begun”. I sympathize with her and I hope it never happens to me.

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