Graph of the Day #16 – Graphy Goodness

GOTD #16 graphing versus goodness

After graph #15, which I actually drew while I was talking to a work mate after the event in question, he said “why do you have to ruin a good thing like that?” to which I rightly (and more politely than such a comment deserved) responded “I’m sorry, did you just imply that I could possibly have made something worse by bringing maths and graphs into it? Well allow me to retort… WITH A GRAPH!!”



Graph of the Day #15 – Care Factor

GOTD #15 care versus sausages

At a “safe work week” lunchtime event, one of the senior management team said a few words, some of which were “you’re not here for the free sausages, you’re here because you care”… While we do all actually care about safety, I think he underestimates how much we care about unpaid work related activities that occur on our own time when we have plenty of work to be getting on with… except for when they are catered events.


If people just designed things right to begin with… #4 – Babyccinos


If you’ve had a child any time in the last 5+ years, you’d be all over this.

For everyone who doesn’t have kids (especially those young hip people who work in cafes, this post is for you!), let me break it down for you: If you are a parent, you are probably tired. If you’re tired coffee is good! but if you have kids, they don’t want to sit around in a cafe while you drink coffee and groan a lot. Enter the babyccino. Essentially, it’s a small cup of warm frothy milk, designed to make your child think that they are having fun, so that you can skull a coffee before the child goes back to bringing the chaos.

One key problem is, many people don’t know how to make a babyccino and, I suppose because they don’t have children or a background in science\engineering, can’t figure it out from first principles.

Another key problem is that the babyccino, as the name suggests, is sized for babies. However, aside from a hot chocolate or milkshake (which is no good if you don’t want to give your kid any sugar right at that moment, or you don’t want them to expect treats), there aren’t typically any options that are large enough to distract an older kid for any reasonable length of time.

As a public service I will now spell out the design criteria for babyccino, then I’ll spell out some negative babyccino experiences and why the barista was an idiot.

Babyccino Design Criteria:

  • Size
    • Standard – normally babyccinos are pretty small (<100ml), made in the smallest cup on hand. That’s fine.
    • Large – All menus should offer a Large babyccino option, in a ~250ml cup, for larger kids
  • Should be at least 75% warm milk, with only the remaining 25% or less being foam.
    • Any less than this, and the kid doesn’t have much to drink out of the cup, and will have to use a spoon to eat the foam. Any child young enough to be the target demographic for this drink is probably going to make a massive mess if they have to eat the whole thing with a spoon
  • Shall be warm, not hot! This SHOULD be obvious.
    • Kids are more sensitive to heat, so what’s a bit hot to us is undrinkably hot to them
    • Even if a 60-70°C drink was appropriate for a young child, the fact that they are so uncontrolled and likely to spill the drink on themselves or others means that there’s a good chance that someone gets scalded.
  • Coffee
    • This shouldn’t need saying but: BABPYCCINOS DO NOT INCLUDE ANY COFFEE! It’s for a child, damn it! What’s wrong with you?! Grow a brain!
  • Chocolate sprinkle
    • A sprinkling of cocoa is acceptable and encouraged, as it helps convince the kids that they are having fun.
  • Marshmallows
    • Shall not be included as a standard.
    • Don’t ask the parent “do you want marshmallows with that?” because if the kid hears, and the parent doesn’t want to give them marshmallows, it WILL cause an issue. Instead I recommend listing on your menu the “code word”, for example, the server can ask “does the owl fly west?” and if the parent replies “yes” you can include marshmallows (see note below), otherwise, marshmallows are a no go.
    • Shall not be put in the drink (rather placed on the side of the plate), if they have been requested, so that the parent can intercept them and take a bite before the kids gets it, as required.
  • Topping\flavourings
    • The babyccino SHALL NOT include milkshake flavourings, sauces, or any other liquid sugars
  • Informed Consent
    • Don’t put anything (marshallow, chocolate sauce, etc) into a babyccino without the parent’s consent.
  • Cost:
    • Ultimately this is a financial decision for the cafe, but let me offer the following advice:
      • Don’t be a greedy jerk.
      • You aren’t making money off the babyccinos, you’re making money off the fact that the parent is able to come to your cafe rather than any of the 5 other cafes within a 100 m radius.
      • You will make money off the parent, and the other overpriced cakes\biscuits\etc that you sell them.
      • The babyccino is essentially made from leftover steamed milk from when you made the last coffee, and there is only about 10 cents worth of milk in the drink.
      • Sure, maybe for the large version you might want to charge a small amount, but for the standard babyccino, you can just make it free and it will actually bring in business… Seriously. I’ve gone to Gloria Jeans before, when I had other options, simply because they will give you a free babyccino with any other hot drink purchase. Gloria Jeans, people! That’s why offering free babyccinos will MAKE you money.


Bad Experienced:

  • I was staying at a hotel which conveniently had a coffee cart set up downstairs near the lobby each morning. so good! We got coffee one morning, and our little boy had a babyccino, then he went completely hyperactive. We thought it was just because we were on holiday. The next morning the idiot, hipster, too old to be a hipster, barista asked if he liked his babyccino the previous day. When we said he did, he said he “thought so, I put a little caramel topping in it!” … NOT OKAY! seriously, what a jerk. You don’t go feeding a stranger’s child sugar!
  • We got babyccinos at a hotel’s pool bar one day, and when they arrived we had a sip of one to check the temperature, only to discover that the barista had put coffee in them both! seriously, for a 4 and 2 year old! You don’t give coffee to little kids! They don’t need help being hyperactive! In this instance, it was the barista’s lack of experience with babyccinos (he was a little confused when I ordered them) that caused the problem, but this is where using one’s brain comes into it. Like I said, grow a brain! The only reason we picked up on this is because of the issues we’ve had in the past with milk temperature (see below)
  • This is the most common issue that we’ve had: Temperature. Multiple times we’ve ordered babyccinos, only to get given a small cup full of scalding hot milk. Not only does this introduce the chance of burning the child, but it means that the babyccino arrives, and we have to put up with a child losing their temper because they just want their drink, which is sitting right in front of them, but we have told them to wait until the waiter brings us some cold milk to cool it down with… because the barista is an idiot.

Keep Cup Carry Bag & Divider

For a while now we’ve been trying to only use reusable cups (e.g. Keep Cups), rather than take-away cups, when we go out for coffee and we’ve even gotten some cups for the kids’ babyccinos. The main reason that we occasionally don’t use our keep-cups is that we  forget to take them…


To help overcome this forgetfulness and to make it easier to carry the keep cups, we decided to put together a carry tray or bag that achieve the following:

  • Would carry anywhere from one to at least four keep cups at a time
  • Must carry the cups when full without spillage
  • Must follow up into a discrete, easy to carry bag when empty
  • Should be suitable for use as the normal home (in the kitchen) for the clean cups when not in use, so that it’s always ready to go with four keep cups.
  • Ideally keep the cups warmer for longer, however this wasn’t a key criteria (since we normally drink them pretty quickly)

We were going to build something ourselves, however didn’t end up needing to (aside from a 3D printed part divider, described below). We found a Sistema insulated bag that fit four reusable cups\keep-cups (even the large version), for just $6 in Big W.

To ensure that the bag could carry any number of cups, from one to four, without spilling, it needed a divider, so I 3D printed a fairly standard slot-together divider that fits inside the bag (details and thingiverse link below). This divider separates into two pieces so that you can flatten the whole bag down again and use the velcro tabs to keep it compact for when there are no cups inside.

  • I posted the divider on thingiverse here:
  • The two divider parts are:
    • 140mm x 100 mm x 2 mm, with a 2.5mm wide x 50.75mm slot in the middle
    • 190mm x 100 mm x 2 mm, with a 2.5mm wide x 50.75mm slot in the middle


If people just designed things right to begin with… #3 – Christmas Cracker Crowns

Okay, so there are a lot of things that have bugged me for a long time, and I have finally decided to take action, and tell the world to get its crap together, by turning my “If people just designed it right to begin with” posts into a proper ongoing series. So, here goes…

I have a big head.

This doesn’t bother me. In fact, it is very handy, because my big head is where I keep my big brain.

To be more specific, my wife tells me that I have a “deep head”, because she says that my head looks normal in width and height, i.e. my face doesn’t look over-large, however the circumference of my head is still pretty large.

So, on account of this largeness of cranium, most hats don’t fit well. “one size fits all” caps are always adjusted to the very last couple of clicky-connector things (not sure what they are called), or with only a meager centimeter of velco overlap to hold it onto my head. That’s not to big a deal, but where it becomes an issue is at christmas time, when we open the crackers.

The paper crowns don’t fit.

It ends with me either perching the crown on top of my hat (not actually sitting down atop my ears as it rightly should), or I pull it down and end up tearing it… #ChristmasEpisiotomy

Now, the answer is obvious. in fact, there are a number of answers. My first instinct was “why the hell do they go for the “one size fits all” approach anyway. the crowns are too large for the kids, and too small for me; there’s only a small middle section of the bell curve\hoi poloi whom the crowns fit. Why don’t they take the sensible approach of making christmas cracker sets that include, for every set of 6 crackers, 2 small, 2 medium, and 2 large crowns. Surely that would ensure that for most typical gatherings, everyone gets a crown that fits well enough?

But that isn’t the right answer, it is? No, of course not. The correct answer is as follows (with prototype photos at the bottom of this post):

  1. the crown shall not be provided as a complete circle, it shall instead be a straight piece of folded paper, with a flat bottom and pointy top, that is long enough to completely encircle the head of even the 99.5th percentile of the “head bigness” graph.
  2. The joke shall no longer be a simple piece of printed paper, it shall be on a sticker.
  3. The joke shall actually be funny; alternatively, the sticker can just have a christmas themed picture on it, and do away with the joke altogether.
  4. To make your crown, you simply wrap the paper around your head, find the correct amount of overlap to suit your skull and hairdo, then use the sticker to stick the end in place. Voila, a perfectly fitting paper crown.

Honestly, that wasn’t so hard, was it? So why have we been doing it wrong all this time?

Actually, that isn’t even the right answer is it? It answers the crown problem, but not the deeper underlying issue: Christmas crackers are a complete waste of paper, cardboard, and plastic. It’s not very environmentally friendly, and I think the only reason that we like them so much is because we all acknowledge how terrible they are in every respect. the crowns are terrible, the toys are lousy, and the jokes are even worse. How about we just don’t… for the planet’s sake.




Graph of the Day #14 – M.A.Q Nomograph


   So this graph is a slightly unusual one, in that it was a commissioned work. I was talking to my boss one morning when an interesting series of scribbles caught my eye… that was when he told me about a concept that he and one of my peers (or at least one of my coworkers… we have very different skill-sets, so I think it’s best not to compare us, for both our sake) had come up with. It is… the Manager’s A***hole Quotient.

Basically, it’s a way or rating how much of an a***hole a manager is based on a number of criteria:

  1. Imagery – how imaginative and eloquent they are with their threats, curses, complaints and exclamations.
  2. Vocabulary – how wide ranging are their threats, curses complaints and exclamations? if they just repeat themselves frequently, they start to lose impact.
  3. Passion – how much they MEAN IT when they swear
  4. Volume – not just how loud they are in dB(a), but also how often they swear \ complain \ threaten
  5. Venom – how mean, spiteful, and generally dickish they are with their threats and complains.

Basically, you start at imagery, draw a line up to the line corresponding to their Vocabulary score, and so on.

Now the main goal of this graph is to calculate their MAQ, however along the way you can also get their ratings (in red) for Creativity, Entertainment Value, and Impact. At the bottom of this post I have included a worked example of the MAQ Nomograph… I won’t say who I based this one on.

I may (in the future) share the concept graphs that I tried out, but they just didn’t do the trick. I tried an isometric 3D graph, I tried a teseract based graph (but how do you depict that in 2D in a meaningful way?), I tried a radar graph… nothing quite worked. In the end I landed on the Nomograph. It’s a little bit clunky and not at all elegant, but it definitely works. Basically, if you can write down a simple one-line equation for the thing you’re trying to calculate, you can probably convert it pretty easily into a nomograph.

I think there’s still a bit of work required to get the relationships quite right, but I think this is a pretty good concept. Kudos to PL and JM for this one.

GOTD #14 worked example

Graph of the Day #13 – Busy but

GOTD #13 effectiveness versus number of jobs

   So those of you who work in a job where you’re required to focus on the details of a long-duration task or project, will know what this one is all about. It’s a phenomenon that’s not ALWAYS understood (or at least appreciated) by managers… Basically, it goes like this:

Your manager may think that your time is like a sheet of paper, which you can tear up into smaller and smaller pieces. Sure, the pieces are small, but you still have the same amount of paper… right?

No! It’s more like a length of wood, and you have a drop-saw that you can use to cut it into shorter lengths. Each time you cut the wood, you loose a little bit of the wood (the thickness of the blade), as saw dust. Oh well, you lose a little bit, but it’s not that significant… right?

No! Actually, the length of wood isn’t that long, and the blade is about as thick as your finger! Well, it isn’t quite a constant thickness, it varies depending on the number of cuts that you’re planning to make… anyway, the point is that you lose a crap-load of wood, and if you make more than 2 or so cuts, you end up with a pointlessly short pieces of wood, and a big old pile of sawdust, and what good is that to anyone?

No! I take that back! Horcruxes! It’s like Horcruxes! You keep dividing your soul (time… also, yes, your soul) up and putting it into more and more precious objects (projects), and by the end of it you’re all red eyed, pale skinned, and wondering how it all came to this, as some punk with a lightning-bolt shaped scar (project manager) destroys your life.

Merry Christmas!