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Blog of the Black Knight

Oh that's not good

I was about to post this story on the Choking Hazard Podcast in the comment section, but it is so dear to my heart that I figured I would post it on my own web page first, just as proof of originality and ownership. This was posted May 1, 2020, but happened some 25 years earlier.

Pittston, PA. Summer of 1995.

I was working as a contract design engineer at Techneglas. The plant made TV screens—twenty two million screens a year. Almost every TV in the store had a screen made in Pittston.

The plant was massive. Over a third of a mile long, it included three massive furnaces several stories high to melt raw and recycled materials into glass. These only lasted seven years because the bricks were part of the glass formula. Eventually the molten glass would wear through the walls, and before that happened, the furnace needed to be torn down and rebuild. And while you're doing that, you might as well rebuild everything.

In the summer of '95 I was working night shift on the “B” shop rebuild. We were in the tear down mode, and I was point out some equipment to a coworker that had to be removed by morning. In mid sentence I stopped what I was saying, and said “Oh that's not good”

About thirty or so feet in front of us was a control room. As near as I could tell, the Death Star had just exploded in it.

Blue sparks poured from every crevice around the door. All the lighting in “B” and “A” shops went out and were replaced by emergency lights. Smoke followed the sparks.

We ran as fast as we could, and I got to the door first. I remember thinking I was too young to see what I was about to see. I expected carnage...death. But I took deep breath and ripped open the door.

What greeted me was a scene out of a Roadrunner cartoon.

Two electricians were standing in front of a smoking electrical disconnect. Their shirts were smoking. They were both standing with their jaws dropped. Not moving at all.

I grabbed the closest one by the arm and pulled him out of the smoke. My coworker grabbed the other one. I immediately asked, “What the F*** did you do?”

In retrospect, this was not a particularly sensitive first question. “Are you all right?” would have been better. But their arms were all in the right place, and I was young.

The second electrician explained. The first electrician—the one I had pulled out—had just had an argument with the shop steward, as he was the union rep and they had come to some disagreement.

He was so annoyed at whatever was going on, he opened a three phase, 480 volt electrical disconnect, and proceeded to disconnect one of the legs.

He said the words, “You know I never checked to see if that was...” and before he could say “live” the wire touched the case.

You could see where it touched the case, because the steel was melted.

If that wasn't enough of a hint, there were three black triangles burned into the wall, that looked just like the blaster marks from the first battle in the original star wars.

The lugs in the disconnect had all snapped off from the violence of the electromagnetic cataclysm that had happened in that box.

When we found and woke up the plant night shift electrician (who was totally unmoved by the whole thing, except for the fact that we had disturbed his nap) we ended up walking around the plant for I forget how long finding blown breakers. Eventually we had to go to the main transformers, where the 1000 amp lightning arresters were tripped.

The power outage (or power cut , if that is the British way of putting it) shut down three production lines as well as all the power in the area where the rebuild was happening.

But before that, after about 10 minutes after the explosion, the electrician who had forgotten to take the electrical power tester out of his top pocket before unleashing a potentially deadly blast of electricity, finally said something.

“OK...I can see now.”

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Last Updated (Friday, 01 May 2020 15:50)

 

Why is Fallout 76 SO Bad? First the Conspiracy Theory, Then the Likely Truth

I think we can all agree that Fallout 76 is not what we hoped a Fallout game to be. We expected some bugs. Bethesda games always have bugs. But they always have bugs because they are so vast in scope and content that finding every problem would be an impossibility. The games themselves are usually so charming we just don't care.

'76 is different. It's genuinely difficult to enjoy. At least that's my experience with it. Your mileage may vary.

I have a neat little conspiracy theory as to why this might be. It has no basis in reality, but we can have fun with it.

There's company called Providence Equity Partners that has invested nearly a half billion dollars in ZeniMax, the company that owns Bethesda Software.

This started back in 2007. So we have a dozen or so years where Bethesda has probably been pressed harder and harder for more and more profits. They're making incredible games, and almost certainly a bunch of money, but who knows what is considered enough.

So some group of people at Bethesda hatch a plan. “Let's promise everyone the world with the next Fallout game, and then lose so much money that P.E.P. divests themselves from us. Then we'll be our own masters again and can go back to making very good if very buggy games.”

And so Bethesda stacks disaster upon disaster. They launch a barley functioning game with engaging content. They give out crappy bags. They delay actual good content and launch a premium update that is even more broken than the game itself.

Oh and the plastic rum bottles; we can't forget the plastic rum bottles.

At this point, it almost looks like they're hoping to be fired so they can start up their own game company, free from the pressures they are currently under. It's hard to imagine this level of failure isn't deliberate.

I'm kidding, of course. It's always easier to assume sabotage when the reality is so much worse. I'm guessing the pressure from P.E.P. is a factor in the disaster we call Fallout 76, but I've no proof of that. Perhaps they're a bunch of easy going folks who just loved the same games we loved and wanted to be part of that.

Plus Mel Brooks has already taught us what happens when you try to produce a flop.

I wonder if the reality is, nothing has changed at Bethesda. They're quality control was always spotty, but it was enough for older games that weren't as complicated. Now they've got to step up their game for something as big as '76, and they don't know how. What was good enough just isn't now.

The conspiracy theory is more fun, but the truth is probably much more mundane. Isn't that how it always goes?

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Last Updated (Sunday, 27 October 2019 11:56)

 

Hey,Long Time No See!

It's been a while since I've posted an update. I've really been focused on the YouTube Channel, in a desperate pursuit to get the thousand subscribers I need to get my monitization back. So far I'm at 609, and I'm very thankful to everyone who has subscribed.

I am, however, very cognizant that I have over a thousand videos that direct people to this website, and I haven't done anything with it in forever. It's time for a shift in effort.

Right now I've got Fallout 4 videos scheduled once a week—on Fallout Fridays—until March 2020. I've got Win On Sunday (racing videos), TF2 Tuesday, and Spaced Out Saturdays (a mix of space games) scheduled through mid December or Early January.

I've got my CEO in pajamas (GTA videos) scheduled on Mondays through Veteran's day, but I've got enough ready to upload to get me to May, so we should be good there.

The practical upshot is, I can take a break from gaming and you won't be able to tell as far as YouTube is concerned.

I do miss writing, both in the short form of blog posts and the book that I've pretty much let languish since the editor told me it was great, but I had to change it from 3rd person viewpoint to 1st. (Oh Issac Asmiov, you've led me astray.)

So my plan is to get more posts up here, and on my other blogs at TalesOfTheBlackKnight.com and ShutaMultimedia.com.

I don't have a regular schedule planned for this—which is what you should do with a blog—but I will try to post whenever I have something interesting or useful to say.

And on that note, I'm going to get started on the next post, which I think meets both those criterion.

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Last Updated (Sunday, 27 October 2019 11:12)

 

Splashin' With Compassion 2017: Shuta Multimedia Vlog Episode 162

This isn't gaming related, but we're talking people jumping into ice water in winter. How can that not be cool? (Pun intended.)


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For the fourth year the Friends of Shannon Mcdonough have held Splashin' with Compassion. Held at Montage Mountain, this polar plunge raised over $10,000 for young adults with Cancer.

It's an amazing event run by amazing people, and a great time was had by all!!! Yes, even bythose who leaped into the icy water. And by icy I'm not kidding. It was right around 32F out, with a wind chill of 25F and flurries from time to time.

We're talking cold here folks!

List of those who took the plunge:

  • Just the Two of Us
  • Wishing on a Cure
  • Casandra, Steve, Brent, Bob, Jim, Chelar, Joannie, Kara, Kristine, Nicole and Sue
  • Clare, The Chickens, Capsizer, Uncle Pat and Friends
  • Team Rempeladi
  • Mari, Bob, A shark, and two guys
  • Debbie, Jeff, Another Shark, and a couple
  • No name, but it was for her birthday
  • Bob, FOSM, and Jack
  • Kanya and Kaylee
  • Spices
  • a couple of guys, a guy in a suit coat, a girl with fairy wings, and a girl in a pink bikini
  • Team Keys
  • Corey
  • Team Hooters

Note: I only had the vlog to go by, as something happened to the written list of participants. So this list is really sketchy. Next year I'm going to photograph the list used by the D.J.

Facebook Album:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/Shuta-Multimedia-177752017621/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10154940848162622

For more information:

http://www.friendsofshannonmcdonough.com/


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Last Updated (Sunday, 05 March 2017 20:54)

 

When Last We Left the Tales of the Black Knight

When last we left the “Tales of the Black Knight,” the first book was going to be subtitled “The Orphan’s Search” and I was in the process of shopping it around to editors and agents. I found an agent who, while she didn’t deal with sci-fi, had a boss who did. She gave me some very excellent feedback about what needed to change before she would pass my work along to that agent.

One of the things that was requested was changing the perspective to first person, which involved a lot of re-writing. By this point I had been working on it for about 8 years. I realized I wasn’t particularly happy with the last few re-writes—especially the last one, in which I tried to incorporate everything I’d picked up at the last writer’s conference in a hurry. Some of the mistakes that got to the agent made it obvious I could no longer read the book I had written. I needed to step back.

So I took a break. The book was frozen in my mind like ice, and I had to let it melt so I could work with it again.

Now I’m ready to start in earnest, with potentially bigger changes than the perspective shift. For instance:

  • Fewer characters: The book as it stands has a lot of characters, some of which I began to realize might be redundant with each other. Is there anything the Preacher does that the Black Knight couldn’t do? What about the Whisper and Mischief? Whisper is an older character, actually an adaptation of a character I created when I was doing Microsoft Freelancer fan fiction. But Mischief is a much more interesting character, and again, she can do anything Whisper can. It would require major changes to the plot, but I think less might be more.
  • Lose the nicknames, change the title: I’m a huge fan of the DC universe. Everyone has an alias there. Bruce Wayne is Batman, Clark Kent is Superman, Edward Nygma is the Riddler, etc. And they each behave differently depending on which persona they were using at the time. Batman is really only himself as Batman—Bruce Wayne is a fake persona where he tries to look incompetent. This was my plan for the mercenaries in my book. “The Black Knight” is a persona that Joe Zam uses to do things he wouldn’t normally do. Think of it as “mental armor.” But, so far, switching between names seems to be confusing the readers, so I’m not pulling it off effectively enough. The good news is “Joe Zam” is a perfectly good name for a space mercenary, and “The Zam Chronicles” works well as a title—I think. I will probably leave “The Black Knight” as a call sign, but it will be more of a minor detail. When you read Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger books, Joe Ledger is Joe Ledger—“Cowboy” is his call sign, but it gets used sparingly. Come to think of it, in the same books the rest of Echo Team goes almost exclusively by call signs, so perhaps that’s a structure I can steal from him. (It’s his own fault for stressing the usefulness of deconstructing successful novels to teach yourself to write—and then writing amazing novels.) For the record, I’m not stealing the Joe part—Joe Zam was the shortened version of my Grandfather’s name that he used when selling cars. It was way easier for customers to remember. God rest him, he was an amazing guy that I miss pretty much every day. (So there’s a bit of backstory for you.)
  • More advanced technology: Today I read a story that Duke University created a computer out of rat brains. Most of the stuff I've been planning on including-- neural interfaces, nanotechnology used for human biology, robot cars, etc--is looking like it will happen sooner than later. I've got to start thinking further outside the box.
  • Bleaker setting? : I’m on the fence with this one. Not only do I believe in miracles, I count on them. I lived through the cold war when we were facing nuclear annihilation on a daily basis, and by some miracle we did not get annihilated. When I started writing this book, it was about five years after the fall of the towers. When the towers fell I said that we’d be at war for the next twenty years—perhaps thirty. Things seemed to be working on that timeline. The major powers weren’t crazy enough to start a major war, and the minor powers had no chance of getting enough power to start a major war. So when I wrote massive wars into the history of the book, they were in space. Corporate warfare was the pathway to destruction. And that will stay in the book.
    But now I look at the current state of affairs with dismay:
    • In the Middle East, ISIL is currently burning, beheading and drowning every Christian they can find. Meanwhile Iran is getting closer and closer to nuclear weapons, while Israel may no longer feel any pressure to avoid using force to slow this process down.
    • Former Easter block NATO members are calling for heavy weapons to be set in place because a resurgent Russian is expanding into Ukraine and possibly beyond.
    • China is building artificial islands—think about the commitment required here—to expand its influence further into the oceans. Oh and they’re covering those islands with artillery.

    So what happens next?

    That’s the question I have to answer. I’m creating my own universe for this book, so I don’t have to accurately predict the next few decades for it to be believable. But I do have to make it believable. Will my readers believe that we can get through the next three hundred years without something cataclysmic: nuclear war, a collapse of the global economy, a zombie apocalypse?

    And people are really into apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. Throwing that flavor into the pot might make the soup more popular.

    But do I want to be one more voice warning/predicting of a cataclysm? Do we need another voice of warning or—what I prefer to be to be honest—another voice of optimism? It’s not like we haven’t been close to the edge before. I grew up wondering if the bombs would fall, and by probably many, many miracles they never did. So it’s not like were doomed to destruction. We’re just at a particularly interesting point in history.

    What path serves the story in the best way? Would it be better not to jump on the post-apocalyptic bandwagon so late in the ride? Or will this be the popular trend for the next few decades?

These are just some of the things I’m considering as I go forward. I think I’ve got as much reading to do as I do writing. But I’m going to take my time with it. I think before this I started rushing the process trying to get published. Once it was obviously impossible to accomplish within a certain time-line, I lost some of my motivation.

I’ve got to go back to where writing is a fun thing that I want to do all the time.

I think I’m moving in the right direction.

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Last Updated (Wednesday, 15 July 2015 03:58)

 
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