Archive for March, 2011

An Alternative to Traditional Community College

March 31, 2011

Are you about to graduate high school or do you have a child who is close to graduating?  If so, you may want to consider the following option.  College is an important step to take; therefore, you want to make the right decision in choosing a school.  Community college, while affordable and convenient, might not always be someone’s top choice.  Luckily, there are alternatives, such as online universities.  There are pros and cons to choosing this type of schooling.

If you or your child is graduating high school but traditional community college offerings fall short of your expectations, attending an online university may work for you. Higher education is just a click away.Pros

  • Learning at your own pace. With online college, you can either finish a course quickly or slow down and really analyze your courses.  Having this option can be very beneficial.
  • Fits any lifestyle. Whether you are busy or have a lot of time on your hands online college can work both ways.  If you have multiple jobs and responsibilities (e.g. family life), online college is great because there is no time requirement as long as you get your courses done, and you stay on track.
  • Attend class anywhere. If you decide to go on a trip with some friends or visit family in another state, your classes basically go with you!  As long as you have access to a computer and an Internet connection, you’re set.


  • You must be self-disciplined. Even though you may be busy with other things, you still have to find time to finish all your coursework.  If you don’t this, your grades will suffer and you may even have to withdrawal from the course, forcing you to retake the class next semester.
  • No social interaction. This might not be a problem for some but if you are the type of learner that needs to work with people to grasp a certain concept, online college might not be the best choice.
  • Waiting on virtual assistance. In a classroom your teacher is right there, so when you have a question, they are ready to answer it.  For online college, you might have to wait a few hours or days to get your answer because you would need to e-mail your teacher with the question, and wait for their reply.

This is just one of the alternatives to community college but this is the one that I feel would be helpful.  Online college, though it requires more effort, helps build discipline and good problem-solving skills you will need in your future career.  It also gives you the control to shape and manage your own schedule.  Whether you feel this is a good option or not, consider online college as the key to your success.  For help finding the right online college for you, go to this website.

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Joie Montoya


Twitter Blackbird Pie Just Got Even Sweeter (via News)

March 30, 2011

Last November we launched Twitter Blackbird Pie, a quick and easy way to reproduce beautiful,  full-fledged tweets — not just static screenshots of tweets — in your posts, pages, and even comments. Today we are happy to announce that we've made it even easier for you to interact with tweets on  Thanks to the new set of tools that Twitter just announced, you can now reply to, retweet, or favorite content without ever leaving the pag … Read More

via News

Earth Hour

March 30, 2011

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007 and has taken place worldwide every year thereafter.  The purpose of Earth Hour is to take a stand against climate change.  With close to five million people supporting the World Wide Fund (WWF) organization, it is one of the largest conservation organizations.  This year’s Earth Hour occurred on Saturday, March 26th, 2011, where people around the world switched off their lights for one hour, starting at 8:30 PM, some longer if they so desired.

Earth Hour was started in 2007 with the goal of raising awareness of energy conservation.  Even though people turned off their lights for one hour during Earth Hour, you can take an active role in saving energy everyday.The main reason people chose to participate in Earth Hour is because our future depends on it.  Conserving energy is a big deal in our lifetimes.  Saving energy doesn’t mean you have to drive a hybrid car.  It could be something as easy as turning your lights off when you are not in the room, opening windows instead of turning on the air conditioner in your home, or separating your recyclables.  Each person who contributes to this global change is very important.  Doing simple things to conserve energy will benefit our earth in the future.  Earth Hour has contributed to our awareness of energy conservation by starting this global tradition.

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Taylor P.


How is the Car Industry Being Affected by the Tsunami and Earthquake in Japan?

March 30, 2011

The tsunami and earthquake of March 11, 2011 have had a devastating effect in Japan.  If you look through Japan’s history, they are usually prepared for earthquakes, but this time, they were taken by surprise.  With the earthquake shaking buildings off their foundation and the tsunami waves sweeping away everything in its path, it leaves you wondering: how is the disaster affecting the car industry? Nissan, Subaru, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Suzuki all have their headquarters in Japan, not to mention their manufacturing facilities, as well.

Not only has Japan's agriculture taken a hit, but so has its automobile industry.  Nissan, Subaru, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Suzuki have experienced both an interruption in production as well as a loss in inventory.Most of the major auto factories have been closed due to the circumstances.  This is going to affect sales and production significantly, locally and worldwide.  Many of the plants are unsure as to how long they will need to close down production.  Along with this delay, auto manufacturers must also deal with the massive loss of inventory.  Nissan lost 2,300 of its cars, 1,300 of which were meant to be exported to the United States.  For every day that the facilities are closed, there is a loss of USD$72,000,000.  Let’s hope that Japan has seen the last of these tragic events and that the car industry can start getting back on its feet and move forward.

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Joie Montoya

Buying a New or Used Car

March 29, 2011

At some point in time, everyone needs to buy a car, especially if you live in California like I do.  Whether it is new or used, you should make sure you know what you are looking for.  The things you look for in a used car are different from what you look for in a new car but, of course, there are similarities, as well.  Here are two lists of things to keep in mind when shopping for a new or used car:

Whether you are looking for a new or used car, here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a car.New Car

  • Gas Mileage (Save gas money!)
  • Safety (Check to see its crash test rating and how many air bags it has)
  • Reliability (If it’s not reliable, it’s not for you)
  • Comfort (You won’t like your car if you aren’t comfortable in it)
  • Speed (Make sure it can get up to speed in time)

Used Car

  • How many miles it has (Should have an average of 10,000 miles per year)
  • If it has a salvaged or clean title (Salvaged means it was fixed from a car accident; avoid all cars with a salvaged title)
  • Reliability
  • Comfort
  • Speed
  • Cleanliness (You don’t want to buy a dirty car!)
  • Make sure the car was well-maintained by its previous owner
  • Safety

All of the things listed above are great to keep in mind when shopping around for a new car.  You also want to make sure you shop around for a while before you make your final decision.  There are a few things you can do to make sure you are not being scammed when buying a new or used car such as taking a mechanic along with you, test driving it, checking its Car Fax, or checking if it’s a good deal at Kelly Blue Book.  Buying a car takes time, but knowing what you are looking for will make it that much easier.

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Taylor P.

Disaster Preparedness

March 28, 2011

There have been many disasters lately such as the recent earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan.  Disasters such as the aforementioned are hardly predicted accurately, which means it is our responsibility to be prepared at all times.  Precautions have been taught to us when we went to school or when we go to work, but for those who might have forgotten, I hope this refreshes your memory about the things you should and should not do in the event of a disaster.

Natural disasters can happen at any times.  Here are some ways you and your family can prepare for the next disaster.Things you should do to prepare for a disaster:

  • Stay calm.
  • Have all important documents (birth certificates, passports, social security cards, etc) pre-organized in a briefcase or backpack and ready to go.  See “Simplifying Your Financial Life” for more information.
  • Organize a safety kit including band aids, non-perishable food, water, disinfectant, an extra pair of clothing, an extra set of keys, and other necessary toiletries.
  • Practice how to take cover for different types of disasters (e.g. in case of an earthquake, get under the nearest table or doorway and cover your head).
  • Come up with different safety plans for your family, including different escape routes and rendezvous points.
  • Write down any emergency numbers and keep them in your safety kit.  You might also consider purchasing an inexpensive, prepaid cell phone to keep in the kit, as well.

Things you should not do in case of a disaster:

  • Do not call 911.  Phone lines will be jammed during a disaster.
  • Do not rely solely on your cell phones for help.
  • Do not lose focus.
  • Do not run into places where there is more danger.

Disasters can be a frightening experience but it is always important to remain calm during any difficult situation, as hard as it may be.  Although there have been some predictions of future earthquakes, predictions are nothing to stress over.  Instead, take it as a warning to be prepared.  If you are prepared, there is nothing to be worried about.

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Joie Montoya


Preventing Rain Damage to Your Home

March 25, 2011

Your home is always a victim in a rain storm.  While some damage may go unnoticed in the last storm, there are a few precautions you should take if you hear about another rain storm coming your way.   Rain gutters should be free of debris so they do not clog, since a clogged rain gutter causes water to run over its edges and water will fall around the walls and foundation.  Over time, your gutters may also become loose, causing water to flow improperly and diverting it into the space left between the house and the gutter.  It is very important to check the gutters to prevent any water flow into the house, as well.   However, even the houses of the most diligent homeowners can suffer from damage because no one can predict how powerful the next storm can be.

Your home may not come out unscathed during the next rainstorm. Here are some precautions you should take to protect your home before the next storm.Water leaks in the home, while subtle in appearance, maybe more damaging than anticipated once investigated.   Some water might come through the walls or ceilings, forming bubbles of water under the paint.  Also, water could get into the house through the roof and stay in the attic with no signs of water damage.  If water damage in the house goes unnoticed, toxic mold may grow and wood could get water logged, becoming weak and structurally unsound.  Mold in homes can become dangerous if it begins to grow, producing allergens, irritants, and potentially toxic substances.  Indoors, mold cannot be eliminated completely.  Your best your best plan of attack is to clean up the mold and fix the water problem.  Wood that has become weak and structurally unsound from water damage can be very dangerous.   It can collapse more easily in another disaster, or if it is simply walked on.  The best thing you can do to protect your home is to keep up with the work on your home, such as cleaning the rain gutters, checking your sump pump, and other drains around your house.

The YouTube video, below, shows what you can do around the house to prevent storm water damage to your home.

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Taylor P.

Japanese Culture: Japanese Cuisine

March 23, 2011

Japanese cuisine (日本料理) has come a long way, spanning several periods in Japanese history.  In the Ancient Era, also known as the Heian Period (平安時代) (794-1185), the main meal choices were derived from Chinese cuisine.  Boiled, plain rice, also known as gohan or meshi, was and still remains the main staple of Japanese cuisine.  During this period, Japanese society went from a semi-sedentary, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural society.  Meals began to include fish, jellyfish, octopus, and meat.

Japanese cuisine has come a long way, spanning several periods in Japanese history.  Changes in the lifestyle of the Japanese people, political change, and even Western influence have played a role in shaping Japanese cuisine.The start of the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代) in the 12th century also marked political change in Japan.  Military government became nobility which, in turn, changed the etiquette of dining, rather than the meal itself.  The menu of this era consisted of dried abalone, jellyfish aemono, pickled ume called umeboshi, salt and vinegar for seasoning, and rice.

The period after the Kamakura period marked the beginning of the modern era in Japanese cuisine.  Centuries of changes have boiled down to this finalized list of staple foods that makes up their cuisine.  Since many Japanese people are Buddhists, they do not eat meat, resulting in a cuisine that consists primarily of seafood although, in recent years, meat and chicken have made their way into Japanese cuisine.  Noodles, rice, and vegetables are essential components to every Japanese meal.  If you would like to try Japanese food in your own home, here is a recipe for Chicken Teriyaki, a common dish served in many Japanese households.


1/4 c. teriyaki sauce
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. white vinegar
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2 chicken breast halves, skin and fat removed

Stir all ingredients, except chicken, together in a baking dish or pan.  Add chicken pieces and turn a few minutes to coat well.  With flesh side down in sauce, cover and bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.  Makes 2 servings containing 160 calories and 6 grams of fat per serving.

The video, below, shows you how to make sushi in eight easy steps.

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Joie Montoya

Japanese Culture: Japanese Festivals

March 18, 2011

Matsuri (祭) is the Japanese word for “festival” or “holiday”.  In Japan, it is often said that you will always find a festival going on somewhere.  Most Japanese festivals are derived from Chinese festivals.  However, some are so different from the Chinese festivals, you can hardly tell where they came from.  Festivals are usually sponsored by a local Shrine or Temple, though they can be held by other people, as well.  There are no specific days for festivals and holidays for all of Japan, as they vary throughout each region.  Japanese people do not celebrate the Chinese New Year, but instead celebrate the Western New Year, although Chinese residents in Japan still celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Japanese festivals take place throughout the year, ranging from shrine or temple-sponsored Buddhist festivals to more secular festivals that honor cherry blossoms or children.

Tōdai-ji Temple (東大寺) - Nara, Japan

The Sapporo Snow Festival (さっぽろ雪まつり) is a famous festival in Japan.  It is one of the largest festivals and is held in Sapporo (札幌市).  It occurs in the month of February for one week.  During this festival, around a dozen huge ice sculptures are made along with hundreds of other, smaller sculptures.  There are also some concerts held during this event.  Omizutori (or Shuni-e修二会) is a series of events held annually from March 1-14 at Tōdai-ji Temple (東大寺).   It is a Buddhist repentance ritual and has been held every year for over 1250 years.   It is one of the oldest Buddhist events in Japan.  Otaimatsu is the most famous and spectacular event that goes on during Omizutori.  There are many festivals and holidays that go on in Japan throughout the year.  Many involve traditional clothing, traditional food, fireworks, and floats.  These great festivals and holidays continue to be celebrated today.

Vlogger Ken Tanaka has made a great introductory video to what goes on at Matsuri on his YouTube channel.

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Taylor P.

Japanese Culture: The Art of Japanese Theater

March 15, 2011

Japanese theater has been around for centuries.  There are four main forms of Japanese theater; Noh (), Kyogen (狂言), Kabuki (歌舞伎), and Bunraku (文楽).  Kyogen was mainly used during intermission between Noh acts.  Noh was performed for the upper class.  Performers who had roles in Noh plays did not wear masks.  The most well-known form of theater is Kabuki, which, unlike Noh, combined music, drama, and dance.  The extravagance came in dressing up in crazy costumes and real-life sword fighting.  Bunraku is the Japanese term for “Puppet Theater”.  Puppet dolls were 3 to 4 feet tall and were handled by puppeteers.  The puppeteers who controlled the movement of the puppets had to wear all black while the main puppeteer who controlled speech wore colorful clothing.  Music played a large role in all types of Japanese theater.

Japanese theater has evolved over hundreds of years, from the formal, symbolic, and solemn 14th century Noh theater to the extravagant 16th century Kabuki theater.In modern theater, the Japanese adopted naturalistic acting and contemporary themes.  In the postwar period following World War II, many plays focused more on the developing history of Japan.  Western themes also made it to Japanese theater which was called, “Shingeki (新劇)”.  Some plays performed in this theme included the works of William Shakespeare such as “Hamlet” and “King Lear”.  Over the years, you can see how Japanese theater has changed and developed but one thing that has stayed the same is the Japanese peoples’ love for theater.

UNESCO has a video clip about Kabuki Theatre on their YouTube channel.

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Joie Montoya