Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nov. 3: Just a few Sunday thoughts - with a special for university students on getting As.

But first -

There are few things more annoying that political arguments. And the annoyance is caused by those people whose discussion style is formed by their prejudices.  Such people will pick a side based entirely on their prejudices. And they generally have two approaches to the discussion.

One is to wander through the whole forest of opinions on the subject to look for one that is obviously wrong. And you will always find such wrong arguments on either side of any issue. They will then ignore the bulk of the discussion, and wave that one error as though it proves the other side is entirely wrong.

Or, they will simply pick up a report that says no gas company has ever been found guilty of poisoning land. Well, yeah. But that might have something to do with the fact that gas companies spend billions to keep such cases out of court in the first place.

In a variation which is even worse, a friend argued with me that today's Swedish socialism is based on Nazi Germany which was also socialist. Well - Sweden is not socialist. Never has been. A socialist country is not simply one that imployment insurance. It's a state in which most industry is owned by the government.

Most industry in Sweden is owned by private business.

And, in fact, Hitler's Germany was not socialist, either - though Hitler called his system National Socialism. Most industry in Nazi  Germany, by far, was owned by private business, including people like Henry Ford.

The other argument is the Norbert Cunningham strategy. Just let your prejudice be your guide - and call people names..

So let's be clear - and stick with facts that we really know..

The only medical report ever commissioned on shale gas in New Brunswick.was the one by our chief medical officer, Dr. Cleary. She, with the support of the whole, medical community advised that developing shale gas in New Brunswick was a highly risky thing to do.

She did NOT say that the strictest regulations in the world would prevent that. She said it was too risky to go ahead.

The Irving press gave  her report one day - and spent much of even that day's story in quoting people who were not experts but who said it was safe. Then, when medical opinion across Canada endorsed her view, the Irving press didn't bother to report it.

The Cleary report has NEVER been shown to be wrong by anyone who is an authority on medecine. NEVER.

You cannot make a report wrong by ignoring it or by making vague references to tougher regulations. You have to prove it wrong. Nobody has done that.

There has been no other study reported, so far as I know, not on health, not on financial benefits, not on environmental impace that has been made by any other group that is both authoritative and impartial. None. (And, no, don't trust the word an ex-politician, now a very rich man, who is everybody's friend who knows nothing of the subject, but who gets big coverage in the Irving press when he says shale gas is good for you.)

All we have, apart from the Cleary report,  is a farcical report by an academic fraud who is, apparently, a dear friend of Mr. Irvng, and who gathered his information from a few meetings with ordinary citizens who knew even less than he did about the subject.

In this latter case, the evidence at least suggests that Prof. Lapierre was bought. And, if so, it would seem most unlikely he was bought by the anti-shale gas side.

After a decade or so, our government has still not fully developed regulations. It has still not conducted an impartial and expert study of the effect on our land and water. It has not given us much information of any sort - and none at all that suggests any criticism of shale gas.

And the only impartial and expert report we have so far is the one the government and the industry simply ignored.

Anyone who can't put two and two together to make a flatulent four in this case must be mighty thick. All the above can prove is that we have been massively betrayed by this Conservative government, and by those who like to think of themselves as our economic leadership, and by the Liberal party which we all know will support shale gas once it gets elected.

Then there's the new argument that shale gas is less destructive than other fuels, and so will give us time to prepare for renewable energy that is non-polluting.


I'm glad to see they at least recognizing that the world is warming, and we need new forms of energy. It's pretty hard to deny now that Arctic ice is disappearing and the eastern Arctic (the part above us) is now warmer than it's been in 140,000 years. And at some point, maybe soon, that warming becomes irreversible.

That means that even if shale is (which I doubt) less damaging than other fossil fuels, we still can't afford to let it happen We don't need damage that's growing more slowly. We need damage stopped - and time is limited.

And what are our business and political leaders doing about that?


Harper has cancelled almost all environmental research. He has destroyed almost all environmental protection, particularly where that is convenient for resource companies. We will not meet our emissions goals - and we're not even going to try to. The whole drive is to push the extraction of fossil fuels as hard as possible, to sell as much of the stuff as possible.

The TandT seems to think the European trade deal is about selling fish. And the pipeline is to transport fish from the west coast to St. John for export. The European deal is to throw the door wide open for European business to take what it wants without any, fussy environmental controls in the way (especially in resource extraction) and to use our fresh water as they like - just as they do in poor countries in Central America, Congo, and all over the world.

And what then? There is no what then. Business doesn't think that way. There is no future beyond the next bonus day. If our business leaders had been on the Titanic, they would all have gathered in the dining room to eat as much as possibly before the ship sank.

Now, just a quick note on studying for university students. I was reminded of it by Mike Elliot's excellent column in yesterday's Whatever section. Here's how to study in university.

Most teaching in university is by rote. That is, it's memory work. That's a pretty poor form of learning, but professors aren't real teachers, so most of them don't know any better. Anyway, that's what you have to do. Study a lot for memorization.

After I got a terrible BA, Acadia University (bless them) gave me a second chance. If I would do a full undergraduate year and get straight As, they would admit me to an MA programme.

It was just about that time that I read somewhere that if you study in a certain way, you can memorize better - and with less work. So that's what I did.

1. Study every day for a least a  half hour, starting with your notes for that day. Then go on to prepare any papers you owe.
2. It must be at an "official" time every day. if the timing of classes makes it possible, it should be the same time every day - including weekends.
3. The first time you read notes, the information will stay with you only a short time. On the next reading, it will last longer - and so on. So, for each day, I had an index card.

On it was the date - and the note pages I had to study (plus any other work I had to get started. Don't put off starting on papers.) So let's say the index card was for classes on Nov. 1. Then, the other study dates would follow - Nov. 3, Nov. 10, Nov. 30. The first day, third day, seventh day and 30th day.

So, every day I would go through my cards to see what I had to study for that day. In the last two weeks before final exams, I would every day go through the whole term's notes - perhaps only once a day.

At end of a year, Mr. D (and I don't mean Decarie) had straight As.

I don't suggest this is a good way to learn. What I am saying is that most university teachers know little about education, so their lectures are simply talking text-books. Most can think only of passing on information because they have little idea of  how to teach more important things like how to read with meaning, how to think, how to organize ideas, how to arrive at judgements.

Anyway, my system worked for me. I actually spent less time studying - and greatly reduced the stress of studying by using this method.

Try it. You, too, can get rich and retire to beautiful Moncton on the Peticodiac - "where every prospect pleases and only man is vile."



  1. I copied your studying tips to my university student sons. Wish I'd know these tips thirty odd years ago ;)

  2. I'll add a footnote. This worked for me at undergraduate level. (This - and making it a point never to skip a class.)

    However, I don't think it would work at graduate level. MA and PhD is mostly plugging away at reading. The important thing for this is to force yourself to read quickly, and still get the main point of the book.

    Much of graduate level is also learning to conform to all the tribal customs of the professorial world - and to learn not to think differently.