The Good Stuff

I’m often torn between frugal living — buying all my clothes, etc. at Costco and Goodwill — and a desire for top-quality stuff. Today I yield to the latter, sharing a collection of links to purveyors of quality products, from clothes to hats to pens to camping supplies.

Recently at AskMetafilter, somebody said “What other brands would appeal to a Filson man? Old school preferred. Gold stars for companies that have existed for more than a century.” Because I love Filson stuff, I followed the thread with great interest. I visited the web sites of all the recommended companies and sent away for catalogs when they were available.

This weblog entry is an attempt to collect information on the most appealing of the companies recommended in the original thread, as well as information on other companies I’ve discovered over the past few weeks. Most of the following are still “Filson man” material, though some — like Bob’s Red Mill — are wholly unrelated.

All of the companies here provide quality goods via mail order. All of them have web sites from which one may order their products. Not all of them provide a means for requesting a print catalog. (I’ve provided a link to each company’s catalog request page, if one exists.)


  • David Morgan (Seattle, 1962) is an an outfit from which one can buy products produced by several of the companies (Filson, Akubra, etc.) listed elsewhere in this entry. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Filson (Seattle, 1897, “Might as well have the best”) for outdoor clothing, hats, bags, and accessories. I own two Filson hats, a Filson vest, a Filson jacket, and a Filson bag. Each piece was moderately spendy, but well worth it. Filson makes high quality products. (Great website, catalog available.)
  • The J. Peterman Company (Kentucky) for expensive, oddball pieces of clothing. But still stuff I want. Who wouldn’t want Italian genius pants? (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Woolrich (Pennsylvania, 1830, “The original outdoor clothing company”) for outdoor clothing. I am not familiar with this company, but look forward to browsing their catalog. (Good webiste, catalog available.)
  • L.L. Bean (Maine, 1912) for clothing. I’ve always been aware of L.L. Bean, but never shopped there except at the outlet mall in Lincoln City. (Good website, catalogs available, outlet store on the coast.)
  • Kevin’s (Georgia, 1979, “Fine outdoor gear and apparel”) for outdoor clothing and hunting supplies. This catalog came yesterday. It contains several things I want: canvas trousers, a pocketwatch, etc. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Patagonia (California, 1965, “Committed to the core”) for active outdoor clothing and gear. I bought one piece of Patagonia gear at the last REI sale. It has served me well. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Devold (Norway, 1853, “Quality outdoor clothing”) for, well, quality outdoor clothing. I’ve only glanced at Devold’s web site, and cannot tell what to think of their offerings. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • Barbour (England, 1894) for outdoor clothing. After browsing the catalog, I don’t think this company’s stuff is for me. (Fair website, catalog available though it lists no prices.)
  • Holland & Holland (London, 1835) for upscale outdoorswear. Looks similar to Barbour. Again, not my type. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • Le Chameau (France, 1927) for hunting clothes and riding gear. See last two comments. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • French Creek Sheep and Wool Company (Pennsylvania, 1970) for woolen coats and sweaters. These are a bit too wooly for me. (Poor website, catalog available in theory.)
  • Pendleton Woolen Mills (Portland, 1909, “Good for life”) for shirts and blankets. I own one Pendleton hat; it’s the one I wear most often (the brown one). I’ve owned Pendleton shirts, and have always been impressed. (Great website, catalog available, many stores around Portland.)
  • Timberland (Boston, no specific date, “Make it better”) for boots. My only exposure to Timberland is through the pair of work boots I bought last fall. They’ve served me well during the past year, and I’d be happy to purchase Timberland again. (Decent website, no catalog, outlet store in Woodburn.)


  • Hartmann (Tennessee, 1877) for luggage. They even have some cases that George Bailey might have liked. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Duluth Pack (Duluth, 1882) for bags, packs, and camping gear. The web site has some keen-looking stuff. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Tilley Endurables (Toronto, 1984) for hats and travel clothing. I intend to order at least one Tilley hat before the end of the year. I admire their products. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Akubra Hats (Australia, 1874) for hats. Many of these look too, well, Aussie for me, but I’m willing to spend more time at the site. Lord knows I love hats. (Poor website, no catalog.)
  • Geier Glove (Seattle, 1927) for gloves. These gloves look durable and stylish. (Good website, no catalog.)
  • Hardy (England, 1879, “Tackling the world”) for fishing supplies. I’m not a fisherman, but some of this stuff still looks appealing. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • Frost River (Duluth, “Reliable softgoods”) for all sorts of outdoor supplies. This would probably be a good place to stock up on camping equipment. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Bosca (Ohio) “Accessories in leather”) for leather goods. All of Bosca’s stuff looks tempting. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • Breitling (Switzerland, 1884, “Instruments for professionals”) for watches. I’m not sure these are the sorts of wathces I want. I’d love a pocketwatch! (Terrible website, no catalog.)

Furniture, Etc.

  • Gandolfini (England, 1885) for large-format cameras. In my dream world (the world where I have unlimited funds), I’d shoot only large format. (Poor website, no catalog.)
  • Stickley (New York, 1900, “Collector quality furniture since 1900”) for furniture. I’m currently shopping for a new chair for my library. I’ve considered a Stickley piece. (Decent website with fun extras (including a video tour), catalogs available for a price.)

Paper Products, Etc.

  • Waterman (Paris, 1883) for pens. I’ve never purchased and expensive pen of any sort. (I’d probably lose one if I did.) I don’t know if the extra cost purchases extra quality. (Weak website, no catalog.)
  • Moleskine notebooks are fantastic, but there is no one centralized source for infromation on them. This site is good, though based in England.
  • Smythson of Bond Street (London, 1887) for products, including bespoke stationery and featherweight paper. Expensive, but appealing. (Good website, PDF catalog available.)
  • Dempsey & Carroll (New York, 1878) is another stationeer. I’m tempted to try them. (Decent website, no catalog.)
  • Library of America (New York, 1979, “America’s best and most significant writing in durable and authoritative editions”) for classic American books. I own several LoA volumes, and have been impressed by each. (Great website, catalog available, subscription available.)
  • The Criterion Collection for feature-laden, authoritative film transfers to DVD. If you must ever choose between a Criterion version of a film and a non-Criterion version, choose the former. (Decent website, no catalog.)


  • Bob’s Red Mill (Portland, “Whole grain foods for every meal of the day”) for inexpensive, quality cereals, flours, and more. I just visited the actual Bob’s Red Mill store this afternoon and bought a case of my favorite cereal. (Great website, no catalog.)
  • Glory Bee Foods (Eugene, 1979) for natural foods and crafts. Excellent honey. (Good website, catalog available.)

One commenter in the original AskMetafilter thread suggested using eBay to find used items from quality compnaies. For example, one might search for vinatage Woolrich to find high-quality used items from that company. This is something I’d like to play with. I did search for Filson products last fall, but ultimately bought new from the shop down the street.

If you know of other sources of quality food, clothing, whatever, please let me know. I’d love to find a good source of globes.


On 28 September 2005 (07:41 PM),
Ron said:

I agree with the Filson recommendation. Everything I have purchased from them has met or exceeded my expectations. 10 years after the purchase of some of the items they are as good as when I bought them.

On 28 September 2005 (08:22 PM),
John said:


If you’re not aware of it, is a great place for wishlist daydreaming.


On 28 September 2005 (08:33 PM),
Lisa said:

A few years ago, I snagged a classic, vintage red and black plaid Woolrich coat. It was lightly used and $20 at a thrift store where I was wasting time before an appointment. I think it was one of my best purchases ever–I love that thing. If nothing else, a good quality, lightly lined wool coat is the perfect weight for most of our weather. Mmmmmm!

As for Filson, I’ve always admired their long, waxed canvas duster coat. Not that I think I have the presence to pull it off, but they sure look cool.

On 28 September 2005 (09:19 PM),
Chris said:

JD – Try Fountain Pen Hospital for many brands of high end fountain pens and other writing instruments. They have both a website ( and a paper catalog. You will no longer think that Waterman pens are expensive after visiting this site.

On 29 September 2005 (08:03 AM),
Peter said:


In my opinion you can’t get much better than Mountain Equipment Co-op for outdoor clothing and gear.

On 29 September 2005 (08:34 AM),
J.D. said:

It looks like Fantagraphics Books (the fantastic Seattle-based comix publisher saved from bankruptcy by The Complete Peanuts) has a free catalog, too

On 29 September 2005 (07:13 PM),
J.D. said:

Ugh. I just removed Orvis from the list. I can’t believe that it was recommended in the original AskMetafilter thread. Their catalog came in the mail today, and after looking through it, the stuff is nothing like Filson or L.L. Bean or Tilley or Waterman. It’s, well, catalog junk.


A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday New York Times featured a new puzzle called sudoku, which is apparently popular in Japan. It’s a sort of self-checking number-based crossword without clues. Confused? Don’t be. There’s only one rule.

Given a 9×9 grid, fill in all blank cells making sure that each row, column, and 3×3 box contains each number from one to nine.

The above puzzle is very, very easy. Believe me: they can be much more difficult. Brain-wrackingly difficult. Sudoku are rated in difficulty based on the numbers provided, the ease with which other numbers can be found, and the number of guesses required to solve the puzzle.

The real problem is sudoku is addicting. Last night in the grocery store, I saw a sudoku magazine. I tried to resist the urge to purchase it, but failed. I spent most of my evening doing sudoku. I solved easy puzzles, then medium puzzles, then hard puzzles.

I’ve spent too much time this morning trying to solve two difficult puzzles. I’ve exhausted elementary logic tricks and need to find some more elaborate methods of finding the correct numbers. I’ve gone to the web in search of help, and found:

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back to the two sudoku that I’m stuck on. Must finish. Must.


On 13 September 2005 (09:29 AM),
Amanda said:

I have been totally and utterly addicted to sudoku since it was featured in USA Today in July.

Best puzzle ever.

You can download a 28-day trial from Their rating system is a bit wonky, though. For example, the medium puzzles are pretty hard. The hard puzzles, well, I’ve only managed to solve two of the approximately 50 I’ve attempted. The very hard puzzles aren’t even available on the trial version. That scares me.

On 13 September 2005 (12:29 PM),
Courtney said:

A friend turned me on to Sudoku about a month ago and I have completed 3 puzzles EVERY day since (easy, medium, hard.) I found a great site with free puzzles that change daily: You can do them online or print them out. I’m totally addicted and glad to know I’m not the only one. Andrew asks me why I do them…he should just try one and see for himself!

On 13 September 2005 (01:04 PM),
Colleen said:

I adore Soduko! I’ve always loved logic puzzles, but I think this is my favorite. There is also a Mac App for Dashboard, love it!

On 13 September 2005 (02:30 PM),
J.D. said:

I’m pretty excited here: I just solved my first “challenger” level sudoku (to use Dell’s terminology). I bit the bullet and scribbled candidate numbers from the start, and it helped. Once I’d entered all the candidates, I was able to find one weak spot and then the entire puzzle toppled (though in slow motion).

On a whim, I timed how long it took me to do one of each skill level in my magazine. It took me 10:37 to solve the easy puzzle, 16:43 to solve the moderate puzzle, 23:53 to solve the hard puzzle, and 28:59 to solve the challenger puzzle. (Note that I’ve failed at three other challenger puzzles; they have me stumped.)

On 13 September 2005 (02:43 PM),
J.D. said:

In contrast, the easy puzzle I included in this entry took me 7:28 to solve. I’m sure there are people who could do it under five minutes. Maybe in under three minutes.

On 13 September 2005 (03:24 PM),
Count Dooku said:

Did somebody say Santoku?

On 13 September 2005 (07:55 PM),
Nikchick said:

I recently got hooked on these puzzles too, and have the application for my Palm. I spent an entire flight working on one puzzle. Kate is much better at them than I am.

On 14 September 2005 (01:47 PM),
Amanda said:

Yeah. Your example puzzle was definitely an under three minute super easy one.

On 15 September 2005 (12:13 AM),
John said:

I’ve completed one of these puzzles, and was actually sweating before it was over. Dunno what skill level it was – probably “stoopid easy” – but I was plenty frustrated. Handling numbers is normally a trivial matter for me, but that puzzle left a mark.

Thanks, but I’ll stick with my normal regimen of crossword puzzle, cryptoquip, and jumble. At least I feel comfortable doing those with a pen.


On 15 September 2005 (06:45 AM),
Kristin Wold said:

Here’s another cool sudoku site to add to your list:

Online solver with five new graded puzzles every day, hints, pencilmarks, and an archive with over 500 puzzles.

On 15 September 2005 (10:28 PM),
Geoff said:

The miniclip website is weird. I just finished the hard puzzle in 6:02 and the easy in 5:58. I can’t beat the medium in under 8.

On 18 September 2005 (03:21 PM),
Olivier Verdin said:

Check out Sudoku Prime and play multi-user Sudoku puzzle with your friends…Have fun!

Excellent Customer Service

I often complain in this forum when I’m the victim of poor service. For once, I’d like to praise good service.

I spent part of this morning at the computer, typing a l-o-n-g weblog entry about the time I got the crap beat out of me in high school. I’ve told this story before, but this was going to be the definitive version: I was tying together all the threads that were involved in the story at the time instead of just conveying the barest facts. I was pleased with the results. When I finished, and came out of the Writing Zone, I tried to save the document.

And at that moment, my computer decided to crash.

From my experience, Macs don’t crash very often. Certain applications (ironically, most of them from Apple: Mail, iTunes, iPhoto) crash frequently, but it is rare that the entire system takes a nosedive. It’s never happened before when something important, like this weblog entry, was in the balance.

Rather than panic, I posted an AskMetafilter question looking for help. The responses to the question got me close, but didn’t actually solve my dilemma. Then, out of the blue, I received e-mail from Bare Bones Software, which produces BBEdit, my text editor of choice.

The fellow who contacted me spent several hours exchanging e-mail messages, trying to help me diagnose the problem. Ultimately, we were not able to salvage the lost file. (I was able to take a screenshot of the last half of the document, but the beginning will need to be reconstructed.) That makes me sad, but I’m quite pleased with the excellent customer support that Bare Bones provided.

A Brief Guide to Better Sleep

For the past several months I’ve been focusing on achieving better sleep. It’s my hypothesis that my mental problems are mostly sleep-related. I’ve done some reading on the subject, and some experimentation, and want to share what I’ve learned.

In the marvelous The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, Pierce J. Howard summarizes sleep research with the following lists:

To get to sleep more quickly:

  • Consume dairy products (the warmer the better).
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners.
  • Avoid food additives.
  • Avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime.
  • Keep to a regular bedtime.
  • Consume carbohydrates an fats; avoid protein.
  • Read or view unexciting material.
  • Avoid exercise within four hours of bedtime.
  • Sleep in absolute darkness and complete silence.
  • Take melatonin.

To get better quality sleep:

  • Lose weight.
  • Avoid alcohol within four hours of bedtime.
  • Drink water after alcohol consumption.
  • Plan sleep according to sleep cycles and circadian rhythms.
  • Do aerobic exercise regularly, but not close to bedtime.

To get back to sleep after waking:

  • Write down what’s on your mind.
  • Read something unexciting.
  • Drink warm milk and honey.

Some of these concepts are worthy of further discussion. (Note: while most of what follows is in my own words, some sentences are lifted verbatim from Howard’s book.)

The Sleep Cycle

It’s not the length of sleep that is important, but the number of complete sleep cycles a person obtains. Each sleep cycle has several stages, the most important of which is REM sleep (during which dreams occur). On average, a complete sleep cycle lasts around ninety minutes. (This varies from person-to-person and from night-to-night, but ninety minutes is a close average.)

I first became aware of the sleep cycle phenomenon soon after I began taking melatonin. I noticed that I was waking at approximately ninety minute intervals. “That’s odd,” I thought. I began to make predictions. When I found myself awake at 1:05 I’d say to myself, “I will next wake at 2:35.” When I woke at 2:38 I’d say to myself, “I will next wake at 4:08.” When I woke at 4:07 I’d say to myself, “I’ll wake at 5:30, with my alarm.” What was truly odd was that these predictions were accurate nearly every time: ninety percent of the time, I was waking at ninety minute intervals. I concluded that my sleep cycle was approximately ninety minutes in length.

Research has shown that how well-rested a person feels is directly related to the number of complete sleep cycles she obtains. A person who completes five sleep cycles on a given night will feel better rested than a person who completes four sleep cycles. The trouble with certain sleep disorders — such as sleep apnea — is that they limit the number of sleep cycles one achieves.

When you’ve determined the length of your sleep cycle, you can make some important adjustments. For example, since my sleep cycle averages ninety minutes, and since I get up at 5:30, I know to go to bed at 10:00, giving me seven-and-a-half hours of sleep. If, as last night, I miss my ten o’clock bedtime, I know that it makes no difference whether I go to bed at 10:30 or 11:30 — both times would offer me the same number of complete sleep cycles. Thus, I stayed up an extra hour reading.

Actually, there’s strong indication that waking at the end of a sleep cycle muddles the mind; it’s better to wake at the beginning of a sleep cycle than to wake in the middle of REM sleep (the middle of a dream). Last night, I’d probably have been better served having gone to bed at 11:15, just in case I had trouble falling asleep, and just in case my sleep cycle had been misaligned so that I’d awakened during a dream.

The Circadian Rhythm

Scientists have known for a long time that humans have a built-in twenty-five hour body clock. I’m not sure anyone has developed a satisfactory explanation for why this is the case, but it is. This explains why it’s so easy for most of us to stay up late.

As part of our natural circadian rhythm, various body chemistry changes occur throughout the day, affecting us in different ways.

During the morning, rote memory is at its best. The mind is quick and nimble. During the afternoon, the body is at its physical peak. (Though there is a dip in the mid-afternoon.) In the evening, both the body and mind begin to relax. During the night, whether we’re sleeping or awake, the body and mind exhibit signs of near-dormancy.

What does this mean? If you have important mental work to do, it’s best to do it in the morning. If you have important physical work to do, it’s best to do it in the afternoon. If you’re cramming for a test, it’s better to stay up late than it is to get up early (before 6am) to study; your mind and body are at their lowest between 3am and 6am, regardless of whether you just woke from sleep.

Take naps. Based on the average circadian rhythm, the ideal time for a nap is between noon and 3pm. The ideal length for a nap is about thirty minutes. The urge to nap is natural; resisting the urge has a negative effect on health, productivity, and well-being.

Other Thoughts

Caffeine While afternoon and evening caffeine consumption can cause sleeplessness for me, it’s interesting to note that if I drink caffeine within thirty minutes of going to bed, it doesn’t prevent sleep. Instead, it enhances my REM state, giving me wild, memorable dreams. Your mileage may vary.

Melatonin I’ve been using melatonin now for several months. I buy it in 3mg pills. Often I use a pill-splitter to produce 1.5mg doses. I find that a 3mg dose can sometimes produce residual sleepiness in the morning. Whatever the dose, melatonin works wonders for me. When I take it, I fall asleep more quickly and I sleep more soundly. Give melatonin a try if you have sleep trouble — it’s available at your local supermarket.

CPAP machine I’ve had my CPAP machine for six weeks now. I’ve used it every night. Though the change in my sleep has not been drastic, I am beginning to detect subtle changes. It used to be that I woke several times each night to go to the bathroom, or to sit and stare at the ceiling; now — except in rare cases — I sleep through the entire night without waking. I used to feel sleepy all the time, to such an extent that driving was sometimes dangerous; now I generally feel well-rested (though not peppy), and have only occasional bad days during which I always want to sleep. I’m sad that the sleep changes with the CPAP machine haven’t been dramatic, but am happy that it’s helping me overall.

I’m sure to have missed some important points here. (For example, Jeff’s advice on Breathe Right nasal strips for better sleep.) I’ll try to post more advice when I remember it.


On 08 September 2005 (10:23 AM),
Tammy said:

Interesting facts and observations.

I’ll take everything you say works for sleeping and do the opposite. As I’ve said before when my head hits the pillow I’m out like a light. I will stay soundly asleep until 6 unless the kids wake me up.

Monday I was feeling tired from the weekend. I thought I’d take a brief nap. I laid down and awoke three hours later! I was amazed! Luckily I was totally rested and ready to go but my what a long nap!. It was 5pm when I woke up. I thought I had probably ruined any chances of going to sleep at my normal 10 pm bedtime. Not so! By ten I was ready for bed. I could not tell you what happened after I crawled in and fluffed my pillow. Why? Because I was immediately snoring. I awoke at 6 as usual and went through a normal day.

I wonder if part of your insomnia is your lack of activity. It seems that the only real exercise you get is the “planned for exercise”.

Whereas my day consists of runnng after kids, mowing the yard, gardening, cooking, cleaning, vacumming 2800 sq ft of solid carpet (or so it seems) mopping floors, running to the neighbors and all up and down the street keeping track of the kids etc. By evening I’m exhausted.

My husband goes to bed at ten and gets up at 3:45 every day. His pedomoter shows that he walks an average of 12 miles a day on his job. Both of us fall asleep while saying goodnight to each other. Thats just how tired we are at the end of the day.

I hope a find a final combination of things that work for you.

On 09 September 2005 (07:51 AM),
J.D. said:

My sleep last night offers a perfect illustration of several of these concepts. I went to bed at 10pm, taking 3mg of melatonin about 10 minutes before bed. I didn’t drift off immediately, though; it took about fifteen or twenty minutes to fall asleep.

I slept soundly.

I woke briefly at 2:50. “Crap,” I thought. “My sleep is twenty minutes off.” Since I’ve started going to sleep regularly at 10, and since I know my sleep cycle is roughly ninety minutes, I know that my normal wake times are 11:30, 1:00, 2:30, and 4:00, with my actual wakeup time at 5:30.

So, when I saw that I’d awakened at 2:50, I could read the writing on the wall. Sure enough, I woke again briefly at 4:20. “Crap,” I thought. “My sleep is still twenty minutes off. This doesn’t bode well.”

Sure enough: when my alarm went off at 5:30, I was deep in REM sleep, dreaming away. I was dreaming that I had been standing at the corner of Oglesby and Gribble, talking with Tammy Malone while standing in the family garden. She was telling me about Greg. I was telling her that I sold insurance, but didn’t do a good job of it. Then I dreamt I was actually selling the insurance, but not doing a good job of it. I was in the middle of a sales pitch when the alarm went off.

I stumbled downstairs, my head foggy. I took a long bath in a dark room. I drove to work. I’ve sat here at my desk for an hour now. My head is foggy. Why? Because I didn’t get to finish that last sleep cycle.

Lessons here: my sleep cycle is about ninety minutes; if I’m awakened during REM sleep, I’m less functional. Conclusions: I’m cutting it close with the 10pm-5:30 thing. There’s no leeway there. I ought to go to bed a little earlier and get up a little later. Just ten minutes each way would give a nice buffer.

On 09 September 2005 (02:22 PM),
Amanda said:

So, I guess the big question really is… how do you discover your sleep cycle?