Author: Dean Jordaan

I read, I learn, and sometimes I write.

On Life at the End

“To this he must come pure, at peace, ready to depart, in unforced harmony with his fate.”
Marcus Aurelius

As my parents approach their 7th decade I’m more aware of their advancing age. The awareness came quietly, unwelcome. My Dad doesn’t do the back-to-back golf days he used to and my Mom’s knee prevents her walking too far. They’re reluctant to travel, and I live half the world away.

Athul Gawade, in this excellent book Being Mortal, offers a framework to think about advancing age and what matters in the end. A practicing physician, he explores how modern medicine steps in as our bodies being to fail, but ultimately fails to offer us a good life at the very end.

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On Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions

 The soothing cadence of mastication, farts, belches, and showers of piss never ceases from dusk till dawn
– Simon Fairlie

I’m working my way through the excellent book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie. It’s a fascinating deep dive into the world of sustainability, food security, and social and environmental justice, centered on the question on whether eating meat is good, bad or something in between. But it also serves as an introduction to the concepts that frame the debate. Cue global greenhouse gases.

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Marcus Aurelius on Living Well

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: today I shall meet people who are meddling, ungrateful, aggressive, treacherous, malicious, unsocial
– Marcus Aurelius

Some 2000 years ago in a cold, wet military camp on the Northern frontier of the Roman empire, an old man would rise early, sit at his desk, and start his day reflecting and writing. He wrote about life, death and what it is to live well. Mostly he wrote to admonish and encourage himself, setting the tone for the day. (more…)

Regression to the Mean, or Why Intelligent Women Marry Less Intelligent Men

“Women are made to be loved, not understood.”
Oscar Wilde

Imagine you’re at a party making small talk and some guy suggests its a well-known fact that intelligent women marry less intelligent men (factually this is correct). The genius supports his insight with reasons like, intelligent women have low self-esteem, or intelligent women want to dominate their partner, and so on. But what does account for the fact?

Daniel Kanneman, in Thinking, Fast and Slow, uses this example to illustrate the concepts of regression to the mean, correlation, and why we instinctively look for causal explanations when a simple statistical one will do.

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On Philosophy

But between theology and science there is a No Man’s Land, exposed to attack from both sides; this No Man’s Land is philosophy
– Bertrand Russell

There is a scene at a bar in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon, the smart but poor kid, humbles the rich but arrogant kid exposing his cleverness as unimaginative regurgitation from books he’s read rather than any original thinking. This pretentiousness is what many of us associate with philosophy. We picture clever sounding arguments from poncy Harvard students, and are skeptical it speaks to anything useful.

I am basically illiterate as far as philosophy goes and in an attempt to cure my affliction I read A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. He kicks it off with a nice explanation of what philosophy is and why it matters.

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Liking

I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect – J. D. Salinger

‘Few people would be surprised to learn that, as a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like. What might be startling to note, however, is that this simple rule is used in hundreds of ways by total strangers to get us to comply with their requests’. This is the fourth post in a series on Robert B. Chialdini’s classic work on the study of persuasion, compliance and change, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition. (more…)