It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Best Teakettle Revisited

Awhile back I went on about how much I liked the Oxo Uplift Kettle. Three Oxo Uplift Kettles later, I’m not sure I’d consider it The Best Teakettle Ever Made. I think it might actually be The Best Idea for a Teakettle Poorly Executed but Properly Marketed.

The idea is great — lifting the teakettle by the handle and tilting the teakettle forward opens the pour spout. No fumbling around with a poorly insulated hot stopper, no finding a dishtowel to use while removing a metal stopper, just pick up the kettle and pour. Great idea, but Oxo isn’t able to (or perhaps does not want to) implement it effectively.

The first Uplift Kettle we had worked just fine for a few months — then the handle for the lid snapped off, making it effectively impossible to refill the teakettle. The handle was made of plastic and bolted to a metal lid in a way that pretty much guaranteed the handle would break due to the strain placed on the handle near the bolt holes. Oxo was very nice and sent us a replacement Uplift Kettle under warranty, but that took a couple of weeks. As we make multiple cups of tea and coffee every morning, it was two very annoying weeks of boiling water in a pot and trying to pour that into filters and cups.

The second kettle — the replacement for the first — stopped making a proper whistling sound after six months or so. It still made a noise, but not loud enough that you could hear from the dining room, which meant checking back every few minutes to see if the water was ready. One day it stopped whistling at all, boiled dry before we realized it, and got dumped into the garbage. Probably should have gotten it replaced under warranty when it stopped making a noise, but going for a couple of weeks without a teakettle is really annoying.

So, we bought a third Uplift Kettle. Like the second, it quickly developed problems whistling and soon stopped making much of a noise at all. After about a year of use, water started dripping water down the spout when we went to pour water into a cup. In other words, hot water goes in the cup and also trickles down the side, off the bottom, and onto my toes. It looks to me like part of the lip of the pour spout is coming apart and I don’t see any easy way to repair it.

We probably won’t buy another Uplift. I don’t like disposable things in the first place and a teakettle definitely should not be a disposable object. My All-Clad was annoying to use, but at least it didn’t come apart all the time or drip water. I sold it on eBay when I got the Uplift Kettle, now I’m wishing I’d have kept it.

I’m wondering if it’s really so difficult to design and manufacture a teakettle for $30 that lasts for more than a year being used on a daily basis. Maybe the market is such that people don’t mind buying a new one every year, or we’re an edge case in that we use it daily. Oxo has a full like of teakettles, if I buy a different one will it be toast within a year? Is there some sort of failure/repurchase cycle in which I’m supposed to be participating?

So, what to do. I could buy another All-Clad, as they seem to be indestructible. My All-Clad pots and pans hold up quite well under daily use. There are some other Oxo teakettles that look interesting, but I have some doubts about their reliability based on my experience with the Uplift.

For the studio there’s an easy answer: I bought a Zojirushi electric dispensing pot. These are a great solution if you’re going through a few liters of water a day or don’t have a stove/hotplate handy. I brought it home for the winter break and it’s quite handy to have around the house, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to buy one just for home use. It puts out water that’s just-under boiling (208 F) which is great for tea but not so great for coffee, instant miso soup, and other things that call for boiling water. It also doesn’t have any sort of on/off switch, just a “sleep timer” that you hit at the end of the day when you leave work. I’m going to guess that it uses more energy keeping water hot all day than does boiling water 3-4 times a day when I want it.

I wonder if the person (or people) behind the Uplift Kettle use it every day, or if they even drink tea in the first place? Maybe they have a Mr. Coffee or a home espresso machine of some sort.

Or maybe they do use it, have no problems with it, and I’m simply the unluckiest customer they’ve ever had.

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posted by jet at 19:03  

Friday, December 22, 2006

The One Sentence Challenge

Jamais Cascio listed me as one of the folks to take a shot at the One-Sentence Challenge, as offered by Paul Kedrosky:

Physicist Richard Feynman once said that if all knowledge about physics was about to expire the one sentence he would tell the future is that “Everything is made of atoms”. What one sentence would you tell the future about your own area, whether it’s entrepreneurship, hedge funds, venture capital, or something else?

My current area of expertise is one where the future will look back and laugh at my puny attempts at thought. However, I’m studying design and also thinking quite a bit about things like omniscient surveillance and sustainable living using my experiences growing up in a poor, rural part of the south.

I think I might say, “Seriously consider the fully loaded cost to create and deliver each and every thing you consume or discard before you decide to consume or discard that thing.”

Or I could just be lazy and re-write Kant’s Categorical Imperitive as, “What would the world be like if everyone acted the way you’re acting right now?”

Here’s Jamais answer, but it’d be interesting to hear what a couple other people I know might respond to the same question:

Richard Kadrey

Laura Lemay

(note to self: link to their answers)

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posted by jet at 15:06  

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