Friday, February 09, 2007

Experimenting With Forms Of Government

Each Sunday after church, and one or two other times during the week, our family goes out to eat. I love food, as can be deduced by my big, umm, boned frame, and really enjoy dining out. Michelle and I remind our girls that this is a real treat- when we grew up, going out to dinner was a big event not often afforded, and it was one of the few times we could drink Coca Cola.

Remember what the world was like before free refills? As a kid, if I downed my coke too fast I was forced to drink water while my slow-sipping evil sister smiled at me with a straw between her lips still sipping her coke. Maybe that was just me.

Back to the real story. The only negative to this “family treat” is going through the routine of getting as many of our clan of six to agree on a place to eat as possible.

A few years ago Michelle and I became weary of trying to remember all the different places we could go, so, being the digilicious instant-info at your fingertips freak I am, I loaded almost every bistro, eatery, diner and casual dining outlet in a 25 mile radius into my Blackberry- including name, address, phone number and website.

So it became easier, for awhile, to rattle off the list to get feedback and input from the gang. We still had problems deciding though. I guess reading through a long list of names numbed the minds of our kids and they gave up after places starting with the letter E.

We then started experimenting with various forms of government structure to help us:

Anarchy: The absence of government
We argue and moan about where each of us wanto go in a slowly rising cacophony until Michelle or I got sick of it and we drive home to eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

Aristocracy: Government by the nobility
Sometimes we give into our little princess R, the ‘baby’ of the family.

Autarchy: Government by an absolute ruler
Other times I am bound and determined to eat Thai and I tell the lot of them they can just starve and sit there and watch me eat Green Curry Chicken.

Bureaucracy: Government by civil servants and process/policy focused
On a couple of occasions we came up with complicated formulas and processes for making the decision (Let’s go through the alphabet. Let’s rotate among our favorites. Let’s rotate decision makers…). It was too hard to remember how we were deciding each week, and we gave up.

Confederacy: A union of sovereign states
For a few weeks K & L joined forces to bring a “strength through unity” approach to the process and tried to sway the other family members to their thinking, sometimes with the threat of force brought to bear on their two younger sisters.

Democracy: Government by the people
I reasoned that it made absolute sense to go about it in a democratic fashion- I could kill two birds with one stone. Pick a restaurant AND teach our kids about democracy. It only lasted a couple of weeks. How can democracy work when you have 6 people voting on 200 places to eat? Nine times out of ten we couldn’t even get a simple plurality of two.

Matriarchy: Government by women or mothers
On a few occasions, Michelle will speak up authoritatively and make it clear we would not be going here or there, and lay out a couple of choices that she would be amenable to if the group chose them.

Monarchy: Government by one (usually by hereditary rule)
When Michelle and I are particularly not looking forward to the battle ahead, we kibitz among ourselves, King and Queen, and let the subjects know where we WILL be eating today.

Ochlocracy: Government by mobs
Sometimes the King and Queen’s plans are laid to waste when the masses rise up in protest: “No! We don’t want to eat there again!”

Patriarchy: Government by men or fathers
This one is my favorite. “We shall be eating Thai today. I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t, it will be a long and hungry day for you. So I have spoken, So shall it be done.”

Technocracy: Government by technical experts
Once in a while I pull out the old “I know best” card. I let the family know about a new place I read or heard about, inform them why this new Thai restaurant will be so cool and unique, and why we should go there.

Theocracy: Government by a deity through clergy or by religious law
“Dear Lord, please tell us where we should eat today so that we don’t have to go through the process of figuring it out on our own.”

I am looking forward to new advances in technology that will allow us to try what is sure to be the ultimate solution for figuring out where six opinionated, smart and vocal family members can all go together and eat in peace and tranquility: Robocracy: Government by robots or other artificial intelligence.

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Anonymous said...

Hilarious! Brought me back to the days when I was a kid. I think we only ate out on Sundays when we would visit the grandparents. Then it was the grandparents' choice which usually wasn't pizza or burgers.

I agree with you about the Thai food! Well, I pretty much like all Asian foods. If friends want to go out I just tell 'em I don't want to go to "Bob's House Of Deep-Fried Fish" as I stay away from deep-fried and I'm allergic to fish.

You changed the look of your blog and added Adsense! Nicely done!

I haven't added ads yet. Yeesh. What a sentence.

I like the 3-columns and the wider format. My 2 cents: not sure about the gray background. Hope you don't mind my saying so.

Liza on Maui said...

This is great! - I'd say one of your masterpiece :) I love reading your families stories - thanks for sharing in a such a delightful way.

By the way, you've just been named in the "honor roll of men bloggers" in my blog :)

I see you've changed your lay-out - excellent job!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Simply brilliant! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Rich - Even more cool updates! Like the change in the header - matches the "daily" newspaper idea.

If you want feedback on your new layout, you might ask readers to review it. John Chow of asked for reviews and it generated a lot of traffic for him as well as some ideas.

If you have a specific "review me" post, it will also allow all the feedback to be in one place.

I like JohnChow's idea of linking to each other (e.g. readers post a review of his site and link to the site) and then he linked back to them. I wrote a review of his site and once John linked to me, my Technorati rating increased.

I'd be happy to review your blog on my blog and my guess is your other fans will too!

DigitalRich said...

Ms Q- thanks for your comments and tips! Your comment elsewhere about the grey background being not too good promted me to push it to the next level. It was fun and I learned a ton about modifying my code. I might pursue the review idea, but I am fearful I would get too many ideas I don't like and end up ignoring them all :)

Karen & Liza- Thank you! Each morning it is both daunting to think about what to write, and then thrilling when you think you don't have much to say and then end up with a better-than-average post.


Cameron said...

This was great! Funny and so true.

This doesn't have the family spin, but my coworkers and I have this debate all the time. I only eat lunch with them once or twice a week (since I'm frugal) so 50% of the time they just tell me to pick. Talk about pressure! I don't think I like it.

Anyway, a few of us are programmers, so we joke about developing an algorithm which will give us a destination based on:

- who is coming (knowing who hates what and who loves what)
- how much time we have for lunch that day (e.g. before a meeting), knowing how long each place typically takes
- how cold/hot it is and how long of a walk it is to various places
- how recently we've been to an otherwise selected restaurant

Sounds pretty similar to the "Robocracy" you long for :)