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The VDOT archaeologist who uncovered The Witch Bottle

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Possible witch bottle found under I-64 in Virginia. Photo courtesy of VDOT.

Prior to joining the Virginia Department of Transportation in March 2019, Chris Shephard, Richmond District archaeologist, made a “bewitching” discovery in an archaeological excavation of a Civil War fortification furing the Interstate 64 widening project.

His team from William & Mary uncovered the “witch bottle” that recently went viral online.

Witch bottles, folkloric artifacts, are collections of objects buried or hidden in houses to ward off evil spells or witchcraft.


This particular bottle was discovered in 2016 in the median of I-64 near Williamsburg.

Though damaged, the cask and contents were intact, having been preserved by the dirt dumped when I-64 was first constructed.

Shephard said the bottle may have been used to store nails to set up the Union camp at Redoubt 9. But a member of his crew, based on his own knowledge of folk traditions and witchcraft in colonial Pennsylvania, suggested it may be a witch bottle

“There is compelling evidence, as the bottle was found buried upright near a brick hearth with a nest of iron nails inside [similar to other bottles],” he said.

“There are ample written accounts of these practices in America and Europe and examples have been found archaeologically.

“On the other hand, all we have in this particular bottle is nails. If there was a cork on the bottle it disintegrated long ago in the acidic Tidewater soil, and any organic materials that may have been in the bottle are long gone.”

Still, he remains skeptical about the artifact’s purpose. A witch bottle is a deeply personal item, which is atypical in longer-term encampments.

“Soldiers likely spent most of their time in permanent accommodations in town, where they kept their personal effects,” Shephard said. “A rarely manned outpost that never saw action after it was taken by the Union seems an unlikely place to bury a witch bottle, but I can’t say what was in their heads.”

Though his team didn’t have time for further research, the item is still one of fascination and maybe revisited by other archaeologists.

“The great thing about archaeology is that in circumstances where the evidence points you in multiple different directions, it is okay to have multiple interpretations.”

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Farewell to overdraft charges?

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When they debuted nearly 30 years ago, overdraft charges were meant to provide a cushion for consumers who accidentally withdrew more money than was available in their bank accounts. The bank would cover the deficit and charge the customer a fee to do so, and the customer would avoid bouncing checks or be declined at checkout.

Yet over the years, the practice changed. Overdraft fees became an enormous and controversial source of income for banks, worth billions each year — $20.3 billion in 2020.

The controversy? One involves banks rearranging the order of transactions so that the most expensive ones get processed first. Then, when an account goes into the red, the bank dings the customer with a fee for each subsequent transaction in the negative, no matter how small the purchase. At $35 a pop in some places, the fees can quickly spiral — and can turn a pack of gum into a nightmare.

Consumer watchdogs have suggested a system that alerts consumers to a potential fee at the point of sale, allowing people to opt in to purchases that will result in a negative balance, or decline the purchase.


Some financial institutions are providing alternatives. A growing number of banks are offering grace periods and small short-term loans for users who qualify, said The New York Times. And one, Ally Bank, said it would eliminate its $25 overdraft fee altogether and give customers six days to get in the black again before any penalties.

PNC Bank introduced a service to alert customers when their balances are low and when they go negative. If that happens, customers have 24 hours to rectify it and if not, are hit with an overdraft fee just once per day rather than per transaction.

Other banks are following suit, seeking compromises that help consumers while mitigating their own risks and protect profits.

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Book Review: How to Change

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One of the hottest new books in the business and personal development space tackles an age-old challenge for anyone who loves to set goals: How and what to change in order to get there.

In How To Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, author Katy Milkman uses research and science to offer strategies on how we can overcome obstacles and affect behavioral changes. The book was released in May.

Milkman is an award-winning Wharton professor and host of Charles Schwab’s Choiceology podcast who has devoted her career to the study of behavior change. The book is earning praise for its meaty content and practical tips, derived from Milkman’s research as well as her scientific collaborators.

How To Change provides strategic methods for overcoming challenges like impulsivity, procrastination, and forgetfulness. It uses case studies and stories to describe how timing can be everything when it comes to making a change and how to turn temptation and inertia into assets. The book’s chapters are a simple list of our common obstacles, including titles like Laziness, Forgetfulness, and Getting Started.


This is Milkman’s first book, though her credentials are extensive. In addition to her work as professor and podcast host, she is the co-founder and co-director of the Behavior Change for Good Initiative and has worked with or advised organizations on how to spur positive change, including Google, the U.S. Department of Defense, the American Red Cross and Walmart; and is the former president of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making.

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Why wolves howl

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Has anyone ever told you that wolves howl at the moon? Since these animals are often heard at night, many people mistakenly believe that they’re howling at the moon. However, in reality, they use these calls to communicate. Here are some of the reasons that wolves howl:

• To gather the pack
• To indicate their location
• To find a mate
• To warn others to stay out of their territory

The reason wolves tend to be more vocal when the moon is out is simply that these nocturnal creatures are most active at night. This doesn’t mean they don’t also howl during the day or on cloudy nights when the moon is hidden. It just depends on whether they have something to say.

The moon isn’t the reason wolves raise their head toward the sky when they howl either. They do this because it helps project sound upward and throughout their environment. Turning their head upward when they howl allows their message to travel over long distances.


Finally, it’s interesting to note that not all howls are alike. In particular, the duration of a wolf’s cry can completely change its meaning.

Did you know?
Just like humans, wolves communicate and express their emotions with different facial expressions.

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August Celebrity Birthdays!

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Tony Bennett meets Stevie Wonder

Tony Bennett, 95, singer, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, New York, NY, 1926.

 

Do you share a birthday with a celebrity?

1 – Tempestt Bledsoe, 48, talk show host, actress (The Cosby Show), Chicago, IL, 1973

2 – Sam Worthington, 45, actor (Avatar), Godalming, Surrey, England, 1976.


3 – Tony Bennett, 95, singer, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, New York, NY, 1926.

4 – Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 40, former actress (Suits), born Rachel Meghan Markle, Los Angeles, CA, 1981.

5 – Jonathan Silverman, 55, actor (The Single Guy), Los Angeles, CA, 1966.

6 – Peter Bonerz, 83, actor (The Bob Newhart Show), Portsmouth, NH, 1938.

7 – Charlize Theron, 46, actress (Mad Max: Fury Road), Benoni, South Africa, 1975.

8 – Roger Federer, 40, tennis player, Basel, Switzerland,

9 – Robert Joseph (Bob) Cousy, 93, Hall of Fame basketball player, former coach, New York, NY, 1928.

10 – Angie Harmon, 49, actress (Law & Order), Dallas, TX, 1972.

11 – Marilyn vos Savant, 75, columnist, claims world’s highest IQ, born St. Louis, MO, 1946.

12 – Cara Delevingne, 29, model, actress (Suicide Squad), London, England, 1992.

13 – Danny Bonaduce, 62, radio personality, actor (The Partridge Family), Broomall, PA, 1959.

14 – Mila Kunis, 38, actress (That 70s Show), Kiev, Ukraine, 1983.

15 – Vernon Jordan, Jr, 86, civil rights leader, Atlanta, GA, 1935.

16 – Taika Waititi, 46, actor (What We Do in the Shadows), comedian, Wellington, New Zealand, 1975.

17 – Julian Fellowes, 72, producer (Downton Abbey), Cairo, Egypt, 1949.

18 – Malcolm-Jamal Warner, 51, actor (The Cosby Show), Jersey City, NJ, 1970.

19 – Erika Christensen, 39, actress (Parenthood), Seattle, WA, 1982.

20 – Donald (Don) King, 90, boxing promoter, Cleveland, OH, 1931.

21 – Kacey Musgraves, 33, singer, songwriter, Golden, TX, 1988.

22 – Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, 54, actor (Lost), London, England, 1967.

23 – Jay Mohr, 51, actor (Jerry Maguire), comedian,Verona, NJ 1970.

24 – Alexander McCall Smith, 73, author, Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), 1948.

25 – Blake Lively, 34, actress (Savages), Tarzana, CA, 1987.

26 – John Mulaney, 39, comedian, writer (Saturday Night Live), Chicago, IL, 1982.

27 – Sarah Chalke, 45, actress (Roseanne), Ottawa, ON, Canada, 1976.

28 – Quvenzhane Wallis, 18, actress (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Houma, LA, 2003.

29 – Lea Michele, 35, actress (Glee), Bronx, NY, Aug 29, 1986.

30 – Michael Chiklis, 58, actor (The Shield), Lowell, MA, 1963.

31 – Marcia Clark, 68, former prosecutor, crime reporter, born Marcia Kleks, Alameda, CA, 1953.

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Quiz: How much do you know about insects?

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Whether you find them fascinating or creepy, insects are interesting creatures to learn about. Here are 12 skill-testing questions to broaden your knowledge.

True or false
1. Ladybugs are part of the Coccinellidae family.
2. When a butterfly is in its cocoon, it’s called a chrysanthemum.
3. Carpenter ants live in dead or rotten wood where they carve out tunnels.
4. Flies rub their legs together as a way to clean themselves.
5. Grasshoppers have longer, thinner antennae than crickets.
6. Fireflies light up because of a chemical reaction in their abdomen.
7. Mayflies usually live for just three or four days.
8. Orchid mantises have legs that resemble flower petals, which helps them remain camouflaged.

Multiple choice
1. This insect is also known as a waterbug or Croton bug. Most people don’t like to have them in their home because they’re considered a pest.
a. A cockroach
b. A bed bug
c. A ground pearl

2. This insect lives in treetops and eats sap. It’s known for its high-pitched buzzing.
a. A tiger beetle
b. A cicada
c. A dragonfly


3. This insect is often confused with other members of the Hymenoptera order, but you can tell it apart by its narrow body and lack of hair.
a. A wasp
b. A bee
c. A hornet

4. Part of the grasshopper family, this insect can grow to be up to four inches long and is the heaviest insect in the world. It lives in New Zealand.
a. A titan beetle
b. A rhinoceros beetle
c. A giant weta

————————–

Answers
1. True
2. False (It’s called a chrysalis)
3. True
4. True
5. False (Crickets are the ones with longer antennae)
6. True
7. False (They usually only live for a few hours)
8. True
9. a)
10. b)
11. a)
12. c)

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With practice, a beginner can learn golf in six months

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Say you’re 35 or 45 years old, and you’ve never played golf. With the right teacher and time to play or practice three times a week, you could be able to make a good showing when you’re out with people who have played casually for many years.

Ron Stepanek, head of business development for the PGA, says almost anyone can learn to break 100 in five or six months. Someone with decent hand-eye coordination and any kind of athletic experience could probably break 90.

With the agreement to take lessons for five or six months, a teacher and student have the time to master the fundamentals in the right order before progressing.

The instructors say committed beginners make faster progress because they don’t have to unlearn as many bad habits.


Beginners start with putting and chipping. Once they understand what well-hit shots feel like at that level, they build up to full-swing shots. The Wall Street Journal’s John
Paul Newport says three of the six instructors he interviewed started with the short game.

He recommends relying on word of mouth to find an instructor, scheduling a trial lesson, and talking about your goals to determine whether the connection is right.

Some good tips:

* Start learning drives at a practice range, not on the course.

* Don’t make your spouse or significant other your main teacher.

* Make sure you learn a proper grip and then proceed to the swing.

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9:00 am Waggin’ For Dragons @ Front Royal Golf Club
Waggin’ For Dragons @ Front Royal Golf Club
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Waggin' For Dragons @ Front Royal Golf Club
Our Annual Dragon Boat race is back and better this ever, because we’ve got some special friends joining us! Our race teams, made of local community and business groups, will be racing and raising that[...]
11:00 am Friends of Sky Meadows Farm Market @ Sky Meadows State Park
Friends of Sky Meadows Farm Market @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Friends of Sky Meadows Farm Market @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Stop by the Friends of Sky Meadows Farmer’s Market for tasty preserved products, heirloom vegetables, eggs and more. Pick from seasonal vegetables grown in Sky Meadows’ authentic Kitchen Garden, July through September. Grab[...]
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Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Settle's Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Follow your nose to the Log House to see what tasty treats are cooking on the hearth. Watch as a Sky Meadows volunteer or ranger dons historic clothing and cooks delicious dishes using[...]
12:00 pm The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
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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[...]
8:00 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area – behind Mount Bleak. Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA Jet Propulsion Lab[...]