adrian is rad


story week, part 1

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:09 pm

I’m going to tell you a story every day for the week.

During the summer of 2002, I had an internship in Stuttgart with Behr GmbH. It was part of the MIT-Germany program. My time there had many classic fish-out-of-water times; this is not one of those.

I stayed in a hotel for the summer, in an Apartment Zimmer. Basically it was a normal, non-suite hotel room except when you opened one of the cupboards there was a tiny kitchen inside. Kitchens in third world rondavels are more equipped than this. Needless to say it didn’t have laundry facilities and the hotel’s were far too expensive for a student budget.

One Friday I rushed off to a laundromat (ein Wäscherei) to get some laundry in while I had the use of the Opel Astra from work for the weekend. I didn’t have much time, though, another person from the program was arriving by train at 7:30 for a weekend adventure, and you know those German trains are on time.

I walked in. “I möchte meine Kleidung waschen.” Ja ja said the old German couple who ran the place. I sat and waited for my clothes to be washed. As the wash cycle continued I got more and more agitated; it was getting closer and closer to 7:30pm and I didn’t want to be late. I announced that I didn’t need them to be dried after all, I’d take them wet. I paid and as soon as they finished in the washer, I gathered the still wet clothes and practically ran out to my car.

From behind me I heard “Hallo! Hallo!” (Hello! Excuse me!) It was the old man who ran the place. He was run-waddling down the street waving a pair of my wet briefs wildly in the air. Red-faced I thanked him and rushed off.


deutschland ist noch mal vereinigt

Filed under: — adrian @ 10:51 am

I’m sure you’ve heard that today’s the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A lot’s changed in 20 years, hasn’t it? Progress hasn’t always been forward, but it seem to me that the world has moved towards being better in those twenty years.

I remember it falling, of course, but I think the big celebration–complete with champagne*–in my family was the following year when Germany reunited.

*I also sewed a banner ‘Germany united again’ in home ec class.

Update: The Big Picture’s feature on 20 years since the fall has a lot of pretty powerful images. I recommend it.


I don’t know how they could call being German a personality disorder

Filed under: — adrian @ 8:01 am

A person must be display at least four of the following to have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder:

  • Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
  • Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met)
  • Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)
  • Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
  • Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
  • Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
  • Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
  • Shows rigidity and stubbornness

Sounds like a lot of Germans, at least for some of those. I didn’t realize cultural traits could be qualified as a personality disorder.


crossing rivers and borders (literally)

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:49 am

I just realized that I’ve often lived and worked in different places where I had to cross water and boundaries to get there. Examples:

  • Lived in Boston, Ma; went to school in Cambridge, MA
    I crossed the Charles to get to school, crossing town and county (from Suffolk Co. to Middlesex Co.) boundaries in the process
  • Lived in Menlo Park, CA; went to school in Stanford, CA
    I crossed the San Francisquito Creek, crossing town (actually going through Palo Alto briefly) and county (from San Mateo Co. to Santa Clara Co.) boundaries in the process
  • Lived in Menlo Park, CA; worked in Palo Alto, CA
    I crossed the San Francisquito Creek again, crossing the same boundaries.
  • Lived in Songshan, Taipei; worked in Neihu, Taipei
    I crossed the Keelung River to get to work. I’m not sure what, if any boundaries I crossed.

I don’t know why I noticed this, but there it is.



Filed under: — adrian @ 9:34 pm

Oh boy! I love Christmastime (and Trader Joe’s).


good web game for nerds, germans

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:44 pm

This web game where you have to do various geometric things by eye–finding midpoints of lines, convergence of three lines, sides of a parallelogram–is pretty addicting, at least for me. My natural talents apparently, lie more in bisecting angles than finding the center point between three edges of a triangle.


und er muss alles trinken

Filed under: — adrian @ 7:54 am

I’m pretty sure I heard beer pong explained in German as I was walking out of the airport yesterday. The explainer: a moderately effeminate Asian man.

(His accent was either native or very very good, too.)


adventurous because I’m not

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:12 am

[I feel a bit odd about this post. I’d just like to note that I’m just try to tell things the way they are here and despite the way that this may come across I don’t mean to be a braggart.]

I’m among the shyest and least adventurous people I know.

I’ve done more adventurous things than many of the people I’ve know, like living in Taiwan and Germany or visiting an island with practically no English speakers. I really like to travel and experience other cultures but that’s not really the whole story.

I know my limitations, at least in some ways. I know if I just did nothing, I’d probably just sit around (and I know I’d live to regret that), so I do things. That doesn’t make those things easy. Among my most flustered, awkward and socially difficult moments in recent memories were due to going places, to being “adventurous”. I compensate for my limitation.

The other way in which my shyness manifests itself in my “adventurousness” is this: I don’t find social situations easy normally, so other situations, which people may say are more difficult, possibly much more difficult, are only marginally more difficult to me.

What I mean is this: going to a party and making small talk for hours is really tough so moving to Taiwan seems doable; that is, it’s only marginally more difficult. (This statement seems difficult as I read it, and while I acknowledge that it is, I don’t think it’s far off the truth.) Similarly, once I was in Taipei and I was having trouble communicating and with social situations nearly all the time, going to a slightly more out-there place like Kinmen seemed doable.


unnecessary left turns are for losers

Filed under: — adrian @ 10:42 pm

UPS is following my lead!

Last year, it cut 28 million miles from truck routes — saving roughly three million gallons of fuel — in good part by mapping routes that minimize left turns. This year, U.P.S. began offering customers a self-service system for redirecting packages that are en route.

via scott


11 weekends of travel during a summer in stuttgart (2002)

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:30 pm

I lived in Germany during the summer of 2002 and I traveled nearly every weekend. I arrived in Germany May 28 and left August 23. Sometimes I use this blog to put things down that are at the edge of my reach memory-wise, so I can make a record of them. I actually have all of this written down in a notebook, but I can’t find it.

  • May 31- June2: Bremen, to visit Colin[1]
  • June 7-9: Düsseldorf to visit my Oma[2], Frankfurt to visit Sam Breuning[3]
  • June 14-16: nothing
  • June 21-23: Solingen, Köln to visit the cousins Füser[4]
  • June 28-30: München[5, 7], Bayrischer Alpen[6] for MIT-Germany/ MIT Club of Germany meet up
  • July 5-7: Vienne, Strasbourg France for the Vienne Jazz Festival[8]
  • July 12-14: Berlin, for LoveParade 2002 and visit with Justus[9]
  • July 20-22: Hamburg[10], Lübeck[11] w/ Christian
  • July 26-28: Karlsruhe for the “Savage Seven” ultimate frisbee tournament as a part of die Sieben Schwaben[12]
  • August 2-4: Romantic/ Clock Road, Rottweil; Stein am Rhein, Switzerland; Rottenburg ob der Tauber w/ Meredith Gerber[13]
  • August 9-12: Pittsburgh, USA for Colin and Heather’s wedding. Surprise![14]
  • August 16-18: Köln (to see Bugge Wesseltof) and Frankfurt, w/ Sam Breuning[15]


  1. Bremen smells like hops when the wind is the right direction because of Becks. The Schnoor area was neat, with its small and odd houses.
  2. My Oma didn’t realize I was related to her for the first hour of my visit; the Alzheimers had started to take its toll. This ended up being the last time I saw her. I regret not having stayed with her for the whole weekend, but at that point I thought I was going to visit again that summer.
  3. Sam was a cool British kid also with a German father; he’d been on the Cambridge-MIT exchange. We ended up hanging out a number of weekends that summer. I’ve since lost touch with him.
  4. My dad’s cousin (my “Tante”/ “aunt”), her husband and kids (my “cousins”) were all gathered at their palatial family estate in Solingen for a sculpture showing of a local artist set up in their gardens. At one point we all, including the artist, were sitting under some trees eating a snack and they asked me if I liked one of the statues near us. I said, in stilted German, that I did (it was actually one of the few I did). It came out wrong and they made fun. I said “echt!” in vain. At another point this weekend, another cousin-by-marriage of my dad’s who was also visiting announced, after having talked to me for five minutes that I spoke “perfekt Deutsch.” Right…
  5. We all met at a Biergarten, all the current students and the MIT Club of Germany members. I was stuck at the Club table for most of the night, which was extremely awkward. At some point I excused myself and snuck over the student table. Seeings as it was social interaction with people I didn’t know well, it was still awkward, but not nearly as much.
  6. We went hiking in the Alps and stayed in a rustic ski cabin that one MIT Club member had access to. Sam and I got a ride down with a guy who spoke with a typical German accent except, because he’d spent multiple years as a ski bum in the US, mixed it with ski bum slang and inflection all the time. At the cabin, I learned I was ace at splitting logs with an ax, usually splitting decent sized logs in one swing. During one of our day hikes we stopped at an inn, where a 10 year old kid was drinking a 1 litre “maß” glass of beer.
  7. It was the day of the final when we got back to Munich and I had the surreal experience of watching Germany play (and lose) in a World Cup final with 10,000 Germans in a public square where they’d set up screens. Turkey won the consolation match so there was some celebrating. (Note: Turkish is the largest minority in Germany by a factor of 4, at least at the time.)
  8. Vienne has a Roman amphitheatre with gorgeous acoustics. Sam knew the mayor of Vienne so we got VIP passes into the events, including into a VIP area the first night where we passed the London Times jazz critic. Vienne was about 450 miles from Stuttgart, a good 7 hours, which we drove non-stop on Friday afternoon, on half a tank of diesel in a pretty amazing VW Passat TDI. We still missed most of the first act. Also, French radio sucks. I bought a CD-tape adapter after this road trip.
  9. The LoveParade is a parade along a mile-long route on which 40 heavy duty trucks with world-class DJs and sound systems drive for an entire afternoon. Estimates for my year were 500,000 in attendance. Oh and there were a lot of topless girls there.
  10. My (second) cousin Christian lived in Hamburg at the time. He’d stayed with us in America in the early 90s and he was out to repay the favor by showing me a good time. We went out with some friends. On the way there, he’d talked to them and said he was bringing his cousin (“eine Cousine from mir”) with him. We got there and the friend said “this is your hair dresser (Friseur)??” See, they might sound alike on the phone; yes that doesn’t work in English and I don’t care. This was the first night that I drank more than one beer in a night, in fact, probably quadrupling my total beer consumption ever in just that night. The goal was to stay up all night and go to the Fischmarkt when it opened at 6am, but it ended with me falling asleep in a bar at 4:30am, having had multiple beers (mostly Heinikens while watching a crappy, but, let’s be honest, fun American cover band) and a good quantity of vodka. Incidentally, trying to explain complicated concepts in German wasn’t easy, let alone to a group of strangers in a loud bar while intoxicated. And, Malta, I can’t say your name correctly sober either; but you can’t say “squirrel” to save your life, so there.
  11. The bells of the main church had fallen and melted from the bombings in WWII. They’d be left as a beautiful and poignant reminder. Lübeck in general is a wonderful small town.
  12. “Savage seven” means no subs (the seven you have to start is all you have). Having gotten roped into this at the last minute, I played seven games of no-subs ultimate frisbee in two days. I can still remember the intense pain, mostly in my calves that I felt for the rest of the week. Walking on flat ground and up stairs, my right calf hurt intensely; my left calf hurt similarly walking down stairs. I couldn’t, and didn’t, win. Of course there were 6 flights of stairs between my office and the cafeteria/ train level at work.
  13. This was a fun little road trip with another MIT-Germany person; Meredith was in Munich for the summer. We went to some classic historic German places. I also made my only trip to a Switzerland, to the town of Stein am Rhein, which was noted by the “strict” border crossing. “Passports? No, we don’t need to see those. In fact, you don’t even have to come to a full stop. Just roll on through!”
  14. After the rehearsal dinner, I had some friends over, got tipsy on Mike’s Hard Lemonades and had to search for the right words to use in English. That I was thinking partly in German was a big step for me and I noted my progress.
  15. Bugge Wesseltof had impressed Sam and I with his electro jazz stylings in Vienne. Plus we liked his awesome name, so we drove like maniacs (once again) to get to Köln by show time, only to be disappointed by his collaborative work with a female jazz singer.


I’m my father’s son

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:16 pm

My dad’s German and extremely efficient. I’m not German.

However, I do like efficiency. I was quite chuffed with myself today when I figured out the most efficient route to do all my errands: swim, then KZSU, then haircut, then picking up my glasses. It is almost all right turns with the only left turns coming at 4 way stops and a fast-cycling traffic light with a left turn arrow. It also allowed for enough time for my hair to dry after the swim and before the hair cut.

Yeah, these are seriously the sort of things I think about. I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks about path efficiency.


Lives of Others

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:12 pm

I’m catching up on a blogging backlog.

Last weekend I saw Das Leben der Anders (aka The Lives of Others).

It’s the story of a well regarded Stasi agent, Gerd Wiesler, in East Berlin (circa 1984) who starts spying on a playwright who they suspect might be a sympathizer. Wiesler learns that the real reason that they are spying on him is that the Minister of Culture, a high ranking official, wants the playwright out of the way so he can make advances on his girlfriend unencumbered. Wiesler becomes more sympathetic with the playwright because of this, even though he’s a strong party supporter.

It’s really an amazing film. The writing and direction (both by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck of the famed Henckel von Donnersmarcks) are both superb. The lead actor playing Wiesler, Ulrich Mühe, has a very Kevin Spacey quality to him, both in looks and some of the restrained, subtle acting he does.

It manages to be a lot of stories in one. It’s at least love story and a political thriller.

Powered by WordPress