The Cultural Event Of The Year! Or, What I Did On My Summer Vacation

The Cultural Event Of The Year! Or, What I Did On My Summer Vacation

No Homework Turned In?

I see I mystified most of you last week with that series of technical articles showing how easy it is to generate The Science. Very few comments. Maybe this is a good sign. Maybe it’s that the material was so easy that you all assimilated it without difficulty. What a nice thought.

Last week was only a fraction of the ways Science goes wrong, while simultaneously assuring itself it is going right. (See the global warming banner post.) This is crucial stuff, my friends. We need to understand. Like in Newsom’s California, England is also set to ban gas and diesel cars by 2030, because “climate change”. They say.

Well, we’ll certainly be coming back to bad science and Experts insisting they must control all our lives. The only way to reach Utopia, you know. Meanwhile, here’s what I did on my summer vacation…

High Culture

The Cultural Event of the Year took place this past weekend, and Yours Truly was there to cover the festivities.

I speak, as you already know, of The 48th Boyne Falls Polish Festival!

Got there early. There were fewer indoor tables this year because they expanded, wisely, the dance floor. Whoever was in charge of the sound system turned the volume to 11. I could not have failed to memorize the lyrics to E-I-E-I-E-I-O at that setting. Later, thankfully, somebody turned it down.

There were plenty of perogies, kielbasa, sauerkraut and, yes, beer. I remembered to take some pictures early on. But recall the American Photographical Society rated, officially, my pictorial abilities as “criminal”.

The guy in the t-shirt is the patriarch of an enormous clan that shows up every year. Most of them wear red, as you see in the picture. While you’re watching them, the feet of the kids don’t seem to touch the floor.

1. Mass in the beer tent? Yes.

Mass was packed. I only captured a portion. The Communion hymn was, yes, on an accordion.

What’s nice about polka, for those of us who are mathematically challenged, and can’t use their feet to tap out a beat, is you have no need of counting higher than three. Even as far gone as we are now, most can still do this. Even Yours Truly.

I only knocked over one old lady this year. So I’m improving.


I blew two straight days playing with software-defined radio, or SDR. Simple to do: hook an antenna to a device which converts radio waves to bloops and bleeps, which are fed into a computer that displays the results.

The antenna can be as trivial as a hunk of wire, the device as cheap as an RTL-SDR (plugs into USB), and the software opensource. My exhaustive, creative-language-displaying experimentation revealed SDRPlusPlus > CubicSDR > GQRX. I hear good reports of SDR#; alas, I don’t have a Windows machine, and most agree that trying to run it through Wine on Linux is futile.

I run Kubuntu: I like the command line. I also have a Mac, which is even worse for SDR; though I recommend SDR Angel for it. It’s little wonder why Mac people don’t do SDR. You can’t picture Mac users soldering wires together.

The RTL-SDR is rather nice for the price. Works well at 30 MHz and above (you can pull in FM radio easily, or use it like an old-fashioned scanner; you can hear the FBI as they come for you). Its performance on HF (where the hams reside, and where shortwave broadcasters used to be) is meh. And it stinks on MW (the AM broadcast band), even with a decent antenna. I saw no signals on LW (where beacons used to be, and radio still is in parts foreign). But it wasn’t really designed for signals below the belt, so it’s not a substantial criticism.

Point is, for about fifty bucks, with spare wire rigged as an antenna, you can have a nifty radio that would cost a lot more. The coolest thing is the frequency plot. In days or yore, one had to spin the dial and hunt for signals. Here they’re displayed in vibrant blue glow. This is especially helpful looking for other hams.

Behold! A screenshot. I’m listening to two old guys chatting (reasonable signal, but much better on an old IC-R75).

I should do another for you when one of my neighbors is charging her Tesla. Looks like a dystopian Christmas tree all across the dial.

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  1. Jim H

    Yes, please. Show us the Tesla noise! Also, CubicSDR does have a Mac version. It’s … OK, I would say. And, some Mac people can solder, and also shoot guns, and fix broken dishwashers, and do regular stuff!

  2. Hagfish Bagpipe

    A Polish Festival you say? I thought you were out on the boat, in yachting attire, sailing, water skiing, marlin fishing, regatta-izing, scuba diving, barnacle scraping, polishing the boat — a boat being one endless polish festival. How does one wear holes in the top of a hat? — strenuous thinking? I’m not seeing much diversity at that festival, unless Polishers are the diversity. I’m guessing “EIEIEIO” isn’t a composition by Bach. Electronic amplification of live music is a curse from Satan. There’s an Oktoberfest nearby that serves up beer, brats, and polka. Great fun. A good polka band is a fine thing. Of course, back when polka first came out was seen as low brow wigger music. The rock n roll of its day. Maybe polka was a place on the slippery slope to doom. There aughta be a tune “ The Slippery Slope Polka”.

    Nobody commented on the recycled posts because they came pre-supplied with comments. And we’re on vacation, too. It’s August. Nothing much is doing this month. Except for the neurotic psychos beavering away at Western Civ. They never leave off. No peace for the wicked. No time off, either. It’s a lovely Monday. Hope everyone’s enjoying a fine vacation.

  3. McChuck

    In days or yore, one had to spin the dial and hunt for signals.
    In days of yore, I used to spin the dial and hunt for signals. In uniform, in West Berlin, the happy hunting ground. It was so much fun.

    Using modern digital tools has made the task nearly trivial these days. The real difference is the massive proliferation of signals to sift through.

  4. Briggs


    We shall, you and I, rent out a yacht and go fishing if you’re in the neighborhood.

    And the lake is ice free.

  5. Steve

    Last week, those older posts finally got through my thick skull a fundamental point you’ve been trying to make lo these many years. That if you grab a piece of graph paper, a straightedge, and a pencil, and slap down two arbitrary lines, one will be a scalar transform of the other, or it will be a scalar transform of its perpendicular. That is, you could always draw them on two different pieces of paper, with different x-axis scales (specifically, x and x*m1/m2), and they would be parallel or perpendicular. Perform a simple vertical shift (y-axis scalar transform) and in the former case, you have a superimposed line.

    Now since R^2 is a continuous variable, the probability of it being exactly 1 is zero, at least according to my undergrad understanding of a stats course 40 years ago. That is, no matter what you tell me, the p-value of the hypothesis that you drew those lines at random is very wee — 0, in fact.

    Furthermore, there is nothing special about quadrille ruled paper. You could repeat the exercise on log-linear, linear-log or log-log paper and demonstrate the same thing. And here’s the kicker — you could also do that with paper ruled to linear-m(ß,x). That is, once you “reifiy” (don’t forget the bonus points) the actual data to any arbitrary parametric form, you drive the p-value of it being an unrelated series to zero, in proportion to the amount you have reified the data.

    See? You can teach an old dog etc.

  6. Steve

    And here in the blogosphere, a meme would be appropriate. I’d suggest Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley in “Aliens” coming up with the insight, “It’s using the lines.”

  7. Cary D Cotterman

    I was one of the ten percent you speculated would get all the way through each of your technical reruns last week, and I even understood quite a bit! I think I made a couple of non-technical comments of no importance.

    Polska gurom! Poland is one of the world’s great countries. There’s nothing quite as electrifying as hearing 20,000 zuzlu fans packed into a stadium singing “Mazurek Dabrowskiego”, the national anthem. It’s a rousing mazurka, though, not a polka.

    I’ve got a fully functioning 1936 RCA console radio that, with about 75 feet of copper wire strung along the ridge of my roof, gets great short-wave, AM, and medium-wave reception. Unfortunately, the AM radio music and programs of 1936 are long gone, replaced by tedious political talk and Mexican polkas (not nearly as good as the Polish variety).

  8. Briggs

    Jim H.

    Here you go. Ain’t that pretty? All Tesla noise. To save the planet.


  9. Milton Hathaway

    Reification is everywhere. My profession, engineering, has more than it’s share. A few examples from a very long list: magnetic lines of force, imaginary numbers, the Discrete Fourier Transform, localized linearization and, yes, even inherent underlying trends.

    The general pattern: reluctance to accept -> adoption as a useful contrivance -> reification through years of successful application -> getting burned by over-application -> understanding and wisdom

    With this in mind, it was intriguing reading through the decade old comments from some apparently high-powered people. I couldn’t help but wonder what they had learned in the intervening years. I have been criticized as being a pack-rat when it comes to documentation; these days, companies pressure their employees to destroy documentation after the legally required retention period has expired, since it’s all subject to discovery. Unfortunate in a way, because without the documentation, people are free to substitute their self-flattering recollections. Reading old documentation I produced in the past is invariably a very humbling experience.

    Strange you bring up the USB SDR. I bought one a couple of years ago for $40 after watching a YouTube video (maybe this one?:, then got distracted with other projects and set it aside unopened. A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon the video again and dug out the USB SDR. I’m disappointed that you say it doesn’t work well, or at all, below 30MHz – I was hoping that it had a baseband mode that bypassed the IF section. As kids, we strung a long wire across the back yard and listened to the haunting noises that came in on the ancient vacuum-tube Halicrafters multi-band shortwave radio receiver our uncle was storing in our basement.

    On the Tesla RF emissions, I have spent many tens of thousands of my employer’s dollars reducing emissions from products to meet the letter of the various agency requirements. There was often a severe temptation to instead ‘hide’ the emissions (by spreading them out in frequency) when reducing them proved onerous, squeaking by the letter of the emissions limits while totally trampling their spirit. From the emissions plot, I suspect Tesla has done a lot more of the latter. Not that they will every get called on it, though. The FCC has a “Spectrum Enforcement Division” (SAD), but reading through their website blurbage, they won’t do anything about your neighbor’s Tesla battery charger, unless maybe if it is interfering with the 911 system or something on that order.

  10. William Wallace

    Coincidentally I went to a Rosary prayer group in the Mid South this weekend and brought along a pan full of pierogis. A few of us were transplants from the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia regions. The Polish treat was well received.

  11. The full title of your book should be, “Everything You Believe Is Wrong You’ve Been Lied To About Everything Your Entire Life.”

  12. Wolverine Patient Liar (patent fellow)

    You dork. You could have a superior Polish eating and social experience, with gorgeous view, at Legs Inn located through The Tunnel of Trees/M119 in Cross Township north of Harbor Springs at any convenient time during the non-frigid months. Boyne is so yesterday! ;>)

    At least you didn’t attempt to Polish in Hamtramck, fellow Michigander. Times have changed and not for the better obviously.

    If you’re ever visiting Chicago, tell us, and I’ll get you riddled on Maijort at the Chicago Ale House and then fine Polish (or other) food and drink.

    Thank you for everything you have contributed.

  13. Briggs


    Oh, been to Leggs Inn many times. Wasn’t so great during the coronadoom panic because they stopped importing Polish girl waitresses.

  14. Forbes

    Briggs–Looks like you need to get in the T-shirt game and offer your readers something especially clever, given the tease from the Polish festival…

  15. Gunther Heinz

    I didn’t comment because you were ON VACATION! Duh.

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