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How to become a birdwatcher



Are you looking for a hobby now that you’re retired? If so, then birdwatching could be a great fit.

All you need are binoculars, a species identification guide, a notebook, and a good pair of walking shoes. This makes birding an affordable pastime. Plus, you can do it anywhere, from urban parks to forest trails. You can even take up birding in your own backyard.

Since many species migrate, the types of birds that are active in your area will vary with the seasons. This makes birdwatching an interesting hobby year-round. All it takes is patience, a keen eye, and some free time.

If you’re ready to give it a try, consider joining a local birdwatching club. You’ll be able to access a wealth of knowledge, which will make your next excursion all the more enriching.

Additionally, there are numerous publications and online resources you can consult to get more information about birding.

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September celebrity birthdays!



David Arquette, 49, actor, Winchester, VA, 1971. Tabercil / CC BY-SA

Do you share a September birthday with a celebrity?

1 – Zendaya Coleman, 24, actress (Shake It Up!), singer, Oakland, CA, 1996.

2 – Cynthia Watros, 52, actress (Lost, Guiding Light), Lake Orion, MI, 1968.

3 – Paz de la Huerta, 36, actress (Boardwalk Empire), New York, NY, 1984.

4 – Damon Wayans, 60, actor, comedian (In Living Color), New York, NY, 1960.

5 – Bob Newhart, 91, comedian (The Bob Newhart Show), Chicago, IL, 1929.

6 – Rosie Perez, 56, actress, Brooklyn, NY, 1964.

7 – Leslie Jones, 53, comedienne (Saturday Night Live), Memphis, TN, 1967.

8 – David Arquette, 49, actor, Winchester, VA, 1971.

9 – Hugh Grant, 60, actor, London, England, 1960.

10 – Misty Copeland, 38, dancer American Ballet Theatre, Kansas City, MO, 1982.

11 – Lola Falana, 77, singer, dancer, actress, Camden, NJ, 1943.

12 – Louis C.K., 53, comedian, born Louis Szekely at Washington, DC, 1967.

13 – Fred Silverman, 83, television producer, New York, NY, 1937.

14 – Faith Ford, 56, actress (Murphy Brown), Alexandria, LA, 1964.

15 – Tommy Lee Jones, 74, actor, San Saba, TX, 1946.

16 – Amy Poehler, 49, actress, Burlington, MA, 1971.

17 – Scott Hoying, 29, singer (Pentatonix), Arlington, TX, 1991.

18 – Jada Pinkett Smith, 49, actress, Baltimore, MD, 1971.

19 – Columbus Short, 38, actor, Kansas City, MO, 1982.

20 – Dale Chihuly, 79, artist, Tacoma, WA, 1941.

21 – Nicole Richie, 39, television personality, Berkeley, CA, 1981.

22 – Andrea Bocelli, 62, tenor, Lajatico, Italy, 1958.

23 – Anthony Mackie, 41, actor, New Orleans, LA, 1979.

24 – Gordon Clapp, 72, actor (NYPD Blue), North Conway, NH, 1948.

25 – Jordan Gavaris, 31, actor, Caledon, ON, Canada, 1989.

26 – Jim Caviezel, 52, actor, Mount Vernon, WA, 1968.

27 – Carrie Brownstein, 46, comedienne, Seattle, WA, 1974.

28 – Hilary Duff, 33, actress, Houston, TX, 1987.

29 – Chrissy Metz, 40, actress, Homestead, FL, 1980.

30 – Tea Obreht, 35, author, Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), 1985.

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Strasburg once Central Valley center for pottery



European Settlers began residing in the enchanting Northern Shenandoah Valley during the 1730s. Peter Stover migrated to the Shenandoah Valley in 1739 and eventually purchased 483 acres of land from Jacob Funk. Stover divided the land into smaller plots for sale to other settlers and a village was informally established. Stover then applied for a town charter from Virginia’s Colonial General Assembly in November 1761 giving the fledgling community the official name of Strasburg after Strasbourg, the capital of the German-speaking French province of Alsace. Some settlers originally called the area Staufferstadt, the German name for Stoverstown.

Unlike English society found east of the Blue Ridge, Strasburg was settled with family farms and villages rather than large estates and was greatly influenced by Germanic values, customs and languages. The prosperous agricultural community that developed in the bountiful low lying land along a large bend of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River featured scenic views of the Massanutten Ridge to the east and Allegheny Mountains to the west.

Strasburg would gradually boast a strong mercantile base that supported blacksmiths, doctors, carpenters, potters, coopers, weavers, hatters, shoemakers, tavern keepers, stonemasons, millers, tanners and potters. However it was for the pottery industry that Strasburg would increasingly be recognized. A Sabbatarian commune trekked to Strasburg from the Ephrata Cloister in Pennsylvania with a desire to reproduce rural folk art pottery. This Christian group of celibate men and women migrated to the Valley about 1757 and in 1761 established the first cottage industry pottery production.

Attached Photo courtesy Mark Gunderman. The Strasburg Museum, once operated as a Steam Pottery, also known then as the Strasburg Stone and Earthenware Manufacturing Company from 1891-1909.

In the early nineteenth century potters from other colonial locations were arriving and establishing small shops. Shops accepting apprenticeships were primarily limited to family members. The agrarian society had great needs for pottery products. Potteries were built for making utilitarian devices used in cooking meals and food storage. Rich Valley earthen and stoneware clay deposits were readily accessible and abundant which enticed potters to Strasburg to take advantage of owning a shop with a cheap clay source in close proximity. Earthenware was used for cooking and stoneware was suitable for storing liquids. Salt-glazed stoneware became very available during this time and potters made serviceable household products like cream pitchers, lard crocks, whiskey jugs and chamber pots.

Philip Grim was most likely Strasburg’s first commercial potter. Phillip began producing pottery in 1783 and continued here until 1811. Adam Keister began making pottery in Strasburg in 1805 and produced his first stoneware during the 1820s. His sons Adam Jr. and Henry continued the business from 1847 until after the Civil War. Samuel Bell moved to Strasburg from Winchester to make pottery in 1843 and his brother Solomon Bell joined him in 1845. Pottery continued to be a commercially viable industry prior to the Civil War, with local clay being used to make both utilitarian items and decorative pieces.

The ravages of the Civil War brought lean years to the Shenandoah Valley, thus diminishing the pottery industry. Many potteries severely cut production during the war years and financing to increase production after the war was difficult. Skilled Potters were abundant but salaries were below normal standards for the years 1865-1875. Competition was intense during this period and the phrase “poor as a potter” was widely used.

The most successful period for the Strasburg pottery trade came a decade after the war during what has been called the “Golden Age” of Valley pottery production (1875-1895). This Golden Age was the result of voluminous stoneware production when many partnerships were formed and dissolved. The Potters were able to transport their stoneware throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic states via the Manassas Gap Railroad which connected Strasburg to Manassas Junction and Alexandria and the new Winchester and Strasburg Railroad which connected Strasburg to Harpers Ferry, enabling a connection to northern destinations.

It was during the Golden Age that a number of small potteries were distinguished here and Strasburg became a potter’s paradise earning its signature nickname of Pot Town. Pot Town became the Central Valley headquarters for the production of both utilitarian and fancy earthenware and stoneware pottery. Commonly produced stoneware forms of the late nineteenth century include jars, crocks, jugs, pitchers, butter and cake crocks, milk pans (shallow, tapering crocks with spouts) and spittoons.

Samuel H. Sonner produced ware from 1870 to 1883. His son John Henry Sonner assumed the business and continued making stoneware and drain tile into the early 1900s. George W. Miller produced pottery from 1880-1901. James M. Hickerson managed his pottery in Strasburg, Virginia from 1884-1898. Jacob J. Eberly & Company opened in 1874. Eberly acquired Keister Pottery in 1880. Eberly’s brother Joseph and son Letcher joined him later, producing stoneware and fancy ware until the early 1900s. Letcher is recognized for creating the poly-chrome glaze used in earthenware products in Strasburg. Samuel and Solomon Bell’s business continued to grow producing various saleable items with Samuel Bell’s potter sons, Richard Franklin “Polk” Bell, Charles Forrest Bell, and Turner Ashby Bell. Ashby became the last surviving potter working, by producing lavishly decorated commercial products in Strasburg as late as 1915.

Around 1890 the two story structure that now houses the Strasburg Museum was built by the Strasburg Stone and Earthenware Manufacturing Company as a factory intended to place the Shenandoah Valley’s long tradition of pottery making on a high-volume industrial basis. The factory idea was conceived by Dr. G. A. Brown and a group of investors from Lynchburg and Strasburg.

The plan was to make Strasburg an important manufacturing center elevating the city’s status to the level of more modern Trenton, New Jersey and Zanesville, Ohio. The company began operating the large steam pottery plant on the site beginning in February 1891. The project coincided with the brief economic boom experienced during the city’s Golden Age.

Many of the Strasburg area independent potters became employees of the company and local laborers sought permanent employment at 50 cents a day. Unfortunately the organization did not have the necessary experience for operating in a large factory environment. There were many delays getting the operations component running smoothly as management had difficulty with the various technological phases and challenges of the new industrial era.

By 1894, large amounts of inventory remained unsold. In 1895 and 1896, the factory mostly produced brick and tile. The company officers recognized glass jars and tin cans were rapidly replacing pottery for food storage. Efforts to diversify the product line with additional items like flower pots and brightly-glazed tableware were not enough to sustain the steam pottery plant. The short-lived venture (1891-1897) into specialized industrial and technological advancement represents an unsuccessful attempt to convert a small production industry into one of innovative mass production. Between 1898 and 1900 the company wholesaled all of their machinery and pottery related equipment.

Strasburg pottery production went into decline because of competition from large, well-managed Ohio-based factories, the transition of food storage from ceramic vessels to the use of lighter-weight glass jars and new canning devices. The gradual mass production of glass jars and tin cans as more efficient types of containers ultimately led to the rapid end of salt-glazed stoneware and the pottery industry. By 1910, virtually all remaining commercially productive potters in the Valley area sought out new means of employment.

Strasburg stoneware is admired today for its folk art charm and Southern legacy. It is believed that no other community of similar size is as well-known as Strasburg among nationwide pottery collectors.

Thanks to Mark P. Gunderman of  Stephens City, Virginia for this story.

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Do you have what it takes to be an air traffic controller?



Air traffic controllers are typically responsible for monitoring and directing the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air. This includes establishing flight plans and updating crews on weather conditions. If you’re fascinated by aviation and thrive in a fast-paced work environment, this might be the job for you.

Necessary qualifications
Air traffic controllers have a number of responsibilities that have to be carried out under considerable pressure. You must be able to keep your cool in all circumstances, as people’s lives may depend on your decisions. You also need to be adept at working independently and as part of a team. Self-confidence, good judgment, an analytical mind, and a keen eye are required traits.

As an air traffic controller, you need to remain alert and be able to adapt rapidly to changing circumstances. It’s essential that you possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills as well as good vision and a willingness to work unconventional hours.

Access to the profession
In order to get a job as an air traffic controller, you must have patience and perseverance. The training program, which must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, is lengthy and arduous. However, once you have the necessary qualifications, there’s no shortage of positions available. And you’ll actively use the knowledge you acquired during your training for the entirety of your career.

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August celebrity birthdays!



Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 39, former actress, born Meghan Markle, Los Angeles, CA, 1981. Northern Ireland Office / CC BY (

Do you share an August birthday with a celebrity?

1 – Demian Bechir, 57, actor, Mexico City, Mexico, 1963.

2 – Mary-Louise Parker, 56, actress (Weeds), Fort Jackson, SC, 1964.

3 – Hannah Simone, 40, model, actress (The New Girl), London, England, 1980.

4 – Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 39, former actress, born Meghan Markle, Los Angeles, CA, 1981.

5 – Loni Anderson, 74, actress (WKRP in Cincinnati,) St. Paul, MN, 1946.

6 – Romola Garai, 38, actress (Atonement), Hong Kong, 1982.

7 – Charlize Theron , 45, actress, Benoni, South Africa, 1975.

8 – Drew Lachey, 44, singer (98 Degrees), Cincinnati, OH, 1976.

9 – Anna Kendrick, 35, actress (Into the Woods), Portland, ME, 1985.

10 – Ian Anderson, 73, musician, lead singer (Jethro Tull), Blackpool, England, 1947.

11 – Chris Hemsworth, 37, actor (Thor), Melbourne, Australia, 1983.

12 – Cara Delevingne, 28, model, actress, London, England, 1992.

13 – Kathleen Battle, 72, opera singer, Portsmouth, OH, 1948.

14 – Tim Tebow , 33, sportscaster, football player, 2007 Heisman Trophy, Manila, Philippines, 1987.

15 – Linda Ellerbee, 76, journalist, Bryan, TX, 1944.

16 – Taika Waititi, 45, actor, (Thor: Ragnarok) comedian Wellington, New Zealand, 1975.

17 – Mark Salling, 38, actor (Glee), Dallas, TX, 1982.

18 – Luc Montagnier, 88, virologist, discovered the AIDS virus in 1983, Chabris, France, 1932.

19 – Jim Carter, 72, actor (Downtown Abbey), Harrogate, Yorkshire, England, 1948.

20 – Robert Plant, 72, singer, Bromwich, England, 1948.

21 – Usain Bolt, 34, Olympic track athlete, Trelawny, Jamaica, 1986.

22 – Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, 53, actor (Lost, Oz), London, England, 1967.

23 – Scott Caan, 44, actor (Hawaii Five-0, Entourage), Los Angeles, CA, 1976.

24 – Rupert Grint, 32, actor (Harry Potter films), Hertfordshire, England, 1988.

25 – Bobby Berk, 39, television personality (Queer Eye), interior designer, Houston, TX, 1981.

26 – Chris Pine, 40, actor (Star Trek films), Los Angeles, CA, 1980.

27 – Aaron Paul, 41, actor (Breaking Bad) born Aaron Paul Sturtevant at Emmett, ID, 1979.

28 – Shania Twain, 55, country singer, born Eileen Twain, Windsor, ON, Canada, 1965.

29 – Elliott Gould, 82, actor (The Long Goodbye), born Elliott Goldstein, Brooklyn, NY, 1938.

30 – Timothy Bottoms, 69, actor (The Paper Chase), Santa Barbara, CA, 1951.

31 – Debbie Gibson, 50, singer, Brooklyn, NY, 1970.

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4 reasons to take up taekwondo



Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that emphasizes kicking techniques. It was developed shortly after World War II and can be practiced by children and adults alike. Here are four reasons to take up taekwondo.

1. To improve physical fitness
Practicing this martial art provides a full-body workout. In order to deliver strong blows and hold your own against an opponent, you need muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. Many of the kicks and hand attacks involve jumping or spinning and need to be executed with precision.

2. To enhance coordination

Taekwondo requires balance, flexibility, and agility. As you master different techniques, you’ll develop quicker reflexes and learn how to respond to physical instability. These skills also reduce the risk of injury in your daily life.

3. To boost self-esteem
Martial arts training teaches you how to overcome adversity and face challenges with confidence. As you progress in taekwondo, you’ll be rewarded with a series of belts that demonstrate your achievements.

4. To help relieve stress
Taekwondo requires concentration and discipline. To achieve this, you have to set aside personal and professional worries when you step onto the mat. This sport is a healthy outlet for stress and allows you to blow off steam.

If you’re looking for a fun way to stay active or you want to sign your child up for a new sport, consider taekwondo. Some studios even offer family classes.

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5 reasons to learn Sign language



Do you want to communicate with more people or challenge yourself to develop a new skill? Here are five reasons to learn Sign language.

1. It facilitates interactions. If you learn Sign language, you can have in-depth discussions with people who are deaf. Communicating in Sign language is also an alternative to raising your voice when conversing with someone who has partial hearing loss.

2. It’s a beautiful language. American Sign Language uses a 26-sign alphabet and 19 hand shapes to communicate innumerable words and concepts. Facial expressions and body movements play a key role in the language’s grammar.

3. It makes you a better listener. Sign language requires you to focus your attention. You can’t turn away or multitask and still hold a conversation. This level of engagement shows respect and can strengthen relationships.

4. It’s a valuable learning experience. Picking up a new language improves cognitive function and memory. It also introduces you to another culture, and learning Sign language can raise your awareness of the challenges faced by people who are deaf.

5. It promotes child development. Research shows that teaching a toddler Sign language can speed up their speech development. Start with signs for common words like food, again, milk and sleep.

If you’re interested in learning Sign language, find out if there are courses offered in your area. Alternatively, you can find video tutorials and other resources online.

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