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I recently got a clear case for my iPhone 6 (at a discount in return for my honest review). So here's the review...

It fits great, and it's slim. I haven't dropped the phone yet since I got it, so not sure how well it protects, but probably comparable to most cases. I really like the unusual feature that it has little flaps to fit into the charging port and the aux to prevent the dust getting into them.

Now I never had a clear case before, and it's a little bit boring... I guess if you really really like the color of your iPhone, it would be good. Otherwise it's a bit plain. I'm thinking of putting some stickers on it, since the case is flat (unlike my previous one which was textured). Additionally, dust gets under the case, and it's very noticeable. I guess stickers would help with that too, but also will serve as a reminder to clean it every now and then. I still haven't been able to make it totally clean. Each time I put it on, I see dust particles...

I watched this new movie today. I wanted to see it in theaters, but it was a limited release, and local theaters didn't have it. It was wonderful. At first I didn't really care for the way it was filmed; they were trying too hard to be creative/artistic... But the story-telling, and the acting were really good. I liked the feel of the movie, I liked the Russian in the background, and I'm not just talking about songs, but also crowds like at the train station or market... I liked the costumes, although I didn't pay too much attention to that while I was watching.

Here's the thing... I cried, a couple of times. But not for Anna. It was all about Karenin for me. That is love, not what Anna and Count Vronsky had. Karenin who was defending Anna in front of others, who was giving her the benefit of doubt as long as possible, who warned her about consequences, who forgave Anna and Vronsky when she begged forgiveness, who let her go rather than forcing her to remain when it was clear she would be unhappy, and who in the finale is taking care of the child that she and Vronsky had. I didn't expect that. I mean the story isn't titled Alexei Karenin, but Anna Karenina, and Karenin really isn't so very prominent in it (in terms of the amount of time we see him), but it turns out he is.

I'm struggling trying to take control over my point-and-shoot camera, because it has no manual mode, not even shutter-speed-priority or aperture-priority modes, so that I have to figure out which of the functions would be helpful in certain situations rather than having direct control over the settings... I've decided to read the manual cover-to-cover now, and have put it on my Kindle.

Now people do say that it's not your gear; having better equipment won't necessarily improve your photography. That you can shoot great with anything at your disposal if you just know how to use it, etc. And before you get a different camera, you should understand how exactly it will help. Right: I still don't fully know my point-and-shoot, and it is possible I'm overlooking useful stuff that's hidden. But on the other hand I can visualize how having control over aperture can help with the depth-of-field (blurring background or foreground, especially in portraits) or with the starburst effect on the light sources, and the control over shutter speed can help with the night shots (I so wish to capture the trailing lights), or flowing water.

I've come across this great camera giveaway, and entered. (I bet I don't win ;P)*

Big thanks to the SnapKnot wedding photography directory for offering this great camera giveaway!

* If I win, awesome; if I don't win, I at least win the bet!

I don't even know ... I just got a package in the mail. This was something I ordered exactly a month ago, and had already contacted the seller about the item being lost in the mail, and received a replacement.

I ordered a travel power plug adapter for my trip to Italy. This was even typed on the package itself. What I got was a torn package, with two wheel bearings (look approximately like this) in it. I didn't know what they were, I had to look it up by part # (6204-2RD-QE6)... What am I now supposed to do with them? (All I can think of is "photo op".) And there's someone out there, who is missing their bearings, and maybe has my adapter instead... wish we could exchange, hehe, makes me wonder if there's some sort of "lost and found in the mail" forum thing.

Current Mood: confused confused

EDIT: I found some things I got wrong -- option two has a "quarterly limitation" on gas and grocery purchases which wasn't specified... option one actually has $250 sign up bonus not $100 as I thought.END EDIT.

Okay, I've decided it's time for me to get a credit card. I think I have a good credit, though I haven't checked it lately... I'm getting some offers in the mail. I've sort of narrowed it down to two, but I'm getting confused at this point.

1) American Express Blue Cash Everyday

This one offers 3% cashback at supermarkets (but superstores like Wal-Mart aren't included, so it's very confusing at to which stores this would apply at); 2% at grocery stores and gas; and 1% everywhere else. Plus $100 bonus if you spend $1,000 in the first three months. No annual fee.

2) Bank of America Cash Rewards

This one offers 3% on gas, 2% on groceries, and 1% everywhere else. Plus $100 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months. No annual fee.

To me it sounds like choice 2 is better. It's the same rewards for grocery shopping, and larger cashback on gas... whereas it's very uncertain what 3% would apply to using Blue Cash Everyday. Plus I only need to spend $500 to get the (same) bonus vs. $1,000. Plus choice 1 is an American Express, which is not everywhere accepted. But online reviews rave about Blue Cash, and downplay Bank of America... Why?

*Other choices to consider - Amazon Rewards card (basically 3% on purchases, 2% on gas station, restaurant, drugstore and office supply store purchases, and 1% on everything else)

I was trying to do research online to find a Russian movie without which no holiday is complete (we had a copy, but we no longer can watch it because it's in the European format and we no longer have a converter). And I came across this article, which is perfect, haha.

Top Ten Traditions No Winter Holiday in Russia Goes without
All of them are on target, but just to highlight a couple:

1. Christmas Tree - absolutely! It bugs the heck out of me that people here bring the trees in the house soooo much in advance and throw them out immediately after Christmas. We got it just a little bit in advance, but kept them up for as long as possible, and that note about the pine smell struck a cord with me too.

4. That's the movie I was looking for :) There are NTSC versions on DVD, which have English subtitles, and Dan was really excited about that: finally he'd get to understand everything. Although he was saying he understood more or less because the acting is so good, and you can see the story, what's happening.

5. Haha, yep and we still do research every year what we're supposed to wear. Too bad we don't get any of the Russian magazines with tips ;)

10. The "Old" New Year. That's one holiday we no longer pay that much attention too, but it was definitely the thing to do. I kind of miss celebrating it.

If you fall in love with a book or movie, do you tend to watch/read it again and again? If so, what's your upper limit on repeats?

Absolutely. Definitely with the books, since sometimes as I change I find something new in them, and because I tend to forget the details, although I may remember the general plot. Movies less so, but I can also watch them over and over, especially if they have good music in them... I still like "Singing in the Rain" for instance, and there's this traditional New Year's Russian movie that is pretty much a standard TV show every year (I guess like "A Christmas Story" for the Americans). There are a few others, like "Paycheck" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", which I already know what happens, but it doesn't matter, I still enjoy them.

Usually, it's not the matter of an "upper limit". Instead, it's the frequency. Usually, I'll revisit those favorites when I've forgotten the details, so it's sort of rediscovering anew.

I'm so not ready for Thanksgiving... However I'm thankful that I have a day off on Thanksgiving Day. And for these other things:

* V-gift from Secret Bunneh
* Having a job
* My faith and a whole bunch of things connected with it
* My family

Recently I took up crochet again, but this time instead of doing pretty but useless doilies, I'd like something with a purpose. I found this summery outfit, which is just soo pretty. It looks a little complicated, and a bit repetitive, so that I'm sure I'll find it hard to not get bored. Except that looking at this photo, I see the final destination and I want to have it. ;)

I bought the cheapest available lock at Walmart. When it works, it works, but lately I've been having a problem that it doesn't actually lock. I was wondering if I'm doing something wrong, so I've been looking for some guides.

"To close the lock, press the shackle back into the hole near the top of the lock. It doesn't matter what number the arrow notch is pointing toward to close the lock." Yup, that's what I do. But then I try to check if it's locked and pull on it -- it's not locked.

Anyone had similar experience?

So on Friday, our cat somehow got out of the house. He's been out for five days during which we would be looking for him, calling him, talking to neighbors. Yesterday we bought a trap to catch animals without hurting them, hoping it will catch our cat, because a few of our neighbors have seen him, but he wouldn't come out of the woods (there are a lot of empty lots here still) to our voice. But we didn't have to use it, because mom went out in the evening and saw him on the porch of another neighbor's house. So she called him, and he came! It seems that he just got lost, and had no clue which house was his. We were so relieved and happy. We thought he'd either ran away very far, because the first 3 days we haven't heard any word about him, or that someone had gotten him and taken him in for themselves.

Well, he was hungry!! Another thing we've discovered is that he had fleas on him :( So we washed him with a special shampoo. He seems so much smaller than he was just a few weeks ago when we washed him before. You can see all the bones when he's wet. Of course he has long fur, so you can't see it when he's dry, but you can feel it when you stroke him.

He was so happy to be home. It's really unusual for him to be so lovey-dovey. The first thing he did was lie down on the cold tile floor where the AC air was coming out. It's been really humid these past few days, and when it wasn't hot, it was raining and thundering. I would guess he'd been rained on 3 or more times. That's also a problem, because his fur is all matted, especially on his stomach and neck. It's pretty bad. I think we're going to have to shave him in spots.

Would you be upset if a long-term partner confessed that s/he'd committed a serious crime before you met? How do you think it would affect your relationship?

It depends. I'm a big believer in second chances, but I'd expect my partner to have made amends for the crime, or be prepared to do so now.

Do you believe that a higher power controls our fate or that we choose our own destinies?

A little bit of both. I believe that there is a plan for my life, something that I'm meant to do and am uniquely qualified to do, something that would bring me happiness. There is a reason why I'm here. But at the same time, it's not like a mandate; I can choose to go along with the plan or not to. It's not set in stone, if that makes sense...

I think I fell victim to a spyware/adware... Has anyone heard of ? Whenever I go a page like this:

it redirects me to

But this only happens in Firefox, my main browser. It does not happen in IE. What gives? There's a page where you can "opt out" by accepting a cookie from them, which I really don't want to do, because this just doesn't look legitimate. Why did it hack my browser like that. And there's nothing I can do.

Frustrating. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Update: posted some pictures from the site. The first is "About this page" link on the bottom of the search results page. The other is what appears when you click "opt out".

Update 2: This even happens if I go to Safe Mode in Firefox! What does this mean? Their site claims they haven't installed anything on my computer - yeah right...

Update 3: WTF! It seems to be my ISP's doing! What, just what? Okay then. I'll accept that freaking cookie.

Do you suffer from occasional or frequent insomnia? Do you have any special tricks or remedies? How does it impact your life?

Nope, I don't generally have insomnia. I can sometimes stay up a long time if I get really excited about a book or a game, or I may be awaken by the kitty in the middle of night and then fail to fall asleep again, but these are rare.

However I've recently heard a good trick that I think I'd want to apply if I get insomnia... A teacher recommended googling U.S. Tax Treaties, "If that doesn't put you to sleep, nothing will."

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It is snowing right now! I'm so excited. I haven't seen snow in two years. I heard the weather forecasts, but I didn't know I'd be excited to see this :D

I was hoping to take part in the Mardi Gras parade today, but it might be canceled due to the weather. We'll see.

Edit: It's snowing pretty hard. Not just like tiny snowflakes. Very pretty. The people living here haven't seen snow since 1996, and so they are like standing by the windows, taking pictures and videos... I think I'll go do that too.

If you're in the U.S., will you watch all or part of the Superbowl? Do you have a favorite team? If you're not American, what do you think about Superbowl Sunday?

Never watched "football" before. And the quotes are intentional because this is not what I'm used to calling football ;) But I watched it today, for a few reasons. People just talked about the Superbowl and who is likely to win, and who they want to win, and the excitement kinda caught me too. They also mentioned that they were excited about Superbowl commercials. I've heard of this phenomenon before, that during Superbowl the companies just go all out with their commercials, make creative ones. But since I never watched "football", I never saw the commercials either. So surprisingly all this went against my expectations. I actually enjoyed the game quite a bit more than I thought I would, and I thought the commercials weren't all that great. Some of those commercials were kinda odd, making you think it was going to be about something other than it turned out to be in the end... The Coca Cola commercial was one I liked, though. I was kind of hoping to see the Tim Tebow's commercial, but I missed it. Looks like another let down: what all the fuss was about?

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, the actual game... Around here the Alabamians were mostly all for the New Orleans team, although the odds were more in favor of Indianapolis. Someone said, "It would take a miracle for the Saints to win" to which the answer was, "Well, saints do that kind of thing". (Pun intentional as far as could tell!) Since I've just moved from Indiana a year ago, and New Orleans is not in Alabama, I wasn't sure which team I should be cheering for, but I was leaning more towards the one deemed less likely to win - i.e. New Orleans Saints. I lost track of time, and only tuned in in the second quarter, where it seems that the game picked up for New Orleans! Good timing on my part I guess. (The score was 10-0 with Indianapolis in the lead by the end of first quarter. 10-6 in the second quarter, I think.) That interception and touchdown in the fourth quarter was awesome. It was a kind of close game most of the time in terms of points, so I'm guessing the teams were pretty well-matched. Still the Saints have managed to win by a sizable margin in the end: 31-17. It was interesting to watch, as I said before. Even though I don't know any rules yet, I could kinda sorta follow it.

What animal best represents your inner spirit? If you had to wake up as an animal, which one would you choose, and why? Are your two answers the same? Why or why not?

A bit weird question, but I wanted to answer anyway... I really like dragonflies; that's the sort of animal I could imagine myself as. They are just so graceful; they fly fast or hover and are usually found near the water. I wouldn't want to be an animal, but that's what I could associate with.

I like this.

This has been a recurring item in my dreams, and I wonder if there is a scientific explanation (none of that psychology or dream interpretation crap). It feels so real when a couple of teeth and then all of my teeth suddenly fall out right onto my hand; and it makes me feel helpless (like how am I going to chew stuff or even speak without teeth?)... Is there anything I might do to prevent such dreams? When I see that dream it never occurs to me that it's a dream, and that's scary...

This song is absolutely amazing and I want it on my iPod. Sadly I can't find an mp3 or even the CD it is from (Pane di Vita Nuova) - I'd even buy the CD, because of this one song, and because I've heard something else by this artist that was almost equally great, so that I know it's not a fluke. I found it sold in some Italian store for Euros, so maybe when I go to Rome (dream of my life) or something ;)

Google is working on a new operating system... I'm not sure if I would trust it. I mean, I was excited about Google Chrome the browser, but in the end I stuck to Firefox because of all my useful extensions, and because it seemed unsafe -- a few times when I was looking at Facebook pages, the browser would crash, and at one of those times I got a warning that made me suspect a virus... When I'm using Firefox I can block ads, and I never experience those issues with Facebook. I'll watch how it goes: maybe it will gain support and popularity - but I'm not going to be an Early Adopter.

I just discovered a vocabulary software. It was very funny, as I was listening to words that had different acceptable pronunciations (affluent, acumen), and the one I'm used to was not the one in the program. On the other hand, I learned that I pronounce "adversary" wrong.

The program is apparently used to prepare for various tests (SAT, TOEFL, GRE and such). I clicked on the TOEFL so-called "book", because I know somewhat of this test. To my surprise, there were only 300 words there ranging from "abandon" to "import" in alphabetical order. Where are the words after "import"?

In any case, I found a cool option to create your own book. In your own book, you can even add translations to a different language, in addition to the regular features. Now that feature is why I would use such a program. I used to make cards to learn new words. This would make it more fun, I think. Because it's not just cards; you can play games with those words.

I found this an interesting and thought-provoking video. The discussion of capitalism vs. free market is a bit sketchy... maybe because I actually know something about that, whereas I don't really know much about the founding fathers of the U.S. and their ideas. I think I'd like to find out more. The video referenced "federalist papers" - maybe that would be helpful to read.

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1. 4th of July

My step-dad has extra days off for the 4th of July, so almost last moment, we decided to get a hotel in Foley for a night and spend two days at the beach in Gulf Shores. It was awesome. The beach is packed, of course, but it was fun. Much better than the pool here at the apartment, which gets too hot. I think we overdid the beach on the second day and we are all burnt. Sunscreen doesn't help here much. I even applied sunscreen on my face twice, and it's still red. Tomorrow we are going to USS Alabama Battleship to watch the fireworks, which should be fun. I've seen signs about this battleship and step-dad thought it would be cool to go, but we never did.

How do you plan to celebrate 4th of July this year?

2. Interview and Personality Test

I've gotten another interview the other day. It's a Staff Accountant with a local nursing home (they have four locations, three in Mobile, one in Huntsville); sounds pretty good from what they told me. One thing that was sort of different is they asked me to fill out a personality test using DISC method. Apparently, everyone (including myself) perceive me as a Specialist, and when I'm under stress I'm an Investigator. More or less accurate based on what those mean. The interviewers said they don't see many Investigators. Not sure if that's good or bad, but they did mention it's not something you can either pass or fail. Just a way for them to figure out how to relate to others. If you have a problem with some co-worker, they'd be able to explain how to act around them, what offends, etc.

3. Jobs

Speaking of jobs... If I get an email advertising a job opportunity that's too good to be true (Accounting position doing both AR and AP, work from home, $5,000-10,000 USD a month, requires at least 10 hours of work a week - I made calculations that's like $125 an hour). Well, do I respond or ignore it as there must be a catch to this, it's too good to be true? I've ignored it for now, just being careful...

4. Ant bites

Can ant bites cause itching all over? The other day, I stepped into their nest apparently, and had at least 25 bites in the foot before I could shake them off. Two hours later or so, I was itching and red all over. I wonder if that was a reaction to those bites...

5. Snakes in AL

I saw a snake in the same place too (the subdivision where we'll be building the house); it scared me. I wouldn't even notice it but then it moved very suddenly, and you know how they move... It was black. I'm thinking it's either black racer or black rat snake. Apparently there are a lot of snakes here. My mom saw a snake in another new subdivision that is just being built too.

6. "Hunt for the Gollum" Fan-movie

I've read fanfics, but I've never seen fan-movies before, and this one is amazing. I'm very impressed. See the trailer; watch the movie. If you have seen other good fan-movies, please recommend in comments!

7. Great Books

So lately, I've been interested in the so-called "Great Books". I just found a series of videos on Youtube about Great Books, which seems like a good resource: Which Great Books have you read and recommend?

Mom baked the cake for Father's Day, and it wasn't her greatest -- something went wrong. It rose first nicely, but then fell, and it didn't bake thoroughly...

Well, at least it didn't go as wrong as this professional cake (hilarious!).

1. I'm considering to walk in the Friends of the Poor Walk. Some of you might have seen it on my FaceBook already. I'm pretty clueless about how this works. I heard about it through my parish, and then I remember one of my co-workers did something like this - a walk for some cause. Have you heard of such a thing? Please let me know your thoughts.

It's going to be on September 26 (Saturday) or the next day if it rains, apparently. the walk is going to be two miles, which I think I can do - with a little bit practice. Back in Latvia I used to walk a lot - to save on public transportation costs. It's ridiculous now to think how far I'd walk.

2. Sunday is Father's day. I have no idea why, but I somehow was under impression that Father's Day always falls on a Thursday, but it seems I was mistaken and it's Sunday. I think my parents expect me to make another card, like I did for Mother's Day. I considered it, but didn't really plan on it. Now I guess I have to. ;) I'm thinking of using this photo from Joe's wedding.

3. One of my acquaintances from the church choir was bragging the other day about his blueberries. I was very interested, because I know my mom wants to grow blueberries, and fruit trees and stuff when they have a house here. Apparently they grow 7 feet tall, and the "rabbiteye" variety produces very large berries, and very sweet if you keep them on the plant long enough (although they don't produce as much in the first couple of years). I think one of these days mom and I will go to see for ourselves, because Ted said you could come and pick. He also grows figs, pear trees and grapes, so mom will probably want to pick up some tips in addition to the berries ;)

4. I think my parents have finally decided on building a house! There was this one house (and only one house) in which mom said, "I like it, and I don't want to leave." And the builder of that house agreed to build another like it somewhat cheaper. He couldn't sell that house cheaper, but due to the economy he found he could build another cheaper now. It has a kind of "French country" look. The problem is it's so easy to get used to good stuff. Mom still likes the house, but now she isn't quite as excited as when she saw it the first time. But obviously, she doesn't like anything else that is within the budget.

5. The other day, I found out about this book called "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die". Hehe, well I like that challenge. There's even a useful spreadsheet to keep track of your progress. So before I even begin, I'm already at 7% done due to reading some of those books, and I have only 11 books to read per year to finish the list ("if I'm a typical Western female") - quite manageable. Still I doubt I'll really follow it. There's too much of recent stuff in it, stuff that I might not really think is a must-read-before-dying. Instead I'm going to use it as a suggestion list when I have nothing better to read. The first two books from the list I decided to check out are: "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan, which I meant to read anyway, and "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, which is sci-fi, my favorite genre. Should be good, right?

Oh, and there's a problem here too. There are now two lists: 2006 and 2008 editions were different. So now there are actually 1,283 books to read if you wish to do both. Incidentally, "Pilgrim's Progress" is only on the 2006 list, but not on 2008 list. The problem is this: are there going to be more editions, so that the list becomes really never-ending? I guess, it's only a problem for those who really want to take up on that challenge of reading everything in the list, but not really for me, since for me it's just a "suggestions" list. Like, there's no way I'm reading "Ulysses" by James Joyce. Hahaha! I tried that, and it's no go. Oh, but I plan to read any books by Russian authors on that list in the nearest future! Especially since most of them are available at "War and Peace" is a toughie though; I so regret not finishing it before.

6. The summer has begun! Yes, here in Alabama it's very hot and humid, and the water is our pool is like bath water - it's not even fun anymore. The air is cooler than the water. It's hot in the morning, it's hot in the evening, and impossible during daytime. We went shopping this morning, and I was all wet with sweat when we got back. But to tell the truth, I don't mind it. I think I could get used to this. I just had to mention it ;) I think my mom is taking it worse than me. We have air-conditioning in the apartment of course, but for her it's too cool; so she feels like freezing in apartment and baking when out.

7. It's so hard to come up with seven things! I don't think my life is exciting enough to do this every Friday. It was just an experiment today, inspired by Conversion Diary. I think that's a brilliant blog. I'm looking forward to Jennifer (author of the blog) publishing her book. It's about her conversion story from atheism. Good stuff.

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