To keep its patrons happy, one of the fanciest restaurants in America uses software to gauge the mood of its diners. I want one of these gizmos.

Can you imagine having a mood determinator to evaluate the relative happiness of your mate, boss, or teenager? Okay, it wouldn't be all that much help with the teenager, as even the most complex software, like the stuff you see on 24, isn't sophisticated enough to measure the difference between sullen and surly.

Still, there are applications that I can easily see would have advantages around the house. It would, for one thing, take the messy guesswork out of romance. Spouse ranking currently at "7: Excitable." Recommendation: Go, go, go!

Around the workplace, such software would be invaluable. A computer evaluation of the boss might reveal that she is in an even lousier mood than she was yesterday, which you, being a normal person, would not have thought possible. So, now you can postpone that proposal, the one that included that 10-day trip to Europe. Better to delay a day than to go forward and risk that blank stare, followed by the condescending snort, and the dismissive head shake.

But the obvious question is does the restaurant's software work? The ratings used in the restaurant's gizmo are as follows: 10: Euphoric 9: Pleased 8: Satisfied 7: Quiet 6: Unimpressed 5: Disappointed 4: Bitterly disappointed 3: Hostile 2: Meltdown 1: Combative

Here's how it works. The person at the restaurant who greets patrons sizes them up and enters a rating into a computer. Then the waiter takes over, entering a mood rating with each food order, to keep things constantly updated. The idea is that the table is kept, or made, happy throughout the night. If a table is judged to be slipping into the midnumbers, the staff sends out a complimentary glass of champagne or an extra dessert or a tableside visit by the chef to try to revive things.