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FCA Updates Forex Broker Scam List
FCA Targets More Forex & Binary Brokers
The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) finally got around to updating its list of unregulated online trading brokers. This list includes both forex and binary options unregulated brokers. Despite the fact, these brokers supposedly offer numerous services they are located in financial havens such as Seychelles, the Marshall Islands or Vanuatu and provide little to no information as to who they really are, and which parent company operates them. So, without further ado let’s introduce these fraudulent companies
Owned by LOK Marketing Ltd, this forex broker is supposedly located in Vanuatu, a tax haven for any illicit business. Apparently, SolidCFD appears to be forging a path for current forex brokers and others that would like to set up shop in the country, whose major exports are frozen fish and distinct floating edifices. However, upon further inspection, the SolidCFD has two other offices registered on their website. The first is under the name MGNC Marketing Ltd. and it is located in Cyprus. A quick google search tells us all that we need to know. MGNC Marketing LTD (Solid CFD) cold-calls potential investors and offers them unauthorized or prohibited financial services. An additional address is attributed to an area in West London. However, upon further review, there is no real company located there. Unsurprisingly no company is registered in the UK under SolidCFD, LOK marketing or MGNC Marketing, which implies that the broker has no physical presence in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, there is a whole list of negative reviews pertaining to SolidCFD. This includes clients being unable to withdraw their funds, aggressive salesmen and not being able to log back into an account once a withdrawal request is made.
Registered in the Marshal Islands, the company supposedly has an office in North London. However, the address that is provided is used by a company that enables other companies to register their business under their address. This obviously implies that StratX has no workers at its given address. Just by merely glancing at a few of the reviews tells you that StratX Markets is operated by a bunch of con-artists. In fact what is more alarming, a number of former clients are claiming that StratX personnel are operating a fraudulent fund recovery company called Linrow Clarion Solvency that claims they can recover money that was lost to illegitimate brokers like Stratx Markets.
Options Stars Global
Last but not least this “broker” is registered in Samoa, but apparently has some sort of a branch in Cyprus that is regulated by CySEC. That is patently false. Additionally, although the website has a U.K. phone number none of their of operations occur in the country. Not only Are there plenty of negative reviews about them, there is a dedicated Facebook page against them Users of the website report an inability to withdraw funds, threatening salesmen, and pushy brokers who tempt traders into depositing more cash into their accounts. The company has done so badly they even have a Facebook page against them.
If you have fallen victim to a cryptocurrency scam, send a complaint to at [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]), and we will do our very best to get into contact with you as soon as we can to initiate your funds recovery process.
Wall Street Week Ahead for the trading week beginning June 29th, 2020
Good Saturday afternoon to all of you here on StockMarket. I hope everyone on this sub made out pretty nicely in the market this past week, and is ready for the new trading week ahead. Here is everything you need to know to get you ready for the trading week beginning June 29th, 2020.
Fragile economic recovery faces first big test with June jobs report in the week ahead - (Source)
The second half of 2020 is nearly here, and now it’s up to the economy to prove that the stock market was right about a sharp comeback in growth. The first big test will be the June jobs report, out on Thursday instead of its usual Friday release due to the July 4 holiday. According to Refinitiv, economists expect 3 million jobs were created, after May’s surprise gain of 2.5 million payrolls beat forecasts by a whopping 10 million jobs. “If it’s stronger, it will suggest that the improvement is quicker, and that’s kind of what we saw in May with better retail sales, confidence was coming back a little and auto sales were better,” said Kevin Cummins, chief U.S. economist at NatWest Markets. The second quarter winds down in the week ahead as investors are hopeful about the recovery but warily eyeing rising cases of Covid-19 in a number of states. Stocks were lower for the week, as markets reacted to rising cases in Texas, Florida and other states. Investors worry about the threat to the economic rebound as those states move to curb some activities. The S&P 500 is up more than 16% so far for the second quarter, and it is down nearly 7% for the year. Friday’s losses wiped out the last of the index’s June gains. “I think the stock market is looking beyond the valley. It is expecting a V-shaped economic recovery and a solid 2021 earnings picture,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. He expects large-cap company earnings to be up 30% next year, and small-cap profits to bounce back by 140%. “I think the second half needs to be a ‘show me’ period, proving that our optimism was justified, and we’ll need to see continued improvement in the economic data, and I think we need to see upward revisions to earnings estimates,” Stovall said. Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, said she expects the recovery will not be as smooth as some expect, particularly considering the resurgence of virus outbreaks in sunbelt states and California. “Now as I watch what’s happening I think it’s more likely to be rolling Ws,” rather than a V, she said. “It’s not just predicated on a second wave. I’m not sure we ever exited the first wave.” Even without actual state shutdowns, the virus could slow economic activity. “That doesn’t mean businesses won’t shut themselves down, or consumers won’t back down more,” she said.
In the second half of the year, the market should turn its attention to the election, but Sonders does not expect much reaction to it until after Labor Day. RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Democrat Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump by 10 percentage points, and the odds of a Democratic sweep have been rising. Biden has said he would raise corporate taxes, and some strategists say a sweep would be bad for business, due to increased regulation and higher taxes. Trump is expected to continue using tariffs, which unsettles the market, though both candidates are expected to take a tough stance on China. “If it looks like the Senate stays Republican than there’s less to worry about in terms of policy changes,” Sonders said. “I don’t think it’s ever as binary as some people think.” Stovall said a quick study shows that in the four presidential election years back to 1960, where the first quarter was negative, and the second quarter positive, stocks made gains in the second half. Those were 1960 when John Kennedy took office, 1968, when Richard Nixon won; 1980 when Ronald Reagan’s was elected to his first term; and 1992, the first win by Bill Clinton. Coincidentally, in all of those years, the opposing party gained control of the White House.
The stocks market’s strong second-quarter showing came after the Fed and Congress moved quickly to inject the economy with trillions in stimulus. That unlocked credit markets and triggered a stampede by companies to restructure or issue debt. About $2 trillion in fiscal spending was aimed at consumers and businesses, who were in sudden need of cash after the abrupt shutdown of the economy. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin both testify before the House Financial Services Committee Tuesday on the response to the virus. That will be important as markets look ahead to another fiscal package from Congress this summer, which is expected to provide aid to states and local governments; extend some enhanced benefits for unemployment, and provide more support for businesses. “So much of it is still so fluid. There are a bunch of fiscal items that are rolling off. There’s talk about another fiscal stimulus payment like they did last time with a $1,200 check,” said Cummins. Strategists expect Congress to bicker about the size and content of the stimulus package but ultimately come to an agreement before enhanced unemployment benefits run out at the end of July. Cummins said state budgets begin a new year July 1, and states with a critical need for funds may have to start letting workers go, as they cut expenses. The Trump administration has indicated the jobs report Thursday could help shape the fiscal package, depending on what it shows. The federal supplement to state unemployment benefits has been $600 a week, but there is opposition to extending that, and strategists expect it to be at least cut in half. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 12.2% from 13.3% in May. Cummins said he had expected 7.2 million jobs, well above the consensus, and an unemployment rate of 11.8%. As of last week, nearly 20 million people were collecting state unemployment benefits, and millions more were collecting under a federal pandemic aid program. “The magnitude here and whether it’s 3 million or 7 million is kind of hard to handicap to begin with,” Cummins said. Economists have preferred to look at unemployment claims as a better real time read of employment, but they now say those numbers could be impacted by slow reporting or double filing. “There’s no clarity on how you define the unemployed in the Covid 19 environment,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank. “If there’s 30 million people receiving insurance, unemployment should be above 20%.
This past week saw the following moves in the S&P:
The economy is moving in the right direction, as many economic data points are coming in substantially better than what the economists expected. From May job gains coming in more than 10 million higher than expected and retail sales soaring a record 18%, how quickly the economy is bouncing back has surprised nearly everyone. “As good as the recent economic data has been, we want to make it clear, it could still take years for the economy to fully come back,” explained LPL Financial Senior Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “Think of it like building a house. You get all the big stuff done early, then some of the small things take so much longer to finish; I’m looking at you crown molding.” Here’s the hard truth; it might take years for all of the jobs that were lost to fully recover. In fact, during the 10 recessions since 1950, it took an average of 30 months for lost jobs to finally come back. As the LPL Chart of the Day shows, recoveries have taken much longer lately. In fact, it took four years for the jobs lost during the tech bubble recession of the early 2000s to come back and more than six years for all the jobs lost to come back after the Great Recession. Given many more jobs were lost during this recession, it could takes many years before all of them indeed come back.
The economy is going the right direction, and if there is no major second wave outbreak it could surprise to the upside. Importantly, this economic recovery will still be a long and bumpy road.
Nasdaq - Russell Spread Pulling the Rubber Band Tight
The Nasdaq has been outperforming every other US-based equity index over the last year, and nowhere has the disparity been wider than with small caps. The chart below compares the performance of the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 over the last 12 months. While the performance disparity is wide now, through last summer, the two indices were tracking each other nearly step for step. Then last fall, the Nasdaq started to steadily pull ahead before really separating itself in the bounce off the March lows. Just to illustrate how wide the gap between the two indices has become, over the last six months, the Nasdaq is up 11.9% compared to a decline of 15.8% for the Russell 2000. That's wide!
In order to put the recent performance disparity between the two indices into perspective, the chart below shows the rolling six-month performance spread between the two indices going back to 1980. With a current spread of 27.7 percentage points, the gap between the two indices hasn't been this wide since the days of the dot-com boom. Back in February 2000, the spread between the two indices widened out to more than 50 percentage points. Not only was that period extreme, but ten months before that extreme reading, the spread also widened out to more than 51 percentage points. The current spread is wide, but with two separate periods in 1999 and 2000 where the performance gap between the two indices was nearly double the current level, that was a period where the Nasdaq REALLY outperformed small caps.
To illustrate the magnitude of the Nasdaq's outperformance over the Russell 2000 from late 1998 through early 2000, the chart below shows the performance of the two indices beginning in October 1998. From that point right on through March of 2000 when the Nasdaq peaked, the Nasdaq rallied more than 200% compared to the Russell 2000 which was up a relatively meager 64%. In any other environment, a 64% gain in less than a year and a half would be excellent, but when it was under the shadow of the surging Nasdaq, it seemed like a pittance.
The US equity market made its most recent peak on June 8th. From the March 23rd low through June 8th, the average stock in the large-cap Russell 1,000 was up more than 65%! Since June 8th, the average stock in the index is down more than 11%. Below we have broken the index into deciles (10 groups of 100 stocks each) based on simple share price as of June 8th. Decile 1 (marked "Highest" in the chart) contains the 10% of stocks with the highest share prices. Decile 10 (marked "Lowest" in the chart) contains the 10% of stocks with the lowest share prices. As shown, the highest priced decile of stocks are down an average of just 4.8% since June 8th, while the lowest priced decile of stocks are down an average of 21.5%. It's pretty remarkable how performance gets weaker and weaker the lower the share price gets.
It's hard to believe that sentiment can change so fast in the market that one day investors and traders are bidding up stocks to record highs, but then the next day sell them so much that it takes the market down over 2%. That's exactly what happened not only in the last two days but also two weeks ago. While the 5% pullback from a record high back on June 10th took the Nasdaq back below its February high, this time around, the Nasdaq has been able to hold above those February highs.
In the entire history of the Nasdaq, there have only been 12 periods prior to this week where the Nasdaq closed at an all-time high on one day but dropped more than 2% the next day. Those occurrences are highlighted in the table below along with the index's performance over the following week, month, three months, six months, and one year. We have also highlighted each occurrence that followed a prior one by less than three months in gray. What immediately stands out in the table is how much gray shading there is. In other words, these types of events tend to happen in bunches, and if you count the original occurrence in each of the bunches, the only two occurrences that didn't come within three months of another occurrence (either before or after) were July 1986 and May 2017. In terms of market performance following prior occurrences, the Nasdaq's average and median returns were generally below average, but there is a pretty big caveat. While the average one-year performance was a gain of 1.0% and a decline of 23.6% on a median basis, the six occurrences that came between December 1999 and March 2000 all essentially cover the same period (which was very bad) and skew the results. Likewise, the three occurrences in the two-month stretch from late November 1998 through January 1999 where the Nasdaq saw strong gains also involves a degree of double-counting. As a result of these performances at either end of the extreme, it's hard to draw any trends from the prior occurrences except to say that they are typically followed by big moves in either direction. The only time the Nasdaq wasn't either 20% higher or lower one year later was in 1986.
In the mid-1980s the market began to evolve into a tech-driven market and the market’s focus in early summer shifted to the outlook for second quarter earnings of technology companies. Over the last three trading days of June and the first nine trading days in July, NASDAQ typically enjoys a rally. This 12-day run has been up 27 of the past 35 years with an average historical gain of 2.5%. This year the rally may have begun a day early, today and could last until on or around July 14. After the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, NASDAQ’s mid-year rally had a spotty track record from 2002 until 2009 with three appearances and five no-shows in those years. However, it has been quite solid over the last ten years, up nine times with a single mild 0.1% loss in 2015. Last year, NASDAQ advanced a solid 4.6% during the 12-day span.
Tech Historically Leads Market Higher Until Q3 of Election Years
As of yesterday’s close DJIA was down 8.8% year-to-date. S&P 500 was down 3.5% and NASDAQ was up 12.1%. Compared to the typical election year, DJIA and S&P 500 are below historical average performance while NASDAQ is above average. However this year has not been a typical election year. Due to the covid-19, the market suffered the damage of the shortest bear market on record and a new bull market all before the first half of the year has come to an end. In the surrounding Seasonal Patten Charts of DJIA, S&P 500 and NASDAQ, we compare 2020 (as of yesterday’s close) to All Years and Election Years. This year’s performance has been plotted on the right vertical axis in each chart. This year certainly has been unlike any other however some notable observations can be made. For DJIA and S&P 500, January, February and approximately half of March have historically been weak, on average, in election years. This year the bear market ended on March 23. Following those past weak starts, DJIA and S&P 500 historically enjoyed strength lasting into September before experiencing any significant pullback followed by a nice yearend rally. NASDAQ’s election year pattern differs somewhat with six fewer years of data, but it does hint to a possible late Q3 peak.
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Friday 7.3.20 Before Market Open:
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Micron Technology, Inc. $48.49
Micron Technology, Inc. (MU) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:00 PM ET on Monday, June 29, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.71 per share on revenue of $5.27 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.70 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 71% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $0.40 to $0.70 per share. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 29.00% with revenue increasing by 10.07%. Short interest has increased by 7.6% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 8.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 0.9% below its 200 day moving average of $48.94. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 11, 2020 there was some notable buying of 46,037 contracts of the $60.00 call expiring on Friday, July 17, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 8.4% move in recent quarters.
General Mills, Inc. (GIS) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.04 per share on revenue of $4.89 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.10 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 69% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 25.30% with revenue increasing by 17.50%. Short interest has decreased by 9.4% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 2.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 7.8% above its 200 day moving average of $54.91. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Wednesday, June 24, 2020 there was some notable buying of 8,573 contracts of the $60.00 call expiring on Friday, July 17, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 3.0% move in recent quarters.
FedEx Corp. (FDX) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.42 per share on revenue of $16.31 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.65 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 61% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 71.66% with revenue decreasing by 8.41%. Short interest has increased by 10.4% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 43.9% from its open following the earnings release to be 7.6% below its 200 day moving average of $140.75. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 25, 2020 there was some notable buying of 1,768 contracts of the $145.00 call expiring on Thursday, July 2, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 7.7% move in recent quarters.
Conagra Brands, Inc. (CAG) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:30 AM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.66 per share on revenue of $3.24 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.69 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 66% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 83.33% with revenue increasing by 23.99%. Short interest has decreased by 38.3% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 6.3% from its open following the earnings release to be 6.4% above its 200 day moving average of $30.68. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 11, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,239 contracts of the $29.00 put expiring on Thursday, July 2, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.7% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 10.8% move in recent quarters.
Constellation Brands, Inc. (STZ) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:30 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.91 per share on revenue of $1.97 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.12 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 53% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 13.57% with revenue decreasing by 13.69%. Short interest has increased by 20.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 25.2% from its open following the earnings release to be 5.2% below its 200 day moving average of $178.34. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Tuesday, June 9, 2020 there was some notable buying of 888 contracts of the $195.00 call expiring on Friday, October 16, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 3.1% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 5.7% move in recent quarters.
Capri Holdings Limited (CPRI) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.32 per share on revenue of $1.18 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.34 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 39% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $0.68 to $0.73 per share. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 49.21% with revenue decreasing by 12.20%. Short interest has increased by 35.1% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 56.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 44.0% below its 200 day moving average of $25.67. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 4, 2020 there was some notable buying of 11,042 contracts of the $17.50 put expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 10.8% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 6.7% move in recent quarters.
X Financial (XYF) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 5:00 PM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.09 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 25% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 55.00% with revenue increasing by 763.52%. Short interest has increased by 1.0% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 1.2% from its open following the earnings release to be 37.7% below its 200 day moving average of $1.47. Overall earnings estimates have been unchanged since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 4.9% move on earnings in recent quarters.
Acuity Brands, Inc. (AYI) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 8:40 AM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.14 per share on revenue of $809.25 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.09 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 42% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 51.90% with revenue decreasing by 14.60%. Short interest has increased by 48.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 2.4% from its open following the earnings release to be 23.4% below its 200 day moving average of $110.25. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. Option traders are pricing in a 9.2% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 8.2% move in recent quarters.
Methode Electronics, Inc. (MEI) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.77 per share on revenue of $211.39 million. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 45% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 24.19% with revenue decreasing by 20.53%. Short interest has increased by 6.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 1.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 9.0% below its 200 day moving average of $32.97. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. Option traders are pricing in a 18.4% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 8.1% move in recent quarters.
UniFirst Corporation (UNF) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 8:00 AM ET on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.17 per share on revenue of $378.28 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.25 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 44% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 52.44% with revenue decreasing by 16.63%. Short interest has decreased by 2.7% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 14.1% from its open following the earnings release to be 8.4% below its 200 day moving average of $186.14. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 7.0% move on earnings in recent quarters.
Continuing “Hello and good day, gentlemen”, I say. “I am Doctor Rocknocker. You may and will refer to me as ‘Rock’. OK? None of this ‘Doctor’ or ‘Sir’ guff. We green here?” There was a buzz of voices but no direct answers. “OK. Let’s get a few things down right here and now. (1.) Call me Rock. (b.) Answer me loudly. I will need to hear you loud and clear. Best get used to that now. (iii.) “We green?” means “Are we in agreement?” It’s a form of shorthand I use here and in the field. (⍾.) “You diggin’ me, Beaumont? means you’ve really done gone and pissed me off; you’ve done something untoward. Pray you never hear that phrase, and, (∞.) I’m the boss. The top dog. The hookin’ bull. The Maharaja here. I possess the first, final and only words you’re going to listen to for the next couple of weeks. What I say, goes. Any problem, please let me know now so we can replace you most quickly.” A gentle buzz, but no replies. “Gentlemen. Do we agree?” I ask. “Yes, Rock.” Was the reply. OK, there might be some form of a societal prohibition against making loud noises. That’s the first thing that has to go. “Gentlemen, we will be working in the great outdoors where there are wind, rain, waves, and other environmental nonsense making all sorts of unrequited noise. We need clear and proper lines of communication. I need to hear you clearly and vice-versa. When speaking, you will speak slowly, clearly, and loudly. “ “DO WE AGREE!?!” I yell, rather deafeningly. “YES, ROCK!” came the eventual reply. “Outstanding”. I ponder. Continuing… “Mr. Sanjay is my de facto second in command. If I’m out having a smoke, taking a piss, or having a snort, he’s in charge. Listen to him as if I suddenly lost 150 pounds, shaved my beard, and inexplicably become Indian.” I chuckled. They seemed to enjoy that. I actually elicited a few chuckles. “Mr. Sanjay will now distribute to you your locker boxes. You will wait until he hands you yours. Do not get up and mill around the room. We green?” I ask. “Green! Doctor Rock.” Came the noisy reply. “Progress. Marvelous.”, I reflect. “I’ll be right back. Mr. Sanjay, the room is yours.” I note. I might need to cut back on the coffee. I slope off to the loo and it’s just as horrible as you can imagine an outdoor communal shithouse in sunny India attended by 30,000 Indian gentlemen could be. Fuck COVID-19. I’m thinking hot and cold running dysentery, dengue, and death here. Ick. Glad I have a highly functioning immune system. I retrieve a shiny aluminum Halliburton™ case from Headquarters and ease off to an unused office space to change. I went from my usual field garb to full PPEs. It was quite a sight. I’ll be telling you about it in mere moments. Contain the excitement. I’m walking back to Outbuilding #2 and damned if my get-up didn’t elicit a few gasps, shielded guffaws, and a salute or two. I have to admit, to the uninitiated, I was a sight right out of Area 52, the more secret one, west by northeast of Roswell, New Mexico. I get back to the outbuilding and enter. Everyone was looking through their locker boxes, chuckling about their good fortune and wondering with Joker-like glee what the hell all these wonderful gizmos were and where did I get them? They all stopped dead in their tracks when I walked in. Their silence was palpable. “Gentlemen”, I said, “Here’s how you are going to look at work tomorrow. Revel in its utility, comfort, and extreme fashion sense.” I did a quick spin like I used to on the runway. At O’Hare when we were doing field geostatic tests. Whatever were you thinking? Anyways… I was wearing a pair of size 66-XTall NFPA 70E blaze orange Carhartt Nomex coveralls. I had on a Dax carbon-fiber blaze orange “Coal Scuttle” hardhat with swing-away hearing protection keyed into your personal communications module, and a gold-anodized, pull-down full face shield. The helmet was designed to drain away falling water down over one’s back and not down one’s neck. I had a pair of ‘wet’ gloves under the snap retainer on my left shoulder, a pair of ‘dry’ gloves on my right. I was wearing an orange CMC Safety 9-point safety and rescue harness, good to well over 1,500 pounds. Over both shoulders, around the crotch, up the front, and around the back, X-style. This popular harness features multiple D-ring attachment points and the patented JackBack removable padding with breathable D-3 cloth, which keeps shoulder straps separated and makes donning and doffing a breeze. It had several catch-points where one could easily and readily attach to the snap carabiners and get bodily dragged out of a nasty situation by rope or chain. The front waist D-ring allows a comfortable, stable sitting position for rappels and the sternum D-ring works well for helicopter or crane-assist hoists. Gear loops offer easy access to equipment, and quick-connect-disconnect shoulder straps and leg loops make the harness quick to don or doff. It could be used for impromptu spelunking on days off. I had on Size 16 EEE Gear Box 8088 Men's 8 inch Black Leather intrinsically-safe hard-toed lace-up black turned-heel leather work boots with the new self-cleaning, oil-and chemical resistant Vibram soles. They couldn’t see, but I was also wearing a cotton-Nomex blend wifebeater and boxers as well. Nomex tends to chafe. Best be safe. I had a powerful Maglite flashlight clipped to my rescue harness, as well as my mini Air Horn; a blaster’s must. I also had a mobile VHF-Commslink™ radio in a pocket on the back of my coveralls on the left shoulder. I had the microphone for it Velcro-ed to my rescue harness within easy reach. Very cop like. Very cool. Very necessary. I had a traditional Zippo and Bic Butane lighters in my right-hand chest pocket and a brace of cigars, though these were optional, in my left pocket. I carried a bespoke constructed Swiss Army Knife on a lanyard in my right front pocket and had a custom Bears Paw Leatherman hanging on the left of my rescue harness. Also clipped to the harness was a Silva orienteering compass. There was a selection of NASA write anywhere pens, Sharpies, and oil-writing chalk pencils in my other front pockets. I had an oil industry tally book in my other front pocket. Why blaze orange? Well, Red Adair already co-opted bright red, and fluorescent green wasn’t available in my size. So, we’re now ready to plant explosives in West India or go deer hunting in the Northwoods of Baja Canada. “Questions, Gentlemen?” I asked. I explained that in their locker boxes were purchase orders, POs, for every bit of kit I was wearing. They were to take these POs to the Company Store and get, well, kitted out in their own sizes and preferences. I wanted to see everyone back here tomorrow at 1300 hours looking as I do now. Well, maybe skip the cigar and be not quite so large. I sat down on the table in front of the crowd and had Sanjay bring over the demo locker box. “OK, gents,” I said, “This locker box is yours and is numbered as such. They will be stored here in Outbuilding #2. Each of you will receive a key for this building as it is now your headquarters. We’ll get back to locker boxes in a minute. Anyone need a break for a few minutes?” I asked. No one dared answer at this magical juncture in the narrative. “Well, I do”, I said, “Meet back here in twenty minutes. Sanjay?” The class wandered out and I conversed with Sanjay. We found the maps I had ordered. They were an aerial view of the breaking yard and it was split into 6 zones, all a different color. There was one master for the wall and 28 copies for the guys. I also had a log-in/log-out board made. Vertically numbered 1 to 28. There were also 7 vertical bars labeled Zone 1 through Zone 6, and one for ‘in dispose’; i.e., in Latrin-e Land. This was so I’d know where my guys were at all times. There was a hook for each one of these areas to log in, and to let anyone know where a certain person was during the day or night. You’re number 10? And you’re going to be wielding a torch over in Zone 5? Your brass tag goes right there. You’re going to skip over to Zone 3? Get your ass back here and swap it over to where you’re going. There is no excuse for being where you haven’t said you were, short of active accident or dismemberment. Everyone shuffles back in and I explain the tote board. “Notice there’s no spot to leave your brass chit if you’ve gone off the reservation?” I asked. “Why do you suppose that is?” Confused looks all around. “Because you keep that brass token with you when you’re not on the job. Lose it, lose your job. Sounds harsh, but so is getting your fucking hands blown off. Think of it as an exercise in discipline.” There was a very little rebuttal. “When you are on location, your brass token will reflect where you are. You are off-site, put the brass token in your wallet next to your lucky ‘circular impression’. There were several knowing grins in my cadets. Wear it around your neck on a chain. Keep it on your keyring. You can wrap it up in ribbons, you can slip it in your sock; I don’t care. Thing is, it is your ticket to this job. Hold on to it, there will be no replacements. We green?” “Green, Doctor!” “Outstanding.” “Now, locker boxes. Gentlemen”, I continued. “These are your personal boxes that will be archived here. They will contain everything that you will need to carry out the job initially and help you with training the next crew that comes through after I leave. Keep them neat and tidy. I like to pull unannounced locker box inspections, gentlemen. Be forewarned.” The sound of active scribbling is music to my tinny ears. “Now, as such”, I continue, “Each locker box, at this point, is identical. Please follow along with me as we do inventory: Each gets locker box will contain (as I pull out the item for identification): • 1- set Purchase Orders (POs) for PPEs • 1- Galvanometer • 2- Blaster’s pliers • 1- Custom Leatherman • 1- Metal clipboard • Various Pens, pencils, paper, etc. • 5- Sharpies • 1 copy: Blasters Protocols Handbook, 15th Edition • 1 copy: Blasting and explosives safety training manual by the IEE. • 1 copy: Theory and practice of blasting, by Hino (A classic) • 1 copy: Blasters Handbook, 17th Edition • Various Explosives catalogs • 1- Custom Swiss Army Knife • Several Butane lighters
From being PIP'd at a startup to leveling up into a FANG in four months.
When my manager sat me down in our 1:1 to deliver me the news that I was about to be put on a PIP the next week and to use the weekend to think what my next step should be, my initial reaction was to want to take it and save my job. I knew I've been in a bit of a slump, sleeping very poorly, and not outputting as much as I could have. But to be quite honest, this was a blessing in disguise. The company I've been working at wasn't doing that well to begin with. We raised a series D in just under two years of existence and my options have quintupled in value since joining, but we've had regulational troubles and the hardware team has been slipping. Our CTO was fired four months after I joined, and our new CTO promised to double our engineering headcount by the end of last year. We've maybe only added 5 people to a team of 30 instead by that point. To that end, I've had multiple manager changes within that time period: a total of five managers and six manager changes all within 12 months. As this was my first job out of college, I thought this was all normal for a startup. In addition, the pay was very low. For a new grad that didn't know better, like yours truly, that number was a lot for someone who was only ever paid hourly. But after discussing with friends that went onto working at FANGs and other, more established unicorn startups, it was abundantly clear that me and my fellow colleagues were severely underpaid. Like, over 50% lower in base salary alone underpaid for the same line of work and more stress. The work itself wasn't that great either. It was a system that had to be supported globally with different rules in different countries and with physical hardware that we had little control over. Nobody left the office before dinner was served, and seldom did people start going home after dinner was finished (well, up until recently since people stopped giving fucks). We had almost no senior engineers either, most of the work was done by fresh grads or interns from top CS schools. We maybe had only four veteran IC's, but the rest of the "senior" staff were in management. Everyone else was a new grad or junior engineer. You wouldn't find anyone that had more than two years of experience in the rest of the crowd. It's fun to be around people my age, but the work was sloppy and stressful when shit broke because you're trying to build something with little guidance and your code reviewers are other new grads that are equally as experienced as yourself. Nobody (besides maybe three people) has ever coded in the framework we used, and everyone learned the language and framework right on the job. Our only training was a link to an official guide. I'm not going to get into the company politics, but it's sufficient to say our Blind was so spicy to the point screenshots of several call-out threads were brought up in meetings and mentioned in all-hands. It was pretty bad. But going back to me getting served a PIP. My manager gave me an ultimatum: either take the PIP, or take severance and interview for another company. Over that weekend, I thought really hard about all the things I've seen and done in the past year, and quite frankly, I found that I haven't been happy at that place for a while now. It doesn't make sense to try to save a job I wasn't going to be happy at, where I get paid peanuts, and where my contributions are invisible to upper management because the longest I've had the same manager for was two and a half months. I decided to take the severance and leave. This gave me time to relax, exercise, enjoy hobbies I haven't done in months, and most importantly, spend time with family and friends I haven't been around with because of this job. Oh, I forgot to mention that the company moved headquarters halfway through my tenure and bumped my commute from 20 minutes to over an hour. I haven't touched leetcode or interview prep materials in ages since joining, so I really only hit the books about two weeks after leaving. My daily routine would be to exercise in the day, eat a protein heavy meal, and study up leetcode into the night at a 24/7 cafe. I would usually do this with a buddy or two who are freelance developers. I also kept a spreadsheet of jobs I was interested in and updated their statuses in where I was at in the process, who the point of contact was, when the interview dates are, etc. I wanted to end up at a FANG company since their offices were much closer to where I lived and the culture there would help me grow more as an engineer. My process was that I started off with companies I didn't quite care about to practice interviewing, and then build up to places I did want to end up working at. I slowly but steadily practiced coding problems, took my time to understand what the solutions were, and apply those skills onto other problems that came up. In reality, most programming problems you encounter are really just other problems in disguise, and you just need to know the fundamentals of CS to get through them. I'm sure everyone wants to know what my stats are, so here they are: 64 easy, 50 medium, 15 hard. After a few months of practice and interviewing at companies I wasn't particularly interested in, I started applying for places that actually interested me. In the end, I got two offers and was able to negotiate with a FANG company that has an office 10 minutes away from my house. I not only nearly tripled my TC, but I also got leveled up to an L4. After being stuck in L3 for almost two years with shit pay, I am glad my patience and steady progress paid off. My lessons learned in this whole experience:
It's nice to have coworkers to hang out with that are your age, but it's not good for your growth if you don't have senior engineers or good managers that you can learn from and ask questions.
Companies that say they're struggling to hire good engineers usually mean they're underpaying their engineers and end up hiring new grads with little experience who don't know any better.
You need to have a consistent manager that will actually give a shit about your growth.
When looking for a new job, don't settle for something just because it pays slightly better than what you previously had. Why knowingly put yourself in a situation you don't want to be a part of?
Be patient with the job search. New things come all the time, and set up alerts on LinkedIn for jobs in your area. Again, don't settle for something you'll regret taking.
Commute time matters. Sure, I can listen to podcasts on a train for an hour or sleep on it, but I'd rather use that time to get an extra hour of uninterrupted sleep in my own bed and be more energetic and productive for the whole day. Not to mention gain more time in the afternoon and evening to do activities with friends and family.
Know your worth. levels.fyi is a great resource to see what you should be aiming for in pay.
Blind and this subreddit will make you feel inadequate. Don't take it to heart and always focus on your own progress. But at least know what you should be aiming for and what others have experienced in interviews and in their own companies.
Leetcode's interview experiences forum is a hidden gem (in my opinion) and is a great place to learn what processes are like at various companies and how people react to their own interviews.
As for my tips for the interview prep:
Start with LC easy problems. I'm talking about two sum and fizzbuzz easy levels. These problems you should know how to solve blindfolded. Do a bunch of them, and do a couple new ones each day to warm up.
LC medium problems are the most common I've encountered in interviews. Some can be hard, and some are stupidly easy. For the harder ones, don't be discouraged if you can't solve it right off the bat. Spend maybe at most 10 minutes thinking about it, and if you're still completely lost on how to solve it, there's no shame in looking at the "discuss" tab and seeing how others have solved it. Read the code line by line, understand what each piece is doing, implement the solution yourself, and move on to similar problems. With practice, you'll learn the patterns and tricks in these problems, and maybe you'll learn a few new syntactical party tricks in your language of choice.
LC hard problems will come up, but not often. YMMV. You should practice them at least solving one hard problem per week, if not more. I've had N Queens asked on a phone screen, so you never know what will come up in interviews.
There's a curated list of 75 problems you should solve that's been circling around here and on Blind. It's a good starting point.
I was recommended to use Interview Cake. While I didn't use it daily, it is a good resource in my opinion and the step by step solutions do help with guiding your thought process.
Most of my system design solutions came from experiences I've had and a lot were creative, open-ended questions. My advice is to be likeable to the interviewer and not BS your thought process. For some reason, system design is something that comes the most natural to me, so I sadly can't give much tips for studying on it besides seeing for yourself how current systems are built. And in general, you should be likeable to the interviewer. Smile, ask them what they work on, what cool projects they've done at the company, what their work life balance is like, etc. You're interviewing for the company and you're interviewing the company for yourself. Your interviewer is judging on whether you'd be a good person to be around with for 8 hours and help contribute to solving their problems, and you're judging whether the company you're interviewing for will make you enjoy yourself being there. Everyone's experience is unique and certainly not as relaxed as mine. I thankfully had enough savings to last me almost a whole year without a job, but I realize others might not be fortunate enough to have that luxury. It'll be hard, but worth it to study up in the evenings and then take days off to go to onsites. In the end, what matters most is your sanity and happiness. Tl;dr: job sucked, I got PIP'd, quit, took time off, studied, interviewed, and accepted a FANG offer that tripled my pay in four months.
Dear British friends,... (a rant from the continent)
This is an overly long opinion piece and a kinda vicious rant. But I have to get this off my chest because at this point in time I am lost for words to describe the incredible thing that is Brexit, therefore I'm interested in the opinion of British and other non-British people. For a couple of months now I've been watching in awe several times a month how the House of Commons, your parliament, the elected representatives of the British people, have taken up the shovel and started digging. It is a strange and surreal experience, like standing next to burning orphanage: It is horrible but I can't stop watching. Mere days ago HoC voted down every single proposal to at least mitigate some of the damage and there has not been any outburst of common sense, a thing the British always were famous for, since. To be blunt, for me it was the straw that broke the camels back. I am a German and I don't know whether my views reflect a majority or minority. I'm an engineer in the chemical industry and I have travelled to Britain often during the last 15 years. I strolled trough the countryside, I visited the big cities, I have been surprised about the excellent restaurants even in places I'd never have expected (namely the "Old School Restaurant" on the Isle of Skye. If you are there, have yourself a treat and pay it a visit!). I have met a lot of wonderful people during my visits to Britain, both on holiday and on business travels. I like Britain. A lot. And therefore it is hard to see her leave EU. To me Brexit came not so much as a shock but as a situation forcing a decision on my part too. It is sad to be left by and have to abandon you as an EU member, but it won't break my heart and in their current state neither the government nor parliament, nor the people of the UK look as if they could contribute to the EU in any meaningful way. Every single person I know thinks and most newspapers state about the offical stance of your government that it relfects a situation in which both the people as a whole and the government of the UK either don't know what can realistically be achieved or don't know what they really want at all. All polls show significant support for either side with still only relatively narrow majorities. HoC sessions during the last weeks embody this problem. It is the most undesireable state of affairs in the current situation. Regardless of your future relationship with the EU, roughly half your population will be deeply unhappy. There is no unequivocal Will Of The People. The blame game has already begun and since a huge part of your population has been swallowing untrue or at least grossly exaggerated anti-EU-crap for decades I have no hope that a significant portion of those will see through the lies. I fully expect roughly half the British to blame EU for the shitshow Brexit their government put together. If fully expect HoC to reflect that blame. And therefore in my opinion in the long run it is best for EU if UK is out as quickly as possible (but prefarble when EU is ready and europhile British have set their plans for movement to EU in motion). After the first vote in the House of Commons I watched it became clear to me that the majority of MP's don't give two single fucks about a workable solution. I don't know whether it is mostly party politics, personal animosities, cognitive dissonance, sheer incompetence or a mélange of everything. At this point in time UK is not governed well and her people are not represented by men and women capable of managing a task like withdrawing from EU. I feel sad but finally a thought that has lurked around somewhere in the background all the time has now come to the forefront: I don't want a second referndum. I don't want UK revoking A50 at the eleventh hour. I don't want UK inside EU. I want her out. I want her out for good. This is neither funny nor amusing. It will affect me negatively personally because I like travelling to Britain and therefore I've given it a lot of thought. It's a hard decission. It comes with a lot of problems for everyone involved. It will make us all poorer, it will make UK prone to falling prey to American and Chinese interests. It will weaken EU politically. But still I want UK out of EU. This situation is forcing a decission as binary as the initial referendum was: In or Out. As we say in Germany: Halbschwanger gibt's nicht (you can't be half-pregnant). Two years ago I would have been happy had HMG decided that it were in their best interest to abandon the exit and HoC had supported that decision. But two years ago the world was vastly different. Only few companies had set their plans for relocation out of UK in motion, the war rethoric wasn't as widespread and a working cross-party solution seemed at least not impossible. In my view the most crucial mistake your government made was thinking of the negotiation as a game of poker or a haggle at the bazar. I would call that the layman's approach to negotiation because I often meet it. Laymen tend to think negatiation means being secretive, playing tough and who blinks first loses - but that is not how it's done in the real world. In the real world negotiators are well prepared with data and know the strengths and weaknesses of their counterparts and their own. They use their leverage to assert compromise, not dominance. Instead of consulting actual business negotiators or senior civil servants HMG and many influential people like the ERG thought playing tough and not blinking first were viable strategies. They never really tried to assess what possibillities were on the table and what could realistically be achieved. That's why to this day, not two weaks away from the cliff-edge, no open debate about what kind of Brexit HMG should persue was held in Britain. And that's why they so fundamentally misunderstood how the EU operates and do so to this very day. They have failed to grasp that EU is first and formost an entity driven by procedure. This is a neccessity to ensure that two dozon chicks waddle at least roughly in the same direction. Therefore EUs insistance on a clear structuring of the leave process. Even in 2019 HMG have tried to negotiate with individual countries or shift the goal posts and even today they are still baffled that this approach didn't turn out well. This goes much deeper than just the Brexit negotiatons: One of the frequent criticisms of EU is that the members could never agree on anything or constantly veto each other for parochial reasons. But in practice they do agree and don't veto each other most of the time and a lot of things get done. The stance of EU during the entire Brexit process has been consistent, clear and unanimous. EU won't blink. EU will do what her representatives say. EU has one of the most efficient bureaucracies in the world - 60.000 civil servants in Brussels and Strassbourg may be a lot of people in absolute terms but the city of München alone has roughly 40.000 civil servants and the city of Hamburg has 100.000 so in relative terms it is not even that large. They have failed to realise that on a world scale the EU practically is Europe. Even without UK she contains about 60 % of the citizens, 80 % of GDP and practically all the political weight on the continent. Every single country not being a member is extremely closely aligned. Norway and Switzerland for that matter are all but members without voting rights. Even Belarus and Russia have lots of treaties and despite all the sabre rattling of the past two decades get along with each other pretty well in the long run. Unless Britain can be towed across the atlantic to the Americas there is no way in the world that the continent will not be her most important political and economic partner. Sheer geographic proximity is still and for the foreseable future will probably continue to be the most important factor when it comes to trade and alliences. They have failed to realise that Devide And Conquer won't work. It should have been clear at the very beginning of negotiations when PM May travelled to half a dozen EU countries she hoped to negotiate with sperately only to be told that the negotiations had to be conducted with the EU, not Austria, France, Germany, etc. Many people say that this was going to show first and foremost, that the British government after 40 years of membership still have no clue about the meaning and the inner workings of the EU despite being a highly influential member. I have heard people opine that at some point in time HMG started to believe their own spin about EU being hopelessly devided all the time. Sadly I too think this assessment is acurate. They have failed to realise that the four freedoms are the single market and for nearly all practical purposes the single market is the EU. They are are not negotiable because abandoning one of them would be the end of the single market and consequently the EU. And regardless to your opinion on whether the EU is overall positive or negative, no one in their right mind can realistically expect the EU to tear up herself. They have grossly overestimated their importance for the continental industry. I'm an engineer in the chemical industry and our approach to brexit can be summed up like this: It's a shame but if you must, please leave in an orderly fashion. You will be missed but ultimately the EU is of more importance to us because it's the bigger market to sell to and buy from, the bigger economic area and the vastly more powerful political entity. If you leave in an orderly fashion there will be some disturbances but ultimately your industry will still be valuable. If you crash out there will be a period of trouble and disorder after which a lot of business will be gone. So please avoid that on all cost. Again keep in mind: Losing you will be expensive but losing the EU will be desastrous. So be in no doubt as to the seriousness of your position. They have failed to understand continental and particularly French and German foreign policy after world war II. By far the most important topic for our foreign policy is keeping peace with our neighbours and deepen our economic and cultural interactions in order to cement this peace. This is in fact where the whole project of a united Europe started from in the early 1950's, when French foreign minister Schuman and German chancellor Adenauer signed a treaty about Franco-German coal and steel production that quickly morphed into the ECSC, than the EEC and ultimately the EU. With the very first paragraph of the Treaty of Rome stating exactly that. A lot of British people still think EU started as a pure trade community but that is wrong. As early as 1951 the ECSC contained the seeds of all the departments, bodies and organs of todays EU. They have failed to grasp that while we don't want you to leave we won't fight to keep you in. We have no obligation to help you beyond what is in our best interest. We don't want to punish you but we won't let you keep your benefits when leaving. The responsibility of the EU is first and foremost to the members of the EU - which you aren't going to be anymore soon. We will do our best to make the EU a success - it is your own responsibility to make Britain a success. We will do everything we can to ensure that EU comes out of this mess in the best possible way. If along that way Uk also comes out in the best possible way, we will all be pleased. If UK sinks into chaos we won't be pleased at all but again: Being successful out of EU is UK's responsibility. Please keep that in mind: We are not against you. We are for us. They don't understand why the members of the EU stand firm in the current situation. There's an expression so German there isn't a proper english idiom: "Pack schlägt sich, Pack verträgt sich" which means that, whereas members of a group are prone to fight with each other, they are equally prone to make peace again quickly, especially when confronted with a sitatuation concerning the group as a whole. A situation, for instance, like Brexit. Many people in Brtain grossly overestimate the problems of member states, particularly their problems with the EU. They have overestimated the anti-EU sentiment on the continent. While it is true that a lot of people are openly critical or even against EU there is no mainstream party openly campaigning for their country to leave anymore. Even in France, Germany and Italy the tone of that parties has considerably mellowed. In Britain anti-EU fringe is mainstream politics and has been for as long as I can remember. Goverments of France, Germany, etc. are dealing with their political extremists but in blaming the EU for every decission of British politics (No ID cards, low taxes, low regulation, lack of industrial policy, privatising vital assets, crushing workers rights, etc.) successive British governments have actively persued anti-EU populsim and in effect executed anti-EU agendas by chosing to leave the EU. You don't have to be affraid of a rise of a new fringe party or a rebirth of UKIP, because you have the Conservative Party and the anti-EU wing of Labour. Even without UKIP and the like anit-EU sentiment is a strong force in your political environment. Successive British governments have loudly blamed the EU for politics completely within their realm of responsibility. Even further: They have loudly embraced the anti-immigrant and anti-EU crowd while at the same time doing exactly the opposite: You are governed by the same PM who sent Vans saying "Go Home!" through high-immigration boroughs and oversaw the windrush scandal while doing bugger all to excersise any meaningful form of control over immigration (COMPLETE for non-EU- and VAST for EU-immigration). You are governed by the very party that kept blaming the EU for any interior British problems despite the fact that they were home grown. Examples: EU regulation on immigration has been written largly by British lawmakers in the 1990. Immigration doesn't need to be unrestricted under EU regulation. It is your government that chose for 25 years not to excersise their options. The large disparity in income has nothing to do with EU regulation - in fact Britain always has been a pain in the ass when it comes to further regulation and strengthening workers rights (Remember how Thatcher crushed the Unions?). Going full turbo-capitalism and trying to pull off a Singapore most likely is also no realistic option because an area state like UK is significantly different to a city state. Dropping all tariffs would probably either destroy the remaining manufacturing or forcing much harsher conditions on British workers. In addition the national distribution of wealth would be even more shifted towards the large cities, because the one top-tier world class industry UK has is financial services which are overwhelmingly provided by firms in those large cities. Your government tried to negotiate with individual EU countries dozens of times during the last 2,5 years and was denied every single time. Of course politicians clad the message in fine talking along the lines of "Of course we are looking forward to mutally attractive trade aggreements after Britain leaves the EU" or "We are prepared to basically copy the agreements that be" but I am quite certain that the very moment after Britains departure has been in force, she will be swarmed by cohorts of negotiators from basically every conutry in the world saying things along the lines of "Of course we would like to have the basically same deal. Juuuuuust some minor adjustments here and there and here too and, oh, also over there. And that point we surely can drop at all but this one we'd like to discuss a little further...". Please keep in mind that for close to three years now UK has been loudly announcing to the world that after four decades of discussion she was unable to agree on a clear idea of what her position in the world should look like after Brexit. The referendum was almost three years ago. And still the question has not been answered by UK. Surely many individual opinions float around but HMG haven't managed to form a coherent strategy by taking them into due account. Instead you got soundbites like "Brexit Means Brexit" and "Will Of The People" and "We voted to leave" without defining what options to persue. The rest of the world know this. They can see it with their very eyes and hear it with their very ears. They've been watching! They've been taking notes! I am absolutely certain that whole branches of the civil services of all the major and emerging nations are working overtime to review all the treaties they now have with EU in order to find items they could renegotiate to their advantage with UK. For the last three years private and public executives have taken notice of the negotiation process and how UK conducted herself in contrast to EU. Be in no doubt which entity is regarded as the more professional, better prepared, reasonable, stable and united one. Especially after the latest parliamentary sessions. In my opinion Britain at this point in time has a MASSIVE problem with herself, exemplified through the division amongst MP of either party, parliament as a whole, subgroups in HMG and a public that is roughly split in half over the question of Brexit. In my humble opinion the damage UK in her current state could inflict on EU as a whole in the immediate future is far greater than she could as a third country, even after a hard Brexit. Surely, A50 could be revoked tomorrow but there is no way in the world to undo the effects of Brexit. In her current state Britain as an EU member would likely sent outright EU enemies to the European Parliament. She would be a pain int the ass in any future decission and discussion - even if HMG would want to stay in EU in the goodest of faiths the rift running through the public and the HoC would still be there and continue to be a ball and chain to anything the EU27 would want to get done. Im totally absolutely positively certain that not five years after a possible revokation of A50 the PM would arrive in Brussels for renegotiation of UKs terms of membership. I am equally certain British politicians of either party would continue to shift the blame for their unpopular decissions on EU (that British press will do so is a given regardless of the outcome of Brexit). There is deep disparity between the city and the countryside, the poor people and the rich, the well educated and the not well educated. As far as I can see far deeper than for instance in France, Germany or Italy. If UK government won't be able to fix this they (I'm pretty sure they won't) will look for a scapegoat and this will most likely be EU. Therefore I don't want British MEP. I don't want people of a country leaving EU in the near future to have seats and influence or even sabotage decisions in the European Parliament. I particularly don't want the likes of Farage there. I don't want EU hampared by pointless obstruction of MEP who won't have to live with the consequences. It is, in my humble opinion, positively bat-shit crazy to consider the party that is now in government, the party that went full steam austerity, the party that is home to the most vicious desaster capitalists currently influencing British politics, the party that it is even deeper rooted by private networks than my garden is by the blackberry on the adjacent meadow, the very party that has achieved next to nothing in almost three years time will champion a new soically sound domestic policy improving the lives of the poor and precarious after having left EU. It is, again in my humble opinion, at least very naive to assume that the current opposition, lead by a life-long anti-EU campaigner and with a strong anti-EU wing of her own, having not taken a clear stance on whether to be in favour or against Brexit, under the constraints the loss of all those international treaties will pose, can implement even a small portion of their proposed legislation with success. And thusly, as a German and EU citizen who wants as little fallout from your internal problems as possible to go down over the rest of Europe, I want you out of EU. Obviously neither HMG nor HoC nor a sizable part of the public can be trusted to rely on EU for anything but her being a whipping girl for her internal struggles and unpopular decissions. I don't suspect this to stop, change or even gain significant backlash in the next years. This is not only recognized by little old me, but certainly by decission makers all around the globe. UK, once upon a time the mightiest and most adored nation in the world, home to the finest scientists, industries and ruler over a quarter of the earths surface not hundred years ago, will soon have cut herself off one of the biggest, richest and most powerful blocs in the world. UK will than govern roughly 1/100 of world population, less than 1/100 of military personnel, 2 % of wealth without any meaningful treaty, besides her NATO membership, to anyone anymore. She will be on her own. A ship on the high seas with a crew that can't even set a course after years of discussion. Please keep in mind that on the world scale UK, when anything besides financial services is considered, is a high-wage-low-productivity country. Practically all your industries are heavily dependend on, and heavily aligned to frictionless trade. Domestic farming for instance provides UK people with locally produced food (People everywhere love to eat "homegrown"), manufacturing often provides well paid work outside the big cities and in rural areas. Without the political power of EU and the hundreds of treaties with other countries she provides, UK is sigificantly weakening the prospects of her remaining industries. This is not news. A lot of people in UK know this. A lot of people all around the globe know this. I still hope that there can be an agreement found in the next week, but with each day going by it looks less likely to me. Still a lot of people can't imagine what sort fo havoc a No-Deal Brexit is bound to wreak but I fear they are going to be in for a serious reality check very soon. It is a cold world after all. Take care.
continuing As I was picking myself up off the shooter’s shack floor, I glanced over to the TV. The ballplayers were all wandering around the field, looking skyward. Evidently, there was this hellacious explosion…even the television sports commentators were speculating as to what happened. Whoops. I looked out into the quarry. The wall that I had charged had receded some 75 feet. There was rather a large amount of shattered, blasted dolomitic limestone now in the quarry. Enough, I found out later, for a full month’s worth of orders. We never did find the blasting mats. I think they sort of evaporated. Luckily, the quarry is essentially an open amphitheater in plan view; basically a big hole in the ground with vertical limestone walls. The shockwave of the blast that didn’t spend itself shattering the limestone into which it was housed, blew out laterally, hit the opposite quarry wall, rebounded, and then dispersed, rather energetically, vertically upward. I set off car alarms for a 20 block radius. There were no broken home windows, as the lion’s share of the shock wave was redirected upward. Good thing there were no low flying zeppelins or dirigibles in the area... I waited the requisite time to allow for any loafers. There were none, so I jumped into the nearest wheel loader and began clearing the quarry floor. Hell, I had to so I could open the front gate. As I was clearing the floor, making pile number eight of the loose rock I had liberated, I heard the characteristic whoop-whoop of emergency vehicles. I parked the wheel loader, opened the front gate, and raised the green flag. That was enough blasting for one day. A few minutes later, three police cars zoom into the site. Two were local city cops, and one was a state trooper. “Hi, guys!” I waved, “Nice day, innit?” “Doctor Rock! We should have known.” One of the local boys groaned. “Hey, I did call you beforehand, as per procedure,” I said. Polack the cop walks up, just knowing I was responsible. “Yeah, but we didn’t figure on you terrorizing the entire city.” “Polack! How goes it?” I asked. The other local cop and the state trooper look to Polack, “You know this maniac?” “Oh, hell yeah. For years. Don’t worry, the good doctor is mostly harmless.” He chuckles. “Damn. OK. I guess everything’s OK. Just no more shooting today, please, Doctor. It’s going to take hours to calm everyone down.” He laments. “Yes, sir. I’m done for the day.” I reply, snickering slightly. The one local and state trooper depart, shaking their heads in amazement. This left Polack to follow me over to the shooter’s shack to mooch a cigar and whatever else he can find. “Jesus Hula-Dancing Christ, Rock. What the hell was that? I was all the way out in Whitewatosa and heard you.” He asks as he sneakily snakes a smoke out of my case. “Just some common chemicals in the proper proportions.” I snicker. “Which were?” he asks. I go in the back of the shed and toss him an empty container of one of the parts of the binaries I used. He catches it, reads the label, and drops it like a live grenade. “Binaries? Fuck! Like what you used at the tower?” he asks. “Yep. I used just a little more.” I reply. “Little more? Damn, as I said, we’ve been briefed on the stuff. This shit’s nasty.” He shakes his head. “Yeah. Fun, too.” I reply. Polack grabs a Sprechler’s Cream Soda out of the fridge as I opt for a cold Cream Ale and shot of potato juice. Hell, I was done for the day, so… We sit around and have a chat, just shooting the shit, as it were. Manly topics, so the conversation eventually steered over to guns. “Hey!” Polack remembers, “That’s right! You fucking owe me. Let me borrow that fucking cannon you carry. I want to show the chief a thing or two.” “Yeah, that’s right”, I agree, “When do you need it?” “This Friday, after shift. It’s the monthly qualifiers for us.” He notes. “Are pyromaniacs allowed in?” I ask. “To observe? Sure. To shoot? Nope. Insurance regulations.” He says. “What time?” I continue. “1800 hours.” He tells me. “I’ll be there. I’ll bring my gun and an assortment of loads. Hey, this could be fun!” I evilly smile. “Doctor. You’re doing that thing again. You’re grinnin’ like a shithouse rat. You know how much that scares me. Stop it.” He pleads. “No worries. Friday at 1800 hours.” I reply, grinning. Polack slurps down his Sprechlers, snitches another stogie, and squeals out of the quarry in a cloud of dense dolomitic dust. I arrive back at our flat, after stopping for two frozen custard Turtle Sundaes, to go. I give one to an appreciative wife and I ask her about her day. “Oh, went shopping with Oma. Got the cutest shoes, and a new purse, and…oh well, never mind. You’ll see.” Between bites of Turtle Sundae, she asks how my day went. “Oh, my dear. I had a real blast.” I replied, not lying in the least. Monday, after my first classes, I’m back in the faculty lounge, savoring a Greenland Coffee. There was the usual instructor chatter when Dean Vermiculari walks in. “Good morning, Dean!” I say. “Care for a sit-down and a coffee?” “Good morning, Doctor Rock. Yes, please to both.” He replies. I fix us both a fresh Greenland Coffee and return to our table. I hand him one and sit down to savor my soupçon. “How was your weekend?” I ask the Dean of the College. “Oh, very nice. Had a fine time catching some perch and crappie out on Lake Genever. I see you had a victorious weekend as well. Twice.” He smiles. “Twice?” I asked. “Well, your handling of the tower demolition made all the papers. Very, very well done, Doctor. I congratulate you.” He smiles. “Thank you, Dean. That means a lot. Just doing what I can with what I’ve got. But twice?” I replied. “It wasn’t front-page news, but I saw there was some, well, let us just say, ‘energetic activity’ out at the Silurian reef limestone quarry yesterday.” He grinned. “Oh, yes. I had a job to do and well, as I always say: ‘Nothing succeeds like excess.” I smile back. “Quite. This beverage you’ve created is really rather extraordinary, Doctor. Again, I thank you.” He tips his mug my direction in the age-old Midwestern salute. “It’s a little recipe I picked up on my last expedition to the northlands. I grew rather fond of the concoction.” I replied. “Ah, I see. Marvelous.” He smiles. “Thank you, Dean. High praise indeed.” I reply. “Which leads me to…ah, Doctor Rock. I have another favor to impose upon you.” He says, all serious. “Yes, Dean? How can I be of service?” I ask. “We, as you no doubt know, have many, many fine extractive mineral company connections. We actually receive quite a large amount of funding and endowments from them. They recruit here extensively for our young geoscientists. Now, since Dr. Pataariki has left for industry himself, I would like to appoint you as the College of Natural Sciences corporate liaison.” He explains. “Indeed?” I replied, too stunned for words for once. “Yes, indeed.” He continues, “It will require travel, mostly domestic, and delivering symposia at various companies on differing extractive geological subjects. You will also serve as host and university coordinator when they are present on recruiting tours. There will, of course, be additional remuneration to accompany the added responsibilities.” I slurped my coffee, thinking furiously. “Could I please first discuss it with my wife before I answer?” I ask. “Oh, Doctor. Of course, of course. Take your time. I will not require a reply until… tomorrow.” He smiles, finishes his coffee, thanks me again, and toddles out. “Yow, Es!” I exclaim, “This is one hell of an opportunity. It’s never before been offered to a junior professor. This will cement my tenure-track. It’s going to be a bitch with time, though. What do you think I should do?” “Well, Rock, honey, I think you should do…” Es begins. “No! None of that ‘do what you think is best’ stuff. I want your own thoughts, just like when I decided to go after my doctorate.” I explained. “OK, then.” Esme looks all serious like she’s going to deliver a bipartisan political speech. “Yes.” She says, firmly “That’s it?” I ask. “Yep. You asked I answered. We’ll make it work. We always do. You can’t let the Dean down. You will accept tomorrow without fear or qualms of your wife’s hesitations, of which I harbor none.” Esme proclaims. “Did I ever tell you of the myriad reasons I love you so?” I ask. The next morning I meet with Dean Vermiculari. He’s pleased that I accept and hands over to me the charter. Then the lists of company representatives, their contact information, and some other secret stuff that I can’t divulge right yet. A raft of oil companies will be coming in the late spring semester, so I need to contact each and every one to solidify dates, times and positions for which they’re recruiting. But that’s for then, I have something more proximal for now. I have a Friday appointment with Polack the cop at the town police shooting range. I arrive spot on time with my Casull .454 Magnum pistol, in its carry bag, along with a small duffel crammed with Pyrodex, Tannerite, and selection of specialty loads I had Herman the German, the inveterate gunsmith, create. Herman the German, his actual sobriquet, was this incredible gunsmith, craftsman, and all-around artillery specialist. Have any sort of problem with a rifle, shotgun, or pistol? See Herman. Gun holding too high? See Herman. Barrel warped? See Herman. Need solid gold projectiles for a certain one-off job? See Herman. Herman the German can sort it out. Just never ask him: “How?” “Ach! I’ve lived so long to learn, and you want it free? I’ll fix it, you pay, but I am only one knowing how!” Herman was a cranky old Kraut, and has lived here for as long as anyone can remember. Even my Grandfather had deferred to Herman when he had some particularly delicate machining operation that need special attention and was unique. As far as anyone knew, Herman had no family, but was never at a loss for friends. He was one of the most popular, and well known, but still oddly really unknown, kind of mysterious, old bastards in the entire community. Herman the German liked me because I could obtain for him certain high-energy things he couldn’t. All were entirely legal, but some were sort of out there in the gray zone. He also liked that I was educated, as he held education in the highest esteem. He also liked that I was of German extraction myself. I often made it a point to drop by with odd and unusual high-octane potables while never expecting anything in return other than a story or a shared cigar. Herman created some special loads for my .454 Magnum, which he prized. “I like your gun, Doctor Rock, it is so big! I can still see well enough to build things for it.” He told me one day over cheroots and Schnapps. Herman was a character to be certain. It must have been the pixie in him to dream up some of the specialty rounds he created for me to share with the local constabulary. He lived out in the county by himself in an old farmhouse. He had a full machine shop in his basement, complete with forge, metal handling equipment, and a firing test range. He handed back my .454, rather solemnly. “Doctor, I am afraid to say I couldn’t test all the special rounds I’ve created for you. I need to patch the hole in the cinder blocks in the downstairs range. Your gun punched right through the back…” he apologized. Now, Herman does all sorts of work on the local’s deer rifles, the police’s ordinance and has even worked some with the Baja Canada National Guard. Some of the little novelties he’s dreamed up for me are the first to escape his homemade basement test range. I felt oddly honored. After proving who I was to the nice range officer, I looked around trying to find Polack. “It’s 1550. Where the hell is Polack? I wondered. “Rock! Over here.” Polack calls to me. He motions me outside to the police department’s tactical outdoor range. I had thought all along he was referring to the indoors police target range. This might pose some problems. The tactical range was a series of clapboard shacks, all setup and designed to represent some downtrodden urban inter-city landscape. There were a couple of junked cars, broken sidewalks, storefronts, houses, bus stops…in short, all things necessary to replicate the seediest sections of a settlement where malefactors live and breed. The cops all run around this range, shooting at bad guy pop-up cut-outs and avoid the not-bad-guy pop-up cut-outs. They’ve got music blaring, firecrackers going off, all trying to re-create a shady deeply urban environment. Points are awarded by the accuracy of fire on the run, time to maneuver the course, and the ability of not gunning down innocent bystanders. It is not the best place to test a .454 Cusall. This hand cannon recoils like a fundamentalist Christian being solicited for donations to Anton LaVey, shoots flames and incandescent gasses like Smaug after a hard night of drinking and a stop at the Taco Bell buffet, is louder than a dime-store Karen demanding to see a Manager, and more powerful than a Ghost Pepper suppository. To quote Joe Piscopo: “It shoots through schools.” Especially faux-schools made of plywood. A .32 or .38 cop special is the correct weapon here; even a 9mm is a little heavy. Enough power to make a serious dent, easy on control, light on the recoil…a good tactical weapon. But, nothing succeeds like excess. Polack’s Chief is running around, capping off his ‘big ol’ .44 Magnum, and making the valley echo. He punches considerable holes in the pop-up cut-outs, but has such a hard time handling the recoil, his score is barely passable. Polack runs his test with his standard 9mm sidearm and qualifies easily. However, he’s nowhere near done with his Chief yet. I suggest to Polack we have a shoot-off. And since a .44 Magnum bullet ‘is so close to a .454 Magnum’, which it isn’t…the .454 Casull generates nearly 85% more recoil energy than the .44 Magnum; that we’d need something other than holes punched in plywood to judge the efficacy of each. We are literally just down the road from Max Yazzer’s farm and market. They’re the place you go for your Halloween jack-o-lantern. However, now, he has a surplus of melons. I think you can see where this is headed… I borrow Polack’s personal conveyance and run down to Max’s farm. I return with a trunk-load of elderly, overripe, cheap as chips, melons. Watermelons, Honeydews, Musks, and Casabas. We place them in strategic areas on the course, five for the Chief to find, and five for Polack. A .44 vs. a .454 melon-wise results in pretty much the same sort of mess: high-velocity fruit spatter. Although, the Chief was very impressed by the report of the .454. So, after running the tactical-melon course, clear demarcation of a winner was elusive. OK, OK, clever dicks. How about this? A standing shoot-off? We’ll set up 3 melons each at 30, 20, and 10 yards. Beginning at 30 yards, your time will be until you take out all three melons. But, they’re not going to be in a straight line, we’re going to make them somewhat camouflaged. You will stand in one small demarcated area, hunt those miscreant melons, and bring them to justice. Fastest time and greatest display wins, as determined by the Police Peanut Gallery. Polack and the Chief agree. The Chief goes first and dispatches the melons, with a fair amount of spatter, in 15.3 seconds. Not bad. Polack is next. He wipes out all the melons and creates some thoroughly impressive displays with Herman’s ‘special’ rounds. Normal ballistics for the .454 are, for a 250 grain (16 g) bullet, a muzzle velocity of over 2,400 feet per second, developing up to 2,800 ft-lb of energy. Herman’s hot loads are double that. Polack wins the day on impressive high-velocity melon distribution, but misses, so close, with a time of 17.0 seconds. Recoil’s a bitch. Then there are Herman’s ‘specialties’. The Chief is duly impressed and even comments that his ears are ringing even with the ear protectors. He asks to inspect the weapon. He is even more than duly impressed. Polack knows what’s up and asks the Chief if he’d like to give a whirl. Of course, the Chief can’t back down. Polack loads the .454 with 5 of Herman’s specialties: hollow-point rounds loaded hot, compressed, and tipped with alkaline earth metals, like metallic sodium and metallic potassium… We set up the nastiest, glorpiest, just barely-holding-together, overripe, laced with Tannerite (an impact-actuated low-explosive) watermelon at the ‘Concealed Carry’ distance of 5 meters. We slowly fade back into the distance to avoid the inevitable ‘Gallagher reaction’. The Chief fires one, and just nicks the top of the melon. Don’t laugh, with the type of recoil and heft of the sidearm, and tensing up in anticipation, it’s easy to be off the mark initially. The second round impacts dead-center. Now, alkaline earth metals and water don’t get along really well. In fact, their relationship is explosive. Especially explosive when delivered at 2,900 feet per second. The Chief catches a huge smattering of vitamin-packed watermelony back blast goo. He’s not entirely happy. He looks positively grisly with all that blown-up melon schmoo on his nice, neat uniform. He returns my gun and bans me from ever showing up at the police range again. Polack is on traffic duty for the next month. He figures it was well worth it. Back at the flat, Esme is shaking her head and wondering if I’ll ever grow up. “I may grow old, but I’ll never grow up.” I reply. I see I have several missed phone calls. Ah, me; no rest for the weary. Back to company-university liaison duties. After I had contacted these companies, I receive no less than 12 requests for symposia, talks, and seminars to be given to various level of industrial scientific employees in their respective companies. I am now slated to give academic conferences on stratigraphy, sedimentology, and seismic structural geology to different companies in Houston, Oklahoma City, Denver, Casper, Corpus Christi, New Orleans, and Tulsa. In the next 12 weeks, I’ll be giving no less than 8 talks in seven cities. I speak with Dean Vermiculari on how best to handle the situation. He understands and appoints two graduate student teaching assistants to handle my classes while I’m on the road. That relieves me of being physically there, but I still have to grade papers, compose lesson plans, and keep things running smoothly until finals. Besides giving the talks, there’s travel to oil fields, production facilitates, manufacturing plants, hotels, restaurants while I’m in town…the pace is excruciating. I’m gone more than I am at university. Plus in my time back home, I’m still the ad hoc master blaster for the limestone quarry. Then, there’s the companies arriving on campus, and the roles are reversed. Now I’m the welcome wagon and have to sort out the logistics of receiving the company representatives. I need to set up the colloquia to introduce the companies to the prospective students, arrange lodging, arrange passes for the university, transportation, “Meet-and-Greet’s, ad infinitum. I knew this was having a bit of effect on me when I came back to the flat after one particularly grueling ordeal of canceled flights, full hotels, missed connections and lukewarm reception by the company workers. “Hello”, I said, as I walked in the flat, “I believe you have a reservation for…” Esme just stood there, wondering if I was having a laugh. No, I wasn’t. I was completely hallucinating from road weariness, lack of sleep, jet lag, and total disorientation. This continued on for the next approximately 18 months. Esme was beginning to have second thoughts about all this. My teaching load was diminished by one whole introductory course. However, I was still flying hither and yon, delivering symposia, meeting with young geoscientists and getting to know the ins-and-outs of the Oil Industry. I found it particularly fascinating. Time marched on and it was once again it was the recruiting season. We had no less than eight oil companies visiting the university in their quest to swell the roster of their junior scientists. I’m still busier than a one-armed paperhanger in a windstorm, but have settled into a groove of sorts. I know the company recruiters and they now know me. I’ve actually struck up friendships with several. Particularly since I take them to the best local restaurants and bars after their recruiting duties are finished. I’ve met with recruiting representatives of Shrill Petrol, Mexxon, Nobil, Nocono Oil, Flug, Geddy, Brutish Petroleum, and Qexaco. The recruiting season is winding down and I find myself with Red (not Adair), of Nocono Oil. “Well, Doctor Rock”, Red states, “Another fine recruiting run. We’ve snagged two of your young geologists and one geophysicist. I’d say it was almost a perfect score.” We’re sitting in the Norton’s Steakhouse. After a couple of prime pink porterhouses, we’re working on the post-dinner double vodka and bitter lemon for me, and Lagavulin for Red. “Almost perfect?” I ask. “Yeah. There’s been this one small nagging concern from our company higher-ups.” Red continues. “What’s that?” I ask. “We need some more senior people. For one thing, we’ve recently opened a new petroleum laboratory down in our Houston office. Going to need some serious talent to run that show.” Red says. “I see”, I reply, “And…?” “We need mentors. Those with varied and far-flung knowledge. They must be well educated, global in experience and stature, with an [ahem] diverse set of skills.” Red notes. “Whew”, I agree, “That’s a tall order. You want my help with names of possible candidates? Is that it?” “Not as such, Doctor.” Red drains his drink, motions for me to do the same, and orders another round. Our drinks arrive and Red downs half his in one gulp. “Well, then”, I continue, “How can I help?” Red chuckles, “For someone so educated, you can really be thick as two short planks at times.” I sit back, and sip my Old Thought Provoker. The mercury-vapors light off. “No!” I say, incredulously. “Oh, yes.” Red smiles. “No?” I ask, slowly taking in the possible effects of what he’s hinting at… “OK, Doctor Rocknocker”, Red gets all serious and corporate, “We’d like to offer you a position at Nocono Oil as Senior Laboratory Manager and Head of Corporate Continuing Education.” You could have knocked me over with a grenade. I was stunned. I fumbled with my drink. “Red, you old con artist” I reply, “Is this a set-up?” Red, serious as a heart attack, looks directly at me and replies, “Doctor Rock, absolutely not, it’s a genuine offer.” He slides over a folder with some papers inside. “Here are the particulars.” Reeling, I accept the folder. I open it and right after the corporate logos and legal bullshit, I see a tall figure with a whole raft of zeros trailing behind it. I read furiously. The job would be both interesting and challenging. It would be in Houston, with travel and teaching at all other company outposts on a regular basis. I reexamine that figure from before and verify that I’m not now hallucinating. The job comes with furnished, corporate-paid housing, incredible benefits, loads of opportunity for advancement, more opportunity to travel, really generous vacation time… “Right. On the level?” I ask again. “Yep.” Red bluntly says. “Well”, I gulp, “you know I have to discuss this with Esme”, whom he’s met several times previous. “Of course, and you probably want to finish out the semester, correct?” red asks. “Oh, yes.” I reply. There would be a monsoon of paperwork and other grunt work I’d need to conclude or hand over if I were to accept this offer. “OK, then”, Red finishes his drink, motions for me to do the same, a real rarity; but I was in another dimension at this point. He orders another round and sits back, waiting on a refill. “You have two weeks to reply” Red states. “I know that’s not a terribly long time, but we need to fill this position ASAP. Can I ask for that? Your answer, yea, or nay, within a fortnight?” Red demands. “Yes”, I reply. “I at least owe you that.” And that was the end of the discussion for the night about me joining the private sector. We stayed a few more hours, chatting, smoking my cigars, and discussing everything but the lumbering elephant in the room. We part outside as I need to head back to our flat. Red wants to go downtown to one of those “Gentleman’s Clubs” he’s heard were so famous at the time. I was flummoxed the whole cab ride home. It was late when I returned, but I simply had to wake Es with the news. “Rock, for pity’s sake, its 2 o’clock in the morning!” Es protests. “Can’t this wait until later?” “Sorry, my dear” I reply, probably as serious as I ever had with Esme. “This is a potential game-changer.” “What is it? Are you OK?” Esme trembles. “Oh, I’m fine. Better than fine.” I reply. She’s relieved. “Then what’s so important?” she asks. “Um…how would you like to move to Houston?” I ask. “You going to teach at Cougar High (University of Houston)?” she inquires. “Nope. Brace yourself. I’ve been offered a job with Nocono Oil.” I finally spill the beans. Esme is slightly stunned and sits down. I go to the wet bar, fix me a bracing potato juice and citrus and Esme a stiff white Zinfandel. I hand her the wine and she is still semi-dazed and digesting the information. I slurp a good portion of my drink, retrieve her Sobranjes and me a cigar from my Turkmenistan humidor. I sit on the couch next to her and hug her soundly. “Esme? Es? Earth to Es? You in there?” I joke. “Oh, Yeah. Rock. Really? Hang on”, she leaves, returning with her housecoat as this might take a little time. “So?” I ask, “Your thoughts. Now! Immediately! Initial reaction!” I try to jar her back into reality. “Well, what do you want?” she asks. “C’mon, my dearest. You know I hate that. No, what do you think? What do you honestly think?” I reply. We both fire up our smokes, and I refresh our drinks. We return to the dinner table where Red’s folder lies. “Es, here. Look at this.” I say, sliding the portfolio over to her. She reads like a hungry man at a Vegas casino buffet. I can tell where she was stopped by something extraordinary. “This is for real?” she asks, “Red’s not pulling a fast one?” “Nope. It’s the genuine article”, I tell her, “He needs my reply within two weeks.” “Rock, Rock…I just don’t know. It’s a lot to process at 0230 in the morning. Let’s go to bed and have a think in the morning. You have the luxury of at least that amount of time.” She notes. “Right again, as usual”, I say, “Stuff it. It can wait.” We toddle off to bed. The next morning, over Cuban omelets and Greenland Coffees, we sort through the particulars. “Rock, it’s an extraordinary offer. But, do you want to leave teaching? I remember how you got all animated by Dean Vermiculari giving you the corporate liaison job and how that would improve your shot at tenure.” She notes. “I just don’t know. I’m still shell-shocked.” I tell her. “Let me go to school and we’ll pick this up tonight. We both have work to do no matter what. Oh, bloody hell. I hadn’t considered your job. Another wrinkle in the mess.” “Don’t you worry about that”, Esme smiles. “One catastrophe at a time.” “I do so love you.” I hug her soundly. “Think I should mention this offer to anyone at school?” “No. Definitely not.” Esme shakes her head. “Let’s figure this out on our own.” “I agree”, I say, kiss her and depart for school once again. The next week was a blur. Recruiting duties were dragging and I was being preoccupied. Even my students noted the lack of in-room explosions lately. I spend the next Saturday at the quarry, doing some small amount of blasting. I quiz the quarry owners about their progress in acquiring a new master for the quarry’s operation. “Oh, Doctor Rock” they gush, “You’re doing such a fine job, we haven’t really looked. Why do you ask?” “No particular reason at this time, I reply, “But perhaps you might want to begin looking” The chinks in my armor were finally starting to show. Sunday was spent out on Sliver Lake, with Esme and me chasing the elusive crappie, perch, and bucketmouth bass. It also gave us a chance to clear our heads from work, school and other such intrusions. We both needed a bit of downtime. Later that night, after a meal of beer-battered fillet of crappie and perch on the barbie, we sit down at the dinner table. The portfolio sits there, taunting us. I get up, makes us both our drinks, sit down and declare that this is it. “Es, darling” I say, “its nut-cuttin’ time. We need to make our decision.” “You’re right.” Es agrees, “Time for risk-reward analysis. Get some paper and some pencils.” We spend the next few hours listing the pros and cons of accepting the Houston position or staying here and pursuing my tenured professorship. After several hours, I stretch, stand, and go to the fridge. I retrieve the bottle of Bollinger Les Vieilles Vignes Francaises I had purchased the other day. I return to the table with the wine and the glasses, pop the cork and pour us both a glass of high-brow bubble water. I hug and kiss Esme like I had just returned from a long, solo expedition. “Esme, my darling. I’d like to propose a toast. First to us. Hа здоровый!” “Cheers!” Esme replies. “Secondly to Red, Dean Vermiculari, the quarry guys, Polack the Cop, and all the others that makes our life weird around here.” “Seconded”, Es echoes. “Finally: to Houston, Texas. Our new home!” I finally add. The next morning, Dean Vermiculari peers over the top of his pince-nez glasses. He’s not looking overly happy with me right now. “Why is it, Doctor, that everyone that receives the job of corporate liaison ends up going with corporate?” he asks. “Perhaps it’s just the exposure to another world that exists beyond academia.” I reply, truthfully. “Doctor Rocknocker,” the Dean gravely states, “I am not at all happy about your decision. We had great hopes for you here and you were riding right up the tenure track. Another five years and it would have been assured.” “Five years is a long time, Dean”, I state the obvious. “Yes, indeed.” The Dean replies frostily. “However, you are young. Perhaps you need to get this private sector nonsense out of your system, then you can return to academia where you belong.” “Perhaps, perhaps”, I reply. “Please, do consider this option down the road. You and your antics will be missed here, by students and faculty alike.” He says. “I will, Dean, I promise.” I reply “However, for now, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.” “Doctor, I will miss your strange and unique way of looking at life. I reluctantly accept your resignation at the end of the current semester and wish you all the best in your newest endeavors. Please remember us when corporate support for academia is mentioned in your new company.” he says. “I promise you, Dean, I will not forget what I’ve learned here and what you’ve taught. It’s the least I can do,” I reply. “I will never forget my roots.” “All I can ask”, he concludes. He stands to shake my hand. We shake and my audience is over. I resign from the quarry a week later. They haven’t found a new blaster but wish me well on my new journey. I tell them I’m here until the end of the semester, so I won’t leave them high and dry. I tell Polack the Cop about all the goings-on. “Who the hell can I roust for beer and cigars now?” He whines. “Let me know when you get to Texas if they need any cops. I wouldn’t mind trying’ that. Hell, maybe a Texas Ranger!” “A Cheesehead Ranger…?” I assure him I will and pass a box of cigars to him as a parting gift. He gives me a mayoral-signed get-out-of-jail-free card. “Now you can drive that old Harley just as crazy as you want.” He chuckles. “Thanks, Polack.” I say, shaking his hand. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I sold my bike a week earlier. Red was very chuffed with the news. “Snagged me a big one this time!’ He laughed, over the phone. There was enough paperwork, considerations and decisions to be made to last the remaining time Esme and I had in-state until our move. Already, a moving company had arrived, done inventory, and was preparing for our move to Houston. Esme resigned her position and decided she wanted to take some time off. She wanted to be a housewife, a colleague, and not have to work for once at an outside job. My new position allowed for that in spades. Besides with her credentials, anytime when she wants to re-join the workforce, there are myriad opportunities in the Bayou City. We made the choice of housing out west of town, in Katy, Texas. We could have chosen Sugarland, Addicks, Greenspoint, Greenway, or the Memorial area. However, these west Houston company properties were closest to the job and largest in square footage. My students got wind of my resignation and relocation. They threw me an unexpected farewell party at the Gast Haus. It was nickel-beer night and since they were footing the bill, it all worked out just fine. I would miss the old place. The camaraderie, the seasons, the university; hell my home these last many years. I’ve been on many, many expeditions, but I always returned home. Now, home was moving and was awaiting our arrival. Esme and I said our farewells to our families as well. We were the first through college, the first ones to travel international, the first Doctor in the family, and the first to leave the state. That’s a lot of familial firsts. I had to keep reminding everyone it wouldn’t be the last. Hell, we’re just moving to Texas, it’s not like we’re off to Greenland or Mongolia… [Gasp] We saddled up Es’s old Chevy Nova, took one last, lingering look in the rearview mirror, and said fare thee well to our previous lives. “We’ll be back. Someday. I promise” I told the city of our youth and young married adulthood. We decided to drive to Houston because we had the luxury of a bit of time. We needed the stretch to chew over some interpersonal and private things on the way to the next chapter in our lives. Besides, the weather was good, the roads ahead open and clear, and Texas had no ‘Open Container’ law, yet. We pointed the old Nova south and hit the gas. A week later, we’re wandering around our new house in Katy, Texas. Our belongings, scant though they may be, arrived the day after we did. Esme and I spent the next couple of day rearranging the house, buying necessary domestic bits and pieces, and getting to know our new neighborhood. First thing, though, Esme wanted to replace the old Nova. I concurred, but insisted we keep it as a second car and went out to purchase our first new car as a couple. I wanted a Land Rover. We ended up with a glossy black Toyota 4-Runner. Close enough. I was scheduled to show up at my new job the next Monday. I had my own parking spot, complete with “Reserved for Dr. Rock” painted on the bumper block. I was shown my new lab and was introduced to my seven laboratory assistants. I was shown the catalogs I could use to order what I needed and went over the requisition procedures. I was trotted around to meet the company CEO, CFO, CIO, VPs and many, many more company executives and managers. I’ve met with presidents and heads of state, I was impressed but not overly. They seemed like a more or less nice bunch of chaps. Almost exactly five weeks to the day from our arrival in Houston, I come home, yelling “Darling, I’m home!” Esme comes to greet me with a rib-rearranging hug. She tells me to sit at the dinner table, where my long hard day at the office drink, cigar, ashtray, and lighter are already set. “How was work, dear?” she asks, sitting down with her Perrier water. “Oh, it’s going great. The knotheads let me have an open-ended budget until I get the labs sorted just the way I want it. These guys pay their bills on time and I have carte blanche at Wards Scientific, and other supply houses. My crew is great, no interpersonal crapola, and hard workers. I can smoke in my office and no one dares give me shit about my cigars. I’m getting to know the exploration department quite well. They’re really interested in our expeditions and are more interested in my opinions of their new exploration directives.” Esme just smiles and sips her water. “Odd”, I thought. “That’s great, dear.” She says. “I am so glad to hear it.” “Me too”, I say, “How are you holding up after all these weeks alone?” “Oh, I’m getting used to it.” She smiles. And smiles. Beatifically. Glowing. “What?” I ask. “Remember what we talked about in the car on the way down here?” She asks. “We talked about a lot of things…” I say, suddenly my eyes grew very, very wide indeed. “Yes. You’re going to be a father. I’m pregnant, Rock.” Esme smiles.
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