Category Archives: Pedantry

100 Years Too Long

On election day let’s gather round as Californians and celebrate for a moment how important our voices are and that the be heard. How important our massive crop of electoral votes are and how influential they are in selecting the next leader of the Free World. Let’s also consider whether any of that is the case.

Many have argued that the electoral college system undervalues the votes of people in highly-populated states, with small (low-population) states having more electors per capita than large (high-population) states. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the actual effect of how California uses our piece of the pie. To take an arbitrary round number, let’s take a look back at the past 25 presidential contests from 1916 to 2016. A full century of results that encompass many shifts in norms, changes in party policies, and societal development. Pardon the table.

YearWinnerOur PickOur VotesWinning Margin
1988H.W. BushH.W. Bush47315
1992B. ClintonB. Clinton54202
1996B. ClintonB. Clinton54220
2000W. BushGore545
2004W. BushKerry5535
2016trumpH. Clinton5577

A pattern emerges. For every election in which California’s votes went to the winner, the race was won by more electoral votes than California contributed. In each case, had California simply not selected our electors the results would have stood.

In which of those years would flipping California have changed the outcome? Flipping a state is a big deal; not only do you deny your opponent those electors but you gain them yourself. Remove from consideration the elections that didn’t go with California (1960, 1976, 2000, 2004, and 2016). Those races would have gone the same way with the winner getting extra votes. If California had flipped in 1916 Charles Evan Hughes would have been elected. If we had flipped in 1976 Gerald Ford would have been re-elected.

I propose we Californians calm down a bit about how the presidential vote gets tallied this year and in the foreseeable future. For presidential election purposes we are a protectorate, a non-voting territory that acts as a campaign piggy bank and little more. This isn’t a partisan matter. Republicans and Democrats alike have no cause to care about your vote at the top of the ticket.

The Responsibilities of the Powerful


In light of all the talk about violence involving police officers recently, let’s fire up the way-back machine and look at what Ramon Llull had to say back in the 13th century about the people who were expected to wield the government’s monopoly on force:

“Item, office of knighthood is to maintain and defend widows, maidens, fatherless and motherless bairns, and poor miserable persons and pitiable, and to help the weak against the stark, and the pure against the rich; for oft-times sick folk are, by more stark than they, beaten and robbed, and their goods taken, and put to destruction and poverty, for fault of power and defence.

“For right as the hewing axe is ordained to cut down trees that hinder ploughing of lands, and carts and chariots and merchandises to pass through the forests, so is the sword of knighthood ordained to cut away and destroy the wicked unworthy weeds and vines of thorns of evil men that hinders labourers, merchants, traitors to travel through the world which is as a forest and wilderness when it is not well tended; of the which evil men should be weeded out by knights, keepers of the law, that good men might live in shelter; and he that is a knight, and does not this, but does even the contrary, should be taken by the prince, or by other worthy, faithful, and honourable knights, and put till dead.

“For when a knight is a reaver, or a thief, or a traitor or a murderer, or a lollard, schismatic or heretic, or in such crimes openly known and proved, then he is unworthy to live, but to be punished in example of others that defoul that most noble and worthy order and abuse it against the points and the properties of that order.”

Hat tip to Gilbert of Hay by way of False Machine for the translation.

This all predates the Lockean notion of the social contract, but strikes me as largely compatible with it. Society-in-general delegates a portion of its collective power to a few individuals who in turn promise to shoulder a greater portion of society’s responsibilities. That nice strong man in blue is supposed to protect those who cannot protect themselves. If he takes to beating and robbing the people, taking their goods and destroying their property, it is of paramount importance that the other men in blue stop him, that they publicly stop him, punish him, and show that the public’s trust is well-placed. Otherwise the social contract is in breach and the public must seek remedy.

Kickstarter is Crazy

Busty Barbarian Bimbos -- Kicktraq Mini

So I made a subdomain for my silly RPG projects back in December, got in touch with several artists and talked them into doing some work for me, and figured I’d test the waters of self-publishing a game by funding my first project on Kickstarter. I put together a modest target value that would cover the costs of printing and shipping the actual books with enough margin to have a really skimpy art budget.

Turns out the modest target value was a bit low. Or the campaign length too long. Take your pick. Either way, not quite a quarter of the way through, we’re already over twice the target value. This means the art budget gets a lot more free and easy, but it also tickles a certain game-player nerve of mine. Kickstarter provides a chart showing your daily progress in dollars. makes crazy projections about where the project might end up landing. You see a little number ticking towards a target value and the lizard part of your brain that has been playing video games for the past thirty years wants to keep nudging that number up. And up. And up. You need to shift from “get bare funding” mode to “get product to backers” mode, but with the clock still ticking it’s so monstrously tempting to shift instead into “get even more funding” mode.

The dashboard interface for creators is vastly more enticing than the “discover new projects” interface they have for backers. You get a chart showing pledged dollars over time. You get a pie chart showing how much funding was referred from inside the Kickstarter site as opposed to other sources. You get a table showing which referrers resulting in how many pledge and how much was pledged in total. You get a listing of recent activity, showing individual backers joining in, comment postings, and pledge adjustments. Next thing you know you’re copying and pasting unfamiliar URLs into your browser and finding yourself reading through 21-page flame wars about your project. Eek.

Anyhow, I’m immensely pleased and somewhat conflicted about how this is all working out. I started out doubting that there’d be any support at all, that the campaign would flop and I’d just be crying in a corner overwhelmed by the market’s rejection of my game. Now I’m facing the very real prospect of shipping & handling logistics, quality assurance, and lots more artist collaboration.