Friday, October 30, 2015

Rerun Article: The Great Pumpkin - Myth or Reality?

The Great Pumpkin spotted walking back to the pumpkin patch.

One character surrounds Harvest Day more than any others, and that character is no doubt the Great Pumpkin. Who’s the Great Pumpkin? Well for those of you who don’t know who the Great Pumpkin is, I’ll tell you. The Great Pumpkin supposedly a large pumpkin that spends most of his time sitting in the pumpkin patch until Harvest Day night when he rises out of the pumpkin patch and gives toys to all the good little children. There are a group of people known as the Great Pumpkin Foundation (GPF) who are determined to prove that the Great Pumpkin exists. The president of this group is none other than Linus van Pelt. You know him well, remember that kid on Charlie Brown who’s always carrying a blanket? Yep, that’s him. He has always been a strong believer in the Great Pumpkin. Every Harvest Day night, he still waits by the pumpkin patch hoping for his arrival. When asked how long he’d believe in something that supposedly wasn’t true, his response was, “When you stop believing in a fat man with a white beard in a red coat that says, ‘Ho, ho, ho!’” He also is famous for saying, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” The Great Pumpkin tale has been around for a long time, but there has been no firm proof of the Great Pumpkin’s existence . . . until now! Another advocate of the Great Pumpkin, Jack Stevenson has got firm proof of the Great Pumpkin, so he says. Jack Stevenson is the son of Dr. Steve Stevenson who appeared in our paper a few weeks ago. “I was merely taking a walk by myself one day,” he recalls, “When suddenly I saw something big and orange walking by. I almost didn’t believe my eyes, it must have been the Great Pumpkin!” That is when he took the picture you see above. There are basically two views of the Great Pumpkin, one of course is that of Linus and Jack, they firmly believe in him (they even suggest singing pumpkin carols). But others, such as Lucy van Pelt believes that the Great Pumpkin does not exist but instead, people such as Linus and Jack are confusing the Great Pumpkin and Santa Claus. Anyway, to continue the story of Jack and the Great Pumpkin, Jack says, “So I took the picture and the Great Pumpkin dashed back over to the pumpkin patch. I followed him but by the time he reached the patch, he was already camouflaged with the other pumpkins.” This is the first actual recorded appearance of what could be the Great Pumpkin. We also had a brief interview with Sarah Bus Stop Guy, a 13-year old that lives here in Riverville, near the Great Pumpkin sighting and has the same point of view as Lucy. Sarah doesn’t believe in the Great Pumpkin at all (even though a supposed picture of the Great Pumpkin was found), when asked what her opinion on the Great Pumpkin was, she was quoted to saying, “I think Jack and Linus . . . [have] got the Great Pumpkin mixed up with Santa Claus, cause he’s a myth. Ok, that’s it. You said this was the last question, goodbye!” (She then erupted from her chair and ran to her room) Unfortunately for the GPF, many other people believe that the picture is counterfeit. However, because of Jack’s picture, many scientists, called cryptozoologists, are starting to have greater studies of the Great Pumpkin to see if this vegetable really exists or if instead of a Great Pumpkin, it is really just a Great Fairytale.

Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographed by: Jack Stevenson
Edited by: Christian Ryan

Weekly Cartoons

Next Article: Rerun Article: Pie in a Glass and Turkeys?! Oh My!

Friday, October 23, 2015

It's Colombus, I mean...Leif Erikson Day?

What if I told you that everything you knew about Christopher Colombus was wrong? Well, thankfully that's not the case, except what you learned about him discovering America!
In the August of the year 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus left the docks of Spain and set sail for the west. His mission was to find an easy route to Asia. People had warned him not to go on this voyage because it was common knowledge at the time that the earth was flat – if Columbus sailed too far west, he'd sail right off the earth! Thankfully, Columbus proved everyone wrong when he landed on the shores of the America's. He was the first person ever to discover it. So we celebrate his discovery every 12th of October to commemorate his voyage of adventure and exploration.

That's the typical story we've all heard in school, but I found out something very interesting this Columbus Day: most of the story is a flat-out myth! While it's true that Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who sailed from Spain in 1492, he didn't discover the Earth was round and he wasn't the first one to reach America. After learning this, I felt betrayed by all those history books I read during grade school.

To learn more about the truth about Christopher Columbus' “discovery”, my trusty, junior photographer, Daniel P. Smithwater and I went to Animal Adventures Inc.'s very own historian (and newest resident) Aanisah the Aldabra giant tortoise. Her species naturally can get to be quite old; indeed, quite possibly the oldest known reptile on earth is named Jonathan. He's believed to have been born in 1832, making him 183 at the time of publishing. Aanisah doesn't break the record, at only 150, but she still has required quite some knowledge about the world in her time. (We'll be doing a full article about her in two weeks, so stay tuned!) Upon asking Aanisah about who first discovered North America, she was quoted for saying, “Many people believe Christopher Columbus was responsible for making that revolutionary discovery, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, the first people to make it here were clans that arrived here during the Ice Age, about 4,050 years ago. They came here from from Russia, migrating across the Beringia land bridge that formed when the water level was several hundred feet lower at that time. They were probably following the herds of animals they commonly hunted – reindeer, musk ox, woolly mammoths...just to name a few species. These were the ancestors of modern Native Americans.”

So we know Native Americans (well, not Native Americans themselves because they weren't “native” to America yet, but their ancestors) were likely the first people to reach the Americas. But Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover it, right? “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” Aanisah exclaimed as I tried to jump to conclusions. “Christopher Columbus wasn't the first European to reach America either, not by a long shot! A much better candidate for one of the first European to find American shores is Leif Erikson.” Aanisah explained to me that Leif Erikson was an Icelandic explorer who was born in 970 in Iceland of Erik the Red, founder of the Norse settlement Thjodhild in Greenland. “He and other vikings around his time sailed to and explored Vinland (that's the area of coastal North America and Newfoundland) around the year 1000 AD, some 500 years before Columbus 'discovered' America. Other vikings are known to have explored the area as well. Other Europeans might have landed in America before Erikson, but Leif Erikson and his crew are the first ones that we know for sure walked upon American shores.”

“And Christopher Columbus didn't make the discovery that the earth was round, not flat, either,” Aanisah added. “A round earth wasn't news to the people of that day. Even people back in the days of Aristotle, during the 4th century (quite some time before Jesus entered history), it was well understood that the earth was shaped like a sphere.” It turns out that the myth of the flat earth myth seems to have come about from Washington Irving's 1828 biography about Christopher Columbus. In the biography, Columbus' trip was viewed as extremely dangerous by people at the time because they believed in a flat earth. In truth, there wasn't a single knowledgeable person of Aristotle's time who didn't believe in a round planet.

So this year, I learned that the old wisdom rings true: don't believe everything you read. Having learned that Christopher Columbus didn't really discover America, I have to wonder, is it worth celebrating Columbus Day at all?

“Indeed it is,” Aanisah assured me. “Christopher Columbus did one thing that the vikings failed to do: he shared the knowledge of the New World to the other Europeans. And that's why we celebrate Columbus Day all these years later, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.”

Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographer: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan
Weekly Cartoons

Next Issue: Rerun Article: The Great Pumpkin - Myth or Reality?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Rerun Article: Candy...How I Love Thee!

Brownies are one of my all time favorite desserts! Read today's article to learn how to make these tasty treats, straight from the lizard's mouth . . . literally!

Today I was originally going to talk about trees . . . but then I decided to talk about Halloween. That got me thinking about candy. Oh I love candy! That's right, this lizard loves candy; especially chocolate. Oh speaking of which, my little sister was trying to reach a cook book on the shelf. Being a little taller than her, I reached up to get it when somehow it ended up hitting me on the head and landing on the floor. Miraculously the cook book had opened to a certain recipe. Well my sister and I decided to make the recipe and it was delicious. Oh sorry, I forgot to tell you what it was! Haha! Here it is: Fudgy Brownies by Mary Ellen Cooper.

You'll need: 
  • ¾ c. cocoa
  • ½ tsp. Baking soda
  • 2/3 c. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. boiling water
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. Salt.
First, stir cocoa and baking soda together. Then stir in 1/3 cup vegetable oil. Add the boiling water and mixture thickens. Add the sugar, eggs, and remaining 1/3 cup vegetable oil and mix well. Put in flour, vanilla, and salt. Then mix until it's smooth. Finally pour into a greased 9x13 inch pan and bake for 25 to 40 minutes. That's what I call a tasty Harvest Time treat!

Written by:Lizzy the Lizard
Photographer: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan, Joy Hammond, Mr. Smiley

Weekly Cartoon

Next Issue: It's Columbus, I Mean...Leif Erikson Day?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Dr. Steve Creates Biblical Leviathan? AKA, Super Croc!

Seti the Sarcosuchus is the newest creature to come out of Dr. Steve's lab! Continue reading to learn about the surprising discoveries surrounding this creature. (Photo Credits)
Over the past several years, Dr. Steve Stevenson has cooked up some strange and bizarre creatures in his lab in the Animal Adventures Institute (AAI). Like in 2012, he brought the saber-toothed mammal-like reptile Inostrancevia. I didn't even know there were other animals with saber-teeth other than the famous saber-toothed cats! Another instance was in 2014 when he and his assistants cloned the strange semi-aquatic fish-eating Suchomimus. But all that pales in comparison with the creature accidentally released last Saturday!

It was a normal day (isn't that how most bizarre or really unusual days start?) in Animal Adventures Inc. when some loud noises were coming from AAI. Confused, my trusty, junior photographer, Daniel P. Smithwater, myself, Lizzy the Lizard, one of my reporters, and Jack the Jack Rabbit, our intern, and some other Animal Adventures Inc. residents headed over to the institute to find out what was going on in there! “We've heard strange noises coming from the institute before,” says resident vet Elizabeth Sorkin, “but nothing like we heard today!” We were shocked by what we found!

After reaching the building, the doors to the entrance were being hammered against by something inside, and it was big...really big. A few seconds later, the doors flung off their hinges and mist poured out of the lab as a large reptile came out into the open. With a long toothy snout, scaly hide and a long flexible tail, the creature we saw was a crocodile, but this was no ordinary crocodile: it was longer than a school bus! The crocodile released a loud intimidating bellow and Dr. Steve and his main assistant Oliver Oviraptor followed the beast out so they could explain to everyone what just happened. When asked what was going on, Dr. Steve was quoted for saying, “We're sorry for the inconvenience everyone. He was a bit too determined to get out.” Later, he explained what this monster crocodile was: “He's a Sarcosuchus imperator, meaning 'flesh crocodile emperor', and his name is Seti, after the ancient Egyptian pharaoh. Some people call Sarcosuchus 'Super Croc', because of its size. I guess he really wanted to get out of the institute, so he barged out the door. He's one of the most powerful animals we've ever cloned in this facility.” Fortunately, Seti had been “tamed” so that he wouldn't start attacking people. I then asked him why Seti was released so early (Dr. Steve usually releases his animals from the hatchery sometime in December or January). He is quoted for saying, “It wasn't really up to us. For some strange reason...”(he glared at Oliver)“ appears someone, and I'm not saying who, but someone fed Seti the wrong amounts of organic growth enhancers, allowing the animal to grow quicker and mature faster. Our other cloning projects haven't left their eggs yet!”

One of the residents present last week was Dr. Samuel Adamson, the company's chief paleontologist. He was astounded by this impressive beast. “I'm glad to see the Sarcosuchus specimen we brought back not long ago contained usable Sarcosuchus DNA,” he said. I asked the paleontologist what information he could give me about Sarcosuchus. He said, “Sarcosuchus is the largest crocodile that ever existed and its fossils have been discovered in northern Africa. It lived in the world before Noah's Flood, about 4,350 years ago and grew over 40 feet long and weighed 8-10 tons! It's simply a huge beast! This crocodile lived in the same environment as many African dinosaurs that we've discovered; and unlike many of Sarcosuchus' Cretaceous crocodilian cousins, it didn't walk with dinosaurs, it ate them! This was a reptile capable of taking down medium-sized dinosaurs!”

Seti the Sarcosuchus was certainly an impressive creature, but there was something else about this crocodile that amazed us: it actually breathed fire! Yes, you read that right! Sarcosuchus is a giant fire-breathing crocodile! I was blown away and speechless (thankfully, no one caught on fire that day!). Of all the animals I've seen in my life, I've never seen one that breathes fire! It was almost like Dr. Steve had brought a fire-breathing dragon of ancient myth and lore to life. That's not the only incredible thing Dr. Steve and Oliver discovered about the crocodile they cloned. Oliver is quoted for saying, “We found Seti unusually tricky to manage. He didn't try to eat us or anything, but when he was a youngster, we had to keep him in a designated area so he wouldn't accidentally burn down the place or our other research. Thankfully, Sarcosuchus seems [to have] a limit on how much fire it can dispel at one time. We're still looking for what part of its body this creature uses to create fire, however. In...addition to the discovery that the animal can breathe fire and smoke, we also discovered its hide is extremely tough. The Sarcosuchus has almost impenetrable scales, or osteoderms, on its back that act like shields. Even its underbelly is protected with tough scales, unlike the underbelly of modern crocodiles. Most of this we'd never know if we hadn't seen the live animal.”

Upon observing Seti, Dr. Samuel Adamson quickly realized that Super Croc was very similar to an animal described in the Bible, specifically Job chapter 41. “In the book of Job,” Dr. Samuel explains, “God is talking to a man – who's name is Job – about many of the animals He'd made. The last creature He discusses is a creature He calls 'Leviathan'. Now the Bible says that Leviathan was a semi-aquatic monster that terrified even the mightiest and bravest men. Its mouth was ringed with fierce teeth and its body was covered in tough scales (some Bible translations actually describe them as shields) that were so closely-knit that not even a sword or javelin could pierce through it. But...what was unique about this creature was that it could actually breathe fire and smoke!” I asked the scientist what most people identified Leviathan as. He is quoted for saying, “Most identify Leviathan as being a modern crocodile. But no crocodile today breathes fire! So Leviathan must have been a creature that's now extinct. Some creation scientists have proposed that Leviathan is a marine reptile such as the pliosaur Kronosaurus or the giant sea-going lizard Tylosaurus. However, the Bible talks about Leviathan leaving trails reminiscent of potsherds in the mud – meaning this animal was able to come on land. The creature I believe Leviathan may have been was the giant crocodile Sarcosuchus. Super Croc certainly fits the bill!”

As Sarcosuchus is essentially a large crocodile, it will move into the crocodiles' apartment room in the Animal Adventures Inc. main building, which features a pool, underwater tunnel that connects to the property's lake and a heat pad so the cold-blooded reptiles can warm themselves easily. Of course, it will be substantially larger than the now-second largest crocodile on the property, 16-foot Dylan, the Nile Crocodile.

“We might have to make some adjustments to the crocodile apartment room to account for Seti,” Dr. Steve Stevenson said. “But I think we're all glad to welcome this creature to this property, because Sarcosuchus imperator – Super Croc – is, simply put, a beautiful and awe-inspiring reptile!”

Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographer: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan

Weekly Cartoon

Next Issue: TBD