America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

America's #1 Balance Bike Destination
America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

31 December 2005

Happy New Year from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore

Fireworks explode above a heart-shaped design on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during a New Year's fireworks display January 1, 2006. The fireworks display this year was titled Heart of the Harbour and consisted of more than three tonnes of explosive devices being launched into the night sky that includes 11,000 fireworks shells, 10,000 shooting comets and 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects requiring over 60,000 metres (65,616 yards) of wires and cables.
REUTERS/David Gray
Fireworks explode over the Malaysia's Petronas Twin Towers at midnight in Kuala Lumpur January 1, 2006. Thousands of Malaysians gathered at the foot of the country's landmark to celebrate the coming of the new year.
REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad
Fireworks mark the start of the New Year at Marina Bay in Singapore January 1, 2006. A special lighting display transformed the night sky into an explosive visual arts presentation at the stroke of midnight in Singapore, as part of the new year celebrations.
REUTERS/Luis Enrique ascui

30 December 2005

"Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band" in Istanbul

Actor Woody Allen plays his clarinet during a new year concert by "Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band" at Lutfi Kirdar concert hall in Istanbul December 29, 2005. Woody Allen and his band performed in Istanbul on Thursday night following their stops in Brighton, Milan, Lisbon and Barcelona as part of their European tour.

REUTERS/Fatih Saribas

I can't help remembering Woody Allen in his sperm cell costume, or his jester costume in the 1972 movie "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid To Ask". It's a classic for sure, up there with "A Clockwork Orange", released in 1971. -AT

METAL FIRTINA commentary at "Moon of Alabama"

"Metal Storm" is the translation of the Turkish title of this book, written by Burak Turna and Orkun Uçar. This link will lead you to an excellent meassage board discussion which centers heavily on Kurds at some points. I am still not done going through all of the contributions, but the mind-set of the a big cross section of people seems to be represented. Good reading. I began to read this thriller over the summer but it was in Turkish and I was hating that I occasionally had to re-read a passage to understand it completely. I resolve to finish it up over the next few weeks, and post mini capsules of it in English for your enjoyment. Maybe then I can approach the authors to see if they'll pay me to translate the whole book into English for them. (Wishful thinking, I know....) -AT

29 December 2005


16-year-old survives his experiment in 'immersion journalism'

Thursday, December 29, 2005; Posted: 9:43 p.m. EST (02:43 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare.
But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.
And he didn't even tell his parents.

This incredible story reminds me of a few things:
1. I skipped school in the 8th grade and traveled to Manhattan with a school-mate named Barry Klarman. We lived in Whitestone Queens so it was no big deal, unless you consider that we were only 13... That was a loooong day, especially after we ran out of cash.
2. When I was 12, my parents, for whatever demented reasoning, sent me on my own from Istanbul to JFK, with a 12 hour lay-over in Amsterdam. I wandered every square inch of that airport back in 1983... I remember how the public toilets were clean, sanitary and private.
3. I bought myself a motorcycle when I was 14, from a kid with connections to organized crime. It was a Suzuki DS80 dirt bike (paid $175 for it, then had to change the piston and rings), and I kept it hidden in our basement in Queens NY, snuck it out to go for joyrides, and my parents never knew... until one of the neighbors told them.

For these reasons, I must salute Farris Hassan for having balls big enough that he must use a wheelbarrow to hoist them... -AT

Got Milk?

Mehmet Yilmaz snorts milk up his nose and squirts it out of his eye in bid to set a new world record, Istanbul, Turkey. (09/01/04 AP Photo)

This reminds me of al old SNL skit I saw when I was a kid, involving Tim Kazurinski... -AT

Turkey drops case against Orhan Pamuk

Thursday, December 29, 2005; Posted: 7:07 a.m. EST (12:07 GMT)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkish prosecutors decided not to file charges against novelist Orhan Pamuk for allegedly insulting Turkey's armed forces, but the writer still faces charges that he insulted "Turkishness," said lawyers who asked for his trial.

Click title bar for the complete story. -AT

28 December 2005

'Honor' killings shock Pakistan

Wednesday, December 28, 2005; Posted: 9:05 p.m. EST (02:05 GMT)
MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) -- Nazir Ahmed appears calm and unrepentant as he recounts how he slit the throats of his three young daughters and their 25-year old stepsister to salvage his family's "honor" -- a crime that shocked Pakistan.

Click the title above to read the whole story.

I was beginning to feel a little better, until I went online and found this horrific article. The headline: 'Honor' killings shock Pakistan, to me is a complete joke, because the rest of the world will no doubt be more shocked than anyone living in Pakistan. The wife, pictured above, watched as her [2nd] husband [and former brother-in-law] slit the throat of her first born daughter, aged 25. This was to restore the family's honor because she had allegedly commited adultery. It didn't stop there. To AVOID the inevitable adultery which he believed his own three daughters would commit, he also slit the throats of Bano, 8, Sumaira, 7, and Humaira, 4. Their mother watched as he took the lives of all four of her children, and each of the young girls witnessed not less than one sister die, one of them saw three sisters die. Imagine their terror. Apparently it is more honorable to be a homicidal killer-maniac than to have daughters. The three month old son was spared, but now that daddy faces certain execution for his crimes, the future of a boy living with his emotionally disturbed and twice widowed mother doesn't look so bright.

27 December 2005

STOMACH FLU has me on the ropes

Dear readers,

I've been fighting a bad cold for the past two weeks, and going to work everyday to avoid falling behind with my construction projects.

Today it has all caught up with me and I have every imaginable flu sympton- muscle aches all over, nausea, fever, diarrhea, headache, complete lack of energy. I'm a zombie who can barely walk around the house, it feels like my legs might give out from under me. For this reason I may not be contributing for a couple of days. Thank you all for your continued interest. I hope to make it up to you as soon as I am 100% again. I'm staying home tomorrow, for once, I don't care what happens at work. In case I take a longer break, have a safe and happy new year. Many thanks.

Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis)

What is stomach flu? Stomach flu is a viral infection that affects the stomach and small intestine. It is also called viral gastroenteritis. The illness is usually brief, lasting 1 to 3 days.

How does it occur? Gastroenteritis is caused by swallowing certain viruses. The body fluids of infected people contain the virus, sometimes even before their symptoms begin. The virus can be spread by direct contact with an infected person (for example, kissing or shaking hands) or by sharing food, drink, or eating utensils.

The virus enters the stomach and intestine and inflames the lining of these organs. As a result, the stomach and intestine are temporarily unable to perform their usual functions. The virus can also cause food to move more rapidly through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Some bacteria and other tiny organisms called protozoa can cause infections that have symptoms similar to those of stomach flu.

What are the symptoms? When you have stomach flu, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:

• fatigue • chills • loss of appetite • nausea • vomiting • stomach cramps • diarrhea • low-grade fever • muscle aches.

The illness may develop over a period of hours, or it may suddenly start with stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea.

26 December 2005

Sex-selection banned- Swingers clubs okay, guess where?

The procedure is expensive ($19,000), but couples from Canada are traveling to the US in large numbers to conceive the gender of their choosing. Read about it here: Sex selection banned

In related news from Canada, swingers clubs where strangers meet for consentual sex with one or many partners, has been legalized. Read about it here: Swingers clubs legal

Both issues are very unattractive. Both involve sperm- one wastes it completely (among other things) and the other segregates it between X and Y chromosomes. It's worth considering that both are inevitably responsible for the destruction of unwanted embryoes, I think. Neither issue imbues a feeling of wholesomeness. Where do I find this stuff? Ugh, I feel like I may wretch, but something compelled me to cover this- a Canadian-American friend of mine who we'll call "Mike" to protect his identity.

25 December 2005

Northern Iraq = Southern Kurdistan?

Look at the map of "Greece" and Kurdistan, created by an anonymous Greek jokester. This map is an insult to Turks, and I suppose to Armenians too in an indirect sort of way.

It has been 85 years since the Treaty of Lausanne, and 82 since the Treaty of Sevres. Do maps of the former Ottoman Empire still exist? Of course they do. Are there any hopes whatsoever of re-conquering any of the lands which the Empire once included? None whatsoever, even though such a short period of time has passed.

It has been 600 or so years since the collective population of Kurds has had any claim to any land, to any legitimate autonomy within recognized geographic borders. Do maps of the former Kurdistan still exist? Of course they do. Are there any hopes of re-claiming all of the land which Kurdistan once included? There certainly is.

Forgive me for asking and answering my own questions, but it seems to me that for the umpteenth time, the Kurdish cause has been given an injection of high octane fuel, this time thanks to the Bush Administration. Not only is "Northern Iraq" considered a dirty word to the Kurds, "Kurdistan", as it relates to the same real estate, is also a no-no. Whatever is taking shape in northern Iraq is being referred to as SOUTHERN KURDISTAN, and if this isn't considered to be provocative to Turkey, I don't know what is. I say: "Accept what you are given and don't threaten the north unless you can take it yourself by force, which you obviously can't". I try to be sympathetic and open-minded towards the Kurdish issues, but finding tripe such as "Southern Kurdistan" is a real buzz-kill.

At the end of the First World War, Ottoman lands which were conquered by force, fair and square (as I've said before, force is the currency of land grabbing) were diminished by 100s of thousands of square miles. The Treaty of Sevres, if enforced, would have given Turkey about 1/2 of the land which it's borders now define. The Treaty of Lausanne of course superceded this vulturous gang-bang, for lack of a better term, and we see the results by looking at any modern map of the middle east.

It goes without saying that Kurds received the short end of the stick. But it takes more than signed documents to stake a claim. If the collective population of Kurds possessed the military might to take what they could take, then it would have been so, but it wasn't, was it? There is no denying that the modern Republic of Turkey was born from more than just signed documents, it was fought for, tooth and nail, during the course of wars too numerous to mention in between 1910 and 1930.

I don't know what the next few decades will bring, if the conflict in Iraq will give rise to a wonderful democratic independent state called Kurdistan. If it is possible, then I say, let it be so, but...Does such an emergence pose a threat to Turkey? I think it does. The Turkish military certainly believes so, and monitors this situation with hyper vigilance and complete intolerance. What might become of the Kurdish-Turks living in Turkey if armed conflict is triggered? if Turkish forces intervene? As for Kurds who choose to stay in Turkey, while they have their own state next door, are they going to be wearing out their welcome? How appropriate would it be for a Kurdish Turk [referring only to those who would sooner burn a Turkish flag than salute it] to live in Turkey? I think it's going to get very ugly, very violent and very unattractive for any such Kurds, or other such ethnicities for that matter, to take residence in Turkey. "Love it or leave it" will ring loud and ring true, of this there is no doubt.

My detractors can paint me any way they like. This is a moderate view, and you are free to disagree, in fact you're encouraged to try and prove me wrong. Most Turks who I know "wouldn't waste their breath" [in their words] discussing any possible autonomous Kurdistan, in Iraq or inTurkey, or otherwise.

Since I believe that Kurds will never re-claim any Turkish land for their own state, I am hopeful that those Kurds who live in Turkey will dis-engage with the Turkish military, dis-arm completely and live in peace with all of the other ethnicities who call Turkey home. Love it or leave it. (yes for the third time).


Whose Birth Day is it Anyway? Christ, Constantine, Sol Invictus: the Unconquerable Sun (an excerpt)

Pictured below- Statues of Christ, Son of G-d and Apollo, Sun God.

by Ralph Monday
Christian Overlays of Christmas
Two important contributions that the reign of Constantine wrought were the establishments of the dates of Christmas and Easter. However, neither holidays are unique and original to the church, they are overlays of much earlier traditions, and both are connected to the sun, the former to the winter solstice and the latter to the vernal equinox. Again, the passage of the sun across the ecliptic demonstrates the astronomical motif that has been grafted onto the Christian god.
Constantine may not have completely established the date of Christmas, but what is clear is that he had considerable influence in setting the date of December 25 as Christ's birthday. After Constantine's victory, in perhaps 320 or 353 C.E. the church decreed that December 25 would become the standard day of observance for the birth of Christ. However, this date had long been recognized in antiquity as the return of the sun, for in ancient times, before the establishment of the Gregorian calendar, December 25 was the date of the winter solstice, the point when the sun has reached its southern most trek below the equator, where it appears to stand still for three days. After that time it begins to move back toward the northern hemisphere, gaining strength with each passing day the "sun is born," or the "light comes into the world," or "the light of the world" is at hand. Christmas, during the early centuries, was the most variable of the Christian feast days, and was often confused with the Epiphany, and celebrated in the months of April and May. Pope Julius I, in the fourth century commanded a committee of bishops to establish the date of the nativity of Jesus. December 25 (the day of Sol Invictus, the invincible sun) was decided upon. Not coincidentally, that is the day when the "pagan world celebrated the birth of their Sun Gods-Egyptian Osiris, Greek Apollo and Bacchus, Chaldean Adonis, Persian Mithra-when the Zodiacal sign of Virgo (the sun is born of a virgin) rose on the horizon. Thus the ancient festival of the Winter Solstice, the pagan festival of the birth of the Sun, came to be adopted by the Christian Church as the nativity of Jesus, and was called Christmas" (Crosbie). The church found itself:
By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern churches, where it was celebrated on January 6. The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god (natalis solis invicti), and that the Saturnalia also came at this time(Collier's Encyclopedia, CD-ROM).
Further, according to Annie Besant:
He is always born at the winter solstice, after the shortest day in the year, at the midnight of the 24th December when the sign Virgo is rising above the horizon; born as this Sign is rising, he is born always of a virgin, and she remains a virgin after she has given birth to her Sun-child as the celestial Virgo remains unchanged and unsullied when the Sun comes forth from her in the Heavens. Weak, feeble as an infant is he, born when the days are shortest and the nights are longest....(qtd. in Bailey)
The connection to the sun as a solar deity, the light and soul of the world, when it is reborn at the winter solstice, became the birthday of Christ, and he is but one manifestation of many ancient rchetypal savior deities.

Is it any wonder why the Christian sabbath falls on "SUN-DAY"? More issues to ponder: Was Jesus Christ a Jew who both avoided pork and who was circumcised? Was is St Paul who eliminated these compulsory rules for Christians? Was the idea of Trinity invented to make Christianity more attractive to pagans? It seems that the more that I research such issues, the more it seems that plagiarism was the rule, not the exception, for both Christianity and Islam (among untold other competing religions). At the Council of Nicea, it is said that the four chapters of the Bible were selected when ALL Christian texts were placed beneath a table overnight- those which miraculously ended up on top of the table by dawn, became the Bible scripture, and all of the rest was burned. Truth or fiction? I don't know or pretend to know. We all pick and choose that which we believe is true, and that which we dismiss as false or incorrect becomes obvious. Merry Christmas!

24 December 2005

Orhan Pamuk- Renegade or Pioneer?

"30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in these lands, and nobody but me dares talk about it".

Orhan Pamuk, I am told, is one of the greatest writers of this time, if not the very best from Turkey. Shame on me for never reading any of his work, but I have no choice but to take everyone's word for it. His words, as spoken to a Swiss newspaper are judged to be an "insult to Turkishness".

For this crime, he is being prosecuted as a criminal, and he is being hated by all flavors of nationalist "halk" in Turkey. Apparently in Turkey, freedom of speech is limited, especially as it relates to anything involving the devlet, past or present. This comes as no surprise to anyone, least of all to those who are critical of Turkey's acceptance into the EU.

I do not want to debate the oppression of Kurds or the "so-called" Armenian genocide. I am in no position to confirm or deny either with any certainty. Who truly is?

What I believe is certain is that this fiasco that the Turkish courts have brought upon themselves is completely un-necessary, an embarrassment, and a detriment to the aspirations of joining the EU. In my view, Pamuk spoke his mind about subjects which I believe haunt every Turk at some level. He has "said what everyone is already thinking", as the saying goes.

Right or wrong, Kurdish language and culture is subjugated in Turkey. Click here for a previous contribution related to this subject Genocide or not, a very large number of Armenians died in Turkey. These are not un-truths, fabricated by Pamuk and set forth for the first time. They are issues which should stop being censored and brought out into the open. Outright dismissal of these issues, and incarceration of those who dare to put them on the table, is what's wrong here.

Do I believe there are valid reasons for the oppression of Kurds by the Turkish government? Yes I do, but valid does not necessarily mean correct. Do I refuse to define the 1915 deaths of Armenians using the word "genocide"? Yes I do, but the alternatives to using "that word" aren't so attractive either. Death is death.

NO I do not believe that Orhan Pamuk's remarks were appropriate or patriotic. I can't confirm or deny that 30,000 Kurds have died at the hands of Turkish security forces. To the contrary, Turkish sources state that 30-50,000 TURKS have died as a result of fighting between Turkish military and PKK guerillas and terrorists. The numbers need better definition because the Turkish government considers all ethnicities living in Turkey to be Turks, meaning that the figures set forth by the Turkish government MAY refer largely to Turks of Kurdish ethnicity. At any rate, I'm in over my head a little bit here. The main gist of what I feel about this is that Orhan Pamuk has committed no crime. It is hard for any red-blooded American to call it any other way, even if they are an American of Turkish ethnicity. Where's that "Iamnotamerican" guy? He should think about selling "FREE PAMUK" t-shirts and bumper stickers. I'll be the first in line. Here is a poem that reached me through circulation on a Boston Yahoo group, by "Ozan Erbabi":

YÜZDE yüz bir pislik var ki kaninda,
Soykirim icadi yapti sonunda,
Türkiye'nin su en hassas aninda,
Onu yalanlayan tarihe kizar,
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yazar.

Nerden çikti simdi durup dururken?
Dört yandan ülkeyi düsman bürürken,
AB'ye gün be gün hesap verirken,
Hayali ölüye mezar kazar,
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yazar.

Kivirmayi birak, erkek ol erkek,
Bir buçuk milyonu saydin mi tek tek?
Üç kurus paraya satilmis KÖPEK
Eline bir kemik geçince azar,
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yazar.

Dönen dolaplari ibretle seyret,
Ermeni bu kadar göstermez gayret,
Kraldan daha kralci, hayret!
Kafayi 'SOYKIRIMI' sözüyle bozar,
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yazar.

Eðer bir soykirim varsa ortada,
Türklere yapildi ERZURUM, KARS'TA.
Tarihi git ögren, birazcik sus da,
Dogu bastan sona hep toplu mezar,
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yazar.

Azerbaycan’a git, gör soykirimi,
Yürekler acisi Türk'ün durumu.
Bir daha bilmeden yapma yorumu,
Azeri kaniyla doluyken HAZAR,
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yazar.

Bati’nin gözünde artti degerin,
Onlardan bir daha kaptin 'AFERÝN' .
Küpede taktimi mi efendilerin?
Midesi dolunca dili hep uzar,
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yazar.

Anan mi Ermeni, Baban mi senin?
Ailenden var mi hiç katledilenin?
Seni bu ülkede aydin edenin?
Alçaklik yaptikça bulursun Pazar,-
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yazar.

Ekmegini yedigin bu Devlete,
Seni adam sayan yüce Millete,
Ihanet ederek düstün ZiLLETE!
Aman dikkat et, degmesin nazar,
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yazar.

Bir adam olursa dogustan yamuk,
Soyuna düsmandir, Düþmana pamuk,
ERBABI, yakana yapiþir OMUK,
Unutma, bu millet oyunu bozar,
Böylesi HAÝNLER oluyor yaza.


The Beauty of Having a Second Chance- Cinderella Man

It's about ten minutes since the credits for "Cinderella Man" rolled across our television screen. As with most "guy flicks" which my wife and I watch together, I again fight back tears, which seems to serve only to intensify the emotion. It's been years since I've cried, but reflecting back upon the rare and few times when I 'let go', it's clearly a liberating and refreshing experience. It wipes the slate clean, it purifies the contaminants from your head, like a long overdue rain storm- all of the automobile drippings, dog excrement and dust is washed away clean, leaving only gleaming asphalt, which is a nice thing. This may explain why I love rain storms. Seeing the dirty run-off as it cascades down the curb and disappears into the storm drain has a wonderful effect on me.

I believe that like myself, most men wait until the cup is completely overflowing, before they allow themselves to cry, and when it takes hold, it's in private, it's with heaving sobs, and it's intense, it's much like a passing rain storm. It's powerful release yields a transformation, a 'lightening' of the soul. You feel as light as a cloud in it's wake. Personally, mine strike during road trips, driving alone, when suddenly the air, the smells, the memories and emotions, the song on the radio is there is no possible way to avoid it. When those planets line up- find some Kleenex- and just let it rip.

So what's this to do with a "second chance"? Nothing really, I just needed to get that of my chest before I could get into it. In the movie, Cinderella Man, a washed up fighter gets a second chance to return to the ring and make his mark. Having watched Million Dollar Baby recently, we were both in the proper mind-set to appreciate this film. It seems to me by the way, that most "guy flicks" contain the "second chance" theme, without exception. Men who are drawn to such movies might want to do a gut check. Is there something you regret? Something you wish you had achieved, but didn't yet? Something you believe you might still achieve, given another shot at it? Or have you already claimed your second chance and triumphed? I believe I did...

In 1994 my career was at it's last stop. At the tender young age of 24, I was completely burnt out of the work I had been doing since I was 10 years old. I was a self-employed cabinet maker and I had given everything, sacrificed a great deal and in the end, came up short. In 1994 I decided to do something completely different and so I moved to Turkey to see try something new. I swore up and down that I was done with the woodworking business, with cabinet making. Upon returning from Turkey a year later, I ate my words, but resigned myself to being just a cabinet maker- punching a clock at a millwork company for $10 an hour. No designs of ever making more than a living wage. After all, I quit college to learn this trade, to help with the family business. I had no other marketable skills or training, besides woodworking.

Needless to say, I stuck with it, I persevered, I stayed the course, believing that maybe one day, my loyalty to this trade might pay off, might reward me handsomely down the road. I even went into business for myself again, briefly and miserably. In 1996 I found myself in yet another dead end. No money, unemployed, ineligible for unemployment benefits, losing the first house I ever bought....cursing the day I ever quit college for this lousy trade...

Then, out of nowhere, like a miracle, I am hired for the position of project manager- not on the shop floor- but up front in the office... My past experience, I suddenly discovered, had value after all. Just 2 or 3 months into this gig, I get miracle phone call number two- a company in Connecticut would like to hire me for DOUBLE what I was being paid. From here, you can figure out the rest of the story. Since that time, my compensation has doubled again, giving me and my family a very comfortably blessed lifestyle. I'll give myself credit for 'sticking to what I knew' to make a living, but undeniably, nothing would have been possible if a few second chances didn't come my way.

Are there other second chances on the horizon? Some unfinished business that needs a catalyst to set it in motion? I resolve to always be on the look-out for them, this much is certain.


23 December 2005

Osama's Niece Poses in Racy Photo Shoot

Osama bin Laden's niece, in an interview with GQ magazine in which she appears scantily clad, says she has nothing in common with the al-Qaida leader and simply wants acceptance by Americans.

"Everyone relates me to that man, and I have nothing to do with him," Wafah Dufour, the daughter of bin Laden's half brother, Yeslam Binladin, says in the January edition of the magazine, referring to the al-Qaida leader.
"I want to be accepted here, but I feel that everybody's judging me and rejecting me," said the California-born Dufour, a law graduate who lives in New York. "Come on, where's the American spirit? Accept me. I want to be embraced, because my values are like yours. And I'm here. I'm not hiding."

Dufour, who adopted her mother's maiden name after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that have been blamed on bin Laden, appears in several provocative photos in the magazine.

The pictures are likely to be considered obscene by conservative Muslims in and outside of Saudi Arabia where women are required to be veiled.

Let's hope that this issue doesn't result in another "honor killing". I salute this young woman for her independent spirit, but flaunting such as this could cost her her life. -AT

21 December 2005

Weapons of Mass Destruction?

A bloodied Iraqi man grieves after his policeman son was gunned down by insurgents, together with a fellow officer, in the Iraqi city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, December 20, 2005.

20 Dec 2005 REUTERS/Helmiy Al-Azawi

There weren't any...but Iraqis can vote now so it's all worth it, right? In hind sight, it seems certain that life in Iraq was MUCH BETTER before this un-necessary invasion. Outliving your own children is a nightmare. Am I nuts or did we try to impeach a former president for being a gigolo, whereas the current president gets off scot-free after being directly responsible for the deaths of 30,000 Iraqis? This is by his own admission, and a very low estimate to boot. How convenient that he can blame faulty intelligence. How brazen of him to declare that he would do it again, even if he had correct intelligence. Bush and his administration are a joke, and they have no business being in the White House. When will we see this clearly enough to impeach?

Succinctly Speaking...

We were shut out in last night's indoor soccer game....I awoke in a pool of sweat last night- flu-like symptoms....made it into work today, miraculously....hoping to see a Christmas bonus on Thursday....decide to grow a goatee (usually only lasts a couple weeks) is on the 3rd floor- trained on it the other night using the rollers....saluting my kid brother for getting his Associate degree this month....need to buy a secret Santa gift for Thursday....I am way over in miles on my leased Ford F-150....look forward to a big tax return for '05....our driveway is solid ice because I didn't shovel it when I should have....wife and I have back to back dentist appts on Thursday- I may need another root canal....we found mysterious damage on the bumper of our minivan- we think we know how it happened....Gwen Stefani is 36 years old!?!?! and pregnant!?....A plane made an emergency landing at Boston Logan today- landing gear problem....The prohibition of Western music in Iran is largely being blown off by Iranians....Google now owns 5% of AOL....NYC transit workers are on strike- $1 million a day fine being handed did my kid sister Elif get to work today?....our two year old likes playing video games, like Galaga and Ms Pacman....I should stay home tomorrow to recover from this cold....I need to get some new clothes that fit- especially because I've been promoted recently....I take that back- I was given added responsibility with no pay increase....trying to return a watch that I bought on ebay this past May- it doesn't of my two cell phones is down in Queens NY and I need my uncle to mail it to dad's wife left him recently and I think he's on a drinking binge....I want to call and console him, but if he's drinking I'd rather not hear his mom is visiting at the end of this regular racquetball opponent is out with an injury....I can't wait until this year is over....I've just bored myself to sleep- I'm going to bed- good night.

19 December 2005

Iran bans Western music

Ruling takes country back to Khomeini days

Monday, December 19, 2005; Posted: 4:57 p.m. EST (21:57 GMT)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has banned Western music from Iran's radio and TV stations, reviving one of the harshest cultural decrees from the early days of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Is anyone surprised? -AT

18 December 2005

Un-Turkish Ethnicity versus Turkish Nationality

In the United States, we are free to speak, read, and write in any language we choose. Why is this so? or conversely, "Why isn't this not?" The short answer is this: There is no threat to national security. The more complicated answer is this: The overwhelming majority of Americans love their country, and the overwhelming majority of them have no claims against American land. This is ironic, considering that this greatest of nations was built on the backs of hundreds if not thousands of Native American Indian Nations, not to mention the slaves which were bought and sold like livestock. Is it unlawful for present day Native Americans to speak in their ancestral language? Is it unlawful for present day African Americans to talk about the human rights abuses their ancestors endured? Nope. It's all good. Do either of these threaten national security? Hardly, no.

What do all of the different ethnic groups living in modern day Turkey call themselves in private? What are they compelled to call themselves in public? What SHOULD they call themselves? The answers are obvious, to Americans citizens at least.

Here, it's okay for a person of Italian heritage to stand and say "I'm Italian", or a person from Mexico to declare "I am Mexican", or an exchange student from Israel to say "I'm a Jew". In fact it's encouraged. Diversity is a national treasure of the United States, and it's never threatening.

So what is a Turk? Can someone who is better qualified please answer this question? Is it an etchnicity or a nationality? Is there such thing as a "Turkish Turk"? Such as with "American ethnicity", the meaning of "Turkish ethnicity" is largely irrelevant. This issue is about people of un-Turkish origin versus people who are citizens of Turkey.

The problem is this: Both within Turkey and just across her borders, exist untold millions of people with an inbred hatred and distrust of the Turkish state, it's government and it's military. The safest bet for Turkey is to consider all of her citizens to be nothing..other..than..Turks. Nationality trumps ethnicity, for the sake of national security. No single ethnic group can be allowed to feel strong or capable, or worst of all, independent. Rightly so...

An ultra-nationalist Turk looks upon Kurds with contempt because they refuse to call themselves Turks in the national sense. They refuse to call themselves Kurdish Turks for the sake of compromise. They insist upon calling themselves Kurds, period. Is it any wonder that this represents a threat?

It goes without saying that it would be IDEAL if all ethnic groups in Turkey could stand and be recognized, tolerated and respected. "I'm a French Turk" and "I'm a Libyan Turk" and "I'm a Japanese Turk" and "I'm a Kurdish Turk" should ring out proudly and without fear of imprisonment. This is a two way street though. You can't force Armenians living in Turkey to simply call themselves "Turks", period. Nor can you tolerate Kurds in Turkey to simply call themselves "Kurds", period. There needs to be compromise.

Hyphenated identities are what make the United States so great. So long as the word "American" is on one side of the hyphen, or the other, peace and security will prevail. Until all ethnic groups in Turkey embrace this thinking, their perceived threat to national security will continue to be mitigated by limiting their rights to free expression.


PS: Whether you completely agree or completely dismiss my thinking as incorrect, it would be a pleasure to receive some feed back on this topic. If I am way offsides, please educate me. After all, I'm just an Amerikan person whose parents are from Turkey, calling things as I see them...

17 December 2005

Pet Peaves Redux

  1. Clothing companies which slap their emblem onto cheesy, sub-contracted wrist watches and the folks who buy them.
  2. The people who still use their turn signal blinker to claim a parking spot. As if waiting there isn't enough of an indication. Ugh, have a friggin spine will you?
  3. Soggy mail.
  4. Getting my socks wet by unwittingly stepping on a moist or wet floor.
  5. People who try to pay for purchases with exact change- need I describe the typical age of these folks?
  6. People who believe Turkish prisons are the worst, citing the movie Midnight Express. Check the credits at the end of the film, Dingus[ian]!
  7. $50+ co-pays for prescription medicine. A 30 day supply of Nexium costs $320. The people who make this drug and sell it at such a price should be denied health insurance, and thusly forced to taste their own medicine.
  8. Abercrombie & Fitch, period.
  9. GAP tv commercials depicting everyone as perfectly fit, young and beautiful.
  10. Ditto for Bally Total Fitness advertising.
  11. First time visitors to the post office who listen intently to the 15 different options and enhancements available for mailing a parcel. Get a clue, please.
  12. ANY and ALL automobile advertising on the radio.
  13. Single family homes that have five garbage cans filled to the rim every single week.
  14. The plastic packaging which requires a knife or scissors to open, rendering the product un-returnable.
  15. The ridiculously oversized plastic packaging used for selling the memory chips of digital cameras.
  16. Extended warranties I am offered to cover the $39 DVD player I am trying to pay for.
  17. Ink-jet printer cartridges, which cost more than my printer.
  18. Religious zealots who credit G-d with every single achievement, who blame themselves for every misfortune, AND who believe that life is a pre-ordained series of inevitable events that G-d already knows about.
  19. Doing anything half-assed.
  20. Shoes and apparel that are made in China. $500 leather jackets with highly deirable brand names that are made in China, really piss me off.
  21. Being asked [usually by young new-comers from Turkey]: "Where did you get your degree?"
  22. Dunkin Donuts' enslavement of New Englanders and the resulting morbid obesity which prevails.
  23. Any single piece of clothing which costs more than $25
  24. The grotesquely abundant number of different cellular phone handsets on the market.
  25. $30 bank over-draft fees charged against a $1.75 debit purchase you made for a cup of coffee.
  26. Over-limit fees on credit cards which are triggered by late payment fees.
  27. Obsession over what other people think
  28. People who order custom-made 90 cent hamburgers at McDonalds. "uhhh, no pickle or ketchup please".
  29. Explaining to Christians why I avoid pork, and reminding them that Jesus didn't eat it either.

That was a lot to get off of my chest. Thanks.


16 December 2005

Muslim Organizes Secret Santa at his Workplace

I've held my present position with my employer since last fall (2004), and unlike last Christmas, this year we're doing something at the office which had never been done before- Secret Santa gifts. The irony is that this year's inaugural Secret Santa was suggested and coordinated by none other than- yours truly. I haven't fasted or prayed in a mosque or otherwise in the past ten years, yet I felt compelled to organize and take part in a tradition which no G-d fearing Muslim would dream of. I'm such a blasphemer! It's all in good fun though and has zero spiritual meaning for me. Our office morale needed a lift and I'll take credit for giving it to them. Shame on my Christian co-workers for not thinking of it themselves. Ha! Let's see what I get. I'm looking forward to it.

15 December 2005

Iraqis Choose Their Leaders

An Iraqi, with his ink-stained finger, smokes after casting his vote in Amman December 14, 2005. Iraqis abroad cast the first ballots in their country's election on Tuesday, two days before their compatriots vote for postwar Iraq's first full-term parliament.

15 Dec 2005 REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

I am rather surprised that hundreds haven't died today at the hands of suicide bombers. Is it possible that coverage of any such incidents has been censored? I doubt it, but the thought crossed my mind today. I stand and salute all of those in Iraq who have ink-stained fingers. They paid dearly to earn their right to vote and to choose their own government. Per President George Bush, only 30,000 Iraqis have died in this war, more or less. Look down at your hands George, they're stained a different color, whether you regret it or not.

11 December 2005

I Am Not An American

This merchant swears up and down that he is not anti-American. We can give them the benefit of the doubt, but there is LITTLE DOUBT about the customers for these novelty t shirts and coffee mugs. Anti-American sentiment is more prevalent than we perhaps realize, and this is capitalist proof of it. I hope you'll visit the site by clicking the title above. Maybe I'll get a free Turkish version of the t-shirt out of it. In fact, I think I will copywright and trademark the phrases "I am not an Arab", "I am not a Jew", and "I am not a Turk". Disposable income is sure to line my pockets in no time. Seriously though peeps, this is an original and clever idea, and I salute the designer for his creativity and courage. This looks like a great stocking stuffer. Those of you who are offended. you might want to untie your shoe laces a bit and let the blood flooow back to your brain. In Turkey, wearing a shirt which says "Ben Turk degilim" (I am not a Turk) will either get you beaten to an inch of your life, or arrested, and probably both, regrettably. Don't try it. There's a bad enough identity crisis over there and provocation can be deadly. Let's pray that it eventually evolves into a healthy recognition, tolerance and respect for all ethnicities who call Turkey their home...

BTW, very cool that the Turkish version of the shirts have the word "Amerikan" spelled properly. There's no "hard C" in the Turkish alphabet, in case you haven't already guessed. Heck there's no "X" either, so they usually spell the word "extra" thusly: "ekstra"

Here's an exerpt from the comprehensive FAQ page:
I'm American and I'm offended.
Sorry to hear that. If you're looking for a web site that's not offensive to Americans, please follow my mystery link. No offence was intended, but I am certain you wouldn't have a problem saying "I'm not Canadian" if someone thought you were from Toronto, for example. There's no difference, except for the fact no-one has come up with the idea to print a shirt saying "I Am Not Canadian". Hey, wait! I just did, so I'll be keeping an eye out for people copying that idea, too.

College Football in Turkey- Yes I can't believe it either

I must admit I was both stunned and proud to discover that there are college "amerikan futbol" teams in Turkey! With names such as the Haccetepe Red Deers, EMU Crows, Baskent Knights, Cankaya Cougars, and the Bogazici Sultans, these are serious organized sports clubs. I would encourage you to see the official websites of these teams with your own eyes:

09 December 2005

Naughty or nice? Paris Hilton display upsets neighbors

Dear readers! This story is about as close to home as they get. Cranston is the next town over from my location, and I can't wait to go see this Christmas display in person. I think it's great. People who are offended should throw their televisions in the trash, but won't. This doesn't seem to break any laws or ordinances. -AT

Friday, December 9, 2005; Posted: 1:35 p.m. EST (18:35 GMT)

CRANSTON, Rhode Island (AP) -- Some people go with a reindeer ornament or an inflatable Santa Claus for their holiday lawn display. Joe Moretti went with Paris Hilton.
Moretti's display features a collection of blown-up images of Hilton adorned with pink lights. In one, she sports a tiny pink top hiding little of her chest, in another, she wears knee-high boots and a sultry pout. Even Hilton's faithful Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, is celebrated in a colorful portrait.
Reaction has been mixed, and some say it is inappropriate.
"If it's offending anyone, I apologize," Moretti, 38, said. "That's not the intent. The intent is to be different and to be creative and let them see a little bit of Hollywood or New York -- bring it to Cranston."
The display includes a list entitled "How to Be a Hilton," complete with tips such as: "An entrance is everything," "NEVER wake before 10 a.m." and "NEVER spend the summer in NYC." A number of cars slowed or came to a complete stop on the busy road as they passed Moretti's house Thursday afternoon.
"It's nothing more than they could see on TV, on normal stations -- or actually at school," said Stefanie D'Angelos, 28, who has four children.
Ron Raffonelli, 65, said he would be upset if his young grandchildren came to associate Christmas with a naked woman. He'd prefer the kids to think of Santa Claus.
After all, Raffonelli said, "He's been around longer."

08 December 2005

Move Israel to Europe, Iran Leader Suggests

By REUTERS Published: December 9, 2005
TEHRAN, Dec. 8 (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran expressed doubt on Thursday that the Holocaust took place and suggested that Israel be moved to Europe.
His comments, reported by Iran's official news agency IRNA from a news conference he gave in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, follow his call in October for Israel to be "wiped off the map," which generated widespread international condemnation.

How much hashish has Mahmoud been smoking? How do you move a country from place to place? The same way that a lake disappeared, as described by a character in the film Fried Green Tomatoes? I consider myself to be a friend of Jews, and it angers me that world leaders with this mentality continue to be afflicted with foot-in-mouth disorder. To wit, the majority of the Arab states refuse to recognize Israel, refuse to allow Jews to travel in or out, or non-Jews with Israel stamps in their passports, to travel in or out of their countries. Turkey on the other hand, was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel. Mr Iranian President, why do you obsess over Israel? Is it because you fear that the nuclear reactors you are building will inevitably be blown to smithereens by the IAF? Armenians are often cited for making "Turk-hating" a compulsory national past time. So is the case with most of the Muslim world against Jews, except that the ratio of haters to the hated is reversed. There are 20 Turks for every Armenian who loaths them, but there are about 500 Muslims/Arabs directing their hatred towards each individual Jew. Is it any wonder that Israel's defense expenditure is immense and that their military is "armed to the gills"? Scary... Israel and Turkey share much in common, and among the most compelling similarity is the abundance of enemies which surround both states. The "your enemy is my enemy" thinking runs rampant in this part of the world. Both countries possess powerful militaries, rightly so. Both have fought long and hard, with great loss of life, to claim, defend and protect the borders of their land. It's easy for the weaker surrounding states to make claims against the land which Israel and Turkey fought for and won. Land has been taken by force for millenia, and force will forever continue to be the required currency. The reality is that the strongest prevailed, and if there were enough strength in the forces which claim parts of modern day Turkey and Israel, said forces would exert themselves and take what they can without exception. Until such strength exists outside, or enough weakness exists inside, the boundaries defining Israel and Turkey will never change. As I have no doubt drifted off topic, I should at least re-visit the ooriginal subject one last time. Israel is staying put, and those who believe otherwise will find the Turkish military standing before them. Bring it on Mahmoud.

I chanced upon the following two maps, which seem to make claims to the same areas of Turkey.

Airplanes in the News

As one who travels by air only when it is absolutely necessary (once annually to Turkey is about all I can justify), I am drawn to stories of airline near misses, accidents, crashes, explosions, emergency landings, and the resulting injuries and death. My friends have heard me liken an airplane to a flying aluminum casket, or heard me say (to paraphrase Charles Grodin from the movie Midnight Run) "it can't go up, it has no business being up there". Once, during an approach to JFK in a THY Airbus, we were banking very sharply directly over either Giants Stadium or Yankee Stadium- I don't remember which- when suddenly we hit an air pocket and dropped what felt like at least 50-100 meters in a matter of seconds. I saw my life flash before my eyes, and had a white knuckle death grip on the armrests. Every baby and child on board was crying. On another flight from Chicago to Dallas (or vice versa) we had non-stop turbulence for 1-1/2 hours. From my window seat, I watched the wings of the plane, which literally were flapping like the wings of a bird. Every passenger's face was white like chaulk... I prayed silently and repented for every bad thing I'd ever done, during that flight, as I waited for the inevitability of a wing breaking off. Lately, airline disasters and other events are quite prevalent. Here's a brief round-up of some recent airplane news:

Thursday, December 8, 2005 CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- A Southwest Airlines jet slid off the runway during a driving snowstorm at Chicago's Midway Airport and slid into at least one vehicle at a nearby intersection on Thursday night, a spokeswoman for Chicago's Department of Aviation said. Flight 1248, which was arriving from Baltimore, Maryland, slid through a fence separating the runway from the intersection, spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said.

Iranian photojournalist Mehdy Ghasemy mourns as he attends the funeral ceremony for the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) photographer Mohammadhasan Gharib in Tehran December 7, 2005. Angry and distraught relatives of more than 100 people killed in Iran's worst air disaster for three years complained bitterly on Wednesday that officials had known in advance that the crashed plane was not safe to fly.

07 Dec 2005 REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Sat Nov 26, 2005 NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - A twin-engine plane carrying President George W. Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, made an emergency landing in Nashville on Saturday when smoke was detected in the cockpit, officials said.
No one was injured when the Gulfstream 4 heading from Texas to Washington with Card and 12 others aboard landed, Nashville Airport spokeswoman Lynne Lowrance said.

SOFIA, Nov 25, 2005 (Reuters) - An Alitalia flight with 146 people on board made an emergency landing in the Bulgarian capital on Friday after pilots reported problems with one of the plane's engines, Bulgaria's Transport Ministry said.
The Boeing 767, which was flying from Dubai to Italy, landed safely at Sofia airport, ministry spokeswoman Vera Deianova said. She said all passengers and crew were safe

Mon Nov 21, 2005 PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - A Nike Inc. Gulfstream corporate jet with faulty landing gear was circling over Portland on Monday to burn off fuel before attempting a landing, aviation officials said. The twin-engined Gulfstream V jet is a 19-passenger, high-end aircraft sold mainly to wealthy travelers and corporate executives. The plane's right-wing landing gear was stuck in its bay, while the left-side gear and nose gear were extended.

Sept. 22, 2005 LOS ANGELES - Emergency landing televised on JetBlue flight- Passengers watched their terrifying drama live via satellite. The airliner circled Southern California for hours, crippled by a faulty landing gear, while inside its cabin 140 passengers watched their own life-and-death drama unfolding on live television. While satellite TV sets aboard JetBlue Flight 292 were tuned to news broadcasts, some passengers cried. Others tried to telephone relatives and one woman sent a text message to her mother in Florida attempting to comfort her in the event she died.

11 November 2005 TEPYE SHAHEEDAN, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The crew of a Russian-made Ilyushin IL-76 cargo plane were feared dead after the aircraft plunged into a mountain near the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday, officials said.
Hours after the crash, a Taliban commander telephoned Reuters saying the Islamist rebels had shot down the plane, but Western military officials said the cause of crash was unknown. Taliban claims of responsibility are often not borne out.

Sun, Dec. 05, 2004 NORTH MIAMI BEACH - A cargo plane pilot whose engine failed Saturday morning on a run to the Bahamas deftly landed his craft on a lake here, avoiding
nearby trees, power lines, high-rise condominiums and marinas packed with
boats. Alejandro Bristol, 28, brought the plane down belly first in the middle of a
lake next to Biscayne Boulevard. With the grace of a baseball player sliding into home plate, the Convair 340 skipped across the water from the west to the east for approximately 300
yards. Bristol landed right between sailboats that were docked to the north
and the south.

(CBS/AP) MIAMI, Dec. 8, 2005 The air marshals who shot and killed an agitated passenger handled the situation exactly right, say officials and security experts. Rigoberto Alpizar ran down the aisle of an American Airlines Boeing 757 that had landed in Miami, claiming to have a bomb in his backpack. Once out on the jetway connecting the plane to the terminal, he ignored the marshals' orders and reached into his backpack. "There were like four or five shots and then everybody hit the deck," Flight 924 passenger Mary Gardner said Thursday on CBS News' The Early Show. "That's when everybody started praying I think. It was scary."

Here's a site which should interest those of you who want to learn about every aircraft disaster ever:

Tomorrow we must drive through a blizzard from Providence to New York. My mother in law is returning to Turkey after a six month visit with us. My father is on a flight from JFK to Istanbul as I type these words...

07 December 2005

Alanya Stage Finish-International Presidency Tour May 2005

Antalya etabında Türk Sporcular ilk üç sırayı aldı
I realize that this is old news, but it took this long for me to chance upon a site where I could find a decent picture of Turkish professional cyclists. Here you see Turks claiming all three podium spots of the Alanya stage.

06 December 2005

Luxembourg Cycling Legend Dies at 72- Charly Gaul

By John WilcocksonVeloNews editorial director
This report filed December 6, 2005

One of cycling's greatest-ever climbers, Charly Gaul of Luxembourg, died on Tuesday, two days short of his 73rd birthday. Gaul was hospitalized after a fall at his home in Itzig, 10km outside Luxembourg City, and died shortly before noon from a pulmonary embolism. He leaves a wife and a daughter.

Gaul is best remembered for his exploits in the mountain stages of the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, particularly in adverse weather conditions. He won the Giro in 1956 and 1959 and the Tour in 1958. At the Tour, Gaul was handicapped by racing in the era of national teams because Luxembourg, a nation of only 400,000 people, was generally one of the weakest teams in the race.

Click title above for the rest of the story and more photos.

04 December 2005

Busy Week Awaits Me

It's going to be hectic for sure. Monday my epoxy resin fume hood tops are being delivered to one of my projects. Since I am in hot water with the sheet metal workers union, I must hire a composite crew to handle the fume hoods, as per some ambiguous CT law. I need to take a long lunch to drive home, get my dad and drop him off at the train station, bound for NYC. I have my usual production meeting from 1 until 4 pm. At 7:00 I play in my first league soccer game. Tuesday is busy as well, I need to be at a jobsite to oversee a large delivery of lab equipment, as well as extricate some other materials from the same truck and transfer to another school nearby. Yet another school has a 6:00 pm delivery of punchlist materials where another team of carpenters will be waiting, working 2nd shift tocomplete our work. Wednesday I have 13 more fume hoods being delivered to a high school, where they must be hoisted through a window using a 6000 pound forklift with outriggers. More union issues to deal with there... Thursday I have no deliveries, but no lack of things to get caught up on at the office. A trip to my Brown University project seems like a good idea. Friday I have a truckload of cabinets delivering to a new project with a new crew of carpenters, along with 10000 pounds of epoxy resin. I have issues with the carpenter union at that project... In all, I have carpenters working at six projects across Mass and CT. It's a small wonder I don't completely lose my mind dealing with all of the many characters. I couldn't survive without acting like a total chameleon- every person needs to be handled a certain special way. Knowing how to handle each individual is part of the reason how I am in the position that I find myself. Over the weekend we will probably travel to NYC to deliver my mother in law to the airport. She returns to Turkey after a six month visit with us. This will be tough on our two year old. In the middle of all of the above I must do two scope reviews for upcoming contract bids, I must release about $250,000 of millwork into production, and coordinate about 20 vendors to do as I need them to do. There will be 100+ incoming e-mails per day, voice messages on three different lines to act upon, etc etc etc etc etc..... Is it any wonder why I am having sleep paralysis so frequently?

02 December 2005

North Carolina and Singapore- cut from the same cloth

Why are criminals executed? To deter offenders with fear of death? To serve justice? To avenge the victims? To avoid/mitigate the cost of imprisonment? All of these reasons are deficient on their own, but collectively they make execution seem "the right thing to do". It's never the right thing my friends.

The 1000th execution [since it was reinstated] in the US, occurred yesterday in North Carolina. How many of us can name the person who was killed by lethal injection? Not many I'm sure. He was Kenneth Boyd, 57.

In Singapore, a drug smuggler from Australia was hanged this morning, for trying to transport about a pound of heroin back in 2002. Read the story and you might find it as repulsive as I did. As if the movie Midnight Express wasn't a good enough example of how NOT to win friends and influence people, Singapore ignored the pleas from Australia for clemency. Those responsible for this young man's death- you sicken me. The name of the executed Australian: Tuong Van Nguyen, age 25. To his family I express my sincere condolences. Cheers to Australia for taking the diplomatic gloves off and calling the execution "barbaric". I heartily agree.

Goodbye to my Colavita Friends. Hello Union Velo

Well it's official. I have ended my sponsorship relationship with Colavita Bolla and agreed to race in the glorious blue and yellow colors of Union Velo. I've made a few friends at Union over the past few years and for whatever reasons, I've always declined their invitations to ride with them, until now. Knowing what I know and who I know on the Union team, it was a no-brainer for me to [finally] join their team. I've enjoyed racing with the Colavita riders this past season- Thad, Rick, Mark, Kieran, Bob, Rhys, Oli. These are all good people who I am happy to have met, and who I hope to remain friends with. Hopefully I am not booted from their Yahoo board, the way that Arc-En-Ciel booted me after I declined their recent invitation to ride with them. Conversely, I've been a member of Union's Yahoo board for years, even though I didn't join the team all of this time. That says a lot about the Union Velo attitude. Wish us luck!

My Colavita team kits ae offered for sale on ebay (this link shows everything that is presently listed- after Sunday, the Colavita clothing won't appear):

Ahmed Hassan- Besiktas vs Zenit St Petersburg UEFA Cup

Besiktas' Ahmed Hassan of Egypt (R) gestures to referee Knut Kircher of Germany before being shown a yellow card for his reaction during their UEFA Cup Group H match against Zenit St Petersburg at Inonu Stadium in Istanbul December 1, 2005.The match ended 1-1.

02 Dec 2005 REUTERS/Stringer

01 December 2005

Cool Fortune

Just had a lunch of General Tsao's chicken and my fortune cookie contained these words:

"A leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn't go by yourself."

Yildiray Basturk in UEFA Cup match

Sampdoria's Emiliano Bonazzoli (R) jumps for the ball with Hertha Berlin's Niko Kovac (L) and Yildiray Basturk during their UEFA Cup Group C soccer match at Marassi stadium in Genoa November 30, 2005.

30 Nov 2005 REUTERS/Daniele La Monaca

30 November 2005


More Arab money will soon copiously pour into Turkey. I need to research this a bit more before I pass judgment. How tall are these buildings going to be? The spiral design is attractive and no doubt very costly to engineer and build. Earthquakes are always a threat in Turkey...

Also, an 800 meter titan is being built in Dubai. Notably, the foundation work is being done by Turner Construction International. I've worked with Turner Construction on many school projects in the Northeast.

27 November 2005


Updated 10/17/2007:

Please click the title above, which will direct you to the latest ebay listing where we are offering a brand new kanun at auction, as built by my father Irfan Altinbasak. Auction ends 10/22/07

Fenerbahce-Galatasaray Game Tomorrow

We hope to watch the match unfold on DFH Turkish television tomorrow. We have supporters of both teams who will be present. I'm not a huge follower but I favor Fenerbahce because of my wife's and her brother's influence. Kaan and my dad are GS fans so it will be an interesting time. We had a ball at Bally's today (intentional pun) playing racquetball with Laima and Kaan, we may play some more tomorrow morning before the game, to break today's tie. Ebru and Laima played together a little bit- man do they need to practise. It was like watching a train wreck- you want to look away but you can't. Seriously though after about ten minutes they were connecting with the ball very well, and both have the potential to be good players. My prediction for tomorrow's game: Fenerbahce 3, Galatasaray 2.

26 November 2005

Roberto Heras 'B' Sample Tests Positive for EPO

Roberto Heras is one of the very best in the world. Now he, Hamilton, Millar, Rumsas, Armstrong, Virenque, Mussaeuw et al are all accused of blood doping or using performance enhancing drugs. These men are all super-human role models to millions of cycling fans, young and old. Who will be implicated next? Is this evidence enough to prove that professional bike racing is among the most physically demanding sports in the world, or simply that it is too demanding period? Is there a "fight fire with fire" mentality taking root? Are honest athletes choosing [poorly] to dope themselves in order to level the playing field? This would suggest that doping is absolutely rampant among the top riders. Without walking a mile (or riding a bike) in their shoes it's hard to judge the actions of the guilty, if in fact their guilt has been proven beyond all doubt. Having raced for so many years, I do not condemn, nor do I condone those who have doped. Put a speedometer on your bike and go for a ride. After you've warmed up, try to hold a speed of 20 miles per hour for 2 minutes. Then consider that the average speed of a flat stage of the Tour de France, or even an elite criterium in the US, averages about 28-32 miles per hour, and we're NOT talking about 2 minutes- we're talking about many hours. I hope Heras clears his name. -AT

By Andrew Hood
VeloNews European correspondent:

"Spanish cycling is reeling following the confirmation that Roberto Heras tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO in samples taken in the penultimate stage of the 2005 Vuelta a España.
After the results of a counter-analysis conducted Monday by Spain's Consejo Superior de Deportes were announced Friday, Heras - who will likely be stripped of his 2005 Vuelta crown and faces a two-year racing ban - charged that the test is flawed and promised a lengthy legal battle to clear his name.
Heras is the most successful Spanish rider of his generation, winning the Vuelta a record four times and spending three years as a member of Lance Armstrong's Tour de France-winning team. The implications of this case could reach far beyond Heras himself as Spanish cycling struggles to retain its credibility with the media and fans following a string of doping scandals."

Why Brazil beat Turkey in the FIFA World Cup 2002

Could this also be why we lost toSwitzerland recently? I'll probably regret this in the morning, but I can't resist. Sure the pictures are an insult to Turks, they suggest that better looking [and exposed] fans might have helped the players to win. On the other hand, this isn't anything for Brasilians to be proud of either. Sorry to post this after such a morbid entry regarding Iraq, but this is the order in which I found my material. There is no point in back-burnering anything until better timing comes along. -AT

25 November 2005

More Iraqi Children Senselessly Killed

Who do YOU blame for this fatal error? The driver of the van who didn't heed the warning shots? The understandably trigger-happy American soldiers? the insurgents who have succeeded in making every Iraqi motor vehicle seem a potential threat? the Bush Administration? I am stunned that such a thing can happen, when our American military is supposedly equipped with the most high tech weaponry as well as some dated ones- such as binoculars and telescopes- they help you to see far away- like perhaps into the wind shield of an approaching van containing an entire civilian family with children. Unbelievable and unforgivable incompetence demonstrated by the best trained military in the world. -AT

An Iraqi man holds a child killed in a shooting while the family was on the way to the town of Baquba, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, November 21, 2005. Witnesses and the Iraqi police said U.S. troops opened fire on a crowded minibus north of Baghdad on Monday, killing five members of the same family, including two children, and wounding four others. The U.S. military said it was looking into the incident but did not confirm its involvement or provide any other details.

REUTERS/Hilm21 Nov 2005 REUTERS/Stringer/iraq

Is Turkish RAKI a Defense Against BIRD FLU?

Perhaps not, but the "national drink" of Turkey contains an ingredient that is also used to produce TAMIFLU. Useless trivia for you.

A man shovels star anise seeds into a box for shipment overseas in the townshiop of Gulong, China's southern Guangxi region November 18, 2005. Star anise is the main source of an ingredient that goes in Tamiflu, a drug experts think may help slow down a global pandemic of deadly bird flu. Most of the world's star anise comes from China, and most of China's star anise is grown in the hills of Guangxi.

REUTERS November 18, 2005.

22 November 2005

Almost in "non-working-mode"

This piece of crap laptop that my wife uses, took ten minutes to boot. My desktop is in my office, which is flanked by three bedrooms, so I came downstairs to avoid annoying the family with my tappity tap tap and incessant mouse clicks. Where to begin? Where to end? Today was less productive than usual after I discovered that $75,000 worth of epoxy resin I had bought and released to production had many errors and issues which required me to stop the order in it's tracks. It's not worth explaining, just know that it consumed my whole afternoon to isolate the problem and recommend a solution to the architect. Tomorrow I was planning to travel up north of Boston to visit a jobsite, and then afterwards, pick up my father at Logan airport- he arrives from Turkey tomorrow, just in time to eat turkey the following day. (Ugh). My mood today is best described as "deliberate". I am moving more slowly and taking my time with pressing matters and decisions. It's one of those weeks in the year when the pressure at work eases a little bit. Many people are missing from the office, taking holiday or whatever. My office is pretty private and today I had no unwelcome visitors, or as I like to call them: "time burglars. Yeah you know who you are, you're oblivious to the tone and body language which is telling you in no uncertain terms that I have zero interest in chit-chat. Even when I begin to nervously press the button on my talking Donald Trump doll, some of you don't get the hint- the doll is more interesting to me than you are! DUH! Okay moving right along. I'm stressing about dear old dad's visit. I fear he will be drunk as hell when he dis-embarks from the plane tomorrow. If he is, what do I do? I don't want him near my family, in my house or anywhere that he can potentially abuse any of us. Where will he sleep? We have plenty of room (14 rooms actually), but no spare beds! Do I put him on the IKEA couches in the family room? I don't want that either. Maybe I'll borrow one of the beds I sold to a friend for the week. This presumes of course that he is fit (sober) to enter my house. Okaaaaay. I don't think that wifey understands that this is a sensitive, turbulent time for me. She wants to come to the airport tomorrow- all of us actually, and I don't want that. I need to have at least a one-hour-drive alone with him. Like the gladiator who tastes Maximus' food for poison, I want to be the one who endures any of the potential initial disappointment of dad's state of being. Why is this so hard to understand? This is stressful enough without having family members tag along. Okay whatever. I need to get up at 5:00 in order to meet Kaan on the racquetbal court at 6:00. What am I still doing up at midnight? The usual, I'm getting things off my chest. That's what's so nice about blogging. I can come here to extricate my nasty mental defecations, instead of dumping it upon those who I love. Is this so hard to understand? No disrespect intended, but chances are you won't take any of this personally, and my wife has enough of her own dragons to slay without having to endure hearing the details of my mid-life crises. She hates this blog because I give her no recognition on it. What she fails to realize is that this is not the place where I want to flaunt my most prized possession in the world. So, I'm off to get some shut-eye. Need to be strong tomorrow on the court. I have a score to settle, from the last game we played last winter. Kaan beat me with some bizarre luck that he pulled out of his ass in the tie-breaker game.

Lithuanian Rumsas faces court in doping case

Lithuanian cyclist Raimondas Rumsas will appear before a French court Thursday on doping charges relating to the 2002 Tour de France, where he finished third.
Rumsas, 33, will appear alongside his wife, Edita Rumsas, 31, at the Bonneville criminal court in southeast France.
On June 29, Rumsas was arrested at his home in Lucca, Tuscany, on a French warrant but released on July 8 after an appeals court in Florence deemed it sufficient to keep him under house arrest.
His Paris-based lawyer, Alexandre Varaut, said both would be present at the trial.
Rumsas faces up to three years in prison and a fine.
Edita Rumsas was released on Oct. 11, 2002, after being detained for 73 days for carrying suspected drug products in July 2002.
She was caught on the Italian-French border with 37 suspected doping products in her car, which she said were for her ill mother.
She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros (US $87,950).
French authorities are also investigating a Polish doctor in the case, Kristof Ficek. He is not expected to appear in court Thursday. -The Associated Press

I thought this story might interest my Lithuanian friends. Doping issues aside, Raimondas reached the podium at the 2002 Tour de France, and I wonder how much press he received in his home country, and how much support the Lithuanians are showing for him under the allegations.

The House Team- Indoor Soccer

Tonight I was convinced that I should spend the next 10 Monday nights playing a sport I haven't played in 25 years- SOCCER. So I show up, no knee pads or socks, tennis shoes, and no desire to look like a fool on the indoor pitch. Our team lost badly, as I looked on contemplating how I got myself involved in this debacle. Deep down, I have always wanted to accept the many invitations from friends to join the many leagues, but a lack of desire to re-learn something I was never really great at, always held me back. The one season I played as a kid was compulsory, if memory serves. Dad wanted me to play. I was about 10, and at the end of every game, I would ask the ubiquitous question of my dad: "How did I do?". The answer never changed from week to week: "Lousy." Is this the real reason why I've been avoiding this sport since that time? Was I fooled into believeing that I truly was a bad player? Perhaps I can give another example. I've performed in literally hundreds of bike races over the years. Overall, my parents came to ONE event in 1988 or 89. The Lilac Festival Criterium in Cobbs Hill Park, Rochester New York. I was a junior competing in a stacked field- juniors from all over the region, plus some very good Canadians were in attendance. One rider broke away for the solo win, so the main field was sprinting for 2nd place. From that main field, I managed to finish 2nd, 3rd overall- a PODIUM finish that I was actually very proud of. Afterwards, I looked to dad for some words of encouragement or praise. Here's what I got: "You finished third." Need I say more...? Racing as a junior, there were kids whose parents bought RVs, so that they could take them to all of their races in comfort and with full support. The kids winning races were those who always had a famly member escort them to every event. How I hated them. Or was my hate mis-directed? Whatever. It makes me sick thinking about it. At any rate, starting to play soccer again is more or less a breakthrough for me. Just deciding to do it should be considered a triumph. It will be an interesting winter. Will I be lousy? That will be for me to judge, for a change.

21 November 2005

No Subject 4

It's the time of year when we're euphoric on days when it's over 60 degrees outside. Today was such a day. I was puttering around in the garage this morning. Inevitably I opened one of the garage doors and realized it was warmer outside than it was in the garage. I'm faced with so many choices lately, it seems a bit too much all at once. From work to health to home to hobby to sport, everything can take a totally new direction in the coming weeks... Oh well. I didn't get where I am by making poor choices and using bad judgment. I suppose I should give myself more credit. My dad is flying in from Turkey this Wednesday. Hopefully he won't have one of his drinking binges while he's in our home. I will throw him out on his ass without thinking twice- I've had to do it before and I'll do it again. I know he's been drinking lately and I take a big risk by having him over. Last week he treated me like dirt on the telephone- I hung up on him twice, he hung up one me once too. Our relationship is the strangest one I've ever had in my life. It goes from love to hate, respect to loathing, laughter to tears, and back again. Sometimes without warning, sometimes predictably. There were times in his life when I was all he had left, if by a string. One who has hit rock-bottom so many times can't help but be filled with self-hate, and sometimes it shines through and I doubt he ever realizes it. Little does he know of the untold number of times many years ago that myself and others cursed his name and wished he were dead. Seems a natural thing when one's life is threatened or future plans are ruined or happiness is eliminated I guess. If you haven't already already guessed, his boozing tore our family apart without mercy. Long ago it was easy to deny that all of this hasn't affected me, that I'm a tough SOB who wants no pity... but the recent few years have taught me otherwise. A messed up childhood and family life is going to catch up with you and consume you if you don't confront it and sort it out head on. Believe me, I know. I find myself somewhere between consume and confront... . . . . . .

20 November 2005

Salvage Update- One MILE of Wood Mouldings For Sale

So now that all of the inventory is unpacked, bundled, stacked, and counted, the overall picture becomes clearer. We have a little over ONE MILE of wood trim in our garage, not including the Duraflex crown mouldings.

I have about 120 pieces of chair rail (which we may make into about 600 coat racks and sell on ebay for $20 each, at a cost of about $5 each plus our sweat)

I have 280 pieces of casing all neatly bundled, QC'ed and stacked.

I have about 2000 LF random length of the poplar paint grade casing.

All of it is offered for sale as a lot, which would net me a fast $2500 at my asking price. If we execute the coat rack plan, we could make $10,000 +/-, but it would require a lot of our time, plus it would take many months to sell it all. Do we go for the instant gratification or the long term gain? I'm not sure. Maybe we should make some of the coat racks and try them out on ebay before we sell the chair rail. The two casing profiles we should just let go asap, to fund the cost of paint and coat pegs and tooling that the coat racks will need. Are we nuts or just resourceful entrepreneurs? Who else would go to such trouble for a buck?