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My “First Time”

In July, I was featured in The Courier-Journal, the daily newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky. For their “First Time” segment, the paper asks notable Louisvillians to reflect back on an important moment in their life when something (non-sexual!) happened for the first time. Here’s what I wrote:

View the original at courier-journal.com

Louisville native Scott Ritcher publishes K Composite Magazine, has run for mayor of Louisville and the Kentucky Senate, and now lives in Sweden.

Here he shares the moment when his career as a designer and publisher essentially began.

In 1988, in a Kinko’s copy shop on South First Street near the University of Louisville, lit by fluorescent tubes and decorated with all the charm of an abandoned conference room, I used a Macintosh computer for the first time.

Nestled in a tiny cubicle with worn carpet underneath it was a 13-inch-tall beige box bearing a rainbow Apple logo and the name Macintosh SE.

The machine had a 3.5-inch floppy disk slot on the front and a 9-inch black and white screen with a resolution of 512 by 342 pixels. Those pixels were so big and so few that the machine’s entire screen could now be fully displayed 16 times on your iPhone 5, or nearly 24 times on the MacBook I’m using to type this today.

I was at Kinko’s working on the liner notes for an upcoming cassette album by the Louisville skate-punk band Spot which would be released on Slamdek, my record label.

In those days, there were no scanners, color printers or design software to speak of; however, earlier that year, a brand-new device called the Apple LaserWriter had been released. The Mac and LaserWriter brought publishing power literally to your desk.

Before that happened, I visited a printing shop for any typesetting I needed. I’d type out the text on a typewriter and hand that sheet of paper over to a man who would enter it into a Linotype machine to make it look pretty, charging me by the word. Even that was a world away from the scratch-on letters that preceded it.

By renting time on a Mac at Kinko’s for $6 an hour, I could cut out the middleman and begin experimenting with typography myself. The power this gave me was seriously exciting.

On this early Mac I was still only playing with the dozen or so fonts available on the machine — most often sticking with Helvetica or Geneva — and typing out everything on a blank page in MacWrite. I’d print out those pages of text on the LaserWriter and cut them up. The actual “design” part was still quite analog and the tools were X-ACTO knives and glue sticks. You know, cutting and pasting.

When I think back on my first time with the Mac, it seems like I knew at the time that it was an important moment. Typography and design are what I do now. Without them and without the Mac, I surely wouldn’t be making magazines in one of the world’s design capitals and living (what I consider to be) the dream.

Driving in Crete

 

What’s hot

K Composite is once again in the What’s Hot section of Apple’s iPad Newsstand in the US. Pretty exciting!

Good night

Every night my phone goes into “do not disturb” mode, one of my favorite IPhone features.

God natt alla glada manniskör. Vi ses på fredag, och grattis på den.

Good night all you happy people. See you on Friday and congratulations for that!

Another day, another 6.45 kronor.

Another day, another 6.45 kronor.

Picnic Time is out!

For about a year I’ve been working on another iPhone app. This one isn’t a magazine or anything like that. It’s a package of impossible games.

International Picnic Day is June 18, but you can get that outdoorsy feeling (and a little frustration) year ’round with Picnic Time – a new picnic-themed puzzle app for iPhone.

Picnic Time is no walk in the park, though. It’s a basket loaded with 48 puzzles, including tile slider games and memory matching diversions. These are high-quality time wasters, some of which are annoyingly difficult. Because of that, there are no timers, no scores, no playing against friends – these challenges are simple and painful enough without outside distractions.

With Picnic Time, you’re competing only against yourself, staring into that deep abyss of sunshine and strawberries where you’re the only one to blame. Good luck, dummy.

The impossible memory matching games include things you take on a picnic, like delicious sandwiches, deli food, blankets, vintage picnic baskets, cups, plates, beer, wine, champagne, and even some surprises, like gross meats and people we picked named Nick.

Picnic basket cases unite!

Now in the App Store for iPhone and iPod touch.

iPhone Background Image

As a Saturday afternoon Photoshop project, I made a custom background image for my new iPhone 5.

In the spots which aren’t filled with app icons I positioned old school yearbook photos of some of the famous people who have made my life more enjoyable. Interesting group, I know.

There are download links below if you’d like to use it on your own iPhone.

Top row: Stephen Colbert, Ross Perot, Evel Knievel

Second: Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Larry David (!), Kurt Cobain

Middle: Lindsay Lohan, Claire Danes, Steve Martin, Steve Jobs

Fourth: Johnny Cash, Bobby Kennedy, Barack Obama, Emma Stone

Last: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, David Letterman, Grace Kelly

I really wanted to include Annika Norlin, but I just couldn’t find a childhood photo of her online. Apparently school yearbooks aren’t a widespread phenomenon in Sweden like they are in the US.

Download Links
Feel free to download it and use it on your own iPhone. Here are the links to the the full resolution versions for iPhone 5 and for all other iPhones. If you’re reading this on your iPhone, just tap one of the links to see the image, then hold your finger on it until the option pops up to save it to your library.

Here’s how it looks in action:

Oops! I did it again.

Oops! I did it again. My new iPhone 5 has arrived after three weeks on the waiting list.

Is that a MacBook Pro?

I thought it was a MacBook Pro, but it was a MacBook Air in disguise. The mustache made it look more powerful. Like Stalin.

Stockholm Architecture Museum

The Architecture Museum in Stockholm was free today, so I stopped in and took a look around.

This is a 1967 architectural model for the construction of the NK department store in Fittja, a neighborhood near Botkyrka, Sweden.

I took this photo with my iPhone using only the automatic focus and no artificial editing. I spent a few minutes taking photos to get the exact image I wanted.

STOP!

STOP!

Time for church 

Time for church 

Waiting for Tim

Waiting for Tim.

Warm up your iPads

Warm up your iPads. K Composite issue 19 is just hours away.

Samsung phones before and after iPhone

A comparison of Samsung phones before and after the release of the iPhone, inspired by the ecce homo Fresco restoration in Spain.

…aaand publish!

…aaand publish. K Composite 18 is now out and free on iPad.

Use your iPhone’s camera flash for alerts

If you are often in very loud places where you can’t hear your iPhone’s alerts signals or feel its vibrations, or if you’re in quiet places where noises and vibrations would be disruptive, here’s a way for your iPhone to get your attention boldly and quietly.

The Accessibility settings in iOS 5 offer a basketload of customizations for people with special needs such as poor vision or hearing. However, many of these settings can be useful for a lot of other purposes.

One of my favorites is the ability to use the camera’s LED flash as an additional alert whenever you receive a text or phone call.

To enable it, open the Settings app on your iPhone, then choose General, then Accesibility.

You’ll see an option called “LED Flash for Alerts” and you just need to turn it on. It’s that easy. Now your iPhone’s camera flash will give out several bright bursts of light every time you get an alert you don’t want to miss.

Regular people are the new celebrities

Early this past summer, I posted an article here about the magazine I publish of interviews with my friends.

The story detailed how I was bringing K Composite Magazine into a new world by beginning to publish it to the iPad.

I asked you and your fellow Snuggling readers to get involved by applying to be interviewed, and many of you stepped forward to be subjected to the third degree.

Now, the new issue of K Composite is available as a free download for your iPad and you can see for yourself what I’ve been working on all summer.

And it’s off to a big start, too. In its first week in the App Store, K Composite was the #6 app in Sweden in the Lifestyle category which includes magazines and such. Pretty exciting.

My goal is to put out a new issue on the iPad every other month. The second iPad issue, which is actually issue #15, should be out in December.

For those of you who don’t have iPads, some of the interviews will soon be available on the magazine’s website at www.kcomposite.com and in the companion iPhone app K Mate which is also free.

If you’d like to get involved by interviewing one of your friends, helping with the photography or web aspects, or even by being interviewed yourself, stop by this link and let me know: www.kcomposite.com/participate

I want you in my REAL magazine

I have published 13 issues of my own magazine, K Composite, which consists of interviews with my friends and non-celebrities. Now I am working to launch the next issue in an amazing new edition on the iPad, distributed through Apple’s App Store. This video will tell you all about it – and how you can get involved!

Visit this project on Kickstarter.

What I am doing

K Composite Magazine began as a fanzine in 1991 and the first full-color edition was released in 1999.

The early issues gained a cult following and national attention through features in Rolling Stone, Harper’s, The Chicago Tribune, and NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Ira Glass of This American Life beamed, “I love K Composite.”

Since then, the magazine has expanded to include other contributors who interview and photograph their own friends.

Moving the magazine to the iPad is already an exciting project. Gorgeous layouts will no longer be limited by the number of pages available, distribution costs will be dramatically decreased, and availability will be unprecedented.

How I am doing it

I have worked intensively with the Mag+ production team at Bonnier Magazines here in Stockholm, for six months.

As a result, I will be able to produce this new edition of K Composite using the same professional Mag+ production tools that are employed for the iPad versions of magazines including Popular Science, Transworld Snowboarding, and MacWorld Sweden.

Mag+ publications are stunning magazines with multiple layers and rich content. Steve Jobs himself hailed Mag+ in his 2010 keynote when discussing publications on the iPad, particularly Popular Science.

Standing on the shoulders of those giants, the innovative finished product of K Composite #14 will be a truly unique reading experience.

Kickstarter

I have launched this project on a creative funding site called Kickstarter. The money raised there will go toward production in the Mag+ environment and the costs of moving the magazine through the necessary gateways for worldwide distribution in the App Store.

As a reward for your support, you can have your picture in the magazine or even be featured in a complete interview!

Check out the project on Kickstarter and check out the magazine’s website at kcomposite.com.

Be in the magazine without spending a krona

I really want to get readers of Snuggling With the Enemy involved in this project!

If you’d like to take a shot at being interviewed in K Composite without spending a krona (or dollar), you don’t need to invest a single blueback (or greenback). Just apply on this page at the magazine’s website at kcomposite.com/participate. Be sure to mention that you heard about this through Snuggling!

The Love Affair Between Cats and iPads

A couple months ago, I started working at an awesome job with a magazine publishing company in Stockholm. The company is a huge, family-run, Swedish media empire, built over many generations. Let’s say it’s kind of like the Bingham family was in Louisville or the Hearst family in America. But much, much older.

At the office, I am a member of a stealth, futuristic team which converts print magazines into fluid, moving, living versions, to be read on Apple’s iPad. The office walls are white, the windows are big, the desks are made of natural wood, and there’s virtually no paper to be seen.

Most people expect magazines on tablet devices to be like flipping through a PDF of the print version. This couldn’t be further from the truth, at least for the ones we’re making.

Harry Potter

These magazines on the iPad have all the beauty of full-page magazine layouts, but with the added magic of designs that move on multiple layers. Think of the newspapers in the Harry Potter movies – how they look like a regular newspaper but the pictures are alive and you can interact with them when you want to. That’s where it starts.

(Of course, I’m a grown man, so I’ve never seen any of the Harry Potter movies nor read any of the books. I’m just going by what people have told me. I have certainly never dated a girl who drove a car with Harry Potter license plates or had an awesome dog named Potter. I don’t know the first thing about Miss Granger or the Weasley brothers. Honestly, I’m not even sure what everyone’s fascination is with those dirty little wizards.)

Compared with traditional print magazines (which can be both engaging and hefty) and website versions of the same content (which can be both annoying and forgettable), the iPad represents a wonderful new incarnation for the magazine reading experience.

This is the cutting edge of publishing and you really can’t appreciate it until you see it in action or use it yourself. You really need to drop what you’re doing right now and go buy an iPad so you can finish reading this article on it.

Samsung Galaxy tablet

Any time a groundbreaking piece of new technology finds its way to market, the media is abuzz with excitement and analysis about how it could change people’s lives.

What receives significantly less attention – from both the media and the developers who came up with this new gadget – is the question of how such new advancements will affect cats.

If you have ever been in the company of a cat and you tried to sprawl a newspaper out across the floor or use a laptop computer, you are no doubt aware that these two activities have long been deemed as incompatible with the cat world.

Cats view activities like reading and typing as supreme wastes of valuable time which could be better spent petting them or, frankly, doing pretty much anything else. Simply put, cats don’t understand reading and typing.

My old chum, The Mew, demonstrating the cat world's lack of respect for newspapers.

In their defense, however, if you have never taken a nap on a newspaper, or walked on your computer, you’re doing yourself a grave injustice. It actually is really fun. And if someone is also trying to use the newspaper or computer while you’re doing it, they’ll just have a devil of a time trying to ignore you.

You’ll be treated to a generous dose of what many cats crave more than rubber bands or plastic bottle safety rings – attention.

As much as cats are confused by reading, a lot of people are also dumbfounded by much of the new technology we’re being bombarded with. Researchers call these people “old.” I know all about it. I’m still trying to find the slash, the brackets, the “at” symbol and the dollar sign on my Swedish keyboard.

So if 21st Century technology seems daunting to you, keep in mind that for cats it’s the 63rd Century. You know, because of “cat years” and all.

Knowing that, if we roll back the clock many centuries, to the days of ancient Egypt – the people then were about as smart as the cats are today – even then, mankind had long recognized that cats are really, really stupid.

That ignorance, combined with softness and cuddliness, are some of the main reasons why people like them cats (and ancient Egyptians).

Cats have much of the same appeal as the popular and pretty girls in your ninth-grade class. They seem to never learn anything and yet they are constantly coddled and fawned over. The smart kids just can’t catch a break at Hogwarts. I mean, school.

Some old timey pics from before art was invented.

As compared with the cats who found their way into illustrations by ancient Egyptians – it has been said that the question mark itself was derived from the quizzical shape of a cat’s curling tail – just like us people, today’s cats have a lot more to process in their little heads.

There were no such wonders as televisions or whistling tea kettles in the days of King Tut. Just table scraps and dirt floors. Shit, they were still centuries away from high-tech advances like windows with glass in them and housing which accommodated sanitized ways of pooping indoors without that stank. Some accounts have King Tut himself undergoing a quite modest and primitive entombment, in fact, being buried in his jammies.

Whereas monkeys and even common hillbillies have some depth that includes longterm memories and basic emotions, the knowledge capacity that cats work with is stored inside of what scientists can best describe as “a tiny, cat-sized brain.” (their words, not mine)

Despite this lack of knowledge, these little fuckers are endlessly curious – something that’s true of both cats and scientists.

The Mew is seen risking a fall from a second-floor window in order to climb up a screen. She's in hot pursuit of a fly... or a bug... or something imaginary. My people-brain can't remember. This was 2005.

Researchers describe the so-called “cat’s brain” as a “cute, little bundle of two or three firing electrons.” While that may not seem to be a lot of activity, it is important to remember that those few electrons each fire up to 50 billion times a second. Squared. To the 15th power. Or more.

If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on in a cat’s head – what makes them assault the same piece of yarn for two hours, or never tire of chasing the laser pointer which obviously is a projection and ends up on top of their paws every time they try to smash it (fucking idiots!) – if you’ve ever reeeally wondered what’s going on up there in that furry little head, the answer is “practically nothing.”

Dr. Frank Davidson, one of America’s leading pussy researchers, says, “Cats are so wildly entertaining for precisely this reason. Inside their wee noggins, next to nothing is transpiring. However, that absence of activity is happening about 27,000 times every second. Their shit is quite lit’rally poppin’ off like crazy.” Bloke speaks with a Bri’ish accent to make himself seem smar’er.

While her owner is distracted in conversation, Evie is obviously plotting something... perhaps well-deserved retribution against the corner.

Dr. Davidson’s colleague at Southern Miami University, whose name is also Dr. Frank Davidson, has helped Davidson every step of the way during six years of research into the mysterious mind of the cat.

Much of their investigation centered around viewing the “Treadmill Kittens” video numerous times, in varying states of getting baked.

During their third year intensive experimentation and inquiry, they had what they describe as “a watershed moment.” That’s when they discovered that the word “feline” also refers to cats.

However, that was small potatoes compared to what they’ve been up to lately. The doctors brim with grimalkin enthusiasm when asked about the newest and most revelatory findings.

Ms. Peter Sellers suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, stemming from an episode in which she went missing for several weeks in Appalachian Ohio. She returned smelling of skunk and cheap booze. Surprisingly, her dead-behind-the-eyes appearance is a unrelated condition which pre-dates that ordeal.

Dr. Davidson (the second one) explains that contrary to popular belief, their latest research suggests that cats don’t actually have nine lives at all. Rather, cats’ brains are working so quickly “they are actually living the same life nine times simultaneously.” This is why they often eat so fast that they puke all over the place. They think they have to finish eating nine meals before they get full.

Despite not yet being circulated, the doctors’ controversial findings have already been met with considerable skepticism. Their full report is sure to garner even more debate when it is  published in next week’s issue of “Miniature Horse Enthusiast.”

“For any normal creature, having nine lives would be an invaluable way to learn how to make each one last longer or have a higher quality than the previous. A learning curve, if you will. But cats waste all nine of ’em in pretty quick succession.”

(As a side note, the two Dr. Frank Davidsons are not related. This can be a bit unnerving, since they have the same name and they look identical. Their fellow researchers claim to have never seen the two men at the same time, however, a grad student who works in their lab, whose name is also Frank Davidson, says the older one wears glasses and the younger one works second shift.)

The Mew, obviously not doing anything wrong. Just stopping to smell the roses.

(As another side note, despite not being related, the two Dr. Davidsons are the same age and were born on the same day, from the same mother, but in different hospitals. The elder Dr. Davidson was born at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Orlando, while the younger was born at Saint Anthony’s near Orlando.)

A landmark study by Phil Connors, a television weatherman in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, established this theory as the Groundhog Day Effect in 1993.

But Davidson adds that even if a cat has seen that movie four or five times during six or seven of their lives, “they wouldn’t remember it any more than they remember the fact that, even after you’ve pushed it away a million times, you still don’t want their ass in your face when you’re petting them.”

“Halfway through Life #7, our feline friends seem to have just as little respect for gravity as they did in Life #2. And just as little awareness that gravity actually exists.”

While cats may be fascinated by bright, shiny, technical objects, such as the iPad or random high-definition programming on the Animal Planet network, less animated objects don’t hold the same allure. Studies have shown that even though it seems they don’t respect newspapers or books, they are entirely oblivious to the idea that some clothes are black.

Ms. Peter Sellers, elbow-deep in biscuits.

Just as often as they forget that you don’t like their ass in your face, sometimes it’s almost like these li’l rascals have never even seen a spray bottle before. (What is it with these guys? How many fucking lint rollers do we have to buy this month?)

The cats in this laboratory video, for example, appear to believe that the objects displayed on the iPad’s screen are actually under the iPad. Wake up, dummy! It’s a computer!

As far as what cats actually can understand and remember, Davidson (the grad student) says, “Cats have very selective memories and they usually tend to remember just one thing: what feels good. They simply adore making biscuits and gettin’ some knucks.”

“Making biscuits” is a scientific term for the paw-kneading motion cats like to do over and over on soft pillows or your fat-ass belly. “Knucks” are the insane addiction cats have for forcibly rubbing their jaws on things.

Many cats will rub their teeth on your knuckles if you make a fist. Davidson (the one born at Saint Anthony’s) says, “It feels amazing. If you’re a cat is like crack cocaine.”

Does it ever. (Not that I’ve tried crack.)

This photo of The Mew would look exactly the same if it was a video.
That’s how serious she is about stalking yarn.

New Metroschifter record finally out

The new record by the Metroschifter, featuring a blood-spattered cover image of our beloved Stockholm, is finally available!

As you may know from previous stories on this website, Carbonistas has eight new songs that were recorded at the beginning of this year, just before I left Louisville.

The paper-and-plastic version (compact disc) is available from our special friends at the Noise Pollution label. In Louisville you can pick one up at ear X-tacy or, wherever you live, you can ask for it at your favorite record store.

If you buy Carbonistas or any of its songs from iTunes the tracks are formatted so you can use them as ringtones on your iPhone.

If you notice in this screenshot from my iPhone, there are no reviews for it yet, so click this link to give it 5 stars or write a review!

This week we also received the first tentative dates for our tour of Europe that is coming up in November and December. The three-week schedule looks amazing.

The usual suspects of Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Austria are included, but a few surprises are in there including some shows in France and Spain. At the risk of sounding like a Three Dog Night (or Elvis Presley) song, I’ve Never Been to Spain. Can’t wait!

This tour should be especially fun because the “real” members of Metroschifter will be with me. On some tours in the past, either Pat McClimans and Chris “Hört” Reinstatler (or both) have been unable to go. As a result, the touring band has had a succession of alternate members.

I have enjoyed every tour and I really love seeing how the songs take on a different flavor when different people play them, but since Hört and Pat are my best friends, there’s nothing quite like being able to travel and play music with them every night.

Pat and Hört have already begun practicing in Louisville. I’ll meet them in Frankfurt, Germany, in November where we’ll practice for a few days before the first show. It looks like the first show will be in Frankfurt on November 25th.

We have a tentative song list together which we’ve been ironing out via e-mail. This time we’re learning a lot of our recorded material so we can mix up the set list and each night’s show will be a little different.

Typically, after a tour is over, there is a mad scramble to return all the equipment and the van, make sure we’ve paid all our bills, and get everybody to the airport in time. This time, we’re planning to just hang out for three days, which is something we’ve never done before – sort of like a little European vacation with friends. I’m as excited about that as I am about the tour itself.

Should be pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

iPhone and iPod Touch icons

Over the weekend, I made custom iPhone icons for several of my websites. You can see them in the top row of icons in this screenshot from my iPhone.

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch and you add one of my sites to your home screen bookmarks (using the + symbol in Safari), it will appear with a custom icon on your home screen. You may have to shorten the page titles when you add them, like I did here, so they appear nicely in the limited space under the icons.

One nice feature of this is that I can change or update the icons at any time. When you visit the site again the icon on your iPhone will update automatically.

Here are the links:

iPhone-formatted live headlines from News N Shit (www.newsnshit.com/iphone)

News N Shit’s regular site (www.newsnshit.com)

K Composite Magazine (www.kcomposite.com)

The Metroschifter (www.metroschifter.com)

Sweden Dot K Composite (sweden.kcomposite.com)

Louisville History Timeline (www.louisville.cc)

Free at last

This picture might not mean anything to you, but it is really big news for me. This is the screen of my finally-unlocked iPhone displaying my balance with a Swedish telephone operator.

Yes, it’s true. After many attempts during the months I’ve been in Sweden, I have finally successfully sprung my iPhone loose from AT&T’s shackles and unlocked to use it locally. It was made possible by a new process that just surfaced in the past few weeks which allows for the reverting of the modem firmware update back to version 02.28.00. Blah blah blah this isn’t an iPhone site. Talk about funny Swedish shit!

The whole process took nearly three hours. It was not easy and is not an undertaking I would recommend to anyone without a great deal of patience.

I am now happily out of T9 prison and texting again at the speed of thought. One less device in my pockets!

More new English words!

Here is a screenshot from the English/Svenska dictionary application on my iPhone. It allows you to search for a word in English or Svenska, or to scroll through the alphabetical list.

As I mentioned a few days ago, sometimes when I look up a Swedish word, the English translation is a word I have never seen before in my life. I took this screenshot when I happened upon an entire screen of English words I had never seen before. Yes, these are English words!

Just now, I was going to say that “bacciferous” seems vaguely familiar, but as I was typing it, my Mac underlined it – meaning that “bacciferous” is not in the spell-checker dictionary on my computer. I also ran it through the proper dictionary on the Mac, which is based on the Oxford American Dictionary, and it also wasn’t in there. Where is SlovoEd getting these words?

As an experiment, I looked up all the “English” words from this screenshot:

bacchanalia: drunken revelry, from the Roman festival of Bacchus
bacchanalian: characterized by drunken revelry, riotously drunken
bacchante: a female priestess or follower of Bacchus
bacchic: another name for the Greek mythological character Dionysus
bacciferous: (no entry)
bacciform: (no entry)
baccivorous: (no entry)
baccy: British informal term for tobacco (Really? That sounds made-up.)

So it looks like I happened upon the section of the dictionary that would be super useful if you run into a Swede who is really into talking about Roman festivals and Greek mythology. That’s reassuring that I’m not completely crazy or forgetting my English vocabulary. The Oxford American Dictionary hasn’t heard of three of these words either.

FYI: If you have an iPhone and want to take a screenshot, just press both buttons at once. Your screen will flash and it will save the image in your photo album.

Scenes from a dator

Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you, I have four billion messages! I’m not sure how or why this happened, but when I quit and reopened Apple Mail it was back to normal.

Say, that reminds me of a joke. There’s a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, and a software engineer riding along in a pickup truck. The engine putters out and they coast to the side of the road. The mechanical engineer says, “Maybe it’s a problem with the spark plugs or the oil.” The electrical engineer says, “Maybe it’s the alternator or the battery.” The software engineer says, “Let’s all get out and get back in again.”

This is a screenshot my “networks with the most friends” pane from Facebook. Sweden is quickly gaining on New York and UofL. I think Louisville is safe for now. I’m still in the Louisville network myself. Wow, Scott, that’s so interesting! I can’t wait to see what other priceless tidbits are coming up tomorrow!

Repurposing my iPhone

In the weeks since my iPhone service was deactivated, I have still have been using the device it all the time. Though it no longer makes phone calls and sends texts, it has continued to serve me well as a camera, audio recorder, iPod, English/Svenska dictionary, memo pad, and when there’s WiFi around I can use it as a web browser, Facebooker, emailer, et cetera.

The iPhone apps are something I never really seriously explored. I would just get whatever was interesting and free that I heard about by word of mouth, or found by searching for a particular purpose. That’s how I found the SlovoEd translation app and Res i Sthlm which calculates the fastest point-to-point routes to take in Stockholm’s public transit system.

Res i Sthlm (the name means Travel in Stockholm) is fantastic and really unlocks the mystery of which train/bus to take to get somewhere. Indispensable for a newcomer like myself. The SlovoEd Compact English-Swedish app is convenient and contains over 50,000 words, but it has a habit of producing English words I have never seen before in my life. (What? You never use English words like: vacuity, abaft, gadabout, jacobus, and sacerdotal?). And by “bad habit” I mean that I’m learning new English words from it pretty much every day. I just hope that these are actual words and not bogus entries the added to beef up the word count. I’d hate to natter or confabulate with a compeer in America, only to learn that I’ve been hornswoggled.

Other than a few apps like those, I never spent any time exploring the App Store until now. A few days ago, I spent about an hour looking only at the various photography apps available. There are nearly 600 applications in the photography category, but I picked out a few that looked fun and I ended up keeping three.

Two of the apps I kept were free, but I actually paid the princely sum of 99 cents for one that is my favorite. MoloPix is a multi-shot photography app that uses the iPhone’s camera to simulate a Lomo ActionSampler camera. I had an ActionSampler in Louisville and it was one of several great cameras I had to get rid of when I moved to the other side of the world.

Unlike an actual analog camera, the MoloPix app gives you the instant gratification of seeing the photos within seconds. There’s no suspense of waiting to get your pictures developed. The app also gives you a lot more flexibility by allowing you to select the number of frames it shoots (2, 4, or 6), and the time interval in between, or you can shoot manually, hitting the shutter button for each frame. If you’re shooting a set of four frames, it uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to automatically choose vertical or horizontal frames based on how you’re holding the phone.

In the middle photo above, you can see some guys cleaning up the ground near my apartment. Like in any city when it snows, workers come around and throw out sand or gravel so people can walk on the ice. In a place like Stockholm that gets tons of snow over a period of many months, rocks and sand get scattered hundreds of times. After all the snow and ice is gone, much more gravel is left behind than what will wash away naturally. That has to be cleaned up. In many places, like T-bana platforms, there are huge containers of sand that gets used over and over. In this photo you can see all the gravel on the platform at Handen after months of snow has melted.

One more note about the iPhone, I have been surprised that the GPS function still works without cellular service. That’s pretty cool and it has been useful. Even though you need WiFi to load the maps, once a map is loaded, you can wander away from the connection and GPS will continue to update your position on it.

An app I have been thinking about getting is Stockholm Maps Offline which does exactly what you would expect from the name. It is a self-contained, GPS-enabled collection of Stockholm maps. I have been hesitant about it because the resolution doesn’t look so good, the reviews aren’t great, and it costs $2.99. I know, right? With the price of apps going through the fucking roof… I can usually find an open network within a few blocks of anywhere I am if I search around, so I think for now I’ll stick with the built-in maps on the iPhone.

God, I miss my iPhone


In addition to learning a new language, the metric system, how much everything costs, and adjusting to a new culture, possibly the most difficult part has been being forced to return to T9. You know, sending text messages with only the number keys? Remember that?

As much as I love the iPhone, when I arrived in Sweden, my iPhone was still tethered to AT&T in America. Using it here with that contract was simply crazy expensive. It was okay to visit with, but living here with it was too much. Unfortunately, because the phone was locked to AT&T, I couldn’t just switch to a Swedish provider. Now that I have cancelled my AT&T contract, the phone has been reduced to being a very nice iPod with WiFi. I initially thought I might be able to unlock the phone to use it with a different provider, but that turned out to be impossible because I had updated my phone to a version that – at least for now – is not unlockable.

Unlimited data on the iPhone in America got me spoiled really fast and it’s amazing how much the thing became a part of my life: email, internet, texting, taking pictures, making notes, and even recording things, which some of my friends found very annoying.

In any event, I had to get some type of local phone to communicate with friends, so I got on a pre-paid plan with Telia, one of the big providers. Above is a picture of the phone I bought used from a guy from Dubai that I found on the internet. He has a “shop” where he is resetting and unlocking old phones. Surprisingly, this Sony Ericsson phone I bought is not unusually antiquated. I have been shocked that qwerty phones and Blackberry devices are pretty rare here.

There are two companies in Sweden that offer the iPhone, but both require a personnummer (the Swedish equivalent of a Social Security number) to sign up. If I want to get an iPhone with cash and go the pre-paid route, the phone itself is about $700. That’s a cost I just can’t justify at this early stage of my time here.

Long story short, I still use my iPhone all the time – it just doesn’t send and receive calls or texts any more. All the apps still work, though some require a WiFi connection. One of the few apps I actually paid money for is an English/Swedish dictionary. It has 56,000 entries and is fully self-contained, that is, it doesn’t require a connection. I use it all the time.

I also have become obsessed with checking the US-dollar-to Swedish-kronor exchange rate several times a day. All my clients are in America and I’m being paid in dollars, so what I’m earning is worth different amounts every few hours.

On the runway


In the months leading up to my departure for Sweden, I had a countdown clock running on my iPhone. It was counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until I left. I took this screenshot of it as I was sitting in the plane on the runway in Chicago. This was right when they were asking everyone to turn all their shit off.

At the time, I was really sad. I had just said good-bye to my sister and I was thinking about how much I was going to be missing my friends. As I’m posting this photo about six weeks later, all I notice about it is the AT&T service in the top corner and how much I miss unlimited data plan on the iPhone. Of course, I miss everyone a lot, but I can’t think about it too much.

This image also reminds me of how I searched the O’Hare Airport for a burrito while I was waiting for my flight. I knew from previous visits to Sweden (and Europe in general) that Mexican food is either nonexistent or a pale imitation, so I wanted to have one last feast. My search for a burrito was fruitless. I ended up having a deep-dish pizza and a local Chicagoan dark microbrew. Worked out great.