No Logo

Since I assume you don’t live in a cave, I will also assume that you’re familiar with the University of California’s recent decision to “rebrand” itself by developing a new logo*. The reception among students and other right-thinking individuals has been less than enthusiastic, to say the least. The abysmal design has been rightly compared to a toilet bowl (complete with the urine-colored “C”) but there’s more to this story than the logo’s unqualifiably hideous aesthetics. Put simply, the whole “branding” effort is a reflection of the degree to which the corporate mentality has taken over universities wholesale; the logo itself is merely a urine-stained symptom of a larger problem.

Nothing suffices as better proof of this thesis than examining the positive reactions to the logo (yes, they exist). For example, in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle, a “creative director of a branding agency” writes:

This is one of the freshest and most creative education identity schemes in a country full of boring institutional logos…As designers know, a brand is much, much bigger than the logo. A logo is just one element of the entire system but the general public does not understand this.

Translation: fuck you, you stupid plebes, for not appreciating my art.

It would be tempting to take Rob Duncan to task for being a blithering imbecile (the man actually defends the equally abhorrent logo of the London Olympics; you know, the one frequently analogized to a certain cartoon character giving a blowjob), but that would be ignoring the real problem. The problem isn’t that Rob Duncan is stupid; the problem is that he types words which mean pretty much nothing, and is convinced that they mean everything. The problem is that Rob Duncan, and people like him, have committed an egregious category error about what sort of institution a university is. Further down, Duncan writes:

Times have changed. Audiences are more visually sophisticated. They expect more out of an identity than just a static logo (which would describe many university or college logos).

Which audiences? What is the evidence that they “expect” any such thing? Do they “expect” anything of the sort from their institutions of higher learning? Duncan doesn’t say; someone enamored with facts might point out that the audience has, in fact, not been particularly pleased with this innovation, but for people like Duncan facts are simply inconvenient things. The theory of the brand is all, and all must submit. That’s just how things are, even when that’s not how they are. When the facts run counter to the theory, it is the facts that must be changed, or ignored, if they’re too inconvenient.

Consider the classic UC seal: what exactly is “static” about it, as compared to the logo? If anything, the seal actually depicts, literally depicts, more motion, with the ribbon flowing across the bottom right and light emanating from the star. A bit busy? Sure, maybe it’s not the best Twitter icon, but why should this matter? It ought to be a simple task to reduce the visual complexity slightly for use in other media, not a task requiring a committee working for several years on a re-engineering effort. But the real key to the seal is the content, which is easy enough for anyone to comprehend. The book is the symbol of learning; light is a symbol of, well, enlightenment; “let there be light” echoes the classical Biblical line, but posed against the background of the book, suggests that real light comes from learning. And the University of California is the preeminent institution of higher learning serving the citizens of the Golden State.

It’s a series of very simple, very straightforward visual metaphors that convey a genuinely important message: that learning is good, and that we as a society are making a public commitment to it. To cast the university as a brand is, first, to simply mistake what the university is about in a fundamental and deleterious way. For an institution of the caliber of UC to do so is also completely pointless. Who, exactly, is the mythical “audience” for this change? Is there anyone in the world who needs to understand a symbol that refers to UC but would not understand the UC seal? It’s a maneuver that doesn’t make sense from any angle; you can talk about “brands” all you want, but UC does not need to brand itself. It already has a brand, that of the best system of public universities in the world. Is someone going to be swayed in ways they might otherwise not have been swayed by this change?

When a business needs to convince people to buy more of what it’s selling, it might engage in such an enterprise. FSM knows that the world is full of iconic business logos, from golden arches to exaggerated checkmarks. But univeristies are not businesses, and UC in particular doesn’t need to convince anyone to go there; demand far outstrips supply when it comes to a UC education. This obsession with image over substance is a symptom of fundamental rot, of misplaced priorities and failure to understand what kind of institution you’re running and for what purpose. Consider, if you will, the official video put out by the university which “explains” (for sufficiently generous interpretations of that word) how they came up with the new design**.

Look what happens there. First they eliminate the entire UC ring as well as the “Let there be light” ribbon. Then they trace the outline of the book (which is barely recognizable as a book) and then they shove the book out of the way (how’s that for symbolism?). Some dude is then showing turning a crank which reproduces the horrid design in yellow-on-orange (orange is not a UC color!).

In predictable fashion, graphic designers, mistaking their work for high-concept art clearly over the heads of the idiot public, have gone to bat for it, in the process demonstrating how little they understand what they’re talking about. Example time!

Kali Nikitas:

The older UC logo, she said, conveys a sense of stability while the new one looks “incredibly progressive.”

What exactly is progressive about the letter “C” embedded in the letter “U” is left unexplained.

Petrula Vronkitis

“It is much more about brand differentiation,” she said, noting that many of the old college seals looked too much alike. UC has shifted dramatically, she said, “from an institutional look to a marketing look that is young-skewed and vibrant.”

Indeed, “from an institutional look to a marketing look.” Whether that represents any sort of vibrancy worth the name is not something that Petrula Vronkitis is qualified to answer.

The piece de resistance of the whole thing is nonthing other than the official University of California brand guidelines which amply demonstrate how deep the dementia goes. Some actual, real, completely not at all made up by me because I couldn’t possibly be clever enough to create satire of this quality quotes:

A brand – our brand – is the intersection of what we say about ourselves, how we act, and what people think of us.

Translation: a brand is everything and nothing. It’s whatever we need it to be whenever we need it, which is how we avoid anything that remotely looks like consistency and accountability.

the UC lock-up reinterprets the classic elements of the seal into a vibrant, visually energetic, engaging and relevant identifier.

Translation: Cyan and urine-yellow are now “vibrant” and “visually energetic.” How any of this is “relevant,” exactly, is unclear, but hey, see point #1; it can be whatever we need it to be whenever we need it. If we say it’s “relevant,” then it damn well is, facts notwithstanding.

The UC monogram is a contemporary reinterpretation of the UC seal. Modern in form, it embodies both the relevance and rootedness of the university.

Translation: We’ve gotten rid of any element that indicates an obvious connection to the sorts of values universities are tasked with upholding. This means we are modern.

The wordmark is the official relationship of the words “University” “of” and “California”.

Translation: ….[gurgles]….[vomits on self]….[eats own vomit]….

Even in the most flexible and dynamic visual system, guidelines and consistency are critical to ensure we understand who we are.

Translation: How can we understand who we are without a dumbed-down visual symbology that effectively eliminates all but the barest hint of who we actually are? Did I mention that war is also peace?

UC is not just a university, contributing educated graduates to California, but a place in perpetual motion

Translation: Contrary to what you may have been taught in the Berkeley Physics Department, the University of California is not, in fact, subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Brand attributes

  1. Visionary.
  2. Experimental.
  3. Optimistic.
  4. Awe-Inspiring.
  5. Essential.
  6. Audacious.
  7. Pioneering.
  8. Proven.

Translation: We are awesome! How can you not look at our logo and deduce how awesome we are?! P.S. AWESOME.

the UC visual identity is more accurately described as a visual system

Translation: I like to use opaque metaphors that obfuscate any sensible interpretation that a competent speaker of the English language might try and undertake. I believe that this represents cutting-edge design theory.

Let There Be Light is not just the university’s motto; it is a fundamental concept of the brand identity.

Translation: I don’t understand exactly what universities do, but I won’t let that stop my mission to redefine universities.

And finally, my favorite part, because you really, really cannot make this shit up:

We all must be good stewards of the UC brand. Being mindful of how we use and express the UC brand allows the university to grow and flourish. UC is a dynamic, complex and important institution to represent. The brand is how the university’s contributions and values can be more easily understood. It’s that simple.

Translation: State support is contingent on using the correct font spacing. Also, making it easy to understand values means that you have to eliminate any element that might actually hint at the values that an institution of higher learning ought to hold from your “visual system.” And people can’t be trusted to understand your contributions by being told about them, because in this brave new era of modernity and progress words are outdated.

And next to this inspiring collection of words is the following image:

That’s right: it’s a goat in a vest being led on a leash by a disembodied hand. If that doesn’t say dynamism and leadership and progress, then I don’t know what does!

There you have it: the end result of the ludicrous obsession with “branding” is an Orwellian mangling of the English language to the point where not only does the text in question not convey any comprehensible meaning, but to where it is explicitly designed not to do so. All of these fuzzy metaphors and pontifications about visual systems and brand stewardship are not statements of value; they are not statements of what the university stands for and how it achieves and lives those values. They are statements about how graphical elements can look like they might hint at possibly achieving those values, or possibly how people can be convinced of this if they’re hammered often enough. Eliminate the visual reminders of the institution’s original mission, repeat meaningless shibboleths with sufficient frequency, and someday you’ll eliminate the spirit of the thing too.

* Yes, I am aware that the logo does not replace the seal.
** I realize that this might not be a literal depiction of how the new design was achieved, but it’s how it’s being conceptualized post mortem.

Slavery is Freedom

No, this isn’t about politics. You can stop reading now if that’s where you thought it was going. If, on the other hand, you thought this was going to be about basketball, I congratulate you on your perspicacity and invite you to accompany me on a magical journey.

One of the things that I’m struck by as I look at advanced basketball analytics is how relatively model-free the whole enterprise seems. There are a couple of good methods that you see show up over and over again: regression analysis, adjusting plus/minus stats to remove bias, and estimating overall player contribution, usually in terms of either points or wins produced or some similar derived statistic. Nothing wrong with any of this of course, and it yields a certain amount of valuable insight. But coming from the science world as I do, and particularly coming from a recent background in working in cognitive science, what I find interesting about these analytics is that they seem mostly unconstrained by the game itself.

What do I mean by that? I don’t want this to sound like I’m saying “this is a terrible thing” or “everyone is an idiot” which is not the case. All I’m saying is that the way these models are constructed relies very heavily on box scores and backing out weights of various elements of player performance via regression. What they don’t do in any explicit way (modulo a few exceptions, like 3-point shooting and per-minute analysis) that I’ve seen is incorporate top-down constraints from the actual game itself into the analysis.

What would such constraints look like? One very obvious thing that comes to mind is the shot clock: you have 24 seconds to put the ball in the hoop, and if you fail to do so your opponents get the ball. Another constraint is the ball itself: there’s only one, and only one player (and one team) can possess it at any given time. The court boundaries are obviously also constraints, as is the fact that you can’t camp in the lane (on either offense or defense). And so on.

At first glance these seem like trivial statements, as anyone who pays the slightest amount of attention to basketball will understand them to be obviously true. We can debate the value of LeBron James (really high or really, really high?) all day if we want, but no one is arguing that the shot clock is anything other than 24 seconds. But I think that because the information is so obvious, it may have escaped incorporation into interesting analyses. I’m really just throwing thoughts out there, but if the end goal of each possession is to get the ball in the hoop, and you’re looking for a method which accomplishes this with maximum efficiency, you are really optimizing within the bounds set by the constraint of the shot clock. In a completely unsurprising turn of events, each possession becomes a constrained optimization, although not one that is expressed in terms of any simple objective-function (indeed the landscape here is certain to be very complex).

The reason such constraints are valuable in other fields is because they set hard limits on what you can and can’t do. In physics, for example, you know that whatever happens, you can’t extract work by moving heat from a cold body to a warm body; that’s the second law, and if you find that your theory has violated it, you know you’ve done something wrong. In cognitive modeling, life is a bit more complex because the constraints are often empirical; for example, ACT-R, a cognitive architecture I work with, commits to a certain (experimentally validated) model of working memory decay. That’s an architectural constraint on the kinds of dynamics that an ACT-R model can exhibit. Other architectures make other assumptions, etc. The point of the constraints is that, although you may sacrifice the freedom of your model to generate any output by embracing them, you gain the security of reducing your outcome space and the freedom to focus on things that you think are relevant. The nice thing about basketball is that the constraints are baked-in via rules, so we don’t have to guess at what they are; we “just” have to take them into account.

The reason I think this is important for basketball is because I think the box score analytics game is largely played out. By this I don’t mean that the analytics are useless, but my strong suspicion is that virtually everything that can be extracted from such information, has been. Obviously people are doing more complicated stuff now with line-ups and stuff, but since “keep your best line-up on the floor for 48 minutes” is not a viable strategy (another constraint!), a coach is faced with a complicated process of decision-making when it comes to rotations. The question for analysts is this: is there any way that a systematic breakdown of basketball dynamics which takes seriously the various constraints presented by the game rules can aid coaches (and players) in making decisions on the floor? I think, optimist that I am, that the answer is “yes” but the work of getting there will require a lot more than just box score information.

Cargo Cult Politics

In the days since the election, recriminations have been flying fast and hard inside the Republican hivemind. Mallet du Pan observed more than 200 years ago that the revolution devours its own children, and a modified form of that adage has applied quite well to the recent “analysis” of just what it is that went wrong on November 6th. Of course, not all of the analysis is scare-quotes worthy; over at The Monkey Cage, John Sides explains with voodoo things like “numbers” and “logic” why this election may not be a realignment, and elsewhere occasionally-sane conservative David Frum has been trying to bring some semblance of reality into the conservative bubble.

Part of the soul-searching, if it can be called that, that is taking place among the more fact-aware members of the Republican community, has involved reflections on the changing demographics of America. Oh, has it ever involved them! It is possible now to finally get Republicans to realize that the demographics are changing, which I suppose is progress of a sort, but there are things that you believe with your head, and things that you believe with your heart; while it seems the head-belief is making inroads, the heart-belief that Republicans can win by changing nothing remains.

This, I hope, makes the title clear. When Richard Feynman first spoke about “cargo-cult science,” he had in mind something that has all the appearance of science but none of its actual content. It’s clear that so far, the Republican strategy has had all the appearance of a strategy, but none of the actual content. Well, that’s not entirely fair. Or maybe it’s too fair; the appearance is the content.

If you read almost any breakdown of future GOP strategy, you find a lot of discussion about how to best communicate the Republican message to Latinos, women, and, well, anyone who isn’t a straight white dude. But as James Joyner astutely observes, the problem is not communication. The problem is that all those people really fucking hate the Republican platform. To understand this, one need look no further than a man who is righter than he knows: Bill O’Reilly. For anyone not familiar will O’Reilly’s post-election pontifications, his surprisingly non-psychotic take on the whole thing was pretty straightforward: the people who voted for Obama want “stuff.”

Let’s set aside the obvious racism (which is even more racist in context) of O’Reilly’s remark. Taking Republicans to task for racist bullshit is the lowest of the low-hanging fruit, and plenty of people have done it. What is more interesting to me is looking at the sense in which O’Reilly is entirely correct in his evaluation.

O’Reilly seems to have discovered the remarkable phenomenon, previously unknown to anyone in American politics, that people are motivated by political messages that promise them some desirable outcome. Just like many rich people are motivated to vote for Republicans by promises of tax cuts, and lots of white people are motivated to vote for Republicans by barely-disguised racist pandering, so are people on the other side of the fence motivated by considerations of what benefits they might reap from electoral outcomes. Of course, far from being some sort of pathology, this is actually an entirely normal thing for people to do, and the only objection that O’Reilly can possibly have to this is that the “wrong” sorts of people want the “wrong” sorts of things. Women with their abortions and gays with their marriage and liberals in general with their welfare state, UGH!

And that’s the basic problem for Republicans going forward: people like what the other party’s offering. They legitimately think that a welfare state funded by progressive taxation and a legal regime in which a woman isn’t forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term are good things. If you offer to dismantle all of that stuff that people like, you can hardly be surprised if your platform ends up being somewhat unpopular. It’s not wildly unpopular, yet, but the trend is headed in that direction; the only age group that voted for Romney was old people, and the younger the demographic gets, the more liberal it is. For all their talk of “communication” and “appeals to minorities” it’s pretty clear that a lot of Republicans think that they can just put a Latino face out there, or possibly a woman (say, how did that work last time?) and run the same regressive policies expecting to win. It’s a strategy of sorts, I suppose, but it’s not a strategy that, despite the ardent please of David Frum, includes any sort of modification of actual policies.

Of course, it’s easy to understand the problems that the GOP faces. They’re caught, especially at the Congressional level, between the Scylla of national unelectability and he Charybdis of primary challenges from their socially conservative base. A Republican party that decided to wave a white flag in the culture wars would face a powerful backlash in precisely the places where it’s currently strongest, but a party that continues to prosecute the same culture wars is facing an electorate that’s been progressively souring on that particular message. In a textbook illustration of irony, the truth of that, the truth of the proposition that voters will vote for the “stuff” they want, has been brought home by none other than O’Reilly. And when Bill O’Reilly is the one in your party who most closely resembles someone who understands how politics works, you’re probably deeply fucked.

First Impressions

So the NBA season began for reals last night. Allegedly both Kyrie Irving and Sideshow Bob played pretty well for the Cavs, but on the other hand it was against the Wizards, so who really knows about that. Which, incidentally, is a weird way to start the season; it’s like the NBA telling you, “Yeah, we’ve got these two marquee matchups for you, but we’re going to whet your appetite for them with a game that hardly anyone outside the two fanbases could possibly care about.”

Before we move on, let me pause and thank all the gods, basketball and otherwise, for the existence of www.basketball-reference.com. This year they’ve added a feature which I hadn’t seen before: a shot chart that shows you where every team took shots from on the floor. In general, it’s a fucking brilliant resource. All hail it.

Anyways, I sort of half-watched the Celtics-Heat game and my basic impression was ARRR WHAT ARE YOU DOING JASON TERRY. Obviously, the Celtics still have a way to go before their team coheres around a single game plan, so it’s pointless to read too much into the results of the game. What I liked was: Rondo getting his own shot, to the tune of a 20-7-13 statline on 64% shooting. This is what he has to be like for the Celtics the whole year if they’re going to have a successful season. Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa were both outstanding; I’m especially happy for Barbosa, whom I’ve liked since his days as a Sun. Boston out-rebounded Miami on both ends, and in general had a very efficient offensive game, shooting 52% from the field and 46% from 3.

What I didn’t like: Miami shot a pretty unreal 50% from 3, 54% from the field, and forced a shitton of turnovers. Ray Allen torched his former teammates for 19 points, two of which came via a glacially slow drive past his defender (don’t remember who) to finish at the rim. I know Jesus can still play and all, but when a 37-year-old Ray Allen is beating you off the dribble, something is wrong. The overall picture makes it look like the Celtics fell down on the defensive end, but that is somewhat misleading; while Miami did get a number of easy buckets via good ball movement, LeBron also had a very good shooting night on long 2’s and 3’s. In general, if you can get your opponent to take a long 2 (especially a contested one) early in the clock, that’s a good thing, and this time Miami made their shots.

Also, Jeff fucking Green. I know, I know, dude had a heart condition and all, but still: 0-4, 3 of those attempts coming from close range. Boooo! And Paul Pierce shot like ass.

Then there was the Mavs-Lakers game, which I only watched half of, but have no reason to think that my impressions from that half are not generalizable to the whole game. Namely, why would you waste Nash’s talents like that, Los Angeles? Will Mike Brown ever come up with a competent offensive scheme? What’s the point of having one of the best pick-and-roll point guards ever walking the ball up the court and handing it off to Gasol at the top of the key? Pau led the Lakers in assists with six(!) and while I realize that he’s a pretty good passer for a big man, that should not be happening when one of the best passers in the game is on your team. All this talk about the Princeton hybrid motion offense is, as far as I can tell, a bunch of technical-sounding bullshit that essentially means a bunch of very static offensive sets and generally poor off-the-ball movement. As Sir Charles astutely noted during the half-time report, Dwight should be running up and down the court; many times in the first half, Nash would try to start a fast break only to find that he had no support for a lob and no trailers for a quick 3.

And what to make of these Mavericks? There’s a sense in which this incarnation of the team is sort of like the title-winning squad of, fuck, was it really a year and a half ago? Shit. Obviously not as good as that team was, but resembling them in the sense that they seem to be assembled around Dirk and a bunch of castoffs from other teams. I really thought that Houston was going to be the Island of Misfit Basketball Toys this year, but now that they’ve got Harden, it’s a bit more difficult to put them in that category. Dallas, on the other hand… the ’11 team was forged from Jason Kidd (acquired from the Nets for Devin Harris and a bunch of junk, but clearly on the decline), Tyson Chandler (now looking fabulous, then a dubious reclamation project after years of injuries), Shawn Marion (once a plausible DPOY candidate, before being traded for two O’Neals in a row), J.J. Barea (famous for being short), Brendan Haywood (another failure in a long line of Cuban’s attempts to acquire a moderately competent center), Peja (when did that happen?), and the likes of Corey Brewer, Ian Mahinmi, and DeShawn Stevenson. I’m not even counting Caron Butler, who was out for the second half of the season with a broken hand. Seriously, those people all played non-negligible roles on a championship team; some of them actually played starring roles. If anything can be a testament to Rick Carlisle’s coaching ability, it must be the fact that he won a title with a team seemingly assembled out of spare parts that no one thought to use. It’s like MacGuyvering a functional television out of circuitry harvested from a scrap heap: a technically possible but unlikely achievement by anyone but a real master.

Now the Mavs are at it again; of course, they won’t win a title this year, and many commentators don’t even have them making the playoffs, which I would argue is a bit premature. Seriously though, can anyone look at this team and honestly predict good things? Sure, if Dirk and Kaman (free-agent castoff) come back and stay healthy, if Rodrigue Beaubois can consistently play well, if Darren Collison (surplus to requirements at Indiana after backing up George Hill) can do point-guardy things and run the two-man game with Dirk, if O.J. Mayo (dumped by the Grizzlies) doesn’t continue regressing, if Vince Carter (oh god…) can resist taking 15 ill-advised long jumpers per game, if Brandan Wright continues to be a serviceable center, if Eddy Curry (Eddy Curry! Eddy Curry! AAAAAHHHH) doesn’t eat himself out of shape yet again, if Elton Brand (amenstied by the Sixers) can average 10 PPG, if Shawn Marion can muster up another year of all-NBA defense… that’s enough ifs for a Kipling poem. This team isn’t just a reclamation project, it’s like someone is trying to build a space shuttle out of old car parts. So many things have to go right for this team to even contend on any given night that if Carlisle gets them to the playoffs with a 6-seed or higher, he has to be the coach of the year; I can’t think of anyone other than maybe Doc Rivers (maybe Stan Van Gundy?) who could achieve that.

Oh god, it’s really on, isn’t it.

In Which Your Esteemed Correspondent, Having Relocated From a Hill Infested With Squirrels to a Field Blooming With Flowers, Traveled First to Fort Dearborn for Scholarly Contests and Thence to Frozen Northern Wastelands for the Purpose of Delivering a Scientific Oration, Continued South to Visit With Familial Relations Residing on the Shores of Oceanis Pacific, Returned Once More Northwards to the Lands of Pontchartrain du Detroit for Another Scholarly Bout, and Thence Continued Homeward to Fort Duquesne, Dutifully Vows to Resume His Reportage and Furthermore to Answer All Letters and Other Missives Directed Towards Him, Which He Has Lovingly Collated in Chronological Order of Reception for That Very Purpose.

It may happen as soon as this weekend.

Useful Information for New Parents

  • A baby can chew through a meter of reinforced concrete in just under one hour. It is advised to keep them away from building foundations.
  • Babies are naturally fluent in Lisp. As their baby parentheses fall out, they transition to Python.
  • Babies are born fans of the Dutch national soccer team. They also prefer PSV Eindhoven to Ajax.
  • If more than five babies are together in one room and they are all awake, they may levitate.
  • Babies may pass through black holes without harm, making them perfect for exploration of parallel universes.
  • You should always hold your baby so that your hand is supporting their head; otherwise your baby’s head may retreat into its armed carapace.
  • Babies are rocket-propelled. You should always carry a net to catch them if they take off.
  • Babies naturally secrete hydrazine.
  • When babies vote, they only do it via methods that satisfy the Condorcet condition.
  • A baby can inflate to three times its normal size when spooked.

In Which I Solve More of Your Most Pressing Problems

Look at this bullshit. I’ve been trying to get plotting and Qt working under Lisp, on a Mac, because I fucking hate myself. Yinz are about to benefit from my experience.

Here are the steps if you are the kind of self-hating masochist who needs to get commonqt working under OS X:

Steps to do that:

1) use something like macports to get the smoke libraries, e.g.

sudo port install smokeqt

2) wait a long time, hopefully it finishes without exploding

3) if you’ve got quicklisp, do (ql:quickload "qt"). It will crash.

4) It crashes for the following reasons:

a) for reasons not obviously clear to me the compilation is linked against the debug libraries, i.e. libQtGui_debug. WHY?! It don’t matter, go to whatever directory quicklisp put your shit in and edit the commonqt.pro file to remove the debug from the build spec.
b) While you’re there you’ll also want to change lsmokeqtcore to lsmokebase because that’s the correct lib to link against, else CRASHX0R.

5) ok, you can now (ql:quickload "qt") again. Psych! no you can’t. It won’t work. WHY?!

6) it’s because the cffi library that gets loaded is incorrectly configured for OS X. That’s fucking right, you’re gonna want to change that line in info.lisp that goes:

#-(or mswindows windows win32) "libsmoke~A.so"

to something sensible like

#+(and (or unix) (not darwin)) "libsmoke~A.so"
#+(or mswindows windows win32) "smoke~A.dll"
#+(or darwin) "libsmoke~A.dylib"

so that now it actually loads libsmokecore.dylib and all that other jazz correctly.

7) ok, now run the quickload again! YOU ARE ALL SET MOTHERFUCKER.

How to solve the problem of multiple Qt installations on a Mac

Yeah, I know; this is probably not a common problem you have. But shit, this is as much or more for my benefit as yours. Anyway, let’s say you have Qt installed because you downloaded the official dmg, but then you also went and installed the Enthought Python distribution which comes with its own Qt. And also, that Qt might be a different architecture, so WHAT CAN YOU DO?!

Just export DYLD_FRAMEWORK_PATH, like so:

export DYLD_FRAMEWORK_PATH="/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/7.2/Frameworks/:$DYLD_FRAMEWORK_PATH"

This should ensure that any loading of the Qt libraries references the Enthought ones. Of course yours might be installed in a different location (and in any case instead of referencing version 7.2 you should just use Current, but whatevs).

You are welcome.

We Forge Our Spirits In the Tradition of Our NBA Ancestors

I’m under some measure of psychic stress right now that prevents me from writing coherently about anything that’s difficult to think about, which is most things. But I’m still capable of writing about basketball, so I’ll probably just do that for a while.

As regular readers of this space might know, the tens digit just rolled over on my personal odometer. In tribute to my ever-closer demise, I’d like to dedicate an indeterminate number of words to the deeds of the NBA’s current senior citizens. Every once in a while, I’ll select a baller of advanced years and write a sort of appraisal of their life and work. So if you care to know what I think about Ray Allen, Kurt Thomas (that’s right, he’s still in the league), Steve Nash, and other decrepit oldsters, and I know you do, keep your eyes on this blog. I’ll also tell you what I think about Jeremy Lin (spoiler: the whole thing irritates me to no end), the Washington Wizards (spoiler: they’re terrible… but how terrible?) and Bill Simmons (spoiler: he’s a raging sexist). It might not be nearly as fascinating as a discussion of why Saul Kripke’s puzzle about belief is actually no puzzle at all, but it should definitely fill any quota you might have for prolix posts about inconsequential shit. And who knows, you might even come back for the Kripke post.

Everyone Is Doing It So Why Not Me?

Assuming all five of you are the kind of sophisticated readers that frequent this blog, I’m not going to tell you anything you didn’t already know about SOPA. Now that pretty much every useful site on the Internet has gone to blackout mode in protest, there’s no shortage of opportunity to learn as much as you’d care to about this legislation. I could go on about how SOPA essentially establishes a presumption of guilt, how it puts what ought to be government power in the hands of private actors, and how its technical requirements would render useless much of what we value about the Internet, but you can get this anywhere; I’ll dedicate my time to saying something else.

And that something else is this: the more I live on this earth, in this American society, and the more I read and learn, the more I become convinced that capitalism (that is to say, the actual existing capitalism of today, not the fantasy capitalism of libertopia) has pretty much nothing to do with markets. I think this is true generally, and there are ample other opportunities to observe this fact, but the SOPA fight really brings the contrast between these two ideas into sharp relief. It’s pretty obvious that what’s going on here is the sort of expansion of rent-seeking that’s been the hallmark of copyright legislation for decades now; indeed, it would be surprising if something like SOPA (or it’s proposed almost-as-shitty replacement PIPA) were not the next step in the entertainment industry’s tireless fight to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs. The contrast of note here is industry’s reliance on market-based language for justification while doing the utmost to squelch any responsibility they might have toward satisfying their actual target market. This goes beyond the basic, easily-understood idea that many ordinary pirates are really just dissatisfied customers who are tired of paying exorbitant amounts of money to be treated like criminals; it’s at the point where Monster Cable (yes, those fuckers) includes Costco among its list of “rogue” sites that would likely fall under the purview of SOPA (see link above). It’s pretty obvious here that what Monster is doing (what all those who are pushing for SOPA are doing) is attempting to buy legislation that would effectively make it illegal to compete with it.

This, and numerous other instances, put the lie to the idea that the backers of SOPA have any interest in responding to market pressures. What they’re really trying to do is to legislate their competitors out of existence, i.e. to leverage the power of the state for the purposes of delivering private industry profits. If that sounds like a retread of something you might have heard before, it should; it’s the m.o. of the financial industry following the crash. Not exclusively, of course; there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands of small-time examples of this sort of thing. An extra clause in a bill here, an additional regulation there, and oh look, you can’t park on the street overnight in front of your own home because that’s basically like cheating landlords out of extra money they can squeeze from you for parking spaces (thanks, city of Providence!). In short, everyone likes to talk about capitalism, but no one, not even the big boys, actually want to live it.

SOPA by itself is tragedy enough, but what’s even sadder is that it’s just a symptom of something that’s been going on a long time: if you’ve got the money, you can buy yourself the legislation you need to screw your competitors, all the while paying lip service to some notion of markets that doesn’t exist anywhere outside of an Econ 101 textbook. Market-speak is just a useful tool to keep the proles outraged about paying taxes that might possibly benefit a poor and/or brown-skinned person someday, but when it comes right down to it, there ain’t nothing a big corporation hates as much as it hates competition. We want to keep the government out of our business, sure, but there’s nothing more we like than to get the government into someone else’s business, or better yet, someone else’s bedroom if we can. So remember that the next time you hear some immaculately-coifed suit expound on the virtues of free markets and competition: they don’t mean it, or to the extent that they mean it, it’s for thee (you) and not for me (them). These people are paid liars and if our press had half the integrity they like to think of themselves as having, they’d laugh these shills right out of the studio.

In conclusion, I’d like to announce that upon the formation of Glorious Socialist Utopia, all RIAA and MPAA execs will be sent down to the salt mines. You have been duly warned.