Keep on Trekkin

As I did at the end of 2013 & 2014, so I do again here at the end of 2015 to recount some travel experiences, which I don’t normally write about here. I need not give the whole setup again for the premise of such entries and see my blog from the end of 2013: Travels of Spocklogic. The notables this year (travel blogs I finished or made additions to) include:


Feature - Washington DC-1




That’s the summary for 2015. Some are carry overs from 2014, but I finished the blogs in 2015, after my last post on travels (see: Travels of Spocklogic II) in December 2014 or earlier if I made additions. As I alluded to in recent entries, I will take a break from this Cogito Ergo blog for a while in 2016. I’ve had 20 years of internet exposure and been blogging for 10 years (see: 20 Years of Internet and Mapping the Internet). I hope to return again with a fresh perspective down the line. There’s plenty to explore in the Cogito Ergo blog archives until then (see the link to: Browse Blog Posts). Best wishes for the New Year 2016! See you in the future…



The news always seems full of surveys/polls about this or that, trying to predict trends or outcomes and explain society. Nowhere is polling more prevalent than in the political arenas. One popular place to go for polling data is Rasmussen Reports, which says of itself, “If it’s in the News, it’s in our polls.”  They do many surveys too, but this is just a poll of another kind. Here are some seasonal examples I looked up on their website (as of 11/27/2015):

1.) Nearly 3-out-of-4 American Adults (72%) think stores start the Christmas season too early.
2.) 43% of American Adults say they have started their gift shopping. 54%have not.

About these polls it is told that 1,000 American adults were surveyed and that “The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.” Hmmm, what does that mean? To understand this, some definitions are in order, specifically ‘margin of error’ and ‘level of confidence’.

Margin of Error (MoE) – Measure of the accuracy of the results, which indicates the difference between an estimate of something and its true value.
Level of Confidence (LoC) – Measure of the reliability of a result, which tells how confident we are in the margin or error.

Polls and surveys work by asking a random sample of the total population a series of questions. Obviously they can not ask the total population (perhaps hundreds of millions), so they sample in a random way (it’s cheaper and quicker) and use that data to state something relevant. The numbers themselves can be thrown around, but how accurate are they? That’s where MoE and LoC come into play. It’s important to remember that the MoE and LoC depend on the sample size, not the total population size, if that total population size is large. For a 95% LoC, the MoE turns out to be 0.98/√n, where n=1000 (the sample size). Do the math and it is 0.98/√1000 = 0.03 (or +/- 3%). In simple terms, this means that the survey/poll is 95% confident that the error between the sampled population and the total population is +/- 3%. Said another way, if you keep polling in the same way, then 95% of the time the answer you get will be within 3% of the correct answer. The mathematics reveals that (contrary to popular belief) the relative sample size matters less than the absolute sample size. That is, the results are independent of the total population, no matter how big it is, and it is just the sample size itself of that population that matters. How is it possible that a sample size as small as 1000 out of a total population in the millions or hundreds of millions has an MoE as small as +/- 3%? Welcome to the nature of the so-called ‘Bell Curve’. It’s also called the ‘normal distribution’ and is is a tool statisticians use to tell how far the sample is likely to be off from the overall population, that is, how big a MoE there is likely to be in a survey/poll.


Under the most ideal conditions, the above is generally true, but a more realistic condition is that an LoC of at least 95% requires that LoC >[1 – 1/(4n*MoE^2)], which for n = 1000 gives MoE ~ 0.07 (or 7%). This turns out to be a more realistic number for mathematical reasons relating to the sampling itself and randomness (see Small samples, and the margin of error). Further, even this is somewhat idealized in scenario and questions can come up as to nature of population sampled, questions refused, undecided, understood, truthful and other intangibles which can play a role. Survey and polls can be widely off depending on the nature of the questions and how they are answered or not answered. Treat them all with skepticism, but bear in mind they CAN be accurate even with a sample size as small as 1000. This seems to be the magic number (n=1000) most survey/poll people use to get the 95% LoC with 3-7% MoE, and usually the ideal case of 3% MoE.

The truth of political polling is that if 3% MoE is acceptable 95% of the time, then that is what they go with. People who poll and survey seem to have settled on this and the sample size is usually 1000 people. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true from a mathematical perspective. In all human endeavors there are always intangibles to be considered (some of which I’ve mentioned) and these can make survey/polls quite unreliable. In addition they can quickly become irrelevant soon after they are taken when events or circumstances change. My best advice it to treat them as you might the daily Horoscope, realizing they encompass a multitude of possibilities, but the reality is in the outcome itself. The mathematics does not lie and can be a predictor of trends and outcomes, even with a small population. The greatest variable is not the behavior of human beings, which can reasonably be predicted under certain conditions, but the human beings themselves, who are both the predictor and predicted simultaneously. We tend to change with the wind. I think of it as weather, which changes from day to day, week to week, month to month, but climate itself is the long term average of weather, which can be predicted. Polls/surveys are like the weather and change daily, weekly, monthly like weather, but long term maybe can be averaged to predict human behavior. This is somewhat the basis of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series where the science of psychohistory can predict the track of humanity into the far future, but the random element always plays a role, which can throw predictions off.


Remember always, mathematics doesn’t lie, but people do, though not always intentionally. We live in a very partisan and biased culture where so-called ‘news’ media conduct their own polls, present the results without even understanding the mathematics of what it means. These media personalities of today are mostly sensationalist and/or just want to promote their conservative and/or liberal cause, what ever those nomenclatures mean anymore. I still remember the words of Dr. Fitz, as we called him, my Advanced Civics teacher in high school back in the late 1970’s who told us to read, listen and watch, then read between the lines. That advise has stuck with me my whole life and never has it been a more valuable lesson than in our culture today.

Note: In general, for Margin of Error (MoE) at various Levels of Confidence (LoC), use these formulas, where n=sample size:

MoE at 99% LoC ~ 1.29/√n
MoE at 95% LoC ~ 0.98/√n
MoE at 90% LoC ~ 0.82/√n

If the sample fraction is > 5% of the total population, then also multiply the results by the factor √[(N – n)/(N – 1)], where n = sample population, N = total population. This is the ‘finite population correction’. Usually the N >> n, so this correction is negligible.

There are also Margin of Error calculators you can use, such as:

Statistics and mathematics aside, it’s really the quality of the questions, how they are asked and responded to that matter more perhaps. That is, how sound was the methodology of a survey or poll, and was there any ‘built-in’ (intentional or unintentional) bias? Statistics alone can not answer that, as it’s a more subjective question. Non-sampling errors can always creep in, even in the best designed survey/poll. These include true randomness, poorly designed questions, poor interviewers, and a host of other factors. These non-sampling errors can, in fact, often exceed the sampling errors themselves. It’s always best to treat surveys/polls with some skepticism and the statistics behind them are not always just an indicator of their reliability.



If you had to imagine what the Internet looked like, what would come to mind? This seemingly innocent question has given rise to some interesting and occasionally bizarre representations. There are the physical aspects, the infrastructure that makes it possible, the hardware that runs it, the software that interfaces with people and then there are the people themselves. There is a whole other conceptual side to it, which strays into realms of the human mind, and even the name cyberspace congers up visions of some universe within our own, but that is ill defined in physical space. The prefix cyber cyber comes from the Greek word kybernet,  meaning to steer or guide (a helmsman), from which cybernetic  is derived. One can appreciate the irony there and does the internet do the steering or the people using it? Well, this is a big topic and the many questions raised are outside the scope of this blog. When it comes to visualizing the internet I tend to like maps of the world that reflect human behavior or trends in activity. I showed some in a previous blog from June, 2014: The Internet – Yesterday to Today. The maps shown here show the who and how people are connected:


Map-world-online-by pervcent-2013



Map-of TeleGeography-2015

In viewing some of these maps, I began to wonder what my own WordPress map of visitors compared to some of these. Turns out it actually looks fairly similar for the most part and is most easily compared with the map of Internet users per 100 people and Map of Internet Freedom. Below I show my map of visitors to Cogito Ergo during the period 2012 to 2015, and the associated list of countries with number of visits below that. All total, this blog has had more that ~11,000 views; ~6,000 visitors. On a monthly basis there are an average of 276 views; 163 visitors; 1.78 views per visitor. Currently there are 117 posts, 40 categories and 230 tags. I just record these stats for posterity and reference, and not sure they are of much interest to anyone. The map and countries below only reflect 2012-2015 since I activated the mapping feature, not the total numbers since I started this WordPress blog in 2011 and migrated all my previous years blogs here from another platform. I have actually been writing this blog for just about 10 years now. It may be time to give it a rest for a while and pondering a hiatus in 2016.


Cogito Ergo WordPress map of views (2012-2015)


Cogito Ergo list of countries by views (2012-2015)

This idea of Mapping the Internet is likely to expand in the future. It’s not just about the technical details or the purview of science to tell. Science is good at telling us how thing work, but not why they work or what they are good for. For example, we can figure out how the universe works, but not really why it works that way or why it exists. The future will have to go beyond the science and statistics of things and delve deeper into the relationship of man and machine. Mankind has been mapping the physical space on earth and outer space for millennia. The physical space of the human body and inner space of the human mind the brain has been explored for centuries and we are just beginning to map it. This thing called the Internet or cyberspace is as vast and complex I think than even we realize – like the universe itself or the human brain. In this case, however, the creator will be examining his creation. The ultimate Mapping of the Internet may reveal the creator in a new light, hopefully not Man the God, but Man the inquisitive explorer. Ultimately man is a temporary tenant of Planet Earth. Reaching into inner space or cyberspace to see ourselves may someday inspire us to reach for the stars. I like that line from the 2014 film Interstellar:

Man was born on Earth, but he wasn’t meant to die here.

I give some links for Internet Map exploration:

Global Internet Maps

The Internet Map
Internet Census 2012
The Opte Project
Ways to Map the Internet


I read somewhere once that in the Middle Ages some people believed we are all created from preformed tiny human beings, called homunculus (Latin for “little man”), which grow into ourselves, but the inner homunculus always maintains control. Who is really pulling the strings, eh? I mention this because it is near about 20 years on the internet for me now and it feels a bit like a homunculus, even though I was born long before it became widely available to the public. I can’t really imagine what it’s like to be born into the world with the internet already existing. Sometimes it feels like it has always been there, so ingrained has it become, but I know when I think back in ‘the before time’ I have memories of a world without it. I don’t want to focus on the ‘before time’ in this blog, but say something about 20 years of Internet. Just for fun, I can start by sampling what the internet looked like 20 years ago. Should I be capitalizing it as Internet?


Looks pretty cheesy by standards of today, but back then it was the ‘bees knees’, to use a very old fashioned phrase. In those days most of these companies were using available technology, but the internet was mostly slow and clunky. I bought a 28.8k baud modem in 1995 and squealed my way into cyberspace. At first I only found things like BBS (Bulletin Board System), Usenet or News Groups. These were mostly discussion based arenas for sharing information, though some media could be exchanged as well, but it could be time consuming depending on the size. I did this on the cheap finding numbers to dial up and get online, then once accessing information I found ways to set up TCP/IP and access web pages with a thing called Netscape using various other dial-ups. These free dial-ups came and went with the wind, but I suppose the seeds of a homunculus were planted inside me during those days. You had to be sort of clever and tech inclined to make this shit work back then. The October 1995 issue of FHM (featuring Cindy Crawford on the cover) had an article entitled: “How to log on to the internet – the pleasures and pitfalls of going online”, by Tony Horkins.


Eventually I think I got Compuserve and then AOL (America Online) after that. The rest is history and the homunculus that has grown inside me now seems to have a mind of its own – well, it’s my mind, but still… At least I think it’s still my mind. This brings me to the infamous Clifford Stoll Newsweek article from 1995 entitled “The Internet? Bah!“. Clifford Stoll is much maligned today for getting it wrong, but on reading it in 2015 I think maybe he got it right – for the most part anyway. I feel his vibe now in attitude and it brings us together, but at the same time isolates us from one another. There’s a great passage at the end of the article:

While the Internet beckons brightly, seductively flashing an icon of knowledge-as-power, this nonplace lures us to surrender our time on earth.

At the time Clifford Stoll wrote those words, he had the 20 years experience with the internet already, not as advanced as it is today, but enough to recognize something fundamental in the human experience. My own experience 20 years on after using the internet allows me to recognize that while it has its uses it is just a tool, another in the history of mankind. We should not lose sight of that and while mastery of tools set us apart from the beasts of the wilderness, those tools do not define us. We are all something more than the sum of our parts or the tools we use. There is a danger in being servant to the internet as opposed to allowing the internet to serve you. As Mr. Spock said in the 1968 Star Trek episode “The Ultimate Computer”:

Computers make excellent and efficient servants; but I have no wish to serve under them.

Such reflections are well considered and philosophically sound. Take a step back and think about it, whether it be 20, 10, 5 or 1 year of internet experience…



As I did at the end of 2013, so I do again here at the end of 2014 to recount some travel experiences, which I don’t normally write about here. I need not give the whole setup again for the premise of such entries and see my blog from the end of 2013: Travels of Spocklogic. The notables this year are a couple of blogs I finished and some reviews that may be of interest:



That summarizes some travel selections for 2014. I did travel to Italy also in July 2014, and have some links to share for photo collections I put together for a special year in Erice to celebrate a 40th anniversary of the International School of Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy (ISAMS):

Rino: 40 Year Erice Celebrations (2014) – Erice, Italy
2014 Erice Workshop: 30 July – August 5 – Erice, Italy
People (2014) – Erice, Italy
Places (2014)
– Erice, Italy

In addition, I traveled to China again this year in November 2014, but am still working on my travel blog for that, so it will have to wait until my 2015 account of my travels. I will make this type of entry something traditional at years end to cover where I have been and what I have done in travel ways. It’s all rather like the City on the Edge of Forever perhaps…





Living in the USA post 9/11 is something unusual and I have no explanation for the state of things, except to believe the USA is in a perpetual state of paranoia. There have been no deaths in the USA from direct foreign terrorism since 9/11/2001, yet over a trillion dollars has been spent to prevent such a threat. Was this money wisely spent? I think not. The elected officials continue to blunder their way in foreign policy, while the intelligence community continues to be surprised by new developments. Nations abroad realize that American politics are a slave to media attention, and play that card whenever they can. The media networks in the USA go on the philosophy that if it bleeds then it leads.

The sad fact is that you can not depend on the USA government or the USA media to be caretakers of the USA people. The government and the media have their own agenda that is not in touch with the ordinary man. For many Americans, like myself maybe, the government and media live in a fantasy land of world power struggles, war  strategy, economic crisis, diplomatic endeavors and peace negotiations – like it means something! Most Americans don’t really care about any of this power-play nonsense, but want a good job with good pay, have a home to call their own, raise their kids with good education, make a good living and enjoy their life. The United States of Paranoia is preventing that, I’m sorry to say. I do not know what is really behind the situation, but Dwight Eisenhower, who was president from 1953-1961, and was a WW II general, warned about the military-industrial complex in his final speech as president.

For the full speech see: Eisenhower Farewell Address

All this war on an unknown enemy is exploitation for the benefit of some entities, and of that you can be sure. That benefit is not for the American people, but at their expense. Do not trust what USA politicians say, and do not trust what USA media says. They feed on each other in symbiotic ways, and it is disgusting to watch. The democracy of the USA is an illusion of sorts, and it’s run by a few hundred people, most of them elite who went to ivy league schools, are millionaires and don’t really understand the man in the street. In the USA if the government wants something to happen, it will happen, Constitution or not. Unfortunately, a government by the people and for the people no longer exists. So the politicians fight their wars in paranoia because it’s an intellectual exercise for them like the board game of “Risk”. They are paranoid, the media is paranoid, but we should not be. Don’t listen to the politicians and the so-called media ‘newscasters’. The former you can not trust and the later just opinion makers really.

ISIS (or ISIL) is not coming to get you, at least not yet, and that’s just a story. Brutality does not equal strategy, and cutting off people heads is simply an act of brutality without thought. It does, however, make news and that is what ISIS (ISIL) wants. That does not mean they have any organized thought about coming to get you in a terrorist attack. They will have to conquer a great deal more before they become a strategic threat. This does not mean the USA should do nothing to thwart them, but no troops will be sent in I hope. The Arab world needs to become engaged in stopping ISIS, as they are more a threat to that region than they are the USA presently. Tune out CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and other media, then tune in to the politicians making all these wars, and get them out of office. Elect people who reflect your ideals, wants, desires, and hopes for the future. Go against this current United States of Paranoia and seek a United States of America again that stands for something stronger than making war, like solving the struggles of the man in the street for a change. Give war a rest and give excellence of American values a chance again.


The preamble to the constitution leads with “We the People…” and powerful words that follow:

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Think about those words and what they mean to you (We the People) and not what they mean to politicians and media broadcasting. What do they mean to you – the man in the street? Don’t let those in power now continue to have power over you! Tune out networks and politicians in power, then consider new candidates and elect reasonable men and women who will work for you at home and abroad instead of making war around the world.


La Rose (Dream) – Salvador Dali

Dreams – they are the kind you can have when sleeping, but also the kind you have in life at looking to the future. It can be difficult to differentiate them sometimes as they spill over into each other, and I won’t limit the discussion here to one or the other, but favor the later. I always feel I have two lives, one lived in sleep and the other while awake, but they are intertwined in ways that make them mutually complimentary. On the whole, I think dreams are a good thing to have in life because they provide some positive outlook and a glimpse of the possible future ahead. They are, in essence, parts of ourselves yet undiscovered or unrealized. One of my favorite books in the bible is Ecclesiastes, as it is a philosophical chapter, and often invokes one to think a great deal about life. I also find it a source of great wisdom, religious aspects aside. Anyway, in there it says, “For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words” ~ (Ecclesiastes 5:3)

As most biblical verses, such things are generally about behavior towards God, but I see it also as reflection on achieving dreams. A dream does not come of itself usually, but requires effort to achieve. Simply speaking about it will not cause it to be, and is just the voice of a fool to think so. Just like in life, however, we don’t always get what we want or wish for, and dreams don’t always come true, or at least in the way we envisioned them. This is part of the reality of life. Oftentimes it may not be for lack of effort to achieve a dream, but a sequence of events that come together at the right time, sometimes even involving luck, that brings a dream to fruition. This is my feeling and it may be true that, “Dreams are the touchstones of our character.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849).

Just some food for thought here. Of course, the solitary dream mostly reflects our inner self, but when dreams are shared they have the power to transmit a vision outwardly to others. I end with an inspiration from Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist of the 20th century:


Next Page »