The Historic Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad in Colorado



A Unique Prehistoric Crocodilian in the Age of Dinosaurs


Prehistoric Crocodilian pic

Prehistoric Crocodilian

Valerie Varnuska is a longstanding Westbury, NY, resident who has a passion for vintage transportation, from cars to trains. Also interested in the prehistoric world, Valerie Varnuska has read extensively on paleoanthropology, paleoecology, and paleontology.

Recent research at the Natural History Museum of Milan focuses on the predatory crocodile Razanandrongobe sakalavae, which features powerful jaws set within a deep skull. Its serrated teeth were remarkably similar to the familiar Tyrannosaurus rex in both shape and size.

Living in today’s Madagascar during the Middle Jurassic epoch more than 160 million years ago, the Razanandrongobe sakalavae had erect limbs that today’s crocodilians lack. Its effectiveness as a predator placed it at the apex of the food chain, above even theropod dinosaurs. Separated from other species by water, the species evolved on its own and represents one of the earliest examples of “exacerbated body size increase” in an animal.

The Tale of Madame Butterfly


Madame Butterfly pic

Madame Butterfly

Westbury, NY, resident Valerie Varnuska has a passion for the arts and enjoys trips to the theater. One of Valerie Varnuska’s favorite shows is Madame Butterfly, an opera that has enjoyed success for over a century, thanks to its classic story and traditional staging.

Composed by Giacomo Puccini and first performed in 1904, Madame Butterfly follows the story of an arranged marriage between a young Japanese woman named Cio-Cio-San, the titular Madame Butterfly, and Lieutenant Pinkerton, who serves in the United States Navy.

Though Cio-Cio-San takes the arrangement seriously and quickly falls in love with her American suitor, Pinkerton treats the marriage as an afterthought and leaves his wife behind for three years soon after conceiving a child with her.

Upon his return, Pinkerton brings with him a new wife, Kate, and decides to adopt the child that Cio-Cio-San bore him. Though she knows that the adoption will offer her child greater opportunities in life, Cio-Cio-San sinks into despair upon learning about Pinkerton’s marital betrayal. She eventually decides to give her child to Pinkerton and Kate, bidding the young boy a final farewell before committing suicide.