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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… 

 

cheers.

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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

cheers.

could’ve been better…

Posted in Daily on February 10, 2008 by brendanbourdage

i’m officially back in the office now, and settled back into the soul-crushing routine of life in Baghdad, so i guess it’s time to share the high points of my vacation in Athens, and make snide, sarcastic comments about a culture that is different from mine.  but i promise it will be funny…

i’ll start with a quick list – Top Ten Things I Learned in Athens:

10) if Rick Astley or The Pet Shop Boys ever put together a comeback tour, it will start in Greece.

9) fanny packs never went out of style, they were all mailed to Greece.

8) if secondhand smoke were exportable, Greece would be the richest nation in the world.  seriously, the cooks are smoking while they prepare your food.

7)  putting a rope around a bunch of shapeless old rocks does NOT make them interesting, or worth 2 Euros to see, even if your city was the birthplace of one of the most storied civilizations in the history of the world.

6) putting the Acropolis on a huge sheer hill rising out of the middle of the city IS interesting, and it was free.

5) if you’re not yelling, you probably don’t really care.

4) ouzo is not an apertif, it is not a classic greek spirit, it is not a storied mediterranean libation…it is GROSS.  (in the interests of thorough scientific inquiry, i imbibed in small and large quantities, just to be sure).

3) the answer to “do you speak English?” is always “yes”, and is always a lie, as soon as you throw a “difficult” word like “train” or “bathroom” into a sentence…

2) Irish coffee in Athens – heavy on the Irish, light on the coffee.  delightful.

and the number one thing i learned after two weeks in Athens:

1) the sun never sets on stretch pants. 

i would love to now share pictures of my vacation with all of you, but due to bandwidth restrictions, i can’t upload.  boo on undersea cables being damaged. 

final thoughts:

– greece would be great for three or four days, but two weeks of living in the middle of the city was a bit hectic at times, given the greek penchant for smoking, speaking loudly, and driving their motor scooters on sidewalks. 

when modernizing the city, it is apparent that the city planners had two options:

1) widen the streets, paint lanes on them, and write traffic laws.

2) leave the streets chariot-width, give everyone a free motor scooter and a pair of stretch pants when they move in, and let pedestrians fend for themselves. 

three guesses which option they chose, and the first two don’t count…

so back to the grind, and counting down the days by choosing the most obscure sports figure to wear that number on each day.  today is 77 days left – Karl Mecklenburg of the Denver Broncos. 

cheers.

greece, the vacation

Posted in Daily on January 17, 2008 by brendanbourdage

this is not another unexplainable absence from updating my blog.  my reason for not writing is solid this time.  i spent the 8 days immediately following my last post daydreaming about leave, and the next four days traveling to Athens, Greece, where i now find myself, sitting in a rented apartment, plowing through random bottles of greek wine, and listening to a supermix of miles davis, belly and moby.  kind of strange how music you never thought would mix merely needed the opportunity…

i am here with melissa, who i first met when she was handing out room keys at santa clara soccer camps in 2005.  she did such a fine job of ensuring all of the coaches had uncomfortable, painfully spartan rooms that i knew she would be an important person to befriend. 

after arriving last night, and while waiting for melissa to arrive and open the apartment, i found a bar called, simply, “handcrafted beer”.  obviously, i went in.  after some initial difficulty communicating with the bartender, she gave me a beer, and i sat down to wait.

just as i was finishing the first beer, another appeared, and the waitress assured me, “no money”… apparently i had impressed her with my huge backpack and inability to speak a single word of greek.  when i headed to the bar for a third beer, she asked me where i was from.  i answered “california”, which excited her, and she said, “ah! california!”  so i asked her if she had ever been to california, and she said, “no, it’s very nice!” 

i was confused, but impressed by her tight jeans and lip ring, so i smiled and went back to my table. 

for dinner, melissa and i headed to an italian restaurant called Ciao, and split a pizza.  ordering a beer proved complicated:

me: oh, you don’t have mythos, that’s ok, what kind of beer is aeschius: light, dark, etc?

waiter guy: i don’t know…it’s green.

me: ok, i’ll take one. 

turns out only the bottle was green, not the beer, which was a slight disappointment.  i thought maybe st. patrick’s came early in greece.  additionally, we were treated to the waiter’s opinion of america (you start wars everywhere, the balkans, etc..) and his opinion of us (you’re ok, though…)

point of order…if the balkans had been able to keep slobodan milosevic from massacring people, the US wouldn’t have cared.  plus, it was a NATO/UN mission.  but that seems to escape a lot of people, especially given recent US actions.  blaming the US is easy.

more to follow.  greece promises much to discuss.   

cheers.

Mustache Five

Posted in Daily on January 4, 2008 by brendanbourdage

before even beginning this entry, credit must be given where it is due.  the idea of high-fiving someone while stating the reason for the high-five, i.e. “no-panties Five, Ms. Spears”, or “my-head-got-this-big-naturally Five, Mr. Bonds” was originally used in the TV Show “Scrubs”.  The proponent of the five is Dr. Todd Quinlan, known simply as “the Todd”.

toddfive.jpg (giving an “I Miss You Five”…)

given our strange fascination with facial hair (see the post “growing honor” in the Fort Riley category) which has been with us since we were just young pre-deployees at Ft. Riley, and our persistent recognition of outstanding beard and mustache prowess since then, it was only a matter of time before the “Mustache Five” was unleashed.  (note: none of the so-called “mustaches” grown by your favorite reservists-in-Iraq while in Kansas would have been deserving of a Mustache Five, except for maybe Kevin’s)

the Mustache Five is not just a concept, it has been carried out with unsuspecting air force majors, navy chiefs, and various and sundry contractors.  to their surprise and confusion, i might add.

point of order: it is OK to recognize a particularly notable milk mustache, but the term must be modified to reflect the slightly diminished stature – “Milk Mustache Five”…
milkmust.jpg
even women (frida kohla in this case) can be worthy of a Mustache Five.

inside-frida.jpg
the Mustache Five does not even require physical contact.  i was watching an arabic news channel the other day, and they began interviewing an iraqi general.  needless to say, his mustache was impressive, and also needless to say, i gave him half of a Mustache Five, palm extended toward the TV.

in an effort to propogate the practice of recognizing tremendous whiskers, i offer the following examples of people who should be given the Mustache Five, whenever they may cross your path…

brimley_stache.jpg Oatmeal Five.

burt.jpg Smokey & the Bandit Five.

groucho_stache.jpg i’d-never-belong-to-a-club-that-would-have-me-as-a-member Five.

guzman_stache.jpg scary Five.

selleck_stache.jpg Magnum Five.

c3po_stache.jpg human-cyborg relations Five. (that one’s for you, Colin)

is this absolutely hilarious to kevin and me right now?  yes.  will it still be as funny in 4 months when we’re home?  unlikely.  so don’t be shy, give your civil-war-era mustachioed mailman a high-five today.

for more on the art of high-fiving, check out www.highfive.me.uk.  and thanks to them for the Todd picture.

cheers. 

short-attention-span theater

Posted in Daily on January 1, 2008 by brendanbourdage

far from letting the routine dull our senses, i find that we strive harder to invest even the most mundane discussion with some sort of intellectually stimulating content.  as the following will illustrate.

1) the scene: dinner yesterday.

the catalyst: i had just drunk a diet pepsi and a carton of soy milk in quick succession, and the inevitable mixing in my stomach was turning out to be somewhat uncomfortable.

the question: in a war between soy milk soymilk.jpgand diet pepsi, spot_dietpepsi.jpg who would be victorious?

the discussion: in order to evaluate the martial prowess of each food product, we found it helpful to pick a celebrity most like each one, and then transfer the results of that battle to the actual conflict in my stomach.  for diet pepsi, we chose Iggy Pop. 

diet pepsi is healthy (relatively speaking) but not in the wholesome way you would associate with a fruit juice, for instance.  no, diet pepsi is more like that guy who is really skinny, but only because he is strung out, not because he is fit and trim.  hence the choice of Iggy Pop, who doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him, but won’t be finishing a marathon any time soon.

soy milk was more difficult, because the healthiness had to go hand-in-hand with the slightly-less-than-heterosexual nature of drinking milk made from beans.  therefore, a compromise – the obvious athleticism of a figure skater, and the conclusions that are frequently drawn about men who wears skin-tight singlets and glitter.  i give you the soy champion, Brian Boitano.

the discussion has not progressed past the choice of respective champions, but will no doubt engender lively debate for the next few days.

having uncovered the finer points of the ages-old diet-pepsi vs. soy milk debate, we moved on to lunch today, where a new opportunity to affect the world in a positive way presented itself. 

2) the scene: lunch today

the catalyst: discussion of a drinking game known as “Thunderdome”, which Tom was introduced to during a glorious weekend at Notre Dame.

the question: could the “Thunderdome” drinking game become a viable system of governance?

the discussion: first, the rules of Thunderdome.  imagine, if you will, that an argument has broken out at a party.  not your average, everyday squabble, but a dispute of epic proportions, with far-reaching consequences of global magnitude – for the sake of this forum, we’ll say you and your best friend disagree on the best candy ever…you, being right, say Peanut M&Ms, while your friend, being wrong, says – well, it doesn’t matter, they didn’t say Peanut M&Ms.

as the volume of the argument rises, so does the chant from the surrounding crowd… “Thunderdome…Thunderdome…Thunderdome!” thunderdome.jpgat which point your fate has been sealed.  you will resolve your differences by Thunderdome. 

Thunderdome is quite simple.  you pound one cup of beer ever minute until one of you pukes.  puker=loser.  the results of Thunderdome are legally and pecuniarily binding.  it is black and white, does not require excessive legal histrionics (are there any other kind?), and at the end, everyone is drunk. 

the real meat of the discussion came when the implications of such a system of government began to be revealed.  being a good lawyer would require an entirely new set of abilities.  that guy you found passed out on the floor of the frat house every saturday morning in college?  the new johnny cochrane.  the guy you knew in the army who was the last man standing at Oktoberfest?  president of the united states.  lindsey lohan? still a mess (it’s a great system, but it can’t work miracles…)

of course, there would have to be weight classes for lawyers at each level of legal appeal…you couldn’t have a 300-pound district attorney bringing his case all the way to the supreme court without a real challenge.  i believe in checks and balances, after all. 

something to think about as we near the 2008 elections, and are force-fed endless debates and nonsense about “new directions” and “the time for a change”.  take a moment to ponder hillary clinton and john mccain, beer foam spilling down the front of their carefully chosen neutral-but-self-confident business attire, finishing a red plastic cup of beer, slamming it down on the podium, and yelling, “what now??!!??  debate that!!!”

cheers.

passing the time

Posted in Daily on December 28, 2007 by brendanbourdage

it all started with a pickle named “sassy”.  then there were sea monkeys.  and bubble races.

in our latests outbursts of maturity, “eating-of-gross-things” has become the standard.

challenges fly around the office between tom and kevin and glen and myself, and are rarely taken up by the challengee.  (said challengee usually wanting to keep his intestinal tract in one piece, and/or not spend the next three days in the bathroom).

recently, a care package arrived, and its contents provided a perfect opportunity for entertainment.  a small can of potted meat (i swear, that’s what it’s called), a small can of vienna sausages (sorry to any austrians who are offended by this product using their name), and reese’s peanut butter cups. 

for those of you with weak stomachs, go somewhere else and read about liposuction, it will be less disgusting.

here are the stages of consumption:

potted-meat.jpg apologies for the sideways pic; you’re gonna have to work to be disgusted.  this is the spotted meat, and it is more than capable of holding up a plastic spoon.  think “SPAM pate”…

sausage.jpg the second piece of the puzzle – authentic vienna sausage, glistening with natural goodness.

puttin-it-together2.jpg putting it all together – note the addition of the reese’s peanut butter cup as a base layer.

birthday-cake.jpg and moments before ingestion – presentation is everything.  we were going for “birthday cake”…

the results were predictable, and unremarkable.  kevin was slightly ill, the rest of us were violently ill, and we successfully wasted another 30 minutes of our day. 

here’s to the timeless practice of daring people to eat gross things.  and here’s to people sending us the raw materials.

cheers.