Saturday, 15 May 2004

Princes of Florence

I played two games of Princes of Florence this afternoon at Cafe Francisco downtown.

The theme of the game is Medici-era Florence, and the goal of the game is to gain the most prestige, which you get by building a magnificent Palazzo, with lots of buildings and landscapes, and by commissioning works from artisans, artists, and scholars.

Turns in the game consist of two phases, an auction phase and an action phase. In the auction phase, players bid to add landscapes to their Palazzo and hire architects and jesters. In the action phase, players build buildings and commission works. Each artisan, artist, and scholar has a preferred type of building to work in, a preferred type of landscape for recretation, and a preferred freedom (travel, opinion, or religion), which makes the works they produce more valuable.

There are three things about this game that make it one of my favorites.

First, the auction mechanic acts as a natural balancing mechanism for the game. There can be no consistent winning strategy for the game. If there were a winning strategy, everyone would pursue it in the auction phase, bidding up the value of the items. This would give an advantage to anyone not pursuing that strategy, since they could buy the items they need cheaply.

Second, the game appeals to the amateur economist in me, since it illustrates so well the concept of opportunity cost. Each player can only buy one item in each turn’s auction, so even if you get a good deal on, e.g., hiring a jester, you might have gotten a better deal on hiring an architect. The game is won by getting a better deal than everyone else at the auction.

Third, the goal of the game illustrates Aristotle’s virtue of magnificence. It’s good to earn money, but only because it lets you do great things with it.

If you live in the Memphis area and would like to play Princes of Florence or other strategy board games, you should sign up for the Memphis Strategy Board Gaming Community Yahoo group. We meet to play games at least twice a month, once in downtown or midtown, and once out east.

Price discrimination

I get four or five credit card offers per week in the mail, and I usually just throw them away without even looking at them.

Today, though, my wife and I both received credit card offers from CapitalOne. On the outside of each envelope were terms for balance transfers. My envelope offered

2.99% fixed APR for life on all balances transferred.

My wife’s envelope, on the other hand offered

3.99% fixed APR for life on all balances transferred.

My wife's reaction to this blatant inequity: “I didn’t want their crummy credit card anyway.” Neither did I.

Eulogy for Nick Berg

I suppose the whole blogosphere will be linking to it soon, but I’m linking to it anyway, because everyone should read this:

Tacitus posts a eulogy for Nick Berg, written by JakeV, a friend of Mr. Berg.

Link via Obsidian Wings.

Blog Post of the Year

It’s a little early to nominate entries for Best Blog Post of 2004, I suppose, but I think it will be hard to beat Mark Kleiman’s list of five epistemic principles for thinking about politics:

  1. Being aware of your own tendency, and those of your allies, to demonize the opposition.
  2. Being more skeptical of news that tends to confirm your presuppositions, and more credulous of news that tends to challenge them, than is comfortable.
  3. Trying to imagine how the people whose actions you dislike can see those actions as justified.
  4. Discounting somewhat, in figuring out how far you're justified in going to make sure your side wins, your subjective certainty that you're right. Given that means and procedures are immediate and easy to see, while outcomes are hard to see, this means giving more weight to means and procedures, and less to outcomes, than a simple decision analysis based on your current beliefs would justify.
  5. And still, in spite of your carefully-cultivated doubts, fighting hard for what you believe in, because if the people capable of irony allow irony to demobilize them, the fanatics will win.

Free Beer

Mark Lane of the Miami Herald urges everyone to support the Truth, Beauty, Decency, Cute Little Children and Free Beer for Everyone (with Proper ID) Act of 2004.

If I could add one amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it would be something like Article II, Section 17 of the Tennessee Constitution:

No bill shall become a law which embraces more than one subject, that subject to be expressed in the title. All acts which repeal, revive or amend former laws, shall recite in their caption, or otherwise, the title or substance of the law repealed, revived or amended.

Tennessee courts have struck down laws because of this Constitutional provision, notably the “toy towns” bill of 1997.

But I’d settle for a Constitutional provision forbidding the use of contrived acronyms in the titles of bills.

Theorists agree: the APSR sucks

Chris Bertram of Crooked Timber solicits contributions for the best political philosophy and (normative) political theory articles of the past decade.

I roughly estimate two dozen nominations so far. Exactly one of them appeared in The American Political Science Review. Open question: is there any subfield of political science that is well-represented by the travesty that is the contemporary APSR?

King of All Media (or at least of BuzzMachine)

Hei Lun of Begging to Differ, in response to a commenter of Jeff Jarvis’, hypothesizes that the only voter whose intended vote choice has been changed by Howard Stern’s tirades against the Bush administration—never mind that many of his tormentors are Democrats in Congress and in the FCC—is named Jeff Jarvis. That sounds about right.


Some polling outfit made the mistake of calling James Joyner. Hilarity ensues.

Blogger Spam

Has anyone else been getting unsolicited bulk emails from an outfit called, which appears to be some sort of anti-Dan Rather site?

Just curious. They’re about to be introduced to my procmail filter…