America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

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

31 July 2005

Wells Ave Criterium 7-31-05

A long day is finally winding down. Went to the Wells Ave venue today to race, met up with team mate Thad- (who won the race last week- on the day I was sick with a fever). Fields weren't combined and the turnout for the A race was about 80-90 riders. Since only the two of us were there, there was no controlling the field- so we pretty much went with the flow of things and made some intermittent attacks, some work to close gaps, I even went for some prime sprints, and recovered very quickly from them which is a big step forward. In the end, it was a fast race that ended up in a dangerous bunch sprint. Thad started to sprint a bit early, and me, I started from a little too far back to be a factor. It ended up that we both coasted across the line together, about 15-17th position. Still we had a great time racing- there were no crashes- and the speed was a bit higher than usual- 27.1 mph average (43-44 kph). Surprisingly, my avg HR was only 161, which is good and bad. Good because is shows my heart and circulation have become very efficient. Bad because it makes me think I left way too much in the tank, overall. I could have pushed myself harder, but it just felt so good to be comfortable in a large field doing 30+ mph. Next time I must get out of that comfort zone and take bigger risks.
After getting home we went out to look at open houses, and we found a nice new development in Coventry, where a very nice colonial can be bought for $419,000- brand new and in a beautiful community. We are still debating as it is too early to jump onto any opportunities. Owning a brand new home has always been our dream- no pet dander, no smelly carpets, no offside wall colors, no funkiness to the bathrooms, brand new everything. It's a very attractive thing, especially for a couple that has lived in fixer-uppers for the last ten years. I am done spending my time fixing up old homes. It's time to just enjoy life to it's fullest. Aside from cutting the grass and snow clean-up, I really don't want to do anything around the house anymore.
Had to clean up all of the fallen limbs after house hunting. I cut everything up and it's all loaded in the pick-up, ready for a landfill deposit in the early AM. Afterwards, I plan to drive to work and ride home by bike. This means of course that a week's worth of clothing needs to be brought to the office. Let's see if I can break 200 miles again this week. Last week's total was 214.

30 July 2005

Landscaping Mulch

Today was filled with activity related to our home's appearance. First, I had to load the pick-up with last week's trimmings from around the yard, and then take them to the local landfill. When I returned, I tuned up the chainsaw, added some bar lube and went to town taking down some unattractive trees and vines along the driveway. As I type this, all of this timber and brush lays exactly as it fell... because wifey had me go to the front of the house and remove many old hedges and bushes and japanese maple saplings. After putting all of these in a pile for next week's landfill deposit, I spent a couple of hours pulling roots and stumps from the area where a huge rhododendron (sp) used to stand. We needed a more level base upon which to pile the mulch, both front and side (facing road) of the house. Almost forgot, after visiting the landfill, I stopped at a nearby mulch seller and bought 2 cubic yards of cedar mulch- the nice smelling red kind. This cost me $72, and filled the bed of my truck to the rim. So this was spread out all over the exposed dirt, roots and stray vines and weeds. I must admit it looks pretty nice compared to before, but I kind of regret not using stone instead. Why? Because my new leaf blower will no doubt unsettle the mulch more so than stone. I'll have to be careful when the fall comes around. All of this took from about 10am until 5pm, and I will no doubt be in a lot of pain tomorrow from all of this exertion. To wit, I weighed in at 168# after the yard work. I will try to post before/after pics tomorrow night.

At 6pm, we were visited by Hulya and Erol- good friends of ours who live in Lincoln RI. I had just washed up and was dressed to go for a ride when they arrived. After a few minutes of socializing I had to get going. So I took my new favorite route into Coventry- Route 115 to 116 North and then onto Hope Furnace Road, which climbs about 500 feet in a few short undulating miles. Not a difficult climb- I use the big ring, just a long series of rises and plateaus that really take it out of you. Speaking of which, I had intended to take it easy today, AGAIN, to be fresh for Wells Ave tomorrow, but I have been going easy all week, except for Lincoln, and enough is enough. I pushed myself on the climbs, pushed myself on the flats, and generally wore myself out by the time I was done with 33 miles. Avg HR 147, avg speed 19.1 mph. I could have pushed a little harder if I wanted but I had to save something for tomorrow. My legs are sore and crampy, but I think 1/2 hour of intense stretching in the am will loosen things up. I think we'll all go to Wells as a family tomorrow. Both grandmas, wife, baby and me.
Afterwards, we hope to see some open houses, because, we have decided to think about selling our home. Our realtor from Century 21, Al Alix, visited us Friday and we were stunned to learn the amount of money we can get for our home. Sell on strength, buy on weakness. That's what we intend to do. Perhaps a foreclosure is in our future, or perhaps we'll buy land and build custom home. Either way, cash will be relatively plentiful, such that only a pretty small mortgage will be required. One thing's for sure- no more 100 year old fixer-uppers. We aren't considering homes built before 1970, and our real preference is brand new to maybe 10 years old maximum.

28 July 2005

Out With the Old- In With the NEW- DMT Shoes Arrived

Greetings. Today's adventures include more pain the chest, which started this past Saturday and continues to be a nuisance. Just inside my left rib cage, there is some inflammation, making it ache with every drawn breath. I asked my friend Dr David Schwartz (a very talented bike rider who races for Union Velo in Attleboro) and he told me this:
"Hi Murat, I don' think that your injusry is a broken rib or anything more serious than maybe a strained muscle between ribs. You might also have a viral inflammation of the lining of the lung called pleurisy."
In a prior e-mail, Dr Schwartz said:
"Hi Murat, Your weight loss explains your improved stamina on Wednesday nights. Sounds like you have pleuritic chest pain in that it is worse when you breath deeply I don't think it is related to your weight loss. Try motrin 200 mg every 6 huors as needed and this should be better in a few days."
Isn't it great that within my network of bike racing friends, there is one who is a doctor, who freely gives his advice and recommendation? When I crashed very badly at Lincoln in the sprint finish in 2001, shredding my right knee into an unrecognizable mess, Dr Schwartz helped me to diagnose the damage and helped to console me with regard to recovery. He is one who raises tens of thousands of dollars annually doing bike rides that benefit the research and fight against numerous incurable diseases. David's no slouch on the bike either, and this season he's enduring the pain from a cracked sternum that won't heal quick enough- making his deep breathing/laughter/coughing a painful experience. May it pass quickly, and thanks for being there for me Dave.
My form today during the ride home from work, was terrible. I raced last night and was free of the chest pain, but today, I was hurting. Legs feel like over-cooked chicken and my HR refused to get over 140- a sign that much rest is needed. I rode 25 miles in 1:30:00 at an average HR of 128, max of 153- even though I pushed a fast pace up a few climbs. Tomorrow's ride needs to be one of those where I am barely pushing the pedals. Plan on riding to work and back. This week's mileage is already almost 150, after only 5 days. The desicion to ride to/from work is paying dividends in the form of more training time and more time with family afterwards. I am liking it.
I didn't realize it until about 10:00 pm, but my new DMT cycling shoes have arrived. These retail for about $300 usually and I snagged them on Ebay for only $139 delivered. My old ones (pictured) were bought in fall of 2002, raced in 2003 and 2005. The soles have been coming apart from the upper, such that I had to glue them back together with construction adhesive. The bike shop where I purchased them has asked for digital pics. I asked them for free replacements, but hedged my bets with the purchase of new ones, which are actually a higher price point because of their carbon soles. I hope I do not have the same problem with these blue beauties. Next I must get some new Speedplay cleats to install onto them. It's good to have two pairs of shoes (together a retail value of $600- most people don't spend this much dough on their bicycle, much less shoes) When it becomes necessary to ride in the rain, it's best to have an old pair to use, saving the new pair for when it really counts. Ugh, I talk and talk and talk. Who is reading this boring story? Thanks for being here. Don't forget to check out the link from Comedy Central- a very funny skit about the Tour de France. Bye for now.

27 July 2005

Another Breakthrough at Lincoln

I have had a lot of trouble staying connected at this race held every Wed night. Well three weeks ago I finally completed it, and sprinted mid-field. The following week was a repeat, with a little better position in the sprint. Tonight though I impressed myself with an 11th place finish out of about 80 riders. The final sprint was dicey- it started to rain with 7-8 laps to go, out of 18 we did total. Course was extremely windy on the small hill, extremely fast on finishing straight. With one lap to go, I just started weaving through spent riders, choosing wheels carefully, and emerged from the final corner about 20 places back. Gave the sprint everything I safely could, considering the slick wet roads, and firmly counted only ten people ahead of me. Might seem like a small achievement, but the amount of confidance a person gains from this is huge. Only five weeks ago, I red-lined and quit this race, as in the previous four attempts. I think I can take the win at least once by the end of August. That's my plan. Some more Colavita colors in the field would be a big motivator too, but I know it's not a convenient venue to attend. Average speed was relatively low due to the rain- 25.3 mph (40.5 kph). My average HR was a little lower than usual as well- 162.

26 July 2005

Feeling Less Than 100%

So I rode my bike to work today for the first time- 13 miles. Afterwards I rode home for another 21 miles. This fever/virus thing is really starting to affect my form. Yesterday and today I feel very sluggish and tired, especially on the bike. Legs are achy and sore even though I haven't really exerted myself since Saturday, three days ago. My throat is also starting to hurt- a bad sign. If this illness keeps going at this slow rate, I won't recover fully for a couple of weeks. Tomorrow I race at Lincoln and Sunday at Wells. It's important that I really make an impact on Sunday, my hopes for tomorrow night are more conservative. My weight is down to 170 again, and our sophisticated scale rated my bodyfat % at 18, which isn't disappointing. I'll report tomorrow night on the Lincoln race- average HR, speed etc. TTYL.

How cool is my new Ford F-150 truck?

25 July 2005

Wedding Day May 21, 1995 Almira Hotel Bursa

This picture was taken as we entered the wedding hall. I am 24 years old and Ebru 19. We embarked on a very tumultuous journey, and it's a small miracle that we have made it to where we now stand. Love will conquer all I guess.

Club Zigana Antalya September 1999

We had our honeymoon four years after we were married. There just wasn't any money left after the wedding to do any differently. We loved our stay at Zigana- an ultra-all-inclusive resort on the Mediterranean.

Keith Berger Criterium Hartford CT

I almost didn't make it to this race, was really on the fence about it. I forced myself to go and race the 30+, but decided to pass on the Pro-1-2, which was many hours later in the day. Unfortunately I forgot the chest transmitter for my heart rate monitor, at home. This means that I had no idea during the race whether I was red-lined or recovered or whatever. It might have actually helped- not knowing when you're at 180+ bpm can be good for morale. I raced my heart out along with team mate Keiran Lynch, who already completed the cat 4 race earlier in the day. The long and short of it is that I really spent myself at the front of this race, and without my hrm I popped with 6 laps to go (out of 20). Not one to lay down without a fight, I went to the pit and asked to re-enter, mumbling something about my chain jamming in my frame. The official said it was okay to finish the race, but that I wasn't allowed to sprint. Well I sprinted and probably finished in the top 15 out of 40 riders, but they RELEGATED me to last place on the results- 32nd. Only 40 or so starters anyway. This is a-ok with me because I was happy to have the chance to finish a really great race, one where I was at the front for a part of just about every lap. Average speed on this very smooth flat course was 26.5 mph (43 kph) With my heart rate monitor, I might have known to ease up just a little bit to avoid popping. But on the other hand, with it I believe I would not have been at the front for so much of the race. Lesson learned. In any event, I am happy with my form. A friend of mine raced in the Pro-1-2 event later on and crashed, breaking his collarbone. Yesterday and today I have a fever and severe body aches, which is why I missed Wells Ave on Sunday, which my team mate Thad won in a bunch sprint. Today I barely made it to work and barely made it through the day. I took the bike with me and rode home from work for the first time. It's important that I complete my daily training at an earlier hour, to be with my family. I also hope to increase my mileage for the next month, now that base fitness is solid and sufficient. If I have a fever tomorrow AM, I might not even go to work. My son is also sick with a sore throat and fever. And my wife is just completely stressed out dealing with it. She doesn't realize it but she is handling things perfectly well. TTYL.

22 July 2005

Musical Tastes

I listen to music that drives me forward, that lineates my thoughts and attitudes, that is loud, rhytmic and melodic, that has some relatability, that elicits strong emotion, that reminds me of who I am, where I've come from and where I'm going. That being said, let me list the tracks on my latest disk- custom compiled from Napster:

1. Blink 182 "Miss You" This track puts our little boy to sleep when we're driving, so that is never a bad thing. But I must admit that the video clip for this song is what really attracted me to it. There are two versions- an R rated and a PG rated. The R rated version is somewhat erotic, and this might seem crude, but I doubt if any men whatsoever dis-like this video.

2. Papa Roach "Scars" The song is a little on the light side for PR, but it is strong in the visual sense. It's impossible to misunderstand the message being set forth, and it's nice to not have to scratch your head and think, what is that all about?

3. Green Day "Jesus of Suburbia" This is the tune I can't get enough of. Touted as the next "Bohemian Rhapsody", for the children of the original Queen fans. Nine minutes long! The best 99 cents I ever spent on Napster for sure. The best track on the disk. MAX VOLUME every time.

4. Foo Fighters "Best of You" Another song that just gets my juices flowing. Cranked to max volume this song makes me feel like beating the crap out of everyone who has ever duped me or taken advantage of me or deceived me. Oddly enough, it's a good feeling, like a release of sorts. No detractors have been harmed to date.

5. My Chemical Romance "I'm Not Okay" A song that takes a few plays to wear on you. The lyrics are simple and amusing. Reminds me of the old "I'm okay, You're okay" doctrine of the children and spouses of alcoholics. This song cuts through all of the psycholigical BS and says what abused people really feel- "I'm not o-fuckin-kay". Another one that must be played as loud as possible for the full cleansing effect.

6. My Chemical Romance "Helena" I love listening to this, especially on MTV. The choreography of the music video is superb. I especially like the part when the dancers are twirling their umbrellas in unison. The dead girl who is resurrected and dances in the clip casts a spell on me every time. Excellent rhythm, excellent drum beat. Great song.

7. Garbage "Bleed Like Me" The lyrics of this song are verrrrry creepy, but the singer's voice is extremely soothing to me. Not my favorite of the disk, but it's a break from all of the head-banging of the previous 6 tracks.

8. Audioslave "Be Yourself" I really like Chris Cornell. Maybe it's because in the video for "Like a Stone" there are toddlers on the set and it gives the band a kind of "realness" that I find attractive. "Like a Stone" is on my previous mix and I love it. This song "Be Yourself" is a worthy sequel to my Audioslave taste. If it stirs emotion, I'm hooked. Having great bass and guitar never hurts either.

9. Puddle of Mudd "Blurry" My least favorite of the track, but it's pretty good to have made it on there. The music video had a big influence. Seeing the little kid torn between separated parents, is something I can relate with strongly. Good lyrics.

That's all of them. I am compiling my next mix disk but the titles aren't all picked out yet. I'll let ya know when it's done.

21 July 2005

Progress Made- very pleased with myself

Just wanted to document my training activity here for future reference. I have posted some charts generated by my Polar heart rate monitor. Two of the charts are about a month apart- see the dates on them. They represent the same route - you can see the course profile is a bit hilly and challenging. What these two charts prove is some dramatic improvement. Check the times- in one month I was able to complete this course in a personal best that is 3-1/2 minutes faster than a month prior. I was real happy on this day. My previous best time was about two years ago, a whole minute slower than the 1:19:25 I posted on July 14th.

The green bar chart represents all of the riding miles I have put in since I started riding in mid-April. As you can see, I have barely completed 2000 miles in a span of three months. Furthermore, I barely touched the bike and didn't race in 2004, so this was like starting from zero, less than zero, fitness-wise. I believe many of my competitors- the real contenders- are well into their 4th 1000 miles for the season. I must give creit to myself for getting into pretty decent form with such little training.

The last chart shows my heart rate and speed at the last Lincoln Criterium, yesterday evening. This was the 2nd time I was able to complete the entire race. Lincoln has been challenging for me this year. Take note of the average heart rate. It's been going down 1-2 points with each passing week- a good sign that my heart and circulation is getting steadily more efficient. Yesterday I did some work at the front of the field and didn't even come close to popping, although my conservative approach makes it hard for me to fight for position at the finishing sprint. Crashing 3 times in as many years, plus the birth of our son in 03 has made me this way- less willing to take chances. Sprints are very dangerous and my worst crash ever occurred during a sprint in 2001, at the Lincoln Crit no less. At any rate, this is a quick snapshot of where my form now stands.

Before I forget, Tuesday I was caught in a rainstorm with thunder and lightening- got completely soaked. Tonight I rode with my friend Kaan Duru, who is just dabbling in the sport for now, perhaps he'll make a serious go at it this fall or next season. Tonight I put some road tires on his cross bike and I think he might have become addicted to the very low rolling resistance, quick acceleration and speed. Who wouldn't be?

19 July 2005

New Britain Criterium 2005- Murat Altinbasak

Here's one of those very rare, well timed, in-focus photos, taken by a professional, sold to me on their website: Check out their website, especially if you race in New England. There might be pictures of you in there that you didn't know existed. They will make the prints and mail them to you for a fee.

New Britain Criterium 2005

Father Son and I, May 2004

I really like how this picture came out. Our son Reis was only 9 months old, on his first journey overseas. We were at the engagement party for my brother in law Umit Kizanlik and his fiancee Ozge. I am very glad this picture was taken, it's definitely a keeper. With his spectacles on, my father looks like a professor. He met a lot of my in-laws at this party, who also live in Mudanya, and he gets together with them often nowadays. I think Reis inherited his blond hair from his grandfather.

Coming to Amerika May 1967

This timeless picture was taken during the moments after my father first set foot in the United States. Notice the musical instrument in his left hand. Which 23 year old Turkish man ever traveled without his trusty "saz"? The irony lies in the fact that he now passes time during his retirement, building traditional Turkish zithers, or kanuns. An example of his work is included in a previous post. Welcome to Amerika, Charlie. I was born about 4 years later.

Skiing in Turkey 1969- my Father

This is my father Irfan, skiing atop Uludag Mountain in Bursa Turkey in April 1969. If I'm not mistaken, he was the middle child of 7, and as I understand it he was also the most athletic and the most interested in sports, like skiing, cycling and soccer. My uncles attest that he was given special treatment, was spared from doing chores, given more of an allownace than everyone else, and get this, he would eat steak while his six brothers and sisters were having leftovers. Hey an athlete has a bigger engine and needs better fuel, I suppose. I can't understand how he could afford to ski when the family was not very well off. He brought these skis and boots to Amerika. We kept them in the basement for a long time, but I think they're gone now.

My First Birthday March 1972

I should tease my mom about that hair and that mini skirt, eh? Just revenge for dressing me in that silly leotard. They claim it was a bathing suit. Yeah right, I'm dressed in a bathing suit in March, while living in Queens, NY.

My grandparents ~1971

Here again is a picture taken in Turkey, perhaps before I was born. Maternal grandparents on the left (my mom's youngest sister Hulya in between them). Paternal grandparents on the right, with my mother, Kiymet in between. Looks like they're having some tea at an outdoor cafe. Color Polaroid cameras were no doubt very expensive 34 years ago.

18 July 2005

Murat Altinbasak- 1990-1991 19-20 years of age

I post this picture of myself only because I am not very photogenic, and this is in my belief one rare exception. Like hearing the sound of my own voice on tape, I hate the way I look in pictures and on camera. This picture however, is okay looking I think. It's me during perhaps my most tenacious, most daring, most energetic and most crisis filled times. If I could go back to a point in time and live my life all over again, I would choose to go back to the moment captured here.

Guess Which Cutie I Married

I was probably half way around the world playing soccer or doing homework when this photo was taken. Today, the sweet little girl on the far left is my wonderful and beautiful wife of ten years. How we met in 1994, and how we almost met 5 years prior to that, is an interesting story, for another time.

Undated photo of my father Irfan

I really like this picture. When he was in his 20's he bore a striking resemblance to Captain Kirk on Star Trek. I think it was exaggerated a bit, but no one can deny he was a handsome guy in his youth. Many believe that my son Reis looks a lot like him. I look a little like him, not too much.

January 1984

September 1971- Hamit's First Grandson

This picture is one of my favorites, taken August 22, 1971. My father's father Hamit Altinbasak, holding me in his arms. I was his first grandson- the first to carry on the family name. My parents tell me often of how fond of me he was. He would say "this is who will carry our name". Hearing that, at a young age really hit home. He passed away when I was six, peacefully and painlessly in his sleep. He even predicted that evening before bedtime, that he knew it was his time to go. Of course everyone dismissed this completely, and everyone was shocked in the morning. A master hat-maker whose brand was well known throughout Bursa Turkey. Seven children, giving me three aunts and three uncles. He was once nominated for mayor of Bursa and declined saying that he didn't even finish grade school. I wish I knew more about him, better yet, I wish he were alive now to tell me I've not dashed his hopes for me.

Grandparents September 1973

Here is a nice photo taken in Turkey- September 1973. On the left are my maternal grandparents. On the right, my paternal grandparents. Only my maternal grandmother is still with us. In the center, my mom. The little guy with the great shoes, is yours truly.

17 July 2005

Some old cycling pictures from Turkey

Greetings. I have been meaning to digitize these old photos for a looong time. One is of a couple of unidentified guys in a two up sprint in a velodrome- I don't know where- could be the one in Bursa or the one in Balikesir. The other picture with the racers and officials actually includes my father- Irfan Altinbasak. He is the bike rider on the far left. The fourth rider from the left, next to the man in the hat, is Saim Tatlicilar, a close friend of the family. His oldest son was Turkish national road champ for a few years in a row. THe cyclist 2nd from the right is Rifat Caliskan, if I am not mistaken. Here is a rider who raced in Europe at a very high level, and claims to have competed against Eddy Merckx. He is another friend of the family, one who took a special interest in me during the summer of 1989, when my family and I traveled to Turkey. Rifat took me to a race in Corum- road race and crit. Juniors had to race with the elite men. I was in rare form and placed 10th in the road race and 2nd in the points criterium the following day. I would have won it were it not for the junior gearing I had on- 53x15. I was the 1st placed junior, behind the winner of the event- Murat Suyabatmaz. Murat was an elite rider who raced across Europe, against the then youthful Bjarne Riis and Olaf Ludwig, among others. THe color pic is the podium in Corum, with me on the left. This was perhaps the most satisfying win of my junior years. The funny thing is, I found this picture by accident, on the internet, 12 years afterwards. Needless to say I was blown away that I found it. Murat Suyabatmaz is still heavily involved in cycling in Turkey and we e-mail eachother periodically.

Wells Ave Criterium 7-17-05

Today I ventured north to Newton MA to do the weekly Wells Ave race. I left early, just in case As and Bs were combined, and per usual, they only do that when I'm running late. So all the A's rolled off after the B race. Rain threatened, and I even felt a few drops. 40 laps around a 0.8725 mile course. The Union team was there to give a show of force, and they seem to have succeeded. A small break and later a larger break developed and I was back in the nosebleed group for most of the race. Chasing was made difficult by the Union riders blocking tactics. I went to the front as much as my HR allowed to do some work, but it always ended up that whoever was on my wheel wasn't willing to follow through and take a pull. Oh well... This is a training race, right? Work your ass off for some benefit to your fitness, who cares about sprinting for 15th place? With 3 laps to go I moved up to the front and gave a couple of more efforts and blew with 1/2 lap to go. I actually sat up and coasted through the finish line all by myself, dead last, which is fine by me. Being able to contribute at the front of a race is better than risking your life to break top 20. Anyhow, we averaged 25.9 miles per hour (my last lap probably brought it down a couple of points) for 34.9 miles total. My average HR was 165, max 181. Not really put in a lot of difficulty today, but there were a few times when I needed to drift back and rest after pulling at the front. Overall a pretty good day. No team mates in the A race, regrettably, so I was the only one representing Colavita. Might have been nice to have some help or at least some company. TTYL.

16 July 2005

Kusadasi Baghdad London

A minibus exploded in the tourist town of Kusadasi today, killing and maiming innocents, some who were British and Irish. G-d help all those who were injured or who lost their loved ones.
In Baghdad, a fuel tanker was detonated by a suicide bomber, killing over 50 Iraqis,wounding scores more. I express my sincere regrets that people are capable of such cruel carnage. Again, my heart goes out to all those who are now suffering.
Three British soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb today as well. What more can one say? We are all very sorry about this. Condolences etc. Sorry for your pain and loss.
Will these attacks abate when the US and UK completely exit Iraq? I'm not so sure, but I believe they will diminish. One thing stands clear: these daily multiple attacks in Iraq were virtually non-existent before the US invaded and destroyed the nation of Iraq in the name of "dumbocracy". Saddam was a son-of-a-bitch-bastard etc, no one can deny this, but the approach of the Bush administration was deceptive, mis-informed, and over-kill. How many innocent Iraqi civilians have lost their lives? Who cares as long as we have eliminated the Saddam regime and installed democracy? Risk versus reward might not have been evaluated properly. The attitude seems to be "hey, if you want an omelet you gotta break some eggs". As it turns out, there is no Iraq/Al Qaeda link, weapons of mass destruction never existed, and Saddam Hussein for all of his faults, kept the populace living in relative peace. This war was a big huge mistake. Those who still deny this are the ones I'd like to trade for the innocents who have died in the past two years in Iraq. If there is one thing that was done correctly, it was Turkey's refusal to support the US invasion and their refusal to allow use of the Incirlik Air Base. I salute all of the people who made that decision possible, because if Turkey had supported this debacle, Turks would also have blood on their hands and would pay the price for it with Turkish innocents dying in suicide attacks throughout Turkey. Democracy my ass. It isn't needed everywhere. Sometimes, it takes a tyrant to keep the masses under control. The US has attacked a hornet's nest. What can be expected other than a swarming of insurgents, delirious with their new found "freedom"? Yes the bombings in London killed 55 innocent civilians, we watched it's aftermath in horror. I believe that the MO of the bombers was this: "Here, have a taste of your own medicine. Your invasion of Iraq has resulted in daily bombings of innocent Iraqi civilians, police and army recruits, women and children. You do not shed a tear for their loss of life, their loss of limbs, the destruction of homes and lives. Here is a little taste of what you have caused. Swallow it down, accept this as a warning, and exit Iraq forthwith so that the bombings in Iraq will stop. They happen because of you, not in spite of you."
If this comes across as if I condone the events in London, then you're an idiot. Look at this subjectively and perhaps you might draw similar conclusions. The attacks in London should have come as no surprise. The logic which I set forth may seem incomprehensible and just plain wrong. Try being less myopic for two seconds and get over it. Justify your support for this war to the five year old little girl in the picture, trying to use a prosthetic leg. According to Reuters: "Hanin was hit by shrapnel when war planes started bombing Baghdad's Sadr city almost two years ago and doctors found no other choice but to cut off part of her leg in order to safe her life."

15 July 2005

Woodworking University

My educational achievements are quite underordinary, at least after grade school. I went to Patricia A Larkin School in College Point New York, more commonly referred to as "PS 129". All of my teacher's names are still fresh in my mind: Mrs. Alexander, Mrs. Kosloff, Mrs. Courtney, Mrs. Viaggio, Mrs Notowitz and Mrs. Miller. Grade school was frightening for me, but so were a lot of things, especially at home. I was a studious child, in the habit of doing extra credit homework when it wasn't requested or expected, much of it very elaborate artwork. Each year I received numerous achievement awards and recognition, scored in the top 99 percentile of aptitude tests, always qualified and was enrolled in the "gifted" class of students.
JuniorHigh was different. "JHS 194" was located in Whitestone New York, and populated with kids whose parents would not seem out of place on the set of "The Sopranos". Fourteen year old kids were smoking cigarettes and marijuana, bringing lethal weapons to class, beating the crap out of eachother over a spot in the lunch line or a girl's affection. My grades suffered, my interest in good grades diminished, my desire to exceed expectations was replaced with a desire for the company of girls. At any rate, with minimal effort I managed to get myself accepted to Bayside High School and was spared the adventures of Flushing High School. This was due to my artistic aptitude, which I really had no interest in whatsoever. As it turned out, we moved to Rochester New York and I ended up going to a far better school- Penfield High School. A better overall community environment made it possible for me to actually want to at least graduate, which I did in a pretty un-spectacular way. Being one who loves to test limits, it was with the barest minimum of output that I earned a diploma. Actually, I skipped graduation to go to Olean New York for a bicycle race, and went and got my diploma a couple of months later, hand delivered to me by my old friend Mr. Sullivan. We had quite a history in my junior and senior years- I was required to eat lunch in his office every day for many months because of an incident that I can't really recall.
The following September I had enrolled myself at Monroe Community College. One semester was all I could manage because my father needed my help in the family business- actually made me a 49% owner and partner at the tender age of 19. The rest is history, I continued to learn the woodworking trade and never looked back. Today I make more money than I have ever made- working for another company, more than four times what I was making 10 years ago. I am asked quite often, almost always by people in Turkey, where I went to school. It's always an awkward response, and it's hard to explain that in the United States, learning a trade is nothing to be ashamed of. Quite the opposite, the best plumbers, carpenters and electricians eventually are promoted into middle and high level management after so many years of experience in the field. For me, this career path worked out like a fairy tale, and I am very blessed and fortunate that my father taught and showed me every one of his skills and all of his knowledge. Where did I graduate from? From the School of Hard Knocks. I have regrets for not choosing a career that I am in love with, but not for making the choice to pass on higher education. My apprenticeship in woodworking started at the age of 11, and today I can get lucrative employment at just about any millwork company in the US. And yes, my hand skills are still sharp enough that I can work in the shop or in the field at any time, if it ever became necessary. That's a comfortable position to be in, at the young age of 34. I am often asked what I do for a living, followed by an inquiry of my education, as if it would be impossible to get where I am without a degree. For most this might be true, but not for me, so get over it. It doesn't require a six figure student loan to make a six figure income. So please, have more respect for skilled trades and stop asking me where I went to college. My father was my professor and the forests of North America were my textbooks.
Oh the pictures: My father [best known as "Charlie" here in the States] is now retired and passes time building the musical instrument that you see pictured. This was his latest creation, recently purchased by a man named Mahmoud Sagharichi. Each of these 'kanuns' takes 6 or so weeks to build, and I sell them here in the US. The money gets deposited into my dad's account and he uses ATMs to withdraw the funds in Turkey, where he has returned after 33 years in the US. I don't get a penny for my effort, but it's the least I could do to repay the man who was the biggest influence on my career. There is a very large amount of things I can say about my father Irfan Altinbasak, probably more bad than good... But I will give credit where it's due, and I salute him for his achievements and thank him for his teachings. Now, who wants to buy a kanun?


Evet sonunda Turkce yamayi becerdim. Kusura bakmayin Turk harflerim yok, sanirim yinede yazdikalrim anlasilir. Ben Amerikada dogudum ve 1971'de annem babam pek Ingilizge bilmiyordu. Bu yuzden asil ilk dilim Turkce oldu. 5-6 yaslarimda ilk okula basladigimdi Ingilizcem biraz ofside' idi her halde ama o yasta cok cobuk dil ogreniliyor. Hic Turkce dil ders almadim hayatim boyunca. Okuma yazma gercekten daha zor konusmasindan. Mesela TR'deyken "Metal Firtina" kitabi aldim, donus'te ucakta anca 20-25 sayfa okuyabildim, cunku bazi bolumler 2-3-4 kere okumam gerkiyor kafama basmasi icin. Yoruldum yaa Turkce zor geliyor bana. Umarim cok hata yapmadim. Sanirim cumleleri bazen ters kuruyorum. Dunyanin en buyuk kelimesi: "CEKOSLOVAKIALASTIRAMADIKLARIMIZDANMISINIZ". Good bye for now... -Murat

13 July 2005

Milestone at Lincoln

Lincoln is a town in Rhode Island where a certain bicycling club hosts a weekly "training race", every Wednesday evening starting in late April and running through September. This season, I have been very unsuccessful at the Lincoln venue, in the 4-5 times I've tried it. Each time, I found that I could complete a few more laps than before, but inevitably I would see my heart rate monitor reading 180+ bpm and panic and just quit mentally. It isn't long before my deficient confidance causes me to simply quit the race.

Tonight was different. For the first time all season, I completed the Lincoln race, and in the top 50th percentile too. There were even times when I was at the front, forcing the pace. So my confidance just received a big boost. This year and in years past, I used Lincoln as a gauge of my overall fitness. When I could complete an entire race there, I knew it was time to move into more focused, more specialized training such as intervals, sprints, LT work etc. Base fitness is complete when you finish the Lincoln crit- that's my MO. I was happy to see people [other than myself for a change] who were gagging and puking and at their limit the whole time, while I was put into difficulty only a few times and recovered quickly. Average speed: 26.3 mph My average heartrate was 166 for 1 hour and three minutes. Yes today a milestone was achieved. Next week I will be even fitter and will definitely make aggresive moves to break top ten.

In case it isn't already very apparent, this blog will have heavy doses of cycling related input. I can't help that it's something I am passionate about, few people in my life take any real interest, so it's satisfying to put my thoughts out there for untold millions to [potentially] read one day.

Picture is from four hours ago. I am the one on the far left with the yellow bike and white shirt.

12 July 2005

Time to change my name?

Today I read some news about the terrorist group PKK fighting against Turkish soldiers in Southeast Turkey. Many died recently on both sides. Then I hear quotes coming a Kurdish commander whose name is "Murat"- same as me. This gives my name the same significance as "Osama" or "Adolf" or "Chuckie". For this reason, I am considering changing my name to "Marat", which is the name of a successful Russian tennis player. Regrettably, both names contain the letters "rat", which is pretty unflattering. Still, Marat sounds better and detaches me from the name of a terrorist and attaches me to the name of a skilled professional athlete.
For whatever reason, I wasn't given a middle name, and neither were my brother or sister. I would have loved to hear suggestions for a middle name. What would sound good in between "Marat.....Altinbasak"? Maybe I'll think of something watching the Tour de France on OLN. It doesn't need to be a Turkish name. As long as it fits and spells and pronounces easily, I'm happy. Busy day today. Racing tomorrow after work in Lincoln. Hope to be a contributor to the average speed for a change. It's been a struggle this year for me to complete an entire race at the Lincoln venue. It's very popular and attracts some very fast cyclists, on a challenging 1 mile course. Here's a picture of my father and my son taken in Turkey May 2005.

Pictures of my Mates on the Colavita Racing Team

From the top: Thad and I, me again, Rhys Gibson, Keiran Lynch, Thad Lavalee, Mark Stockwell (shooter of top 4 pictures). Our team was represented in pretty much every event of the Attleboro Criterium on Sunday July 10th. Lots of no shows from the team- you were all missed. It was a fun day of racing. None of us crashed, although Mark flatted in his event after the cut-off point for a wheel change is allowed. We are grateful for Mark's efforts taking these pictures. I was inspired to race as a kid when I found a black and white picture of my dad racing in Turkey back in the 1960's. It's nice to have something to show your kids and friends and family, who almost never get any real exposure to the pain and beauty of our wonderful sport. Ciao. -Murat

11 July 2005

Pet peaves

  • People who use the word "that" where "who" is appropriate. This sentence is an example of correct selection between "who" and "that". Incorrect: "He's the guy that knocked me out because of my poor grammar."
  • Supermarket "divider" sticks. People are terrified that the cashier will be too dumb to notice a 10" gap between piles of food. Furthermore, if you need a stick to divide our purchases, you piled your things too close to mine in the first place. Keep it away!
  • Using your blinker to claim a parking spot. This one infuriates me. Don't do it. Take your chances and try to get a spot without your blinker. It is mighty gratifying. Perhaps it shouldn'tbother me, but I give people the benefit of the doubt when I'm waiting for a spot, and I don't lunge into a spot that another appears to be waiting for. It's all such bullshit anyway. I would sooner walk for 30 seconds from a far away spot, than I would sit and wait for someone to back out of a spot. This country is severely obese for many reasons, this is a tiny contributor.
  • Poor "netiquette". If I have thought enough of a person to e-mail them, it is in order to elicit a response, an acknowledgment, anything. I'll even take a tongue lashing over complete apathy. I'm not talking about forwarding jokes either, I don't do that.
  • Rubbish. We have neighbors who literally pack 5-6 cans of trash weekly. It looks awful, it attracts animals, and half of it is dead air- empty recyclable containers. The complete disregard for recycling really makes me mad. We barely fill two small cans with trash- all of it biodegradable- and everything paper and metal and plastic is dutifully recycled without exception.
  • Buzz-words and acronyms, especially when used to mask incompetence. I'll use a few myself, sparingly, but not the same one five times in the same meeting.
  • Feigning interest. I don't have it in me to listen to useless information and pretend that I'm on the edge of my seat. This has gotten me into trouble in the past. I am selective about who I feign interest to, and who I dismiss with an abrupt change of the subject.
  • Donut sized spare tires, and those who will drive on them at full speed, for weeks or months. Folks that donut tire is intended to get you to the nearest repair shop or tire retailer. Flats can usually be fixed for $5 with a plug. Why risk your life and make the roads more dangerous than they already are?
  • "Motorcyles are Everywhere" bumper stickers. When motorcyclists care enough about their own safety to wear helmets, then I might give a crap about them being everywhere. In Rhode Island, only a passenger is required to wear one. Furthermore, every cycle that makes deliberate loud noise should be destroyed and it's owner forced to hear my two year old cry all night, after being woken by some illiterate hick with a hearing problem driving by my house on his piece of crap "hog" at 1:00 am.
  • High fructose corn syrup. Unless you're growing and eating your own fruit and vegetables, you will not be able to escape the "white death" of useless empty calories. It's in everything- take a look. Sugar used to be a costly delicacy- consumed in moderation on special occasions. Now it's as common as the air we breath. Drop all processed sugar from your diet for ten days straight, I promise you will lose 10 pounds and feel great. Another tip- eat two whole oranges a day and your plumbing will be active and healthy. There's a long and gruesome story behind why I am required to know this.

I think I am done for now. When I think of more I will share.

"And now goodnight. It's time to sleep. So we sill sleep with our pet Zeep. Today was good today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. Every day from here to there, funny things are everywhere" -Dr. Suess from the book One Fish Two Fish... one of my son's favorites. Look at him cry. Doesn't the pain of a child make you want to extinguish it, take it away, destroy it's source? What book was it where a scorpion stings a baby and the father catches it, pounds it to mush in his bare hands? That part, of whatever book that was, has been a vivid memory since I read it as a child. I would do the same.

So very tired

Mr & Mrs Smith, the movie, was a disappointment. It gave me a headache and the story was dreamed up by a teenager I think- not a gram of realism. Cinderella Man was my choice but I was weak and let the Mrs choose this time.
I raced the Attleboro Criterium today and fiinished 22nd out of 44 finishers in the 30+ event. New bike is light but feels awkward. Left calf cramped up with 10 laps to go, so I couldnt' go 100% towards the end. Skipped Sat race in NewBritain CT. Needed rest and time to build up new bike anyway. Hot hot day. We went to Goddard Park and kicked the ball around with Reis before sunset. Watching him run is like witnessing a miracle. I saw him on ultrasound, no arms or legs, the size of a peanut. Now he walks talks runs jumps yells and gives us kisses. Anyway, today's result might have been a few places better, but my form is definitely not yet good enough to win. On the bright side, I weigh in at 171 today, which motivates me even more to get better. Tomorrow- I dread it a little. Work is piling up and so is the stressful pressure to really perform. I have eight projects now- over $5,000,000 of woodworking to manage. I will be either a hero or a villain by Thanksgiving, either promoted or fired. I am trusting my instincts will soon take over and I will go into auto-pilot mode and handle everything with ease, per usual. Must sleep. TTYL.
Not the most focused picture- but that's me in the Colavita kit. Mark McCormack lapped the field in the P-3 race today and won.

08 July 2005

A word or two on religion

My parents are both Turkish and were both raised by Muslims, in Turkey. When one is raised in a Muslim family, it comes as no surprise that the faith of elders is adopted and the "torch is carried" onward. I was born and raised in the US, and mom and dad did their best to indoctrinate me with their [moderate] Muslim 'beliefs'. To me, belief is not some magical feeling you get, belief is not willfully inherited, belief is not genetic. To me, belief is a choice. It is a decision to have faith in something you do not truly comprehend. September 11th and the ongoing death and mauling which Islamic extremists are responsible for, has strongly affected my belief. "Guilt by association" has driven a wedge between untold millions of Muslims and their faith, not just me. My personal Values in order of descending priority: Health/Fitness, Family, Money/Job/Lifestyle, Religion. If Religion is your first priority, it isn't likely for you and I to have a very successful meeting of the minds.

Enough said?

I want to slap myself

Is mine the most arrogant looking smirk you've ever seen? Well, those who know me will tell you I'm not faking it. That's okay, who wouldn't rather be more arrogant and less insecure or unsure of themselves? That's me in Antalya Turkey, at Kemer Resort Hotel- an ultra-all inclusive holiday village resort, with my LIVESTRONG bracelet and goatee. Since that time, I have dropped ten pounds, gotten a buzz-cut and lost the goatee. At any rate, now I can link this pic to my profile so that it's there permanently, until a more recent one replaces it. TTYL.

The day after

It occurs to me that I didn't mention the bombings in London yesterday. I followed the news online while at work. I do not know anyone who lives in London. Those who planned this multiple extermination will hopefully be caught alive and removed from society permanantly- I am not a supporter of the death penalty.
As promised I was in Wallingford CT today and was delayed enough that I didn't make it to MA for the 2nd appt. Mark T Sheehan High School is being renovated. I work for a company that sells and installs woodwork, cabinets, countertops, fumehoods, laboratory accessories and plumbing fixtures. The labs at Sheehan HS are being abated of asbestos. They're also being re-sized- many existing walls are being demolished and new ones erected. My job was to meet with the general contractor today and to coordinate the new dimensions of the new classroom sizes. So that's how I spent this rainy day in Wallingford, CT. Measuring existing walls and structural beams to try and determine where new walls would be positioned later on, so that my cabinets and counters will fit. I am so tired when I return from CT that I fall asleep after playing with my son for 1/2 hour. Wife let me sleep right through dinner, I must have been wiped out. Just got up and ate. Tomorrow in CT again, weather permitting, to participate in the Nutmeg Games Criteriums in New Britain. Hopefully it doesn't rain, because then I will miss an excellent bicycle racing venue. Till tomorrow... Picture of an existing Sheehan classroom from a few months ago. Thi room is now gutted completely.

I'm back for some reason

It's late and I should be in bed. Typing lightly to avoid waking family. Going to Wallingford CT and Woburn MA tomorrow. Need to wash some clothes before I retire. Today I weigh in at 172 pounds and I am very pleased with my form. Caloric deficit is all it takes. Why is weight loss such a mystery to so many? My target is 160 pounds, by Sept 1st. By declaring it, I am more or less compelled and obligated and driven to achieve it, without exception. Aim for the eagle, bag a pheasant and don't eat crow... Great image of the Phenix Mill fire from a few months ago, across the river from our home. Clean-up finally started today. We hope to see this land cleared and developed into a park or some nice condos- hope to get a ground floor deal on one. Also a picture of our 1860s colonial. Could the landscaping be any more overgrown and neglected than that?

06 July 2005

Some rules I promise to follow

It's swell that by some miracle you are laying eyes upon these words, because presumably, it will take 10-20-40 postings before I get an actual reader, and these first few posts will be in the archive where few will venture. Of course, I might be judged to be a great story-teller or an interesting person and those who follow this, if any, will take the time to go back to the beginning and see how it all began. For this reason, I am not going to strain myself telling much about me at this time. What I really want to set forth here is this: Everything that I post, about whomever or whatever I post, should be created such that nobody who knows me will be deliberately offended if they find this... I say deliberately because I am very careful about my choice of words at all times. I don't know how far this will go or how many will eventually follow, but I want it to be such that I can invite anyone to read it without exception, including co-workers, neighbors, politicians, friends, family et al. I should never have any reservation about putting this out there for all to see, and in order for this to happen, words must be chosen wisely and deliberately. I do not ever say everything that I think, and this forum will not be an exception. As I've always believed, it's what you don't say that needs to be selected before speaking. So if you happen to know me personally and find yourself here somehow, rest assured that I do not regret anything I have said about you or your actions or your words. Enough said.

05 July 2005

Why am I doing this?

Greetings? Merhaba, if you like. Okay so I am no doubt one of thousands tonight who are inspired to create some personal space on the net and share the trivialities of my life and of those who are in it. I can't really begin without first defining why this seems to be an attractive thing to do. We'll work on that later. And I can't help but wonder if this beginning will have a very swift ending when I tire of it. Seems like a test of character. Do I care if others read my words, or if they comment, or if they dismiss me as dullard with poor writing skills? Perhaps. There is always interest in me to act in the interest of eliciting re-action. If you cast a stone into the pond and there is no ripple, will you move on to a different pond or will you cast a larger stone? Time will tell. I intend to do the best I can to keep this up to date, if for no other reason than to harvest my thoughts in a place where they aren't blown away like dandelion fuzz. Enough said for the first entry. So far it seems certain that the words "I", "me", "my" will be grotesquely overused.