Multi-task means multi-headache


About a year ago, Tigg bought a new container from… well, should I tell you it’s from Pampered Chef, or just keep that quiet? Anyway… new container. She bought this container and was telling me how great it was going to be for lemonade.

She wasn’t happy when I made a face,

You know, the skeptical husband face that told her I wasn’t nearly as excited or as impressed as she expected me to be.

We had a couple of one gallon containers already. One of them had cracked (after about ten years of fairly constant use, including being brought to several pre-concert tailgate parties). But those fantastic containers that I liked were from Tupperware… so naturally going to a different company was the thing to do.

(See… that’s uncalled for sarcasm. Because in reality Tigg was looking out for me. She knows I like lemonade, knew we needed a new container, went looking for one, and bought one. If I was so set on getting a replacement, then I should have moved my behind a bit faster and bought one myself. Besides, some of the stuff from Pampered Chef is outstanding and we have a few of the company’s items that I can’t imagine being without. (But where would that be funny? Instead, I make the skeptical husband face and offered up a bitter attempt at a joke. Ha ha. Anyway…))

This isn’t about Tupperware or Pampered Chef.

It’s about multi-tasking… poorly. And this container tried to do too much, and didn’t do any one thing well.

One of the things Tigg liked about it was that this particular model was a very exaggerated oval in design. It was tall… long… and thin. So it could be slid into small openings in the refrigerator… into places where a gallon of milk, a bottle of soda or a container of orange juice simply wouldn’t sit right. She also liked that it came with a handle in the top that attached to a stirrer thingy. All-in-one design. It appeared to have a lot going for it. And I had to admit… looking at it for a few minutes after my initial reaction, it did appear that she had several good points.

All of that changed once it was filled. Because the handle was located at the very end of the container, it was impossible to use the handle with one hand when it was full. Too heavy. Hurt your wrist to try and move it with one hand. Actually… it almost broke your wrist while offering a searing pain and you had to react quickly so you wouldn’t drop it.

And it was thin, which should have helped it fit into weird spaces. Unfortunately, it was tall, so there was only one shelf it could be placed on. All other options, from other shelves to the door, were out. Plus, to help with the volume for content, the thin was offset by long. That meant while it did fit into spaces in one direction thanks to width, it also had problems being placed in spaces due to length.

And the stirrer thingy? It didn’t reach the bottom of the container when the lid was in place, so it didn’t really stir that effectively. You needed to shake it anyway. Also… tip the container to pour and the handle for the stirrer would come flying up out of the top, the stirrer thingy would then hit the lid, and the top came flying off spilling lemonade all over the place. Nice in theory. Poor in reality.

We haven’t used that container since we finished the second batch of lemonade it held.

Multi-tasking can be useful… when it actually multi-tasks.

Overall I’m intrigued by multi-task items. Alton Brown will tell you the only single-task tool he wants in his kitchen is a fire extinguisher. Interesting theory to utilize when considering equipment purchases.

But I often find that when people set out to make something useful with all sorts of bells and whistles, being designed to perform multiple tasks more often than not means multiple headaches.

In the coming months, Sony is going to try and get me… and millions of others… to buy a PlayStation 3 gaming console. Sony wants us each to spend about $500 or so on it. The big selling point when asked about the amazingly high price? It also plays the latest version of DVDs. Special Blu-ray technology and such. Unfortunately, with two radically different approaches being taken in the next generation of high definition home entertainment, Blu-ray technology not only isn’t a given to last, but several big name movie studios aren’t releasing their films in the format. For today at least, so much for multi-tasking well.

I like stereos where the radio and the cassette player both work.

I enjoy the idea that my digital camera can take video clips… with sound.

I like items that can do more than one thing, especially when they can do multiple things well.

But… and not that PlayStation 3 won’t offer good video games and quality DVD viewing… if you don’t do at least one thing well, it doesn’t really matter if you do five different things poorly.

I’m sure over time Sony will make sure the product quality is raised, with issues addressed. It would surprise me if gaming systems don’t continue to offer options such as this in the future. But it is worth at least thinking about a stirrer thingy hitting you in the face while lemonade splashes throughout the kitchen when considering extras in product design.

New and improved is an interesting marketing slogan… new and fixed is not quite as catchy.

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