Saturday, December 11, 2004
Pogo.com still has its flaws. Like Yahoo, it uses a slow Java applet client instead of providing the chess player with a windows client to download. And the site is full of annoying advertising (but advertising is to be expected in a free site).
In Pogo's favor, the chess game here lacks the three major flaws I found with Yahoo Chess. At Pogo, you are randomly assigned the white or black pieces. The display of pieces taken is much easier to see. You can tell the difference between a pawn and a bishop. And so far, I didn't discover any obvious bugs in the software.
Even though Pogo offers a much better chess game than Yahoo, there are four times as many people playing chess at Yahoo. Yet another example of how superior marketing trumps a superior product.
Unfortunately, after a single evening of playing chess at Pogo.com, I quickly compiled a losing 1-4 record. I think I need to spend more time playing the computer before I'm ready to play real people.
Read my review of ChessGenius for the PocketPC, the computer chess program that I have been using.
In a ritual I donít understand, parents get great pleasure out of tricking their children into believing that a fat guy in a fluffy red outfit is going to come down their chimney on Christmas Eve and leave them gifts.
Leaving aside the wisdom of taking advantage of childrenís gullibility (why would they not believe what their parents tell them is true?), the concept of Santa Claus teaches children to reject capitalism and embrace socialism.
The basic rule of economics is that resources are limited, and can only be increased through the application of work. My dad had a more succinct way of putting it. ďYou donít get nothiní for nothiní,Ē he said. Robert Heinlein said that ďthere ainít no such thing as a free lunch.Ē I have a similar statement that extends beyond capitalism and reaches out to all other human endeavors. ďIf something seems too good to be true, then itís probably not true.Ē
Getting free gifts with no quid pro quo definitely falls under the category of ďtoo good to be true.Ē Never a week goes by where I donít get something in the mail (both regular mail and email) enticing me with something for free, but always it comes with some kind of catch. I think it is the adult Santa Claus mentality that causes people to fall for these kinds of marketing gimmicks.
The Santa Claus mentality extends beyond marketing campaigns and reaches deep into our society. The most glaring example of the Santa Claus mentality is our Social Security system. People get free money from the government. People feel that they are entitled to free money from the government. But the reality is that the money isnít free, itís being taken from young people who are often a lot poorer than the old people to whom itís being given. And the system will completely break down as the ratio of old to young increases over the coming decades.
Even people who arenít ordinarily socialists fall victim to the Santa Claus mentality. The book Dow 36,000 represents the investor classís version of Santa Claus. The market will give you boatloads of money, all you have to do is believe. Unfortunately for investors, believing in a never ending bull market had serious consequences.
In Galtís Gulch, the perfect society envisioned in Ayn Randís book Atlas Shrugged, the very giving of gifts was illegal. Personally I think this was one of Ayn Randís dumber ideas: it violates the principle that government laws should be kept to a minimum, and the principle that people should be allowed to do with their money as they wish. Furthermore, how do you enforce such a law?
My advice is to give gifts to your children, but donít tell them the gifts are from Santa Claus. Children should know that the gifts come from their parents, and that they arenít made by elves, but rather they are purchased through the fruits of their parentsí labor. Thus a lesson in socialism (a wise and all powerful benefactor gives stuff away for free to children who ďdeserveĒ it) becomes transformed into a lesson in capitalism (work creates resources that are bartered for toys).
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Yahoo Chess seems to be the most popular place to play chess on the internet, and it's free. I tried it out last night for the first time, and quickly concluded that it sucks.
The first problem I noticed is that it doesn't randomly assign you black or white. The first person who creates a game gets to be white, and then the person who chooses to join the game is black. So the only way to play white is to create a game and wait around for someone to join you.
The next thing I didn't like is that the display of pieces that have been taken is so bad that you can't tell the difference between a pawn and a bishop.
I could have put up with these frustrations, but the final thing that annoyed me was that in the fourth game I played, my opponent resigned, and then booted me, and he got the credit for the win instead of me! Of course, the person on the other end could easily cheat at the game by using chess software or consulting books while playing, but there's no excuse for Yahoo allowing such an obvious bug in their software to continue to exist.
Maybe I shouldn't complain on account of Yahoo Chess being free. What did I expect for free? I tried another free chess website, the Free Internet Chess Server, and that website kept crashing on me when I tried to create an account. This made it even worse than Yahoo Chess, because at least Yahoo worked well enough for me to play three games.
I guess that, given Yahoo's reputation as the internet's premier portal site, I expected a more pleasant experience. Yahoo's failure in being able to create a high quality chess experience is probably due to the fact that the chess game isn't making them any money, so no one at Yahoo cares enough to fix the chess game's obvious problems. The programmers must be working in an environment where they don't take any pride in their work; they just want to do the minimum job so they can keep collecting their paychecks.
Read my more favorable review of Pogo.com.
Monday, December 06, 2004
There's a new blog on the internet, The Becker-Posner Blog. That's Judge Posner, the well known "law and economics" guru from the Fifth Circuit who is also a law professor at the University of Chicago. Posner is probably the only law professor and federal judge who's written a book about sex.
Some guy named Gary Becker is also involved with the blog. I don't recognize the name, but supposedly he won a Nobel Prize in Economics.
Their blog already has a lot more traffic than my blog even though their blog has only been online for a day and mine is more than a year old. The difference is that they are famous, while I am a big nobody.