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On October 14 2014, a tornado hit the rural town of Pendang in Kedah, Malaysia. Many were astonished, as Malaysia is not a country that is accustomed to extreme weather phenomenon (except drought, thunderstorms and floods) and many of nature’s other wraths. We are geographically shielded by many other South East Asian countries, and are even located marginally out of the Ring of Fire.

Ring of Fire

Tornadoes, how do they work?

Like many things in the field of science, the exact series of events leading to the formation of tornadoes has yet to be completely understood. To be able to truly understand the mechanics of a tornado involves a lot of meteorological mumbo jumbo, so let’s just make do with the general idea of things.

This video explains how tornadoes form very well in layman terms, while this video gives a good explanation of the grander picture of the whole formation.

The mixture of rising hot air and fast flowing cold air in the atmosphere forms a rotating column of air, which results in a huge thunderstorm cloud known as a supercell. A supercell is the birthplace of tornadoes – given the appropriate wind conditions, amount of rising hot air, temperature difference and pressure.

Waterspouts and Landspouts

Similar to tornadoes, both are essentially smaller and baby version of tornadoes.

Landspouts are generally weaker in strength, and are not associated with a supercell.

Waterspouts form over water surfaces, and are a common occurrence in tropical areas, including Malaysia. Although they are not as devastating as the average tornadoes, they can move onto land, and even grow into “tornadic waterspouts”, which can dangerous.

Will it happen again?

According to the trends and the National Weather Centre, it is likely.

In Malaysia, we do not have a shortage of the ingredients required for the formation of a supercell, and are actually no strangers to tornado-like occurrences.

For now, these winds and moisture are not be strong and abundant enough to form a full blown tornado, but that might soon change. With extreme weather cases on the rise across the world, and the warmest years consistently being recorded globally, it might be time to abandon the usual assumption of our climate conditions, and maybe even prepare for the worse. Even recently in Malaysia we experienced perhaps the worst flooding in history, and Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon to ever made landfall (reach land) happened just back in late 2013. With wind speeds reaching 315km/h, it hit multiple countries and killed almost 6400 people. For comparison, storm Ivar in the Nordic lands had top wind speeds of 115km/h and only disrupted power supplies, and people could barely walk in the winds below the maximum speed, and the only reason they managed to do that is probably because they have Viking strength.

What to do during a tornado?

If in the future when mother earth decides to go “Day after Tomorrow” on us, perhaps this will become more useful. The main reason for casualties and injuries during tornadoes is actually due to falling or flying debris hurling towards you at breakneck speed, and not by being pulled into a whirlwind of death. Generally, you would want to cover yourself with some protective layers, and make yourself as small a target as possible (crouch, or do your best impression of an egg).

If you are indoors during a tornado:

  • Get to the lowest floor and as close to the center of the building as possible.
  • Stay away from windows (exploding windows can kill), walls and ceilings.
  • Cover and protect yourself with thick paddings such as blankets and mattress.

If you are outdoors:

  • Get indoors (if able).
  • If not shelter is to be found, lie face down flat on the ground and cover the back of your head with your arms.
  • Stay away from tall structures (trees, power line poles, etc.), they might fall on you.

In a vehicle:

Apparently the worst place to be during a tornado is on the road in a vehicle, as they are easily tossed and flipped by the winds. So don’t choose to stay in your vehicle over going indoors, no matter how precious it is.

  • Get indoors (if able).
  • If the tornado is far away, you may attempt to drive away from it, in a right angle direction from the tornado
  • If the tornado is too close, sit in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows and cover your head with your hands and other paddings (coat, cushion) if possible.

Here’s to hoping that none of us will need to use this safety guide.

0 10771

Entomophagy is the practice of consuming insects as a food source. Spiders, grasshoppers, larvae, scorpions, beetles are widely and commonly consumed in some parts of the world. To some of us, the graphic thought about putting this in our mouths is enough to induce a gag reflex, but to others, it simply a highly nutritious, bacon tasting delicacy waiting to be cooked with sago.

I wasn’t really that excited by the prospect of having insects as a daily food choice. In my impression, insects are only either eaten raw or deep fried, sometimes stir fried. But when I read about an Asian-style locust noodle served with extracted fat of black soldier fly larvae, I somehow can’t wait to try it.

Why Insects?

So, why should we contend against house geckos and other animals to eat such disgusting things? Aren’t our normal animal food sources enough for us? Firstly, you wouldn’t need to contend with other animals for insects, seeing that insects are the most common and most abundant species (that could serve as human food) on earth. Secondly, no, it isn’t enough.

Our primary sources of protein – cattle, goats, pigs and chickens require huge amounts of land to develop and sustain, which means that increasing the production of meat from these animals will only accelerate the rate of deforestation and land clearing. The animal waste produced and veterinary medicines used in rearing the animals also cause water and land pollution, even seeping deep into the soil. That’s not all – the agricultural and livestock industry actually generates more greenhouse gases globally than planes, trains, automobiles, and ships combined.

The agricultural and livestock industry actually generates more greenhouse gases globally than planes, trains, automobiles, and ships combined.

With fishes, there are similar problems in fish farming, not to mention the possibility of the total depletion of fish species. Given how poorly managed deforestation, pollution, overfishing and rising global temperatures already are, ramping up these sectors to accommodate the growing global population will probably spell doom. By 2050, it is estimated that the global population will reach 9 billion, and we will need to produce twice as much food as we are currently producing to sustain that number of people.

Insects, on the other hand, are not only abundant, but are more nutritious (if not as nutritious), than our current meat sources, containing a large range and amount of essential nutrition, such as omega 3 fatty acids and many amino acids. For example, 100 grams of caterpillar can contain more protein than 100 grams of beef, even almost as much protein as cod fish, and house flies per gram can contain more thiamine and riboflavin than milk or beef. It is also much more efficient and environmentally friendly to grow insects, requiring less water, less land, less energy.  When compared to raising cattle, raising grasshoppers require up to 4 times less feed to produce 1kg of meat, and produce 75% less greenhouse gases.

Edible (and appetising) insect dishes

Here I’ve compiled a few examples of insect dishes that are beside the usual deep fried batter and tempura insects, just because they look potentially delicious.

Witchetty grubs with bunya nuts and quandong dipping sauce.
Witchetty grubs with bunya nuts and quandong dipping sauce
Chapuline taco
Chapuline taco
Fried stink bug.
Fried stink bug


Zimbabwean stirred fried mopane caterpillars, with shallots, tomatoes, onions, clove garlic, ginger, curry powder and ground black pepper
Zimbabwean stirred fried mopane caterpillars, with shallots, tomatoes, onions, clove garlic, ginger, curry powder and ground black pepper
Stirred fried red palm weevil larvae, with vegetable oil and stir fried with Thai basil, finely chopped hot chili peppers, salt, black pepper, and soy sauce
Stirred fried red palm weevil larvae, with vegetable oil and stir fried with Thai basil, finely chopped hot chili peppers, salt, black pepper, and soy sauce

Insects will very likely be a food for the future, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be forced to give up normal food choices and be forced to swallow caterpillars and cockroaches. In the end the choice of adopting the diet will still fall to us, if the choice still exists.

If you’re still feeling squeamish about eating these adorable freaks, feel free to know that everyone consumes insects and related fragments (and other disgusting things) unknowingly on a regular basis. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have a whole handbook for manufacturers and food producers that provides guidelines for “acceptable fragment levels”. So try and give your meal a good scanning the next time you’re about to dig in, if you’re lucky you might find a pleasant surprise – or two.



Crow (BM113)

Scholar. Gentleman. Handsome. Also a bird.



0 10592

Dreams are commonly regarded as the vivid images that we experience during our sleep. However, dreams are more than colourful and exciting visions. To some, dreams are life goals; the hearts’ true desire; the ultimate Holy Grail. To me, to be able to dream is indeed a blessing.

To dream is to give me the courage to pursue my ambition. Dream high and reach out for the stars in the sky. At the end of the day, even if I failed to accomplish my mission, at least I will have managed to experience the spectacular panoramic scenery on the ladder to success. I would live my life knowing that I tried.

Dream high and reach out for the stars in the sky.

To dream is to keep myself sane. Some things are beyond the bounds of possibility, and will always be, no matter how hard I try. Having the ability to dream is to have the assurance that the impossible may become a reality when I am fast asleep. That would be my consolation.

To dream is to give myself a chance at happiness, whether it is to do well in university, to convert a loan into a scholarship, to have good companions to grow old together with, to have the opportunity to travel to beautiful destinations, or to spend the rest of my life with my soul mate. To dream is to hope for the best in the future.

As the famous saying goes – ‘A dream is a wish your heart makes’. Be bold and dream the wildest dreams as you only live once. You will be surprised where a lot of discipline, self-determination and imagination can take you.


roseLexi C (BP114)

Aspires to inspire.



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Crow (BM113)

Scholar. Gentleman. Handsome. Also a bird.



0 2052

This is a recount of all that I am able to remember before my time runs out. If anything should happen to me, I hope that at least, this would offer some help in explaining what had transpired.

It started on a Wednesday, I remember the night fell with signs of a thunderstorm and the wind was howling while the trees danced and the air was cold as a stale puddle. Yet, as I looked out the window after 4 hours in the library writing my assignments, not a single drop had fallen. It was almost 1 a.m. and so I decided to pack up and leave before it did. I exit the library and headed into the hallway towards the stairs that would lead me 3 floors down and out of the university. I lived in the apartment right across the road, and the brief exercise would work up the heat I need to braze the chilling weather outside.

It was when I was halfway across the hallway that I saw, the girl in the red shirt, with pitch black hair that ran down almost to her waist, as she hurried out from one of the doors into the hallway, carrying her books she rushed towards the stairs. In her haste, I noticed she unknowingly dropped a white ribbon, and after I had picked it up I chased after her in hopes of returning it. But when I reached the staircase, I could neither see her nor hear her footsteps. I turned back to the room she exited from to see if she had friends that could return it to her instead, just to discover that the room was vacant.  I continued to make my way back home, fiddling the white ribbon between my fingers. The moment I stepped out on to the road, the rain poured down heavily.

I had completely forgotten of my encounter with the girl in the red shirt, and bringing home the white ribbon on the next day. I do recall waking up to soreness on multiple sites of my face, and later that day having several people point out the unusual paleness of my complexion, to which I casually disregarded by attributing it to the piling amount of work and lack of sleep. In fact, it was one of the very rare times I had such a statement made about my façade. After 3 days, the remark had become a normal greeting, and the intensity of the sores had increased so much that they felt like bruises. Each day I was more tired and lethargic than the day before. I could barely climb out of bed, or find the strength to even stand.

Each day I was more tired and lethargic than the day before. I could barely climb out of bed, or find the strength to even stand.

Eventually I sought medical assistance, but they could find nothing wrong with my physiology. My face was decolourised and I was evidently exhausted, but there were no bruises on my face despite the constant pain I feel, and there was no anaemia. Regardless, I was advised to rest at home, and that’s when it all began.

Even after the first day of resting I felt worse than before. I decided I would try to get some simple house work done with what strength I had, and so I headed to tidy up my desk. As I rummage through my desk, I came across a red ribbon, lying beneath some paper notes. Upon closer inspection, I realised it was the same ribbon belonging to the girl in the red shirt. At that very moment I heard a brief but quick shuffling of footsteps, leading from my room and into the living room. Slowly I followed the supposed direction of the sound, but I found no one there in the living room. Instead, in front of the ground before me I found the red ribbon, lying there before my feet.

The next day I found the red ribbon suspended in my container I used for drinking water, together with it were some flies and cockroaches, and an assortment of other common small insects, drowned and floated on the surface. I decided to lock the red ribbon in a lock box by my bedside. That night as I was falling asleep, for a moment I could hear a deep breathing in my room, the sound was resonating as if it was trapped in some place, and it paced faster and faster. As I was pondering whether to trace it to the source the breaths had ceased. The next morning, I found the red ribbon lying beside me, and the box was still sitting locked in its place.

Yesterday I asked to stay over for a night in a friend’s house after I threw the red ribbon out of the window of my room on the 16th floor. Taking one look at me he of course could not turn me away, I was essentially a red eyed white zombie with eye bags. I of course did not disclose the true reason in fear that he might worry that I was losing my mind and my health.

That night, I dreamt of the girl in the red shirt. She was standing over my friend while he was asleep in bed, and she raised her hands and half clenched her fists and her nails broke and blood poured out from them. Her wrists broke open and long leech-like things slithered out from there and they flayed violently towards him. I was awoken from my sleep by some faint screeching noises, and I opened my eyes to find a figure making its way halfway up the wall across my bed. It was her. One hand after the other she clawed her way up the wall while with her legs aided her ascent to the ceiling. Her long black hair fell backwards as she crawled across the ceiling. With each movement her nails softly scratched the surface, until she was directly above me. In the place where her face should be, fresh and shimmering bright red, there was a disfigured and violated remain. I watched as she continued moving down the other side of the wall until head was above mine. A slit opened from the center from one end to the other, and revealed 2 rows of curved yellow fangs, drips of blood came gently down, and the stench of decay filled my every breath, as she moved closer and closer to my face.

…I opened my eyes to find a figure making its way halfway up the wall across my bed.

I have no memory of what had happened after. This morning, the ribbon had once again appeared beside me in bed, my friend appeared to be unharmed and I immediately moved back to my home.

Tonight, I exhaust all strength and vitality I have left in me to write this. My mind is unable to give in to my urgent need of sleep after what I’ve witnessed. As I write I listen closely to the tender scraping inching closer towards me…


Crow (BM113)

Scholar. Gentleman. Handsome. Also a bird.


0 3158

If you have not heard of Defense of the Ancients (DotA), here’s a short introduction:

DotA is a free game or ‘digital sport’, consisting of 112 playable characters known as ‘heroes’. Each hero has a minimum of 4 skills, and up to 134 purchasable ‘items’. Then there is everything else you need to learn in order to play the game, i.e. last hitting, denying, etc. Like any other sport or game, a basic understanding of ALL these things is required before you can begin to properly begin to enjoy the game. Its ridiculous complexity is probably why it is still fascinating millions and millions of players across the globe since its creation in 2003. Fast forward to 2014, and a newer version – ‘DotA 2’ – has been released. It has about 10 million players, and an international tournament was hosted this year for various players from countries such as Ukraine, Europe, China, Russia and USA, with a total prize pool of almost 11 million USD, about half of it going to the winner.

About five years ago, when I was first coaxed by my cousin into playing DotA, I never would have believed a mere computer game could induce so many life changing realizations. I’ve been playing the game with a passion since then, and though it may not have taught me these valuable lessons first hand, it definitely pushed me into taking them to more closely to heart, the first being:

5. Dealing with less capable teammates

A point about DotA I did not mention previously is that it is a team-based game, with five players on both sides. Teamwork, communication, and cooperation are important if you want to win (most people do). Sadly, this can also be a problem, especially when it is your precious free time you are spending to enjoy the game. Unless you have your own five person team, you are going to be placed together in a team with four complete strangers, who may or may not (a) speak your language (b) share your standards and (c) share your desire to win.

So, instead of getting angry and cursing the high heavens over the disfigured, handicapped, human-animal hybrid team that you are given, you scrap together whatever skills and efforts your team has to offer, and try to make your 30-50 minutes of game time as enjoyable as possible, and hope the opposite team has worse teamwork than yours. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t make assumptions of their personality or character based on their game playing skills, these things do not matter to the task at hand, but it would be nice if they would put in some effort, or at least show that they want to.

You learn to work with what you’re given, instead of complaining and straight up quitting, because you’re not going to have an A-team for every group project or activity you’re going to work on.

You might ask: why not just play with your friends? Wouldn’t that solve the problem? I too, was naïve enough to believe that notion. But having your close friend disappoint you is a far worse feeling than having it come from a total stranger. Which brings me to my next point.

You learn to work with what you’re given, instead of complaining and straight up quitting, because you’re not going to have an A-team for every group project or activity you’re going to work on.

4. Imposing standards on others (and having unrealistic expectations)

This might seem a little obvious, but it slaps you in the face when you’re actually trying to accomplish it. People play DotA for different reasons, and some people don’t mind being bad at the game and so they don’t spend too much time on it. And sometimes that person can be your friend of more than 10 years, with whom you’ve chaired committees and worked on many projects with, but that doesn’t mean he shares all of your standards. Moreover, you shouldn’t expect people to fulfill your expectations. If they happened to meet said expectations, consider it a blessing, but don’t blame others when they fail to do so.

3. Handling critics and comments

As with any online social platform, where users can communicate anonymously, there will be no shortage of people who have no reservations in insulting and belittling others. DotA 2 is certainly no exception. Dealing with negative comments and critics is an everyday ordeal for a DotA 2 player. Most would choose to ignore, some fire back, and too few would surprisingly ask for suggestions for improvement.

It’s tempting to retaliate verbally when insulted, especially in such an anonymous setting. I did give in initially, but only after a long time I realised that it was not benefiting anyone, especially myself, as I found myself spending my time just being rude to others. When you have a need to improve yourself in something, the opinion of others matters. However, the trick is to differentiate constructive criticism from toxic nonsense. A good way to receive more useful criticism is to ask why the person made that comment about you.

Self evaluation and introspection is a difficult thing, it forces you to admit that you are not as capable as you imagined, and to deal with issues you’re sometimes not ready to face. But with enough time with yourself, and some humility, you’ll eventually learn to ignore the rubbish, and gain ideas on improving yourself based on what others have said about you.

2. Accepting failure

I have spent about 2800 hours on DotA 2 over a period of five years, and I’ve had my share of mistakes and defeats. Failing is a good thing to make your weaknesses apparent, but not so when you’re in denial. It is particularly painful when you have put in effort, it makes it seem like you’ve wasted all the hard work, and eventually you resort to blaming others. I do admit that sometimes someone besides you is responsible for the defeat, in that case refer lesson 4.

If the problem lies within you, then know that you should keep trying to improve yourself. It’s a good thing to have ideals and examples that you look to for certain things, but reaching that level should come eventually and not immediately.

You’re not constantly being evaluated, life is not a competition, and there is always something to improve on. Occasional mistakes are fine, but regret is a maggot that eats your vitality. Accept that you were weak before, seek to improve and move on. When you’re striving to be good at something, failing eventually becomes a welcomed habit.

You’re not constantly being evaluated, life is not a competition, and there is always something to improve on.

Up to this point it seems that I was simply recycling old teachings and sayings with relevance to DotA. Perhaps that is why they were able to survive so many generations, because they are truth. I leave you (finally) with the most important lesson I’ve learned:

1. True learning is derived from passion and freedom

I’ve never complained about playing DotA 2. For a few months I ate DotA, I slept DotA, I breathed DotA, and I lived DotA. I have never had to race to meet assignment deadlines or had any quiz or exams on DotA (though I would gladly do so), and I never had to revise the things I’ve learnt. I was continuously captivated, and so eager to share and practice what I’ve learned.

Its allure is not simply because it is a game. If that were the case then many other games would have met the same kind of success. I believe it is simply the result of being equipped with the means to seek information, and being allowed to pursue one’s curiosity and passion without constraint. That is simply the best way to learn.


Crow (BM113)

Scholar. Gentleman. Handsome. Also a bird.