Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekly MUSE: Tornados

Photo by: Matthew Straubmuller
This weekend I saw the movie, Oz, the Great and Powerful. I LOVED IT!

In this story, we learn the backstory of the wizard character from the classic story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum and published in 1900.

I won’t tell you too much about this movie, but while watching the movie, I did find this week’s MUSE!


Not only does Dorothy ride her way into OZ on a tornado, so did the wizard. Dorothy took a house. The wizard took a hot air balloon. Take a look at the tornado in the movie trailer.  

Tornados are sometimes referred to as “twisters” or “cyclones”. They are violent, dangerous, rotating columns of air that reach down to the ground from a thunderstorm cloud.

They are formed when cool dry air from the Rockies collides with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. This happens in the plains area between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains. This area is also known as Tornado Alley.

Take a look at this video to see some footage of real tornadoes and to learn more about how the form.

The deadliest tornado in U.S history happened on March 18, 1925. This tornado ripped through, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. It killed nearly 700 people.

While meteorologists can predict when weather conditions are prime for tornados to occur, they cannot actually predict when or where a tornado will form. But after a tornado has struck, scientists collect data to see how they will rate it. They use the Fujita Scale. F-0 (the mildest and least destructive) to F-5 (the fiercest and most destructive).

An F-5 tornado can grow up to 2 miles wide and spin winds over 300 miles per hour. This is enough force to throw cars like bullets and sweep houses off their foundations.

So, what do you do if you are ever in the path of a tornado? The best place is underground. If you have no basement or cellar, then go to the center-most room of your house away from windows. In most houses this would be a center bathroom. If your house is more than one story, make sure to go downstairs.

If you are outside and cannot seek shelter, find a ditch and lie flat on the ground with your hands covering your head. Do not stay inside a car.

With that new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “what if” questions will help you get started.

What if a tornado was a gigantic cotton candy machine?

What if you were sucked up by a tornado and transported to a new land like Dorothy and Toto?

What if you had a super power to create tornados on command or stop them on command?

The possibilities are endless! And please leave your own “what if” questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a piece of paper and a pencil, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere! I look forward to seeing where you take us!

With Imagination,

Professor Watermelon

P.S. The word of the week is “meteorology”. Here is the definition: the study of the Earth’s atmosphere, especially of weather forming processes and weather forecasting.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekly MUSE: Suspension Bridges

The Golden Gate Bridge
After visiting San Francisco this weekend, I was reminded that our country has some stunning examples of suspension bridges.

The Golden Gate Bridge has become the symbol of San Francisco. The Brooklyn Bridge is a New York City icon, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is simply notorious.

Creative Writers, we have found another MUSE: SUSPENSION BRIDGES!

So, what is a suspension bridge?

A suspension bridge is named for the cables that “suspend” from the bridge’s towers to the bridge’s deck. The weight of the deck is supported from the suspension cables above rather than a structure built from below the deck.

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans the entrance of the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. It took just over four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge. Building began on January 5, 1933, and the bridge opened on May 28, 1937. At the time, this bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world.

The color of the Golden Gate Bridge is actually International Orange. The bridge is not called the Golden Gate Bridge because of its color. Its namesake is actually the body of water beneath it, which is called the Golden Gate.

The Golden Gate Bridge is constantly being repainted. The paint protects the steel from being damaged from the salty air. The bridge has a team of nearly fifty ironworkers and painters who handle the daily maintenance of the bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge
Photo by: Sue Waters
Another famous suspension bridge in the United States is The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. This bridge spans across New York’s East River, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883. And it was also the largest suspension bridge of its time. The main difference between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge is the building material. While the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge are made of steel, the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge are made of stone.

In order to show the public that the Brooklyn Bridge was safe to cross, P.T. Barnum, a famous showman of the time, had 21 of his elephants parade across the bridge. What a sight!

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Photo by: Mic Watson
Much closer to home is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a set of twin bridges that spans the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound. Neither of the bridges you see today are the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The original bridge was nicknamed “Galloping Gurtie” because it rippled in the wind. This design flaw would eventually cause the bridge to collapse.

Here is some of the original footage of the collapsing bridge. Only one car went down with the bridge. Take a look at the video below.

Amazing, huh?

The Aurora Bridge
Legend has it that a gigantic Pacific octopus lives under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. At any time it could reach one of its arms out of the water and snag a car from above. How creepy is that? I think somebody is using their imagination, don’t you?

Another bridge close to home has an occupant who lives underneath. While the Aurora Bridge in Seattle is not a suspension bridge, it has become quite famous for the troll who lives under it. Looks like this fellow has snagged a car from above, too!

The Freemont Troll under the Aurora Bridge in Seattle
Photo by: Tony Kent
With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these WHAT IF questions will help you get started.

WHAT IF an a gigantic octopus really DID live under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge? What would it want more than anything in the world?

WHAT IF the Golden Gate Bridge was made of solid GOLD?

WHAT IF the Brooklyn Bridge suddenly vanished, and it was your main character’s job to figure out how it simply disappeared? Did somebody steal it? Where did it go?

The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,

Professor Watermelon

The word of the day is “notorious”. Here is the definition: widely and unfavorably known.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Dear Creative Writers,

Three Bookworm Bookmarks have inched their way into the MUSEBOX! What a GOOFY crowd! Here is your Creative Writing Challenge! Can you give them each a name? Also, what are these bookworms' favorite books?  Please use the comment section below to answer these questions.

With Imagination!

Professor Watermelon

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

MUSEBOX: Luck of the IRISH!

Dear Creative Writers,

Look at what I found in the MUSEBOX! A charming Leprechaun! I am totally stealing his sparkly clothes (chuckle). Here is your Creative Writing Challenge: Can you take this ordinary leprechaun and make him extraordinary? What does he have in that barrel? Magic frogs?

Write a paragraph and bring this LEPRECHAUN to LIFE! This challenge is worth $10 Melon Dollars!

Luck be with YOU!

Professor Watermelon