Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Differences #8

Art museums.

So I haven’t written in awhile… there were some complications…anyway we just got back from a trip to Vienna. Beautiful city. We went to Albertina, an art museum that had a Picasso exhibition. Believe it or not guys, there were school children between the ages of 10-13 on what appeared to be a school field trip at the exhibit. And everyone acted as it was completely normal to have young children in the presence of either naked or scantly clothed and badly drawn females. And I cant tell you how many times I read the word eroticism in a description below one of his paintings. I mean, I felt myself getting turned on. Just think of the children!!!! It’s an outrage! In America, if a teacher brought her under age class to an art museum, she would be fired from her job!

Museum Field Trip Deemed Too Revealing - New York Times

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Differences #6


Germans do not produce garbage. Well just a little bit but almost everything is recycled. Our kitchen garbage can is divided into 3 parts; a part for garbage, a part for plastic and metal and a part for compost. Paper waste is in another can. A young art student rummaging through our actual garbage would despair, a maxi, a condom, some floss and snot rags would be among the most exciting finds!

In NYC we also have recycling but plastic bags and yogurt cups and other food containers cannot be recycled. Among other things, you can’t recycle plastic or wax coated paper, hard cover books, plastic trays, plastic utensils, plastic toys, and plastic caps. That doesn’t leave much for me to recycle except for newspaper. Its futile anyway to recycle in NYC, I’ve followed the garbage men and watched them throw garbage plus clearly marked recycling into their trucks on several occasions.

What motivates Germans to be so conscientious about sorting out their metal, plastic, paper and compost from regular garbage? Well, I’ve found the answer. Germans pay for their garbage by weight. The more they recycle and the less garbage they have, the less its hurts the wallet. But I still haven’t figured out what motivates the tenants of my apartment building to compost since money isn’t the issue…could it actually be for the good of the environment?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Differences #5

Floor names.

Here in Germany the first floor of a building is the second floor. What they call ground floor is what we call first floor. My name is Lisa and I live on the second floor. My apartment number is 208. About once a week I climb 2 flights of stairs, walk down the hall and get ready to insert my key into apartment 108 before realizing where I am and letting out a loud groan.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Differences #4

Hall lights.

If I'm in my own apt. in NYC and I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water I either turn the hall light on stumble around in the dark. But if it’s the middle of the night and for some reason I'm at work, or in a hotel, apt. building or Time Square I expect all the lights to be on 24/7.

Here lights are only on at night in hallways if you turn on a timed light switch. If I’m coming come to my apartment at night I have to flip a light switch before going up the stairs. If I’m too slow the light will go out before I reach my floor and I pray that I wont break my legs stumbling up steps to find the next light switch in the pitch dark. I usually don’t make it down the hall to my door before the next light goes out. Every once in awhile I arrive at my door unscathed and find my next obstacle. To the left of my door is the square light switch and right below it a square door buzzer. I say eenie meenie minie moe, cross my fingers and hope I don’t press the buzzer and wake up Jurij.

Differences #4

4. Hall lights

If I'm in my own apt. in NYC and I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water I either turn the hall light on stumble around in the dark. But if it’s the middle of the night and for some reason I'm at work, or in a hotel, apt. building or Time Square I expect all the lights to be on 24/7.

Here lights are only on at night in hallways if you turn on a timed light switch. If I’m coming come to my apartment at night I have to flip a light switch before going up the stairs. If I’m too slow the light will go out before I reach my floor and I pray that I wont break my legs stumbling up steps to find the next light switch in the pitch dark. I usually don’t make it down the hall to my door before the next light goes out. Every once in awhile I arrive at my door unscathed and find my next obstacle. To the left of my door is the square light switch and right below it a square door buzzer. I say eenie meenie minie moe, cross my fingers and hope I don’t press the buzzer and wake up Jurij.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Differences #3


No one has screens on their windows or doors.

Screens, those metal frames with wire mesh that pop in place in your window or exist as a second door do not exist. Since no one owns an air conditioner and everyone’s house needs some ventilation various entrances to ones dwelling are often left open particularly in the summer months.

Therefore flies thinking this open door policy is the key to the apartment unceremoniously buzz around the German’s meticulously clean and ordered Haus. I did find a screen alternative in the supermarket that seems to be somewhat popular. You can buy a screen curtain, cut it to size, and hang it up by tacking Velcro to your window and door frames. From personal experience this is only partially effective but better than nothing.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Differences #2

Windows and doors.

I was at Jurij's parents house during my first visit to Germany. I attempted to open the door to the porch by pulling upward on the handle and the door nearly fell off. At least that’s what I thought as I was busy having a heart attack. Porch doors and windows have this amazing capability of opening from the top for maximum ventilation. And you need a lot of ventilation in apartments and houses over here since most dwellings are no older than 60 years and have been constructed with the latest energy saving technology. If you don’t crack open a window you just might suffocate since buildings are really air tight. Unfortunately after several months over here I still struggle to open the door the right way. After 32 years of opening a door only one way, the old door neurons in my brain aren't learning any new tricks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

US and Germany differences part 1

It’s a funny. You visit another country and everything is weird, strange, backwards. You’re inspired, you take a lot of pictures and you write. Then you’re annoyed and complain. Why do they do it this way? Then after awhile it all becomes completely normal. You even find yourself in a dirndl. Finally you go home and everything is weird again.

Difference #1
I have enough trouble on escalators back home. I’ve fainted on an escalator from staring down at all the trippy lines, I’ve gotten my shoe stuck and I’ve attempted to go up the down escalator and down the up escalator on too many occasions.

Here in Germany they like to save energy. Imagine that! Escalators do not continuously run 24 hours a day like they do in the US. In fact they only run when someone is on the escalator. This is a very good idea from a conservation point of view but for me it is troublesome. I have to wait until I see some on riding on the up or down escalator before I can determine which is which...And in some places this can be a really long time.

Friday, July 21, 2006


I've always laughed at the fact that Germans actually wait for a light to turn green before crossing a street despite there being not a car in sight. After numerous failed attempts to stay upright on my bike I see why. There are many roads intersecting at one crossing not just 4. Not only do you have to watch for cars but for buses and trams and an extremely high volume of bikers of all ages- I swear I saw a woman who was at least 100 zipping by, can she even walk?- rollerbladers, high speed wheel chairs, pedestrians and all kinds of wheeled contraptions people ride around in that I have no name for. Probably some really long German name that I cant pronounce, I dunno some kind of Verkehrsteilnehmer(in) (road user).

Speaking of German words here is Lisa's German lesson 101.
Fahrerei-driving about, long hours of driving
Fahrt- journey
fahrtüchtig-person who is fit to drive
fahruntüchtig-person who is unfit to drive
Fahrvergnügen (fahrfignugen in the USA)- driving pleasure (compound word "made up" by VW, not found in any dictionary here nor in the conciousnessesesessses of my German friends who look at me strangely while we are taking a Fahrt in a Farrari* and I say Fahrvergnügen!!!!

*this is an Italian car. Farrari is the dudes last name. (Ya ok Im dumb, I dont know anything about cars!) I just looked this up on Wikipedia because it seemed so similar to Fahrerei, which would be the perfect name for a car anyway!

I got farrari's on my mind because not too long ago Jurij and I were rollerblading out in the middle of peaceful German countryside and we saw one. We were stopped on the side of the road admiring a quaint church and a magnolia tree when this black flattened car from the future appeared behind us and drove very slowly around us. My jaw dropped as it went by. It was quite out of place! (I cant figure out what model it was..Ive spent 45 min of my life looking)

***correction: Jurij just said it was a Lamborghini. Even cooler! No wonder I couldnt find it on the fararari's website!

Anyway thats all. Tomorrow were going on a canoe trip in the south of France. See ya!

Actually Im not sure how I will canoe because I ripped the pads off the fingers of my right hand when I fell off my bike. This was my only injury but even though it is quite small it is on a very important part of my body. Jurij thankfully (or unthankfully) put me through an hour and a half of excrutiating pain cleaning my wounds last night. While he was hunched over my hand after 12 hours of working, I ate all the cherrys he brought home. He was really mad. He said I did it in revenge. YEP!! (I bought him a kilo of cherries today to make up for it)

Today I bought a pair of sports gloves to hide my wounds. Im going to look like whatshis face in Moonstruck....

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


This isn’t getting much press in the NYTimes but is anyone as obsessed as me with what happened to Zinedine Zidane at the World Cup?

After a beautiful day of bike riding though old forests, picking strawberries and swimming in a lake with friends a bunch of us sat in a beer garden eating sausages, drinking Radlers (beer and lemonade…sound gross? I think so. I’d rather drink a PURE beer…just like my men!) and watching the game on a big projected screen. I was all for France winning the World Cup. I like Zidane. He’s soo cute! And has an awesome name. But I was really mad at him for reacting to Materazzi’s insult, head butting him in the chest and therefore getting evicted from the game, the last game before he retires. What up Zizou? If you had played the final minutes of the game France probably would have won. They were the better team.

I’ve been obsessed with reading about the head butt on the internet(BBC sports) since it happened…as well as the Tour de France doping scandal. Oy vey don’t get me started.
It’s just as good a read as US weekly or People magazine! I’m starting to understand sports…

On another but similar note it seems that not only have Germans taken a liking to flag waving but that they will wave ANY flag! After the game ended, cars were honking, people were shouting and Italian flags were waving. For a moment, I thought to myself boy there are a lot of Italians here in Germany!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

World Cup


So the big news here is that Germany beat Argentina the other night in the semi finals. I’ve never been a sports fan. Perhaps because I never understood what I was watching, I always thought it was a pointless waste of time. Solely because of the interests of the men in my life, I’ve watched mostly baseball, basketball and football. By this statement I am obviously American. Why is it that the entire world has a love affair with soccer but in the U.S. it is not quite so popular?

I’ve never watched a soccer match until a couple weeks ago when I arrived in Germany at the advent of the World Cup. I’ve been completely hooked since Germany played Poland in the group play. Soccer is easy to watch. 1. I can follow the ball. 2. There are a lot of fine young men in shorts. Girls, why watch a sport whose male players are buried under so much equipment (like U.S. football) you can’t even see them?

Germany is hosting the 2006 World Cup. The logo is “A time to make friends”. 2006 is no longer a time to gas Jews and conquer the world. I think that’s what they’re trying to say.

Last week Jurij and I biked into town to our favorite bar Julep’s for the Germany-Poland soccer match. The place was packed for the game. Soccer was projected onto large screens and TVs through out the NYC themed restaurant and its large Bavarian beer garden. We found a seat inside with a fairly good view when the German soccer players were singing the national anthem.

Jurij said to me that the soccer players were just recently taught the words as nationalist songs were not taught in school. Three women sat at a nearby table painting flags on each other’s faces but first we overheard them asking what the order of the black, red, and gold stripes were. Then the giant world cup hamburger that I ordered arrived with a German party flag on it, only the colors were upside down making it look closer to a Belgian flag. These were signs of Germany’s discomfort with patriotism and I was comfortable with that.

The big story here (by now its an old story) is flag waving. 6 months ago or even 3 months ago it was an activity looked down upon and associated with nationalist right wingers. By the time the German team won the match Augsburg erupted into a sea of black, red, and gold. Biking home was disconcerting. The streets were crowded. People wrapped in flags were shouting and waving flags. Cars with flags on the sides of their windows were honking their horns. In my mind I was biking as fast as I could away from the Nazi’s. Jurij was uncomfortable with this exaggerated display of patriotism. He said its ok for young kids to wave the flag, but it really makes you think when those over 65 are waving the flag!

The next day we watched USA vs. Italy. The Italians were expected to win but instead the game ended in a tie. USA played aggressively and 3 of their players were eliminated because of fouls. This has only happened a few other times in world cup history. Jurij said it was a strange match. At the end of a game I heard a nearby American voice saying. They tied? What’s next? That’s it? Ah yes another clueless American besides me watching an unfamiliar sport. Who ties in American sports? There is always a winner.

After a couple weeks of unabashed German patriotism, I think I’ve come to terms with it (to some degree anyway).
It’s in the spirit of the games. After all every other country is waving their flags. In my German language class all the students were decked out in their countries colors and team jerseys. Although it still makes him uneasy I can tell by the flags painted on his face by the nurses on his ward that Jurij has come to terms with it too (to some degree!).

Last night at Julep’s (and I’m glad I’m literate or I would have thought it was Jew lips) I routed along with Jurij and the crowd for Germany. I kinda felt weird about it but what the hell I’m here and the U.S. team is out. Anyway I felt better about that when during half time I went around the corner to synagogue!

I became friendly with Gili, a Russian Jewish guy in his 60’s or so, in my German language class. He told me to meet him there at 6. Services were at 7 but he wanted me to meet some people. When I arrived I got a nice private tour of the building and then Gili ushered me into a room where many members sat watching the TV. Well, he said in his broken Germlish, today is not a good day to meet people. I looked around me and saw many yamalka-ed heads all engrossed in the game. They cheered when Germany scored. Why not, they are German. The children and teens waved German flags (in the temple!). You’ve come a long way baby!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

last day in NYC

On 6/14/06, Molly Reisner wrote:

hey lees,

how was your trip back? minus the forgotten passport, of course. mommom called me in a panic, but by the time i called back the driver was en route back to the airport with your passport. you must have been freaking out!!


OMGD, Momom called you? I’m so embarrassed.
My day started like this:

9AM. I had breakfast with Bill, and then we went to his apt and discussed the progress on his latest painting. Half-hour later we left and went our separate ways. He went to the market and I walked 10 blocks to Citibank. Upon arrival I unzipped my book bag and discovered that my purse containing my wallet housing my Citibank card was missing. I left my purse at Bill's! I lost over an hour looking for Bill in Dagistino's, rummaging for a stray quarter and calling him on a pay phone that took me some time to locate. Luckily I reached him and he was home.

11:30AM. Last chance to pick up my slides at Duggal. I had 2 weeks in NY to do so but of course I forgot. Luckily Duggal called Momom's house while I was in Allentown and a purple note pasted on my bedroom door was waiting for me when I got home Sunday night. Thanks for the reminder Duggal! The F-train arrived fast for once and dropped me off at 23 st. The glowing blue and white neon of a Citibank greeted me as I emerged from the subway. What luck! I FORGOT Citibank was right there. Now where was Duggal? I forgot to take the note with me, but I was sure I remembered 23 29th st. I walked 6 blocks and 3 avenues. There is no 23 29th street. I call 411. Can you tell me the address of Duggal? Sure it’s on 23rd street. Is it 29 23rd street?? Yes. Click. Shitcrap!!
IF (and that’s a big if) I were smart I would have only had to walk one block from the train/Citibank. Another hour lost.

2PM. When I got home, Jurij called. While I was talking to him I realized I didn’t know where my passport was. I was freaking out on the phone and tearing my room apart at the same time.
After we hung up I located it. It was in my computer bag. I called Jurij back and reassured him that I would be in Germany tomorrow.

4:45PM. 15 minutes before the baker (the driver) was supposed to have come; I discovered that my computer fit snuggly in my backpack. Remembering the pain in my back caused by my carry-on: a backpack and very heavy computer case, I decided to empty the miscellaneous contents of my computer bag into my soon to be checked in suitcase and put my computer in my pack. Then I took my computer case and stashed it in the basement.

5:10PM. I call the baker. Where are you? You were supposed to be here at 5PM! Oh I forgot. Good you called. I’m coming now.

5:15PM. The baker picked me up, drove me a half-hour to JFK and dropped me off.

5:45PM. 15 feet into the airport I was asked for my passport. It was only then did I realize that something very very important, something critical for my advancement 181 inches into the airport was missing. I reached for my new quad band, T mobile, I-work-in-all-countries-cell phone…but unfortunately I-do-not-work-when-I-am-not-charged-cell phone. With a pitiful, lost look on my face I was able to borrow a cell phone from the sweet God fearing guard at 15 feet. I called the baker. I called Momom. For the next hour I am paralyzed with fear and have to pee really badly but cannot leave my suitcases.

7PM. I had my passport minus 70 dollars for 2 trips to the airport and a major adrenaline rush. 5 minutes later I lost another $50 for 2 overweight suitcases. Ironically, before I emptied the contents of my computer bag into my suitcases I placed them on a scale and they were not overweight! Was this the price to pay for not having a backache?

7:45PM. I make a mad dash to the plane. Luckily for my future seat mates, I have 5 minutes to spare before boarding and I rush of to empty my about to overflow bladder.

8PM. Plane takes off. I got to sleep.

4AM EST. (10AM). I wake up with a backache in Munich.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

more lizard musings

Is anyone besides my immediate family actually still reading my blog about lizards?

Two days this week we were out at the Beach ranch radio tracking horned lizards and searching for more horned subjects. Moose needs to track 20 Texas horned lizards for this field season. So far 3 adult horned lizards are wandering the property with tracking devices glued to their backs.

It’s unusually hot in Lubbock for this time a year. It’s been over 100 degrees and every time I bend over to pick up a rock I get dizzy. I’m sure if you’ve seen all my brothers pictures on Flickr, you might assume that Texas wildlife is not only diverse but crawlin’ all over the place.

You might think that a walk with Lisa and Jack through the Texas scrublands might lead to a venomous bite on the ankle. But really if you’re not looking really hard you could easily see nothing but some grass and some birds. Texas wildlife IS diverse but it is not abundant and most animals are hiding in their underground tunnels waiting for either the apocalypse or just the hot sun to go down. After I take a bite of this mushroom I think I’ll slide down that rabbit hole and join them.

The chances of getting bit by a snake are slim. They really don’t want to waste their venom on someone who is much too large to swallow. If his rattling doesn’t scare you off he’s going to try to leave the scene as quickly as possible because you IS scary as shit! In fact he might not even rattle so much at all since all his louder rattling amigos were rounded up by killer cowboys. They were never heard from again. This left the quieter rattlesnakes to live long and multiply providing science text books with an example of (un) natural selection.

While I was aimlessly walking around the brush scanning for lizards, I wondered what neurons were firing at the moment I realized out of the corner of my eye that an animal such as a Texas horned lizard was sunning himself nearby. How did I make sense of that breathing patch of lizard fabric so meticulously sown into the scrubby carpet of the Beach Ranch? I would scan the ground with full concentration and determination. It was tiring. I saw a lot of “stuff” but couldn’t catch shit.

Moose scans effortlessly, a skill highly developed over 20 years of training. In his words,

“ The animals just pop out, seeing them just comes second nature.”

For both of us, the eureka moment of noticing (and then catching if you can) the hidden animal is magical and exhilarating even if it’s the same species over and over again. But one never knows what waits around the bend. A couple days ago I spied two coach whip snakes entwined in cold-blooded copulation next to a prickly pear cactus. Catching two reptiles in the act was very exciting. It’s a fetish of mine…just kidding. But it sure is much easier to see animal if it is moving (and having sex) than if it is still!

While we were “road cruising”, (its also much easier to see an animal if its on the open road) Moose slammed on the breaks and I went flying forward for the 10th time the other day. I looked ahead. Nothing was in sight for miles. He jumped out of the car. In seconds he returned and the familiar Eau de’ Colubrid wafted into my nostrils. The million dollar lottery look of total and utter joy on his face told me that this wasn’t just another western diamondback rattlesnake but someone much more precious. It was the beautiful and fair Texas long nosed snake-a snake he had previously only seen in pictures; a reptile to write songs about.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Camp Bowie

Howdy y'all. Spent Tuesday-Fri at an isolated army base with my brother. The only people we saw were the soldiers that initially checked us in and the various waitresses who served us food when we left the base to fix ourselves some dinner. We were tv-less, phone-less and internet-less for 4 days but it didnt matter none. We had each others, the coyotes, jack rabbits, bob cats, rattlesnakes and collared lizards all to ourselves, and thats all that mattered.

Our mission at Camp Bowie, Brownwood, smack in the dead center of Texas, was to find ourselves a Texas horned lizard. But let me tell you, those Texas horned lizards were about as ubiquitous as a regular high fat yogurt in a Texan supermarket. In other words, we didnt find one stinkin' horned lizard on the property.

Moose is doing horned lizard surveys on 4 army bases for the Texas National Guard and for his PhD project. Unfortunately not much research has been done for the lizard which is now a Texas state threatened animal so there is not much baseline data. During the 60s and 70s the horned lizard was abundant in almost every county of Texas but has been in decline for reasons unknown since the 80s. It is now locally extinct in most of eastern Texas. In 1996 they still abundant at Camp Bowie but surveys taken in 2000 and 2004 yielded 0 and 2 juveniles respectively. So far none have been found there this year. Perhaps the lizards are occuring at such a low density that we cant find them.

Research can only be done at the base when it is empty of soldiers training and practicing target shooting for obvious reasons. Unlike soldiers who are prepared to die for their country, we are not prepared to die for our horned lizards. We slept in the empty barracks. The simple, spartan buildings were made of unpainted cinderblocks and alternately reminded me of a jail and a lego set. Luckily we didnt spend much time there. Morning, noon and night you could either find us (if you had some kind of GPS locator on us) half lost on some unmarked back road of the base's 10,000 acre property or eating a meal that would inevitably give me a stomach ache or make my brothers face puff up at some backwards restaurant in Brownwood Texas. Those deep fried pickle chips were damn good in our mouths...damn it!

In the few hours we had contact with civilization we had to make a concerted effort to leave the hillbilly/ jive/slapstick theatre we created....Just hang loose blood. Shes gonna catch you up on the rebound on the medside. What it is big mamma? My mamma dont raise no dummies, I dug her rap. Cut me some slack jack. Chump dont want the help chump dont get the help....
You have to see "Airplane" to appreciate this quote which I probably mangled, but this was our conversation over and over again all day of which we never tired of speaking. Moose can recite it and a million other quotes frightningly well. I cant remember shit and should never attempt to act.

I havent lived with my brother since we were teenager and I dont think I ever spent this much time with him in my life. I think we're pretty compatible and Im really enjoying myself here with him. Its amazing how playing a charater from "Good Times" can diffuse any potential tensions (as long as its the privacy of our own home or car!)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Canyons, Caverns and beautiful Guadalupe

Saturday we drove to the Caprock Canyons and went hiking for the day. Western diamondback rattlesnake, greatplains rat snake and coachwhip snakey crossed our path. I have a great video of my bro catching the coachwhip.

Sunday we made my dad's childhood dream a reality by visiting the Carlsbad Caverns 3 hours west in NM. Since my grandmother saves everything we discovered my dad's 4th grade scrapbook of caverns a few years ago. The 50 year old National Geographic photos are still accurate. I recognized several stalagtites and stalagmites. They haven't changed one bit!

In the evening we hiked in the Guadalupe mountains. A little while ago there was an inland sea here with a large coral reef. We hiked around the "sea bottom" and looked up to the layers of compressed coral reef on the tops of the mountains. Rocks are like, old. Its difficult to comprehend that like a lot of time passed before I was alive. How did it get to be now already?

link to my pics
check out awesome video of my bro catching a snake:

The Beach Ranch

My brother is a relentless searcher of herps (to herp, v. to search for reptiles/ amphibians, herps, n. reptiles/amph.). Discovering the lizard in the haystack, stalking it like prey and then lovingly talking to it to it when its in his hands never ceases to excite him day in and day out. He would make a really great hunter-gatherer…now my mind is wandering... In my atavistic Flintstones fantasy I’m decorating the cave with buffalo, my father (a psychiatrist) is shrinking heads and my mom is cooking a buffalo over the open fire…perhaps we are living in Crystal cave. (Cave in PA)

My parents flew out for a visit this weekend. Friday Moose took us to one of his hunting grounds, the Beach ranch. The Beaches have 8,000 acres of land they want used for conservation purposes. 98% of Texan land is privately owned, so my brother is happy to have permission to use the property. Accidentally wandering on someone else’s property here in Texas can get you shot. Some years back a grad student who had permission to use a private property got shot in the leg when the rancher mistook him for a trespasser. “Don’t mess with Texas,” an environmental sign used to express itself to would be litterers, has multiple meanings.

The beach ranch is located 50 miles south east of Lubbock (,_Texas) on the Caprock escarpment. There is no comparing the rolling landscape of the Caprock escarpment and the even more spectacular nearby Caprock Canyons ( to Lubbock, which is on a plateau. I look out the window as we drive there and think, they don’t call this big sky country for nothing, there is not a mountain or a molehill in sight. There is an occasional dust devil, bail of hay, cow, random house and oil pump field. Playing I spy wouldn’t be much of a challenge here. I closed my eyes and thought it was raining, but soon realized it was only the sound of millions of bugs exploding on our windshield. This is the flatlands where 2 D people with “Jesus is the only” way written on their tee shirts drive in oversized staypuff trucks 10 miles below the speed limit into the sunset. In the car we listen an audiotape titled “The World is Flat” by Thomas Freidman. It sure looks flat from this vantage point. From here I can see into the offices of Beijing where the Chinese are beating us in the global technology race.

Driving off the plateau the landscape changes dramatically. Somehow in any context whether it be mood swings, the stock market or your EKG, peaks and valleys are always more interesting than simply flat. Once on the dirt roads of the ranch I have a new appreciation for oversized trucks with 4-wheel drive. Luckily I am in one although as I accidentally drench my shirt in an attempt to hydrate myself, it is not a smooth ride.

Its 95 degrees outside and even though everyone keeps telling me it’s a dry heat I fail to see the significance. I am melting, especially since I’m wearing a sweatshirt with a hood up so I wont get further sunburned. My mom agrees and we spend a lot of time between the shade of a tall mesquite bush and the air conditioned truck while my brother and my dad romp around the scrublands searching “for stuff”. They bring back collared lizards, racerunners, a baby ornate turtle, a ground snake and some pretty rocks to our nest, but unfortunately no horned lizards for a photo shoot. Moose and Dad’s latest digital SLR’s capture the creatures for all eternity (or until this latest technology becomes archaic). Ironically, the one family member with an MFA in photography (me) has only a point and shoot digital camera. So far I’ve taken a lot of blurry “expressionistic” photos of lizards. I think I can better capture their personality, the essence if you will of a Phrynosoma cornutum or Cnemidophorus sexlineatus viridis with just the right amount of camera shake.

Keep checking for great photos of Texan wildlife and landscapes.
Also here is the links to my pics

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Why I am here

Last night I dreamed that there were crickets breeding and multiplying in my bedroom. In a panic I began stomping on the hordes of insects as they were crawling up my legs. I woke up in a sweat, opened my eyes, took a deep breath and breathed in the unpleasant woodsy aroma of crickets. Yes, they really are breeding and multiplying in my "bedroom". I wouldn't be surprised if one of the stray crickets I see roaming around the apartment crawled up my legs last night. I'm sleeping on my brother Moose's couch here in Lubbock Texas. There is a large tupperware container under his "dining room table" containing living, multiplying bite sized bearded dragon meals 6 feet from where I sleep. On top of the table are 2 aquariums home to a desert king snake and a bull snake my brother found in "the field".
In this large 2 bedroom apartment my brother rents for 400 smackers (can you believe it?) one bedroom door is always (thankfully) closed. What is behind door number 2? Only 14 adult breeding bearded dragons, 22 newly hatched babies, a tub full of crickets and a really really bad smell. In Moose's bedroom are 2 incubators housing a total of 75 bearded dragon eggs, some which are hatching. In one, a tiny head with large closed eyes is emerging from its white leathery pouch. Its super sweet. You can check out hatching pictures and totally awesome wildlife pictures at
I must add---although this is a very "familial" living situation coming from my Germanic, orderly bf, Jurij's apartment, its a bit of a shock! I myself like to keep my hypothetical apartment in a state somewhere (and Ill be very nebulous about where) between the two!
Anyway, Bearded dragons are desert lizards native to Australia. They are usually pale in color and grow no bigger than 2 feet. They have cute triangular heads, a sweet disposition and a flat body evolved perfectly for fitting into rock crevaces to escape their enemies. Because the light skin below their heads turns brown when they are upset or interested in the opposite sex they are aptly named, BD. Popular as pets and easy to breed, my brother makes some easy dough selling the lizards to pet stores.
Most of you know that the Goldfarbs are a reptile (and amphibian) family. We would have been an all other creatures gracing the earth as well family if it weren't for all the stuffy noses, watery eyes and shortness of breath, ect. suffered from close encounters of the furry kind.
Reptiles and amphibians have been walking the Goldfarb house since the beginning of my brothers time. Before him we had birds (which are reptiles).
Moose's unusual interest began as soon as he could walk and stuff small creatures into his pockets. His childhood was spent from sun up to sun down at the ponds catching frogs, salamanders, turtles and fish. Always extremely focused, by the time he was 8 he was already an expert herpetologist. (Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians excluding birds and is a test question).
20 years later, he is at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas catching Texas horned lizards for his PhD project. Not much has changed since then except his interest in girls. His thesis is on the geographic variation of Texas HL. Basically he is studying the differences in morphology, habitat selection and home range size between several Texas horned lizard populations. This is important for conservation and management. The THL is a Texas state threatened animal.
And I'm here to help!!!! Yay! I'm here in Texas because I wanted to chill out with my brother and he needs an extra assistant to help him catch lizards. Perfect!
Yesterday we drove out to the Beach Ranch, an 8,000 acre property owned by guess who, the Beaches! 5 hours of searching produced 3 THLs., one of which I found and am very proud. We also saw a couple spade foot toads, barn and burrowing owls, a bob white quail, extremely cute prairie dogs, and a Kansas glossy snake to name a few. If I was there by myself I would have said that I saw some birds, some frogs a snake and a 2 Texas horned lizards. At least I know what they (THLs) look like!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Texas..where am I??

So Ive been in Germany for 3 months but after less than 24 hours in Texas I feel compelled to start a blog! It was a long ride-Munich-Chicago-Dallas-Lubbock. And of course I was seated in the netherregions of each plane and with each change had to run with my heavy bags to the farthest gate in each airport. I knew I was in a foriegn country when I landed in Chicago. I was running for my next flight but I was really more motivated to escape from the sickening odors of the various fast food joints and hordes of massively obese people I was passing. I never saw so many fat people in one place than in the airports of Chicago and Dallas. I mean every 4th person looked like a BLOATED Stay Puff M.Man. Every other person looked like they were in the various stages of Stay Puff Metamorphosis. Pop pop pop...pop pop pop. I was hoping to at least see some beautiful butterflies emerge, but I think its really an alien take over.

Moose picked me up at the airport and then we went to the supermarket. I wanted to get some yogurts for breakfast but in this giant supermarket with 50 choices of each product, there was a limited supply of yogurts in the dairy section and all were FAT FREE!!! Not one regular yogurt to be found nor one thin Texan in the market.

But I must say the people here are really friendly...perhaps TOO friendly. I did enjoy my conversations with the talkative crowds on my domestic flights. I even enjoyed my 4 hour religious debate with my born again Christian seat mate even though when I asked him if he felt sorry for me because I was Jewish and didnt except Christ, he said yes. He said he felt sorry because my life could be so much better....but he didnt judge me (even though Im going to hell)

I didnt enjoy the friendly bagger. First to contrast, in Germany they dont have baggers, they dont even have bags! And the bookbag I would bring was not allowed in the store. All the fattening foods Germans buy and eat in the store are burned off in the check out. First you run an obstacle course to the front of the store to pick up your bag, then you try to pay for your food while you are feverishly stuffing canned kraut and a large ham over soft fruit and camembert into your small bookbag because the next customers food is barrelling down the conveybelt and is mixing up with yours. Questions are spoken to you in German and in a moment of panic you cant even remember English.
In Texas they have baggers. They give you a choice of paper or plastic bags. And then, THEY COMMENT ON YOUR PRODUCT CHOICE. "Hey do you use that Colgate hydrogen peroxide because you have sores in your mouth or for another reason. Do you use it as a regular mouthwash?". Shocked, I just stared quietly at her...but telepathically, I said to her, listen fugly bitch, Im going to commit murder by breathing on you right now". She said, "I dont mean to get personal but Im going to school for dentistry".
Then she procedes to walk with us to our car pushing our wagon and then loading up our car (parked in a sea of oversized monster vehicles) while making chit chat.