adrian is rad


story week, part 7/ final

Filed under: — adrian @ 6:17 am

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

I lived in a crazy communal house in college. On any given day, you might find people programming a laser-light show in one of the rooms (via the internet), disassembling a ’70s motorcycle, debating whether one can be truly selfless, building custom made Nixie clocks—”Don’t touch the back. It has enough voltage to kill someone”—or making plaster molds and subsequently casting wax copies of their genitalia.

The house was in the Back Bay, in one of those coveted brownstones and had been the home to MIT kids since the ’50s, which grandfathered in some lovely things like an open center stairwell. This feature lead to drops. A drop must be loudly announced with the name of what you were dropping; one would yell “laundry drop!” and drop his bag of laundry down four floors. It was a lot more than carrying it down.

While laundry was the most common drop, pennies, large rubber balls, bouncers (our name for Rubbermade polycarbonate mugs that did indeed bounce when dropped), printers and any number of other things were dropped.

The center stairwell was also a brilliant communication method. “Andy! Someone’s at the door for you!” for instance. One day I left my room on the fourth floor with the purpose of throwing away cottage cheese that for some reason came with chunks of pineapple in it and tasted simply wretched. Jesse was at the bottom of the stairs yelling: “Ian! Phone for you! Iaaaan!! Phooooone for youuuu!” Ian lived on the fifth floor which, was built after the rest of the house and was cut off from the main stairwell. Ian was not going to hear Jesse.

I saw my chance. “Jesse, I’ll get Ian if you try to catch my cottage cheese drop.” I’d save him walking up four flights of stairs, so it seemed fair. There was a slight pause. “Okay.” “You realize if you don’t catch it right, it’ll explode all over you.” “Yeah.” I wondered if the person on the phone was hearing all of this.

With gusto previously unparalleled in a drop announcement, I yelled, “Cottage cheese drop!” and let it go. The container accelerated down four stories at a rate that could be approximated as 9.8m/s^2 if you ignored the effects of drag. In retrospect, Jesse never had a chance. Jerry Rice couldn’t have made this catch. There was an explosion and cottage cheese was everywhere.

I ran up to the fifth floor. I’m not sure Ian could even understand what I was saying through my laughter or, if he did, I’m sure he had no idea what was so funny about there being a phone call for him.

[Epilogue: Yes, I helped clean up the cottage cheese.]


story week, part 6

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:33 am

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

JW is a solid dude. He’s the sort of guy who, if you asked him to take time off work to show around a Malawian guy you barely know around New York, would probably say yes. He’s also the sort of guy who could be the first person to inform me of my receding hairline and I wouldn’t take it as an insult or an effort to embarrass me; he would simply be informing me of a fact.

JW is also the sort of guy that might have traveled to Bermuda on the spur of the moment a few years back and returned with some Bermudan black rum. And though I was of legal age, I may have never have been even remotely tipsy.

And so it may have happened that we may have mixed that rum with ginger beer to make dark and stormies. And I may have gotten drunk for the first time as we sat in the hallway outside JW’s room and laughed and chatted, stumbling down the hall to the bathroom at necessary intervals and marveling at slushy feeling I was getting in my head.



story week, part 5

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:29 pm

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

Early childhood is a bit like a dream. You know things happen but why or how or when are not always clear.

I don’t remember why my dad was at school with me. It might have been evening; it may not. It was at Chadds Ford so I was probably 6 or 7.

But dad was at school with me and we were watching a video on safety along with a number of other people. I don’t know why we were watching a video on safety. A policeman may have been presenting it.

The video was extolling the virtues of wearing a seat belt. “Most accidents happen near the home because people don’t think they need to wear their seat belt on short trips around their home.”

Dad leaned over: “That’s doesn’t make sense. Not wearing a seat belt has no connection to whether an accident happens or not. Do you see that?”

I thought. I furrowed my brow and squinted. “Yeah.”

And thus I was introduced to logic. That’s what I remember.


story week, part 4

Filed under: — adrian @ 10:33 am

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

Near the end of my time living in Taiwan, I decided to go to Kinmen (formerly transliterated as Quemoy), a Republic of China (Taiwan) island 2km off of mainland China for a weekend. It’s a fascinating place that’s had a lot go on in the last century: isolationist Fujianese culture followed by briefly adopting British-Asian colonial styles and then sustaining shelling by both the Japanese and Maoist Chinese.

It leads to some shocking scenes: traditional Fujianese villages with miles of bomb shelter tunnels underneath. Or sorghum fields, waiting to be harvested for traditional brews, with rusty anti-parachute spikes every 10m. Such images are endless.

The English proficiency was very low and I had mastered only a few dozen words and phrases of Chinese including such useful phrases as “This is a pair of chopsticks” and “This is my business card” so communication, or lack thereof, was a major issue. I didn’t hear any English on my flight. I was picked up at the airport by someone that couldn’t speak English; I was taken to a scooter shop where I rented a scooter from people who didn’t speak English. Only when I got to the guest house did I hear any English and then it was quite broken.

I was in over my head. I was an island.

At one point I tried going to the local-style noodle shop. Well, I succeeded at getting there. And I succeeded at standing awkwardly in the entrance for a while. I even succeeded at pointing at a bowl of noodles with pork and indicating I wanted that dish.

When the proprietor said something as she carried a bowl past me, I thought she meant it was mine so I followed her to the table where a young man and an older woman were already sitting–it’s not entirely unusual to sit with people you don’t know–and started to sit down. Then the young man’s friend returned to the table and sat in that chair and started eating the dish I thought was meant for me.

Seeing my confusion, the young man got up and grabbed me a chair. “Xie xie” (Thank you). A dish of various meats and tofu arrived. “We,” he said motioning in a circle, “together.” “Oh. Xie xie” and I tried a few pieces. My noodles arrived and I started eating them. (They were delicious, incidentally). He pushed some sauce toward me. “Spicy.”

Finished with their meals, the young man and his friend got up and paid the proprietor, who gave me a funny look. He came back over to the table. “You no pay.” The spicy sauce must have started to get to me because my eyes welled up a bit. “Xie xie.”

No man is an island, it turns out.


story week, part 3

Filed under: — adrian @ 1:02 pm

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

How I came to talking to the agitated man on the other end of the phone at 2am starts three years earlier in a fourth floor rock club in Pittsburgh that–no joke–had a chain-link fence around the bar.

That bar was Club Laga where Andy’s dad had dropped us to go see Bonnie Prince Billy. I hadn’t heard of the band or the frontman Will Oldham, besides Andy’s warbly voiced impersonation of his song “I am a Cinematographer”, which he mostly used to poke fun at my own uncertain singing. But I watched the band, backlit with moody blue light, and enjoyed the show.

“That one song was really good”. Andy knew what I meant. “It’s ‘I See a Darkness’ and Johnny Cash recorded a cover of it.”

Three years later and I, like many other indie rockers–oh fine, I’ll say it, hipsters–had ‘discovered’ Johnny Cash, so when American IV came out, I was playing it on my new radio show.

I played “Personal Jesus”; the phone rang. The caller seemed agitated, almost irate. “Why are you playing Johnny Cash?!”

I wanted to defend my selection but suddenly I wasn’t sure. “Um, I dunno, because I like it,” I mumbled. “Because he’s good I guess?”

“Damn right he’s good! He’s fucking great!”


story week, part 2

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:12 am

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

I was in the men’s room on the second floor building 14N, the music floor of the arts building, and I was crying. You might imagine the day I learned how to cry again would have been filled with all-out bawling or hours of tears. Or that fourteen dry-eyed years would come to an end because some catastrophic event. You might be wrong.

I don’t remember when I stopped crying, but as a youngster I cried easily. I’m not sure why; I don’t think I was particularly insecure or sad. In fact, I remember being happy and care-free, but something minor would happen and my eyes would well up and I’m be sniffling and wiping my nose on my sleeve like kids are wont to do.

I don’t remember when I realized I’d forgotten how to cry. I thought I just didn’t have a reason to cry, perhaps. I do remember wanting to cry, curled up in a ball on my floor after my first girlfriend broke up with me and waiting for the tears to come. I waited for hours. They didn’t come.

But I do remember when I learned how to cry again. It was February. It was bitterly cold in Boston. I was halfway through my freshman year and to say things weren’t going my way is an understatement. Going from being a top student at a regular Joe high school to MIT could be the archetype of going from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond.

And so my sense of identity started to erode. The Adrian Bischoff of my mind was a good student, the best student; I was doing okay in my classes. He was a good Christian; I spent my days doubting and questioning. He was a good friend; I had no grasp of how to help my friends cope with a recent suicide of a person close to many of them.

And he was a good musician, which brings us to the second floor of 14N. There was a spot open in the orchestra for fourth trumpet on the Mahler and I wanted it. The Italian director had me audition in his office and, though it didn’t go horribly, he picked apart my intonation and my phrasing. When he was finished, I speed walked to the bathroom and as I walked through the door, I put my forehead against the cold window and my shoulders shuddered and my eyes wet my cheeks.


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.


arts this week (IFFB, Archers of Loaf, Horse Feathers)

Filed under: — adrian @ 5:42 am

This past week and a half has been pretty busy, including seeing three movies, three bands and two baseball games. I won’t talk much about the games—you can find out what happened in the two games (Sunday’s 17 inning Red Sox loss and last Monday’s win vs Oakland)—but here’s what happened with the movies and bands.


  • Sleepwalk with Me was the opening night film for the Independent Film Festival Boston, where I saw all of these films. It’s Mike Birbiglia’s semi-fictionalized take on his life, sleepwalking, relationships and becoming a comedian. I liked his comedy for a while. And, really, what I mean by his comedy is his story telling style. I wasn’t disappointed. This is equal parts funny and thoughtful and I’d recommend it. My one fear with the film is that producer and cowriter Ira Glass will get a lot of the credit where most of the meat of the story come straight from Birbiglia’s comedy.
  • Knuckleball!: This is a documentary about the baseball pitch. Since about 1992, when I became fascinated with Tim Wakefield, I’ve liked the knuckleball and knuckleball pitchers. This game an interesting look at the history, some of the pitchers and the mechanics of the actual pitch. Most of the film, though, looked at the two pitchers who were still throwing it in 2011: RA Dickey and Tim Wakefield. (Wakefield has since retired.) I enjoyed it a lot, but I think it may only be for those who are interested in baseball.
  • Under African Skies is a documentary about Paul Simon’s Graceland with a large part of the film focusing on Simon’s first trip back to South Africa since the album was released. (He played in Zimbabwe in 1987, but not in South Africa itself.) He reunited with a lot of the original musicians and through and around them playing the album’s music together again, some of the story about how the album was made and the aftermath were told. I really thing Graceland is one of the best pop albums ever, so I wasn’t a hard sell on this movie, but I thought it was a really well-made film.


  • Archers of Loaf @ the Middle East: I’ve liked this band since I was 18; unfortunately they broke up when I was 17. Luckily they reunited last year and added a Boston stop to their tour dates this year. The show itself was great. It wasn’t just that they played all the old songs I loved, but that there were all these fans seeing the band they couldn’t see for all those years. It made for a fun atmosphere.
  • Horse Feathers @ Brighton Music Hall: I’d seen Horse Feathers before, in a small show in San Francisco almost four years ago. This time it was a Saturday night crowd in Boston and a sold out show. The band played well and from that aspect it was a great show. The crowd was very chatty, though, which distracted from the overall experience. I’ll never get why one would pay 15 dollars to see a band and then talk he whole time.
  • Feist @ House of Blues Boston: After all of the above Margaret and I were not exactly excited for another night out. Add to that that I’m always sceptical of large venues like House of Blues. Feist came out and started the hard, scattershot rhythm of “The Bad in Each Other” and we were won over. And, though it’s very big, House of Blues has good sound and decent sightlines.


story week redux

Filed under: — adrian @ 2:32 am

Well, that was fun. I’m not quite sure why I decided to do it but I think it turned out alright. I didn’t have any of the stories planned before the day I wrote them and I enjoyed having the pressure to write something.

It sort of makes me want to do a 365 days of stories project. I’m not sure I have that many stories.


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.


two pirates fans chronicle the 2012 season

Filed under: — adrian @ 4:19 am

For the entirety of the 2012 season my friend Colin and I exchanged emails in one long thread about the Pirates. From the slow start to the incredible standing in August (16 games above 0.500 on August 6, their best standing since 1992) and their chance to break a now-20 year streak of losing season, the worst in major US sports in history, to their epic (and historic) collapse we followed the team. From the hope to despair, the stats to the intangibles, the interesting to the mundane, it’s all here.

From: Adrian Bischoff

To: Colin Ashe

Date: Fri,  Apr 6, 2012 at 9:37am


How was [the home opener, which Colin attended]? I listened to a chunk of it online at work. Seems like

Halliday had a ridiculous game.


Also, this made me happy. Go bucs.





From: Colin Ashe

To: Adrian Bischoff

Date: Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 11:06 AM


It was good.  It’s true that Halladay had a good game but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.  I was sitting next to Phillies fans and they were complaining about his velocity.  Apparently, he only hit 90mph twice or something.  Also, the Pirates put the bat on the ball a lot, they just happened to hit to where fielders could get it. Sabermetricians will tell you, that’s not within the pitcher’s control.  So, I think Halladay was operating on the lucky side of the hits per balls in play spectrum.  Or, at the very least, he’s pitching in front of a bunch of good defenders.  If you put him on another team with worse defense, the Pirates would have got a number of doubles.


Also, the only run the Phillies got was very nearly an out at the plate.  If the throw had been a little lower or a little earlier, the guy would have been out.


All in all, it was a fun game even though the Pirates lost.  They played well, so it was encouraging – especially since they were up against Halladay and Papelbon.


I’ll be interested to see the 2012 version of that study.  The beer prices at the game yesterday were all like $7+.  I think they’ve raised prices on a lot of things since last season.  They’re still probably on the cheap end of things, but they’re definitely more expensive than last year.





Ride of 200 Miles over Mountains of Basutoland: South African’s Adventurous Holiday by A. Milne

Filed under: — adrian @ 7:08 am

This article was written by my grandfather, Alec Milne, chronicling a horse trip across Lesotho in 1936. It’s a long but fascinating article. The photocopy of the article I have has lost all definition in the graphic and three photos that accompany it, so I have supplemented it with ones that did not run with the original story. I’ve tried to preserve the original spelling and style wherever possible. The links, obviously, are not original and have been added to add clarity to those not familiar with some particulars.

The Star, Johannesburg, Transvaal, May 16, 1936

"Trek" in Basutoland

To reach the South Coast of Natal from Wepener, in the south-east of the Free State, the author of this article decided to avoid the long circuitous train journey and ride over the mountains of Basutoland to Matatiele. He gives an entertaining account of his adventurous journey.

When my fortnight’s leave was drawing near and I had decided that it should be spent on the Natal South Coast, I rebelled at the thought of the slow, circuitous train journey. Some memory, more exsiting and interesting must be brought back to cheer my daily toil in the little town of Wepener. A nebulous idea began to take definite shape. Between Wepener and Natal lies the mountainous Protectorate of Basutoland, the very roof of South Africa. I would ride over the mountains to Matatiele. Once the idea had been defined, nothing could change my purpose; over the mountains I would go.

“Madness,” laughed my friends when I outlined my scheme. “Hair-brained,” they muttered when I showed no signs of relenting. As I am well versed in Sesuto and have a good knowledge of the journey I proposed to undertake, I was not disposed to listen to these croakings.

View Ride of 200 Miles over Mountains of Basutoland: South African’s Adventurous Holiday in a larger map

A glance at a map will show you the extent of the task I set myself. Find Wepener in the south-easern part of the Free State, and Matatiele in the extreme north-eastern section of the Cape. Then draw a line between the two straight across Basutoland and you will have a rough idea of the route. You will see that two mountain ranges, the Malutis and the Drakensberg, lay between me and my objective. That is easily read from the map, but unless you are acquainted with the country or are gifted with vivid imagination you will have no conception of the endless succession of precipitous descents and ascents by dizzy paths offering foothold to only a sturdy Basuto pony.


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