Posted in Random on December 6, 2013 by brendanbourdage

All of what follows was inspired by a friend sending me a link to this website: Dirds. I scrolled through the pictures, I chuckled, gave in to a moment of amusement imagining other pairings. Then I got to the comments section, and, out of boredom, read the first few.

Wow. The conversation was dominated by two people – one a self-identified evolutionist, and the other a creationist. There are three things I can say for certain about both:

1. Their beliefs are very strong.

2. They take themselves way too seriously.

3. They probably spend a lot of time in the comments section on random websites.

The first two I’m sure of, the last one is just conjecture, based on my own nascent science of intellectual profiling. I.e. if you say certain things, in a certain forum, in a certain way, I’m going to assume you’re an idiot.

Although, is it really their fault?

They were certainly provoked, first by the flamboyantly incendiary nature of the website, which only showed those mash up pictures of dog heads photo-shopped onto bird bodies (and vice-versa) with an eye towards making a statement about the intersection of natural history and religion.

I mean, it certainly wasn’t just a bored graphic design artist killing time between the (apparently irresistible) new episodes of The Voice and The X Factor. Yes, I know they don’t air on the same night – let me have my snarky fun, OK?

But that brings me right to my point. These are People Who Are Taking Themselves Too Seriously. All caps because it should have a catchy acronym that I can use to start my own website. (PWATTTS) Hmmm…I might be able to work with that.

Anyways, you know you’re one of the PWATTTS when you decide to argue about evolution/creationism in the comments of a post about Dirds. I can’t really state it more simply than that. I mean, just look at the word. Dirds. Ha!

This is the comment that got it all started, phrased in the passive-aggressive way that is the hallmark of these types of internet heroes.

PWATTS 1: “It’s funny, because this is what evolutionists will actually have you believe.” But clearly, as we find out later, Ken does NOT find it funny.

PWATTS 2 then responds with an obvious point about how evolutionists would NOT have you believe that, because if they would, where are the Dirds (Ha!), etc. He also adds his own element of passive-aggressiveness, inviting PWATTTS 1 to write back when he returns from church, but then implying that he DOESN’T want PWATTTS 1 to reply by crossing out a word in his post! Ahahaha! I get it! Because if you don’t believe in Dirds (Ha!), you must go to church a lot! Nice!

The conversation evolves/devolves from there. (Side note, what if Dirds are just an example of evolution going the wrong way, like evolution’s evil brother, a la Jet Li in The One? Did Darwin have to fight an evil Darwin from the future aboard the HMS Beagle for evolutionary supremacy? Is the account of this battle not in his notebooks because he didn’t feel like he could do without the 300th drawing of a ladybug?)

Anyways, as the conversation continues, we find out that PWATTTS 2 calls into question the logic of a God that killed the dinosaurs, clearly latching onto the most obvious argument against a divine being, and even manages to bring Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novels into the equation.

PWATTTS 1 counters irresistibly with “I know you are but what am I”. OK, that’s not actually what he said, but it was along the lines of “If you’ve never seen God, how do you know what He’s capable of?”

Good Lord. (he said un-ironically).

There are only two thing more certain of failure than trying to out-argue someone about creationism/evolution in the comments section. One is getting into a land war in Asia. The other (you guessed it) is matching wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line. Although, given the outcome of the latter scene, perhaps PWATTTS 1 and 2 are into second place. Have we learned nothing from The Princess Bride???

And, having nicely wrapped up a discussion of dog-headed birds with a reference to the last movie Cary Elwes made that anybody watched, I will close. (Although, as I wrote that line, it occurred to me that the choice of dog heads on birds may not have been totally accidental)

Dog is my copilot.


Guns, Germs, and (clever use of word that rhymes with “steel”)

Posted in Random on December 1, 2013 by brendanbourdage

Interesting book – Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. The purpose of the book is to examine the development of humankind, and offer an explanation for the dominance of cultures based in the Fertile Crescent and Europe. In essence, why did Europeans cross the Atlantic and dominate the Americas, rather than the other way around?


Diamond’s conclusion is that the peoples of the Fertile Crescent and Europe were far ahead in the development of weapons, immunity to disease, and metal (which really comes full circle to the discussion of weapons again).

These are what Diamond refers to as “ultimate causes”, but the most interesting discussion is what he calls the “proximate causes”, or the things that led to the ultimate causes. It’s not as complex, in the big picture, as I imagined.

Essentially, everything can be distilled down to variance in food production and animal domestication. Perhaps the book should have been called Corn and Cattle. That’s not tremendously clever. I apologize.

If we assume various pockets of human population around 10,000 B.C., the really interesting part of the book is the role played by geography. I suppose we have moved from ultimate to proximate to sub-proximate causes at this point.

The areas of the Fertile Crescent, and the European plains, broadly shared a similar climate (latitude and elevation), lay along a mostly horizontal axis, and there were few geographic barriers to the diffusion of crops, agricultural techniques, and people/animals. Contrast with the Americas, where advanced civilizations were established in South America, but whose technology and organization never spread to the rest of the continents.

The main reasons for this were the vast deserts of the southern U.S. and northern Mexico, the natural chokepoint of Mesoamerica, and the differences in latitude and elevation between areas where the Mayan culture thrived and small pockets of hunter-gatherers on the eastern seaboard of North America, for instance.

It seems rather obvious when you look at it, but fascinating nonetheless. How easy it is to assume that traits like intelligence, ambition, ingenuity, and personal courage are the driving factors behind the way history has unfolded. How easy to assume (especially hundreds of years ago) that the superiority of one culture’s technology and “advanced” society is based on an innate superiority of the people therein. Hmmmm, did I say hundreds of years ago??

But for an accident of tectonic shifting, and a mountain range here or there, the world could have been dominated by the aboriginal peoples of Australia. Not that we would likely see much of a difference in the overall shape of human development, I don’t imagine, but it is interesting.

The discussion of why people behave towards each other like they do is probably a topic for another day…

some things on my mind

Posted in Random on March 30, 2013 by brendanbourdage

Namely, the thing on my mind is that someone needs to combat the two-sentence, post-a-picture-of-every-meal-I-eat-and-every-small-child-I-know/fathered/mothered/saw-on-someone-else’s-facebook trend. The internet is for serious, insightful discourse, dammit. And videos of people getting hit in the nuts and/or falling down.

Seriously, I can’t get enough of that stuff.

So, what do you talk about when your (purported) audience is spending (according to unverifiable statistics, mostly from my head) 83% of their internet time looking at the things I mentioned above, and reading the occasional rant from someone getting angry about a dog pooping on their lawn, or some such nonsense?

As it is March, and the madness is upon us, let’s start with that. Irrespective of the success/failure of my bracket (failure), the NCAA tournament is a fascinating animal. Entirely unpredictable results on the court, painfully predictable commentary and insight off the court.

The biggest disappointment, I think, is the new, “serious analyst guy with highlighter at the ready” Charles Barkley. His analysis used to be shallow, simplistic, and sprinkled with misnomers and instances of derailed trains of thought that made it pretty funny. Now we just have to watch him struggling to think of something to say after Ernie Brown and Kenny Smith have covered the most obvious points.

Please, Dr. Brown and Dr. Smith, tell me again how a team down by 20 at half needs to shoot better in the second half to have a chance. Or how those guys from FGCU are playing basketball for the joy of it. Well, everyone is playing for joy when they’re winning. How many care-free alley-oop attempts were we treated to as Florida became the first team in the tournament to actually defend the Eagles in the second half? FGCU was successful because teams don’t work hard at defending, not because they are joyful offensive savants.

Finally, can we now officially agree that next year, when Gonzaga inevitably wins 28-30 games by beating up on my alma mater Santa Clara (CBI Finalist, yo!), LMU, and USF, they are NOT a #1 seed? If we keep making teams like that #1 seeds, a #16 seed will eventually win a game..

Oh, and one more thing. When you beat a team in the First Four, you have not won an NCAA Tournament Game. Congratulations on being the 67th team to get into a 64-team tournament, but please, let’s maintain some integrity here. If every team doesn’t have the opportunity to play in the First Round, then it’s not the first round. It’s a play-in round.

Thank you for your time.


Dostoevsky is pretty awesome

Posted in Random on September 4, 2012 by brendanbourdage

Yes, I know it’s a bit of an understatement, and I’m certainly not the first to appreciate his writing. But I’m currently reading The Idiot, and find a couple things about it very interesting, and even amazing.

1. The facility with which he slides between Russian and French, and the fact that high society in Russia during the time he was writing had that same capability. How many people do you know that can seamlessly incorporate relevant phrases in another language into their conversation, simply because another language helps them to more precisely express their thoughts? The whole concept of a privileged nobility gaining their position by heredity seems pretty silly to me, but these people were educated.

2. I was really struck by the poignant nature of Dostoevsky’s description of a man sentenced to death and granted a last-minute reprieve. I thought, “how could he dig so deeply into the emotions at play?” Then I read his biography, and discovered that he had lived that scenario before being exiled to Siberia in the 1850s. What a fascinating man. Everything he writes is based on not only careful observation, but intimate experience with the emotions and situations he describes. How lucky are we that he had these experiences, and was a brilliant writer on top of it all?

3. There are almost too many characters to keep track of in his novels, and yet each has a very specific purpose, and tells a unique and interesting story through their development throughout the novel. The intricacy of the interplay between his characters is nothing short of brilliant.

Knowing more about him, I now plan to read a detailed biography, and revisit his other works that I read, enjoying them now through a different lens. Can’t wait.




Re-releasing myself into the wild…

Posted in Random on October 6, 2011 by brendanbourdage

Ok, so “Old School” references are a bit out of date.

I’m still trying to organize my blog into something that may entertain me, but figured I should get something new in here as a start.

Random stuff that makes the world a better place:

This poor kitten was exploited just to make me laugh so hard I wet my pants...what a shame.












Makes me want a kitten, though. That and the fact that there are few things more entertaining than sliding a cat across a hardwood floor. Before you get all excited – I’m pretty sure they enjoy it. Maybe.

And in the same vein:

He's so skeptical it hurts.













Now I want him to be bitch-slapped by the kitten. Also, how do I know that Skeptical Dog is a guy? Not sure.

So that’s all for my re-entry into the blogoshpere. I will blow your minds with references to arcane literature and unpopular films at a later date.


last post

Posted in Daily on April 21, 2008 by brendanbourdage

46 posts in 15 months – actually, that’s more than i thought i would have to say.  more accurately, it’s more than i thought i would have the attention span to get through.  almost 15 months since i first arrived at ft. riley in kansas for our three-month predeployment training.  i have a hard time believing that it’s almost over.  in about a week, i will be back in the US, and a couple of days after that, back in california, trying to figure out what just happened to me.  

this is good and bad (like everything else in life, i suppose).  good because, quite honestly, there are a lot of people here that i never want to see again.  bad because everyone i deployed with is a reservist, and we’re all heading back to civilian life.  the other two times i deployed, i returned to the active army, and continued working with most of the same people i had been deployed with.  there will be no-one to talk with about the deployment, the good and the awful alike.  all the relationships built over 15 months come to a screeching halt.  i’ll keep in touch with some people, but won’t ever be as close to them.  that’s somewhat sad.

to everyone who has read this blog, and given their support and sarcastic comments, i simply say thank you.  this blog hasn’t been consistent, rarely touched on what could be considered “serious” issues, and was mostly an outlet for me to bring some levity to a scary and dangerous place, but i hope it was amusing.  and i hope it gives folks back home some idea that being deployed is hard and painful, but that if you have good people on your right and left, like i did, you can get through just about anything.

so i will leave you with a final Top Ten list – the Top Ten things i learned in the last 15 months. 

10) the best leadership is sometimes just taking a minute to slap one of your soldiers on the back, and let them know that you know their first name, and something about them. 

9) it’s amazing how many senior officers and NCOs don’t know that.

8) not being able to shoot back sucks.

7) the reward for good work tends to just be more work.

6) the reward for bad work, laziness, and incompetence tends to be less work.  note to self…

5) anything is bearable if you have a good friend to talk to (and who seems to never stop talking to you).  thanks kevin.

4) when there aren’t rockets landing everywhere, baghdad has a couple of things going for it.

3) i believe we are making things better here, but some days i think we should all just leave, and let the chips fall where they may.

2) i couldn’t imagine another 3 months here.  huge respect to those soldiers who have climbed (or are climbing) that 15-month mountain.

and the number one thing i’ve learned in the last 15 months:

1) i have an amazing family, and amazing friends, and they never let me forget it.

so, a few pictures from the archive as i leave baghdad for the second time… 



passing the time 1

Posted in Daily on April 2, 2008 by brendanbourdage

first, to appease COL T.S., i meant no disrespect to the pet shop boys, as they are a staple of my music library as well.   

and now, the 11th commandment: as thou approacheth thy redeployment date, thou shalt get more ridiculous in thy amusements. 

this is an update for those of you who wonder how soldiers are keeping themselves entertained in baghdad.  areas already covered include “the countdown”, “the status of pants in iraq”, “throwing fruit against a T-wall “(this one never really took off, mostly due to the fact that it required walking outside, and we’re a lazy bunch…),

“crossword puzzles in full combat gear”crosswords-in-gear.jpg

and the often-referenced “cardboard tank”. maneuvering.jpg

prepare yourselves for the latest installment, “naming footballs”.

naming footballs is the older of the two, and began about a month ago when we arrived at work one day and discovered that we had accumulated 10 or so footballs.  not that this happened overnight, but it only struck us that morning – everytime someone gets a football in the mail, they bring it over to us, to help our collection.  i think it’s actually like an offering, to appease kevin and me, so we don’t pelt them with a football the next time they walk through the “shooting gallery” (also known as the open area in front of our cubicle horseshoe). 

anyway, the net result (is that redundant?) is that we have 10-12 footballs now, of varying shapes, sizes, weights, and, by extension, with varying potential to cause damage and/or injury. 

pile-on-safe.jpg a pile of footballs begging to be thrown at someone…

each football has really developed its own personality, and given the diverse characteristics represented in the group, we felt is was important to give each a name.  that way, when i want the skinny white football, i tell kevin, “toss me calista flockhart” and there is no confusion. 

so, without further ado, here is our list:

evander.jpg Evander.  this football is the real deal.

orange-crush.jpg Orange Crush (appropriately, this football has the most potential to injure unsuspecting passers-by).  broncos colors, and homage to our #77, which began our daily countdown, Karl Mecklenburg.

coco.jpg Coco.  wife of rapper/actor Ice-T (anybody watched Law&Order lately?).  heavy on the top and the bottom…

corey-hart.jpg Corey Hart.  glow-in-the-dark football, and bright enough to make us wear “sunglasses at night”.

baldy.jpg H2 – the bald football (in honor of MG Hunzeker, the former Commander of CPATT)dont-ever-date-my-daughters2.jpg

the resemblance is uncanny…(he’s the one on the right, asking me if you can really make a living coaching soccer)

doug-flutie.jpg Doug Flutie.  not the biggest football, but still useful, when you want to annoy, but not injure. 

hector.jpg Hector.  a little knowledge of classical literature is required – the football is wrapped in plastic, making it trojan-like (i apologize for the PG-13 rating of this picture), and the most famous trojan from the Iliad is…you guessed it!

so, for those of you wondering where your tax dollars are going as the cost of this war continues to skyrocket, rest assured that we are making good use of our time.  actually, given the exceeding nimbleness of the one brain we all share in our section, the subtle and witty naming of all the footballs took only a few minutes, and i promise we were working hard on acquiring pants for all Iraqi Police at the same time. 

hollywood-squares2.jpg  here’s the story, of a ball named Corey…it was a very Brady day in CPATT.

one of my first posts after arriving in Iraq ended with “3 weeks down, 49 to go”.  well, we’ve come full circle – 49 weeks down, 3 to go.

and just for the heck of it…

pre-skit.jpg me and kevin getting the shaved head look