Tuesday, December 26, 2006

From the "How do you have food fights at a virtual dinner?" files...

Yes, folks, it's true. Apparently now you can share meals with your loved ones no matter how far away they are, thanks to the wonders of technology.

To quote the article:

Now, the technology consulting company Accenture is developing a system called "The Virtual Family Dinner" that would allow families to get together — virtually — as often as they'd like. The concept is simple. An elderly woman in, say, California, makes herself dinner. When she gets ready to sit down and eat, the system detects it and alerts her son in Chicago. The son then goes to his kitchen, where a small camera and microphone capture what he is doing. Speakers and a screen — as big as a television or as small as a picture frame — allow him to hear and see his mother, who has a similar setup.

Dadong Wan, a senior researcher in Accenture Ltd., was quoted as saying, "We are trying to really bring back the kind of family interactions we used to take for granted."

Uh - yeah.

It's a good idea IN THEORY...don't get me wrong. I miss my immediate family and would have loved to be there with them this year for Christmas. But ya know, sometimes not being together is just as satisfying. (I'm not sure who's reading this, but if you know me personally, and you're offended by this, it's probably for a good reason...)

So, the staff of Rancho Sudiegirl, Inc. (makers of Duct Tape Fashions, now with artificial rhinestones) has decided to help Accenture out. Whether or not Accenture considers our gesture helpful is beside the point, but hey - we live to give around here. Without further adieu, here are some pros/cons of virtual family dinners.


1. Nobody can smack/get smacked for offending someone else with words/revelations/facial expressions.

2. If the "charm" of your Uncle Harry's armpit noises wears thin, you can shut off your camera/microphone, throw it in the garbage disposal, and declare it a "technical error". (This plan can be modified for any family member, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) However, the warranty would have to be modified to cover this sort of emergency.

3. I assume the microphones can be put on "mute" in specific cases...phone ringing, growing disgust with Aunt Bessie's vivid description of her colonoscopy, etc.

4. No smellovision, so you can't smell your sister in law's famous "beet surprise". (The secret ingredient? Horseradish.)

5. If the meal gets too boring, potential add-on software could be devised. Examples:
(a) Solitare
(b) World of Warcraft access (for those who REALLY need a diversion)
(c) Super Mario
(d) Income tax software (hey...why not? You might even be able to claim the virtual
family dinner as a deduction.)
(e) Sound effects (sirens, barking dogs, "Cleanup on Aisle Five"...)
(f) morphing software so you can morph your least favorite relatives into offensive

6. Three words: upload to YouTube. Then everyone can share your pain and laugh at your Cousin Edna...she's already hit the eggnog. Hard. Also good for raising extra funds through the time-honored tradition of extortion.

7. If you're a lech, you can use the zoom lens to see down the necklines of your female relatives' blouses. (Note: the Amish version does not have this option.)


1. Uh - didn't you move halfway across the country to be RID of the majority of these relatives? Why would you want to look at them in LCD, high-definition clarity? Cousin George's discount glass eye will show up as plain as the large pores on Rosie O'Donnell's face, you know.

2. Obscene gestures can also be seen in LCD, high-definition clarity...as well as the fact that some diners may/may not be wearing appropriate clothing. Food stuck in teeth is also an un-wanted sight in high-definition. So before you think about flipping your brother the bird because he's Republican scum, think again.

3. Someone will always:
(a) Not understand how to use the microphone and make it squeal, thus rendering
everyone deaf.
(b) Tap it repeatedly when its their turn to speak, screaming "IS THIS THING ON?"
(c) Short out the mike by spilling something on it.

4. Digital whining!!! (Note...adults and children alike are susceptible)

5. Some talkative relative will take 10 minutes saying "grace". (Really - do we need to thank God for Regis and Kelly? Let someone else do that in another house, please...)

6. See "YouTube" dilemma above - if you do it to them, they'll do it to you. Keep your nose clean, folks - or at least wear a disguise.

7. Just how clear is the digital sound? Will we be able to hear bodily noises? Chewing sounds? Slurping sounds? Uncle Joe talking about the "big fish that got away" for the 25th time?

So see? There are pros and cons, and I sincerely hope (on behalf of Rancho Sudiegirl, Inc.) that the good folks at Accenture can use these two lists as they refine this technology.

Would I use it? HELL NO. I've been in therapy off and on for 12 years trying to rid myself of the trauma of the extended family dinner. I'm not THAT stupid. (Note: my mother, sister, aunt, assorted cousins, plus my nieces and nephew are exempt from the previous blanket statement.)

Virtually yours,