Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cultural Taxidermy

because things never last forever. Time, as the individual perceives it is never infinite. We may last for another day, or perhaps another year. If we're lucky maybe half of a century, but eventually, we too shall be swept away.

Photos are like culture's form of taxidermy. They capture our moments together, a perfect window into a still of the past. A moment in time locked forever one a piece of paper. And then someday when we are no longer here, when our voices can no longer convey our stories, they will tell them for us. And the stories might be misintepreted. They might be mistold... but... as long as they exist, as long as people may still look upon them. They will tell ONE STORY. ONE STORY that will remain forever true...

 That we once existed...
that we once loved...
that we once were...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Meet the Babies

Hey guys!!!

Decided to pay a little visit to Tree-Ant Orphanage and make the following adoption!
Yeap! that's right!!! Remember the Lycaenidae larvae from a few days ago? They are currently living with Ray right now, which is more convenient after all since the host plant is just (literally) down the road from his house. Oh well, I can't wait to see what kind of beauties they will grow up into. Until then~ take care, and keep on believing because you never know when your wish will come to you. And you sure as heck don't want to have missed out on it because of a silly little thing like doubt.

Opportunities will come again, but somethings are just once in a lifetime.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And Fireflies

I found Mayonaisse bottles and poked holes on top to capture Tinkerbell,
but they were just fireflies to the untrained eye though I could always tell.

The worst thing about growing up was being alone. Unfortunately for me, being a kid that was different... the Other... being alone was something I just had to deal with. I found my ways to cope of course, I made friends out of the little creatures around me, the living beings that thrive in the darkest corners and crevices of our gardens and homes, unnoticed by most, hated by others. I felt like they understood what I was going through, you see. I felt like they'd know, and so the little beetles and snails of the garden, the insects that walk unnoticed or hated beneath the feet of our human oppressors, they became my first friends. My closest companions.

For that reason I never liked sleeping in the dark. It is not some childish thing, not some fear of monsters in the shadows or boogeymen in the closets. I just don't like the feeling, of being alone, deep in the darkness, unable to see anything, only blackness. I remember this one time I was alone in the forest... oh was I ever so scared. Now, the forest may seem like a beautiful, colourful place well enough during the day, but at night it is a scary place... well, for children at least. There are all kinds of sounds the forest makes that reminds you of all kinds of strange and horrible things. A leaf falling could sound like the sudden approach of a creature, a frog hopping herald some impending doom... and worse were those dry flapping noises which, till this day I have no idea what caused. Worst of all, it is dark. Think of the darkest place you've ever been in the world and then multiply it by ten! That's how dark it is!

I remember curling up in a foetal position, smaller than ever, never feeling more alone when all of a sudden (and I swear they appeared out of nowhere)... fireflies. Fireflies in their hundreds, maybe even thousands all over the forest. In the treest, under the roots, in the shrubs. Fireflies as far as the eye can see. And suddenly it was clear to me, the falling of the leaves, the hopping of the little frogs. Suddenly I wasn't so scared. Suddenly I  wasn't alone.

But of course, those days have passed. These days I'm not afraid of sleeping in the dark anymore. I'm not afraid of being "alone". Because I know, nearby, there will always be someone thinking of me. Someone loving me. Someone, who cherishes my presence as much as I cherish theirs. Someone. Just, a special someone. And while we were talking, and a pair of fireflies flew right on by, I realised that I no longer needed to worry, I no longer needed to be afraid, because whenever I look at you. It's like I'm seeing a billion fireflies.

And I believe in fairy tales and dreamers dreams like bedsheet sails,
and I believe in Peter Pan and miracles and anything i can to get them.
And fireflies.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Strange Caterpillars, Butterfly Releases, and Jewel Beetles.

Hey guys!

Check out what I found on one of the trees today.
caterpillar and ant
Now, what looks like an ant kidnapping a caterpillar to its nest is actually a very strange, and unique form of symbiosis between two separate insect species. I cannot be sure but I believe this is the larvae of a lycaenid or "blue" butterfly, a lepidoptera species known for employing ANTS as their dutiful caretakers. With these particular caterpillars, it seems that the ants remove the caterpillars from their nests to feed on the leaves of plants on a daily basis. As the caterpillar chomps on its vegetation meal, the ants stand guard, ever watchful, ever vigilant. In fact, a simple wave of my hand was enough to send the soldiers into a frenzy, poised only on both their hind legs as they wave their menacing mandibles in the air. So in actual fact, one might even think of the ants and the caterpillars as a farmer, grazing his lifestock with the ants playing the role of the former and the caterpillar the role of the latter. In return the caterpillars secret a sweet liquid called honeydew which, the ants feed upon. Something else that's interesting and of note, I helped someone release his first butterfly today! 
Ray meets butterfly
It was Ray's first time, I think, being touched by a butterfly and he told me it was a magnificent moment when it crawled up his fingers and slowly spread its wings. In fact, it was so obedient I even had the time to snap a few pictures of the two of them before the butterfly flew away, but NOT (of course) before making a wish! Meanwhile, Ray had a bug to introduce me to as well! It seems last night was quite a scare! A large "bee" came hurtling out of nowhere and into his room. Poor thing got struck against the fan and found itself perched on the flourescent lights. It "dissappeared" though, the following morning but upon closer inspection it was in actual fact hiding underneath the bed. Also, it wasn't a bee at all but rather, a large and beautiful jewel beetle. From the scarab family, I surmised earlier though (after a little wikipediaing) I managed to identify it specifically as a fig-eater beetle which probably explains the "loud buzzing sound" Ray heard when it was flying. It is actually quite tame though, once you get used to it and it sits now, on my shelf eating old apple skins.
such a beauty isn't it? Although I quite dislike the loud sound she makes when she starts to fly!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My dearest.

My dearest,

I tossed and turned in bed as I tried to fall asleep tonight. I couldn't help but think about all those things we had talked about. It seems so crazy that all this could have happened to two strange individuals in such a short span of time. And yet, here we are! Despite everything we'd been through, despite the ghosts of our pasts, living! Alive! Able to tell the story, to live the story, to write it as we go along... together.

And yet, do you know what scares me the most? It is the way I have so completely fallen, the way I have surrendered myself so completely to Fate, to the hands of someone else rather than my own. In a way, I guess this should all seem so familliar to me... I mean wasn't it not too long ago when I firmly believed that a single kiss could solve anything? Yes, dearest, I believed in things like fairy tales and true love, but then something happened...something that made it all change. I guess we loose sight of these things as we grow, as we experience dissapointments... so let it be known now, how you have brought that feeling back, like the first birdsong after a long winterspell, the first flowers that peek from their ice-cold beds. And now, I'm not afraid to say it... to say those three words. Without a trace of irony, without a hint of cynicism, without a thought; "I love you," and that's a scary feeling isn't it? To have so completely fallen for someone else,with no way of knowing for sure how the other person feels about you? But I guess that's just how love works, you just gotta go with Rule Number 1.

I know things have been trying, I know we've had our share of drama! But I also know this, that no matter what, I will always stand by you, and we would face it together. Let the world choose to disagree, let them say what they want to say. Besides, don't you love a good debate? I guess we'll just have to prove them wrong :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

On the Seventh day

I saw fireflies on the first day.
small, and bright and gold.
They made my head feel soft and light
my heart feel warm and cold.

On the second day it sort of rained,
I couldn't see anything at all.
but from the shadowed woods a Robin sang,
its bright, sweet, courting call.

And just like that the third day came,
the fourth day went as well.
The rain gave way, the sun shone bright
the flowers puffed and swelled.

And so, burst forth, from the small flower bed
the buzy bees from their hive,
and also butterflies, and small little birds
when finally came, day five.

On day six amongst the clouds,
Were two swans high up in the air.
They fluttered and dived and cavorted and loved
and were truly, a magnificent pair.

Then on day seven I decided to go,
A little further away from home
over the hills and meadows to lands beyond
though, not quite as far as Rome.

And when day eight came, as I returned to our home
and thought of you lying in bed,
I realised that for all wonder of the natural world,
I'd much rather have you, instead.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just because~

Because you make me crash through the waves, and then sing in strange and off-key tunes...
And I like it~

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I paint the wings of Butterflies!

 Hey guys!

As you may or may not know, my birthday is coming up! Normally 22nd birthdays aren't that big of a deal considering the big-deal birthday already came and went with the 21st but as far as birthdays in our family goes, it is just another reason for mum to make one of her deliciously mouth-watering cakes with the equally gorgeous sugar flowers and other decorations! Last year, for our 21st, mum made us a beautiful under-the-sea theme cake with a mermaid and a merman sitting on the top to represent our birth-signs of Pisces.

Mum's gorgeous and equally delicious under-the-sea themed cake.

This year's cake was equally challenging and elaborate, quite simply in the fact that she has taken it upon herself to make not one (for the two of us twins) but give us individual cakes ourselves! I've been told that my sister's cake is going to be the most elaborate yet, a Marie Antoinette/Princess themed cake with pink cushion base and baby blue words with sparkles. I opted for a more simple cake, red-velvet with cream icing but as usual, mum has to outdo herself in terms of decoration. I came back, late from my class yesterday to see a giant flower on our dining room table absolutely crawling with bugs. Sugared bugs, that is. There were bees and ladybirds and also, a particularly forlorn looking praying mantis which was eventually scrapped in favour of a butterfly. I, having just taught an arts class, had the priviledge of being asked to paint that butterfly.
sugared butterfly wings.
I initially went for a "patterned" look, with wing markings that mimic the real markings of "peacock butterflies" (Inachis Io) but eventually scrapped the idea in favour of a more "shaded" artistic sort of butterfly topped with gold and green edible glitter. And behold, the finished SUGAR BUTTERFLY!
Finished sugar butterfly
 In other news, I am really quite sorry for what happened in Japan lately. There's still been no word from Junki-kun and the rest of my host family and, for now, I can only continue to pray and hope for the best.

It feels so good to have this feeling again. In fact, it is this feeling, despite all the bad times, that make me continue believing.

On Teaching and Butterflies

Hey guys!

So I just finished teaching my first class today and what a shocker it was that some of the "children" we were teaching were not "children" anymore but teenagers. You know that puts a whole new perspective in the way I do things because I always believe that teenagers should be treated as young adults. Anyway, without going too much into it, I will just say that the experience was extremely rewarding and all the children are so amazing! Of course, being an arts and drama class it was a little difficult to maintain order at times but in the end I think we managed them pretty well. I also learnt something new today and that is; the best way to deal with teenagers is to reason with them, as if they were young adults. Anyway in other news, another butterfly emerged today!
My little butterfly
You know, teaching these children is a lot like raising my butterflies. It takes up a LOT of my time and effort but the results always takes my breath away. Perhaps I can teach them that next week, the power of transformation, when they construct their own butterflies!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Can you say Ootheca?


Yes, it's a mouthful and it is actually the proper name for the egg-cases of many insects including (ugh) cockroaches and of course, one of my favourites, the praying mantis! The praying mantis is a very strange animal in that, despite its viscious countenance and behaviour (the female mantis is notoriously infamous for biting the head off her husband while he is still mating with her) it is, for the better part a very capable and efficient insect mother.
Rawwwr!!!! OMNOM
This is Ninja!!! If you recall, Ninja is my pet praying mantis that went with me on a wild excursion on an aeroplane to Penang Island (truly Ninja must be the first praying mantis ever to ride an aeroplane!). Well it seems that I was too quick in assuming Ninja's sex for in fact, the praying mantis I've always assumed to be a "he" turned out to be a "she", and what a surprise it turned out to be too because Ninja left me with a beautiful ootheca!
Mantis oothecas are actually secreted from the abdommen on the female mantis as she lays her eggs as a foamy substance the appearance and consistency of soap suds. They do harden though, eventually to form a honey-comb like strucutre that not only keeps the mantis eggs dry and intact, but also protected from ants and other predators which might try to eat them! Moving on though, I'm quite psyched up about starting this volunteer work thing. I'm not really at liberty to divulge much information but all I can say is this, that it involves teaching arts and drama to very little children and I do hope that, in doing so I can show these children that they are all special, unique and that they matter. So to speak let them feel like the spotlight is shining on them for a change and hopefully, that self-esteem and confidence will translate to their activities later on in life and with their future endeavours :-)

Seems a little bit much for a drama teacher but.... wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Beautiful and Deadly

Hey guys!

There is perhaps no other insect I am as fascinated in raising as that of lepidoptera, or butterflies and moths. Aside from the natural miracle that seems to be the caterpillar's transformation from a grub-like creature into a winged beauty, caterpillars are in fact themselves extremely fascinating and interesting creatures to observe. Amongst some of the things I like observing most in my caterpillars are perhaps their defense mechanisms. Over the entire length of their evolution, caterpillars have developed a myriad of traits to protect themselves from would-be predators. Larvae of the lycaenid butterfly for example enlist the care of subtarannean ants, who protect them and care for them during their entire metamorphosis into adult butterflies.
lycaenid larva tended to by ant
Yet, it should seem that many other caterpillars practice more conventional methods of defense, namely camoflauge or disguise, whereby the insect adopts cryptic coloration and bodily textures which allow them to blend, almost seamlessly into the vegetation around them. Some, such as the earlier instars of swallotwail butterflies, even adopt the appearance of known-distasteful matter such as bird droppings! On the other hand, there are groups of caterpillars which are remarkably beautiful and yet, it is perhaps taught to all of us at a young age that such caterpillars should only ever be looked at, and not touched. And this is one of them

Tussock moth caterpillar
This, my friends, is the larval form of the Tussock Moth. While rather unimpressive as an adult, the caterpillar of the tussock moth is perhaps one of the most elaborate and fancy caterpillars one can normally find in one's garden. It's long and lithe body lined with tufts of elaborately arranged fur, the tussock moth often reminds me of nothing more than a couture model strutting down the runway as it crawls leaf-to-leaf on our little apple tree. One might wonder if being so flashy is not in fact hazardous to the caterpillar's health as it may be spotted more easily by birds which might want to eat it but in actual fact, the tussock moth larva is one of many others which possess poisonous features which have marked it (and the rest of its species) as dangerous or distasteful to other animals. The fur of this caterpillar, for instance, have urticating qualities and can cause severe irritation and/or pain when in contact with the skin, eyes or if inhaled.

Tussock moth larva spinning a cocoon
Like most moths, the tussock moth larva spins itself a silken cocoon prior to its transformation into an adult. However, unlike the cocoons of other moths, this larvae has yet another added advantage. The poisonous fur which protected it throughout its entire life as a larvae will now provide it a final defense. As the caterpillar sheds its skin, the poisonous furs get incorporated into the silken tangle of the cocoon providing an additional barrier between the developing insect within and predators during this, it's most vulnerable time.
Closeup of cocoon showing meshwork of urticating hairs.
And so another life-cycle draws to its next stage, slightly closer to its conclusion. And so is mine, if one thinks about it. Graduation tomorrow! Might as well slap a smile on my face and enjoy the entire experience, although I must say, all this anxiety and stress is making me break out. More pictures and updates when this moth emerges and (I have been told) females continue to benefit from the poison of said furs as they collect it upon emergence and store it in their abdommens only to be used again to provide defense to their newly birthed young when they next lay their eggs. Interesting isn't it?

Oh your God. Graduation is tomorrow!

Caterpillars, day 7

Larva 1. Day 7, approx 1 centimeter in length.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Graduation Date Cometh

Hey guys

I don't really like those events in human life which mark certain things. Take my upcoming graduation ceremony, for instance. I mean sure it is fun in some ways, you get to dress up, attend this big song and dance, sit for a couple of hours or so until the guy finally calls your name and you can walk up and recieve, in paper for, the culmination of three years of hard work, but in my opinion it also seems like a huge hassle (plus a lot of money spent) for something that is in itself virtually pointless. Looking at the people around me, my peers, my family now I wish I had more room for excitement as they did, but really... it's just difficult. I mean there are so many billion guys out there, probably graduating at the same time as I am... probably with the same degree and for what? You know, a lot of people don't understand what I like so much in observing insects... but maybe in part it is their simplicity which attracts me. Then again, there exists the conundrum because attraction (as such which I experience for them) cannot be attained without some sort of complexity which explains why an ant can't take sudden interest in a human. Maybe I'm just getting more and more cynical with my old age. Maybe its the fact that I'll still be around for another year in University for my Honours. Or... maybe its just the part of me that doesn't want to graduate. Coming to think of it, I'm missing my student years already. And they're not even over yet.

rant. over.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Caterpillar growth-log. Day 3.

Hey guys!

So I've decided to do a shot-by-shot documentary of the growth of my latest batch of larvae. I mean it's just about three days since we last took a look at them emerging from their tiny little egg-cases and they're already more than two times their original length. It's just amazing, sometimes how fast these little babies grow although, growth in individual larvae may be affected by different factors (e.x humidity, temperature etc.). So let's take a look at them:

Larva 1
The first caterpillar, Larva 1, has grown tremendously measuring approximately 4 millimieters now and appears to be eating most voraciously.

Larva 2
 Larva 2, on the other hand has grown though not as much, measuring only 3 milimeters or so and appears to be much thinner. I am still unclear as to how these two larvae could have such different growth rates when they pretty much hatched within a minute of each other and are provided with the same levels of humidity and temperatures. Could it be perhaps the kinds of leaves that I have provided them with? (larva 1 is fed with young shoots while larva 2 feeds on mature leaves.) Perhaps if I switched their diets larva 2 will be showing a similar growth rate to larva 1?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Eggciting!!!

Hey guys!

The most exciting thing! My butterfly eggs began hatching today! I've noticed them turning darker and darker in the past few weeks so I know they were soon due to hatch but I'd never imagined that I would be able to witness the actual process! (They're usually already emerged when I check up on them).
Butterfly eggs nursery
As you can see above, I usually store my butterfly eggs on the same leaf they are laid on in small plastic food containers. The containers are lined with wet cotton wool and lightly misted with water with holes poked on the top for ventillation. The cotton wool prevents the eggs from drying out but at the same time it helps absorb any excess moisture which may otherwise drown the young cats and I do like to keep my young ones  in a confined space until they grow much older and are allowed free run of the feeding tray. This is because young caterpillars are extremely tiny, think the size of a coma! And if that still doesn't give you an idea on how small they are,  take a good look at this picture. *Note, each leaf is about the size of a fingernail with the larger leaf being the size of the nail on my index finger, and the smaller one, the nail on my pinkie.
Can you see it???
Can you see the baby caterpillar? There it is, the little spec on the smaller leaf! Spot it? Now, let's take a closer look.
Now you see it!
This is a caterpillar of the common mormon (papillio polytes) swallowtail. As for what it is doing well, caterpillars, as we all know feed on leaves. However, when they've just only emerged and are still very small, a caterpillar is too weak and frail to do much crawling and/or munching. As such, the very first meal this caterpillar will have is its own egg-shell which, thanks to its mother, is packed with all sorts of nutritious goodness that the caterpillar can use to power itself as it scampers off to hide from would-be predators and feed as it transforms into an adult butterfly. In fact, eating and hiding is pretty much all a caterpillar does. Throughout its entire lifetime, a caterpillar can increase its weight more than ten-thousand fold. For example, this small guy in the picture above, will turn into this some 2-3 weeks later...
fourth instar of a common mormon.
Caterpillars grow through a process called molting. This involves the caterpillar shedding its old skin and growing into a new and larger one (sort of like a snake, if you think about it). Each stage of a caterpillar's molt is known as an instar. In some caterpillars, the appearance of the insect changes as it matures with each instar. For example. this common mormon caterpillar, while resembling a particularly spiky bird's dropping during its first through third instar, will eventually adopt a handsome green coloration after its fourth molt, or instar. Caterpillars generally do not go through more than 5 or 6 instars, after which the final molt will transform it into the chrysalis, and eventually a butterfly.

I see you driving downtown with the girl I love and I'm like FU-get YOU Oooh Oooh

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My New Office!

Hey guys!

Like I'm super sorry for the long period of inactivity, but guess what?! I just moved into Honours this year and I've been given by OWN TABLE in my OWN OFFICE!!!! Seriously, like how cool is that right?! I mean I actually get to say things like "oh, come see me at my office later!" which, if you think about it can be pretty kinky as well, but no... So anyways this is my table.

Its a little sparse right now but I'm sure things will improve as the sem progresses
 So what you're seeing is a pretty standard office desk/cubbyhole I guess. I get my own personal computer (gone are the days when I had to fight for a spot to use one of the library computers) and I also get my own set of keys which open not only my lockers and the office door but gives me access to the print room as well! FREE PRINTING!!! UNLIMITED FREE PRINTING!!! Like could this get any better or not? Oh wait, yes it can! If you'll draw your attention to the small terrarium sitting on the corner of my table, yeap, the one with the pink cover.... well that terrarium contains none-other than Sting!!! Which is the office's unnoficial table-pet which, btw is a pet that you can put on your office table to look at when you're stoning from too much of academia. So anyway, here's a closer look at Sting.
The table-pet Sting!
Okay, so just some fun facts about Sting. Sting is what we call a Malaysian Forest Scorpion, they look a LOT like the more commonly sold (in the US) Emperor Scorpion but they can be differentiated by their longer, sharper pedipalps (Pincers) and their smaller size. Unfortunately, being of the Malaysian breed, he's also a LOT more aggressive than regular scorpions. Good news is, Malaysian Forest Scorpions are the least venomous of all scorpion species (in actual fact, out of all 1725 known scorpion species, only 25 are deadly to humans). But of course I can't let an ARACHNID steal the limelight! Just wait, when my little mantis nymph grows up into the impressive sized Chinese Praying Mantis that it is, it too shall take the limelight. Besides, Sting will only be with us for the first semester or so~ I'm guessing students are going to be pretty O__O when they come in for consultations...

There's somethin' bout love that breaks your heart, woah, oh oh oh~