Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Goat Paths

The goat paths I'm talking about are not made by goats, but by humans who choose to regularly imitate goats, repeatedly short-cutting across unpaved areas along narrow pathways. I have nothing against people taking shortcuts once in a while when they're in a hurry and it'll actually save time. Some goat paths are pretty efficient shortcuts. The one pictured below cuts through Blue Quill Park near the Century Park train station.

Goat path traced in red.
The orange indicates one possible goat path to the red line, with the equivalent paved path traced in blue.
Dozens of people take this goat path everyday on their way to and from the station. I've traced one possible variant utilizing this goat path. The orange-red path is about 376 m, compared to the blue path's 634 m. A typical walking speed is about 5 km/h, so the average goat-imitator saves about 7 minutes 40 seconds and 38 Calories taking the shorter path here. Pretty significant if you're in a hurry or inclined towards laziness. But do you have to follow that precise path every time? Does the grass hinder you in such a way that you've developed a preference for the narrow trail worn into the dirt? You have the whole damned field to walk in. Alternate your path every time so that the grass can recover from you walking on it.

When the shortcut doesn't save you an appreciable amount of time, why even bother? Pictured below is just one of many goat paths on the University of Alberta campus. This one is in front of one of the engineering buildings.

Goat path traced in red. Concrete sidewalks traced in blue.
There's also some landscaping approximately where I've drawn that green blob.
Are engineering students being clever, applying the Pythagorean theorem to their morning walk to class? Or are they just being lazy goat-imitators? Using Google maps, I estimated that the red path is about 12 m shorter than the blue path, which means taking the red path saves you less than nine seconds. Nine seconds! Dozens of lazy wannabe engineers make an active choice to emulate the behaviour of the genus Capra, destroying the grass in order to shave nine seconds off their morning commute. In an effort to prevent people from using this goat path, the University paid for some landscaping to be placed in the way. But the goats kept coming, killing a juniper shrub in the process. What's even more ridiculous is that many of these goats use the path when it is wet and muddy, choosing to also get their shoes dirty in an effort to not burn seven tenths of one Calorie. The next time that you're thinking about being a goat, why not stop to consider that it costs money to make the grounds look nice (if you're a student, some of that money comes from your tuition fees) and how your nonsensical destructive actions will save you a negligible amount of time and energy. Then take the sidewalk like you're supposed to.

Or use this handy flowchart. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Crazy Conspiracies

I prefer to think that most people are fairly reasonable, rational human beings. But there is an intransigent group of humans among us that choose to ignore facts and perpetuate beliefs in conspiracies such as these:

This is the belief that those trails of vapor and ice crystals you see in the sky behind an aircraft is really a bunch of harmful chemicals (including metals like aluminum and strontium) being dispersed for any number of reasons (ranging from controlling climate to controlling the population). I especially want to smack the population control types. Obviously, slowly poisoning the entire atmosphere doesn't include the air our would-be overlords are breathing. Hence, it's an excellent method of controlling the masses.

Engineered HIV
This is the belief that HIV was engineered in a sinister plot to create a killer virus, and then tested successfully in Africa. Despite evidence to the contrary, some still believe it was actually first released in the US to kill homosexuals. Most of these theories put the creation of HIV somewhere in the 1970's, though blood and tissue samples in storage from as early as 1959 have tested positive for HIV. More reputable sources believe HIV is a mutation of SIV, which has been around since at least the 19th century, and estimate that HIV probably first entered the human population in the 1930's. On a related note...

AIDS is not the result of HIV
This is the belief that AIDS is caused by illegal drug use or homosexuality. Tell that to all the babies who contracted HIV either during birth or from breastmilk and then died from AIDS as young children.

Global Warming is a Hoax
The belief that the whole global warming thing was made up by the government as a grand scheme to raise taxes and enforce controls on our lifestyles. Not even the old Soviet Union would try to pull off a scheme like that. The increased temperature is well documented. 

Fluoridated water dumbs down the population
Because what every developed country wants to do is try to lower the mental abilities of the entire urban population. An urban population that includes all the people running the country and supposedly came up with the scheme in the first place. By the way, after half a century of fluoridation, it looks like the small amount of fluoride only reduces the incidence of tooth decay and increases the incidence of dental fluorosis in youths (white splotches on the teeth).

The World Trade Centre collapses were an inside job
The belief that the three buildings that collapsed were a controlled demolition. This theory is unfortunately given credibility by people claiming to be architects, engineers, and demolition experts. They say that the buildings fell straight down, just like a controlled demolition. The collapse was not quite so perfect and the dust cloud was much larger than you see in a typical controlled demolition. Uncontrolled fire compromised the whole section, not just a single corner of the building. As beams and columns failed, load paths changed, other beams and columns tried to accept more load. Then they failed too...and when enough of them had failed, progressive collapse started. Then gravity did its thing: pulling things straight down. Believers of the inside job theory like to point at other building fires and say "those didn't collapse" (the Windsor Tower in Madrid is a popular one, which survived a 26-hour fire). Well those buildings weren't struck by large passenger aircraft and their structural and fire designs are often totally different (Windsor Tower wasn't even a steel-framed building, and the parts that were supported by steel columns did collapse after less than 3 hours). NIST conducted a thorough investigation and published a voluminous report that even included answers to some crazy alternative explanations. The collapses were successfully modeled using a computer program. If you watch the videos closely you will find that progressive collapse initiated by severe fire at the damaged levels is what brought the towers down. The rubble revealed that the only parts of the buildings damaged by blast were from the floors involved in the aircraft collisions.  

The Moon Landing was Staged
The belief that the moon landing in 1969 was filmed in a television studio, probably just to try and make those commie bastards in the USSR feel inadequate during that international dick-waving contest we call the Cold War. One of their arguments is that, despite advances in technology, nobody's gone back since 1972. Well, round-trips to the moon are still extravagantly expensive, and still entirely useless. The "soil" and rocks brought back contained very common minerals. Basically, the moon is just a big, cratered, dusty rock that you can't even mine for valuable metals or gemstones. The Americans had put a man up there first, so the Soviets quickly gave up. After nothing more could be learned from exploring the moon, there was no reason to go back. We'll probably go back when we find a way to make it safer and less expensive.

Reptilians Rule the World
The belief that reptilian shape-shifters from the Alpha Draconis star system live on Earth among us, including the British Royal Family and former U.S. president George Bush. People who believe this also believe that most of the reptilians are living in hiding, inside the hollow Earth. 

Church's Chicken Sterilizes Black Men
The belief that fried chicken like Church's or KFC is really a white supremacist plot to wipe out the black people. Apparently the chicken is laced with a drug that only affects black people (because that's how drugs work). Fried chicken tastes good because it's full of salt and fat. Irrespective of gender or race, eating too much of it leads to obesity and associated health problems, but not sterility.

Vaccinations are Linked to Autism/a Means to Implant Tracking Beacons/a Western Plot to Kill or Sterilize Children
The belief that vaccinations have significant health risks, or worse, are a means of controlling or experimenting on us on a massive scale. Apparently, vaccinations are a great way to implant us all with tracking beacons and test experimental warfare and mind-control techniques. Beliefs like this are dangerous because people who don't get vaccinated can put the whole population at greater risk and burden the healthcare system when they get sick. For years, polio and smallpox were on the verge of being completely eradicated, but every time volunteers would go to the third world to vaccinate babies, a religious leader would announce that it was a Western plot to kill or sterilize their children. 

The Tsunamis of 2004 were Caused by the U.S. Military
The belief that the U.S. and Indian militaries, using electromagnetic pulse technology, deliberately caused the tsunamis. Electromagnetic pulse technology. I can tell that these people lack even a rudimentary understanding of physics. A tsunami is essentially a column of water, nearly as deep as the ocean, travelling radially like the ripples in a pond. A small tsunami could conceivably be caused by the deep underwater detonation of a nuclear weapon, but nothing like the ones causing the devastation we saw in 2004. Large tsunamis need a much larger release of energy, like from an earthquake or a massive landslide (the 2004 tsunamis were caused by a massive undersea earthquake).

The Years 611 to 911 AD Never Happened
That is to say, it isn't 2013 right now, it's 1716. This "Phantom time" hypothesis was proposed in 1991. That's right, there was a conscious effort to just make up an entire period of history, and everyone just went along with it. Even if you don't like medieval European historians and think they were making stuff up, you still have radiometric and dendrochronological (counting tree rings) dating methods, and the historical records from China, Korea, India, and Asia Minor. The dude who came up with this ridiculous hypothesis points to the appearance of Romanesque architecture 500 years after the Roman Empire fell. Because nobody anywhere at any time has ever mimicked an older style of architecture.

Lee Harvey Oswald was Framed
The belief that John F. Kennedy's assassin was just a scapegoat. While I have to concede that it would be very difficult to fire Oswald's antiquated rifle three times in eight seconds, I don't believe that it is outside the realm of possibility. There is also no doubt that the second shot came from Oswald and was the bullet that caused all of the injuries. Though the path of the bullet seems impossible to some (earning the nickname "magic bullet"), it has been recreated using computer simulations (including a controversial one that was essentially a video game). Physical recreations have been carried out using marksmen and anatomical dummies. Obviously, with so many variables, the shot can't be duplicated exactly, but these recreations have produced results so similar to the assassination that it seems ludicrous to discount the Warren Commission Report as fiction in favour of some far more implausible explanation.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Tailor4Less Review: Part 3 of 3

To start off, I will mention that I received an email from the CEO of regarding my earlier T4L reviews. He basically thanks me for testing them and writing a detailed review. He also assures me that T4L is working towards correcting some of the issues I had pointed out (he wasn't specific which ones) and said he looked forward to my review of their shirts.

In Part 1, I erroneously stated that T4L doesn't claim to sell top quality fabrics. I later found that the claim is made in large print on the "Our Fabrics" page (see below). As I described in Part 2, we know that their fabrics are far from being "premium".

A gross overstatement of the quality of T4L's fabrics.

I took all of my detailed measurements with the help of my fiancee (we watched all the videos, read the instructions, and took all the measurements two or three times just to be certain). The measuring took quite a bit longer than the website suggests, but there was nothing difficult about the process. 

I ordered two shirts, one in the "Manchester" fabric (light blue) and another in the "Mayfield" fabric (white). Both are 100% cotton. "Easy care" cotton is available, but costs a few dollars more. I own several cotton shirts that don't have these easy care features, so I didn't think it would be necessary. Of course, they have to be ironed after one or two wear-wash-dry cycles, but this is accomplished pretty quickly with my electric steam iron. 

T4L sent me an automated confirmation email right after ordering on 17 February 2013. A second email was sent when the shirts were shipped on 04 March, with an estimated delivery date of 09 March. I was pleasantly surprised to receive the shirts on 06 March. Shipping estimates are often too optimistic, particularly for international shipping, so it was nice to see that T4L at least gets your order to you quickly; in my case, just 17 days. 

The first thing I did was open the package to try on the shirts to see if they need tailoring. The fabrics felt a little thin, but not coarse, and overall seemed appropriate for a dress shirt. They had a bit of a strange smell, but I figured that there would be no issue after I laundered them. Unfortunately, the collar stays are sewn in, very thin, and rather flimsy. I didn't like that the top button and placket don't lie nice and flat when the collar's done up. However, this is partially hidden by a necktie, or is no issue at all if you go without the tie and leave the top button open. There are no garment care labels, but the package did come with garment care instructions (along with a coupon code for 10% off more stuff). Instructions are essentially to wash with like colours, dry with low heat, and iron with high heat. Basically, the identical instructions on all 100% cotton shirts that are not pre-shrunk and/or treated to be wrinkle-resistant. 

The fit was great, but not perfect. The shoulder seams aligned with my shoulders just right and the shirts were slim through the arms and torso. The collars were noticeably too large in the neck. This was partly my fault because I gave T4L a size about 6 mm (1/4") larger than it should've been just in case they screwed up and went too small, but also partly T4L's fault because they exceeded the measurement I gave them by about 6 mm (1/4"). The neck is not something that can be altered easily (and certainly not for the $15 USD credit T4L offers per shirt). The sleeves were a touch too long, but not enough to be concerned with altering them. On the other hand, the body length of the shirt was at least 25 mm (1") longer than is even reasonable for a dress shirt. The bottom of the shirt should not go past the crotch. Having more fabric to tuck in helps keep your shirt inside your pant waist, but it's hard to keep the shirt from bunching up around your seat and thighs if it is too long. I decided that the overall shirt length was something I could tolerate and the neck was partly my fault and couldn't be rectified anyway. It doesn't look too bad; there was just a bit more room around the neck than there should be. Pursuing the alteration credit seemed like it would be a hassle not worth my effort, so I decided to go ahead and wash the shirts.

I followed the washing directions exactly, but was very unhappy with the results. Remember that at this point, all I did was try on the shirts and then run them through a washer and dryer cycle. I noted threads coming loose at some seams, buttons, and buttonholes. A sure sign of very cheap construction is when your threads start coming loose after a single laundering. Next, I discovered that the damned things had shrunk despite being washed in cold water and dried at the low heat setting of the dryer. The sleeves were now perfect and the shoulders were a bit narrow. The overall length shrank, but still extends a little past my crotch. I couldn't measure any change in the collar size. Most disappointing of all was the complete lack of wrinkle-resistance. I own 100% cotton shirts that are NOT labeled wrinkle-resistant, but even if I go months without ironing one to let it get very badly wrinkled, I can probably iron it all out in 15 to 20 minutes. These shirts were very badly wrinkled after just a single wash and dry cycle. I spent 45 minutes ironing each of them! I even tried using more steam and increasing the temperature beyond the cotton setting into the range for ironing linen. After all that ironing, the shirts looked a lot better than when I first started, but they were still noticeably wrinkled.

Overall, the shirts were a terrible deal. They are undoubtedly going to wear out faster than anything else I own, even my $20 cotton dress shirt from Costco. They wrinkle far too easily and the time and effort needed to iron them is excessive. The time I waste ironing the shirts twice is worth more than I paid for them. 

It appears that T4L, in an effort to provide made-to-measure clothing at the most affordable prices, has resorted to shady practices bordering on fraud in order to make a significant profit while undercutting those competitors producing higher quality garments. They use to their advantage the fact that most consumers have little idea what makes a quality garment. T4L rightly focuses on fit, but then downplays the important roles of quality fabric and construction. To summarize my review, here's how T4L stacks up:

  • The information that T4L does give about their fabrics appears to be accurate
  • Measurements are easily obtained with the aid of T4L's videos
  • T4L has a perfect-fit guarantee
  • Shipping times are fast and the estimates appear to be accurate or perhaps even slightly conservative
  • Garments fit pretty well (this was my experience anyway, some folks on styleforum had issues)
  • No return policy
    • While they "guarantee" that the fit is perfect, it is the only thing they can be denied a refund if the garment's construction or material is substandard
  • Their perfect fit "guarantee" makes a mockery of the word
    • There is a very short window of opportunity to claim an issue with the fit
    • A remake can be done, but the customer is held responsible for the costs of all additional shipping, even if T4L made the errors to begin with.
  • Insufficient alteration credit. No tailor in the developed world will offer his or her services to make more than just very simple alterations on garments using T4L's maximum allowance
  • Garments do not have the proper garment tags which are a legal requirement in the developed world
  • Clothes shrink even when you follow T4L's instructions
  • T4L lies about the quality of their fabrics, claiming that they use "premium materials"
    • Their fabrics are cheap and thin, more typical of low-end clothing
  • In addition to outright lying, T4L is deceptive about their fabrics by withholding information. T4L gives only incomplete information about their fabrics
    • e.g. country of origin
  • Garments are poorly constructed
    • e.g. flimsy, sewn-in collar stays; threads coming loose after the first laundering; etc.
For more information about T4L (the stuff they don't want you to know), go to