Several New Voices

There have been several new voices added recently. You already heard half of them in chapters 88 and 89, but there are a few that only appear in previously published episodes, so I thought I’d list them as well.

Paula Rizzuto, in addition to Prof Trelawney, is also now the voice of Prof Sprout

Stephan Wäldchen has lent us his voice for the part of Terry Boot

Anaea Lay now plays the part of Rienne Felthorne

Thank you to everyone who has contributed, the full credits page is here. If you’d like to have your voice added to the podcast there are still some minor roles available, see the submissions page for more.

89 – Time Pressure, Part 2

The third most perfect killing machine in all nature

Notice: The Machine Intelligence Research Institute, Eliezer’s employer, is in a funding drive. Until Aug 15th, all donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $200,000. Donate here.

Original Text

Background Music: Trevor Jones – You Have the Power

SFX: Fire, Hermione Drop, Troll Fall, Head Explody, RunningSword Dropped, Regeneration, ThumpBones Crack, Various Different Troll Calls, All Sorts of Battle Sounds  I Can’t List Them All, Phoenix Croon

(89) Production Notes

One of the best death scenes I remember seeing is the entire Buffy: The Vampire Slayer episode “The Body”. (Joss Whedon is extremely good at doing meaningful death in general). Throughout the episode the camera frequently lingers off-center, missing part of the main action in a good representation of shocked tunnel-vision. The camera often isn’t stabilized. There are long silences, and there is basically no soundtrack. This is all works very well to make the viewer feel dissociation and discomfort. The final fight scene in the episode, without the danger music in the background we’re accustomed to, was very disorienting. I wanted to do something like.

I don’t really think I got it. The music was put in to contrast with the silence that followed it, but that doesn’t really work when you haven’t established a tradition of background music. The silence did not break the listener’s expectations, because a single episode isn’t long enough to build that subconscious level of expectation. I almost stripped out the music when I listened and realized that. But… well… the music really did go pretty well with the action on stage. It didn’t do what I wanted, but it still made it better. So it stayed in. After Hermione’s death I got rid of nearly all the sound FX, including the page-flips that normally denote a page break. I also cut most of the outro, and the exit music. I don’t think it was quite enough, but it was something.

Of course all the emotional impact actually comes from Eliezer’s excellent writing of her death. At most I can try to make the audio environment match that a little bit. I hope I didn’t detract from the scene.


For those who are/were interested, the Immortality Panel went well. The video is here, my thoughts afterwards are here.

I’m appearing at FTBCon – details

cropped-ftbconscienceI will be participating in a panel at FTBCon on Sunday. FTBCon (Free Thought Blogs) is an all-online convention, a chance for a lot of people to get together and hangout while listening to people talk about atheist and skeptic issues. I proposed a panel on whether human immortality is a good thing or a bad idea  in principle when Myers first asked for submissions, and a few hours later I had managed to fall into this. :) I’ll be speaking withDavid BrinPZ Myers, and Eliezer Yudkowsky, which is amazing as they’re all on a level significantly above mine. I guess there’s some advantages to moving quickly and organizing things. Anyone who’s seen any of these people speak before knows that this is going to be extremely cool, and very thought-provoking.

The panel will taking place over Google+ on Sunday, July 21st, at 12:00noon Pacific Time (GMT -7). To watch, go to PZ’s page here, it’ll start streaming at the appointed time. You can chat with other people (and submit questions to the moderators) right here. Afterwards the recording will be put on YouTube, I’ll post a link when it becomes available.

The full schedule of all FTBCon sessions is here. Wouldn’t ya know it, I’m on at the same time as the Atheists in Pop Culture panel, with Rebecca Watson. Curse the timing!

(88) Production Notes

Woo, this was a high-stress episode to make. Previous to this, all voice actors had months of notice that I would need to borrow their talents, and I had all the lines I needed already waiting for me when I was editing the episode together. With this chapter I was calling or emailing people on Sunday asking if they could get lines to me within 7 or 8 days, hoping they were available and scrambling to get out to those who live near me. I had to edit together the chapter with blank spots left in for voices to be inserted later – two of them being dropped in Tuesday afternoon. It was nuts, but everyone came through, and we have a brand-new episode out today! Heck, I even have several new voices! Thank you all!

And OMG, can you believe I got Jay Novella to do Argus Filch? Hellz yes!!

Also, as mentioned on the show, I will be participating in FTBCon, on a panel with David Brin, PZ Myers, and Eliezer Yudkowsky discussing whether human immortality is a good thing or a bad idea in principle. It’ll be broadcast live over Google+ and YouTube on Sunday July 21 at 12:00noon Pacific Time.

I also thought I’d post what Eliezer said about chapter 88 on his Facebook feed:

The cognitive skill taught in Ch. 88 is the insight that I call ‘wasted motion’. If you read Ch. 88 closely, a ‘Tick’ does not occur just because time passes. It occurs after each of Harry’s thoughts (or actions) that predictably do not contribute to [resolving the issue successfully].

For more general example, if you want to solve a problem, then after you’ve solved it, any emotional fretting you did about whether you could solve it will have been a wasted motion in retrospect – those thoughts will predictably not have contributed to reaching the goal in hindsight.

“But if I’m genuinely not sure if I can solve a problem, the value of information about whether I can solve it is high, if the cost of trying and failing is non-negligible!” True, though this depends on the existence of branches where you don’t solve the problem, which isn’t very heroic epistemology. The value of information about the exact level of effort required is even higher, and if it leads you to put in the correct level of effort, that will not have been a wasted motion in retrospect – heroic epistemology certainly allows for possible worlds in which higher levels of effort were required.

But regardless of this sort of obvious theoretical objection, *in practice* you would still be very well advised to fix in your mind the scenario where your goal has been achieved, and ask whether a thought will predictably not have contributed to getting there in retrospect. In a mind which has not practiced detecting wasted motions, there will be many, many wasted motions; so ignore the theoretical objections and just do it for a while.