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Despite appreciation for both the modern and not-so-modern conveniences made possible by engineering — cell phones, computers, vehicles, air conditioning, electric lights, plumbing, heating systems — most prefer not knowing “how the sausage is made.” Hopefully, however, a few will consent to follow this engineer on a short journey of discovery, an outing where a little engineering-type thinking gets applied to some fundamental aspects of life. The journey involves three stages: A foundational belief overview; a way of conceptualizing life that provides a facilitating viewpoint; and our objective — better understanding of ourselves and the world about us.


The police officer applied his knee to George Floyd’s neck. For over 9 minutes that officer casually maintained his position. Bystanders, to no avail, exhorted him to stop. What was he waiting for?

By any measure, the case is a tragedy. George Floyd died, four police officers had the course of their lives changed forever, and countless others were impacted by the subsequent tsunami of emotion and reaction. Anger. Despair. Wondering how such an occurrence could happen without someone pushing forward to set things right. The opportunity existed to save both George and the officers.

The case has served to…

The author’s Medium article, Social Security Timing, considers Social Security (SS) from a different perspective. Rather than thinking of having a Full Retirement Age (FRA) benefit, to which deductions apply if you start benefits early, SS is viewed as an annuity that starts at age 62, but with a unique feature. One can delay its start, month by month, and in effect purchase a small supplemental annuity, at the price of a month’s forgone benefit, for each month up until age 70.

Given that viewpoint, Social Security Timing does what anyone should do when considering an annuity purchase — evaluate…

Most who are old enough to think about filing for Social Security (SS) have some basic understanding of the timing trade-offs. Briefly, one can file as early as age 62, but to get your “full” benefit you must wait until your SS defined Full Retirement Age (FRA). For all who collect early, benefits are reduced by an amount dependent on how early. In contrast, if you wait until after your FRA (but no later than age 70), SS will boost your benefits 8% per year. As a result, between the ages 62 and 70, monthly benefits increase with each additional…

How can this be close?

From Trump’s White House we get racism, xenophobia, conspiracy theories, a debt-fueled economy, uncountable lies, and, as the topper, a chaotic pandemic response with deliberately misleading assertions and American deaths now marching toward a quarter million by election day. When that sort of performance engenders support, even admiration, one can’t help but wonder what’s happening. How can better than 40% of US voters want an encore? Sure, white supremacists like the dog whistles they hear, the anti-immigration crowd wants a wall, and the pro-fetus people, who apparently don’t give a shit about the life of the living — go ahead…

Earth from space, with sepia shading on right half
Earth from space, with sepia shading on right half
Earth: Inheritance, Legacy, and Choice

In 1945, 75 years ago, WW2 ended. The years since have been relatively stable for most Americans, especially when compared to the prior 30 years that included a global pandemic, the Great Depression, and both World Wars. There have, of course, been numerous disrupters. The negative ones include foreign wars, economic downturns, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, the AIDS pandemic, drug crises, and mass shootings. Each of those turned life upside down for the people directly involved. …

Paul Meernik

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