Archive for the Top 10 Category

the palace that Saddam didn’t build

Posted in Top 10 on December 21, 2007 by brendanbourdage

Saddam Hussein, during his tenure as absolute dictator (or benevolent father, depending on who you ask), built somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 palaces for various purposes.  some were for his sons, some were vacation retreats, and some were meant to accomplish government business. 

but the 15th gem in this crown of palatial residences, the edifice to outshine all edifices (see if you can find anyone else who has used “edifices” in a sentence – i dare you!)  cannot be other than the room that the rhino and i moved into two weeks ago.

you may ask, “why, when the hardships of your previous room were so numerous and sundry, did you not immediately extol the virtues of your new residence?  why wait two weeks?”

my answer is, the shock was too great, initially, to do anything resembling justice to the description.  i simply could not muster the proper collection of superlatives in such a short time.  now i am ready.

the room is glorious.  it looks down from great height on other rooms and laughs.  it dances in the end zone and draws a taunting penalty after scoring on other rooms.  it scores a goal on other rooms, to win the world cup of room greatness, and rips off it’s shirt to reveal a sportsbra.

for the first 48 hours we were in the room, i unashamedly tell you that we didn’t turn off the TV. 

even the smell of mildew in the bathroom is a celebration of our newfound stature, as the old room was too drafty, with air seemingly seeping through the walls, to allow any sort of water buildup to turn into mold.

even the 15 minute walk to the bus stop (up from approximately 5 minutes) seems to be saying to us, “hey, don’t forget to get a little bit of exercise, friends!”  thanks, new room!  always looking out for us.

there are a few pictures posted below to give you some idea of the blissful circumstances we now find ourselves in.

additionally, to complete the comparison between the B.P.A. (Before Palatial Accomodations) era and the A.P.A. (After Palatial Accomodations) era, i offer the following Top Ten Things We Can Now Do:

10. walk through the door without turning sideways.

9. river dance. (if we wanted to.  which we don’t.  mostly)

8. both stand up at the same time without touching. (unless we want to.  which we don’t.  mostly)

7. open my wall locker without hitting my bed.

6. have conversations about what extra furniture we could put in the room.

5. watch the University of Delaware (kevin’s alma mater) play football (more exciting for kevin than me.  by far)

4. watch dutch league soccer matches (more exciting for me)

3. watch australian movies about teenage witches in plaid skirts and knee-high socks. (pretty exciting for both of us)

2. complain about having to get up to get water from the fridge (it used to be within arm’s length).

1. make it through the rest of the deployment without killing each other.

and if that doesn’t paint the picture for you, i’m not sure what will.  to all of you who i know are living in much more spartan conditions, i put out the welcome mat, next time you are in the IZ.  come on over and watch terrible Jean Claude Van-Damme movies with us.


two-beds.jpg the view as you walk in the door (kevin’s bed on the left, mine on the right)

  view from the beds, door on the left is the bathroom.

 enough room to river dance.  (which we still don’t want to do.  seriously)



Top Ten

Posted in Top 10 on August 29, 2007 by brendanbourdage

it sort of sneaks up on you.  you’re going through your day, things are rolling along nicely, and then WHAM!  you have an apostrophe.  also known as an epiphany.  lightning strikes your brain.  and if you’re me, it leaves a little lump on your head, which will be revealed, along with other terrain features on your head when you lose a bet and have to shave your head.  in light of my revelation about the inadvisability of making the contours of my skull visible to the (apparently) aesthetically sensitive folks i work with, i offer the following “Top Ten things I’ve learned in my first 4 months in Iraq”:

 10) don’t shave your head.  ever.  if you are ever again tempted to shave your head, don’t.  seriously.

p8020078.jpg  notice the relief map of Chile on the back of my head…

9) working in a building full of blue velvet cubicle walls is only soothing for about the first 20 minutes of every day.  after that, there isn’t enough near-beer in the world to soothe me… 

8) there are few things more soothing than throwing fruit against a concrete barrier wall after you’ve been in the office for 14 hours. (soft peaches are (so far) the most satisfying)

7) it was much easier to get out of bed in the morning before i got that 3.5″ mattress pad.

6) an “orlop” is the lowest deck on a ship above the water line.  (thanks, stars and stripes crossword)

5) tall bald guys are cool.

p8020132.jpg me and kevin with the outgoing CPATT Commanding General, after we got through making fun of him, and he threatened to send us to Iraq.

4)there are very few situations where this look is inappropriate. by trial and error, i think i have found almost all of them.


3) there is no shortage of people who think they know what the Iraqis want.

2) there is no shortage of people who systematically fail to ask the Iraqis what they want.

and the #1 thing i’ve learned in 4 months in Iraq:

1) on most days, my job could be done by an Interceptor Body Armor Vest with a volleyball head.


up next…not really sure.



Posted in Top 10 on July 9, 2007 by brendanbourdage

Those of you who read this blog religiously may recall certain posts referencing the presence of a “hippo who lives in my room” (no, it’s not a Dr. Seuss book, although it should be). 

 hippo.jpg Kevin in the Tigris… 

The hippo is CPT Kevin Ritchie, the man who cannot even take a breath without knocking something over in our room.  Although he does breathe rather heavily – more on that at another time…

There is a point here, and it is this : the hippo has, of late, begun to take on the characteristics of a different animal.  He has become more aggressively dangerous and less passive-aggressive, even (and sometimes especially) with people who outrank him and/or whom he doesn’t know (but somewhow knows he doesn’t like).  In short, he has emerged from his hippo cocoon, and henceforth all references in this blog about Kevin Ritchie will refer to his rhino-ness, his rhino-like activities, and his all around rhin-ocity. 

By way of tribute to the Rhino, and his inability to effectively modulate his body temperature, I offer the latest Top Ten: Top Ten levels of sweating as demonstrated on a daily basis by the Rhino.

In order from least sweaty to oh-my-god-did-you-fall-in-the-pool:

Level 1 – Beads of sweat on the forehead, no rolling or other movement of sweat droplets.

Level 2 – Limited droplet migration, intermittent flow.

Level 3 – T-Shirt saturation begins around the collar; Elvis’ face begins to take shape on chest and back.

Level 4 – Waistband dampened, sweat begins to saturate socks.

Level 5 – Patches on T-Shirt merge: outer layer becoming splotchy.

Level 6 – “Sweat Speedo” …enough said.

Level 7 –  Entire outer layer is saturated, pants down to kness are splotching.

Level 8 – Sunglasses fog – may slide from nose slightly.   

Level 9 – All clothing is super-saturated.  Nile and Amazon seem like trickles compared to flow of sweat.

Level 10 – Sweat pours freely from all appendages.  Puddles form in boots.  Sweat begins to condense on outside of Kevlar.  Dehydration imminent.  Social acceptability hits rock bottom.  Rhino is happy.

black_rhino_800x600.jpg Happy Rhino.

for those of you who had just eaten before sitting down to read this, i apologize if your stomach is (understandably) unsettled a bit. 

pictures to follow in the next post, to include our impossibly tiny room, and signs that should never have to be posted.


8 million

Posted in Top 10 on June 27, 2007 by brendanbourdage

So I discovered something very interesting about myself the other day.  Normally I would follow such a sentence up with a meaningful anecdote about increasing self-awareness, or a burgeoning understanding of some worthwhile subject.  But neither of these are the case this time.  I have merely realized that when I am in a hyperbolic mood, tending towards reckless exaggeration, and I am asked to provide a number, the number that invariably comes out is “8 million”.

“CPT Bourdage, how many bags of beef jerky do you have in that drawer?” 

“I dunno, like 8 million…” (after more of the bounty from Renee’s third graders arrived yesterday)

So, to build on this revelation, without delving too deeply into possible Freudian reasons for my selection of the number 8, I present the next Top Ten:

Top Ten “8 millions”…

10) Protective barrier walls in the IZ (this is a good thing, but at times makes me feel like I’m living in a huge maze, trying to find the cheese at the end)

9) People who outrank me (and make me do work)

8) People who are less competent than me (and cause me to do their work)

7) Different varieties of desserts at every meal (Seriously, I think at least 1/2 of the budget for Iraq goes to kiwi lime pie concoctions)

6) People who should not be at the dessert table at every meal

5) Acronyms that I don’t understand (seriously…three letters max.  IIMTTWJWIO (If It’s More Than Three Words, Just Write It Out))

4) Ways I have already thought of to get myself sent home

3) Ways I have thought of to get my roommate, the Hippo, sent home (so I can have my own room)

2) Handfuls of Trail Mix I will have eaten by the time I leave (thanks again, Mrs. Neal’s 3d Grade!)

1) Times I will wonder why people can’t just stop killing each other

I know, a bit of a downer to end, but if you’re feeling depressed, just read #s 2-10 again.  Do it!  Now!


living in the lack of luxury…

Posted in Top 10 on June 1, 2007 by brendanbourdage

and in the category of “most accurate comment on this blog”, the award goes to KD Malone, for her most recent comment on “clarification”…

not sure what to talk about tonight – i was originally planning on making fridays “Top 10 List” nights, but i have not found the inspiration or the time yet today, and it is almost time to go home. 

ah, there it is, a topic worthy of withering commentary…allow me to describe “home”…

imagine your bathroom.  (if it is of average size, and hasn’t been featured on “cribs”).  take out the toilet, bathtub, shower, and sink.  add two bunk beds (a total of four beds), two wall lockers, two small night stands, a medium refrigerator, a small TV, 8 full duffel bags, two full rucksacks, and 400 lbs of Army Captain.  (no, i haven’t put on some weight, there are two of us).

bingo, i’ve thought of a top ten list for today:

“Top Ten items that we could still fit in our room”:

10. 1/2 of a bean bag chair

9. the partial filing cabinet from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

8. Kate Moss or Mary Kate Olsen (but not both)

7. Verne Troyer

6. Most of Jay Leno’s chin

5. A warm glass of shut the hell up

4. Whenever Apple comes up with something smaller than the nano, that will fit

3. All of Donald Trump’s real hair

2. 3 pounds of sand (this one has been proven)

and the #1 thing you can still fit in our room…

1. an unquenchable rage for everyone in a larger room than ours (which is actually quite a bit of rage)

so there you have it, the first installment of the IZ (international zone) Top Ten.