Thing Thoughts: Taylor Stitch has Gone Global

Taylor Stitch Jack Shirt Made in California

There’s nothing I love more than small local homegrown businesses that put out exceptional quality stuff via local manufacturing. One of the businesses I love that does that is Taylor Stitch, although they aren’t so much anymore and that makes me sad.

I discovered Taylor Stitch back in 2016 when I lost a lot of weight and no longer fit into any of my clothes. Of course since I wasn’t spending as much money on food, naturally, I decided to put it into clothes that fit. Having already been enamored of US-made stuff (which consistently cost more but lasted much much longer) I started looking up local clothing designers and manufacturers and came across Taylor Stitch, a small company based out of San Francisco that was making their clothing in California. I jumped on the opportunity to redo do things. For all intents and purposes, I have since become a Taylor Stitch collector. I have bought their Jack shirt in numerous colors and also own their Chore Pant in all available colors, including some not available on the site (only available in their San Francisco stores.). The Chore pant is awesome, but it does suffer from some fading issues. I might cover that later in a separate post.

Unfortunately, earlier this year, Taylor Stitch decided to move much of their production overseas to, most notably, China. One of the things I like about Taylor Stitch is that they often let customers vote on future clothing releases by sending you to a survey site to gauge your interest in upcoming releases. The most recent survey was entirely items made in China. In the past, they had outsourced items like some of their leather accessories and their Democratic Chinos to factories in Spain. It would appear that both Spanish-made items were/are consistent in quality to the goods they were making here in the US and this may be that they were made under the auspices of Taylor Stitch’s initial charter and what it expected in outsourced goods. In fact the only real issue I have with the Democratic China (which is an awesome pair of pants) is its use of a print of a map of San Francisco inside the pants…despite being made in another country. It’s just weird.

Unfortunately, I have no faith in the quality, materials, or fit and finish of items made in China. I’ve consistently been let down by clothes and shoes coming from China, and while I understand that it allows fashion designers to tag items with a 100,000% markup on items, it also allows them to rely solely on their branding and visual design to earn repeat business, which they get by importing Chinese-made clothing that [possibly deliberately] wears out and falls apart quickly. Given that there is little to no accountability and quality control, this is to be expected from countries with garment factories that place high volume/low price above high quality/low output. One consistently sees a difference here.

To digress for a moment, last year I made the switch from Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star lows (made in China) to SOM Footwear Zephyrs made in Colorado. The difference in fit, finish, and manufacturing is astonishing. I have highly arched small toes which would wear holes through the sides of Chucks in under three months and the sides of the midsole would crack and split. I am now eight months in wearing my Zephyrs and there is ZERO sign of fatigue in the shoe fabric and the soles aren’t cracking at all. On top of that, these shoes can be resoled for $35. I’m so happy with them, I haven’t ordered a resole yet…I ordered a new pair of SOMs (the Briquette) to start a collection, and will get my Zephyr’s resoled once the Briquettes get here. You can make the argument that the Chucks are cheaper, but with the option of resoling, the SOMs will outlast any single pair of Chucks by years. I’d show you a comparison pic, but I tossed the Chucks out eight months ago. I’m still getting used to the whole notion of documenting things here. I covered SOMs briefly in an earlier post when they sent me stuff for winning a contest, I’ll talk about the shoes more themselves in a later post.

Getting back to Taylor Stitch, For me, the red flag went up when I pre-ordered/crowd-funded my favorite cut of shirt ever, the Taylor Stitch Jack insofar as the reverse jacquard variant was the only one I’ve received that wasn’t made in California, rather, it was made in Portugal. The difference in sizing and cut was noticeable and I wonder how it will hold up. In fact, as I write this, I wonder if perhaps Taylor Stitch’s owners sold the company recently, whether as an ouster or part of a planned exit with venture capital investors. If that is the case, that is unfortunate and I would highly recommend you go buy up whatever US-made goods remain in their inventory, I know I’ll be taking a careful look myself.

So in conclusion, I have every intention of continuing to support Taylor Stitch’s domestic efforts, but the more production they move overseas, the less interested I become.

Thing Thoughts: It’s 2018 and I Still Can’t Find a Computer Mouse That Fits…or Have I?

I have a problem, and that problem is finding a comfortable, responsive, well made computer mouse. Seriously.

I’ve opted to embed separate video reviews of the mice included in this post. I recognize that my problems may not be reflective of everyone’s potential experience and I encourage you to try these mice even though my experience was just plain horrible.

As with many of my “life equipment” purchases of the past few years, I’ve relied heavily on The Wirecutter to guide me in the right direction, typically going with their Upgrade Picks on items. Unfortunately, in the arena of computer mice, I wasn’t able to find anything good.

Let’s rewind for a moment to a couple of years ago when I stopped using mice and transitioned to an Apple Magic Trackpad 2. I’ve really enjoyed using the trackpad (although there’s no way I’ve found to utilize even basic PC functions when it’s plugged in via USB to a non-bootcamp Windows machine) and given that I’ve worked on a laptop with a trackpad for the better part of my life, it was a logical move to make when using my laptop shut with an external display.

However my computer use increased tremendously in 2016 when I began writing and working on other media (such as this site) to a much greater degree than I ever had before in my life. The result was that I began to experience discomfort in using input peripherals such as my keyboard and mouse. I’ve written a separate article on my keyboard quest, and I am currently on a one-year test of the Leopold FC660C (deemed by a Wirecutter editor as his favorite for nonstop 40 hour per week typing…if not officially reviewed and picked by the site). You can read up on that separately. So far…it’s decent.

But the trackpad had also become a bit uncomfortable as well, not in my wrists per se, but the top of my hand was definitely feeling it. And so I turned to the WireCutter for mouse advice.

At the outset, I was at a disadvantage as I didn’t want anything wireless that would require battery charging, and it seemed that The WireCutter had only three categories they had reviewed mice in, and all three were wireless. The categories were:

As a rule, I always go with the upgrade pick as, well, it’s better than the best according to Wirecutter, and they haven’t let me down yet…scratch that, they did with the Matias Ergo Pro, but that’s a separate post, and technically, it was Matias who let me down, not Wirecutter.

I didn’t want a wireless mouse because I always have issues with connections and don’t like to charge or replace batteries. I didn’t want a gaming mouse because I didn’t want extra buttons nor glowy-flashy rainbow lights (which are just silly), and I didn’t want a trackball because I’ve never been a fan of trackballs. Regardless of all my policies, I decided to give Wirecutter a chance on their picks.

For best Wireless Mouse Upgrade Pic, The Wirecutter chose the Logitech MX Master 2S. Luckily, unlike many Wirecutter choices, this was something I could actually find in a store so I went on down to Best Buy to check it out.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t buy the thing. It felt cheap and flimsy and imprecise in its handling, and at $75 (at the time), I just didn’t think it was worth giving it a chance. Given that it was the upgrade pick, I saw no point in pursuing the main pick because I was already not interested in a wireless mouse, let alone a lesser one. So we can check this one off the list.

While at first I thought I was done, I then considered the possibility of using a gaming mouse, given their reputation for precision movement and ability to have their myriad of extra buttons customized. In looking at the Wirecutter’s upgrade pick, the Logitech G703, I was at first turned off by the fact that it was wireless, but was intrigued by its DPI settings and configurable buttons. Given my proclivity for writing, I had warmed to the idea of having hotkeys/buttons for, among other things, cut/copy/paste (which I wound up doing to my keyboard) Also, ironically, it was easier to find the G703 in stores and it did allow for use when plugged in via USB. I also liked the fact that full mouse functionality was available across both Mac and PC platforms, something that is not the case with my Magic Trackpad 2 (I cannot scroll or right-click on it when using a PC).

I found the G703 in stock at the local Fry’s Electronics (Amazon had a 1-3 week shipping estimate) and went down there only to discover that it was a bait and switch. They were plum out of G703’s but had the top of the line G903 in stock there, naturally, for more money. After some hemming and hawing and some youtube review research, I came to the conclusion that G903 might in fact be the better choice as reviewers claimed its strengths over the G703 made it better suited to media work (audio/photo/video)

It was f*********g terrible.

Where do I begin? Anywhere, so we’ll start with the wired/wireless aspect of it. I decided that at home I would use the G903 via its USB connection as that is where I do most of my photo and video work, and at work in the office, I would use the wireless USB receiver for convenience’s sake and one less cable to tote back and forth with me. At home I didn’t want to deal with any potential latency or choppiness that might result from a wireless connection that, Logitech claims, is eliminated by using their super spiffy light wave speed whatever technology that includes a female-to-female USB adapter that lets you plug in the USB receiver for the mouse to a normal USB cable so you can have it near the mouse itself. To me that was an utterly ridiculous concept (in photos on the Wirecutter they show this application and seriously, you might as well plug the mouse in for a better and guaranteed connection), but also one that I guess matters because I found myself needing to use it because, YES, the mouse does have latency issues and cuts out even when using an extension cable with the USB receiver right in front of the mouse. Another thing I noticed (which was reflected in a YouTube review) was that the fit/finish/refinement on the mouse was not particularly great for the price point of $126. The scroll wheel was wobbly (probably due to its half-baked implementation of left/right scrolling that was slow and arduous at best) and button on top to switch from smooth up/down scrolling to ratcheted (or stepped) scrolling had an incredibly cheap-sounding spring mechanism that brought back memories of switches from the 80’s. While its optical sensor tracked well, its scrolling functionality on a Mac was abysmal with choppy vertical scroll, and an atrocious forced incremental horizontal scroll that I could count a full second between each increment it moved to the left or right. The $20 purchase of the utility USB Overdrive helped a little, with the vertical, but did nothing for the horizontal.

All of these things were dealbreakers, but the worst part of this mouse wasn’t that it functioned, well, barely. The worst part of it was its ergonomics. It caused (and I am not understating this) my carpal tunnel syndrome to explode with my right hand/forearm becoming the symphony orchestra equivalent of amplified CT symptoms. Really. It was intense beyond belief and lasted for a couple of days after I gave up on the mouse. I can’t believe I’m the only person who’s had such a viscerally negative physical reaction to this mouse and I don’t see how an esports athlete could possibly use this for extended periods of time. To be fair to the Wirecutter, they didn’t recommend this mouse at all, but I thought that it was merely because its price point relative to the additional features it offered over the G703 wasn’t justified. I only wish they would have noted it’s severe ergonomic shortcomings. Either that or I have freakish joints, which I don’t think is the case. And so I gave up on the G903 and returned it. I couldn’t help but notice upon returning it to Fry’s that when I walked the gaming mouse aisle, there was an unusually high number of open-box G903’s for sale in the Logitech portion of the aisle. It would seem to be the case that users, be they gamers or otherwise, aren’t happy with it. Also, the G703 still was not back in stock.


(I have no idea if this review is any good but 60 days is a good amount of time to suffer through this mouse’s strengths and weaknesses)

Not the one to be deterred, and still believing in the Wirecutter, I went back to the site to look at trackballs (which I had in a former life not been a huge fan of but thought things might have changed in the 15 or so years since I last tried one). I settled on the Wirecutter’s pick for a thumb-operated trackball – the Logitech MX Ergo Advanced Wireless Trackball. It appeared to offer a natural resting position for my hand, seemed comfortable, and I liked its heavy solid construction. But of course, its weaknesses far outweighed its strengths. Like the G903 it was wireless, but unlike the G903, it was simply normal bluetooth and didn’t make use of the G903’s super-fancy Light-dingle-dangle technology. Like the G903, that didn’t matter anyway as I found it had the exact same latency and skipping issues the G903. But it also had other problems. One, that was irredeemable, was that it emitted an extremely high-pitched whine. You know the type of sound. It’s the unnerving sound your USB battery pack makes while charging that makes you think it’s going to combust. The thing about this trackball though, is that it did it all the time and it was loud enough to keep me awake at night (if I didn’t remember to switch off the mouse…but then again, who ever does that?).

The other baffling thing about this mouse was that the only way to connect it to a computer was via bluetooth or a Logitech Unifying USB receiver. The micro-USB plug on the mouse itself did not work for connecting it to a computer…so no luck in avoiding latency or interference issues there. To me this was a bizarre thing to leave off a $90 trackball. Scrolling had the same issues, although this being the fifth Logitech mouse I had used in recent memories (apart from the G903 I’ve gone through several at work), I have now come to the conclusion that there is ZERO consistency in terms of feel and feedback from the scroll wheels on all of Logitech’s mouse offerings. Each one is different, and bad, and Logitech needs to do something about this or at least do a better job of giving would be users the option of tailoring the scroll wheels to their individual liking. There are clearly a variety of ratchet settings and styles Logitech offers, so why not make them optional on every mouse they make? I’m probably asking too much. While I originally perceived the MX Ergo’s shape to be comfortable, it turned out to not be good enough to make up for the rest of the device’s shortcomings, and so I also wound up returning this mouse too.

You might be wondering why I haven’t included any photos of these devices in my post. Well…it’s because I disliked them so much I saw no reason to photograph them. You can’t really articulate the feelings of carpal tunnel syndrome and other discomfort while using a mouse in a photo, so I didn’t bother. I do regret not recording a video of the piercing noise the MX Ergo made though. In hindsight, I should have done that. You can also find pics of all these mice (not the Trackpad) on the WireCutter’s site, or google images and youtube of course.

After these two frustrating and genuinely painful experiences, I wound up reevaluating my Magic Trackpad 2. In the end I realized that, for my needs, it remained the best of the bunch. It’s only shortcomings being that it can’t right-click or two finger scroll on a native PC, and so I keep a dirt cheap mouse nearby for its right button and occasional scroll. Other than that, the Magic Trackpad scrolls beautifully (whether by bluetooth or connected USB) and naturally and takes into account “physics” so-to-speak in the way the scrolling action decelerates over time. It also scrolls smoothly from left to right, making it ideal for media timeline work unlike anything else I’ve tried. On top of that, I have never suffered from latency or choppy movement from the cursor.

I did wind up buying a cheap Glorious Gaming wrist rest for use with the track pad and that has helped quite a bit with my discomfort, so until somebody comes up with my grail mouse (which should have happened by now…), I’ve decided I’m perfectly content to continue on with my Magic Track Pad 2.

Thing Thoughts: The Leopold FC660C Mechanical Keyboard on a Mac

When I committed myself to maintaining a regular blog I realized I’d need to find a keyboard that was meant for a ton of typing – enter the Leopold FC660C. It’s the next best (and very different) thing to the keyboard on my MacBook Pro which has its upsides and downsides.

Leopold FC660C

Before we continue, I want to take a moment to tip my hat to The Wirecutter. They have been my goto for reviews on just about anything useful. And sometimes, they may pick an item, and then when reading through the comments, I can find something that’s a better fit for my needs anyway. It’s a great site and also indicative of how I wound up with the Leopold – It was because of their pick for the Best Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard “for most people.” The Wirecutter’s [correct] choice for this item was the Logitech K380. It connected without a hitch and had switches to pair with three separate devices. It was also compact, which was very important to me as I work in a closeted sized space that only permits me a desk that’s three feet wide (also a WireCutter pick, the Fully Jarvis). The battery life on the K380 was fabulous, and its fit and finish was better than its $40 price tag suggested. There was just one problem: Continue reading “Thing Thoughts: The Leopold FC660C Mechanical Keyboard on a Mac”

Thing Thoughts: Hey I Won A Contest for Taking a Survey!!

I recently decided that I was going to take every damn survey that promised to enter me into a drawing/sweepstakes/raffle/contest in order to call companies’ bluff and see if I could win something, and guess what? I did.

I do love SOM shoes and everything they stand for. They’re hand-made by a small business based in Colorado (for the most part, made to order) and despite being sneakers of the Chucks variety, can be resoled when you wear down the sole. They are minimalist footwear, so don’t expect much in the way of cushioning between the sole of your foot and the ground. It took me a couple of days to acclimate to the shoes but now I absolutely love them.

I digress.

SOM emailed customers with a survey asking for customer feedback to make them a better company and promised to enter participants in a contest to win one of these boxes and lo and behold, I got picked! The last time I won a contest was to get my likeness drawn and included in the Icebox web series “Zombie College” back in 2001. Remember Icebox?

With all that, let’s look at what was in the box:

A Bluecorn Beeswax Candle
Dirty Water Soap Works Soap
• Chocolove Chocolate
• A SOM Footwear Sleep Mask
• St Pierre Catering Nutty Granola
• Save Our Soles Socks (the key to my heart is good socks)
• idea chíc Wood Postcard
• Wild Zora Meet & Veggie Bar (addictive!!)

Thank you SOM!

Please go check out their shoes. They really are great. In fact, I’m wearing them right now. No joke.

Thing Thoughts: Why The DJI Mavic Air Won’t Get My Money

DJI announced a new drone today and I must say, DJI is on a roll. Their drones get easier to fly with more intelligent features in smaller form factors for less money and look attractive to boot.

This little fella seems to have some pretty nifty features packed inside its cute little plastic chassis. They include:

  • 32 MP Sphere Panoramas
  • 3-Directional Environment Sensing
  • Smart Capture
  • A 3-Axis Gimbal mated to a 4K Camera
  • “Smart” Caputre
  • A maximum flight time of 21 minutes

But to date, they suck in the most important way possible: Their cameras. I have never seen decent footage pulled from a Mavic. I owned a Mavic Pro and thought that maybe, just maybe, it couldn’t possibly shoot as low quality video as it does in the year 2017 (yes, it’s 2018 now but I had it in 2017 and figured that firmware updates must have improved things since its introduction in 2016 when its footage sucked even for camera tech in 2016). No, really. They claimed it had high bitrates and could shoot LOG-ish footage, but the dynamic range and definition was disgustingly bad, even in the marketing footage, relative to what you could get out of the iPhone you had to connect to the remote to watch what you were filming. Sure, you could apply LUTS and grade it in DaVinci or the new FCP X (or other program), but its footage still looked like poop.

Here, I’ll show you:

 

On the left you have final graded footage, on the right you have a crop of the same video. The moire and total lack of sharpness or definition is appalling. Look at the way pixels swim around and moire that looks like a CRT display filmed at high speed.

Compare that to footage shot on an iPhone 7 Plus that came out a year before the Mavic Pro and there’s simply no comparison.

I realize I made the Ferrari video bigger, but that’s just for formatting, you can open the Mavic footage on YouTube and see it full size there as well. Also, the Ferrari footage was shot using Filmic Pro on the iPhone which ups the bitrate, but bear in mind, the Mavic Pro has a LARGER sensor at 1/2.3” vs the iPhone at 1/3”.

Now here’s the thing….

I’ve been talking this whole time about the Mavic Pro as opposed to the Mavic Air, but in my biased mind, there’s no way the Mavic Air is any better…in fact for all intents and purposes, it looks like it uses the same sensor as the Pro. And this isn’t about getting what you pay for, it’s just a simple fact that compact sensors are capable of WAY better quality nowadays and so I don’t know where DJI is sourcing their hardware. Frankly it looks like they merely further sliced up the pixel count on a “spy camera” sensor you might find in a cheap “spy watch”.

So until verifiable reviews come out showing that the DJI Mavic Air’s camera sensor can fold my laundry, I’m giving it a pass. The cameras in these arguably highly capable-but-inexpensive-toy-drones are their Achilles heels that prevent me from recommending any of them in the near future.

I’m not holding my breath.