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A beginner’s introduction to cryptocurrency

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Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are digital currencies that allow people to make anonymous transactions electronically without involving third parties, such as banks, credit cards or companies like PayPal. This is appealing because third-party institutions often charge fees and slow down the transfer process, especially for large, international transfers. Cryptocurrencies eliminate the need for a middleman by using a peer-to-peer network that relies on cryptography — the practice of encrypting information so that only select people can read and process it.

These currencies are not only virtual but also decentralized, meaning that no government or central authority controls how much is in circulation. Instead, circulation is monitored by the user community, and transaction data is stored on computers across the world.

How blockchain works
Rather than using intermediaries, cryptocurrencies use blockchain technology to record and verify transactions. A blockchain is a list of all transactions that occur using a cryptocurrency, with each block representing a specific transaction. It can be accessed by anyone using the currency but is encrypted so your private information stays secure.

When you start using a cryptocurrency, you receive a digital wallet and a public and private key. Your private key is a string of letters and numbers that you use to sign a transfer to confirm that it’s from you. Once entered, it becomes encrypted, but other users can use your public key to check that you’ve signed it with your unique signature.


So, how exactly do transactions get recorded on the blockchain? When you enter your private key to send cryptocurrency, it spurs an encryption process that generates a complex math problem. Blockchain users compete to solve the problem by running high-powered computers that eventually find the solution to the algorithm. Solving the algorithm results in a new block being added to the chain.

The users competing to solve algorithms are called miners because the user who solves the problem first is rewarded in new digital coins. Each time a block is added, more cryptocurrency is generated. Mining cryptocurrency thus verifies transactions while rewarding the people responsible for keeping the blockchain updated.

Investing in cryptocurrencies
Financial experts are divided on whether cryptocurrency is the future of money or just a passing fad. In any case, at the moment cryptocurrency is a high-risk investment. Since digital currencies have no fixed worth or government backing, their value is purely speculative and can fluctuate wildly, even within a few days. If you buy cryptocurrency, spend only what you’re prepared to lose.

Instead of buying cryptocurrencies, some experts recommend investing in companies that are developing blockchain technology. Blockchain has applications beyond cryptocurrency, and many people think that even if cryptocurrency doesn’t last, blockchain could transform how we do business in the years to come. If you’re looking for investment opportunities, consider buying stock in companies that are finding new uses for blockchain.

Did you know?
Microsoft, Subway, Expedia and PayPal are some of the major companies that are now accepting certain cryptocurrencies as payment. Customers can pay for goods and services out of their digital wallets when making online purchases.
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Micro-volunteering: quick bursts of benevolence

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Are you looking for a way to give back to your community while also juggling a hectic schedule? If so, then micro-volunteering might be right for you. Here’s what you should know about this approach to community action, which has been growing in popularity over the last decade or so.

What is it?
Micro-volunteering is based on the notion that people are more likely to volunteer their time in short, convenient bursts. It refers to volunteer tasks that take no more than an hour or two to complete and can be done whenever they fit into the person’s schedule. Importantly, micro-volunteering doesn’t require an application, training process, or any ongoing commitment.

What are the advantages?
The main benefit of micro-volunteering is that it’s flexible. This makes it a great option for those who have a busy schedule and would otherwise forgo volunteering because of a lack of time. And since the majority of micro-volunteering happens online, people can have an impact from virtually anywhere.

How can you help?
Micro-volunteering can take on various forms, and many tasks become contributions to a larger project. For example, you can:


• Sign a petition or participate in a letter-writing campaign
• Pick up garbage in your neighborhood while on a walk
• Participate in a research project or survey
• Help a senior with their groceries or yard work
• Share donation opportunities on social media
• Bake cupcakes for a charity fundraiser sale
• Knit a hat for a shelter or worthy cause in your area

To find out more about short- and long-term volunteer opportunities in your community, reach out to a local volunteer center or consult the Points of Light Engage volunteer database at engage.pointsoflight.org.

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Earth Day 2021: a focus on nature-based solutions

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The theme for this year’s Earth Day, which takes place on April 22, is Restore Our Earth. It’s based on the growing understanding that humans can do more than simply mitigate the impacts of climate change. In addition to transforming the world’s energy, urban and industrial systems, we can restore and use natural processes to combat climate change.

Capturing carbon
To reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the power of nature can be harnessed in a number of ways. Solutions include planting trees, restoring coastal wetlands, and adopting agricultural practices that improve soil health.

In addition to capturing carbon emissions from the air and sequestering them in plants, soil, and sediments, restored ecosystems increase biodiversity and help provide cleaner air and water.

In fact, according to the Global Commission on Adaptation, these types of ecological restoration projects can provide one-third of the climate mitigation needed over the next decade to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius.


Increasing resilience
Communities ranging from rural towns to major cities can become more resilient against the impacts of climate change by restoring and protecting natural ecosystems.

For example, restoring mangrove forests helps protect coastal regions from rising seas and storm surges. Doing so is significantly cheaper than building breakwaters and other infrastructure. Plus, mangroves have the added benefit of storing carbon, preventing erosion, and helping to sustain local fisheries.

For more information about Earth Day and how you can take action against climate change, visit earthday.org.

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You never know when an idea will pop up: The invention of bubble wrap

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It’s undeniably satisfying and almost meditative: The pop of bubble wrap between our fingers and thumb. But did you know that the invention of bubble wrap — as with many great inventions throughout history — was an accident?

In 1957, engineer Alfred Fielding and his business partner, Swiss chemist Marc Chavannes, were trying to invent a textured wallpaper. They sealed two shower curtains together and initially were disappointed by the air bubbles trapped inside.

But the enterprising men soon started brainstorming other ways to use the material, scheming their way through 400 ideas. They named the product Bubble Wrap and continued to test ideas.

Three years later, in 1960, they decided to use it as packaging material and founded the Sealed Air Corp.


Their decision coincided with IBM’s newest invention, the computer called the 1401 unit, which needed a safe way to be transported. Sealed Air Corp. landed its first major customer and soon, smaller companies followed. Until then, most packaging materials consisted of balled-up newspapers, which could be messy.

Over the years, the line expanded to different-sized bubbles and sheets, plus other materials. A non-poppable pool cover even came along. The small business grew to become a Fortune 500 company with sales of $4.5 billion in 2017, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

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Volunteering: a good cause that’s good for your health

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National Volunteer Week, which takes place from April 18 to 24, is an annual opportunity to recognize and celebrate the impact that volunteer service can have on a community. It’s also an ideal time to learn more about the other benefits of donating your time to a worthy cause.

Boost your physical and mental health
Various studies have shown that volunteering can contribute to better physical health. Depending on the type of activities you do as a volunteer, you can actually reduce your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, lessen symptoms of chronic pain, improve cognitive function and even live longer.

What’s more, volunteering can do wonders for your mental health. The social contact and sense of purpose that come with volunteering help reduce stress, anger, anxiety and depression. It can also improve your self-confidence and overall well-being.

Connect with a larger community
Since it was first established in 1974, National Volunteer Week has grown exponentially. Today, thousands of volunteer projects and special events are organized throughout the week, bringing together people from all walks of life who want to help their communities.


If you want to give back and enjoy the benefits of volunteering, you can use the Points of Light Engage database to find thousands of opportunities in your neighborhood and around the world. Visit engage.pointsoflight.org today.

For more information about National Volunteer Week, visit pointsoflight.org/nvw.

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Great time for stargazing

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Here’s something to do that costs almost nothing and carries the promise of awe: Look at the sky.

Humans have been stargazers forever, wondering in ancient times if the points of light were holes in the heavenly veil, offering a glimpse of the light of heaven. But even ancient civilizations knew the paths of the stars and were guided by the North Star (Polaris).

Today, light pollution from cities means that your yard might not be the ideal spot to watch the heavens, so you might need to pack up a blanket and some snacks, throw the kids in the car and drive to a good dark sky location. Visit www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/finder/ to look for a good spot near you.

And if you want to know when certain planets are visible, when you can catch a good meteor shower, whether the moon is doing something spectacular or if you’re just curious about what you might see, there’s a tool for that, too. Visit www.space.com/33974-best-night-sky-events.html to see a calendar of night sky events and stargazing maps. The website includes handy visuals, so you know what to look for when you scan the horizon.


If you’re rusty on your constellations or never took the time to learn them, there are more free tools that can help you and your family get the most out of your stargazing excursion. Download the free Star Deck constellation and astronomy flashcards. The Star Deck is available in both English and Spanish.

There are also a number of free apps available to help walk you through your journey to the stars. Try SkyView, available from the Apple and Google app stores. Of course, be aware that with your phone lighting your surroundings, your eyes might not adjust to the night sky as well, and you might miss the show.

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A brief guide to building an emergency fund

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An emergency fund is essential to your financial security because it provides a safety net in the event that you become unemployed or need to pay for an unexpected expense. Since April is Financial Literacy Month, here’s a look at how to create an emergency fund that will help you weather financial hardship without increasing your debt.

How much to save
Most financial experts recommend that you set aside enough money to cover your household expenses for three to six months. Take into account necessities like rent or mortgage payments, transportation costs, food, and utilities.

How to save
An emergency fund takes time to build up, so start saving as soon as possible. Create a plan to set aside a portion of your income each month, even if it’s a small amount. Find ways to reduce your expenses and use your next bonus or tax refund to bolster your savings.

Finally, remember that this money should be reserved exclusively for emergencies. Adequate savings will help ensure you don’t have to rely on credit cards or high-interest loans if you get sick, lose your job, or need to make a major home or car repair.


Where to save
A high-interest savings account is a smart place to put aside an emergency fund because it ensures your money is accessible if you need it. Plus, you’ll likely earn a bit of a return on your savings. Other liquid, low-risk investment options include a money market account or a certificate of deposit.

If you need help building an emergency fund or achieving other financial goals, speak with a certified financial planner or a registered investment adviser.

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King Cartoons

Front Royal
37°
Partly Cloudy
6:25am7:56pm EDT
Feels like: 30°F
Wind: 9mph W
Humidity: 56%
Pressure: 30.05"Hg
UV index: 0
FriSatSun
63/39°F
64/50°F
66/41°F

Upcoming Events

Apr
20
Tue
all-day Mad Science Kit @ Warren County Community Center
Mad Science Kit @ Warren County Community Center
Apr 20 – Apr 23 all-day
Mad Science Kit @ Warren County Community Center
The Warren County Parks and Recreation Department Mad Science Kit contains experiments that focus on fun, interactivity, and entertainment. Participants ages 6-12 will be able to perform four (4) experiments, including Dyed Carnations, Lava Lamps,[...]
Apr
24
Sat
10:00 am Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 24 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
On this Earth Day, celebrate safely by doing your part to restore our earth and joining the Great Global Cleanup. Stop by one of our tables at the Explorer Outpost, Picnic Area, or Lost Mountain[...]
12:00 pm Empty Bowl Supper “To Go” @ Downtown Market
Empty Bowl Supper “To Go” @ Downtown Market
Apr 24 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Empty Bowl Supper “To Go” @ Downtown Market
Come out to enjoy our favorite fundraiser to benefit the House of Hope, the Empty Bowl Supper “TO GO”! DATE: Saturday, April 24 from 12noon-3pm Ticket Link: eventbrite.com/empty-bowl-supper LOCATION: Main Street & Downtown Market Check in near the[...]
12:00 pm SHS Band Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
SHS Band Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
Apr 24 @ 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
SHS Band Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
Join us for an afternoon of golf at Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club in Front Royal! 1 pm Shotgun, Registration from 12pm – 12:45pm. $85/Player $340/Team Help us celebrate Skyline High School Band’s success while[...]
12:30 pm Color Run Fundraiser @ Warren County Department of Social Services
Color Run Fundraiser @ Warren County Department of Social Services
Apr 24 @ 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Color Run Fundraiser @ Warren County Department of Social Services
Save Our Children Front Royal is hosting a Color Run/Walk to raise money for The Child Safe Center, located in Winchester, Virginia. The Child Safe Center is a local non-profit who supports sexually abused victims[...]
Apr
25
Sun
4:00 pm Paint with a Superhero @ Downtown Market
Paint with a Superhero @ Downtown Market
Apr 25 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Paint with a Superhero @ Downtown Market
$30 per painter or 4 painters for $100. Bring the whole family and save! Join us for a special Paint with a Superhero event! Be sure to dress up as your favorite hero or villain[...]
Apr
27
Tue
10:00 am Mah Jongg “Players Club” @ Warren County Community Center
Mah Jongg “Players Club” @ Warren County Community Center
Apr 27 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Mah Jongg “Players Club” @ Warren County Community Center
Players will enjoy several hands of Mah Jongg against skilled opponents. This club meets on Tuesdays from April 6, 2021 through April 27, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Warren County Community[...]
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Apr 27 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
May
1
Sat
8:00 am 2021 Apple Blossom Wine & Hard C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
2021 Apple Blossom Wine & Hard C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 1 @ 8:00 am – 12:30 pm
2021 Apple Blossom Wine & Hard Cider Challenge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Come enjoy the challenging routes at Sky Meadows State Park and Valley View Farm, home of the Gnarled Orchard. These courses are knotty, knot nice at the farm as they are a mix of cross[...]
12:00 pm The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 1 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Blacksmith Shop in the Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and[...]