Monday, March 02, 2009

Unintelligent Design: DairyStix

Staying in hotels is, of course, one of life's great delights; as well as televisions with fewer channels than one can watch at home, and showers which have two extremes of temperature (Inferno and Arctic) and nothing in between, there's always the thrill of using the 'tea and coffee making facilities'.

If the room has a fridge, you might have some real milk, so you can make a proper cuppa, but more often than not, you're likely to have a kettle, cups, teabags, and, in some form or other, UHT milk. UHT milk is obviously handy for hotel-owners, as it lasts for ages (decades after we humans are dust and gone, the giant radioactive cockroaches will still be finding stashes of it and drinking it in an attempt to fend off Causium-234-induced osteoporosis), but it doesn't taste very good at all… by which I mean it tastes of virtually nothing at all, being more like a homeopathic version of Tipp-Ex than milk.

Anyway, UHT milk used to be supplied in hotel rooms (and on trains and service stations and other strangely neither-here-nor-there places) in little pots, like miniaturised yogurt pots, with a foil lid; as Ben Elton noted in the 1980s, these pots appeared to have been spot-welded shut, so it was a battle to get them open, invariably resulting in you showering what little 'milk' lurked within all over the place. And Ben was right to point this out, but the so-called solution is no better, quite frankly: ladies and gents, the milk processing people and hospitality industry proudly present (while the rest of us just resent)… Dairystix.

Yes, all the lack of flavour of UHT milk, now in a longer-than-it-is-wide foil tube. Apparently taking their design cue from those Mr Freeze ice pops which can be found in the Walls freezers in newsagents in summer, the idea is that you tear the end off the 'stick and then pour the milk (well, it's UHT, so I use the term in its loosest and least-accurate sense) into the cup. Which would be fine, if the ends actually tore off in anything approximating a straight line. But that's not likely to happen with the 'dotted lines' you have to tear along, because they're coated with plastic and so you get an untidy tear along it. Which, when you squeeze the tube, means the milk comes out of two or three places in the end of the tube, like a man trying to urinate after someone's stapled the end of his prepuce (if that comparison appalls you, you may want to stop reading now - there's worse to come before this rant is over).

The reward for all this is a pathetic splash of not-milk, which barely coats the bottom of most cups. So you have to put two in, though you'll be lucky in most hotels to get more than two of the sticks per person, so you'll have to think carefully about when you drink your tea. And even then two isn't really enough to make it look like tea. And the reason for this is pretty pathetic; these milk sticks, like the milk pots before them, contain a minimal amount of milk.

In fact, I'm such a sad pedant that I actually did a bit of research to try and find out just how much (or, rather, how little) UHT milk is contained in a DairyStix. Appallingly, it is 12ml, or about 4% of a can of Diet Coke. So, all that effort wrestling with the end of it and then you squeeze down the length of it several times over, resulting in a spray in unexpected directions? All of which is - frankly - little more than the overall quantity of the average male ejaculation (where do you think the group 10cc got their name)? Perhaps it's in some way connected with the choice of films on the in-room TV.

Anyway, my friends, as something that doesn't work and yet looks quite modern and flashy, this is a pretty classic example of Unintelligent Design. Yes, perhaps I love my tea a bit too much, but it seems that the makers of DairyStix and similar items treat the making of tea and coffee with a little bit less love than they should, given that it's part of how they make their living.

3 comments:

Jonathan Yates said...

DAIRYSTIX is real milk, no additives but has been flash heated and cooled to extend the shelf life. Its got a little red tractor on it as the milk is locally sourced from within a 40 mile radius of the factory. In taste tests DAIRYSTIX usually comes second after untreated milk but beats organic milk. If you would like any more info then please get in touch via the DAIRYSTIX website.

John Soanes said...

Thanks for dropping by Jonathan. As you may have gathered, I was less than impressed with the product overall, so I'm not really very likely to want to find out more, or from a consumer point of view to have to use Dairystix again.
J

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