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.


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…





I had some international travel this year (Poland, Italy and China) and got to wondering on these trips what exactly is news? It’s certainly true from my perspective that what is news in the USA is not news around the rest of the world. The USA remains a very isolated place, covering only specific stories related to terrorism, racial division and political conflict, at least on the major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, etc…). There is a good deal more happening in the world than the people of the USA are exposed to. Be this as it is, I experience some backlash culture shock when I return to the USA after such international trips I take. At first I don’t want to even see it – the murders, celebrity scandals, terrorist threats, political infighting, and otherwise dismal state of the world from USA viewpoint. The world at large is not really like that, however, and what the USA media portrays is mostly a vision of a country so isolated from the rest of the world that it can not even see its nose in front of its face. It’s sad really, and the USA is supposed to be a world leader.

I often spend my lunchtime at work looking at the news on the internet. It’s astounding the stories that are so USA-centric, almost narcissistic. On top of that a good majority of them focus on negative aspects or have some slant towards ‘exposing’ something that will shock you. Headlines are designed to draw you in with a teaser, keep you hooked – addicted to what’s new. I find these tactics rather repulsive, but I am human too and find myself drawn into such stories time after time. It’s like a drug you can not resist. I have often used the analogy of how children like candy, but you don’t give them candy and  feed them healthy foods so they grow up well. It is analogous with the public, and the media should not feed them junk, but a healthier diet. It’s all economics, of course, and cereal makers target kids with the sugar just as networks target adults with the sensational. It’s clearly wrong, but seldom criticized. Money rules, sex sells, gloom and doom attract, terror remains a tale of trauma, and politics are pedantic to the point of soap operas. What has this world (from a USA viewpoint) developed into?

I have reached the point that I don’t want to look at it (the news) anymore. It’s all negative, for the most part, and I don’t want that as part of my being anymore – for peace of mind sake. Here are just a few things I want to say about some news topics obsessed on by the USA today. My apologies if these viewpoints offend anyone, but here goes:

1.) I’m just plain sick of the Middle East and the Arab world. I’ve had enough of it over and over in my lifetime and leave them to themselves is a policy I would like to see.
2.) I don’t want to hear about murders, kidnappings, rapes and other sundry crimes. I’ve had enough of it over my lifetime and why is this stuff always increasing year after year?
3.) Communism is a dead end – everyone knows that. Let economics decide the future of places like Russia and China. Spare me the rhetoric days past in cold war ways.

The ultimate question I suppose, putting my philosophers hat on, is simply: What is News? News is anything that is new, but does it have to be mostly negative? Could it be mostly positive? As long as money is driving the news cycle, it will remain negative because ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. It is not just money, however, and something more insidious I believe. Politicians are, by their very nature, great manipulators of their surroundings and other people. They could not get elected without that character. Why we would want people like that leading us is beyond me, but it is so. Anyway, the politicians play the media like a fine tuned instrument. Most of the people in politics are the biggest con-artists ever to exist. They call the shots and manipulate the media too. The networks think they are reporting news, but are mostly being played with and, for the most part, the stories that want to be told get told and the stories that don’t want to be told are kept secret. In reality this is how our system of freedom in the USA works.

When man landed on the Moon, that was news (it is an inspiration that anything is possible). The latest medical and technological advancements are news (they help people make better choices in their lives). Politics, economics and world situations are news (they make people aware of what is happening in the world). One could go on about what is news and cite many examples with rationale. The real trouble is that it is all manipulated at some level to keep you hooked, addicted to the negative aspects, instead of directing you to think positive. That is what concerns me most and should concern you too. It is time to tune out the negative networks and websites (to a degree) and pay more attention to positive outlets (to a degree). In the end, let the balance of  ‘What is News’ decide – Your dollar, Your voice, Your decision, Your direction will choose the trends in society and What is News…

Here’s “7 O’clock News – Silent Night” by Simon and Garfunkel from their Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album (1966):

Merry Christmas, one and all – Have a great holiday season!


vote copy

I think not for me in future ways…

With the midterm elections in the USA coming up, I thought I’d give my reasons why I’m not going to vote anymore. In simple terms I have come to the conclusion that it is pointless and a waste of my time. For most of my life I believed in all those words shown in the headline photo posted at the top of this page, but I have come to the conclusion that politics is a game played by the people in power and voters are used like tools to keep that power or to oust someone else and claim that power for their own selfish purposes. Most politicians are narcissistic I believe and think they are important enough to make a difference, but they rarely do. They lie, twist the truth, manipulate the public and, in their own self-importance, forget that they are supposed to be public servants. They are not thinkers, nor leaders, neither benefactors or patrons, and their efforts mostly self-serving. Plainly and simply, I refuse to sponsor people of such questionable morals and principles anymore who move position according to their advantage. It’s no wonder they all sound the same when they will say anything to gain vote in election time!

It is said we have a representative government in the USA, and that may have been true at some time in the past, but that day has past and it is only the appearance of a representative government now. John Locke would be shocked to see what has become of the Enlightenment (Age of Reason) in the late 18th century and what the current state of democratic government has evolved into. I suppose a host of others might join him in their shock : Bacon, Voltaire, Rousseau… These people were the seminal thinkers that formed the basis of thought in the Constitution reflected by the founding fathers of the United States of America. Politics, of course, has always been a dog-eat-dog business, even going back to the days of Jefferson and Adams, but at least for a couple of centuries in America the personages were genuine, faults and all. Today we have a collection of ingenuous robots who stick to party lines and endeavor to indoctrinate followers (fed by vitriol from partisan media) like it was some sort of cult. I just don’t want to have anything to do with it and the hypocrisy that goes along with it anymore.

In my opinion, voting does not matter. Statistics bear this out mostly from a mathematical perspective anyway as few elections are really all that close. Even those important ones that are, such as the 2000 presidential election, the popular vote decided Al Gore, but this was ignored and George Bush was made president by the electoral college. Of course not all voting is on big stages – president, congress, representatives, governors. In more local ways, such as mayors, councilmen, sheriff or such things there may be more impact from voting on a local politics scale. Such people are not as susceptible to the large scale influence of money and lobbyists that national scale politics has sold its soul to. However, scandals on local scale are prevalent enough to give one distrust that politics and politicians can do any good, even in localized environments. Incompetence seem more the rule than the exception, so why vote for the local bozo’s either.

I’ve followed politics all my life, participated in presidential campaigns when I was a young man – I had passion for leaders who would change the world for the better and take us in a direction that benefited humanity. I have not seen it happen and we waste resources on wars and conflicts abroad fighting ideologies contrary to our own, instead of reinforcing our  ideology at home and building the nation with beneficial domestic ways. I am disappointed at the state of the USA and world today. This obsession with terrorism is something I don’t understand. Yes it is important to stop it, but it is not the most important problem in the world today and we (as a collective humanity) are ignoring many other things. I looked up a statistic and some 10,000 people worldwide died from terrorism related incidents in 2013. For a world population of ~7 billion, that’s a 0.00014% casualty. Is the trillions of dollars spent on fighting terrorism really worth it?

I don’t have any answers for these difficult questions. We know the dangers of the military-industrial complex, which is what we are in now. Politicians will deny that and spin any yarn, so as not to offend anyone, and keep themselves in office to bloviate and feed their OWN narcissism that THEY make a difference. Gandhi once said, “Become the change you wish to see in the world” and it’s an excellent principle, but one that politicians don’t adhere to in their petty partisan ways. I just don’t believe any politician anymore about anything, and think they do more harm to our society than good. Inflexible, partisan, stale, boring and tedious would be good adjectives. Why would I want to cast any vote for people of that demeanor. I consider it a waste of time or investment of effort to consider the issues anymore. Nothing will get done the way THE PEOPLE want it, and the power politics will decide in partisan and party lines, with but a vague difference in realty from the truth or some sort of solutions to advance our thinking to make the world a better place, which should be the end objective even in compromise.

Here’s a state of the world to consider when you go to vote ( http://www.worldometers.info/ ) and think about that and what politicians have done for you and others domestically and abroad with the changes that are needed for society and humanity in future ways…


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.


I don’t often write about my travels in this WordPress blog (Cogito Ergo) as I have another site for that (TravBuddy). In this year of 2013, I completed a number of travel blogs on that site that are worth noting and I give the links to them here. Mind you, I don’t know that any of my travel blogs are ever really completed. Each one is like a child I nurture and raise up, but always needs attention in future ways. Anyway, I suppose I list them here for my own reference and also to offer it to others who may be interested in my travels. There is some connection of the blogs, one to another in embedded personal ways, but are also self-contained. Here they are:




Spocklogic_Switzerland_Travel Blog.

Spocklogic_Germany_Travel Blog.



Some of these blogs have been posted for some years, and I either added to them, made them more complete, and/or formed connections between them. Some of them are entirely new in 2013. They do tell a story in total I suppose and maybe that’s why I decided to make a sort of review of the Travels of Spocklogic here. They were also all the blogs featured on TravBuddy for me this year. My Italy blog (L’Avventura Dell Italia) seems never-ending and I have some more work to do on it, but the majority of important events are there for the most part. The last one in this list, the blog on China, is something I am still working on too, but intend (or hope) to complete it before the end of 2013. I suppose this collection of blogs forms a personal journey of sorts that I tried to form this year regarding my life and relation to travel. When I finish the China blog, maybe I will know what I have been endeavoring to understand and ultimately discover in my life. It’s not a teaser, or cliffhanger, but maybe more a matter of what I will embrace. Sounds enigmatic I suppose, but not really. It’s my personal perspective, the choices I make and what is ultimately best for me in a world of possibilities…


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