Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Promise of a New Year

Every new year comes with an unspoken promise: the promise of a new beginning. It is this promise of a clean slate upon which we can rebuild our lives that give many people hope for the coming year. For many people around the world, the 31st of December marks more than just the complete passage of the Earth around the sun, indeed, it also marks the moment when anything seems possible, a time when they can pull their lives together, maybe even pick up some of the pieces that they have left out during the previous year, or perhaps even rediscover certain dreams that have laid cold and buried out of necessity. Christmas is a holiday that is often associated with the family, but New Year's Eve is for the individual.

As the clock draws closer to 12 midnight on the 31st of December, people have already begun to take to the streets. From what I hear on the radio, roads all over the city are beginning to become congested. Some, like the ones in Kuala Lumpur would be closed entirely in anticipation for the big night. Others, like the highways for instance, are no doubt jam-packed with revelers who are trying to get to various locations. Not me though, I've got other things to worry about right now, like a certain missing jacket that I wish to wear tonight, for example, and how on earth am I going to finish writing this before it is time for me to go out?!

But even as I dash about the modest confines of my home in search of this pair of jeans or that pair of shorts, I cannot help but contemplate over some of the things that I have achieved this past year.  Needless to say, finding Ray (and on my birthday too!) was one of the highlights of 2011. Not a day has gone by since I met him that I did not feel completely happy or, if I wasn't, he wasn't there to make sure that I was. And what of some of the bad things too? Things I'd given up, for example, or perhaps resolved to do at the start of 2011 but not taken the effort to attain? There was the MPAC production of Mamma Mia that I dropped out of, I suppose, and also the auditions for Pixies the Musical that I passed on because I was afraid I would not have enough time... And a lot of other things I'm sure, that I resolved to do at the start of 2011 but did not, which begs the question: why make these resolutions in the first place?

I contemplate this as I crawl under the bed (all the while forcing myself to fit into a pair of jeans I've not worn in over half a year!) in search of that jacket, and even as I factor the time it will take to vacuum the dust off the garment (should I find it) before it will be presentable enough for me to wear out on new year's eve, I begin to realize that 'hope' was precisely the reason why people made resolutions and why the new year's eve has come to hold such a special place in human tradition. Telling yourself you will do something, is just another way of promising yourself that things will get better, and that your life will be slightly bereft of some of the nasty mistakes you've made in the past. Of course, whether this actually works out the way you resolve it to be is an entirely different issue altogether, but the essence of the resolution remains: "here's something to hope for, with the coming of the new year!" and in all honesty, what do we have to live for (especially in those, most troubling moments in life) if not for "hope" of a better future? Why do we keep on living, if not for the implicit (however self-imposed) promise that someday we can forge a better future for ourselves?

I find my jacket eventually, relatively dust-free, underneath a pile of old and (up till then) forgotten items from a regretful past and I can appreciate the irony that something I would be wearing in a few hours time to usher in the promise of a New Year was shielded from the 'decay' of time by non-other than the 'mistakes' of my past. As cli-che'd as this might sound, I suppose our mistakes really do protect our future, just as long as we keep on moving forward.

As I apply the finishing touches of wax that will keep my hair perfectly sculpted amidst the festivities tonight, I can't help but admit, that it would be great to have a fresh start, or at least the idea of one. To forget for a moment about the mistakes of 2011 (although they would undoubtedly come back to bite me in the butt) and think instead about how I wish 2012 to turn out. Of course, I suppose not all new year's resolutions are meant to come true... but right now it is 7pm on the 31st of December, 2011. And in five hours I'm going to be out there with the rest of the world, dressed in so much glitter and tinsel (that can ever, only be appropriate for a New Year's attire) screaming at the top of my lungs, as I count down the ten seconds to the very first moment of 2012, when anything and everything seems possible. 

Everything you do everyday should be something that will lead you to a better tomorrow.



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ray Says: Resolution

Hey, it's me, Ray again. Cyren is still M.I.A for the time being but I shall keep you company...for now anyway XD

For this post, I have decided to try something I never tried before because usually, I think it would never work. But this time, out of interest (and a bit of boredom), I have decided to write a list and not just any list. Yes, you guess it, I have decided to write a new year resolution list. YAyyyy....~

Now, as I mentioned, this is my first attempt to create new year resolution. The reason why is that I have seen many of my friends striving to complete their list only to abandon halfway through. In terms of psychological perspective, we lost interest when we try to pursue long term goals, mainly because they are LONG-TERMED and with no immediate feedback on our performance as we slowly complete our list throughout the year, the initiate excitement we experience is hopelessly lost forever...unless u can re-ignite it before the year finishes.

With that idea in mind, I truly hope I won't succumb to it (finger crosses). Anyway, below is my list of things to complete for next year. Cy advised me to keep it short and simple so that it wouldn't overwhelm me.

1) Read at least 10 books throughout the year
As you can see, all the books I bought accumulate since a few years ago and as ashamed I am to say, I barely finish half of them. Not anymore, Imma make an attempt to finish at least 10 books next year and hopefully, the knowledge in these books shall be absorbed!!

2) Travel to at least 3 never-been-to places
As an active, impulsive and energetic monkey that I am, I desire to travel far to unknown lands and conquer. Well, in my case, I just wanna go to places I never been to. FRIM was such a place. Now I can check that off my been-to-places list. It doesn't have to a foreign land, somewhere in Malaysia will do as well. For instance, I have been to Langkawi (hint hint - Cy) :P

3) Build at least 5 new personal Lego designs
Recently, I have been tearing apart my former Lego structures and re-building them according to whatever I can conjure up. Below are a few examples. The first is a Lego island invaded by explorers seeking to dig up its secrets but denizens aren't happy about it. The second is a specially made Lego butterfly for Cyren and readers of this blog. I'm inspired to make more but my imagination may be hindered with works and laziness. So, I limit myself to 5 designs.

4) Save at least RM1 per day
People who know me know that I spent a lot and not just on food and the usual necessities but on Lego (as you can see above), comics and more food. I realize I have to start saving now if I want to spend more on all the above and traveling. Sometimes, I do wish money wouldn't be an issue to me =/

That's all for my list. Cyren should be making his soon, I think, if he's not "occupied". XD

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Ray here. Sorry for the recent MIA. As you all know, it's the holiday seasons and Christmas just passed. It comes to my acknowledgement that this time around, people's schedules are usually filled with shopping for gifts, eating with family and getting drunk with friends. Me and Cy were, without exception, the same as others. Unlike others, we were mostly wasting time in his house (my in-laws' house :P) playing DCU online.

DCU is the latest online game released by DC (the comic corporation that created Batman, Superman etc etc...not any other unrelated acronyms). Honestly for me, I prefer console games than online games but I gotta admit, DCU is pretty fun or maybe cuz it's related to something I like and I'm just being biased...hmmm~

Anyway, that's pretty much how we spent our Christmas. Even as I'm writing this post, Cyren's probably still playing the game (It's that addictive). So the MIA status would be extended to unknown date. But do drop by once in a while just to catch up on the old posts. I assure you, some of Cy's old posts are interesting reading titbit to pass the time.

Coming to an end, I and on Cy's behalf, just want to wish all you blog readers a belated Merry Christmas. Here are some of the stuff I made for this occasion. =3 Have a happy new year

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ray Says: Adventure

In recent news, Kim Jong Il died. But enough about him, this blog is about me and Cyren. Yay!!!

Anyway, I have been a brat to Cy due to my need for constant adventure and excitement. I would pressure him to take me somewhere, travel to a new unknown location and even propose the idea to walk from one end of KL to the other just for the fun of it. Seriously, I can never sit still and just count the minutes that are wasted from my life.

Not wanting to see me moody :P , Cy finally took me somewhere. Budget was of course a problem for poor saps like us so we settled on much more affordable places. Our first destination was Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM). Never heard of it? Surprisingly, I stumbled upon it online as well. So go google. But for ya all's convenience, Imma just describe tiny details of it. As the name says it, it's an institute dedicated for plants and wildlife. It is mostly trees and fresh air there. There's even a mini waterfall. I would dip my feet in there if I had brought a towel and worn slippers instead of shoes. (Note: The place ain't meant for people who can't walk 500m without fainting).

Next, we went to Genting Highlands. Yayyyyy~~~~ ya...not much of an excitement but it was our first time there. Though everything is atrociously and inhumanely expensive, the cool air rejuvenated our mind and body. And, that was about it for Genting. Again, we are poor saps.

Lastly, we had a scrumptious meal in Shabu One. Though we always overtake what we can stuff down our throat, I love it there still. It is one of the few places where I can truly be satisfied with my meal. That's how we end our day together. =3 Wish we can do all the time but these fantasies happen once in a while which make them even more special.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Growing up Creepie pt. 7 ~ 'Tis the season for Lights and Moths!

Hey ya'll 

The holiday seasons have always been a time for beautiful things to come out of hiding. Christmas lights and decorations, like so much jewels and gold, that had been tucked away in their cardboard coffins for over a year are once again dug out from their secret locations to festoon houses and streets. Shopping malls all over the city begin to boast extravagant displays of holiday trees, and even certain people who have generally been selfish and anti-social all year cannot help but peek their heads out of their hidey-holes to look at all the beauty and wonder around them.  Indeed, this was perhaps the same way I found myself stalking the shopping malls of Kuala Lumpur yesterday (breaking my usual routine of personal solitude) looking for Christmas presents for friends and loved ones even though I had barely enough money to get myself through the month as it is. 6 hours, four shopping bags, and two very tired feet later I found myself significantly poorer than I had been when I set out that morning but still quite content with all the items I had purchased, none of which were for me. I suppose it is true what they say: that it is at times like these when the good in all human beings can't help but come to the surface (if only for a second). I'm pretty sure I'll be singing a different tune when January comes along... but you know, carpe diem!

But it seems, just as many people have gotten lost in a haze of good-will, that during this time of the year, the Universe returns to those who give as well and on my way home, I managed to find something for my self after all. It was a beautiful hawk moth, large and strong with long, tapered wings in various tones of brown and cream, tinged with beautiful orange and pink scales that ran from the base of each wing into two lateral stripes along its abdomen. A most stunning specimen it would make as an addition to my collection and I carefully netted it and whispered my thanks. 

The Yam hawk moth (Theretra nessus)
I suppose (in some vaguely child-like and superficial way) that everyone does get a chance at happiness during the holiday season! Indeed, it only seems fitting (before my hermit-like tendencies take over again) that I make the use of this joyous haze (induced, possibly by my recent fortune) to go out and volunteer at a home, or do something charitable, to make the most of it!

All I want for Christmas this year, is for our happily ever after, to last for ever after, after all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I don't even know you anymore!

The biggest surprises in life often come when we least expect them. But I suppose that that is, by its very definition, a surprise. Similarly, just when you thought you've settled down with someone, been in the perfect relationship, met the right guy, something comes up like a gigantic hurricane and blows your entire world away. And suddenly just like that, you are left standing there all alone and insecure, unsure if everything you've known about your partner over the past year were truths, lies, or even worse: truths that you've made up because you had so desperately wanted to see them in that way to begin with.  

It seems like such a strange twist of fate, when two people who lived with each other for so long, and had so much time to get to know each other, would sometimes inevitably find themselves plunged into a state of complete and utter mis-recognization. Several days ago, a conversation with Ray left me wondering whether I truly knew him during the one year we've been together or not?  I was quite certain that he still loved me a lot, and I knew that was also how I still felt about him and yet... that one new piece of information divulged seemed to bother me a lot. Almost as if it were a huge betrayal that slapped me across the cheeks. I took a while off of course, for me to reel from the force of the blow, but I also used that time to give a thought on why this might be so.

I eventually came to the conclusion that while we're so preoccupied with the question of "how much do I really know about my partner?" perhaps we first need to look a little closer and answer the question of "how much do I know myself?"  Perhaps to adequately situate our knowledge of the ones we love we must first ourselves.  Staying true to the anthropology tradition, I decided to test this out for myself and took a couple of days off to think things through. The result of ninety six hours of soul-searching and navel-gazing later: I came up with one irrefutable fact: that what we are simply what we are at any given moment. Which is to say, that everything about ourselves is always changing... right?  In other words I began to realize that although I may think I know myself now, what I "know" may not necessarily be the same several days down the road (or even hours later, after I get the backlash of publishing this post). More importantly, I came to the conclusion that if I'm having as much trouble understanding myself as I was understanding Ray, well, perhaps he was going through some difficulty comprehending me too. After all, all our partners can ever know about us, are all we know (or come to know) about ourselves. 

So perhaps the truth is, no matter how long we live with a person, how many times we tell them "I love you", or snuggle up to them in bed, we never really get to know that person. All we know are a bunch of truths, lies, and perhaps even a little bit of the truths that we've made up because we had so desperately wanted to believe in them in the first place. But maybe that is also all we really ever needed to know begin with, and the unease we experience when faced with something unknown is really the fear of instability with regards to something that has come to constitute a very vital and integral part of our lives.

I think I am beginning to realize now, the psychological impact of what people mean when they say "for better, or for worse."  The vows a couple make to each other are not just promises that they will be together forever, they are also the psychic rocks upon which we cling to in the middle of these turbulent seas. They are markers of stability and of continuity that seem to account for the unpredictability of human life. So, I suppose there will always be times when we look at our partners and begin to think to ourselves "How is it that I don't even know you anymore?" but that's not the real question, is it? The real question is "do I want to continue to get to know you, again and again for the rest of my life?"  And I did.


Telepathy: or why doesn't he know what I want???

I did a quick search on the internet this evening and discovered that Google defines "Telepathy" as: the supposed communication of thoughts or ideas by any other means than the known senses. Belatedly I realized that it was precisely the thing that all couples should be equipped with.

Making sacrifices for the person you love is the building block of any relationship. It's the small (or sometimes big!) gesture that tells a person, "I love you, much more than I love that other thing I planned to do." At the same time, sacrifices are supposed to be voluntary. They're supposed to be something, willingly taken upon the individual, that was given up out of love and not necessity. And yet in all honesty, I wonder how many of us out there in supposedly 'happy' and 'healthy' relationships have found ourselves in a position where we eventually lost it over hints that were dropped but not picked up by our partners and significant others? How many times have we ground our teeth in frustration and said to ourselves "he should have known that!" So I suppose it's time for us to just face the facts: not everybody can be so sensitive about their partner's wants and needs.

This is not to say, of course, that those two people would necessarily be incompatible with each other, it just means that one person is perhaps less emphatic than he needs to be, or the other, too emphatic for his own good.  Trying to sum up a person's wants and needs is, even on a regular basis, pretty risky business what more in a relationship when there is so much more at stake. There are just too many variables and so many things that could go wrong; what if you made a wrong guess, for example... or perhaps you were being overly presumptuous when assuming that it would be okay for you to do something, and it turns out that it isn't. I suppose this is why they say communication is the key to any successful relationship. Ideally, we should be able to read each other's thoughts, having lived together and been with a person for such a long time, but that's not how the world works. As such it is always better to hash things out and discuss issues than allowing them to fester internally as a mental illness (it's called a neurosis, or something).

Question is: is that really such a bad thing? So maybe certain sacrifices your partner makes in your relationship aren't all that altruistic anymore because you've had to first hash it out with him, but the truth is also that talking about things helps us learn a lot about our partners from their point of view. In fact, having discussions about things like that, personal things such as an individual's wants and needs, are the building blocks to any successful relationship because it helps both parties grow as individuals as they learn about each other gradually and (sometimes) casually. That being said though, I suppose it would still be quite touching and nice if one party takes the initiative and makes that sacrifice of his own volition every once in awhile. 


Monday, December 12, 2011

Growing up Creepie pt. 6.~ All things long and curvy

Hawk moths, in general, are fairly large insects with stout, sleek looking bodies and tapered wings that are angled backwards in rest (giving them the appearance of a jetplane) but this one must have been gargantuan, even for hawk-moth standards! Measuring approximately the size of my palm without its fingers (that is to say, about four inches or so), the hawk moth sat motionless near the entrance of the university library and was already drawing some nervous and apprehensive stares from passing students who were no doubt both amazed, and terrified, by its sheer size. So named for their swift and strong flight, hawk moths most usually the "culprits" for the "moth-terrors" many people experience in their homes as the comfort of a family dinner or moment of reprieve is so unceremoniously and startlingly interrupted by this large and angry looking creature, fluttering so hard against the fluorescent bulbs that the sounds of its wing beats can be heard even from above the screams!

Because of my indulgence for all creatures big and small, I have garnered a certain reputation among my peers over time as sort of the "go to" person whenever someone encounters something with more than two pairs of legs. Usually the cause for the consternation are beetles, mostly of the common variety and almost never quite so big. So imagine, if you may, my extreme pleasure as a lepidopterist at having being called in because of a "giant bug" problem only to find such a beautiful creature as this hawk-moth. It seemed such a waste to just toss the insect out so I decided I would like to take it home with me, if only to get it identified later. It is not everyday one meets such a handsome specimen of a moth and it would be a sure pity if it had gotten away. Keeping that in mind, I fetched my butterfly net from the back of my car (never leave home without it) and positioned myself in such a way that would prevent the insect from escaping. I crept closer, closer... closer. Raised the net with one hand, pressed the metal frame against the surface of the wall... inched my fingers closer to the moth... 

and then all hell broke loose. 

The moth began fluttering, almost instantly, sensing perhaps the imminent arrival of my fingers and was knocking about this way and that even within the confines of the net. It pushed and pulled with all its might, even once attempting to squeeze out of the frame. All the while people were exclaiming... either in excitement, or fear, I don't know. Nor did I care. All I could focus on was the moth in my net and my hands going about in there, slow, clumsy and fumbling in comparison to the graceful insect, as I tried my best to catch it in such a way that would not damage or permanently mar its already weathered wings (for this moth already looked like it was on the last legs of its life) I managed to get it eventually, by clipping its thorax clipped firmly (but not enough to kill it!) between my fore finger and my thumb and I marveled at the strength its flight muscles possessed. Even from between my fingers, and even though it could not move its wings, I could feel them vibrating, pulsing, thrumming with energy. In fact, they vibrated so hard, I wondered if the friction wouldn't cause my fingers to catch fire ultimately. I stowed it away in an empty sandwich container I happened to be carrying on me at the time to prevent it from damaging itself further before realizing absently that my fingers were covered with a wet and sticky substance. It seemed, unfortunately, that during our little scuffle the poor creature suffered a bit of a fright and defecated upon my fingers!

The moth seemed to calm down significantly, afterwards, and I brought it home with me where it subsequently expired. I decided, even though it was an already old and weathered specimen, to spread and display it along with my humble butterfly collection. As I placed the final pin which held down the tracing paper that kept its wings in place for drying, I thought back of Darwin's theory of evolution and how he made the connection that some moths were evolved for specific flowers. In fact, it was a hawk moth, that led Darwin to that conclusion as he noted the incredibly long proboscis of most hawk-moths which were specifically adapted to draw sweet nectar from deed and narrow flowers. The flowers, in turn, adapted to the hawk-moth's methods of feeding and eventually came to rely on these specific insects for pollination. Curious to put this theory to the test, I took an extra pin I had lying about and slowly began to unroll the proboscis. My word! It was long!!! And curvy!!! A glistening appendage so beautifully designed for feeding in a specific way...I wonder then, how long did it take for evolution to produce such diversity in butterflies and moths around the world and are they, in any ways changing even as we speak? 

Female of the privet hawk moth (Psilogramma menephron)
Often dubbed as the "ugly stepsisters" of butterflies, moths are often overlooked and shunned by many because of their dull coloration and cryptic designs. Indeed as opposed to the sight of a butterfly, which heralds joy or the coming of spring in many cultures, the presence of a moth is often viewed as an omen, either that something bad is going to happen or that there is an unseen (and perhaps unwelcome) presence within the house. For the amateur lepidopterist like myself, however, moths are most certainly a welcome addition to my ever-growing collection of lepidoptera. Boasting over 250,000 known species (with many more yet to be discovered or identified), moths make up the bulk of the insect order lepidoptera and as such, it would be a gross understatement to say that there are in fact more diversity when it comes to moths than there are with butterflies. 

We human beings are only a part of something very much larger. When we walk along, we may crush a beetle or simply cause a change in the air so that a fly ends up where it might have never gone otherwise. And if we think of the same example but with ourselves in the role of the insect, and the larger universe in the role we've just played, it's perfectly clear that we're affected everyday by forces over which we have no more control than the poor beetle has over our gigantic foot as it descends upon it.
-Arthur Golden-

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The butterflies that come from Paradise

Hey ya'll 

I was just browsing through some pictures of birdwing butterflies over the internet when I came upon these marvelous beauties! Arguably some of the largest and most beautiful of insects in the world, birdwing butterflies are a group of butterflies that belong to the family Papilionidae, which in turn is but one of about 6 families that categorize all rhopalocera (butterflies) species on the planet.  The average birdwing butterfly, with its large wing span and strong flight is already breath-taking in its own way, not in any least the males who possess brilliant tones to their wings. But this beauty is amplified only perhaps by the hybridization and variation which has taken place between some species to produce butterflies that are truly jewels of the natural world. 

Ornithoptera priamus priamus
Ornithoptera goliath procus f. jeromei
Ornithoptera priamus arruana
Ornithoptera paradisea detani f. jeromei

Ornithoptera victoriae 
Beautiful, aren't they? Now that's what I call a little slice of heaven... boy what I wouldn't give just to own a handful of these!!! Simply amazing.  Meanwhile, the holiday season is coming up and I am guessing everybody has their own plans with regards to spending it with the ones they love. I suppose this year is going to be different for me too, because this year (unlike previous ones) I actually have someone special whom I can look forward to spending the holidays with. How about the rest of you guys? I know this is really more of an insect blog and not really a place where I voice my feelings, but I am rather curious... what do you think could be the best way to spend Christmas and the New Year's Eve? Me and Ray, we're probably going to be attending a private party or something like that, maybe spend the night together as we look on at the end of one year only to welcome the arrival of the next. Probably not making any trips out or about the country this year (although I was rather hoping to be able to pick up some specimens from the North and from Singapore...) but I guess it's all the same when you're with the one you love. What about ya'll? Hit me up folks. 


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sleeping Beauties

Assorted Swallowtail pupae.
Three more caterpillars pupated today, all within minutes of each other which means that I will probably receive all the adults at the same time as well. This batch truly surprised me somewhat because while I was expecting them to be larvae of the common mormon butterfly (Papilio polytes) it seems, from the shape of their pupae (they have less pronounced 'horns' at the front and their bodies are more tapered, as opposed to the angular pupae of the common mormon) that these will turn into lime swallowtails instead (Papilio demoleus), another somewhat common though equally beautiful species. The amazing thing, I think, about the lime swallowtail is the way its almost white spots on the dorsal portion of its wings gradually yellow as the butterfly ages, sometimes even turning to orange before an aged individual dies! Of course, not many butterflies survive to such ripe old ages in the wild, least of all the lime swallowtail which does not possess chemical defenses against birds and the like. But as I have said, such is nature! Anyway, many of the butterflies have eclosed already, most have been released although in retrospect I should have probably kept some of the birdwings because there is a demand for them right now. Sigh, you know the day you get rid of something you're going to need it tomorrow. That's my philosophy! ...but maybe that's also why I'm slightly disposophobic.

Empty birdwing pupae. I like to keep the shells sometimes because they remind me of what used to be. :P

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sales of Butterfly Specimens

Hey ya'll

I'm looking to restarting my Wings of Paradise business, but this time, to extend it to selling unmounted butterfly specimens as well. Will probably start with local species before branching out to some of the more exotic, foreign types. As such, perhaps Wings of Paradise can now function as a middle person between local collectors and foreign suppliers, for a small but reasonable fee, of course. In addition, I might be open as well to the concept of selling local specimens to foreign buyers as well. But with any business, I need to gauge the market before starting so I would greatly appreciate it if you could answer my poll on the right hand column of this blog. Please answer BOTH questions, thank you. 


Butterflies galore!

Hey ya'll

It's been extremely boring over here at my end and short of re-watching the Justice League series and fanboying over Teddy and Billy (Hulkling and Wiccan from Marvel Universe), there's really nothing left for me to do. As such, I decided to use what time I have just admiring some of my butterfly specimens. I suppose I have come quite a long way, for a collector who only began in earnest about a year ago and, along with giving them a good spray of insecticides (it's good to keep away the pests every once in awhile) I also took some pictures of them to share with you here. The butterflies are stored in boxes with gel silica and are on display in my room. 

Lovely, aren't they? Natural pieces of art that have been preserved indefinitely as long as I take good care of them. A pity that their lives are so short and ephemeral. To give you guys a better idea of collection... 

Anyway, looking at all these butterflies have just got me thinking, what am I possibly going to do with them when I move out... or go away? Possibly donate them to a museum somewhere... you reckon our national museum would appreciate its share of butterfly specimens? But why am I even thinking that far! I just love looking at them! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

All is fair, in Nature.

If nature was a woman, she'd be the kind you see strutting down her street, immaculately dressed , her hair flowing out behind her like a mane of fiery blossoms. She'd walk right towards you and you had better get out of her way, because she takes no prisoners, and she certainly doesn't take no for an answer. A sidelong glance could knock you over, winded by the immense pressure of a torrential downpour...Nature doesn't care, who you are, what you do, or where you come from. She doesn't care if you're a starving child from the third world, scrounging through the trash for your every meal or if you're a beautiful blonde heiress, partying it hard and throwing cash around as if you owned the world. Nature doesn't care and she bestows her blessings, as does she mete out her fury with as much callous unpredictability as a game of Russian Roulette. If there is one thing that nature is, she is fair. Nature is fair, and fair can only be fair if it is random.  I released a butterfly today, consecrating it to Nature as a token of my gratitude and sent it to Her with my wishes and prayers. I whispered to the insect, cupped inside my palms and opened them, coaxing it to go on its way. "Accept my offering Mother," I said and raised my palms to the air. The butterfly flicked its antenna, once, twice, then started to flutter away. Up it went, ascending from my palms opened before it like a blossoming flower, circling higher and higher and higher when, SNAP! A bird, brilliantly colorful, resplendent in hues of green and orange and blue (A blue-tailed bee-eater! [Merops phillippinus]) picked it out of the air, right in front of my eyes. I could not help but offer a smile. It may seem unnerving that I had not mourned the passing of the butterfly, but I knew that it would go on to feed the bird and also its offspring. That was how the world works, that was Nature.  The bird cocked its head and looked me briefly in the eye. It let out a chirp and swallowed the butterfly whole. I had my answer. This time, She accepts.

On Ladies and Butterflies: What's in a name?

What's in a name, that which we call a rose by any other would smell just as sweet

Hey ya'll 

After reading up on the Common Mormon butterfly earlier this evening, and reading up about how its name was derived from the Mormon sects of America which practices polygamy, I decided to take a further peek into the names of other species of lepidoptera to find out about their origins. Turns out, many butterflies and moths were named after women, several noted birdwing butterflies for example are named after famous queens, Helena's Birdwing (Troides helena) for example, or perhaps the more famous and sought after Queen Alexandra's Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae). 

The famous Queen Alexandra's Birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera alexandrae)
Another group of butterflies, though somewhat modest in size compared to the mighty and large birdwings which are also named after a woman are the Vanessids (Vanessa) a group of brush-footed butterflies from the order nymphalidae so called (brush-footed, that is) because their fore-legs have been greatly reduced, giving them the appearance of having only, well, four legs. Anyway, the name Vanessa, according to multiple name-rating websites, can be traced to having latin origin meaning "from Venus". Venus, as some of you might know is synonymous to Aphrodite, the Goddess of beauty and love, which perhaps suggest the connection between fairness, beauty, femininity and butterflies.

The Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui)
But while many of these butterflies have been associated with what human males have perceived to be the "fairer sex", it is quite ironic that in the natural world it is mostly the male butterflies, not the females, which possess the most strikingly beautiful patterns and mesmerizing colors. One the one hand, while the colors on a butterfly's wings may be understood through Darwin's theory of sexual selection as a means through which females root out the healthiest and strongest of all the males (It's actually more complicated than that but I will explain it to you later, in a separate post), it is actually also more practical for the survival of the species that the females (which carry the eggs and therefore, the bulk of the genetic material that will constitute the next generation of butterflies) remain inconspicuous so as to avoid predator detection.

But that is not all, and I certainly did save the best for last. A quick jaunt to Martin's blog on moth's revealed what must be the most inventive of lepidoptera names out there. It seems, and I quote, that an exceptionally "waggish chap... gave a string of moths names such as pollykistmi, pennikistme, [and] aliskistmi."  And if you do not get it yet, try saying those names aloud!!! Did you get it now?

Why did they name a butterfly after the Mormon sect?

Hey ya'll!

It seems this week is a great time for butterfly-births! Today saw the eclosure of the adults of one of my first batch of swallowtail caterpillar, the common mormon (Papilio polytes).

While it is a rather common butterfly in most south and southeast asian gardens, the common mormon butterfly derived its peculiar name from the mormon sect of America. This is a reflection of the act of polygamy (multiple spouses) which is practiced by this sect as the females of the mormon butterflies (of which Papilio polytes is but one) have multiple forms leading early naturalists to observe that the uniform male butterfly appeared to copulate with multiple diverse females.

interesting, isn't it?


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Autumn Leaf Butterfly (Doleschallia bisaltide)

It's amazing how many ways evolution has made various animals resemble dead leaves.

Hey ya'll 

Also known as the Autumn leaf butterfly (for its obvious resemblance to a small, dried leaf, Doleschallia bisaltide is a medium sized butterfly associated with the charaxinae group of butterflies that are known for their zipping and strong flight. Although I have encountered many of these butterflies in the wild (they are easily attracted by leaving out rotting and fermenting fruit on the forest floor) I must say this is the first time I've had the joy of raising one in captivity, although... to use the word "raising" would be a little bit far-fetched considering how I actually found this lovely creature as a pupa hanging from a birds-nest fern (strange, considering the larvae feed on the plant of the acanthacea genus). Eitherway, the pupa suffered several dents in its abdominal region and I was worried as to whether the butterfly would have survived or not. Apparently they are as much troopers in the dormant stage of their lives as they are as adults (it's near impossible to catch one of these butterflies and even when one has gotten a hold of them in one's fingers, the flight muscles are so strong that they are sometimes able to slip free with one strong burst of energy) because earlier this morning, a healthy and strong butterfly was born. 

All in all, Doleschallia bisaltide is a rather attractive species of butterfly, the uppersides of its wings boast striking hues of orange and yellow, set against a background of deep black. But really, it is the underside of the butterfly's wings which are most interesting (in my opinion) as they resemble dried leaves rather closely, punctuated only perhaps by the two ocelli on its lower wing. In fact, the patterns on the underside of this particular species of butterflies is so variable that it is said by many lepidopterists that no two specimens are ever alike in this regard which is something I can attest to from my experiences alone. 

Anyway, I am also awaiting the birth of several babies right now, the eggs of the Malayan Zebra (Graphium delessertii), and I am hoping that their turning a deep shade of brown is more a sign that the time for their arrival is near as opposed to death by fungal infection. Wish us luck!


Baby don't you know that everybody watches, every time that you take flight. They're blinded by your light.

A word to the Environmentalists

Hey ya'll 

this post is directed to the conservationists, environmentalists, and animal rights activists that I know out there. Being one of you, I understand the passion and the dire need we all feel to save the world. It is difficult, watching the forests dwindle, the air grow poisonous, our oceans turn to muck all in front of our eyes... but as we get out there to fight for Mother Nature, as we raise our voices and call for a greener and better tomorrow, I ask us to stop for a moment and realize, what exactly are we calling for? Is it that all environmentally damaging activities must stop? Is it that we should stop completely, the felling of trees for building material and fuel, the killing of animals for food and custom, the construction of cities and housing areas to accommodate our ever-growing population? Are these things what we are really calling for, and if they are... should they really be what we are calling for? It is in my opinion that this is not so. As an environmentalist and conservationist, I find this to be slightly conflicting with my impassioned claims. Nontheless, I believe that if we are to progress as a whole, as a movement, more practical measures need to be considered as well. 

Saving the world is a must, but we need to realize that the human lifestyle comes at a price. Conservation should focus more on the effort to develop sustainable development measures, as opposed to halting development all-together. Like everything else, extreme measures will never work. Progress cannot stop. The human race, as a species, relies on progress for its existence and to stop progress would mean to trap certain members of society in specific social spaces that they cannot move out of.

Indeed, while we are demanding that logging companies stop chopping down trees in the Amazon Rainforest, while we are demanding that farmers stop clearing land to raise lifestock, perhaps we might also like to try telling the starving and illiterate child in South America why his father must not do what must be done in order to get money for his food and education. Perhaps, before we call for such drastic measures, we should first try and tell him, that to save a bunch of trees, he will have to go hungry and forsake the chance at a better future. Also let's not ignore the fact that in saying all this, all of us will later go home to our cushy homes, prepared meals, and air-conditioned universities. The child will not see things like that, neither would the farmer! It might be the "selfless" way in our eyes, for them to sacrifice their needs for the "greater good" but I'm afraid it goes against every evolutionary instinct in a living thing's body to purposely lay down its life. Hence, It. Will. Not. Work.

Progress cannot stop, it can never stop because if we do not believe we can progress, if we do not believe that we have a future than as living organisms we have no future. This, is simply not true. To live, to desire to live, is a basic instinct for all organisms and just as we cry to have the rights of animals recognized, so should we realize that human beings are no different. Sure, some might say that if we do this, the "killing" will never end. The "rape", the "plundering" of our natural world will only go on and on and on. Certainly, some might even believe that there is no "point" to sustainable development as it only encourages the supposedly "human" condition of disregarding the value and sanctity of all life.

But, let me go out on a limb here and ask you, Sure enough, the "killing" will never end, but what is so wrong about killing, if we first ensure that there will ALWAYS be enough to kill in the first place? Isn't that what happens all the time in nature? Animals kill other animals, they exploit the jungle to their benefit, what we are doing is not so different, the main difference is that we are much more numerous then them. Hence, sustainable development.

perhaps it is time for us, as conservationists, environmentalists and animal rights activists, to take a step back and realize that in "valuing life", many of us have forgotten to value the human life as well. Look, I breed butterflies to rehabilitate them into the wild, but do you honestly think I would be able to be doing these things if I didn't first have enough time, and money on my hands? Anyway, I hope I have not overstepped my boundaries in saying this... or trod on too many toes for that matter, but this is something as close to my heart as it is to many of you fellow nature lovers out there, and I truly think that four our cry to be heard and embraced by the general public, we must change the things that we are crying for first... just something to think about. 


To save the world, we should always aim to save all of it, not just certain parts