Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Final Days of a Forest.

Forest walkway of Monash University
It was a rather lazy day - of course that is not to say that the day itself was lazy, but rather the overall mood of the day that made me feel lazy - and so, despite the fact that I'd still have a lot of work to accomplish, decided to (for old times sake) take the 'long way' back to Ray's place and have a slow and leisurely stroll down the 'forested area' of our University's free parking lot. Now, this 'forested area' of our University's free parking lot was in reality, really nothing more than a simple dirt road, with trees growing out of it on either side where students may leave their cars - at their own risks! - should the other paved parking lot be full upon arrival, but to me, it was a treasure trove of life and diversity! As far as I can remember, the 'forested area' has always exuded its own charm upon my being. Indeed, this very small patch of greenery amongst the concrete jungle of Sunway always seemed to me, a scene straight out of a fairy tale; The very sight of the trees as they were, growing along both sides of the road, caving slightly to the center, creating a magnificent archway of foliage and branches. The forest was always alive here! An orchestra of natural sounds, the thrilling sopranos of the courtship songs of magpie robins as they flitted to and fro in the treetops and the chorus of various other birds are punctuated only by the soft trembling cooing of the zebra and spotted doves as they foraged amongst the dried leaves of the undergrowth. Crickets, cicadas and other unidentifiable insects too added their lilting bell-like chimes, or frenzied rattling to this din. Occasionally, a splash of color would indicate a Golden Oriole in flight, or perhaps butterflies. It was an amazing place and even when it was littered, here and there, with the parked cars of students, the 'forested area' was like this emerald cocoon, simply thriving with life.

A family of Zebra doves, foraging on the ground.
For me, the forest has always been a place for butterfly hunting, and as I was taking my leisurely stroll today, stalking a particularly handsome Common Eggfly Butterfly (Hypolimnas Bolima), I noticed a big yellow sign along the forested walkway that read "Construction shall begin on the 15th of September 2011". Now, it is times like this really that I feel quite helpless and at a loss as of what to do. While I understand the need for more parking spaces - what with the ever increasing number of students getting enrolled at the University, I can't help but wonder if all this could have been avoided at all. Sure, it is easy to talk about car-pooling and commuting and things like that, but how practical would it be, really for many of the people out there? It's times like these when I feel most conflicted about my position as a practical, sensible minded person AND an environmentalist. As I followed the butterfly, I briefly toyed with the idea of forming a petition. A petition to save our own forest. I soon realized, though, the futility of such actions. It was, after all, an overwhelming petition by the student body which first brought upon this construction. Besides, even if it weren't, would I receive ANY ammount of significant support at all? After all, what is a beautiful living paradise for me must seem to the uninitiated, like nothing more than a mosquito infested patch of overgrown trees and weeds (in all fairness, there IS quite a lot of mosquitoes there)... it is times like these, when I know not what to do and it gets to me quite a bit. By then the butterflies were beginning to grow lethargic and I soon realized that it probably had something to do with the rain clouds that were already beginning to form ominously in the sky. The wind began to grow stronger, pushing me seemingly out of the place and the thunder echoed once or twice in warning before little droplets began to fall. And with that, I briskly netted my specimens, and high-tailed it back to Ray's apartment - where I slept for the rest of the day - feeling somewhat more depressed than I felt on the way in.

Male and female specimens of the Common Eggfly (Hypolimnas Bolina) sitting on our windowsill.

The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago...
had they been in the reach of predatory human hands. 

Ray Says: Tempus Fugit

As the Latin term goes, time flies. Another Ray Says again, with yours truly.

And here's a pic of a Lego Fly with stingers.
Moving on~

With a blink of an eye, I am already a week into my new semester which totally sucks. Here's why, I have more than 3 assignments to complete within this month with more on the horizon. Honestly, assignments are always going to be the death of me and yet, I seemingly enjoy doing them. Probably cuz I always learn random new stuff along the way. Here's a few:

1) Did you know, there's a thing called "what is beautiful is good" effect? It is believed that as long as you are handsome or beautiful, people usually assume that you have good personality or superb social skills. Guess look really does matter.

2) When you are working next time, always read your job description! If your boss asks you to perform certain life-draining task and it's not in your job description, you have the right to tell him you can't do it cuz you are not contracted to do so. But what if he/she fires you? Sue them 'till you become the CEO of the company. You are allowed to as it's part of your worker's rights. Of coz, it's the task is something trivial like printing paper, don't be a lazy bum please~

3) According to the evolutionary theory, as men age, their lust increases for younger women. Why? Simply because, younger women are usually beautiful and more fertile. No offense to the ladies but the evolutionary theory simply states that men prefer mates with traits that signal their reproductive value. Now now, I usually agree with evolutionary theory but I wonder what about people like me? I prefer older men (like Cyren :P). Maybe there are exclusions.

Back to my rant, I usually don't mind learning new stuff but I'm seriously overloaded with assignments. It's cutting down my sexy time. Oh well, better start hitting those journals now I guess. Fly flies and time flies. That's life. Not to worry. As my favorite verse goes:

Work it harder make it better,
Do it faster make us stronger.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pins and Needles 15 - When a Titan Expires.

Hey ya'll

so, what happens when you're an amateur lepidopterist, in possession of one of the largest moths in the world, and your prized specimen expires? Why, you stick it in the freezer, and then mount it for display of course!!! Which is quite precisely what I did when said Atlas Moth I found yesterday finally expired earlier this evening.

The titan falls
but his form shall be preserved, forever.
One thing I notice, is that unlike my smaller butterflies, large specimens are incredibly difficult to spread to dry! I think it must have something to do with their larger wings and their stronger wing veins and flight muscles that - once locked in position from rigor mortis - become increasingly difficult to move into a desired position. Either way, I daresay spreading would become THAT much easier if I had a proper entomological spreading board to work with. Note, things to add to Christmas wishlist (I hope you're reading this Ray :P)

1. Entomological spreading board
2. Giant shadow box to house all my specimens for display.

Speaking of which, I may or may not catalogue all of my specimens sometime this weekend. Stay tuned for that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pins and Needles 14 ~

And the case of butterflies, how rich it looked, as if all summer had settled there and died. 

Face to face with the Atlas

People are often amazed, at my ability in spotting small and often unnoticeable living things as they creep around in the undergrowth. Often, when I spy a particularly camouflaged moth, or a small reptile that resembles nothing more than a twig they would often ask, "How did you notice that Cyren?! How did you do it?" Often times I would just laugh it off, a joke or two here and there. "I'm psychic!" I would say, or "I can speak to them, didn't you know?" In fact, years and years of such comments are probably precisely what earned me the affectionate nickname "The Butterfly Whisperer" amongst my peers. But, if I were to be completely honest about it, the truth is, I really don't quite know how I do it. If I had to take a gander, I would say that such things - observational skills that is - come from so much years and practice as to become almost second nature to me. Indeed, I do believe similar skills can be observed in other naturalists - remember how Steve Irwin could spot a snake crawling up a tree, hiding behind a bunch of leaves from several meters away? - and photographers as well. It's just that, when you know where to look, and what to look for, chances are there will be many things that you can see. Some animals, however, have no need for hiding and for whatever reason seem to flaunt their presence either in terms of brilliant colors or just sheer size. This moth is probably one of those which one most certainly cannot miss.

Atlas Moth
So this, my friends is the adult male of the Atlas moth (attacus atlas) and although it is pictured here, resting on one of the screens on the window of the common tea-room of the School of Arts and Social Sciences, I originally found this moth perched - quite high up and out of reach - on the roof of the Monash University foyer. An interesting fact about the Atlas Moth is that is named after the Titan of Greek mythology, a name which is quite apt because - I never seem to tire of telling anybody who will listen (read hereand here) - it is the largest species of butterfly or moth in the world, with some specimens boasting a total wing area of up to 62 square inches!!! Compare, for instance, the size of the specimen I found with the size of my palm. Note though that the moth I found is a male and are therefore, significantly smaller than their female counterparts.

Size comparison of the male Atlas Moth with my open palm.
The Atlas Moth is really a giant silk moth, and like other moths from the family Saturnidae, they have evolved so that the adult insect no longer possesses any mouthparts with which to feed. Instead they must live off the fat reserves they have built up while eating voraciously as larvae (and they really are quite large themselves. See for yourself here). One might wonder, to what purpose does this serve in terms of the evolutionary process and natural selection - surely, logic would point to greater survival for an insect who is able to feed - but what I think really happened, was quite simply that Saturniid moths, due to their large size and brilliantly colored and patterned wings probably didn't survive long in the wild anyway - wear and tear to their wings and predation probably accounted for many of their deaths, and so eventually evolved so that their larval energy would be used more efficiently in shoring up the numbers of the species. In other words, energy that was once used to create the insect's digestive tract, were probably focused upon other aspects of the insect's biology, the reproductive system, perhaps, thus increasing the fertility and fecundity of the species all-together.

Large enough to be a masquerade mask! 
On another note, how I finally managed to procure the moth is yet another interesting story to tell. Being quite high up and out of reach, there was no way I could have reached the moth with my bare hands. Logic would seem to point towards me using my extendable butterfly net to whisk it down from its perch on the ceiling but a moment of though reminded me that I had left it quite carelessly at Ray's yesterday night and another moment of mental calculation told me it wouldn't be long enough anyway. Indeed, all I seemed to have upon my person at that moment was my laptop bag, my phone, a tupperware of noodles bound with a rubber-band, and two rather cranky hermit crabs who did not appreciate being jostled around in their little container. Trying to make the best of the situation, and I would be damned to turn my back on such a fine specimen, I finally settled on using the rubberband to shoot the thing down. It had to be done most carefully, however. Too much of a force and I could actually destroy the insect's beautiful wings. Too little of a force and it would probably just ignore my attempts to disturb it from its roost. A couple of well aimed, and well judged shots later, however, I had the moth on the go, and from its feeble attempts at maintaining altitude, I surmised that the creature was already nearing the end of its life. I waited for it to crash, rather clumsily onto the floor, before bagging it and taking it back for a closer inspection.

Finding a new roost on the hem of my shirt.
Made you look.
"Lemme touch it! I wanna touch it!" Even Ray wanted to get in on some of the fun

Truly this was the highlight after such a long, and tiring, and tedious week! And just yesterday I was pondering on how I could have gone to so many butterfly zoos in my time, and have never ever taken a photo with the magnificent atlas moth!

Life is a frail moth flying, caught in the webs of the years that pass.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rainbow Bird

I wonder what our attitudes should be, about animals like the Gouldian Finch, which are endangered in the wild  but are extremely common and widely bred in captivity for the pet-trade? I suppose the bright side is that so long as they remain beautiful in the eyes of others, their species will never completely disappear off the face of the earth.

My Manic Menagerie

Hey ya'll

three posts in one day! That must be a record of some sort!!! Anyway, following my completion of My Family, and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrel, I decided to make a headcount of all the pets I've ever had. Of course, I use the term 'pet' here rather loosely as it also refers to the various other animals I've taken care of for varying periods of time (my butterflies, for example) and then released into the wild. Because I'm guessing there's going to be a lot of them... I shall make it as brief as possible.

1. Dogs
Blossom and Buffy, my two shih-tzus have been the two animals who have been with our family the longest. Although it's been some nine years since they came into our lives, I still remember how we had decided - quite randomly - in my opinion to one day adopt a dog into our household. Of course, the moment between deciding to have one, and actually getting one took some time (we wanted to make sure we got the right dog) but eventually settled on a shih-tzu. Supposedly for easy maintenance. Boy were we wrong. Either way, Blossom and Buffy, for all their attitude and flaws have been amazing additions to the family and can diffuse any tense situation with their antics (unless they're the cause of the situation in the first place)
2. Rodents
Our house has seen quite a large number of its fair share of rodents during its time. And no, we did not have an infestation or a problem, we just had a little boy (namely me) who cannot resist adopting any creature he's come across. From the first pair of white mice Terri got me for my birthday (luxuriously named Chanel and Dior by her), to the ones I 'rescued' from being dissected at science labs, and finally, my darling single-mother of a mouse, Dandelion who gave birth to up to thirteen young, all of which survived to adulthood, mice have been welcome additions in this house and instead of trapping them with cages or cruel glue-lined papers, we have come to see these rodents in new perspective and light.
But the favorite rodent in this household, was arguably the only hamster we ever got. Strawberry, the female, Syrian hamster that was given to me by Robyn and Nigel when Dandelion finally succumbed of old age. Strawberry - unlike most hamsters - has always had a very sweet temperament and would never bite a person - not even a stranger. In fact, she loved humans so much, she would be content by simply curling up in one of the family's laps for her afternoon siestas. Throughout the three years of her life, Strawberry never ceased to entertain and amaze us. From learning to pick the locks to her cage, to performing simple tricks for our (and presumably her) amusement, she must be one of the most intelligent hamsters I've ever seen. In fact, her presence was so cherished that, when she at last left us, we made a small monument out of tiles and wax in the front garden to bury her. We sometimes bring flowers to that spot till this very day.
3. Turtles
Turtles have been very much loved in our household on account of their 'good luck'. We currently still have three of them, the tiny one, Shelldon (who is currently living quite happily at Ray's) and the other two colossal giants from a forgotten point of memory in my childhood. 
Fish have always been a particular favorite of my father and so, we have had quite a history of fish living with us. From my earliest memory of possessing a common siamese fighting fish (betta splendens) to our large tropical fish tank of angel fish and discuss, to the outdoor pond of goldfish and guppies, we have always enjoyed the serenity and calm watching fish swim around seem to invoke on some of those lazier days. Of course fish, being fish, don't live very long, but it has always been that when they die - indeed if they do not have offspring to replace them - that they would be almost instantaneously replaced by a quick trip to our local pet store.
5. Birds
As I may have already stated elsewhere here, birds have always been a particular favorite of mine. Generally, I admire birds for their beauty, their ability to create complex vocal sounds (singing, in some people's terms) and not to mention their beautiful feathers and their capacity for flight. Unsurprisingly, therefore, I have kept many different species of birds from the point of my childhood till I grew up. Some of the earlier species of birds I kept were common fowl. Jungle chickens and pheasant chicks and the like, until I eventually moved on to rescuing baby birds in nests which were abandoned by their parents, or upset during a storm. I recall in particular, the chick of a yellow vented bulbul which we raised quite succesfully. All these birds, however, were released into the wild upon recovery and although I would love to play the romantic and say they have constantly frequented my garden, I never saw many of them again since. Things took a change though, some few years ago when our garden saw its first budgie visitor, an injured bird we subsequently named Tweety (mostly because of his incessant vocalizations) but I've already talked about that and you can read more about him and his family here, and here, and here. (or simply go to the homepage, and click the link "birds" on the sidebar whereby you will be presented with every single ornithological related post I've ever written here) At any rate the result is that we have a pretty large outdoor aviary at the side of the house now which - I hope - will soon house a beautiful white Java Dove I have named Snow White. 
6. Frogs and Toads and other amphibians
Aaaah, the lovely amphibians with their interesting life-cycles. Unbeknowst to most of you, Trevor was not my first - and most certainly won't be my last - amphibians. Since I was a boy growing up, I've always had a soft spot for amphibians (and almost everything else that crawls, creeps, jumps or flies!!! But I digress) and some of my earliest memories in school was of me crawling in mud-filled ditches, scooping up their tadpoles by the palmful to be kept in plastic tanks to adulthood whereby they would be released in my garden with hopes that they would someday reproduce in our pond. Nothing came of it, though, and I never did see a single tadpole. Some species which I'd previously kept include the African clawed frog, and a pair of lovely fire-bellied newts which I had rescued from a rather forlorn looking establishment. I was, by all accounts, extremely fascinated by their life-cycles which reminded me greatly of the metamorphosis of butterflies as well
7. Insects and Other Invertabrates
Which brings us to the height of my passion. The magnificent insects! Growing up, I've had a very mixed relationship with the world of insecta. But despite my ill-feelings towards certain species (grasshoppers and cockroaches being the top two), insects under the order of lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths, have always capture my fascination and wonder and thus hold an extremely special place in my heart. This blog, is perhaps the biggest testament to that and you only need scroll through my posts to see why it is so. I do breed butterflies still, and raise them, but while some individuals are kept within a netted enclosure on the outside of the house, most are released so that they may return to populate the wild. 
Praying mantids are another breed of insects I like. Mostly because of their fascinating mannerisms, their (sometimes) brilliant coloration and their infamous reputation, they are perfect specimens that I use in my bid to educate people on the fascination, usefulness and integral roles insects play in our lives and ecosystems. Being mostly tame - except when she's hungry or angry! - my latest mantis, an impressive female specimen by the name of Artemis, basically sat in a cage on my office table to this effect until quite recently where she's recuperating after producing me a particularly splendid Ootheca.
Also, who could forget Hector, the walking-leaf insect (phyllium bioculatum) that was so difficult for me to procure. to read more, click here.
I've also raised a wide assortment of land-hermit crabs of various names which I can't quite recall now... 
And of course, who could forget the scorpion... Sting. Which caused quite a stir when he first appeared.
And though I must admit that all these animals were had in different points in time of my life, we are able to identify at least 8 different main groups here (not to mention the various individual species under each category I've raised) which really leads me to wonder, should I really counter people with a cutting remark, the next time they make the obvious comment "Cyren!!! You've got a ZOO there!" or not? Either way all these animals have brought me many good experiences, yes, and it was an extreme charm and challenge to raise them all... but for warning's sake, I must confess that raising animals can be quite a chore. It is an incredible responsibility to take upon oneself... placing another creature's life in the palm of one's hands (literally!) and I definitely would not recommend it to anyone on a whim. And really, at my high point, I barely had any time for a social life - what with the ammount of cages that needed cleaning, mouths that needed feeding, growths that needed charting and the like... which is all fine and good for an animal enthusiast like myself. But I daresay it is not for anyone. And now, before I go, truly, and leave you for your amazing weekend and Hari Raya celebrations, it seems I have managed to forget one last animal that is dependant on my love and care.

9. Human Being
Teeehee!!! Just joking!!! 
Selamat Hari Raya and Happy Holidays ya'll! 

Construction, displacement and species biasness.

Hey ya'll

more construction in the university grounds... which is fortunate for students, because they will no doubt be getting awesomer and awesomer facilities (although, I have this theory that students will never be completely satisfied with their Alma Maters until they have left them permanently... perhaps not even then) but is mostly unfortunate for the wildlife that have begun to call this place their home. It was amazing enough that I managed to find fireflies on campus grounds awhile ago (there's a large man-made lake nearby) but it seems that they too, like a particularly ghost-like barn owl I caught swooping over the carpark some warm nights, have left this land for greener pastures. A pity, really, as I would have loved to observe them further and to greater detail. However, I suppose the ability to adapt is one of nature's key deciding factors in the evolutionary arms race for survival, and creatures that have grown, or can efficiently grow, accustomed to mankind's modification of the living world are the ones who - like us - can continue to thrive. Take these guys, for example - the tawny coster butterfly (acraea terpsicore) of the heliconia family. They not only have seemed to survive the leveling of the many groves surrounding the area which they call their home, they seemed to  have continued to thrive! I attribute this mostly to the diversity of the larvae's diet (they will consume a wide variety of passiflora vines which - fortunately - grow quite opportunistically as weeds in great abundance in urban settings. And it is this tenacity that I admire in some species but not in ours. Hmmm... species biasness I suppose. What's up with that?

Tawny Coster pupa on wire-mesh fence. 

Bye, bye Toadie.

I once had a toad I named Trevor, 
I thought that I'd love him forever!
He was fat he, was brown and his face bore a frown
also, he had warts but, whatever. 

But in time he started to get lonely, 
and though the tank was quite homely,
it was mating season outside, and so he would cry
as he thought to himself now, if only.

So a decision was made on my part, 
that now it was time that we'd part. 
So he could live in the wild, like an uncivilized child
and make love to the most of his heart. 

So then I said, goodbye dear Trevor, you will always be missed,
here's one to the toad that I never did kissed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Viruses, Chest Pains and Gerald Durrel.

Hey ya'll!

What a horrid, horrid, week this has been! It all started with the realization of a looming deadline - the clammy palms and cold chills that came with it - and the further realization that there is only about three more months or so before I have to submit a completed copy of my Honours thesis for inspection by a bunch of hoity toity (though no doubt highly learned and well-meaning) bunch of intellectuals!!! Oh, the pressure. And as if that weren't enough to put one on the edge, something quite horrible happened - which seemed like the thing to tip the scales then - when a DVD borrowed from the University library (one which I had  to go through painstaking lengths to obtain in the first place) corrupted the files in my trustworthy laptop! TO make matters worse, a visit to the computer doctor told me perhaps what every researcher in the world dreads - that there would be no saving of the files this time and the only solution that can be applied is the complete reformatting of the laptop... OH woe is me!!! And to add insult to injury, the whole process seemed to have set me back some ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY RINGGITS which, by the way IS quite a lot of money for someone who is NOT making a single cent of income currently right now and who, rather unfortunately, have quite dire spending needs to attend to elsewhere. The worst part of it all is that in reformatting my laptop, the computer doctor - and I'm sure he meant well - seemed to have installed a different set of drivers (I use the term but I'm not quite sure what they refer to, really) which basically means that I can no longer turn off the touchpad of the laptop which results in a very tedious and lengthy process of typing by which I now have to keep my hands an inch above the laptop, hovering like horseflies, less I accidentally brush my wrist against the touchpad, causing the cursor to fly off in an unpredictable manner, resulting in 60% significantly slower typing. Oh, and for some reason my chest started to hurt... like about an hour ago. Badly and frequently whenever I breathe. A sign, perhaps, that I had best slow down to catch my breath? And now, before I start sounding like an incessant whiner, I shall sign off though, because it is always good to end with a positive note, I would just like to say that the best thing that happened to me all week was perhaps, my finishing of Gerald Durrel's book My Family, and Other Animals, which is really quite a good read. It typically details the early life of Naturalist and Conservationist, Gerald Durrell as he discovers - amongst other things - the many flora and fauna during his stay in the Greek islands of Corfu.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Attenborough on God and Evolution.

Sir David Attenborough says "hi" to an Atlas Moth.
My response is that when Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, a worm that's going to make him blind. And I ask them, 'Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child's eyeball? Because that doesn't seem to me to coincide with a God who's full of mercy. I feel that the evidence all over the planet clearly shows evolution to be the best way to explain the diversity of life, and as far as I'm concerned, if there is a supreme being, then he chose organic evolution as a way of bringing into existence the natural world. People write to me that evolution is only a theory. Well, it is not a theory. Evolution is as solid a historical fact as you could conceive. Evidence from every quarter. What is a theory is whether natural selection is the mechanism and the only mechanism. That is a theory. But the historical reality that dinosaurs led to birds and mammals produced whales, that's not theory

Indeed, truer words couldn't have been said and I could not agree more with what he says. Consider myself, a nature spiritual. I believe in the processes of nature, the circle of life, the food chain, parasitism, metamorphosis, embryology and paleontology. And I believe them all to be manifestation of the greater spiritual body of the Earth. But that is just my beliefs...Although, if all this talk about evolution, creationism and intelligent design has done anything, it has been to show us that nothing, not ever, could be presuppossed as a universal "truth". There are only, perhaps, multiple truths at any given point in time. The trick is finding the most empirical evidence to support your version of it. Thoughts, anyone? 

Pulling an "Attenborough"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lilium Stargazer

Flowers! They have always invoked mixed feelings in different people. Be it the meanings behind the blossoms, their lustrous petals, their luxurious scents, flowers have always held a special place in my heart. Historically, flowers have been presented to mark many momentous occasions but perhaps the most well known of these is the way flowers have been gifted in Victorian times, to convey certain messages to people. A bouquet of different flowers for example, may be read (the specific meaning of each flower taken into consideration) as a sort of floral love letter to one's intended. Of course, many of that has been lost by now and I suppose some of the more commonly known floral messages are perhaps roses, for love. Daisies, for friendship, and the like. Then again, I know many people nowadays will not stand for flowers as gifts... I suppose in our captialist society, there really isn't a gift that could be any more practical. After all, you cannot display a flower indefinitely and not all flowers are easily preserved. Not me, though. I really do love flowers and personally, I cannot think of anything I would rather receive otherwise! (except maybe money). And I did! Ray surprised me today, you see, with a gift after all. A gift of flowers!!!

He even got me Lilium Stargazers, my favourite!
I guess it's true, and people do get comfortable after awhile in their relationships. It's so difficult not to, when you have someone you know who will always be there for you, to grab the tissues for you when you break out in one of your allergic spells, to do the dishes when you've done the cooking... but I guess some comfort is good in any relationships. I mean, the flames of passion can only last for so long... and then after that, I guess most people count on the softer embers on the hearth for comfort. Every now and then though, it is nice when someone throws in another log, just to keep the fire going. Love you for it darling!!! I'm sorry if my gift pales all the time in comparison!

My little office cubicle seems a little more bear-able now that it smells like tropical flowers. :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thoughts on Hermaphroditism

Hey ya'll!!!

So I am supposed to be writing an essay on hermaphroditism right now and the lived experienced and embodied gendered identities of inter-sexed individuals when my thoughts were naturally drawn to the previous incident regarding the gynamdromorphic butterfly, that had become a small-time celebrity attraction at the London Museum of Natural History (you may click the link to read more on that). As is only expected, this was because hermaphroditism in butterflies are quite rare, supposedly only one in a million butterflies will end up like this, and the result is quite simply astonishing with the butterfly possessing the wing patterns of the two genders. Indeed, this rare occurrence, which has caused visitors to flock to the butterfly exhibit of the London Museum, is treated as a true miracle in nature, something beautiful and to behold as it is as rare as it is magnificent...I even took the liberty of finding a picture of a different specimen for all of you to see.

Mosaic Gynandromorph of papilio species.
Beautiful, isn't it? Though, I can't help but wonder why hermaphroditic humans are not treated with the same amount of recognition and respect? Why is it that upon birth they are treated as freaks and must then go under the knife to be 'rehabilitated' and 'normalized'? As said by Cheryl Chase in one of my articles, and I quote this loosely as I do not have her paper with me right now ... it is not something good, to have the opinion's and beliefs of others, surgically imposed upon one's own body. Besides, who could ever dream of 'normalizing' something that was made so uniquely beautiful in the first place? Just some food for thought.

Comic Artwork: Flying High!

Hey ya'll!

So remember the thing I did... the thing about the comic strip featuring super heroes and villians (of which any resemblance to any persons living or dead are highly coincidental... or are they?) that I started out earlier this year cuz Ray liked comics and I wanted to give him his own comic? Well I'm here to say that... well, actually not much has been done since I last got working on it... in fact, nothing has been done at all. Lots of fantasizing, to say the least... lots of conceptualizing... coming up with storylines... but in terms of drawing. Not much. Until today, that is, when I came up with yet another cover-art featuring my favourite two superheroes!!! Anyway this is really a present for Ray... which is sort of a bummer cuz he was going to get me something originally but then I sorta went and ruined it by 'guessing' his surprise... so I guess I get no present this time round... but whatever yeah, its the thought that counts!!!! Anyway taking his suggestion, I decided to draw this one in a more comical style... sort of like a cartoon, you know?

CYRAY, Chapter 5: Flying High! 
So, what do you think? Cute? Ugly? Hahaha well keep your opinions to yourself, for now. Save it for when chapter one finally finishes and ends up being published!!! Anyway, on a random note, anyone else experiencing trouble uploading pictures to facebook?

Latest update. Original concept sketch of the cover... somehow it looks better in pencil form no? 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pins and Needles 13: Butterflies of Bukit Cahaya

Hey ya'll~

I RODE MY FIRST BIKE TODAY!!! Yep, that's right, Cyren Wong has never before ridden a bike (want someone to blame, I think I can blame my father who never saw the merits of bike riding himself after getting into an accident on one some gajillion years before I was born) and today, thanks to the patience of Ray! I finally did! But I ain't gonna hog anymore bike-time here... you can read all about that in today's Ray Says segment (ps. there's a really REALLY nice picture of me in there! :P) Anyway, so if I am going to be explicitly honest, bike-riding was just one part of my agenda to take Ray to Bukit Cahaya earlier today (oops, the Cat's out of the bag!) ... or, what I actually mean to say is, I knew that Ray wanted to do something 'adventurous' and 'exciting' that would also give us some 'excercise' - because really, we've been pretty much doing nothing but cooping up in the room all day - and so I figured, that since its his last day of holidays, well why not take him to do something that he likes. Besides,  I could use some exercise anyway? Thing is, I also wanted to go someplace where I too can have my fun, and really, what could be more fun for an amateur lepidopterist as myself than to go somewhere where I can collect specimens for my own personal butterfly collection!!! So rather than just go off to some park somewhere to bike, it was settled, and Bukit Cahaya was the ultimate location.

As you can see, I wasn't so far off wrong... there were tons of butterflies there that day - mostly nympalidae, of which the peacock pansy (junonia almana) was the most abundant - and I did manage to catch my fair share of them (just 1 specimen per species... no need to be greedy!) before the park ranger came up to me to inspect my catch before telling me that there will be no more catching of the butterflies that day. I guess he was afraid I  might have netted some rare or endangered species but I can tell you (as I would have told him, had he asked) that the most 'exotic' of butterflies I saw during the entire trip was yet another butterfly of the nympahlid family, the Malayan Lacewing (cethosia biblis) which, I'm not sure can be considered rare or not in these parts as they seem to be fairly abundant (too much even!) in Malaysian butterfly farms. Either way I was not going to show any disrespect to the ranger, nor to the establishment of the park so I prompty desisted with a cheery smile and an apology. For that, I was even allowed to keep my already-caught specimens.

As you can see I'm still trying out this new spreading board technique of mine... following some comments by fellow lepidopterist how my style of spreading is to be considered 'Victorian' and therefore, highly outdated... but I don't know... it's not working out so well for me. I can see why the 'Victorians' chose their particular spreading style though, the butterflies wings look a lot more relaxed and more 'natural' overall. I sort of like it... but oh well, I don't suppose any of these butterflies are rare enough as to be a complete 'waste' of a specimen should the spreading technique fail... and small butterflies are such a nuisance to spread really... compared to other insects and their larger brethren... so many things to be careful for.... first its the scales rubbing off, next its their wings tearing.... really! I don't know why I take pleasure in taxing myself so. Anyway, its back to work for me too starting next week, but I'll try my best to update as often as I can.

Of all the adventures we have together, being with you is the best. 

Ray Says: Pedaling

Time for Ray says!!!

Hey faithful readers! For today's post, Imma keep it short. Class starts tmr. Yup, that's right. My semester holiday just came to its final day. Some are excited for they are finally released from the grasps of boredom whereas some wish time could stop so they may enjoy their vacation longer by snoozing in bed. As for me...I dunno what I want O___O

Anyway, I gotta sleep early tonite so Imma keep it brief. Ask me how's my month-long holiday? It's sweet. Seriously, I have consumed tons of sweet junks through the weeks. Haha. Ok, enough about food. Let's me take you on a history tour as to what I did for the previous weeks. Of coz, hubby's always there with me =3

Me and hubby started out travelling to a land shaped as a dog head with clean beaches. As much as we enjoyed there, we fell ill which was ewww. Then I was forced to go home (my Sibu home) to see Mummy and Daddy as well as my devilish brothers. Not to mention my other demonic relatives. They missed me, I guessed. I can tell by their insistence on feeding me. Then, I escaped hell and reunited with hubby who waited for me in the airport (How romantic) =3

A few days passed and we were the kings of the world. Dominating the cinema, enslaving little critters, climbing to the top of the world and riding bikes of fury. Here's a picture of hubby:
That's him. I'm serious. And no, I didn't minimize him into a Lego figurine. That's just a Lego representation of him. Haha. Earlier today, we decided to go to Bukit Cahaya (google it) and ride bicycles. It was hubby's first time riding a bicycle on his own. Though he ended up suffering a sunburn, I can say at least he has the guys to ride a bike. And who knows, maybe he will fetch me next time using a bike. Just you guys wait.

P.S. for those who do not understand a single adventure I mentioned, refer back to Cyren's previous post. It's all stated there.

And look at the time, I have been wasting too much of it already writing this post. Guess, I am not really ready to go back to class. Sobs...Anyhow, till next time =D

Pictures took during the Bukit Cahaya trip:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pins and Needles 12: Mountain Views and Hawk Moths

Hey ya'll

Ray's starting his next semester soon, results being released tomorrow morning and so I guess it was only natural that we did our 'once-a-month' special date thing in advanced seeing as to how he'll probably so much more busier starting from next week onwards. We decided to go to this place in Ampang called Look-out Point - which is basically some brilliant entrepreneur's idea to put some stairs and a bunch of restaurants off the side of a mountain so people can eat and enjoy the view - that Ray's been practically begging me to take him to, to which I finally agreed - despite a severe bout of self-induced lethargy - because well, it's practically his last week of vacation anyway and I thought, why not? Unfortunately for us, we managed to get ourselves lots along the way (Cheras/Ampang IS an extremely large area, did you know?) but fortunately for Ray, he managed to get there in one piece (I can be quite the crank when lost on the road and nerves start taking over) and when we got there, I must say the view made it all worthwhile! And after all that romantic talk and twinkling lights, I still managed to leave with a little souvenir... I wonder what kind it is?

Trying out my new spreading board.
pretty cool, ain't it? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hermaphrodites in Nature

Hey ya'll!!!

Hope you liked Ray's first posting here... I daresay that it's probably the most personal (and intimate!) one on this blog yet, I'm sure there will be more to come soon. Once a week... at least. I'll make sure of it since I am guessing it must be a very sound and welcome break for most of you (my readers, that is) after all this talk about insects and amphibians and butterflies and what have you. But I digress. So I was strolling through the world wide web this evening when I managed to find this most interesting post... "Rare Hermaphrodite Butterfly Hatches in London Museum". Now apparently the butterfly, which is available for viewing at the museum for a short-time only (presumably because of its relatively short insect lifespan), is split right down the middle in a 50 to 50 male to female sex ratio with the most obvious features being the different patterns on its wings. Experts say, however that the butterflies sex organs are also fused male-female right down the center of its body and the butterfly possesses one set of male mating clasps at the end of its abdomen and the ovipositing organ of the female on the other. Apparently gyndandromorph insects (the word gynandromorph having come from the Greek word gyn for female and andro for male) come to be when sex chromosomes do not properly separate during the first division of fertilized egg cells or, when a single egg is fertilized by two sets of sperm. Anyway, for those of you Malaysians who may wish to see such an amazing specimen of a butterfly yourself, fear not, there's no need to take a plane all the way to the UK as I quite distinctly remember a gynandromorphic specimen of our own National Butterfly, the Rajah Brooke's Birdwing on display at the Penang Butterfly Farms.

gynandromorphic Great Mormon butterfly. (Papilio Memnon)
Funny I should come across this just a week after we had that amazing class with Dr. Sharon on hermaphrodites and intersexed individuals.

Ray Says: Begins

Welcome to the first ever, Ray Says.

Hi Cyren’s blog readers, I’m Raymond and this is my first post on my hubby’s blog. As I mentioned in my blog, I will be writing a random post detailing the critical moments of my life (if I have them). Of course, there is the exception of Zhizhi (Cyren), the best and most important part of life. And he is the one who assure me to start writing again. If you guys were to refer back to my old blog, it’s...frankly, it’s quite dead. I guess I have lost the passion to write but to assure I don’t lost it completely, Zhizhi allows me to post random stuff of my likings on his wall. So bear with me for a couple of paragraphs.

Keep in mind that I would post random things in my life at any random giving moment and if hubby persuades me to do so. Thus, let’s not waste any more reading time.

I guess I should do a little intro on myself. Name’s Ray as you all should know unless you haven’t been reading this blog. Currently, I am doing Bachelor of Science in Psychology in Sunway University. Not a certified psychologist yet so don’t ask me for advice and where is the best food around Bandar Sunway. I’m full of morbidity so you guys might wanna bear with me for that. A common geek with interest in both DC and Marvel comics as well as building Lego (adults do it so why can’t I). Love random things but hate balloons and chillies.

Anyway, before I met the love of my life, my life was a void of love. I have one too many ex-es and I did things I am not proud of (well, most of them anyway). A lonely bastard I was, longing for petty passion from strangers just so I could trick myself into believing I am not all that pathetic in my miserable solitude. All that changed the day I met Cyren.

I stood there in the rain, waiting for the day my wait be worth waiting for. Letting out a sign, I almost gave up until...wait. In the distant, that’s when I saw him. In his majestic white steed, he came forward to me as if I was a fair maiden. With his chivalrous smile, he gently grabbed my hand as we rode off into the sunset and there was a happily ever after.

Well, it more or less started out that way. And it’s not a happily ever after since we are not dead yet but I would say we are quite happy together. I truly believe Cyren is the one (heck, we even call each other husbands). Sorry ‘bout the lovey-dovey overdose but hey, I love him.

With that, I end my first post with a sassy picture of me.

Thanks for reading ^^