(Trust In God) Production Notes

Yes, I realize my pronunciation of “Nagato” was all over the place. I apologize for that. With everything else going on I didn’t have time to fix it. :(

Last year I was blown away by a short story by Seth Dickinson called A Plant (Whose Name is Destroyed) (audio). I want to bring it up again here, because it has a very similar premise to Trust In God/Riddle of Kyon – that a godlike being incidentally causes things to happen simply by desiring them. And like TiG/RoK, it’s told from the god’s lover’s perspective. They are very different stories because they explore different aspects of the problem, but at their core they both have the same dilemma. It’s a good read, and I wanted to recommend it.

Upon recalling how much I enjoyed A Plant, I went and checked out Seth Dickinson’s other works. I’ve read over half of them now, and I gotta say – I STRONGLY recommend this author. Many of his works have a very strong transhumanist message, and some could be called rationalist. Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t already heard his name brought up on LessWrong, or SlateStarCodex, or /r/rational. I’m fixing that this week.

A few of my favorite stories:

Economies of Force – A post-GAI story where humanity made AI that *almost* captures our values, but not quite, and it results in the sort of utopia you might expect from that sort of failure. Shades of Amputation of Destiny and Bostrom’s Empty Disneyland. If anyone can figure out the significance of the name “Loom”, please let me know. It must have been chosen for a reason, but I’m not making the connection.

Sekhmet Hunts the Dying Gnosis: A Computation – A rather literal take on Meditations on Moloch, and/or An Alien God

Morrigan in the Sunglare – Like Bayesians vs Barbarians, told from the PoV of the Barbarians (sort of).

Kumara – a seriously beautiful post-singularity transhumanist story. Just… really beautiful. And murderous.

There’s more. His first novel will be coming out next year. If you haven’t heard of him yet, I’m willing to bet you’ll be hearing about him soon. I, for one, am gonna be reading whatever of his I can.

(Bloopers) Production Notes

Ugh, hear that echo in the first part? That’s what happens when you record in an empty, bare-walled room you just moved into, rather than in a closet. Ah well, it wasn’t a fiction episode so I’m not really concerned about the quality, as long as it’s listenable.

Anyway, during my recent move I discovered a number of old cassette tapes my parents bought me as a child. These are children’s stories in audio format, so sorta like the seeds of the HPMoR Podcast. :) I went and got a crappy old cassette player and ripped them to .mp3, and now I’ve put ‘em up on YouTube if y’all are interested. However I spent the first four years of my life in Germany, so they’re all in German. I tried listening to them again, and I realized just how little German has stayed with me over the past 30 years, I couldn’t understand a lot of it. They probably aren’t that interesting even if you do know German, but here’s a few things that jumped out at me when I listened to them:

Bibi Heals The Mayor – An entirely enjoyable story about secret witches hiding their powers from the muggles, that comes with the reassurance that if everything goes to shit, you can count on your mother to save you. Good children’s fare!

The Sheepish Lion – This was trying to be a good children’s story, and I remember loving it as a kid. But now that I look back on it, I think the main message it conveys is that if everyone torments and picks on you, what you really need to do is publicly murder one of your peers. Then you’ll finally get the respect you deserve. Not sure they thought this one through…

Lost in the Infinte – I… I don’t think this was intended for children. Maybe my parents should have screened my listening material? I’m glad they didn’t, because this was easily my favorite story, and I would listen to it over and over. But at 29:11 you can hear the mad scientist throw himself into the thresher maw of an alien war machine and scream as he’s torn apart. Fuckin’ awesome!! Yet I doubt my parents would have approved if they’d known. I actually didn’t remember this, or perhaps I didn’t quite understand what was happening, because it took me by surprise when I heard it last month. This was in my formative fiction? Damn!

(Essays 2) Production Notes

Every day I will repeat to myself: Any time you see a “ch” in a word you haven’t heard someone pronounce IRL, it is ALWAYS pronounced like a hard ‘k’. Grrrrr.

I wasn’t sure about doing Religion’s Claim To Be Non-Disprovable. Religion isn’t really a big deal in Rationalist circles, it’s basically a solved problem and no one much bothers with it anymore. Why resurrect it now? Well, I still love the Story Of The First Experiment In History. Massive fun! :) But more to the point, as Scott Alexander wrote, “I re-read the Sequences”, they tell me, “and everything in them seems so obvious. But I have this intense memory of considering them revelatory at the time.”  I also find this to be the case. And I have a memory of this post being awesome when I read it, so I will trust that this continues to be the case for first-time readers/listeners.

An Alien God is, of course, a foundational classic. Azathoth has become standard terminology, it’s been expanded on over the years, and the original post still sends shivers down my spine. I hope I did it justice.

A Brief Squee

10519668_10204212196615432_1080401869_nI just wanted to say that the Welcome to Night Vale live show was fantastic! It’s too late for those of us in the US, but the lucky listeners in Europe still have a chance to see it.

Great story, funny as hell, and touching on the nature of what it is to be a sapient being destined to die. So basically all the best things WTNV delivers so well. Getting to see the actors actually acting out their lines was great, and added quite a bit to it. There was good audience participation, as well a going meta, although I won’t give away any spoilers here. Seriously, one of the best things I’ve done all year.

Also, I went with the voices of Voldemort and Lily. Neither tried to kill each other, and they had a good time! If Welcome To Night Vale can bring those two together in a spirit of friendship, obviously there is nothing it can’t do.

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(Comes The Huntsman) Production Notes

I wasn’t kidding about loving this story, I’ve blogged about it before. Although to be fair, I’ve loved every story I’ve ever podcast. It’s one of the advantages of having your own podcast. :)

You may be wondering why the next episode in two weeks isn’t going to be chapter 102 of HPMoR, seeing as the text will be released July 25th. The answer is “production schedules.” I like to always be a full episode ahead of what’s airing, to cover for any sudden unexpected life events. This has saved me from missing an episode release on more than one occasion. As I’m typing this on 7/22, the next episode (airing 8/6) is already be complete. Normally I would already be working on the 8/20 episode. Production begins nearly a month before an episode is due to air. As such, I do not have enough time to get chapter 102 recorded and produced in time for the next episode on 8/6. Especially if there’s going to be voices other than mine in it, which nowadays is almost assured.

Technically this isn’t completely true – if I wanted to sacrifice a number of other projects I could probably get it done in time. But I’m still working on renovating the new house, and every day that isn’t done is extremely expensive, and I don’t want to kill myself. So next episode is essays, and Ch 102 will air 8/20. :)

(Anglophysics) Production Notes

I’m still mega-busy, so brief production notes today.

(And if you’re wondering why, I purchased a house. I got a steep discount due to the fact that the previous owner had smoked in it for 20+ years. Figured some cleaning, some painting, new carpets, shouldn’t take THAT long. But everything is a bit longer than I thought, and more importantly – new things I didn’t anticipate keep cropping up. DAMN YOU, PLANNING FALLACY! /shakes fist So this project has kinda taken over my entire life.)

Things I Thought Were Annoying: Having to re-record every single line with the name “Lachlan” in it in the first episode, because I found out I had mispronounced it a few days before it went live, and then having to splice them all in. /grumble

Things I Found Out Are ACTUALLY Annoying: Having to re-record the entire friggin’ second episosde because when I was done recording it the first time I clicked “Save” and my computer thought it would rather hard-crash than save. /killmenow

Things I Was Surprised By: When trying to make the water sound-effects go from above-surface to below-surface I wasn’t sure what to do and started playing around with the effects options. Almost the first thing I tried worked (literally – it was the second thing I tried). An extremely simple low-pass filter gives you that trademark Murky Underwater sound. Which immediately made me suspicious. Maybe being underwater sounds like that *because*it’s an easy effect to do, so it’s used a lot, and we associate that sound with being underwater. Does being underwater actually sound like that IRL? Now I have to go a swimming pool and test. It’s entirely possible that water acts as a great low-pass filter IRL, but I got my suspicious-eyes on you, Hollywood!